September: Grow Grapes

One of my goals this year was to grow grapes.

Muscadine grapes are indigenous to the Carolinas and I thought this would be the perfect variety to grow. They need sun, 20 feet of trellis, and a friend to pollinate. My backyard, like the rest of my landscape, is in a sad state of affairs. There is so much work to be done, grading the yard, removing weeds, and getting a plan together – I will need professional help. Because of time and money, I can’t plant this year.

I made this list of focus points for the year back in January, in our old house. Moving was still a “maybe someday” conversation. I had no idea how much of a roller coaster 2017 was going to become and how much would change in my world.

My September focus is indeed “growing grapes” – what other goals did I have for this new minimalistic life? What was I going to accomplish here that I did not/could not do in my old huge house?

Live with less stuff. Invite people over for meals. For tea. Focus on my crocheting, spend time on the deck, get out into the garden, focus on my health, my husband’s health, and those around me. Travel more. Get back to those free spirit days I had in a 1 bedroom apartment in a midwestern cornfield. Gone are the days of maintaining and cleaning a huge property: I have always been content with less stuff. It’s time to start living that.

I am going to share this contentment with those around me. I’ll always be a shy introvert – it’s who I am at my core – but perhaps it is time to blossom in being about the Lord’s work through hospitality.

Perhaps I will serve muscadine grape juice to my guests next year.

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August in Review

My goal in August was to exercise everyday and get back to being physically healthy.
Because of life, I was unable to exercise everyday. One weekend I needed a break from the rat race of life. Another weekend was in the midst of a 14 day stretch of work with a double shift in the middle of it. My body revolted after that with waves of sheer exhaustion that forced me into bed at 5pm on Day #8. For the first time, I’m realizing I’m not 23 anymore. It’s rather sobering at 35.

I did manage to get to the yoga studio and I felt like a new person after that workout, with my unlocked hip flexors. I made a point to run more through the neighborhood for cardio: I made it a priority instead of an option. I’m still slow and lumbering; sometimes I walk more than I run. I can’t seem to get in the groove with my playlist. I think it is just where I am in life.

I’m also realizing that despite cooking at home, we eat a lot of meat. I need to find some more vegetarian recipes to add to my repertoire. More fruits, veggies, and grains I’m sure would make a world of difference as well.

August made me focus on my physical health, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was needed in my world.

July in Review

July highlighted my brown thumb tendencies, as well as the noxious weeds that seemed to pop up in my marriage.

Plant wise, I did well. I kept my ajuga transplants watered and so far they’re still green. I transplanted an upset, poorly placed gardinia, but it hasn’t quite decided to live or die yet. Nonetheless it has been given ample amounts of water and soil.

Having a smaller house with less to manage has improved life in other areas, namely the garden. I’m more inclined to walk outside to check on things than my old house. There was so much surface area to clean, walk through, and maintain. My next feat is to get the yard landscaped. But first, gutters!

As for the marriage bit, things got better as the month progressed. At first, even after a good day, we were arguing. Sometimes I think he just likes to pick fights. His love language is words of affirmation, perhaps more acutely so, which probably exacerbated an already flammable situation. Every time I think the worst is over, we hit another rough patch. It’s almost like clockwork. I really hope we have turned a corner; I think the vacation helped. We never used to be so ugly to each other. I must learn to respond by standing up for myself and not defaulting to complacency when he’s in my face telling me to go….well….you can fill in the blank.

As with growing plants and marriage, time tells all.

And fertilize/mulch as required.

July: Break Dead Plant Cycle

I have a brown thumb. It is neither green nor black: plants either thrive or die for me. Most die, to be honest – but I have a prayer plant and several succulents still alive and prospering. Fruiting plants are my nemesis: they will make green leaves, flower, and fail to produce fruit.

The Dovecote is a blank slate in terms of landscaping and I am excited to get a design and plants in the ground. I doubt it will be this month due to travel and the heat of a Carolina summer.

I have a small garden of potted plants and so far they are happy. I hope to steward them well enough to break this cycle of dead plants and add them to my landscape design. I transplanted some ground cover (ajuga) and I am making every effort to water and check in on them. The smaller house I hope will draw my attention to them and not get lost in the shuffle.

My marriage, like some plants, has begun to wilt. It’s been a struggle lately, to the point of where we’re arguing even after a good day.

We need to break this cycle and restore the browning leaves and parched soil. I want bountiful green leaves, deeply seated roots, and soil conditions that encourage growth.

I want life to blossom on all fronts.

June in Review

This month’s focus didn’t go so well.

I had a complete and total panic attack that hung on for over a week. I officially moved into the new house. I started my second job. My parents came for a long weekend. My marriage suddenly became very difficult.

There were a few nights I managed to steal away and read Galatians. I finished the book, and found that it didn’t touch my heart as it did in those precious new moments as a young Christian. Maybe it was that season of life is so very different from where I am now.

Psalm 130 still rings through my head. And my heart. And resonates in my soul.

Believe what God’s word says: I do. I just didn’t spend the month of June soaking it in like a summer day at the beach as I intended.

June: Believe what God’s Word says

2017 has been a year of constant change: front row seats to watching a loved one fight for sobriety, bought a house, sold a house, 2 new jobs – I officially have change fatigue. Looking back over the past year, nothing is the same. I barely recognize my own life.
I’m hoping the summer will bring some much needed stability. Because I am in dire need a few weeks of calm, where I don’t have to make big decisions, learn a new skill, or fight for my emotional survival through a panic attack.

My devotional has brought such comfort and clarity to my walk, but I need to go deeper, like I did when I first started reading the Bible. I sucked the marrow out of Isaiah and John, savored every sentence in Galatians – Paul’s words struck a chord with me in his letters.

June’s focus will be “Believe what God’s Word says.” It’s time to get back to basics and reorient my life through the power and truth of His Word.

May in Review

The salty air caught me off guard. Had I been away so long from my ocean that I had forgotten? It’d been over a month since I trod on these sands.

I breathed in the the sweet ocean scent as much as I could. While the cool breeze kept me from sweating, the sun’s warmth comforted my aching soul. This month’s focus was letting go of anxiety, which has proved to be quite the task. I needed a time out from my worries, and the Atlantic coast was my drug of choice.

I skimmed through an old magazine, pausing every few pages to take in the scenery around me and to let my mind wander over the small breaking waves.

I tried to absorb as much sun as I could. It was as if I was solar powered, with my lights dimming from the lack of beach in my life. For a few moments, I was content. My worries were on the mainland while I was on the island.

I wish I could have bottled up that moment to relive it every so often.
Burdened with an anxiety disorder and selling a house with my husband, who is ill equipped to do so in my eyes, letting go of anxiety was difficult.

Long story short, we sold the house. My worrying did nothing to help this along, surprisingly enough. Our new house has 2 issues: a bum window and some flooring that is warping at the seams. I’m doing my best not to freak out. And then my parents, high strung perfectionists from the Midwest, have made our house a stop on their east coast road trip a few weeks after we move. What could possibly go wrong?

My rescue passage, Psalm 130, is written in German next to my computer at work. I’m slowly memorizing it. I whisper it to myself during the day. Some days, that was the only thing keeping me together. My feverent prayers for a buyer were replaced with a groaning spirit of prayer. I didn’t know what or how to pray for my situation. The Holy Spirit knew. My walks turned into a jumble of prayers and thoughts that went off on tangents. My prayer life reflects the current state of my old house: stuff everywhere, staged for packing, with no real order. And my bathrooms are disgusting. I’m not cleaning until the terminal clean for the new owners. I don’t have the time. Nor the patience. With my routine and way of life interrupted, rest has been scant.

I also started a part time job on top of it all. Because, yeah. Money.

My awesome non-medicated brain can not let go of the anxiety. Even the counselor said I can only contain it: I have tools to stuff it back into its box so its tentacles don’t invade other areas of life and rob me of the joy of living. Psalm 130 is one of them. I did my very best to beat the monster of anxiety into submission this past month – sometimes I was successful, other times I was not.

I leaned hard on the Lord this month, sobbing incoherently into His robes. I am ready to move on from this season of life.

April in Review

April proved to be a month that was loaded with opportunities for confidence. We bought another house and plunged further into debt. The confidence to carry that took quite a bit of gumption to pull off, especially as we closed on our new house and the reality of how much I owe literally hit home. But here I am, still going strong. Even more so that we have a buyer under contract.

The money situation really bothered me, so instead of fretting over it and waiting for disaster to hit, I proactively sought a part time job. This job is one I held previously and left because the stress was too much with the panic attacks that followed. But the money is really, really good and the management deck is reshuffled; I’ve been reassured by a trusted supervisor things are better than what they were back when I was there. I don’t have a sunset date on this gig, but I know in my heart it is only for a season. While it looks like our house will sell, I am still taking the job. The money coming in will fund my upcoming adventures, investments (stocks and house projects), and above all, used to further the kingdom of God. That will be determined as the Holy Spirit dictates.

I lacked confidence in a couple of areas: our new garage floor was in a sorry state of grime and dirt. The cleaner I bought was complicated to use, and my test patch only frustrated me further. And so I stopped. Not so much confidence there.

I did find myself consistently praying to God for provisions, a buyer, and friends who are struggling against unfair odds. My relationship deepened with the Lord this month for sure. I completely relied on Him. I pray this does not go away when things get easier.

With all the big life stuff that hit me this month, I feel I did pretty well with confidence. I hope this carries over into the months that come.

April: Live with Confidence

One of the perks of living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is that you second guess EVERYTHING. Whether I am buying a house, a pair of socks, treating a patient, or making a life altering decision, my brain whispers, “Are you sure? What if you’re wrong? What if the exact opposite is true/better? How will you know? You need to think/pray/freak out more about this.” I am paralyzed by indecision and worry that my choice is wrong, either fundamentally or factually.

This month is going to require some confidence.

Heck, my entire life could use some confidence.

I’m closing on my 3rd house this month.  Yup – for those of you keeping score at home – I have owned more houses than cars (3:1). I have decisions to make about paint, decor, and where the silverware drawer is going to be in the kitchen. I have cleaning projects, landscape projects, and painting projects all lined up; most of them will be put on hold until I can unload my current property to conserve money. This is my new home, I have to own it and the decisions that come with it.

The loved one with an alcohol addiction combined with a new house that I’m 85% sure I like has been a bit more than I expected to be dealing with at this point. Nonetheless, the Lord shall provide.

I found this book about making decisions with a Christian-centric mindset, and it was like a breath of fresh air for me.  The basic principle was, “What does God think about non-moral decisions? How do I know God’s will for my life?” Mr. DeYoung proposes just to do something, much akin to throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it will stick – the fleeces we depend on are more out of our culture than the Bible. The Bible has much to say about living, but does not specifically address major life decisions such as, should I marry this person?  Should I buy this car? Obviously, seeking the Lord in all things, but sometimes He doesn’t give a clear answer. And so we act. The Lord will provide.

What does living with confidence look like? I’m not sure yet.

I need to pray about that some more.

March in Review

“Do it with prayer.”

This was my focus this month, and whoa baby, did this month ever need prayer.

Our house search started. Before we found the house we made an offer on, I prayed with my husband that we would find the right one.  We only saw a handful of properties and the one I hated, my husband loved.  We went back and forth about it and I agreed – begrudgingly – to tour it again.  We spend an hour at the property, walking all over, inside and outside.  I didn’t like it because of the “line of sight” on some of the angles.  The house did not speak to me.

But this time it did.

Was it perfect?  No.  It lacks the large garden tub bathroom suite that was on our “must have” list – another thing we left off the last time we looked for houses.  It was built when I was in high school, so it’s been there awhile.  With some minor customization, it could really sing.  My husband made a good point: it was the perfect size for us and outside of the garden tub, it had everything we needed.  That’s what hit me.  Needed.  Our giant house was a want, not a need.  And with our mindset of minimalism, using what we have for the glory of the Gospel, consuming less and the promise of cheaper bills/taxes/upkeep/more travel: I agreed.  It’s also a mile away from my ocean and a kayaker’s paradise.

I had a panic attack, rather severely, as we negotiated the price and did the inspection: the inspection revealed nothing major.  And so we move forward.  I’m still a bit unsettled about this whole process, especially since we’re under contract on that house and ours hasn’t hit the market yet.  We can float the 2 mortgages for a few months….but nothing long term.  The market is red hot here, so I’m hoping for a quick sell.  More prayer there too.

My loved one who has struggled with alcoholism, fell off the wagon rather unceremoniously, as expected.  It was terrible, the words they threw at me while on a high.  I officially stopped trusting anything they said and threw my anger back at them.  That hit home.  Things have been strange between us ever since.  This person sought the advice and friendship of another Christian who has had a successful recovery and I hope that “sponsorship” holds water and keeps them on the straight and narrow.  It’s sickening to watch from my perspective, but hardships can build strength and character – the Lord can turn this tragedy into a praise.

Prayer for this person has been on my lips all month.

And for my wayward niece.  And the girl I’m sponsoring for confirmation.  The friend with the troubled marriage.  The friend who was on the receiving end of spiritual abuse.  My family.  A stick built structure.  And for someone who thinks drinking a liter of wine in under an hour is totally okay.

They haven’t been long prayers.  Or even all that consistent.  But it made me stop and remember: do it with prayer.