One down

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Did you hear that?

Whoooosh.

That was the first month of 2014.

I’m struggling to wrap my head around the fact that it’s the end of January already.

I know that the older we get, the more quickly time passes, but seriously?

The speed with which this month has passed has served as a reminder that time is finite, and we are to use our time well.  I came into January planning to take the time to think about my goals and intentions for 2014 and beyond, and to really look at how I would implement all this into my life.

Just like I have for the last I-don’t-know-how-many years.

But for the first time, I’ve actually done what I set out to do – the difference this time was that in being intentional, I’ve realised this wasn’t an activity that would take a few hours and I’d be on my merry way.  So far, it’s taken all of January to sort through allthethings in my  head and to get them on paper, to see them take form in a way that makes me think ‘this can actually happen’.

It’s all still a work in progress, but I’m learning that that’s the point – it’s always a work in progress.  It’s taken me all of January to sort and tease out and plan and listen for God’s words to see what this year is going to look like, what changes need to be made and what goals will be made real.

I’m nowhere near ‘there’ yet (finishing planning) and it’s a step forward, a step back in implementing changes and new habits, acting on my intentions.

But it’s still progress, because even when I stumble, I’m falling forward.  I’m learning to breathe in grace and breathe out love when it doesn’t go to plan.  I’m learning that the unknown doesn’t have to be known now, and that whatever fills the space I can’t see clearly will be ok, because God can see what I can’t.

So tomorrow is a bit like January 1 for me, figuratively speaking.  Some new things to come, and old things to put away.  Onward and upward, keep falling forward.

What about you?  How is 2014 panning out so far?  How is your dreaming and planning and goal-setting progressing?

The beginning of the beginning.

10 years ago today, I made a decision that changed the course of the life of our family forever.

I decided to leave my husband.

And the crazy thing is, if I hadn’t, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

It took the complete breakdown of our marriage for us to learn just what it means to love someone, to learn what marriage is really all about, and for us each to find out who we are as individuals.

If we hadn’t gone through the breaking, the threshing, the refining, we wouldn’t have been ready for the rebuilding.  We wouldn’t have been ready or available for new foundations to be laid, for the construction of our new relationship to be built out of hope and faith and love.

Now, just to clarify, I am not an advocate of divorce.  I believe in fighting for a marriage with every ounce of your being, even when it feels like you’re being turned inside out and dragged along the ground, if that’s what it takes to save what you vowed and declared you would commit to forever, that day it all began for you and your spouse.

I believe that as a society, we give up on marriage too easily – we give up when it gets too hard, when it doesn’t feel like we think it should, when we feel like we’re not getting what we deserve, when we feel like our needs aren’t being met, when we’re wounded and hurt and feeling like our spouse isn’t living up to our expectations.  And we collectively give each other permission to do the same.

It’s no wonder the divorce rate is as high as it is, because all of us feel like that in every relationship we have, not just the ones with our spouses – family, friends, work colleagues, but our spouses are the only ones we can legally dissolve a relationship with.

When we say ‘I do’, they’re not just two little words.  They are a seal on a contract that binds us together for life – not just for today, and tomorrow, and maybe in ten years time, but forever.

That’s why I left my husband.  For all the reasons above, and more.  There was no specific ‘incident’, or ‘problem’ as such, just a collection of wounds and hurts and bitterness accumulated over time, each of us constantly wishing the other would change, but not realising that it was ourselves that had to change.

The moment of truth came quietly – it was the day before our youngest child’s first birthday, and we got into a fight over the proposed birthday celebration.  As it always did, the argument turned to ‘you always, you never, I wish you would….’ etc, etc, etc – an argument I could have scripted, we had had it so many times.  But that time, something shifted, and in a moment of stunning clarity, the thought came – ‘I can’t change him’.

I was never going to be able to make him change into who I thought I wanted him to be.

But I couldn’t keep living the way we were, none of us could.

So a couple of weeks later, I left.

And it was the beginning of who we were always meant to be.

It took a long haul through court, a divorce, years of healing before we could speak to each other again, and more years of learning to communicate and trust, for us to rebuild our relationship as co-parents and eventually as friends.  We were laying the foundations of our new relationship, or more to the point, God was laying anew the foundations of the relationship He has always planned for us to have.

And now here we are.

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Living a real-life mosaic, building something beautiful out of the broken pieces of our lives.

10 years later, what feels like a lifetime wiser and with a whole lot of life lessons under our belts , we are both very different people to who we were when we really didn’t understand what marriage what supposed to be.

That it’s putting someone before yourself every. single. day.

That it’s knowing that the whole deal is messy and complicated and frustrating, and that there are going to be times we just don’t like being where we have to be.

That it’s working out what someone needs and doing what we can to give it to them.

That’s it’s simply doing things we don’t feel like doing.

That it’s beautiful, and wondrous, and amazing that two people can make the choice to keep turning up day after day and facing life together.

That in committing to for better or worse, there’s always someone to walk through the pain and difficulties of life with.

That it is always, always worth it.

We are building our relationship based on what we’ve learned through our experience, and what we want our marriage to be.  It looks very different now to what it did so many years ago, and I thank-God every day for that.

10 years ago, as a young mum with 3 little kids and my world falling down around me, I had no idea what the future held in store.    Thankfully, my God did, and because He is in the business of making all things new, we now get to live out the story written for us.

We’re living proof that there are always new beginnings, sometimes it just takes getting through the endings to see what they are.

And it is always, always worth it.

2014 – The best year yet

I have lived the vast majority of my life in fear.

Fear of failure.

Fear of getting it wrong.

Fear it won’t be perfect.

Fear of disappointing someone.

Fear of offending someone.

Fear of conflict.

Fear of never being good enough.

Fear of not having enough.

Fear of not having control.

I could go on, and on, and on, but I think you get the idea.

It’s taken me until I’m 37.5 years old to truly realise that every area of my life has been shrouded in this cloak of heaviness, greyness, despair and hopelessness, to varying degrees, just subtle enough for me to not really recognise it for what it was.

But now, this year ahead, and for as long as I have left here on this earth?  No more.

No more letting fear stop me from doing what I was created to do, distracting me from my purpose and convincing me that I’m not enough.

I’m not under any illusion that there won’t be times when I will be afraid, but I don’t have to make choices out of fear.  I’ve known this intellectually for a long time, but it’s only now that that head knowledge has filtered down into my heart and soul.

And it comes from knowing that I am loved.  Wholly, truly, completely, wildly and unashamedly loved.

It’s time to start living in the truth, and not in fear.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  – Marianne Williamson

One of the biggest frustrations I’ve had with myself in my life is my lack of discipline and following through with goals I’ve set and intentions I’ve had. Virtually every time I’ve failed at something, it’s been because I’ve given up when it got too hard.  My inner spoiled brat would throw a tantrum and whine and cry and I’d give in and give up.  Funny, I don’t do that with my own kids, and yet my inner brat gets the better of me nearly every time.

Baby’s now being put in the corner.

2013 ended on a great note in regards to goal-setting and achieving, in that I completed my first Whole 30 program, and completed a 6.8km local fun run (the longest distance I’ve ever run).  It took me four goes to stick to and complete the Whole 30, and there were so many times I wanted to give up during training for the fun run.  But I didn’t, and that sense of achievement that came from following through on both goals was amazing.

So I’m taking that into 2014 with a new mindset –  a very intentional one, as I know that long held self-beliefs and habits and ways of doing things take time to change.  But the old has gone, and the new has come, and I’m choosing new.

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Paul Colman live at the end of 2012, where he sang a beautiful Irish ‘drinking song’ that he had written, ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’.  It’s become one of my theme songs for 2014, I’m saying ‘here’s to the failures we’re leaving behind, cheers to the future, ’cause it’s just begun, and the best is yet to come’.

Tell me, what is going to make 201 your best year yet?

What’s on your bookshelf?

I love words.

Ergo, I love books.  And anything that collates words.

If I could, I would spend all of my spare money on books, however seeing as spare money is a fable in my parts, the amount of books I own is inversely disproportionate to  the amount of books I read.  I am so very grateful for the amazing library we have here in our town, and the generosity of fellow book-loving friends, which means I have an endless supply of material to satisfy my craving to consume words.

Anne over at Modern Mrs Darcy is hosting a link up for we bibliophiles to share our love for all things book related – what we read, where we read, where we store it all.  At the moment, the vast majority of our books are stored in boxes in the garage while our back room is (slowly) being made-over.  So for now, my books are contained to my little bedside table shelf:

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Books in current ‘rotation’ live on top of the table and I pick up whatever I feel like reading at the time.  On the shelf at the moment:

books

On the list at the moment (in no particular order) –

Train Like A Mother – Sarah Bowen Shea & Dimity McDowell.  Trying to kick my more-comfortable-on-the-couch-with-a-book bum into gear (by reading a book.  Yep, I see the irony), and I love how these ladies write and encourage.

The Power of a Praying Wife/Parent/Woman – Stormie Omartian.  This has become my go-to book for simple, relevant, relateable insight and wisdom.  I really relate to Stormie’s experiences and writing, and I love her heart for seeking and pressing into God.

Reading Like A Writer – Francine Prose.  I haven’t started this one yet, but picked it up from the library on recommendation of some writer bloggers whose art I love.

Sacred Rhythms – Ruth Haley Barton.  This book.  This book is permanently on my bedside table.  I’ve read through it completely once, and am working through it again.  It’s definitely a one-chapter-at-a-time read for me, I need to let the words sit and marinate and take root in me – not an overnight experience!

Lord, Teach Me To Study The Bible In 28 Days – Kay Arthur.  I’m normally somewhat allergic to ‘Do this in 1-2-57 steps/days/practices’ etc etc, but I love Kay Arthur’s inductive study technique, and I’m starting with this book to get into the habit of delving into the word each day.

Lead Me, Holy Spirit: Longing To hear The Voice Of God – Stormie Omartian – This has become another one-chapter-at-a-time book, simply because it is so rich and makes my brain work to take in and absorb what I’m reading.  So inspiring and encouraging, again Stormie’s heart for connecting with the Trinity shows through her words.

I Quit Sugar – Sarah Wilson.  I love sugar probably as much as I love books.  Only I hate what it does to my body.  I definitely have an addictive nature when it comes to sugar, and I love this post from Anne about the real danger of sugar in our diet.  I’ve realised I am most definitely an abstainer, it’s all-or-nothing when it comes to sugar.  Sarah is a passionate advocate of the benefit of a sugar-free life, and her book is a very easy-to-read, often confronting but encouraging guide to eliminating sugar from your diet, without missing out on the sweet things in life.

Knits Men Want – Bruce Weinstein.  My eldest son (16) asked me to knit him a jumper (sweater).  A simple, fitted jumper ‘like my school jumper’.  I was barely able to contain my joy at this request, and I totally underplayed the whole thing for fear of scaring him off with my wildly rampant ecstasy that HE. ASKED. ME. TO. KNIT. HIM. SOMETHING!!!!  Turns out finding a pattern for a very simple, fitted, casual jumper wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, and I’m not confident enough to make my own pattern up yet.  Ravelry to the rescue, and a quick search on my library database had this gem delivered to my doorstep.  Mission accomplished!

Streams In The Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings – Mrs Charles E Cowman.  A dear friend gave this to me when I was baptised 7 years ago, and whilst it’s lain forgotten off an on over the years, it it a wonderfully rich source of inspiration and encouragement.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are – Ann Voskamp.  What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this beautiful creation?  I haven’t actually finished reading it the whole way through yet, and for me, it’s been because it’s been so confronting.  I struggle with finding joy every day, in the very day, because I tend to get weighed down by all the stuff of life.  I’m in a season now where I need the truth of Ann’s words, as hard as they may be for me to read and start living out every single day.

Help. Thanks. Wow: The Three Essential Prayers – Anne Lamott.  New on my current reading pile, loving what I’ve read so far.

Bird By Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life – Anne Lamott.  I’ve been waiting to read this ever since I first discovered it on a writer’s blog (not sure whom it was exactly, so many of my favourite bloggers recommend this treasure!).  Again, loving what I’ve read so far, and so encouraged and inspired by how Anne breaks down the writing process to a ‘one inch square’ view.  I can do that.

Principles of the Enneagram – Karen A Webb.  Anne introduced me to the Enneagram personality typing, and as with MBTI (I’m an INFJ, for the record), I’ve been able to tangibly realise nuances and elements of my personality that I couldn’t quite articulate before.  This was the first book I found and ordered through my library, I’m going to look for more Christian-centred, in-depth writings on the subject.  Any recommendations welcomed!

A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrick.  Another blogger recommendation, through the first chapter so far, verdict’s still out on this one.

Too Much Happiness – Alice Munro.  Winning this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature brought Alice to my attention, especially the description of her writing as being ‘observations of life around her’.  I haven’t read much in the way of short stories, but I’m finding that they’re perfect for this current phase of my life, where my reading time is limited to a chapter at a time, and I’m looking forward to discovering more short story writers.

The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life – Twyla Tharp.  Yet another blogger recommendation, and one that’s really resonating with me even in the early stages of the book.  Tharp uses her extensive experience as an artist to frame the ‘how to’ of developing creative habits – life habits, really – in a tangible way that doesn’t leave you thinking ‘I’m not an artist like she is, I can’t do that’.  Loving this read so far.

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My current Kindle reads:

A Million Little Ways: Uncover The Art You Were Made To Live – Emily P. Freeman.  I discovered Emily’s blog last year, and have inhaled every word she’s written ever since.  So many times I find a part of my heart singing, I breathe ‘yes’ to so many words, I squirm when I’m challenged by her questions and musings and just all. the words.  This book, Emily’s third (but the first one I’ve read), is all this and so much more.  It is re-defining what I understand of art, of living as an artist, of just showing up every day and being the image-bearer God created me to be.  I’ll be ordering a physical copy to live on my bedside table, because this is not a single-read book.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering The Unhurried Rhythms Of Grace – Jan Johnson.  Tsh Oxenreider’s list of summer reading brought this collection of inspiration to me.  It’s yet another one-chapter-at-a-time read, one that I’ve taken copious notes on and am on my way to filling a couple of notebooks with reflections and responses to Jan’s words and questions.  I’m finding it challenging, confronting, and sometimes my answers leave a sour taste in my mouth – not because of the writing, but because of what comes out of me in response.

One Thousand Gifts Devotional – Ann Voskamp.  A beautiful accompaniment to ‘One Thousand Gifts’, learning to find joy in the every day.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual – Michael Pollan. My whole view and philosophy on food and it’s place in my life has been changing over the last few years, and I often feel that the more I learn, the more I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that everything’s ok.  Only it’s not.  Due to some health issues I’m having to redefine what is ok for me and what’s not, but it’s more than that – I want to use food in a way that leaves minimum impact on the environment, and that nourishes my family well.  I’m only early into this one, but can already sense that this will be a great ‘how to’ for this process.

The Creative Call: An Artist’s Response to the Way of the Spirit – Janice Elsheimer.  I struggle with focus and direction, especially when it comes to creativity.  I’ve been working through ‘The Creative Call’ off and on for a while now, and know that each time I put it down, it’s because I’m challenged and become fearful.  To quote Jon Acuff, it’s time to punch fear in the face, and let Love rule (that last bit was all Lenny).

I thought this would be a quick little post to link up with Anne and discover what fellow bloggers are reading.  Not so much!  But it was fun, now I’m looking forward to finding inspiration and add to my ever-growing ‘to read’ list.

Any recommendations?  This list has been a bit light-on with fiction, I’d love to find some new authors to dig into.

I am here

 

I originally wrote this post just over 6 months ago on a previous blog, and came across it whilst looking for some work to re-post while I do some ‘behind the scenes’ work on this new space.  Funny, very little has changed in the last 6 months, and what I wrote still reflects where I am right now.

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I read a lot.  Not as much as I used to (i.e. before kids.  And knitting.), but still a lot.  Blogs, books, magazines (IRL and online), e-mail, newlsetters, general miscellaneous.  So I take in a lot of information, and am still constantly surprised by how God uses what I read to speak to me at certain times in my life.

Now would be one of those times.

When I started this blog (a whole two posts ago), I wrote about how I’m trying to work out who I am (oh dear, yes, I get how pretentious that sounds…).  I’m figuring that I’m on the right track with exploring this path, because over the last few days, it seems that everything I’ve read has been bringing my focus back to this journey.  Nothing more so than Emily Freeman’s e-mail newsletter that landed in my inbox today (if there’s one thing I would encourage you to do today, it’s to go and meet Emily.  And sign up for her newsletter, I promise you won’t be disappointed!).

Emily recounts a story of going to a mall and having to work out where she was, which meant going to a map and looking for the red dot on the map that tells you where you are.  She then goes on to talk about an experience of having to introduce herself at a retreat, and being instructed to ‘share your red dot’.  Where she was right there and then – not her past, and not her future.  Her present.

In trying to work out what to do, to work out where to go, I haven’t stopped to see where I am.

Where my red dot is, right now.

I keep reflecting on where I’ve come from, and setting goals of where I want to go – all good exercises in seeking God and His purpose for me, but how do I move forward if I don’t know where I’m planted right now?

Huh.

Right now?

I’m tired.

There’s an ever-present longing.

I want to cry, but I can’t.

I’ve become so good at managing and containing my emotions (i.e. not letting them out), that I can’t even feel the fullness of the joy and gratitude I’m living right now.

God has answered my longest, most desired prayer in the fullness that He promised, and it still feels like something’s missing.

My house and daily life is a mess.

I feel like I’m constantly playing catch up at home and at work.

I’m re-evaluating my priorities with my time committments, and making some hard choices.

I am blessed beyond measure.

There is so much I want to write right now to temper what I’ve said, to balance what I’ve written with the positive take on things, and it’s really hard for me not to, because all that above?  Feels so whingy and whiny, but it’s where I am right now.

Maybe it is whingy and whiny.  And selfish.  And self-indulgent.

Even so, it’s honest, it’s me and my life right now, and might be the most truthful thing I’ve written in a while.

I’ve been encouraged by these ladies and their honesty in the last few days (and weeks), and I know I’m not on my own in this time of life.  Not in my real life, or in my online life.  I have been so encouraged – and challenged – by reading words that come from a real person’s heart, and grateful that they have had the courage to share, to lay their words bare for me to be blessed by.

I had the absolute joy to take part in a live Influence Network class today, hosted by the beautiful Ellen Parker (being home sick has to bring *some* joy, surely!!)  My participation was somewhat fragmented, as my internet connection dropped in and out, but I was so filled with joy and encouragement by Ellen’s teaching and the other ladies, and I was reminded, yet again, just how much God has created us to share, to teach and to connect.  To think and explore, and to dwell.

I am here.  Wherever ‘here’ is.  And I will be content in the knowledge that here is where I’m supposed to be (somebody please remind me of that when I get all whiny again…….)

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.