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.

March: Do it with Prayer

I’m not much of a prayer warrior.  Truth is, I often get distracted by my own random thoughts or shiny objects.  It’s part of the reason I have embraced the contemplative prayer movement: extremely focused prayer for a short amount of time.  While looking through my list of objectives for 2017, “Do it with Prayer” fit well with March.

We have decided to sell our house.  It was at the tippy-top of our price range when we bought it in 2010, as the market had bottomed out.  We are comfortable here.  The house sits on a nearly an acre of woods and meets of all our needs.  Financially, we are doing just fine; heating and cooling this place takes a toll on those extreme weather days and I’m often freezing, but other than that, we’re not selling because it’s a burden.

We’re selling to downsize.  We want more money in the bank, less time with the upkeep, and cheaper utilities/taxes.  We have dabbled with the minimalist movement and our priorities are not what they were 7 years ago.  As life moves, we change.  And so because of this change, we’re moving.

Our current neighborhood can best be described as “variations on a theme.”  Our neighbors are nearly 90 and they just installed a chair lift, with the 2 staircases that lead to the living areas of our house.  My husband turns 50 in the next couple of years, and while he’s more active than a few twentysomethings we know, eventually, that will catch up with him.

We haven’t found a house to move into, although I found the perfect house a few blocks away – it’s significantly cheaper than our house, but still more than I was willing to pay.  But, it looks perfect from the real estate website.

And so, do it with prayer.

Praying for a house.  Not only a house, a home.  A home that I will more than likely die in or at least age significantly in.  We don’t want to move again.  The Lord will fulfill all my needs; I just need a smallish/cheapish house.  Where will that be?  And when?  And do we try to purchase it before we sell our mansion?

Also, I find myself still suffering from anxiety attacks at my new job.  The job has basically put me out to pasture in my profession: I do a fraction of what I went to college for and often find myself with loads of free time, which I plan to use for writing.  Nonetheless, I am freaking out about a temperature of a refrigerator.  I’m in charge of making sure the refrigerator stays at a certain temperature, and it was acting wonky the past couple of days.  I adjusted it, but I’m not there to monitor that adjustment.  If the temperature falls out of range, it could compromise the expensive contents of the refrigerator; contents that are essential to my job performance.

And so, do it with prayer.

Today I am praying for a new place to live that is far below our means.  I’m also praying for a refrigerator to maintain it’s temperature.  I gave my troubled niece a Bible for her birthday.  She started attending a church.  She has a scripture in her bio on Twitter.  I am praying for her salvation and for her to journey with the Lord.

So many heavy things.  So many trivial things.  C’est la vie.

Through this journey, I wonder how my prayer life will evolve through this lens.  Will we find a house?  Is my refrigerator happy?  Will my niece turn her life around with the love of the Lord?  Will my anxiety die down to a smoldering ash instead of this inferno in my chest?

And so, I do it with prayer.

 

February in Review

February’s theme was to engage with others.

I made an effort to meet up with friends on a weekly basis, and it became very difficult.  My stress level with my new job was off the charts; my trainer was an intense Type A and I needed the alone time to calm down and recalibrate.  I also had a long text conversation with my niece, which was awesome and unexpected.

I was appointed to a church leadership position that requires – you guessed it – engaging with others.  I wouldn’t have agreed to it if it weren’t for this month’s theme.  In fact, that was the only reason I agreed to it.  This should be interesting to see how this turns out.

And so…..onto the next!

February: Engage with others

As someone who has mastered the art of introvert and awkward, I tend to keep to myself.  At my current job, where I’ve been for nearly 5 years, I have no friends there.  There is no one I see or interact with outside of the constraints of my profession; I never attended social events after work because I don’t fit in there.  I’m completely okay with that.  My friendship circle is quite small, there are only a few people here who truly know where I’ve been, where I’m going, and how I feel about it.  Like most everyone else, I have trust issues.

It’s very easy for me to retreat into my shell to read, write, crochet, run, rock climb, or surf.  I love my own company and am very content to be alone.

But the problem comes from this whole Christian lifestyle thing: we’re not meant to live solitary lives.  We are meant to live in community with others; this means interacting, helping, listening, just spending time with someone.  Jesus’s entire ministry was based on community.  Yes, He spent time alone, as He needed to do – but it wasn’t His main mission.  He was always talking to crowds, meeting people in homes, eating with people – both Jewish and sinners.  We need to be more like Jesus.  In this political climate of America (dare I say, the world?), we need to live out the mission of Jesus, not just preach to the choir in nice clothes on a Sunday, but really live it.

With my new job starting later this month, I have the opportunity to forge new relationships with my co-workers.  Will I shut down like I did at this previous job?  Or will I find a lifelong friend who shares my heart?

For me, it looks like this:

  • Spend time with friends minimum once per week.
  • Actually talk to people at church and not hide under my chair.
  • Do something nice for those around me, unexpectedly.
  • Be open to new friendships.