Confession and Lessons Learned

They say that confession is good for the soul.  I guess we’ll see about that shortly.

I’m more than a bit OCD about things at times (FYI: my husband probably just snorted whatever he was drinking when he read that–and so did a few of my friends.)  This isn’t new information to those who know me well. In fact, my sister can probably recall that when we shared a room, it looked like two different rooms within the same square footage.  All we needed was that wall down the center of the bed to make it happen. My side was the one with everything put away, the bed (my side only!) made-up properly, clothes hung up, and drawers all in order; her side was “lived in.”

In college, I couldn’t study until things were cleaned and put away. My roommate in grad school was often incredulous to find me cleaning the kitchen and scrubbing toilets on the nights before exams before I could sit down to study and I’m absolutely certain she thought I was nuts at times for that.  (She wasn’t far off, I guess, but that’s another story.)

When I moved into my first apartment in Atlanta, my sister helped me move everything in and the next time she returned, she walked around looking at everything, then turned to me and said, “You know this is a sickness, right?  Everything is just where it was when I left here the last time.”

I wrote all of that to say this: I’m a person of order. I do things when they’re scheduled and I try to be on time. I keep a detailed calendar and…I think you get the drift…which makes what I’m about to say even more shocking:  I spent most of last week reconciling the last year of bank statements.

Yes, a whole year’s worth.  I know.  I’m still a little bit in awe about it myself. (My apologies to my friends who work in accounting and banking and with the IRS…I’m so sorry I just made you all sick to your stomach. Please know this is highly irregular around here and I’m not expecting it to happen again any time soon. I’m still more than a little freaked out that it happened this time.)

It all happened so subtly starting in September of last year. We knew we were going to be moving, and then we moved him, but not me. And then I was back and forth every week and then we moved us and we were in two different places for several months–and at one time, we actually had three residences…with stacks of unrecorded receipts in all three locations.  (Yes, I know. It was bad.) I kept putting it off because the very idea of trying to organize bills and receipts from three locations and get everything else done that had to happen was more than I was capable of doing…and I’m really capable.  Something had to go.  It was the bank statements.  Bills got paid on time and, naturally, money got spent, but those bank statements were just easier to let sit.

Except that they weren’t just quietly sitting there on the desk. They plagued me. Every single time I sat at my computer, looked at that corner of the room, blogged, wrote a check or paid a bill of any kind, bought groceries, etc. You name it and this THING just hung over my head like the sword of Damocles. Until last week.

It took a whole week to do them–in part because some of the receipts had to be resurrected from different locations and some major remembering and deciphering was involved. And you know what?  I am now the free-est individual you know right now. My life is back in balance and I learned way more than just what my bank balance was.

I learned:

  • Do not ever do this ever again. Stay current on this even if you have to let other things go.
  • Procrastination is from the pit of hell…and I mean that literally.
  • You spend way more money than you think when you’re not keeping up with it like you should.
  • God is gracious to me…way, way gracious.
  • Sometimes you do have to let things go that you wouldn’t normally let go. It runs totally against everything I used to know and say, but there it is:  You can only do what you can do. After that, you need to administer some grace to yourself.
  • Once you sit in front of the computer looking at numbers for a solid week, you begin to appreciate the fact that there are toilets to be cleaned and laundry to be washed, but I do not recommend that you try my method of learning these things.
  • Finally being free from whatever it is that plagues you opens you up to be more creative in other areas. It is truly liberating in ways I didn’t realize. I know now why I’ve been so blocked artistically over the past year. I can’t wait to get back in the shop and I want to paint everything I see right now.
  • I’m grateful for the life I have and the people who share it with me.
  • I really did need that technology-free weekend I just took.
  • I reach for my phone way more than I thought I did…and I’ve done so while ignoring the real, live people in the room. (You, too?)
  • I seriously missed hearing all of the comments from around the world while I watched my college football games…even those who are just talking smack to annoy me. (grin)
  • I plan to deliberately miss those comments at least one weekend a month as I institute a regularly-scheduled technology-free weekend into my calendar so I can focus on the real live people in the room.
  • Confession IS good for the soul and I’m writing all of this really personal stuff just in case you also have a stack of bank statements that need balancing, or a phone call or a visit that you’ve been putting off, or anything else that makes your stomach knot up every time you think about it. Go do whatever it is…now. Right now. You’ll be glad you did.

And yes, I laughed at myself when I re-read the following verses and now, you can join in with me because, after all, life is too short not to learn and laugh at ourselves–and I don’t mind if you start with me.

” Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down…” Proverbs 12:25a

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

God is good…all the time.

Grace & Peace!

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Yield

“I’m a real fan of all the traffic laws and I instantly and completely obey each traffic directive that I see.”…said NO one I’ve ever heard.  Traffic laws may be the most broken set of legalities in our American society.  Something tells me we’re not alone.  In fact, there’s a conversation in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun that makes me laugh each time I hear it:

Frances:  “Do traffic lights mean anything around here?”

Marcello:  “Sure!  Green light–Avanti! Avanti!  Yellow light–a decoration.”

Frances:  “And what about red lights?”

Marcello:  “Just a suggestion!”…as he zips through a red-lighted intersection forcing another car to brake suddenly.

I thought about that movie moment yesterday when the driver of a small black car–obviously in a hurry to get home and be there in case the Publisher’s Clearing House people were on her doorstep with a giant check–applied significant pressure to her gas pedal and floored her little automobile past the Yield sign to cut me off and proceed at top speed onto the local by-pass, zigging and zagging in between other  vehicles whose drivers were silly enough to be in her way, as well.  It’s not the first time that’s happened to me lately and after some seriously short consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that people just don’t like that word.

Yield:  according the online Merriam Webster dictionary, it means, among other things, “to give way to or become succeeded by someone or something else” or “to surrender or submit (oneself) to another.”

Not only do people not like that word, they dislike the actual act of yielding, as well.  In our “me first!” society, yielding is often the last thing we consider and yet, it carries great wisdom for us in so many different situations.  Far from being just good manners–which every genteel Southern-born woman knows is key to conquering all things–the invocation to yield holds a spiritual context, as well.

Without it, our salvation would be up to us…and then where would we be?  Imagine, for a second, that Jesus had refused to yield to His Father’s plan to save the world and provide a way for us to be with Him forever.  Oh, the implications!

Throughout our lives as Christians–and genteel southerners–we’re called to put others ahead of ourselves.  Doing so doesn’t mean we’re less worthy.  It means we’re more secure.  It means we’re able to look out for the interests and safety of others while resting in the knowledge that God Himself is watching out for our own best interests.  Choosing to yield is not a sign of weakness.  It is often a sign of strength.  It shows consideration for the health and well-being of those around us…whether they’re in cars or not.  It is a sign of maturity.  It is a sign of self-control.  It is a sign of following Christ.

Will you yield?

(Writer’s addendum:  Oh, how I love it when God makes me teach myself!  Please know that my own often-warped sense of entertainment knows no bounds at this moment because God had me write this today during a time when my greatest desire is to let some of my extensive vocabulary loose in a particular direction.  Yielding to my frustrated personal inclinations at this moment will not allow me to represent my God well.  Yielding to Him, on the other hand, strengthens my resolve to become more like His Son.  It is the deliberate walking out of a choice made long ago.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”–even yield.)

I am resolved…

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions…at least I don’t make them the same time everyone else does.  I’ve always started my year in the month of my birth.  I take that time to look back at what’s been accomplished and what I want to learn/see/do for the next 12 months and make plans…not resolutions.  For the past few years, I’ve made plans to learn a new skill, found out who I know that already knows how to do it, who could teach me, where I could take a class on that topic, and then followed through to the learning and the doing.

I’ve had a ball learning how to do many different things.  Stained glass was my first one…and look where that led me!  Over the years, I’ve also learned to knit, to paint, to blog, and quite a few other things, as well.  I’ve found great satisfaction in being a student and in putting my new skills to work in a variety of ways.  For example, I didn’t realize that my painting lessons would make me a much better stained glass/broken china artist.   Those lessons taught me to view the world in a different way…to see new shades and colors, light and shadow as I look at patterns to make jewelry.

I’m able to focus on some of the details with greater delight and not miss the glory in the mundane.  My teacher, Sharon, had no idea how much she changed my world!  She hasn’t a clue to all the joy she’s brought to me.  Even though it’s been some time since I actually picked up a brush to paint, her lessons are a daily part of my life.  She’s made a phenomenal difference in me…and all because she shared her own joy.  She gave me a new way to actually SEE things.  That’s a rare gift…even when you go looking for it.

I saw a prayer the other day as I was thumbing through my new book, Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  It said, “Help us, Lord, to see as you see:  and to change what is into what ought to be.”

That prayer strikes a particularly powerful chord with me because this time of year is always busy with end of the year sales/shows/special orders in addition to all the church and family gatherings to celebrate the birth of Christ.  On top of all that, this is the time we have to review the shows we were in, decide which of those we’d like to participate in next year, if we want to add new ones and get in applications, etc.  This means that we’re not even through with this year and we’re already planning where we hope to be at the end of the next.

As part of this plannning period, although it isn’t my birthday month, I’m already looking forward to acquiring my next new skill.  I’ve had to deliberately make some decisions earlier this year because we’re hoping to add some more shows to our schedule for 2013.  That means I’ll need to make sure to carve out the time to do some of the things I already enjoy even as I learn the new lessons and increase my travel times.

I’m asking God to help me “see as He sees” while I’m in this planning stage.  I need the wisdom to know what to add where and when…and, even more desperately, I’ll need His wisdom about when to stop.  I’m not a good “stopper.”  My tendency is to go until you can’t go any more and then collapse…wake up and start all over again.  I’m going to need to pay attention to where God says I need stop and go so that I will really “change what is into what ought to be.”

I guess that’s my real resolution/plan for this year.  It will probably take me longer than a year.  I’m hard-headed. (I take Philippians 4:13 VERY literally! LOL) I still often think that I really CAN do it all.  I forget, sometimes, that I’m not supposed to.

Neither are you.  Will you join me in trying to make this change for the coming year?