Mustard Seed Faith (learning curve)

 Today’s post is a list of things I’m learning on my health journey series. If you are just now stopping in you may want to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 before continuing. 

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As you can well imagine, or maybe you know from your experiences, dealing with illness is not an easy thing.  There is a lot of uncertainty and waiting. I’m not going to lie or pretend to have it all together – it is scary to be faced with tests and a chronic diagnosis that has so many unknowns. Some days it backs me up against a wall, and I’m frozen, unable to move or think straight.

Faith is hard fought and trusting God’s plan feels shaky.

Even when I waver, I know God is God, and I know he is sovereign.  I know he walks ahead of me on the path seeing what I don’t see.  I know he is with me even when he seems far away.  And, I know that I need to keep moving forward doing the next thing.  I can’t get lost in what if’s and neither can I bury my head in the sand refusing to acknowledge the realities.  It is a fine line that requires the balance of a tightrope walker.

Faith is hard fought and trusting God’s plan feels shaky. 

But, faith as small as a mustard seed moves mountains and God’s plan is sure.

Slowly, but surely I’m learning to trust his plan. He has been teaching me ways to travel:

  1.  Pray hard.
  2.  Rely on Scripture.
  3. Realize I can’t, but God can.
  4. I’m invincible until God says otherwise (words from our friend BJ that he heard from his minister).
  5. I need to operate under the assumption that I am doing well until I hear otherwise (this does not mean bury my head in the sand, but I shouldn’t borrow trouble).
  6. Extend grace to myself and to others (none of us can do it all ).
  7. A perfectly clean house is overrated (don’t’ be slovenly, but don’t obsess – most people don’t go looking for dust bunnies).
  8. Practice thankfulness (don’t complain).
  9. Be intentional about relationships (I need to plan ahead and pace myself so that I don’t neglect family and friends.  They need me, and I need them).
  10. Make time for things that feed my soul (writing and puttering around my house making it beautiful).
  11. PRIORITIZE – it is essential that I learn to embrace what is most important and let go of the lesser things.

This list is a work in progress, but it is a good reminder to keep me focused on the big picture.  The Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) is just one part of my life, and while I want to respect it, I don’t want it to be the boss of me.  I never want to forget that God is the author of my story.  Even in my mustard seed faith, his plan is sure.

Linking up with Emily and others over at Chatting at the Sky for What we Learned in January.  

Learning in grace,

Teresa

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What I’ve Learned From Watching 7th Heaven

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We just finished 7th Heaven.  All eleven seasons.  For the past few months that is all the TV we have watched. My husband is a great man. He watched the entire show with me without complaint.

It became my therapy of sorts.  It was how I slowed down at the end of the day.  It got me through one of the most stressful seasons in which I’ve lived. It preached to me in ways that sermons and fellowship with others could not. It met a need I had that I still can’t quite put into words.

It was a great season, but now it is over and time to move on, although I will miss checking in on the Camdens.  I do have some take aways  that can be applied to living life well, so I thought I’d share with you a few of the lessons 7th Heaven can teach us all.

1.  Family should be there for you no matter what (and you for them).

2. Family can be anybody that you open your heart and sometimes your door to.

3.  Your secrets are not really a secret, somebody always knows.

4.  Your sins will always find you out (Numbers 32:23).

5.  Forgiveness is a wonderful thing – to receive and to give.

6.  You should not be afraid to take risks and try something new.

7.  You should always honor your commitments and keep your word.

8.  Prayers are always answered; sometimes even the way you hoped.

9.  Helping others is necessary for living a balanced life.

10. Breaking bread around the table with friends and family is therapy, even if it’s just Pizza from your local Pizza parlor.

11. Death is certain and brings pain, but there is healing in the grief process.

12.  We all make mistakes, but we are not defined by the mistakes we have made.

13. Life is beautiful in all it’s messy turned upside down glory.  Especially, in it’s messy upside down glory.

14. Falling in love is wonderful.

15. There is a God who loves us unconditionally and he has a sense of humor.

16. Sometimes you need to go home again.

17. Life is a miracle to be celebrated.

18. When you’ve done all that you can do take a road trip to gain perspective.

19.  Choose to live well.  You do have a choice.

20.  Everything is going to be fine.

I’m sure there are many more lessons to be garnered from 7th Heaven, but these seem to be the overriding theme and I for one needed to be reminded of these truths.

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Finding grace in my own 7th Heaven,

Teresa

Linking up with Emily P Freeman of Chatting at the Sky.  Click on over to read what others have learned.

Rearranging Furniture

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I have come to the conclusion that rearranging furniture  is probably a metaphor for life. We have played musical furniture so many times over the past year and are probably not done yet.  I’m starting to realize that shifting furniture around and making the pieces fit can teach us much about life.  We have to look at our available resources and determine how they can work together to create the space that we need in order to be at our most productive.  This is true of living life to our fullest potential as well as having a home with well-balanced furniture and accessories. Sometimes we have to accept that it might be time for something to go in order to make room.

Liviing Room collage

This has been a year of accepting that God sometimes rearranges our plans.  My husband has been without an official, includes benefits, job for a while now.  Doors have been slamming all over the place.  I finally changed the way I was praying.  I started asking God to send my husband the work he had for him to do rather than asking God to send him the job we thought he needed. I also asked God to give us enough. It’s not the way we thought we’d be living at this point in our lives, but our needs are being met in the space we’ve been given. God is faithful and he does answer prayer.

Music room collage

I have  been looking hard at what I’m supposed to be writing. For a long time I resisted writing about my mom’s Alzheimer’s and how it was rearranging all our lives. I didn’t want that to be my story. But, it is part of my story and it shapes  my voice. To leave it out would not be authentic, so I’ve been rearranging and making space to explore the journey in my writing.

One of the highlights of this past year was when I went to a Writers Barn event and soaked in what Emily Freeman and Christa Wells had to say about our writing voice. Emily said, “Learn to respect the story that’s within you”.  She’s right.  Going forward, that is a lesson I will continue to embrace.

Emily P. Freeman quote

A year is made up of many moments that define our living.  If we can look at those moments and see how the story was written, then we can take the truth from those moments and let them shape the story that is to come.

Rearranging in grace,

Teresa

What lessons have you learned this year?  To read what others have been learning hop on over to Chatting at the Sky.

In The Waiting

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I read the Sarah Young devotional this morning and Isaiah 40:31 was one of the verses. The whole theme of waiting is hard for me.  In a contradictory kind of way.  If you know me at all, or are starting to get a glimpse of me through reading my blog, you may have noticed that I can sometimes reside on both sides of the coin.

So, even though I am bad at procrastination, I am still impatient about getting started once my mind is made up to do something. Once I come to a decision, I want the results now.  Once I get started on a project, I may work until midnight or later so I can finish. I have a hard time slowing down and enjoying the process.

You can imagine that I might go a little stir crazy waiting on answers to where God is leading.  Sometimes, I think maybe there is something that I’m not getting.  Maybe, the waiting is over and I just haven’t’ read the memo yet. There could be a lot of truth in those scenarios, but there could also be another reason.

Maybe, I haven’t yet learned what the waiting is teaching me.  Could it be that in the waiting is where we learn how to live?

Waiting teaches us to trust in even the most difficult of circumstances.  When you are living on savings and you know it won’t last forever you have to choose to worry about the future or trust that God has a plan for your provision.  I have been saying for two years that God has a plan.  I’m still not sure exactly what that plan is. But, I know he has one.

Almost two years ago we made a decision to move back to my hometown to be near my parents who were going through some health issues. My husband was finishing his dissertation preparing to graduate.  We knew it would be at least a year before we had any real income.  We naively thought that once he was finished (May 2013) that the job offers would be there. He has invested a lot of time in applying for positions and networking with others.  He has stayed busy with his music, but not in a solid income generating kind of way.  I have constantly told him that God has a plan.  Even when doubts knock loud on the door of my soul, I still believe God has a plan.

The waiting is hard because you feel like you may not be accomplishing anything of worth.  It is hard because you worry that others may be judging you for the decisions you have made. I still know the decision to move was the right one.  I have no regrets. And, for the most part I have learned not to worry about what others think. But, still, there are days you feel low in spirit because life seems to have stopped spinning in your corner of the world. You realize that your dreams and plans may have to change.  You may have to open your heart to new desires.

Psalm 37:4 says to “take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  I believe that means I am to open my heart to him freely and allow him to decide what those desires are.  I truly believe that if we are waiting on him, he will give us the desires that are best for us and if we are willing, he will allow us to pursue those in the best way possible.

His ways are always best. I have found myself lately asking him to give us his best, not what we think is best. We had plans, they may still line up with God’s plans.  They may not. He may totally change our plans into something even better. We have to be willing to wait on his timing and we have to be open to a change of heart that only he can perform.

Is it possible that until we learn the lessons in the waiting, we can’t move forward?  It has dawned upon me that only when I sink into the waiting and allow God to do his work in his time and accept his plan, will I be free to move forward. Moving forward may not look like what I had imagined, but if it’s God’s plan, it will be even better. The question I have to ask myself is, am I willing to learn and change in the waiting?

What are your thoughts?  I am not an expert, but I know the theme of waiting has been a big part of my life the past couple of years.  If God has us waiting, then there is a purpose and we need to discover that purpose.  We need to allow the waiting to prepare us for the next part of the journey.  With God, nothing is wasted, not even waiting.

Learning In The Waiting,

Teresa

 

 

Simplicity Unwrapped In The Kitchen

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I love the concept of simplicity.  Chaos abounds in the world.  Mad dashing to and fro. Complicated living. Harried Spinning. Trying to wrap life up in beautiful packages with ribbons and bows. Unrealistic expectations. When it all starts to come undone, we crash in a huddle of despair wondering what went wrong.  If only.

If only we’d embrace the art of simplicity.   Stop the dashing and spinning. Find fulfillment in simple ordinary days. Will you join me in unwrapping simplicity? On Tuesdays in December, I will be joining Emily and others for Tuesday’s Unwrapped.  In keeping with my theme of unwrapping simplicity, I will be sharing how I embraced an aspect of simple living that helped make life easier or taught me a lesson.

Today’s gift of simplicity was dinner.  Preparing dinner is sometimes a complicated ordeal around here.  I get busy, then realize I’m hungry.  I feel too tired to cook and clean up, so it’s easy for just the two of us to go grab something.  Our pocketbook and waistlines say we need to stop this madness.  Or, I do cook, but so many pots and pans are involved and time invested that I feel like I’ve spent all day in the kitchen and I don’t even want to think about doing dishes.

Today, I was out with my father and skipped lunch, so I was very hungry when I came home.  I remembered two things that would make dinner easy.  One was a jar of Spicy Orange Marinade my husband had purchased on his last shopping trip without me, and the other was fresh chicken breast I had purchased yesterday. Two simple gifts that when combined could be heavenly.  I knew if I chopped the chicken breast it would cook up quicker than we could run out to get something and since it was using what I already had on hand, it would also spare our pocketbook.

PicMonkey Collage.food

I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder and cooked until done, then I drained a can of carrots and added a half jar of the orange sauce and let it simmer.  In the meantime, I had a bag of frozen Trader Joe Rice that I microwaved, then added to the pot for a very tasty, one dish dinner that was fast and easy.  Simplicity at it’s best. It was tastier and healthier than most of our eating out choices in a small town. And, I only used one cutting board, one sauce pan, two bowls to eat from and a handful of utensils, so clean-up was no big deal.  It was just enough for two, and it was gone before I thought to take a picture.

This may not seem profound or unwrap worthy, but there you have it – a simple gift or two in the middle of an ordinary day that helped me see that I can embrace simplicity in my everyday life and let go of harried spinning. A gift that allowed me to feed my family a savory meal without a lot of time invested. A gift that didn’t involve take-out and as an added bonus makes my house smell wonderfully orangey.  But more than the food, it was a gift that helped me enjoy showing hospitality to my husband in the middle of an ordinary Tuesday. It was simplicity. Unwrapped.

Simplifying in grace,

Teresa

end of the old, beginning of the new (part 1)

That is what I want the lessons of 2012 to teach me: To realize that every day is sacred to my Lord, to not grieve and to let His joy be my strength.

So here I sit, finally, writing my end of the old and beginning of the new post.  It seems the thing to do in this land of blogs.  Not that I have to be trendy.  But I do have to write because it’s part of my survival. If I don’t write my soul shrivels a little.  If I took the time to captivate every thought in a journal it would be all consuming.  But, if I let thoughts escape unpenned I lose some of the essence of me and my purpose. It has been a struggle.

For months, even years I imagined sitting in a room with a view and a writing table, penning great thoughts that would somehow work themselves into a publishing house.  It seemed lofty on the one hand, but why not, on the other.  Not working so I could write seemed frivolous. But that is what I wanted more than anything.  Due to a series of circumstances this past year, I was given the opportunity of uninterrupted writing time.  I have a room and a table and a view of my childhood home across the lawn.  I’ve written very little.

Family home - view from my writing room window.
Family home – view from my writing room window.

Writing for me has always come from a place of pure joy.  You have to give yourself up to the abandonment of the words and let them thrive.  You have to look deep within and write from your truth.  If you can’t it creates a word block.  I’ve written, but not enough.  Some of it I have enjoyed, but most of what I’ve written has been on automatic pilot because it has hurt too much to go deep.  I’ve written a couple of things from the deep, but they weren’t for sharing.  Even now, when I read them, I think I should throw them out, but I can’t because they are a truth I have to live with and they involve memories and hurt and realities that were ripped from my soul that shake me to the core.   I wish the circumstances that birthed those words didn’t exist but it is my reality.  And writing them did not bring me joy.

The irony of it all is that I chose Joy for my 2012 word. I know, everybody with a blog seems to pick a word for the year. Again, I don’t have to be trendy.

I tried to pick a word in 2011, but that year was such a blur that I don’t even remember the word.  Due to my near death experience with pneumonia early in 2011 and the real death experience of my cousin in the late summer,  I pretty much lost that whole year and as 2012 was approaching I was still struggling with living.  I was a nervous wreck, until after the anniversary of my pneumonia had passed, that I would get it again in 2012.  Even so,  I was determined that the New Year would be better than the previous and I had so much to be thankful for.  I had hopes that 2012 would be joyful.  So I chose joy.  Then, I almost promptly forgot that I had a word.

I was still struggling with extreme fatigue. And on top of that we were making fairly regular weekend trips to the Little House so we could help my parents.   My husband was still a full time student and I encouraged him give up his three part time jobs for 2012 so he could focus on his dissertation and graduate already.  I figured the sooner he graduated, the sooner I could finally rest.  (My need to rest was not his fault, it was residual from the pneumonia wiping me out, but I figured he was the solution.)

Going to work was about all I could manage.   I struggled daily to be motivated enough to care.  Somehow people’s issues with their lawn furniture didn’t seem all that important anymore (I worked in customer service for an upscale garden furniture firm).100_1339.3   I went through the motions but my heart just wasn’t finding the joy.  My boss had known for about a year that my husband was to graduate in May, so it was pretty much understood that I’d be leaving sometime in the late spring or early summer.  When we realized that my husband would not be graduating in May after all, we talked about when we should officially move.  We decided to wait until December, but my boss didn’t think he could give me work that long, so rather than keep up an apartment on campus and the Little House near my parents two hours away, we made a major decision to move full time to the little house.  Without jobs.

I cannot even describe the feeling of freedom I felt when the decision to leave my job in June was pretty much made for me.  I somehow knew that God had been the one to really close the door.  It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It was a change that had been a year in the making.  I had struggled to be on top of my game since coming back to work the year before, following the pneumonia.  I knew I was stressed to the breaking point, but I couldn’t worry my husband because he needed to finish what he had started as that too was a God move. So we went out on faith that the money we had in savings would last as long as it needed to and that when the time was right God would provide the work.  He has always provided our needs, so there was no reason to think he wouldn’t this time.  I know there are probably those that don’t understand why we decided to take time off work, but we know it was the right decision and I don’t worry anymore about what others think.

Looking back at resigning, I realize the freedom I felt was a moment of pure joy.  So, even though I pretty much forgot to focus on my word for 2012 and only gave it fleeting thoughts, I know that joy was present on the journey.  There have been many parts of the journey in 2012 that weren’t so joyful.  There have been many hurtful moments that have brought me to tears and anger.  Yet, somehow the joy became the foundation that ultimately made the hurt bearable.

It is the same with the deep writing that I couldn’t share. Although it didn’t bring me joy, the foundation of joy made it bearable.  If that is the only lesson learned in 2012, it is enough.  The Joy makes the hurt bearable. And so we grow and move on.

the foundation of joy makes the hurt bearable
the foundation of joy (Nehemiah 8:10)

Joy in Grace,

Sadie

PS – come back tomorrow or the next day for Part 2 – there may even be a part three – we’ll see.

Day 31 – The End!

Day 31 – The End!  The past thirty-on days have sped by.  I am of course late in the day with this post.  How do you wrap up a thirty-one day series?  It should be profound, right?  For me, I decided that review was in order since from the beginning I have looked at this as somewhat of a self-discovery journey.  It is only fitting, then, that I should see what I discovered.  So, I went back and read all my posts to see if there were any nuggets that jumped out at me.  I decided to list an excerpt from each post that I felt highlighted the main message for that day.

1.  I do have a jumbled ball of yarn rolling around in my head waiting to be untangled…

2.  Since we’re going to be unraveling … I thought procrastination was a good place to start.  After all, that’s kind of why we’re on a 31 Day trip.

3.  The truth is that depression rears its ugly head and…. is really the root of the procrastination.  This journey…is all about…living even though my heart feels trampled; trusting, even when my soul feels crushed… weaving beautiful words from truth.

4.  “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” Deut.32:2.    My words descend; I want them to be dew worthy.

5.  Whatever genre you write, it has to be authentically yours – your voice, coming from your experiences and grounded in your truth.

6-7. No matter how unacceptable the truth is to me I have to trod the path I’ve been given…Today that is my truth.  God can weave the words much more beautifully than I can.

8.  As writers we need time to reflect in order to process all that we’ve seen and heard…time to organize our words so they are ready to be used…time to sift through the phrases and rearrange them just so.

9.  The words always have a mission. As the keeper of the words it is our obligation to send them forth prepared and ready to engage.

10. Sometimes life is interrupted by the mundane.  Sometimes even in the mundane we can find inspiration.  “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  1 Cor. 10:31

11. The tip today for writers, or anyone else who is listening: Live life and make memories.  You can write about them later….

12-15. I learned something about myself.  1.) I really have control issues. 2.) I find it really hard to let go of things. 3.) I allow things that aren’t in my control to derail me.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart  and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”    Proverbs 3:5-6

16. No matter how beautifully the words are arranged if I haven’t addressed the condition I haven’t moved the reader.

17. Sometimes you find yourself in a place wondering what your purpose is.  In those times looking back at the journey of how you got there can be helpful.

18. When I see beautiful art or photographs, it can inspire words…the opposite is also true…As I read I can see the scenes in my mind’s eye…the words and images are linked together.  I have always wished that I could paint beautiful scenes, but then I remind myself that when the written word stirs my soul, that too is art.

19.  The good writing is harder to let go of because it is the writing that tears your soul apart.  When you are willing to face the hard stuff and put your good writing out there it won’t matter to you if it’s read by one or one million all that will matter is that you wrote the good.

20-21. I am currently in a relationship with at least 13-15 books and am considering a couple more…Reading feeds the mind and the soul, and it inspires me…Writers should be reading.  Always.

22. We need to be careful that the beautiful writing is a vehicle for the message, not a mask to hide the truth.

23. It was more important today to encourage you to pray than it was to write about writing.

24.  I love lists as you may have guessed from this post.

25.  I dare you to write for five, even if you think you have nothing to say.

26-28. Doing this 31 Day challenge has been challenging, but also rewarding.  One of the rewards is in discovering new blogs to read.

29. He can be our strength, our very present help in trouble.  He can give us freedom from fear. Will you join me in prayer and in learning to cast all our cares on him? “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.”   Lamentations 3:22-23

30. …sadly there are many times spiritually when I stay in the dark.  I know I need the light, but I stay in the shadows ignoring the truth…Thankfully, I have a loving savior who doesn’t give up on me.  He tenderly woos me back to the light… I stand in his embrace, cross light flooding my soul, and wonder that I was ever afraid of the light.

31.  See all of the above

So did the ball of yarn untangle?  Not completely, but it is a work in progress.  If I had to narrow the journey down to the main message it is simply this.  Truth.  It all hinges on truth.   Thanks for taking this journey with me.  And stay tuned.  There will be more.  But not every day.

Discovering Truth in Grace,

Sadie

PS – I also learned by doing this list that a lot of words can be removed and the message is still there, only better.  So I guess I learned that little nugget of truth too.  Edit. Edit. Edit.

PSS – I also learned that it’s ok not to have pictures with every post, which is why this one doesn’t have any.  I know people like pictures and I try to oblige, but the words should be able to speak for themselves some of the time.