Back to new basics

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

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

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

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 I’ve missed having the time to write and the number of blog posts that have been written mentally in the dark and gone unpublished are more than I’d like to think about.

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Boxes

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

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

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

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

God sees it all.

He knows it all.

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

God sees inside your boxes and He loves you anyway.

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

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

Ask Him today.

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

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

Movers

The movers pulled out early Sunday morning…leaving us behind to do all of the unpacking and the making of a life here in our new home.  They were kind men.  They were good-hearted and funny and they didn’t know us from Adam’s housecat…when they arrived.

When they left, however, it was a different story.  You see, you can pack all of your underwear and your animals and anything else that you don’t want the movers to move along with all of the other things that they aren’t allowed to move and, in the end, they will still know more about you than some of your closest friends.

They will see all kinds of things:  your pantry and your shed, your artwork and your books, whether or not you clean under the beds and behind the washer, whether you are a “big-picture person” or more than a tad OCD…they will see you.  There is no escape from it.

They will know what you put into your mouth and into your mind.  They will know what catches your breath and holds your heart.  They will know what shapes your world view and they will hear how you address people who serve you when there is no influence to be gained or relationship to be maintained.  They will know whether you are kind and generous and if you have a temper…or not.  They will know where you place the highest value—on people or on things.  Yes, in the end, they will know you.  They will know.  They will know.

They won’t tell anyone.  I mean, really, who in their world would care?  It may not make a speck’s worth of difference to anyone they know back home, but it just might make them think about things they’ve never thought about as they ride down the road to move their next family.  Perhaps they will be more open to share at the next location.  Maybe they will just smile more.  Whatever else you think, they will be different, too…and they will remember your attitudes even when they can’t remember your name.

One more thing:  it pays to be nice the first time.  It pays to be kind and it pays to be friendly when you don’t have to be…because you just might get the one of those same people back to help you with your next move.

We did…and that was 15 years ago. (seriously.)

 

Thought for the day:  who will you get to know this week?  It may take some time and it will definitely take some effort, but don’t wait too long to get to know the people around you.  Don’t miss out on what—and WHO!–is right in front of you right now.  Who will you move?

Brrrr!…Thank you, Lord!…Brrrr!…Thank you, Lord!

The thermometer said that it got all the way up to 28 degrees Fahrenheit today and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that!

They said it wouldn’t happen.

They said it wouldn’t be even close to that.

They said it would be overcast and dreary and that there would be ice on the road from the rain last night and that there was the real possibility that you-know-where might actually be freezing over if it was this cold this far south. (grin)

Oh, how I dreaded this day of their predicted weather!  I sat on my sofa last night and dreaded what they said and I mourned the loss of time painting before the movers come and I dreaded that they were saying the same thing–except that it would be even worse!–for tomorrow.  I sat and I fretted and fussed inside right up until I started remembering something.

I remembered that the same God who provided the house controlled the weather.

I remembered that the same God who loved me and was in control of the weather also controlled the time and that He was well aware of all that needed doing…here in my new place and here in my heart.

I remembered that He was the same God who had provided me with Psalm 138:8 over and over and over during these past few months and that He was still in charge and that He was still in the business of perfecting what concerns me.

And guess what?  My attitude changed while I was sitting right there on the couch.  I started praising God for being in charge and for perfecting all the things that concern me (both those things that are about me AND those things that are concerning to me) and I had my own little private worship service right there in my heart and you know what happened today?

They were wrong.

The sun was out and the clouds cleared and I traveled roads that were ice-free and I traveled safely and spent the day taping off walls and baseboards and painting and rejoicing in my heart and stopping every now and then to just say, “THANK YOU, GOD!”  I completed more than I had hoped to do and still had time to do several other tasks that needed doing, as well.

Because my God is in control of everything…and He is never wrong.

Full Circle 2013…

Several months ago I was standing in an upstairs room at our Mississippi church leading a discussion group on Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.  As we talked among ourselves about some of the things that helped us be more focused and grateful, several of the women began to talk about choosing a “theme” for their year so that they could really focus on different areas.  One lady said her word for the year was “simplify”, another said hers was “organize/declutter” and still another talked about just choosing small things to write in her journal each day to help her focus on being grateful.

I’ve had friends who did these kind of things before–my precious #2 (hey, Patty!) chose to do several years in a row focusing on individual fruits of the Spirit. I know of others who have done year-long projects on other topics, as well.  I think we all have–in fact, I’ve done it myself, but it has been awhile.  I stood there listening and, honestly, feeling a bit jealous of their abilities to do these focused things this year.  My year had been anything but focused…unless you count all the going from crisis to crisis-mode and focusing on those as they came along at what felt like a machine-gun pace.  I was ready for a break…and we weren’t even half-way through the year.

We had already faced multiple new and major healthcare issues, seen God provide amazing care and protect us physically as well as financially in the midst of them…and yet I often felt scattered.  I was so scattered at that point, that I racked my brain and couldn’t think of a single thing that I could focus on right then.  I think I hid it more than I showed it, but maybe not.  Does that even really matter?  Maybe it used to, but not so much any more.  I think I will look back on 2013 as the year I turned into the Velveteen Rabbit (the one at the END of the story and not the one at the beginning!)…out of necessity rather than by choice.  God stretched me thin in so many ways that I’m hoping He was more visible and I was less so…I’m absolutely certain I was “less so” in a lot of ways.

This was the year I finally couldn’t keep up.  I was forced to depend on friends and even strangers that God placed in my path to cover me in prayer for the strength to just breath at times.  I’m not used to that.  I’m much more comfortable being the pray-er than the pray-ee.  (Somewhere up in heaven, God just laughed out loud, elbowed an angel and said, “Look at her!  I think she just learned something!”)  If ever there was a year of prayer, this one was it!  From the early days of 2013 in a hospital room or waiting on an ambulance to arrive to care for my beloved husband to the subsequent diagnoses, treatments and strengthening that followed to a totally unexpected move, new job and a brand new house here at the end of the year, this has been an amazing display of God’s ability to care for, surprise, provide, entertain, amaze and just BE GOD in stunning ways for me. Once again, I’m so relieved to be His and so amazed to know that He is mine.

I’ve thought back to that Sunday night discussion several times over the past  few months and finally decided to choose a theme of my own for 2014–one that will allow me to live out what I was supposed to be teaching that night–one that will allow me to live out the rest of Ann Voskamp’s title:  “daring to live fully right where you are.”  As I prayed about how I should approach the coming year, God reminded me of a quote I’ve always loved by missionary Jim Elliott, who said:

“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

Right now, life isn’t really any calmer than it was back then.  I’ve got a house for sale in Mississippi (it is really fabulous if you need one!), a temporary apartment close to my husband’s work and a new house with a lot of things that need to happen to it before it will really be mine in the way I envision, movers scheduled, visitors who have already come and gone, more planning to come soon and a few new challenges thrown into the mix for good measure…and that’s all just fine.  I still need a lot of prayer and I’m still grateful that God knows everything I need before I do…and that He’s also got a plan for providing it.  Most of all, I’m grateful for a God who sees my mistakes and short-comings and still provides me with new opportunities to try again.

Here’s to 2014:  I’m all in and I’m all here…holding on to God and looking forward to whatever He has in store.  Buckle up, world, I think we’re in for a really incredible ride!

(By the way, if I read the blog note correctly, this is my 250th post!  Thanks for joining me, for sticking around, for encouraging and praying and just generally being fabulous!  I pray God blesses you REALLY BIG in the coming year and that, in turn, you’re able to pass some of that blessing along to those around you, as well!  Grace & Peace!!)

Lesson #8: Make a list

I’m a list-maker.  I’ve done this all my life.  It helps me take stock for the day (month/year/situation, etc.) and figure out the next thing to do.  List-making has the additional benefit of creating order and making me really think about how things should be approached and prioritized.  I’ve found that really helpful in situations of stress because—as long as my priorities have already been established—choosing the next step seems really natural to me because the important things have already been decided.

List-making scares some people for that very reason.  I know…there are worse things out there, but it is the very idea of creating a set of “non-negotiables” for life seems a bit daunting for some people.  I guess they haven’t thought about the fact that by choosing not to make a stand on important issues, they’ve already chosen their main non-negotiable. (grin)

Once we knew for sure that we were moving, it became obvious that we couldn’t stay where we were.  (You may be laughing at that, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t realize that and react accordingly!)  You know the old adage about “Failing to plan means planning to fail!” and all that is actually true (there’s a reason those quotes stick around).  This move means we have a whole host of changes coming and while we can’t control all of them, it is a pretty good idea to decide to take control of what you can…or be prepared to live with the decisions made by those who won’t have to live with them.  In short, you need to make your own choices in life. (and that little nugget is all yours for free.)

Moving means that we will need a new place to live, a new church family, a new community, a new favorite place to eat/shop/share with guests, etc.  These aren’t things you just leave to chance, in my opinion, and the first thing you need to do is…you guessed it…make a list.

Our list included things we wanted to consider:  kinds of housing available, location/proximity to work/shopping, drive-time, long-term goals (yes, that lifetime of list making keeps those things close) and short-term goals.  We made a list of things we wanted in our next home based on the idea that this is the area of country where we hope to stay for a very long time.  That means our new home will have to accommodate where we are now, those who will visit (we tend to get a lot of visitors), those we love who are aging (all of us!) and any possible mobility issues for the future…not to mention our needs for security and privacy, a place to store our stuff and create new things, convenient drive-times and general aesthetics.  We were blessed to be familiar with the area since we’d previously lived nearby.  That told us a lot because we knew where we’d been and what we didn’t want, as well.  Armed with this list of must-haves—and must-not-haves!–we set off to hunt down a new house…and…didn’t find it…and didn’t find it…and didn’t find it.

Were we so weird?  What was up with all these people who lived in these places that didn’t meet our criteria?!  How could they possibly manage to live normal, healthy, productive lives?!  (grin)  I mean, I had in my head a picture of what our new place would look like…and I just couldn’t find it.  Finally, after another day of desperate searching, I told my husband that we would have to make some serious adjustments to our budget, our locations or our willingness to compromise on issues of privacy.

After some thought, budget and privacy won out and we decided to expand our search into areas we had already decided we didn’t really want to live.  Nice areas, but we’d already been there/done that/long drive time, etc.  In case you’re wondering, compromise doesn’t always taste good…at least at the beginning.

Armed with an adjusted list and a somewhat pitiful-me attitude, I set off the next day to look at another list of houses.  I was mentally resigned that my house wasn’t out there and I was just marking time until spring when the people who were holding on to my private and perfectly located house would find out they were moving and put it on the market right in the middle of my price range and I’d be the only one who saw the listing.  Yes, I know.  I think big.  (laughter!)  Seriously, God’s word says that He can do more than we can ever ask or think, so I like to prove that by thinking big at the start of things.

My realtor chose the starting place and we set off.  I was amused to find we were heading into very familiar territory…I’d shopped there before, worked there, I knew who lived there, had eaten there…gone to church there…and then we turned into the driveway.  As odd as it sounds, I felt like I was coming home and I’d never even seen that house before.  We got out and went inside…and I wanted to sit on the couch and just cry with relief because it felt even more like I was coming home.  This was my house…way out here…in this place I didn’t really want to live…further from work and shopping and…it was still my house.  Crazy.  This wasn’t on the list…and yet it was almost everything on the list that we’d originally made and prayed over before we started this process.

God is funny that way.  He likes to expand our comfort zones and challenge our expectations.  He likes to do things that only He can do so we know, for sure, that He’s the One who is doing it.  He likes to throw stuff in just because He can and He loves to bless us…even when we’re sure we know better at the start.  That doesn’t mean that His gifts don’t come with additional challenges.  In fact, God’s best for us will often include things that force us outside of what we would ordinarily choose.  It means that He really does know what we need more than we do…those things that will make us more like His Son and help us to put what pleases Him…at the top of our list.

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”  Jeremiah 32:27 (ESV)

“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21 (HCSB)

Lesson #7–The value of a faith family

Lesson #7—The value of a strong faith and a family of believers

I spoke with one of my prayer partners the other day and poured out my heart…again.  God bless her, she’s been with me for longer than my husband, so she knows me pretty well by now.  That is my blessing.  I can always call on her to pray…no matter what, no matter where, no matter when.  She is my sister in Christ.  We are family way beyond blood or legal definitions even though it has been years since we’ve seen each other in person.

I’m blessed to have more than one of these amazing prayer partners in life.  Some of them have been with me through years.  Others are much newer, but no less valued.

As we talked, I told her about how much I was missing my home church family.  I told her how grateful I was for the years of study and knowledge that I have within me already so that I can draw strength from that in this time of waiting without.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to do life without what I already know about God and His goodness to me.  It is difficult living in limbo between places and not having a proper church home.  I’ve grown accustomed to that luxury…so much so, that I’ve often taken it for granted.  I’ve had days when I chose not to attend in order to do other things or to simply rest.  (You, too? Imagine that!)

These past few weeks, however, have shown me the value of gathering together with fellow believers, being united in our worship and choosing to learn more about our God corporately so that we can incorporate that knowledge individually.  In this time of waiting, God is giving me the gift of a renewed love for His church and His people.

I miss my Sunday School class members and I still tear up when they include us in the weekly prayer list.  I miss the faces of the people I usually sit near on Sundays and the hugs and smiles we share during our welcome time together.  I miss hearing their voices as we sing praises to God.  Most of all, however, I miss hearing the Word of God preached by a pastor who has chosen to spend his life bringing God’s word to life personally and in ways that allow others to know and understand God better in their own lives.

Radio teaching is fantastic and that has been my church over the past few weeks of traveling back and forth, but it is no substitute for the real thing.  I have raised my voice and my hands in praise along with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and I’ve listened to valuable insights by the like of Chuck Swindoll and John MacArthur.  Amazing worship.  Amazing teaching on the Word of God.  NOT the same as being there in person. Not by a long shot.

I can’t wait to get settled, find my new church family and begin that part of the Georgia journey.

What about you?  Have you joined in where you are?  Are you in need of a church home today, too?  Make a renewed commitment to join in where you are.  There are others out there who need you, too!

 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)