Spring cleaning

It seems I’m finally getting around to doing some spring cleaning. As God and I have cleaned out my schedule a bit over the past few weeks, there is suddenly time now for activities that I–with my slightly OCD brain–have actually been looking forward to for months. I’ve been sorting and organizing and I actually have a book that I’m reading for pleasure/instruction! I may even pull out the paints or that sewing machine before long and do something creative around here! But first, there is a bit of work to be done. I was taught to work first and play later. It’s been a good rule for the most part, though I have struggled on those occasions where the work never seemed to end and the play seemed more and more unobtainable. In part, I guess that’s what has made me be able to focus so intently and be productive when needed. I’ve also come to realize that what I see as play…others may see as work. (smile) Whatever works, right? Best of both worlds.

Monday I grabbed the weed-eater, the riding lawnmower, and the blower and got busy uncovering my house and yard from the wildness and personal neglect of a mild winter. Believe it or not, there are people who live here and not just some derelicts who have abandoned this place! I’ve never been so happy to see a yard take shape before since…Well…last year about this time! (grin) I am fortunate that we live in a more rural area and our house sits back in the trees a bit so perhaps my yard work shortcomings take a little longer to become more obvious to the neighbors. (Maybe. I hope…) I’ve found that riding on the lawnmower is the perfect opportunity for prayer and reflection. It’s become one of my favorite things (yes, just call me Forrest… ) to do during the season when grass seems to grow whether God sends the rain or not. Yes, I uncovered more things for my “To Do” list and my forearms were a bit sore yesterday from the extra workout, but it was a beautiful day and a wonderful way to blow out the cobwebs of the mind and rejoice in the beauty being unveiled as I worked. Spring cleaning of the yard.

Satisfaction from physical labor and doing a job well are just some of the life lessons my brother and I talked about during an unexpected overnight visit from him last week. I’m grateful for those lessons and for the decision to just rest and enjoy the visit despite the state of the yard while he was here. That’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m way more Martha than Mary. It was good to switch that up for a day and enjoy the luxury of family in this place. Spring cleaning of the habit.

IMG_20170418_110322614Yesterday was supposed to be quite different, but I found myself with a completely indoor day except for my walk to the mailbox when I deadheaded the iris on my way there and back. (18 blooms already come and gone with more in full beauty and even more on the way! I knew you’d want to know. ha!) As I did laundry, cleaned and sorted, rearranged, and culled out extras I gave thanks for the life I get to lead here. Exchanging the mantel arrangement of fading red nandina leaves for one with vibrant roses and lavender was a reward for the work of the past two days and a reminder of the all the grace that covers this life I’m called to lead. Spring cleaning of the spirit.

This morning I opened the Book to the writings of John and read this:

“I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” 1 John 2:12

Those words broke me in a way totally unexpected as I teared up and gave thanks over and over at the love of God the Father in sending His Son and the sacrifice it took to cover my sins. The incredible deliberateness of God’s choice to make possible a relationship with one who has so often gone her own way and chosen poorly…It breaks me and I am glad of that today. I don’t ever want to lose the wonder of that! It ought to break me…And you, too, because He didn’t just come for one of us. He came to clean all of us. Spring cleaning of the heart.

Today I am tackling the back porch with all of things we’ve dropped there on our way in over the past few weeks along with that thick layer of yellow pine pollen. I’ll probably have the music turned up and have the company of a very satisfied cat who is happy to have me consider work as play…as long as it means I remain within sight and remember where I keep the treats.

Who knew spring cleaning could be such fun?

Grace and Peace!

Advertisements

Kicking off the heels…

I used to love wearing high heels. I can close my eyes and still smell the brand new leather as I opened the box…oh my…wow…yes, moment of silence for that. And, since we have LONG since established my little bit of OCD-ness, I can admit that opening closet doors to see all the boxes lined up with their labels facing outward…

(Ok, I got a little lost there for a moment. Suffice it to say that I loved that image.)

Image. That says something to me about the heels, as well. As a teenager, they said I was growing up. As a college student, they said it was time to dance. As a young professional, they said I was making it on my own. Quite the talkative things, my shoes…and they always came with a lot of attitude–some of it good and some of it not so much.

After I got married, my husband was surprised to learn that he had to move a whole refrigerator box full of shoes to our new home. Work, church, and in between, I had at least several pair to choose from and I couldn’t imagine life any other way. I had other styles, too, of course, but the heels always made me feel special…almost like social armor, which really isn’t often necessary when you’re almost 6′ tall and know who you are. (grin) Well, maybe I just thought I knew some things back then.

I pared down over time. Styles changed. Life changed. I bought more flats, wedges, tennis shoes, and fewer heels, though I always kept a few in the back of my closet. In fact, I’ve had three pair that have survived the multiple purges over the past several years as I’ve gone from acquisition mode to the search for space and the peace of “less.” At first, I stopped wearing heels after I took a tumble down some stairs and needed some recovery time. After that, I just never went back to them. I found other options that suited me…and weren’t as perilous.

That’s not all that’s changed over the years. You know, Saul’s armor didn’t fit David…and not because it was too large, but because they had different battle styles. That’s true of me, as well, now. I’m still me, of course, but my life is different and my current battles aren’t the same ones I used to fight. That means some wardrobe changes are in order. I’ve decided I no longer need to hold on to things that don’t fit the life I’m living now, so I’m finally letting go of those last three pair of heels…and a whole lot of other things like attitudes and life strategies that haven’t always served me well. I’m a lot less rigid these days, a lot less judgmental, and I’m a lot more at peace. I find I laugh more–mostly at myself!–and I like me a whole lot better, too–and that is really saying something. (Ha!) I’m free to be ME: the one GOD knows and loves, and I can rest in that a lot more than I used to. I find I’m less concerned about any images that might be held in other places when I focus on HIS image of who I am. I’m more grateful for little things and I’m more aware of my gifts and limitations without being hampered by either thought. God is good and I am His. It is enough.

Oh, by the way, I tried those 3 pair of shoes on and I loved the way they looked. I almost put them right back in the closet! They felt ok on my feet and I found I could still walk in them just fine…for a little while. Then I tried on a few other styles–and my back gave an almost audible sigh of relief and my feet did, too. There are better things out there for me than the things I once held onto “just in case”, you know…so I’m making room for the now and finding that memories take up less room in the closet. So, out go the heels–gorgeous as they are –along with a pair of Keds and 2 pair of flats! Today, you’re more likely to find me in tennis shoes and they suit me just fine…in fact, it’s a lot easier to kick up my heels than ever before.

Question of the day:  What are YOU holding onto that you need to let go? Make room for the life GOD wants for you now. You just might be amazed at how great it can be!

 

 

Coffee candles and bad apples

breakfast  Good morning and welcome to breakfast with Becky! (No, I’m not really that peppy or even that awake yet, but the fruit/granola/yogurt mixture will fix that up for me in just a little bit…well, that and the smell of coffee…but I’ll get to that in a little bit.)

I’ve read  at least 3 different blogs within the past 24 hours that apologized for their lengthy absence and vowed to try to do better. I guess this at least means I’ve got a club I can join…if I were the club-joining type.

The fact of the matter is this: life is sometimes hard and messy and complicated and busy and as much as I would love to blog every single day, there simply isn’t enough time to do that. Sometimes there is time, but there aren’t words that will go into an order that won’t alarm the general populace or make any sense to me, much less to those of you who meet me here. Sometimes, silence really is golden…and necessary.

Right now, I’m typing this on a desk that is so pile-filled with paperwork that I’m actually having to steady the keyboard and I’m using the back-button A LOT so that typos won’t drive us all to distraction. I’d move the piles, but then I’d have to start over and reset them later today and so, for now, this will have to do.

Our week started off with a trip to the ER. We left our house before 9:30 AM on Sunday morning and arrived back home just a bit before 1 AM on Monday. We are blessed. God provided up to and including chairs that were far out into the waiting room hall so that we weren’t surrounded (read TRAPPED!) in the midst of all the flu victims as we waited for my husband to get his turn for medical care and his issue should be able to resolved without further invasion. Unfortunately, the start to this week has felt a lot like the last couple of months and yet, I know it still…God is good.

My husband has returned to work and is, even now, being used of God to provide for us and I am grateful. I’m also grateful for those who have checked on us and prayed for us and loved on us in all manner of ways. I’m particularly grateful for my friends Kelley and Marsha, who have been so diligent to check on ME as well as my sweet hubby and join him in a united insistence that I take some time for myself…so I’m blogging about it. This is my ME time for today.

Yesterday was quiet and I was under specific orders from my husband to take some time to rest, so I turned on the TV to listen to old NCIS reruns (love that show!) while I cleaned out kitchen cabinets and linen closets and did laundry and bathroom chores…in my nightclothes…until 4 pm. It was great. Not, perhaps, YOUR idea of a day off, but the normalcy of it (although I do not generally do these things in my nightwear!) was a balm straight from Gilead to my soul. The ordering of life in small doses and the putting right that which has need of order is spectacularly gratifying when so much is beyond your control.

Anyway, as I sorted and assembled piles for throw away and take away/donate yesterday, I decided I’d use the new-to-me-but-really-actually-from-the-1930s/40s glass coffee container in my kitchen. I’ll post a picture of it later, but, for now, just know it is really cool. The problem is that we aren’t really big coffee drinkers. Friends and family generally bring their own stuff when they come because we’re more a juice/water/milk household here…but this jar was too cool to leave where I found it, so I brought it home. I cleaned it up and started looking for coffee to put in it. I found some, but it was pretty evident that I’d had it awhile (think: it moved from MS with me over a year ago now old!) and so I searched on. There in the back of the cabinet was a brand new unopened bag of coffee…with ancoffee candle bad apple expiration date that had passed several months ago. Well. What to do now? I wouldn’t want to drink it, but it still smelled amazing, so I made a quick decision and grabbed a vase and a candle from the back porch stash. I poured the coffee into the vase and set the candle in on top and voila! I now have an amazing coffee-candle-vase-thing that looks great and smells heavenly. It was such a pleasure to walk out this morning and inhale that wonderful aroma that I almost understand all of you people who can’t seem to start your day without drinking a cup…or twelve (yes, I also have those friends.)

 I took a photo for you to see and I really wish we had smell-o-vision for this one because it would be great! I downloaded the picture and then I noticed it…one of my apples has a bad spot on it. UGH! Well, in the interest of making the post pretty and, of course, making all of you think that I’m still that person who has it all together (HA!!) I ran back out of the room to rearrange the fruit and took another photo (see it over there? It’s the second one that looks almost like the first one!), because, seriously who wants such a great  celebration of my totally unexpectedly great coffee crafty thing to be ruined by a bad apple?! And then I started laughing at myself, because truly…who cares? The coffee candle crafty thing still smells amazing and this just tells me that I’ll be cutting off the bad spot and adding in a few others to make a nice baked apple side for supper tonight. How terrible can that be? The house will smell like coffee and baked apples tonight and all will be well…because here’s the lesson of the day:

God is good even to those of us who are control freaks. He is good to those of us who are tired and in desperate need of normal days where something–anything, please!–goes like we planned it. He is good to those of us who look like we have it all together, but really know it’s all in how you arrange your fruit and take your shot. He is good to those who will know what I’m talking about and to those who have no idea and to those who will think I’ve finally and truly lost it this time. God is just good.

 

 

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!

Are you a God-kept wonder?

When each earthly prop gives under,

And life seems a restless sea,

Are you then a God-kept wonder,

Satisfied and calm and free?       ~from Streams in the Desert

 

I’ve been taking my own determination to make this a year—or a life!—of returning to the basics very seriously. I’ve been making conscious decisions to stay in the moment and savor the small things. Jim Elliot’s quote, “Wherever you are, be all there!” resonates with me constantly and has become my own daily personal goal as I settle into this new life here in Georgia.

I’ve been more intentional about pursuing the heart of God and being cognizant of His Presence in all the moments that make up the life-time. Returning to the consistent reading of Psalms and Proverbs has sharpened my appetite for praise and my desire to be wiser in using the time God chooses to give to me. Additionally, I’ve also been re-reading Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman—the very first devotional book I used when I first moved to Georgia after grad school over 24 years ago.

I love this little book with its collection of thoughts and daily challenges written in words that sound more than a bit archaic in tone and structure and attitude when compared to our more modern way of talking and our cultural mandates of situational ethics and personal advancement whatever the cost. The small poetry snippet above is the antithesis of such “modern” thinking and reminds me that regardless of what I face throughout the day—or year—or life!—I AM a God-kept wonder when I resist the urges to ‘have it all my way’ or just have it all now and focus on resting in Him regardless of situation, instead.

Practically, I’ve been keeping busy with tax-prep made more challenging this year by having to locate items in new places and search through paperwork “organized” in bags that make me wonder where my brain was when I put them there. We’ve been blessed with an abundance of guests who have honored our home and brought joy to our spirits with their familiar faces in this new place. There has been much to do and I’ve been pleased as punch to do it because I am so aware that this is where God has placed us…on purpose…for HIS purpose.

While I wait for some of that purpose to become more evident, I’m enjoying the conversations of the hoot owls as I sit on my back porch in the early (really early!) mornings and I’ve been savoring the fresh tomatoes that the produce man at the local farmer’s market located somewhere that already have the flavor of late summer here in the early spring.  I’m growing accustomed to living on Eastern Time instead of Central Standard and I’ve been waging a battle to keep my porch bird-nest free. (That is one determined little bird!)  I’ve been raking pine straw and picking up sticks and being amazed all over again at the amount of pollen in a Southern spring—all the while reveling in the bloom of forsythia, daffodils, tulip trees and dogwood right here in my own little yard.  I’ve been changing sheets and readying guest rooms for the family that was here last week and those who will arrive this weekend—including the cousin who (just one year ago!) fell 3 stories on a job site and wasn’t supposed to survive, but has become one of those God-kept wonders and is planning a trip to Disney shortly!

I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been too busy learning…and you have to learn before you can share. I hope and pray that you are busy learning, too; that your lessons are easy ones and, if not, that you will find yourself being a God-kept wonder where you are.  In the meantime, I hope you’re loving God with all your heart and savoring the glories of the day.

Grace & Peace!

Back to new basics

“A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out.”  –Mama

I’ve heard her say that all my life…and she’s probably not far from the truth.  After all, getting in a rut means you’ve done the same thing over and over and over for so long that you probably don’t even have to think anymore about what to do next.  While there’s something to be said for consistency, I’m not a great fan of mindless task-doing.  Over the past 6 months or so, however, I’ve had the opportunity to begin longing, not for a rut, but a schedule.  I love the order that comes of doing things in rhythm and creating a pattern of behavior that helps me feel settled and at ease.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the behavior has to be mindless, but it does mean that once the mundane items are marked off the to-do list, there will be more brainpower available to be directed toward more creative endeavors…and I have really missed being able to do that.

I’m looking forward to creating new rhythms for this place.  I’m looking forward to creating new friendships and creating new opportunities, new plantings and new views, new words, new art and new thoughts.  I’ve missed having the time to write and the number of blog posts that have been written mentally in the dark and gone unpublished are more than I’d like to think about.

I’ve actually had a schedule of sorts over the last few months:  travel, unpack, pack, travel, unpack (repeat, repeat, repeat…) and I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m ready to change the tasks on the schedule.

Most of the things in the house have been unpacked to find new homes and those that haven’t are in boxes for donation or awaiting the arrival of new pieces before they can be placed in order.  It’s good to have an idea about where most of your stuff is and while the house is coming together nicely, the shop tells a different tale at present.  Oh, we’re making progress there, too, but it seems slow in coming, perhaps because it is finally spring—the season of new birth, new plants, new blooms, rebirth, resurrection and renewal—and I’m longing to get outside and revel in the absolute wonder of it all.  Oh, how I have longed for this season this year!

As I’ve been unpacking all of our accumulated stuff, I’m unpacking new thought processes, as well.  I’m slowly establishing patterns of behavior for this new place and finding that my heart is feeling right at home here as I do so.  I’ve created a “nest” for my morning time with God and have really enjoyed getting back into His Word in a deeper way.  I’ve acquired a new library card and located two libraries and a couple of garden nurseries nearby along with more than a few antique stores.  I’m settling in, but I’m not inclined to settle.  There’s something about this place that calls out for new things and that excites me.

Yes, I’m establishing new patterns and looking forward to new things…and I think I’ll plant some new bulbs in that old rut I had before.  Who knows?  Perhaps there’s still time to see them bloom this spring.

Boxes

My old house is empty except for a few things left behind as simple staging. Isn’t that funny? Towels, but no laundry; soap, but no dirt. Setting the stage…for new owners whose lives and livings will be totally different from yours in the same space. It’s actually a bit odd when you think about it, but we set the stage every single day by choosing what we’ll put out for public display in our lives and what we’ve determined that we’re going to take to our grave without sharing.

My new house is full of boxes. The boxes are labeled according to what room they were in back in the old house. I always do that. I label the boxes according to the paint color on the walls of the old house and then I label the doors of the new house according to those same room colors. It means, theoretically, that you’ll have some clue where your stuff is when you need it…assuming you knew where it was located in the old house. (Sometimes it is just a theory. Sometimes the boxes get put in the wrong colored rooms. Yes, that happens.)

I walked through the boxes on Sunday morning and I thought about how our lives are a bit like all those stacked items in containers. We have what we put out on display for everyone to see…and we have those things that we keep contained or hidden or private. Sometimes we keep those things so well hidden that we don’t even share them with those closest to us…for lots of reasons…some of them good and some of them not.

No matter what you’ve chosen to display or hide today, this is your friendly reminder of one very important thing.

God sees it all.

He knows it all.

He knows the hows and the whys and the wheres and all of the details that we’ve managed to forget or remember wrong or even just chosen to stew over.

God sees inside your boxes and He loves you anyway.

There is nothing inside of you that He doesn’t know about and already have a plan to use it for your eventual good. He’s promised to do so, in fact, but He’s also very polite.

He will not barge in and unpack your boxes…your attitudes or your hurts or your prideful things…unless you ask Him.

Ask Him today.

It’s always better to have help with the heavy stuff…and we’re all going to need it eventually, anyway.

Prayer for today:  Thanks for knowing me so well and still loving me, God!  Help me trust You enough to let you unpack all the boxes and the baggage that I have stubbornly refused to unpack before You–as if You didn’t already know all about it!  Give me eyes to see You in the common things of life and help me to remember You love me even when I make mistakes or forget to be grateful.  Use whatever You choose to create a deeper bond between us and make me more like Your Son.  I am Yours…baggage, boxes and all.  Oh, and God, thanks for being mine, as well.