Faith,  Growth,  Life,  parenting

The Surprising Weight of Small Decisions

Smoke from the wildfires made its way back to our area yesterday. I was determined to get a quick walk in, even though the neighborhood smelled like a campfire. (Which I typically enjoy, but it loses its appeal without the promise of burnt hot dogs and s’mores).

The haze hanging in the atmosphere didn’t deter me from getting outside and enjoying the fresh air changing leaves. Also, it was well past lunchtime and I had taken approximately 27 steps that day, so a walk was necessary.

I decided to take our 8 year old Sheltie, Lucy, with me. She spends her days sprawled out, napping near my office desk. Getting out for a walk would do her just as much good as it would for me.

Lucy and I made our way through front yard and headed down the street. She’s generally a quiet, docile dog. But the second she hears another dog bark, she springs to life.

As we walked, she immediately started bouncing up and down like she had springs strapped to her feet. All the yards around us were empty, so I had no clue what had gotten into her. It didn’t take long to figure out.

Without warning, a 110 pound dog bolted down a driveway across the street, heading straight for us.

I grabbed Lucy’s harness in case I needed to lift her straight off the ground, and braced myself. I mentally calculated an exit strategy. Unfortunately, our options were limited. Sandwiched between a mailbox and a scrawny maple tree, we were an easy target.

When the dog reached us, he went straight for Lucy’s rear end.  He sniffed it, promptly decided he wasn’t interested, and ran back to his garage.

I wasn’t sure if we should be relieved or offended.

Nonetheless, I pressed on, shaking slightly, my mood shifting from upbeat to annoyed. Going for an afternoon walk with my dog was such a small decision. But from now on, I know I’ll always think twice before taking her with me.

Is a quick walk worth the risk of encountering aggressive dogs and uninvited hiney sniffing?

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I got another email from the girls’ school yesterday. I’ve reached the point where I would rather extract my own teeth than open one more correspondence from school. Of course they have pandemic-type plans to make, and I appreciate their efforts in keeping me in the loop. It’s just exhausting is all I’m saying.

This particular email was asking students to take a survey before the hybrid learning model takes effect in two weeks.

Will students choose to eat lunch inside, outside, or off campus? If they eat inside, they’ll be required to reserve their seat – every day – using an online reservation system. I heaved a sigh from deep within. Another decision to make.

It wasn’t a tricky decision. It wasn’t even a hard decision.

(By the way, my girls both chose the outdoor option without hesitation. They’d much rather shiver outside in December than fight over a seat like some weird version of Hunger Games 2020. In a school that size, the odds would certainly not be in their favor.)

Choosing where to eat lunch is a small decision.

But it sat heavy with implications.

Assigned lunch seating implies that contact tracing WILL be necessary.

It implies that this thing will continue to plod along, and we are nowhere near back to normal.

It implies that my kids WILL NOT have a typical high school experience this year.

I think it’s hard because small decisions aren’t what they used to be. We’re in a weird season where even small decisions – like having friends over – carry big implications. Risk presents itself where it never used to. So a small decision isn’t so small anymore.

I miss the days when small decisions meant deciding between ham or turkey on your sandwich. 

But then I started thinking. What if the practice of having to make these small but overwhelming decisions is helping us to acknowledge that sometimes, small things do carry big weight.

We can’t discount small starts, small steps, and humble beginnings.

I reflected on that for a while.

Small acts of faithfulness. Simple steps in obedience. Tiny bursts of courage. They all add up to fulfill a mighty calling. Nothing happens without taking small steps.

Companies don’t rise from the ground up in one giant step. It takes many small steps to get there.

Preparing a child for launch doesn’t happen in one day. It’s 18 years of sandwich making, carpool driving, and curfew enforcing. One small day at a time.

Our life isn’t built solely on the enormous decisions such as career changes or cross-country moves. Our life is cultivated from hundreds of tiny yeses, sometimes accompanied with faith as small as a mustard seed.

And in case you’ve never seen one, a mustard seed is insanely tiny. But it eventually becomes a plant that stands 8 feet tall.

We’re all dealing with lots of unknowns right now. Small decisions feel so heavy, and can be exactly what pushes us over the emotional ledge. But we can make those small decisions and take those small steps in faith and let God fill in the rest.

Small acts of courageous faith open the door for some of the greatest rewards.

And hopefully the door won’t lead to encountering aggressive dogs with boundary issues.

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