Sometimes the victories are small…starting with getting out of bed.
We count them.
There are small wins along the day. Blessings, in the words of Irving Berlin, sung by Bing Crosby. I agree with them. Count your blessings. Except, maybe, the part where the lyric encourages you to count them because of insomnia.
If you are worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings
Instead of sheep
And you will fall asleep
Counting your blessings.
My disagreement? Why wait?
We have a family thing we’ve done on and off over the years. We call it “The Blessing Jar.” We’d do it — #TheMrs, #TheDghtrUnit and I – in the mornings during the child’s formative years. Meeting in the living room each morn before school and work, we’d read a Scripture-based essay (a devotional, in Christianese parlance), discuss the day’s work or school tasks, and spend time celebrating what had occurred the day before. Accomplishments that involved personal achievements (P), others’ achievements (O), work (or school) achievements (W). P.O.W. We’d write these on a 3 x 5 card or piece of paper, date the cards, pass them around, read aloud, give a prayer of thanks, then put them in a jar. Then later in the year, sometimes at Thanksgiving, we’d dip into the jar and see what had occurred to encourage us throughout the days.
We adapted the concept for our small group of friends who frequently gathered at the house for bible study, prayer and hanging out. An ice-breaker kind of thing we’d do until the group ceased regular gatherings. Still, the idea of celebrating small achievements of ourselves, others or at work created a connection that continues.
Meanwhile, back on the homefront…
As #TheDghtrUnit reached those double-digit days of puberty, the consistency of The Blessing Jar waned. Early morning schedules brought haste and a sullenness to our family time as the demands of middle school, then high school, urgencies changed the family dynamic. #TheMrs and I frequently refer such scenarios as “the tyranny of the urgent,” a phrase introduced to us by our pastor-and-co-commiserating-teen-parenting-colleague at the time. To counter the attitude, schedule and waning energy battles of dawn, we changed “Blessing Jar” family gatherings to evenings. After dinner. A move that only exasperated the teen, falling victim to the entrapment of social media, mobile devices and fatigue, who was also developing a gift for employing scripture when it fit her desires to withdraw: her parry to our thrust.
My patriarchal command, “Okay, let’s do devotion,” could be countered with “Parents don’t exasperate your children.” If the words did not come – lest commandments five and six be invoked (the ones about honoring your parents and murder) – the thought and tone percolated. Jesus said murder occurs in multiple levels – there’s the physically killing, then there’s the attitudinal killing. To prevent both, suffice it to say, by the time we’d finished puberty “The Blessing Jar” ritual had concluded.
But, don’t cry for we, Ike and Tina. (If you chuckled, thank you. My editor — #TheMrs – let the line past despite myself).
The ritual ended. The spirit of the ritual did not. In the ensuing years, as #TheDghtrUnit departed the teens and blossomed into legal voting and drinking ages, she has occasionally dropped clues that she is embracing “The Blessing Jar” principles if not the actions.
LEARN MORE: “The Blessing Jar”
Whether written down and discussed as a group or alone, morning or evening, the idea behind “The Blessing Jar” is being aware of, well, positive moments. Blessings. In the words of one of my pastor mentors, “Celebrate the Wins.”
A great challenge we have in our daily lives is recognizing moments of victory. Not just recognizing the positive moments, but the source of such celebrations. The little things. Throughout the day. They are the hugs, the smiles, the laundered dollar bills you find in the clothes dryer, all sorts of things you find or persevere through. Such victories are essential in this era when there is so much malaise and Twitterdumb around us.
This essay is among my victories of the day. Getting to this point of wrapping up is monumental. “The tyranny of the urgent” is a real combatant in these genes that has left me stacks of uncompleted manuscripts on the desktop, tabletops and notebooks surrounding me. That my computer files are assorted and scrambled across numerous browsers and devices is a contributing factor. So, this morning, I opted to attack the elephant in the room – in this case, the Favorites bookmarked in my browsers. All those little stories I come across for research and for reading later that, for various reasons, I cannot access in a basic location…because the list so long despite the folders I have established.
Mouth of the Dragon’s Den
So, simply, I progressed today in my process of “Spiritual Decluttering.” Not just the recycled piles of manuscripts, essays, photos, sermon notes, conference notes, magazines and assorted dragons in my lair manly cave (“Every house has a “Dragon’s Den,” my mother-in-law use to assure me, though I’m still not sure if she meant that as comfort or comment about my housekeeping). The progress is a little thing, but something that’s been gnawing at me, preventing progress on other dreams because I’ve discovered I’m susceptible to creative malaise more frequently these days.
To be sure, there have been and are numerous wins I have throughout the days. Even when we stopped writing them down and talking as a clan. I count the blessings and recognize their source as they occur. I occasionally speak of them aloud. I do not believe in coincidence. Such moments, such encounters, are exhilarating when I remember the source.
A long-time friend enjoys yet underestimates this perspective, “Oh, Michael,” says #MonAmie, “you think everything is a blessing!”
Not everything. But I’m aware when they occur, celebrate in the moment, and I am grateful for the discovery.
That’s why I got out of the bed today.