Saturday, February 17, 2018

Yes...and No...

Apparently I was really inspired by that Excessive Contents class I took last week, because today has been all about throwing things away again! I did not toss everything, tho...I kept some photos I found, from the early 2000s...

Here I will apologize to Mork, Dollface and Sweetie. Also to myself. This was not a stellar hair day for! There were amateur photos as well, many from Christmas 2001, I think.

To top it all off, some materials from camp. Remember camp? I spent a week at camp every summer for nearly 10 years, I think. These were some of the craziest, funniest and most rewarding weeks of my life. I always felt a little like a superhero when I got home. Well, a superhero in need of a nap!

Kept photos and camp workbooks aside, I did say NO! to a lot of junk this morning, and throughout the week, and now this side of the basement looks like this:

I was going to reward myself with a cookie. But instead, I celebrated with a little crochet and #catonlap time with the midwives of Poplar...and a cookie! It was a very rewarding morning!

Cleaning out junk, from the house and from my heart, has made this week more exhausting than most. Still, it is good. God is good, all the time, and I am good today. I am not perfect, and I no longer aspire to be (on most days). Instead, I am working hard to recognize that there are limits to what I should expect of myself. There are limits to how much I can or should do, feel and say. These limits are as real as the walls in my house, the ones that limit how much junk I can reasonably store in my basement!

As I prioritize my life and my belongings, I am reminded of the advice to let your yes  be yes, and your no be no (Matthew 5:37). While not a direct application of the verse, in the same way that I decide what to keep and what to toss in the basement, there is a definite yes or no for each thought and emotion that I encounter...or there should be. If I do not regularly make decisions about what thoughts and emotions to keep and toss, my clogged head and heart will limit my ability to make a choice about anything. Today is a good day because today my yes is yes, and my no is no, on all levels.

I wish every day were like today. However, I am often frustrated that this yes/no lesson is one I must learn over and over again. Every time I think I have it mastered, another example pops up and smacks me right in the face. I suppose that is because I am not perfect, and never can be, this side of heaven. I have to continually remind myself to let my yes be yes, and let my no be no, at every step along the way.

Yes and no. It really is as simple as that, but it is a journey. Care to join me? We can bring our knitting and call it an adventure!

Thanks for stopping by, and Knit in Good Health!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Tossing the Stash

If you have been following, you know that I currently work in the insurance industry. One of the requirements of the industry is that I maintain a license to sell and discuss insurance products, and a requirement of the license is continuing education. This week, I attended CE classes to help meet that requirement, and one of them was titled "Hoarding and Excessive Contents." 

Hoarding is a disorder, with an accompanying diagnosis. As such, its discussion as it relates to the person(s) affected, is protected by HIPAA laws. Therefore, in the industry, the term used to describe the conditions you have likely seen on reality television is Excessive Contents. Translation: too much stuff in there!

As you might imagine, after that class, I came home and took a good look at my own home! Most of the place is pretty good, I thought...until I got to the basement, which I have been meaning to clean out for some time. See where I am going? Correct! Straight to the basement, where I made a mental plan to go through at least a bit of the toss the stash,* if you will. I rolled up my sleeves this week, and dove right in to start tossing!

As I was tossing the stash (the yarn stash, the fabric stash, the craft stash, etc), I found lots of treasures. Things I had stashed in the basement 5 years ago, when we painted and re-carpeted the main living areas. Things I had stashed 2 years ago, when I left my job at the church and had to clean out my desk. Things I stashed last week, because I just didn't know where else to put them!

Rabbit trail: When Dollface got married, on December 30, I went down to the basement to get the iron. Sweetie was going to need his shirt pressed, and although I had known this in advance, I did not set out the iron and ironing board early. So, with about 30 mintes until it was time to go to the hall and set things up, I went down to get those items, and came up short. I knew where the iron should have been, but try as I might, I could not put my hands on it. I ended up going to a neighbor to borrow an embarrassing! So much stash! Anyhoo...

While filling my third trash bag with items-I-had-not-seen-or-remembered-in-3-years-or-more, I saw something shiny...THE IRON! In all fairness to my memory, it was right where I had thought it should be when I was looking for it in December, but it had been buried under too many layers of "just put that there for now," and stash diving is not something one does just a few minutes before leaving for one's daughter's wedding... But here it was! The iron! Now I can iron! (Side note: Who am I kidding? If I ironed on any kind of regular basis, I never would have "lost" the thing! lol!)

I spent two-and-a-half hours in the basement, tossing the stash, and tossing many unnecessary items that had not been seen nor missed in a very long time, and I felt very accomplished. I put things back together, took a step back, and prepared to admire my handiwork. Except...well...the basement still looks like THIS:

Yes, there is still work to be done, and lots of it. Even so, I stopped and rewarded myself with a cookie and a cup of tea for all the hard work. As I enjoyed my snack, I was reminded that my less-messy-but-still-VERY-messy basement is a metaphor for my life. There is a bunch of junk in my head, and in my heart, that I wish I could get rid of easily. I would like everything inside me to be neat and orderly, like that one stack of plastic bins against the far wall that you cannot even see in the picture, because it is hiding behind other junk!

Lately, I have started taking a look at the things I have stashed in my head and in my heart....anger, frustration, sadness, unforgiveness, bitterness. It is not pretty stuff, but it is there, alongside the faith, hope, love and joy, there is quite a bit of ugly. It makes me wonder can God possibly use me? Am I just a pretender when I slap on that smile and try to love others? Is my faith real? If it is, how can this other stuff still hang around?

What God reminded me of this morning is Romans 8:28-30 -  
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

I know that God, regardless of what I have done so far in this lifetime, can work through the messiness of my life. He can make something good from me, even when I cannot see what comes next over the piles of junk! I walk through valleys, acquiring negative emotions every day. But God knew me in advance of all the bad times. Despite all of the wrong in my life, he chose me to become like Jesus, and he calls me to himself. When I continue to choose Jesus, day after day and everyday, I know that I have right standing with God and will someday experience his glory...even though my basement may still be a mess. Faith, hope, love and joy are there...just behind that pile o'stuff...they are in the bins along the wall, right next to the iron! I have access and can use them freely, even while I continue to clean up all the other junk, and this is how God continues to use me!

I promise that I will never come into your home to pass judgement on whether or not you suffer from Excessive Contents. Also, there is no one on earth qualified to judge the contents of your heart and mind...but there is One who loves you enough to look past all of the junk, and he is calling. If you have not yet heard the call, I pray that you will take some time to get quiet and listen soon. None of us can clean up our lives in a couple of hours or days...the cleanup will likely take the rest of our lives. But you and I can start whenever we like, and there is no time like the present!

Regardless of the condition of your "basement," I am glad that you stopped by today. I hope that you found some encouragement, and I invite you to journey with me into the unknown territory that is letting God rule your messy life! Feel free to have a cookie and celebrate each small victory as you clean-up and answer the call. 

Until we meet again, Knit in Good Health!

*Tossing the Stash is a term used by knitters to describe the process of going through all of the yarn to see what you have. Sometimes this is done unintentionally while searching for a skein of something special that you know is in there, and you deeply desire it now that you cannot find it. It is also good to toss the stash every few months, to check for evidence of moths in the wool, and to be sure that no skein has fallen prey to dampness, lonliness or other ills. Many crafters toss their stash, regardless of wool content and fear of moth infestation, just for fun! However, there have been others reported missing after "going down to check for one ball of the green..." and not returning for days. "I am not sure why she wanted green," said a family member. "She is clearly more of a purple and teal kindof gal!" To which the knitter, emerging from the pile of yarn triumphantly, green in hand and tears at the corner of her eyes, replied, "I didn't think you had noticed..."

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Routine Post

I usually post to my blog on Saturday afternoon. But my routine includes sitting to write the post early on Saturday morning, and the same is true today. I am a woman of routine, you see, and knowing what comes next brings me great comfort and peace. 

I have always been big on routines. Perhaps this is a result of my OCD tendencies. Then again, maybe I've created a monster in myself by insisting on the ritual. The more I ponder it, the more I am convinced that it is a chicken/egg thing...I do not know which came first, but both are a part of my particular brand of crazy!

Even when I was a little girl, I loved routine. My mom often tells the story of times that I would stay with my grandparents overnight. They, wanting to spoil me, would consistently tell me I could stay up late, if I wanted to...but my reply was usually that 8 o'clock was bedtime. I don't remember it on my own, but I have heard the story enough times (and let's face it, I am still a routine gal) that I believe it happened just like that. 

When I had babies and small children, I was a slave to the routine, and so were they. Outsiders often saw this as a problem, especially when we turned down afternoon invitations in favor of our regular naptimes, but I did not. I needed to know that "down time" was coming as much as the kids did, maybe more! I needed to know that at 1pm and at 8pm there would be a break to the busy...and at 8am, noon and 5pm there would be meals...and it was blissfully like that on most days, until they were both in school. It kept me sane to know what was coming next.

Even now, I crave routine. I get up at the same time each day and sit with one or two #catonlap occupants to listen to my daily audio Bible selections, with coffee and knitting close at hand. Then I am off to work, or to do laundry (Saturdays), or go to church (Sundays), and the morning routine helps me to welcome the day. In the evenings, around 7pm, I lay out my clothes for tomorrow, pick out my jammies, and take a shower so that I can spend a couple hours sitting with my Sweetie (and usually more #catonlap and knitting) before bedtime, and this helps me to wind down and remember to be  grateful for the day.

Whatever happens in the middle of the day may not be routine. Sometimes things happen in the middle of the night that are not part of the routine. Life happens, all around me, and it is not routine. But knowing the routine is coming, or that it will return tomorrow, keeps me from going off the deep end, on most days. This is how I am wired.

I do recognize that some of you do not get this. You thrive by the seat of your pants, and you enjoy the adventure of not knowing what is coming up just around the bend. If that describes you better, do not get that! But I am glad that you know yourself so well, and that you are enjoying life! If you have people in your life that thrive on routine, try to be gentle with them. If they have a need to know what comes next, try to throw them a bone and make a plan sometimes. If they would rather sit on the couch and knit than go to a party with a bunch of people they don't know well, try to understand.

And if you are like me, a slave to the routine, try to get outside of yourself once in awhile. Adventure is scary, but it can be fun! Sometimes, even when life is not forcing you, you need to step outside the routine box and carpe diem! The routine, and your knitting, will be there tomorrow. However, if you miss opportunities to connect with people and live life abundantly, those may not come around again.

I have often heard it said, in various quotes and by assorted people, that we will not regret the things we have done. When we look back on our lives, in our golden and platinum years, the regrets will be for the things we have missed. So, enjoy your routine, or not, but try not to miss out on life. I am working on the same. Feel free to let me know (gently) if you think I am making progress. It is always so difficult to see one's own progress!

My routine says that, since I have nearly finished writing, it is time to change loads of laundry and get a second cup of coffee. I'm off to do that, and I will post this message at 3:33pm this afternoon, as per the routine. Whatever the rest of the day brings, I will be ready to embrace it! I hope that you are, too.

Thanks for stopping by, and knit in good health!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

It's in the Details

After a couple of weeks of #catonlap-under-sweater knitting,

I am happy to announce that my January 2018 sweater is finished! (Well, technically it is still I cannot wear it until it dries. But the knititng, she is finished!)

As I watched the sweater emerge, I was smitten with the details, from short rows and sleeve knitting, 

right down to the bind-off-in-ribbing end!

Sometimes (most times?), the joys of life are in the smallest details. The way the snow has landed on your car in mid-January, after another weird thaw...

The pinks of a perfect sunrise on the drive to work...

Putting up a brand-new wedding photo!

This has been a week of small details and tiny victories for me, and I am grateful to be here. I know that not all of you have had a spectacular week. Some of you are dealing with loss and disappointment, and others are just dealing with the fact that the stupid ground hog will most likely see his shadow next week. Me too. But as long as we are on this side of the pavement, what can we celebrate? A finished sweater, folded neatly, even before it is blocked? 

A new pair of socks, barely cast on, in a favorite (though discontinued) yarn?

Time with a friend (or friends) that leaves you smiling, because she (they) really "gets" you? That last one is what I am most thankful for this week. I was blessed by some one-on-one with a treasured friend this week, as well as some big group, laugh-yourself-silly time with my beautiful knitting group. Both were a balm for my soul. Ladies, your friendship refreshes me! Thank you for being my friends!

Whatever the next 7 days brings your way, Blog Land, I hope that you will take some time to notice the little things and to revel in the smallest details. I will do the same, for this is the day that the Lord has made. I will do my best to rejoice and be glad in the little (or big, or hairy, or crazy) details it brings!

Thanks for stopping by, and Knit in Good Health!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Life Together

There has been a lot of winter lately. Snow...

and ice...

and more snow...

Because of this, and because I know that there is a lot of winter yet to come (even though it should hit 40 degrees this afternoon), I am glad to see the stripey sweater steadily springing forth, stitch by stripey stitch!

I am also glad for hot coffee, and indoor activities, like blogging and knitting!

Something else that I am thankful for is a reminder I received at church last weekend. It goes something like this, from Hebrews, chapter 10:

In short, the highlighted verses tell us to do life together. We were created to do this thing called life on earth, and to do it in the company of others, helping each other along the way. But although I am a pretty social butterfly, doing life together is difficult for this Pretty. There are some parts that come pretty naturally to me, like being a safe place for others to land when the storms of life rock their worlds. Empathy, sympathy and quiet support come naturally to me, and I have held hands that were wrought with grief, shaking with uncertainty and bound with anger. I have a much harder time putting my own hands into the hands of a friend when I am the one who needs to be held, and I know that I am not alone in this. 

I would like to say that I have gotten better at doing life together, in the interest of bearing one another's burdens, as the Bible also instructs. Maybe I have improved a little. Mostly though, I have convinced myself that I am content to help others, but that I am ok on my own. After all, nobody wants to hear my sad stories. Even if they did, how safe is it really to share my struggles? If I tell you what is going on, it might make you think less of me. If I tell you that I am struggling in the wake of a friend or loved one who has disappointed me, that would be gossip (notoriously bad, according to the Bible, right?), and it might diminish your view of that person. If I let you know that I am not ok, and you understand, does that give me permission to stay not ok? 

I don't want to stay not ok, but I am just there sometimes. These last few years, "not ok" seems to have been my default setting, but this week I am working on it. I had dinner with a good friend, one who knows more of my struggles than most. She "gets" me, and I get her, we are on the same page in so many ways. We have held each other's hands through some pretty hairy stuff in the past few years (job stuff, family stuff, church stuff, life stuff), and I can be vulnerable with her, so this week I was. And she was vulnerable with me, and it was good. We both came away encouraged and loved. I need 1 or 2 friends like this in my life, and I really need to make my time with them a priority if I ever want to change my default back to "ok."

We all need a friend or two that we can be completely vulnerable with, even when it is ugly. I often wonder what would be different in our lives if my brother-in-law had had someone to do life with, rather than feeling so alone in his grief and despair. I wonder what would be different in my life if I had been better at honestly doing life together before our season of great loss began. What would be different in your life if you started doing life together? Would it change things to know that 1 or 2 good friends have your back, and will encourage you to do good and to love well, no matter what? 

Life is hard. It is better with friends. It can be spectacular with friends and Jesus. My prayer for you is that you find your tribe, and that you can live life abundantly by doing life together. 

Also, if you don't already know how, you should learn to knit. ;o)

Thanks for stopping by, and Knit in Good Health.