No Complain November 2019

Welcome to Day of 1 of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2019! (Yes, we’re at it again!)

To be perfectly honest, I had been thinking about NOT doing NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER (NCN) this year. There were several reasons:  we’ve got a full plate right now in this season of our lives, it’s been a bit since I blogged on that regular a basis (see season reason #1), and I really wasn’t sure anyone else would care if I let it slide. Was I pushing this thing further than it needed to go? Maybe it was time to drop this public challenge and just make it a private one. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking on it, you understand. It was more of a passing thought that led me to a “wait and see where you are then” resolution…

…right up until I started hearing from a few friends. It seems I’m not the only one who recognizes the need to stop what has become the “norm” for our society and make a difference the only way we truly can:  one person at a time, starting with ourselves.

So! Here we are! At the very beginning of another NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! While the goal for this month is to eliminate complaining from our own lives and, perhaps, to influence those around us to do the same, I want to suggest a secondary theme for this year’s observance, as well. It is the idea of “Progress, not Perfection.”

I lose count of the people who tell me that they didn’t make it past the first day every year. My response is always the same:  “That’s fine. Try it again tomorrow.” I always say that because sometimes the results of doing something that’s actually GOOD FOR US isn’t always what we think it will be. I am the perfect illustration of that and, perhaps you are, too.

I’ve been naturally strong my whole life. It wasn’t something I ever truly had to work for; it was the result of great genetics and God’s own good pleasure. Over the last couple of years, however, I noticed that my strength wasn’t as consistent as it had been. I wasn’t worried. I was still plenty strong and had energy–until that started slipping, as well. Hmmmmm…well, that’s different. Maybe it’s just part of getting older. Yep, that’s probably it. That, and stress…lots and lots of stress. My doctors agreed and I just tried to rest a little more.

It didn’t help. Not only was I feeling weaker, I was getting larger and heavier than I had ever been and my body was becoming more susceptible to injury. Again, the doctor said it was just a normal part of aging, but what she didn’t know was how much I no longer felt like me. The stress was piling up and I needed an outlet.  I prayed about it. I blogged about it. I thought about it. I talked to friends about it. None of that helped ME feel any better about it, but I decided that I needed to do something just for me. I decided to get out and walk as a way to recover from a back injury.

When I was growing up, my mother’s family would gather regularly and after lunch, most of the girl-cousins would get out and go for a walk. It was always a sweet time of fellowship among us. Later, I had walked with friends for improving my fitness levels and it was a great benefit in losing some excess weight. I set out to walk with those two things in mind. I didn’t push. I just decided to stroll and remember. That led to strolling and thanking God for such great memories, then thanking Him for my family and friends, and on thanking Him for all of the other blessings I have received. The thanksgiving led to prayers for specific needs that I knew about and, almost immediately, my walk became one of the highlights of my day.

Over the months I have gradually increased the speed and the length of my strolls with God, but the prayer time has remained a constant unless He sent me a neighbor to share my time. Even then, I was often praying for them. My already active prayer life was being taken to a new level! Definitely an unexpected result of deciding to start walking!

Another unexpected result was that, almost immediately, I gained 18 pounds. Yes. You read that right. I wasn’t getting bigger, I was just getting heavier–because muscle weighs more than fat. While I know that in my head, I was still discouraged about that number for awhile. Some days I still am. For awhile the weight gain settled down, but it didn’t drop off right away. It just STAYED. If I hadn’t also been aware that I was also becoming stronger, having more energy and greater endurance, and didn’t huff and puff so much coming up that slight hill…well, I think you see where I’m going. Six months later, I’ve lost about 12 pounds–something that I actually discovered just this morning because I had refused to get back on the scale for awhile! (HA! Like that made a difference!) My clothes fit a little differently now and I’m grateful for all of the positives because they literally outweigh the overall weight gain for me. This is a process. It will take time for me to get where I’m going. The very fact that I apparently NEEDED about 18 pounds of muscle and the improved tone from the walking and the stretching, well, that actually makes me grateful for this unexpected result. My strength and energy are returning and increasing! THAT is worth celebrating!

I’m sharing all of that to say this: NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER can be celebrated even if you (or I!) can’t do it perfectly, even if no one around us seems to notice or join us in our efforts, even if we’re under a tremendous load of stress, and even if it doesn’t turn out to be what we expect it to be. The point is this:  The goal is to use this month to start making a difference the only way we truly can:  one person at a time, starting with ourselves.

While this is definitely a personal challenge, be sure to invite your friends and relatives, your coworkers, and fellow adventurers into the unusual idea of a trying to go a whole month without complaining! Whether or not they join us, if we work this right, we’ll become a more positive influence, make the world right where we live a better place to be, and, hopefully, glorify God in the process.

Who knows what else we’ll gain in the process! (grin!)

Remember:  Progress, not Perfection. You can do this! WE can do this. Give it a go–even if you have to go it alone where you are for awhile! This effort is contagious and it WILL pay off in ways we may never even see this side of eternity.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20 (CSB)

Grace and Peace–and Happy NCN 2019!!!

 

Margin meets meaning

I recently had an epiphany as I walked in the relative coolness of my early Georgia morning. By the way, I love the word epiphany. Although the dictionary defines it this way:

e·piph·a·ny ( /əˈpifənē/ )  noun

  1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
    • the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.
    • a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.

Wikipedia (the true source of all internet wisdom—HA!) defines it this way: An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is an experience of a sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. 

ANY.WAY! I had one of those as I walked and prayed about something I’ve been praying about for months…literally months and months. I’ve struggled with whether walking away for a time from some activities that I love is actually God’s will or just a desire to make things easier right now given the family circumstances that we are facing. I believe that I might have finally figured out that those two things aren’t always mutually exclusive. (By the way, change is hard.)

A dear friend and prayer partner recently asked if I was still working on “margin” in my life. I told her that I hadn’t had much time for that lately, but perhaps, I SHOULD be working on it. We laughed and moved on with our conversation. Her simple question set my mind in motion, though, and I began to look for ways to incorporate what I spent a whole year learning about just last year. It shouldn’t have been so difficult to remember–and I really shouldn’t have needed someone to remind me of what I had so recently learned, but it was and I did. (Did I mention that change is hard?)

As I walked along the road I asked God–again!--what it was that He wanted me to do about my schedule. I had thought that giving up our business would open up all the time and allow for all of the personal reserves that we would need, but that hasn’t been the case. Instead, I’m finding–as many of you already know–that physical work is far easier than making our way through the spiritual, emotional and mental battles of dealing with a loved ones’ dementia. Suddenly, I had a thought that tied AJ’s simple question to the ones piling up in my prayer time: What if last year’s focus on Margin was ACTUALLY all done in preparation for what we would face THIS year? What if God, in His infinite wisdom KNEW and provided me with a whole year to practice what I need to practice, grow, and teach in a whole new way during the difficult days that we’re facing right now? (MAYBE because God knows change is hard for us, too?)

Well, well! Hmmm…things. to. think. about!

I shouldn’t be surprised by that. God is always good. He is always preparing us for the next levels and making us fit for the next battles. What surprised me–again–was the WAY that He seems to have done so about this subject. You see, I thought that last year’s focus on Margin was ALL about LAST YEAR and all of the business and busy-ness that it contained. I lost sight of all I have learned from that quote by J.O. Sanders, “God never ploughs [sic] unless He purposes a crop.”

Well, welcome to the season of harvest right here in the first week of summer. I came home and immediately put into action a plan to rearrange my schedule. Some of the changes involve things that I dearly love and that I have held onto out of a desire to serve God and others by using the spiritual gifts that God has given to me. Personally, I had questioned if it would be more selfish to continue in them (and possibly do them poorly) or to step away for a season. Following Christ closely doesn’t leave much room for selfish motives or ambitions, so I am putting some things aside for the moment that will, hopefully, also help provide an opportunity for growth in others. If “the moment” becomes longer than I currently anticipate, then God will be in charge of that, as well. His gifts are never meant to be hoarded or neglected, so I am certain that He will make a way for all of us to grow. Additionally, while I will be laying aside some tasks, He has already shown me ways that I will be able to take up/expand some others.

The main thing I brought home with me from my Monday walk was a sense of release/personally answered prayer and a sense of purposely walking closer to Jesus than ever before. I’m finding that this season of difficulty is also demanding a deeper journey with my Savior (because…well, you knowchange…!)…and I’m finding myself more in love with my God than ever before as I rush to draw near to Him. There is no other way to survive this!

Perhaps there’s more to teaching than simply standing before a crowd or pecking away at a computer. Hmmmm…Maybe, just maybe, I will be teaching others about God by putting into practice what He’s already taught me…when I just thought I was busy and in need of some margin for my soul. Instead of simply going for a walk by myself, I encountered God and He set about changing my expectations, my prayer time, my understanding of past lessons learned, and, as a result, my reality. Epiphany, indeed.

Grace and Peace!

 

 

 

 

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!

 

The 90%

It’s been a rollercoaster for us lately. You can probably say the same thing about your life. That’s the key word, of course…it’s life! Nothing ever stays the same, otherwise we become stagnant and stale in our outlook, our aspirations, and our prayers. None of that is a good idea. As much as we often say we’d like things to stay the same, growth can’t occur in a vacuum. Change is constant, inevitable, and God’s deliberate idea of blessing us.

As my husband and I have discussed our circumstances, laughed, cried, prayed and driven more miles this month than I can say, we’ve been reminded of the truth that Chuck Swindoll so beautifully penned many years ago:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.

I believe God gave this insight to Pastor Chuck. I’ve had his quote pinned or taped to some surface in every office I’ve ever worked in professionally. I read it every day for years. I think it stuck. I hope so, anyway. The truth it contains has bolstered, encouraged, and (at times!) convicted me. I’ve been blessed by it.

Attitude is important, but so are the people around us. I’ve been blessed by my circle of friends near and far as they have prayed, called, emailed, texted, and made sure my cat was ok when I couldn’t. Some even sent cards and Scripture happies in the mail! IMG_20190617_064938374

Others ministered to us in different ways. My friend Patty (which came out typed as “Party” originally because my fingers obviously know the real Patty!! Lol!) actually blessed me back in December with a Christmas gift that has continued her blessing. Every day, I walk past a calendar she sent to me. Each month has a new reminder as the focus. This month, it has been a reminder to choose “gratitude” as my attitude! IMG_20190617_062805485

Well, there have been days when that was easier than others, but I have done my best to be grateful and express that to God and those around me. Today, I will get to choose again. So will we all.

What attitude will you choose as your 90% today?

Grace and Peace!

following and leaving

My parents always taught us that we were supposed to leave a place at least as nice–if not better!–than when we found it. It wasn’t so much that they always SAID that; they just lived it. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years and tried to do the same. It’s often easier to say than to do, but little things add up when you’re making deliberate choices.

img_20181228_142623459The other day a friend and I were heading out from the church in the rain when she suddenly pointed out a small bit of ivy growing at the base of one of the columns. “One day you’ll need to write about that!” she said before pointing out where a large pot of ivy used to sit nearby. “I’m always amazed to see where things take root.”

 

img_20181228_142654417I looked around and spied the pot and its contents across the way–no longer in the same spot, but still making an impact. I could see the ring caused by the pottery and the ivy sprig left behind growing in a tiny crack and spreading out and I wondered, “What kind of trail am I leaving? What kind of impact am I making and how does that need to change or be improved? Am I leaving my own footprints behind or God’s?

While I rarely make a long list of resolutions, I’m always aware that the start of a new year is a pretty good time for an evaluation of progress. My personal new year starts later in the year–on my birthday–but this was too good to pass up, so ever since then, I’ve been thinking about how I want to use 2019 to reach the next steps.

Last year, my focus-word for the year was “Margin” and God used that to teach me and make quite a difference in how I made decisions. In fact, although the past 4 months was one of our busiest in schedule, it was also one of the most relaxed for me because I made the necessary margin calls so that schedule was even possible. I was busy, but it was a busy that made sense based on the priorities my husband and I had set for us and our business after a long time of prayer. I’m already seeing the footprints of my 2018 Margin decisions affect the path for 2019, and I want that to continue.

When I started considering my focus-word for this new year, the decision didn’t take very long. My word for 2019 is both simple and complex: “Jesus.” I want to follow more closely, linger longer, deepen and enjoy our relationship, and see where He wants me to stay long enough to leave parts of us behind and where He wants us to move onward in new adventures. I want to follow more closely and leave more of His influence behind than my own when I leave a place. That’s the way I want to make things better than I found them this year…by following and leaving. I want to move more of me out of the way and make more room for Him to show up. I want to keep making good Margin calls so I can stay where I need to be and not be concerned because I’ve filled up my calendar with so many good things that I don’t have room for the God-things.

Following and leaving…it sounds like something that will make a difference this year. I pray it will be a good one.

“And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:11 (ESV)

Grace and Peace!

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–Days 17 & 18 (aka Days 10 & 11 that didn’t get posted last weekend!)

I’ve been thinking back to this time last year. Life was quite a bit different for me. God had loaded my plate, I had piled some more things on top, and a few others were trying to do that for me, as well. I was stressed and feeling every bit of it as I worked to stay positive and write posts that would encourage others…and hide how exhausted I was really feeling.

This year, things are quite a bit different. I’ve been on a search for more Margin in my schedule and, although my schedule is still a busy one, right now, I find myself more relaxed than I would have believed possible just 12 months ago. Having more Margin in your life doesn’t mean that you’ll always have giant stretches of empty space on your calendar. It just means that the items that make it there are chosen with purpose and a lot of prayer over them. It means that, while everyone will occasionally have to do something they might rather not do, the majority of the time is devoted to things that are in line with the goals YOU are trying to achieve, so your attitude can be one of excitement and gratitude even when you’re really very busy.

I’m writing this today in case some of you are still struggling because you’re just tired, tired of being tired, and tired of doing so many activities and still not feeling like you’re making any progress. Packing your schedule tighter than you can breathe with things that meet “other people’s goals” and leaves you precious little time to rest and accomplish your own goals does NO ONE any good.

Here’s your weekend challenge: Make peace a priority!! Take out your calendar and start a review. Make sure you include the rest of the family on this, as well, since their items are also part of the mix. Take an honest look at what goals you’ve set for yourself and what items are simply on your docket because they accomplish someone else’s idea of what’s necessary or appropriate. You might just find that someone in your household is only doing an activity because it’s something YOU always wanted to do and it really isn’t a pleasurable thing for them at all. You MIGHT just find some room in there to go do some actual “fun stuff” and you might just make a difference in the way you spend both time and money in the days ahead. At the very least, you’ll be able to see if your activities are helping your meet those goals you’ve set or if they’re just keeping you from meeting them. Hopefully, you’ll also find that having some open communication about your calendar will make it easier for everyone involved to have a better attitude and, therefore, make it a little easier to get through the rest of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER.

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21!!!