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!

Lenten Light

It’simg_20170301_092915249_hdr one of the first things I do every morning. I walk into the kitchen and I turn on a little lamp that’s been with me since I was a small girl.  As I flip the toggle switch, I tell God, “Thank you!” just like I do when I turn it off again at the end of the day. This lamp, and it’s twin which resides over on the butcher block that used to be a big part of my PawPaw’s store, was a long-ago gift from one of my mother’s college friends.

Her first name was Martha, but we just called her “Harris”–her last name and the one she had been known by in college at Mississippi State College for Women (now Mississippi University for Women) in my hometown of Columbus, Mississippi. Harris was an orphan who attended school on a scholarship and she never married. Throughout her life she educated and loved on other people’s children, and although she had a few closer to her home in Louisiana, I believe my Mama’s children were some of her favorites. It’s been years since she passed, but I still think of her when I turn on these little lamps and I miss knowing she’s in the world with us.

Harris was always full of fun and laughter. She loved wearing bright colored scarves and my Mama always got excited when she received a call or letter that said Harris was on her way and would be with us for a few days. She had lots of stories about “her children” and her church family. When she got tickled at her own stories, she would giggle and say, “Oh, Jes-us! precious Jesus!”, but not in a sacrilegious way–she was just including Him in on her fun the same way she included Him in every other part of her life.

I didn’t know it then, but I was being taught some incredible lessons about love and friendship and building a vibrant faith life. Today, on this first day of Lent, I’m remembering how God chose to shine His light on us in a way we humans could touch and feel and know in a personal way. I’m also reminded that He’s still in the blessing business and there’s still plenty to say “Thank you, God!” for today…including sweet memories of those people who have shown us how to make God come home to us in ways that make us want more of that–and more of Him!–in our lives.

It may not be a lamp on your kitchen counter, but what can you use this Lenten season to remind you of Him and cause you to express your gratitude for all the blessings He’s given to you throughout your life?

Grace and Peace!

(And for those of you who are wondering, that fabulous teapot was custom made for my husband by our friends Craig and Tracy Wilson, from Poplar Ridge Pottery in Mississippi! It gets used almost every day and we just leave it out because it’s too great to hide in a cabinet!)

 

Still celebrating

img_20170106_065800221My nativity set is still on the mantle. The stockings are still hung (on the back door, this year!) and my tree is glowing and adorned even as I type. I don’t always celebrate according to the actual calendar dates.

I know people who start decorating exactly “X-# of days/hours” before a particular holiday and then remove all traces of the decorations precisely “X-# of days/hours” afterward. I also know of at least one person who shall remain nameless, but who leaves a tree up year-round and decorates it differently for each subsequent holiday.

I have general days in mind about such things, but no hard-and-fast rules. This year, even those dates have come and gone…and I’m just fine with that.

I have the added–and much unexpected–bonus of a “winter storm warning” for this weekend with the possibility of snow here in middle Georgia, home of prolonged heat waves and yellow pine pollen so thick you can write your name in it! It’s a big deal to hear we might have snow down here. The local grocery stores had a run on milk and eggs, and bread yesterday and I heard that at least two different stores actually ran out of such staples early in the day…while it was still shirt-sleeve weather! Don’t laugh! It’s serious stuff down here! Why, we might get trapped inside for a whole 2-3 days with nothing to do but eat, because you KNOW we don’t have a clue how to drive in snow with icy patches on the road–and we might actually get up to 4 inches of that white stuff! (OK, you can grin a little.)

In light of this unusual possibility, I asked my husband if he would be OK with me leaving the Christmas decorations up for just a few days longer. After all, there’s nothing that says Christmas like snow–at least in most of the traditional carols, which are still playing on the CD in my truck and throughout the house, as well, incidentally. Yeah, I’m extending this holiday as long as I can this year!

I’m practicing grace with myself and enjoying this extra time with my simple decorations and soothing songs of seasonal cheer. I was needed elsewhere on the days I would have normally put things away and fulfilling those duties took precedence. Being needed is a good thing. Practicing grace is another. In the past, I’ve been better at extending grace toward others than I have toward myself. I’d guess that’s true of most of us.

This year, in what I’m calling “the year God loaded my plate,” I’m building in some protections for myself…including celebrating whenever possible for as long as possible. I’m hoping to carry this idea into the rest of my life. Order is important (especially to me), but rigidity limits flexibility and I need to be flexible right now in order to make most of this time. I don’t want to miss a thing my God is up to!

God has given me some pretty amazing opportunities for this year and I want to enjoy every bit of it. He’s in the process of stretching me and my comfort zone, which we all know isn’t all that comfortable some days. The least I can do is get ready to be stretched and practice some grace-giving in advance for those days when the practice will become the requirement.

So, Merry Christmas in January, happy extended holidays, and joyful winter storm warning…I sure hope y’all are stocked up on milk, and eggs, and bread!

Grace and Peace!

ON to the next…?

I started writing an imaginary blog post in my head last night listing all of the complaints I chose not to give voice to in November. Or at least I tried to do that…but I couldn’t remember what any of them were! How funny is that?! It was a great reminder to me that watching what I say and how I express myself has more benefits than those just in the moment. If the things I’m prepared to speak badly about aren’t worth remembering a month–or even a few days!!–later, then why bother doing that in the first place?!

I soon moved on to other thoughts…like what I plan to challenge myself with in December. Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for several days. I’ve had several options that appeal to me regarding being more intentional about getting my exercise and finding a project that I could donate to as my own little Christmas gift this year. (I drink a LOT of water, so I’m exploring some options that help bring water to people and places where they don’t currently have a regular supply of water right now. More on that later, I guess.)

I’ve seen food challenges about giving up certain items for the holidays, but I’m still trying to be diligent about eliminating processed sugar–I that started in my 2015 Lenten observance and it made such a difference that I’ve tried to keep it going–and adding (or rather, subtracting!) something else food-related right now just isn’t all that appealing.

I’ve enjoyed writing regular blog posts during November, though I had gotten a bit out of practice and some days it was really a stretch for me to do it in a timely manner. Maybe I should be more disciplined about my writing?

I’ve pared down my holiday decorations over the years so that, other than the tree and the nativity set, they fit into 2 regular sized totes now. I’ve also been on a purging kick for YEARS, so I don’t really hold on to material things as much any longer.

I haven’t pulled out the paints and worked with those in awhile…and I DO love that…maybe I need to regularly schedule some creative time? (yeah! because that had always worked for me in past! NOT!)…but still, maybe…?

I wish I read more…books, instead of just internet things…

Oh, boy. Think about that for a minute. How much time do I spend on the internet each day? Well, maybe YOU don’t need to think about that, but I think I might. Yes, that might be just the thing. Ooohhhh, that’s a bit scary. Think before you commit, Becky…you love Pinterest. You love keeping up with your people on Facebook. You do a lot of research online. You love all of the different subjects you can check out. You’re pretty grateful to Al Gore for even thinking about creating the internet (giggle)…and yet…

It has become one of my pet peeves of late. I’m not talking about the internet so much as I am the societal addiction to technology…instead of actually being present and having interaction with people who are actually…you know…THERE. Yes. That might just be the thing for December.

Ok. Deep breath. Here we go. For the month of December, I hereby challenge myself (and invite you along for the ride, if you want to join me!) in putting down my phone/technology when there are people around. I spend a great deal of time by myself, so I’m going to take it even a bit further: I’m going to set a limit on how much time I spend online…for things outside research and writing and …oh, wait. I’m already waffling on this…

Nope! I’m going to stop that waffling. I’m just going to take a deep breath and do this! Phone down when there are people in the room and I’m setting a limit of 2 hours per day to be online. Given the time it takes to actually write and publish the blog, do research in prep for Bible study, etc., I’m going to have to really discipline myself to keep to that limit, but I think that is my challenge for December.

Join me? Pick your own? Either way, share what YOUR next challenge will be! I just might need another challenge…in January…

…and now, I’m out of here! I’ve got a time limit and I need to do some serious planning about what to do with all of this extra time…

Grace and Peace!

 

 

Day 30!!–NCN2016

34777“NCN has been so much better this year. Can’t say I haven’t whined at times but the Holy Spirit has used the exercise to at the very least make me aware. Can’t believe tomorrow is the last day I’ll actually pen the words, no acronym I needed to write it out to live it out!!, on my daily to-do list. Thank you for starting and continuing NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! Looking forward to next year. I love you.”

These were the words that came to me yesterday from my lovely cousin Leigh. I wasn’t surprised by them. She’s always encouraging and I loved that she shared this spontaneously. It DID, however, cause me to prompt some responses from a few others that I knew had made the NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER journey with us by sending the following:  what’s your evaluation of NCN and how you observed it/what did you learn? 

Here is a sampling of what I received in response:

“I honestly think some people are complainers by nature. And I might be one of them!  This has been a great tool for bringing that awareness to me! Seriously…my husband…doesn’t complain. In fact, he rarely says much. LOL. I find this personality-flaw cruel and unfair.

And during the first 5 minutes of breakfast I might have been “explaining” my use of said husband’s Fitbit charger cord and all the reasons mine was unavailable to me…when he sweetly asked, ‘Is it still November?’

Wow.”

 

“…I have to admit I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been toward the middle to end of month. So much going on I fall back into bad habits. I will say, however, that my priest’s homily Sunday evening revved me up again. He spoke about the beginning of the advent season and how we should all make an effort to honor the season and prepare for Christs birth. He talked about how small efforts every day add up and put us on the right track. Made my mind up then to make more of an effort to be positive and take NCN into December. Kind of my way of making up for all of the Days timeI messed up in November!”

 

“First answer: I refuse to answer the question on the grounds that it might incriminate me.

Second answer: while I wasn’t very successful, NCN and your blogs brought me back to the right head space, at least for a few moments.

Third answer: I’ll catch up with you in December.”

I love it! See! I have something to anticipate! (grin)

I chose these responses deliberately because they all have a theme. In fact, it might as well have been the theme for the entire challenge: NO ONE is going to do NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER perfectly! That’s not a complaint. It’s a fact…and I’m more than ok about that. I knew going in that this would be a challenge and the whole point of a challenge is to IMPROVE a performance.

I agree with Leigh. It WAS easier for me this year, but I’ve spent the past 11 months trying to keep it going from the last NCN, so that was to be expected. In some ways, it was also more difficult because of all that was going on politically, but I thought that just made it better in some ways, as well.

One of my friends who responded above also sent me an article the other day about a woman who had blogged about trying not to complain for a whole day. I chuckled. Apparently, we are over-achievers, and yet I still applaud the effort to reduce anyone’s “complaint footprint” on this earth! It is a worthy goal.

As we come to the end of our challenge–don’t give up! We still have this one last official day of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER to conquer! I hope that we will ALL be conscious going forward about reducing our own complaint footprint in our respective environments. Thank you for sharing this challenge with me, for sending me your texts and emails about your successes and your “almost made its” along with your complete melt-down failures. In every single case, you challenged me and encouraged me to do better and know that I was not alone in my attempts to get it right–along with giving me good company in which to repent and try again when I got it wrong.

You have blessed me and I am grateful. I have NO COMPLAINTS about my companions in this challenge for you are a valiant lot and I’m proud to know you–even those I’ve not yet met.

I can’t wait to see how you make this world a better place!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!!)

Day 28–NCN2016

14803374006631278927256Welcome to your post-Thanksgiving-break Monday when we return to our regularly scheduled programming…er…lives!!! Aren’t you excited?! (grin)

It’s early and yet I’ve already seen several memes and videos about how much people are dreading this day! In fact, they started posting some of them yesterday…as if they couldn’t get their dread in fast enough?!

Perhaps it is done mostly tongue-in-cheek, but these words still have power, so your challenge for today is to start YOUR week off on a positive note and finish this challenge strong! Only 3 more days remain in NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! If that isn’t reason to celebrate, I’m not sure what is! (ha!)

Take a few moments today and make a list of your 3 favorite memories from the weekend. Post a photo or write a journal entry and place it where you can see it as a reminder of all you’ve had to be thankful for this season.14803376379641033919393

Next, make a list of 3 things that you’re looking forward to as we enter into the month of December and place that nearby, as well. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Scribbles on a post-it note will work just fine!

The whole point is to be reminded of the things that have brought us joy and also have a sense of anticipation about what is yet to come. It’s hard to be negative when you’re surrounded by good memories and fun plans for the future!

Give it a shot! There’s nothing to lose but your post-Thanksgiving-break Monday blues!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

(By the way, I’m celebrating a new blog domain for this blog today! You can still find me at quietambitions.wordpress.com AND you can find me at quietambitions.quietambitions.blog now, as well! You still get the same post, it’s just a nerdy-blogger-fun thing for me! Feel free to shout or share or dance right along with me!)

 

Day 23–NCN2016

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and as much as I would love to think that this blog would play a major part in a world-wide celebration of it (grin), I am realistic enough to know that it won’t–and smart enough to be grateful that we will ALL have more to do than write or wait to read a blog post over the next few days.

This is a time for family and friends and food and football (LOL! A lot of my favorite things start with the letter “F”!) and lots and lots of gratitude for all the
blessings we have–those we know about AND those not yet in evidence. I plan to  rejoice and spend some time telling God “THANK YOU!!!” even though this will be the first time ever that we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving without traveling to see family. We are looking forward to a quiet restful time together here at home. I pray that wherever you find yourself and regardless of how your plans unfold, you will be full of gratitude and know that you are loved by God in amazing ways.

Each year since I began the blog,grandmother hodum thanksgiving poem I have 1122160901shared the following poem. My Grandmother Hodum used to recite it for us each year as we gathered at her house and I simply can’t imagine Thanksgiving without it. I still miss her terribly even after all these years. I treasure the copied words in her handwriting–and I hear her voice in my head as I read it every time– but I know you can’t really have the benefit of that. (and I really hate that for you! She was wonderful!) It is difficult to read her handwriting if you don’t already know the words, so I’m also sharing them below.

“Thanksgiving Dinner”

I don’t believe in eating much

of turkey, pumpkin pie and such.

It make me dream bad dreams at night

and then, besides, it’s not polite.

So I’m not going to stuff and stuff

and act like I can’t get enough.

For me a turkey leg will do

with just a slice of breast or two,

then some liver, gizzard, and a wing,

Lots of dressing, that’s the thing!

Mashed potatoes to make me grow

Squash and cabbages, they’re fine, you know,

And I must have some cranberries, too,

And layer cake–two pieces will do.

Then of pumpkin pie so yellow–

One piece, because I’m a little fellow.

With nuts and apples I shall quit

and not ask for another bit.

For it isn’t good the doctors say

To eat too much on Thanksgiving Day!

See you in a few days! And until then, remember this: Moderation in all things (grin!) and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)