I often write blogs when life seems to be saying something to me repeatedly. I’d like to think that I would notice those messages, whispered over and over, on my own…but maybe Oprah made me do it.
I vividly remember hearing Oprah say that if you don’t listen when God whispers in your ear, He’ll shout. The implication, of course, is that we really don’t want God shouting in our ears. God, life, light, the universe, the force—whatever it is, she’s right. I’ve learned that things always go better for me when I listen to the whispers.
Like many of us, I’m feeling drained and desperate these days. I’ve been pouring myself into my family, my little world, and my work, but I’m empty. I know I can’t fix the world right now, today, so I do my best for the global scene and do my best locally and then try to believe that’s enough. It’s not feeling like much lately. And I’m not special or alone—I see it in the people around me, in my friends’ thoughtful posts online, in the shops I go into, even in the way people drive. We are burning out.
So when life sent me two bright exceptions, I noticed. I enjoyed them thoroughly. And all the while, the analytical part of my brain wondered, What is the big picture here? Then a fellow blogger whispered in my ear.
The latest blog by the Hands Free Mama, Rachel Macy Stafford, is a beautiful tribute to her daughter and to Rachel’s loving appreciation of her daughter’s gifts. And it gave me the clue I needed to finish my thoughts.
I felt a bit jealous when I read Rachel’s loving descriptions of her noticing, wandering child. Partly, I think, because who wouldn’t want to their own inherent gifts appreciated and nurtured like that? That is love! We all yearn for that. I also think a bit of it was my own nature—if I can see something good that people do, I want to do it, too! Now, in my forties, I’ve learned to smile at that feeling and remind myself that the gifts this amazing young lady has are really not in my wheelhouse. I have other gifts.
Once the jealousy passed through, an epiphany jumped into its place. Life whispered. I got to glimpse the bigger picture. Rachel’s right; we absolutely do need folks like her daughter to heal this broken world. I want to take her wisdom one step further, though—we need folks exactly like each and every one of us to heal this broken world.
That’s the thought makes my puzzle pieces fit, the amazingly huge and yet mundane bit of wisdom that we can carry with us everywhere. I’d like to share my two bright moments and see if you think I’m onto something.
We went to see Incredibles II for Father’s Day, as many people probably did. In our case, no one had turned on the lights in the theater or the projector. Strips of lights lined the stairs, but nearly everyone had to use their phone lights to find their seats. After we’d sat munching popcorn in the dark for a few minutes, I got silly.
Now, I know this impulse came from ME. From the truest, most inherent part of who I am, which is also a part of me that has been buried, straightened, controlled, managed, and otherwise manipulated to Behave itself. But that day--maybe because I was so tired, maybe because the weight seemed so heavy, maybe because God nudged me—I did what I almost never do. I actually got silly.
I took out my phone, turned the flashlight on, aimed it at the enormous screen, and started making shadow puppets in front of a theater full of people. My family and I giggled, then little snort-laughs started exploding from other people all around us. I couldn’t keep it going very long (I don’t know a ton of one-handed shadows), but when I turned my light off, someone else turned theirs on. We did this for about twenty minutes!
Twenty minutes of spontaneous group fun…in the dark…with total strangers! That bright spot (literal bright spot!) started me thinking.
I have a few other inherent parts of me that get a lot of flack. For instance, I always tackle “too much.” That’s in quotes because, really, how do you define “too much”? And who is in charge of defining it anyway? (I’m laughing at myself here.) If I ever end up faced with that eternal, boring pair of matching interview questions about my greatest strength and weakness, that’s my answer: I can handle A LOT, but sometimes I try to handle “too much.”
My wonderful husband even gave me a plaque to celebrate that.
Our life is insanely full right now. It’s far surpassed the normal madness of modern life. I’m not just talking work and parenting, both of which are jobs and a half these days. I mean that we’ve got huge life changes happening, deep growing we’re doing, and friends and family we want to be there for. I bet 4 out of 5 dentists would agree that anything I add to my list right now is “too much.”
Yet I’m also, inherently, in my bones, a baker. I love to bake! Cookies, cakes, muffins, even pastry. (Somehow no one complains about that quality of mine…hmmm.) I’ve had some buttermilk in the house, waiting to be a part of the best muffin recipe ever. And, as a family, we all want to be part of our new neighborhood. And the baker in me knows that food never fails to make a great conversation, so…
So today, with a book edit due Monday and a host of other things on my mind, I baked mini-muffins, then took them to three of our neighbors. My daughter and I spent a few minutes with each one, chatting and enjoying every minute of it. And now I sit, with happiness filling my heart, in the den we’re not fully moved into (we will be building the wall unit next week), not finishing my editing project because…
I’m also a writer. A writer who drops everything when insight happens, who tries to transform the whispers in her ear into understandings to share. Who feels most real, alive, and heart-full when crafting words to put out into the world.
I’ve spent a lifetime taming all these parts of me, my random childishness, my inflated sense of the possible, my absolute need to breathe in ideas and breathe out newly created thoughts. They do not fit the busy-ness of modern life.
Yet they do fill my cup. Just like wandering does for Rachel’s daughter. Just like some precious, irreplaceable gift does for you.
My hope for the world lies in that thought. I’m nothing fancy—my gifts won’t cure cancer or bring about world peace. At least, they won’t do that on their own. But they can fill my cup, they can bring me health and peace and joy, they can give me overflowing love to spill out into the world.
Be fiercely, joyfully, wholly yourself. Be who you are, in everyday moments and in life-changing ones. Lean into your true self, let your own gifts fill your cup. Let it spill from you into the world around you. No gift, no overflow can be too little—every drop counts.
Drop by drop, we can make a flood. Drop by drop, we can heal the brokenness. Drop by drop, we can fill this world with love.