Two Companions

Wow, so yesterday I sat down to tell you about a couple new things I’m excited to be trying out right now, and instead wound up in a way deeper than intended reflection.

I don’t regret that! But I did mean to tell you about the two companions walking this journey with me right now. This is not an advertising post, and I’m not being compensated at all to talk about these two programs. They’re just things that are helping me in this new chapter.

Stuff that’s saving my life, if you will.

I landed with these companions after some prayer and some thought about what the major casualties of my recent have been. It’s pretty easy. The two biggest ones are spiritual depth and closeness with God, and order in my life, and the two companions match up.

1. The Restore Workshop.

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This workshop has been recommended by several bloggers I respect. The focus is on recovering from burnout, and when I first saw it I knew I had to be a part of it. This is a 7.5 week online retreat with devotions, essays, podcasts and more to help women find their way out of burnout and focus on rest and peace and Christ in the Lenten season. Being Baptist, Lent is relatively new to me, and the few years I’ve tried it have been seasons of giving up. This year it’s a joy to add something so wonderful instead. It may be to the exclusion of some other things, but that in itself should add joy.

2. The Power Productivity Program

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A friend put me onto this program. She’s worked with Alejandra Costello and highly recommended this organizing course from some behind the scenes glimpses she’s seen. We talked it over a few times and we both wound up signing up for it. I’m excited about that because that means we can encourage each other as we go through it! I enrolled earlier this week to take advantage of a Valentine’s day sale she had going, but I haven’t started it yet more than watching a few intro videos. That’s ok because it’s a self-paced program and my purchase gives me lifetime access. First I have to get my workbook printed out and ready to go in a binder. I’m so excited about what I’ve seen of the first module, though, as it is all about getting to the root of your clutter and disorganization problem. What is causing me to be this way? What allowed me to life with a literal pile of clutter in the middle of my bedroom floor for two months without cleaning it up? You think I’m kidding, but you didn’t see it. I’m really excited to get going!

So like I said this is absolutely not an advertising post. But I am enjoying both of these programs and highly recommend them so far. If you decide to check them out or get involved, I’d love to hear about it! We could share the journey, which always helps both journeyers. Thanks for sharing in my journey just by reading.

The Icy Heart

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It’s been a cold few days cooped up at Far Song Cottage. Who knew adults got snow days?

Nashville was covered in a film of ice which was then decorated with a cloud of snow and my office was closed Monday and Tuesday, then I worked from home yesterday.

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You’d think that would have given me a chance to be introspective and write some blog posts, and work on my stories, but while I got a lot of cleaning and movie watching and video game playing done, I did not do a lot of thinking.

This has been a problem lately. I’ve had a lot of reasons to avoid thinking the last couple years. In truth, not long ago, thinking too much was a recipe for sabotage for my own well being.

That’s something I’d like to share some more about in the coming days.

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Because for a while not thinking about it is a healthy tool to avoid getting bogged down into excessive focus on your problems. And that’s a good thing to realize.

But after awhile, it becomes something else. It becomes a crutch that keeps you safe from pain. And love too.

And C.S. Lewis told us what happens when you do that with your heart.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

I’m afraid this is starting to happen to my heart. It’s been so numb that it takes more and more terrible and wonderful things to make it hurt, or throb with joy.

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I’ve told several friends lately that I feel like God has something new for me in the coming season of my life. At first I thought it might be something big. A new relationship, a new place to serve, some major life change I needed to listen to God to figure out how to make and I’ve been avoiding Him because I’ve been afraid of what it is.

But I faced Him squarely in the car today and I asked Him what it is He wants? And I felt this wide tug begin to pull in my heart, like the large patches of ice that I’ve pulled off my car today. If you excavate the ice, you’ll find that it’s about 2 inches of layers, snow first, then one thickness of ice, then at the bottom, the slippery, thick ice that cut my friend’s hand like glass  when she fell off her sled yesterday.

The substance God pulled off my heart looks that way too. First indifference to my own ho hum life, then a layer of annoyance and disgust at where I’ve let myself slide spiritually of late. And then at the bottom this fear that if I begin to probe and stretch and grow in my soul again, I’ll find the same ugly problems that spun me into a cycle of anxiety and pain that happened two years ago.

That ice has been protecting my heart since then, and it has served me well. But it’s time for it to come off.

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Will you journey with me as I blog about its removal in the coming days? God help me, I’m ready to see it removed and learn about what it’s been hiding.

It is almost certain to be painful. But it is also clearly the thing that God has been nudging me to do for three months now, and if I do not…well you heard what C.S. Lewis said. I don’t want a heart like that.

Why I Keep Foster Dogs (part 2)

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2. Exercise- I’ve started saying lately that Goldens are my gym membership. I’ve got a self control problem and I know it. Having a membership to the Y, which is so close to my office that I can walk there easily, meant nothing. Not even expending money on the thing made me want to use it for what it’s worth.

But a golden retriever ALWAYS has to be walked. They’re always full of energy, rain or shine.

Perhaps especially in the rain!

A wet, bedraggled Roscoe on a rainy walk.
A wet, bedraggled Roscoe on a rainy walk.

Roscoe is my newest foster. He’s the one to date that I’ve thought the most seriously about keeping.

But I really do think he’d be happier with a big yard and another dog to play with.

But boy will I miss him when he leaves. He’s a total sweetheart, even down to cuddles in the evenings after our walk and supper.

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Cuddles can be reason 2.5.

For part 1 in this series, click here. Stay tuned for more!

Self Worth and Harper Lee

Sometimes I wonder what it will be like to be old and look back on my life.

This may seem silly for a 27 year old, just on the cusp of life as an adult, but it’s been rolling around in my head lately, ever since I finished In the Shadow of Your Smile.

I got a review copy free from Tyndale Rewards and loved it. I think of it as being in that sweet spot Modern Mrs. Darcy refers to between literature and fluff. It was deep without being too heavy to bear, and an easy read without being worthless.

Noelle wakes up after a head injury to find that memory loss has erased all 25 years of her marriage and landed her back at a moment during her college days.

I can’t really identify. I’m unmarried, still dreaming about the future, and I haven’t been through any of the tragedies Noelle has survived.

But the way she keeps looking at her life, as a stranger that doesn’t recognize it, got me thinking.

If that happened to me, would I look around at the world I woke up in and think, “yeah, this looks like something that fits me,” or would I wonder who gave me a brain transplant in the intervening years?

The thought was brought back afresh today when I was reading this article about Harper Lee. I read last week that her lost manuscript had been found and thought what joy that must have brought her! I had no idea how much controversy it would spawn from people afraid it would be mediocre in comparison to what she has already done.

But does that matter? A woman with such a gift of story telling, I think, will not disappoint us. But even if she does, will it define her life as worthless?

It’s like people think the only thing that give her life any worth are the things done in the public eye. And since she’s not doing publicity for the book, and since she’s stayed out of the limelight so long, her value must depend on how good Go Set a Watchman is, right?

I was listening to the Art of Celebration, by Rend Collective, today and I realized after awhile listening that I was feeling pretty good about myself, uplifted and encouraged toward confidence. I started wondering what did this since the lyrics are mostly in praise to God.

Then I realized that it’s knowing who God is that gives us the confidence to know ourselves, just like my dog walks better and more confidently when he knows I have a firm confident hand on the leash, it’s nice to hear God say “I Am” and know that He knows himself and how far His power has gone and can go.

He made me, He did well, and my life matters far beyond anything I’ll ever do in the public eye. And so does Harper Lee’s.

That said, I really can’t wait to read Go Set a Watchman when it comes out later this year! And when I do, I’ll remember how much my life is worth in the eyes of God. Yours too.

Steadfast

It’s such a thing these days for people to pick a word for the year. And wanting to be stylish, I’ve been wondering what mine might be.

I’ve run through words in my head that have to do with things that I’ve been desiring or learning lately. Peace. Joy. Love. Simplify.

But they’re all just words. They’re things I want in my life. Emphasis on the “I” and “my.”

And I didn’t really think that picking any of them would be especially effective. It would be putting a sign on the year and then continuing to live with just as much chaos, misery, complication and bias as always.

So I gave up and said “I’m not meant to have a word this year. That’s kind of cheesy anyways, as if one word can define a whole year.”

But after an incident yesterday when I let myself get peer pressured into something I knew I ought not to do, I cried on the phone to my mom. I learned about this stuff years ago, and I ought to know better.

And she told me that none of us is perfect, but even so she’s proud of me.

And God still loves me. And He doesn’t just love me, He’s fond of me.

And so I sat down with him and prayed and cried and apologized. I said I was sorry for being wibbly wobbly and so easily swayed. These are personality traits that have been pointed out in me lately and I hate them. I hate seeing that in myself.

And I begged Him to make me steadfast. I didn’t think that word. I know God floated it into my consciousness. It it sat there with this sense of peace and right that makes me know, that’s my word.

Steadfast. (adj.)

1.fixed in direction; steadily directed:a steadfast gaze.

2.firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment, etc., as a person:

a steadfast friend.
3.unwavering, as resolution, faith, adherence, etc.
4.firmly established, as an institution or a state of affairs.
5.firmly fixed in place or position.

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I want this soooo much. Lord keep me steadfastly wanting it. Let me not lose interest or fly like the wind to the next thing.

Stuff that’s Saving My Life

Sometimes walking in the rain makes you look kind of wet and miserable
Sometimes walking in the rain makes you look kind of wet and miserable

Modern Mrs. Darcy often posts about what’s saving her life right now. A concept that makes you stop and be grateful, and realize what’s going right, instead of focusing on what’s going wrong.

So here are some things that are going right for me right now, or at least keeping me afloat through gray winter days, patches of spiritual dryness and loneliness, and uncertainty about the future.

1. Fitbit- I didn’t start out the year with any resolutions, though I would definitely like my jeans to stop being so tight. But I love the feeling of my new Fitbit exploding with vibrations when I reach my steps goal. It makes me really happy and really want to keep walking.

2. Dog to walk- Roscoe is my 5th foster dog with Middle Tennessee Golden Retriever Rescue. Dog walking is an incredibly peaceful experience for me. I enjoy it a lot, even in the cold. I’ve learned a lot about God through doing it too.

3. Moving Monday night to Thursday night- I work with some amazing low income kids one night a week. I can’t believe how much pressure it took off me just to change the night that I do it!

4. Having cleaning time with my roommate- yep, a scheduled weekly time to try to get things in a little better shape around the house…together. It’s working pretty well for us so far!

5. A deadline- I’ve been dreaming a lot lately about writing again, but I recently discovered a deadline that I really want to keep and it’s really helped inspire the creative juices to start flowing.

6. Having a standing time to get together with friends- this is new for me in a couple of situations and it’s becoming something I really look forward to each week. When I start to feel lonely these days, all I have to do is point and say, hey! look! You have a friend date for lunch next Thursday!

7. Drinking water- My whole team at work is doing a water challenge, trying to drink 73 ounces per day. We meet each other in the restroom a lot, but it’s been fun working together on something together. And on Sunday I noticed at bedtime how parched I was and realized that since I was out of routine, I’d stopped drinking earlier in the day. What a great feeling to know my body is starting to like and use all this water I’m pouring into it!

8. Literature- Modern Mrs. Darcy has inspired me to start reading real literature again, instead of reading comfy favorites over again, or watching more on Netflix. So I have been, and it’s awesome, much tougher, stronger food for the soul. Currently I’m reading and loving and would recommend I Capture the Castle. 

What’s saving your life right now? You can link up with Modern Mrs. Darcy over at her site and see what other likeminded folks are doing to save their minds on bleak winter days.

Why I Keep Foster Dogs (Part 1)

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Dog pictures motivate people. I’ve reconnected with a lot of friends through posting pictures of the foster dogs I keep. They want to know why I’m doing it.

The same question comes up with strangers at the dog park or on the sidewalk.

And as I’ve described my reasons in the midst of  frigid November evenings on the sidewalk and fumbled through them on Facebook, some kernels of truth have started to sprout in my soul.

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I guess I got started fostering dogs because of my aunt. She adopted a golden retriever mix several years ago and made good friends with the lady who had fostered her. I hadn’t realized that people fostered dogs like children until they could get adopted, and I admired her for doing that, especially because Sophie, my aunt’s dog, was kind of a tough case, and still is, because of all the abuse she suffered.

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When I moved to Nashville I wanted a pet and as I was looking around I realized that there is a golden retriever rescue here too that only rescues goldens. Since that’s what Sophie is, I’m kind of biased in that direction.

My first dog, Ginger, was about a month ago. She was awesome and I just got hooked on doing this, for several reasons:

Reason #1: Redemption These dogs, for whatever reason, have been neglected, abused, and uncared for. Ginger came microchipped, but she’d been running with a wild pack of dogs and caught by a shelter. Willow, who just got adopted after two weeks in my house, grew up neglected in back yard until she was surrendered at 11 months.

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But they can be rehabbed into pets that will make someone else very happy. It’s also a good reminder of how God cares for us.I figure if His eye is on the sparrows (which Willow loves to chase) like it says in Matthew 6, it must be on these dogs too.

And the Bible says how much more He cares for us. It is so hard to the dogs go. I spent the weekend in a blue funk eating popcorn and frozen yogurt depressed that Willow is gone from my life.

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It was hard to let her go. When Willow came to my house, she spent the whole first evening running around the house, scared to go through my door or up my stairs. She’d never been on a walk that I could tell, because I had to drag her around the neighborhood for three times  before she learned to follow me. She was afraid of car engines, my vacuum cleaner, and being left alone. In the days before she was adopted, Willow spent 8 hours in the crate with minimal fuss, went on numerous highly energetic walks, and played her heart out with some of her new dog friends.

It was hardest to let her go because I know how much time, energy, and love I poured into her. And it was worth it. It really made a difference.

From what I’ve heard, it only took that puppy one day in her new home to learn how to use the doggy door which, it was clear, she was terrified of before I left her there.

I want to watch her keep on growing. It was so hard to let her go.

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But it’s also really neat to see a family so happy to get one of these dogs. Willow’s new family is really awesome, with another dog, a fenced in yard, and lots of love to give her.

And she’ll forever be a symbol of redemption in my mind.

Stick around tomorrow for reason #2 I keep foster dogs.