Monday, November 7, 2016

30 Days of Loving Well - Your House

I love our house.  And I loved the one before that.  And the one before that.  And the apartment before that.  And the condo shared with roommates before that.  (Actually, I didn't really love that one...too many "guy" things surrounding me from a formerly three man bachelor pad.)  But I loved the townhouse before that too.

I've moved ALOT!!

If you're reading this, it doesn't matter if you live in a one bedroom apartment...
Or a three bedroom 1950's ranch...
Or a shared townhouse with roommates...
Or a 3,000 sq ft house near the ocean...
Or your parents home in a small bedroom...

I don't care if you rent or own or lease or squat (well, I guess I should care if you squat)...

I've lived in every single one of the above, in each and every scenario (again, minus the squatting), and what I've found to be true remains the same:

Different homes in different seasons with different loves...
You can love any place you live as long as you open your heart to what you have.

Here are a few guidelines I've tried to follow to make the most of where I am.

  • Surround yourself with things you love - colors that inspire or comfort you, candles if you feel lifted by your olfactory senses, books, music....the sky's the limit!  Really there are no rules for this one because each of us feels emotionally embraced by different worldly things.  For me, it's the colors grey, aqua/turquoise, and orange; vanilla or autumn candles; and birds upon birds upon birds.  (My kids call me a "weird bird lady."  I'm cool with that.  I just love them so much.) The most important canon here, though, is it doesn't have to be fancy or expensive...just surround yourself with the things that make your heart happy.
  • Start small -   If you want to love your house more but only have a small budget, make small changes that go a long way.  Start with new pillows, for example, in a fabric and color that makes you feel good.  Paint a room (provided you have the landlord's permission!) It's the biggest bang for your buck action; throw up a peel-n-stick wall paper in a fun pattern; change the knobs on your kitchen cabinets.  You don't have to go all glass tile back splash and travertine floor tile to make a big change in the way you feel.
  • Keep things clean - I am the. worst. at this.  However, when I take the time and follow a regime (rarely), I feel soooooo much better about my home.  I'm just starting to take this more seriously, mainly because we all have such bad allergies at this time of year.  I found a helpful chart on Pinterest from "A Cultivated Nest" that I'm printing, posting and attempting to follow in the days to come (though cleaning vents monthly is a hilarious goal I will never achieve!).  If this kind of organization makes your head spin, I've discovered and followed one rule that always makes me feel better: Start each day by cleaning your kitchen sink.  Boom. You're welcome.
  • It's the people, not the stuff, that makes a house a home - Accept where things are in your life right now.  If you kinda hate where you live (truly, I've been here too), unless you have the budget and are planning for a whole home reno, in the words of my kid's 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Koerner:  "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit!"  I've had little in a rundown apartment in a rundown neighborhood and I've had "stuff" in a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood.  And the same remains true no matter the scenario...if I seek joy in the company I keep; in the graces of each day; in the gratitude of my heart, everything around me just looks more beautiful.
Hope you look around you today, wherever you are, with great joy and reverence for the blessings He has showered upon you and yours.  Now, light a candle and go clean your sink.  

{Loving this #30daysoflovingwell series.  
It's really working to focus 
my heart on grace.  
Whew...needed it.
Thanks for reading.}

Sunday, November 6, 2016

30 Days of Loving Well - Each Other

I got distracted this morning while preparing to write.  I started looking down my right column of stats about my posts...when they were published, how many people read them...that type of thing.  I NEVER do this anymore; not since my first five months with a blog when I would spend weekends agonizing over growing my audience, missing out on the very blessings I should have been living to later write about.  But this morning, looking in a somewhat detached way at it, it was interesting to see what was interesting to others.  And to look back at words, if I'm honest, I don't remember writing.  While I was browsing, I came upon a blog post I wrote over two years ago...and one I thought perfectly summed up today's post on loving each other well.  So, please forgive my indulgence, but I don't know if I could better say today what I meant - and still feel to be true - two years ago.  

Authentic and honest communication is THE KEY to loving each other well, I truly believe.
Loving, honest words with warm and open hearts...

As I was contemplating this morning when I would send out some texts to folks I've been holding close in prayer, it struck me.
I've been checking in and hearing back for a bit now.
My heart has been easier when receiving responses.
I've thought, "Oh, she seems better than I thought she'd be."
Or "Maybe this situation isn't as bad as I got from her on the phone."
Because each text response ends with an exclamation mark.

In her blog post yesterday, "You Are Not a Brand. You Are Beloved," Bonnie Gray cited an article published in The Atlantic about online communications, social media and actual social interaction.  It stated: 
“…within this world of instant and absolute communication, 
unbounded by limits of time or space, 
we suffer from unprecedented alienation. 
We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier."

This spoke to me deeply.  
Though I have a really beautiful and supportive network of online friends, and I truly feel I've gotten closer and more connected to several people because of their encouragement, there is sometimes that still, small voice in me whispering, 
"It will never be the same as real. live. human. contact." 
A touch. A smile. A sympathetic "mmm-hmmm."  The hushed sing-song of a voice comforting another. 
That thought further begs the question, "Is any of this real?"
Real pictures.
Real words.
Real sentiments.
Real life.

Some of it maybe.  But I truly believe that much of what we see in the virtual is an edited, cleaned up version of our regular ol' messy, broken lives.  After all, who wants to post a picture of a sobbing kid splayed out in front of mountains of unfolded (or worse, unwashed!) laundry who's just thrown up all over your clothes?  
No, we wait until the virus is over, scrub everyone and everything up spanking new and smile wide and "true" for that selfie.  
Add a filter.
Crop above the waist.

Our replacement face-to-face conversations can feel the same way.  
You know those conversations?
The ones that take place with a quick type on the screen followed by a "send."
Of course, it's not possible to fly across the country and give a hug whenever we want.
But corresponding back and forth via text, email, FB message, tweet, woof, bling, buzz, whatever (those aren't really things) can leave us feeling like we have the whole picture when instead, we might simply be getting exclamations punctuating a hidden hurt.  
A hidden heart.

I need to remember to delve deeper than mere typographical symbols will allow.
To see and hear the person and not just their words.
To see and hear their heart.
The loneliness.
To connect deeply with words and nuance and empathy and emotion.
To connect heart-to-heart.
I need to see beyond the exclamation point to the true friend inside.

{Standing in belief of these words on 
communication today and every day.  
And endeavoring to be mindful of 
my own words and heart...
a struggle daily but worth working toward.
Thanks for reading....again.}

Saturday, November 5, 2016

30 Days of Loving Well - Daughters

Today I have only one teenager.
But two children.
Can you guess why?
(This scenario is not quite as complicated as the riddle, as told by our friend David, that Colleen loved solving years ago at a camping trip up in Yosemite:  A teenage boy is in an accident with his father, needs surgery but when the doctor comes in and says, "I'll operate on my son," the question is posed - How is this possible?  The answer, of course:  The doctor is his mother.  

P.S. Could that riddle be any more insulting to women?!?  Probably why Colleen loved it.  
She knew she would confound the stereotype to be in medicine one day!)

Anyway, one teenager...two offspring.
You've probably guessed it.
It's my daughter's birthday.
And she's 20.

Colleen has been a surprise her whole life.
She was born five months after her father and I were married...
(In the sage words of my sister's mother-in-law:  "Most babies take nine months but first babies can come any time. :)
And to say that she has been the love of my life ever since is a serious understatement.

Coll was born with eyes wide open, looking about the hospital room, studying each person.
The nurse blurted, "She looks just like her Daddy."
Twins, it turns out, in appearance and personality.
(Though, as my mother-in-law points out, Colleen has my "beautiful, curly hair."  And for that, we will thank God daily.)
She crawled for one week before she started walking; late, I might add, because I would never. put. her. down.  (Bless her separation anxiety's heart.  Totally my fault!)

She's always been the most dependable, organized, responsible daughter.
But also serious and a bit worried, and I'm finding that some of those qualities often go hand in hand.
She has the voice of an angel though since moving from her performing arts college to attend a college dedicated to the labor and delivery nursing field, I miss hearing that lark singing as often as I did.
So when she's beside me in church, letting it go, I am moved to tears.

She is studious.
She loves babies and children immeasurably.
Loves dogs...especially her dog, Faith.
Loves to bake and is quite gifted at it.
Loves to be creative, as her studies take her to the solemn side more often than she probably should travel.
She is my heart's love and my great joy...

Perhaps most endearing to me, however, is the fact that, though we could not be more different in personality and communication style, she often seeks my counsel.  To  take advice from your polar opposite can be a challenge, and I do not take the sacrifice she is making in doing so for granted.
It has been the most difficult year of her life.
But through it all, she has been courageous.
And transparent, perhaps the hardest quality for one who is guarded.
I couldn't be prouder of her bravery and her ability to look beyond today to a time that her goals will be complete, helping mamas and their babies with every new little thing that comes their way.

So today, on my daughter's 20th birthday, I am reminded of the great devotion that develops between a mother and her daughter.
The grace.
The sharing.
The emotional bond.
And I will forever be grateful that God blessed me with my beautiful firstborn.

{Thanking Jesus today for the life of my daughter...
For the hedge of protection He has placed 
around her this year.
Mostly, I'm looking forward to a 20th year 
of joy and peaceful hearts.
Happy birthday, Colleen!!  Love you dearly!
And thanks to my community for reading.}

Friday, November 4, 2016

30 Days of Loving Well - Sons

Seventeen years ago, I didn't have much of a frame of reference for raising a boy.
I am one of five sisters - no brothers! - so girls were my wheelhouse.
(Not that I raised me and my sisters...but at least I knew what we liked, what made us mad and what clothes to purchase!)
True, I had two nephews, and I worked full time for my friend, Annie, doing production work while also helping with her son, Charlie.
Still these experiences with other people's sons were essentially just anecdotal situations that only slightly better informed my knowledge of boys.
Add to that the fact that I had been raising a girl for three years and the needle on my 
"boy meter" pointed way, way down.
I was pretty nervous to actually raise one.

Then on November 4, 1999, my worldview expanded by a huge amount.
I had a boy.
We named him Braden Joseph.
And my life changed completely for the better.

It's hard to explain that God knew exactly what I needed.
Though Braden's road has often times been challenging, helping him traverse it has been an honor and one of my greatest joys.
He is kind.
He is an emotional rock.
He is hilarious.
He is smart and oh, so talented.
Most importantly, he is a man of faith, looking at life with grace and through prayer.
He has grown into such a fine young man.

So today, on this, his 17th birthday, I am reminded of the bond that is shared between a mother and her son.
The gift that it is.
The incomparable love that is exchanged.
And how very, very grateful I am to be blessed with this son.

{So proud of my young man & 
the walk he is making.
Thanking God for his beautiful life.
Thanks for reading.
And Happy Birthday, Brae!!}

Thursday, November 3, 2016

30 Days of Loving Well - Marriage

I've written here about my marriage...
my husband...
what we do well and what we will forever need to work on.
I don't know much about marriage and would never presume to advise anyone on the correct way to maneuver in one.
In fact, I'm so woefully not-knowledgeable about it, even after twenty years, it's almost laughable.

But I do know one thing and that one thing is this:

When you are married, in order for any. other. thing. in your home to work, the two of you must be working.
With the exception of the love of our Heavenly Father, the marriage has to come first...
Be the ultimate priority...
Take a back seat to no one...
Because when things are off in a marriage, everything in the home is off as well.

I don't care what that "other priority" is.
I've been guilty of putting every single one of these ahead of my marriage to my great later angst.

Simply put, filling each other's tanks is necessary in order for the marriage vehicle (can it be a convertible BMW?) to drive.

So in the spirit of love in the home, in the partnership, in the marriage, following is my favorite scripture on love, as told by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians.  It's shown here in its' entirety, 1 Corinthians 13, to read with a fresh eye, to absorb with all of our hearts:

"If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Yes, the greatest of all is Love.

{Praying for all of the married & partnered couples out there today.  
That the words of Paul will be in your relationship each day.  Thanks for reading.}

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

30 Days of Loving Well - Loving & Being Loved

(Giving a true "launch" to my 30 Days of Loving Well with an homage to my father's personal message, his signature homily.  I wrote about this message years ago in the months following Daddy's passing. (I invite you to read about it here.)  And though I won't go into the kind of detail about how Daddy was actually gifted this message from our Heavenly Father, at it's core, it is entirely. about. love.  
It bears repeating.  And repeating.  And repeating.
Until the message becomes part of our breath.)

My Daddy received a message after hours of prayer, a plea for words to share, on a long drive to speak in front of hundreds of people...

Tell them I love them.
Tell them to love themselves.
Tell them to love each other.
Tell them to love Me.

When I first heard him preach this homily, I was sitting on the altar with my then fiancee, my father delivering this missive as the sermon at our wedding.  It went on for some time as I drank in every word.  Later, when I watched the wedding video and had time to better digest the words, I'm embarrassed to admit, I thought to myself, "For something he is preaching everywhere, all over the country, this message isn't very radical."  Oh, the arrogance of youth...

More than twenty years after that day...
After many joyful moments and heartbreaking goodbyes...
After learning and maturing (kind of?), experiencing and living in prayer...
I see the depth in its simplicity.
For you see, to follow the steps above,
Truly follow them...
As in each and every moment of each and every day...
Our worldly problems could be veritably eradicated.

I remember Daddy explaining the order in which the directives were received, and he practically crowed when the first lesson was "Tell them I love them."  He said he knew that if the first dictate had been "Tell them to love Me," that he may have believed it to be Satan, as he always puts himself first.
But since God's words were that He loved us, he knew it was truly God speaking to him.
That God, even in His awesome kingship, had always put us first.
So of course, he would want us to know of His great love for us, despite our flawed humanity.
Of course, to believe the first, you almost need to accept the second message beforehand.
Because without love of self, we cannot -
and often do not -
believe anyone can love us...or give our love to others in equal measure.
Oh, how God knew our frailty when He gave the message.

And that frailty spills over into our personal relationships.
Tell them to love each other.
Tell them to love each other.
Oh, how simple it should be.
Love each other.
Love each other.
Just. love. one. another.

Can we?
Can I?

Then last...but truly so very far from the least...

Tell them to love Me.
Tell them to love Me.
Love Me...
Love Me...
.....Love in all its grace and goodness.....

I love you.
Love yourself.
Love each other.
Love Me.

Four simple rules to follow to live a lifetime of love.

{Thank you for reading.
Thank you for loving.
Thank you for travelling this road with me.}

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

30 Days of Loving Well

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  
I love the cool and the changing colors of the leaves.
(Yes, there are a few trees here in Southern California that change.  Always a treat to see them!)  
Fall is also a time for starting new things.  
Perhaps ingrained from my childhood school days, even though I was a bundle of nerves before the start of every school year, it was always an opportunity to learn new things...reconnect with friends...and shed the laziness of summer.

It felt like a time to get down to it...a time to be industrious, collecting nuts to sustain me through the winter months and into spring.

As an adult, November is especially dear to me as it is the month when God blessed me with my two greatest gifts on children.
Born one day (and three years apart), I always look forward to celebrating their lives and the incredible world of love they have opened to me.

So for this, my most favorite time of year, I've decided to dedicate November to a series on loving well.  
Each Other.  
Our world.

I'm truly looking forward to turning my eyes in the direction of my blessings....
All I have been given.
The gifts that surround me each day.
Thirty days of loving well seemed like the perfect way to start.

{Praying I get all 30 days in this time.
I hope you will join me as we 
travel this month of gratitude, 
looking about you for all you have to love.
Thanks for reading.}

photo credit:  Dawn Ellner, "Autumn Leaves" on flickr