what i learned in january

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  1. Hugs from an 11 year-old boy are a gift.
    Of our three children, Caleb is the one who
    asks for hugs the most and without needing a reason.
    He loves having his head rubbed or neck
    massaged. Most mornings, I am greeted by his outstretched
    arms with increasing wingspan and given a hug.
    I have been looking at hugs from the standpoint
    of them one day flying away.
    I am determined to see each one as a gift received and
    not bemoan future days. I cannot stop the day when
    his chin rests upon my head nor can I stall
    his need for mama closeness to change its dimensions.
    I can only embrace and cherish each hug dearly.
    What if he is forever a hugger and I have been
    waiting for the way he has been carved to end?
  2. Speak less, write less and listen more.
    Recently I listened to a fragment of a teaching from
    Beth Moore. She was recounting being
    one of many speakers at a conference. She was following
    the activity on Twitter and was struck by all the tweets posted
    seconds after a speaker had uttered them. She expressed how
    easy it is to borrow what another person has learned. The people
    tweeting the excellent quotes had not done the work
    allowing the words to swim deeply into their souls.
    This is part of the reason I am posting less often. I want to have
    time for my words to marinate. I want them to have come forth
    tender after walking through the toughness
    of my spirit.
    I want to process before I proclaim.
  3. I have racial tension fatigue, is there such a thing?
    When I use the word fatigue, I don’t mean I am tired
    enough to sweep facts out of sight and mind.
    My mind, heart and soul are fatigued.
    The expanse of a day brings an unwelcome accumulation
    of  evidence supporting our tumultuous climate.
    It can be violent or a person of stature’s
    poor choice of words.
    I have felt disheartened when many are surprised
    racism remains.
    When making a cake,
    dry ingredients are added to wet ones and stirred
    until each ingredient is fully incorporated. One final
    scrap along a hidden section of your bowl reveals streaks
    of flour, catching you off guard.
    Where did that come from?
    I thought enough stirring had occurred for the ingredients
     in the batter to be come indistinguishable?
    The streak of racism has been uncovered and deserves
    conversation and action. It demands heart change.
    My soul’s permanent resident of optimism has
    vacated and needs time to move back in
    so I can respond in hope and energy.
    Our church just finished a 3 week series called
    Saving Justice reflecting on the gospel, injustice
    and the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and
    Coretta Scott King.
    I have listened to this talk twice and will again.
    I found it to be a very balanced and hopeful
    message.
    Have a listen here.
  4. I  am going to miss Parenthood.
    By the time this post is published, the sixth
    and final season of Parenthood will have aired.
    Carl and I watched this series with our girls.
    Not everything but so many themes intersected
    our lives. Each week, it was as if we set
    up a water cooler in our living room to discuss
    story lines real and on the screen.
    A fun side note: Craig T. Nelson (Zeek) was in the same
    graduation class as my father and attended
    their 50th class reunion a couple of summers ago.
    So that means I sort of know him ;)
    I will miss the Bravermans.
    Here are 10 ways Parenthood made us cry.
  5. I have given winter a bad rap.
    Although I have never lined up the seasons
    from favorite to least favorite, I have
    always known winter landed on the bottom.
    Living in Portland, Oregon, although many
    escape to the mountains for snow fun, I think
    the rest of us are always waiting for better weather
    and if that isn’t going to happen, let it snow.
    Not rumors of snow but bring on snow in abundance
    for a day or two. Most winters are grey,chilly and
    soggy. I feel badly writing the previous sentence
    because lately it has been quite wonderfully cool
    with fog in the mornings and late evenings and
    sunny blue sky afternoons but this isn’t normal.
    Mark Buchanan is one of my favorite authors.
    For the past several years,his book Spiritual Rhythm
    has been a needed companion for each season,
    especially in the midst of winter.
    Whenever I read about a particular season,
    I am reminded of vital sections
    within the year I am prone to discard.
    I am fervently trying to receive one of winter’s purposes
    as Mark Buchanan details:
Winter's not for adding things but for cutting things.
It's the best season, the safest one, actually, to look
closely at all the tangled branches of your life--the travel,
the committee work, the various projects, the hobbies that
have become burdens or obsessions, the trivial pursuits,
the diversions; or the ingrown snarl of things, the lists in 
your head of people and situations to worry about, the 
proliferation of responsibilities that aren't really yours--
and ask honestly if these are bearing fruit or just sapping
energy. And then, without apology or even caution, cut
to nothing all that which gives nothing. 

I decided to post a second time this week to join
Emily and her community at chatting at the sky
to share what we learned in January.

You can read more here.

What did you learn in January?

the crisis of the ellipsis

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During the first years of this blog,

I learned how important it was to develop my voice and style.

If you read any of the early years of posts,

my voice and style were essentially an overuse of the ellipsis.

Do you know what I mean?

An ellipsis is the series of three dots at the end

of an incomplete sentence.

I am sure I thought it was cute at the time.

Now I know it was a flashing arrow pointing

towards my incomplete thoughts or fear

of full disclosure.

Perhaps a feeble attempt to allow any reader to

finish the sentence to their liking.

Over the years, I have had occasions when

my resumé needed updating.

This exercise has proven to be an excruciating one.

No matter the accomplishments,

I only see the 10-year gap in my

work history.

It feels like an ellipsis,

(not a cute one),

an incomplete

thought and sometimes

in the midst of winter when my

spirit shrivels and sags,

it’s a persistent whisper begging

me to believe it signals

an incomplete life.

Yet I know this is far from

the truth.

The space between those dots appears

minuscule on paper,

as if nothing happened,

but in the real life of putting foot to concrete,

the expanse extends miles

past the written page.

Those little dots don’t reveal or describe

the time of sacred mothering for which

I am immensely grateful.

They don’t display the years of healing

from the toll of physically demanding

work.

So whenever a  reflexive shudder travels

from my head to spine as I survey the

gaps,

the pauses,

the sense of incompleteness,

I remember,

I am not the one who completes

my life sentence.

I am not even the author of those sentences.

I am to live fully awake in the sentence,

no matter when a comma or an ellipsis

seems to be an interruption.

Does your life consist of 

ellipsis overabundance?

Do those tiny dots seem to cast a 

large shadow over your days?

What friendship seemed close and now it is…?

Did you think you would occupy a certain role

by now?

Were you always intending to go back to school?

Do you equate incomplete with inadequate?

Could we pause for a moment today and

embrace the ellipsis in our lives?

Would we allow our minds to roam over those areas

which seem incomplete and accept them

in all their “as is” glory.

If it is a friendship,

how can we move toward it

or was it only meant for a particular season?

If it is a dream,

how can we realign it or practice

patience while we wait?

For each dot of the ellipsis,

find one reason to be grateful

for the pause.

Our lives are full of gaps

and interruptions,

embrace them as teachers

and not as harsh taskmasters.

The ellipsis simply means

your life isn’t finished yet,

and this my friends,

is a marvelous reality.

 

 

housekeeping

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Yesterday I unloaded a trunk and backseat full of bags of clothing and miscellaneous
items to Goodwill. I am determined to unburden my home and life from having
so much stuff. To be honest, my closet is quite bare but to me, it is gorgeous.
Instead of a crammed full line-up of every shape and color of apparel, it now
has space to exhale. I mean. if clothes were to take a breath, it would be easy.
I however am breathing a welcome sigh of relief.
So I have been keeping my house and suddenly remembered,
I wrote this post more than a week ago and never finished
the editing or posting it, which from the title, it is easy to see
this topic has been on my mind.
Enjoy.

*****

It’s a new year for A Work of Heart.

I have enjoyed blogging in this space for the past 8 years

and although many speculate the future of blogs,

I plan to continue until I am obsolete!

That being said, I have been thinking a lot

about the look and  feel of this blog.

I have been reading a book about tidying up

and one of the many principles as it relates

to the “things” in our lives is to consider what

sparks joy.

Here is my attempt to tidy up my blog:

  • My hope is to add new content once a week.
    Unless I feel an undeniable nudge to
    post a blog series, expect to see one
    post at the most each week.
  • I love and appreciate your comments
    here on the blog and on Facebook. Please
    do check back if you have left a comment
    as I do reply.
  • Occasionally a friend will email me and tell
    me about ads appearing below a given post which
    are offensive. This bothers me on many fronts
    but especially since I have a few young readers.
    I will be changing my site soon.
    I have wanted to move away from a free site
    for years but haven’t taken the plunge mainly
    due to some of the nightmares I have heard
    other bloggers experience…mainly losing
    subscribers.
  • One of the ways I hope to not lose any one
    of you precious followers is to
    begin a quarterly newsletter. If my blog site
    change was not seamless and I lost anyone
    in the transition, I could easily contact you
    by newsletter.
    My newsletter would contain material not
    found on the blog so it would be special :)
    Would you be interested?
    Be on the lookout for sign-up information
    soon. Don’t you love the vagueness of the
    word “soon”.
  • I continue to be extremely grateful for each person
    who reads this blog.
    I appreciate those who have faithfully read
    for years and the new readers who
    have recently starting following this blog.
    I am closing this post with several
    posts newer readers may have missed
    and  some of the most read posts of the
    past year you might want to revisit.wpid-20150120_154626.jpg

A Work of Heart history
(grab a cup of something hot and
learn what makes me and this blog tick.
If you read nothing else of this series,
read the last post…it’s my heart cry
for this blog.)

My most read post of 2014

How I am learning to exchange a 
death grip for a looser one on my
children

Detours can take you on the best trips

Encouragement while you wait

Disappointments are real and 
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 
are really good. How I am trying
not to introduce the two anymore.

What I learned in 2014

Wherever the clutter resides in

your life,

may you find courage to hold

onto what brings joy and release

what brings you grief.

Releasing  clutter from your life

may be as

simple as changing your

mindset.

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{embrace} faithfulness

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I admit it,

I love this time of year.

Actually by this time of year, I mean the final two weeks

of December and the first two weeks of January.

I get lost reading postings on websites and blogs recapping

favorite things, books, movies and memories.

I love the reading challenges springing

up all over the place.

It’s a bad idea to take a social media break during

this time because somehow (it is a conspiracy)

I always get sucked into the vortex of reading about

other people’s resolutions, goals and the words

they are choosing for the new year.

Oh how I enjoy the energy and

hopefulness most people cradle tightly during the infancy

of a new calendar year.

I am no different.

I no longer use the word resolution in favor

of pursuits.

But I have filled my journal with hopes and

dreams and an ever-growing list of books

to read.

Near the middle of  last November, I was driving

home anticipating an upcoming doctor’s appointment.

I remember pondering  many questions and devising

scenarios that I am certain there were blocks passed

without notice.

Within the confines of my seat and the hug of my

seat belt, I seemed to hear these words as I continued

to toss thoughts inside my head,

Just be faithful.

But what about…?

Just be faithful.

During the next several weeks,

the word “faithful” seemed to be in

bold-type during my times reading

the Bible and my pen was ready

to underline every occurrence.

One morning a wonderful reminder was found in one of my favorite psalms:

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Psalm 37:3

**********

In early December, my daughter Courtney told me she would like

to take me to lunch and shopping.

We planned to do this during the holidays but we didn’t want

any hurt feelings by leaving family members out of our fun.

So we decided on the first day back to work and school which

was yesterday.

Mondays always signal the day I attempt to prepare for the week ahead,

my list is lengthy and check marks become my love language.

I woke up groggy on Monday and everyone else under

our roof did as well.

It would have been very easy to dismiss this date because

it was Monday and there were check marks to amass.

But I had an invitation to be treated well.

We had a wonderful lunch and with full bellies

proceeded to

shop for boots.

After several attempts, I found a pair.

I glanced at the price and wanted to put the boots back.

Courtney told me how much she loved the boots on me

and asked if I wanted this pair.

I launched a few more “how do I look” questions

and then,

“Are you sure?”

She said,

“Yes, as long as you don’t talk yourself out

of buying them.

I budgeted for this day

and today is way below what I expected.”

Our children, young and old, see and

know us well.

There isn’t any way to hide.

So  guess what?

I have a brand new pair of boots.

I want to know all the answers

and every conceivable outcome.

I want to head off each worst case scenario.

I want to make sure no one pays too much for me

or is too inconvenienced by me either.

God says be faithful.

How many good things

have I talked myself out of?

How often have I taken a  momentary

slip-up and viewed it as fuel to abandon

what could have been mine?

Seriously, I could have been a contender

if I had kept moving forward embracing

my humanness instead of trying to grasp

perfection.

Do I believe my goals and

dreams cost too much?

Am I only worthy of clearance

priced dreams and not allowed

full sticker price ones?

Will I simply allow myself

to be loved well?

I think being faithful isn’t always

about getting the chores accomplished,

but allowing someone to surprise you.

I do know it is honoring relationship over

self-imposed obligations.

I know being faithful doesn’t mean anything

unless it is cultivated over time with

experience.

My intentions don’t always materialize into

reality and I have already learned

when I fail at being faithful in any of my

roles, I must be faithful to apologize quickly.

I want to believe with all my heart that

faithfulness is all about dwelling in the land and

sinking our feet deeply in the earth of today.

This year, I want to make friends with faithfulness.

Faithfulness possesses many of the qualities

I have ascribed it

but  I know there are

holes in my practice.

I want to be faithful

and embrace faithfulness.

I want to see God who is

always faithful.

There will be days when I am scrambling

around barefoot holding my agenda

but I hope to do less of that dance.

This year (and hopefully always)

I aim to not bypass the moments

when a gift arrives and slips on my

feet as solidly as a brand new

pair of boots,

ready to be broken in by

a faithful land dweller.

What I Learned in 2014

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What I Learned in 2014 (listed in the most random order)

Age is simply a number. Since turning 50, this reality has become all the more
apparent. I don’t feel radically different but I am grateful for the accumulation of
sights, sounds, tastes, fragrances and experiences which have molded and
enhanced my life. I rejoice for each year.

It is best and wise to treat most people as if they still
have a 10-year-old heart.

No matter my age, I am not immune to having my feelings bruised.
I am trying to remember this as I move about life or when I think my
joke or pun is too hysterical not to share but risks someone else’s  tender heart.

My affection for children and young
adult literature has been rekindled.
It’s been a joy hosting a 5th grade boys
book club this year. I have loved diving into their world
and reading books which appeal to them. I have learned some
profound lessons reading YA books over the last few years.

Lowering a goal can set you free or how to exhale when
you are a recovering perfectionist. I set a high reading goal
on Good Reads this year, mainly to track my reading. However,
whenever the tracker would say I was ahead of schedule, I
gave myself a high-five.
When it showed I was behind, it irritated me. After a few months
of self-inflicted torture, I decreased the goal and it made all
the difference. The goal was reached and surpassed, with joy
not burden.

The more I accept the way I am made instead of warring
against it, the better I care for my self.
I’ve always wanted to be the life of the party. I have always
wanted to be outgoing and energetic. During some chapters
in my life, I was extremely outgoing and volunteered for
everything. I was also exhausted and burnt out.
In my 30’s, I wanted to wish months away at a time.
I was suffering from an extreme need to please and fatigue.
I am learning to accept my calm demeanor and understand my
need for solitude. I am better for it and the people
around me benefit from my taking care of the true me.

Leaving/Changing churches is never easy.
Especially when it is not the first time.
Admitting the challenge it has been and the pain
that remains has been both liberating and excruciating.
I have felt a deeper cavern than I anticipated and
have needed God to tend to this heart space.
January will mark a year in our new church and I am
allowing myself the time needed to grieve and reestablish
footing. I am not jumping in towards service or even
joining groups until my heart has settled down.
I am going to and staying in church because
I still believe in it even when every cell in me tells
me to run and go to brunch instead.
If nothing else, I revel in the collection of friends
who remain in my life despite no longer sitting in pews
together. Rejoice!

We say what we know.
I believe God is tender.
I have been paying attention to what I say and write about
God, even in the lines of emails.
I say God is tender a lot.
I love this because I need His tenderness when the world
can be littered with bitterness.

Bird watching is good for the soul.
You know how they say, watching fish in an aquarium
will lower your blood pressure?
They do say that, right?!
I believe watching all the varieties of birds outside our dining
room window feasting at our bird feeders
brings heart rest.
I look forward to this any time of the day activity
and I feel as if I am doing my part to care for
the bird kingdom.
However, squirrel appearances have the opposite effect.

I think Gwen Stefani and I could be really good friends.
Did you watch The Voice this past season?
Who knew Gwen was one part rock star/
fashionista and the other part weepy mama coach.
She made watching the season even more fun.
Ever leaf through celebrity magazines containing
sections entitled “Celebrities…They’re Just Like Us!”?
(I promise, I won’t tell.)
“They pump their own gas!” (Unless they live in Oregon).
“They drink Starbucks!”
“They take their kids to the park!”

“They walk!”.
Well, now I truly believe Gwen Stefani and I are alike.
We both cry as we watch people reach out and catch
their dreams.
Yep, she’s just like me ;)

Staying connected in relationships, doesn’t just happen,
it requires an intentional effort.
My friend Karen and I have met monthly for years. We would never
leave our time together without getting out our chosen style
of planner and setting our next date. We got out of the habit
and MONTHS went by without seeing one another. We
are now back on track and have seen each other monthly for the
past several months. We always marvel how quickly a month
passes. Thank you Karen for this reminder and keeping us
connected. It has helped maintain our precious friendship
and this habit has spread to my other friendships as well.

I am thankful for friendships which allow me to
sit in the midst of questions unanswerable.
Each one of us has different opinions and views.
There are many answers but each one must
be sorted out for the rightful owner.
There are also questions which stand alone,
unanswerable.
It has been a rich gift to have friends who
gather around tables with me to chat
about life filled with a multitude of questions.
Sometimes it is most important and sacred
to inhabit spaces with a compassionate,
listening ear than armed with seemingly
easy answers to life’s hard questions.

I think tolerance has lost its intent
and meaning.
One of my adult daughters doesn’t like broccoli.
She tolerates it when I cook it for the family.
When I say she tolerates it, I mean she
bypasses it and does not allow the broccoli
any opportunity to mingle with her chosen
delicious items on her plate.
This is what tolerance has begun to
feel like to me.
By definition it is supposed to mean simply
a willingness to accept others.
This word is tossed around so casually
it seems to mean to allow others to
exist without extending any invitation
onto our plates or into our lives.

I think we can do better than
simply tolerating others.
Let’s fill our plates with an array
of portions from different and delectable
cuisines and allow our taste buds
to experience new flavors.
We need to mingle our preferences
with what we have customarily
distanced ourselves from.
There’s always hope.
My daughter now likes Brussel
sprouts, still not begging for
broccoli but like I said, there
is always hope even for adults.

Relinquish was a wonderful
and challenging word to
guide and inform 2014 for me.
Relinquishing is difficult for people
who likes control and perfection.
I don’t know anyone like that but
I would imagine it would be quite the
strenuous task ;)
Yet even in the most straining moments
when self-talk is the only way to pry my hands off
of a situation or a person, I discover relinquishment
is the way to peace,
to joy and
an arrow pointing
towards loving people more deeply.

I still love writing and blogging.
No surprise if you have read to the end
of this lengthy post.
I know even if my scribbles remained
in the shade of journals alone,  I would always write.
I am happy to have a sliver of the online
universe here at A Work of Heart.
I continue to be humbled by any moment
spent by someone reading the collection
of words here.

Thank you so very much and Happy New Year!

I am linking up with others revealing their
2014 lessons with Emily Freeman.

If you are not reaching for a pillow after traversing
my list, you can find more here.