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

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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 14: Love does not envy

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‘Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have’ (The Message)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this every day.  For me, it’s not about things, objects, ‘stuff’, but more about ability, as such.

I wish I could write better (or as well as her, or that blogger, or that author).

I wish I naturally had more patience (like that mum I know who I’ve never heard raise her voice at her kids and never seems to get frustrated with her family).

I wish I was more disciplined by nature (like my friend who is always so organised and has everything under control and exercises every day and only cooks gluten free….).

I wish I had more confidence in my opinions and expressing them (like so many people I know who are so sure of what they say).

I wish I felt assured that I am enough, and I don’t need to keep trying to be more (like so many women I know in real life and online whom I admire).

Before my husband and I came back together again, I so desperately, desperately wanted to be in a relationship, just like the majority of my friends and people I knew – even though I knew their relationships were far from perfect.

I wish, I wish, I wish……..

I can get so caught up wishing for things I don’t have (or think I don’t have – it’s all about perception), that I lose sight of what I do have.

At the absolute basic level of life, I wake up breathing every day, I have a roof over my head, food on my plate several times a day and people who love me.  Everything else is gravy.

I have the ability and the opportunity to write every day, because I was born into a world that values education and literacy, and encouraging creativity.  I write because it is how God has created me, and I’ve been able to realise that.

Whenever I’m impatient in life, with anything, it gives me the opportunity to practice grace – with myself, with other people, with whatever situation I’m in.  If I’m cross with the kids or frustrated with my husband, it’s because they’re in my life, and I love them.  Because we are all human beings, we are imperfect, and we all rub each other up the wrong way at times – if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t become impatient and cross and frustrated.  So I’ll take impatience over nothing any day.

I may not be as disciplined as I *think* I should be, but I am plenty organised enough to provide my family with what they need, to perform in my job effectively and efficiently, and to know how to take care of myself.

When I am sure of what I know and what I believe, I have no fear in speaking it out, and am learning to stand in the courage of my convictions, even when they fly in the face of what the world around me thinks.  I’m learning that whatever we think or do or say, if we do and say it with love and kindness and respect, and without judgement, it is heard and received as it’s intended.  I still have the element of ‘what will they think of me?’, but I am learning to counter that instead with ‘what does God think of me?’, to live with the power and courage that the Spirit gives us .  It’s working.

I was created in the image of God, and He has claimed me as His own.  I am enough for Him, so how can I not believe that I am enough? Being anything more or less than who I already am will not make Jesus love me any more or any less, He loves me just as I am.

And for the whole time I was praying and hoping and despairing and crying over the desire for a new relationship, God was working in me – breaking me, moulding me, reshaping me into being more like Him (I’m still a long, long way away from that).  Without that experience, I would not be who I am now, and my husband and I wouldn’t be together again.

Strong’s Concordance gives the translation of ‘envieth’ (as in the KJV) as ‘to have warmth of feeling for or against: – affect, covet (earnestly), (have) desire, (move with) envy, be jealous over, (be) zealous, zealously affect’. Love doesn’t feel these things, doesn’t behave this way – we do, because of our humanness, but we can choose not to, when we choose love, when we choose to live like Christ, and not give in to our self.  Believe me, I know that that is far easier said than done, and it’s something I have to be conscious of and work on every single day.

God gives us every single thing we need, even if it’s not what we think.  He knows what we need – not want, but need – more than what we do.  Wanting something else takes our attention away from what we already have.  Envy steals faith.  Jealousy binds up our hearts with bitterness and the desire for what we don’t have.

But when we love, when we choose faith and trust over envy and jealousy, we see what we have, the blessings before us that God has showered on us with abundance.  Which He does because He loves us more than we could ever fathom.

What is your ‘weak point’ when it comes to envy and jealousy?  How do you counter that, and try not to let it affect how you live?

Day 12: The story of us (Part 4)

When I first heard God speak to me about praying for our marriage to be restored, I thought He was crazy.  Then I thought I was crazy for thinking that, because I know that really, God is the only one of us who is completely not crazy.  As crazy as His ideas appear at times.

Trust me, there was a whole lot of craziness just beginning.

At the time of our lives that this was happening between me and God, my husband and I weren’t even speaking to each other.  We were both still healing in our own ways, and for a time of several years couldn’t communicate effectively with each other directly.  God gave us an amazing blessing in the form of my mother-in-law, who kept the lines of communication open between us (albeit indirectly), and who helped us maintain what had become the normal routine for our kids.

So how on earth could this marriage be restored, completely renovated and rebuilt when neither of us had the tools or inclination to even want to make it happen?  We didn’t even remotely like each other at that point, let alone want to be married again.

Here’s the thing I know now – it was never up to us to make it happen.  That was God’s job, His desire and His plan, and He knew how it was all going to play out.  And so many times along the way, I really wished He’d given me the script of how this story was to unfold, because for the most part, I was completely lost.

It took me some time to actually become an active participant in this grand plan – well, active in that I decided to take part.  That makes me laugh so hard now, thinking that I actually had a choice about this whole thing.  Of course, I had a choice (we can always choose whether we follow God’s leading or not), but ultimately this was God’s master plan for us, and He created the desire in me to want to follow the steps along the way.

A month or so after I reluctantly prayed the prayer to see our marriage restored, I went and saw the movie ‘The Lake House’.  It’s the story of two characters separated by time, communicating via letters left in a letterbox at a lake house they both lived in at different points in time.  Without wanting to spoil the story (and I highly recommend you do see it if you haven’t already, it’s a favourite of mine), there’s an event that leads Sandra Bullock’s character to implore Keanu Reeves’ to wait, to just wait.

As I was watching the scene, I heard God speak to me again, as clear as day, in the voice I was coming to recognise as His.  I heard Him say ‘Just wait, I promise you it will be worth it’.

I came out of the movie completely energised and so excited to see what that would mean, what this promise of ‘it will be worth it’ would look like, how it would come to life.  I was convinced that it would be in the form of a new relationship, and that it would happen soon, because surely His promise was about fulfilling the deep-rooted desire I had to be in a relationship.

It was.

It totally was.

Just not exactly how I was picturing it.  Or in my ideal timeline.  Or by my reckoning.

In fact, what I thought I wanted did not even remotely look like what God had in store for me, and had I known the details of what would make up the journey ahead, especially without knowing the ending, I doubt I would have been a willing participant.  It was my first real lesson in faith, in trusting God, and learning to understand why God doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow description of what’s ahead of us because if we knew, what would we need Him for?

It took another several months before the first signs of repair and rebuilding between my husband and I really started to show.  During that time, we were both in the ‘planning stage’, much like when you build or renovate a house.  Not that we knew it at the time, but God was doing His work in both of us, quietly and without fanfare.

He was laying the foundation for a new building, a new life, a new love.  I had no idea how painful and difficult that would be, but man, was I about to find out.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

The story of us (Part 3)

Day 11: Love is kind

love is kind illustration. Paola Zakimi

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I love this image.  It was just something I happened upon on Pinterest, but it so sums up for me what comes to mind when I think about kindness.  Being with someone, coming alongside them and being what they need at a given point in time.

The Message translates the verse as ‘Love cares more for others than for self’.  I love this.  That’s ultimately what kindness is, isn’t it?  Putting someone before yourself.  Giving them what they need over what you might need, or think you need.  And doing it without expectation of anything in return.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a whimsical, skipping-amongst-the-daisies act to live out.  Putting people before ourselves is so often counter-intuitive and ‘unnatural’ for us.  As human beings, there is much of us that is inherently selfish and self-serving, and to put that aside and consider what someone else might need and act on that, whilst at the same time considering what we need, is not something that tends to come naturally to most of us.  At least, that’s been my experience, I’d love to hear your views and experiences, so please feel free to share!

I believe that that this is one of the hardest things we are faced with in relationships – serving the other, and putting them and their needs before ourselves.  Of course, in a perfect world, if we all did this, then everyone would be serving everyone else, and everyone’s needs would be met!  But as we know, this isn’t the case, and many hurts and much pain is caused by lack of kindness in relationships.

Relationships ebb and flow.  I think of them as being like a see-saw – sometimes my needs are greater, and I pray that the people around me can help me with what I need.  And vice versa, there are times when I need to put my self aside and be whatever someone needs me to be for them.  Let me be very clear, however – I am not talking about letting people walk over you and abuse your heart.  That is not kindness or grace, and is an abuse of power in a relationship.

Kindness comes in the big and the small things.  From smiling at a stranger who looks like they just need someone to care, to giving up our time and serving in our communities.  Sitting with a friend while she cries hot tears and taking a meal to a family wearied by life.  Swallowing our opinions (when we think they would really really help) because the other person just needs to offload, and doing things we really don’t like doing, just because someone else does.

Kindness doesn’t cost anything, but it is the greatest gift we can give.  It is one of the foundations of how we are to live – Jesus tells us this is what we need to do, to love one another, as He loved us.  And if love is kind, then we are to be kind.

Mother Theresa Quotes - Bing Images - via http://bit.ly/epinner

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Show kindness.  Speak kindness.  Live kindness.  In the small and the big, when you feel like it, and when you don’t.  A little kindness goes a long way, and its’ effects are far reaching, beyond what we can see.

Kind word can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are endless...Mother Teresa #handlettering #illustration

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