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raingagueJune2018This morning, the sun out competed the clouds and burned off pockets of fog. A cool breeze rustled the lush vegetation surrounding our house. I checked our rain gauge. Three inches. Good day to pull weeds, I thought, scrub floors, wash the dogs, do laundry, and walk to the mailbox.

I am a list-maker. (See: The Things I Carried and How to Grocery Shop) Every day, I list what I plan to do: network, chores, workout, meals, devotion, write, read, practice.

Meh, huh?

Turns out, I could put my obsessive habit to better use.

 

At the Festival of Faith and Writing 2018, I attended a lunchtime workshop offered by Marilyn McEntyre then bought her book. Why make a list? Here’s a list (ha) of my favorite suggestions:

  • To clarify your concerns
  • To name what you want
  • To decide what to let go of
  • To discover subtle layers of feeling
  • To claim what gives you joy
  • To dispel a few fears
  • To explore implications

 

McEntyre’s lists encompass spirituality—laments, poems, prayers, pilgrimages, litanies.

Imagine, for instance, a litany of release—a ritual of dropping the regrets you carry one by one into a deep, clear pool of divine forgiveness where they will be dissolved. It could be as simple as a list naming the regrets: “Things I didn’t do for my dying father” or “Unkept promises” or “What I would do now.” Such a list could also be elaborated into an actual litany, each line ending with “I ask and receive forgiveness”: “For the preoccupation that kept me from paying attention when my child was in pain… I ask and receive forgiveness.”

 

Today, while pulling weeds, scrubbing floors, washing the dogs, doing laundry, walking to the mailbox, I plan to think about the ways I love God, my family and friends, my life—to claim what gives me joy. The next time I’m wanting, fearful, or just plain vexed and don’t want to let it go, I’ll pull those lists out of my back pocket and create other lists: “For [who and/or what], I give you thanks.”

Maybe I’ll compose a love letter as McEntyre suggested, quoting Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem to her husband: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

A list that would out-compete clouds, burn off fog, rustle leaves, and overflow our rain gauge.

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