Look up

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This.

This was the reminder I needed today.

I’m dealing with some hard heart stuff at the moment, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and suffocated by the weight of hurting and sorrow and not knowing, and to wonder if there will ever be life without dealing with something.

Today, the weight sat heavy, and I had to breathe deep and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

Then I looked up.

I work at my church a few hours a week in a casual/relief admin role and as I sat outside eating my lunch in the glorious sunshine, I looked up, and saw the cross on the roof that I had never really paid much attention to before.

The cross.

The cross that means I don’t have to bear the weight and hurting, because the Jesus that died on that cross tells me that I can come to him, and rest. I can give up the heaviness of it all to Him, and there I will learn the unforced rhythms of grace. It is there, with Him, that I will learn to live freely and lightly.

Breathe.

Rest.

Trust.

Look up.

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One step a time

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I worked through the next step in this evolving process today, and for all the work I’ve done one budgeting and trying to change my spending habits in the past, this one was relatively new.  It’s something I’ve thought about a lot over time, but haven’t ever actually articulated on paper.

In the process of working out my budget, I really looked at my spending to identify exactly what things in life I need to spend money on, and what are the non-essentials of life.  Like I said, this is something I’ve thought about a lot, but actually putting it on paper was enlightening.

I created three categories to allocate all my spending to – Essential, Helpful and Luxury.  I then went through my bank statements and wrote down everything that I regularly spend money on, and allocated each item to one of these categories.  I also noted the frequency of these payments (fortnightly, monthly, quarterly).  The bulk of my income goes towards direct debit payments from my bank account, which I’ve set up to make paying it easier to bay bills on time (and keep track of them), so that was a straightforward process for me.  I recorded any out-of the-ordinary payments (such as PayPal payments for items I’ve bought), and thought about the things I paid cash or use EFTPOS for (like petrol, food shopping, coffees, going out for lunch, prescriptions etc).  Everything fit into one of the three categories and for me, the vast majority of my spending came under the ‘Essential’ category.

So here’s a bit of a rundown of each category –

 ‘Essentials’ covers everything I absolutely need to live, and everything I have to pay (e.g. loan repayments) – home loan; food; car running costs; school fees; utilities (electricity, water, council rates, phone); insurances; medical expenses; clothing (basic);home maintenance; loan repayments and minimum balances on credit cards.  I also include giving/tithing in this category.

‘Helpful’ is for anything that makes life a bit easier, or even just pleasant, but isn’t essential to our living and if I’m completely honest with myself, I could go without.  Things (for me) like health insurance, my mobile phone plan, adding essential oils to my collection and Spotify Premium (I actually didn’t have much to put into this category).  Other things could include gardening services, cleaning services, newspaper delivery, gym memberships.

‘Luxury’ covers everything else – all the things we truly don’t need but simply like to have, and can absolutely live without.  Eating out, pay-TV (cable), shopping (for anything – clothes, toys, craft supplies, at the hardware store, anything that isn’t essential to life), online courses/subscriptions, iTunes, going out for coffee or drinks, hair and beauty appointments, take-away meals, holidays, going to the movies or the theatre, gourmet food, home decorating – I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

This part of the process is where you start to see a clearer picture of your spending, especially where all those little things add up to A Big Thing.  It’s also where, if we’re truly honest with ourselves, things start to get confronting and uncomfortable.  If we are really, really honest, we would put a lot of our spending in the ‘Luxury’ category, because we know that we can live without them, we just don’t want to – and recognising that can be either enlightening or disappointing, depending on your perspective.  I’m the first to admit that I don’t like giving up the things I want, however I’m choosing to embrace this part of the process, but more on that later.

Categorising your spending helps you to see where you can start making changes, what you can possibly cut out or limit to help you create your ideal financial life.  It also shows you how often when we think ‘oh, it doesn’t cost that much’, $2 here, $5 there – it all adds up and could actually be taking a significant chunk out of your budget (as has been my experience).

This is where we work out where to spend what you earn, by prioritising every spending requirement (or desire) in life.  For me, I will allocate my income first to the ‘Essential’ category, then ‘Helpful’ and finally ‘Luxury’, and I don’t think anyone would disagree that this is a sensible way to manage money.  Whilst I have always done this for the most part (making sure the main essentials are paid), I have manipulated things to get what I want, at the expense of what I need to pay for, and this is where creating these categories and writing it all down in black and white will give me clear direction and keep me accountable.

This is an emotional process.  Looking deeply into and analysing your spending opens your eyes to the ‘why’ of your spending – especially when you already know there’s a problem.  Why did you buy another pair of jeans last week, when you already have 6 pairs in your wardrobe?  Why are you buying a latte every day at a cost of $30 a week, when you know you really can’t afford it?  Why are you spending money on things you know you truly don’t need before you pay the bills?  Why is there ‘just never enough’, even when you’ve cut back everywhere you can (or at least you think you have)?

All these questions – and the ones you know you need to ask (and probably know the answers to) – bring to light the emotional side of managing money.  I know what my answers are and until now, I’ve kept them in the dark, thinking I could keep the truth hidden even from myself, but now I’m bringing them into the light –

I feel entitled to have what I want, when I want it.

I don’t want to wait.

Getting what I want makes me feel good (for a short time, anyway).

Hooo boy, there it is.

(Insert uncomfortable shifting and red cheeks and a strong desire to hit delete right about now)

You know what?  Looking at these answers, these words, I can see them for what they really are – total, utter self-indulgence, resulting in stress and worry and self-loathing after the fact.

My history has been to give up what I really want in the future for what I want now.

I give up being debt free because I really want a Fitbit now, which I justify by telling myself how it will help my wellness journey, and I can get it cheap second-hand from Gumtree.

I give up having any savings so I can ‘treat’ myself to breakfasts and lunches at my favourite cafe, telling myself I deserve the treat for all the work I do.

I sacrifice much-needed maintenance on my house so I can buy another online course that I’m convinced will be the catalyst for change in (xyz area) of my life this time.

Constant compromise of my future to satisfy my self-indulgence now.

Not. Very. Pretty.

But the truth often isn’t pretty.  So often it is ugly, brutal, offensive and very, very confronting, and right now I am so, so grateful for that.  And I am so grateful that I am not my behaviour.  I am defined by my choices and I have the freedom to make different ones that will change not only my future, but my present, the reality I’m living right now.  I get the chance to write a different story.

God is giving me the tools I need to make things different, to learn to be a good steward of what He entrusts to me.  He gives me insight, wisdom and direction to choose the path to freedom – He gives this to all of us (and has been for a very long time) through His word, when He tells us that we can’t serve both God and money, we have to choose which one we will worship.  Money is a tool, a provision given by God to use to live well, to live full, to live the life He intends for His glory.  We are to use money to serve God, it is not a god we are to serve.

So this week, make your lists.  If you don’t have a clear record of where all your money goes, I encourage you to keep a spending diary, for at least 2 weeks, recording every cent that gets spent.  Then gather up all the information you’ve recorded from your bank statements, receipts, spending diary, whatever you have, and find some time to settle with what’s before you.  Really look at your spending with honest, open eyes, and honestly evaluate what needs to go in which category.  We’ll come back next week to start putting together a budget, in the meantime take the time you need to walk through this process, lean into the hard parts, and know that I’m here praying for you as we travel this journey together.

Here and now

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It occurred to me after posting last week that I haven’t really updated the going on in my life for a while, and there are some new readers I haven’t yet introduced myself to.  You can brief yourself on the short version of me here, but for the updated version, here you go!!

I’m Alison (just in case you hadn’t guessed!!), I live in the south of South Australia, in what is a large-ish town in Australia (approx 27,000), and I love living in a rural area that’s not too far from the beach.  I’m a sort-of wife (it’s a long story….), mum to 3 kids aged 17, 13 and nearly 12, and a Registered Nurse, and currently working as a return to work consultant, helping people get back to work after an injury.  I love my church and our family there, and get to serve as a worship leader and the missions and evangelism co-ordinator (how I got there is another whole story in itself!!).

Right now?  I’m working part time from home, along with a few hours a week at church as a relief secretary, working on fixing up my house to sell (so we can all live under one roof as a family again), and recovering after a hard and heavy year in 2014 (which didn’t not turn out to be as awesome as I’d anticipated), which left me feeling more than just a little battered and worn.  The year started with having to deal with some health issues, and then in February I lost my job, a job that was supposed to last for as long as I wanted to work there.  A couple of months later I had a hysterectomy and some other surgery, and spent the next couple of months resting and recovering, as well as trying to work out what on earth I was going to do now.  Fun times!!!!

I started my current job at the beginning of July, and continued to deal with ongoing health issues, along with all the ups and downs of life in general, especially life with kids.  And people.  And pets.  And you know how it goes…..

And here I am now.  Working part-time, being who I need to be for my family full-time, and just trying to figure out this whole life shebang.  Still.

I could really do with a crystal ball and a magic wand right about now.

Not really.  Fortunately for me, I’m ok with change, and I’m very much used to dealing with the unexpected in life.  That doesn’t translate to being prepared, but I’m used to suddenly having to change gears and work things out and just keep going.  And as I get older, and learn to trust God more with the big and little details of my life, I am more and more comfortable and less anxious with not knowing what the future holds.  Because if there’s one thing that has become absolutely crystal clear in the last year, it’s that the ability to control my life is a complete illusion, and life is a lot less stressful when I just focus on one day at a time.  I’m still working on that, trust me.

One thing that has become even more apparent to me in the events of 2014 – something I knew but hadn’t really given much thought to – is that I’ve always tended to live my life reactively, as opposed to proactively, which explains a lot about why I’m in the middle of the state of affairs I am right now.  I don’t want to live like that anymore.  I know I can’t be prepared for any and every eventuality, but I can learn to be organised and prepared where I need to be, and to not be constantly chasing my tail. Or putting out fires (figuratively).  Or yelling at a child.  I’ve been doing Whole30 since January 1, and this time around has shown me just how much better things go when I plan and prepare – when I have food cut up and cooked and frozen, I’m ready for every meal and am not left thinking ‘it’s too hard, I’ll just grab (xyz), even though I know that ultimately, I’ll feel terrible’.

Whole30 takes planning and discipline and limits, and I want to take these principles I’m learning and apply them to the rest of my life.  I’ve already put on my big girl pants and faced the reality of my financial situation, and it’s not the only area of life where I need a decent reality bite. But one thing at a time for now, because I know from past history just how likely I am to crash and burn at implementing any positive changes in my life when I try to do it all at once – and of course it doesn’t turn out perfect, and of course I give up, and of course feel like I’ve failed (again).  And rinse and repeat.

So my snapshot of life today?  I am loved by God, I’m a sort-of wife to the love of my life and mum to three infuriatingly wonderful kids, trying to get through life one day at a time, and learning how to look at life with new eyes, eyes that see the joy and beauty in every day, and not the pain and weariness and hardship.  God has shown me some of what is in store for me in the months to come, some very exciting changes and new paths to walk down, but the rest?  The rest will reveal itself in each new day, and it will be beauty-full.

I’ve been asking myself as I’m writing this, ‘Why?  Why am I writing all this all-about-me stuff, which really isn’t interesting to anyone (not really even me to be perfectly honest), but I know I need to, here and now, and I really want to lean into that, to lean into the vulnerability, and it’s kind of awkward, and embarrassing, and, and……..’ And the answer is really very simple.  Because I know I’m not alone.  I know I’m not the only one feeling like this, living this version of life, dealing with these issues.  And as I’ve said before, to anyone reading these words, you’re not alone.  So if you find even an ounce of encouragement and support in my ramblings and word vomit, and I leave you thinking ‘It’s not just me’, then it’s all worth the risk.

How about you?  What does your life look like right now?  Is it where you thought you’d be?  Or is life taking you on a completely different adventure?

Picture this

Your vision of where or what you want to be is the greatest asset you have.  

Without having a goal it’s difficult to score.

(Paul Arden)

I’ve never been one to dream big – or even small – generally because I’ve never thought I could bring any of my dreams to fruition, and have a long history of never achieving anything I set out to do (but that’s a whole other story for another day).

In learning to look at my life with a different perspective – an ‘I can’ one – I’m learning more and more how effective it is if you can visualise or paint a picture of something you’d like to happen, or how you want something to be.  The first time I remember doing this was during the first year I was a single mum, just over 10 years ago.  A university was starting a nursing degree in our local town, and it was my dream to become a midwife.  I was talking with my counsellor about how I planned to apply, and hopefully start studying the following year, but I was also afraid I would end up not finishing the course, as had happened so many other times is my life.

My counsellor said to me ‘what would the graduation ceremony look like?’, and I described to her the vision that came to mind.  Walking across the stage of our local theatre in a cap and gown, my family in the audience, and how I knew they would be proud of me.  She told me to remember that as I went through the course over the next few years, to encourage me along the way.

It worked.

There were a few times I was tempted to chuck it all in, and I would recall that picture to mind, and keep going.

And when it came to my graduation 3 years later, the reality was a near-perfect rendition of the picture.

It has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life – work out where you want to go, what you want to do, and think about what that looks like.  There have only been a few things that I’ve started and followed through on since then, so obviously it’s still a work in progress, but each time I have pictured the journey or the end result, and I’ve achieved what I set out to do.

I share this with you now because after I posted on Monday, it occurred to me that I have never pictured my ideal financial life.  I’ve thought about it – many, many times – but I’ve never visualised what that my life would actually look like if I didn’t have to constantly worry about money.  This thought came after I reflected on how I had planned what I wanted the 1st of January to look like last week, what I wanted to do to start the year off well, and because I pictured the day and then wrote it down, the day went as I had hoped.  Simply because I had a vision, and a roadmap.

To travel somewhere, we need a destination and a map.  To make something, we need at least an imagined picture and directions or instructions for the process.  Creating your ideal financial life is the same process.  You need to know what you want that life to look like, and the steps to achieve it.  If we don’t have that picture, that destination, we get lost along the way and are left wandering.

Se before we even think about budgeting, ways to reduce spending, saving money or anything else, we need to clearly identify the picture that will guide the process.  Ask yourself the following questions:

What does my ideal financial life look like?

What doesn’t fit into that vision?

For me, my ideal financial life looks like trusting God every day that He will provide exactly what I need – that He will give me each day my daily Bread – whatever form that comes in.   It means valuing the money I earn and am required to manage well, and not taking it for granted.  It means honouring God with my giving, paying the bills (and on time), paying the essential living expenses for our family, paying down debt, contributing to savings and superannuation, giving generously to charities and organisations that God leads me to and saving for some minor luxuries such as family holidays and house renovations (pretty much in that order).

It means working and earning enough income to fulfill this and nothing more, so that I’m not tempted to fall back into old habits.  It means not letting worrying about money become an idol that distracts me from trusting Jesus.  It’s knowing that anytime I go to pay for something, there is enough money in my purse or bank account.  It requires spending time each fortnight planning a budget and working within that.

What doesn’t fit into this vision?  Putting off paying bills and other essential expenses so I can have the false security of leaving a bit of money in my account.  Buying things I don’t need, but convince myself they don’t cost much, or I deserve it,  or it will be useful to (insert any excuse here).  Feeling guilty about spending money on food and household items that we truly need, because I so often feel guilty about spending any money at all.  Feeling the squeeze in my chest every time I pay a bill and see the account balance drop.  Feeling the dread of knowing it’s another 10 days before I get paid again, and there’s already no money left after paying for the basic essentials.  The almost-despair of trying to work out how to reduce my expenses even more, when I’ve already done everything I can.  Having to say no to my kids to doing anything that costs any amount of money, because we just don’t have it.  Not being able to give my kids their pocket money, because I just don’t have it. I could go on and on, and on, but I think you get the picture.

Your vision is what you can picture right now.  It can be as detailed or as simple as you can manage.  Don’t overthink it, don’t worry about if you think you can or can’t achieve it (we’ll deal with that later), but do allow yourself to believe that your financial life can be different.

One point I do feel is important to make is that this process isn’t about stuff.  It’s not about working out how to earn more money to be able to spend more money, how to get allthethings that you think will make your life better or will fill some emotional void, or even how to grow a huge savings egg that means you’ll never have to worry about money again.

It’s simply about giving yourself permission to picture a different life, to lean into hope and to believe that with God, anything is possible (even changing 20 years of poor money management).

Would you share your vision with me?  And tell me, how can I pray for you as we walk this path together?

This is not according to the plan

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This is not what I planned for my first post in 2015.

I’ve had that post mulling over in my head since Christmas, dwelling on what I would and wouldn’t write, what tone I wanted to set to start the year off well, as this year my focus is on change, and making things different (in a good way), and moving forward in life instead of letting past stuff hold me back.

And then I had to buy an ink cartridge for my printer today.  One I needed to be able to print paperwork to do my job (the job that actually pays me an income).  I knew I had to, but I’d held off, until push came to shove this morning.

So off I went and bought said cartridge, which cost $25.50.

An amount for which I held my breath as the payment was processing, praying that there was enough in the account to cover it.  There was, and I breathed out, knowing that there wouldn’t be much left next time I checked the balance.

Then I got home, swapped the empty cartridge for the new one, and felt the weight of idontknowwhattocallit thud into my chest.  I realised I actually had a spare cartridge in my desk drawer, and could have saved myself the angst of spending money I could ill-afford to spend, on something I already had.

Something I didn’t realise I had, because I thought it was a different cartridge in my drawer, and I didn’t bother to check.

And now I only have $20.96 to my name until pay-day next week.

After I let all the feelings of shame and anger and self-loathing settle, I knew what my first post for 2015 would be.

Before I start, let me be very clear on something – I am not in crisis.  I have a roof over my head, plenty of food in the cupboards, clean water, a good job, people who love me, and the bills are (mostly) paid .  I am not seeking pity, or sympathy, or anything of the like, I am simply stating the facts of my life as they are as of right now.  I don’t want for anything, and this is not a cry for help. Well, it sort-of is, but I’ll get to that later.

My first thought was ‘this has to change.  Now’.  Not my monetary situation, there’s not much I can do about that for now, but the constant rinse-and repeat of ending up in this position.  I live week-to-week (well, fortnight-to-fortnight), and there is always more time left than money.  I don’t live extravagantly, I don’t spend to fill an emotional need, and I live a pretty quiet life, one I’m very happy with.

Except for this.

There is a bit of back-story to today, but I can’t even blame the events of the last 12 months for what led me to standing at the check-out this afternoon, holding my breath.  I have been living like this for one degree to another my whole adult working life, and it is all because of me and my choices.  Yes, of course, circumstances influence what happens to us and our financial situations etc (such as at the moment, my job is very variable in hours from one fortnight to the next), but at the end of the day, it comes down to the choices I make.  And apparently there’s still a huge lesson for me to learn, because there’s something I’m not getting, and here we are again.

I am so, so tired of being in this all-too-familiar place.  I want out.

I have no idea how to make that happen right now.

And this is why I’m writing – and sharing – this story, because I know I’m not the only one.  Far, Far from it.

I have read many stories of people working through and triumphing over their horrible financial crises, but they’ve always been after the fact – I haven’t come across any place where someone has shared their journey as they’ve travelled it, and that’s what I want to do here.  Share what I’m dealing with, in the hope that is will encourage even just one person wherever they are, who might be feeling alone and in despair and completely hopeless about their situation.

If that’s you, then please, please, if nothing else, hear this – you are not alone.

I don’t have any answers.  I don’t really know what I’m doing (obviously).  But I truly, truly care about the humans I live with in this world, and if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s to encourage and walk with people in their travels, and that I can do in spades.  If you desperately need kindness, and encouragement and yes, accountability for whatever challenges you’re facing in your financial life at the moment, then please, join me here and we can walk this path together.

What I said before isn’t exactly true – I do know what to do when it comes to managing money (i.e budgeting, cutting expenses etc), it’s the practical working out of it with discipline where I get tripped up.

This journey isn’t just about money – acquiring, spending, managing.  It’s about self-discovery, being willing to face the hard stuff and finding the joy of enough.  I know this because I’ve been here so many times before, and I have learnt a lot along the way.  I’ve made lots of awesome, positive changes, and I know I have more to make.  This post is one of the first – not being afraid to talk about money (which I don’t believe we do enough of in our culture, but that’s for a different discussion), and turning away from shame and fear to bare all in a very, very personal topic, at the risk of judgement and criticism (even though I’m totally hesitating over hitting the ‘Publish’ button, and inviting people to ‘Like’ the new blog page, and yeah, there will probably be the whole vulnerability hangover thing tomorrow morning and I’ll be so tempted to delete this whole post….).  Maybe for me this is the turning point – full disclosure and no excuses in a public forum, there’s not much shying away from that!

I’ve written this post off and on over the course of the afternoon, and I’ve had time to think about where to start.  I’m an information gatherer by nature (the putting it into practice bit is where the challenge often lies), but in my many, many hours of research over many years I have collected a wealth of information and resources, so that’s what better place to start than with what I already have.  So over the course of this whatever-you-want-to-call-it, I’ll share books and blogs and websites along the way (as frugally as possible, of course!).  I don’t need to re-invent the wheel, and there are plenty of experts who talk about things way better than I can, this series is about sharing the journey and encouraging each other along the way.

Will you join me?  You can find me here on Facebook and Instagram, and of course in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your story, and for you to tell me in what particular way I can encourage you.

To quote the awesome Ben Lee, we really are all in this together, and that makes all the difference.

And again

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Oops.

I kind of slipped in that writing-every-day part of 31 Days,but oh well, it is what it is!!

Truth be told, I’ve been away from the computer as I’ve been sorting – deeply sorting – some parts of my house, and that has taken up my focus and energy.  Even though I had fully intended to write every day, I’m not sorry for the break as it happened, because it’s part of the process of learning my limits, and the importance of prioritising where I spend my limited energy.  For right now, I have an innate need to press deeper into my home, which actually means doing things in my home that make life more livable for me and my family.

Much of that activity at the moment is sorting and purging, to make way for breathing and creating.  Enter exhibit B (Exhibit A was my back room from last week):

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That’s my garage, and my workspace.

Yep.

I know this is not an unusual picture, for me or anyone really, and that most of us have spaces that become dumping grounds.  I could barely even walk through here, and it had gotten to the point where I was afraid to even start, feeling frozen with not knowing where to start.  But the thought of leaving became even more frustrating and downright painful to some degree than continuing to actually ignore it, because every time I thought ‘oh, I”ll pain that/ fix that/ make that’ etc, I knew I couldn’t because I didn’t have access to the space.

So, I just started, and after a few hours spread over two days, I now have this:

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Much, much better.  Still some stuff stored that will go back into the house, but plenty of room to move, to breathe, and most importantly, to create.  Again, just like after clearing out and organising the back room last week, I felt like I could let out a breath I’d been holding for a long time.

As much as I’d love to click my fingers and have my entire house sorted right now, I know that this is a process, and one that takes time.  As I’m going through it, I can choose to put all creating and decorating and making-this-house-a-home-ing on hold until everything is purged and organised to my satisfaction, or I can start putting pictures on the walls and sewing covers for the couch and painting rooms and re-purposing sideboards at the same time as cleaning out cupboards and sorting way too much paperwork and purging the Tupperware cupboard.  Again.

I vote for the second option, because waiting for the right time means nothing will ever happen.  My life to this point is testament to that, and I’m changing my story now because I can.

How do you manage to create beauty whilst trying to keep life in order?  

 

 

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?