My to-do list is a complication that MC Escher would approve of. There’s the weekly list, the daily list, the spiral-bound calendar, and the digital calendar, not to mention scads of scribbled notes. They feed into each other and transfer onto each other. They keep me on track, and they also weight me down.
It’s been like that as far back as high school, when projects, papers, and studying soaked up as much free time as I could throw at them. I dedicated myself to getting good grades back then, just as I dedicate myself to doing what needs to be done now.
But if “what needs to be done” is only ever written on the to-do list, the focus is naturally on the minutiae of the day-to-day, not on the bigger picture. And that means—for instance—that I can go through Lent planning and creating content to support others in this penitential season… and yet grow very little in my own prayer life
Early this year, as I began working on the A Nun’s Life content calendar for Lent, I grabbed all my Lent books and leafed through them, searching for ideas. And though I’d read them all in Lents past, one of them blared an idea at me that I didn’t remember ever encountering before:
I am the alm I give to God.
I am the alm I give to those in need.
I am the gift that must be given.
So this Lent, I tried something different. Instead of squeezing Lent into my to-do list by scheduling a daily rosary, checking off every chocolate-free day, or grabbing a volunteer shift each week, I focused on being lighter, being easier to move, being more available. I focused on not being so completely anchored by my agenda.
I don’t know if the people around me noticed anything different—but I did. At first it was tough to set my to-do list aside to have an impromptu conversation, to plan a lengthy visit to someone I hadn’t seen in a while, to invite someone over for a home-cooked meal. But even with less time focused on it, the to-do list got done. And after a while, I actually felt less stressed. It was as though a window had been opened inside a stuffy room, and a fresh breeze was sweeping out the dankness.
That one sentence has been an incredible lever, heaving me out of the day-to-day minutiae to focus more on the big picture. That’s why I wanted to share it with you.
I am the alm I give to God. I am the alm I give to those in need.
You are the alm you give to God. You are the alm you give to those in need.
We are the gifts that must be given—and not just during Lent.