Crunching Leaves

IMG_5785The thing I enjoy about autumn is change.  There is something beyond poetic about the way the leaves change, wither and die all while creating hope and making way for something new.  Autumn brings  homecomings.  While I do have a serious case of wanderlust, there’s something about the way our larger communities come back together in Autumn that really fills my heart with gladness.  Autumn brings new learning opportunities and a return to school sports and regular schedules.  Autumn brings a fresh energy to my passions and my commitments, a refreshing I desperately need after the dehydration of summer.

This year my Autumn isn’t shaping up as usual.  God took me on a long walk and asked me to step away from all the commitments I have within my church.  Not permanently, just for a year.  I’ll share more about why later,  (I’m happy to talk about it, but I don’t think it’s what I’m supposed to share today). 

Laying down what we are used to carrying is hard.  I find myself restless and unsure.  I keep trying to heap guilt on myself so I’ll pick the things back up.  My heart hurts thinking I may be disappointing people.  But underneath all the emotions there is a peace beyond understanding that laying this down is the right move.

I am intimately acquainted with how hard it can be to lay something down when God asks us to.   Today I want to share the five biggest reasons obedience is hard and some encouragement to persevere!

  1.  FOMO.  The Fear of Missing Out is real.   Many times when God asks us to step away from an activity, that activity continues and we start to feel like we’re missing out.   Oftentimes our activities and our community coexist.  When I’m not around people on a regular basis I assume they are all off having fabulous adventures and didn’t invite me.  (In reality we’re all doing laundry and counting down the minutes to bedtime!).  I find that God asks me to lay things down when I’m spending more time focusing on the activity and the people there then I am focusing on my relationship with Him.  This one can be especially tricky if your activities are ministries.  We can forget that doing things for God is not the same as being with God.  We can exchange the fear of missing out with the truth that we are invited to hang out with God all the time.  Psalm 84:10 reminds us “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere”.  When we spend quality time with God, he’ll show us where else to hang out.
  2. Realizing you’re unnecessary.   This one is hard because  we all want to feel needed and valued.  I find that when God asks me to lay something down He does it to remind me that I am valued because of who I am, not because of what I do.  My activities can become a distraction and I can get so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I let it define who I am.  (Anyone!?!).  The truth is that sometimes we aren’t necessary where we think we are.  Sometimes we continue at things after we should have laid them down.  Sometimes we need to step out to learn something or heal something  before we continue on.  When we start to feel unnecessary we can exchange that emotion for the truth of Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  We are most definitely necessary, created for a purpose, we just need to let God lead us to the work he prepared for us to do.IMG_5787
  3. Loneliness.  No one likes to feel lonely.  No one.  But when God needs us to really hear Him all the other voices in our lives have to get quiet.  Since we don’t like to be lonely, quieting those voices is not something we naturally choose.  This one can be especially hard if you’re often the leader or facilitator.  When you no longer have to reach out to secure plans and coordinate people and when people don’t need to reach you for activity related details; your phone can become eerily silent.   I find that when God asks me to step away from things it’s because my relationships (with people and with Him) are lacking depth and not having meaningful connections can leave me feeling empty.  God calls me to put down my doing when He knows I’m running on relational fumes.   We can exchange loneliness with connection when we remember that God has put us where we are to be in relationship with those around us.  Acts 2:46 talks about the vibrant community of that church, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”  This is a challenge and an encouragement.   I find it encouraging because when I’m feeling lonely I can believe that no one wants to hang out with me, but God says that’s not true.  His plan is for us to be in community.  He’ll put people on your mind to connect with.  Reach out to them and watch your loneliness be exchanged for all the blessings of community.
  4. Patience.  I lack patience.  When God tells me to do something and I do it, I expect him to tell me the next step right away.  I expect it, but I’ve never had God work that way in my life.  He knows what needs to happen in order for me to be prepared for the next thing and so there’s a pause in between instructions.  When I feel impatient I can exchange that emotion for the truth that God is preparing me for what’s next, just like Proverbs 3:5-6 state; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”  Patience is hard, but it’s necessary.  Hang in there.
  5. Changing Patterns/Habits/How I Spend My Time.  You may think that since God asked me to lay down activities that kept me busy I now have time to cook and clean and all that jazz.  While you are right that I have freed up time, the truth is that it is just wasting away a few minutes at a time while I reorient myself to a new rhythm of daily life.  I’ve learned to give myself grace when God changes the path I’m on and recognize that I have to crawl before I can walk towards what He has for me.  I can also be tempted to get lazy and it takes a lot of energy to fight that when I’m not sure where I’m headed and I’m feeling #1-4.  When I am not sure what to do I can ask God.  James 1:5 tells us “If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God.”  He’ll tell us how to fill our time and all those little steps will have us back to feeling productive and IMG_5786accomplished and ready for whatever is next.

 

For everyone being asked to lay something down this Autumn, my prayer is that as you watch the leaves start to fall off the trees you become full of hope for the new things that are to come.

 

Happy Autumn!

 

Isn’t She Lovely

Have you ever lost a child in a crowd?  Or been cooking and suddenly there’s flames on the stove?  Life can get scary  and overwhelming real fast.  When situations like these pop up in my life I start to count, or recite my ABCs.  I do it because 2 always comes before 3 and F is always followed by G.  It calms my mind and distracts me from the situation just enough so I can process objectively and react appropriately.

I’m not sure when I began employing this little trick in my life.  I do it consistently and almost spontaneously.  So much so that when I was 11 or 12 and had to call an ambulance because my little sister was choking-  the ambulance didn’t come.  Not at first anyways.  The 911 dispatcher called back about 10 minutes later to check on the situation.  They thought it was a prank call, I was too calm.  Luckily, my dad was able to dislodge what was stuck in my sister’s throat.  I learned that day that people have expectations of appropriate reactions for situations, whether they admit it or not.

There are other kinds of curveball situations that come up in life which leave me uncertain, overwhelmed and worried.  The big curveballs like diagnoses,  job losses, break ups, major life changes; and the little ones like arguments, hurtful words, unexpected bills, car troubles.  I get in thick and deep with all the feelings and no matter how many times I sing those ABCs I can’t get an objective look, and I rarely respond appropriately.  Most often it doesn’t seem to matter because I’m reacting the way people have deemed appropriate, whether they admit it or not.

I have to learn how to ground myself in a different way in these situations.  On a foundation as reliable as those ABCs.  I need to ground myself in the truth.  God loves me.  Me, a sinner.  He loves me so much that He forgave my sins.  He made a way for me to come back close to Him.

When I’m deep in the feels of a curveball, I want to know why.  I want to know why this situation is occurring.  I want to know why it had to happen this way.  I want an explanation.  God very rarely tells me why.  He doesn’t withhold the information because I don’t have that level of security clearance.  He doesn’t explain because I can’t understand.  I cannot comprehend how this one situation is affected by and creates an effect for all of the other situations that have happened, are happening and will happen; for me and for others.

Not knowing makes me feel out of sorts and that causes my behaviour to be out of sorts. Life throws me a curveball and I can behave real unholy real fast.  So I need to get some distance from my situation.  Just enough so I can process objectively and react appropriately.

God loves me.  Full stop.  He loves me regardless of what I’m feeling.

I am a sinner.  My sin distances me from God.  In the overwhelming, sad, scary situations that leave me feeling far from God, I need to deal with my sin (which is usually  my behaviour in the situation) and get myself grounded on that foundation of love again.

I am forgiven.  I have everything I need to come back close to God’s love, but sometimes I  won’t forgive myself.  God doesn’t tell me to go away,  but I keep myself from going back.  I need to get over that, accept the forgiveness and get back to that foundation of God’s love again.

The same way that reciting my ABCs and 123s enables me to process objectively and react appropriately in the moment, the truth of God’s love enables me to process objectively and react appropriately on a consistent basis, even when I’m thrown one of those curveballs in life.

I’m working on making it as spontaneous and consistent as my calmness in emergencies. When I am following the example of Christ my behaviour should not give away how I feel.  That’s not to say I should be fake and pretend it’s all good all the time.  Jesus wept.  But His behaviour never became unholy, even while He was feeling all the things.  Being grounded in the truth of love gives me just enough distance from my circumstances to respond objectively and behave appropriately.

Love is patient.  Even when we’re rushed.

Love is kind.  Even when we’re hurt.

Love doesn’t envy.  Even when someone else got the blessing we wanted.

Love doesn’t boast.  Even when we did something awesome.

Love is not proud.  Even when we earned that gold star.

Love is not rude.  Even when you were rude to me.

Love is not self-seeking.  Even when no one else is taking care of me.

Love is not easily angered.  Even when it feels justified.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Even when we’re exhausted by forgiving them.

Love does not delight in evil.  Even when it looks really fun.

Love rejoices with the truth.  Even when it means making a hard choice.

Love always protects.  Even when it requires sacrifice.

Love always trusts.  Even when we don’t understand.

Love always hopes.  Even when it feels hopeless.

Love always perseveres.  Even when we want to give up.

 

 

When I Grow Up

Brooklyn's SK GraduationSomething I’ve always said is that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.  It seems preposterous to say that as I’m coming close to my 40th birthday.  Shouldn’t I decide?  Or at least admit I’m a grown up? 

I absolutely believe that anyone can be what they want to be and do what they want to do.  Me, I want to do all the things.  There isn’t one idea that is more exciting to me than another.  There isn’t a single profession that calls to me, it’s a cacophony of choices all meshed together, that chaos is what I want to follow.   My imagination has no boundary and so I can’t pick a path.  I can’t fully commit to just one thing. 

I love the idea of start ups.  To think that someone can decide they want to make a mattress the comes rolled up, or glasses so colour blind folks can see hues, or ways to cool champagne without ice or refrigerators.  Start Uppers get to take those ideas and turn them into something tangible, then sell them to a Stick With It and start something new up.  Doesn’t that sound divine!

The only worthwhile return on the investment of work is, in my mind, the ability to go and do something for the first time. 

Recently at our house talk has been turning towards what our kids want to be when they grow up.  One of my sons asked me to search up how much it will cost for him to become an archeologist.  One of my daughters wants to know where she can go to culinary school, another where to become a hair and make up expert- both dreaming to employ those skills to make magic with Disney.  Another wants to do photography, but isn’t sure about the effort.   The youngest keeps us all excited with his daily changing aspirations. 

I look up the information for them and we have conversations.  I’m not sure our dialogueDSC_0104 is typical though. Most often I do everything I can to direct their thoughts away from universities and degrees.  I encourage them to pursue skills.  I ask them how their work could help people.  I inquiry how these professions would bring them joy.

And always I emphasize that before they decide where to dig in, to first consider all the places they can dip first.  YWAM. Capernwray.  Internships.  Job-shadowing.  Mentoring.  Class auditing.  Workshops.  Humanitarian projects. 

When we talk about what to be when we grow up at our house, I place equal importance on learning what you can do and learning who you are.  I think that both are life-long journeys.  To be teachable is a skill not just for the classroom.  To learn what you need to know to earn your income is noble.  To learn what you need to know to become yourself is courageous.  

Tossin his Cap....When we get to growing up around here, I’m excited to see what we’ll become!  I hope it’s changed many times.  I hope it’s full of experiences and wisdom.  I hope that our hands do good work.  I hope that our hearts love well.  I hope that our minds are challenged.  

Mostly I hope that we’re brave enough to change.  That we know that how we earn our income is not who we are.  That it’s okay to be grown up and still not know what we’re going to be.  

 

 

Jet-Setting

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I have wanderlust, like real bad.  There are 195 countries in the world and I’ve been to a very small part of 3 of them.   Even the country I live in is unexplored territory to me.  I’ve seen bits and pieces of it, but I haven’t really revelled in it.  I want to, I really really do, but my resources are so limited.

Reality doesn’t keep me from scheming and dreaming though.  Our family created a bucket list of places we’d like to go and experiences we’d like to have before our oldest daughter graduates high school, a mere 5 years from now.  It’s an ambitious goal, some would say too ambitious, and they would be sane (and right).  Luckily, I’m not one to back down from a challenge (or be sane apparently).

Once the dream is set in motion, the scheming begins.   Travel takes money and I find that coming up with the money is about 90% of the work of traveling.  I poured over our budget to see how we could possibly invest in these dreams of ours and I saw a familiar answer.

In the same way that digging out from under the piles of stuff in my house has been a journey of baby steps, and in the same way that getting healthy is a journey of baby steps,  making our travel dreams come true will be all about baby steps.   I found one of those charts on Pinterest that tells you “If you put away X dollars each week, in one year you’ll have X dollars”  and decided to follow it.  It seemed simple enough.  Week 1, put $4 in the jar.  Week 2, put $8 in the jar.  Then by Week 52 we have over $5000.

I immediately started stressing about the weeks where we’d have to put over $100 in the jar.  Where would that money come from?  What expenses can we slash?  What is our latte factor?  Do I have anything to sell?  I got so caught up in the bigger amounts that I forgot to pay attention to the smaller ones.   I didn’t understand that it would take discipline to put $4 in a jar.  I probably have that in loose change in my purse, right?  I put the first few weeks in and then a seemingly small expense came up, so I took those few dollars out of the jar.  I can always put it back, I mean I probably have $4 in loose change in my couch cushions, right?

I sat down to evaluate our progress and was astonished to discover that we were a few hundred dollars short of where our loose change should have gotten us.   No big deal though, it’s such small amounts and I had them in my purse and couch a few weeks ago,  It wont take much to catch us back up.  I was so wrong.  The purse and couch have been raided.  All the nickels and dimes have been swept away.

When dreams are big it’s hard to remember that they start off with baby steps.  Even harder than that is to understand that each baby step is important.  It’s the little things stacked on top of each other and added up that get to the big goals.  The truth of the matter is that by neglecting the baby steps I may not be able to attain those dreams.

I’ve learned the lesson of baby steps.  Taking something big and breaking it down into bite sized chunks.  I do it without thinking now.  That doesn’t mean I’ve arrived though, it just means it’s time for the next lesson.  My baby steps have been haphazard. I take them when I have extra energy or time.  I take them in a random order.  I see them as individual items on a checklist that I can tackle however the wind blows.  It’s worked so far.

The next lesson is to add discipline into the mix.  Taking the steps when I don’t feel like it.  Taking the steps when they seem inconsequential.  Taking the steps in a more organized and thought out way.   I could learn this lesson in other areas of my life, but I think I’m coming to this realization around travel because that’s where I’ll be successful with it first.  Wanderlust is incredibly motivating.  I can think of no better reward for hard work than visiting somewhere new.  I’ve gotten the rhythm of left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot steps.  Now to get those feet on a path and follow it through.  I can’t wait to get to all the places I’ll go.

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The Next Pile

I haven’t always know where my next meal will come from.  There have been days in my life that the food I have eaten was left on my porch by someone (I still don’t know who you are, but I thank you!).  In all of these cases there were also people besides myself in my home to feed.  People who relied on me.  People who were younger than me.  People who I was responsible for.  People who I love.  

I know I should say that because of this I am always grateful for food, that I savour and enjoy everything I eat.  Generally I do.  I am in awe of ladies with kitchen skills,  I will pay a premium for a good steak, I dream of heading back to Turkey for some manta smothered in yogurt.  I have much appreciation for a full fridge and take advantage of everything in my pantry.  But having experienced this uncertainty has also had a negative impact on me.

Because I have known scarcity as a reality, when there is plenty I do not eat what I should.  Living in a society known for over indulgence and wastefulness, I come at food from a different angle.  

This leads to another place I need to declutter: my mind.  For example, there’s a part of me that thinks, “If I eat this food today, there might not be food tomorrow.”  Or  “If I eat a full portion, someone else in my home might still be hungry.”  Although I can currently go to my fridge and see the food that will last for days, my brain still consistently convinces me that the “What Ifs” are sure to become the “See I Told Yous”.

These patterns of thought keep me unhealthy.  I get tired when I shouldn’t.  My body holds onto fat with all it’s might so it doesn’t starve.  My mind doesn’t function at it’s optimum.   I stress without reason, and stress has so many physical symptoms.

When I first started my journey of editing life my home was top priority.  It was too full and chaotic for us to live well.  Now that our stuff is under better control I’m turning my focus to my health, and it’s interesting to see the layers there.  It’s not just do you exercise?  If not, then start.  Do you drink enough water?  If not, then start.  Are you eating properly? If not, then start.  There are reasons behind why we do or do not, and those reasons have to be explored and understood and aligned.  There is much work to do on the inside in order to bear an outside result.

Baby steps were the key to gaining back control of my space.  I literally tackled one pile at a time, one pile a day.  I cleared a path inch by inch.  I wait for one space to consistently say clear before I move to the next.  I am hopeful that looking around my space and seeing tangible spaces of victory will encourage the same as I shift my focus.  Baby steps will be the key again.  Replacing one wrong thought at a time.  Creating one new habit at a time.  Taking one step at a time.  Being willing to go with slow progress. Trusting that it all adds up to get me where I want to go.

Baby steps are hard to trust in and even harder to stick with especially when I want to run.  One step at a time.  Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.

Jump Right In

Sometimes in life we can take a long time to get where we’re headed.  Sometimes we know where we’re supposed to go and we put a foot on the path, but then we stop and play in the ditch, or chase a butterfly or come upon a fork in the road and can’t seem to choose where to go next.

Today I’ve decided to put one foot in front of the other and get going where I’m headed.  Since January 2018 I’ve been courageously editing my life in order to get my walk to match my talk; to put my priorities in the right order and dig out from under a life that went off track.  I’d like to invite you to join me on the journey.  We’re jumping in right here, real time and I’ll fill in the back story as we go.

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Because of all my hard work decluttering and digging out in 2018, when I packed away Christmas this past December I was left with this view.   Empty countertops, a virtually empty bookshelf and free floor space.  I simultaneously love it and despise it.  I love that there aren’t piles tucked in nooks and crannies waiting to reclaim the surfaces.  I love that there is space for my energetic son to play.  

I despise that this empty space looks barren.  That no stuff seems to equal nothingness.  My living room looks like I’m getting ready to move away from this place, not live in it.  I despise that now you can see how badly the walls need a fresh coat of paint and that dust is the eighth member of our family.  

I’ve come to my next realization in this journey of edits.  Just like working through your emotions or growing in your relationships, dealing with your stuff has layers.  Letting go of what is to embrace something new doesn’t happen overnight.  Cleaning a canvas to paint a new picture requires elbow grease.  I want the end result, but currently I’m in the messy middle.

It hurts in a way I didn’t expect.  Looking at this empty space feels personal.   This is my space and if it’s empty, does that mean I am empty too?   It is void of colour and personality, it’s boring.  Does that mean I am boring too?  At this point in my story I understand more deeply why we hold on to things.  Why we fill our space with stuff.  The struggle makes sense to me now.   I’ve lived through the barrenness of many autumns and I know the fullness of the spring.  This space feels empty now, but that emptiness leaves room for something new to begin.

That’s why it’s a journey, not simply an event.  Left foot, pick a pile.  Right foot, sort through it.  Left foot, choose which things go.  Right foot, choose which things stay.  Left foot, look at all the space you created.  Right foot, resist the temptation to fill the space back up.  Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.  I keep walking down this road although I’m not sure where I’m headed, I’m not even sure where I’m placing my foot down yet.    

This is just one space in my home.  A space that used to be full to overflowing with clutter.  A space where I can see that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  There will be many more empty spaces before things begin to feel full again.  Places I can see and places I can only feel.  I’m not sure where the road will take me.  I’m not sure what I’ll realize as I glance back.  I do know this is my road.  I do know I don’t travel it alone. I do know when we share our journeys with others we learn so much more. Come walk with me.  Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.  On a journey through clutter in our homes, our hearts, our heads and our health clearing away the debris standing between us and life abundant.     

Welcome to my story.  Welcome to the courageous editing of life.  Welcome to the Original Revamp.