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If these walls could talk

It was late summer or early fall when we moved into our house so long ago. And if the walls of this place could talk, oh the secrets they would tell.

My dad was the chief contractor when we build our first and only home in 1976. It was always his dream to build his only daughter a house. He built it strong and sturdy; it has stood the test of time and tempest for forty years.

My Sweet William and I lived in an apartments when we married, newly weds adjusting to life together as one. We were completely different personalities coming from totally different backgrounds. It was like cold and hot air moving toward each other until the swirl becomes a potential tornado.

We had no idea what we were in for.

Our son was three years old when we moved into our forever home. I recall tender, sweet memories of being his mom. High chairs, potty training, and bicycles. First grade, middle school and graduation. Drum lessons, soccer practice and boy scouts. Carefree childhood, homework, and his first real job. The accomplishments, the worry, and the prayers.

Every mother knows the joy and sorrow that accompanies raising a child. It happened within these walls.

I was with child twice more in this house, and I lost both babies.  We cried and could not understand. And how do you explain to the small son that there would not be a brother or sister coming?

We had parties, sleepovers, and play dates here. We celebrated birthdays and holidays, inviting family and friends. I fixed so many meals and cleaned up after them. I packed about a zillion lunches.

We had fun here. Games and jokes and silly antics brought relief when stress threatened to crush us. Laughter is always a good medicine.

The dating years were interesting as the one an only son brought girls here to meet us. The young woman he finally picked was his perfect match. We loved her from the start.

We held grand-babies here, one after the other, nestling them in our arms and watching them grow, loving on them every chance we had. Those were precious times when childish merriment echoed once again through the halls.

We cried a bucket of tears as well. We grieved our losses and comforted one another. We climbed hard, rocky mountains and we braved terrible storms. Sometimes we felt like we were drowning; sometimes the fires of tribulation scorched us. Sometimes we wondered if we would recover.

At times we needed spiritual surgery, our lives infected by disobedience and wayward hearts. We  were torn apart like a piece of cloth pulled in two, leaving ragged edges on our souls.

But God did not leave us there, all battered and wasted. His discipline is for our good. His purpose is to redeem the rubble, to rescue the perishing, to welcome home the prodigal.

In all these years, all these trials, all these experiences, God has been good. He was working in the darkest shadows when we were fearful. He was working in the long night seasons, and He always brought the dawn.

If these walls could talk, they would tell some tales. But the overarching story is one of redemption and triumph. God takes our feeble efforts and worthless failures and remakes them into something new and beautiful.

Even in an old house like this.

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” — Hosea 6:1 NIV

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Countdown to 2011 – Part 2

Here I am again with more tips on  getting organized in 2011.  Just remember, I am not a pro.  I am only sharing information that has helped me or that might help me in the future.  Organization is an ongoing project.  It only takes a little accumulate of things to feel out of control.   And I like to be in control.  Just ask Sweet William.

Work on the areas that are visible first.  For sure, those closets need your attention, but putting your visible surroundings in order first will give you a respite when you take a break from the closet chaos.  Besides, if someone drops in unexpectedly, you don’t have to make excuses for the whole house being in an uproar.

Keep only one, and I do mean only one, calendar.  This takes some discipline but is well worth it.  Whether you use a Day-Timer binder, a Blackberry or some hand-held computer, or a simple calendar on the refrigerator door, use only one.  Otherwise you will mark an appointment on what is at hand and forget to transfer it to your personal planner. 

Keep an ongoing box for Goodwill or Salvation Army.  Regularly deposit items that need to be re-positioned out of your house into the designated box.   Don’t go back through the box when it’s full and ready to be removed. 

Remember the stuff you keep is really keeping you.  Have you realized this?  The more stuff I have, the more time it takes to dust it, wash it, straighten it, and protect it.  Is that really the way I want to spend my life?

Reward yourself.  After you complete a number of tasks, take a break and do something you enjoy, like paging through that new magazine (stacked neatly with your other reading material) while sipping a great cup of hot coffee (made from the pot that is sitting on a neat kitchen counter).  Set the timer so you can get back at the task at hand.

The wise man Solomon said this in Ecclesiastes 3 – “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . . A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away . . . ” (verse 1 and 6).

January is my time to cast away.   More to come tomorrow.

I wish you a happy, safe New Year’s Eve and a blessed New Year 2011

 

Are you making resolutions or goals for next year.  Leave a comment.  I’ll share some of mine with you later. 

Countdown to 2011

January magazines are on the stands, and often they boast how you can get organized.  Obviously it is a goal at the beginning of a new year.

Several years ago I started a January project of going through every drawer and every closet in the house.  I’ve thrown out, given away, and found a lot of stuff.  After several years of this mentally deranged undertaking, I have, at the least, a much better idea where things are when I need them.

Some of you are probably thinking I’m weird to enjoy this.  Maybe I am.  I  know my organizing-orderly tendencies can drive other people crazy at times.  Blame it on my DNA.

So . . . I thought I would share some organization ideas with you over the next few days as we countdown to year 2011.  

Now before you start thinking I’m very wise (along with being very weird), let me tell you that what I’ve learned has come from others.  I’ve picked up tips from articles and books that endeavor to teach me how to organize my space, my time, my life.  Is that even possible?  It’s a work in progress for sure.  Some of it has sunk in and actually works for me.  Maybe it will work for you.  I will share it, and you can be the judge.

File it – don’t pile it.  One of the best pieces of advice I ever took hold of is to do something with what I have in my hand.  It is so easy to lay it down while planning to put it away later.  Before you know it, there are piles of things to put away later.  Whether it is the daily mail, the clean laundry, or something you picked up from the living room, put it where it belongs instead of laying it down to do later.  

Creat a system for your papers.  Yes, I know we are trying to go paperless in our society.  But I still have a lot of it coming in to the house.  Don’t let it accumulate on the kitchen counter.  Have a bill file, a hold file, a to-do-later file, a read file, or make up your own categories that will work for you and your family.  After you’ve put it in a file, make a note in your planner or calendar to go through your files on a regular basis.  You will feel better knowing your stuff has a rightful place to be.  And your kitchen counter will not become the land of the lost papers. 

Make up your bed.   This is what we tell the kids, right?  It will make the entire bedroom look neater, and you’ll feel better about going in there.  The simpler your coverlet and pillows are to spread and fluff, the quicker this job will be. 

Break big projects into smaller ones.  You’ve heard this one before, I know.  Don’t let giant projects overwhelm you.  Take bite-size pieces.  Instead of planning to organize the entire house (such as weirdos like me do :)), plan to go through your dresser drawers; or organize the kitchen cabinets; or clean out the freezer or the refrigerator.  Accomplishing a smaller project will boost your morale and make it easier to tackle the next project.

Now the tricky part of this post:  How do I take this subject and make a spiritual application to it?

There is a verse in 1 Peter 4:9 that I think applies as I make the effort to maintain order in my home. 

Welcome people into your home and don’t grumble about it.  (Contemporary English Version)

If there is reasonable order in my home, I am free to extend a spur-of-the-moment invitation.  You just never know when someone needs a welcoming place to sit and refresh and be encouraged.  Your home could be that place to a weary traveler.

P.S.  Be sure to click on the five at the top.  It’s just  fun to watch the countdown.

   More to come in the next few days.  I would like to hear your organizational tips.  I’m always ready to try something that works for someone else.  Leave a comment.

Merry Christmas Eve

Speaking of interruptions, (see yesterday’s blog post) I burned the ham I was planning to serve our family for our Christmas Eve dinner. My Sweet William said, ‘Don’t worry about the money. Just go get another ham.” Interruption.

Bill struggled in the bathroom (he’s just had knee surgery) and knocked several things onto the floor. Nothing was broken, but water from a vase went on the floor. Interruption.

After bowls of oatmeal and raisins (the last good-for-us-food we will probably eat today), I donned my Neiman Marcus green felt fedora (a cast off from my cousin – a find for me), hoping to cover the bed-head hair, threw my cape over my PJ’s (actually sweat pants and an old shirt of Bill’s), put on my sunglasses, and set off for Kroger, hoping to see no one I knew.

I quietly asked the Lord for a close parking spot. He gave me one, bless Him! I rattled my memory for the four items I was going to get: ham, a package of dry yeast, whipped cream, and a replacement soap dispenser for the one in the bathroom that quit working this morning. Interruption.

I only saw one person I knew at Kroger. She looked at me with her head slightly turned, smiled and wished me a Merry Christmas. It was the hat, I’m sure.

I grabbed my items quick as I could, trying to be pleasant to other last-minute shoppers like myself. I bought chocolate cream puffs from the frozen section, a substitute for homemade cookies this year.

I went through the self-serve check-out and wished the young man stationed there a “Merry Christmas.” The car trunk popped open with the press of a button, and I deposited my purchases. I took two bascarts back to the store, and a Kroger employee smiled sweetly and said a genuine ‘thank you.’ I smiled as I walked to the car.

At home, I put the new ham in the oven, careful to follow the instructions this time. I went into a food preparation frenzy. In between recipes, I grabbed stockings and stuffed them, put gifts in bags and added some tissue paper hoping they would look OK. It’s been such a busy few days with quite a number of interruptions.

Before the family came, I managed a quick shower and change of clothes, fixed my hair and make-up. Soon the house was full of my loved ones, lots of smiles and laughter, hugs and hearts filled with thankfulness that we have each other. And after all, isn’t that the best Christmas gift of all?

Merry Christmas everyone. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

There’s no place like home

I went with my family to the Newport Aquarium on Friday, taking a day off from the office. The grandchildren enjoyed their first home-school field trip. None of us had been to the aquarium, and we were excited to get there and see the penguin parade at 10:15. The rest of the day was spent exploring the life that exists in the seas, the lakes, and the rivers of this planet. I was amazed at the variety of their sizes, colors, functions, and habitats. My personal favorites were the tiny neon blue fish that seemed to glow in the tank. One granddaughter said she’d like to have them in her room for a night-light. 

As I considered the God who created all of these amazing creatures, my thoughts went to our first Ruth Bible study class this week. I couldn’t help thinking of the women who entered the upper room, each one so different in looks, personality, gifts and talents, their habitats, and their journeys. Each woman is unique and made special according to God’s design and pattern. And they add a beauty to their world simply by being who God made them to be. As they filled out papers, paid for their books, and found their places at the tables, their treble-pitch chatter with each other was music to this piano teacher’s ears. And so we began our journey with Ruth and Naomi. 

This week we study and think about two journeys, the one Naomi took from Bethlehem to Moab and her return journey back to Bethlehem. Her circumstances are quite different, and she is a different woman because of how life has happened to her.

One thing caught my attention about the preparation for the return journey. Chapter 1, verses 6 and 7 read,

 ” . . . Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there . . . she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.” (emphasis mine).

Naomi still considered Bethlehem in the land of Judah her home though she’d lived in Moab for at least 10 years. Moab was just “the place she’d been living,” but it wasn’t home. Sometimes we find ourselves in a place where we are just living, just putting in our time, just making it through each day. But it isn’t home.

I have been there, in a place I was just living, and I longed desperately to go home.  How about you?  Perhaps we should look around at where we are and how we got here.  Home beckons us.  The Father of all calls us back.  For home is where He is, the secret place of the Most High, the sheltered shadow of the Almighty, the place of obedience to His will where He reveals Himself to us.

There’s no place like home.