Not Idle

Well, dear reader, I’ve taken a major hiatus from writing, but I haven’t been idle. If you remember from a recent post (and why should you, because by recent I mean several months ago), I downloaded a book onto my kindle about the spiritual roots of disorganization. I then proceeded to lose my kindle. I searched everywhere I could think of, but no…. it was surely and truly lost in the shuffle. I believe this can be classified as ironic.

It was lost for about four months. (Yes – four months! Egad!) Then one day, my husband says to me, “What have you done with my electric razor charger?” (Asking me what I’ve done with something is a running joke in our house. I, of course, have not touched his charger. He loses things too…) He told me he was charging his razor overnight, and he didn’t want the light that flashes while charging to keep me awake, so he didn’t do it in our bathroom, but instead (he was certain) he charged it in the schoolroom. So, I proceeded to turn the schoolroom upside-down, in an attempt to locate it. And lo and behold, peeking out from between the modem and the edge of the computer desk, covered by a small cloth, was…

I don’t even have to finish that sentence, do I? No, of course not, because in this most perfect of hiding places, as if I had hidden it on purpose, is my KINDLE!!! For the love of Pete, why, oh why, oh why would I put it there? That, my friends is the question.

The charger, since you’re all dying to know, was ultimately located in the medicine cabinet of the downstairs bathroom, the most logical place for it to be. Alas.

On with the story…

The book on my kindle is Organizing from the Heart: Change Your Mindset, Conquer Your Challenges. It’s a workbook of sorts, and I’ve committed to working through it. The first question I had to ask is,”What is disorganization costing me?” I prayerfully considered it, and I finally wrote in my journal, “I feel shame.” Admitting that was an incredibly powerful moment for me. I also wrote in my journal that the last time I felt organized in my home was when I felt consistently good physically (which was really pre-cancer) and when money was not a stressor (also pre-cancer). Cancer, for me, was like tripping during a foot race, landing hard on my hands and knees, and never managing to get back up on sure footing. We call 2007 our Cancer Year, because I was sick for nine months of it. I was hospitalized multiple times, and on two of those occasions there was a real risk that I wouldn’t leave the hospital. Having the management, the control of my life wrested from me so completely, knocked me flat in a profoundly internal way. What happened in 2007 is that my ability to believe that God wants good things for me, in fact the best things, was violently shaken. There’s a major lesson in Trust within this, one I’m still grappling to get hold of.

And so, after SEVEN years of dealing with things on the surface, but never digging deep (for instance, cleaning my house on a schedule but never cleaning out a closet, either physically or emotionally), I’m FINALLY ready and willing to deal with the root spiritual issues. I have this vision of my home being peaceful, open and soothing, a place where we can love God and love one another, and with this in sight, I’m taking a stand. I’m committing to cleaning out the ashes and rubble so that new things can grow.

In pursuit of this, a few days ago I stood in my laundry room (the place I have chosen to start) and I engaged in this spiritual work. I thanked God for this room — it really is quite awesome — and for all the things stored there: games, puzzles, winter wear, and cleaning supplies. I thanked Him for the new high-efficiency furnace and water heater we’ve recently installed. I then tapped through every negative feeling that I’ve had regarding organizing. (You can look at  Conquering my Emotional Kitchen for an explanation of tapping). I also, while tapping through the circuit, thanked God that I am created in His image and, as He brought order from chaos, I, too, can bring order out of chaos as an act of worship. (I’d like to say here, there’s nothing magical about tapping. Tapping while praying just helps me, on a deep emotional level, to internalize the promises of God).

Then I simply started. I’m about a quarter of the way through, and I’ve already had this beautiful, symbolic moment. I came across a bag, filled with thin books and papers, and I sat down with it to sort through it. I thought it was music, but it wasn’t. It was a bunch of cancer support materials. With a sense of lightness I walked out to the trash, and dropped it in. It was freeing.

Bit by bit, moment by moment, I clear out the old and dead and make room for a new thing.

NotIdle

Advertisements

Day 116 ~ All Things (well – Something anyway) Made New

I’ve made some measurable progress this week. For one, I finally – with my husband’s help – got several bags ready for charity. We’re keeping the cat.

simplicity

I’ve also been practicing Redeeming the Time – you know, grabbing ten free minutes here and there to do little tasks. By using this approach I’ve reclaimed a small counter in my kitchen. Now, I must explain, there is a deep-seated problem that resides within my very soul that leads to a counter that looks like this. It’s hard to see, but under the clean food containers and the bread items, in the back, is the epicenter of this mess. It’s a wire basket full of junk. Well, not junk really, but stuff. I toss things in there, like coupons, business cards, things I want to look at later. (You can see how accessible it is. And please understand, my whole kitchen does not look like this). But the problem (the one in my soul) is this – pretty soon the basket is overflowing, I never pull anything out to look at it again because it’s disorganized, and soon it becomes a permanent fixture in my decorating scheme. I walk by it 18 times a day, and never, ever look at it. The result? I’ve lost the counter.

simplicity

So I finally did something about it. I got a three-ring-binder, I put tabs in it, and I now have a place for – – > current coupons, reference information, take-out menus, and contact information. And it fits next to my cookbooks on the bookcase. Now the basket has oranges in it and is sitting on my dining room table. I don’t know why it took me – you know – YEARS to take care of this. But now it’s done. My counter is new. And I am happy.

simplicity

Day 112 ~ The Divine Hours

I’ve decided to start “keeping the hours.” At least I’m going to try. Keeping the hours (or saying the offices) is a Benedictine monastic tradition of fixed-hour prayer. I may last one day, one week, one month – or I may decide this is the best thing I’ve ever done and do it forever.

Now, first of all, I must say – I’m not Catholic. In fact, I’ve only been in a Catholic church three times in my life. The first time, I was a little girl and went with a girl from school whose parents were German immigrants, so there was a language issue and the mom couldn’t really explain to me what was going on. As we sat in the pew, people would come forward and genuflect at the altar. But this is what I thought was going on – I thought people were kneeling to photograph the bizarre statue on the stage, because my church had no statues, and so I thought this must be a novelty. I mean, if I had a camera, I might take a picture too, except no one told me to bring a camera. It was literally years later when I saw someone on T.V. kneeling at an altar and making the sign of the cross that it suddenly occurred to me what I had seen as a child. The other two times I was in a Catholic church were for a wedding and a funeral, so they probably don’t really count. Let’s just say my faith tradition is very “low church.”

simplicity
Well, the Benedictines are obviously Catholic, but they are also very disciplined and it’s the discipline I’m reaching for, not the Catholicism. What I’ve discovered in this year of change is that my disorganization is not just an external problem. I’m internally cluttered as well. And my spiritual life totally lacks organization. This is the reason I have started working on Centering Prayer, which is incredibly challenging but I keep trying it a few minutes each day. In spite of this, my quiet time with God continues to be haphazard, at best. I feel myself craving an order to my spiritual life, and so I’m attempting Keeping the Hours to see if it creates the form I’m looking for. I plan to say the words of the offices exactly at first, then move to a place where I keep the form but lose some of the rigidity. I’ll be keeping the Morning Office, Midday Office, and Vespers which basically means praying morning, noon and evening, and I’m using the book The Divine Hours as a guide.

We’ll see what happens. My cluttered environment is simply a manifestation of the clutter within me. But I’m changing that – with clear-cut goals, ordering of my day, getting rid of extraneous junk, and structuring my spiritual life. I feel myself becoming new. I feel the old ways sloughing off. Yet change is something like turning an enormous ship. It’s slow (oh, so slow). It’s difficult. But as I turn, I see a new vista – a new horizon – a new me. And that, dear reader, is well worth it.

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 85 ~ Snow in April

Well, Spring Break is over and it’s time for real life again. (Predictably) I have no pictures to share. Why, you may ask? Well, I made a list before the trip. I put “camera” on the list. Then I never looked at the list again, and we forgot the camera. So, I took a bunch of pictures on my phone, but I don’t have the appropriate cable to transfer them to the computer. And, I don’t do the smart phone route, so I can’t email them. And this, in a nutshell, is what I’m trying to fix about my life. I’m trying to remember to read the list!

Being a vacationer is extremely enjoyable. We had cash in our pocket, a hotel room someone else was cleaning, and wonderful meals prepared by restaurant staff. We didn’t have to do anything we didn’t actually want to do. I love vacation. But then, vacation ends, and we have to go back to the routine of regular life. It can actually be a little depressing.

So, when I feel the drudgery of life closing in, I go looking for my joy. Frequently, I find it in gratitude, and I have much to be thankful for. On an extremely simple level, the fruit trees are blooming in Denver, and they’re beautiful. They signify hope, renewal, growth, and all good things.

Colorado Beauty

On a deeper level, this past week just west of Denver a vicious wildfire has been burning. Nearly 30 homes have been destroyed, and 3 people have died. The parents of a friend from church had fifteen minutes to evacuate, and escaped just moments before their house caught fire and burned to the ground. They lost every single thing they owned. They lost their cat and all the birds they own as breeders. I honestly don’t know how one deals with that kind of devastation. When something horrible happens, I always take a moment to take stock, because – really – none of us knows how many moments we have on this earth. It’s so easy to get caught up in the chores, the responsibilities, the things that must be done, that sometimes we forget to simply live and let those we love know that we do. So today I am practicing being thankful.

Lower North Fork Wildfire

I am thankful for my husband and beautiful girls. I am thankful for my extended family, and my many friends. I am thankful for my slightly dilapidated house because it’s not just a roof over our heads, it’s the holder of daily joy, warmth, love and security. I am thankful God loves me. And today, I’m thankful  that in Colorado warm weather, extremely dry conditions and violent winds can be followed the next day by 30 degree temps and snow. The snow is covering my favorite blossoms, but it’s a gift to the firefighters and so I end by saying, “Thank you, God, for snow in April.”

Day 65 ~ Journey Oriented

I recently finished a book (fiction) where one of the characters so inspired me. This character, a woman in her 50’s, had been walking four miles a day, five days a week for seventeen years. Over that time, she’d lost a pound a year, and her body shape had changed causing her to drop a couple of dress sizes. At the same time, her friends had hit a point in life where they were gaining about three pounds a year. I loved it. She walked to keep active and stay healthy, but the result was that she was trimmer, fitter and more energetic than her compatriots who were starting to put on the mid-life bulge. This woman was a testament to consistency, and I was inspired.

simplicityI had been feeling that my own weight loss was happening at a snail’s pace. I’ve lost 12 pounds since the first of the year. Reading this book helped me feel encouraged about that, instead of frustrated. It helped me take my eyes off of some kind of destination, and focus more on the journey. I feel better – no question about it. I have more energy, more stamina, and a noticeable increase in flexibility, especially in my right shoulder. My shoulder is stiff and sore every single day because of scar tissue, inelastic skin (resulting from radiation therapy) and reconfigured anatomy (because of muscles which were moved to reconstruct my body after a bilateral mastectomy). I can now lie on my back on the floor, reach my hands over my head, and touch the backs of my hands to the floor – something I could not do just a few short weeks ago. I’ve seen a massage therapist one time (last month) who practices “bone rocking”, a method for gently convincing a tight joint to relax and open up. That one visit and consistent exercise and I feel closer to normal than I’ve felt in five years.

All this motivates me to keep going, regardless of the physical manifestation of weight loss or lost inches. I’m even motivated this week, with the bane of Daylight Savings Time which has resulted in doing my exercise, once again, while it’s still dark out. (There is definitely a temptation to stay under the covers). I write about all this to remind myself that I am seeing progress. The steps may be small, but they keep taking me in the right direction. A year from now, I’ll be so glad I started this journey and didn’t make excuses. My home will be peaceful. (It’s already more peaceful than it was). My body will be fit. I’ll have more vitality. My life will be new.

What journey have you been thinking about beginning? Change is hard. The first step is hard. Getting back up after you trip and fall is hard. But you are brave – I just know you are. Take the first step. A year from now, you’ll be so glad you started today.

Day 57 ~ When the Day Gets Jacked

simplicity
Life is conspiring against me today. It really is, and I’m sure every one of you can relate to that statement.

For instance, I had planned on barbecuing a chicken outside today, because it’s a balmy 70˚ – truly beautiful Colorado weather. (Tomorrow will be 40˚ and snowing, which is also beautiful Colorado weather, in its own way). This involves cutting up a whole chicken – which I was sure was in my chest freezer. I was sure and I was wrong, so we had to do something else and this involved a trip to the store (which my husband did, bless his heart).

I realize this is not catastrophic. But then, I sat down to write my business blogs. These are scheduled posts that are mapped out a month in advance and clients pay for them, so there’s really very little wiggle room. After one post, my DSL connection disappeared. No internet. I unplugged the modem, unplugged the router, re-booted everything. No internet. So I called the provider and they couldn’t even check the connection because it was reading “error” on their end. Twenty minutes on hold, three phone calls, and two hour later – the internet’s back. My work is done, and it’s all okay, but my afternoon got totally jacked, if you know what I mean.

I realize this is not catastrophic either. But then, the lovely woman who comes in once a month on Thursday to scrub down my home, called and asked if she could come tomorrow (Wednesday) instead. This is fine, except the day before frenzy that I usually go through and had planned on doing Wednesday, had to get done today when my afternoon got jacked (see above) and I didn’t really have time for it.

Okay – this is not really catastrophic either. None of it was, but piled up together, I found myself wishing that something could go smoothly. But isn’t that life? Life is bumpy and things frequently don’t go according to plan. What I realized today is that as long as my heart is at peace (which it is) everything else tends to come out in the wash, so to speak.

I also had two beautiful epiphanies today. First, I was inspired to clean out my chest freezer and create an inventory list so I know what’s in it without opening the lid. I will cross things off when I take them out, and add them when I put them in. Never again will I be searching for a chicken in the bottom of my freezer.

Second, although I still had a day before frenzy, it was more like half a frenzy. The main floor living area required absolutely nothing. Well, almost absolutely nothing. Everything was put away except seven pairs of shoes. All the sprinting happened upstairs in the bedrooms and the office/schoolroom. This was thrilling for me, because I know that I know that I know that the work I’ve been doing is having an impact. If I keep taking back my life ten minutes at a time, I will achieve a peaceful home environment, one to match the peace in my heart.