The late afternoon light has always seemed magical to me. That space where the sun has just set, but it’s not yet dark, that ethereal light that fades so quickly that we often miss it, bent over some task or another as we so often are that we look up in the sudden dark, flick on lights and continue.
But I’m resisting that urge, typing in the fading light as it slants through the windows and turns the rooms of my house into a sanctuary.
I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp‘s book One Thousand Gifts and at the part where she takes on the dare from her friend to write a list of one thousand gifts, not ones she wants, but ones she already has, I felt as though this would be a worthy project. She writes of how it changed days, collecting this list of things she was thankful for, choosing to find the little God-gifts that are so easy to overlook.
Sort of like the in between space twixt sunset and dark.
And so I’m thankful for (in no particular order)…
#1 Baby kicks
#2 Evening light
#3 Impromptu lunches with friends
#5 Working from home (and the cutest office-mate ever! I mean husband, not the dogs…)
We live on almost 3 acres on a road that still counts as rural, at least to our mail carrier, even though husband swears that being 10 minutes from a major grocery store doesn’t count as rural (but he grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, and I spent the last 7 years before moving to Tennessee in Los Angeles, so you might say there’s some difference in perspective there).
Anyway, we’ve sort of developed boundaries with our dogs that they most of the time honor. They don’t go down to the road (most of the time), but they can go to the neighbors on either side of us who also don’t have fences and their dogs come up the hill to play with ours too. It’s cute, really.
When Lacey in particular comes back from one of these doggie play dates (she stays out longer than Otto, who’s starting to feel his age, I think), she simply climbs up on the old church pew on our front porch, rests her chin on the back of it, and looks in the window till some sixth sense tells me I’m being watched and goes to look.
I don’t have a picture of this because, here’s the thing, as soon as she sees me see her, she hops down and goes to the front door to wait for me to open it.
She has absolutely no doubt that I will come and let her in. I even tried to get the camera today the second time she did this and wait to see if she’d come back, but she just sat by the front door, knowing I’d come eventually and she didn’t jump back up on the pew to see what was taking me so long.
I realized that she’s got such a firm belief that I’ll let her in because I always do. I don’t always see her right away. Sometimes I wonder how long she’s been waiting because she almost never barks or whines to tell me she’s there. And even on a day like today when she’s found occasion to bark me out of my skin at every little noise, and even though she ripped apart a bag of trash from the bathroom that I absentmindedly set down yesterday and then forgot to take all the way to the trash can outside, and even though things like this drive me nuts sometimes, she’s my happy little dog and I love her and I’ll always let her in, and she trusts this absolutely.
For that matter, my chickens crowd expectantly around the door of their ark every time I go down the hill to feed them because they know when I come that way, I’ve got food and scratch and sometimes scraps for them. And I do. And they come with the same expectancy even when they’re molting and not laying me any eggs as when they’ve all managed to give me one in the same day and I’m just thrilled with the out-put.
And somehow I’ve realized in the past year and half as I’ve processed leaving my job, leaving that part of what had become a big piece of my identity even though I know better, is that I finally can wait on God with a similar expectancy.
Okay, so it doesn’t always work.
Too often I’m convinced I’m not doing enough for him and thus don’t have the right to expect anything from him. But slowly through this season of letting go, this in-between time that has stretched from a year to an indefinite space, I can see the good things he’s working on and doing, I can experience grace in the little things, and I can hear his footsteps coming my way and know that he’s opening doors, or bringing good things to my life because he’s been doing that for years and years and years and he’s not about to stop now just because I pray irregularly or because I resigned from my job in youth ministry because it was sucking my soul dry and I couldn’t do it anymore.
Instead I can run to the door and wait because I know he’s seen me and that he’ll let me in, or I can crowd around his feet when he’s passing by because he’s got good things he’s planning for me, just because I’m his, and not because I’m out performing spectacularly for him.
I can trust because how God acts towards me is so much not about me and so much about who he is. And if I can love my little dog even when she’s driven me crazy for two days, me in all my impatience and imperfection, how much more can God love me, even when there are days that I must drive him a little nuts.
It seems to me as I go on through the years that instead of making resolutions for new years, I come up with word themes. Sometimes these themes last for more than a year. I stayed on “Be” for several, and then that still overlapped with “Let go” for several more. It’s hard to learn to just be. It took battling chronic illness to learn to be okay with myself as a human being, just Anna, just God’s daughter, without having to constantly perform, create, do, produce, and so forth. May you learn the lesson some gentler way, but all in all, it’s worth learning however you get there.
I wouldn’t say I’m proficient, just better, and it seems I’m letting that one go to a lesser focus as I continue to hone it, but am moving on to “Balance” and “Delight.” Really, both of these have been coming on slowly, I can’t say that I suddenly realized them, more that I suddenly realized that this was where I was focusing, and it helps to write it down.
I’m going to focus on the first one for this post, as I touched on the second one yesterday, and I’ll come back to it before too long.
Balance it seems is hard to come by for me, and I’m still trying to figure out what that looks like for my personality. See, I have a tendency to go go go, in a almost manic state when I’m into a project, creative or otherwise. I’ll get huge amounts done in a matter of days, working non-stop, forgetting even to eat, and not going to bed at decent hours. (And yes, in this mode, I can forget to eat even pregnant!). And then, I’ll be worn out. Sometimes I won’t even be done, but I’ll have to quit so I don’t get sick. This is actually an improvement. I used to not stop till I got sick, but my body eventually had enough (see reference to chronic illness above).
So there’s a sort of rhythm to it, and there’s something I love about being in the throes of the creative state and not stopping, or being able to look at a ton of accomplishments in a short period of time. But I need to balance it more. I think part of it’s my personality. And if I do a week’s worth of work in 3-4 days, it’s okay to crash for a couple of days and read novels and let the dishes pile up.
But I crave more routine than that on the whole. I prefer my stretches of time when the laundry stays mostly not backed up, and the kitchen is at least mostly clean when I come down in the morning as opposed to those other stretches when I have to stack something up to make breakfast.
And then there’s the part of me that loves to make routines and follow them, but a few weeks in I feel trapped and stifled and want to blow it all off.
How do I balance all these aspects? I don’t have an answer, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far as I’ve pondered this the past couple of weeks.
It’s good to have the routines. It’s also okay to blow them off from time to time. Because I have the routines, even when I blow them off, I’ve discovered I’m never that far from getting things back together. I’ll feel like I’ve let the house fall apart, and then, often with husband’s help, we’ll put in about 2 hours together, and it won’t be spotless, but it’ll be very presentable. I figure anything you can pull back together in 2-4 hours of cleaning hasn’t really gotten that far off track in the first place.
Sidebar: this is where Fly Lady is super helpful. She helps you get organized on track and reminds you of two very helpful things. 1) You are not behind, jump in where you’re at. 2) You can do anything for 15 minutes. The first takes away the guilt that stops us from starting things at times, and the second shows us just how much we can do in a little bit of time sometimes. We can always find 15 minutes to pick up or sort something.
Anyway, this isn’t just about cleaning. It’s about staying on track with yoga, birth preparation, getting Eli’s room ready, staying on top of client orders, photo editing, web development and all the other stuff I do for my business that isn’t appointment-based and thus there’s some flexibility as to how and when it gets done. All too often I do it in large batches because I’m right up against the deadline as opposed to doing them in smaller, more manageable bits all along the way.
And with Eli on the way, I have a feeling that learning to sort of stay on things in small bits of time will be quite the useful skill to have!
But I don’t want to impose it on myself in a legalistic, guilt-trip (I’m all too prone to those!) sort of way, so here’s where I’ve fallen out so far:
The routine is good. The schedules are good. If I skip out on them to take pictures on a pretty day, or blow off some cleaning because I’m almost finished a project and am excited about the progress, then it’s fine. I’ll get back to the routine in the next day or so and pick up where I left off.
Most importantly, I will not let myself feel guilty for being “behind,” I will simply jump in where I’m at and get things to the way I want them again if they’ve gotten to be some other way.
And what does the picture of the sandwich have to do with this you ask?
Thanks for asking I made myself that for lunch the other day and decided that plate represented balance. As in, don’t feel guilty for eating a small portion of Kettle chips with your otherwise healthy sandwich and baby carrots. See that was my own honey wheat bread (stay tuned for a recipe review on that!), and a spicy chicken deli meat, a bit of provolone, romaine lettuce and some fresh onion. All in all, a healthy lunch. I enjoyed all of it too, and the crunch from the chips was just the thing. More on that later, or this long post will be even longer!