When Looking at More…

Ahh, coffee. We are now past Epiphany, which means I have spent the weekend putting away the Christmas decorations. Yes, the. whole. weekend. Every year there is new pressure to compete with friends who have their decorations down by the start of the new year. Because they are that on top of things. (I never—or rarely—feel that on top of things.) I staunchly hold out until Epiphany, in part because I can’t bear the idea of a bare, denuded house the entire month of January. No twinkly lights? No ribbon and pine cones and shiny red things? The days from Christmas to Epiphany are a time to savor. The rush is done, the big day has a arrived…and I hold on to the celebrating just a little longer.

It’s always after the decorations get put away that I feel that “clean start” to the new year, and it’s usually because the stairway garland has shed like crazy…which means a casual vacuuming of the stairs just won’t do. And while you’re at it, let’s oil the banister. Since you have that oil out, you treat all the rest of the furniture in the house, and before you know it you’re washing all the lace doilies in the kitchen sink… It’s like the grown-up version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, not as much fun but still rewarding. (There are antiques in this house; of course I have lace doilies.) It’s just too cold to shampoo the carpets, which means I’m spared wiping down the baseboards.

Somewhere in the middle of this I’m still working to figure out what my resolutions for the year will be. Don’t even think to shout, “Resolutions don’t work!” as though missing one is a sin you can never repent for. I’m talking about goals. Things you can write down and keep in front of you the whole year long. Small goals, like being more consistent with flossing my teeth. Goals that require a little more strategy, like trying to figure out if I can clean up the craft room AND make some yoga space (which seems like a complete conundrum). Fewer ultimatums, less proving, and more grace. More yoga because I feel better and learn more when I do it. More writing, because it helps me organize my thoughts and articulate my feelings. More reading, because it means I’m actually putting my phone (and all its apps) down. More photography, because I want to be more observant while seeing things creatively. Sending (real! actual!) letters to friends, because they matter and I don’t communicate that nearly enough.

Adding more can sound like a lot more busy, more stress, more stuff. But grace. When mindful adding of the right things push out the wrong things. (Think: More salads!) More time, more space, means less clutter. More—better—prioritizing. And I’m a focus-on-the-positive kind of girl.

Which right now means just a little more coffee.

‘Tis the Season

It’s been a busy season. And I struggle with the word “busy,” as though it were a season of mindless time fillers. Because it wasn’t. So I will say it’s been a full season.

It’s been a season of learning. I’ve been working and studying and traveling and practicing to get my Holy Yoga instructor certification. It’s been an amazing journey with truly beautiful, amazing people.

It’s been a season of letting go. My grandfather, in hospice for many weeks, made his final move to Heaven the week after I returned from my yoga retreat. My family had taken quite a few trips a few hours west of Fort Worth to say our goodbyes, only to learn he wasn’t quite ready. I am happy he is free from pain and experiencing the fullness of Love’s presence.

And it’s been a season of trust, family, and finding my balance again. Trusting that I’m doing the right thing. Coming together with family again, sisters and cousins and aunts. Finding the balance between work and play (um, yeah, like anyone ever really gets that…). Unpacking and rescheduling and adjusting. And in all, feeling like I’m just a little less overwhelmed as things settle down a little.

Suddenly, it’s another season. I look up and I’m already in the middle of Advent. I love this season. But am I reflecting enough? Am I planning enough? Am I adding, doing, decorating, pepperminting enough?

But then I remember to breathe. (Breathing is one of the most important things one learns at a yoga retreat, followed by how to stand.) This breath allows me time to pause. This next breath gives me space to think. I stop the worry of what decorations haven’t been finished or the cards haven’t been sent. In this breath I can see what has been done. What I already have. And what joy surrounds me.

This is grace, this Advent, this season.

 

The Grace of Friendship

Hello, blog friend. It’s been a while. In the time since we last chatted, my baby sis graduated from college, I visited a friend and “did yoga” in Austin, and my grandfather had a stroke. I oversaw the production two books at work, helped lay sod in the backyard for my dad, and worked a weeklong Christian conference. It’s been a nonstop kind of time, a where-do-you-start? kind of time, and I’ve finally been able to take a breath and regroup.

Actually, the pace started just fine, but it’s easy to let get out of hand. I’m so grateful for the words of a very dear friend…a pact to stop apologizing for late replies, a pact to let go of the guilt, a pact to embrace the whole of our friendship and hearts of we are, wherever we are. I cherish my friends, and the gift of grace they offer me is beyond words.

It’s been a good season for friendship for me, in the midst of busy-ness. Reconnecting with my dear friend in Austin. She is a safe harbor for me, and we do yoga together. A conference downtown meant the opportunity to reconnect with friends, and make new ones. Hours (upon hours) on your feet and then breaking bread together. Another friend “from a far country” is coming soon for an extended stateside stay. We are Anne and Diana together, kindred spirits. I’ve also recently had the opportunity to make new friends from across the country and across the globe; I don’t know if we’ll all meet in person “this side of glory,” but it’s one of the blessed things about technology and social media. You cannot help but bond with people you’ve prayed and shared your heart with every week.

I treasure true friendship. I don’t take it for granted, and I hope to never exploit it. I believe it was Justice du Plesis who said, “Even in their absence, my friends are safe in my presence.” I love this.

Not Yet Really Feeling the Heat

Six days on a partially working air conditioning system, it is now repaired—and this evening the windows are open to allow the evening air in. For those of you who aren’t from Texas, you may not understand how significant this is. When I first moved here with my family (I had just turned 16), we came from coastal California and A/C didn’t exist in our house. We weren’t strangers to it, by any means, but I had no idea at the time what it meant to be acclimated to a region.

We weren’t sure we were going to survive our introduction to Texas weather, it being too hot to do anything we were used to—walking to the library, walking…anywhere. It didn’t help that it was one of the hottest summers on record! We had moved in with my paternal grandparents initially, and as is the right of aging grandparents, the thermostat wasn’t set very low. Just a week or to in, I remember staying up nearly all night with my family, waiting for the temps to drop enough to open the windows and let “real air” come in. It never happened. What kind of place was this, that the “cool of the day” happened at 6 a.m.?

Well, so-many years later and I’ve spent some of the best mild, May days in the yard this past weekend, weeding and planting and cleaning closets… OK, so spring cleaning is not one of my favorite things, but the rest was pretty great—sunny days with a nice breeze, the smell of gardenias and roses and freshly cut grass.

And as idyllic as this sounds, and as grateful as I am for the great weather, I still had opportunities to work at being thankful through it all. It’s as though one has permission—a free pass—to complain about things like the air conditioning being out. Fill in the blank, and you have any number of things that allow for griping. I had to catch myself from giving in to it a few times. Yes, it’s a hassle. And a huge expense. But more than a in-the-grand-scheme-of-things perspective, those little gripes and whines are seeds that take root in the subconscious and create an attitude for all the small moments in life. And lately I’ve been wondering…what if I didn’t have permission to complain?

The windows will soon close this evening, as another set of storms is scheduled to roll through (another one of the wild things I kinda love about this area). Which makes me grateful again that the A/C is fixed, after all.

Worth the Writing

Proverbs tells us “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.” (And by the way, I love the cadence and the language of the King James Version.)

Today I was honored to find that my dear friend Sally Lynn Hall mentioned my little blog in a Facebook post. This blog to which (up till now) I have not made consistent posts. This blog of which I felt did not deserve much fanfare. “You can start talking about blogging when you do it consistently enough.” Or, “…when you follow through.” Or, “…when you’ve had enough interesting things to say.” But (in what I also suspect might have been a ploy to get me to keep writing) Sally took my small offerings and with sweet praise said, “This is worth reading.”

I realize it’s probably a bit cliché to talk about my concerns about blogging. If I had anything worth saying. If I had anything worth offering. And I am enough of a perfectionist to wonder if, after all the good blogs I had read for years, I would do it right.

But as I fussed about it, I was given the answer in a not-so-old hymn:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds my future
My life is worth the living just because He lives

It was during the second round, while singing “My life is worth,” that God seemed to shake me with the emphasis of this reminder: You’re worth it. You’re worth the living, worth the writing, worth the doing.

And so I will keep at it.

Confessions of a Bibliophile

I had a relapse this past weekend. I walked into a Barnes & Noble with the firm intention of buying only one book. This book was a necessary purchase, in the way that pretty covers and an upcoming bookclub theme make it necessary. And…I had a coupon. Every facet of this purchase was (practically) justified. What helped strengthen my resolve were the just-bought bags of groceries sitting in the back seat. I couldn’t waste time browsing! 

Apparently my book of choice hadn’t been offered recently, and they were out of stock. Of course, they could order it for me… “But you don’t understand; I have a coupon!” Now I was at the point that I couldn’t let it go to waste. (Way to go, marketing group!) So I walked out with three new books.

Mind you, I’ve been very good lately about sticking to my “no more buying books until you read the ones you have” resolution. And let’s face it, I didn’t mean all my unread books—I just had to make some progress. Either way you look at it, I’m pretty sure I have a problem (or close to having one?), and I’m pretty sure this qualifies as falling off the wagon.

But confession is good for the soul, right?! And I can be good…for a little while, at least. 😉 

 

Even the Small Expressions

I’m finding it hard to believe it’s been more than a year since my last post. So many things have happened in the past year—and not all of them bloggable. Small things, work things, good and bad (though ultimately resolved) things. But through it I pulled inward and quiet, and then got out of the habit of this form of expression. 

I just had a birthday, and was taken aback at the number of expressions of felicitation by friends and even mere acquaintances. Small comments, glittery cards, flowers. And it made me confront that little nagging lie that all the little things I’d do (or not do) “didn’t really matter all that much.” Because even though I’m not someone who needs grand accolades, those displays of value truly did matter…and in a way, it showed that others esteemed me more than I esteemed myself, or my own efforts. All because of the little things. 

Yet again I was reminded of Proverbs 3:27: “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.” And I’m going back to letting this be my motto. Not just in the big gestures, or monetary donations, but in the little dispensings of time and appreciation. In the small expressions of consideration for others. This is the goal for me this year.