Muffins, Magic Words, and Maneuvering through Monday Maelstroms


Me: “Wake up kids! You can have muffins for breakfast once you get dressed.”

My daughter: [sitting up instantly with a grin on her face] Muffins! Yay!

Me: “Who knew I only had to say the magic word of ‘Muffin’ in order to get you to wake up”

My daughter: “Daddy, saying magic words always help me get up better!”


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This exchange took place at 6:32am today as I was getting my family ready to begin the week. Normally, Monday mornings, any day really, waking up my children is akin to prodding a hibernating bear—prodder beware! Happier and calmer children provided good momentum for me to start the week. According to C.S. Lewis, “I’m not sure God wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.”

While I may disagree with the first half of his statement, the latter part—of desiring us to love and be loved is spot on. Now, love involves sacrifice. Both my wife and I love to be prepared and organized. However, organization, especially with three young children, requires we sacrifice certain things in the short-term for the longer-term goal of having an even-keeled and lower stressed week. On Sunday, we sacrificed watching football and instead prepped our food for the week. The fruit of our labor paid off with that sweet exchange between my daughter and I had about the magic of muffins!

This got me thinking about other possible “magic” words to help stymie your work week stress that Monday’s inevitably throw at us.

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1. Pause: Working in a fast-paced job environment and the incredible hectic daily routine of getting three children ages 7 and under for school/daycare makes stopping to take a legitimate break next to impossible. Some weeks it feels like I underwent the stress equivalent of running a half-marathon when my kids are cranky—and it normally is not even 6:50am! As a result of the daily bustle, I learned of the importance to pause. Short and frequent breaks after a stressful situation comes in handy when trying to disarm Monday’s momentum  from developing into a morning maelstrom that drowns the rest of your day’s hopes away. Pause, pause, pause. Keep that magic word in mind.

2. Thank you: Together with breaks, nothing else takes the wind out of a chaotic stress-storm as much as gratitude.  Your mindset in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day [in some cases even the remainder of the week]. Genuine thankfulness stops negativity in its tracks. But it has to be genuine. Expected ‘thank yous’ in return is not the approach when demonstrating gratitude towards others or for the blessings in your life. G.K. Chesterton said it best, ““When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

3. Help: Closely tied to stopping to clear your mind and developing a thankful mentality is asking for help in times of stress. Sometimes out of pride I fail to ask for assistance from those in a position to help me in time of need. In the midst of a stressful situation, I lose sight that I am not alone in this world. Along with my family, friends, and co-workers, I have a God always willing and able to hear my plea for aid. According to St. Francis de Sales, “We shall steer safely through every storm so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God.”

Whether your week began with a flurry of frenzied customers, unexpected projects, screaming kids, or vehicle troubles please do not throw in the towel. Remember the magic words of: pause, thank you, and help! If you are a good baker, or know someone who is, be sure to make yourself pumpkin muffins for breakfast. I am sure they will be a hit if you have young children or simply a child at heart–unless you are allergic to pumpkin than bake banana-nut muffins!

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“Yet what I discovered is that when you put love first, not only does your life improve, but your work improves.” –Jennifer Fulwiler

How an Unexpected Compliment Revitalized My Week

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According to the urban dictionary, the phrase “case of the Mondays” means: a general malaise felt on the first day back to work after the weekend. I was set-up to have a profound “case of the Mondays” yesterday. I came off a superb weekend with visiting close friends and their newborn son . Additionally, I had extra work built up due to me leaving early last Friday–perfect ingredients for a terrible start to the work week! My Monday started with an unexpected three hours of training—I only remembered getting a single email reminder about it as week leading up to it. I am a person who thrives on routine and consistency. I was primed to be a knotted ball of stress going into my lunch break. Something sudden and seemingly inadvertent happened—I received an unexpected compliment!

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1. Thankfulness is life-giving: I received praise from a team member that I worked with on a couple escalated accounts last week. She lauded me for my professionalism in dealing with the troublesome situation caused by mistakes in our business line’s process. This flabbergasted me. I felt like I failed in a myriad of ways to end last week—I got frustrated, lacked trust in workflow processes, and doubted my ability to perform my job.

This simple complimentary email filled me with joy. Gratitude tends to reinvigorate souls in despair. The great American poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou once said, “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good”. The only thing I would change about her statement is that we should carry the pillow of gratitude throughout the day not just at night.

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2. Praise Pontoon Against my Pride: Normally, when I receive praise at work I struggle to stay humble. My pride tends to well up until it overflows and leads to problems for me later that day or week. Authentic praise and gratitude is a theological ark against the sin of pride. Monday’s workday consisted of many deadlines and high priority cases. The compliment provided protection from the rain of Monday’s anxiety.

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3. Wrestling Wickedness: St. Catherine of Bologna lived in the 15th century, yet her holiness remains relevant for us today. She compiled a list of seven general tenets [I call them weapons to fight sin] to grow in holiness. Here is a brief summary:

a. The first weapon I call zeal, that is solicitude in doing good, since the Holy Scripture condemns those who are negligent and lukewarm in the way of God (Apocalypse 3.15-16).

b. The second weapon is mistrust of self, that is, to believe firmly and without doubt that one could never do anything good by oneself, as Christ Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15.5).

c. The third weapon is to put one’s trust in God and for love of him to fiercely wage battle with great readiness of spirit against the devil and against the world and one’s own flesh which is given one in order that it might serve the spirit.

d. The fourth is the memory of the glorious pilgrimage of that immaculate lamb, Christ Jesus, and especially his most holy death and passion, keeping always before the eyes of our minds the presence of his most chaste and virginal humanity.

e. The fifth weapon is to remind oneself that we must die.

f. The sixth weapon is the memory of the goods of paradise which are prepared for those who lawfully struggle by abandoning all the vain pleasures of the present life in accord with the saying of the most holy doctor Saint Augustine that it is impossible to enjoy present goods and future ones too.

g. The seventh weapon with which we can conquer our enemies is the memory of Holy Scripture which we must carry in our hearts and from which, as from a most devoted mother, we must take counsel in the things we have to do.

 

The overall theme in these tenets is that gratitude and trust overcome the prowess of evil. Catherine uses the term memory. Thankfulness boiled to its simplest meaning is essential remembrance of an act someone did toward you. To remind ourselves of God’s trust and the good [and maybe not so good] things in our lives is a way to help in cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

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4. Sow tears…acquire joy: The psalmist proclaims in Psalm 126:5, “Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy.” Prior to this week, the meaning of these words eluded my understanding. Understanding prayers of laments usually do not occur until after a blessing is granted. This is definitely the case for me. In a way, I planted a theological garden with my tears of frustration last week. Over the weekend, God worked in the heart of my co-worker and inspired her to write a generous thank you letter to show how I am appreciated. Growing takes time. We just need to trust that God will transform tears into joy in His providential scheduling.

C.S. Lewis understood the importance of living with thankfulness on the forefront of our mind. He once said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” Let us continue to rely on time and space as a schoolhouse in developing gratitude!