Tag Archives: simplicity

Tromping on All or Nothing (Again)

Peace in the midst of chaos. Balance. You’d think I’d be better at it. I’ve had ample opportunity to learn.

I think (hope) I’ve made progress in cultivating joy in times of emotional struggle and sorrow. But old habits creep up in new places.

During early marriage there were a few phrases I heard often from my husband. One was, “it’s not all or nothing, honey.”

Here on A Benew Journey we’ve talked often about taking back our lives. I shared my story of how being benched help me learn to care about my own needs and find a healthier lifestyle, prioritizing my emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Enter the new test of balance: Overwhelming Good!

When my husband and I returned  from helping go through my mother-in-law‘s home we were emotionally and physically fatigued. God and loved ones met us with a wonderful surprise. A friend told me she’d prayed for years for an opportunity to bless our family. This came when she was able to gift us not only materials for a face-lift to parts of our home, but also her expertise. Having just remodeled her own house, she knew how to do things we didn’t.

10645234_10204219778229697_3251294756801228991_n

While we were gone she and our children dug in, pulling down old, out-dated wallpaper, emptying shelf after shelf of books, and reshaping the walls so they would look beautiful when painted.

IMAG0565

Notice the gratitude wall in the hallway . . .

Then my friend ordered the materials to rebuild our ancient privacy fence. These answers to years of prayer overwhelmed me with gratitude. After taking a day to unpack and assimilate, I dug in thinking I’d have a brand-new family room in a week, and that if the boys helped on a week-end we’d have the post holes dug. My friend and I could leisurely add the other boards while my husband was at work.

IMAG0605

It’s not quite what happened. We are on day 19 or 20 of the family room project, and only about half the holes are dug and filled with cement and a new pole. (And that much only happened with several friends pitching in.)

This morning I felt the call to be still. To talk these wonderful (though somewhat challenging) situations over with the Lord. I have other work to do, commitments to keep. I’ve been skipping my walks (isn’t painting enough exercise?) and giving into less healthy food choices out of exhaustion. I want to bury myself in this project. To GET IT DONE.

This morning I realized it isn’t just the bad that gets me out of balance. It’s the good. The exciting projects. The work I love. I felt His whisper, His reminder to be on guard against all or nothing living. (I guess He and Jerry are on the same page.) That what is accomplished in this day is sufficient. That healthy choices are important and pushing too long and hard, even in the good things, is a step backward not only in my physical health journey, but my joy. In my life.

There will always be overwhelming tasks. It is my goal to be a wildly productive woman. But if I forget the moments–If I don’t embrace life on the overwhelmingly busy days, then I’m back to square one, rushing, but not living. Meeting goals without enjoying the beauty of moments well lived.

I painted over my gratitude wall, my 1000 little breathless moments recorded in multi-colored magic marker. (We won’t talk about how many coats of paint it took to cover the marks of the orange sharpies!) As we painted I felt those thanksgivings were the foundations of the new, beautiful space. The color I chose is called “refreshed.” And that’s what noticing life’s good moments did for me, it refreshed my heart, helped it live more fully alive.

IMAG0620

Beneath these beautiful, refreshed walls is a foundation of 1,000 moments of beauty, things noticed by choice, by slowing down and savoring. Gifts from the hand of Creator God who gives all good things.

My BeNew journey continues. When the good (or difficult) things in life bring unexpected responsibilities, when something wonderful happens that requires more hours than I dreamed, I can’t live all or nothing, throwing myself into conquering the project. I’m learning to prioritize life. The moments. The beauty. The healthy choices that keep me strong for the next project.

Two days ago I completed bookshelf #1. Non-fiction neatly alphabetized and housed in cases of misty surf and calming celadon. (blue-gray and green)

IMAG0619

Do not be deceived. This bookcase is now full!

Tomorrow I’ll paint and hang a homemade bookcase for my fiction collection. Or maybe that will wait until next week. But it will get done. And I will chose to sleep. To be responsible with other commitments and not just bury in this project. I will take time to make Sam homemade biscuits. I will pray. Enjoy the outdoors. Breath the fragrance of fall and actually notice it.

How about you, my friend? Are you resisting tunnel vision? Are you living life, breathing in the breathless moments, or just conquering time?

As you work, embrace joy. See the faces of those you love. Hear their words. Taste your food. Have a little fun . . .

IMAG0586Until Next Time,

moldenhauer signature3

 

Big Celebrations and Simple Pleasures

20140611_145401We wore our Hawaiian attire just ’cause we could. For a joke in a way. A celebration of the memories of 25 years of marriage.

We matched. We rejoiced in the fact our clothes from that trip 16 years ago fit. That life together had held many special moments.

We got a lot of stares. Of comments. A group of teens on their break stood smoking outside a restaurant and snickered.

I smiled and waved. “Hey! We have a good reason!” I bantered. “It’s our 25th wedding anniversary, and we’re wearing a memory.”

They cheered for us then.

I never knew what a conversation starter bright, out-of-date, Hawaiian attire could be.

Honestly, I was a little embarrassed by all the attention, but I’m glad we did it. It was like a shout to the world that marriage can be fun. Can last. That you can still play together after 25 years.20140611_230050

At Trader Joe’s the comments on our floral glory drew attention to our special day. They gave us flowers. We bought dark chocolate and wine, which we shared later that night.

It was a different kind of anniversary celebration for us. We weren’t able to get away for an overnight. We didn’t escape to traipse around in the mountains like we often do on special occasions.

We ran around town.

We shopped.

We ate out.

It wasn’t really very Jerry and Paula-ish. We’re not big shoppers.

But it was glorious.

I bought Jerry really good new shoes. He bought me silver jewelry. Yes, his gift was more romantic, but I swear those are the best tennis shoes my man has ever worn!

It was a joy to buy each other gifts. There were years we couldn’t.

20140611_193408After the hoopla we returned home to dress for dinner. I wasn’t quite up to making a matching spectacle at the nice Italian place we’d chosen. Besides, when I shopped for a dress to wear to Bernice’s memorial service I couldn’t believe how many dresses actually fit, and I bought a special one and saved it for this special day, hoping Jerry would like it. Would think I looked yummy in it and show it. ;o)

He did.

I’m still stunned I can find clothes I like so easily after all those years of hating everything, struggling to find something that fit, much less looked okay.

How foreign to like buying clothes again after my weight loss journey.

Weird.

And wonderful.

20140611_205508But back to our special day.

The beautiful dining experience that evening included live music and elegant food paired with a lovely wine.

Being the writer I am I people-watched in between those moments of staring deeply into my lover’s eyes. ;o)

Some people didn’t seem that happy. It was like it wasn’t special to  them to eat that good food, to stare at each other across the table, to enjoy a beautiful atmosphere and glass of good wine.

To them it was just another Friday night.

“If it ever gets to the point  that we do this all the time, and we suddenly realize it’s no longer special, let’s just stop,” I said.

Jerry agreed.

Life is too precious to blaze past beautiful moments.

I don’t ever want to take gifts for granted.

I hope I won’t.

Our normal is a meal at home, and these days there are less and less faces around that table, but every one who is there is precious and every meal we share a joy.

And oh the glory when those kids all come home and crowd around the table! Every time someone thanks me for the meal, every time we’re together like that I feel the gift of such a commonplace thing and think it extraordinary, even though it happens at some level pretty much weekly.

So maybe there’s hope that a special meal like the one on our anniversary night won’t lose the magic either, even if it becomes a new normal when the kids skitter away to build their own nests.

If it does, I hope I’ll quit going to nice restaurants.

Life is full of gifts.

Some are very simple. Like the aroma of freshly popped popcorn.

Some are extravagant, like four dresses in one day.

But all are there for the taking–a little notice, a little unwrapping, a little celebrating.

Until Next Time,

paula cropped

Autumn Glory

I’m still in California as this entry posts. I can’t wait to share a bunch of pictures and talk about my experiences in sunny San Diego at the Life Force Convention. I expect to include some shots of the Pacific. Oh how I’ve missed the ocean!

But for now I thought we needed a break from all that heavy discovery of epiphanies, so I put together a collection of fall beauty before I left Denver. I encourage you to bask in the glory of autumn, one sidewalk at a time.

IMAG2522

IMAG2519

IMAG2544

IMAG2548

IMAG2520

IMAG2571

IMAG2533

Enjoy the simple things today. Live in the moment. Breathe in beauty. Notice the good, my friends. Take a walk. Snap a picture. Thank the Creator.

Breathe in Autumn Glory

Epiphanies I

IMAG1753-1 (2)It all started on the side of that mountain. There I was minding my own business with my girlfriends minding theirs. I gazed at sloping green that opened into a valley surrounded by white-frosting-tipped peaks piercing a bright blue sky.

Beautiful.

My “baby” girl had just returned from a Mediterranean honeymoon cruise, and my sliver of travel, less than two hours from my home to Breckenridge, stirred longing. “Could I see the Mediterranean, someday, Lord? I want to cruise, to travel.”

The guilt came instantly. Starving children in Africa and all that. Me. Me. Me. Want. Want. Want. Thinking about my comfort. Fun. I have eternity to see good things. There are people who need HIM. Why am I thinking about myself?

“Why do you do that?”

His sudden appearance in my thoughts shocked me. Huh?

“Why do you feel guilty about wanting to experience the world I created for you to enjoy?”

That’s when the waterworks started. My friends clustered around asking what was wrong. It was too deep to share just then, on the side of a glorious mountain where just seconds before we’d been talking and laughing.

Anyway, I wasn’t ready. There was more to His Words and my reaction to them. It was time for another round of emotional weight loss.

Breck neighborhood 9After our hike we headed back to the cabin. I disappeared into my room with my journal and trusty pen. I often hear best with my pen in hand.

Seventeen journal pages of dialogue later I had an epiphany.

Or several.

Here’s the first: I was created to spread joy, created for delight, for celebration.

journal2

~The Journal Conversation ~

Him: “I’ve asked you to do without in a culture where there is much. But that doesn’t mean it is more holy. It’s just been your process and Jerry’s. I’ve been teaching you to learn contentment in all things.”

I don’t think I’ve done very well with that . . .

“You have found joy in the small things. The real things–like relationship with Me, your family, and your friends. Small things like the fragrance of roses. The feel of a warm mug. The swirl of cream in coffee. The song of a bird.”

IMAG1362

IMAG1246

IMAG2490-1-1-1-1

I’m not sure those are so small.

(He Chuckles) “No. They are my gifts, more beautiful than you understand, but often overlooked . . . Even now you pause to enjoy My Aspen leaves dancing on the breeze outside the window. I like that about you.”

(Tears spring to think this pleases Him.) It’s simply how you wired me.

Us: It makes me/you more resilient.

“Can I not enjoy this trait even more knowing I gave it to you and that you have cared enough to develop it? My gift to you is your gift (our gift, really) to the world. Give them eyes to notice My beauty, Paula. And let me give you sweeping moments of beauty and joy so you can be continually refilled to pour out the celebration of the Good in Me and in My world.

“Receive My every gift with open abandon, arms stretching to Me, dancing in the falling joy-petals of My love-gifts.”

~

Of course there’s more to the seventeen pages of journaling, some of which I’ll share in the coming days. My epiphanies eventually circle back around to the curve ball post of a few days ago. I hope you’ll continue to journey with me as I drop emotional and mental weight.

For today I’m camping out here. In the joy of little things. Delighting in the idea that such simple notice of His gifts pleases Him. In letting go of the guilt barometer and learning to fully enjoy His gifts.

I’m wishing all of that for you, too, my friend. May today bring notice of the love-gifts of the Creator. My you dance in the falling joy-petals.

Tweet it:

Dancing in the Falling Joy-Petals

A Walking Tour of Montrose

Putting on tennies in the dark isn’t easy. Neither is slipping out the hotel door without waking your comrades. I wasn’t totally successful. In fact my friend and fellow speaker Kathleen E Kovach told me later she rolled over, emitted a soft moan, and asked God to keep me safe before she slipped back into slumber.

(This post relates to point #2 from my Little Bit Wiser blog a few days ago.)

It was the day after we’d taught Fiction FUNdamentals at the Montrose library. Soon we’d load five women into a truck crammed full of luggage and begin the 12 hour trip home. (Okay, Montrose is roughly 6 hours from Denver, but not when you travel with five women who like to shop and need lots of potty breaks.)

I needed some movement before the drive–and wanted to experience a little of the town instead of whipping through, speaking, and packing up. I’d walked a bit the morning before the library gig, but it was mostly a clear my head and pray kind of trek. I didn’t have time to go far and my wanders led to a very dry, ugly spot full of cracked earth, desolation, and old furniture dumped haphazardly. It was great inspiration to pray for opportunities to replace barrenness in a place where there seemed to be little community or support for Christian writers. It was not, however, especially attractive.

So this morning I headed the opposite direction, initially following a small river.

walk 01

Soon that path ended. Disappointed I headed down the primary road, unimpressed with the end of town that sported mostly old signage. (I later discovered a quaint main street awaited me farther down, but alas I saw it only from a moving car.)

signage

I turned down a side street and the adventure began. What I noticed most were the trees. Beautiful, diverse, and full of character. If you know Colorado you know that on either side of the mountains, or in long valleys, trees are not plentiful. This made the trees of Montrose even more treasured, and I wondered who planted, watered, and cared for them. How old were they?

walk 1 tree

I got really excited when I found a bike path, just sure it would lead to a nature walk or beautiful park.

walk 4

After lots of concrete I found myself at the city hospital.  At least I found roses hanging over a privacy fence.

walk 3

I gave up on the bike path and returned to the shaded streets of a modest neighborhood. I’m always grateful to those who take time to bring beauty into our world by planting flowers.

walk 2

Eventually I found my favorite site of the day, the beautiful Townsend House built in 1887.

walk 7 (2)

I was especially intrigued by the two sidewalks in front of the old place–a decaying brick path and a new concrete one. One of these days I’ll find the metaphor here, and we’ll have another blog post.

 walk 9

walk 8

I’d walked almost an hour when I met a lady who urged me to go past the swimming pool and the big red silos to the park on the edge of town. She said the path there would soothe my soul. I didn’t want to be late for breakfast, but I couldn’t resist. I set off for the park jogging a little and wondering if I’d have to run a good deal of the way back to be on time. That was not a pleasant thought, but it didn’t deter me.

walk 10

As I headed down the trail to the park I saw a sweet-looking woman walking alone. I asked the Lord if I should talk with her. Soon we were in conversation. She and her husband daily feed the cats and ducks at the park. When she discovered how far I was from the hotel she offered me a ride back. Her husband initially turned the wrong direction assuming my hotel was on that side of town. They were a surprised I’d walked the entire length of their community. (And I’ll admit it. I felt a bit of pride at the thought.)

When I returned Kathy rolled her eyes at my story of the provision of a return ride. I told her they were nice people who fed the wildlife. She said I needed to start watching Criminal Minds. I told her I prayed first and knew they were safe. That seemed to calm her.

(And don’t YOU start worrying. I don’t typically take rides from strangers.)

It’s a good thing I took a walking tour of Montrose before the road trip home. Five women pack a lot of snacks.

So there you have it–how to fight the battle of the bulge and see the world, one sidewalk at a time.

Hope you protect some time this week to find the little things a nice walk reveals. If you do, I’d love to hear YOUR story.

Tweet it:

Discovering the world on foot