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!

New normal?

Welcome to the new year! The fasting and the feasting are both past, and it’s time to return to the “normal”…but what will that look like now? Throughout the month of December I chose to follow a technology fast by deliberately limiting my time online and trying to focus on the people I was actually with instead of my phone and all the places it could take me without ever leaving the house. Following our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER month, my friend Jaybrena christened it “#ditchthedeviceDecember” and the results really surprised me.

While I missed being in the know about certain news stories and people who live far away, after a few days (yes, it took a bit of time to get used to!) I also found it quite serene to realize that I had reached the end of my allotted 2 hours/day of “computer time” and could then shut it down and walk away. That restful freedom has always been there, of course, but I’ve rarely chosen it–and certainly not so consistently as I did this past month.

I gave myself permission to use the phone for actual phone calls without limitations, so I always had the option of hearing the voices instead of sending/reading texts and emails once I had reached my online limit. Quickly realizing that it made little sense to actually call someone with the latest 2-second thing that entertained me meant that I ended up with more quiet time than I was used to. (And I liked it!) I also found that my own personal fast quickly reduced the number of times I needed to respond electronically, as others managed to survive and perhaps even thrive without my instant/constant insertions into their days. (grin… Unintended lessons in humility are always appreciated, of course.)

I also found that:

  • While 2 hours still felt like  a generous plenty when I set that guideline, it went by much faster than I had anticipated.
  • I learned to pick up my phone only at certain times during the day and keep a few minutes in reserve for the end of the day check on business communications.
  • People won’t die if they have to wait a few minutes for an answer from me.
  • I won’t die if I have to wait awhile for an answer from them, either.
  • I still appreciate a response by the end of the day.
  • It takes me longer than I thought to compose blog posts. Stream of consciousness writing still needs to be edited…at least over here.
  • It also takes longer than I had thought to post to my Etsy store.
  • Maybe it doesn’t really take “longer”, but having that 2 hour limitation made it a tight squeeze to get it all in, so I learned to make a plan for the day instead of going wherever it led me. (Imagine that?! I needed to be reminded about planning!!)
  • Not being online gave me time to be more productive in other areas of my life.
  • It really is possible to put the phone down and walk away for hours at a time.
  • I’m more generous when I’m not on the computer…perhaps because I can see the need in front of me instead of just my screen.
  • My prayer life improved.
  • I was surprised that I didn’t read more.
  • I truly enjoyed the deliberateness of rest.
  • I enjoyed cooking more.
  • I enjoyed lot of things more.
  • I made more memories and took fewer photos.
  • Being fully present is a gift that always fits.

It was both harder and easier than I had expected all at the same time. It helped me to feel more connected with the world around me. I’m a Luddite compared to many, but I hadn’t realized how “virtual reality” I had been feeling. This fast gave me a deeper appreciation for the tangible feel of life and, while the parameters of the fast will change, that’s something I want to be intentional about keeping.

This experience was a good one and had a greater impact on me than I expected. It gave me some much needed focus as the holidays came and the new year approached. It reminded me of the Jim Elliott quote that I’ve chosen as my theme for 2017,

“Wherever you are, be all there.”

I learned to order my days differently –and more deliberately!–and that reminded me of one of my favorite verses:

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 (NIV) 

and THAT, I hope, is what becomes my new normal.

Grace & Peace!

On the cusp

This has been a pretty odd holiday season for us. We kept finishing up tasks to go to the next in order to make the next sprint to go to the…Well, you get the picture. ( I know I probably shouldn’t admit this, but we managed to get through the entire Christmas Day without reading the Christmas story!–And we NEVER miss doing that!!) In fact, your schedule may have mirrored ours. If so, may I offer my condolences and encourage you to plan for a different outcome in the year ahead?

That sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? If you aren’t pleased with an outcome, make plans to change the next one! That will put you in some pretty good company right now as people around the world prepare for 2017 by making resolutions about changes in habits and behavior.

I’ve been working on a new Bible study, praying, and making all kinds of preparation for the tasks I know are ahead of me in the upcoming year. I already know some of what God is loading my plate with in the months ahead. That’s both exciting and also carries a significant amount of pressure.

I’ve been using the past few days to do as much prep work as I possibly can. I’ve always been a fan of being prepared…But I’ve also been pretty much committed  to  the “doing my best work under pressure” theory most of the time in reality. (Grin…There are several former teachers/professors who would be nodding in agreement right now.)

This year, at age 51, I’m trying something new.

I’m also trying something old. I’m revisiting a theme from a few years ago that served me well while we were living with a lot of chaos. I won’t be making any resolutions, but I will be posting a favorite quote by missionary Jim Elliott in several key places where I can see it often. Here’s the quote:

“Wherever you are, be all there.”

That’s it. It’s really that simple. I’ve got a lot of great opportunities coming up this year and I plan to make the most of every single one. God is entrusting me with these opportunities to serve. I want to be fully prepared and fully present to do what He’s called me to do.

When I embraced this quote before, I found that I was more relaxed and yet more focused. I got away from that in 2016, and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t my best year. At times I felt a little like I was wandering in the proverbial wilderness. I’m OK with the wandering. I’m just not particularly fond of the wilderness…especially when it’s of my own making.

I started the day after Christmas. I began with some one-on-one time with God. I haven’t asked for things, but for wisdom, for attitudes that reflect Him instead of me, for the ability to discern best over good…and the ability to know when good enough actually IS His best right then.

I can’t wait! I feel like I’m on the cusp of a significant move forward in my personal relationship with God. I’m excited about serving Him and His people in a brand new way. I’m not under any illusions that it will all go perfectly or that I’ll make it through the year without falling on my face. It’s my hope, however, that all this time on my face in preparation will make those landings easier when they happen and that the rebounds will be quicker and involve fewer people in any resulting pile-ups.

Optimistic realism. That seems to be my theme for life. It’s served me well. This year, I’m asking for it to help me serve God well, too.

What changes are you making? What resolutions are you hoping to successfully implement? Is there a theme or a goal that you’re pursuing in 2017? I want to hear all about it! I can’t wait, actually, because we’re ALL on the cusp of the new year. What do you plan to do with yours?

Grace and Peace–And Happy New Year!!

 

 

 

Meeting expectations

I just received a book I ordered on Amazon. I love books. This one had been on my radar for several years–ever since another blogger I love had shared a couple of quotes from it. Since it wasn’t a necessity or pertinent to any particular project I have pursued since then, the book title has simply languished on my personal wish list. I have periodically searched for an affordable copy to own. Oh, I checked with the library first, but they didn’t own a copy–not even a single one in the entire Georgia Pines system that could be transferred in so I could read it! I searched for it in bookstores locally and nationally as I traveled, but Books-a-Million and Barnes & Noble haven’t stocked it, either.

At long last, I found a used copy online that was within my means. It had the added bonus, I thought, of having an inscription by the book photographer. It was described as being “clean with no other markings.”

It arrived today. I was all excited and couldn’t wait to liberate it from all of the packaging.

It wasn’t what I expected.

Yes, there was an inscription by the photographer, but there were also multiple pages (8, to be precise) that had markings where a previous reader had chosen to mark passages that appealed to them…but not necessarily to me. I was crushed. After waiting all this time, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

That’s a word I’ve been reading a lot about here lately. Expectations. Set them too high and disappointment is sure to follow. Set them too low and no one will express any interest.

I’ve had a little more time to read and think lately. Deciding to limit my time online has been a real treat during this busy holiday season. I’ve had more time for prayer (which I’ve needed) and I’ve accomplished more than I thought possible on my chore list each day. I am loving it! In fact, I may just adjust a few of my parameters and keep this personal challenge going for a little while.

The story about my new book and the report on my latest challenge may not seem to mesh at first glance. What they do, however, is remind me that I need to make sure I take the time to think about what I set others up to expect from me–by the things I say and the things I do–and the things I expect of them in return.

Additionally, if I’m supposed to represent Christ well every day (and I am), then I need to make certain I live up to the expectation He sets for me in the Bible, not just those others set for me or the ones I might set for myself. Quite honestly, His expectations are often both more difficult and much simpler than those I’ve set for myself in the past. His is a law of liberty and I’ve managed to complicate that liberty more than once by allowing myself “a pass” on some elements and adding my own brand of adherence to others. Thinking back on some of my past behavior, I’m often amazed that God was been allowed to show up at all some days. (my goodness, aren’t you glad you don’t do things like that?!)

As I’ve had more time to think lately, I’ve also had more time to talk to God about what I’m thinking (and doing) and how that lines up with His expectations of me. I’ve been reminded that He is full of grace and forgiveness, so I must choose to be the same.

It’s already made a significant difference in the way I’m choosing to celebrate this Christmas. I’m choosing to let go of some expectations in the way the season ought to be celebrated. Some of those expectations are mine. Some aren’t. The main thing I’m doing is choosing to expect God to show up just like He did so long ago to save a world that was in such need of Him…and that looks like me this year…so I’m actively looking for Him in my days. I’m choosing to believe that He is enough. I’m choosing peace over pursuit. I’m choosing rest over activity. I’m choosing relationships over technology, and I’m choosing to look to for Him in the quietness of the room and in the depth of my heart.

He is here and He enough. Expectation met…and exceeded.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

 

(Btw, I contacted my bookseller. They were gracious enough to apologize for the misrepresentation and then they went even further: they refunded my money and told me to keep the book! Seems like they might know something about meeting expectations, as well.)

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 18–NCN2016

I rarely watch commercials, so as we were watching a previously recorded show last night and my husband asked if I had seen “that commercial” (as they sped by thanks to the remote control), my answer was a definite “no” regardless of which one he meant.

He paused, backed it up, and we watched the one he wanted. Apparently, he had seen it while on a recent business trip because I’m pretty sure he hasn’t seen it here. We’re both1118160811a-1 fans of the remote control and its fast-forward button. (it gets you back to the game a LOT faster!)

That tiny little interaction has me thinking about life and wondering what else I might have been speeding past…things that are a lot more important than a commercial. What else have I gone “remote control” over and put on hold until I finished this task or that one? What have I outright ignored or just deleted before it finished because I was in a hurry?

1118160811.jpg“You’re spending too much time thinking about crazy stuff!”, you might say and, perhaps you’re right. I’ve been so focused on “getting through until…” lately that I’ve probably missed more than I realized. That changes today. I’m adding another element to my NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, and you’re welcome to join me in that, too.

In my efforts to “get through” and “get it done”–and not complain about it!–I’ve missed out a little bit. I tend to get so task-focused that I forget to actually “enjoy” sometimes. Am I the only one? I don’t think so. Oh, I’ve taken some time out to have fun this month. I took friends on a picnic and decorated for the season a little bit and I’ve spent more time writing than I have in a while, but I also know that, while I haven’t complained (often!), I also haven’t deliberately enjoyed things as much as I could have, either.

That brings me to this weekend’s challenge: take time to appreciate who and where you are–and who shares life with you! Look for the beauty around you–in nature and in 1118160817.jpgpeople. Take a photo, write a note, drag someone you love out to enjoy it with you or celebrate the beauty all by yourself, but do THAT this weekend instead of remote-controlling your life while you miss out on actually living it.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week and we might as well start practicing for it today!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPAINTS!)

*And yes, I did go out and take these pictures while still in my pajamas today just for fun! The colors are even better in person and that late-blooming hydrangea picture had to be taken from my deck because it is higher than my head! (big grin!) Stopping to smell the roses actually happened today and it was worth every single second! 

 

Worship Break

I was driving down the road at the end of the week, listening to great music and telling God what a great job He had been doing in taking care of us. As I listed some of my blessings–and I’ve got a LONG list!–I thought, “How can you NOT tell people how good God is every time you get an opportunity?!” I mean, that seemed like a no-brainer! (It still does, by the way.)

Not many hours later, I received a call from a friend who had a friend who was in charge of an upcoming women’s conference and one of her speakers was suddenly unavailable…and it was a whole week away! Would I consider stepping in to help out? Oh, and by the way, they’ve got a LOT of women coming!

Well. Really? What other answer could there possibly be except, “Yes, of course, I would be delighted to do that!” Seriously. Delighted! I think I may have actually laughed out loud and said, “Really, God? This soon? You’re calling me on it THIS soon?!” I mean, He already knew that I was scheduled to do the devotional portion of our Ladies’ Bible Study for most of the Tuesdays in September.

Yes, indeed, He knew that…and yes, indeed, He was calling me to do this new big thing, too. The theme for the conference is to be “Broken Into Beautiful,” after all, and Mike and I commented that if ever there was a theme for our lives, that one would have to be close to the top because we are always broken…and He is always beautiful.

So, I gulped really big and started thinking about how I should prepare this week. The phone rang. I answered.

“Becky, my co-teacher and I are both going to be out of town this coming Sunday and after we heard you speak on Tuesday, we just looked at each other and said, ‘She’s our person for the job. Would you be able to teach our Sunday School class this coming Sunday?'”

I have to tell you that, at that point, Mike and I both broke out into full-scale laughter! It took a little bit for me to answer because we were both laughing so hard! I am absolutely certain that the sweet lady on the other end may have decided that she had called the the wrong person after all. And what could I possibly say, except: “Yes, of course, I would be delighted to do that!”

And just like that, I had four preps in one 7-day period of time. Fortunately for me, God has been gracious and provided such overlap in study topics that it has been much simpler than I could have ever planned. I don’t have to address the whole conference at once, just do a couple of hour-long break-out sessions–and, truly, I guess it’s good they’re giving me a time limit because I could do an hour of how God has worked beautifully in my broken life while standing on my head! The Sunday School lesson is on a chapter that we’ve just been studying in Bible Study and the next devotional time…well, God’s already got some ideas for that and, while I know some of them…I’m still waiting on the rest. I guess it’s a good thing that it is 4 days away from now. (grin…there’s still time!)

It’s been a week of prep time, now, and I’ve got to tell you that I’m tired. I’m ready for a break from words and yet, here I sit, typing away. My grass looks like its been taking steroids and there are all kinds of house chores that have been put on hold this week, but I’m getting ready to go worship tonight with what we hope will be a big group of ladies who are meeting at our church tonight for a coffee-dessert-and-worship experience that they’ve entitled, “Thirsty.”

SONY DSCI love that. Thirsty. Even after a week of recounting blessings and being in the Word and talking to God, I can’t wait for this. In fact, I almost feel like it is my reward for the week. It seems like an answer to prayer to go and just rest before the Father and hear praise set to music and worship while we munch away.

Even in the telling of our blessings, we need to take time to just rest, you know. Tonight, that will be my role. Someone else will take the mic and lead…and I will just worship.

Oh, I wish you were here to go with me!

Grace & Peace! (oh, yeah, and WORSHIP!)