Monday, August 1, 2016

What I'm Learning This Summer: Own Your Life

One: Own Your Life

My summer began with this book, Own Your Life. For years I have known the name Sally Clarkson and assumed I knew what she was about. I underestimated her. I began with her book The Life-Giving Home, which I loved, and this summer Own Your Life spoke so directly into my life and circumstances and is giving me months worth of insight to chew on. 

At the same time we have this puppy who demands that I own her life instead. 

What have I done this summer? Lucy is what I have done. Lucy rules the summer. 
And somehow I love her. She drives me crazy but I love her.

Lucy was probably providential, in her way, for me this summer as I have attempted to own my life, while realizing how much I allow outside influences to derail me. Jim describes me as a firefighter, constantly racing to the next emergency. I struggle to prioritize, to set boundaries, to not feel guilty. Lucy, bless her heart, is a living practice in becoming intentional.

Some ways I am learning to own my life: 
(quoted from or influenced by Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson)

To choose to accept the hidden, mundane work carried out in ordinary days as my long-term work of service and the place God is calling me to worship Him. To choose to be faithful in the hidden moments only God sees.

Daily to ask myself: How can I bring grace, beauty, and order to each day, and live as though it is a place of worship?

To resolve:
To be a joyful person.
To practice being thankful.
To see God’s fingerprints each day of my life, as I know my children long to have a happy mother.
To live every day by faith, choosing to believe that God is real, He listens to prayer, and He will provide the grace to get through every trial.
To love, as much as possible, all who come into my life.

Don't prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.

In order to live a flourishing life of influence, I will choose to own my life- to take responsibility for my choices, attitude, will, and actions, knowing they will have consequences for eternity. My integrity is built when no one but Christ is looking.

Cultivating faithfulness is to begin and end my days with prayer, to spend time in God’s word, to accept limitations by faith, to choose an inner life of integrity. I will choose to find light in this darkness. No matter what happens, I will be as obedient as I can to bring joy into this place, to create beauty in the wilderness, to exercise generous love, and to persevere with patience. I choose to believe that wherever you are my faithful companion is the place where your blessing will be upon me.

Measure your life by how well you have loved. In the moment that you love well, you are the most like Jesus... following the pathways of love will lead me to the most deeply gratifying accomplishments of my life.

I have been feeling a little lost, and the Lord is so good to feed me with just the right book at just the right season. There is much more to learn and to become. I am so thankful for these words this summer. Lord, make them true in me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 27

Faith is a mysterious process of following the voice of God, accompanied by hard work and wisdom. -Sally Clarkson
When I try to write there are two things which present themselves, every time: one is who do I think that I am to have anything at all to say? There are so many brilliant people saying brilliant things, let them do this job. The second is that it is selfish; there are many more practical things requiring my energy and attention.

I tried not to write this year. I surrendered it, obeyed the nagging voices. I gave all of my energy to the practical and the necessary. I am a firstborn and by nature, if nothing else, utterly responsible. The year was crammed full, and much easier than writing.

It is easier to fly through the day by reaction than by creation. It is much simpler to do what needs to be done than to wait and listen. Like Martha I am every woman: set in motion, finding my identity by what I can accomplish while at the same time complaining about it.

My negative voices tell me that writing is both selfish and arrogant. But my year long experiment found that the opposite is true.

Writing is an act of listening. It is a way to pay attention.

I want to live a listening life. I love to listen, I believe it is the way God made me. Writing is a way- one way- of listening.

I am watching friends of mine flourish, finding purpose and passion in many different ways. Not all by writing, but I think, at the heart, these friends who are finding their life's work or meaning: what they are doing is listening. At their center they are kneeling and listening, and out of that comes this beautiful work and beautiful living.

There will always be practical work to be done. There is a time to write novels and there is a time to clean toilets and there is no formula. The only rule we are given is to abide in Christ; seek, knock, ask . . . listen. We will know what to do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 26

I woke up this morning on the bottom bunk. We go through this routine still every few weeks, they all want a turn to sleep with me. I will miss this of course. When I woke my first view was of the backyard and it surprised me, how pretty it is in the summer morning light, how ordered and green.

Last summer it was this:

and this:

Last summer was mud everywhere, and before that a forest of overgrown shrubs and a drainage problem. I didn't want to even look out the window for a year. It seemed like such a terribly long process but little by little it's improved. We fixed the drainage problem, put in a patio, added some landscaping and swings, and a dog.

There is still a corner that's a mess, waiting for a shed. Some days all I can think about is that corner and miss all of the beauty and progress.

Working retail is a perspective on how fixated the United States is with this, perfection. I see how hard people work to achieve some impossible perfecting of their homes or bodies, missing the great delight of life in the pursuit. It makes me more grateful for our simple life and little home and small improvements. It makes me want to stay small and quiet and ordinary.

Today is one of our first full days at home of the summer. I love waking up and knowing we don't have to go anywhere. I am a bit anxious that summer is passing and I'm not summering. You know, summering- to putter, to dawdle, to loll. Today is for lolling. 

Annie is listening to the Chronicles of Narnia on audio. Sam is downstairs playing lego. Josie is pestering me for ways to earn money. I am giving her a dollar to not ask me anymore questions for a few minutes. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21

I am claiming some space for writing in the morning, Lucy our puppy curled up beside me on the sofa. This is not as idyllic as it sounds. Lucy, of course, is not permited to be on the sofa, but after dragging her off so many times and trying to write, I give up. It is the one place she will sit calmly for two minutes and not be chewing on chords or furniture or causing me to jump every five seconds . . . (I just jumped). Having a puppy is a lot like having a toddler but more . . . ambiguous. All day long I am wondering does Lucy need exercise, is she bored, does she feel included, does she feel loved? Is Lucy hot? Is she cold? Was I too harsh with her? And then she pees in my shoes. 

We spent the weekend visiting friends. What a dull sentence, how loaded with life! I met these friends years ago when we lived and worked together in Haiti. Surely it wasn't a perfect community but my memory claims it was. No, better than perfect; for a time. It will never happen again I'm sure. Life doesn't go on, it just grows taller and broader with people we've loved. 

It was so good to be together and to remember . . . remember the way we could talk and talk, remember the smoky air, remember the breezes. Life was just beginning, I believed in everything. I was utterly selfish, I was utterly hopeful. 

I can't stay up nearly so late now. I've learned to be quite responsible, much more afraid. Sometimes you need to reach deep, deep down into your life and remember what is real, what you wanted after all. 

I've been thinking about the fields white unto harvest and how we are called always to the present, always to what is growing right beside us. But things grow from what is planted, the past lives on and I think we get to choose, to a large extent, what grows. I can't go back to Haiti but I can write, I can teach my kids, I can love people here. There is so much living to be done.

Summer is blowing past and I'm soaking up the moments. It is the best time of the year. 

"She conceived of life as a road down which one traveled, an easy enough road through a broad country, and that one's destination was there from the very beginning, a measured distance away, standing in the ordinary light like some plain house where one went in and was greeted by respectable people and was shown to a room where everything one had ever lost or put aside was gathered together, waiting.” Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The way things begin, again

It is Spring Break for Spring Cleaning here this week. Projects which have been staring at me for a year and a half I'm finally tackling, flower beds need digging, don't even look at my windows. Seasons are changing and I am claiming some space for change too, space for thought, for order and beauty and loud music while cleaning out the closets.

Our co-op, Classical Conversations, finished last week which brings some change to our homeschool and space to my brain. We will continue through the summer, but at a much more relaxed pace. We all are looking forward to restful learning.

It was seven months or so without pause, every hour planned, and it was good for a season. Like running a race, knowing there is a finish line, and finishing feels really good now too. Being overcommitted can be clarifying, it makes you realize what you need and want, and what is distraction. I learned this year that while I don't mind a fast pace, I don't want to do it for long. It crowds out things which to me are more necessary, like books, conversation, home.

Beautiful things happened in the evenings while I was at work this year. Jim and the girls, the Lord knit them together. They had good conversations. The girls all prayed to receive Christ this winter while I was working, and I don't regret not being there. I needed to be away, this was his time with them.

This Sunday we got to see Sam and Annie be baptized, Jim with them, our friends and family all around.

The girls baptism on Sunday feels like a chapter ending and beginning, in several ways. The babies we are raising have their own Shepherd now. Our work now is to help them hear His voice, to learn to follow Him for themselves. It is the beginning of their own story with Christ, the story they have to tell. There is much more I would like to say here, but not today.

The girls' friends are coming for the day. Friends they've grown up with, friends they do not remember not having. Six years of friendship is a long time when you're six, eight, and ten. In a month these friends are moving a state away. I don't know yet how we will cope, how next year, or this summer, will look. It is the beginning of a new story, a hard beginning.

Isn't this the way all stories begin; with beauty, and loss.
To be lost, and eventually, found.
Buried in the likeness of His death, raised to walk in newness of life.