Since this is Thanksgiving weekend, I figured that most thought this would be a “Thanksgiving” post. It could have been, might have been, and most likely probably should have been. But I think if I had tried to do that this week, it would have turned into a lecture – a lecture on pettiness, selfishness and hatefulness. Soooooo…I’ll just say I am very blessed and very thankful, stop there and keep it nice!
Let’s just talk about something off the wall…are you a “to-do list” kind of person? You may call it something different: check list, bucket list, agenda item, duty dots (yes, I just made that one up), job tasks, chore chart, or work goals. What ever you may call it, I call it necessary. It is a way to document the direction you want your day, or your life, to go. Yep, I am definitely that person. I have to be that person. I’m about to expose a little known fact about myself. People think I am so on top of things and “so organized.” Little do they know that I am actually so unorganized that I have to be organized to avoid chaos!
By some crazy career path, starting out with NOTHING to do with computers, I ended up doing technical writing for software programs and eventually worked myself into the information technology field as a computer software tester. This was the perfect job for me and the job that I loved getting up and going to each day. It was interesting and fun and crazy and challenging (and I was certified – seriously – in a good way!) and nerve wracking and insane and hilarious and perfect for me! Did I mention the challenging part? Having come into the IT arena through on the job training and a lot of help from my Lord, I found that making a to-do list each day was the only way I could keep up…well, that, and a whole lot of prayer! Prayer did me well and I leaned on it quite frequently!
I am so much more a creative person than an analytical person. So it was a stretch to find myself smack dab in the middle of a technical, analytical world! My main sources of sanity were to lean on prayer and make plans! It was so crazy that I ended up becoming a software tester in the first place. An instructor at one of the training classes I attended said that a good software tester is someone that has the touch for it. That was my saving grace. I had the touch for it. I was very good at “sensing” out the issues. I think the sense was what did it for me, because, quite frankly, I was lost a great deal of the time! I would spend a chunk of my testing time just trying to figure out how an application worked so that I was able to test it. Many times it was just prayer, repetition and stubborn determination that brought it through for me.
I did a lot of praying and wrote a lot of to-do lists! These to-do lists soon became part of my planning process and sometimes the documentation for my testing. Each day I would create a new to-do list for the day. Sometimes, but not very often, it was a brand new list. The norm, though, was that it would contain four or five items from the day, or week, or heck, even the month before. I tried to tag the easier things first to conquer the smaller tasks first. I got a LOT of smaller tasks done and wrestled with numerous big ones and leaned on my faith to help me through each of them!
We should make plans—counting on God to direct us. (Proverbs 16:9)
I carried the “to-do” list theme over to a poster in my office. I found a website that allowed you to create and print these inspirational, encouraging posters like you see in some office buildings. I was trying to think of something encouraging and inspirational to use for my poster. I came up with the idea of using a to-do list as the subject. Then I came up with my top ten things to do each day. I wanted it to include things that would display my heart and share a little fun at the same time.
The top five items on my list are not necessarily normal “daily to-do” list items! They went like this:
1.) Pray. I have already mentioned that prayer was a big part of my work life. My hope is that my faith was evident in how I lived my life; but still, I hoped that the first item on that list would sort of drive that home.
2.) Sing. Seriously, doesn’t it give you the coolest feeling when you are belting out a good song while working around the house or riding in the car with your windows down? Even more fun is when your 19-year old niece actually likes listening to music from the 1980’s and you can jam together!
3.) Smile at Strangers. One of the gifts that God has granted me that has made my life easier is my smile. I don’t really mean the “physicality” of my smile, but the essence of it. It comes easy, it comes naturally. My first instinct when I meet someone is to smile. Have you heard the little saying, “A smile is something that you give away that comes right back to you”?
4.) Learn Something New. The challenges of my previous job made it mandatory that I learned something new almost every day! Even if you don’t learn something new at your job, try to learn something new about the world around you. I think that when you stop learning that you stop growing and start growing old.
5.) Notice Kindness. People are so quick to notice the things that not just right, or the mistakes others make, or just the bad things in life. They don’t take the time to notice that there is still (really) (yes, really!) kindness left in this world. Just take a break, take a breath and look around. (And send a note to Old Navy when you get especially, excellent service from a sales person that acted like they wanted to be there!)
Yes, I suppose that was a rather unusual top five, but the next five are right up there with them! Here they are.
6.) Eat Potato Chips. Yes. Seriously. Doesn’t everyone have this on their to-do list? I truly did used to eat potato chips every day. I was so addicted to them that I actually chose to abstain from eating them for forty days during a time of fasting. Once I could eat them again, they never really tasted the same. They are still my favorite snack food, but I have to confess that they are no longer on my to-do list for every day.
7.) Hope. How do people survive that have no hope? My hope is found in Jesus Christ and the future that He has promised. I have hope that stumps some folks, especially after the bumps and bruises of the past couple of years. To me, hope is all wrapped up in faith, and my faith is something that I feel I have been gifted with.
8.) Count My Blessings. Yes, I have had a couple of tough years. What I see through those difficult times is that I am so very blessed. I have been allowed to see how well my Lord provides for me and, through the blur, how brightly my blessings shine.
9.) Spend Time With Family. If you are blessed enough to have family close to you, spending time with them should be something that you do as much as possible. The sad fact is that we don’t spend that time until it is too late. Then we try to squeeze twenty years into one funeral visitation.
10.) Pay Attention! For the most part, it is not the “big” moments that make life. It is the little, mundane, boring, every day events that make up the story of our lives. Pay attention to them. Better yet, keep a journal and document them.
Yes, I have heavily relied on documentation. I started writing in a “diary” from the time I could pick up a pencil. I had diaries and journals from the time I was in junior high through the time I was nineteen. They were in a box, stored away safely, or so I thought. Somehow, in the move from Kentucky to Tennessee they were lost. That was a big chunk of loss!
Life does go on though. I picked right back up and started over. I now have nearly forty years worth of journals in all shapes and sizes. Some are just notebooks, others are actual journals or leather bound books ;and yes, some of them are just check lists that have been filled out and saved with day-to-day events that made up my life. They all have one thing in common, me! Now THOSE precious keepsakes ARE in boxes all safely tucked away. I do go back and peek at them occasionally. I will usually get a chuckle and sometimes a sentimental moment that brings a tear. The main thing that I see when I look back at these remembrances is the growth that is my life. I see personal growth and spiritual growth. I have also found, within this new season in my life, that keeping that “to-do” list or that journal helps the growth to continue and keeps me from dwelling on the things I no longer have.
Yes, my plans are to continue to look forward and to try and stay as busy as possible and maintain a positive thought process. God is good, all the time, and our hearts and minds should be in a thankful mode and we should listen to the Spirit within us and allow Him to help us check off the boxes on that daily to-do list.
A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], but the Lord directs his steps and establishes them. Proverbs 16:9