When You Feel Overwhelmed Take it One Bite at a Time

When You Feel Overwhelmed Take it One Bite at a Time

I stare at the offending room.

The clutter and chaos taunt me.

My kitchen has become a giant (and maddening) game of whack-a-mole!! It’s clean—it’s cluttered. It’s organized—it looks like a bomb exploded. It’s lemon-fresh—dear heavens what died in here?!?!

It is an ongoing battle (one I’ve enlisted the entire family in fighting) and yet most days it still feels like we are losing!

Today I survey the battle scene.

Every surface needs tending.

I want to have a clean kitchen. I really do.

And yet I pause. I stare. I walk away and come back again. I start at the table, but get distracted by the counter. And then I’m over at the island, before picking something up off the floor.

I back out of the room, deciding to return later.

But later just makes it worse.

I peer into the room and feel completely overwhelmed.

Looking at the mess as a whole feels daunting and impossible.

It makes me want to run. To close the door behind me, throw a condemned sign on the front of the house and just start afresh somewhere else!

But then I remember an odd saying my mom used to recite:

You eat an elephant one bite at a time.

I always questioned that piece of advice. I mean:

  1. who is going to eat an elephant??? and
  2. who came up with that? Did a mother somewhere in Africa plop a 6 ton slab of elephant on her son’s plate and say, “Now Johnny, I want you to eat all of your elephant. Just remember to eat it one bite at a time!”

Well, while I don’t have any plans to dine on Dumbo, I do understand the concept.

Instead of looking at the whole, just start with one tiny part.

The advice rings true for kitchen disasters, but as I force myself to focus only on cleaning my kitchen table, I realize my mom’s elephant advice pertains to far more important issues as well.

For the fact is, my kitchen frustrations are just a focus for a far greater frustration: the state of our world—specifically our country.

Things are a mess. A big ol’ giant mess—a mess which makes my kitchen look clean!!!

And I am just one person.

One random, non-political, non-activist, don’t-really-have-a-clue-how-to-affect-change kind of a person.

But I am a person who looks at the state of our world and longs to somehow make it better. I want to help clean our country’s kitchen. But where would I even start???

It feels too big.

Too messy.

Too caked on. Too stacked up. Too much.

And yet, if I do nothing things will only get worse right?

So I guess I need to take my first bite of the elephant.

I wish I could take a big bite. A bite that will bring peace and unity to a tragically divided nation. A bite that will affect policy and process. A bite that can right wrongs and heal wounds. 

And yet, I realize my first bite will surely go unnoticed.

After all, the first bite in a 6,000 ton steak is negligible. But it’s a start.

I don’t know what that first bite will be. 

I’m still surveying the kitchen.

But I will take a bite.

And you will take a bite.

And maybe, just maybe, a bunch of random, ordinary people, will be able to eat an entire elephant…

One bite at a time.

Much love,
Jen

The Scent of God’s Love: Surely it Smells Like Listerine

The Scent of God’s Love: Surely it Smells Like Listerine

I snuggle my eight-year-old self under the quilt, reveling in the decadent space of a queen-sized bed.

I rub my cheek against the feather-soft pillowcase and breathe deeply.

An intensely comforting aroma fills my nostrils as Listerine and Bengay forever intermingle with the memory of sleep-overs with my Grandmother.

She climbs into bed beside me.

We giggle as the bed squeaks in protest of its additional occupant. We giggle even louder when my Granddaddy calls out with feigned indignation from his adjoining room, “You girls settle down in there!”

The baritone chuckle a few seconds later gives him away. My grandmother winks at me before reaching over to switch off the light.

Turning toward me in the shadow-filled room she asks, “Did you have a good time tonight, Sugar?”

“I did,” I whisper, staring into the darkness, longing for the light.

“I sure do love having you here,” she tells me, her voice soothing—beckoning me to look toward her and not the elongated shadows on the wall. “Sugar, you make every day feel like sunshine.”

The shadows suddenly retreat.

“You ready to say prayers?” she asks. 

I am.

I love to hear Grandmother talk to God. I snuggle a little closer as she begins.

I know from experience this is going to take awhile. But I don’t mind.

I smile with anticipation—for I know after just a little while I will hear my name.

She always begins by thanking God for who He is. She calls Him Savior and Father and Lord. She thanks Him for her family and the good things He’s given her. She even thanks Him for the hard things.

She says the hard things draw her closer to Him. I wrinkle my nose, hoping God doesn’t get any ideas of giving me hard things!

I quickly remind Him that I feel pretty close to Him already.

She then begins the roll call of family prayer. My Granddaddy is always first followed by her children in their birth order, then each member of her children’s families—in their birth order. My daddy is the second to the youngest, so I have a bit of a wait until my name is brought before God.

My eyes grow heavy as she prays for my cousins.

I am sleepy, yet comforted by the fact my grandmother possess a superpower making her able to know exactly what each person in our family is struggling with and how to pray for each one.

I am just about to surrender to sleep when I hear my name on her lips. My eyelids fly open. I lean into her.

I don’t want to miss a word.

She thanks God for making me her sunshine, and for our sleepover. She asks Him to always keep me close to Him.

I feel her hand reach for mine under the covers.

Her voice becomes serious, almost pleading, as she asks God to always remind me who I am—of who I am to Him.

I squirm a little as she prays for my future husband—as she asks God to grow him into a strong godly man.

I hold my baby doll in one hand and my Grandmother’s hand in the other as she prays for the children I will one day have. I listen to her ask God to draw their hearts to Jesus at a young age so they will always know and love Him.

She finishes by praying for at least a dozen friends, for her church family, and for the courage to tell more people about Jesus.

She concludes with an “amen,” kisses my head and whispers, “I love you Sugar.

“I love you too,” I whisper back, turning over to the cool side of the pillow.

My eight year old heart is full.

Peace floods my soul.

And just before I drift off to sleep, I mouth goodnight to God.

The God who, I am still convinced, calls people Sugar and smells a lot like Listerine and Bengay.

Much love,
Jen

“May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Ps 141:2

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