Small Things that are Working Their Big Magic in a New Year of Dreams and Goals

Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different? C. S. Lewis

Everywhere I turn, everyone is talking about their plans for the coming year. 

Do you have BIG plans for 2018?

Or are you overwhelmed by the very thought of New Year's resolutions?

Or have the years of missed goals just taught you to hate resolutions of any kind? 

Before you throw it all out the window in frustration, because, well it's just too B-I-G, consider a few small things.

A few years ago, I started a few teensy things that have made a world of difference in my life.

  1. Walk every day
  2. Write every day
  3. Make Advent my New Years

Those three small things turned out to be BIG. They have changed my life by slowing me down, making me pay attention and reorienting my calendar-life around the life of Christ. They have shaped me: body, soul, and faith. And continue to do so.

In that spirit of tiny things growing larger day over day as they gather together in stacks, threads or layers, I am continuing to try small things that seem as though they could not possibly make a big difference and giving them a chance to do so, quietly, subtly, invisibly. I am letting them count and work their magic over time and with resilience.

These are the itsy-bitsy things, the ones that take perseverance because they have to be repeated for full effect.

I sang this little ditty recently to my 2 1/2-year-old grandson, who I call the Blueberry,

The itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout.
Down came the rain and waaashshed the spider out
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
So the itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the spout again

He loves it when the spider gets waaashshed out. But this time, after singing it for the hundredth time, I noticed that the itsy-bitsy spider made a ton of steps to get up that waterspout. Repeatable steps. Retraceable steps. Somewhere in the song is woven a silken thread of resilience that I have missed before in all the times I sang it to my own Whippersnappers.

Isn't it funny how small people with their small ways teach you big things?

I like to say I am not a quitter. But this little spider got me thinking that when the rain comes or things get difficult, I may give up all too easily.

I may hide that giving up beneath phrases like, "I tried that.", "It didn't work for me", or "Who has time for that?". But really, I may have discounted the value of the small things to add up to bigger things.

Here are a few things that are small and definitely need repeating to make their full effect, but they are changing my life right now and even in the moment:

Making thankfulness lists about the people in my life.
This is nothing new for me, I have whole journals of the stuff, but I have recently returned to the practice and it still holds the strength to change my heart.

Here was the gratefulness list I made recently about Mike:

  1. music is one of his love languages
  2. not afraid of the dentist (i kinda am)
  3. currently loving chili dill pickles
  4. beautiful 6' scar down the middle of his chest
  5. drives into the sunrise with me

Index cards and tiny clipboards.
I write quotes, ideas, lists, and prayers on these little white canvases (my one word for 2017) and keep them organized and available on my desk on tiny clipboards. I have just begun a stack for my one word of 2018, "layers". I don't yet know all that word means for me but when something seems to be related to that idea, onto an index card it goes.

My goal is for some of these little cards is to become the pages of a book I am writing, but for now, I am faithfully gathering them all into groups. I have always used index cards by the thousands, but the clipboards are a new idea from author and cozy minimalist Myquillan Smith, a.k.a. the Nester.

Making my calories count.
I am daily logging in my calories, my nutrition, and my steps into My Fitness Pal app right on my phone. I am trying not only to count my calories but to make my calories count. It isn't glamorous. It can be tedious, but it is working for me to feel a little better in my own skin; not the first day, but slowly day upon day upon day.

Small groups.
Ever since I was 18 and left home for the biggest state school you can imagine,(40 acres and 55,000 students), I have understood the power of small groups for navigating big life. I joined two small groups, one for my writing goals and one for my fitness goals. I can already see them working to get me where I want to go.

Mike and I are leading a Life Group in our home. At our first meeting this week, I could hear in people's introductions how thirsty they are for discussing the things that shape their faith and being known more deeply by a few people in their church family.

Starting small and counting it worthwhile no matter the results seems to be one of God's ways that yields the best results.

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,
which a man took and put in his garden;
and it grew and became a large tree,
and the birds of the air nested in its branches.

So, take heart dear friend in this New Year and just keep planting a few small seeds, and see how, if kept up, these tiny things could change everything. And one more thing, even if you never see big changes, these small steps are worthy in their own right for the moment in which you do them.

A prayer for doing small things:

May we do one small thing today and be willing to do it again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.
May we grow in our love of small repeatable things. We are planting seeds that seem too small and hoping for big trees.
Help us, Jesus, both as our God and model-man of doing small immeasurable things in this life, become people of resilience by our faithfulness in small ordinary things while we enjoy You as our LORD.