On Simple Shifts

As I sit at the start of this new job, this new month, this upcoming season of trips and travel, I was reminded of a post I wrote a while ago that I need to write and read and learn again and again. On the importance of these simple shifts towards grace in the tiniest moments of our lives. So, in an effort to re-learn and refresh, we’re returning to the archives for some much needed perspective this morning.

Originally posted September 2017.

I cannot believe how small the shifts are between the life I am living and the life I want to.

It’s such a subtle, but striking difference. I want stillness, I choose noise. I want rest, I choose TV. I want reverence, I choose distracted hymns, shallow reading, passive prayer.

This weekend Steven left town for a quick trip to San Francisco. For the first time in our marriage, I was alone in New York with no visitors and no real plans to do anything. For days I looked forward to it, making lists of things to accomplish or places to go that are more my style than his. A new bookstore that opened on 34th street, the coffee shop that’s too expensive but so worth the indulgence, yoga on the deck at the gym down the street.

But Friday night I stayed out too late with some coworkers and woke up on Saturday feeling tired and disengaged. I stayed in pajamas until too late to admit, watched entirely too much Grey’s Anatomy, and bought an $11 pint of vegan ice cream for myself because I wanted it.

I went to bed that night restless and cloudy. Emptiness tracing the air above me like a fruit fly.

So today I wanted more. I washed our sheets and towels before 10am. Made a real breakfast with fresh blackberries and finally ripened figs. Wrote a card to my grandaddy and one to my best friend and dropped them in the mail on my way out the door. Called my mom just to talk, bought the coffee I’d been craving, made the 4:30 vinyasa, and got a new book online (close enough).

I prayed uninterrupted and unhurried prayers. I read scripture out loud to soak in its poetry. And I cleaned the apartment so Steven will come home to a rested wife and less of her hair on the bathroom floor.

It was just two days of my life. But the fullness of this day v. the one that preceded it is overwhelming.

There are such small choices keeping me from the life I want. Such small decisions digging the gorge between the here and there.

The choice to eat slowly, read more than I scroll, listen more than I half listen. The choice to give compliments, look the homeless man in the eyes, match my sock with its mate before putting them away. The choice to live simply and to spend my time well. Purposefully, mindfully, in line with who I want to be.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” — Annie Dillard

So why then do I continue to choose the lesser option – why am I so quick to dig that gorge.

And how much like this is my view of God. I do the things I do not want to do (Romans 7:16). And yet these too are such small shifts to make. To choose joy when bitterness swarms me. To hold my tongue when gossip swells in my mouth. To speak boldly about what God has done in moments when it’s needed. To choose gratitude and hold onto it tightly.

I think, in part, I lack conviction. I lack the motivation to change. I take a “diet starts Monday” mentality – delaying the life abundant because the life apparent is fine enough.

But I think, too, I lack perspective. I distort the view of how I want to live. I believe the lie that these changes aren’t small – that spending time well takes too much effort, that prayer without ceasing is just an idea, that softening my heart towards frustrating people is a massive change and probably impossible.

And the thing is, both are true. Those are massive changes. The difference between these versions of my life is huge. And overwhelming. And striking.

But massive change comes from an endless series of small moments. The life I want truly is just tiny choices away, but a thousand times over. The heart I yearn for is found in a quick and quiet prayer, over and over, one-by-one.

The abundant life is not found over night or by chance. We won’t just wake up and find ourselves in the midst of it. The abundant life is a gift and a choice. It’s freely ours, if daily taken.

How much better is the life of conviction. How much sweeter the life swollen with abundance. And how simple the shifts that turn us towards it, if we can keep perspective and remember that it’s ours to take.

How much better is stillness and reverence. Unhurried prayers and letters written on my prettiest paper. Arugula salads with the good salt on the good plates. And asking God to change my heart in five second prayers, one million times.

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