Sinkholes-all a part of life and new construction

We moved into the newly constructed home before it was quite finished. That’s what rain and ice storms will do to you!

The first week in the new house was hectic. I felt like I was living with the electrician, the trim guy and the landscape crew. Every attempt to clean or unpack a box was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell or an onslaught of questions, all in desperate need of immediate answers. Not to mention, it was the next to last week of summer for my girls (currently 15-yes they are twins) who of course expected to be in full summer mode visiting with friends, hosting pool parties etc… Just about the time I thought it was all beginning to get a little under control, the bottom fell out. I mean, the skies let loose and we had day after day of rain. I am not talking nice summer rain that sends you to your favorite chair to curl up with a good book. No, I am talking black skies, lightening, and rain that comes down in buckets. The newly laid sod began to shift. The fresh topsoil paid for and brought in by truck began to slide out from under the sod, from underneath the newly installed wood fence, and down the hill it went. My heart sunk. Where once a fence stood firmly planted to keep critters out and dogs in, lay a hole. A hole big enough for both my dogs to fit right through. A hole big enough for the raccoon to get back in and sachet around the pool and check out my new patio chairs. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t pretty.

As I sat the next morning in my quiet spot pondering, journaling and needing desperately to be able to focus on my bible reading, the sinkhole caught my eye. (in all honesty you really couldn’t look in the backyard and miss it) I realized in that moment how often God must look at me and see me as a sinkhole. I plant myself in His word and begin to grow. Then something or someone comes along and I get distracted, overwhelmed or even just get myself all in a tiz (as my grandmother used to say). All that rich blessing of instruction and wisdom I had been taking in just slides right out from under me and I find myself in a pit, a sinkhole. No roots, nothing sustaining me. How frustrated He must get. How often He must shake His head. Fortunately He is a God of mercy and sustaining grace. He brings to me more rich teachings, more wisdom, more opportunity. He sometimes does it through others. Sometimes it is His word alone. Sometimes it is a convicting message on the Christian radio station. He gives me yet another chance to stay planted, grow roots, deep and wide, just as with our grass which has been pulled up, fresh topsoil put down, the sod relaid and gently watered. Given a little time, a little perseverance and discipline, I find my footing, dig deep the roots. This doesn’t mean I’ll never have a sinkhole again. It just means the next time maybe I won’t sink quite so low. My roots will be a little deeper. I’ll know exactly what I am holding on to.

There are still sub-contractors in and out of my house. The unpacked boxes are still around (the pile has diminished substantially!) and there is still evidence of the sinkhole.  But things are coming together.  Each day is a new day, another day to work on a box, decide where to hang a picture.  It’s another day to live, to create memories in this new home, to set down roots.

2014-07-31 08.55.09

Life is LIVED in the White Space: 8 Lessons in Simplicity

It has been a while since I entered a post.  Sadly I am not one of those bloggers who has reached the point of scheduling blog posts.  That’s on the “one day” list.  For now I live life and stop to blog when I have a moment.

Our move is finally over.  I really can’t complain-and believe me, I have had to remind myself of that fact repeatedly!  I have been privileged to build a home of my dreams, my family’s dreams.  It’s not a mansion.  In fact, it is slightly smaller than our old home.  However, it has a pool and an outdoor fireplace, and well, that is pretty cool.  We built the home with our empty nester years in mind.  coming all too quickly and I could break out in hives as I write if I ponder it too long, so let’s just move right along!

Before our decision to move and build, our family had hit some trials.  Not little bumps in the road, but more like white water rapids.  The economy plunged a few years back (feel certain none of us needs to be reminded of that fact) and my husband’s business declined.  We had to make a decision to end some fairly major financial support of my mother, who struggles with depression and living life as a single woman after 24 years of marriage and living life as a minister’s wife.  There was lots of family conflict (not between my husband and I) and emotional turmoil attached to that decision.  It’s amazing how much we can suppress and push to the core of our being in an attempt to avoid processing or making the difficult decisions.  I also made an attempt at going back to work full time and then part-time, neither of which worked for our family.  My husband and I both knew God was calling me to be at home, a calling we had been clear of 14 years earlier.  You see, we had fallen prey to some “panic” and worked ourselves into “striving mode”.  Neither a faith response to circumstances.

I am so thankful in the two years leading up to this move I made the decision to do some internal work, digging deep to see what God wanted to teach me through the trials, the heartache, the situations I could not control.  He’s taught me a lot.  I let Him, this time ’round.  Most of all He has taught me life is lived in the WHITE SPACE-the moments in time when nothing else exists but me and Him.  So often I struggle to hear Him, to see Him at work around me, to sense His presence.  That’s all on me.  One of those things I have to OWN.  Once I owned it He began to convict me and speak to me in very real, clear, tangible ways.  As a result, WHITE SPACE, has become a really big deal around here.  Not only do I seek to implement white space in my daily schedule, literally blocking it off on my calendar, but He prompted me to design my new home with WHITE SPACE in mind.

The concept of WHITE SPACE is really a marketing/print media concept.  It’s the notion that a page too full, too busy actually distracts the human eye and takes away from the message.  The better advertisement or page layout includes critical white space, areas for the reader’s eye to rest, causing one to pause and take in fully the message being conveyed.  The same can convey to our schedules, our planner pages, our home decor, our cabinet storage, etc…  We need places to rest, to stop, to be able to take it all in.  God designed the world using this very idea.  He didn’t just ‘BAM” create it all in one moment (and we know full well He could have).  He took 6 days.  He was deliberate.  He was orderly.  He rested at the end of each day (WHITE SPACE) and took in the majesty of what He himself had created.  On the 7th day, He rested and delighted in it all.  He has provided us through His creation “white spaces”-the expanse of the skies, the depths and widths of the oceans, the horizons, …  He has given us rhythm to our days-night providing us the WHITE SPACE in which to sleep, rest, rejuvenate; seasons bringing new weather, new plants, new rhythms to our days.

How do I live in the WHITE SPACE?

1.  I have a little corner of my home created for me.  A place I sit each and every morning to ponder His word, journal and pray.

2.  I am working to do a better job of protecting Sunday and keeping it a true Sabbath-a day for no work, just worship, rest and play.  A day for my family.

3.  I attempt to discipline myself in the management of my calendar and our family calendar, leaving literal white space-15-20 minutes between activities, protect dinner time as a WHITE SPACE, build in blocks of time for nothingness to be filled by His prompting.

4.  I literally used shades of white as the backdrop for our home.

2014-07-02 19.34.18

Yes, that is the color of my walls.  It is a soft white.  The trim and cabinetry are in the same color family, just 4 shades darker.  They are slightly contrasted with the walls.  My entire house is all one color.  Yep.  Hard to believe.  The tile, the fixtures etc… all tone on tone.  And let me tell you, that is way harder to do than picking vibrant colors.  There were many a day I wished I had hired a designer, as I fretted over ensuring this whole tone on tone thing would blend and not look like a mess of white gone awry!

5.  We have purged, and purged and then purged some more.  A garage sale before the move.  Runs to Goodwill after the second move to the second furnished apartment.  And upon moving in to our new home, 4 runs to Goodwill.  There is something about moving into an open, white on white space that just makes you want to keep it fresh and clean and EMPTY!

 

What have I learned from living in the WHITE SPACE?

1.  I am less stressed when I begin my day reading the Bible, sitting in quiet, spending uninterrupted time with God.  I have also realized I’ve got a lot of work to do to create some more WHITE SPACE in my brain.  The cluttering messages, Satan’s attacks just seem to jump on that time and do everything they can to distract, panic and overcome my peace and joy!

2.  I snap less at my family and those I care about most.  There is room to breathe in the WHITE SPACE, room to step back and evaluate before reacting.  And I am not a good reactor, my tendency is to react negatively :(.

3.  Conversations, real conversations, happen when we are not hurried.

4.  I am more positive.  WHITE SPACE gives me opportunity to see, to really pull back and look at what I have, what just happened, and enjoy it, take pride in it, be glad in it.

5.  I am more thankful.  Ann Voskamp has taught me much about gratitude.  Again, it is about pausing, WHITE SPACE, and naming all that you are grateful for- “One Thousand Gifts”.

6.  There is more light in the WHITE SPACE.  My home is full of light.  One, because it is an open plan.  Secondly, because the walls are light and the ceilings are high (10 feet throughout).  Light reflects.  There are not shadows.  No place for dust bunnies to hide (that has become a challenge), stacks to go unnoticed, etc…

7.  Color pops off of white.  Everything I have looks new!  My dark antique wood family pieces look rich and deep next to white walls.  The art pops off the walls.  The plants (silk and real) look lush and rich in color in front of the white.  I notice everything more.  And having less makes it all even more noticeable.

8.  The desire to keep it pure and simple and white has caused me to really think about what I have and why I have it.  Letting go has brought space, room to breathe and that has brought peace.

 

I love my WHITE SPACE.  I am so glad I said “yes” to doing something that seemed against my nature, my better judgement, something that was scary.  I am so glad I have a physical reminder of what God has been teaching me about my life-my schedule, my thoughts, my planning, my living.  Life doesn’t happen in the hectic, hurried moments of trying to run from one event to the next.  Life doesn’t happen in the cluttered house, where time is spent managing things.  Life doesn’t happen in the car.  Life doesn’t happen in activity.  No, life is lived best in the WHITE SPACE, where I and those I am with have room to breathe, to rest, to take it all in, to be present.

I look forward to sharing with you a room by room glance at our new home and my “new” and improved way of  living.  I pray it will challenge you, move you to create a little WHITE SPACE of your own.

Faithful Friends-The Only Kind of Friends to Have

I am not one to have a lot of friends.  I have many acquaintances, but few friends.  This is in part, a result of who I am.  I am somewhat of an introvert.  I am very private.  I don’t trust quickly.  I am loyal. I take my friendships seriously.  It is also in part due to the fact I am a missionary kid, or what they now call a “third culture kid”.  I grew up living overseas and moving extensively-on average every two and half years.  I didn’t just move down the street.  I moved continents!  Moving a lot has its benefits, but making and keeping life long friends is not one of them.  While I didn’t have the opportunity to establish life long friendships, I learned to make quick friendships and to seize the moment with my friends, knowing one or the other of us might soon be moving.

Last night I had the opportunity to have dinner with one of my very best friends.  She is the closest thing I have to a lifelong friend.  We only met as adults, if you call being right out of college being an adult!  Neither of us remembers exactly how we met or connected.  We met at church.  A good start.  How we connected or when we connected is vague.  What is not vague is that our friendship from the beginning has been a faith filled friendship.  She has been a faithful friend and I pray I have been the same.  We have similar personalities and our life stories have mirrored each other on occasion.  There are times we can talk and spend a good deal of time together.  Then there are times we can go weeks with little to no communication and we can even have a couple of months where we only have opportunity to see each other in passing.  I wondered to myself what made our friendship so special.  How did we stay so connected despite the lack of time and opportunity, the hectic pace of life, etc…

I love the picture and quote above.  I don’t know who wrote it or where the picture came from.  It was the result of a Google search.  However, it spoke to me as I thought about friendship.  My best friends are my best friends because they are a gift.  They are women of faith.  They are women of integrity.  They are women to whom I can speak in confidence and trust.  Our friendships I believe honor God and I know He enjoys them as much as we do.  We are not perfect.   We sin.  Life gets messy for each of us.  We disagree.  We struggle.  But at the center of our friendships remains Christ.  Our speech, our actions, our advice is all filtered through Him.

I don’t have many of these “best friends”.  In fact, speaking honestly I would say I only have two.  I have some really good friends, but “best” friends, only two.  I need these women as much as I need my spouse.  They refresh me.  They challenge me.  They hold me accountable.  They strengthen me.  Proverbs 18: 24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  I believe that is a scripture we need to take at face value.  If it is our goal to have many friends, I think we need to stop and ask ourselves “Why?”.  If we flit from one group to another, or find ourselves enmeshed in a different woman’s life every couple of years, I think we need to step back and evaluate.  God created us for fellowship.  As women He created us to be creators, to bring forth life.  He created us to be help mates, not only to our husbands, but to our families and friends.  Our friendships are important.  Our friendships should reflect our faith.  Just as in marriage, we should be yoked in friendship to others of like faith.   Our friendships are a testament, they are the place in which we reflect His graces and fruit.

I am so grateful for my two best friends.  Here are just a few things I know bind us, hold us together and make it possible for us to call each other “best” friend:

  1. There are no comparisons.  We are who we are, and while we are similar, we are very different and have very different jobs, families and ministries.
  2. We do not share secrets with others.  We keep confidences.
  3. We laugh with each other, we cry with each other.
  4. There is no judgement, just accountability.
  5. We pray for each other.
  6. We allow mess, not perfection.
  7. We can fall apart with each other or in front of each other because we know we will help each other pick the pieces up.
  8. Anger is not allowed to linger.
  9. Our friendship is a verb, not a noun.  We help each other move.  We help each other clean house.  We cook for each other.  We run errands together or for each other.
  10. We embrace each other-we celebrate each other’s personalities, gifts, talents, jobs, ministries…

Faith filled friendships are the only kind of “best” friendships to have.

Pouring In-Pouring Out

2014-07-08 12.22.38

I have had the best time with my girls the past two weeks.  As we await the finishing of our home in our little furnished apartment, we are finding we take more time to be together, do together.  In all honesty, sometimes just to get out of the little furnished apartment, but none the less.  Last week we drove to the northern part of Arkansas to visit one of our favorite people and her precious new baby girl.  For me, the trip was almost overwhelming.  Many, many emotions surfaced, but the greatest of these was love.

You see, this favorite person has been a part of lives since she was in 7th grade.  Hard to believe and a part of the story that left me feeling a little overwhelmed about my age!  My husband and I began working with the youth in our church shortly after we were married.  I lucked out and got this incredible group of girls for 7th grade Sunday School.  I was blessed to have them again in 9th grade! During this same time period my husband and I were going through infertility issues, the death of his mother, and health issues with my mother.  All that to say, I wasn’t at my best every Sunday.  But this incredible group of girls rallied around me and for every ounce of love I poured into them, they poured it right back on me seven-fold.  We ALL learned a great deal about prayer and in many ways this group of girls was my accountability group.  When I wanted to scream, when I wanted to give up on God and answered prayers, I knew I had to stay strong, hold to my faith and have hope.  I owed it to this group of girls.  You can rest assured the day I got to tell them I was not only pregnant, but pregnant with multiples we ALL cried.  When the two precious twin daughters were delivered early on December 29, 1998 that group of girls beat everyone to the hospital.  Within months, they were not only pouring love back into me, but they wrapped themselves like a little army around my precious miracles and held on tight.  Two in particular, became a part of their families.  And right along with them, came their siblings and parents.  Together these two young girls, best of friends, became our “official” babysitters.  Believe it or not, I left my two premature babies in their care at 4 months.  They were only 14!  I look back now and wonder what I was thinking!  The truth is, I never doubted their abilities, their love for my girls.  I knew deep in my heart special, life-long bonds would be formed.  And that is exactly what happened.

The picture above is one of those two precious, now young women.  She is with my daughters and her three month old bundle of joy.  We got to babysit for her.  Even as I write this my eyes well up with tears, tears of joy.  I’m not sure anyone else but us will really know all that picture holds.  It is a picture of miracles.  It is a picture of pure, unconditional love.  It is a picture of what it means to pour into others, filling them, so they can in turn pour out into others.  It is a picture of the mentoring cycle come full circle.  It is a picture of what it means to be a Christian and to love like Christ.

If you are a young mom I pray today you will consider expanding your circle to include a young babysitter or two.  Trust.  Have faith.  Think more about the investment into relationships than the cost.  If you are yearning for children and/or struggling with infertility, trust God to answer your prayers according to His will.  And as you wait, love.  Pour into someone or a group of someones. Don’t let Satan use your hurt, sorrow and struggles to squelch your ability to love and minister.  I promise, when we pour out, God has a way of pouring it right back into us.  And that is how we carry on. That is how we can face the sorrows and struggles still to come.  That is how we handle the answers.  It’s all about relationship.  It’s all about loving others.

Under Construction

We are still in our little two bedroom, furnished apartment.  NO   LONGER   FUN.  As I went to the house under construction to meet yet one more sub, I must confess I was NOT FEELING IT.  The words running through my mind were not positive, chipper words.  NOPE.  I was having one of my “I am DONE” conversations.  Done walking the dogs, who are done being tethered to a leash.  Done trying to get laundry done with no place to fold, iron or store.  Done trying to plan meals using an apartment size refrigerator, electric cook-top and borrowed pans.  Done with the soft, too small mattress I am sharing with my husband.  You get it.  Just DONE.  Then I pulled up to a house almost complete.  I thought to myself, “We are so close, and yet so far.”  The muscles in my neck tightened, my grip on the steering wheel began to turn my knuckles white, and my right leg began to twitch.  In that moment I stopped.  I knew  I needed a moment.  A moment to stop and breathe, to collect my thoughts and reign in my little pity party.  What did I have to be so “DONE” with?  Here I sat in front of a new home.  A home my family has spent a year planning and 4 months tending to.  A home where we have already begun to envision family, friends and strangers being served and entertained.  A home in a new neighborhood full of new friends to be and new opportunities.  So I decided to stop and utter up a word of thanksgiving and ask God to breathe new words into my mind, to refresh my spirit.  I just sat, in the quiet of my car looking at the house under construction.  In those minutes God reminded me of two things:

1.  Quit striving.  Over and over this past year God has convicted me and disciplined me regarding my tendency to strive.  He reminded me I need to enjoy the process, the journey and conserve my energy.  Striving does nothing but deplete me of my energy and deprive Him the opportunity to carry out His works in His might.

2.  I too am under construction.  Under construction is the only way I can be on this world.  Completion only occurs when Christ takes me home.

Talk about a change in perspective and attitude.  By the time I got out of the car, I had a new outlook.  Yes, my house is still under construction.  So much is done, yet all around lies dirt, trash, and so much more to be done.  The big things are complete, but all those details that bring the house to life, are just being installed.  They take time.  They must be done in specific order.  The house won’t be perfect, either due to budget constraints or human error.  And, that’s OK.  As I walked around each room checking on installation, taking measurements and just stepping back to look at the progress I could not help but think of His words whispered so quietly in the solitude of my car, “You too sweet daughter are under construction.”  I had to smile as I thought of my Heavenly Father looking down on me.  Oh the mess He must see: the discarded baggage; the piles of tears and disappointments.  Yet at the same time I know He sees beauty.  He sees the laugh lines engraved upon my face from those just right moments with family and friends.  He sees the freckles upon my arms and face from days spent playing in the sun.  He sees the frayed finger nails from scrubbing toilets and washing dishes all out of love for those residing in my home or visiting.  He sees the readers perched on nose’s end as a result of late night and early morning reading, letting the encouragement of another’s prose sink in or His words come to life.  Yes, I am under construction.  I am so close, and yet so far.  I have grown, some big things have been worked out and worked through, but I’ve still got a ways to go.

My house will be completed.  Turning it into a home will take years to come.  Hopefully my journey to completion will take years to come.

Here are a few shots of the new home for those of you who have asked to see a few shots.  In the months ahead I have no doubt I’ll be asking for some advice on decorating.

2014-07-02 19.28.362014-07-04 11.22.052014-07-02 19.34.182014-07-04 10.43.242014-07-04 10.41.28

 

Beauty in the Brokenness

I have been in the midst of preparing a session for a women’s conference.  My topic is “WMU & Women’s Ministry: Incorporating the Two and Bringing Women Together.”  It’s really about leadership and reaching the heart of women.  I love the array of information available through other blogs, Lifeway, Family Life etc…  I also love the incredible women of faith God has placed in my life full of wisdom and incredible leadership qualities.  Most of all I love God’s Word, the Bible.  I love the way He takes a story and breathes new life into it as we seek to find wisdom and words to share.

God spoke to me through the stories of Mary and Martha.  Two incredible sisters whom Jesus loved and spent a good deal of time with.  Their home was often His resting place.  This time through though God opened my eyes to the strengths and weaknesses of each.  Mary didn’t spend enough time taking care of work/duties, but Martha didn’t know when to set the work/duties aside and enjoy the moment. Both, however, clearly loved the Lord.  They believed in Him.  They trusted Him.  When their brother, Lazarus, fell sick, they didn’t hesitate to run straight to Jesus.  They didn’t hesitate to ask for his healing.  They didn’t hesitate to let Jesus hear and see their raw emotions.  And Mary, with her sensitive spirit and obvious gift for discernment showed the depth of her understanding when she took the alabaster jaw of fine perfume and shattered it at Jesus feet, using the expensive oil to wash his feet in an act of pure humility and sacrifice.  They got it.  These two sisters understood who Jesus was.  They understood His significance and they gave of themselves freely to worship Him.  They didn’t let critics stop them.  They weren’t concerned with what others were doing.  They didn’t spend their time at the city gate or the water well talking about how well they knew Jesus, when He was visiting next.  Their focus was on Him.  Their focus was on serving Him, worshiping Him.

As I have pondered their story and thought about how important it is for us to just be real, to let our broken hearts, spirits, dreams, bodies… be an offering to Him, I have realized how foolish it is, and how often I seek to hide my flaws, mistakes, fears, from others.  We all have them.  We are all fallen sinners living in a world full of heartache.  Yes, we also have victories, strength, talents… but most often those are developed through trials.  We are able to connect, to use our whole lives (the brokenness and the victories) to be a testament.

Having spent the bulk of my childhood and formative years living in Japan, I loved this picture and message.  I am more beautiful because I have suffered damage and have a history.  You are more beautiful because you have suffered damage and have a history.  Let’s share those stories.  Let’s be real.  Let’s honor one another’s stories by being faithful to respect each other’s stories.  Let’s allow each other the opportunity to have our own story, not try to create the same stories.  As women God created us to be beautiful, to create beauty.  Be beautiful today.  Embrace the damage, your history and see the beautiful person it has created.

“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful” – Billie Mobayed.

"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.  They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful" - Billie Mobayed

Italian Sausage Penne with Tomato Cream Sauce

It’s what’s for dinner.  

Cooking in a furnished apartment is proving to be a challenge.  I must admit I’m spoiled.  I am used to my pots and pans, my large fridge for storing foods, a pantry etc…  Tonight was time to improvise-create something new out of what was on hand.  It was a hit, and shall be a “keeper” recipe.  I didn’t get a photo, and so wish I had.  It turned out a beautiful pinkish color.  One of the girls made a kale and romaine salad with Asian pear and fresh blueberries, topped with grated Parmesan and a berry vinaigrette.  It turned out to be a fresh, pleasing to the eye summer supper.

Italian Sausage Penne with Tomato Cream Sauce

Brown 1 lb Italian Sausage, then drain.  Add 1 tsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.  Saute.  Once the flavors have blended, add 1/4 cup half and half (I used Non Fat Land O Lakes) and 6 oz cream cheese.  Stir until the cream cheese is melted and blended with the other ingredients.  Once blended, pour in one can of diced roasted diced tomatoes with garlic.  Stir and let simmer.

While the Italian Sausage mixture is cooking, cook one package of whole wheat Penne pasta according to directions.  Drain.  Pour the Italian Sausage mixture over the Penne Pasta, adding one half cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir until all the noodles are coated.  Serve onto plates (as we did since we have no serving platters) or “dump” the Pasta-Italian Sausage mixture onto a serving platter.

Nice blend of sweet from the tomatoes and a hint of spice from the Italian Sausage (I like to use hot Italian Sausage).  

Just a reminder dinner can be quick, simple and still delicious.  it also means my family can spend an evening around the table-and that is the ultimate blessing in my book.