When Strivings Cease

IMG_8710I love to write. But more often than not, I begin a blog and never finish it. It’s frustrating. I sit down with a story, something I want to pass along. But by the time I’ve read, edited, re-read and proofed, I’ve exhausted my brain. So guess what I do? I just don’t do it at all.

Over the course of blogging I’ve often made the commitment, “OK, I’m just going to sit down and write.” But there I sit deleting, editing, and proofing. The entry sits in the draft bucket, never complete because of my desire to “turn in” perfect work.

This might be OK if it only happened in my writing. But usually a sliver of our lives is a window into the rest. When I look at my daily life there are many things I want to do–things I even feel called to do--that never get done because I feel I just don’t have the time, energy or resources to do them perfectly. So what do I do? I just don’t do them.

I started blogging because I feel led to encourage women to run–run FAST–away from the pursuit of perfection. Run toward the truth that you can lay down your obsessive striving and just live. Yet often I find myself trapped in this “do it right or don’t do it at all” mentality. Sometimes the pursuit of perfection paralyzes me from accomplishing even small things.

What I thought of when I thought of a

My perfect idea of a kids craft/play room.

Here’s just a tiny example of how I let striving shut down God’s plan for me to rest and live. I wanted to make a craft area for the boys. A place where they could feel safe to create, free from mommy constantly picking-up and saying “don’t spill that!”

I looked at wall units and baskets and bulletin boards. Special paint containers and little artist smocks. Since all of that is overwhelming–not to mention costly–I just put off making the craft room. I mean it’s gotta be CUTE, fashionable and organized if it’s gotta be, right? Wrong. 

Last week I threw together my painting table, two extra chairs and took the kids to Dollar General for more craft supplies. And guess what? My kids have enjoyed hours of creating and playing in that room already. They feel no less loved, nurtured or protected because of the chinchy decor and hodgepodge of supplies. And I did no less of a job as a mother because it isn’t Southern Living perfect.

What our

Our real kids craft/office/future project holding area/where moving boxes go to die room

Perfectionism is bondage. You are trapped between, “I just want to live freely and venture into these places I’m called to go”, and “I’m not even going to open that door because I can’t do a stellar job.”

Perfectionism leads to anxiety. Constantly striving and never resting wears out the mind. When I am hurdling over thoughts of how something could–or should–be done better, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. Nothing can be done perfectly. Furthermore, not everything needs to be done perfectly.

I found a translation of Psalm 46:10 this week that comforted me, encouraged me and admonished me. “CEASE STRIVING, and start resting.” This isn’t saying, “Hey, just stop making goals and chill.” To me it’s saying, “Lay down your obsessive freakish thought process that says things must be done perfectly. God is offering you His rest. Quit striving and start living.”

What are you putting off doing, because you can’t do it perfectly? What ideas or urges have you set aside because you’ve bought the lie that things must be done to perfection or not at all?  What anxiety could you release if you’d only remember what your Creator says to you, “Rest in me, and really live. Do your work well, but don’t strive so hard, child. It’s hard to watch.”

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One last thing. If anyone sees a typo or something I need to edit please notify me immediately. You could also text or email. Just kidding. Ceasing striving with you, friend. Let’s rest and live.

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A Few of my Favorite Things…and People

10003523_10152721227820218_700555349098349239_n Everyone loves Florida….but only some are lucky enough to call it home.

This post will introduce you to a family so talented and unique, I’ve often wished to be adopted into their little clan. For a period of time I feel that I was, and I’m very thankful for the time they generously spent being a surrogate family to mine while we lived in Florida.

The Wackes family–Jane and Alan Wackes, their daughter Megan Wackes Wells, and their daughter-in-law Lou Velarde Wackes–are my featured artists for the summer. I find it simply amazing for so much talent to abound from one family.

Separately, each of their work is very different–different themes, mediums and all that artsy talk. Together, their work is an eclectic mix of some of my favorite things. With way too much goodness for just one post, I’ll take time to feature each artist individually in different blog posts. I have no doubt you’ll adore their stories and beautiful work.

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Jane and Alan Wackes are Ft. Lauderdale natives and darling (I’ve seen the photos!) high school sweethearts. They married and raised three children, Robb, Katie, and Megan. Alan is a retired contractor, and Jane has never quite retired from busily working in the home.

45573_459112875217_4440644_n Showin’ some love to my home state!

We met the Wackes family at church shortly after moving to the Ft. Lauderdale area in 2008. Soon they were sharing everything with my family from Fourth of July fireworks to “Christmas Adam”–a clever Wackes thing. (Jane says since Adam came before Eve, the day before Christmas Eve is “Christmas Adam!”) My children even knew them by their endearing grandparent names, “J-mom” and “Pop,” and though years have passed, my oldest child still remembers them as the “artist family” in Florida.

525841_10150969747970218_233864246_n How cute and functional is this lego table?

Alan was always a skilled woodworker, and Jane a talented artist and crafter. Once retired, they were able to dedicate more time to their love for creating, and after several joint projects they began SonRooms Furniture and Art.

Together they create unique furniture and art, with Alan constructing the pieces and Jane completing them with vibrant designs. Between Jane’s unlimited imagination and Alan’s excellent woodworking skill, SonRooms produces hand-crafted pieces unlike anything you’ve seen.

True to their Florida roots, Jane and Alan’s creations have a “classic and coastal” vibe. Using various forms of reclaimed lumber from Florida docks, the finished product is beautifully rustic with the original saw marks and patina that “only time can create”.

10685804_10152721227935218_1819315797545487850_n Wet bar complete with ice bucket and bottle opener!

Pieces range from dining room sets to wooden sea creatures and anything in between. Alan will build to order and Jane can paint whatever your imagination thinks up! The couple travels to select art shows and have become a sought-after vendor.

Before leaving Florida, I knew I wanted my own SonRooms masterpiece. I described for Alan the type of table I was looking for to use as a TV stand, and he built it. Jane used a special technique to paint the piece and to this day our family cherishes it. I have many antiques and family heirloom pieces, but the first piece people comment on is my SonRooms table!

I am super thankful for my connection to this family. Moving frequently, God always puts a family or two in each place we go who takes-in our young family, providing a place of comfort when we are far from home.

271198_10150322731255218_2192167_oWhile the artistic talent is a unique bond for this family, they are held together by much more than their pursuit of creating. Keeping their faith at the center of their lives–during good times and bad–is the bond that keeps this family whole. I learned a lot about art and free-living from the Wackes’. I also learned that keeping God alone on highest display in life is the surest way to find contentment.

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10685528_10152633780150218_8142899972647941822_nCrab-walk on over to Facebook and “Like” SonRooms Furniture and Art. Browse their gallery of amazing work, and keep up with locations for their next art show.

J-mom and Pop with their cherished grandchildren.Jane and Alan now live in Yankeetown, FL where they enjoy the slower pace and beautiful landscape.

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Have Yourself A Funky Little Christmas

I was talking to a dear friend today (and by talking I mean texting) and we were discussing how much we love Jesus, but how little we love Christmas time.  We discussed the absurdity of over-the-top religion that suddenly appears December 1-25, the pressure to buy people gifts and bake things made with pumpkin or mint.  We discussed how we dared not say aloud we didn’t care for Christmas, lest we do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and basically go straight to hell.

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The Christmas Funk is real, y’all

Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”  So why in the world do I get this weird, dragging feeling in my heart when my heart should be glowing?  (With much misteltoe-ing–that’s not even a word.)  Why am I ready to pack it up on December 26 and sweep every pine needle right out of my home and life?

I don’t mean to be a downer during what may be your favorite time of year.  But the more people I open up to, the more I find share my sentiment–Christmas can just really take it out of you.

I think some of it has to do with the time of year when Christmas falls.  Not only are trees bare and temperatures low, but it’s the end of the year.  In the year’s final month, we are naturally reflecting on the previous 11 months and that can be emotional.  We recall memories made, but we also lament missed opportunities.  We cherish new friends made, but simultaneously long for distant family and friends.  We gush at Christmas photos capturing beautiful families, but groan for friends who’ve lost loved ones.  The end of anything isn’t easy, and poor Christmas has to fall at the end of the year.

Another thing is the work involved.  I’m not going to lie.  I am a terrible planner and Christmas takes too much planning and follow-through.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to make sure my family has a wonderful Christmas, and not just out of obligation.  I sincerely want my children to have family traditions they cherish and pass on to their families.  But I feel like it’s already taking everything I’ve got just to give them a halfway-decent regular day–now I have to take it up a notch to wonderful?  The God’s honest truth is the work involved with Christmas is exhausting.opening hearts

I named my blog A Little Happy not because I experience real life as one big parade of bliss. (Although thank God it’s not one big parade of sadness either.)  But I want to share honestly for those of us who deal with a hint of sadness at times when everything around you tells you it’s mandatory to be giddy.  If you share this feeling, don’t beat yourself up.  I think it’s quite natural to feel a little sad and weird–right along side your giddy–during this time of year.

WAIT!  I almost forgot.  The part I DO LOVE about Christmas time.  The reason I’d never ever go a single year without celebrating it, regardless of the planning and messy pine needles.  The part where’s there’s a beginning!  A tiny, holy baby.  Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah.

wearyHe is Emmanuel (God with us!), God being born into this weird, dragging world as a human.  He came to dwell with humanity, and He felt all these confusing feelings.  When He humbled Himself to our lowliness He saw just how sad and exhausted we felt in this broken earthly life.  And He had compassion on us.  Lots of compassion.  So much compassion that when this baby grew up He said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened.  I’ll give you rest.”

If all you wanted for Christmas was rest from this weary race of human life, Christmas is great news for you.  That tiny, cherub-faced baby you keep seeing everywhere was God’s plan to deliver the ultimate relief to humanity.  Salvation.

As I end each year–as I reflect, recall, lament, cherish, gush and groan–I also open again and again the great gift of Jesus.  I cling to this gift all year, not just in December.  Because I need compassion.  I need relief and rest.  I need salvation.  I need Christmas.

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 A Little Happy is a blog dedicated to documenting the everyday life of a mother and wife.  I feel a special call to minister to women who also deal with anxiety and depression.  If your heart is feeling more than a little “weird and dragging,” please reach out to a close friend, doctor or pastor.  Depression is different than feeling a little sad, and with the right treatment (and God’s endless grace) you can always find the little happy along the rough roads of life.

 

 

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What A Pain

Sweet reader, since writing this blog, I have dealt with chronic joint pain for over eight years. These days the pain is significantly less than when this was written.  I am able to push through the aches and do things like strenuous yard work and hot power yoga.  However each morning, when I hurt like the dickens, it’s a stark reminder that I still have chronic pain and always will. But maybe this is God’s gentle nudge to remember where my truest strength comes from, so each morning I choose hope.  Psalm 121:1-2

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It’s a hard topic to write about–too few details and the writer seems vague and stoic, too many and the writer seems self-consumed and whiny.  I pray I’m able to write my story and encourage others without being either.

be kindThis is a tough topic because in light of so much death and tragedy in the world, it feels wrong to even speak of something non-terminal.  I, thankfully, have not experienced a terminal illness or sudden death of an immediate family member.  The all-consuming pain and grief of such a loss is something I can’t relate to, and would never try.  I have, however, come to understand the frustration and exhaustion of a chronic illness and would like to open the hearts of others to what it means to no longer be “normal.”

So this is my story–how I went from a carefree, active mom to a woman forced to choose activities according to the day’s energy and pain level.  Enduring a chronic illness has changed my life and personal perception of others who suffer.  I no longer see them as people filled with excuses, rather they are filled with a desire to be “normal” while living in an abnormal body.  I’ve come to understand it’s not pity they want, but understanding.  I’ve joined their ranks and in doing so have been properly humbled.  But it is in this humility and weakness that God’s power is made perfect.  And I’m learning to be OK with that.

 

The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

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Two years ago I woke to feed a crying 4 month old, and felt severe pain in my hips and left heel.  Plantar fasciitis and sciatica, both of which I’d had before, are common conditions during and after pregnancy.  I assumed that’s what these aches were and just chalked it to being postpartum.  The next day I began the familiar self-treatment routine: ice, Advil, lots of stretching, and a super-sexy night splint for my foot.  In the past these efforts were effective, but after eight weeks without relief it was clear I was going to have to see a doctor.  Dang it.

At the time I had a short list of doctors I saw regularly–an OB, a dentist, and an optometrist.  That’s it.  And honestly I only saw them when it was absolutely necessary, like when “1-800 contacts” would reject my expired prescription or I needed a qualified person to deliver a baby.  I have a high pain tolerance and a masters in nursing; I just don’t run to doctors for every ache, who has time for that?

But this was different.  This was really affecting my daily life and quite frankly I was getting concerned.  I started with a podiatrist, and after 3 months of a walking boot, mutliple X-rays, and physical therapy, he diagnosed me ‘a hard nut to crack.’  (Those were his exact words.) So he went big and ordered an MRI which showed bone marrow edema. Upon reviewing the images with me he said, “Wow, I’m so sorry I couldn’t help you.  Bone marrow edema is really painful.  Hopefully in time it will subside.”

I was simultaneously seeing a chiropractor for my hip pain, but his treatments were also coming up short.  I remember at the height of the hip pain telling my husband I didn’t think I could manage the stairs at our large church and we came up with a drop-off plan that included no stairs for me.  We are talking severe hip pain.  Limping.

When it was obvious to me that something chronic had begun in my body, I began researching medical literature on my own.  Being a nurse, I became my own case study, mapped a detailed history of my health, and examined each red-flag along the way.  I read about any condition that fit my profile, desperate to find out what was wrong.  I would joke with my husband saying, “If this wasn’t me having to experience it, this medical research would actually be interesting.”

My research findings, along with my wonderful chiropractor’s urging, led me to a GI doctor to rule out inflammatory bowel disease, which has been linked to joint pain.  The joy of this was I got to experience firsthand what I’d been prepping and sending patients off to experience for years.  (PS, fellow nurses, that gallon of lemon salt water does not taste any better over ice, and I repent for every time I told a patient it did.)  My GI visit was uneventful and nothing showed up abnormal except IBS.  Half a year had passed, and I was getting quite anxious to find some answers!  Instead, back to the drawing board.woke up

I continued with chiropractic treatment, and he ordered more tests for unlikely, but possible, culprits for such severe hip pain, like osteoporosis or avascular necrosis (dying bone.)  Nothing.  It was when several small joints in my fingers began throbbing he decided it was time for me to see a rheumatologist.  A rheumatologist?  That’s a specialist for people with real diseases!  I was a perfectly healthy 35 year old, thank you very much.  (Spoiler alert, I went.)

The rheumatologist was all business.  She tapped on her laptop as I recalled my full medical history for her, then ordered a gamut of blood tests which included Lyme Disease (common to the region we lived in at the time), Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. When everything came back normal I was relieved, but also frustrated–I needed an answer.  She prescribed an oral anti-inflammatory commonly used for arthritis (Mobic), which I initially protested taking.  With her gentle poker face and beautiful Indian accent she said, “Let’s just see what it does for you, okay?”

I returned for my follow-up a month later a new woman. “WOW!  I feel so much better!  I can’t believe that anti-inflammatory worked!”  That’s when she broke it to me, “I believe you have Psoriatic Arthritis, that is why it worked.  Your history supports this diagnosis, and we need to start you on something to prevent joint deterioration as soon as possible.” (Did I mention she has a killer poker face?)  My thoughts went something like, “WHOAH, lady.  I do not have a disease.  I’ll take your little medicine, but I DO NOT have a disease.”

I went home and read everything I could about Psoriatic Arthritis.  Still in denial, I made an appointment with a dermatologist so together we could prove the Rheumatologist was crazy–this was really my plan, y’all.  Contrarily, he confirmed that I did indeed have very mild psoriasis and the joint pain I’d been having was indeed Psoriatic Arthritis.  He recommended I go along with the treatment.  I went home and cried.  Not because I was wrong, but because I had a disease.  And I was too young and tough to have a disease.

my immune systemPsoriatic Arthritis (PsA) is an auto-immune arthritis usually found in patients who have psoriasis, a skin rash.  A similar auto-immune arthritis more people have heard of is Rhuematoid Arthritis (RA.)  In simplest terms, an auto-immune disorder is when your body’s immune system attacks itself causing inflammation and destruction to the body.  Auto-immune diseases are more common in women, particularly those of child-bearing age.  In the case of PsA, joints and tendons are attacked, and without intervention, devastating joint deterioration can occur over time.  Lucky for me, my rheumatologist was not-so-crazy after all, caught this early, and prescribed medications to slow the progress of the disease.  The moderate pain still lingers, however, and it’s this daily reminder of my disease that has power to steal my hope.

This journey has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life.  Trying to juggle my family and manage this has brought me to my knees at times.  As I said, I’d never compare it to more harsh disease treatments and outcomes, but the reality is my life has changed and I–along with those around me–are having to adjust.  I’ve enjoyed a life of physical agility and strength as long as I can remember.  This condition has taken away some of my independence; I now have limitations where once I had few.  Now, people I love are affected, because quite frankly there are times I don’t have the physical strength or emotional energy to “deal” because the pain is so intense.

But even with all that, this new way of life has afforded me something I don’t think I’d have otherwise–a richer realization of my utter reliance on God.  Unfortunately, when things are going good, we humans tend to put our hope in those things.  We say our ultimate hope is in God, we even believe ourselves. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, our hope is in our independent ability to control our destiny.  When the Lord allows an affliction in your life, you realize just how little control you ever really had.

Enduring this has been a lesson in hope.  Hope is much more powerful than I ever realized.  With every attempt at healing, I gained and lost hope that the “normal” me will ever return.  For months I thought I’d wake up one morning and be able to say, “Well that sure was awful, glad it’s over.”  That hasn’t happened and never will; this is a chronic condition.

Hope for my healing comes and goes.  But I have never lost an ounce of hope that my God hasn’t left me or removed His hand from me just because I’m enduring hardship.  I’ve cried to Him, questioned Him and flat-out begged him to take this away.  He hasn’t taken it away, but no less potent is the HOPE I have that this pain is only momentary, but His love for me is eternal. I can rest knowing His love for me is the greatest need of my soul, and that I have that and nothing can take it away–this is my Hope.hope

I pray that in some way this post blesses you.  I’ll end with this wonderful quote from C.S. Lewis.  For the someone in your life who suffers–physically or mentally–I pray you’ll find grace to show them sympathy and understanding.  And I pray they’ll reach for and cling to the love of God, the most potent healer of all.

 

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge,

a little human sympathy more than much courage,

and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

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Doodle Bug

I love cute stuff.  Even though I’m not nearly as “girly” in everyday life as my designs might suggest, I simply love cute stuff.  Sometimes people will tell me, “Your designs are so ‘cute’.”  I love that, because did I mention I love cute stuff?  But I never want the conversation to end there.all you need is LOVE

Each doodle and painting–no matter how “cute”–has a purpose behind it to outlast cute trends.  My hope is that a design would comfort and encourage the recipient.  Some designs are made for those facing trials, while others are made to celebrate life’s joys.  Music has always been a big influence in my life, and many designs come to me while listening to good music.  But all designs are from a deep place in my heart, and are intended to please not only the eye, but the soul.

LOGO BIGTake for example the simple logo for A Little Happy.  When I realized God was going to slowly grow this blog and hobby into a ministry I decided it was time to choose a logo.  Some people see this as a daisy, but it’s actually (supposed to be) a sun.  Originally the outside was orange, but I changed it to blue, representing the hint of sadness that often surrounds me in life when depression hits.  The little smirk says, “I’m okay because God’s promises are still true.”

saved by graceOne of the first Bible verses I doodled was Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. It is the free gift of God.”  Sitting by the pool in the summer of 2013, I doodled “Saved By Grace” in my sketch pad.  Upon seeing a life preserver nearby, I knew that was the image I wanted attached to this verse.  The perfect reminder that I am rescued by God’s grace.

I often draw reflections of my home state, Mississippi.  The first Mississippi design was doodled on some old Kindergarten-lined paper.  I was just doodling cotton bolls and kept going to create this fun collection of things that remind me of Mississippi. The cotton, the river, the coast, the capital and the Choctaw tribe.  I never knew I’d end up selling this as a print!  If I had known, I may have cut it into a more exact shape, but it is what it is–a doodle on Kindergarten-lined paper.

One particular season of life I found myself strapped for time and pulled in a million different directions.  I just wanted to slow down, and in my quiet time one day doodled a snail.  I named him “Slowpoke” then began looking up scripture references for my new friend. slow poke

While many verses can complement Slowpoke, Jeremiah 2:25 hit home.  It reads, “Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?” That’s not all, however, it concludes with, “But you say, ‘I can’t quit! I’m addicted to alien gods.'”  Now this is some scripture that calls you to self-examination.  Ouch, I like it! 

I like having visual reminders of truth all around me, it fulfills the need to be reminded where my hope lies.  Much of my personal home decor carries a spiritual theme, be it a Bible verse, decorative cross, or inspirational painting.

I used to be very intimidated when a person’s home was decorated this way, thinking surely they’d “arrived” to feel confident enough to display their beliefs so boldly.  But over time I’ve learned people of faith don’t display messages of truth because they are these things.  They display them because they know how quickly they can forget these things, and follow “alien gods.”

When I place Joshua 24:15–“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”–prominently in my foyer, I’m not proclaiming my little family has “arrived” or perfect.  I’m proclaiming we are a family in constant dependency on God, who is perfect.   JESS BIRD SCAN
I was once taught a proverb that says, “Place something for the eye to see, so the heart will remember.”  That proverb pretty-much describes what I want A Little Happy designs to do.  In fact, that’s what this ministry is built on–using words and images to help people remember their only true source of happiness is God’s enduring love for us all.
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These designs and many others are available on canvases, magnets, note card sets, and select designs on t-shirts.  If you know of a charity that would like to partner with A Little Happy, or needs a donated item for their charity event, please email me.  And be sure you come see me on October 18 at the Wesson Flea Market!

 

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I’m Talkin’ Mississippi

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time you know I’m a proud, homegrown Mississippi girl.  Back home I’m a dime-a-dozen, but here in my DC suburb I’m somewhat of a unique specimen.  Just when I think I’m fitting the mold, I open my mouth and blow my cover–I’m not from around here.

babs

Lord, yes.

Sometimes it gets really awkward how “not from around here” I am.  Who knew the proper term for something falling over wasn’t “tumped?”  Certainly not me.  You mean “sprawled” isn’t a verb used nationwide for things being spread-out?  Absurd.

Occasionally, I even have to stop and explain common Southern sayings.  The conversation skips a beat, and that’s when I realize I’ve used language that’s routine among my people, but basically gibberish to the rest of the world.

Once at the bus stop, moms were discussing that they hadn’t seen a certain neighbor in a long time.  I replied, “You know, I haven’t seen them in a month of Sundays.”  From the quizzical expressions, I knew a proper definition was required, and followed up with, “It means a really long time.” 

Sometimes people just nod their heads in agreement, bless their little hearts.  Like the time I told a friend I wasn’t going to attend an event because it was just “too much sugar for a nickel.”  She wholeheartedly agreed, but later texted, “What did you mean about the nickel and sugar?”

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Ruth 1:16

I explained I think it means “too much of a good thing is too much.”  But sayings like these were inherited, and quite honestly there was some mystery–even to me– to the idiosyncrasies of my vocabulary.

Very often I find myself talking differently when surrounded by different accents.  It’s not to fit-in I assure you, it’s more like survival of the fittest–I just want them to be able to understand me.  If left around non-Southerners too long, I’ll begin speaking in a quick, precise, somewhat nasal manner.  Yes, I said nasal.

Contrarily, my drawl thickens when I’m back home visiting.  A few days into one particular Mississippi visit my oldest child said, “Mama, you’re really talking Mississippi.”  This has become a family quote.  Whenever the kids hear anyone with a Southern accent–whether it’s on a cartoon or in the grocery store–they get so excited, “MAMA, THEY’RE TALKIN’ MISSISSIPPI!”

When I was a little girl, my daddy wore a t-shirt supporting Wayne Dowdy, a Mississippi politician.  The campaign slogan read, “I’ll always remember who I am, where I came from, and who sent me.”

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Mississippi Mud

I loved that shirt, and even as a child carried a strong sense of pride and honor coming from the unique state of Mississippi. No matter what form you find me in–nasal or nostalgic–I’m always sure to throw in a promo for my home state.  I never ever want to forget who I am, and where I came from.

People probably get a little tired of me always “talkin’ Mississippi.”  That’s OK, because I get tired of being from a state that’s often underrated and overly scorned.  Some folks will never be lucky enough to see how great my state is–her hospitable people of all races, beautiful beaches and bluesy Delta.  When I’m talkin’ Mississippi, I’m just doing my part to make sure when folks meet me, they meet Mississippi.

MIXED MISSISSIPPI_0003

Feels like LOVE to me!

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Slowpoke

As a daughter of the Deep South, a question I am commonly asked is, “Do you miss living where life is slow?”  I usually just grin and say, “I do.”

usa porchI imagine the inquirer is picturing my family back home–casually rocking on the front porch while sipping sweet tea, nothing better to do than wait for the sun to set.

And while the South is famous for porches and sweet tea, the “slow-living” stereotype is somewhat of a myth.  People in the South are often just as inpatient, rushed and busy as people up North.

slow poke

Meet “Slowpoke.” He’s my reminder to slow down.

Regardless of geography, it’s an individual decision how you are going to live.  I’ve lived in small towns and been insanely busy, yet lived in large cities taking it slow and simple.

Sure, there are factors that cause more stress in larger towns–traffic, cost of living, etc.  But the truth is each of us has to make a personal choice to slow down.

Even with a packed schedule, you can have a stillness inside your soul that refuses to buy into a culture that reeks of stress.  I dare you to stop dreaming about the day you’ll sit and sip sweet tea on a porch, and slow down where you are.

 

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Spilled Milk

This morning I gave my 2 year old a half-full cup of chocolate milk.  Somehow I didn’t foresee this ending badly.

spilled milk

 

No more than 3 minutes after receiving the drink I hear Benjamin say, “Oooohhhhh. I make mess.”  I came in to find the entire contents splattered across the floor–the floor of my in-laws beautiful beach condo.

There was absolutely nothing to do but take a deep breath and grab a roll of paper towels.  I knew this outcome was possible when I handed the drink over to a feeble-handed toddler.  But I made the choice anyway, and now it was time to pay the price for my decision.

chochocspillAs I glanced down at the spill I noticed the pattern was actually a great life-lesson.  There’s the obvious centrally located mess–the area where the cup landed and the majority of the milk collected.  But feet beyond that, the mess extended to the smallest of droplets, and even these tiny sticky specks have potential to cause problems if left unattended.

When you make a mistake, the damage isn’t confined to you and you alone.  An unwise decision made in haste, a word spoken harshly, or a careless action.  Look closely, people and things around you get splattered and careful clean-up is necessary.

When our words or actions lead to a mess, cleaning up that mess is the right thing to do.  A responsible person recognizes their fault and how it affects people and things around them.  A loving person finds ways to repair and restore whatever damage–no matter how large or small–occurred.

God hasn’t called us to a life of carelessness, but of self-control and sound mind.  Paying careful attention to the full extent of the spill is necessary when cleaning up chocolate milk, and any mess in life.2 timothy 1 17

God also didn’t call us to a life of fear, shame and guilt.  Which is why once the spill is clean, it’s clean.  Glory to God!

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Move It And Lose It

Eight weeks ago we moved.  Although it was just down the street, the same moving process had to occur as if we were going cross-country.  As I dug through boxes day after day I began to fall into anxiety.  Having anxiety over a disorderly home isn’t something I’m proud of, but something I’m still struggling with.we're moving

I realize it’s a petty concern compared to more serious life issues, but it’s a real issue for many people.  When I talk to other women, particularly, they also harbor frustration and shame that the state of their home could cause so much distress.  The disorder of unpacking reminded me of a good truth my husband said to me years ago.

When Bradley, our oldest, reached the mess-making age my husband got a full glimpse of my issue with disorder.  Up until then, I had full control over the placement of each toy and blankie.  I wouldn’t go to bed until everything was in its place, so that the next morning I could awake to order.

box headsOne afternoon JD found me in tears as I struggled to sort toys and regain control over my domain.  A much more laid-back housekeeper, I’m sure this behavior was unbelievable to him.  But instead of chastising me or calling me what I was–a control freak–he said something I’ll never forget.  “Macie, it’s OK.  Nothing here can’t be undone.  It can all go back to the way it was.  Try to relax.”

This is a small glimpse into a huge truth.  Life is full of different ways to ruffle your feathers and even steal your feathers completely.  Time and time again families are hit with circumstances that leave them feeling as though there is no hope–as if it can never be undone.

But over and over again the Bible speaks of the Lord’s authority and victory over disorder, injustice and yes, even death.  Throughout the Old and New Testament verses speak of a Lord that will come and “undo” every wrong that was done to His creation.

Nothing, my friend, can’t be undone.

 

The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;

he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8

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Standards of Measurement

Tonight while loading the dishwasher I noticed my husband had yet again placed bowls on the top rack.  I have repetitively asked him to put bowls on the bottom rack because, in my expert opinion, they don’t come out as clean on the top.

proper dishwasher loading

Oh. Apparently the bowls DO go on top.

I wondered as I worked how I could nicely remind him of my request.  My wondering turned into speculation that he probably never even listened when I asked him to do this simple thing.  My speculation turned into resentment–how could he neglect to do this one simple thing?

As I moved the bowls from the top to the bottom rack, my brooding thoughts came to a sudden halt as I recalled a few things he’d asked me to do recently that didn’t get done.  When I stopped accusing long enough to see both sides of the coin, I realized how much I fall short.

My life illustrated.

My life illustrated.

My husband asks me to do small tasks all the time, yet sometimes things aren’t completed the way he asked, and sometimes not at all.  It’s not because I didn’t listen, or because I’m intentionally neglecting his requests.  Things just fall through the cracks–that’s how life is.

I privately forgave him, as this whole exchange took place silently in my head and heart.  The truth is, if I’m going to hold him to a standard of perfection, then he has a right to hold me to that same standard.

So many relationships–of all kinds–end because we allow these silent exchanges to cultivate into a full-blown irreconcilable difference.  So many relationships are riddled with drama because we hold others to a much higher standard than we ourselves could ever meet.

I know this won’t be the last time I start down a path of measuring another’s performance by a perfect standard of measurement of my calibration.  But I know by the grace of God–and the gift of the Holy Spirit guiding me–next time I’ll be a little quicker to stop and dole out grace instead of judgment. From now on, I’m not going to worry about where the bowls are.

For in the way you judge, you will be judged;

and by your standard of measure,

it will be measured to you.

  Matthew 7:2

 

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