The Ten-Second Check In That Will Get Your Joy Back

If you could describe your life right now in 5 words, what would they be? {Image credit: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo}

Perhaps you’ve come across the “One Word” theme around cyberspace. That simple idea that what gets our focus will get our resources and, ultimately help us grow and live better this year.

I have a “One Word” for this year (and will share that in an upcoming post), but today, let’s do something completely random and only slightly related to that. πŸ™‚

I want to hear your “Life in 5 Words.”

It’s a current trend on Twitter, and can be entertaining, but it’s more than simply that. It’s a way to remember to breathe when you’ve dropped the carton of eggs in the middle of the grocery check out line. To make a shift in direction in the middle of a confrontation with a loved-one. To be intentional about life and realize we always have choices.

Today, right now, mine is this:

  • Tired
  • Stretched
  • Hopeful
  • Preoccupied
  • Creative

The tired one? It’s more than simply that I’m still writing and it’s midnight. It’s that I’m in the middle of a renewed battle for one of my daughter’s health and behavior, after 8 years of ebb and flow of the same. No real end in sight.

Stretched is how I see myself—pulled thin between life’s fun and beautiful, and the mundane of getting dinner on the table and living more as a therapist for this struggling daughter than as her (or my other daughters’) parent.

Hopeful? That’s the glue that holds me together. Gives me the ability to get up each day, smile, step out in faith, try the next thing.

Preoccupied is probably how my kids and husband and friends would describe me these days. Living in my head about 90% of the time, working through issues with my daughter, balancing family and writing, and wondering when I’m going to get to take my next nap.

Then there’s creative. It’s my bread-and-butter, my soul-food. On a day that I can’t figure anything out with my most needy special needs daughter, I can paint a wall in my bathroom, or snap Instagram photos or sit, preoccupied with my preschooler, creating a tiny little model car from the play-doh on the kitchen table.

Any exercise like this, simple as it is, can give us some pretty profound gifts:

  1. Permission to be present. Having to put words to emotions and perceptions helps us to listen to our hearts, bodies and the tilt of our lives a little more than usual.
  2. Much-needed perspective. Even in a tough moment, I wouldn’t describe my entire life with words full of struggle and grief. That creative and hope are still a legitimate 40% above makes the rest shrink back to realistic mental proportions.
  3. A chance to ask. As we roll through the mental dictionary, choosing words, it’s a chance to say, “Hello, God. Haven’t talked to you in a while. What do you think? How would you describe me and my life?” However we start the conversation, it’s the window to the big life we long to have—and to the heart of the One who made us for such a life in the first place.
  4. A place to begin. We don’t know how far we’ve come or how much farther there is to go in an area of our lives if we don’t mark the start-point in the road. Perhaps you’ll write your 5 words and be pleased, content, and encouraged. Maybe just the opposite. In any case, you’ll have a better picture of you right now, and probably a hint of where to go from here.

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take a moment to play with your words and consider your own “My Life in 5 Words” story. May it be just the tool to get you through your moments today with a little fresh joy and perspective!


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  1. says

    Let’s see – my five words (which would definitely be different if circumstances were different):
    *Caffeinated (that counts, right?) – just getting my day started and the coffee’s good!
    *Anticipating – family movie night tonight, Saturday morning vision team meeting at church as we continue to experience growth at a rate of OVER 40% per year – closer to 60%. Saturday afternoon date day & kids are sleeping over at grandparents’ house. Baptisms – at least 5! – at church on Sunday morning. Praying for revival in a BIG way!
    *Breathing – remembering to be realistic with my good list – just because I’m having a good day doesn’t mean I should overdo and get to the weekend feeling exhausted! Actively scheduling the down time that I need each week.
    *Content – feeling the joy as I take the deep breaths from the above point
    *Stretched – lots to do, but the anticipation above spurs me on.

    Had I read this on Monday, my 5 words might have been:
    On Monday, if something *could* go wrong, it did – again, and again, and again, all day long. At suppertime, I tipped the trash can as it balanced precariously on the shelf under the sink. In my tired and frustrated state, I miscalculated where it was as I tried to put a few scraps in, and I knocked it over. A little later, I spilled cookies all over the floor. They shattered as they hit the wood floor. But Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering (not just patience, but LONGsuffering), Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control showed up in the form of my husband who quietly started cleaning up all those crumbs for me, while I was standing at the counter mumbling about “not again; can ONE MORE THING go wrong today?” Talk about servant leadership!

    • Laurie Wallin says

      Looking forward to hearing what you come up with, Kristin. Have you tried it more than once? When I do it at different times of the day (or month…), the words always come out different!