December in Review

While I didn’t have any groundbreaking earth shattering revelations this month, it was a good exercise in focusing on the Holy Spirit.

I don’t post on Facebook much anymore, but I do log on once in awhile to see what everyone is doing. I saw a close friend of mine, who recently had her first baby, posted she and her husband were sick with the flu and asked for prayers that the new baby wouldn’t get sick (baby –> flu –> very bad). Numerous people responded with “Praying!” and “Sending prayers!” Me, on the other hand, felt called to do more than just pray. I messaged her asking if she needed anything.  She said they could use soup, crackers, pedialyte, infant tylenol, and orange juice. After work, I ran to the store and drove out the supplies to her. They were very grateful and the prayers worked: baby stayed healthy.

I also learned of a couple who had finally gotten an apartment, after living on the streets for many years. While they now had running water, electricity, and were out of the elements, the only things they had were the clothes on their backs. I knew I could help: I went to Walmart and bought basic kitchen things: plates, bowls, silverware, mugs, glasses, towels, and pots. Every year around Christmas, I always try to give locally to someone who needs it. I had prayed about it earlier that day, as I didn’t have anyone in mind. Lo and behold, this opportunity rose.

While both of these examples required money and relinquishing plans I had already had, I know it went to a greater good. I know what it’s like to start out with very little, and I’ve been there when I’ve been too sick to open a can of soup for myself, without anyone to help.

In the coming year, I hope to keep myself tuned to those gentle nudging from the Holy Spirit and not to ignore them because they’re inconvenient to me, in time or money: I have been blessed so I can be a blessing.

The Holy Spirit will remind of that in 2018, I am sure!

Of Tea & Prayer

Since I stopped drinking alcohol – my husband was struggling with overconsumption, so it’s no longer in our lives – I find myself craving something more than just water when I’m relaxing in the evenings. With watching my weight now, as I’ve gained 12 pounds in the month of December alone, I’ve decided to go back to an old friend: tea.

As with everything else in my world, life is in a time crunch. Working 2 jobs, managing a household, trying to find time to exercise – so much of my day is about maximizing my time. With this in mind, I put my tea water in the microwave for 2 minutes.

The tea tasted like dishwater. Flavorless, flat, and just plain bleh.

I couldn’t even finish the cup, even with a little local honey in it. Tea has the best flavor when the water is at a high temperature; the microwave heats the water unevenly. All the while, my tea kettle sat alone on the stove. It takes too long to heat up the water when it’s just a cup for me. But after my microwave debacle, I decided to go back to the tea kettle.

For a single cup of tea, it takes 6 minutes and 45 seconds for it to sing (I have to keep it on medium heat or else it will melt onto my ceramic top stove). It’s nearly 3x as long as the microwave. The water from the kettle is not only pipping hot, but brings out the flavor in the tea as it’s suppose to be tasted. Even though it is faster in the microwave, it’s not effective and the end result is less than stellar.

This same analogy can be applied to my prayer life: as a contemplative, spending time silent before God in prayer takes time. It’s not that quick popcorn prayer at the end of a Bible study or a cry for help when something goes wrong at work. Like the tea kettle, the prayer is the real deal; time consuming, but completely worth it.

I found myself drifting back into microwave prayer time. There are a few people in my life who are in desperate need of prayer – which I do pray for – but in recent months I have not sought the deep quietness that comes to me during contemplative prayer. I’m starting to miss it. The microwaved prayers are not cutting it anymore for me.

January has always been a quiet month in my life: the Christmas rush is over, and growing up, there was snow on the ground while nature sleeps. I need to carve out time in the coming weeks to spend some real quality time basking in the Lord. I need to dig deeper into the emotional part of my soul I’m so good at silencing. Using the Examine App is suppose to help, but I never feel motivated.

So here’s to 2018, a year filled with quality tea and quality time with the Lord.

December: Be Tuned to the Holy Spirit

I’m ending 2017 on a note to tap into my intuition – which sometimes gets caught up in the web of anxiety in my brain and I don’t always know which is what.

We so often pray for the voice of the Lord to guide us in our lives. But how often do we listen? I will admit I sometimes feel an inkling, a gentle push from the Holy Spirit and I ignore it because I’m too busy doing other things. Or it’s horribly inconvenient. Or I decide in the moment that it wouldn’t work, wouldn’t be wanted, wouldn’t be appreciated. With the Christmas season in full swing, I thought this was the best way to focus my energy.

What will this look like? I hope to obey the small, sometimes inconsequential voice in my head, urging me to go in a certain direction. I pray my eyes will be open to someone needing help, that I will offer what I can, regardless of the outcome.

I want to leave room to let the Lord lead this month.

November in Review

I did not do as well as I set out to this month. I had every intention of journaling through my Examine App – which I did – twice. With my husband’s crazy work schedule, my mornings and evenings are cut short. I know it’s an excuse that I’m blaming current life rhythms for my lack of self reflection with emotions before the Lord, but that’s what happened.

I did have one rather interesting breakthrough that I did not see coming.

In arguments or when my husband randomly turns into an ornery 12 year old, my default setting is to stand down, shut down, and wait until emotions and situations return to normal before addressing them – if they are addressed at all.

This month, I decided to try a different tactic. It’s not often I fight back or call someone out in the moment. So I did. When my husband got into one of his moods, I spoke in my deeper-toned business voice – the one I used to use backstage to rally the troops – and called his bluff. Oh, I’m out of line? Enlighten me. It was not an emotional, but a logical response. And it worked. The situation defused and I didn’t have to run for cover.

I have to remind myself to be confident and take control of the situation. It’s not a habit yet, but I hope to make it one in 2018.

It’s an interesting end of a month dedicated to embracing emotions. I hope I can maintain the confidence level.

Birthdays of 2018

November has officially arrived in my world and brought the chilly air with it. A mere few days ago, I was sweating on my lunch walk, basking in the warm sunlight, thankful for the last sweet days of summer. It’s a reminder that winter is near and a new year will begin soon.

I spent 2017 being introspective with my project of picking a theme each month to focus on, and with the roller coaster ride that was my year, it gave me an anchor for my restless soul. By keeping my focus on the Lord, I was insulated by the current and sparks 2017 created: I am still standing.

With 2018 not far away, I wanted to do something else as a year long project, but with less focus on myself. I wanted to take the lessons, trials, and encouragement from this crazy year and apply it to others. I also wanted to focus more on my writing to benefit others. How could I accomplish that?

The idea had been rolling around in my head for awhile, but in 2018, I am going to put pen to paper and make it happen. I will send a birthday card, snail mail, to those in my world. The card will be a blank cardstock with a personalized message to the receiver. Store bought birthday cards are super expensive, blandly impersonal, and are usually thrown away. I hate those. The ones I buy are from Hobby Lobby, 48 for $10, which comes out to 21¢ a card. In some cases, I also plan to send a postcard – another perk of living at the beach. If it’s thrown away, so be it. If it’s kept, I hope it will bring a smile, a comfort, and a tangible reminder that someone was thinking of them on their special day.

I have this knack for remembering dates, I love writing, and this may be a great way to reach out to others. It also keeps me on a deadline.

I’m excited to do this, and if all goes well, I may make this an every year thing.

November: Embrace Emotions

I saved the hardest towards the end. I thought maybe the focuses of the previous months would be a good foundation with this one. It is time to test that theory.

I am going to embrace emotions in November.

Back when I was in counseling, my therapist made the observation that my “emotional crayon box” only held about 8 colors, like those small cheap boxes from the dollar store. With my age and experience, my box should closely reflect the big 64 color crayon box with the sharpener in the back. Instead of just green, I should also have jade, mint, emerald, and chartreuse. To help, she gave me this list of emotional responses:

scannd

When talking about things, I referenced the sheet to better gage my experience. For a writer, it was a great tool. For me personally, as an introvert who struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a non-confrontation mindset (I’m an INFJ, Ennegram 9), it was a bit daunting. It’s time to start looking at this sheet again as I go through November.

My husband has seen me cry about 4 times in the 10+ years we’ve been together, and all those times involved heavy situations of infertility, a family emergency, and one major fight. There’s no one, except when I’m alone in the presence of Jesus, with whom I feel I can cry. And even that is stunted. I hate crying as much as I hate throwing up: I will hold it in until my body overrides my brain. I’m so good at not crying that it’s nearly automatic suppression.

I’m pretty even as my character goes. I’ve never been in a screaming match. I’m really good about letting people – like my husband – gad about on things that upset me. I like the situation to pass and then bring it up when I have had time to process it and have ample evidence to prove my point.

I know that cannot bode well for my emotional health, but like the morbidly obese person who constantly eats fast food and doesn’t exercise, I too am in my own little prison of my own doing.

Things, for the moment, are good with my husband and I. As always, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

How will I embrace this? No freaking clue. Outside of going back to counseling, which is not in the plan – mine nor insurance, I’m hoping the Lord moves me into this awkward embrace that I strive to keep at arm’s length.

My only plan is to end each day with the Examine app. I take stock of my day, describing the physical, emotional, and metaphysical parts – and how God fits into that narrative. The last part is writing a prayer to the Lord based on all this information.

If nothing else, simply paying attention to my emotional health should make an improvement.

October in Review

October wasn’t was fruitful as I had hoped it would be in giving time and talents.

I started crocheting plarn mats for homeless folks several months ago, but I haven’t touched it in awhile. I meant to get back to that this month. I’m making an Afghan for my sister-in-law who taught me how to crochet a couple years ago, and the deadline for Christmas is approaching quickly, so my energy has been focused there. I really hope I’m able to get it done in time.

I helped at our church’s mission night, and it felt good to serve a ministry with organizing their workspace. Of course, my ghostwriting project took time and talents – I still l love doing it! Perhaps in time, I can branch out to other projects. I brought a dear friend of mine dinner and we caught up on each other’s lives.

Despite my 50 hour work weeks and my unrelenting need for time to be alone, I feel I should have been able to do more. But I am thankful for what I did accomplish.

To God be the Glory!

October: Give of Time & Talents

In the few free moments I have, I started watching Highway to Heaven on Netflix. It’s the story of an angel and a human in the mid 1980’s who go to various places God sends them to right the wrongs and bring comfort to those suffering. This inspired me to spend October by giving of time and talents.

As an introvert, I am perfectly content to stay home and be alone in my own little world. Life as a Christ follower calls us to be in community with those around us, helping wherever and however we can.

Goals for this month include showing up to my small group, participating in our church’s monthly mission outing, and other yet unknown projects the Lord leads me to serve Him and others.

September in Review

As hypothesized at the beginning of the month, I didn’t plant my grape vines. I did, however, grow in other areas.

My husband and I had a couple over from church for dinner. Despite the main course not turning out 100%, dessert was perfect and they didn’t leave until after 10pm because we were having such great conversation. It was really good for us. Seeds of friendship were sown.

While we downsized our stuff before we moved, there were a few items that we couldn’t place in our new house. They were sent to a resale shop that benefits women of domestic violence, in hopes they could help grow someone else’s new beginning.

I began my second assignment working as a ghostwriter, and it has stretched me as a writer and challenged my abilities. We’re still working on setting the right voice with the literature, but I love helping others reach their goals from behind the scenes. My ghosting benefits many by tilling the soil for others to grow – it’s a good feeling – and I am happy to be a part of it, even though my name is not on it.

In the vein of gardening, I paid entirely too much money for a full landscape of my house, but now it looks amazing. The final frontier, also know as the backyard, is a work in progress. The many years of debris are cleared and I hope to rescue the remnants of grass and coax it into a lawn in the spring. The amount of weeds is simply astounding. But pulling each weed by hand has been a salve for my panic attacks. It’s quickly becoming a sanctuary for me. Between work and marriage, I need a place of solace, and right now it is among the weeds.

Next year, there will be grapes.

September: Grow Grapes

One of my goals this year was to grow grapes.

Muscadine grapes are indigenous to the Carolinas and I thought this would be the perfect variety to grow. They need sun, 20 feet of trellis, and a friend to pollinate. My backyard, like the rest of my landscape, is in a sad state of affairs. There is so much work to be done, grading the yard, removing weeds, and getting a plan together – I will need professional help. Because of time and money, I can’t plant this year.

I made this list of focus points for the year back in January, in our old house. Moving was still a “maybe someday” conversation. I had no idea how much of a roller coaster 2017 was going to become and how much would change in my world.

My September focus is indeed “growing grapes” – what other goals did I have for this new minimalistic life? What was I going to accomplish here that I did not/could not do in my old huge house?

Live with less stuff. Invite people over for meals. For tea. Focus on my crocheting, spend time on the deck, get out into the garden, focus on my health, my husband’s health, and those around me. Travel more. Get back to those free spirit days I had in a 1 bedroom apartment in a midwestern cornfield. Gone are the days of maintaining and cleaning a huge property: I have always been content with less stuff. It’s time to start living that.

I am going to share this contentment with those around me. I’ll always be a shy introvert – it’s who I am at my core – but perhaps it is time to blossom in being about the Lord’s work through hospitality.

Perhaps I will serve muscadine grape juice to my guests next year.