Tag Archives: mental health

Cultivated

Remembering the women we were at the beginning of our friendship takes some work now. A grade school classmate of my husband, I met AgriGirl and her parents when two of her three children were in primary and pre-school. We bonded immediately.

Only one facet of our friendship ever troubled me; for a time we were the most amiable, personable, but uncontrollable gossips I know – just between the two of us no subject or person were untouchable.

After a couple of years of rehashing many social events together, I grew a conscious about some parts of our conversations – people’s private, intimate details. At that time my husband and I were separating so I wasn’t proud of that season of my life. A good friend, AgriGirl stayed close, doing all she could to lift my spirits and help me through. Even so, I began to wonder; if my kind, sweet, honest friend talked about other people’s deeply intimate, personal lives to me, why wouldn’t she talk about my present mess the same way to others?

Though our dirty little secret was ours alone, that profound revelation pierced my soul. For a while I could barely stand myself. Soon afterward I realized we were friends because we were so much alike and that I never carried our stories any further. Still, we both weeded out topics that weren’t meaningful, pruned and snipped what wasn’t uplifting or helpful. In a heartbeat we would turn a subject from Anyone-Not-Present to finding knanker bulbs,* and the former subject didn’t come up again. The difference made us even closer, better friends.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26 (NLT)

Recently, thanks to our smart phones, AgriGirl and I caught up with the years since we last lounged away the afternoons on her beautiful, Mid-west deck. We shot photos and Pinterest tags back and forth so that I’m bursting with new ideas, much like old times. She’s talking about coming here to, well, talk and hang out. I can imagine she might need the visual of my life on the ranch to fully get her head around it.

I’m glad for the relationship AgriGirl and I cultivated over the years, that we can still chat for hours. Aside from politics, global events and our families in general we pretty much stick to discussing the two of us, reminiscing, what we’re doing now, comparing our project lists, bucket lists and our few dreams that haven’t come true – yet!.

“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Galatians 6:7 (NLT)

* Yes, Danny and DBDO readers, I made up the word 😉

Image courtesy of Pixabay

2 Comments

Filed under A Door Ajar

On The Rise

I want to share an astounding truth – I apologize in advance:

  • It’s not flattering,
  • It’s too sensitive for making fun or otherwise mocking (okay, almost too sensitive),
  • You’ve heard it before – from me,
  • It’s embarrassing.

The truth is, I fail.

What’s more, I fail daily.

Most of the time I don’t even realize I’ve done it again until I am on my face; dirty, often bleeding, and usually crying. Worse yet, I can be angry, hostile and ugly, as if I’d been wronged. Shocking, I know.

I hope nobody’s keeping score of how often I bolt ahead without God or checking with him – wanting to impress Him; essentially trying to earn His love.

Even if it’s happening, in all that humiliation I get to see myself as He wants me to be.

Health advisory; take a deep breath now:

… God wants me to just be – not do everything I ever knew how to do so I can fool myself into thinking I’m helping Him fix broken people in a broken world and before nightfall wind up an exhausted, painful, discouraged and often malodorous lump on (usually) the floor.

I’m sure this was not the only instance all week, but it’s the one where I spent time and energy trying to fix a pipe that wasn’t actually broken yet – while my writing awaited my undivided attention. Does anyone else do simple, sometimes ridiculous tasks trying to avoid an obstacle? I didn’t think so.

My options that morning:

  1. “Look there, Lord. That drop of water on that pipe could indicate a problem somewhere down the road. What do You think about that?” (I wait patiently on an answer, of course),
  2. “Who knows when Brother can get around to looking into this?  I am so good at juggling, it won’t be any trouble at all…”

Yeah, I went with option number two. Without mentioning the drip to God or thinking twice, I reasoned, “Oh, I can fix this, Yessiree, I see where this is going, what I can do. Heh heh. C’mon God, I’ve got this…” and off I went in a completely different direction…

Annnd again, before I even realize it’s happening I’ll have left the peace of my quiet place with God prematurely. I’ll bolt out, off balance and a mess before I start. Soon, feeling the gap widening, I’ll seek relief by working harder – cleaning something. Immediate gratification is today’s most common snare. Most of the best things in life require t-i-m-e.

Once I was done being all ugly over that big mistake, God showed me what I actually did – what I routinely do when I’m not entirely right with Him. Rather than simply sharing the observation with God, I began doing His job, minding His business and neglecting mine.

God didn’t let me go through all this because it’s cheap entertainment. He allows some things to happen if only to teach me to trust Him, to lean on Him and let Him do the work. I suspect He also appreciates a good laugh. But He never wanted me to go it alone and make myself feel prematurely old and tired.

He wants me to relax, let Him use me when He wants to, but mostly to see how He works all things out.

But what really melts my butter is how God is always waiting for me with open arms every time I realize I’ve spun off course – [sigh] yet again.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

So, we all get stuck behind our noses – lost in our frame of reference, as if ours is the only possible perspective. Anyone denying they fail needs to read the Book of Romans. Go ahead. But be warned, if you’re like me you’ll want to argue Chapter 3, verse 23 before really thinking about what everyone/all means.

Frankly, I’m thankful for that grace. Instead of always falling short, God raises me up!

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:23, 24 (NLT)

 

12 Comments

Filed under A Door Ajar

Reason

I like to flow through my days thinking I control all the amazing things I do, that the astounding things happening in and around me are actually all about me. This fantasy is cheap entertainment, it rarely runs into overtime, and when it occasionally results in a rude thud into reality, it becomes blog fodder…

‘Fact is only God is that amazing. Were I indeed all that today, I wouldn’t be scary beyond all reason, especially to the livestock – hollering unprovoked – random bursts of upset – all day long. Today.

 

Genius that I am, in 2009, I nonchalantly lit a nice cigar. It was during an event, a rare occasion so I did’t think twice.

Weeks later my story was, smoking eased my pain better than the opiates my doctors prescribed and was cheaper than 75 year-old Oban. If I hadn’t grown up in rooms filled with Cuban cigar smoke (and sworn to secrecy), I’d still loathe cheap cigars. But in 2009 the embargo hadn’t been lifted yet, so that alone would keep me from forming a habit. “Yeah, that’ll work…”

But wait, there’s more: Thirty-two years ago I told my doctor, “I don’t have time to be sick…” Doctor replied very matter-of-factly, “Roo, you’ve had acute chronic bronchitis for ten months, been hospitalized twice. Now you can either keep smoking or keep breathing. Your call.” Quick as ever, a year later I finally stopped smoking.

In truth, if I were as amazing as I like to sometimes think, In 2009 I would never have toyed with lighting a cigar 25 years AFTER winning the battle of my life; stopping an 18 year, 3-pack/day smoking habit.

Yeah, that was me; sharp as a marble.

In a year I was smoking a pack of organic, sans additives cigarettes a week (because nicotine isn’t addictive). A few years later I was torching 12 – 14 packs a month.

Then I began vaping instead. “Seriously”, I told myself “this is best for everyone”, including my three new chain-smoking roommates (2 were siblings). Like most other bad habits, vaping began cheaply enough but grew to a roaring $76-plus a month habit – after purchasing the equipment – which breaks and wears out. Often. Seriously for real; that’s airfare and a nice hotel with the kids every year!

So, get it now! For the low-low price of only $8.17 per pack, you too can have it all. Start tarring your lungs and control that annoying nicotine addiction until it kills you. Meanwhile it will take every cent you were going to spend on that cruise with the kids next year.

Prices may vary and do not reflect the Sin Tax in The City or the costs of hiding the habit from the grand kids or your friends at church. Restrictions may apply and no one accepts any responsibility when you can no longer breathe on your own.

 

Reality Check:

The reason they call it a Sin Tax; we will pay for the indulgences we convince ourselves we need: tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, soda pop, gambling… ‘Fact is we actually live better without them.

This morning I stopped vaping. Once again my pillow and the treadmill are my best friends. As I become overwhelmed with confusion or disorientation, I scream into my pillow (so much better on the sweet, but lately very nervous chickens). If I come up for air soon, I then jog for a few minutes. Or I stay put and nap.

Hard as it seems in the present, this trauma actually only lasts for a few hours. Fine. A couple of days at worst. God has already brought me through far, far worse than this.

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NLT)

And each time I fight I win.

 

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12, 13 (NLT)

 

The Emperors New Groove video clip courtesy YouTube

The Mask video clip courtesy YouTube

Rachel Platten Fight Song (Official Video) Courtesy YouTube

3 Comments

Filed under A Door Ajar

Wrestling

I’m new at farm and ranch life, so I’m learning a lot. Much of the new lessons provide great insights to everyday life.

  • As entertaining as they are, chickens are silly, entertaining creatures, but they eat weeds, bugs and provide good protein food.
  • Smelly as cattle can be, among the other benefits that will come later on, they now provide excellent fertilizer.
  • The mare was trained for herding cattle. Even without a saddle, bridle or a rider, when she sees me carrying a rope toward the pasture, she brings the cattle in. I especially appreciate her late in the day when I’m tired.
  • And did you know cows rub against anything that stands still – especially the ever-available sprinkler heads? Unless I want to toss hay, checking for broken heads is kind of big deal.

Brother and company back in the day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no pigs on this ranch. Aside from seeing them at the county fair and driving through pig farm country on a humid afternoon, I’ve never been around pigs. But I’ve learned some about them from Brother. He raised and showed them in his youth. He knows about pigs.

Recently, as Brother mulled aloud his concern for an anonymous friend that’s going through a wringer in a romantic relationship, my mind kept returning to something I heard some years back.

“I learned long ago to never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”  George Bernard Shaw

After assuring him he told me that, he stared at me blankly for several moments. Once the point set he said, “Yep.”

Today I overslept. After coffee I quickly began scrambling to catch up with the day. Out of nowhere I remembered where that conversation with Brother went;

“If you don’t mind the slime and the smell you can go wrestle that pig. It’s a workout. But when you realize you’re not getting what you want, you get outta the pen.”

Sometimes life not going the way I expected weighs on me;

  • not seeing my offspring, my sisters and old friends feels lonely sometimes,
  • having to wait on the order of projects to finish settling in to my cottage,
  • not having the funds for things like a new mattress and a good storm door (without running up debt).

I wish I could honestly say I always keep a firm grip on reality, my expectations are consistently reasonable, I’m constantly in balance, and that I don’t worry. But like Brother’s friend, I waste a lot of time, do myself discredit by fussing and fretting about things I can’t control.

It’s all good. My new experiences and some old lessons are setting up well. Aside from recognizing when the water troughs need a power spray, I hardly notice pasture smells anymore. I’ve been close enough to pig farms and other people’s squabbles I know to keep my distance. And when prayer and quiet time with Father God remains my first priority, I can enjoy life so much more:

 

  • Gazing at the stars after a hard day’s work, enjoying the fragrance of petunias and sweet alyssum,
  • Brother’s company,
  • a relaxing walk with the mare,
  • clucking around with the chickens,

And I lose weight without wrestling pigs.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6, 7 (NLT)

9 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

My Groove

I began today happy to wake up, which is my preference, but soon I went on a tear.

Momentary digression:

For weeks I’ve been working on the lawns, vegetable and flower gardens around the main house. The underground sprinkler system is down. So, for the first 2 – 4 hours a day, 6 days a week I’m working in the yards, pulling weeds around the lots for chicken feed, hauling grass clippings to the livestock, tending the pastures in between moving the hoses and sprinklers. Clearly I get my steps in early!

 

Note: The potted plants around my door require about 5 minute’s attention every other day. I have gravel, no lawn.

 

 

I do all this mostly because I enjoy it, but also because 1) Brother needs and appreciates the help while he works in town and runs his business here, and 2) I’m at a standstill in my cottage:

  • I can’t paint the walls or floors before the roof is repaired and any drywall that needs replacing is done,
  • the list goes on, but I’ll spare you the whine.

You’re welcome.

Last week I began watering the grass in the evenings in case that might green up the too-beige lawn.

I may have mentioned I typically rise and go to roost with the chickens. The problem watering in the evenings rather than early in the morning is when I’m up later in the evening I have trouble getting to sleep before 2 or 3 a.m. This doesn’t work well when I usually wake between 3 and 4 a.m. – like it or not.

So back to today:

This fourth (maybe fifth) groggy, sleep-deprived morning I felt notably grumpy and shaking it off was difficult. More importantly, my chapters have taken some hits – the writing’s vague, sequences bounce all over the place and dialogues suck (it’s an industry term). Sort of like me lately.

Before long I’d zeroed in on the problem:

  • I volunteer the upkeep of Brother’s lawn and our gardens,
  • I volunteer caring for his livestock,
  • I volunteer vacuuming the avalanche of dog hair in the main house (his house) three times a week before he ever asked me to help him out with it. I admit, I do this so I don’t feel bad using his vacuum cleaner in my cottage.

Shortly after returning from the pastures this morning I became annoyed by all this – yet again.

It appears I threw off my groove.

 

With the emotional turmoil and all the changes in the household lately, Brother’s been quite overwhelmed. Been there, done that. They’re his problems, not mine. Still, I care about him and I understand his situation – and his occasional crankiness.

I must say here that Brother is mostly kind and generous. He is not obligated, but allows me use of his vehicles and is keeping the Tracker, what we call the Wanna-be Jeep mostly for me. He tells me often he appreciates how I always refuel all the vehicles and I check the oil and water every time I drive. No matter how busy he is, he checks in on me if he doesn’t see me. He offers me cash any time he imagines I need it. And he always says (or texts) “Goodnight. ‘Love you.”

He even took it upon himself to replace my ugly old shower curtain rod with a newer, shiny chrome one that matches the fixtures. It’s what he does.

Because he primarily sees the demands on his time, he doesn’t actually notice all I do to help out. It’s what I do.

After my rant at the cottage walls subsided, convicted by my attitude, I got to my knees.

It’s funny the way prayer works.

Shortly after I amen-ed, I realized I’d allowed Brother’s problems to take priority over my work – my job.  What’s more, I’m sure he has no idea.

But here’s the twist: Today I recognize my problem is I haven’t treated him like my brother. I’ve treated him like a landlord. Okay, so I wouldn’t care so much about a business relationship and would quickly insist a landlord hire a gardener, repairman, etc. But I’d never let my brothers take advantage of me (without some serious shenanigans). Family doesn’t function well like that. Believe me, I know about dysfunction.

I took the focus off my finger pointing at his problems and checked the three pointing back at me. And then I got back on my knees again. Once I regained my spiritual balance, I composed a text and scheduled it for about the time Brother clocks out at work in town:

“I’m returning to my job in the mornings. I can feed/h2o livestock, vegetables n flowers in a.m. You can h2o lawns in the p.m. If you need anything else we can talk. <3”

Walking around, moving the sprinklers, he’ll enjoy the lawns all the more. This feels like a good start in a better direction. I took a deep, sleepy breath.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” Galatians 6:2-5 (NLT)

 

The Emperors New Groove Video courtesy YouTube

12 Comments

Filed under A Door Ajar

The Ties That Bind

We’re undergoing some changes at the Ranch. Among others my brother Cole and Kendra have called it quits. Aside from the inevitable odds and ends that might remain, her relocation is about done.

I’ve done this myself a few times, so don’t ask me why I assumed I’d return to my regular routine while Kendra and Twelve-Year-Old settle into their new home – and Brother wraps his head around it all in the main house. Silly Me.

Yesterday was a landmark. It was trash collection day. Lifting the trash can lid to check for room to empty any overlooked wastebaskets, I found the curtains from the second bedroom sitting on top. Most people would probably think nothing of it. I saw a remnant of our late brother Richard’s life.

Roan, Richard and Cole in 2012

Since Richard vacated that room to occupy the cottage in which I now live, the bedroom had been the workout room. Now it will be Cole’s bedroom. Today, from the ever-open folding closet doors one can see seasonal clothes on one side and several guitar cases on the other. Though the guitars are actually Cole’s, the cases looked the same, covering half the closet floor exactly as Richard’s once had. That and the curtains hadn’t changed.

Maybe it’s just me, but leaving the window dressings in the trash simply felt wrong. I don’t know if the curtains had actually been Richard’s. It didn’t really matter. Still, I thought hard before reaching into the bin. I reasoned that they are pretty, still fashionable and seemed in good condition, so even if Cole actually didn’t want them somebody could use them.

Whatever the case it was getting hot and chores awaited. I dove in – no, not literally. The whole set was there; the four sheer panels, four valances, even the two matching ties.

Later on I looked more closely and found a few sizable paint drops on one of the sheer panels. Brother had painted the day before, so it made sense that he thought the set was ruined. I considered it well worth the time and effort to try removing the paint. A few hours later they looked new again.

Then for the rest of the day I wondered what I would do with them. Storage space in my cottage has been scarce for months. This morning I still hadn’t decided. I was behind on my work from all the time I spent helping out in the main house, so for the present I carefully folded the clean, fresh-smelling pieces into a clear, zip-seal case from another set of drapes.

Happy memories came flooding back as I handled each piece:

It was my first night in the main house with Roan and Richard. I’d flown in from Chicago, and we were all exhausted early. Roan and Richard had said goodnight and gone to bed. I was still in travel mode, hardly ready to retire or sleep yet.

About ten minutes after their doors closed I began knocking at Richard’s bedroom door calling, “Hey! Whatcha doing? Are ya sleepin’ yet? Let’s go outside. Let’s play…” like when we were kids. After a few minutes of this incessant pounding his voice boomed from the door at the end of the hall, “I have a gun!” That’s when I realized in the dark hallway I’d been banging on was my niece Opal’s bedroom door. Giggles resounded throughout the rooms, and I went outside to gaze at the starry array I hadn’t seen in years.

The next morning I intended to pounce on him to wake him (as we’ve done since we were kids), but found his room open, light pouring through the sheer panels so the olive green valances appeared beige. As I took in the immaculate space and enjoyed the sunlight filling the hallway, I was abruptly clutched around my rib cage and a loud, sudden, “Whacha doin?” startled me nearly out of my skin. There in my personal space Richard towered over me, grinning ear to ear, clearly pleased with himself for sneaking up on me.

 

Then there was the time Richard left his laundry in the dryer. Just for fun I seized the opportunity and turned all his clothes inside out, folded them neatly and set them on his bed. The next evening I went to get something from my one dresser drawer, but it didn’t slide open easily as usual. Yep, I’d been pranked. Richard had wrapped the drawer in clear plastic wrap and placed a Got Ya sticker dead center at the front of the wrapping.

It was on. Ice water over the shower door, short-sheeted beds, double-sided tape on flip-flops, reversing everything on his bathroom vanity (that really jacked him up, I was delighted), hair gel on bike seats – for days, yo… Sometimes being creative while not risking harm (or depressing messes to clean up) can be a challenge, but we rock that stuff.

 

On our last night before Roan and I departed for Texas, Roan, Opal and I shared an air mattress together on the living room floor. I wanted to go to sleep, but Roan and Opal were wrestling, playing keep-away with a bag of candy. About the time I was going to jump in, Richard entered the room. Blowing a whistle, he tossed a white hand towel announcing, “Personal foul, defense. Five yard penalty!” Yeah, the night went on for much longer than was prudent.

 

As I write I miss my other siblings more than ever. Life happens, siblings grow older but not apart, regardless of the miles between us. Our loss hasn’t changed that.

After I finished packing the curtains with lavender and cedar flakes, memories continued to flow. I wrote the about my experience with the curtains, printed the story, placed it in the package and zipped it closed. I’ll make space for it. Perhaps someone will enjoy finding the package someday, read how it got there and better understand what an amazing family we are.

This just in: Roan now wants the curtains.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9,10 (NLT)

19 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

Seventeen

Do other writers get stuck on a thought, a word, a number that has nothing to do with the current project or task? Anyone else ever struggle to break free from such a grip? I recently resisted a momentary nemesis for days till I turned and met the foe head on.

Fact: Much of my life has been unimaginable to most folks. Several decades ago I realized I was on a collision course with a bleak future. After a series of failed attempts to redirect I got help. It took years to find the right counselor, but for about eight years now I’ve been keeping notes from sessions with the best trauma counselor ever. We’ll call him Rob.

Months ago when Rob pointed out a few concerns, suggested I could be depressed, and insisted I see my doctor, I stopped. I thought hard, prayed harder. And then I stopped longer.

I dread the thought of being known as “that poor thing who…” I write about my life because, well, it’s what I know best. Seriously, I write my stories, my experiences in the hope they help and encourage others. Writing helps me make sense of the grand scheme of things. Plus there’s the perk I get when my work sometimes reveals a bad attitude, it checks me like a friendly punch in the face. Hopefully those that grew up with numerous brothers understand the concept.

This brings us back a little while to shortly after the snow and ice melted here at the ranch, when I hit a wall. That actually had less to do with me injuring my arm and shoulder chopping wood (seriously, don’t all great-grandmothers do that?). The wall had more to do with the preceding twelve years.

Have I mentioned having driver’s licenses in three states within the last two calendar years? Yeah, that’s a lot of moving around. And each move directly resulted from one crisis right after another. When I pointed out this profound revelation to my Go-To Girl, my sister Roan (my on-and-off house mate), she replied,

“Yeah. So?” 

Not the response I expected. She was on her lunch break two time zones ahead of here, so she may have missed my point. We mocked the topic sufficiently enough to laugh it off and we returned to work.

So, after circling back to Roan’s question for a couple of days I set all my other projects aside to seek solid answers.

 

I handle most challenges better when I can break them down to physics, mathematical formulas – or Sun Tzu*. I did the math:

 

 

In the last 20 years Roan has (to my knowledge) moved x times, 6 of which since were her daughter was born, the last six within the past 7 years. But for 17 years she and her daughter were rooted in one place.

Then I again reviewed my nomadic history. Again with the number 17.

  • I was 17 when I married my sons’ father.
  • For 17 years I lived with (and moved around with) my husband.
  • I have lived at 17 different addresses. Seventeen.

Only because of Roan can I imagine living in one dwelling for seventeen years. In my entire life I’ve never lived in any one place for 4 years. That’s a staggering amount of moving around! Additionally some form of drama generated each move and often changed my family dynamics; broken hearts and broken bones (some mine), husbands left, sons outgrew the nest, a heart attack here – loved ones died there, banks became less sympathetic… I tell ya, some hits were hard. But I moved on.

So, our life has been astoundingly complicated compared to most people we know.

So, that itinerant life is over now. And yet, I’m having trouble getting my head around the concept of being home, that I won’t be packing up and moving again in a while. Rob and I figure it’ll likely be three years before it actually sinks in. I marked my digital calendar just in case.

So, days after the aforementioned chat with Rob I visited my Naturopathic Physician. Thanks to our decades old relationship we quickly caught up and then we agreed;

  • I’m tired,
  • I’m possibly slightly traumatized,
  • undeniably I have much to be sad about,
  • but I’m not necessarily depressed.

She studied my blood-work and my DNA evaluation (yes, I happened to have it on me), prescribed a course of supplements and then we went out for tea. Within days the dark heaviness lifted, but I continued to take the time I needed to simply be for a while.

So, the cast in the main house has changed, Kendra and Twelve-Year-Old moved away, but we’re all adjusting. The show goes on. My journals are busting at the bindings and I’m back to working on chapters again. More important, I give myself lots of grace. I walk away whenever I want. And within a couple of hours I walk back – usually feeling lighter. I’m sure there will be more hard days. But it’s like Brother tells me often, “Just settle down. You’re not going anywhere.”

So, today I smile as the mare and the cattle call to me when I step outside my door. I giggle as the hens flutter-waddle to the fence cackling. I’m sure it’s all about me – not the grain, scraps, hay, carrots or apples I bring them.

Most important, hearing how my stories help others also helps me. Having shared the experience with other writers/bloggers, the bobbing and weaving and working it all out, I feel so much better now.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)

*The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.  Just in case my humor missed the mark, I translate much of Sun Tzu principles into Biblical scripture – and disregard the rest.

Images courtesy ABSFreePic.com

9 Comments

Filed under A Door Ajar, Longreads

Neck Up Check Up

I’ll just say it; I crack me up.

This morning began even earlier than usual for me. It’s hot, so I didn’t sleep as well as I typically do. I rolled out of bed thanking God for another day with Him. But soon I grumbled and complained about the dead bugs here and there from the summer’s quarterly spraying. Disgusted, I tied a frozen bandanna around my neck and stepped outside.

Instead of heading for the pastures first as I usually do, I walked toward the front yard and the gardens. It didn’t occur to me that the cattle and the mare would notice me in the pre-dawn light. They did. Loudly. Their calls to me actually warm my heart most days, but it was very early. Silly me, I worried the premature noise might disturb the neighbors – the nearest one being too far to hear. After I walked the other way, out of sight they quieted back down quickly.

I adore growing my own food. Over the weekend we’d placed Sevin baits to help reduce the earwig overpopulation. Still finding the live, slithering masses under everything I touched (checking for squash bugs or eggs) annoyed me. So did the screen door banging against the planter – someone left it open after using the grill the night before. As the first sun beams streaked across the tree trunks I felt taken for granted noticing the empty bird feeders. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Clearly I desperately needed coffee.

Once the coffee began pumping I felt revived and happier with the world. I followed the cattle to the pasture to see how the new controller program I’d set the day before went. That was a long process in itself: find a manual on line, find the information I needed rather than read every jot and tittle about the device, hand write the step-by-step instructions (of course the printer cartridge emptied at that particular moment, and forget a WiFi signal in the metal barn), walk back to the cottage for a flashlight since the new lights in the barn aren’t connected yet… I already had half my daily steps in.

Then I noticed two swamp spots in the first sprinkler zone – yep, the cow’s knocked off two more sprinkler heads so the water pooled around a two-yard radius instead of the 20 yard circles they should have soaked. Stupid cow.

I shot a text off to Brother reminding him to bring more replacement heads home with him and headed back to my desk. I pulled fresh weeds to feed the chickens – killing two birds with one stone (the young hens will just have to get over that expression – or start laying soon).

Within minutes at my desk, my brand new wireless keyboard had me wanting to punch something. Does anyone actually use F keys instead of hot keys? How is learning to stretch the fingers higher better than CTL+S, CTL+A, CTL+C, CTL+V, etc? I literally walked away after the fifth or sixth time a Save As dialogue box popped up rather than the cursor back spacing over yet another key error. Grrr… And I saved to buy this device for months!

The sound of Old Dog sniffing around my open door was all it took to push me over my threshold. Time for a walk.

Before we’d walked fifty yards I noticed Senior Neighbor Lady waving her arms and calling me. Walking past our three dogs noisily engaging in their daily fence fight I finally heard her tell me, “Honey, I don’t have my hearing aids in and couldn’t hear what you were yelling to me.”  Hmmm… I only waved hello as I do every morning – usually two hours later.

I easily find patience with seniors – sowing what I hope to reap, so I hugged her and wished her a nice day.

As Dog and I rounded the first bend in the road, I heard what sounded like angry voices nearby. Dog paused, his aging ears pointed toward the source of the sound. It appeared one half of a young couple was loading a pick-up truck bed and the other half was getting her wounded, parting words out. He wordlessly pulled items out of the pile she’d created next to the garbage can before the collection truck arrived.

Been there, done that. I prayed.

I continued to pray as we continued our walk. Dog doesn’t mind – he can’t hear my lower register anyway. God does.

As we headed back up our driveway I noticed the fruits of my labors in the pretty, colorful, well-trimmed yards, and the unmistakably peaceful atmosphere of the place. Yeah, the lots between the main house and the pastures seem chaotic, but that’s what Brother’s business going in good a direction looks like.

I realized how silly I’d been earlier. Though I never expected to be unmarried, my life now is what I’ve always hoped and wished for. Despite the daily annoyances that are certain to arise as I learn about ranch life, with such a benefactor as Brother, my life has become a story I want to write. Most important, I realized how quickly I suffer for discounting my relationship with God.

Today I’m humbled recalling one of Daddy’s iconic expressions, “How soon we forget.”

Today I’m grateful for the reminder to never step out the door before prayer time – or without my latte.

Now I’m off to get the rest of my steps in before it’s too hot!

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT)

 

Image courtesy MemeGenerator.net.

14 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

Still Workin’

Yeah, it’s been a while. Originally I imagined this imposed hiatus would be a week or two.

We plan – God laughs.

It turns out I’d carried a lot more baggage home with me than I’d realized. And surprise, I’d gotten so used to carrying it all I hadn’t noticed the the weight. As it happens, hurting my arm and shoulder wasn’t entirely a bad thing. I had to lay a few things down and I’ll tell you, sometimes doing that right can be a long process. I’m determined to stick with it and not need to do this again!

 

Still, I enjoy my new life on the ranch, despite how it humbles me – daily. So much to learn, such astounding lessons.

 

 

I finish the chores early in the day so I’m back to work on my chapters now: Write – edit – edit – edit – submit.

I don’t have my head around my new What’s Next format – yet – but I don’t want anyone wondering if I’ve gone off the rails either.

So for now, enjoy the link to what feels like my life’s sound track from Mandisa and keep checking in!

 

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

21 Comments

Filed under A Door Ajar, Notes from the Apex

Hiatus

It came gradually. Like the spring storms in our region, what began as slight awareness became genuine concern. I admit, during the first few days I considered this was all about me giving up coffee. Only I didn’t plan what happened. I couldn’t stop or defer it either.

My usually reliable creativity began waning. My dwindling reserve of scheduled posts concerned me. And yet strangely, I felt remarkably calm. Actually apathetic. For years I’ve worked faithfully on my dailies. And for days I’d been sending it all to the recycle bin.

I resisted, desperate to complete my lists of tasks and projects, unwilling to yield a smidgen. I wondered if this could be some mysterious new virus or bacteria. But I had no symptoms of being sick. I was not sad. My thoughts were clear. There was no hint of any crisis du jour or impending doom. I slept well and napped soundly when I felt tired. And yet I felt weary. I soon began to wonder if I was literally going mad.

I fought it every way I know how, resolved to forge onward, determined to regain my pace.

Soon I realized that for months, years actually, I’d practiced systematically slicing fragments of personal time wherever I could to produce more, serving the greater good, thinking I must work harder, do better. I hurried from one task to another, rarely pausing.

It’s not that I felt drained. Still, sparks of joy had become rare, no longer the integral element of my life. And I hadn’t noticed.

Days later, vanquished, I cried out loud, “God, I don’t understand! What am I missing?” Immediately I heard, “You.”

With that I surrendered.

I cleared my schedule, stopped work and began doing only rudimentary activities. It was hard, but I persisted.

For the time being my only assignments are animal and self care and Bible time. Even prayers are more about listening for God. After a few days I realized, I am literally living by faith, hour by hour and not by my strength or determination. This had long been my heart’s desire, but something else always seemed more important. Until now.

And the world kept turning!

This morning as I returned to the cottage, livestock munching alfalfa, the dogs happily running circles around me, I giggled. Then we circled back out to the pastures – for fun! I noticed with delight new bird nests here and there, clover flowering, tulips are opening and some brand new lambs in the neighbor’s pasture.

Again I ignored the lure to work. It feels strange, but I’m okay with that today.

I don’t know when this hiatus will end, I didn’t call it, but I’m confident in the One that did.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

12 Comments

Filed under A Door Ajar