the keep and drop principle, part one

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Recently I've been on a de-cluttering mission.

It started with clothes, cutting down so that both mine and Chris's clothes would fit in the same (double) wardrobe instead of a double and a rickety old single.

I have accomplished my task. My lovely Dad took the old wardrobe away (in pieces) yesterday. Now I have a nice little square indent on my carpet where it used to live.

Now, however, I feel I have contracted some sort of simplifying/clearing out bug. It's infected every part of me and no object in my home (aside from my husband's stuff, and that's not a problem because I'm pretty sure I've passed the clear out virus onto him) is safe from my narrow-eyed stare. Where did I get that thing? Do I really need it? No? In the charity shop bag it goes.

You will not believe the amount of stuff I've gotten rid of. Old knick-knacks that didn't actually mean anything to me anyway that I was bored of. Glass nuggets from our wedding that I would never use for anything else but felt too sentimental to throw away (seriously). On and on and on the clutter kept appearing in front of me. It was as though a veil had been dropped from my eyes and I could finally see it all.

It feels good, to get rid of all this stuff. To know that I don't need it. You see, Chris and I aren't into the minimal look. We both like our home to feel cosy and we like having little things around that have stories attached to them. So getting rid of stuff - even stuff that is really old or kind of meaningless - is a bit of a test of will for me.

It feels good to do it.

Anyway, I was reading my friend Adele's post about time management, which inspired me to think about what takes up my time. Then I stumbled across a blog called Small Notebook and read a post (I can't find the exact one now - sorry - it's under the Simplify category) about keeping and dropping. Which is basically what it says. What in my life do I need to keep? And what do I need to drop?


(Now I've cleared out my books, Chris's Stephen King collection looks disproportionately huge!)

Keep: Books. I read a lot, and I've always wanted my kids to read lots, so I think it's important to have books around the house. Keep in particular the Christian books, which I refer back to a lot. Keep, too, the stories I have read before and loved again and again, and like to share with people.

Drop: Books I have read but will never read again/books I bought because I felt I 'should' read them because they're kind of intellectual, but that deep down I know I will never read


Keep: Trinkets around the house that I love and have meaning.

Drop: Trinkets that I bought on impulse and then feel slightly regretful for but too guilty to get rid of.



Keep: This cute little heart made by my niece, Heidi, and the canvas drawing my niece Izzy drew of herself holding hands with me and Chris (the one where we all look a bit like potato people).

Drop: Every drawing/card they've ever made me. I treasure the special ones. But it was getting a bit out of hand.

Keep: The takeaway leaflets in the man drawer with the good vouchers on. And the working lightbulbs and batteries.

Drop: The phone book. The Argos book. The Ikea catalogue. Why oh why do I need these when I have, at last count, at least four devices that connect to the internet with all that information on it? Also, drop the burnt-out candles, the instructions for appliances we no longer have ... the delights of the man drawer go on and on.



Oh how good it will feel to hoist this rubbish on my unsuspecting friends and family members responsibly dispose of/give away these things.

Even if I am a bit disgusted at how much there was in the first place.

More on the keep/drop principle next time ...!

reminded

It's sunny today and it's making me smile to think that, maybe, truly, the winter has passed. That truly, maybe, flowers appear on the Earth and the season of singing has come.

Or maybe it will snow tomorrow. Who knows with this evil, awful, terrible, horrendous crazy weather?

No pictures today - just words.

'The angel said to the woman, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said."' - Matthew 28:5

God bless and happy Easter xx

its complicated

Saturday, 30 March 2013

There are some aspects of my faith that are just hard.

There. I said it.

It's hard to be a Christian sometimes. Not in the sense of persecution and suffering. Not in my country, not yet, anyway. Not in the sense of morality (although that is hard, but that's another post altogether).

No. Sometimes, it's just hard in the sense of understanding it all, emotionally and intellectually. The women I admire the most - and I'm lucky to be surrounded by them, women older and wiser than myself - are the women that have a simple faith. They never doubt God. They never question Him. In the difficult times, they don't wonder where He is or what on earth He's doing. They just lean in closer and wait. Wait.

The problem with me is, I want to know. I want to understand. I want to question and probe and poke around until I know every answer and solve every puzzle. I'm learning fast that God isn't like that. God isn't just a textbook, waiting to be deciphered by people that ask the right questions. He is more than that. More than my feeble brain. More than the most brilliant, intelligent, capable minds in the world. So I can ask question after question and never ever get to the end of Him, never get to the bottom of the mystery.

Sometimes this makes me feel like doing this:



Then I dig deeper and I think about things I've read or heard other Christians say, and things I've said and done that do not, in any way, accurately reflect the beautiful complex truth of my faith and I feel like doing this:



(Apologies for the cheesy photos. In my head they were cool. Then I kept laughing while Chris took them).

I'm reading Mere Christianity by CS Lewis at the moment (it's been a while since I've had my spirit and my mind so excited about a book I've read) and he says this:

'It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of - all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain - and, of course, you find that what we call 'seeing a table' lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of. A child saying a child's prayer looks simple. And if you are content to stop there, well and good. But if you are not - and the modern world usually is not - if you want to go on and ask what is really happening - then you must be prepared for something difficult. If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.'

That's the brilliance - and the frustration - of life with Jesus. It's more than a set of simple beliefs and moral codes. It's ... more. There are aspects of my faith - issues of the spirit, of heavenly realms, of warfare and blood and sacrifice and miracles, that I will never truly understand, because they are beyond me. I can see glimpses, but never the whole. There are aspects of my faith, too, that I find hard. Parts of the Bible, words of God, that leave me in a moral dilemma, scratching my head and pondering. There are things about following God that hurt a little bit. And there are things that Christians have (maybe mistakenly) said or done that make me wince.

But there we go. Life with God can be complicated. But it's always beautiful and right.

Why do I have faith in something I can't see? Because it wouldn't be faith if I could fully see it.

Does it mean I just give up? Pursue something that's easier to cope with? No. Because I firmly believe this - life following Jesus - is right. And because I love the mystery. I love that God is bigger and better than anything I know. Even if it sometimes gives me a headache.

I HATE that girl!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Why do we hate 'perfect' women?

This is the question I woke up pondering this morning, as I wondered what to blog about. It does seem to me that we're in a culture of women that stand alert, ready to spring on a girl that rises above the rest, that seems to have it altogether, ready to analyse her, to tear her apart, to 'expose' her for who she truly is. I see it all the time with celebrities (the more beautiful they are, the more we love to hear rumours about them) and even with royalty (like this lady who compared Kate Middleton to a 'shop window mannequin' - because apparently, doing charity work, being a warm and friendly person and being beautiful is just too much perfection for people to take).

Do men have this problem? Do men see a successful, handsome, noble kind of man and think 'Woah, I hate that guy'? I get the impression it's more of a problem for women.

When I first became a Christian, I encountered a lady I didn't like very much. The Proverbs 31 woman. I read the passage with a kind of mixture of awe, jealousy and cynicism. As in, 'Wow, that woman is perfect! I kind of hate her. But hey, she's probably not even a real woman. And even if she is real, you can't live up to those sorts of standards nowadays anyway. Not working women. We're just too busy.'

Joyce Meyer puts it better than me in her book, The Confident Woman (which, as an aside, is a very good book) in the chapter called 'The Woman I Did Not Like': 'Who can compete with the woman described in Proverbs 31? This woman can do it all; she cooks, she sews - what she doesn't seem to do is get tired! She seems absolutely perfect. Maybe that's why my first response after reading about her was "I don't like you."'

The seventeen year old newly Christian me felt exactly the same way. This morning, for example, has been a good morning: I got showered, dressed and ready without tripping over something/getting shampoo in my eyes/staring numbly into the distance trying to wake up, my lunch is already made (yesterday's leftovers) and now I'm blogging. It's a perfect morning! I'm like a miracle woman ;)

And yet I haven't gotten up when it's dark to prepare for my day ... I haven't planned for my family ... I don't sew beautiful garments for the people I love or make lovely bed linen for them ... I don't buy vineyards with my money. So how is this passage relevant?

I'm being silly, of course, because it's obviously relevant, whether the younger me liked it or not. Look at this:

'She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for the task.' - This essentially means, whatever she puts her hand to, she goes for it 100%. She doesn't moan or complain - she gets on with things, and she does things with enthusiasm. Can I do that? Er, yes.

'She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.' She's wise with money and considers carefully what she buys. Can I do that? Definitely. (Do I do that? Is another question altogether).

'She opens her arms to the poor, and extends her hands to the needy.' Well, obviously I could do more of that.

''She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.' She watches what she says. I do that. Sometimes.

'She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.' She's not lazy - I don't have to be lazy, either. That doesn't mean I can't rest - it means that I don't have to waste time.

It makes me smile looking back, because I realise how much God has changed me. There is no such thing as a perfect woman, or a perfect Christian. I had the revelation a little while back of how much time I've wasted comparing ... wondering how some Christians have it all together, how they understand huge spiritual concepts with ease, how they sound so confident in prayer, how they react gracefully to every situation.

I've realised over time that the key there is grace. God is good enough, when I venture out in faith to try and be better, to teach me how to do these things. He is slowly softening and changing my heart and my ways.

So it's nice this morning to re-focus on that Proverbs 31 woman, and not see her, and so-called 'perfect' Christians, as enemies. It's nice to see her as a woman that has been moulded by God ... and to see myself as a woman on that journey too.

motherhood

Saturday, 9 March 2013

So, I didn't actually post this when I wanted to ... I had Photobucket issues that made me shout, close the laptop, then forget about it entirely. So I'm backdating it. It's kind of cheating. But here it is!

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. My own Mum is pretty poorly this weekend, suffering from a flu kind of thing, so I'm not going to be able to see her this weekend. That doesn't stop me from thinking about her though. So, warning in advance: this may well be a very soppy post!



Apologies for poor pic quality - it turns out a scanned photo downloaded from Facebook and re-uploaded doesn't come out that great!

I'm thankful for my Mum (and Dad, of course). For the years of loving me, worrying for me, caring for me. Supporting me through tough times, being patient with me when I turned into a monster, forgiving me when I came back again.

I'm thankful for her for teaching me how to cook. For letting me watch her. For years of letting me crack eggs and grate cheese and stir, even though it must have taken about ten times longer than if she did it herself. Now I love to cook, and sometimes when I make a bolognese or a white sauce it makes me smile to think that instinct comes from her.

I'm thankful for her and Dad for taking me on adventures. For letting me take risks. For teaching me early how to love being outdoors. For taking me on camping trips and letting me wake up early with a friend, the smell of damp grass up my nose, ready to run to the play park and dangle off the climbing frames. Those memories of sunset beach walks and long car journeys are among my favorites.

I'm thankful that she always made sure I had what I needed. I'm thankful that she taught me to be aware of what I have. To take care of my things. To appreciate everything.

I'm thankful that she taught me the importance of family. I see her now, how she cares for all three of her daughters, how she welcomes us in and cooks for us and makes sacrifices for us still, and it reminds me of the kind of person I want to be.

Now I have a little life growing in me. What started as a whisper has fast outgrown being a secret. The way my body is growing and the first movements that started just this week, a soft, feathery tickling in my belly, reminds me constantly that someone is on the way, someone that is going to sweep into my life and change everything.

I pray for the baby and I wonder about it. Why did it start moving? Is it awake now? Does it have hiccups? How is it growing and changing today? And I realise the craziness that is mother-love and sacrifice, and how it must never end, even when a long time has passed and those babies have grown up and left home.

So I'm very thankful this Mothers' Day. For the goodness of God and the miracle that is carrying a child. For our families, who are gathering, speculating, excited.  And for my Mum, who has taught me well.

I want it all!!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Which song popped into your head when you read the title of this post: the song from Willy Wonka or the song from High School Musical 3? Mine was the first. I'm keeping it old school. ;)

I'm actually posting before work this morning! I've figured out an ingenious solution to my current state of collapse after work in the evenings ... try and get anything done that involves using my brain in the mornings. In theory, I'm supposed to have more energy and my posts should be more focused because I have a time limit. Let's see if this actually works out or not.

Last time, I posted about how you see God in the midst of the mundane. How you connect with Him and see life as a blessing from Him when your life is filled with chores and work. Today I want to talk a bit about another pain-in-the-bum area of life:

Money.

Before I start I want to say this. I have two perspectives on money depending on my current mood (and, more tellingly, whether or not I'm in line with God's thinking or not). I can see the amount of money/the financial position we are in as a blessing, a miracle, a gift. I can thank God for food in my cupboards and a roof above my head.

If I'm feeling kind of worldly though, I'll see it from a worldly point of view. So, no, we don't have enough. How come I work hard and get paid so little? How come we're possibly never going to be able to buy our own home? How come I can't ... etc, etc.

My question to myself today is: does it really matter?

Does it matter that I can't afford to go clothes shopping very much? That my sofas don't match? That all our furniture is second hand? Does it matter, even, that I can't afford a car? A mortgage?

Ultimately ... no. It doesn't. It doesn't matter what the world says. It doesn't matter what people around me might think. What matters, ultimately, is that I am in line with God. That I follow His plan for my life. What matters is family. What matters is a Godly marriage. What matters is slowing down and appreciating life and thanking God for His blessings.

Sometimes I pray for things all I hear is silence ... other times, I pray for something and God blesses us out of the blue with a miracle. Why? I don't know. Maybe a mortgage isn't for me ... what is for me, however, is better. If I follow God's plan for my life, I can't guard against fear of the unknown, or potential pain. I can rest, however, knowing that His ideas are way better than mine.

That's all I wanted to say this morning. I wanted to remind myself. See God's rich blessings in everything ...

and STOP COMPARING.
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