A New Home

As you may know, I have been packing in preparation for our move in a few weeks.  Because we are downsizing (Yay!) I am also relentlessly, obsessively purging.  It is SO freeing, yet humbling.

I mean, why do I keep ALL THIS STUFF?

In the midst of all the preparations, my kids have been on break this week.  Though we homeschool four out of five of them we try to follow the breaks of our local schools so they can have lots of time with their friends who go to “brick and mortar” schools.  That means, while packing, I’ve also had time to think.  A rare commodity in recent years.

While packing and cleaning and driving loads of unneeded items to Goodwill I’ve been overwhelmed with the realization of my need, and the need of most of my friends, to simplify.  Moving creates the opportunity to do that in a big way, but what about those who are not moving?  And it’s not just about getting rid of stuff.  What about the frivolous activities that suck time from our day?  Or the mental and spiritual clutter that causes to live in a fog?  The need is great, and I believe we can better simplify life and find joy together…in community..

So, I created my new website,  A Life of Simple Joys!  I could not be more excited!  For years I have prayed for direction, wanting to develop a website that would foster community and allow me to encourage you while I am still in the process of figuring things out myself.  We need each other!  And this will be a wonderful way to accomplish that dream.

So I invite you to join me.  The blog is in it’s baby stages but I’m adding content each week (Posting every Tuesday) and dreaming big about how God will use this to encourage you and me, His beloved daughters and heiresses of the Kingdom.  You can follow A Life of Simple Joys four different ways:

  1.  If you are a WordPress user just follow as usual.  Easy peasy.
  2. Subscribe via email.  The link is in the sidebar of the new blog.
  3. Follow on Twitter @lifesimplyjoy
  4. Follow in Instagram @alifeofsimplejoys.  This will be fun as I will be posting inspiration, quotes, scripture, etc almost every day.

And please communicate with me!  Comments are so helpful and I need you to share, share, share!  I will still be here at Words from the Northwoods as the Lord leads, telling stories and sharing what God shows me as I walk through life, but A Life of Simple Joys is going to be bigger, more focused, more interactive.

Thanks, friends!

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Ch-ch-ch-changes!

I really should be packing.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we took the plunge and signed a contract on a new house.  A smaller house.  Less to take care of, LOTS to get rid of.  (Yay!)  Many, many decisions to make. What to keep, what to move, when to put our house on the market and what to update before listing it.  What to sell and what to give away and how best to do all of it while the normal everyday life we live continues at breakneck speed with no sign of slowing down in sight.

I had a sudden three hours free this afternoon.  I had a choice and took it.

Here I sit.  At Chuys.  With a half-order of nachos (extra Guacamole) and a glass of water with lime next to my laptop.  There is a stack of boxes in my garage waiting to be filled, but I’m here, instead.  

I guess you could call this a sanity break.

The last few weeks have a been a whirlwind of the best kind.  The excitement of finally making the decision to move has added a dash of crazy to our normal household activity. 🙂 My sweet in-laws have been visiting from Texas and lent many a hand fixing random broken things around the house, doing dishes, folding laundry, and helping me transport kids when they have to be three different places at once and I am spinning in circles trying to figure it all out.  We have had hours of good conversation and bottles of wine, stayed up too late and eaten too much.  

We have driven out to the new house, dreamed of where we are going to put our furniture and realized just how much smaller 1300 square feet LESS of house really is in all the good ways.  I’ve longed for more minimal living, and here is my chance.  But I’ll admit, as much as I want it, the process of getting rid of so much (furniture, picture frames, knick-knacks, books, and just tons and tons of STUFF) is going to be difficult.  I know that.  

So I should be packing, but I’m not.  I’m thinking and dreaming and processing and taking this time to organize my thoughts.  My brain and my waking hours have been so filled with schedules, appointments, homeschooling, parenting and the thriving social lives of my kids that I literally have not known where, much less when, to start.  

So I’m eating nachos smothered in Guacamole and Creamy Jalapeno.  Ha! 

I remember a pastor, years ago, saying that sometimes the holiest thing you can do is take a nap.  I could not agree more and I will have to add that, today, the holiest thing I have done is sit at this table, alone, at Chuys.

I’ll start packing later.  🙂

 

My Favorite Planner in the History of Ever

For about the past month I have been on a new journey spiritually.  Raised in the Church of Christ, I surrendered to Jesus at the age of 21 after attending a Baptist church for just a couple of months with my boyfriend…who eventually became my husband.  Over the course of our marriage we have attended various non-denominational churches and one precious Presbyterian church.

Of all the churches we have attended, some of my sweetest memories have been of my first experience with Liturgy in the Presbyterian church which we attended in Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Striving.

We are a people who avoid quiet.  Surrounded by distraction, we refuse to put away the noisemakers.  At least, I do.  Every device I could want is at my fingertips, offering information and entertainment along with education and spiritual encouragement.  I wander aimlessly between them all without an end goal in mind.  The screens glow invitingly as little red drops of blood appear, the tiny numbers reminding me of unread messages, unchecked notifications and, more often than not, unwasted time.

iPhone, notifications, email, gmail, phone, inbox, messages
I remember the year before my first child was born.  I remember the house being so quiet, feeling so sad and empty in my longing to be a mother.  We didn’t have cable TV or cell phones, yet, and the house was usually clean: laundry put away, dishes done, bed made.  I wasn’t a neat freak but I didn’t panic if someone showed up at my door unexpectedly.  I cooked and visited face-to-face with friends and enjoyed deep, unhurried conversations.   I remember feeling so close, yet so far, from being a mother as we waited to be chosen by a brave and selfless young woman and confiding to my husband, through tears, that I was just so tired of our house being quiet.

I can’t help but wonder, if my impending motherhood were happening today, would I have that same problem?

The recent years have found me longing again, but this time it is different.  Now, I long for quiet.  Not in the absence of children but in the absence of haste.  Hundreds of emails to be deleted, most of which will remain unread.  Invitations to this or that online group/party/sale that demand a reply.  Reminders that I have not responded, paid that bill, or kept up with the latest information or update being emailed about the upcoming events to which I am committed and, darn, I missed the attachment because I didn’t scroll all the way down. I was in a hurry and just trying to make that drop of blood on my screen disappear.  Too many televisions allow us to be in too many different rooms, board games are left untouched. Netflix binges suck hours of our lives away and I am sad.  There is noise everywhere…from speakers and screens and headphones and my own weak mind being too easily distracted and then frustrated by the feeling of just not having enough time to get it all done.

I struggle to have what I long for.  Quiet.

Cradle to cross, advent, Ann Voskamp, wreath, candle, flame
But the book of Isaiah says, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”  (Chapter 30, verse 15)  This was spoken to a people who had been gifted the Sabbath, a gift that we as followers of Christ are offered each and every day.  (Hebrews 4:9-10)  A Sabbath rest for the people of God.  Doesn’t that sound lovely? Freeing?  What does that look like today, in a world screaming, “Check me, read me now, watch me all weekend?”

“Quick, take a picture and post it!  See how many likes you get!”

“Oh, yes, that one needs to be shared.  What a great idea!  It would be a shame to keep that word of wisdom, political opinion, recipe or parenting tip to yourself.”

Is there anything wrong with any of these things in and of themselves?  No, of course not. But when I struggle to find five minutes with Jesus, when I groan as my alarm sounds because I wasted an hour of sleep to read just one more post, then something is very wrong.  In my self-created haste I become weak.  Weak-minded, weak-bodied, weak-willed.  I set my alarm later and later and hit snooze one more time.  I fail to plan meals, leaving us in the unhealthy habit of eating out too many nights each week because of the busyness of sports and dance.  My Bible lays unread on the table next to the sofa because I flipped on Fox News before opening it last night and never actually read the words right in front of me.

Words of life drowned out by reports of death.  How ironic.

In quietness in trust shall be my strength?  What is God trying to teach me?   Here I sit, on my beloved front porch so aware of the singing birds and the bright sunlight filtered down through the tall trees after a solid week of torrential rain and dark clouds.  The Knockout Roses that I planted by the road last summer are blooming.
Rose, yellow, knockout rose, white, bloom, spring
The air is so clean and my daughter sits next to me, in her pajamas at 3:30 in the afternoon, excitedly planning our beach trip for her sixteenth birthday.  Earlier I gently removed the now-empty bird’s nest that had been built to raise three chicks to adulthood this spring, marveling along with my children at the perfect, intricate design with which the mama bird built it. 

Egg, bird, nest, spring, robin, sparrow

It was sturdy yet soft and placed in the top of the Easter wreath on my front door, away from the winds and rain.  The babies have flown off and the nest stood empty except for one, tiny unhatched egg.  (And my front door was filthy!)  As I worked and cleaned and my kids chattered about me God spoke truth to my heart.  Little proverbs gifted to me in those quiet and long moments of wonder.  God has given us such beauty and grace in the everyday gifts of nature and family, yet I frequently allow the noise to throw a wet blanket over them and become numb.

I am weak.

How do I deal with the noise?  How do I find strength and practice this faith God has given me?  It is not going to be in throwing every device into the swimming pool and “going Amish” as I have often threatened to do.  No, it is going to be in seeking Him first.  FIRST.  It is in the discipline of rising early and putting boundaries on the noise.  It is not about self-imposed rules, but seeking relationship.  It is in forcing myself to be quiet and listen when everything in my head screams, “The laundry! The dishes!  Have you not seen the emails piling up?  Don’t you just want a little background noise?”

My goodness, no.  The constant hum of noise has numbed me. It has sucked time away that I will never be able to get back.  I need quiet, even when my flesh seeks to avoid it…especially then.

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

Such power in those words, such conviction to my heart.  But read on…

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  (Heb 4:11-13)

Resisting rest leads to disobedience.  Refusing to be still and soak in the words of our Father in Heaven leaves us weak because we fail to allow God to do Holy Spirit Surgery, convicting us of sin and revealing our weaknesses.  A life of haste and busyness results in my inability to be teachable and my tendency to fall prey to the subtle lies of the enemy.

Strive to enter that rest?  I never really understood why resting would be something we had to strive for, but now I do.  I strive for many things…knowledge, peace in my home, to teach my children well, to keep the house somewhat sanitary.  But rest?  Entering Sabbath rest requires true strength.  It is, in fact, where strength is found.

In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.  

Lord, make me strong.