The book pens a journey with Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a framework for pondering life lessons, or songs, of grace-filled "yes" to God.

This blog continues to explore the implications of these songs in daily life. Here you will find ten additional reflections on each of Mary's "songs." May they continue to encourage your heart. ~Carla

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doing the Next Thing

I have been watching some new bushes pass through autumn.  They held their leaves longer than the cousins near them, and turned a mellow shade of gold before becoming barren twigs for the winter.  They look right at home in the place marked out for them.

In matters of landscaping, it is good to have a plan.  Colors, size, need for light and water and the proper soil—all of these factors matter, and it has taken time…and a good plan by a competent gardener to develop even a simple garden that thrives. 

But in the midst of the large-scale planning comes the daily activities.  Mow the lawn.  Rake the leaves. Mulch those precious roses by the wall.

I find myself in a season where the landscaping for this plot of my own life appears to be somewhat established for the present.  There’s been plenty of change to get here: “Oh, but Lord, that’s my soul’s favorite bush.  It’s been blooming in the spring and throughout the summer and has really attractive leaves in the fall.”   And it is as though the Lord says, “Yes, I know.  It was lovely for a season, but I have other plans for this particular space in your life at this point.” 

Having been through some tumultuous years, I am beginning to find this season surprisingly restful.  And here is the reason:  I only have to do the next thing.  Teach the class, talk to the friend, write the next little piece.   My prayer has shifted from “Lord, help me understand what you are doing with my life,” to “Lord, what is the next thing I am to do today?”

And I think often of Simplicity’s song.  Of Mary who asks not for an explanation of God’s great plan, but for simple understanding of the next thing: “How shall this be, since I am a virgin?”   And when she is told that the Lord has it well in hand, she responds,  “Let it be to me according to your word,” and then does the next thing.  Mary goes to visit Elizabeth.

And I find myself wondering how much wasted energy I have spent straining to discern the larger plan.  (I’ve never really gotten it right.)  I realize again that the Father is a much better gardener than I ever will be, and that “doing the next thing” may not just be a seasonal activity, but the central steps of obedience, freedom and joy in the kingdom of God.

Father, may your Holy Spirit produce in me a trusting heart that simply does the next thing.  If I need to know something more, I trust you to reveal it in your time.  But grant me the humility and contentment to live in the day I am in, entrusting the months and years to your loving, expert care.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN


  1. This is a beautiful reminder for me. I heard a sermon in college (Bethel, St. Paul Methodist) entitled, Do the Next Right Thing. It was my favorite phrase for a long time. This season in our lives, I need to bring that one back. I'm at the point of trying to understand vs. doing the next thing. The next thing is much more restful isn't it?:) Thank you. Melinda

  2. Yes, Melinda, the next right thing really is more restful. I wonder if the challenge of accepting the limitations (and invitations) of our humanity in our walk of faith doesn't most frequently draw us to this place. Peace to you! ~Carla

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. I find myself always in the planner mode and after a while it consumes my thoughts instead of trusting God to work out the details. Autumn to me is a season to let things go like the leaves falling and rest in the peace of the upcoming season. But it takes a lot of letting go to trust, something I always struggle with. Thank for your the prayer.

  4. YEs, I often feel like I'm prying my fingers off my digit at a time!! It is a work of God's grace to rest in the present moment, but I know He delights to give us this gift. May your heart rest, my friend.