Saturday, June 25, 2016

In Praise of the Empty Inbox

I've decided that it doesn't take much to make me happy.  It's usually a seemingly insignificant daily routine or maybe a series of small choices that all add up, leaving body / soul / mind unencumbered and allowing me to live at my best and healthiest.

I do dislike that sense of overwhelm that comes with a collision of undone tasks, unexpected huge life events, an overstuffed calendar, and far too many major decisions coming at me full force all at once.

Like most introverts, I function at my finest when I'm not on overload.  

You, too?

As much as possible, I design my life to keep that from happening, and in doing so, leave plenty of space for those surprises {good and not-so-much} that God allows to come down the pike with regularity.


Keeping my email inbox just about empty has become one of those non-negotiables in my life.

I don't do much at all with social media, so email's a primary communication tool for me, a lifeline, really.  Soon after I pray myself awake each morning, I check to see what's come in during the night.  And it's right then and there that I take care of business.

My goal?

To handle each note just once.

And this is what's working for me ...

>  I scan the inbox and delete each and every bit of correspondence that I just don't care about.  An ad from a store I love but won't visit this week.  A bi-monthly newsletter here, an update from some organization there.  I'm not ready to unsubscribe from this stuff, but I don't need to read every update that comes my way.  Click, click, click ... and it's all outta there.

>  Responding to notes from clients is a priority.  There might be a request for a session, a change in appointment time, or a quick question to answer.  I answer right then and there, and then send her request into the client file for confidential safekeeping.

>  When you leave a comment on this blog, it comes to my inbox where I'll read your kind words and then hit the PUBLISH button.  Presto, your valued insights join the conversation and then I delete the notice that Blogger sent my way.  {I handle comments this way because there's enough surprises in life without going to your own online space only to find that unwanted obscene callers have somehow made their unpleasant presence known.}

>  I check out what family and friends have to say.  If I've got a quick response, I'll do it right away and then delete the note, unless it's one of those save-able treasures.  In that case, I'll tuck it in the file that bears their name / category for safekeeping.

>  I take a few minutes with Henri Nouwen's daily meditation.  And then I send Henri on his way 'til tomorrow by deleting the day's offering.

>  Receipts, acknowledgements, warranties, info-to-save goes straight to the receipt file.

>  If some kind of mail comes through that I'm not interested in, I'll hit the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email right then and there.  And then toss the uninvited communique in the trash.

What's left?  A few notes that need some kind of more thoughtful response, which I aim to do at some point in the next day or so.  And then those emails get deleted or filed in the appropriate spot.

{By the way, yes, email / texting are super efficient ways to share information.  But I've learned the hard way that typing on a keyboard or tapping on a screen can lead to potentially volatile discussions that probably could have been avoided if they had taken place in person.  It's way too easy to be misunderstood, your efforts backfiring because voices aren't heard or body language remains hidden.  Trust me, important conversations are much better done either face-to-face or voice-to-voice.}  

Just like the snail mail that comes to the mailbox at the end of my driveway, my aim is to handle each piece of mail once, twice if need be.  If a message is important enough to keep, I'm going to make that happen as soon as possible by sending it right on over to the appropriate file.  It's not going to sit around, taking up that valuable visual real estate on my screen ... or perhaps more importantly, in my head.

I've got more significant things to fill that space with.

You, too?

Your inbox.  Love it or hate it?  Let's talk ... I'd love to hear what's working for you!


visiting with Holley

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sharing Chocolate Ice Cream with Daddy

This is the first Father's Day without my dad, the occasion wedged in tight right in the midst of a string of bittersweets ... his birthday, my parents' anniversary, the laying of the gravestone, the date of his death.

I wandered through the dusty old blog archives this morning, looking for another post but finding the one shared below instead, somehow forgotten.  It captures who we were, causing me to smile even as hot tears cascade.

Interesting that along the way I was so busy taking pictures of everybody else that this string of selfies from 2013 are just about the only ones I have of the two of us together.

I honor him this weekend, our whole family remembers.  How could we ever forget?  We each grieve in our own individual ways even as we continue to share memories and stories that somehow seem to get embellished with time.  His legacy shines bright and true.

I'm forever grateful.  For there are no regrets.


I know that you, too, may be honoring your dad this weekend even though he's not with you anymore.  I hear that the pain lingers long, that an empty space remains always and forever.  May your saddened tears be soothed by gratitude for memories sweet.

And if Father's Day breaks your heart because your relationship wasn't healthy and the memories bring pain, my deepest desire is for you to head over here for words of consolation and comfort.

Dear Dad ~

Happy 57 years of celebrating Father's Day, happy 61 years with my sainted mother, happy 85th birthday to you.

I hold you close and stretch my arm way out, camera in hand.  We're still making memories whenever we can.  And I want to capture this celebration before we dive into great huge bowls of chocolate ice cream on the most gorgeous Cape Cod day ever.  Before we laugh the sunny afternoon away as we fill the newly painted window boxes with multi-hued petunias and patch the driveway and cut the rhubarb.  Before we sit and watch the birds explore the bird house and someone who shall remain nameless tracks driveway tar onto the light aqua carpeting.  Before the evening falls and the breeze cools and we watch TV at ear-piercing levels and talk politics and books and you share ancient photos and vividly-detailed stories from Scotland in the century past.

We all know you never expected to hit this milestone.  Ah ... but God had other plans, and here you are, moving around on your own two feet and in your right mind.  Wisdom still comes from your heart and your vast life experience.  You still break into hearty song on a moment's notice ... and I realize in the writing of this that my sister and I do the same.  For the nuts didn't fall far from the tree, did they ...

You still prize hard work and an eye to detail, even though you might be moving just a tad slower.  Your eyes are quick to fill at the most sensitive of moments.  You make us laugh ... and yes, we both continue to make each other crazy from time to time.

And when you confidently pound on heaven's doors in perfect King James English, I know our Redeemer listens.  You have shown us how to be faithful to Him and to each other.

Please know I value your wise counsel more than ever.  And I know I'm not the only one.  So please rejoice in this season because your legacy is living on, even as we speak.  Through your children.  Children's children.  And children's children's children.

How good is God!

I love you, Daddy ~

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

For When Your Man Feels 'Less Than'

The key that unlocks a man's heart, that equips him to be all he was created to be, is RESPECT.  It's his truest love language, it's his finest motivator.  

When a man feels respected, it unleashes a healthy power that enables him to love well.  It's the juice that propels him to soar upward professionally.  

And it's the sure foundation that allows him to lead with sensitive wisdom 
in his home, church, workplace, and community.

Based on my years as a pastoral counselor, here's what I know to be true ... when all is said and done, just about every guy I've talked with feels 'less than' in some area of his life.  Underneath the burden of whatever challenge he hauls into the counseling office, he has bought the lie that  ... {continue reading}

I'm guest posting over at Alecia Simersky's Calling All Men Series today.  If you've got any men in your world, you'll find what she's offering this month to be relevant and enlightening.  And guys ... well, I sure want you to weigh in on this.   


Saturday, June 11, 2016

In Which We All Need an Imperfect Nook * Creating a Haven :: 6

Our dwelling places have been designed with a bunch of rooms and each set of four walls serves a specific purpose.  Kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom.

Yeah, we know that.  

Yet every home is filled with unexpected nooks and crannies, too.

And, most likely, one of those little corners has become your very own sweet haven.  It may not have dawned on you 'til right now.  But if you stop to reflect for just a second, you might have an 'aha' moment and realize ... {click here to finish reading}


I can't think of a better way to finish off the Creating a Haven Mini-Series than responding to a friend's gracious invitation to guest post at her place.  For it's never been about the house, the updates, the decor.  It's about swinging wide the front door and extending a genuinely warm, 'come on in, friend!'  

And that's what Debby Hudson has done.  

If you missed any of our Haven dialogues, here's the links.  I loved this series and the conversations that bubbled up in the process.  I hope you did, too ...



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

If You Read Only One Book This Summer . . . This Is It

In keeping with my self-imposed light online footprint, I'm not going to endlessly go on and on about what just might be one of the best books I've ever read.

Bottom line - if you read only one book this summer, grab Adam McHugh's The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction.

McHugh's the kind of guide you'd choose if you're taking a long, winding journey to someplace unknown.  He's wise, he's got a keen sense of humor.  He knows where he's headed, because he's the first to admit the mistakes he's made in the past.  His subject matter is deep, yet engaging and readable.  He's got some crack-you-up anecdotes to share along the way {and his wry humor is even interlaced in the books's end notes}.

If you like reading with a highlighter or pen in hand, grab yours.

'The question that drives this book is, how would our relationships change, and how would we change, if we approached every situation with the intention of listening first?  What if we approached our relationship with God as listeners?  What if we viewed our relationship with nature as one of listening?  What if we approached our relationships using our ears rather than our mouths?  What if we sought to listen to our emotions before we preached to them?' 

The Listening Life will probably not only end up being my favorite book of 2016 ... it will drastically simplify my Christmas shopping list come November.

I'll take a crate of these, please.