what i am loving and learning

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Hello.

The end of August marked the 10th year of A Work of Heart. I stand amazed for a number of reasons but most of all by readers. The content available at the click of a pinkie finger is immeasurable. I never take for granted that even one person would take the time to read a long post, write a comment, share on Facebook or hit the like button.
Initially only my family and a few friends knew the existence of this site, but now there are almost 500 followers of this little ol’ blog. It’s a drop in the bucket for many bloggers but my cup runs over with gratitude as a blogger who doesn’t follow any of the “rules” anymore and only posts occasionally. Thank you from all corners of my heart.

Now to what I am loving and learning:

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I am not different from most, I like the after-effects of cleaning. In the category of frivolous, I love Caldrea countertop spray. I may lose my Oregonian credentials as I should be using a homemade vinegar and water solution but no. I love the fragrance and how it faintly lingers hours after I have cleaned, reminding me that I have indeed cleaned…something.

 

I had heard a bit about Netflix’s original series Stranger Things but it wasn’t until I asked my Facebook peeps to help us find some television/movie ideas while Carl recovered from a recent surgery that it became apparent it was time to check the series out. We felt like we had been transported into the 1980’s in the best possible way. It was such a treat to watch a series that defies age. No spoilers here, just watch it.

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I am not sure why it took me so long but I finally  started a bullet journal. If I am honest, I thought it would bother me if I didn’t do it “right”. What I have learned is that mistakes are a part of the process and this journal is for me alone. I love having everything in one place. I tended towards having many notebooks and lists and never made a lot of traction regarding goal keeping and organization. Be forewarned how easy it is to drool over the creative world of those who keep a bullet journal, perhaps this was a bit intimidating as well. I am loving making my journal feel like Helen and no one is grading my journal 🙂

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Behold the sunflower glory. Our year has been marked by waiting. Waiting is difficult and it is stretching. I fought hard to get seeds into the ground this year. The rest of our yard is a bit challenged and sad-looking. Last summer’s extreme heat devastated most of my perennials and gave us a weak blueberry harvest. Sniff. These sunflowers are beauty and hope in the waiting. This year I planted 10-12 different varieties and then I misplaced the seeds and couldn’t find them for weeks, another delay and more waiting. When I look at each stem swaying in the breeze, being enjoyed by bees or even the very tallest ones the squirrels didn’t allow viewing before they carted the blossoms off, they are my sunrise and sunset. They represent all that is contained in a day and in our lives, a lot of waiting but also such a lot of glorious beauty to behold.
This week, I read this verse:

I can be content in any and every  situation through the Anointed One who is my power and strength.   Philippians 4: 13 (The Voice)

I have read this verse countless times but in this translation, all I could do was say out loud, “Not even.”
I haven’t been very content in most situations lately.
I can be, only through God.
If contentment were easy, God wouldn’t need to help us secure it.
I can wait.
I can be content.
I can lean heavily onto my Maker to make it be so.

My word for the year has been peace. Oh that has been such a great word for many reasons. We all need peace and want it. Sometimes, I have to hunt for peace when I scroll through social media feeds. Another aspect of peace which I didn’t anticipate is my need to finally surrender to taking better care of myself. It encompasses all the things we all know we should be doing but for me it also is simply being kinder and gentler to myself. I don’t have to move at an urgent pace everyday. I don’t have to conquer everything. I can say no or yes. I can rest. If I wasn’t convinced, I need to look no further than how Caleb has gotten in the habit of giving me a neck and shoulder massage. It is the most dear thing ever but he notices. Tight muscles are noisy messengers.

I read Shauna Niequist’s new book after grappling with many of the themes of her book for years. I finished it in a couple of days and wrote all over the margins. It became a journal of “aha’s” and “yes, me too”. This summer, I also started the crazy habit of reading one book at a time. Gasp. After decade of having lot of bookmarked books, I decided to read one book at a time. It makes me feel less cluttered. I think I am loving it.

When this image hit my Instagram feed several days ago, I could not stop looking at the Obamas. It is such a stunning photo of a man and a woman, a husband and a wife. I had so many thoughts and feelings. It gave me pause for all the ways I feel about my body, all the ways I feel it has been less or more than I want it to be. I added it to the running list of “loves”  in my bullet journal (of course). But then I read Deidra Rigg’s post and it was such a slam dunk and a hallelujah, I will let her eloquent words stand. She is a lot braver than I am. I want to be braver. Fist bump Deidra and Michelle.

*****

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Not the best photo (not my car), but remember, obviously you can never have too many car fresheners 😉 

What are you loving and learning during these golden days of September?

 

 

Deluge

 

(photo taken from passenger seat)

(photo taken from passenger seat)

During the first week of December, Portland and the surrounding areas were hit with record rainfall.
My first morning drive to work, of what was to turn into weeks of downpours, felt like a car wash except for my disobedience to all the rules. My car was not in neutral, my foot was gently on the accelerator and my hands most definitely were gripping the steering wheel.

The ground seemed to cry “uncle” and could not keep up with the pace and quantity of rain leading to flooding and landslides. Puddles and standing water were everywhere making it difficult to walk let alone drive without extreme caution.

A few days into the deluge, I was driving home from work, the rain had lightened up and the sun decided to peer through the grey sky. As the sunshine began to stretch wider and longer, a single ray landed on an impressive high-rise.

I took my eyes off the road in front of me for a moment and gazed at this beaming building in the sky. The sun flickered enough to cease blinding my sight and revealed 5 letters across 5 window panes.

PEACE.

I locked eyes on the word, glanced back at the road and cars in front of me and then lifted my chin up. I admit wanting to snap a quick photo but you know, I was driving…on a freeway.

It’s just as well, because as I kept up this vigil of looking up and down,
I was caught off-guard as tears began to coat my cheeks.

I have no idea the window owner’s intention.

Nor does it matter because it spoke to me in the midst of a chaotic
season, a relentless year.

All I knew was this year my heart had been flooded by images of Paris, black bodies in the streets, weary refugees and thoughts about a man with power, position and a platform shouting out words of fear and hate.
Does his loud voice speak for the hushed beliefs of others?
These heartaches beyond my doorstep clasp hands with all that cross the
threshold of my home.

Tears speak.

In the ensuing weeks, I continued to look up through the clouds to see a word which continued to settle and help me exhale most of what is contained in a day.

I am not sure how many years, I have chosen a word or phrase to embrace for the year ahead. I have grown to cherish this practice. Some years, it has been a challenge and other years, like this one, it has beckoned to me from the sky.

My word for 2016 is peace and to further solidify the choice, unbeknownst to me, Carl picked the same word.

Whenever I choose a word in January, I always believe I know the reasons but there are always surprises and deeper purposes than I know at the time.

This is what I know now.

There are times when our lives become so saturated with the cares and concerns of our lives and world that the evidence comes by way of flood or landslide.

I believe there is a way to live at peace despite the deluge of life.

I want peace to reign in the world and I will pray and do my part for that end.

But peace has to be at work in my heart, my actions and my emotions.

The way I treat others or even mutter about them in the confines of my car speaks to the place of peace in my life.

I am becoming increasingly aware how often I replace the good with the hard,
obliterating the blessed fingerprints all over my life.
I can be forgetful.

I want peace to be an umbrella over the good and hard throughout my days.

The good is present, the hard may arrive but God has not changed.

God remains and Jesus continues to be my Prince of Peace,
I must allow Him elbow room in my heart and mind.

I want His peace to invade my life to such an extent my heart can’t keep up with its pace and quantity. The only solution is to allow the runoff to saturate the world around me.
That’s the best kind of flood.

May 2016 and beyond be lived in the midst of these verses:

And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me—do it—and the God of peace will walk with you.

Philippians 4: 7-9 (The Voice)

To my faithful readers,
as I enter my 10th year of blogging,
thanks for sticking with me whether I have doused you with many words
or you have patiently waited through droughts,
this is my blessing and prayer for you:

The Eternal One bless and keep you.
May He make His face shine upon you 
and be gracious to you.
The Eternal One lift up His countenance
to look upon you and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 (The Voice)

 

(I have been writing this post for weeks, in my mind and on
scraps of paper. Yesterday I finally sat to write  and my blog
would not open..sigh! But late last night, it appeared and this
morning there is snow! Each day is different and a chance
to practice peacekeeping.)

darkness and light

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This was my view when I entered our bathroom this morning.

It wasn’t a staged photo opportunity.

It simply was the pile of supplies used during the course of yesterday to treat

a child battling a cold.

I had just finished calling the school to document his absence

when I noticed the candle’s close proximity to the medication line-up.

Choose Happiness.

My word for 2014 is relinquish.

This word has taught me many lessons over these past 11 months.

Although the word relinquish seems to float effortlessly off

my tongue, I have choked on this word a fair amount.

The photo above illustrates what I have come to know deeply.

Our days are littered with opportunities

to relinquish,

to yield,

to give up,

to release our hold

on circumstances that careen

into our paths.

But there is always the possibility of reaching

towards the light hovering next

to every situation.

For me to live a life of relinquishment

requires making incremental adjustments

throughout the course of my day.

If I don’t learn how to yield even

in the smallest

areas of my life,

when the big stuff comes,

(and it will come),

I will succumb to holding on with a death grip.

My small area today is a sick Caleb,

throwing the balance of my

day’s plans out of alignment.

I can choose to care with love or

I can care with an attitude.

Have you ever taken care of someone with

a poor mental mindset?

Has someone cared for you with a

crummy mood?

If not, I am sure we can all use our imaginations

as to how this might look or feel.

When I exercise relinquishment,

I don’t always have to prove I am right.

I don’t always have to have the last word.

I don’t have to demand the answers

to my questions this very minute.

I can choose to give someone the right of way,

literally and figuratively.

While driving, I can pause and give an oncoming car

the right of way.

Yet I often speed up believing if I am

faster, I’m not really impeding their journey, right?

Perhaps relinquishing isn’t about choosing

the path of happiness but rather the  bumpy cobblestone

road leading to peace.

Romans 12 is a chapter I revisit often whenever

I feel out of alignment.

When I pour over the words,

many verses help define relinquishment.

Although I fail so often in this way, this year an arrow

has pointed to this verse as one way to relinquish.

 If it is possible,
as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18

Often it is easy to choose the right way to behave,

the hard part is doing it with a peaceable attitude and heart.

Each day there will be boxes of difficult circumstances

jutted up against a beacon of light leading the way,

a better way called relinquishment.

It’s not a call to ignore my feelings which

undoubtedly will surface,

because that would be pointless and dishonest.

It is a call to step back and lead with love,

with patience,

with eyes beyond my own desires.

It calling to memory that each moment

is not all about me.

Some days it is all about taking temperatures and

reminding a boy he is cherished and not a bother.

It’s about offering him a cup of cold Vitamin Water given

with love in His name.

**********

Despite the example,
Caleb is the dearest of patients,
full of thank you’s and appreciation.
His mother…well that is another post
for another day 🙂

 

non-negotiables

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The Portland Trailblazers playoff game against the Houston Rockets

went into overtime, pushing our “required” viewing of

The Good Wife until past bedtime.

I know, deeply difficult problems.

Monday morning would arrive sooner than we would desire

but despite this inevitability Carl and I began our routine.

I have discovered any morning but especially Monday morning

is made more manageable with a non-negotiable in place.

We always tidy our living room and if need be, our kitchen before lights out.

Most nights, I estimate the whole process takes less

than 5 minutes.

But those 300 seconds are key when faced with heavy-lidded eyes and bed

hair the next morning.

There are any number of routine things we do each day…

shower, brush our teeth, make our beds, or kiss our loved ones

goodbye as we part company.

It’s quite simple.

We put away what doesn’t belong in the space and straighten up

what should inhabit the surroundings.

(Oh the spiritual connotations in the above sentence,
but I will refrain to keep this post within 500 words. Sigh.)

A toss of the pillow here and a newspaper filed away there.

An empty mug is sent off to the dishwasher and ottomans

which earlier propped tired legs are stowed away.

Half read books may be closed or taken by the hand

to be consumed under covers.

We didn’t always have this routine in place.

We had years of babies and unbending schedules which

meant we didn’t waste a moment picking up the aftermath

of the day before limping towards our mattress.

Life remains busy but I never regret those few minutes

at night ushering me into the freshness of a new day.

I don’t have to clear a space to sit on a couch or chair

to read.

I’m not kicking plates full of the crumbs from the snacks

of a day ago.

In many ways it helps put yesterday in the past and

embrace the day presented before me.

We have never discussed this “ritual” but as Carl and I have

practiced it nightly, we have observed our kids observing

the same routine.

Well, most of the time, with the exception of discarded shoes!

All I know is it has become a non-negotiable part of our nighttime habits,

not in the way of a mandate but a pursuit aimed towards

drawing tranquility into a day not yet born.

Our desire for our home is to be a sanctuary of rest,

a haven of peace.

When pillows are fluffed and furniture is set right,

we walk into order and not chaos.

Let chaos ensue when we cross the threshold to

the world or get behind the wheel 😉

What non-negotiable actions do you practice which

deposits peace into your life?

Or is it time to add one into your days or nights?

This week, I am going to share a couple of my

non-negotiable habits that help me exhale deeper.

Happy last day of April and if you live in Portland,

you might think it is the last day of August,

there’s a mini heat wave brewing here!

What can you do in 5 minutes or less to 

enhance the day to come?

Do it!