Chronicling 40: Day 176 of 356

Balance

Balance is a very common word for not just the “Word of the Year” but also New Year’s Resolutions, commitments after women’s conferences, topics of books.  Often when we talk about balance, we mean to try to find a way to take everything that we are doing, interested in, committed to, etc. and make it work in a way that doesn’t cause us stress.

The intention is usually not about giving up anything, but instead finding a way to keep doing it all but more efficiently.  We don’t want one area of our life to take up more time or attention than others.  Or, we may even confuse balanced with off balance.  I mean that we may use this term incorrectly to describe a feeling of balance even when the cards are not.  It’s sort of like playing jenga, moving bits and pieces around where it appears to be balanced… but one false move and the whole thing topples over.

When people say that want balance, they really don’t want equity of all things in their lives.  Few people will say that they want to spend equal time with family and at work, but instead really intend to spend more time with family and less at work.  They claim a desire to strike balance, but that’s not balance.

This begs the question, if we are using the word incorrectly… is balance really something we want?  Or, is there a better word for it?

If you are curious, ask some questions like:

  • What does balance mean to me?
  • How does being balanced make me feel?
  • Is balance what I desire, or is the feeling I really want?
  • Is there a better word to describe that feeling?
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Chronicling 40: Days 171-175 of 365

ABUNDANCE(1)

As we begin to explore some of the most popular “Word of the Year” choices, I want to be clear that I am not suggesting words to anyone nor am I trying to influence you to pick on if that is not your thing.  I just want to explore what these words mean and can mean beyond the expected or obvious.

Often when we think of the word abundance our mind naturally moves toward money, financial blessing and income.  It’s a popular phrase in that right, in both secular and religious circles.   But, I’d like to take a step beyond that…

These past few days we’ve been on holiday time, and we took a trip to Epcot for the Arts Festival.  As we were walking past the various countries and moving through the rides that had water elements to it… I couldn’t help but notice the coins tossed into these “wishing fountains”.  Various denominations, various currencies from countries all over the world.  I thought to myself:

“To live in such abundance that money can be thrown away…”

And we do so much of that, throwing money away at frivolous things.  It’s hard to believe that people struggle financially when we can so easily toss a coin into the depths of a water fountain for no reason at all.  Do we really value our abundance?

Recently, I decided that I wanted to carve out a space for my own office… since I’ve been traveling with my stuff around the house collectively leaving piles of stuff about in my wake.  I need peace and organization, I need stability and a place to say that THIS is mine…when I am here, I am at work.  I also needed the money to afford to desk, chair, shelves, etc.  I looked about my home and saw an abundance of things that took up valuable space, brought me no joy, and were more work to maintain than they were worth.

I took from this abundance of stuff and began selling the individual things off.  As I would sell enough items, I’d purchase something for the office space.  This week, I am finally able to assemble this nook for my office.  And even then, I look at what I am filling the space with and it I see abundance.  This time it is a positive abundance that brings me joy, peace, and clarity.

Abundance can be good, when it encompasses those things that make us happy.  Abundance can be bad, when it encompasses those things that steal our joy.  We can have an abundance of money, or an abundance of debt.  We can have an abundance of joy, or an abundance of sorrow.  Peace, or stress.  Experiences, or loneliness. Sometimes we need to trade the negative abundance that hold us back for the positive abundance that is freeing.

We can have an abundant life, when we look around and count our family and friends, the roof over our head and the car that takes us to places.  We can have an abundant life in Christ, because we know His love for us is beyond measure.

Look around you… weigh your abundance.  Positive?  Negative?  What can you do about that in 2018?

Chronicling 40: Day 160-164 of 365

LetThem

My family just returned from a trip to Disney.  Let me set the final scene.

It was freezing cold.  The temps were about 43*.  While my Northern friends may scoff at 43* weather being labeled as “freezing”, you have to understand that when FL gets cold… it’s a different type of cold.  This is due to our humidity level.  We are not a “dry cold” but a “wet cold”.  It was 43* with humidity in the 80% level.

It was dark, we were waiting for the tram to take us back to our car, among many others waiting in the cold.  A man was there, with his wife, his mother in law, and their four children… I’m guessing ages 5 and below.  He was sitting on the concrete wall, drinking hot chocolate.  The 5 year old was pretending to sneeze on him, spraying his arm and face with spit.  The 2 year old kept running and bumping into him, also trying to be funny.  At one point, the two year old knocked into his arm, spilling the Dad’s hot chocolate all over his hand.

I don’t think I have ever witnessed a scenario like this go down and the person remain so calm.  He didn’t say a word.  He wiped down his hand on his pants, tossing the cup into a nearby trash can.  The 5 year old walked behind him as he headed toward his wife.  He handed her the 2 year old, and pointed the 5 year old to stand with her.  He simply said:

“I need a break for a few minutes.”

That was it.  He knew the kids were just being kids, after a long… cold… day.  They were not being bad kids, just kids.  So, there was no scolding.  There wasn’t even a word spoken as hot cocoa covered his bare hand.  He was calm, but recognized he needed a moment to himself.

In this moment, is there any one of us who couldn’t understand what this guy was feeling?

As he walked away from his family, the wife trailed after him asking what was wrong and where he was going.

He calmly repeated his intentions:

“I just need a break for a minutes.”

She couldn’t let it go.  Kept after him, pressing for an answer.

She couldn’t just let him be.  She couldn’t just let him walk.

If there is anything that I have learned in 20 years of marriage, is that sometimes we just need to let the other person be.  We need to let them walk or blow off steam.  We can get our answers afterwards.

I remember one night, I was really upset.  My husband asked what was wrong, I asked to be left alone… and he pressed.  I responded:  “I am upset right now, but I really don’t know if I am overreacting or have the right to be upset.  So just let me be.”

And, he did.

And, in the end, I was overreacting.

There was a speaker I listened to who suggested that when we encounter confrontation with our spouse, that we go at with the mindset of “this is a good willed person”.  If I approach any confrontation with my spouse believing he is a good willed person, not out to harm me… or hurt me… then I know he is for me and not against me.  Knowing this, if he passes the kids over to me & asks for a break… I know that he is doing this from his goodness.  He recognized he was being pushed to his limits, and needs a moment to take a break and regroup.

The same is offered to me.  If he comes home from work, and I let him know that I need to run to the store because I just need a break… he doesn’t question it.  He may ask a few questions about the status of things (like dinner, homework, etc), but otherwise he sends me on my way.

Marriage.  Parenting.  These are not always easy, pinterest worthy, book authoring, seasons.  They are often hard work, emotionally grueling at times, and some times just exhausting.  Extend some grace to your spouse, and when s/he needs a moment to just be, to walk, to find peace…

Let them be.

Let them walk.

Chronicling 40: Day 157 of 365

skeptic

This spring we said goodbye to our elderly dog.  She had been with us for seventeen years and it was incredibly hard.  We learned very quickly that our younger dog had never been taught to alert us to go outside to use the restroom.  Because he was brought into our home with an existing, experienced dog… and one that was aging and using the restroom more often…

He had become dependent on our routine for going outside. 

He never learned to alert us because he never needed to.  She would bark, or we would let her out on our normal schedules… and he would follow. The first day after she passed, he went to the bathroom in the house.  It was nearly 8pm.  The poor thing hadn’t been out since early that morning.  It wasn’t that we forgot about him.  We interacted with him throughout the day.  He never alerted to needing to go, and we too had become dependent on her routine.

Once we realized that he had never learned, we realized we needed a new routine.  It’s about five months and he has just finally begun to let us know that he needs to use the restroom.  If I am sitting near the door, he will walk over and paw at the door.  He still doesn’t alert, but this is a huge deal.  I’m thankful my desk space is near the back door.

This experience with our dog has made realize how easy it is to just go with the flow of things, to get into habits (good or bad), and how long it can take to change those habits.  We have extended this little dog so much grace, as he is learning.  I wonder if I extend that same amount of grace to others who are faced with new circumstances…

… learning a new trade, skill, talent…

… breaking an old habit …

I also wonder if I am extending the same grace to myself, as I am trying to learn and grow.

Chronicling 40: 154-156 of 365

magicband

It is so easy to accumulate things, but it seems like it is getting harder and harder to accumulate memories.  As our kids have gotten older, admission prices go up… more hotel space is needed… they eat more.  In general, everything is more expensive.  Because of this, and our dedication to ridding of debt (Thanks to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program)… it’s been a while since we have gone on a real family vacation.

Our kids are getting older though, and at this age… well, you begin to feel like time is running out.  Before you know it there will be marriages and then they will have their own families.  You feel this need to spend as much time together as a family as possible.

Then, when 40 comes knocking on top of all of this… for your own self you begin to question how much stuff you really need.   Would you rather have more things or more experiences in life?

And so this Christmas there were far fewer presents under the tree, because we opted for “Presence Over Presents”.

We are fortunate enough to live close to Orlando, to allow for regular visits… and we qualify for the Florida Residents Discount.  Until just this year we didn’t even know there were special passes for Florida Residents which afford us an opportunity that otherwise would have been out of our budget.   We are looking forward to spending time together versus managing things.  We are excited to make memories versus passing the days.  We are going to take advantage of whatever time we can to be together when work and school keeps us apart the majority of the week.

Things break.  Stuff needs to be repaired.  Technology becomes obsolete.

Memories last forever.

Chronicling 40: Day 144 of 365

wrong.png

Not that long ago, I wrote a series that surrounded the theme of “Never Confuse a Deborah with a Jezebel”.   Today, I want to spend just a moment and add to that thought with:

Never confuse a broken woman with a Jezebel.

When she first appeared on the scene, she was shy and timid.  Gifted.  Talented.  Hard worker.  Quiet.   I figured it would take a bit for her to become comfortable around us and then she’d come out of her shell.

In just a matter of a few encounters later, what I saw was a completely different woman.  Unhinged.  Out of control.  Loud.  Boisterous.  I was so struck by her behavior, that I thought to myself that this woman must have been under the influence of something.

By the end of the evening I thought I had encountered a Jezebel.  Perhaps her reserved nature was simply as way to slink into the group, to get people to like her… before her true nature and intentions would be exposed.

Truth be told, my instincts were right… something was off.  But, my interpretation of those instincts was off the mark as well.  This wasn’t a Jezebel, this was a broken woman.  She was wounded.  She was treading water.  She was trying to keep it all together, and it was falling apart at her feet.  Grasping to maintain a sense of normalcy, building up a wall to keep people from seeing how badly she was hurting.

She was like one of those viral videos you see where the animal is trapped in an icy lake, and even though there is a person trying to rescue the poor beast… it thrashes and flails.  Screeching out in terror, winging its limbs about, and even becoming a danger to the very thing that is trying to rescue it.

This animal is already in a bad situation, fight or flight has set in… there is no logic or reason.  We watch from the outside thinking… “if you would just stop fighting, let yourself be saved”.  We can see the hero coming to the rescue.  We know that even though it’s probably even a bit painful in the way the animal is being round up, it is for it’s own good.  But none the less, the animal is panic stricken.  It doesn’t know.

We don’t always know, when we are in the thick of things, those who are actually trying to help us.   As believers we know that God is with us, but we don’t always have the clear discernment of knowing who He has sent to help and who is out to harm.  Our fight or flight has already been set into motion.  We see threat everywhere, and we respond by fighting… yelling… flailing about… even to the point of making the situation harder for ourselves and those who are trying to help us.

We must be wise.  But that is hard when we lack clarity.

I’ve never been so glad to find out that I was wrong about a person.   Now, instead of seeing a person I needed to be wary of, I saw her differently.  I responded differently. It also served as a lesson to me about being to quick to judge circumstances at a superficial level.  Had I gone to the Lord first, perhaps He would have opened my eyes to her pain and brokenness sooner.

Every day I learn more and more about the wounded people that walk my city streets every day.  I realize that not ever “disgruntled spirit” is someone who is out to hurt or destroy.  They are not all Jezebels.  They are the woman at the well.  They are the woman accused of adultery.  They are the woman who had just two coins to her name.  They are broken women, wounded men.  They need to not be cast aside as Jezebels, but instead introduced to the Savior.  Even, if they are kicking and flailing as He mends their heart.

Chronicling 40: Day 143

vision

Last night I attended a local event where we made what most people would recognize as a “Vision Board”, but it actually was a bit different.  The Vision Boards we are familiar with are big goals or dreams for our lives and futures.  Instead, this was called a Manifested Board.  The differences between this and a Vision Board is that 1) it has a specific time frame of just twelve months, and 2) you are working in the past tense.  It’s not about what you are “going to do” but rather a declaration of what is already done.

Did you know that statistically you are more likely to achieve your goals by writing them down?  Our event host, Tasha Chen, pointed out that we also make a deeper connection to that goal when we can visualize it.  I’m a big goal setter, always have been.  In preparation for this night, we were supposed to bring things like magazines to cut pictures from, etc.  I had printed a few images from my computer of things that I already have on my 2018 goal list.  This board would create the visual connection.

I was not only claiming for myself that I was going to hit these marks in 2018, but I was also sharing with others in the room what my goals were.  Sharing our goals with at least one another person creates accountability, someone will be asking us about our progress. I’m sure several of us will be sharing our accomplishments as the year progresses.  We will want to celebrate with each other as we reach these goals of health, deeper faith, improved relationships, and so much more.

Something else happened, as I prepared for the event.  I was looking for specific images that I wanted to print out to bring with me.  Something that would represent actually publicly showing some of my art.  Up until this point, while I have given and even sold a few pieces … I’ve never attempted a public showing, entered into a contest, etc. (unless you count when I applied to an art college while in High School, and received a small scholarship to the school as well).  My Uncle has been encouraging me, and I decided 2018 would be the year to do it.

That was what landed me on a few websites, and even before I went to the event… I put in 1 online application and printed out 2 mail in applications for juried art shows.  Not shows late next year, but in just a couple of months.  Which means that I need to get to work.  Nothing like a deadline to motivate someone.

Here’s the thing… sometimes the biggest dreams and goals we have (for today, tomorrow, or down the road) don’t require much more than writing it down, sharing it with someone else, and then putting your intentions in motion.   Thankful for the people in my life who give me the nudge… the encouragement… who stand in agreement… and the women who help me walk in confidence and victory.

I realized when I worked on this board, that so many of the things I wanted for 2018 were related to my creative talents.  What was holding me back all of these years was the vulnerability of doing so, it is scary to put out something you created.  I’ve always encouraged my kids to be brave and do big things… but me?  Who would listen to me?  Who would read what I wrote?  Who would want something I made?

Over 100 times in Scripture are we told not to be afraid.  Why should I be afraid to share a gift that the Lord has blessed me with?  And if I do it for Him, honoring the gift He has given me… that is sufficient.

So, when Tasha Chen asked us what word would represent our board and intentions… I said FEARLESS.

2018 will be the year that I am absolutely fearless about pursuing the course the Lord has set for me, using all that He has given me, and standing in victory that His promises for my life are already fulfilled.  I’m just waiting in eager anticipation for the moment I can see what He has already set in motion.