Heart notes

I keep note pads–usually sticky notes–almost everywhere I might sit down or rest my house, in bags of books, in my purse, the truck, or wherever else I can think of being. You never know when you might have an epiphany, right? Me? I’m actually planning ahead for mine, and as long as it will fit on a sticky note…or twelve!…I should be just fine. (grin)

Sometimes my note pads get filled up with reminders of grocery items I forgot to grab, chores that aren’t on my regular list, people I need to contact, prayers, and anything else that might help me clear my mental path and allow me to sleep without interruption when it’s time to do so. Many times, I will be doing a chore and need to stop and write something down before I move on or forget that thought. My favorite thing, however, is when I wake in the night and scribble madly in the dark–a tiny blurb to help me solve a problem, that missing link to make the point as I teach, or something that “neeeeeds” to be incorporated into a blog post…or a life.

Such was the case several weeks ago as I recovered among remade beds and laundry, reclaiming my house after a long and lusciously luxurious weekend of having friends with me in my home. Scheduled to speak just days after they left, I was ready for God to complete whatever it was that He was doing before He finished letting me in on what He intended me to say to these women who were kind enough to invite me to speak at their retreat. I had the second part, but not the first, and instead of giving it to me in one fell swoop, God seemed most content to send it along in drips and drabs…while I was doing laundry, sitting at stop lights, and finally (!) in the night, when I filled most of a newly unwrapped stack of heart sticky notes found on a nearby bedside table.

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Over the course of two consecutive nights, God and I filled up 13 sticky notes–IN THE DARK!–in no particular order and in remarkably straight lines, although the handwriting won’t win any prizes. A couple of them had nothing at ALL to do with the speech I was preparing to give, but I thought most of them would probably fit in there somewhere…and so it was…except for the one which simply said “chairs!” and this one…which says,

“Remind me to live in faith instead of frustration

I knew right away that THAT one was just for me.

I rarely worry and I have seen God be my Provider so many times that my most typical question is a “how” or “when” and not an “if” where it concerns something that must be supplied by God alone. That “how and when” part is what gets me, though.

Like most people I know, I want it how I want it and I really want it right now. (Anyone else relating to this?) The problem with that, however, is that God is rarely on my timetable and, since He knows everything, He has ways to do things that won’t ever even cross my mind. I THOUGHT I was being patient, so I knew this was a prayerful request for His assistance during this waiting time. It also served as my reminder to exercise my faith and not allow the frustration of His delayed response to overcome my assurance that He is my Provider, my Protector, and my Portion. After all, if He intended me to speak to those ladies, He would surely tell me what to say!

Knowing these kinds of things is the bedrock of my faith. Everything else is just window-dressing. On the side of my fridge is my bumper sticker which reads, “Jesus is life…the rest is just details.” It’s still true even though it IS written on a bumper sticker and attached to my fridge with magnets.

When I draw closer to God and make a point to be in close communion with Him, everything else WILL show up as and when HE decides it is time. MY part is to carefully choose my attitude no matter what I face…and now I have both a bright red and yellow bumper sticker AND a heart-shaped sticky note to remind me to raise my faith above the levels of my frustration when I’m called to practice my waiting skills.

Maybe they will remind you, as well.

Grace and Peace!

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Changes in atmosphere

40469This week has been one of change. On Monday, I was pulling grass out of the back garden flower bed when tiny drips and drops of liquid sunshine began to fall all around me. There was no need to stop doing what I had started because the drops were gentle and sporadic. My work continued.

Within thirty minutes the drops had increased in both frequency and intensity, while the sky remained full of light. Still, I moved toward tasks that could be done indoors.

As I dug into the recurring efforts of maintaining order and folding clean clothes inside (yes, I know: definitely first world issues!), the sky opened up outside and dropped an upturned bucket-load of rain all around us. I watched puddles form in the driveway and then watched them connect with others out in the yard to create a mini-moat around the front of the house.

My neighbor called a little bit later to tell me that his rain gauge indicated we had received a little over 2 inches of rain in less than 30 minutes…much faster than our ground could absorb in that amount of time. He also called to ask if I was interested in having fresh pears. The answer was an enthusiastic “yes!”–even before he sweetened the offer by saying that HE would have them picked and delivered to me early the next afternoon.

Now, seriously, who could say “no” to that?! (And, yes, I DO have the best neighbors!!)

As I pondered this latest gift from God–because my husband had just been talking about wanting some pears this past weekend!—I also thought about some of the other changes going on in my life right now. I’m a bit over half-way into this year of adding more Margin to my life and I’m beginning to see some significant benefits emerge. I’m also beginning to see that this may not just be limited to a one year search for me. Already, the changes have been quite profound.

  • I’ve noticed that while I still haven’t lost all of my impatience with area traffic conditions, I’ve also made room for being nicer while I’m being affected by them. I can now foresee the possibility of having a ‘church sticker’ on my truck, which I have previously avoided because I tend to be impatient and there was just NO reason to tick people off about church because they got ticked about my impatience behind the wheel. (yes, really.)
  • I’ve become more aware of the times I’m tempted to walk in and take over, and I’ve begun to step back and allow other people to “figure it out” for themselves…and I’ve TRIED to offer advice only when asked…or when I see a fatal flaw…ok, maybe this one still needs some work. (personal eye roll)
  • I’m learning to include some time for me in my week that doesn’t involve “just getting it done” all the time. It turns out that this actually makes me happier to go along with other people’s schedules when needed…who knew?!
  • I’m spending even more time talking with God and I’m finding a deeper love of His Word. That’s something I’ve been asking Him to help me with for quite awhile. It turns out that I am enjoying the challenges of the Word more now that I’m not taking on ALL the challenges thrown my way by the world!
  • I’m finding that while the work doesn’t go away, sometimes I need to. Choosing to find a stopping place and walk away may seem like a no-brainer to most of you, but that’s a hard one for me. I’m not in any danger of becoming a slacker (grin), but I am choosing to heed what my body, mind, and spirit are in need of instead of just being hyper-focused on accomplishing the task no mater what the cost. This may just be the biggest change of all for me so far!

Like the rain on Monday, these things started out slowly and have built in momentum over the past 8 months, but they’re picking up speed and forming new connections with  thoughts and goals that have been put on the back-burner for longer that I can remember.

I’m becoming more creative and discovering the idea of “play” again–and just the idea of that makes me a little emotional. God certainly intends for us to work and do good while we’re here on the earth, but He is no hard and crushingly demanding taskmaster…despite my own previous behavior toward myself. Choosing to take  time to enjoy the opportunities God has placed in front of me has a new dimension now. While I have long enjoyed God, now I find I am approaching the tasks I’m assigned with a much more relaxed attitude and finding ways to make them even more fun instead of just getting them done and checking them off like so many items on a chore list. Like that rain, this idea is both refreshing to my soul and producing growth in other areas of my life.

Thank you, God, for the idea of Margin, for including room for play in your plan, for being patient with me while I stubbornly clung to the idea of accomplishing much with great effort instead of doing so with great joy, for choosing to bless me in spite of my mistakes and frustrations, and for loving me enough to send me pears before I even prayed for them. You are good…and I am grateful.

Grace and Peace!

 

Unexpected By-products

I’ve apparently been doing it wrong for years.

For a first-born overachiever, that’s a bit much to admit, but some things just cannot be denied. It’s not something I would have expected. I mean, I KNOW me. THAT part isn’t new, but I’ve been a Christ-follower for quite a while…and…and I “thought” I was further along…

The problem was (is?!) that I GET that my salvation is completely dependent on the work of Jesus and His death on the cross, but I’ve been ACTING as though a whole lot of the rest of life depended solely on me. Don’t get me wrong–we’re called to be DO-ers of the Word and not just hearers only (James 1:22), but for years (ok, ok! “Forever!), I’ve taken it upon myself to “feel” and ACT responsible for making everything (and everybody? ouch!) around me work for the glory of God instead of just relying on God to motivate and move people at HIS own pace instead of at mine.

It’s made me push harder and take on more than was really my place. It’s made me say “yes” when I should have said, “no” and stand in more than one place of blessing–and censure!–than I was rightfully assigned.

This revelation came to me over a week ago and I wrote it down here…and then, I just let it sit there. (As if my laptop needed some time to mull that over? EyeROLL!!) I’ve walked past the open laptop to put up folded laundry, glanced over at it while cooking, turned my head so I wouldn’t see it, and deliberately chosen to just let it sit there for a bit.

I think maybe I thought I could reason my way out of it; as if giving it giving it time would make it less true or, perhaps, at least give me time to develop a rationale for it.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, God has continued to confront me with this truth even as I have avoided my laptop. He’s persistent that way. All this extra time has given me more than just a pause. It’s made me wonder about things like:  how can HE be glorified if I am the impetus behind an action or a project? Who might had a steeper learning curve and a harder next lesson because I stepped in to save the day or direct traffic…and caused them to depend on me…instead of God? What joys have I missed or ignored in favor of being in control, not just of myself, but of the people around me? While I know that God is not a fan of chaos, what in the world made me decide it was MY job to keep EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING in order?! Oh, my Dear Lord! Is it possible that You were serious about me having that abundant life and I’ve been missing out on a chunk of it because I was trying to control the ABUNDANCE?! (Well, yes, Becky, that is MORE than possible!)

These are heavy hitters for me as I deliberately carve my way out of this behavior and focus more on Margin. It’s not easy to give up control…even when it is an illusion. What makes it easier, however, is this new-found (or at least newly rediscovered!) sense of liberation that comes as a result. It is a regular battle for me, this desire for control and the desire for liberty, so how can I subject others to the very thing I fight against myself? No one likes feeling controlled, least of all me, but you know what else I discovered–aside from the fact that this behavior choice will WEAR. YOU. OUT?!? (Making you need Margin in the worst way possible!!)

When I am controlling, I am BEING controlled. (Gasp!!) This behavior also makes me harder on myself as I’m bound by the pressure to get it right, make sure others do it well, on time, or according to a standard and waiting to see if they do, constantly checking in to see if “it” is happening, and fretting about if/when “I” will need to step in and make it “right”…well, really, who is being controlled in this? Me. (Double gasp!!)

Who knew?!

Probably everyone BUT me! (Very wry grin.)

I have to say that this is a major by-product of Margin that I wasn’t anticipating. I thought adding Margin would change my schedule, manage my “doing” habits, and help me find some rest.

I didn’t know it would also challenge my way of thinking and bring me some sorely needed and much appreciated soul-peace in the bargain.

There will be more happy revelations and probably more than a few course corrections to come, I’m sure, but for now…well, I have some other people’s deadlines to ignore and some newly minted determination, freedom, and abundance of my own to explore.

Grace and peace!