….And it’s all small stuff (really?!)

You’ve seen that book…. You know the one on the coffee table or better yet – in the magazine rack in someone’s bathroom.

I don’t know about you, but seeing a book collecting dust on someone else’s bathroom shelf has never made me want to just reach out and grab it.  I much prefer to know the book I am currently caressing hasn’t traveled into the nefarious depths of someone else’s lavatory.  Personal reading material ought to be available to the general public in your living room,  your spare bedroom, or even the kitchen, but the bathroom?!  I really don’t need too much information about how you spend your private time.  Keyword: private.  Just airing my personal grievances here.

Anyway, the book I’m referring to is one that landed on coffee tables (and in bathrooms!)  like wildfire in the late ’90s — Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it’s all Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep Little Things from Taking Over Your Life.  Sage wisdom packed into small sound bites.  Seems easy enough, so why am I still “sweating”?

Last week was Spring Break.  Along with a short family ski trip to the mountains, the kids and I got to hang out and “enjoy” one another’s company as a family.  I highlight the word “enjoy” because, truth be told, we’ve been known to get all up in each other’s business a time or two with relatively little on the social docket to distract us.  After my daughter asked to re-watch the same episode of Disney’s “Suite Life on Deck” for the sixth time and my son’s eyes glazed over due to what I lovingly coined, “computer coma” — I decided it would behoove all of us to get out of the house and take a short field trip up to Denver to visit one of my favoritest people in all the world, my cousin.

My sweet cousin and I found ourselves, as many young mothers do, engaged in intermittent conversation as we paced back and forth supervising six kids at the local trampoline joint.  The children were in heaven bouncing off the walls (literally) and hurling dodge balls at each other. We just had to make sure no one decided to make a run for it and head out the front door in search of greener pastures — including the mommies. 🙂

I sat in awe, listening to her explain how she had recently planned all four of her kids’ extravagant birthday parties on the treadmill one afternoon while training for her upcoming marathon.  Seriously — not an exaggeration.  And she graciously listened to me as I rattled on about the annoying paperwork glitches in our adoption process.  I went on to confess that I don’t know “how she does it” — raising four kids, making four lunches, tucking in four tired bodies at the end of the day, loading and unloading the dishwasher, folding oodles of laundry — you get the point….  It seems exhausting.  She just smiled and said something I’ll never forget. 

She said, “You know, buckling four seat belts, tying four sets of shoelaces and making four lunches everyday is the relatively easy part.  It’s entering into the diverse emotional needs of four individual human beings that will get you.”

Hmmm…. I guess I never thought of it that way. In my mind, the seemingly overwhelming details of keeping your head above water in everyday life seem to supersede anything else. In essence, she reminded me that life is all about relationships.  The details of getting from point A to point B become secondary.  The quality of the relationships you have with the people you love is what truly matters. 

Her sage observation reminded me of a favorite quote I’ve had on a refrigerator magnet for years….

In his book “Gracias”, theologian Henri Nowen writes:

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, and greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, and be known as someone who wants to live with them.  It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.  My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings and conferences, that prevent me from walking the streets.  It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause and not to feel that you are working directly for special progress.  But, I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes and hugs that you do not simply like them but you truly love them.”

As a Mom, I may feel better when the kitchen floor is dirt free, the sink is empty and the beds are made.  I mean, those beds don’t make themselves!  But I know my kids feel better when I practice this ever elusive ministry of presence.  My daughter’s eyes soften when I sit down to color with her.  And, my son’s smile never shines so bright as when he’s out-shooting me in a game of “Horse”.

There may never be enough of me to go around, but in all reality that’s probably a good thing.  When I take the time to fill myself up with God’s love, there will be more than enough of Him pouring out into my hugs and handshakes.  I guarantee that’s probably who people want anyway!

God sees the end from the beginning.  He knows the victory —  He scripted it.  He’s not sweating the small stuff. 

Although, I do look pretty cute with a hot pink sweatband on my head.  Richard Simmons ain’t got nothin’ on me…


  1. Ashley says:

    First, I’m with you on the bathroom reading material thing! It’s always driven me nuts and I’m glad to know I’m in good company on that little pet peeve. 🙂

    Second, thanks for the reminder that it really isn’t all the small stuff that matters. I love that quote you posted. So very true. It’s quite the balancing act to just relate to folks as a person and not let the dailyness of life get in the way. I’ve got to work on that one.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on here. I enjoy reading them and hearing your heart!


  2. Stina says:

    You said a lot there…but my main take-a-way is your profound magnets! What the what? Mine are either chipped or useless but certainly not Nouwen! 🙂 love to the Nilsen’s from the Harrell’s


  3. Katie says:

    Um. I always knew my sis and cuz were smarter than me. This is why I stick so close to you two – to grasp your knowledge so I can be changed for the better. This blog is singin’ my song. Not that I’ve perfected it. Only that I think it and need to strive for it. (Striving for what is written in the quote that is.) To be Martha vs. Mary. Or is it Mary vs. Martha? Hmmmm….better go look up. Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
    I LOOOOOVE you.


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