Five Minute Friday: Glue

It’s that day of the week when writers all over the internet, and indeed, the world, gather together to write for five free-spirited minutes on a one-word prompt that we find over here on Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog.  Join us?  You won’t regret it.

 

 

Photo: Something you might not have known.

I’ve been broken.  Haven’t we all?  We live in an imperfect world that treats us roughly, where loved ones die, friends betray, children disappoint.  Things go wrong – sometimes very, very wrong.

But I serve a God Who is in the business of putting broken things back together.  He tenderly collects all the shards of my broken spirit and puts me back together, over and over again.

I liken God’s healing to the kintsukuroi in the picture above.  When you’ve been broken, you’ve been changed.  You’ll never be the same again, but maybe that’s a good thing.  I have scars that bear witness to the healing that has taken place.  Those scars are like gold lacquer – they are beautiful to me.  I think scars make people more interesting and they tell a story.  The glue that holds the broken pieces together makes the broken that much more precious.

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Paint

This?  This is the best community you’ll find online – the Five Minute Fridays writers.  We meet up at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog every week and write for five wild and free minutes on the same one word prompt.  This week it’s PAINT.  Come on and join us!  You won’t regret it.

START

We mix up our own chalk paint and take it outside in muffin tins, all the colors of the rainbow.  We dip our brushes in and start drawing lines, letters, shapes, but it really doesn’t look like much.  It’s kind of watery and thin, and the concrete of the patio shows through far too much.  But we keep at it because according to the instructions, the color develops only as the water in the paint dries.

We create landscapes, hearts, our names.  Then we walk away.  And when we go back there they are.  Bright strokes of color.  Bold, colorful.  Masterpieces on concrete.

If we’d judged our art on the way we saw it first, we’d have been disappointed.  But given a chance to develop, the colors are so wildly beautiful.  How many times do we impatiently give up before we’ve given the paint a chance to dry?  Before we can truly see the art?  How often do we rely on first impressions and fail to let situations and relationships develop until we can see the full picture?  Things are not always as they seem to be as first glance.

STOP

Move: It’s a God-Thing

So my family is involved in this long, protracted move to another state.  The decision was made back in October, and the “real” move won’t happen until June.  My husband and I bought a house in Virginia (we bought a house!  Sorry, still not quite used to the idea.) at the end of February, and we made plans to rent out our house in South Carolina, choosing not to sell it for many reasons:  didn’t think we could get it show-ready, couldn’t sell it for enough money, too much hassle.  But after further consideration (and a look at the reality of having two mortgages in two different states) we decided we’d at least try to sell it.  We set up an appointment with a realtor neighbor of ours and started doing some desperately needed upgrades and repairs.

We had carpet replaced in two rooms.  I wrote about that one earlier.  We had some painting done in a couple of rooms.  We packed anything that didn’t move out of the way fast enough.   Our cats are only now beginning to come out of their hiding places, still alert for the sound of packing tape on boxes.

And then came a providential phone call.  A friend called to ask us about a house for sale on our street.  She worked with my husband Jon when we first moved here eight years ago, and her daughter played softball with our daughters.  In fact, Jon was her coach for a couple of years.  Jon mentioned that our house was going to go on the market soon.  Next thing I know, she wants to take a look at our house, which is nowhere near show-ready condition.  My response?  “But she’s been to our house before!”  No matter, it’s a different story when someone is looking at your home to decide if they want to live there.

We flew into hyperdrive and by God’s grace managed to pull it together, mostly by throwing it all out or boxing it all up.  I somehow managed to pack away all my body lotions, along with most of my books, and I miss them.

I have been saying all along that if we managed to sell our house, it would have to be a God-thing.  We’re not good stagers and we’re not able/willing to put in a lot of money to become good stagers.  I can’t decorate my house at the best of times, so trying to decorate it to appeal to someone else is way out of my skill set.  It seems counter-intuitive to put a lot of money into a house you’re moving out of, even if I know intellectually that it makes sense.  And y’all, at heart I’m lazy.  There it is – the ugly truth.  I have lots of plans and ideas but very little follow-through.

Our friend came to view the house, and to make a long story short, she’s buying it!

We sold our house without ever putting it on the market.  If that’s not a God-thing, I don’t know what is.  He went so far beyond what I asked that it’s almost unbelievable.

I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to want to double- and triple-check what it feels like God is calling me to do.  Do you ever do that?  You feel God directing you toward something, and you keep looking for “signs”.  Like this:  God, if you really want me to take this job, make it clear to me. And then even if I do take that step I feel He’s leading me toward, I keep looking behind me for reassurance.  I’m like Lot’s wife, unwilling to turn my back on the past and move forward.  My neck hurts with all the turning back and forth.  So even with all the confirmation God’s given us (OK, mainly me.  Jon was already convinced.) I keep asking for more.  And God keeps putting the pieces of the puzzle in place.  Job?  Check.  Place to live?  Check.  Buyer for current home?  Check.  I an almost hear Him saying, How many other ways must I show you this is My plan?  Sorry, God.  I’m a bit hard-headed and I lean toward the safe side in so many areas of life.

And something else I’ve noticed about myself.  I pray about things, I circle them in prayer and then I’m surprised when my prayers are answered!  Is that a faith issue?  Is it that I don’t think I deserve it?  What ever happened to praying and believing God will answer?  I think for me it’s that I pray and I tell God what I want, and then I follow up with “Your will be done” and maybe I’m afraid to assume that MY will matches up with HIS will.  I know that my kids sometimes ask me for things that I have to refuse because I know things that they don’t.  No, you can’t eat six cupcakes because it will give you a stomachache.  God is the same way with His “kids” because He knows things that we don’t.

So now we have a contract on our house here in SC.   There are still some hurdles to get over – financing, home inspection – but I am doing my best to leave it in God’s hands.  After all, He seems to be doing just fine without my help.

One Closet Away From Britney Spears

Unless you’ve never read my blog/Twitter/Facebook before, you probably know by now that my family is moving this summer.  We’ve known about the move since October and I can’t decide if that’s good or bad.  It’s the old pull-the-Bandaid-off-quickly vs. ease-it-off-slowly debate.  Both ways hurt but which hurts the least?  You’d think the extra preparation time would be a benefit but I’m not certain.  I think it’s helping our kids adjust to the idea, for sure, but in some ways it feels like a long, slow-motion train wreck.

ANYway, we’ve bought ourselves a new-to-us house in our new town and now we have to prepare the house we currently live in to go on the real estate market.  If you’ve ever bought or sold a home you probably just groaned out loud because you know what special kind of agony goes along with selling a house you are actually still living in.  We’ve been here for almost eight years and trust me when I say we’ve made it ours.  We’ve made our mark all over this house, sometimes literally: IMG_2931

But as all the good real estate professionals will tell you, the best way to sell a home quickly is to do something called “staging”.  Among other things, this involves removing most of your personal effects and setting up what remains in a pleasing arrangement meant to entice potential buyers to imagine themselves living in the home.  It should be warm and clean and minimally furnished/decorated.  On a good day I don’t have any idea how to decorate my house, so this should be really interesting

We’ve started packing and decluttering but we have a long ways to go.  A very long ways.  Meanwhile, we are doing some needed repairs and updates.  For instance, the carpet.

Back in 2009 we had The Great Flood, which necessitated replacing the carpet in about 75% of the house due to a leak in an upstairs bathroom.  We re-did the flooring in every room but two – the office and the master bedroom.  Those two rooms had the carpet that was originally installed when the house was built back in 2003, and believe me when I say they did not spend any more on carpet than they had to, because this stuff was the most basic, generic carpet you can find.  So it was time to replace the carpet in those two rooms to make it match the rest of the house.

We got the installation arranged for a Friday when we were to be gone to a gymnastics competition, which is good because who wants to be around when the carpet guys pull up a 10+ year old carpet full of dust, cat hair and other things too horrible to contemplate?  Not this highly allergic girl.  I was planning to leave home on Thursday with our little flipper so we could be at the meet on time since it was a couple of hours from home.

In preparation for the new carpet, my job was to move “all the little stuff” off the floors in those two rooms.  Now, we had already started packing, but people, there was a lot of “stuff” sitting around in those two rooms.  I work part-time and I have two children on my own during the week, because my husband is working in our new town.  By Wednesday I was all stressed out.  More than once I made the comment that I was beginning to understand why poor Britney Spears felt like she had to go out and shave her head all those years ago.  I said that I could fully sympathize with feeling like everything in your life is so out of control that you have to do something to prove to yourself that there’s still a little something within your control.  Life does not just stop coming because you have something special like an interstate move going on, so all the other things still had to be done too.  I had picked up/put away quite a bit but it was becoming very clear that the job was not going to be done in time for the carpet guys to come on Friday.  Luckily a phone call spared me a little bit of anxiety because “the carpet guys” said to move what I could and they’d move anything else still in the way.  Whew.

So off we went to the meet, and we came home to two rooms worth of new carpet.  Ooooh, it was nice!  We took our shoes off and walked around barefoot with exclamations of pleasure and delight.  And then I walked into my bathroom and found about 10 full black trash bags in the bathroom floor.  And I realized that they had replaced the carpet in my closet.

I don’t know about you, but my master bedroom closet is the ultimate hidey hole.  There are lots of other places to hide things I don’t want my guests to see, but with most of those there is the potential that a guest might accidentally open the door to the office/junkroom and my secret will be discovered.  But nobody, nobody, goes into my master bedroom closet uninvited.  For one thing, you’d have to go through the master bedroom and the master bath, and who does that?  Basically it’s a walk-in closet that you can’t actually walk into, because there’s so much stuff in there.

I was floored (pun intended).  Don’t get me wrong – the carpet in the closet was the same old grungy stuff that we had replaced in the other two rooms.  It’s just that I.  Had.  No.  Idea.  I turned to my family and with all seriousness, told them that it’s a good thing I hadn’t known because if I had been responsible for clearing off the floor of the closet, it would have sent me right over the edge into a head-shaving Britney Spears episode.  If I was hair-pulling, hanging-on-by-a-thread stressed about the other two rooms, the closet would have been the  straw that broke the camel’s back.  It turns out that at least one of my family members knew about the closet but “forgot” to tell me.  I say it was some unconscious survival instinct that kept them from telling me.

Anyway, the carpet guys did me a favor because pulling all that stuff out gave me the jump start I needed to clean the closet out and you can actually “walk-in” to it again.  And I’m loving the new carpet so much I kind of want to stay here.

Five Minute Friday: Writer

It’s a beautiful Spring day in the South, and it’s even more beautiful because it’s Friday!  Today I’m linking arms (and keyboards) with some of the best writers on the internet for Five Minute Friday.  It’s the day we all write together for five minutes, wild and free, then we link up here and spread some love and encouragement all over the blogsphere.  Want to play?  New friends always welcomed here!

Position available:  Writer. 

Job Requirements:

*  In love with words.  The blissful, can’t-get-enough kind of love.  Can’t-imagine-life-without-them love.

*  Willing to do some heavy lifting, i.e., be willing to go there and write about things that are not always politically correct.

*  Can effectively use the tools of the trade (computer, pen & paper, typewriter, dictation, voice memos).

*  Willing to bleed vulnerability onto the page and open self up to the observations and/or criticisms of others.

*  Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  (just kidding!)

*  Able to successfully avoid the distraction of a ringing phone, bored child, or unread book, and resist the siren call of last night’s DVR’ed episode of “Dancing With The Stars”.

*  Has a story to tell or something to say.

Salary:  None, except for the satisfaction of knowing you are doing what God called you to do.

Is this you?  It seems so easy, and yet it’s sometimes so hard!  The first time I told someone I was a writer the word stuck in my throat like a hairball, but after that it was easier and easier to say.  I am a writer.  I am a writer.  I am a WRITER.

Surprised by Motherhood

Bless it!  She wanted to know why she had to hold the book - she's not a mother!

Bless it! She wanted to know why she had to hold the book – she’s not a mother!

I felt sorry for my unborn baby, I really did.  She had an older sister whom I’d been mothering for nearly 13 years and loved to the moon and back, and everywhere in between.  This poor child who hadn’t even taken a breath yet was already at a disadvantage because there was no way I could possibly love her as much as her sister.   It just wasn’t fair.  I mean, I’d certainly take care of her and meet her needs, and I might even enjoy having her around, but she was destined to receive the scraps of my love, because I’d already given all the mother-love I had to her sister.  I started to doubt the wisdom that drove us to plan for this baby, planning that went on for over two years and involved miscarriages and many, many medical appointments before we even managed to conceive her.  And yet why would I do all that, go through all that, for a baby I was afraid I couldn’t love enough?  Why indeed?  Look at her up there.  Doesn’t she look like nobody loves her?

There’s a surprising lesson that you don’t learn with the first child, but with the second, or third, or fourth, or more. (if it’s more than four, I tip my hat to you, oh mother of all mothers.)  It’s this:  something miraculous happens to a mother’s heart when that second (or third, or more) baby is born.  Mama hearts must be made of a super-resilient spandex, because they somehow stretch to fit in ALL their children.  (Spanx, maybe.  I know all Mamas are familiar with Spanx, surely.  If you’re not, you should be.) When that “poor baby” of mine actually vacated the warm shelter of my body, I was gobsmacked by the depth of my love for her.  Flabbergasted.  Floored.  Amazed in a “holy ground” sort of way.  I could see eternity in those bleary blue eyes, feel heaven in the heft of that seven-pound bundle of joy.  That the Creator Himself would let us experience this front-row view of new life, actually be a part of it, nurture these innocent and helpless ones…it IS holy.  And that I would get to experience it not once, but twice, is blessing beyond compare.

Later on came a third child, and this one not even born of my body.   I’ve heard people say they could never adopt because they don’t know if they could love a child that’s not “theirs” biologically.  I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can.  Genetics plays no role in how much you love your children, at least it doesn’t for me.  Somehow that heart of mine stretched a little bit more to include another baby.   I picture a Mama’s heart like the graphic from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” when the narrator talks about how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.

grinchheart

I’ve been at this mothering thing for a long time – my oldest child is almost 26!  And among many, many other things, I’ve discovered that motherhood is a mirror.  Our kids reflect back what they see in us and they show us things about ourselves we probably never saw before, both good and bad.  It shines a light on things you might wish would stay hidden.  All the scars and freckles you forgot you had are suddenly on display.  That temper you thought wasn’t a big deal becomes something you can’t ignore when anger bursts into flame inside your chest over your child’s small disobedience, and when you hear your own angry words come out of your child’s mouth as she’s putting her doll in time-out.  The scars from a troubled childhood can feel like fresh wounds all over again when you see yourself in your child and are left to mourn your lost innocence all over again.SurprisedByMotherhood_Pin_04_Opt

Motherhood is hard, no doubt about it.  It is not for the weak-willed or the self-centered.  Lisa-Jo Baker gets all that.  In fact, she believes motherhood should come with its own superhero cape, because all mothers are superheroes.

In her new book Surprised by Motherhood (released today!) Lisa-Jo tells the story of how a girl who never wanted children became a mother to three of them.  She’s real, y’all, and she tells it like it is.  Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, after all.  You’ll laugh and you’ll cry, and you’ll nod and whisper, “Yes.  Yes!  Me too!” so often that it’s probably best not to read it in public.

No matter your stage of life or of mothering, this book was written for you.  It’s a love letter to Mamas old and young, and even those who aren’t sure they ever want to be a Mama.  Lisa-Jo is like your own personal cheerleader, letting you know that you ARE enough, that you’re braver than you think, and that God is there right in the middle of your daily routine, chaotic though it may be.

I finished it in two days and when it was over, I wanted more.  This is the book I wish I’d had when my girls were little.  You can get your own copy here or at most major booksellers and Christian bookstores.

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Mighty

We show up in all the ways: tired, joyful, troubled, satisfied, lonely, bubbling over, and all the ways you can think of.  But we show up, and we write for five minutes every Friday on a one word prompt.  It’s one of the best communities you’ll find online.  Want to join us?  Go here for all the details.  Now, let’s write.

I don’t feel it.  On this night when I have yet again dodged the blows and the sharp, pointed words aimed at my heart.  I feel anything but mighty.  I feel small and weary, that’s what I feel.  I feel wounded, left bleeding on the battlefield.  I want to get up and walk away but I can’t.

And yet.

Under the weariness and the tears and the desperate desire for answers, my heart still beats.

There is Something mighty at work in me.

It’s not of me, it’s in me.  And that’s what keeps me walking this path, one foot in front of the other.

On the days when I want to give up (and there are a lot of those), that Something (Someone) in me whispers of hope.

It’s not over yet.

There’s still hope, as long as my heart still beats.