• Guest Contributor

Make This Your List

Recently, at the end of a day packed with zoom calls and other meetings, with little or no space between things, I came home and announced, “I didn’t accomplish anything all day!”  And when I got called on that, as you knew I would, I admitted, “well, I didn’t accomplish anything on my list.”  Lately, I have begun adding meetings with xx or yy on my list, so that I do get home with accomplishments.

I am a list maker, and not just about groceries, but about almost anything.  I make lists of what needs to be done, breaking big tasks into smaller ones so that I can cross off items more quickly and have more success.  Sometimes I add items like get dressed, folks my clothes, clean the bathroom since I know they will happen anyway and I want to see them crossed off.  I want to see progress! Sometimes, at the end of a day or a week, I make a new list of the things on my working list that didn’t get done, and start a new page. 

You get the picture.  The list is long, ever-growing and expanding, and never done.  Is this like yours?

It’s not real in my life if it doesn’t get onto a list in my book.  Even at night, before I sleep, I make a short list of three gratitudes, three places where I felt the joy, or three things I did well and celebrate. Just three. In this way, nightly, I track evidence of God’s fullness in my life.  Ignatius of Loyola developed this practice, called the examen—a review of the day, through the eyes of divine Love, seeking what blocked joy, where it was missing, and where it showed up loud and clear.  In the end, after almost ten years of the practice of daily examen, I only focus on the joy.  It is too heavy at day’s end to focus on the things I wish I had done better.

I am much harder on myself than on anyone else.  The highest expectations of productivity, sensitivity, honor, and more, are reserved for myself.  I do seem to expect that I will have all my meetings, and get some writing, planning, thinking, praying in too!  Does all this sound familiar?

Long years ago, in a hard time, a friend gave me a card that I keep on the refrigerator.  It says: 

Things I need to do today—

Breathe in…   Breathe out

Is that list enough? How would we be better if periodically, or for two minutes of the day, we gave ourselves permission some days to have only this small list?  

Maybe this needs to be our daily list.  Nothing about the day happens if we don’t breathe.  And breathing is the gift of life that keeps everything else.  It may be the most important tasks of our day and the ones we cannot do without.  Have you made time today to breathe in and out, paying attention to the holy gift?  Take one minute to breathe between tasks.  See if your next move is stronger, more determined, more thoughtful.  

Things to do today—Breathe in…  Breathe out.

May your breathing in and out nourish your body, soul, spirit, your mind, your family, your day and night.

Jan Fuller has been the University Chaplain at Elon since 2011. She is an Episcopal priest and deeply invested in helping students to find their own spiritual paths while interacting with others in differing paths with appreciation and respect.Raised in Beirut Lebanon for the first half of her life, Jan is the daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries to the Arab peoples of the Middle East. Jan’s education includes a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary,a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a B.A. in English and French from Hollins University. Jan describes herself as a “war-zone survivor,” who retains a sense of humor and love of gentleness. She loves Arab art and food, and all kinds of music. She intends to find the gift in every day and to live her life as a way of giving thanks.

Contact: jfuller3@elon.edu

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