Do the Next Right Thing

One day, many years from now when I'm old and gray, sitting in a rocking chair and watching a sunset, I imagine that I'll reflect on my life. As I slowly rock, I'll remember specific phases that weren't enjoyable, yet taught me something valuable even though those lessons were hidden at the time and nothing made much sense.

That's where I am right now: fog is slowly lifting, but my vision isn't clear yet. I'd like to say that I've handled some recent struggles with maturity, grace, and unwavering faith, but that's not entirely true. I've had moments of maturity, small displays of grace, and mustard seeds of faith, but these highlights have been coupled with behind-the-scenes whining, crying, doubt, fear, prickliness, and other permutations of bad attitudes and sadness. (You know your struggle is real when every song on Christian radio -- even the unequivocally cheesy ones -- now cause you to cry ugly tears while driving to work because they're exactly what you need to hear.)

Let's all pause for a moment to say God bless my husband. He is such a good man.

All that being said, even in my clunky failures, of which there have been many this past month, I know to cling to Jesus. When I don't know what else to do, trusting God always is the next right thing. (Let's also acknowledge that your struggle is real when Anna's song in Frozen II where she bravely climbs out of a literal pit becomes one of your new life mantras.)

Do the next right thing. One next step, one next moment, one next choice. That's good advice.

For me, I recently took on a small project that looks insignificant on the surface, but turned out to be a "next right thing" for me in principle: I painted wooden blocks. These wooden blocks, to be exact.

Over the past month when I had an hour of free time, I've turned on music, laid out a flattened paper bag to prevent splattering my table, poured myself a Dr Pepper (which probably isn't the "next best choice" but felt right at the moment), and began the slow process of transforming those multi-colored children's blocks into something more mature, something quite heartfelt.

Let me tell you: this DIY project had moments of doubt, especially at the onset, just like most every DIY project I've completed. My expression looks serene in this photo, but my internal dialogue was yammering about how meaningless the activity was:

Why are you doing this? How many sides are on each one of these stupid blocks anyway? Six? Six whole sides? Are you serious that these blocks need three coats of white to cover them sufficiently? Three coats of paint on six sides? That's like, eighteen sides per block! And you've got dozens of blocks! Besides, you're not even painting the letters yet. You're not even to the point when you're touching up the gray on the white, or then touching up the white on the gray. This is going to take a stupidly large amount of time. Seriously, why are you doing this? 

But I'd do the next right thing. I'd slip on my unnecessarily frilly pink and white polka-dotted apron that I had been given at an event, then I'd dip my paintbrush onto my palette, and then I'd paint another side.

Block by block, I kept painting. My inner dialogue quieted. I'd sit calmly, focusing squarely on the task ahead of me. One by one, the blocks started to transform before my eyes. I finally reached a day when all of those "next right things" -- all those single paint strokes, all those single sides on every single block -- had transformed the entire batch.

And do you know what you can do with a collection of decorative DIY painted blocks? Honestly, not that much. You can spell words. But when you spell words, you can give yourself reminders to adjust your attitude in healthy ways:

You can write out messages to your spouse and children to declare that even in your imperfection, you'll remain by their side for the long haul, always:

Or, in case mental telepathy isn't working, you can even drop not-so-subtle hints about what you're really craving for dinner:

This slow, steady, and sometimes painstaking process of painting was unexpectedly therapeutic. Bit by bit over a course of weeks, the blocks changed before my eyes.

Bit by bit, situations change too. Transformation doesn't always happen suddenly. In fact, transformation most often is the byproduct of one next right thing, one next right step, and one next right choice, done again and again until there's a noticeable difference.

Thank God that He's in the long-haul transformation business with our lives and circumstances. I imagine that He's not concerned about how many touch-up strokes will be needed, or how many sides He has to cover, or how long the process will take until things look different. He already envisions a final product. He already knows that we will emerge different and better.

I started painting these blocks merely to kill time. Looking back, perhaps this is one of my favorite DIY projects to date.

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