The Clash of Feelings and Reality

My alarm wasn’t set to go off until 6:00, but I awoke at 4:45 and after trying to fall back asleep for a few minutes decided I might as well get an early start on the week. Mornings are my favorite – I sit by the open front door and listen to the birds and crickets and sometimes the Piano Guys (not in person, although they’re welcome to serenade me anytime). I live just seven hundred and fifty feet from the Ohio River, and even though I can’t see it from my little home I often walk there in the evenings and watch as the sun sparkles and shimmers over the peaceful water that everyone has assured me is beyond dirty.

Some things in life make me feel like perhaps I’m beginning to grasp what it means to be an adult. Like, my porch swing that sat in a heap on the porch for over three months is finally hung. (When you don’t have tools or knowledge even small home improvements are difficult.) Being able to sit on the swing without having it collapse – well, that’s a good feeling. Weeding my flowerbeds also makes me feel like perhaps I might have life under control. As does buying a mousetrap and catching the critter within a day of discovering it took up residence in my little domine. And the fact that I have my mortgage and electric bill set up to be paid automatically. And that I (finally!) have a screen for the front door – although I just bought it, my roommate’s the one who actually hung it. (Much like the porch swing if you must know, but shhh… I never claimed to be the adult in this home.)

Then there are other things that make me question my past, present, and future. Like how the shower faucet broke over five weeks ago and it’s still not fixed. Or that I let my brakes get so bad on my car before I noticed something was wrong with them that it cost twice as much to fix them as it should have. Or that my spelling is as atrocious now as it was when I was a teenager and I rely on Siri to help me not make a complete fool of myself. (And yes, I literally had to ask Siri how to spell her name just now…)

It’s so easy for me to get overwhelmed with what I can’t do, what I’m not doing, and what I’m doing incorrectly. But when I find myself getting bogged down in the mire of what could be, should be, and needs to be, I feel the joy leaking out of my life. And joy isn’t supposed to be based upon my circumstances – that’s what happiness is for. Joy? Joy is deeper. Joy goes beyond feeling and reason and reminds me that I’m loved by the very Creator of the universe. So I climb out of bed early and watch the world slowly grow light as I seep myself in God’s Words, God’s love, and God’s promises.

Last night I was feeling annoying and sad and overwhelmed by all that’s wrong in the world and wrong with me. But then I stopped to think about reality, and as it turns out, my thoughts and the truth didn’t match up. Sure, I can be annoying, and yes, there is a lot wrong with the world. But, the specifics that I was feeling at that time were just feelings and not based on the truth. When I stopped and thought about it I could see that the condemnation I was experiencing was more likely a result of an over-active imagination and tiredness than how people were actually viewing me. It was a good reminder that feelings are just that – things we feel – and not necessarily the truth.

Something I started doing last year that really helps me is using my prayer journal to sort out my feelings versus reality. I write down everything I am feeling on one side of the page – the good, bad, and conflicting and contradicting feelings – and then on the other side of the page, I use passages from the Bible to write the truth. Realizing that how I feel doesn’t always match up with reality has helped me silence lies and listen to logic and truth.

The day is now bright around me and this post – which started out as a book review and quickly morphed to musings – has reached a length of nearly 800 words. I’m about to pack my lunch (with food that I meal prepped last weekend while being a steller adult) then head to work where I still question how I ended up where I did (because it’s fun and challenging but I’m still an eight-year-old at heart so how did I get so much responsibility?). My day will be long and I’ll probably be extra tired by the end due to my early morning, but it will totally be worth it. I’m thankful for the rejuvenation that I feel this morning, along with the reminder that feelings don’t determine reality. Blessings to you, my friends, and Happy Monday!

My Burrow

Growing up there were a number of things that I thought made my home delightful – a wood burner for heat, a porch where our family spent a lot of time, a window by the kitchen sink, and beautiful blue walls.

There were also those things that I thought would make a house optiomal – a washer and dryer in a convenient space like the bathroom, a white wainscot, windows in every room, and smallness… I definitely didn’t want a big house.

When I started praying about one day buying a house, I really wasn’t too specific, because I didn’t have a lot of ideas of what I did or didn’t want. Basically I just prayed that God would provide the right house for me – a house that wasn’t big, but had two bedrooms so I could rent one of them out. A house that was in a safe location near work so I could live there without worrying my parents, plus have renters. A house that didn’t have a lot of remodeling needed in order to make it livable – a bonus would be if I liked the colors of all the walls because painting and I don’t mesh well. And place to park my camper would make my heart happy.

There were a few other things that sat in the back of my mind, but I didn’t really think about them consciously – like how I wanted to be as close to living in the country as I could while still being able to manage the property by myself, having good neighbors, and having a yard. A home with a living area big enough to host company, a kitchen with room for storage, and a tub in the bathroom.

Mostly, I didn’t want to go house hunting. I wanted God – or someone else – to basically drop the home in my lap and I’d buy it. It seemed like a big request, but I knew it wasn’t too big for God, so even though I had no intentions of buying a house any time soon, I began praying about it.

If you would have told me at the beginning of 2020 that I’d move into my absolute dream home that autumn I wouldn’t have known how to respond, but that’s exactly what happened. Everything I’d prayed for, everything I’d imagined, was all wrapped up in one beautiful home and handed to me. I feel blessed, honored, and amazed by it all.

Recently I’ve finally had time to add a few of the personal touches I’ve always dreamed of – white lights around the living room, pictures on the walls, and a clean rug due to finally having a vacuum. I’ve been praying for ages that my home will be a place of peace, a place where people can come and relax, have good conversations, and draw closer to each other and to God.

I call it My Burrow.

This is because whenever I get stressed out I like to imagine being a little bunny safely tucked away in a homey burrow deep underground with soft lighting and cute little gingham curtains… Yes, I did grow up on Peter Rabbit and know it’s not exactly how it works. But it’s delightful imagery and that’s enough for me.

Each day my burrow is feeling more and more like a safe haven of rest. A place where peace presides and joy is felt. I’m thankful for the gifts God has given me, and look forward to being able to bless others through hospitality as the weeks and months of life come and go.

When Flowers Aren’t Practical

I bought flowers.

Like, the kind that are in a pot and you plant in soil and then you hopefully watch grow and spill out over the sides of the container and bring beauty to all.

This might not seem like a big deal, but I’m an ever-practical kind of girl. I grow veggies (because flowers are a luxury, not necessity). I make main dishes for people (because desserts are delicious but not necessary). I take long walks after walking miles at work (because it’s a productive way to relax). I have probably as much fun saving money as most people have spending it (because, well, saving money is logical).

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And flowers. They’re delightful to look at. I’ve always been thankful to live around people who did grow flowers because I freely admit that while I couldn’t envision myself spending time or money on them, I did enjoy looking at them.

Last week I spent way more than what was practical to reclaim a little patch of weeds and fence it in to keep the raccoons at bay, then delightedly planted a few vegetable plants.

One of my teammates from work lent me his gardening tools and an impressive amount of knowledge. He also showed me gorgeous pictures of his own flowerbed which left me amazed. “Don’t get your hopes up, my little garden isn’t going to look anything like that” I told him. And true to my word, my vegetable patch was nothing compared to his cultivated garden.

My slip-shod work left him shaking his head and me shrugging my shoulders. I had a garden and that’s all I really cared about. I could go out in the evenings after the heat of the day was past and weed, water, and eventually harvest dinner.

Then another co-worker invited me to her house and showed me her lovely back porch with flowers artistically arranged in beautiful planters. It was peaceful. It was inviting. And suddenly I began to rethink my stance on being a practical human.

Yesterday was my day off. I had to go to the store for a few groceries, and while I was there I picked up a few more things for my garden – spending more money than I had planned to. But, as it turns out, some things are worth a $20 splurge. When I got home I took down my sagging fence. Stood on a bucket to pound in more stakes. Found twine, tied bows, and worked in the hot sun until my garden looked presentable.

I added soil to the beautiful blue pots my parents had given me (that really were too lovely for a simple tomato plant), then placed the flowers inside.

Being practical is good. Saving money is important. But balance is, too.

And that’s a big lesson I’ve been learning. I’m driven to being productive. I want each moment to count. Sometimes I can’t help but feel the pressure of needing to do build up inside me. Because sometimes doing isn’t the most important thing in the world. Sometimes it’s far more important – and harder – to simply be. To let go of the plans to accomplish that seemed so grand in my head and take the time to stand and listen for a minute.

This lesson has become real for me time and time again when I have a question or issue to discuss at work. My bosses are busy. They have a lot on their plates. And yet they take the time to listen. To stand there without glancing at their full inbox or piled high desk and be present as I bring questions or concerns.

Time and time again I’ve been blown away by how people – busy, hard-working, must-get-things-done-or-else-there-will-be-big-consequences people – have taken the time to sit, be still, and listen. It’s not practical. But it adds beauty to the world, to my world. And it makes a huge difference.

And so, I planted flowers.

Flowers to remind me that sometimes the practical isn’t the most important. Flowers to remind me that while vegetables might keep you alive, flowers have a way of making you thankful to be alive.

Today, I don’t want to focus only on the practical. Today, I want to focus on whatever God places in front of me. To take the time to be instead of just doing.

This is Home {Return to the Museum}

A hundred and three days.

That’s a long time, my friends.

When I left the Museum to go help my family for a week back in March, I was sad to be leaving for a whole eight days. If you would have told me that it would nearly fifteen weeks before I returned to my favorite place in the world, I’m really not sure how I would have reacted.

Like the rest of the world plans that I’d held so tightly and seemed of supreme importance crumbled before me. Ideals I’d worked towards, goals I’d hunted, and dreams I’d chased all dissipated in the wake of the pandemic.

The last 103 days were good, hard, amazing, tearful, delightful, and oh so confusing at times. During these months I experienced some of my best days and some of the worst  – at least in recent years. I grew a lot. I found out I needed to grow a lot more.

And finally, at long last, I’m back.

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Back in March, no one was really sure what was going to happen. The future stretched before us in a foggy mist, scary and vague. And there are still things that way in my life, and I’m sure that other people continue to have that as their daily reality.

At times I wondered if the Museum would re-open. And if it did, would I get re-hired? And if both those things happened, would everything else be different.

And yes, things are different. But it’s okay, because now everyone is aware of how different it could be. Of how much we do have to be thankful for. There’s a lot of stuff that’s difficult to do at the museum nowadays. So many added steps to run things in a way that hit those just-post-COVID-pandemic-world-guidelines perfectly.

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And yet, we’re here, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

I’ve tried for the last ten minutes to put into words how it feels to be back. To be home. To get to spend each day at the Museum, serving the guests and co-workers. I’ve tried to express the emotion that comes along with having a whole host of people excitedly welcome me back and make sure I knew I was missed. I’ve typed and re-typed what it was like to get to see everyone in person again and jump right into the activities that I am comfortable with, plus learn a whole new protocol which I’m not quite getting the hang of yet…

But I can’t. The words escape me.

I’m still processing. Processing the joy of being back. The thankfulness that the museum is still here. The delight of the work I get to do each day. How right it feels to dive back into my responsibilities. The excitement of getting to see my co-workers each day. The sadness of missing co-workers who won’t be returning.

Each night I return home with my heart full of thankfulness, my legs tired from miles of walking, and my face relieved to be maskless.

I love my job. My co-workers. My teammates. It’s delightful to get to interact with guests. To get to make life a little easier for my bosses. To learn new things and grow. (Like yesterday when I made an announcement over the Museum loudspeakers for the first time.)

There’s a lot of new stuff to learn, but that’s okay because grace is freely given around the museum. So is love and care and laughter.

The Museum is my favorite place, and I’m so thankful to be back.

Relationships or Accomplishments​

The birds are trying to out-do each other outside my open window as I swirl around the last of my coffee, dredging up the sentiment at the bottom of the mug. (Hey, I like a few coffee grounds in my coffee…) Various shades of green cascade from the trees – from the brilliant hues of the maple up close to the backdrop of a dozen trees that form the entrance of the woods further away.

It’s Monday morning, one of my favorite times of the week.

Accomplishing things makes me happy. Being able to see where I’ve made a difference is enough to get me out of bed each morning. I’m goal-oriented, competitive, and most times would rather clean the house then do something ‘fun.’

Each morning when I wake up I let myself stretch and yawn, then set my stop-watch and see how quickly I can complete my getting-ready routine. Throughout the day I find myself constantly trying to find balance as I look at the list of things that I really want to get done, compared to the things that are maybe more important to do. (For instance, relationships are much easier to ignore than a messy kitchen sink. But in reality, which has a greater eternal value?)

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One thing that I often remind myself is that I do have enough time. I do have enough energy. I do have enough.

Maybe not on my own, maybe not in the ways that I dreamed of, maybe not to do what want. But I have enough to do what God is calling me to do, and when there’s a discrepancy and I find myself getting stressed, that’s not because God has given me too much to do. It’s either because I’m not doing the right thing, or doing it the right way, or doing it with the right motive.

Having a sparkling clean house around me might be exactly what’s supposed to happen. But maybe it’s not – maybe God wants me to let go of that ideal for now and focus on other things.

I used to think – and say – things about never having enough time. And then I realized that’s a lie that society praises, not the truth from God’s Word. Subconsciously, I think I’d rather appear busy and productive than resting and at peace. It feels so…important to have a list of things checked off a piece of paper and yet still have people who need your help. Maybe not every personality feels this way, but I want to be needed. To be doing. To swoop in and save the day.

Being busy can be addictive.

And yet we’re commanded to Be still and know that God is. We’re commanded to care for the widows and the orphans. We’re commanded to love our neighbor. We’re commanded to pray. So many of these things require me to let go of my pre-conceived (and society-fed) notions of what I’m supposed to be doing with my time and ask God to lead me in the way He wants me to go.

Recently this has included doing things like leaving the counter messy to sit down and read a book to my little nieces. Or setting the milk bucket down and cuddling the kittens my nephew wants to show me. Letting go of accomplishing and taking ahold of relationships isn’t easy for me, but it’s rewarding.

At the end of the day, I’m thankful to know that God has given me enough time to accomplish what He wants me to do.

But he said to me, “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. (2 Cor. 12:9)

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. … (Mt. 6:25-34)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)

And Yet

Yesterday the seven-year-old killed a snake that was longer than her (while holding a stuffed animal). Several days ago while milking with the nine-year-old the goat kicked over her bucket of milk, drenching the child and milk stand. Last week a late frost killed most of the tomato plants, despite our best efforts to cover them sufficiently. This morning the one-year-old got ahold of a folder full of important papers for one of the puppies that is being sold, scattering them all over the floor and scribbling on the folder.

When the parents had a date the other night chaos erupted around the table, complete with a pile of rib bones being pushed towards me (I have a phobia of bones for some strange reason). Squabbles take place, half-done jobs sometimes slip through the cracks and the same bib that I’ve washed four times (and have yet to see anyone wear) ends up in the dirty laundry again. 

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And yet.

Yet my sister shoos me outside to enjoy the hammocks for a few minutes. “Take your mid-morning snack out and blog in the sunshine,” she encourages. As I sit here three of the children come over to join me. One of them places a white fluffy puppy on my arm, another one climbs in the hammock with me, and the five-year-old pulls a chair up to within an inch of me then peels an orange while regaling me with stories of how he and his brothers are going swimming in the creek later. “You can swim, too. And swing out on the rope swing!”

Yesterday the children carefully rearranged who would do what chores and when so that they could take turns swimming during their free time. The work was done eagerly and early and not one but two meals were eaten out on the picnic tables, the warm sunshine and cooling breeze creating the perfect atmosphere.

The hustle and bustle of family life on a small farm slows to a standstill and pauses twice a day as each morning the family gathers for devotions where the children take turns choosing what hymns to sing, and the evenings close with John Bunyan’s classics being read out loud.

Watching my nieces and nephews remind me of my childhood. A childhood filled with siblings, school, chores, and excitement. The children here are building a little pond complete with dikes and dams. When I was a girl my siblings and I sectioned off the creek, then each of us created our own little island. My nieces and nephews display the same joy and delight in finding where the mama cat hid her kittens as my little sisters and I were fifteen years ago.

Nearly daily the nine-year-old asks the same questions about being able to plan and cook a meal all by herself that I did when I was her age. Their mama reads them the same books that my mommy read to me when I was a girl. And the outside world is their kingdom, waiting to be explored, conquered, and claimed.

“Aunt Lydia,” comes a little voice behind me. “Do you want some of my oranges?”

I smile. Because I look back on my gardening, animal-y, books-being-read-to-me, tipi-building, woods-exploring, big-family happiness of my childhood and see it happening in the next generation.

And that is wonderful.

With Open Hands

“Stay as long as you want – we’re so thankful for your help,” my sister and brother-in-law in Virginia assure me.

“When are you coming back home? We miss you,” my sisters back in Ohio tell me.

“If you come into Kentucky you must quarantine for fourteen days,” Governor Beshear’s website declares.

I feel lost and adrift as I drink my lukewarm coffee. It’s like my dreams – the ones that felt so real and good in January – have dissipated. Now they’re like a fine mist floating over my head that I’m chasing – grasping – missing.

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What I really want to do is jump in my car and drive, drive, drive. Maybe to Florida. Then Alaska. And of course, Yellowstone is a must. Or maybe I can go to sleep and wake up on the other side of all this craziness. Or go back to January and make it last – snow and all – for twelve happy months and then magically be in 2021.

What I want to do is escape. To find my happy little nook where I’m in control, things are good, and my plans, dreams, and hopes play out before me like a happily-ever-after book.

Recently in my prayer journal I’ve been doing an exercise where I write How I Feel on one side of the page then fill it will the emotions that are bumbling around inside me. Then I flip my notebook upside down and write The Truth on the other side. I take each of the emotions that I’d rather ignore and work my way through them, figuring out why I feel that way, then remind myself of God’s truth.

Then, as those emotions pop up throughout my day, I’m able to name them, remember the truth, and conquer them. Yesterday was enlighting to say the least.

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My feelings fell in two distinct categories – joy, fulfillment, and thankfulness when I thought about where I was at the moment. The fact that I could help my sister’s family as they deal with some of the same health issues I’ve had over the years made me downright happy.

But then when the future loomed in front of me feelings of restlessness, despair, confusion, and even anger took over.

When I stopped to ponder what the difference was, the answer was glaringly obvious and horrifying at the same time. What is going on now I can control. I’m choosing to be here. I’m choosing to stay and help. I’m choosing to be a good sister/auntie and make a difference. I have faith in myself to make my here and now good.

The future though? That I can’t control. I can’t change the health, the minds, the laws, and the outcomes. I can pray and wait and trust, but I can’t control. Only God knows what will happen. Only He can do what I desperately want to be done. When it comes to the future I can’t trust myself because I have no power – I have to trust God, and only God.

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I’ve always thought of faith as one of my strong suits – I’ve never been overly concerned about my future because I knew God had it all under control. I work hard and prepare and God does the rest, right?

But what happens when I work hard and there’s no guarantee that God will follow through with what I’ve always thought was His part of the bargain? One thing I’ve been learning this year is that the future I thought God and I agreed on might actually be wishful thinking on my part.

So here I sit. And stand. And work. In a place where I’m learning to rest and breathe in deep with open hands. In a place where I’m learning to be still and know that God is. In a place where I’m learning that my view of the world is minuscule and His view is all-encompassing.

I want to know what the future holds. To know what normal will feel like in the coming weeks. To know what to expect and count on and look foward to. But I can’t know. And at the end of the day, that’s okay. Because I do trust. Not in myself, but in the God who holds the future.

Watercolor and Fabric {reaching outside my comfort zone}

Day Twenty-Nine dawns with lukewarm, day-old, decaf coffee, scrounging through the refrigerator for enough protein to count as breakfast, and the hum of the lawnmower under a gray sky.

During the last week, I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and do some things I’ve thought about doing for a while but didn’t really fit into my life. It’s been fun to branch out, surprise myself, and spend quality time with people I love.

And now, I’m off to clean the house, make lunch, and mow the lawn. Have a great day, my friends!

Hello, Day 25

Like probably everyone else I’m ready for this craziness to be over. I’m on day 25 of quarantine and it’s been quite the ride. I can hardly wait to be able to go back to work. To be back in my little home in Kentucky. To see all my co-workers and friends and fall into a rhythm and routine.

This morning while sipping coffee and spending time praying and thinking about the next couple of weeks, a surprising thought entered my mind.

How in the world am I ever going to accomplish everything I want to before this quarantine is over? 

And then I was like yikes, because if I’m piling more on my plate than I can accomplish during a nearly 50-day-stay-at-home-by-law order, well, that’s intense.

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Letting go isn’t something I’m a natural at. There’s a system of boxes and rows in my brain where everything makes sense and the urge to make sure they’re organized, neat, clean can sometimes be overwhelming. But letting go is something I’ve been working on daily.

Everything doesn’t have to make sense.
Everywhere doesn’t need to be orderly and clutter-free.
Everyone doesn’t need to have the same line-up of non-moral values that I have.

When I look back at this unique time in history, I want to make sure that I can do so with a satisfied nod – that I used my time well. This includes quieting the urge to do something so I can sit quietly and seek God’s face. This means throwing out my to-do list to play games with my siblings. This means that if my writing goes on hold for a day so I can spend extra time helping with big cleaning projects, then so be it. This also means accepting that rest is important – and that having so much uncertainty surrounding the future really does mean my adrenals need extra downtime.

In the quest to use my time wisely and make good memories, I have some pretty fun things that I’m looking forward to doing in the coming weeks. I can’t wait to share them with y’all.

Switching on my Brain

This morning the wind is howling across the barn roof that towers above me into a peek. I sit in my little loft nest, sipping my coffee, reading my Bible, praying, and soaking in yet another day of unexpectedness.

It’s been a journey for me.

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I’ve had to deal with attitudes that I didn’t even realize I had. Attitudes that I thought I’d left behind years ago. The last couple of weeks have included crying, throwing internal fits, and working hard to figure out what in the world is going on with me.

The answer is A bunch of stuff. There’s not an easy, cut and dried answer, but thankfully as I’ve pondered and prayed I’ve been able to slowly bring my attitude back to where it should be. Because something that I’ve long been working on learning in my daily life is that my circumstances don’t control my attitude, I do. My attitude is my responsibility no matter if everything’s going well, or my world is falling apart.

I’ve also been reading the book Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf, and working through her 21-day brain detox where I learn to rewire how I think and react to certain situations. It’s been really eye-opening to sit and ponder what I really think about a situation, compare it with the truth, and then choose the truth as my internal dialog.

On the brighter side, I’ve been having tons of fun working on my short vlogs.

I didn’t plan to post another vlog so soon. But since the idea was waving at me, shouting my name, and begging me to film it, I thought Why Not? and so yesterday was another vloggy day in the life of Lydia.