Waiting on perfection

I’m weird. (Don’t laugh too loudly. You are, too.) One of the things that make me weird is that I’m always in pursuit of perfection. That may sound like a good thing…but it can get in the way of getting some things done around here. In college, I would often be found cleaning the kitchen and bathroom the night before an exam because I “neeeded” (yes, ALL those extra “e”s are needed there.) to have things “perfect” before I could concentrate on the studying.

There are other things that contribute to the weirdness, of course. We all have things that make us individuals, but I guess that pursuit of perfection in the strangest things is one of my biggest challenges. I’ve been battling it (as in, I’m rarely distressed over it, but I’m always aware of it!) for a long time, but never more so that these past few months as we’ve battled much bigger issues.

I work hard to keep our home clean enough to be restful to me so I can make it restful for others. That means you can’t eat off the floor (since I have a cat and I don’t eeeven recognize a 5-second rule when there are animals inside), but all the towels and blankets are folded neatly in the closet and I try to keep reasonably up-to-date on the laundry. I’m not such a stickler on the dusting in times of stress, but it does bug me on occasion. I don’t let it get in the way of having friends over for a chat, of course, but I’m aware. Very aware. (Btw, I am only this way about MY house–or the hotel rooms I’m inhabiting. I could not care less–and don’t even notice!–other people’s spaces. I’m there to focus on the people, not their surroundings, aaannnnddd…maybe I should learn from that and cut myself some slack, but…so far…that hasn’t happened all that regularly.)

With all of the traveling and hospital sitting-time we’ve done recently and all of the necessary schedule re-routing as a result, some of these normally-done chores of mine have fallen behind in favor of just trying to catch up on a little rest so we can “do the next thing.” Because of that, I’ve not been able to be as creative…or, rather, I’ve had to be creative about finding ways to do some creating. I’ve optimistically carried painting supplies places that I never allowed them to see outside of the luggage and I’ve resorted to pinning things on Pinterest boards that I would like to try one day…when all things are perfect…and I have the time. Blogging is about as creative an opportunity as I’ve been allowing myself and I think that’s been more sharing than creating for me lately. Yesterday, I chose to allow myself to “create” some mail for loved ones. See, I’m stretching it.

Last night I showed my husband the wrapper off of a Dove Dark Chocolate square that says, “The magic is in the mess. Dorothy S., Louisiana” I don’t know who Dorothy S. is or how the people at Dove chocolates found her, and I would never have believed her to be right in this statement before, but something about her words grabbed me. The more I thought about it, I remembered that if I wait to create until things get “perfect” about the situation we’re in right now, then I might not create again for a long, long time. I can’t do that. I can’t wait anymore to let things be perfectly straight and manageable and comfortable and whatever other word I’ve allowed to interfere with doing something that feeds my soul and expresses life-joy even in the midst hard things.

This, too, is a mental health issue. It’s also a life and time management issue, a willingness to have fun issue, and a seize the moment for joy issue. In short, it is a God issue…as most things are. We don’t have to be perfect to enjoy the day we’re being given, but we DO have to be willing to look beyond our circumstances and remember that Jesus came to give us life! Abundant life! HERE and NOW…and in the time beyond, as well. While taking time to bless yourself may not sound very spiritual to some people, doing so can be a reminder that God created each of us in His image…and the very first characteristic that He shared with us was His ability to create.

“In the beginning God created…” Genesis 1:1.

While we won’t create anything so magnificent as the world and all that is in it, we can choose to create some joy and some peace and some rest right were we are today.

So. What are YOU waiting on to bless YOUR own soul? Don’t get caught up in your circumstances so much that you forget to LIVE in the midst of them! Advice from me to you (and from me to me!): don’t wait on things to be “perfect” before you start making them “better.” Find a way to bless your own self today. Maybe it is by creating, cleaning (uh, nope, that’s probably just me. sorry!), going for a ride or a walk, getting an ice cream cone, reading a book (or even just a chapter?), taking some hobby time or simply sitting still and breathing quietly for a bit. WHATEVER you choose, make sure you take time to thank God for the moments and ask Him to help us ALL choose to really LIVE and LOVE the life we’re given instead of waiting on everything to be perfect.

Grace and peace…and LIFE!

 

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small packages and bigger baggage

“When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.” ~John Ruskin 

John Ruskin may not have mentioned this to anyone, but his quote can also be applied to women. I know this to be true by way of recent personal experience.

I walked into a local grocery store last week just to hear my name called out in a loud and cheerful greeting. It’s the kind of thing that can happen when you live in the “country” and shop at small-town grocery stores. People get to know you. They may even go to church with you on occasion. You see them in the local bank and you might even have them on your personal prayer list from time to time…or show up on theirs. For absolutely certain, you have to know that you will not be getting away with buying your favorite ice cream on the sly, so just you need to just go ahead and own that right up front. Also, when you supposedly write a blog and then DON’T write for awhile, well, you can expect to get called on that, too. Ask me how I know. (insert the chagrined shrug emoji here…and then go ahead and smile, because it just happens that way sometimes, doesn’t it, Cheryl?! LOL) Yes, my name was quickly followed up with an inquiry about when I planned to publish my next blog. I gave a vague little smile and told Cheryl that I was “processing.” Until that moment I hadn’t given blogging much thought because I’ve been in mourning.

No, I didn’t lose anyone close to me. I lost a thing, …a dream, …some expectations, and the ability to go and do my own thing while expecting that to continue somewhat indefinitely. It sounds selfish when I write it out like that, but it’s been pretty real for me. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been more than a little bit sad about all that loss, so I’ve been wrapped up in myself more than a little bit as I’ve carried this heavier baggage down the road without an end in sight…and I needed some space before I could write about it. Some days are, of course, better than others. Grief is never linear, but dealing with it head-on is a lot healthier than ignoring it and hoping it will go away on its own.

This past year, after our busiest and most successful year ever, we decided to close our business. We’ve joked about going out on a high note, but our spirits have felt anything but high about it. The decision caught even us off guard though it was our decision to make. I asked us (my husband and I) a question that had only one answer, so our decision was both made and then made official for the IRS in less than two hours. The year 2018 was a great one for our little business, but keeping it going and growing took a toll. It meant that we didn’t see family or friends very much. It meant we missed a lot of church and quite a few special events that we’ve always enjoyed participating in or seeing. It meant that we spent almost every waking moment for the months of the “show seasons” moving forward with intense focus. We worked hard almost all the time and when we weren’t working hard, we were working out ways to work more efficiently so we could fit more work into our already crowded work schedules. It didn’t leave us much time for anything else, including planned visits and keeping up with loved ones, much less for emergencies…

Family. You know they’ll love you anyway and NObody ever sits and thinks, “Well, YES, I am choosing my work over my family and friends and I am absolutely fine with that!” At least, we didn’t. We missed out on quite a bit and we knew it, but we kept moving forward with even bigger plans for 2019.

God had other plans.

Family health issues are a fact of life as we get older. It happens to everyone. Even as we worked and planned for our next season, we noticed some parental age-related changes that cropped up sporadically, at first, and then with greater frequency and severity. It became obvious that they would become increasingly difficult to manage. My folks were fine, but we have other family obligations that began to make it more and more difficult to commit to a show schedule, increase our time with loved ones, and still be available to participate in family care. The topper came when we sat in our tax lady’s office and saw the result of our great year and knew that no matter how successful we made our business, it would never be enough to justify our absence in the lives of the people we love. We have a larger obligation–and desire!–to be successful in being part of our families…for the sake of those who are well and for those who are not.

The loss of our business hurt. There are days when it still hurts for both of us. On those days I have to remind myself of all of the reasons we made the decision to close and remember that I am not alone in this battle. I’ve actually had more help with that than I anticipated. In addition to my fabulous husband, the God of All Comfort keeps showing up to help me. Without exception, when I become pitiful and focused on my own loss, He draws near and shows me what I’ve gained: ease of schedule, ease of pressure to perform/create just for the pleasing of others, increased opportunities to spend time with and care for those we love, and an unexpected loosening of some invisible bands of pressure that had grown to impede my breathing without my even being aware of them.

We’ve also been released–and given some time!–to focus on our marriage. As a result, we’ve begun to make more opportunities for laughter and fun. Our list of positives continues to grow and we are determined to keep finding and celebrating those gifts! We’re resting in the idea that God always has a plan that is for our good (Jeremiah 29:11)–even when it doesn’t always FEEL good to us and we can’t quite see the end result or enjoy all of the pathway to it.

Knowing all I do about the truth of that last sentence, it is still taking some time to process the grief over the loss of our business. It’s also taking some time to process the grief and loss that comes from changing family roles and responsibilities. The increasing need to “parent” a parent takes some getting used to…for all of us. It’s still early days yet on some of these fronts, but I’m really ready to stop being a small package with big baggage and get back to seeing what God has for me to learn in all of these changes. As with many other life lessons, this is a process and I have to choose it deliberately on a daily basis.

The good news for now is that I’m choosing to move forward and I’m getting my focus back where it belongs. I’m trying to unwrap all these new-to-me-again gifts I’ve been missing out on for awhile and celebrate THAT even as I attempt to process the grief. Here’s to the gifts from a God so big that He can deliver delight even from the ashes of despair.

Be glorified in who You lead us to be, Father, as we seek to become even more wrapped up in You.

Grace and Peace, dear friends. Grace and peace. This, too, is a process.

 

Choice of the day

I didn’t really want to go meet her, but it seemed important to my new family-to-be that I meet their neighbors, so I dutifully crossed the street following my new fiance and his sister. We were headed to visit Mrs. Jewette Grogan, a long-time neighbor and family friend. Her small brick house was attractive, neat, and well-kept. She matched her house.

We were warmly welcomed in although she didn’t receive any advance warning of our visit and invited to take a seat. She was lively and seemed interested in hearing all of their latest news. As they introduced us, she leaned forward and said, “How delightful!” It wasn’t a word I had heard actually used in a very long time. She seemed to mean it…I mean, really mean it. We spent less than an hour there and when we go up to leave, Mrs. Jewette said–again–how “delighted” she was to see them and meet me. Delight. It was a word I would often associate with this little lady over the coming years. That simple conversation has stayed with me and has often helped me choose my attitude when faced with unexpected “interruptions” in my schedule.

Fast forward the many years between then and now and I have noticed that my attitude has become a bit more jaded of late. Perhaps it is all of the gloom and rain of this winter weather (I seriously notice the lack of sunshine during the winter months!), the recent health challenges in our household, the news about challenges some of our loved ones are facing, the accident awhile back–or, maybe a combination of it all, but I’ve noticed a level of “blah” that I’m just not accustomed to feeling. It has affected my effectiveness at even simple tasks in addition to my mood.

I am not a fan of the “blahs” in life. Those nebulous yucky feelings are often as stressful as having a specific trial to overcome! I am, also, not alone. I know this because I’ve received emails and texts from several friends who are lately battling similar issues. Just yesterday one of them sent me a meme about the following words: “I’m so stressed that relaxing makes me more stressed because I’m not working on what’s making me stressed.” (LOL–and yes! I totally understood!)

I responded, “Trying to catch up on homework, taxes, apps, spending time with Mike…and have a good attitude. Made myself pull out the homework this afternoon…and in the top of DAY TWO (eye roll emoji here!) there it was. Pray and tell God “what is on your heart and what you need to know to understand.” I just broke down and said, “God, I want to be delighted in your Word, in the computer work, in learning the new software for photos and apps, for doing the tax work, for creating, for everything! I just want to be delighted.” I barely got it out before I heard in my spirit, “Choose to be delighted. Choose that no matter what you’re doing.” Girl! I closed my book, got out some new watercolors and made this (photo below) to put over my computer.”

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Oh, I’m not kidding myself. I know it isn’t “fine art” by any stretch of the imagination, but as I brushed the colors across the paper, I thought about all of the tasks ahead for this week that will overlap, the choices made in one area that will make a difference in another one, and how the overarching theme about how they will ALL be done depends on me and the attitude I choose as I do them. Today, I am deliberately choosing to BE delighted. I am determined to go beyond the simple (or not-so-simple!) task of getting things done. I am choosing to delight as I do them. I think it is a God-honoring choice and another way to draw closer to Him as I deliberately choose to celebrate the ABILITY to do the tasks in front of me and celebrate the wonder that is all around us whether or not we stop to acknowledge it.

I realize this simple choice won’t cure those in the throes of deep depression, but maybe it will make a difference in just the tiniest part of your week so that it gives us all a place to draw a breath and keep going forward with a little bit lighter step? Who knows?! Maybe it will spread across our whole calendars and creep into our homes and the way we deal with those we love…and even, with those we struggle to love? I chose the verse at the top of the painting to remind me as I go forward that even those things that take a more concerted effort to choose delight in are STILL POSSIBLE with God’s help. I’m expecting to need His help to get my to-do list done, but I am supremely confident that He is up to the task and because of that, I am, too.

How very grateful I am for a God who keeps me on a short leash about my attitude!!! It is a CHOICE for me to make–and for you, as well! Let’s choose to be delighted today! It just might make Monday FUN!!

Grace and Peace!–and DELIGHT!!!

 

NCN 2018–Day 27

Today is #givingtuesday, a time to be generous and contribute to worthy causes. I don’t know when it got started, but I definitely applaud the whole idea, and it makes me wonder…

  • What if we decided to be make every day a giving day?
  • What if we made a plan (not a wish, but a PLAN) to support worthy causes with regularity…because our priority was to become more worthy, too.
  • What if we looked at our resources with an eye toward blessing those whose needs we’re aware of long after “the season of giving” has passed because we realized that the Source of all blessing has promised to never leave or forsake us…and others need to see that promise in action so THEY can believe it, too?
  • What if our whole lives centered around making those around us know they matter, that they’re loved, and that their gifts are needed to help others, too?
  • What if we decided to become walking, talking, giving billboards for grace and peace and the One whose idea they were in the first place?

What if…?

What will you choose to do today…since you’ve given up complaining…and have all that extra time on your hands? (grin)

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21!!

NCN 2018–Days 23-25

IMG_20181123_105324483_HDRI always find it interesting that immediately following a feast of giving thanks for all they’ve been blessed with, some people rush out to push and shove and “beat out the other guy” in an effort to acquire even more. Does it mean that they’re actually also “more” thankful as they fight to add to their piles? I wonder.

I vividly remember the first time my mother and I attended a Black Friday event. I was about 12 years old and I stood in awe and wonder as I watched grown women fight–in public!!–over sheets! I mean they literally exchanged blows and yelled at each other over SHEETS in the JC Penney! My mama would have whipped me on the spot for such behavior. It was immediately official: I was DONE with Black Friday sales.

I have friends who do Black Friday as a social tradition with friends and family, and while I can’t quite figure out why that is enjoyable for them (since I am usually happily at home sleeping in and having a late breakfast! Yes, Lord!!), I applaud their determined pursuit of family, friends, and fun. I’m also incredibly grateful that they remain friends with this blog-writing hermit despite her lack of participation in such things! (seriously grateful!)

The husband and I did manage to  venture out into the world of “Black Friday” today…to purchase the world’s largest Sharpie marker and some hot pink flagging tape. We’re preparing for a specialist’s yard sale tomorrow and I’ll need to make directional signs and cordon off parts of my yard so I can keep some of my smaller planting areas safe.

After much deliberation, my husband has decided to pare down his hobby list to create some margin for himself in the areas of shop space, time, focus, and need for supplies. The hobby he’s “giving up” (for now, at least) is wood-turning. He was gifted at it, enjoyed creating functional art, and was fully stocked to participate in this hobby…and hadn’t had time to do so in a very long time. Choosing to walk away from something he’s REALLY good at was a difficult decision for him, but he’s taken his time, considered his options, and made the choice to focus his creativity in different directions more aligned with his current goals and schedule.

Last weekend, I challenged you to review your family calendars in an effort to make sure the events and appointments on it matched your current agendas. This weekend I’m challenging you to consider letting go of events, hobbies, and “stuff” that no longer fits who you are or who you want to become. This will be harder…because you will need to think about where you are and where you want to go as a person.

Make sure you don’t rush this and don’t be afraid to ask yourself some difficult questions. That’s they way we learn, improve our focus, and make room for the things we can enjoy in the time we have. In short, it’s another way to eliminate yet another reason to feel guilty and complain.

Does something immediately come to mind that you need to eliminate? If so, how can your changes benefit others (and maybe even your pocket book!) as you pare down and share those resources with others? OR, maybe, this is your wake-up call to get busy working with the things you already have and doing the things you LOVE to do!! Either way, make the most of what you have and take advantage of the next few days to have SOME FUN!!

Grace and peace!!

Romans 12:21!!!

NCN 2018–Day 19

I inched my way forward, stuck behind a couple of semi-trucks and wondered what all of the delay was about as I headed toward home. I looked over at the map on my phone, saw a streak of red and made my decision. I would take the next exit when I got there. It wasn’t far and I had already planned to take it to top off my tank and grab a bite to eat. No need to stress about this delay.

As I pulled into Panera (I love their tomato soup!), I found easy parking for the big red truck and checked out the delay a little bit more. Twelve minutes, according to the app, so this was perfect. I went inside and found my place in line. One of their ladies began to assemble my order for bagels (I also love their Asiago Cheese bagels–and they freeze well!! happy dance!! Bagels for the future!). The other lady at the front counter concluded the business in her line and we smiled at each other.

“How are you today?” I asked.

“Can’t complain!”, she replied.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to tell her about NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER…the short version:  some friends and I are celebrating NCN and choosing not to complain for the entire month.

“It will change the way you think!” I promised.

She looked at me with widened eyes and slowly said, “Yes!! I think it WOULD change the way you think! I like that!” She kept nodding and smiling as she gave it more consideration. It was evident that she was already a pretty positive person, but I loved that she was willing to consider a new way to improve her thinking process. That’s all it takes, you know. THAT is what NCN is really all about: a willingness to change for the better…and it doesn’t cost a thing.

As I enjoyed my soup and checked the map app again, I found that my interstate wait time from that exit forward had almost tripled, so I re-charted my route and took off down through the country. The recent rains had knocked the dust off of the world and I saw mountains and farm country prettier than I would have ever found along the highway. I took a new way home and, although I missed a turn and had the “opportunity” to go for a jaunt down a really muddy logging road at one point, the journey led me through places I will want to see again despite the notice that told me at one point, “You can’t get there from here. Choose another route.” (LOL!!!)

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All it takes is a determination to move forward, a willingness to try something different, and a predetermined plan to enjoy the journey…just like NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER…and life.

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21!!!

 

NCN 2018–Days 12-16

Happy Monday, everyone! I woke up very suddenly Sunday morning about 4:30 AM and realized two things: God had just given me a solution for a “problem” I had been considering…and I had forgotten to post my weekend challenge. I decided to celebrate both of those things. Naturally, I’m celebrating the first one, because–although it wasn’t a big problem (how to wrap some gifts for the holidays)–I now have an answer that works for me. (no brainer.) I decided to celebrate the second one, though, because I just figured God knew that y’all probably needed the break, as well. (HA!), and NOW, that means that I’m actually ahead! I have a post written for next weekend! (double HA and YAY!) Perspective and choosing to look for the positives are great gifts, y’all. Great gifts!

On this Monday of the week before Thanksgiving I find myself celebrating quite a few things early. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday because we always celebrated it by gathering with family we hadn’t seen in awhile. Distance from childhood homes, work, and modern busy schedules have made that impossible the past several years and, to be honest, it won’t happen “on the day” this year, either. HOWEVER, if you’re determined to celebrate the reason for the holiday, it really doesn’t matter what day you choose to do that, does it?

Although we can’t all be together in one place again this year like we used to when we were growing up, I have the opportunity to celebrate and see most of my immediate family THIS week instead of next week. I’m choosing to celebrate the GET TO instead of the departure from the traditional. Because I’ll be celebrating, I’m choosing to make this post the main one for the week. If inspiration strikes and there’s opportunity, you might see another post, but if I’m too busy being happy and enjoying the hugs and catching up, feasting my eyes on faces I’ve missed, and getting to see my youngest nephew play basketball, well…I think we’ll all manage just fine.

To give you something to think about and, hopefully, something to do while I’m taking this little break (because I just KNOW you need something else to do! LOL) I want to share something our #5 (hey, Judy!) sent out the other day (and for context, she’s the one who suggested we do NO DIET NOVEMBER–LOL!!!):

So the “cure” for negativity… help someone. Buy a cup of coffee for a young man in need. Feed a homeless cat. Help pay for someone’s groceries. Give until it hurts. Get uncomfortable. Every day. Goodness…. those in need are EVERYWHERE!! You realize how blessed you are and there is so much joy in seeing joy in others.

Although it may cause me to diet… bc I’m broke!!! 😂😂😂😂😂

Judy’s suggestions are a natural extension of her beautiful heart and I think they’re a MARVELOUS way to kick off the holiday season, so that’s your challenge for the week and a great way to get into the Thanksgiving mood: See how many people you can help/bless this week! Bonus points if you can do the helping and the blessing anonymously. (If you’ve never done that before, TRUST ME, you’ll be amazed at how much FUN it can be!! And, when you can pull it off…GLEE, people! Pure GLEE!! Doing it enough can actually make you giddy!–a term you NEED to get familiar with, if you’re not already aware! grin)

So, go have fun, overcome evil by doing good, bless others, have a great week wherever you are and with whoever you’re with, and if you’re doing all of that…well, then you’ll have no cause to complain!

Grace and Peace!

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21