Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Matter of Perspective

20150130_100222Twisted.

Then untangled.

A matter of perspective.

It started with last weekend’s home improvement project. We’re building a deck. Not being particularly good at that sort of thing we hired a guy who was willing to do the skilled labor but charge less if we did the grunt work.

So we’ve dug holes and screwed down flooring while he frames. The 25 square foot concrete slab fell to our part of the bargain, and it was finally warm enough to do it. Having no clue as to what we were doing, we went to the experts on YouTube. After perusing a few videos we dug in.

ALL day.

Jerry built a frame. I carried bag after bag of 60 pound concrete. (Thankfully our teenager made a brief appearance home long enough to carry about a third of those bags.) Hubby and I took turns stirring, working until our muscles had to have a break, then giving the other person a turn. Neither of us particularly like this sort of work but what makes these projects worse is that we have no confidence in our ability to do them well.

Still, there was a sort of satisfaction at sweating together and seeing something useful take shape before our eyes. I was even a little bit proud of myself.

We ran out of daylight before the project was finished, and my poor husband had some pain that meant he was done. The finishing of our concrete slab fell to me.

In the dark.

I did my best to use the edger like the guy on the video had done. Then I took an old broom and went across the top so it wouldn’t be slick when it dried. I had very little understanding of how it was supposed to be done and couldn’t see very well in the weak light of the porch light, but I did what I could.

Then I drew a heart in the concrete. It’s silly, maybe, but I wanted to put Jerry and my initials in it. We’d done it together, a labor of love. It wasn’t going to be perfect, but it was ours. I couldn’t get the lettering to look decent, so I decided a heart would suffice.

The deck guy inspected our work a few days later. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this. If you’d paid for it I’d tell you to get your money back. It’s not entirely level, and the broom lines are too deep. Still, it’ll hold your stairs, and it’s okay for two people who don’t know what they are doing.”

As I shared his statement with a friend my voice caught. The joy of doing something for ourselves was overshadowed by its imperfections. An attitude of poverty washed over me. Even when we tried to do something new and nice it was substandard.

My friend prayed. As she prayed a new perspective emerged. “Oh, Paula,” she said. “God is proud of you! He loves your concrete slab. He’s not judging it on some predetermined standard. He’s delighting in it because you made it! Just as you would celebrate your child’s artwork and hang it on your refrigerator without comparing it to learned artists, He celebrates what you have created.”

And the joy rushed back.

Gone was the twisted, tangled emotions of disappointment. I again felt the pride of using my own two hands, feeling my aching back and muscles. I embraced the camaraderie of working alongside my husband, partners in improving the little plot of land that is our own.

concrete heartMy thoughts flashed back to my grandparents’ home. Established during the depression they did as many country folk did in their day. They built small, with their own two hands. Added rooms as they could. Poured the concrete for their sidewalk. The broom marks there had their own unique homemade pattern, and I thought they were wonderful. I adored their home because it was love and family and ours.

The 25 square foot block by my garage door may not be as pretty as if we’d paid a professional, but if a professional had done it I wouldn’t remember spending the day shoulder to shoulder with my husband. There’s something about the struggle and the sweat that makes that space a little more ours.

That heart I scratched into the concrete says it all.

 

Wednesday Weigh-in ~ Eating, Exercise, Excuses, and a Plan

There’s always stuff to do. Person-weighing-themselve-007

There’s always stuff that hurts.

There’s always excuses.

I wanted to start this blog whining about how hard it’s been to focus on my body while remodeling a house, grieving deaths, and adjusting to the kids leaving home. All of those reasons for my struggle are real. Emotional eating is an easy trap to fall back into when sadness or loneliness hits. It’s hard to prioritize exercise when my home feels chaotic, and I can’t stand the mess one more day.

But the truth is life happens. I’m pretty sure I will never live an entire day without more pulling at me than I can conquer in that day, and I’m also sure that however many joyful moments a day holds, there will be something that happens that wants to pull me down, stress me out, or at least irritate me.

The truth is I am no longer at the age I can live and eat without intentionality. There are consequences. Not just on the scale, but in my body, health, and energy levels. As hard as it was to lose all that weight, if I’m not intentional I will find it again. All of it.

For the first time since 2012 I didn’t pay attention to how I ate or exercised over the holidays. And it shows. I feel myself getting into old patterns–being discouraged about the weight gain and allowing that discouragement to shut me down. Emotional eating comes really easy when I’m in that state. Getting out and walking does not. I’m also lonely more often now, and those solitary walks don’t sound quite as inviting as they did when the house was constantly noisy.

Here’s the honest truth. I need to get serious about my health again. I need prayer ’cause I know I can’t do this alone.

This week I’m taking a good first step. I’m doing a BENew cleanse. When I was losing weight and doing these consistently I noticed they helped reduce my cravings for the bad foods. (That first cleanse was a rough one for me emotionally. This one isn’t quite as bad, but I’m struggling a little.)

We’re in another car transition, which has made my schedule difficult. So step 2 for me was arranging with my kids for a schedule that allows me a car two mornings a week. My plan is to visit my chiropractor then meet with a friend who lives nearby so we can walk together.

Step 3 is I’ve also returned to doing a few light exercises every morning at home–some crunches, leg lifts, push-ups, and stretching. Nothing too intense. If I start with too much at first I know I won’t continue, so I’m beginning small and seeking to be consistent.

Where I feel the greatest resistance inside is food. I’ve continued much of the healthier eating that I learned in 2012–more fresh fruits and vegetables, making the largest portion my salad instead of the carbs. But unhealthy stuff has crept back in, too, like sometimes having a snack before bed, being mindless about portions, and being less careful with sweets.

When I lost weight I talked a lot about making changes I felt I could live with long-term. I believe I did that. The problem is I grew weary of mindfulness when it came to healthy choices and wise portions. Combined with less activity and less muscle mass, the weight began slipping back on.

And so I continue the journey. Instead of maintenance, I am seeking the courage to stand up and admit I need to lose a few pounds before it gets out of hand. Honestly, it makes me sad to own that, but pretending it isn’t there doesn’t make me any happier. And as much as I would prefer to keep this a private battle, I know accountability makes a difference. I need to lose eight to ten pounds. I need to do this now before things get out-of-control again, and it’s fifty I need to drop.

There. I said it.

If you’re on this journey with me, maybe a summary of my plan can help you, too.

  • Honesty with self – choosing to admit I must deal with this problem
  • Intentionality – Making choices with intent to stay on the road of health
  • Mindfulness – Paying attention to what (and how much!) I eat and how much I move
  • Spiritual support – Asking God to help me and others to pray for me
  • Admission – Admitting I need to lose and owning exactly how many pounds
  • Accountability – Telling someone that I need to change and have chosen to do so.
  • A plan – for me it is 1) cleanse 2) exercise 3) Portion control 4) healthier foods

Anybody with me?

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

Barnacles or Full Steam Ahead?

800px-CornishBarnacles

Image taken from Wiki

Barnacles.

A crazy image for God to bring to mind.

But poignant.

Since He popped into my head, let’s go with it. Life is like a sailing ship. We have somewhere to go. We have a plan and a mission. It requires fuel and forward momentum.

The problem is sometimes crud attaches, and like a ship with barnacles we waste energy, get slowed down.

“It’s a problem as old as sailing itself. Ever since man set out sea, barnacles have been clinging like, well, barnacles to ships, growing into bumpy masses that slows down vessels and wastes fuel,” says Sarah Zhang. “Turns out these tiny creatures can make a ship burn up to 40 percent more fuel. Their collective mass is small compared to the overall ship, but their little bodies have an outsized effect creating drag around the ship’s otherwise smooth hull.”

Sounds like the crud in my life. Is this familiar to anyone else?

I’ve worked hard to change some thought and behavior patterns that are really no longer a part of me. Thanks to a good God I’ve had some inside-out healing. I’ve fought through to the truth, and it has set me free.

In freedom it is full steam ahead.

And I’ll be sailing along just fine, then I seem to slow down. It takes more emotional/physical/mental/spiritual energy to move forward.

Usually when I think to ask why, I discover stuff has attached itself to me that drags me down. A few that seem to cling too quickly to me are: worry, fear, perfectionism, self-doubt, frustration. I blogged about some of that last week.

And sometimes there’s just a general darkness making me feel sad or discouraged or inadequate.

Do you have anything that seems to easily attach to the ship of your life?

A friend and I prayed together about this stuff last week. She urged me to hold onto my joy. To take time out to say thank you. To praise my God.

As I typed I just got a picture of a barnacle slipping because I turned my thoughts toward good things and speak out positive, holy, joyful, stuff instead of letting my mind dwell on the bad.

The picture of the barnacle letting go sent me back to Goggle. According to The Economist The best way to deal with barnacles is to prevent them from attaching in the first place. The recommend a couple of chemicals, confusing the barnacles, and making the surface so smooth they find it difficult to attach.

I think praise and thanksgiving are like those chemicals that repel the barnacles of my life.

 

The method of confusing barnacles includes checker-boarding molecules that attract water with molecules that repel water. My analogy is this–what if I seek to confusing negativity by admitting its existence rather than living in denial of the stuff that hurts me. But instead of giving into it, what if I thank God anyway, saying, “I trust you, Jesus,” in good times and bad.

A lifestyle of joy is like that paint that makes a smooth service where it is hard for the barnacles to attach. What’s interesting about this analogy is that it works better for ships that are swift and active than for boats that spent a lot of time at harbor. That tells me that I need to keep moving forward, following my destiny in joy.

Here’s what I think. You and I are moving forward because God has called us forward, and He never loses. But there’s crud in this world that wants to slow us down, steal our energy, and make us work harder than necessary to cover the same space. So we need to be proactive, focusing on the good, praising and thanking the God of the Universe, admitting difficulties rather than living in denial, but choosing to believe in GOOD anyway. As we do this we seek to learn a lifestyle of living in forward momentum and joy, not grinding to a standstill when crud hits, but choosing to keep moving focused on positives.

I’m liking this.

I’m sure I don’t have it all figured out, and what I do have figured out I haven’t lived fully. This post is processing, me and God together, in an attempt to sail full steam ahead instead of giving into the barnacles of life that what to attach to the ship of my destiny and slow me down.

How do you reduce the drag of barnacles in your life? Wanna join me in full-steam ahead living?

Moving forward until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

PS I know not everyone who reads this blog sees God the same way I do. I hope you’ll still hang around and here at A Benew Journey and glean whatever makes sense to you. We can learn from each other even if we don’t always see things exactly the same way!

 

Another Foot on the Bedrock

It happened years ago, so poignant I remember where I was driving–turning east, a corner from my house when it hit me.

He loves me.hearts

And it is enough.

Oh sure, there have been times it doesn’t feel like enough. Times I’ve stomped my childish size eleven and questioned. Times I’ve looked elsewhere for affirmation.

But this new paradigm, that HIS love was enough to survive–even thrive–on this planet, stayed with me. It carried me. Healed me.

And yet here I sit, years later, blogging about it to remind myself.

I need this truth.

A few nights ago, determined to get words onto a screen I typed a vulnerable post about my struggle to write. A friend’s comment grounded me, and I remembered my Audience of One.

Then Paul said, “You are not simply a writer. Not simply a mother. Not simply anything. Not even simply Paula. You are a unique, complex, multi-layered loved and loving individual. You need do nothing to carry on being that unique treasure. You are that unique treasure. You are surrounded by love . . . Always. When the writing flow flows, then the writing flow flows. You will always be you. You are always you.”

The first time I read over his words I didn’t get it. So I prayed. Read again more slowly. Asked God what tugged at my heart.

It was love.

Yes, much of my struggle to write has simply been empty nest grief and transitions. It was okay to give myself some space as I worked into this new season of my life. But beneath all that something else sneaked in, hampering my forward momentum.

Now that the schedule is opening so I can more fully pursue my dreams, the pressure has been subtly building, the pressure that said I must perform. And how.

When I NEED to perform, fear slips in that I can’t. Memories of disappointment and rejection hint at failure.

Paul’s words reminded me that I am me. Whether or not I write. Whether or not I perform. None of that affects the core.

Because of Love.

I am loved by the King of the universe.

Nothing can take that away.

Nothing can separate me from His love.

It is enough.

And strangely enough knowing this sets me free to be productive.

It’s a grand paradox. Letting go of the need to perform, stepping back onto the bedrock of love, I am secure enough that I embrace the desire to perform again. It is no longer threatening because it does not define me.

I am defined by love.

Love is my bedrock.

How about you? What defines you? Where is your bedrock?

Until next time,

paula cropped

 

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8, The Message)

Resuscitation

After my last post Tom said, “Write and God will follow your writing.” breath

I read his comments a few times, letting them sink into my hungry, dry soul.

Then it hit me. “God will follow your writing.” Suddenly I grinned, imagining that one of the “followers” of this blog is God Himself.

Then I realized the truth of that imagining.

God does. He follows my blog! He was first and most important follower to grace it with His notice. Anyone else who reads comes after.

I knew this, but I didn’t. I know now. Differently.

And somehow everything I do here seems more important.

Validated.

I once again find my courage.

Because even if I’m afraid to write for you I’m am not afraid to write for Him.

HE sees.

HE cares.

When there is not one single comment or facebook share or new follower, when I fear I’m just rambling about my life and that my words will not resonate with anyone, He still cares.

He is my first reader.

And do you know what? He likes my rambling, my attempts at humor, my efforts to be artistic. He even likes the posts that are not deep or creative or even particularly interesting.

He likes them because I’m His, and Good Daddys care about the stuff their daughters do.

Are interested in what they create.

Want to know what pours from their hearts.

It doesn’t seem so scary now that I remember Who my Primary Audience is. I can quit trying to figure this blog out, stifled because I’m not sure what it’s all about since the focus is no longer primarily weight loss. I can let the scattered thoughts, all pieces of myself, just sprinkle forth, pouring out in whatever form is revealed.

Because HE wants to see my next post.

Pours His water upon me, lets me drink, and watches what spills over onto this screen.

Droplets.

Rivers maybe.

The prayers I requested in my last post? I think they are already pushing back the clouds. I feel the Son peeking in and illuminating the Way.

Please keep breathing on behalf of my writing life, blowing against that fog that’s been trying to hide the way out. The fog that’s swirled and thickened, heavy upon my heart, weighing it down. The fog full of voices that I shouldn’t listen to, voices that try to cloak their origin, try to convince me they are truth instead of folly.

Please keep that God-breath coming my friends.

I am being resuscitated.

Until Next Time,

paula cropped

The Quandary

I can’t write.

This is a lie.

This I know.

I have written, and I will write.

But I find myself afraid to start.

Wasting time.

It’s almost as if now that the house has emptied so that I can fully pursue my dreams I have become paralyzed.

I didn’t expect this. Have longed for freedom to pursue the dreams beyond motherhood.

The time is now.

Instead of seizing the day I seize the vacuum cleaner, the telephone, the dirty dishes.

I run errands.

Sometimes I curl up on the couch and cry.

Sometimes I play.

The Christmas break was chaotic and full. Noise rang from these now quiet rooms.

I cooked and cooked and baked and talked and scheduled who got the cars and who didn’t.

Then they went back to college, to apartments and dorm rooms and classrooms.

One at a time they entered their world, leaving me to mine.

I’ve given myself permission to be quiet. To grieve. To regroup.

I think I read 7 books in four days when Stephen left.

The other day I cleaned yard clutter neglected for 25 years.

But I was created to write.

I’ve dreamed of space to write.

To produce more than the four novels completed in the midst of child-rearing.

I’ve worked hard. Served others. Learned my craft.

It’s time.

To write deeper, stronger, more beautiful.

Even here. To be more consistent.

But even here I am afraid. Afraid to start again lest I neglect the pouring forth.

I want to write.

I need to write.

Please pray I can write.