culture · Family · journaling · Relationships · Spiritual

Baring the Soul

I just completed journaling my life for the last 7 years in one volume!

I visualize myself at 94, rocking rhythmically on a squeaky pine chair. The sun is warm against my wrinkles and my weak eyes are closed as I listen to a granddaughter reading me a story. The story of my life. I love to tell stories and as I review it, I’m learning that the story of my life is a darned good one, and well worth recording. Here it is on page after page: details documented, interactions interpreted, dreams divulged, frustrations unfurled. My very soul is bared.

7 years is a long time. It’s long enough to forget specifics, which makes it extra delightful to read and recall events that I was once positive I would never forget. I began journaling as a teenager. I started with a day planner and​ entered what was going on in my life from day to day. Thirty years later and thousands of miles away, those puerile entries are priceless memoires. If my house was to catch on fire, I’d run for those tattered books before putting clothes on.

After mum passed away, I was cleaning out one of her bedside drawers when I stumbled upon a diary she had written in. She didn’t express feelings but simply jotted down events. Some where are mundane as how many piglets were born or that the vet came and immunized the cows. Others were simple yet ran deep as a well. “Michael was hit by a car today and went home to be with the Lord.” I never once saw her sit to write in it but I am so grateful she did. There’s something spell-binding about seeing words in her  handwriting.

I have a sister that lives across the world and we mail a journal back and forth. She’ll write entries of her life for a few months then mail it to me. I’ll do the same and mail it back. Needless to say, I wait for it with bated breath. Sometimes it’s years before I get it.

Looking back over the years, I am struck by remarkable obstacles I have overcome. I marvel at some of the same battles I am still fighting as I grow as a person. In some ways I am a completely different person and yet in others, I haven’t changed a bit.

I write details about people’s lives that might be embarrassing to them so I wouldn’t share my journal details with anyone while the concerned parties were still alive. Within reason, I feel a protective obligation to those people, especially since they can’t very well defend themselves.

Taking time to contemplate and document my life propels me to live the remainder of it at full throttle. If you have considered journaling, I would highly encourage it. Start simply and don’t over-think it.

Here are some tips from a lifer:

1. I used many small books when I was younger and have since learned to use a large book so I end up with just a few volumes. Find a large, good quality, well bound book that will last for decades. It could end up being a valuable family heirloom for generations.

2. Don’t feel pressure to write every day or even every week. Snippets of your life and thoughts are quite sufficient, even months apart.

3. Always write the date including the year. I go as far as to date every page in case the book should somehow come apart.

4. Simply write what you did, who you did it with, where you went, and how you felt about it all. It may seem insignificant in the moment but in years to come it will ignite important details of memories. I write prayers in mine and address them directly to God. My journals really read like a letter to Him. You can address yours to a person or even simply, “dear diary”. (I’ll write dd for dear diary.)

5. Write as much or as little as you want. Sometimes I write a paragraph, other times I write pages upon pages. Divulge as little or as much as you want. Always consider the possibility that nosey eyes will find and read your journal against your will. That said, be true to and honestly express yourself. This is a very powerful therapeutic tool and will be as impactful as you are genuine.

6. I sign each of my entries for fun. I still use an old signature that I started using as a teenager and don’t use anywhere else.

7. On the outside or inside of your journal, write the start and end dates. This makes them easier to organize in the future.

8. Create a journal station where you park your book. If you can, attach a pen to it so you don’t have to spend time retrieving one. It can be your bedside,  by the bathroom,  or by your comfy chair. Mine ends up either at my bedside or by my chair. I’ll take it with me when I travel but I’ve learned I rarely journal when I am away from home. My thought is that I will have time to get caught up.

9. Pick a time that works well for you. It may be before bed, first thing in the morning, or in the middle of the day after the kids are off to school.

10. Attach meaningful letters or pictures to your journal. Birth or graduation announcements, wedding invitations or photos, and eulogies are wonderful to revisit years down the road.

Don’t get so busy journaling that you forget to live your life!

 

 

Christian · culture · Faith · Relationships · Spiritual

As I Am

Consider that your concept of God is one of the most important things about you. It determines how you view Him. It determines how we view ourselves and others around us.

I am learning that in many ways I have created God in my own image and to my measly understanding. I pick and choose aspects of Him that suit my fancy and dismiss those I assume to be irrelevant or to be demanding of me. I am a long way from seeing God in His fullness and as He offers Himself to me in the bible.

As a result, mine is an anemic, impotent God. Polished but hollow. Like my life. Ouch. I must be honest with myself: that is the reason I fret, fear, and I’m consumed with the affairs of this world and my position in it. That is why I have little regard for the widow and the orphan, the poor, the lost, and the hurting.

Many times in my life I have learned that He is very powerful. Time after time He has proved Himself strong, faithful, and true. For me He has saved, healed, provided for, called, delighted, delivered, comforted, encouraged, gifted, strengthened, chastised, revealed, lifted up, taught, … the list is endless. When my heart is inclined towards Him, as a plant to the light, I see all this clearly and catch prismatic glimpses of Him in His brilliant awesomeness. Deep calls to deep.

Yet this same heart routinely deposes Him when I want my own way. I am like a spiritual brat, stomping and throwing little spiritual hissy fits. I am like a spiritual diva – entitled and self-absorbed. I am goddess, hear me roar. At those times God is, at best, an on-call consultant. I clean up shop because the consultant is coming, then when the crisis is over, it’s back to sloppy business as usual.

Falsely, I believe that I am what I do. I must remind myself that I am a far cry from my accomplishments, my efforts, my resources, my strengths and failures. The error here is to project this thinking onto Him and just see Him as an improved version of what I am. It is imperative that my concept of Him correspond as nearly as possible with who He truly is. Otherwise all else is idolatry – a view of God as other than He is and a subsequent substitution with what I think He should be.

A. W. Tozer prayed, “They that know Thee may call upon Thee as other than Thou art, and so worship not Thee but a creature of their own fancy; therefore enlighten our minds that we may know Thee as Thou art… Amen.”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/polish/

Christian · Gardening · Humor · language · Relationships

The Hypocrite’s Goose-egg

If there’s anything the Lord made clear, it’s that he strongly dislikes hypocrites.

Last night I was one and I sure got what I had coming.

I am a gardening nut. I could garden all day and all night if I could. But life interferes. A few days ago, I helped a friend, who has never gardened in her life, set up and plant a garden. I felt like quite a gardenista, giving her all kinds of tips and sage advice. I wanted to set her up for success and a lifetime of great gardening. To do so she must survive many mishaps, let-downs, and challenges.

We were loading mulch into our wheelbarrows and carrying it to the garden. I noticed that whenever I returned to the mulch pile, the pitch fork was lying (not laying, pitch forks don’t lay anything. I guess they lay dirt…) on the ground with prongs pointed upwards. I just now learned that “upward” is interchangeable with ‘upwards’. Pretty cool. I’ve never been sure which one to use. But I digress.

She works in a trade so I’m sure tools are pretty important to her. Responsible garden dojo that I am, I promptly educated my trusting apprentice on the proper use and placement of the pitch-fork. “Stick it upright on the pile or in the ground so you can see it. That also saves you from having to wonder how long ago it was you got that tetanus shot as you do the ‘I just stabbed by foot with a manure laden tool’ dance.” She was impressed.

This woman will make a brilliant gardener, just like me.

Yesterday I worked in the yard after dinner. It was getting dark so I decided to haul one more load of mulch to plant my banana plants before turning in for the night. It was pretty dark but I could still make out forms. The last few feet to the hole were uphill so I had to really muscle that loaded wheelbarrow. It was all I could to balance it on the hill as every time I tried to set it down it threatened to tip over. I threw the pitchfork off to the side to get it out of the way. I strained and twisted my poor body, one knee raised to support the wheelbarrow, and one hand holding one handle. Gutteral grunting was helping a lot and when I stopped grunting the behemoth load pitched dangerously till I resumed the grunting.

I was in a lurch, I couldn’t park the creaking wheelbarrow but I couldn’t very well stand here like this all night. The darned thing decided to help me out as it swayed this way and then that. Finally it leaned over so far it staggered and toppled like a drunk. I quickly let go so it wouldn’t fling me across the garden in the dark.

I stood there tried to look dignified and glare at the foolish pile that was nowhere near where I needed it to be. At this point I could hardly see the hole but I could make out the broad starts. I was very miffed about this predicament. I stepped to the side of the mulch to the retrieve my pitchfork when out of the clear blue a golf ball at top speed clocked me so hard right in the forehead that I saw stars.

I don’t know if the bonk jolted me worse than the shock. I stood swaying like my drunk wheelbarrow. The strange thing is that the golf ball didn’t fall. My hand quickly went to my forehead for moral support and found, not a golf ball, but a long hard handle to my pitch fork still standing in place!

Of course I’d dropped it, prongs facing up, stepped on the prongs, and clocked myself in the head. I was still standing on it. I hadn’t thought of this consequence!

I nursed my goose-egg and my pride. I’ll get to the pile tonight.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/survive/

Gardening · Humor · Relationships

Impressions II

As I pulled up the bumpy side-road around 7.18 pm, I could see him looking up and down the road nervously. He waved enthusiastically and hurried up to me after I pulled up, shovel in his gloved right hand.

“Well hi!” he greeted happily. He hurriedly took off his glove to shake my hand after he opened the door to let me out. “I’ve been working hard… real hard. I’m done with banana plants forever. I’ve had it. It’s good to see you.” He smiled.

We meandered to his amazing back yard, stopping and bending to smell this, reaching up to touch that – an inebriating feast for my senses.

“You were the first one I offered them to and I wanted to make sure you were the first one to get them.” He had tens upon tens of them. I nodded and smiled. I only wanted 4 but it would have to be this way. Order, order, order.

“I offered them to lots of people. But you were the first.” He bent over to pick a weed. His clematis were stunning. Purples of all shades bursting and spilling over.

The banana starts were surrounded by dead, ugly, bulbous growths. He started to  load them into the pots I’d brought. Immediately, I realized they wouldn’t fit unless the dead parts were cut off. I was making strange altering shapes with my lips, the way I am told I do when I’m musing. Should I say something or just watch? He tried to wrestle the whole mass into the pot.

I ventured cautiously, scratching my head then stroking my face unnecessarily. “What do you say we cut the dead part off? Looks like the start has lots of its own roots.”

He stopped what he was doing, leaned in, and locked empathetic eyes with me. “What you don’t know is that this dead bulb feeds the start. It’s the original mother and after it died, it now feeds the starts. If we cut it off, the start will die. Now, technically it’s your plant, so you can do whatever you want with it, but that mother needs to feed the start,” he explained patiently, really needing me to understand this.

That was all very good but all I wanted was to get it into the pot. I stroked my face again and walked away to admire other plants and give the man his dignity.

A brutal breeze was whipping around. After an eternity of finagling, the kind that comes with much sweating, contorting, grunting, and mumbling, he said, “You know, we will probably have to cut into this mother to get it into the pot.”

“That’s a great idea,” I assented casually from across the yard.  I really need to stop touching my face so much.

I eventually strolled back to him. He had loaded four pots and one was more full than the others. He’d placed two starts and their dead mothers, God rest their souls, in it. An empty pot sat beside it. He was struggling to load it onto the wheelbarrow.

“Josh, let’s take one of these out and put it in the empty pot.” I suggested, trying to help him get the pot off the ground.

“It needs to stay with its mother, ” he explained.

“I know that now, but it looks like we have two sets in this pot. I was thinking we could put this top one in this empty pot.”

“It’s your plant now, so you really can do with it as you please. At your house. I told you I am so done with the darned banana plants.” His voice was strained as he heaved the incredibly heavy pot onto the wheelbarrow. “Done with them, that what I am!”

I could see why. They were killing him. Literally.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/impression/

Gardening · Humor · Relationships

Impressions I

I dread his calls.

My friend Josh is an older gentleman who lives alone in a meticulous house. He is a great guy but overly congenial. He is as set as cement in his ways and worships orderliness. He has a magnificent garden and enjoys sharing plants. I ran into him the other day and he mentioned he had some banana plant starts to share.  “Would you like some?”

“Sure.” I responded.

He called early the next morning. His phone calls aren’t easy to navigate and I didn’t have it in me to answer. It would be hard enough to slog through the voicemail. He didn’t let me down: “Hi, this is Josh. I have banana plants ready for you. Let me know what time you can come by today. They’ll need to get in the ground pretty soon here. Call me back and let me know what time you can come. I’ll be home all day. The morning’s fine. The afternoon would work too. Call me back.”

The day got away from me. He called again the next morning and I answered. “Good morning,” I said.

“I called you yesterday but you didn’t answer,” he said, almost hurt.

“Sorr…” I started to say but should have saved my breath.

“So, you’re the first one I offered the plants to and I want you to be the first to get them. They need to get in the ground pretty soon you know.” He could tell I was not appreciating the urgency of the matter.

“Well, good morning, Josh.” I smiled.

“Yeah! So… what time can you come today?” He was undeterred.

“Today doesn’t work for me but I can certainly come tomorrow.” He paused. I could tell he would have to pull a chair for this conversation.

“Tomorrow… mmhh. I don’t know. Let me look at my calendar.” This part of the conversation is the same every time.

What I don’t understand is that he already has all of today blocked off for me, never mind it’s a 30 minute job. “How do people get through life?” he is asking himself, incredulous.

“I guess I can do tomorrow. What time?” He is clearly put out.

We set a time and he hung up before I finished signing off. I smiled.

Not an hour later I learned I’d have to cover my coworker who’d been in an accident. I picked up the phone to vex Josh.

“I could have swore you said you couldn’t come today,” he was scratching his head in confusion. “Mmhh… I don’t know, let me look at my calendar.” I was really throwing him for a loop. “I guess today is good. What time?”

“I drop my son off at Scouts at 7 and can come thereafter.”

“But it’s dark at 7,” he was completely befuddled.

“No Josh, it’s not dark till 9.30.” I said smiling.

“Really?? Alright we’ll see. Guess I’ll see you at 7. I’ll put it on the calendar.”

“Not right at 7, a little after.”

This was brutality. “But you said 7.”

“Josh, let’s say 7.15.”

“I could have swore you said 7. I’ll change the calendar.” He muttered breathed deeply.

I made a mental note to look at this calendar when I got there. He will never understand me or how I muddle my way through life.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/impression/

Christian · culture · Humor · Relationships · sad · travel

Dive Bomber (Reblogged)

I love hummingbirds. All facts about them astound me. I once sat stunned under a feeder as one buzzed the top of my head repeatedly. My wincing face portrayed my certainty that the pointed beak  at the end of those deafening wing-beats was going to bore holes in my irises!

There is one hummingbird I am not crazy about. I call him Dive Bomber. I buy the sugar, I pay for the water, and I clean and refill the feeders every couple days. HE drinks the syrup then stands guard beside it and dive bombs any other birds that mistakenly think I refilled the feeder for just any ole’ hummingbird.

I’m camping at a KOA in the desert. It’s 90 degrees out and there’s a pool, so my new friend Mary and I take the kids out for  a swim. The kind owners of the campground have provided 2 large canopies for patrons to enjoy by the pool. They are the only shade. One of them covers a large laughing family. The other shades 4 lounge chairs covered with towels. Dive Bomber is lounging in the sun beside the canopy, flexing his bulging, tattooed muscles and frequently dousing himself in sunscreen.

Mary and I grab chairs across the pool and head for the vacant canopy. Mary greets him cheerfully and courteously asks if we can shade up under this cover. He says, “We actually came here early so we could use one of these. You just can’t mosey over here when people are already here. That’s pretty rude.” He flexed his pects and returned to next months edition of Self Magazine.

He probably has never conceived the thought that he consumes less than 1% of the contents of the feeder. Nor that if he dared to leave his post he would be stunned to find a world of wonders:  fuschias,   butterfly bushes,  columbine, honeysuckle, new friendships… the list is endless. For hours and hours, his family used the canopy for less than an hour total, but, don’t touch my feeder, that’s pretty rude!

Father, please open my eyes to my Dive Bomber tendencies.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/buff/