The Ongoing Quest

I’ve had this to post for the longest time, but the Holidays happened, and my home turned into a rush of decorating, baking, giving, fellowshipping, entertaining, and celebrating. It was lovely, and I hope yours was as well, dear reader.

The laundry room is clean, organized, functional, and I am so thrilled at the accomplishment. I’ve tried so many systems and plans and programs, which haven’t worked, that I do believe the most paralyzing thing I’ve been facing all along is the fear of failure. But it’s absolutely working, and the feeling is really wonderful. All the games live there, instead of in three different closets, as well as puzzles, and winter wear; and the house-cleaning supplies are all together and the laundry supplies are all together, etc., etc.

It’s made such a difference to approach it spiritually. Praying about my purpose in my home, journaling about it, and dealing with all the leftover issues from being sick has granted me success in this area for the FIRST TIME!

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The second thing I’ve implemented is keeping my 3-point zone clean every day. I realized how hard this was because of visual clutter. Even when I’ve tidied, there are things that just live in a cluttered state, like the top of my refrigerator. Since my kitchen is part of the 3-point zone, I set about trying to make more empty space. This cart lives in the closet under the stairs, and you can well see that it’s been a gigantic mess. I cleaned off the cart, and made it a home for all small electronic appliances, which had all been stored on the fridge and in various cupboards, and even on counters throughout the kitchen. The result was pleasing, and is working well.

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I’m amazed at how much better I feel, in general, when the front room and kitchen are picked up and put away.

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Front room at Xmas. Not perfect, but not bad.

My prayer for my home: Father, I ask You to energize me with the desire and wisdom to re-organize and clean my home. Thank You for answering with workable solutions and stamina to stick with the goal.

Balancing Act

Failure.

It’s an ugly word really, with ugly emotions attached to it.

I’m not through organizing the laundry room, but it’s definitely in progress. It’s not stalled. The project isn’t a failure. It’s creating an enormous mess in my den, which is frustrating, and it’s taking longer than I imagined it would (typical, by the way), which is frustrating, and I hate going in there to actually do laundry because of the half-doneness, which is frustrating… Need I go on?

But it’s still going. We worked on it some just this morning. We’ve given wooden puzzles away so they can be played with again, we have a stack of coats and things to bless someone with, we’ve thrown away 100-year-old silver polish and carpet cleaner and broken umbrellas. It’s going to be wonderful and functional once it’s finished.

Part of the reason it’s taking so long is because, you know, life keeps happening. I have to keep homeschooling, and cooking, and food shopping, and washing sheets, and, well … grooming. If I could put it all aside, the project would take no time. Added to that, I’m trying something else new, and here’s where the anxiety comes storming in.

I’ve decided to implement a new form for keeping my house tidy, so I’m not afraid to open the door and let in an unexpected guest. It’s the Three-Point System from Organizing From the Heart, whereby I choose the three most important zones in my house, and I keep them tidy, always. I’ve chosen my kitchen, the downstairs bathroom, and my front room.

I know. For you organization gurus this sounds like child’s play. Try to empathize with me, because this plays to my absolute greatest weakness…

It’s not hard, not objectively. It’s just that I’ve tried many other systems before, and … here’s the hideous word … failed.

I won’t go through everything that I’ve tried that’s flopped. It isn’t necessary. But I am determined that this time will be different, because for the first time, I’m dealing with it on a spiritual level. First, I’ve spent some time truly thanking God for those rooms, and the blessings they bring. Then, with thanksgiving, I’ve asked God to fill my mind with little creative miracles that I can implement to bring order and peace. Finally, I’ve chosen to treat this as an act of worship. I will bring order from chaos, as God did in the beginning, as an act of worship to Him.

Doing this has forced me to change my perspective. All my attempts and failures were not really failures. They were opportunities for me to discover what systems don’t work for me. This time, I will not stop until I find a system that works smoothly. Did you hear that? I will not stop. I figure, even if I only average ten minutes a day toward a smoothly and peacefully running home, by this time next year, I will have 52 hours under my belt toward that goal. By that time, even if my house is not exactly like I want it, I will surely have areas in my home where I have made room for new blessing by clearing out the disorder. As my younger daughter says, frequently… Slow and steady wins the race. The following is a quote I’ve come across in my reading this week, and it resonated to such an extent with me, I’m hanging it on my kitchen window where I can read it every day:

On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur. ~ Evelyn Underhill

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I reject feelings of hurry and impatience. I will not stop until I am finished, no matter how long it takes. I refuse to continue living life like an amateur, and am determined, as much as it is in my power, to live it expertly. Eventually, I will be like this little squirrel I see every morning in my hopa crab tree, feasting on drying crabapples. He sits on a branch that is far too small to hold his weight (one would think, anyway), and as the breeze sways him, he nonchalantly balances there picking fruit. Instead of standing back over thinking it, convincing myself I’ll fall because I’ve fallen before, wondering if it is even possible…

Instead…

I will faithfully walk out, knowing it can be done, believing I have been gifted to do it, and I will achieve that previously elusive thing.

Balance.

 

 

Day 130 ~ A Raised Bed Garden

Well, I’ve been gone a long time (almost two weeks). To be honest, I haven’t been feeling well, which hits me periodically since I had cancer. I’ve never come back to 100%, which I don’t quite understand. I wish I could find the solution. Ah, well…

Part of the journey I’m taking involves working out what it means to live missionally. We all should be the author of our own story, creating as we go. We are, after all, created in the image of God who created all things. I think the bug to be creative exists in most of us, but sometimes it gets squashed. For me, especially when I’m not feeling superb, the simple struggle of everyday existence can leave me with no energy left to create. But existing is depressing. Living is what we are meant to do. So today, I’m putting everything aside and trying something new.

Today, I’m spending time in my garden. My husband and father-in-law built me a raised bed garden for Mother’s Day. I’m slightly terrified because I’ve never grown anything but flowers, and I’ve managed to kill a fair number of them. And some, like these roses, bloom in spite of my best efforts.

But I love other people’s gardens. And I love food. So I’m trying something new and praying it all survives till the harvest. I’m planting a few seeds that a friend brought back for me from Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson (and hoping I’m not too late). Then I’m also planting tomatoes, basil and oregano, because I have this vision of myself making my own pasta sauce. I’m starting small – this is my trial run. We’ll see where it takes me.

Day 103 ~ Lost Identity

simple livingYesterday I spent the morning with a mentor, and she taught me the finer points of truffle making. I learned why and how we temper chocolate, and how to make wonderfully flavored ganache. We had two white chocolate ganaches – one with jalapeño jelly and one with orange and ginger. Then we “enrobed” the ganache in the tempered chocolate. Afterward, because I was without my kids, I took a sandwich and a book to Standley Lake (a local reservoir) and sat on a bench on a high hill overlooking the water. I ate, and read, and enjoyed myself. Then, since my little one was with her daddy, I picked up my older child (she’ll be fourteen in a couple of weeks) and we sat outdoors at Starbucks drinking coffee and chatting like old friends. I’m very blessed in the fact that my teen-aged daughter likes to spend time with me.

Why do I tell you all this, you may ask? I almost always live my life for someone else. I rarely do exactly what I want to do, and it was such a refreshing experience to do just that. I usually put someone else’s needs before my own, and I assume this is true for others as well. I know it’s true for moms in general – we always eat the burnt piece of toast, let our kiddo pick the movie, go to McDonald’s when what we really want is a sit down restaurant with real food where someone actually waits on us. For homeschooling moms it’s an even bigger issue because we’re almost never alone. Throw my personality into the mix, with a love language of Acts of Service (if you don’t know about the 5 Love Languages – check here), and I end up showing love to my family by completely ignoring my own wants and needs. I’ve done this for so long that I don’t even know what I really want anymore. And this is how I’ve lost myself in being a mother.

I have friends who always wanted to be a wife and mother. That was their dream – their passion. And so when they became a wife and mother, they felt immensely satisfied. This was not true for me. In fact, as a young adult, I thought I’d possibly never get married, and certainly not before I was 30. But then I met my dear husband, and it was so obvious that we were meant to walk through life together that I said “I Will” and never looked back. I have two beautiful daughters whom I love with everything in me, and I wouldn’t trade my life with anybody for any reason. However… there’s still this identity I seem to have lost, and in my 40’s I’m still searching for who I really am. I know there are other mothers out there who relate, because I see them. You know who I’m talking about. You see that mom walking through the parking lot with a couple of gorgeous children. Your eye is drawn to them because they’re such cute kiddos. Then you look at mom. She’s got two inches of roots grown out from her last hair color or perm. Her shirt has a big stain on it. There are shadows under her eyes. And you just know that she’s set her own life aside to care for her family.

As I search for true missional living, I know it involves finding those things I’m passionate about and doing them … well… passionately. I feel this way about being my husband’s wife. I feel this way about my daughters. I absolutely do NOT feel this way about being a housewife, or home manager, or domestic diva – it really doesn’t matter what you call it. I could name it Queen of All Things, and still I wouldn’t love it. But I know I can find pockets of true satisfaction within the life I’ve chosen, I simply need to act, not just talk about it. I need to spend more time in the kitchen, where I’m really, truly happy. I need to be more creative. I used to sew, for heaven’s sake – one of my first blog posts was about how I. Used. To. Sew. And I think I need more Mommy-Girl time with my children. I need to just carve it out every couple of weeks, because it was incredibly satisfying to connect with my child with absolutely nothing else demanding my attention.

And so I search. I pray. I listen. And I continue striving to live an authentic life where I don’t always present a perfect picture and I honestly try to share my journey. A couple of my readers have commented that sharing my life could be part of my mission. Maybe so. This is why I continue the work of removing internal clutter. I love my family, I give to my friends, I analyze myself and I write this journal. As I do, I am confident I will find more and more things I’m truly passionate about, a bit like panning for gold. I have to shake out all the detritus and remove all the pebbles, but every once in a while during the work I discover a little nugget. And so I look for those pockets of joy and I wait for those nuggets of gold, and in the process I find my way.

Day 87 ~ Keeping on Keeping On

simplicityHow do you change? How do you truly, honestly make changes in your life? It can be extremely difficult, but one thing is necessary – a plan. I have a plan, but my life is spinning like a whirlwind and I’m having trouble executing the plan. I simply run out of time and energy by the time I get all my “have-tos” done. I have friends that seem to get it all done and done well, and to me they seem superhuman. I truly wonder how they do it all – they homeschool, they grow and preserve their own food, they craft, their houses are neat and beautiful, and their children are always polite. They have clever organizing ideas and are always doing projects. And at this late date, they’re not trying to schedule a time to get Easter outfits for the kiddos. Maybe they don’t sleep.

In my own life, take today, for instance. I have been very successful changing my daily routine, and my house is more ordered because of it. But, this morning … This morning, the lovely woman who scrubs my house every four weeks came to do her thing. In my rush to get my elder daughter to school, and my younger daughter and myself to our homeschool commonwealth, I found myself pushing a huge box of paper (throw – shred – file) under a table with my foot. Guess what? I did the same thing four weeks ago. I mean I pushed the Exact. Same. Box. Then in the bedroom, I moved a box of clothes folded and packed to give to charity. I moved it so vacuuming could be done, and I had déjà vu. I moved the same box four weeks ago. I mean the same box with the Exact. Same. Clothes.

So, I’ve decided some things.
1. I am not superhuman. I must sleep. And I will be happier if I choose to focus on my own gifts and talents and simply admit I will never be “those people.”
2. I must do more than the daily routine. My goal for the next two weeks is to complete the throw – shred – file pile, and get some charitable giving done. I cannot bear the imagined humiliation of having those boxes taking up space any longer.
3. My goal for this blog will be posting three times a week. When I first started, I posted every day but Sunday, but since then – well, reality has set in. I’ve missed lots of days, and I realize I must maintain some consistency or I will lose sight of my goals.

So, thank you, dear reader, for coming along for the ride. Thank you for the comments here and on facebook that encourage me. I’ll see you again on these pages in a couple of days.

Day 41 ~ Ickiness and More Ickiness

Well, today I dealt with some ickiness, and by ickiness I of course mean organizing. There is something about the actual act of deciding (store, throw, give, keep) that I truly abhor. I don’t know if this is psychological, but probably it is.  It’s probably based in some poverty mentality, and deep in my sub-conscience I think that if I let go of something, I’ll be left with nothing. So I tell myself, “I have plenty. My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” The problem is (of course) believing it.

So today I continued to work on my backlogs. This includes laundry, which is down to hand-wash delicates that must line-dry, and today I washed three. The other is paper, and I did one small pile (shred, file, throw). Then I decided to start in the bathroom. The truth is, I’m basically a chicken. I’m slightly intimidated by what needs to be accomplished in my house, and the bathrooms are the easiest rooms to start with.

Today, I did the medicine cabinet upstairs. This is how it looked.

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And this is how it looks now. All the things in here that weren’t here before were on my counter. It was so cluttered. Now, the only things on it are hand lotion, hand soap and two small jars with Q-Tips and cotton balls. Many, many things got thrown away (like expired medicines and almost empty cosmetics).

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This is a magnetic strip for nail clippers, scissors, and tweezers. Never again will I be digging around for these things. I was thrilled to discover that bobby pins stick to the strips, because I used to have so many that are now all lost. I’ll put up a strip just for bobby pins if I need to. By the way, this idea is not original with me. I’m just not sure where I ran across it. However, not long ago, I was shopping at IKEA and I saw a system where metal tins of herbs were stored on the wall on magnetic strips, and I thought – I’m doing that! (I may actually do that in my kitchen, when I get there).

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Overall, I’m pleased with this. Very little effort has resulted in a major change. When both bathrooms are completely organized, I’m going to add a hard-surface clean to my daily routine. This will include wiping the vanity, the outside of the toilet, the mirror and a quick swish in the toilet bowl with a brush. I estimate this will take about 90 seconds for each bathroom, so in three minutes a day, I can keep my bathrooms looking fresh and tidy.

Each step encourages me to take the next. And each day the lesson is reinforced – little steps consistently taken in a positive direction have a cumulative effect. I’m starting to see changes. I’m implementing systems that work. And each day, as I do the work, the life I am living becomes new.

Day 29 ~ Dripping Gutters

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We really need new gutters. Our gutter drips right above this place, and so this last storm combined with above-freezing temperatures created this massive icicle in our bush.

Sometimes, I feel like that gutter. As long as the storm is not overwhelming, I function fairly well. But bring in the “extra” and I quickly become overrun, dripping at my seams. Things don’t function quite properly and we end up with a mess.

My temptation is to focus on the split seam, the dripping water, the brokenness where there should be function. For instance, this past weekend, I totally dropped the program. I had two days of eating junk (not a lot of junk, but some), skipping my morning exercise, and neglecting to do anything at all in furtherance of my goals. This morning, I wanted to feel bad about it. I really did. As a perfectionist, I can be very self-critical. One “free day” is okay, but two – and IN A ROW – not so much. But I didn’t do it. I fought it. I got up, had my morning devotion, did my morning exercise, consulted my action items, and began the work anew. And I chose to focus, not on the dripping gutter, but on the beauty it created as it refroze in the bush.

You see, I spent the weekend eating popcorn and ice cream, and watching the original Star Wars Trilogy with my family. It was the first time for my seven-year-old. She watched a good portion of Return of the Jedi with her blanket over her head, (refusing to look at anything that could in any way be classified as yucky), and we had a really good time. So instead of focusing on everything I didn’t do, I smiled as I remembered the joy we created as a family.

That’s what it’s all really about, isn’t it? –  Finding our Joy. Without joy, nothing we do matters. I can have a perfectly functional, even beautiful home – but if joy doesn’t reside here, I don’t want to either. So I will find my joy in the mess – in spite of the mess, in fact – even as I strive to change. I will not let my dissatisfaction with the way things have been turn to discontent. I will rejoice, I will work, and I will focus – not on the dripping gutters, but on the beauty they create.