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Posts Tagged ‘Do the next thing’

Wednesday was quite a cluttered day here in the Vicarage. Jolly left for a new safe home, and the Vicar spent the morning with him, the Hope for Justice team, and CID. As you do. Meanwhile, I was with the team running our monthly soup lunch. For a chilly February day we served Melrose lentil soup and an approximation of Spiced Root Soup. There were also whole orange cakes for afters. And then our dear friend Song came to spend her day off with us and so Wednesday disappeared with rather a lack of attention to the mess.

Pleasingly, today’s rummage in the boys’ bedroom meant I could knock out 3+4 items easily. Look! Lots of picture books that haven’t been read for quite some time. And I’m not even going to hold some of them back for later in the month – I’ve barely started with the book shelves in there.

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I am terrible at throwing stuff away. I can always see a use for it (the curse of creativity) and so the clutter slowly covers all surfaces and occupies all cupboards. So when a vicar’s wife friend started a declutter “game” on Facebook last February I joined it. The idea is to declutter on each day of February, starting with chucking one thing on 1st February, two on 2nd February and working up to 28 (29 this year!) things on the last day of the month. In a non leap year, that gives you a grand total of 406 items disposed of, and 435 this year, if you keep going to the end.

There are no formal rules, so today I chucked a load of out-of-date pulses out, and I’m counting that as one item. Later in the month I might have counted each individual extra wizened chick pea to make the total for the day (sometimes I found myself needing to stretch the numbers last year).

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No counting rules!

Last year I managed about half the month, and it was definitely worthwhile. Obviously you get most done in the second half of the month, but I still managed some fairly effective clearing out. I found the focus of getting rid of something every day very helpful. Counting is a good way to Do the Next Thing. This February I’m giving it another shot, and if you’d like to join me, I shall be posting progress on here.

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My distractibility and butterfly mind can be a creative strength. What they are not, however, is an aid to focussed prayer.

Reading my bible and devotional material is one thing, but a concentrated session of prayer often seems too much to tackle. It has recently, at least.

Do the Next Thing Prayer

A prayer meeting is fine, getting together with my prayer partner is great, but me, praying on my own, that’s too big. So in this year of Doing the Next Thing, I need to learn to commit to doing prayer as the Next Thing.

And so last week I was prompted to return to the best aid I’ve found for reducing distraction in prayer – the most excellent PrayerMate App (also available for Apple products). I have my PrayerMate sorted out so that I start with reading things – a psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, the Church of England Collect for the day. Then I pray for family, friends and further afield. I’d forgotten I’d set my prayers up like that, it had been so long. It wasn’t as scary as I remembered, nor as difficult to do.

I was gently eased into prayer, and I was reminded of the Puritan injunction to ‘pray until you pray‘, which I first read about in Don Carson’s terrific book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation. I’ve found this to be wise advice. Prayer takes work and it takes time to find the focus required. So beginning my prayer time using written prayers I don’t have to think about too much helps me to start praying. And once I start praying, finding my own words to keep praying seems easier.

PrayerMate got a shiny new update just a few days ago, making it even better to use and prettier to look at. One of the lovely teenagers from my dorm at our summer holiday venture bounced up to me on Saturday to tell me that she’d downloaded the app. And she’d even used it a bit too. So if a distracted 13 year old can use it, so can I. And maybe you too? Do the Next Thing – Do It with Prayer.

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I started so well. I expect you did too. January I mean. The new term. Full of cheese, chocolate and sleep, we launch into the new year forgetting that the lethargy we felt before Christmas will return.

But then term really gets going, a couple of weeks in, and going for a run becomes the last thing I want to do. A bad night’s sleep and my bible reading seems to need too much energy and motivation to tackle. My plans to blog every night disappear as ideas are squeezed out of my head by family admin.

So tonight is a good night to remember to Do the Next Thing. The next blog post, the next bit of exercise, the next load of laundry, the next bible reading. I need to remember that the two week pause doesn’t mean that I can’t do the Next Thing today. I can read my bible again today, even if there’s been a hiatus. I can write something again, even if it’s just writing about not writing.

And, remembering the God of grace who knows my failures and struggles, and the forgiveness that he offers for those who make a mess of life, and especially of resolutions, tomorrow I’ll set my mind on Doing the Next Thing.

Do the Next Thing Burnt Heart

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myth-clipart-xcgrmgocaI have many faults, but I think my worst one is probably my slothful attitude to mornings. I loathe getting up. It’s partly about sleeping, and partly about hating to leave my warm comfortable bed for a chilly Vicarage.

Ideally, I think I would really like to run my life like Mrs Stitch in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, who was in bed at 11am when Scoop’s (anti)hero Boot visited her. Although she did staying in bed in a very energetic way, simultaneously signing cheques, dictating details of costumes for charity balls, supervising the painting of a mural, checking her daughter’s Virgil translation and completing a cryptic crossword. On reflection, perhaps being like Mrs Stitch is too ambitious.

Now that I no longer have babies who cry for attention at an early hour I need as much help as I can find. I have a few strategies in place (Teasmade by the bed, married a morning person etc) but I know I could probably do a few things to improve my morning sprigginess. So I was interested to see a Wikihow article tweeted by a similarly unlarklike friend this week with a number of useful tips.

The first section of the Wikihow article is called Preparing the Night Before and I was reminded of a couple of golden proverbs I’ve heard from ancient saints. You must say this in a very plummy accent to get them to sound right:

The Battle of the Blankets is won the night before

and

Christians on their way to heaven get to bed before eleven

So I have been trying to win the Battle of the Blankets by getting to bed at least at a time which still features the word eleven. And I’ve been ensuring that getting up is slightly more enticing as an activity. The best thing for me this week in terms of improving my ability to rise from my stupor has been tidying up the post Christmas debris alongside the bed. The attractiveness of getting up surprisingly increases in inverse proportion to the likelihood of skewering my foot on something spikey on the way out.

And I’ve printed out Do the Next Thing to read in my devotional time, to remind me that the Next Thing is to get up. The first line is helpful here:

Do it immediately…

So now I’m off to win that Battle of the Blankets. Once I’ve posted this and talked to the Vicar, and maybe noodled about on the internet for a bit. Still aiming for bed before eleven. Ish.

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Happy New Year!

I am not great at New Year’s resolutions – holidays are such a terrible time for making me unrealistic about my capacity to be Wonder Woman. But over the last few days I have done some reflecting on 2015, and thinking and praying about the year ahead. And actually, I’ve been mulling this over for a while and am hoping that this blogpost will help make my plan more concrete and that this year I will learn to focus better on working one task at a time (and not procrastinating). I found myself very distracted in 2015 [edited to not be a time traveller] and, as a result, not accomplishing what I wanted to. And even more than usual. (Sorry about the complete lack of Christmas cards everyone…).

So this year I am planning to Do The Next Thing, with prayer, trusting God for the results.

Do the next thing visual

I came across this poem more than a year ago on a poster sold by 52home, and I think it sums up the attitude I want to cultivate. The poster on 52Home says that the author of the poem is anonymous but further research (a bit of googling, let’s be honest) turned up the original author. It’s not Elisabeth Elliot, who quoted it and is cited as the author by some online. The poem is actually a verse of a somewhat sentimental longer original which has rather ‘ye olde worlde’ spelling. It is quoted in a book called Ye Nexte Thynge by Eleanor Amerman Sutphen. The book was published in the US in 1897, and the poem was written by Mrs George A Paull – actually Minnie E Paull (nee Kenney), an author of ‘serial stories’. Minnie was a musician and minister’s wife as well as a writer, and some of her biography is available online.

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