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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When an Ebenezer Becomes an Isaac. When a Blogger Stops Blogging.

It's about to get quiet around here, and I'm about to see what happens when my best laid plans get hijacked by God.

Things have been noisy around here. Noisy in my house, noisy in my heart, noisy in my cluttered brain.

And I had a big month in store for this little corner of the Internet. I told you, just yesterday, all about some of those plans, but I heard something a few days ago that rocked me and, well, the plans are changing.

I heard this, this week, at work:

"Think about how many people are talking in our world… blogs, Facebook, Twitter. Now think about how many are listening." 

Plenty of people are listening, I thought. I'm listening.

But over the days that followed, I started seeing what I was really listening to. I started realizing that in this season of disconnect, I was turning to blogs, to friends, to social media for connection. I was spending more mental energy on this virtual reality than on spiritual reality, and puffing my chest with the accolades of readers that barely know me. I was cranky at not having enough time to connect with my virtual support system but barely concerned with the hours I wasn't spending with my children in my arms, with my husband at my side, with my Bible open, with my pen in hand.

So when I went low in prayer on the topic of Lent, it should be no surprise that this was what was to be offered, the sacrifice that must be laid down.

"Stop talking to the world, and start listening to Me."

I've never observed Lent before, not really. And I didn't particularly plan on doing it this year either, but when I examined what my heart really needed in preparation for Easter, the whisper became a roar and I knew that my Ebenezer must become my Isaac in this Lenten season.

It's about listening. It's about getting quiet so I can be still and know that he is God. It's about seeking words for connection. Not the words of blogs or Facebook comments or Twitter, but the words I can only hear when my world gets quiet, when my ear is turned against the noise.

I'm laying down social media in observance of Lent. I'm attempting to turn, instead, to connection with the Creator in pursuit of a heart that more fully understands the Sacrifice we're meditating on during this season. This goes so strongly against my nature as the do-it-all queen, but I think that's entirely the point. There is nothing that needs to be done more than being present, more than fully listening, more than making room in crowded spaces.

The giving up? Fasting? This is never about what we can earn with our best efforts. It's about letting the Lord discipline our minds, hearts, and bodies to change course when we've gone off track, to allow for the craving of our flesh that can be fully satisfied by the cleansing of our heart.

I won't be around here much for the next 40-ish days. Won't be on Facebook or Twitter either. I do have a few book and product review commitments I've made that I'll honor (so I'll pop up every now and again), and I'll still be available by email or direct messaging by name, but for the most part, I'm just trying to quiet the constant stream making its way into my life, to tunnel my vision to the road toward Calvary.

See you around Easter, friends.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." – Psalm 51:10-12

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's New

I have had a particularly horrendous week. I remind myself, on an hourly basis these days… Three does not last forever. Three does not last forever. Three does not last forever. I may have wondered out loud, at least once today, whether there was a boarding school for preschoolers.

My daughter spent Friday in the hospital with a concussion she received at school (she's fine now).

I started a new job, which I love, but I'm spending about 50 hours a week getting my bearings with the new and unfamiliar work.

We had houseguests for the weekend, relatives that came down with a serious case of food poisoning while staying here, ugh.

We are at a big, fat, standstill while we wait for word on our boy in Texas and while in limbo with the foster care system.

I am overworked and overwhelmed and in extreme amounts of pain, despite the dozen or so prescription medications I'm swallowing down these days. I'm tired of pills, tired of nausea and wooziness, dry mouth and all the things that come along with this haphazard treatment…tired of all the drugs not making a difference. Pout.

My well is sort of dry, right now, of encouraging words or pondering about faith, but I hope you'll stay tuned. Some changes are a' comin' to WhimsySmitten, things I'm excited about, things that have brightened the heck out of my bad week, and I hope you'll be around to check them out.

I've decided to branch out, a bit, and I'm going to split this place right down the middle pretty soon. In honor of that, I'd like to start focusing a bit more on the home décor/whimsical/fun/vintage/family-focused arena that this place started out about. Since I'm all words and not enough places to put them, I'll be moving my musings about life and faith and love elsewhere before too long. More to come in that regard.

In honor of the switch, and to set the stage for what's to come around here, in a few days I'll be hosting a virtual open house, a tour of our new digs… the comfy little place I call "Quail Run Cottage". I'll show you what I've been up to around here and feature different rooms on different days. Rumor has it there are a few giveaways involved, so again, I hope I'll see you around, friends!  

Counting gifts, today and every Monday, along with Ann.
-          Work I love, spending all day soaking up wisdom and Scripture and good teaching
-          A new office chair that helps a little with my back pain
-          Creative aspiration
-          Creative inspiration
-          Family time on Saturday
-          Book review programs, stacks full of wonderful reading material
-          Early bed time for little C tonight
-          Inspiring quotes
-          John 14:18
-          Loud and happy chit-chatter
-          Husband putting a paint booth in the garage, perfect for our projects
-          Spending all day with my kids today
-          The kids having a weeknight movie date with the grandparents… a few hours of quiet for mama
-          Super affordable surprise vintage finds at the craft market – an antique ironing board and an old Tom Thumb typewriter
-          Blessings in disguise
-          Finding Flea Market Style and Vintage Style magazines at the store today
-          A surprise pink hydrangea plant from a husband who loves me

Friday, February 10, 2012

Five-Minute Friday: How to Trust When You're Ready for Battle


This boy… this boy who I've written about, the one you've prayed for, and how our hearts entangle and he is mine even though he isn't… he's lost in the world about now, in need of a set of arms to claim him, a name on a case load, a blond-haired kid in a sea of them.  And I am on the other side of a state line, arms opened and screaming to be heard, fighting for this child who everyone's forgotten to fight for.

I have left messages and scrawled out frantic e-mails, I have come farther by the grace of God in this man-hunt…this teenage-boy-hunt… than I thought I would.  I have names, I have phone numbers, I have laws and code numbers and certifications to back my fight, and I am ready for battle

But now, Friday afternoon and the sun going dark in his time zone, there is nothing to do but wait.

And trust.

Because it is not my battle.  It is His.

Because no one fights for the blond-haired boy like the one who he belongs to -- The Daddy that does not die and does not leave and does not kick him to the curb.   

And I wonder.

If this is a culmination of everything that hasn't made sense for all these years.  If God has been prepping me for such a time as this. 

I do not fight with swords, I fight with words and research and a love that's stronger than state lines

I fight for love with love.

And I see the swirl of this whole wide life and all the rusty weapons I've collected without even meaning to, the way He equips.  The way He is orchestrating this.  The way He makes me trust in the darkest middle of uncertainty, and the way I can, which surprises me.  The way having no control at all will make you trust in ways you never thought you could. 

I fight for love with love.

Pray with me, please, for my boy, for the one whom I'm trusting God to provide for, for the one I'm fighting the system to reunite with, for the one I'm asking God for the privilege to care for again.  Pray that He is in the right hands, that this all unfolds the best way. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Twenty-five Painfully Uninteresting Things

For reasons I can't go into now, this has been an incredibly emotionally exhausting 24 hours.  I am drained and gloomy and if I tried to write from the heart right now, it might look like the scary scene in a horror movie, so I'm going to refrain and join the 25 things linky party, instead.  Nothing cures broken-heartedness like random blabbering and shopping for a shabby chic comforter...OMGRUFFLES.  (Oops, I forgot to say "spoiler alert.")

Here goes:

1.  I went to an allergist the other day and had the most amazing hour of medical information I've ever had.  I am feeling hopeful about all-around health/body improvement.

2.  I might be gluten intolerant... a blood test was done, awaiting results.

3.  In the meantime, I may or may not be eating all the gluten-full products I can get my hot little hands on just in case the test is positive.

4.  Allergist begged me to toss my down comforter.  There was much crying and gnashing of teeth over this.

5.  But then I realized it was an excuse to shop for new pretty bedroom stuff and OK, you twisted my arm.  Retail therapy, it is.

6.  Tonight, I'm going to T.J. Maxx and Target.

7.  Heaven closely resembles the inside of T.J. Maxx and Target only with gold instead of linoleum on the floor.  It's true.  Look it up.

8.  The terrible twos got nothing on the torturous threes, and it comes, this week, with a side of vicious older-kid sibling rivalry and a competition for the most dramatic child that ever lived.  At this point, my kids just might kill each other and I just might let them.

9.  My house goes from zero to disaster in 0.3 seconds, and I think my husband and kids are conspiring to break this record.

10.  IfIhavetopickupdirtytissuesorchewedupfruitsnacksofftheflooronemoretimeI'mgoingtolosemyeverlovingmind.

11.  This month, I went 8 days without coffee.  I sincerely regret ever leaving my true love, and we have been happily reunited till death do us part.

12.  I am officially going on 6 weeks with the bronchitis/pneumonia/sinus infection/world-class cough that will probably be the death of me.  Someone, write a eulogy.  Gold-paved Target, here I come.

13.  Although I love the freedom of working at home, the lack of creativity in my job is absolutely.killing.me. Something has to give, here.  Spending 8 hours a day in a creatively sterile environment is sucking the life out of me.

14.  I signed up for a fiction writing class.  I start in 6 days.  I've never written fiction before, should be fun.

15.  My 8-year-old daughter, unbeknownst to me, went to school with one sockless foot today.  She told her teacher it was because she "only had one sock" (she has exactly seventeen thousand six hundred and eighty seven pairs of socks at last count).  Last week, she left her coat in the car and came home with one the school had given her "for kids without coats".  The faculty at her school either thinks we are dirt poor and can only afford one sock at a time or that I am the least attentive mother in the history of the world.  In reality, my investigative skills are just not that sharp when the kids leave the house at 6 a.m. and the sun hasn't even woken up yet.

16.  Since I started writing this, I have since been out shopping at 3 different places and had an impromptu dinner date with my husband.

17.  I'm not dead yet.  Target's floor's were just plain old linoleum.

18.  I bought a Shabby Chic comforter but bought it home and didn't like it.  Tomorrow, I'll exchange it for the one I had planned to buy before I went inside the store and got distracted.

19.  Now that we're here and settled in, it is becoming apparent that our hearts are still very much planted in the foster care system.  Progressing, prayerfully, toward certification back in this state and excited to see if/when/what will develop from there.

20.  I have had an incredibly trying week emotionally, physically, and spiritually, but it has also been a week of tremendous clarity and a haze of peace and acceptance is beginning to form over the whole lot of things.

21.  It is 11:31 p.m. right now.  My youngest just walked in the room and said, "Good morning," then proceeded to have a melt-down.  He is wide awake and royally ticked off.  This is bad news, friends.

22.  Yawn.

23.  I have an unnaturally strong affection for red and white polka dots.  And peanut butter cups.  And decorating magazines.  And French fries.

24.  I aspire to buy a shoddy old 70's camp trailer and spruce it up with some thrifted love and loads of elbow grease, then use it as our home away from home for camping.

25.  This took me longer to write than 90% of the posts on my blog and it was probably less interesting than 90% of the posts on my blog.  I got bored with myself somewhere around number four.  I am putting my own self to sleep, I'm so boring.

G'night friends... if I can still call you that after that long and arduous link-up!  Zzzzz....

(Linking to:  PerfectlyImperfect's 25 Things Linky Party!)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What I'm Saying No To Now

A few weeks ago, I declared a year of no.

It was necessary, and so far, it has served me well.

Sometimes, no feels like freedom.  

Sometimes, the ability to say no allows some amazing yeses into your life.

Part of no is letting go.  And so, in the interest of disclosure, there are a few things I need to tell you, a little bloggy business to get out of the way so I can clean my plate.

-- in{RL}
I love {in}courage.  Like, really really love them.  If there is anywhere in the world that I feel at home, in words and in flesh, it's there.  I love the women, I love the heart, I love that Jesus is all over that place in the ways I recognize Him best.  And I'm excited about what they're doing this year for in{RL}, the un-conference -- the conference that comes to you and opens doors and opens homes and builds relationships.  It's beautiful and the idea is necessary and wonderful and I jumped the gun and signed up to host a local gathering right out of the starting gate.  I had big visions for this, friends, big dreams related to how I would use in{RL} to connect locally, to reach out and reach in and my head got carried away and my heart got lost in the midst of it and now a scheduling conflict and… well, it's time to exercise that "no" button… time to lay it down, this time.  Will you fill me in on what a lovely time you have at in{RL} this April?

-- Definition
Once upon a time, I started this blog as a crafty place, a home décor blog to showcase DIY projects and decorating.  (What?  Who knew?)  Yeah.  Obviously, I haven't done much of this lately.  This place became something more, something different, a place to bleed my heart all over and process all these daily journeys.  It bugs me that the name of my blog is so ill-fitting, and I've fussed and toyed with the idea of splitting off, of leaving this place for home décor and the like, and starting a new place for the overflow of the heart, but this seems to be the substance of this place and I don't want to mess with what works.  A break-off might come, still.  Home décor might come, still.  For now, though, I'm just letting this wonky place be whatever it is and I hope you find bits and pieces of whatever brings you over this way.

-- Control
Or, the illusion of control of my health.  It's been a weird road the last few months with fibromyalgia and other chronic health conditions I'm struggling with.  I've been sick and sicker and spiraling downhill quickly.  Because I'm a control freak, I've tried to head this off at the pass, convincing myself that I could alter my experience with a certain exercise program, with dietary restrictions, with this or with that because it feels a lot like weakness to admit that I have to rely on prescription medication to get me through the day.  But… I'm weak.  And in the interest of strengthening my life as well as my health, I'm going to take it day by day and swallow down whatever it is that gets me through without making this my fault… acknowledging that perhaps, I don't have much control over this aspect of my life and it's time to lay it down and learn the lessons that come along with the unexpected gift of chronic illness, not the least of which is that we are not ultimately in control of these bodies, this life.

-- Spiritual Should-Do's
Do you have spiritual should-do's in your life?  Things you think you should do because as a Christian, it's what's expected of you or puts some kind of check mark on some cosmic checklist of goodness?  I do.  This is not holy, it's not biblical, and it's not necessary, but it's one of the lies I believe about the ways in which I do not measure up.  I struggle with it and sometime I'll get around to working out all of how my year in Texas fit into that and what I learned in that regard.  Coming to Oregon meant leaving full-time ministry and there's a big checklist hovering over my head lately… a guilt about where my ministry is now that I'm just a regular working mom getting through the week and not pouring every minute of my life into "the least of these".  I feel just a little spiritually less than lately, and this is only a lie that I believe.  I am coming to learn that this place is a ministry, that being here for my children is a ministry and that, while I will be asked to do other things for the sake of the Kingdom, I cannot give what I haven't received, and part of being a disciple is experiencing rest and grace and learning when you need to be filled.  So my spiritual should-do's are on hold while I learn to be filled that I can someday spill over with what I've been given, not out of duty but because I simply cannot contain it.

-- Technology
I admit, like the rest of the world, I am getting more and more attached to the technology that I am ever tethered to.  My phone at my hip while my hands are on the keyboard at work and I've got Facebook and Twitter and Blogger and Netflix and Audible all streaming information to me at the speed of light.  I have a stack of books I'm dying to read, and ones I've committed to read and review, but can't manage to find the time to read them.  I'm trading tech time for page time and hoping to reconnect with my love of books, time outside and away from the screen, and the concreteness that comes with reading books in print (and sorry, I just haven't been able to get on the Kindle/Nook/eReader bandwagon yet.  I need the touch and the smell of real books!).  

That's all I've got the energy for today, friends, but thanks for sticking with me through these brain-dead and disconnected thoughts.  

What are you saying no to, today? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Laughter and a Million Joys to Find

Sometimes, the hard plastic bench at a fast food joint with free Wi-Fi and sweet coffee feels like a soft bed… a peaceful retreat.

I headed out early this morning for some hours without little people, and I'm chuckling ironic at the flood of lunch-hour teenagers that surround me here.  Seems I can't escape, but as I listen to the laughter, I'm spurred back to life and I remember myself at that age, how easy it was to find things to be happy about, when the weight of the world was crushing around me and yet, I carried a tin lunch box and wore plaid golf pants just because it made me smile, and time spent with a handful of friends could cause uproarious laughter.  I wonder how long it's been since I laughed that hard. 

I wonder when I became a grown-up.

And in the cackle of this social experiment otherwise known as lunch break, when I can breathe in long and deep the aroma of French fries without any tiny hands on me, that I nearly want to crack a wide smile and remember that there are a million sources of joy to be had… that one only has to be aware.

I catalog… those million joys…those thousand gifts…and count them, one by one, with Ann.

-- Errands and writing time all by myself this morning, a chance to breathe
-- Getting a doctor's appointment at the last minute
-- A few more things to try on the way to wellness
-- Having health insurance
-- Beautiful sunny weather that excites me for spring
-- Lung-fuls of clean air
-- A fun new photo app on my phone
-- A lazy SuperBowl gathering at moms
-- Sweet potatoes
-- The rest of the day off, feeling well enough to catch up on housework
-- Toddler kisses, in high supply these days
-- Open windows, breezy days
-- Finishing Genesis in my in-depth study, moving on to Exodus
-- My 'Keep Calm and Love Mercy' bag from Relevant, with proceeds to The Mercy House
-- My blog reader, a ready source for inspiration and encouragement always at the ready, always ready to fill me up
-- Mt. McLaughlin, snow-capped in my rearview, blinding and beautiful
-- Comfort in cast-offs
-- A tax refund to come, this week
-- Free Wi-fi
-- Things I'm free to release from my life, and more to come on that, dear readers
-- Laughing teenagers, an inspiration to smile
-- The longing that returns me to the Word, over and over to fill my cup and then some
-- Losing track of time