What plan? (Word of the Year 2014)

I choose a “Word for the Year” in addition to setting a few specific goals annually. This habit has served me well. Generally, I begin thinking about my new word for the upcoming year early in the fall. Some years are harder than others to pin down a single word, but generally I know that the word is right for my year by the time January 1st arrives.

This past year, I waffled a little bit. I am mostly pleased with how I operate within my own life. And the areas that I am most frustrated are the places that I have a small skill set. For example, I manage the money that I have today well, but I don’t know how to plan for my future. God has been SO good to provide, protect and carry me through these last years, though I have very little money in comparison to my married years. Yet, my bills are paid and I am paying down the few pre-divorce debts that remain in my life. We don’t have any “play” money to travel or eat out, but we have enough to cover our basic needs. So, I handle the money that I have with excellence.

BUT I have no idea how to prepare for my financial future.

Before divorce, I knew my future was protected (as much as it can be in this unstable world and economy). I had  partnered for twenty-five years with a man to secure a comfortable retirement income, a home/mortgage, health insurance and dreams of our future. Now, I live in the same home and carry the exact same expenses but live on less than 1/3 my pre-divorce income. And I have no health insurance.

This is common for women of divorce in many nations. Huffington quotes  of divorced Australian women “A typical woman endures a 73 percent reduction in her standard of living after a divorce.”  The Guardian reports of UK women, “The average woman’s income falls by more than a fifth and remains low for many years.”   And the Census Bureau offers many statistics for America. “Women who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely than recently divorced men to be in poverty (22 percent compared with 11 percent),” and “Children living with a parent who divorced in 2009 were more likely to be in a household below the poverty level (28 percent) compared with other children (19 percent).”

I offer these statistics to say, I know that am not alone.  Being divorced is tough. Being a divorced mom/female is even more difficult. And my financial future is just one of the uncertain areas I am struggling to navigate.

I know I need to think about the future.
So, I shared here that my chosen word for 2014 is “Plan.”
My Word of the Year “Plan” was not finance-focused. It was LIFE-focused.
Right now, my focus combines self-talk like
“Breathe. Make it through today. Find the beauty in the moment.
Do what you can and don’t fret about the rest.”
Because, truly …. this moment is all that we are have.

My calendar

I still remember the moment in March when I wondered,
“What the hell was I thinking? Choosing the word “Plan”
does not actually CREATE a plan!”
Around April, I considered completely changing my word.
I have never done that before … but … I just felt like I was holding onto an idea
that I didn’t know how to bring to fruition.
But, I really pray about my focus word so I let it remain.
I began to ask God HOW to plan. HOW do I navigate through this?
WHAT changes should I be making?

Two or three weeks ago, I was flipping through the radio station dial as I drove and happened upon The Steve Harvey Morning Show. He was giving a pep-talk about getting things done and concepts from his book, “Act like a Success ; Think like a Success.”  It was not a short monologue. He talked about doing things for yourself rather than waiting on others. He encouraged doing hard things when you’re afraid.
But, the thing that spoke with megaphone-quality to my heart
was towards the end of his  soliloquy. He said that his mantra for each day is
“Always be closing.”

I thought about the phrase all day and how well it applied to my life.
When I returned home, I googled the phrase and found this …. harsh movie clip from the movie
Glengarry Glen Ross .  (Note: language warning)

So, I know where Steve Harvey got the quote
but the revelation that I had about this phrase was very different.

I tend to have more than one creative project going at once. And I tend to struggle with finishing a project. In fact, I wrote a bit about it here when a friend pointed out that I tend to “never be finished.” I used to struggle with perfectionism. I feared finishing a project because it “might not be good enough.” If I was “not finished,” then I didn’t feel like a failure. I’m so thankful that I am past that. In practice of “I don’t care,” and letting go of trying to please others, I have laid that struggle aside. This is truly a victory.

Purely out of habit, I still have many projects that have been started
but not finished.
When I heard Steve Harvey say, “Always be closing,” I knew that
for me
that phrase meant to be focusing my attention
finishing.

So, God has shown me that, right now, my plan to focus on finishing projects … today … now. I don’t have to know what will happen next month or next year, I just need to work on finishing what I have started. I need to tie up loose ends that are blowing in the breeze or complete endeavors that are piled and pushed aside. These can be creative endeavors, financial goals or repair projects. The key is – don’t look for new things to do, new projects to start or new adventures to join. Focus on what is already in my heart or already begun in my world.  Always be closing/finishing.

I am so thankful for a God who doesn’t leave me. He allows situations that I can’t handle so I’ll lean on Him.  He holds my hand when I feel lost. He calms me and guides me when it is dark. And He sustains and provides along this bendy, muddy, sloped path. And He encourages me in the ways that are specific to me. And right now, I know I need to
Always Be Closing.

- Makes Me Happy Monday : Morning Runs

Drive to tow path

Why is it
that we sometimes put off doing those things
that enrich our lives so much
on so many different levels?

 

spider
I find myself feeling incredible guilt when I leave home.
In the last few years, I have only left home twice without my children.
I am a full-time, always-on-call parent.
I know what it’s like to be left behind.
That is not a feeling I want my kids to have.
So, I just don’t go away.
Even …. for a few hours …
which is totally dumb. wood knots
It f.e.e.l.s so self-indulgent.
But, I know in my heart-of-hearts that it is necessary
for good mental health
and when it involves exercise,
it is also good for emotional and physical health.

Sunrise over the Savannah River

I have had some health issues this past year.
And I have had some minor joint discomfort for years.
So, I put off exercise.
Once I get out of the habit, it takes me a bit to get moving again.
Thanks to a friend’s determined persuasion,
I went out yesterday morning. The sun breaking through the morning clouds

I went to the Savannah River and Augusta Canal to walk and run the dirt path.

I was there at daybreak. I was the third car in the parking lot.
It was lovely. 
pinecone and stick

I covered a full five miles of exercise
but spent the last half mile
picking up treasures and taking photos.
feather

And I kept wondering,
“Why don’t I just DO this?”
“Why do I put if off?”

dew

Natures nurtures me.
Dew. Water. Leaves. Spiders. Squirrels. Canada Geese by the dozens? Maybe hundreds?
I drink it all in and am refreshed.
water

And this morning, my blood pressure is down …. WAY down ….
after just ONE morning spent out with running shoes on and my spirit open to creation. love

This morning, I am reminded
that a Sunday morning well-invested
can make a Monday very happy.
flowers for you

What activities nurture your soul? Feed your spirit? Invigorate your being? canal
And what did you do this weekend
that makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning? puddle

Paper Tiles on Stair Risers

Several years ago, I removed a fat piece of awkward wood that was on the stairs in our sunken bedroom with an idea to decorate the risers. Once I pulled down that wood, I found that there were odd holes from a sloppy job of cutting the hole for the a/c vent. There was a 3/4″ gap that would have to be built up to put a new faceplate there on the riser …
so my project stalled.

I find this happens often. I start a project and get stalled because I can’t figure out how to FIX the problems that I uncover … so I just stop. I keep my eyes open. I look for solutions along life’s daily travels. I research. I investigate. But, I’m slow. I just don’t have much experience in areas like plumbing, woodwork, roofing and other household repair areas.

But, recently, I decided I really wanted to finish this idle stair project.
So, I pulled a piece of plywood out from under the house and just jumped in.

My inspiration for this project is based on a dream of visiting Mexico
where stairs are decorated with multi-patterned tiles.
I have a whole Pinterest board for inspiration for floors and stairs. Want to see? Click here. 
While I don’t have a second story in my home,
my art space is in a large bedroom that is two steps below the rest of the house.
I have had a vision for decorating these two stair risers for quite some time …
so … a few weeks ago, I finally decided to bring this idea to fruition.

I cut two pieces of plywood that fit perfectly in front of risers.  Since I knew I would be working with a permanent adhesive, it just made sense to make the entire riser plate removable rather than have to worry about removing layers of patterned paper mounted to part of the house should the artwork ever need to be taken down.

Here’s how I fixed that “gap” problem. I used some sheetrock that was just the right depth
to give me some stability to mount the riser I was creating.
It worked well and was easy to cut and mount.
(You can see those wonky holes clearly in this photo.)
Drywall mounted to the gap under the stairs

I painted my wood to be the same color as the stairs in that room so it would blend with the existing trim.  Then I gathered around 20-25 different sheets of patterned paper and set them aside. I measured the height of the risers (one is a bit taller than the other). I wanted about a half inch head and foot space above and below each square. Then I used that height of each riser to figure out the width of my squares.

The top riser has 3 1/2″ squares.The bottom riser has 5 3/4″ squares.

Then I set to work to cut each square and layer them so that no two paper patterns were too close to a square with the same pattern. After I was satisfied with the layout, I simply glued down the paper (using Matte Mod Podge).

This is what the two risers look like with the paper mounted. Paper Tiles on Stair Risers

After I mounted the paper, I added a little dimension to each square with paint. It’s messy on purpose. I love a relaxed, slightly messy look. It just feels natural and outdoorsy.  Paper Tiles on Stair RisersNext was mounting the two risers to the existing stairs! A couple of small brads hold them in place well enough that  they can be easily removed when and if we move from this sweet little abode.

There was a small gap where one of the risers meets the wall. I had several styles of moulding under the house but none of them were quite the right size …. so I used an extra Scrabble game tile rack to create my corner molding. I love words … the rack is made of wood … it was just the right size …. so it was perfect! Paper Tiles on Stair RisersI did a little rough, dry brush painting to the vent cover to help blend it in a little better. Paper Tiles on Stair Risers - a How To Guide

I LOVE the way it turned out!! It is exactly what I had envisioned!
Isn’t it a good feeling to have an idea and have everything pull together the way you expected …..
EVEN if it takes you a few YEARS from start to finish?

I’m learning more and more about the importance of nurturing your soul. I am nurtured best by having deep conversations, being outdoors and creating things. Taking the time to finish this project was nurturing to my soul.

What nurtures your soul? I encourage you to spend some time this weekend invigorating your spirit through nurturing yourself. What would that look like in your life? I’d love to know. Comment below or share a blog post?

As always, thanks for reading!
Have a lovely weekend, friends!

Deserving Forgiveness

Over 20 years ago, I went through a program at my church that taught a systematic way to tell people about God. We learned how to share in a way that was personal and included illustrations and specific verses from scripture.

One of the illustrations that made a tremendous impact on me was this one:

Wrapped gift - plain brown paper & personalized, layered fabric

If I offered you a gift, you would have to
acknowledge the gift’s presence,
reach out your open hands,
transfer that package from the giver to yourself
and then unwrap it and accept it as yours
in order to truly receive it as a gift.

Isn’t that beautiful?
Had you ever thought of receiving a gift
in such an intricate, personal way?

This illustrates the steps we must go through to accept the gift of Christ as our Savior
and with it, His forgiveness.

Recently, a complete stranger who doesn’t know me at all
quoted words from one of my blogposts. He pointed out in conversation
that I had written in a blogpost that my children’s father “does not deserve to be forgiven.” 

I was not given a post reference and I couldn’t easily find it through my blog’s search tool. This statement just stabbed at my gut. Had I REALLY said that? It doesn’t SOUND like something that I would say in conversation or writing. It certainly isn’t something that I believe in the core of my being. I believe we should all strive to forgive others when they hurt us, whether they ask for forgiveness or not.  And I hold almost no animosity at all towards my ex-husband. I won’t be so foolish as to say that I hold none, because 25 years is a l.o.n.g time to throw away. I made a deep investment and I was left with wounds, scars and a fairly uncertain future. But, to say that he doesn’t deserve forgiveness? That … troubled me.

I spent several days mulling over this thought
and began to think more about forgiveness
what it looks like
who deserves it
and when we should offer it.

I came back to the blog … and finally found my words here. 

Then it all made sense. That line is straight off the screen.
But, oh how different it looked when taken out of context.Wrapped gift - plain brown paper & personalized, layered fabric

Joy’s daddy doesn’t d.e.s.e.r.v.e her forgiveness
any more than I deserve forgiveness for any transgression that I have committed
or you deserve forgiveness for any pain that you have unleashed.
Forgiveness is not something we deserve.
Nor can we earn forgiveness.
No. Forgiveness is a gift that we offer to heal relationships.
It is a gift that can take time to package and prepare.
It is a gift that can be very difficult to release into the receiver’s grasp.
And there are times, when the recipient does not even WANT the gift.

But, always, in giving the gift of forgiveness
we are the ones who receive the greatest blessing.

None of us “deserve” forgiveness
which is all the more reason that I actively encourage my children
to offer it in spite of themselves.

Makes Me Happy Monday : Soapstone Necklace

I spent my entire weekend in downtown Augusta at our annual Arts in the Heart festival.  This festival is over 30 years old and is one of the top festivals in the south with 120 artists sharing their wares, food vendors representing dozens of countries/ethnicities from around the world and continuous entertainment from beginning to end of event at each of the five stages. It’s quite a weekend to enjoy.

AITH Logo

I usually buy at least one or two little gifts for myself while visiting. This year, I spent my birthday money (Thanks Mom and Dad!) on a gorgeous soapstone necklace.

It was made by a new friend, Ajit Churrch. I met him through another friend, Gina, who has a great little eclectic shop downtown. Her shoppe is filled with all sorts of curiosities and vintage items, artwork she creates from found and repurposed objects and a huge number of awesome, funky paintings. You can find her HERE on Facebook.

Here’s a gorgeous treasure she made from an old tool that I’ve had for years. I knew she would do something spectacular with it.  Just look at those wings! That face! And that wonderful skirt!! I love it!

Wooden wings with a old soul - Assemblage by Gina Langston Brewer

I’m always amazed at how quickly Gina can create. She’s not afraid. She doesn’t worry about messing up. She just creates. She picks up the brush and begins to pour out her heart in purples, salmon and green. Her paintings are fun and abstract. Here is a fun one that is on my Instagram feed. She is as talented with mixed media as she is with a simple brush and vibrant colors.

While visiting with Gina on Saturday where she was set up in the Augusta Market at the River (where you’ll find her every Saturday morning), I got to meet her friend Ajit who had paintings and necklaces displayed. Soapstone Necklace by Ajit Churrch

I was totally taken by his necklaces. You can see several of them HERE.  Soapstone Necklace by Ajit Churrch He said that he cuts the small pendants from larger stones and then fits them with wire, tubing, shells and found objects.Soapstone Necklace by Ajit Churrch Some have holes drilled. Some have added paint. I just loved this one so it was my splurge for the weekend.

Soapstone Necklace by Ajit Churrch

I love how there are so many textures and colors! Even the stone is multi-colored.
Soapstone Necklace by Ajit ChurrchWhile downtown, I just threw it on with all the other necklaces already adorning my neck.

My new necklace amongst the old favoritesI’m so careful with my money. We took sandwiches and fruit with us downtown. I could have spend 10-20-30.00 on food, but I chose to spend my birthday money on something that would last and last. I invested it into this beautiful necklace that I will enjoy for years and years to come.

It really makes me happy!

What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : A Painted Snail

Chuck Hanes and Elizabeth Collins snails

These beautiful little creatures were created by Chuck Hanes and Elizabeth Collins. They are potter friends from Madison, Georgia. To be truthful, I don’t know who created which one and I don’t know who came up with the idea to begin creating snails. I expect bits of clay were left over after some clay making venture when … someone was doodling with clay and then … a handful came to life. I would guess that each of them made a few and they may have added glazes to snails that they didn’t create. They are a team. In some ways, it feels like their work even flows together, though they both have distinct styles as potters.  

I adore snails. I ooohed and ahhhhhed over snails that Chuck and Elizabeth posted on Facebook. When I went to their house a few weeks ago, Chuck gifted a few to me. 

And the little guy in the rear? Well …. his shell was just begging me to paint it … so I did. Painted Snail  Painted Patterned snail

window love Now, he sits on my kitchen window sill and
alongside drying brushes, a new favorite pine cone.
These friends keep me company when I do dishes. 

This little snail makes me so happy!! 

Some days … we have to look for the “happy.” Mondays can be tough. It’s hard to leave home and get back into the work week with responsibilities, deadlines and the scatter of family or the busy of just being home with all of those responsibilities. No matter what your life looks like, when we look for happy, we can find it. Make the effort to look for the joy today. 

What makes YOU happy this magnificent Monday morning? 
Have a marvelous week this week. 

 

- I can take it

I love how easily my perspective can be altered.
God speaks to me through so many conduit forms in life.
This morning, it was a HONY post.

……

I was in the kitchen emptying the dish drainer when I heard the familiar movement yesterday afternoon.
The handle turned, the hinges silently allowed the door to glide open as the solid plank of hardwood slid from the tight frame.
“Hiiigghhhhheeeeee” I sang. “How are you?”
My song was met with silence
. footsteps .
… then an exhausted “fine.”

My youngest is like my oldest – a die-hard introvert.
At the end of a school day, I know she is drained
by being under authority, beside living bodies and immersed in noise.
Today was no exception.

She began with an accusation that I called her principal that morning.
I had, in fact, spoken with her principal … a good three weeks earlier,
but not that morning, I defended.
Next? “Would you fill my cup with water?”
I didn’t know WHAT cup she was asking me to fill.
Her water “bottle” was on the counter and dirty.
I needed clarification and she balked.
And as is her standard, she did not add “please.”
As I stepped into the adjacent utility room,
I emptied fluffy, fresh towels from the dryer,
she emptied her backpack and
we both filled with frustration.
I think I then reminded her that she had neglected to order a Kindle book for school.
I moved back to the kitchen to finish popcorn that I was preparing for a snack.
I believe I was defending why the refrigerator was in the middle of the kitchen floor
when I began to prepare to melt butter for the popcorn.
“NO. Butter can’t go in a bowl!”
She wanted me to microwave-melt the butter in a coffee mug … her preferred method.
My hands went in the air – truce style – and I said, “That’s it. I’m done.”
I verbally listed the contentious topics of our ten minute conversation,
I told her she could finish the popcorn
and I went back to my sewing project.
Yes. Those are bird feathers on the floor beside the bird cage. And I didn't edit them out ... because real life is rarely neat and tidy to view.

I was thankful that I did the right thing.
I set a boundary.
This is new for me.
For decades, I have let someone else make all the decisions
about how they should treat me.
I didn’t get angry or hurt.
I set a boundary.
And I walked away.
I did well.

……

This morning, when I saw this HONY post, I could relate to this woman.

She is a director at a children’s refuge center in South Sudan. She told Brandon about the children’s backgrounds. She said, “Many of them were malnourished, abandoned, or regularly sexually abused. Some of them have witnessed extreme violence.” Then she said, “Often their trauma is so bad, that when the children first arrive, they can be very hateful toward me. But I feel blessed by the hate. Because I know it’s part of the healing process. And if they need someone to hate so that they can heal, I’m glad it can be me.”
Isn’t that beautiful? She does not expect to be appreciated. She does not require that she is respected.

She understands that … hurting people … sometimes hurt others.

Please don’t be misled. I am not relating my daughter’s struggles with those of these children. I am relating my parenting to the mentoring of this beautiful woman.
I k.n.o.w that my child has not lived the life of these children who are growing up in dire, dangerous circumstances. Our struggles here pale in any form of comparison.
But, everybody on earth has struggles. And we each have to learn to work through our hurts.

From the most tragic situations of terror
to the simple, growing pangs of my teen,
people need unconditional love to heal from their personal wounds.
They need to know they won’t be pushed away
when their healing is messy and uncomfortable.

I parent alone. Parenting alone is one of the hardest parts of divorce for me.
Glory doesn’t live at home any longer and James is not home very much.
So, life is Joy.and.me.
Sometimes it’s … NO …. Often it is difficult to absorb all the blows
that parenting dishes out
and make all the decisions that must be made.
I’m thankful that God gives me the stamina to stand.
And I’m thankful for His direction daily ….
His altering of my perspective.

In thinking about yesterday, I have realized
that I neglected something important in yesterday’s interaction.
Before I walked away,
I should have brought awareness to the conversation.
I should have said,
“Ya know, I understand that you’re probably tired. I know that you’re hungry. And I realize that you may even be angry because I talked to the principal about a topic that you and I struggle over. But, I’m on your team. I am for you, not against you. I love you and always want the best for you. So, I’m going to step away and give you some space.”

That is what I should have done.

I’ve heard people talk about becoming paralyzed
by perfectionism.
Sometimes, trying to do “the best” you can
gets in the way of just doing good.
In this case, I think a “good” response
got in the way of the best response.
But, another saying I like fits in this case;

Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou

I am thankful for the stamina
and that I am here – albeit alone – to absorb the blows.
Next time, I hope I do better.

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