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.

 

 

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Conquering my Emotional Kitchen

A few days ago, someone asked me for the link to this blog, and in sending it to her I had to face the fact that I hadn’t posted in six months. I’ve thought about posting, but I’ve been managing a flare-up of ulcerative colitis since last October and, truth be told, simply couldn’t work up the energy to write. At the moment, though, I’m seeing a glimmer of hope. A glimmer; but hope, nonetheless.

As I linked her to my home page, I read my tagline: Fighting the clutter monster ~ inside and out. One thing I’ve realized in these past months, as I’ve struggled to put one foot in front of the other while feeling decidedly ill, is that the inside clutter monster is definitely the one in control. As I’ve taken time to think about the constant clutter I fight, and how even when I seem to get on top of it for a time — it always devolves back into what it was, I’ve concluded that it’s all just symptoms. The real culprit is my general lack of delight in homemaking, and the sense that I’m somehow missing what I should be doing while being stuck in the unending loop of laundry, dishes, picking up. Stop (briefly). Repeat.

With this in mind, I downloaded an organizing book onto my Kindle, called, Organizing from the Heart: Change Your Mindset, Conquer Your Challenges. It presumably deals with spiritual roots to organizational issues, but I wouldn’t actually know.

Now, brace yourself, because this next part would be downright hilarious if it weren’t so achingly cliché. I don’t actually know what it says because, since downloading, I’ve lost my Kindle. In the clutter. It’s gotten sucked into the vortex and I’ve been unable (as yet) to find it.

*insert deep sigh here*

I will find it. I’m sure I will, but in the meantime, I’ve been plodding along, which brings me to my topic… my kitchen. My kitchen is the bane of my life. Well, maybe not, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s poorly laid out (which I cannot control), but beyond that, I constantly have dishes on my counters or in my sink. It’s constant. Every so often, I just muscle through and clean it, and the result is always tremendous pain. Because of multiple surgeries, including reconstructive surgery after cancer, I have lots of scar tissue. My reconstruction involved dissecting large sections of muscle in my back, and ever since, that work which is “kitchen work” leaves me with stabbing pain between my shoulder blades, regardless of how I stand, breathe, or move. I have not been able to control it short of drug use (and by drug use, I mean Advil). 

Until now. In the past few months, I’ve looked into something I had heard about, and that is tapping on various acupressure points in order to relieve pain. I’ve read two books, and done some research online, and because of success I’ve had in the past with acupuncture, I thought it was worth trying. I had been doing it on occasion for a while, basically thinking about the pain while tapping eight different points in sequence. 

Fast forward to about a month ago. I cleaned the kitchen. I was in agony. Every breath brought a stabbing pain, like knives. I heated a small cloth bag filled with uncooked rice in the microwave, took three Advil, and went to my room. I put the heat on my back, and tried to relax, and started tapping. I had read, doing my research, that it is sometimes very effective to assign an emotion to the pain, and I figured, why not? I am willing to try anything reasonable. So as I was focusing on the sharp pain, I asked myself… What is the emotion I’m holding between my shoulder blades? What emotion is causing this pain? It took a while, but it came to me — a single word.

Discontentment.

So, I began tapping the circuit, saying a phrase like, “…this discontentment in my back … the discontentment causing this sharp pain…” I tapped several times through the circuit of points, until my pain level came down to about a four. Then I stopped, and didn’t really think of it again.

However…

About two weeks later, as I got out of bed and went downstairs to make my coffee, I looked around my kitchen. It was totally clean, and had been for days and days, which has been (historically speaking, at least since I had cancer) TOTALLY unheard of. I stood there, thinking, taking stock… What was I doing differently? It’s not like it was being cleaned by magic. I was actually doing the cleaning, but it no longer felt like a fight. I thought about the things I normally felt regarding my kitchen …. overwhelmed, dread, hatred (if that’s not too strong a word). Those feelings were absent. And then the realization struck me. It’s been since I tapped on discontentment.

Whoa.

I’ve been praying for a solution for so long. And the solution has hit me in the most unexpected way. Here we are, a full month later, and my kitchen is effortlessly clean. I don’t feel pain. It’s no longer a battle. I’ve conquered the kitchen, by acknowledging and clearing the emotion. Who would have thought?

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Unafraid

Last night at the witching hour, I lay in bed sleeping. Something woke me, and I opened my eyes just in time to see a leprechaun-like man racing toward me from my walk-in closet. I sat up, threw my hand up in front of me, and said, “Stop in Jesus Christ!” (A pentecostal girl knows the Power in the Name, even when she’s dead asleep). He immediately evaporated into smoke, and I lay back down with my heart pounding in my throat. I stared up at the ceiling for a full two minutes before I was able to recognize that what had just happened probably had not *really* happened.

I have nighttime hallucinations, and have as long as I can remember. While they are happening, I am completely unable to discern reality from unreality. Until my mid-twenties, these experiences were always, 100% of the time, wrought with complete terror. I called them “wakemares”  because I was wide awake – the next morning I could remember everything I said, and everything that happened with absolute clarity – yet they were crazy, fright-filled, unreal, chaotic. I would wake, screaming bloody murder, giving family members near heart failure; and when they would try to reason with me, I would yell at them in frenzied panic, trying desperately to get them to understand what was happening. In those moments, I felt I was the only sane person in the room, and everyone else was obtuse, totally blind. The worst part of it was the palpable fear that would grip me, its fingers tightening until I couldn’t breathe, until my heart was pounding so hard I couldn’t hear for the roar of my pulse in my head. When they were over, I would lie on the bed, the horror thick and pushing down on me, unable to sleep and afraid to shut my eyes. Eventually, exhaustion would overtake me and I would sleep. The next morning, as I awoke, the memories of the night would rush into my head, and I would think, “Oh, my…” I would then proceed to apologize to everyone involved, for scaring the life out of them, and for being irrational.

I used to pray that God would take these hallucinations away, but He never did. He did something better.

One day, in 1996, I was reading in Proverbs and I came across this and I had an epiphany:

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:24-26

My eyes were opened, and I knew that God might never take away theses nighttime episodes; but what he was ready, and willing, and wanting to take away was the fear. I had a promise. “I will not be afraid. My sleep will be sweet.” I wrote the verses into my prayer journal, along with the words, “I receive this promise,” I signed my name, and I dated it. And then the terror that stalks by night returned.

I was lying asleep next to my husband, when something woke me and I saw a giant dark shape looming up at the foot of my bed. The terror gripped me. I frantically grabbed my journal, held it up in front of me like a shield, and barely able to form the words I whispered, “I have a promise.” And it was gone. Instantly. The hallucination ended, but more than that, the spirit of fear left me, in an instantaneous, sudden rush. It was like snow melting away and me seeing, with absolute clarity, the hard, solid granite underneath. Although the hallucinations continue, I have never again felt the fear, not once. It was gone, and forever, and not just at night, but in every nook and cranny of my life. When I had cancer and literally fought for my life through treatment and two horrible infections, people would say, “LaRae, you’re so strong.” And I would think, “I’m not strong. I’m not. I am unafraid.”

This is why I love Christmas; not the man-made tradition (although I enjoy that, too) but Christmas itself — the coming of the Christ Child. Everything I do during this season, from preparing gifts, to decorating, to baking and cooking for my family, all of it brings home with exquisite tenderness the amazing love of God in giving Jesus. It is because that baby was born, and eventually shed His blood, that I have access to the Father. Because of Jesus, I can run boldly into the throne room of grace and say, “Help me, help me, O God, help me.” The miracle of all miracles is that He does. He helps me, and I am overcome.

So to you, dear reader, I wish a very merry Christmas. My God pour blessing on your head.DCP_4145

The Great American Novel. Or not.

I continue with the mantra, “Do hard things!” and realize that I, who see myself as fairly fearless, am really nothing more than a trembling leaf at heart. My last post talked about removing grains from my diet as HARD, but the truth is, there is nothing really hard about it. It is challenging, yes. It is at times mentally difficult, yes, particularly when, after many days, I don’t feel better and have to keep going on pure faith. But I realize that a truly hard thing must, by its very nature, be scary. There is nothing scary about changing my diet, but just yesterday, my daughter suggested something to me that made me shake with fear; well, figuratively speaking, but shake nonetheless. With utter casualness, she presented me with a hard thing.

Let me explain. Every once in a while, I have a friend encourage me to write a book. These little promptings usually happen after I’ve written some rambling thing on facebook, when I’ve been describing some minor catastrophe I’ve had to cope with. Other times they come after I’ve let some long dormant memory awake and express itself in print. I always laugh, and say to myself, “Oh, I’m no writer,” but the truth is, those are words borne of fear. I am a writer. Of course I am. I write. What else is required? I realize that I have a form of expression that is unique to me, that I have, in fact, found my Voice, that elusive je ne sais quoi that writers search for. So why don’t I do it? What is it? Is it lack of confidence? Lack of gumption? Lack of spine? What if people don’t read it; or worse, read it and dislike it; or worse, I start it and don’t finish; or worst of all, I start it and finish it poorly? Truth be told, the prospect of writing something meaningful (e.g. worth reading) is, well …. scary. Paralyzing. Filling me with terror. The outcome is an unknown I can’t control and therefore, most likely worth doing, and by its very essence … hard.

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So last night my daughter, who is fifteen and has a blog of her own here, says to me, “Why don’t you do NaNoWriMo?” NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and happens each November. One logs on, creates an account, and starts writing. My daughter has participated the last two years, and she writes words, and words, and words. It’s really been quite amazing for me to watch, and even more amazing for me to read. But when she asked the question of me, I felt mild panic. I replied with, “What would I write?” She just looked at me, the look of an old soul pitying a mere youth, a look that said “That’s for you to answer, missy.”

So I’ve been thinking about it. I have three weeks before it starts, three weeks to think of my first word. (Yes, I am that paralyzed. I cannot even think of a beginning). It is certainly a hard thing, and therefore qualifies for my hard things project. Yet, I am horrified at the thought of saying it aloud. I’m thunder-struck that I’m even considering putting it in print. These words never die. Putting it here cements it somehow, and I know when I press “Publish” I will feel quite ill. But here it goes anyway…

This year I will participate in NaNoWriMo.