Focus

The countdown has begun. Apparently it’s only 14 more Friday’s until Christmas. Ugh.

I am not a stellar gift giver. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve delivered a gift that truly was ‘exactly what they wanted’ without the receiver having had previously communicated precisely what they wanted and where I could find it.

I think my failure as a gift-giver is partially because I’m not a random shopper. I like to get in and get out. I shop with a list, which rarely leads to inspiration and I don’t browse because browsing usually involves patiently waiting on and/or cheerfully interacting with other shoppers. And I don’t like to have to hunt for what I’m after. A 1/4 mile-long rack of shirts does not excited me as it does some people I know. I like my shirts grouped by size and color, just like I like my canned vegetables and my small hardware.

Also contributing to my poor gift-giving skills is my frugality. Thriftiness. Okay, I’m cheap! I live within the confines of a very narrow budget and this habit keeps me from splurging on the ‘perfect’ gift. But even without a budget I think I’m genetically hardwired to shop for the best value. Why spend $50.00 on a pair of jeans just because they wear a certain label and fit a certain way. I’m sure with a little research we can find an equally comfortable pair of equally good looking jeans for half the price. And then you can have two pair! If you have $50.00. And want to spend it on jeans.

But finally, I’m afraid my lack of gift-giving skills comes down to not truly knowing the needs and wants of my recipients. I was thrilled when I discovered amazon.com’s wish list feature. I built one for each family member and told them to get shopping! It didn’t work like I wanted it to. Jack put everything he EVER wanted on the list. Thomas and Emma couldn’t be bothered and Liz put lots on, but nothing exactly right. Evidentially, she just liked the idea of things, not the things themselves.

Isn’t it awesome that God –before the creation of the world- knew the perfect Gift for each one of us? That the true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, our perfect Savior and the free Gift of God to sinful mankind? Definitely NOT a cheap gift!

This weekend – the first official weekend of fall- as you start to contemplate the upcoming holiday season, make it a point to dial your holiday focus in on the one true Gift. When your focus is placed on God, everything unimportant falls away and we can be led where our efforts are truly needed.

Ephesians 2: 10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

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Simplicity

I’ve taken to driving the back roads lately. I love the late summer/early fall in the Panhandle and driving the dusty, ridged dirt roads between point A and point B in my day is the best way for me to experience the lush corn and cotton fields, the bar ditches full of wild sunflower and the gentle, sunlit breezes coming in the car window.

Often as I pass the neat farmhouses set back from the roads, I feel a lurch in my stomach. Is it homesickness for the way I remember growing up? Or a longing for what could have been? Mourning for what I imagine my kids are missing? You see, as I drive by the neat, shaded homesteads with barns and equipment neatly aligned and animals properly homed, I picture/smell/hear/feel the rhythm of animals and family fed just after dawn, chores done and house clean, baked goods and family meals, fresh laundry and crisp lawns, bright flowerbeds and abundant gardens, cozy snuggles and reasonable bedtimes. I ask myself, ‘If that were my home, what would I be doing right now?’

I wonder at the imagined quiet.

I long for the fantastic simplicity.

Now I’m not a total dunderhead. I know that inside each of those idyllic-seeming farmhouses is a family with annoyances and problems of its own. I think I’m just homesick for a more ordered, peaceful life. A life that provides a safe, comfortable haven for my family. A life in which we don’t all feel this constant exhaustion and the press of things undone. In her Bible study Becoming a Woman of Simplicity, Cynthia Heald perfectly describes my current life, saying, “Often the demands and challenges of each day spill over into weeks and years lived all too quickly, leaving us spent and sighing for rest, for quiet, for simplicity.” (emphasis mine)

In that same Bible study, one of the questions asked is what, for me, would the green pastures and quiet waters of Psalms 23 look like. Okay, now that’s a hard one. That’s the equivalent of ‘what would you do if you won the lottery’ only on an eternal scale!

So my vision of heaven has always been of a giant oak tree standing on a hill sloping toward a warm, tree-shaded fishing pond. Under the shade of the tree stands an enormous trestle table heaped with food, as men, women and kids of all ages dressed in white walk through the tall grass and wildflowers to bring more. It’s your basic Sunday church picnic from a hundred years ago. The light is hazy, the breeze cooling, the fishing good. And the Host is everywhere and we are all attuned to Him, praising/thanking/glorifying with our voices, our hands, and our love for one another. That’s my green pastures and quiet waters.

But here, pre-heaven, my green pastures and quiet waters are gonna look a little different. So let’s see, what do I want? What does peaceful, simple living look like for KC in 2017? My first answer went a little like this:

  • clean house
  • fed family
  • financial peace
  • more time with family and friends
  • more empty space on the calendar

My second answer came from bff, who says it’s all about being content whatever the situation because you know God is in control. Which got me to thinking a little deeper, so my third answer looks like this:

  • I want to focus only on the important Thing and let the rest fall away. Green pastures.
  • I want to be content in and constantly seeking God’s will. Still waters.

Simplicity.

2 Corinthians 11:13: “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness (i.e. keeping up with the Jones’s; constant involvement- even in the good things; day planners, list-makers, and lifestyle apps of all ilk; etc.), your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

A Collection of Everyday Things

I can’t really pinpoint one, single event that specifically changed me or shaped me. There were of course EVENTS that I’m sure were the results of much praying and discussion on the part of my parents: our little community church closed, we moved houses, we adopted my brothers, and we quit farming and moved across the state. I’m sure all of those things had a profound effect on who I am today, but I see myself as more a collection of everyday things rather any one event. Things like bright sunlight and tall plants, the sound of spray planes early in the morning, sandy sandwiches, dragonflies and hot sun, Sesame Street and Captain Kangaroo, Fruit Loops and Looney Toons on Saturday mornings, crocheted swimsuits in the sprinkler, riding in the back of the pickup, baby pigs and clever mamas, leftover party snacks, eating cookies in the church basement, seeing Santa Claus at the Community Center after giving him my wish list in a little house near the mule in Muleshoe, the cacophony of Grandma’s house which was always full of kids, eating penny pancakes at Christmas and orange pushups in the summer, the taste of watermelon beside the brick fireplace, playing in the pit, bouncing up and down mountains in the Jeep, draining water hoses in the cold, pulling cotton trailers in and out of Twin Lakes, hating to clean the lint filter, practicing piano in the dark sewing room, reading by the twilight after bedtime, the coolness of the willow tree, snuggling all together in bed Mama and Daddy’s bed on Sunday mornings, dancing to Bob Wills in the carport, liniment and capsaicin capsules from the kitchen medicine cabinet, chicken pox on the pull-out couch, dancing to the Bee Gees in the living room, hunting for kittens in the little house, the smell of diesel and grease in the box car, the screams of Guinea hens, playing in the trees at Mema and Papa’s, hiding in the Mema’s wardrobe, hiding from spiders in the backseat of the car, the smell of damp, musty, spider-infested cellars, practicing the clarinet outside, spitting tobacco (brownie) juice just like Daddy, eating Fireballs at Aunt Jim’s house, picking up feed at the feed store, Papa ‘helping’ us with Dairy Queen ice cream cones, following pigs in the show ring, Mrs. Carlyle’s 3rd grade classroom, lying on the floor in the school library, keeping 4-H record books, being sick on myself during a movie at school, earning 1st grade reading prizes, kissing Steve Geries in the coat closet during 1st grade, being kissed by Scott somebody (Robbie Fly’s cousin) outside the band hall in 5th grade, finding ‘deer ears’ in Guy Dale’s flowerbeds, the sound of dominoes and laughter, the roar of well motors, the taste and coldness of well water, helping Daddy count rows and creeping the pickup along while he loaded pipe, the smell of corn harvest, eating supper on the tailgate in the dark, the coolness of tasseling corn, wheat germ chewing gum, … this list could go on and on. And honestly, I’m not very good at self-examination. I am who I am. Why bother with things that can’t be changed. Strive to make yourself better each day- that’s where my focus is. Having said that, I guess I should take a minute to thank my family for all of the above memories and a million more, ‘cause without them I wouldn’t have my awesome forward-thinking attitude now would I?!

 

04-12-16

Emma and I started our Mosaic Bible study this morning. Here I was trying to put together how every decision we make and every circumstance we find ourselves in makes up the mosaic of who we are. Which led me to the question what if we wore a label warning or promising others who we are? An automatic label that we have no control over other than our thoughts, actions and decisions? What would mine say? I asked Emma what would hers say? What do we want them to say? The ultimate answer is ‘righteous’ but a less lofty label is what I had in mind. It’s something I should pray about, right?
And then she asks if I’m a pre-, during or post-millennialist believer?
Uh, huh?
They’re studying Revelations in Sunday school. This church! I’ve got some studying to do!!

A New Year

Wow, don’t EVER go back and re-read your posts. Especially if those posts were written specifically about resolutions, goals or planned objectives. It’s a kick in the gut.

So it’s a new year. The last minutes of the second day of a new year in fact, which makes me two days behind on my read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan and my take-a-family-photo-every-day plan. I also haven’t determined Jack’s disability or Medicare status since he went to work full time in September, balanced the checkbook or scheduled bill paying for the month, built a budget, cleaned out the freezer, built a Household Binder, and reconciled the now-closed business books and Thomas’ checkbook. I haven’t posted a book review in over two weeks, mapped the GA’s winter lesson plans or finished the awesome baby gift I’m making for a shower next Saturday.

I did get the Christmas decorations put away today, so, yea! I had to do that- the housecleaner is coming Monday, praise God.

I have an ideal I’m working toward. I don’t pretend I’ll ever be the Proverbs 31 woman, but I do want to live my life well.

  • I want the freedom of faith, the power of prayer and a witness of love.
  • As a wife I want to be a helpmeet, a best friend, and a cheerleader.
  • For my children I want to be wise and present.
  • In my home I want simplicity and comfort.
  • I want to have enough self-control not to be morbidly obese.
  • I want to be more financially stable, i.e., not lose precious seconds in fear/anticipation each time I run my debit card.
  • I want to be a dependable friend, a trusted employee and a helpful neighbor.

So I’ve got some plans for the new year. A read-my-Bible-every-day plan. A take-a-family-photo-every-day plan. An organize-your-home-in-52-weeks-plan. A task planner on my phone. The materials necessary to build a Household Binder and permanent filing system. Budget and bill paying software and Dave Ramsey in my head. And visits from the housecleaner every two weeks and my mother every six weeks to keep me accountable.

Let the discipline begin.