Exhale

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For quite a while now, I’ve been unsettled, restless, almost irritated, and I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on the cause of it all.  My life this year has seen a lot of change and transition, which is actually pretty normal for me, but there’s been an undercurrent of something, something which identifying seems elusive and just out of my grasp.

At the centre of  it I know is stuff, the stuff we have and the time it takes to manage it all, the self-resentment I feel for feeling burdened by my choices and having to keep myself and the kids in line to not let it all get out of control.  First world problems, I know, and ones that are so common to so, so many people around me.  But it’s been even more than that, and today I had an experience that gave me a little moment of clarity and a great deal of encouragement.

I’ve been going back through the pile of e-mails in my inbox (yes, more stuff, albeit of the electronic variety), and I came across a blog post from Michael Hyatt, where he discussed Chris Guillebeau’s new book ‘The Happiness of Pursuit’ and a quote from the book stopped me in my tracks:

“Properly examined, feeling of unease can lead to a new life of purpose.”

The words resonated deep within me in relation to another area of life, but as I sat writing out my brain this morning, trying to work out the core of this discontent, I thought of this quote, and let it sit over how I was feeling about the current state of my house.

Stifled and scattered.  That’s what immediately came to mind, and initially I felt despair over trying to work out how to fix it all.  Of course, I knew I couldn’t in the space of a day, but I could start.

So, I started to make a list.  And then realised that was a really bad idea, because it would potentially be never ending and even more discouraging.  I then asked myself ‘what’s stealing my joy today?’, and I immediately knew the answer.

The back of our house is primarily made up of what we call ‘the back room (original, I know) – it was originally the back porch, and 20+ years ago was enclosed to become an extra living area.  After having floor covering put down nearly a year ago, we were finally able to start really living in this space (previously it had bare concrete, after I got rid of the old carpet squares), and it’s currently zoned into tv/gaming, my office and sewing/creating space.  As so often happens, the flat surfaces become holding areas for things that get dumped, and I was at my limit of coping with it all.

So, I just starting clearing it out and cleaning it up.  Which didn’t take that long at all, even sorting the pile of ‘to deal with’ paper that had been getting higher and higher, and eventually, I got my room back.

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Like the rest of my house, this space will never appear in a magazine or a design blog, but it works for us, and I have plans to make it even brighter and welcoming.

But the moment of clarity came for me today when I was driving around later, getting some jobs done around town, and I felt like I could take a big, deep, unrestricted breath for the first time in a long time, and I just felt peace.  Re-setting my space and getting rid of the excess had shifted something inside me and left me feeling lighter, and I just got it – the peace of not just less, but of simply having what I need.  As I prayed this morning in the early waking hours, simply speaking the words of The Lord’s Prayer to my Father, the prayer to ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ became more than just words.  It was an awakening to the fact that that is all we can truly ask for – what we need for each day as it comes, one day at a time.  And to learn to live in that, nothing more, trusting God that He knows what we need to get through the day.

By examining what it was that was making me feel uneasy today, I got something done that felt purposeful and encouraging – a very small example of what Chris Guillbeau talks about, but one that shows me that listening to this discontent might just be what I need to find where I need to go.

What is it that brings those little – or even big – ‘aha’ moments for you?

The little things

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Our poor bathroom is routinely neglected of any TLC, always being used in a very utilitarian manner. The renos are still not quite finished, and it can be a bit of a dumping ground for tools and such.

A bit of lavender and a glass vase brought in a bit of pretty. And the best part? The flowers don’t need water and can dry as they are.

Yep, I’m all about what I can achieve with minimal effort. Especially if it means getting things done.

And it’s already making me smile.

What makes you smile in your home, big or small?

31 Days

It’s October again – just like clockwork.  And that means it’s time for joining The Nester’s 31 Days writing challenge.  Writing for 31 days, with or without a topic, and being part of a community of writers sharing their lives and hearts every day through October.

I’m writing about my home this year.  I actually started this earlier in the year, and it’s still something dwelling deep in my heart, this desire to purposefully love where I live, every day.  So, I am.

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Ever since I first moved out of home when I was 17, I’ve longed to make my home my haven, my nest, the place where I feel, well, home.  I’ve had visions dancing of decor and renovating and the perfect kitchen and open plan living.  I’ve dreamed and planned and cut out pictures and spent hours reading home decorating magazines and browsing blogs and design sites.  Lots of thinking and not much doing.

21 years on from that first place of mine that wasn’t with my parents, I still feel like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting to start making my home.  I’ve been in my house for 5+ years and when I fist bought it, I thought I knew just how things were going to go.  I had been renting for 5 1/2 years after my husband and I separated and I was so happy to call this place mine.  I started planning, kept dreaming and wishing and over the last 5 years I have painted, pulled up carpets and sanded floorboards, planted a garden with fruit trees, pulled out a fireplace and filled in the hole and renovated a bathroom – all DIY.

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But I still feel like I’m waiting.

Not waiting to feel like I’m home, because I felt that the first night we moved in.

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Waiting to start, to really be living in this space.

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Waiting to be ready to decorate, to design, to make our space truly ours, a place that reflects us and who we are.

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I’ve collected artwork and frames and pretty things and furniture to make-over and paint samples and a thousand ideas of how I want to bring our home to life.

And I’m still waiting.

I’m still hovering in a holding pattern.

Exactly why, I don’t really know.  A large dose of fear, of I-want-to-be-ready-before-I-start, wanting to do it all at once, lack of confidence in my self, in knowing my style.

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Not knowing where to start.

Not having enough money.

Not having enough time.

Not having enough faith in my self.

I don’t want a perfect house.  That’s not who we are.  We live life out loud, with cats and dogs and chooks and mess and love and dust and dirt trekked in from the garden.  But that’s where the beauty of our life can be seen, and that’s what I want to capture in our home.

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So I’m going to stop waiting for the perfect time – because there isn’t one – and just start truly appreciating and loving where we are, right here, right now.

The funny thing is, after 5+ years of living here, we’ll likely be moving out in the next 6-12 months as our family changes.  I’ve had things packed away (rather than having to manage allthestuff) and haven’t done much in the way of prettying things up as I truly want to.

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But we’re still here.  We’re still living life within these walls and I want to fully love where I’m living at any point in time.

For now, that means fully settling in to where we are today and leaning into what’s around us, even if we won’t be here tomorrow.

31 days of loving where I live.  Some DIY, some inspiration, some questions and a whole lot of love.

Right where we are.

How about you?  What does it mean to you to love where you live?

You can follow me through this month via the links below:

Day 2 – The little things

And so on

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So, except for 1 day, I completed another 31 Days challenge, and I can tell you, it felt so good.

You see, I’m not known for my stick-to-it-iveness or consistency when it comes to finishing things I start.  Not so much the major things (like parenting, for instance – not the kind of job you can just give up on when you get tired of it.  As much as there are days when I wish you could….).  Going to uni and getting my nursing degree was really the first thing in my life I started and finished, and it’s taken until being well entrenched in my 30’s for me to really get it.

I don’t finish things I start, and give up way too easily because essentially, I behave like a spoiled brat.

Yep.

I start something, whether it’s something I’ve done before, or something new – be it a new creative endeavour, study, fitness, clean eating, DIY – and inevitably there’s a point of ‘I’m bored/ tired/ sick of this/hungry’ or ‘it’s really difficult/ boring/ challenging/ confronting’, and so more often than not, I just walk away (again, not the big things – I go to work and I parent my kids and work on my relationships, which are all the definitions of challenging and difficult at times!).

And always feel either guilty, or full of regret.  Or both.

I always end up feeling like a failure.

It’s actually become my comfort zone, because it’s what’s familiar.  Start, stop.  Start, stop.

It can take me months, even years to finish a creative project, because I get bored, or distracted by something shiny and new.

I start a new fitness routine, and then it gets too hard, and too uncomfortable, and sitting on the couch with a book is always a better option.

I change my diet to what I know is so much better, but then just cannot resist that one sweet thing or piece of artisan bread, and it’s all over.

I’ve started numerous study courses, and ultimately end up deferring because there’s always something more important to deal with (but really, I don’t want to put in the hard work).

I get started on a house project, and it takes months and months and months because, well – I could list a thousand reasons, but ultimately, I get bored and find something better to do.  Like sit on the couch with a book.

On and on it goes.  Nearly ever time.

Rinse, repeat.

Cue guilt and inadequacy.

But here’s the thing.

If I start with the expectation of not finishing – as I do nearly every single time (because it’s what’s nearly always happened) – I’m giving myself permission to fail.  And because it’s been my pattern for so long, the people who know me best pretty much expect this to happen, so there are no surprises.  There are low to no expectations, therefore I’m not likely to disappoint anyone when I don’t live up to them.

U-huh.

I know.

I’m awesome at self-sabotage.  And making excuses.  And justifying anything.

Only it’s not working anymore, because inside my head?  I can’t get away from me, and every time, I know the truth – this is not who I was made to be.

I’ve come to believe the lies of the enemy – self-indulgence,  fear, comparison, unworthiness, there’s-something-better, distraction.  And they’ve defined whom I’ve come to be.

Only that’s not who I am.  It’s not who I AM has created me to be.  I am created to be His masterpiece, so I can do all the good things he planned for me so long ago.

Pretty simple, really.  And by allowing myself to be distracted by the world, to believe the lies of the enemy, I’m not living in the fullness who God has made me to be.  No wonder I’m so often left feeling empty and wanting.

But.

Here’s the beautiful thing.  Because I have been made by the hands of God, because I am a new creation in Jesus, I can rest in the truth that I if I listen to Him, I can do anything in His strength, anything that will show His goodness to the world.  Whether that’s writing a blog, painting my house, planting a garden, talking with a friend, writing a report for work – it’s all God, all the time.  I don’t need to rely on my own self to do any of this – history shows that doesn’t often end particularly well when I do!

I don’t find it easy to trust God with what I think is my responsibility.  Which is pretty much everything in my life.  I think if I don’t deal with it, if I don’t take control, it won’t get done, and I’ll have failed.  Again.  And I’m tired of that.  So very, very tired.

This is why finishing the 31 Day writing challenge was such a big deal to me.  I started it, I kept going – even when I wanted to give up – and I finished.

Because God was all over it.

It wasn’t perfect.  It wasn’t how I wanted it to be.  Sometimes I wrote with a half-hearted effort.  But it was done.

And now?  I didn’t create this blog to write for 31 days and be done with it.  So on it goes.  Where, exactly, I really don’t know.

But it’s going to be fun finding out.

What are your barriers, bumps in the road, things that prevent you from achieving what you set out to do?  How do you deal with them?

 

 

Day 31: In the end, and for now

This life we live?  This crazy beautiful, heartbreaking, wondrous life?  It does all have a purpose, despite that feeling of wandering lost in the wilderness at times.  Often, if you’re anything like me.

But one day, one day, it will all make sense.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13: 11-12)

Right now, we think and see and live with earthly-based minds, because that’s where we are – in the here and now, down on this earth.  But on that day, that glorious day, when life and love all comes to completion in the heavens , and we come face-to-face with the One who loves us more than we can possibly fathom, everything will fall in to place, and we won’t be left wandering or wondering anymore.

For today, tomorrow, and all the days to come we have to live out here on earth, in amongst the people we love and don’t-love-yet, we have a job to do, a direction to follow that has been given to us so clearly, there cannot be any doubt.

We are to love.

Actively.

Every. Single. Day.

Even when it’s hard.

Even when it’s really hard.

Even when it feels like we need to turn ourselves inside out just to summon up one skerrick of love-as-God-tells-us.

This is who we are created to be, this is how God intended for us to live amongst each other.  And He sent His precious son Jesus to teach us this.  Even though the teaching involved pain beyond anything we can imagine.

This is why love is the biggest, the most, the greatest.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (1 Corinthian 13: 13, The Message)

Trust steadily.

Hope unswervingly.

Love extravagantly.

Right now, in my tired, worn out state, I can barely even begin to fathom what it takes to love extravagantly – what comes to mind is that it means to love like God.  To love each other like God loves us.

Without fear.

Without anger.

With hope, and patience, and endurance.

Writing about love, real love for 31 days has shown me that there is so much I have to learn, to discover, to embrace, I feel like I’ve only skimmed my fingertips across the surface of the His truth, of what it is He wants us to know and to breathe deep.

Love is the greatest.

Day 30: Love wins. Every time.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, The Message)

Love never fails.

Not now, not ever.

In the end, when this world as we know it is gone and we are living in the heavenly realms with the One who is love, it is love that will endure, not any spiritual giftings or anything else.

But for now, it is love that keeps going, love that never gives up, never gives in, never fails us.

When we choose to love, we are choosing victory and triumph over despair and hopelessness.  I know this, because I chose love, even when it seemed impossible, and He who is love defined made the way for the impossible to become so very real.

My husband and I are living proof that love never dies, love always wins, despite how things may appear at times.  Love changes, yes, and there are peaks and troughs and ebbs and flows, but it is always living and breathing within us.  And that’s because God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4: 16).

I’ll leave you with this song that speaks so beautifully of this truth – love never fails, God never fails, even when we do.

Day 28: Trust and hope and perseverance (Part 1)

Love….

Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end

(1 Corinthians 13:7, The Message)

Do you want to hear a story of trust and hope persevering without doubt, and never giving up?

I wish I could tell you one.  But I can’t, because that hasn’t been my journey.

When God first told me that He would restore my marriage, I didn’t want to hear it.

But as He was patient with me, and let this settle into my heart, I reluctantly began to trust that this was His best for me.

As time went on, and our relationship started to be re-built, I cautiously trusted Him more and more, until eventually, I fully came to believe that this was His plan for us.

And it wasn’t a truth I embraced.  In fact, it was something I resisted for a long time, and when I finally acquiesced and accepted that trusting God’s way, as opposed to mine, would make life a whole lot easier, there was a peace in my heart.

Until I started to live out that trust, and realised that my timing of events and God’s plans didn’t exactly follow the same timeline.  This is when I started to learn what it was to persevere in hope, despite what life looked like in front of me.

Because that’s what real love is.  Trusting God always, placing our hope in Christ and persevering in our faith despite what we see with our eyes.

I’ll tell you my story of this lesson tomorrow.  It’s one I’m still learning.

 

 

Day 25: Love finds goodness.

‘Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth’ (1 Corinthians 13:6 – NIV)

I have to admit, I struggled with this verse when I was fleshing it out, trying to put into words what it means.  All I could think was that true love looks past the faults of the people we love, and looks for the goodness in them.

It’s taken me this long to think of It (duh), but I remembered that there have been great scholars who have delved deep, deep, deep into God’s words to help us understand them.  Matthew Henry has this to say about the verse:

The matter of its joy and pleasure is here suggested: 1. Negatively: It rejoiceth not in iniquity. It takes no pleasure in doing injury or hurt to any. It thinks not evil of any, without very clear proof. It wishes ill to none, much less will it hurt or wrong any, and least of all make this matter of its delight, rejoice in doing harm and mischief. Nor will it rejoice at the faults and failings of others, and triumph over them, either out of pride or ill-will, because it will set off its own excellences or gratify its spite. The sins of others are rather the grief of a charitable spirit than its sport or delight; they will touch it to the quick, and stir all its compassion, but give it no entertainment. It is the very height of malice to take pleasure in the misery of a fellow-creature. And is not falling into sin the greatest calamity that can befal one? How inconsistent is it with Christian charity, to rejoice at such fall!

2. Affirmatively: It rejoiceth in the truth, is glad of the success of the gospel, commonly called the truth, by way of emphasis, in the New Testament; and rejoices to see men moulded into an evangelical temper by it, and made good. It takes no pleasure in their sins, but is highly delighted to see them do well, to approve themselves men of probity and integrity. It gives it much satisfaction to see truth and justice prevail among men, innocency cleared, and mutual faith and trust established, and to see piety and true religion flourish.

Turns out I wasn’t too far off the mark in my understanding.

Look past the faults of those we love.

Don’t revel in their failings.

Delight in their strengths and goodness.

Love truth and justice.

Find the goodness and ignore everything else.

 

Day 24: Love doesn’t keep score

Forgiveness

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We’re at the end of 1 Corinthians 13:5 – “Love……..it keeps no records of wrongs’ (NIV).

‘Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others’ (Msg)

Holding a grudge.

Tit for tat.

One-upmanship.

In short, unforgiveness.

This is what love doesn’t do.

It is very easy to hold a grudge against someone, to not forget when they hurt us, or do the wrong thing by us.  We are wronged by people every single day.  Usually by more than one person.  If you think about it, that’s a lot to hold on to.  And keep track of.  And think about what they should do to make it up to us.

Love doesn’t do that.

Love doesn’t hold a grudge.

Love doesn’t keep record of how people hurt us.

Love forgives.

Plain and simple.

I love this. I have forgiven those who did me wrong and have chosen to not have a hateful attitude to them. I pray for them daily and hope one day maybe we can be friends again

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I can’t cover forgiveness in one topic, but the best explanation I’ve heard of forgiveness isn’t saying to someone ‘it’s ok’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’, it’s saying ‘you don’t owe me anything anymore’.  It’s saying to the other person ‘yes, you hurt me, but you don’t need to make up for it, I release you of any obligation’.  It’s not just forgetting what happened, and it doesn’t mean that work doesn’t have to be done to repair the damage in a relationship, but it’s letting go of a continual expectation on someone that they have to ‘pay’ for what they’ve done.

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And if you’re keeping score, holding things against people for how they’ve hurt you, and expecting them to ‘pay’ for it, you can guarantee that there are a whole lot of people out there thinking the same of you.  How much easier would it be to just let it all go?  To just drop what we’re carrying, because really, carrying stuff around is really hard work – emotionally as well as physically.  I once heard Dr Phil say that carrying emotional baggage is like having a pair of suitcases that you carry around with you all the time, constantly following you from place to place and they get really heavy.

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How much easier would it be to put the suitcases of unforgiveness down and just walk away?

In the Lords’ prayer Jesus says we are to ask God to ‘forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’.

Forgiveness is a directive from God.

Forgiveness is one of the foundations of our faith.

We are created in the image of God, and we are to live like Jesus.  The cornerstone of our salvation is that Christ forgives us for our sins, so if we are created to be like Him, that means we have to forgive those who sin against us, who wrong us, who hurt us.

Forgiveness

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This life of real love is not an easy one, and unforgiveness is one of the main barriers we come up against in our relationships.

Forgive someone, and the walls come down.

Put your pride aside, turn away from your self-righteousness and sense of entitlement, and just let go.

It’s what God does for us (without the pride and self-righteousness).  He just lets go of everything we do that hurts him, and because of that, we know true love.

Day 23: Love….is not easily angered

Anger...

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I found a variety of translations for this part of the verse (we’re still in 1 Corinthians 13:5):

is not easily angered (NIV)

is not easily provoked (KJV)

doesn’t fly off the handle (Msg)

Anger – ‘a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism’ (Merriam-Webster)

I would like to say that’s me, that I’m slow to anger and always able to keep my emotions in check.

Um, not so much.

I’m not an angry person, I can say that much.  But there’s a lot of ‘displeasure and antagonism’ that goes on in my head that takes a lot of effort to not let It out of my mouth, and at the end of the day, it still has a similar effect.  because anger affects us and hurts us more than the person it’s directed at.

Yes, we can say ‘they made me angry’, but really, no-one can make us feel or do anything.  How we respond to anything is entirely up to us, and we have to live with our responses.

When we act in anger toward someone else – in any degree – it causes them pain.  It is easy to give into feeling angry and responding in a way that blames someone else.  It is more difficult to look at why we’re feeling the way we do, and tempering our emotions and responses in a manner that won’t hurt someone else.

Anger results from something that happens that actually causes us to feel emotions that we’re not comfortable with – pain, fear, confusion, loneliness, shame, sadness.  Rather than look closer at what we’re really feeling, and why we’re feeling that way,  we respond in anger and end up hurting someone else in the process.  You could say getting angry is an avoidance process – blame someone or something else rather than look at ourselves.

Being angry with people is never helpful.  Being angry ranges from that feeling of frustration (displeasure) over the dishes not being done and grumbling about it, to the extreme of becoming physically and verbally violent and causing great damage.  In both scenarios, we have to live with what we’re thinking and feeling, and we’re the ones who have to live with the discomfort that anger brings.

For me, there’s a lot that goes on in my head that I don’t verbally or physically express when I get angry, but I still have to deal with those feelings regardless.  When I yell at my kids, it’s about me, not them, and whilst I might feel better for about 30 seconds, I feel worse for a lot longer because I know I haven’t acted in love.  When I sit and stew over someone I have to deal with who’s particularly frustrating, I’m the one who had to deal with how I’m feeling, and they never even know what’s gone through my head.  When I don’t keep myself in check and I speak before I think in the heat of the moment, I have to live with not only what I’m feeling that caused me to speak words that wound, but I then have to live with knowing that I hurt someone.

I have found that breathing and counting is a wonderful tool for dealing with anger, as simple as it sounds.  Count to 5 and breathe deep before responding.  This small pause in time prevents pain and wounding, for both myself and the people I love.

(Just after I published this post, I read this post over at (in)courage from the beautiful Ann Voskamp .  Go read it.  Now. Please.  I’m still letting her words sink deep.)

What are your ‘hot spots’ when it comes to anger?  How do you deal with it?