February 27, 2008

Status Quo

A weekend away with friends, good food, laughs, and hours spent staring out the french doors at this captivating sight:

We returned early to work on CJ's Social Studies project (a model of a Powhatan village) and so that I could put a serious dent in my upcoming speech. I was met by a tidy house, and even got most of the unpacking done. Life was good.

Then came the stomach virus. For both me & CJ. Praise God, R was home Monday to take care of us (there are some positives to swing shift). CJ returned to school yesterday (she's such a trooper), and I made it back to work today. We are sluggish, but better.

The sheets have been sanitized, the windows opened, and the surfaces wiped down. It's time to get back to it. Project, speech, and Sunday School lesson all await. Not to mention income tax preparation.

I'll be absent from the blogosphere for the rest of the week. I can't wait to come back and share "In Pursuit of Peace & Simplicity"...the spoken version. I'm so excited! The Lord has given me an acronym for the state of my life before this pursuit began:

Over this

Hallelujah, it no longer does!

I'll be back soon. In the meanwhile, enjoy the view (especially you, Barb...it's your dream vacation!)

(when you're spending most of the day in the cottage with friends, you don't care about fashion. CJ was dressed for much-needed warmth, but she never can resist getting her feet wet. She's a genuine beach gal.)

February 21, 2008

The Rule of Multiplication

4th grade math is a giant step up from last year. CJ's learned simple geometry, fractions, and division. They've spent a significant amount of time honing their multiplication skills. Practically every night we have a math sheet that includes multiplying a 3-digit number by a 2-digit number. Thankfully, she has her dad's math ability.

Did you know Jesus was a math whiz?

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up,"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
~John 6:5-13

Of the miracles recounted in the Gospels, this is the one I most wish I'd witnessed (except for the resurrection). Jesus took something tangible yet meager, and provided for the needs of those around Him. I imagine it was a sight to behold!

Jesus has quite a crowd following Him. He sees they were hungry, and presents the problem to Philip. Practical Philip, who immediately looks at the situation from a logical standpoint and determines they don't have enough money to solve the problem. He doesn't consider that the One who created food is standing right beside him.

Andrew looks for a solution, but what he's able to find is insufficient.

And then there's the boy. He gives everything he has with him. He knows exactly what was in his basket...a paltry lunch for such a large crowd. Yet he watches as Jesus uses it to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem.

Food. Time. Money. Patience. Forgiveness. Whenever there's not enough, Jesus will provide. But only if we give Him what we do have first.

Perhaps, like Philip, we look at our checkbooks or calendars and we don't see how to solve the problem. We're focused on what we see, and we lose sight of the fact that the One who governs time and economics is right by our side.

Maybe, like Andrew, we go out looking for solutions but come up short. What we find is woefully insufficient to address the need before us.

When we take the little we have and place it into Jesus' hands, He multiplies it to cover the need. When I give my day to Him, I'm able to accomplish more. When I hand Him the bills and the checkbook, He makes sure there's enough (and often some left over). When I don't feel I can swallow one more dose of pre-teen attitude, He makes it go down a little smoother.

It's the Rule of Multiplication.

Maybe math is my favorite subject after all!

February 19, 2008

The Why of It All

I've been slack on posting lately, for several reasons. If you've kept up with what's been going on around here, you know I've been just a little busy (CJ & I finished her playroom this weekend). Beyond that, much of what I've been learning and pondering has been intensely personal, and I'm not ready to share it with the world wide web (or even the 10 people who read my blog).

In preparing to speak on the pursuit of peace & simplicity for a ladies' function at church, I've been going back through my prayer journals and blog posts. I'm trying to pinpoint the exact time when I knew this was what God wanted from me, but there's not just one defining moment. This is an ongoing work He began in June. He has slowly pulled the veil from my eyes to show me what He wanted from me. I didn't see the why until recently.

I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
~John 3:12 (NIV)

Even though I'd been rising early and spending wonderful time in prayer, Bible study and praise, I felt like my spiritual growth was stunted. One of many areas in my life where I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. If I wasn't willing to listen to God's direction on the earthly (material) things in my life, how was I going to actively believe the spiritual things He wanted to reveal to me? Several of you have most graciously credited me as being an inspiration, but I must confess that the primary reason behind all the purging has been self-serving...I want to see more of Him.

In purging the stuff, I've found:

~it's easier to serve my family (and thereby serve Him). Just the other day, R told me how nice it is to open his armoire to get clothes. He's shared how much it means to have his Pop's fedora out, and to have the ceramics that he painted proudly displayed. Our home is definitely taking on a peaceful atmosphere.

~the doorbell doesn't throw me into panic mode. Before, I would've been mortified if someone just popped in. Now, keeping things tidy is easier because I have room for things to have a designated spot. I also created a cleaning closet, which has been very helpful.

~I enjoy my family more. I'm not as overwhelmed by the undone tasks, so it's easier to relax. Making memories has become more attainable. Sunday night, we dined with our china and crystal, which I hope will become our Sunday tradition. CJ was pleased to be so elegant. Why should I reserve using these special items for holidays, when they bring such joy? My family deserves the best every day, and honestly the clean up was pretty simple.

There are still many lessons to be learned, I'm sure. Other areas in my life that need peace and simplicity. This has been the logical place to start. Once the material consumes less of my energy, I'll be able to focus on what God has in store next.

He's given me a hint of where we're headed:

I do not seek or consult My own will [I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose] but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me.
~John 5:30 (AMP)

February 12, 2008

Continuing On...

I went to LifeWay this weekend, and spent my Christmas gift card. After much deliberation, I walked out with a a great reference and some serious Jesus music! The bonus is...I still have a little money left on my card. I could hardly resist this book, but I need to read what's on my shelves at home before adding another (even if I don't spend any money).

I thought I was doing well...pared down to two shelves of books. Then, during my most recent hunt for treasures in the attic, I found two boxes I hadn't unpacked since our move! I will be going through those soon, determining what to take to the church library. Obviously, I'm going to have to take another look at my bookshelves.

CJ & I went through her playroom closet this weekend, and I've got another box to take to the consignment store (for those of you keeping track...that's TEN!). I still have to weed through my side of our closet and a few of the bottom cabinets in the kitchen. The final major organizing projects will be the laundry room and our office. Once I get those done, I'll be finished for a while. I'll tackle CJ's bedroom in the spring, when we make the seasonal clothes swap.

Then, dear friends, it will be time to face the attic and the garage.

I've got to admit that I'm still astounded I have let go of things so easily. This is about so much more than clearing out clutter. God has really changed my heart in a way I can't begin to describe. He's sharpening my focus to what truly matters, and I'm finally able to see how I was trapped by the trappings of life. I told R that I don't want anything for Valentine's Day, except some time alone with him...and I genuinely meant it. Friends, that is HUGE for me.

I'm not saying I will never buy another frivolous thing for myself. Heck, I could run out right now & buy this sweet thing! As a rule, I want to give much more thought to each purchase and to ask myself if the item in question is honestly worth the space it will occupy (and what I'm willing to sacrifice to have it).

The road to peace and simplicity is a long one, and I've only just begun. The first six weeks have been tough, but I am convinced that God has ordained this. I'm glad you're joining me on the ride.

February 9, 2008

More Treasures From the Attic

Look what I found today...and promptly brought down to display!

Quilt made by my grandmother:

Ceramics that R painted when he was a boy (7 & 8 years old). The old woman cookie jar was something he painted for his Aunt Dorothy, who gave it back to him before she passed. (I'm putting them on top of our kitchen cabinets):

Quilt square made by my other grandmother (I've framed it & am looking for a special place to hang it):

Quilt made my great-grandmother (I have fond memories of wrapping up in this at my grandmother's when I was a little girl):

Quilt top made by another of of my great-grandmothers:

My grandmother's Bible and the other scarf from China (I forgot to show these earlier):

I also have some beautiful old pillowcases that belonged to R's Nana. I would love to do something with them, but don't have any creative ideas. Any suggestions?

These weren't in the attic, but I finally framed some pictures my girl drew when she was 8. Pretty talented, huh? She gets that from my sister. I can't draw a straight line!

February 6, 2008

Right Now I'm

Sitting at my desk, avoiding laundry and dishes.

Wishing it was 10 pm, so I could watch "Project Runway". (This gal is my favorite contestant)

Feeling a little ashamed for not being very nice to R earlier.

Listening in disbelief at the air conditioning kicking on. (it was 80° here today!)

Hoping tomorrow's forecast of cooler weather is accurate.

Wondering why I'm not reading my library book instead of blogging.

Contemplating downloading this soundtrack and this album from iTunes.

Thinking I've let myself in for it by agreeing to speak at our church's annual Ladies' Day Tea. My topic...In Pursuit of Peace & Simplicity.

Planning how to use a bookstore gift card this weekend (which doesn't break my commitment).

Praying that God will settle my spirit and give me a better attitude about some things.

Needing to end this post and spend some time with my hubby.

February 5, 2008

Better Late than Never

Without further adieu...

Pop's fedora hangs in our foyer to greet guests as they arrive. I hope it will give us lots of opportunities to share about him!

One of the two silk scarves that R's Aunt Esther brought me from China. (This one is framed and hangs beside our garden tub - the colors match our bath beautifully)

These next pictures are the baskets made by Grandma. The last one is the basket that she & I made together in 1997:

My newly arranged china cabinet. If you look closely, you can see the pewter candlesticks on the top (a wedding gift from one of my favorite cousins). The green candy dish in the center of the top shelf belonged to my grandmother. I have my mother's china and my own.

An organized kitchen cabinet. I don't think you can read the labels on each shelf, but they're there (I promise!)

And, finally, a neat & organized pantry!

I apologize for the poor photo quality. I couldn't figure out how to get the best lighting. Obviously, photography is not my strong suit! But at least it gives you an idea of what I was up to last week!

On another note (and much longer overdue), I must apologize for not responding to Mary, who gave me the blessing of the Mathetes Discipleship award; to Tiffany, who gave me the Spread the Love award; and to kmom for the "You Encourage Me to Follow in His Footsteps" award. I am humbled by your kindness & generosity. Thank you all for being a blessing in my life.

February 4, 2008

What I Learned During My Winter Vacation

I delivered the last of the boxes to the consignment store today. The shop owner was thrilled to see me coming. She said my things (which have been there less than a week) have been selling really well. She also said I had some really nice things. I agree, I did have some nice things, but they were just things. Not important, really. Just stuff weighing me down. Stuff that didn't mean anything.

As R has shared with me about his trip, I realized how the Lord has woven all of this together. I explained to him that I only wanted to display items that tell our family's story, and that are truly special. I told him how I was tired of having Grandma's beautiful baskets in the attic, and the stunning Chinese scarves hidden in a box. They are invaluable treasures. R told me stories of people so stunned by the tidal surges of Katrina, they didn't have time to collect their valuables. He met family after family with nothing left to call their own. I'm so thankful the Lord prompted me to give our heritage a place of honor in our home, because these people don't have that option. How tragic it would've been if I'd spent the rest of my life ignoring the family heirlooms that are priceless to me!

Although R & I were over 1,000 miles apart, God was impressing the same message on our hearts. Accumulating things just doesn't matter. Although I knew that in my head, my heart was slow to catch on. Yet as I look around our home tonight, I see postcards we bought in Paris that remind me of a special dining experience; a collage of R's dad (who left us 8 years ago), which includes a rare photo of him holding CJ; a basket my grandmother & I made together, which brings to mind the great conversation we had that day; my great-grandmother's Bible, given to my grandfather in 1972 & passed down to me, which makes me tear up as I remember his funeral and the preacher calling him "a prince among men" (how true!); and a fedora that R's grandfather wore (I never met him, but love to hear stories about R's "Pop"). When I tuck CJ in at night, she's wrapped in the quilt my grandmother made for my high school graduation. She puts her loose change in a ceramic egg my mother made for my grandmother, which made its way back to me.

Why do I need to buy anything else, when I have these priceless jewels?! I am ashamed that I've tried to surround myself with cheap imitations that gave me no sense of self, but only served to conceal my true identity...a Daughter of the King. My Abba Father has bestowed many unique and beautiful blessings upon me. From now on, I intend to cherish each one.

(P.S. - I can't get the photos uploaded...but they're coming soon!)

February 2, 2008

Power of Prayer Ministries

If you'd like to see where my man was this past week, click here. He's the one on the far right in the back (wearing a bright orange shirt). He worked on the first house shown in the pictures. I'm so proud of him! But glad he's home!

Photos of our own home transformation to come...

February 1, 2008

Sticking To It

Remember when I made this commitment? I wasn't sure how I would fare on that one, since I'm a known bookworm. I hadn't put myself to the test, until tonight. CJ & I went to the mall with a friend and I had to go to a certain bookstore (my favorite) to ask about a return I need to make.

Believe it or not, I got out of there with only a book for CJ. (I wanted to reward her for being such a trooper this week with R gone.) My friend scoffed at my commitment. She doesn't think I can make it for a whole year, but I'm standing firm. Amazingly, I wasn't even tempted to look.

Nope...the temptation was much greater here, and I still didn't cave in. But then I threw caution to the wind! (It was a good thing CJ was there to yank me out before it got ugly.) I know R is so happy that this particular mall is an hour away!