Fall break and other elusive unicorns

My new friend Jennifer has been posting some interesting things on Facebook lately.  She’s been busy fulfilling what she calls her “Fall Bucket List” and she and her family have been doing some pretty cool things. They’ve apparently gone to the mountains and made caramel apples and had a family game night and taken a great middle-of-the day snack break that involved a yummy looking muffin top and a steaming hot beverage. I think that’s amazing…mainly because I’ve never given serious thought to a whole-life bucket list, much less one dedicated to a season!

Actually, since the local schools are on different schedules, lots of people around here have been enjoying their “Fall Break” over the past two weeks. Several of them have posted photos of trips to the beach, to the north Georgia mountains and the beautiful apple orchards there, travels through the northeastern states and even one cruise. Yes, I’ve landed among some pretty cool people and I’m not all together certain that I’m going to fit in. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a Fall Break and now that I’m seeing all these options, well, I’ve got some ideas for one of my own–the main idea being that I really want one!

It’s taken some doing, but my husband and I are planning a little time off now, as well. I’ve been filled with all kinds of ideas. I think he‘s just happy for the prospect of being able to sleep past 4 AM for several days in a row and hoping that he won’t have to take too many calls or emails from work. After much discussion, we finally decided that we don’t want to do lots of traveling on this one, so we’re going to do several day trips to explore our local resources and we’ve got lots of options. Now, our only problem is figuring out which ones to go do!

We want to make the most of our time off together, so I’ve been making lists of things we can check out, as well as things that we need to get done around here that will take both of us to do like finally getting those planting beds weeded and ready for winter and (now that those bank statements are no longer haunting me) getting all that paper clutter cleared out in the office and working out in the shop and…hmmmm…

Frankly, the to-do list seems to be winning. It’s much longer. It has become obvious to both of us that we are not accustomed to the Fall Break mentality.

I am determined, however, that our small adventures list will win the day! I’ve got the inspiration of all these lovely options and I’m going to try to limit our chore “to-do” list items to one per day. We’ll see how well I succeed. After all, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a Fall Break and I’m a little bit out of practice…I think I’m going to start small and work my way up to this…forsythia in the fall

Item one:  go make a cup of hot chocolate

Item two:  sit out on the porch and listen to that owl in the woods

Item three:  be grateful…really, really grateful for Fall Breaks and other elusive unicorns…

 

 

 

 

 

Confession and Lessons Learned

They say that confession is good for the soul.  I guess we’ll see about that shortly.

I’m more than a bit OCD about things at times (FYI: my husband probably just snorted whatever he was drinking when he read that–and so did a few of my friends.)  This isn’t new information to those who know me well. In fact, my sister can probably recall that when we shared a room, it looked like two different rooms within the same square footage.  All we needed was that wall down the center of the bed to make it happen. My side was the one with everything put away, the bed (my side only!) made-up properly, clothes hung up, and drawers all in order; her side was “lived in.”

In college, I couldn’t study until things were cleaned and put away. My roommate in grad school was often incredulous to find me cleaning the kitchen and scrubbing toilets on the nights before exams before I could sit down to study and I’m absolutely certain she thought I was nuts at times for that.  (She wasn’t far off, I guess, but that’s another story.)

When I moved into my first apartment in Atlanta, my sister helped me move everything in and the next time she returned, she walked around looking at everything, then turned to me and said, “You know this is a sickness, right?  Everything is just where it was when I left here the last time.”

I wrote all of that to say this: I’m a person of order. I do things when they’re scheduled and I try to be on time. I keep a detailed calendar and…I think you get the drift…which makes what I’m about to say even more shocking:  I spent most of last week reconciling the last year of bank statements.

Yes, a whole year’s worth.  I know.  I’m still a little bit in awe about it myself. (My apologies to my friends who work in accounting and banking and with the IRS…I’m so sorry I just made you all sick to your stomach. Please know this is highly irregular around here and I’m not expecting it to happen again any time soon. I’m still more than a little freaked out that it happened this time.)

It all happened so subtly starting in September of last year. We knew we were going to be moving, and then we moved him, but not me. And then I was back and forth every week and then we moved us and we were in two different places for several months–and at one time, we actually had three residences…with stacks of unrecorded receipts in all three locations.  (Yes, I know. It was bad.) I kept putting it off because the very idea of trying to organize bills and receipts from three locations and get everything else done that had to happen was more than I was capable of doing…and I’m really capable.  Something had to go.  It was the bank statements.  Bills got paid on time and, naturally, money got spent, but those bank statements were just easier to let sit.

Except that they weren’t just quietly sitting there on the desk. They plagued me. Every single time I sat at my computer, looked at that corner of the room, blogged, wrote a check or paid a bill of any kind, bought groceries, etc. You name it and this THING just hung over my head like the sword of Damocles. Until last week.

It took a whole week to do them–in part because some of the receipts had to be resurrected from different locations and some major remembering and deciphering was involved. And you know what?  I am now the free-est individual you know right now. My life is back in balance and I learned way more than just what my bank balance was.

I learned:

  • Do not ever do this ever again. Stay current on this even if you have to let other things go.
  • Procrastination is from the pit of hell…and I mean that literally.
  • You spend way more money than you think when you’re not keeping up with it like you should.
  • God is gracious to me…way, way gracious.
  • Sometimes you do have to let things go that you wouldn’t normally let go. It runs totally against everything I used to know and say, but there it is:  You can only do what you can do. After that, you need to administer some grace to yourself.
  • Once you sit in front of the computer looking at numbers for a solid week, you begin to appreciate the fact that there are toilets to be cleaned and laundry to be washed, but I do not recommend that you try my method of learning these things.
  • Finally being free from whatever it is that plagues you opens you up to be more creative in other areas. It is truly liberating in ways I didn’t realize. I know now why I’ve been so blocked artistically over the past year. I can’t wait to get back in the shop and I want to paint everything I see right now.
  • I’m grateful for the life I have and the people who share it with me.
  • I really did need that technology-free weekend I just took.
  • I reach for my phone way more than I thought I did…and I’ve done so while ignoring the real, live people in the room. (You, too?)
  • I seriously missed hearing all of the comments from around the world while I watched my college football games…even those who are just talking smack to annoy me. (grin)
  • I plan to deliberately miss those comments at least one weekend a month as I institute a regularly-scheduled technology-free weekend into my calendar so I can focus on the real live people in the room.
  • Confession IS good for the soul and I’m writing all of this really personal stuff just in case you also have a stack of bank statements that need balancing, or a phone call or a visit that you’ve been putting off, or anything else that makes your stomach knot up every time you think about it. Go do whatever it is…now. Right now. You’ll be glad you did.

And yes, I laughed at myself when I re-read the following verses and now, you can join in with me because, after all, life is too short not to learn and laugh at ourselves–and I don’t mind if you start with me.

” Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down…” Proverbs 12:25a

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

God is good…all the time.

Grace & Peace!

Weekend challenge…

Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve been looking at my calendar a lot over the past few days.  I can’t seem to keep the dates all in order in my head and I’ve been really grateful that it’s all written down somewhere…well, most of of it…ok, well, a lot of it, anyway!  I’ve been doing truckloads of paperwork this week and I think being indoors so much has made me lose some of my connection to the passing of the days.

That can only mean one thing:  I need to get away from the computer and go do something “real life” this weekend and that’s my challenge for all of us.  I’m giving myself until 5 pm today to get all the computer work I can get crammed into the day and then I’m planning to be as “technology free” as I can get this weekend.

Golden canopy

Golden canopy

No, I won’t be doing anything with bank statements or spreadsheets or the e-version of anything.

No, I don’t plan to be on Facebook or Pinterest or text (unless I hear a really bad joke that I can text to my nephews in MS or if they send me a photo of them at the game or…well, as you can see, the nephews are pretty much my exception for any of my arbitrarily made-up rules).

No, I won’t be checking my electronic calendar, so if I’m supposed to be somewhere and I don’t show up this weekend, I hope you’ll feel free to take great pictures and tell me all about what I missed when I see you again, because this weekend I’m planning to kick back and just enjoy being with my husband and maybe pick up one of those books that have been stacked up and calling my name…hey! I’ve resisted for most of the week already, ok?!

Yes, I’ll still answer my phone when it rings. (Maybe…depending on who calls and when!  ha! For best results, do not call while the game is on, please…that’s just for your own good, ’cause I will not answer then…or when I’m eating–despite what some of my friends think about that rule of mine on that subject.)

Yes, I plan to watch some college football and because I live in the South, I plan to condition some air if God decides to make it too appleshot to leave the doors and windows open.

Yes, I’ll use the kitchen appliances…because I’m always going to make sure there is some good food going on here and I’m in the mood for some homemade lasagna and a nice green salad.

Yes, I’ll be using the truck to get me where I remember I need to be and if I see something cool on the way that I need to stop and explore a little further…

Anything other than that, I’ll be making it up as I go along. That’s part of the challenge, too–what’s your plan?

Whatever you decide about the technology, make sure you have a wonderful time with some real people and don’t forget to have a great weekend!

Grace & Peace!

One of these things is not like the other ones…

I’m not sure what season it is at your house right now, but it’s officially Autumn here in Georgia.  That “Autumn” designation comes with certain expectations, right? Cooler temperatures, falling leaves, pumpkins, harvest scenes, small town fairs and festivals, fields freshly mown with large bales of hay stacked on the side…and lots of changing colors.  And what colors do we normally think about when it’s time for autumn? Reds, oranges, yellows, browns, darker greens and hot pink.

HOT PINK?!

Yes.  Around here, we like to be a little different.  We like to shake things up a bit and throw in a bit of the unexpected…and hot pink is camelia1most definitely unexpected in the color palette for this time of year…

…unless you’re a hot pink camellia that’s loaded with blooms and more buds than can be counted.

We have one of those.  Actually, we have three of those, but one of them has decided to get her bloom on a bit earlier this year and she is really showing out right now. (Don’t you love how the hot pink really pops against the yellows and greens of the other trees?) She’s been blooming out for almost three weeks already with absolutely no signs of stopping.  I love it!  It’s like having my very own object lesson right out in my front yard every day!

Lessons learned from the camellia, you say?  Absolutely.  camelia3

  • Make people smile when they see you.  Be cheerful…deliberately cheerful! (I mean, seriously, who can be depressed around gorgeous hot pink flowers in abundance?!)
  • Bloom where you’re planted…and when you are supposed to!…whether others think you’re supposed to right then or not.
  • You don’t have to fit in with what everyone around you is doing. Choose to be bold!
  • You were made on purpose by a God who loves you!  He has a plan that is just for you, so your dreams may not look like every one else’s around you. That’s a good thing.
  • It’s ok to be different!  In fact, your differences just might be what someone else needs to see so they’ll have the courage to be who they were created to be, as well.
  • You are more than what you appear to be right now.  You have the potential to bloom more than you’re blooming.  Keep going!
  • You were created by a Master Craftsman–the Ultimate Artist!–and you are beautiful…just as you are.

My other two hot pink camellias are also loaded with buds, but they appear determined to wait a bit longer to begin their blooming. That’s ok, too. In fact, it’s another great lesson to learn:

Sometimes it’s a good thing to allow others to enjoy the spotlight all on their own.   

Grace & Peace!

camelia4 camelia2

Weekend challenge…

I was up until 2 AM this morning…changing things around in my house for fall.  Yes, I know.  It is crazy.

But I love it!—and I look forward to “doing the change” every single season in my house.  Art pieces get moved to new locations, different linens make their appearances, accessories are swapped and—while most of the furniture stayed in the same place this time—the house suddenly looks new again.  Fab-u-lous. This makes me happy. Every. Single. Time.

This year I’ve been waiting to make the changes and get the heirloom pumpkins and the little tiny gourds that I usually use as my finishing touches.  I like to have everything all cleaned and in place before I go pick them out and I like to pick out ones with “character”—kind of like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree-type character. (grin)pumpkin2 I thought it was just something that entertained me—and that’s totally worth it—but this week I learned that it also entertains my husband!  I was talking about how I loved the fall season Tuesday night when my husband asked when I’d be picking up some pumpkins for the season. I told him how I’d gone and looked at some that very day, but then I said, “But, I’ve been forcing myself to wait until October, you know, so they’ll last longer here…maybe even into Thanksgiving.” He just looked at me and said, “Honey, October starts TO-MOR-ROW.”

I felt like an idiot at first, but then I got really excited!  I could go get my pumpkins!!  Well, that didn’t actually happen until today, but last night I just couldn’t sleep because I wanted to make sure that everything was ready for the pumpkins…and more importantly, for my friend Jody who will arrive later today.  I get her for just a couple of very short hours on her way to see her precious daughter!!  JOY!!!

Normally, my weekend challenges involve something about making the people around us a little happier, but this week, I’d like us to focus on making ourselves a little happier.  Do something that is fun for YOU! In case it’s been so long that you’re a bit rusty on this, pumpkin3I’ll share a few things on my list for this weekend:

  • Decorate for the season—no matter what hemisphere you happen to be in at the moment!
  • Plant some new pots for your porch or your kitchen window—something you’ll see coming and going over the next few weeks!
  • Make a big pot of chili or red beans and rice and call in some help to eat them!
  • Watch some college football! (SEC is best, but make do with whatever is closest to you! HA!—that little zinger was for my Ohio State friends!)
  • Make time for a chat with a friend. It’s even better if she brings lunch and you can curl up in big comfy chairs to catch up afterward! (Go ahead and ask me how I know this!  Thank you, Jody!!)
  • Take some time to read a book or make some new art!
  • Have breakfast with someone special—and go somewhere new or unusual.

Whatever you decide, if it makes you happier, it will also make those who are closest to you happier, as well.  That’s part of the joy of sharing love and life and lots of laughter…now, don’t forget to let me know what you do! I might want to add it to my list, too!

Grace & Peace!

It’s not about the okra…

   “In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.” ~Brendon Manning

Judy's Okra!

Judy’s Okra!

I’m not sure about the year, but I remember exactly where I was standing when we learned that our friend Judy had a new super-power:  she fries the world’s best okra.  (Seriously, you have no idea how good her okra is!) From that point on, however, we haven’t gathered together without making certain that Judy will be there and that she fries the okra.

This year was a little bit different. They were coming to my house and she couldn’t find okra where she lived, so it was going to be up to me to make sure it was available. I checked with my local veggie source and was assured that he’d have some when they arrived.  Problem solved…except that we got busy that day and didn’t make it by his stand until after he had already closed.

Two stores later and in a bit of a mild panic, we walked into one that was unfamiliar to me and headed toward the produce department. Yes!  They had okra. Well, they had little bits of really expensive okra already packaged out…and we were going to need a lot more than that. (Mainly because, as a group, we stand around the kitchen and eat okra like it is popcorn as soon as Judy pulls it out of the hot oil and we keep on eating it just like that until we all sit down at the table together…and then we eat some more!)

Having worked in a grocery store before, I knew that if you ask nicely, sometimes you can get exactly what you want directly from the produce manager, so we went in search of some “personal assistance” for our mission. We found exactly what we bargained for…and more.

Our new best friend assured us that he had plenty of nice fresh okra and asked us to wait just inside the door. He brought back a brand new box full of okra and we were allowed to personally select each pod! As we sorted through the okra and chatted with him, he suddenly turned toward my friend Judy and said, “Are you married?”

I chuckled inside, but I wasn’t really surprised.  She’s beautiful inside and out—and really cool.  She told him, “no”, and he asked if she had ever been married, to which she replied in the affirmative. His face suddenly changed and he said, “Can I ask you something?” With barely a pause, he began to pour out his story:  former and recovering drug addict married to same—until recently—when she had begun using again. “What do I do?!” His whole being begged Judy to have some answer. “I love her, but I’m not sure I can stay and go through this again.” His voice was ragged and the fact that he was pouring out his heart to two complete strangers without regard to location, ethnicity, or absence of personal relationship indicated just how troubled he was about this situation.

As he reached for a paper towel to dry eyes that were suddenly full, Judy reached over for my hand and said (just where I could hear her), “You know this isn’t about the okra, don’t you?”  I nodded quietly and stood there praying silently as I continued to sort through the okra pods. Judy, on the other hand, looked him straight in the eye and began to share the story of people she loves dearly who had endured similar issues for most of her growing-up-life and how they had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary because one of the two had chosen to trust God for deliverance and restoration of her family…and how she stayed while she prayed.

She talked about how God had been so faithful that the marriage was now a thing of beauty, the old life gone and the new one such a blessing in the wake of all that former pain. It had taken 49 years before the man had finally allowed God to change his heart, but she believed the wait had been worth it. I saw hope start to enter our new friend’s eyes and tears rolled down his cheeks and hers. I simply asked that God would allow me not to wail like a banshee…because that’s what I really felt like doing.

We asked about his faith life and were assured that he knew Christ as his personal Savior and that he was participating in a vibrant, Bible-believing church with access to support from his pastor. Judy further counseled him that he needed to seek professional help for both of them—and that he should go even if his wife refused to do so.

As we wrapped up our okra and our time together, we formed a small circle and held hands as I prayed for God to show up and provide the answers our new friend needed so desperately. We had a big group hug;  I promised him that we would share his story with our friends and that they would add him to their prayer lists just like we planned to do. I told him that I lived locally and that I’d check back in with him from time to time. He was overwhelmed…and so were we.

As we checked out and rode back to the house, Judy and I laughed about how our friends back at the house would be jealous that they weren’t able to be with us for such a phenomenal time in the Lord.  We’d had church in the produce department!  Who would have thought?!  God. He is not limited to time or space, location or planning on our part. He is always there and He has a plan to use us if we’ll just pay attention and be ready to participate. He knew just what our new friend needed and we were fortunate enough to get to be a part of it.

Brendon Manning was right:  there are no neutral exchanges, so make sure you’re ready for them, no matter how mundane you think they will be. God has a plan for everything and everyone…even you…even when you think that you’re just out to buy okra.

“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NET)

 

Addendum: I’ve checked back with our new friend several times since then. His eyes have been bright and his faith strong, but his situation remains largely unchanged at present. I’m certain he wouldn’t mind if you added him to your prayer list, as well.SONY DSC

Weekend challenge…

This one is a little bit late because I wasn’t home yesterday to write it!  I was out and about…experiencing it!!  I was ever so privileged to be asked to serve as a hostess for a luncheon at our new church.  This week has been ALL about missions at our church and this luncheon was for our Senior Blessings (my title for them) and the missionaries who were visiting from near and far.

I arrived as instructed and joined in the job of counting out forks, knives and spoons for the 174 place settings.  As I counted along with another lady, we realized that she was the one God sent to me in the grocery store all those months ago to invite me to this church and we laughed at how God loves to answer prayers just because He can.

Once all was in place and the people began to arrive, we kept watch over the pitchers of water and tea for each of the 29 tables until it was time for us to sit and eat, as well.  I hadn’t been eating long when our worship leader encouraged our Seniors to stand and sing with him.  The hall was suddenly filled with the voices of almost 200 individuals singing, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” at the top of their lungs.  It was wonderful.

I sat there with my eyes closed so my heart could hear it even better.  These were the voices of the faithful.  They were the voices of experience…and they know the faithfulness of their God over their lifetimes, so they sang with gusto!  My mind tried to do the math:  I’ve been actively seeking to know God for more than 25 years, so if each one of them also had done the same for the last 25 years (yes, I know many of them have been serving God at least twice that long or more!), then we had over 4350 cumulative years of experiencing the faithfulness of God in that one room!  What a lovely and inspiring thought!

They moved from singing about God’s faithfulness to extolling His greatness in “How Great Thou Art” and, by then, I was free to join them.  What a gift!  To serve these precious people and then to sing praises to God with them!  I was blessed right down to my toes!

So, here’s your challenge for the weekend:  find someone whose life has been one of faithful service and let them know that you’ve noticed.  Send a note, make a call, bring them cookies (if they’re ok to have them!) or a plant SONY DSC(if you’re not sure the cookies are a good idea)–bring them a pumpkin!SONY DSC–or just walk up and tell them in person how much their service and their example have inspired you.  Let them know that they have been a person of influence in your life!  I don’t think either one of you will walk away from this without a smile. I know that we don’t serve God for the recognition of doing so, but I also know that He always approves when we encourage others as we walk out our faith together!

Grace & Peace…and lots and lots of faithfulness!