Monday, May 16, 2016

A Spacious Place

from Grace Notes *
I'm going to use the blog as a bit of a therapy journal, so if you have your life completely together and don't understand those of us who don't, this post probably isn't for you.  If you are stumbling along, like me, this post still may not interest you.  In fact, this post may be entirely for my own benefit - but it's my blog, so I can do that.

"He brought me out into a spacious place." - Psalm 18:19

I've spent my life hemmed in by expectations - expectations for being a wife, expectations for being a stay-at-home mom, expectations for being a mother of teens, expectations for being a daughter, a sister, a friend, a church member . . .

When I was working outside our home, the job carried expectations, but someone was paying me for those hours and they had the right to expect specific skills, tasks and duties in exchange for their money.

Some of the expectations are self-inflicted.  Some are societal.  Some - usually the strongest - are intentionally imposed by others.  And some are the random result of life circumstances.  

Picture life as a room - a generous-sized room.  At first the room was occupied by me, my parents and my sister.  Then grandparents came to visit, followed by another sister, aunts, uncles and cousins.  We all fit comfortably.  Soon there were neighbors, schoolmates, teachers, pastors, and friends.  There was still plenty of room for the people, but now they each carried some expectations for me.  How they expected me to behave, how they expected me to perform at school, how they expected me to interact. These expectations gave me security.  After all I was a child, unable to navigate alone - I needed their guidelines.

As time passed, my world expanded and more people pressed into the room, bringing more expectations, and things started to get a bit crowded.  Expectations had to shift and some got shoved into the corners because I needed space for my own developing expectations.  However, since they all remained in the room, my expectations for myself had to form around them.

Some expectations naturally left when their period of life was over, but newer, bigger, less flexible ones always took their place.  The bar set for third-grade math scores was replaced by the rules of safe driving, a much more rigid bar.  Much-awaited adulthood came with a surprising mound of expectations that demanded top billing.  The room of life was bulging.  There was no space for me to stretch out and be completely comfortable any more. No matter which way I stretched, I bumped, dented or hid someone's expectations, and they began to complain.

I've made attempts, some successful and some not, to "spring clean" and purge my life of unwanted expectations.  My grandparents have been gone for many years and, while their expectations are forever engraved in me, they no longer require their own floor-space in the room.  My parents' expectations have been fulfilled and shrunk as we begin the inevitable shift of aging.  And I have come to realize that some of the societal expectations were only in the room because I was too scared to let them out.

As I approach another birthday in a couple weeks, I have been feeling suffocated by fifty-five years of expectational baggage crammed into every nook, cranny and closet of life.  I have heard two voices in the last week telling me that it's time to "Let it go".  First my daughter, - half my age but, so often, twice my wisdom - said "My dream for you, Mom, is confidence."  I used to have confidence; I know I did.  I think that in one of our frequent moves, it got misplaced between the never-ending community expectations for the "new girl", my children's reasonable expectation of a solid foundation on which to build their own "room of life", and squeezing myself in to make way as my husband expanded his expectations for our new chapter of life.  

The second voice telling me to "Let it go" was God's.  "I have brought you out into a spacious place.  The only expectations here are Mine, and they are surprisingly light.  In this place, there is room for more than expectations.  There is space to dance, to create, to relax, to give with no expectations of return, to allow others to live without carrying the burden of your expectations.  There is space to focus on Me.  There is room to bloom in grace."

*Picture from Kelly @ Grace Notes.  I encourage you to visit her page and read her more elequent thoughts on Psalm 18:19.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Road Trip Challenge

During this hour of the readathon, the lovely ladies at In the Forest of Stories are sending us on a road trip - an imaginary road trip with one of the characters of the book we are currently reading, and to find the song to accompany our journey.  That's easy for me - considering the characters of "The Charm Bracelet" by Viola Shipman are on a road trip to the beach.

Lolly, Arden and Lauren - grandmother, mother and daughter - are traveling in a 1950 Buick Roadmaster "Woody".

And listening to Lolly's favorite - Dean Martin, singing "Ain't That a Kick in the Head".  Coincidentally, Dean Martin is one of my favorites, too.  Here's a clip of Dean performing that song in the original "Ocean's Eleven"

Readathon 2016

It's readathon day again.  One of my favorite days of the year - a day focused on reading, talking about reading, entering contests about reading, blogging about reading and more reading.  If you want to join, go here to sign up.  

As always, the readathon begins with the standard "get to know you" questions:

1.  Where are you? - Southeast Nebraska, USA
2.  Who are you? - Check the "About me" tab above for all the details.
3.  What are you reading? - see picture below
4.  What are you eating? - Slightly stale cheese puffs are a readathon tradition.
5. Have you done this before? - Many times.  And I embrace the readathon motto: No rules, just read.

My Readathon choices.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Servant Queen

Today is Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday.  I am a great fan of Her Majesty.  She is a model of decorum, devotion, and duty.  What you may not know is that she is also a model of faith.  I am so impressed by her, that I gave away twenty copies of "The Servant Queen and the King She Serves" to church members and family.  I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes.

"The Queen's work is an expression of her desire to serve others.  She is not a hired servant who is required to do lots of tasks; she is a Queen who chooses to serve her people through doing the work that will best contribute to the nation's health."

"In an age when we are besieged by armies of celebrities telling us about almost every aspect of their lives in a variety of media, the Queen has kept most of her thoughts to herself... Curiously, that is not the case about her faith in Jesus.  About Jesus, she has been remarkably, one might say, uncharacteristically open about what she believes."

"Indeed, one of the most remarkable things about the Queen is her consistency of character.  Despite unprecedented levels of relentless media scrutiny for her entire life, there has never been a whiff of scandal about the Queen herself... She has a strong and happy marriage to a man she clearly respects and whose company she enjoys."

"She has had a gruelling travel and work schedule for over 60 years, but... there are no reliable recorded incidents of the Queen losing her temper, using bad language, or refusing to carry out a duty expected of her."

During her Coronation in 1953, the Archbishop annointed the Queen by pouring holy oil onto her hands, her chest and her head - "to show she is being set apart to serve and love her people in all her actions, with all her heart and with all her mind. . . She follows the example of Christ who was also...set apart, not to be served, but to serve."

I know the Queen is not, technically, a political figure.  She has no power to make or enforce laws.  But can you image if we had political leaders who shared her attitude toward duty and service?  

How has Queen Elizabeth II continued to display that attitude day after day in the face of wars, family scandals, age and everything else she has faced?  Here is the answer in her own words:

"Each day is a new beginning.  I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God."

You can purchase a copy of The Servant Queen and the King She Serves here.  They are considerably cheaper in lots of ten.  The prices are given in British Pounds.  I'm not entirely sure of the exchange rate, but they came out to be around $1.25/copy when I ordered twenty.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Things I've Learned . . .

1,  Helping repair the lawn mower is more fun if you insist that your husband request tools using the names of medical instruments.  Searching for a 7/16" wrench, as opposed to a 1/2" wrench, is not particularly captivating. " Scalpel! Clamp! Extractor!" is so much more entertaining, although it does tend to annoy the husband doing the repairs.

2. Taxes are more fun if you're getting a refund.  I guess that's not a new revelation, but it's been awhile since I dealt with it.  Owning our own business turned taxes into an entirely new monster. Appointments with the accountant, forms I had never heard of, and a return that required the heavy-duty stapler, after 30+ years of short forms put a new twist on the first quarter of 2016.  The fact that I even think in quarters is a sign of the radical changes in my life.  However - I have survived our first year in business without going to prison for mangling a myriad of tax laws, so that's a celebration in itself.

3. Playing the Candy Land board game with a 6-year-old is more fun when you are 54 and don't care that the laundry isn't folded, than it was when you were 34 and felt the need to be productive.  When our children outgrew the classic board game, I was so worn out with it that I put it - along with Chutes and Ladders - in the donation box for the thrift store and vowed to never play again.  Some twenty years later, I re-purchased both games to play with Miss P., a beautiful girl who spends time with us occasionally.

4. 6-year-olds don't care if you run like the arthritic, uncoordinated nerd that you are, as long as you are participating in a water-gun fight.   Some 50-cent squirt guns and the willingness to "run" about
hiding behind trees and vehicles, brought out some priceless grins and giggles.

5. Doing even the smallest kindness for someone else makes the whole day better.

6. Be careful when you ask a child to sing you a song to fill time in the car. They may create a song about loving you forever and the tears make it difficult to drive.  Miss P. melts my heart!

Hope you have learned some good things recently.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spring Reading

Teri's Spring Fling continues on her blog, with a look at new books coming out for some Spring reading.  Because I promised myself and Hubs that I wouldn't buy new books until I've made a dent in the TBR bookshelf, I'm going to keep that list handy when I go to the library. 

As for that promise - - - well, it hasn't been totally successful.  So, to help clean off the bookshelves (and to ease my conscience a bit) I am offering two of my most recent purchases as Spring Fling prizes.  

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

Or - - - if you're not quite ready to give up on winter,
Away in a Manger by Rhys Bowen

Just leave a comment and specify which book you would like
 and you will be entered in the random drawing.

Spring Fling

New Spring craft love -
 watercolor on fabric.
 Post coming soon.
Officially, Spring is still a few weeks away, but the temperature is slowly climbing, the geese are headed north (honking loudly over my house) and the daffodils are peaking through the ground.  In honor of all things Spring-ish, my sister, Teri, is hosting a Spring Fling on her blog today.  She's planning her flower garden, issuing some fun challenges, sharing some craft ideas and generally celebrating Spring.  Check in and join the fun - I promise, you will not be required to do any spring cleaning.

Her first question was "What are you planting?"  I have my garden seed order ready - tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, cantaloupe and potatoes.  In the flower beds, I'm adding sunflowers for a touch of Kansas, which will always be home in my heart.  

My entry for the first Spring Fling challenge - a picture from my garden:
One of my favorites - Marigolds.  Love the variety of colors,
not to mention the fact that even I can't kill them.