As many of you know, 2019 was a year I spent very intentionally affirming one person each day. Self-imposed deadlines, each set 24 hours apart from the next, were my rule and rhythm for the entire course of twelve months. Lessons learned in this year will stay with me for a long time, perhaps forever. A few folks who have asked me to share these insights in person with them recently over a cup of coffee suggested I post them, so here you go! In them, I hope you find something that makes it worth the read.
1. Be brave enough to stink at something for the sake of the Lord. I am not always articulate, and often the quality of my daily writing was marginal (at best). However, when it’s more important to us to listen to the instructions we believe to be uttered in our direction by the voice of the Holy Spirit than to the give in to our fears and self-doubt, we get it right. This week, two different men in my life reached out to me. One of these tough guys teased me about all my new found “free time” but then he asked me what am I going to do next. He told me I inspired positivity in his life and that he was grateful. The other gentleman, who I’d largely describe as a blue-collar style smartass, asked me to please keep writing. He shared with me two absolutely beautiful encounters with Christ he had in his life. It was incredibly moving to get this feedback, to hear how Jesus takes our little offerings and makes them bigger and better. To me, it affirmed that my imperfect way of trying to shine the light of Christ…well it did get scattered about enough to brighten the area. Jesus is in charge here- rough edges and all. Whatever the outcome…it was effort given for the sake of the Lord. Bottom line, I’m glad I was brave enough to stink for Jesus, ha? It was Mother Teresa who said, “Give the world your best and it may never be enough, give your best anyway, for you see, in the end it is between you and God.” Smart woman. It’s almost like she’s a saint or something, ha?
2. We learn discipline by being disciplined. My confessor has frequently over the years heard me express sorrow over my lack of discipline in many areas of my life. Just like any unholy habit, it can be fixed by simply practicing a new way of living. I am now willing to admit that it takes some degree of discipline to write a few paragraphs every single day for a year. I’d argue I can no longer say I am an utterly undisciplined person. I’m shocked to see those words on my screen. Accountability helped me for sure. I believe this skill has and will translate to other areas of my life and that “practicing” living better can start small and do the same for you too. “The one quality which sets one man apart from another- the key which lifts one to every aspiration while others are caught up in the mire of mediocrity- is not talent, formal education, nor intellectual brightness– it is self-discipline. With self-discipline, all things are possible. Without it, even the simplest goal can seem like the impossible dream.” (Theodore Roosevelt)
3. No Snub Lists Allowed. One day about mid-year, my youngest son asked me about how I choose who I write about each day. He wondered if there were some people I would choose not to write about for one reason or another? Then, my oldest son joked that he planned to publish a “Top 10 Biggest Snubs” list when I completed my year. I would describe my reaction to that idea as MORTIFIED. In every smile there is beauty. None of us are perfect, and every single one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. If there is anyone in your life in whom you cannot spot the face of the Lord, cozy up and look harder– just like you want the Lord (and the rest of us mere mortals) to do with you. God doesn’t have a snub list, and neither should we. No matter what. “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” (Thomas Merton)
4. Goodness Multiplies. Naively, I thought I’d just write 365 affirmations in 2019. That would be 365 consoling, kind, and sometimes silly positivity notes in the world. My heart was pure and I was not attached to any outcome. It seemed both simple and worthwhile. I really and truly wanted to be the face of Christ to those 365 people. Period. At the end of 2018, social media seemed so filled with vitriol. My tiny corner? I wanted it to be kinda shiny in 2019. What I didn’t consider was how often my simple note would then lead to other folks chiming in with their two cents about the awesomeness of my person of the day. Frequently, dozens of other people would add their own love to the kindness bouquet with comments on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, text message….or even (God forbid) in PERSON. Our good and gracious God ALWAYS outdoes us in generosity and love. He’s radically generous. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Cor 9: 6-8)
5. Stop All the Apologizing. If someone issues a compliment, don’t brush it aside or shake it off. Say THANK YOU. Perfectionism is a lie. We all make mistakes. You don’t need to listen to Satan whispering lies in your ear. It’s a time and space waster. Instead of “I can’t” stick the words “Up until now” at the front of your sentences. If you feel guilty, it’s one of two things. Either you have sinned and you need to tell the Lord you are sorry, then move on in freedom…OR the voice in your head is not of God. Which one is it? Turn it all over to the Lord. Trust God because He is trustworthy. Sometimes, He helps us fall apart right into place.
6. God can and does work miracles for you and through you. When I started my year, my health was at low ebb. There was a scary lung cancer diagnosis. Surgery and uncertainty loomed a bit large. I felt consoled by the presence of Jesus in those around me, many of whom I wrote about each day, and in Our Eucharistic Lord too. He was my peace. I really was doing my best to rest in Christ. Still, there were moments of worry and sometimes stomachaches too. I often thought, “I don’t know what people do who don’t have faith.” Skepticism may be cool, and lots of people embrace it when it comes to matters of faith but God can and does work miracles for you and through you. I kept my head up, and tried my best to trust that God loves me, setting aside those thoughts that are clearly not of God, the ones which say “you aren’t good enough” or “why would He love you?” Guys. I was looking for God in all of you every single day last year, and I found Him. Over and over again. The cancer diagnosis was declared a mistake. It turns out it was something less menacing in my lung. A to the MEN. My heart was burning by year’s end at the magnificent way He loves us. It’s uncanny the number of times I heard from someone words like “I cannot believe that TODAY is the day you wrote about me.” “I was at the end of my rope”, or “I really needed to hear this right now.” There are dozens of crazy stories that started with a text or a call like that from 2019. I was probably invited for coffee 50 times by different people who wanted to tell me how incredible it was that I wrote what I did, or that I said it when I did. I drank a lot of latte. You guys. It wasn’t me. God did that FOR YOU. If it was my keyboard, then thanks be to God. Make no mistake, however. It was JESUS loving you. He’s flat out crazy, mad, recklessly in love with little old you…and me! GOD IS LOVE. “Nothing is sweeter than love; nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing more generous, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in Heaven or on earth; for love proceeds from God and cannot rest but in God above all things created.” (Thomas a’ Kempis)
Here’s the bottom line. If you have the chance to make someone happy, just do it. Maybe, your act of kindness will just make their day…and yours too.
THANK YOU for reading along in 2019.