Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Doorbells, Bedknobs and a Broomstick

I always thought houses with doorbells had all the frills because when I was growing up, the house we lived in had a broken doorbell. 

One Halloween when I was about four or five, it shorted out as neighborhood trick-or-treaters pressed it too hard and it got stuck. 

I actually think that doorbell was under some sort of a ghoulish spell since on rare random nights through the years, it would ring of its own accord. We'd go to the door but there'd be no one there.  

It spooked my sister and me every time it did it. 

When guests came to our house they would apologize to my parents for banging on the door and tell them the doorbell wasn’t working. 

Oh yeah we know, my mother would wave off their remarks. Since my dad wasn’t very handy and he was unconcerned about a broken doorbell, it was never fixed all the years we lived there.

When my sister and I moved into our first apartment after college, I felt I was living in luxury since we had a doorbell. 

And when my new townhouse’s doorbell was broken, my handyman told me to go to Home Depot and choose a new one and he fixed it in five minutes flat. 

I was astonished. Who knew it was that easy? 

All those years I thought a broken doorbell was unfixable.

For far too many years I’ve tried to overhaul some things that just don’t seem to be fixable about myself. 

Attitudes, habits, mindsets, reactions, opinions. 

{Maybe you’d like to fix some of these too?} 

Just this week, I was irritated about an unexpected work assignment that took a half day to complete and put me behind in my deadlines. 

I got exasperated by the twentieth email from a coworker who critiqued the way I wrote an article. I said frustratingly unkind words about her to everyone who happened to be around me. 

After helping a friend update her Twitter profile, I was annoyed by her text with more questions on technology that I didn’t really know the answer to. 

{Does she think I’m Google, for pete’s sake?}

I might as well have taken my pointy black hat from my cubicle hook and ridden my broomstick around the office. 

None of my responses were remotely holy. All of my reactions were steeped in selfishness.

Despite my best intentions and my good morning prayers to God when I get out of bed, I can’t make much progress and I find myself once again giving up, resigned to never see growth. 

I wonder how I can ever be that new woman I so aspire to be with all my faulty flaws fixed.

But I wonder if instead of focusing on what I need to fix, I should instead consider who.
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. - Heb. 3:1

I can focus on all that needs fixed in me, or I can fix my eyes on the one who patiently awaits my presence at his side for me to follow his lead in my life. 

I can meditate on the words of God that do the transforming, chiseling and softening to make me more of the woman God sees me to be.

And I can keep trying, ever willing to conform myself to the example he brilliantly set for us.

It doesn’t mean I’ll magically become nicer and all my faults will disappear into thin air, but I'm realizing that God is working in me according to his purposes for me

I know God doesn’t see us as lost causes. He sees us as all we could be but just haven't quite become yet. 

That is his gift of grace to us.

I’m not sure I feel the same way about doorbells today that I once did. 

Now when I hear my doorbell ring, I know it’s probably the UPS man since a friend or family member would have sent me a text first to let me know they were coming by. 

But I think doorbells make a comeback every Halloween, when they're put to good use by trick-or-treaters. It's not really one of my favorite holidays, but my niece and nephew love it so I'll head over to their house to admire their costumes.

And between you and me, I don't really mind that I'm not home to hear the doorbell ring.

I'm having coffee with my friend Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heart. There are more posts to read there from my blogger friends. Click the image and come on over!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How to Make Your Life Beautiful

When I asked my 11-year old nephew to help me paint my desk chair, I wasn’t expecting the free pointers on my painting style I got in return.

“Spray paint?” his eyes lit up. “If you’re talking spray painting, I’m your man!”

When I informed him it was the old-fashioned kind of painting —- with a can of paint and a brush — his enthusiasm quickly dimmed. {But I added a little cash incentive and he reluctantly agreed.}

My chair is a 1940s model that I’ve recovered and been meaning to paint for years, with wood that’s dark, scratched and uneven. I am a rather sloppy painter who just wants to get the job done, not bothering with a drop cloth or tape.

As we work my nephew studies my painting technique for awhile then offers some advice. “You know if you wiped the brush off against the can like this" {he demonstrates for me} "and painted on the chair in a straight line, it would be neater and look a lot better.” 

He shows me his brush strokes on the chair’s arm. “See? None of that crazy back and forth and swishing around that you’re doing.” {He waves his brush in the air haphazardly slinging paint around to make his point.}

I tell him it’s a little easier for him to paint the flat chair arms tidily than it is for me to paint around the curvy chair legs. But I say that hopefully when we’re finished, maybe we won’t notice a few bare spots and messy brush strokes because all we’ll see is the entire chair that looks a lot prettier painted than it does right now.

If only that were a foreshadowing of our lives - - a blessing of sorts. 

And maybe it is. 

A complete life that looks wholly beautiful the farther into our journey we travel. Isn’t that what we want?

The wounds of our life journeys inevitably leave scars, but they lend an air of wisdom, grace and a sort of unconventional loveliness to us. 

All those people and places and plans that create the experiences of our lives rarely allow us to follow a straight line or tie up loose ends neatly. 

There are drips and puddles and missed patches and color in places where there ought not to be. 

{I'm sure you can relate?}

When I was in Italy this summer, I walked over a myriad of bumpy cobblestones on skinny streets, some that dead-ended into doorways or walls or curved around a corner I couldn’t see past.

I climbed steep stairways with what seemed like a thousand steps, out of breath when I reached the top. 

I followed pathways down hillsides with sheer drops into what looked like oblivion. 

Touring around Lake Como, I was so hot and tired, I’d wonder if I’d ever make it back to my {unfortunately un-air-conditioned} hotel room to rest and put my feet up. 

These steps I walked through Italy painted a picture for me of the scenes of my life. 

There have been plenty of dead-end opportunities that seemed so promising but went nowhere, relationships that heart-rendingly didn’t work out, friendships that painfully grew unrepairable, and bewildering experiences that left me wondering how I could ever pick myself up and move on.

But in Italy just when I thought I couldn’t take another step, I’d find myself in a clearing with a breathtaking view of a lake. 

Or in the midst of a garden with a feast set out on a table for us to enjoy lunch on the lawn under the shade of the trees. The 24 of us in our retreat group sat exhausted, but savored the food, the drinks and the company. We all knew we'd probably never be together in this place again.

And only afterward did I realize the difficult journey had been worth it.

It was true in Italy, just as it is now, and just as it will be true for all the days yet to come. 

Every paint stroke brushed on the canvas of our lives through our experiences and relationships and circumstances transforms us. 

Making us beautiful beyond our blemishes. Content yet incomplete. Hopeful yet unfulfilled. Peaceful yet unsatisfied. Redeemed yet imperfect.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. - Ec. 3:11

After the paint dried on my chair and I assessed our work, I had to admit my nephew’s painting efforts did look much better than mine did. 

So I took some sandpiper and roughed up the arms a little to match all the spots I missed on the legs. 

I wonder if this chair could be the start of a beautiful painting partnership between my nephew and me? 

He's got lots of free tips to offer and I've got a lot more furniture to make beautiful.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there by clicking the image to read more posts!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When Your Plans Get Toasted

It’s Monday morning and my coworkers ask how my weekend was. 

I’m silent while I think for a minute. Should I admit that my weekend plans fell through and what I did was a whole lot of nothing? 

Well, that’s not exactly true. I did decide on the spur of the moment to go to the library. I spent the afternoon perusing the non-fiction aisles. I checked out seven books. I wonder if anyone wants to hear about the library? 

But instead I say with considerable enthusiasm, “It was good!”

As I turn back to my desk, I remember that I also had a really great sandwich. I wonder if my colleagues want to hear about that?

Not having anything exciting to report from the weekend makes me feel like a big social zero.

But truth be told, I kind of enjoyed my bland little weekend. 

After the library, I stopped at Toasted, a sandwich shop in my neighborhood, and ordered a blackberry melt with bacon, arugula and fontina cheese.

I took in one of my library books, Why Italians Love to Talk About Food {at long last I'll find out the answer!} to keep me company as I waited for my food.

And I thought about how sometimes these unscheduled nooks and crannies in my schedule, free of work and obligations and social dates and activities, open up little hollow spots offering me space to ponder. 

Different considerations to contemplate and alternative perspectives to mull over.

About myself. About God. About this adventure called life that God and I have embarked upon.

These unexpected stretches of time can stretch my faith across uncertainty and doubts.

Do you ever wonder how God is working in your life? {I know I do.}

You glimpse bits and pieces during rare times of clarity but the big picture still hasn’t come into focus. 

Maybe you imagine he has abandoned your work {that’s still in progress} for someone who catches on to what he’s doing {a lot quicker} than you.

But what if things are the opposite of what they seem? 

Maybe things that look impossible aren’t and what seems unlikely isn’t. What would happen if we believed God really does have good things in store for our stories?

What if when we want to give up, we give in and give God access to change our hearts? 

What if when hopeless waves pull us under, we hold on to God’s hand as he pulls us closer to the hope only he can provide? 

What if when we don’t see our prayers answered, we answer the call to persevere and pray all the more passionately? 

What if when we want to follow a new path away from what God’s calling us to {because it’s just too hard and it's taking too long}, we follow through to obey what he has asked us to do?

I’m convinced there’s always more here than meets the eye, on this journey of faith. 

This God-guided adventure I’ve been swept up into is other-world-holy. It’s not always easily explained and even less easily understood. 

But I’ve decided this in my heart: even if God’s plans are different from what I’m praying for, experiencing him is worth it.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Cor. 4:18

So I decided to eat my grilled cheese in Toasted’s little dining room with cheese grater light fixtures hanging over my head and the periodic table of cheese facing me. And I ordered their scrumptious fries, too, dusted with truffle oil and rosemary to accompany my sandwich. 

Even if my weekend plans consisted of only a delicious stack of library books and a highbrow grilled cheese, it was still good.

I wonder if I should make the same plans this weekend? 

Maybe what I've already got scheduled will fall through. 

{Tell me your plans for the weekend!}

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there to read posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

When Doing the Next Thing is the Way Forward

My niece and nephew, who are 8 and 11, are spending the night at my house. They arrive bag and baggage {from down the street} and I envision a night full of popcorn, games and laughs.

But that grand plan goes awry quickly when I barely manage to keep the toilet from overflowing, start the laundry from the near-disaster in the bathroom, hand out snacks {no one wants popcorn}, and settle two disputes. 

And with that, their bedtime arrives. 

I head back upstairs to find my niece laying on the floor with a blanket over her head and my nephew sitting on the side of her bed, serenely clipping his toenails.

“I can’t sleep in that bed now that his toenails are in it,” she informs me from the floor. 

I roll my eyes {but really, I can’t blame her} and tell her I’ll get the vacuum. Arguments ensue on who is sleeping where.

As I try to maneuver the vacuum around her on the floor {since she doesn’t budge}, I accidentally hit the end table where the vintage medicine cabinet sits and it topples over and sends everything flying across the room with a crash.

They both stare at me. A glass rolls under the bed. Finally, it’s quiet. 

I realize what I’ve long suspected to be true. 

Chaos doesn’t necessarily obliterate the way forward. What I should do seems pretty obvious. Not a lot of decisions or questions here.
Fix what’s broken. Moderate the quarrels. Clean up the mess. 

Could it be that simple for the bigger things we wrestle with in our lives? 

I often wonder what God’s plan is for my life. As if there’s just one BIG PLAN. 

But maybe the quest to discover God’s plan is less of a search and more of a movement forward. 

Maybe all the hand-wringing about what to do and sweating it out and worrying isn't all that necessary. 

Maybe it’s not really that much of a mystery. 
Take another step. Do the next thing. Trust God for the rest.
I get attached to the mindset that joy waits for me just over the next horizon. I am sure that divine happiness would be mine if I’d only just get there

{Although I’m not so sure where there might be.} 

I know I would be content if only I could billow that banner over my life that says I’ve arrived. 

{You know the banner — yours may be different from mine, but it might say: marriage, motherhood, accomplished career, grandchildren, retirement.}

I imagine the view just over the next hilltop will be everything I'm looking for so I can relax and enjoy the ride.

Maybe my never-ending quest to know what I should do makes God raise his eyebrows. 

When he’s already given me so much, maybe it’s a little ungrateful to keep asking, what’s next for me? 

What if this — all I have now in my life —  is right where I should be? This is the plan.

The view I have when I look up from the climb of my ordinary days looks quite pretty. It's filled with all the things I love and cherish, if I just lift up my head, open my eyes, and see what's in front of me.

As I stood at the stove flipping chocolate chip pancakes the next morning, Devon protested that her brother was sitting in her chair at the breakfast counter. Another sibling spat broke out. 

When I promised the compromiser the first pancake, they both said they didn’t care. Finally with tears {Devon’s} and pleading {mine}, Nate finally gave in and moved. 

The overflowing toilet, tabletops crashing, fighting before pancakes — they’re all part of the plan for making memories. For them and for me.

After they went home, I sat down at my desk and saw this note stuck on top of my computer from Devon. 

Hi! I love you. Have a nice time blogging! 

I think I’ll just do the next thing. 

Open my laptop and write this week’s blog post.

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. If you click the image, there are more posts to read from my blogging friends!