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Order up!: Ordering The Best Year Ever

In our family, we love to cook. Not coincidentally, we also love to eat. Stemming, we think, from our late father, my brothers, husband, kids, and now our grandchildren have a love of food that, from time to time, breaks out into bursts of kitchen creativity that draws a crowd of eager spectators, critics, students, and, of course, diners. It is in these moments that our family, like yours, gathers in the kitchen and the best memories are made. And when, at last, it is time to eat someone (or several someones) in the crowd will yell, "Order up!" as in the tradition of short order restaurants.

Order up. The word order has so many meanings. An order can be a request for something tangible, a command that an action be taken, or it can mean how things are arranged. This morning the word order and the phrase "order up" has taken me down a bunny trail of thoughts concerning how to move forward with joy in 2021 when we are still dealing with so many things that seem out of order.

I believe that the greatest remedy to the uncertainty and stress is to create an order for our lives. Not just the order that comes from de-cluttering stuff from closets, attics, and basements, (although when I get rid of useless junk it lowers my stress levels a lot) but giving each day some order and putting my thoughts and emotions in order with intentionality. This is not at all a new concept, but is one that is rooted deeply in ancient church teachings. Adopting this practice has helped me so much.

"Custodia Oculorum" is a Latin phrase that literally means "custody of the eyes". But the implication is much deeper than that. It is used to convey the practice of keeping command over your imaginings and your thoughts. My limited research credits this concept to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

We all know people who look at the world and immediately predict the worst possible scenario. If there are two people watching the same rainstorm, one will predict a flood while the other imagines the well watered garden. What's interesting about this is that both of those people chose their thoughts, and are affected by them. We absolutely can master our responses to the world around us.

There are times, and I'm confessing here, that I have a very difficult time keeping my thoughts and emotions in order. Like you, I have frustrations and challenges and have experienced some tragedy. But I do have a few techniques that I use that help me maintain an outlook that is as optimistic, enthusiastic and as much like Christ as I possibly can. I want to be happy and to have a positive influence on my family, friends, and community. With practice and determination, I have learned how to be all these.

The first technique I have is simply to start each day well. I don't know about you, but I wake up a bit confused, so I have developed the habit of saying, "Good morning!" in a cheery voice before I say anything else. Let me be clear: I do not wake up feeling cheery. But this technique does not depend on my feelings. I bend my will towards cheeriness by saying cheerful words in a cheerful way, and then I begin to feel cheery. Don't tell anyone, but I do this even when I am alone in my house. Really. It works. Try it. It gives order to the day just by saying the word good.

Another thing I do to keep order in my thoughts is to keep negative influences as far away as possible. I think of my mind as I think of my home. I wouldn't knowingly let a thief or a violent person in to my house, and I don't allow influences that steal joy or incite me to anger to enter my mind any more than I can help. Of course it is impossible to completely eliminate these, but it is amazing how well we get along without things like endless political reports. Seriously. I'm pretty sure that I'd rather listen to reruns of Gilligan's Island. Or better yet, comedy routines by Tim Hawkins.

If you don't make your bed each and every day very soon after getting out of it, let that be the very next thing you purpose to do to bring order to 2021. There are a few reasons for doing this. One is that you build a positive accomplishment in to the day at the very beginning of it. It is similar to saying "Good morning" in a cheerful voice. It creates order in our most personal space. It only takes 2-3 minutes to make a bed, and it is well worth it. If the rest of the world goes crazy, at least your bed is made.

There are other quick and easy household routines you can develop to create an ordered life. A really easy one that I never let slide is setting the coffee pot before going to bed. After I've said "Good morning" and before I make my bed, I go to the kitchen and help myself to coffee that magically appeared. It is almost as though someone else has made coffee for me. Ahhh.

Just as cooking a wonderful meal and gathering your family to share it takes effort and planning and doing things in order, so does creating a life that has joy and strength as its primary elements. So, in a new take on my family expression "Order up!" meaning that supper is ready, allow me to suggest that we all "order up!" meaning that we all do the things we can do to put order in our lives, lower our stress, and enjoy a wonderful 2021. Order up!

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