The Uncluttered Life | Blouses and Purses and Shoes…Oh My!!

It was early in the morning, after HB left for work. I poured my second cup of coffee and headed straight for the bedroom. Now, let me tell you a little bit about my bedroom. In the center of the room, under a window, sits our queen-size bed with a black wrought iron headboard and footboard. I love a light and breezy feel (think ocean cottage) so our bed is covered in white sheets, white blanket, and a white comforter. On each side of our bed are matching dressers in white with black knobs. Each dresser looks unique to the person on that side of the room. HB’s side has a large black mirror sitting on top with a lamp that has a black base. He also has a dish that holds his keys, cellphone, wrist watch, pocket change…you get the gist. It’s manly looking. My side has a large victorian-era lamp. A plant in an off-white pot sits next to it. I also have a diffuser, hand lotion and usually a book or two. My little mirror hangs from the wall, next to pictures that have encouraging sayings on them. A womanly feel.

To one side of the room are french doors with long white curtains that open up to a little private patio. I love sunshine, so the white curtains allow the daylight to break through our east facing doors. Next to the french doors is a large cabinet that my great-grandfather made. Originally it was designed to be my grandma’s canning cabinet. HB white-washed it for me a couple of years ago and I use it as my armoire. In my previous update, you saw the black shelf that sits between our entry door and master bathroom door. As well, I have pictures on the walls, all visuals of being outdoors.

Sounds kind of dreamy, doesn’t it?

What I didn’t tell you about was the closet behind the door. A closet that was so packed with mostly unused items, where dust mites go to enjoy a life of leisure. What I didn’t tell you about was the area on my side of the bed, where stacks of folded and refolded clothes sit because I have nowhere in the room to put them. What I didn’t tell you about were the dressers that were so stuffed with clothing items that the bottoms were being pushed out. What I didn’t tell you about was the armoire that bulged so much over the front of the shelves that we couldn’t even close the doors.

Yeah…I didn’t tell you about all of the clutter.

So I walked in the bedroom door that morning, with my big ol’ cup of coffee in hand and took a good look around that room that had overwhelmed me for far too long. This should go without saying, but our master bedrooms are intended to be our haven. It is a place where we go for peace, comfort and romance. This represented none of the above. It was a picture of eye-noise, discomfort and well…not one of romance.

There’s a certain way that I clean. I’ve been like this since I was a little girl. In each room I select a large surface where I can put things to sort through. It gives me a feeling of space as items go into one area and space opens up around it. For my bedroom, this is obviously our bed. So the first thing I did…I made the bed.

I grabbed a bag and decided my first go-around (yes, it’s another work in progress) would be brutal and swift. Because the closet and armoire were most overwhelming to me, I decided I’d tackle the stack of clothes on my side of the bed. I began to toss anything that I just “knew” I didn’t really love. We all have those items. We hold onto them for some strange reason, but every time we put them on, we end up changing into something else because they just don’t feel right. Yet, we fold them up and toss them back into the pile. As I went through every item of clothing on the floor, I quickly tossed anything I had to ponder and folded the items I felt I loved and put them on the bed. I organized them according to the type of item they were (ie., tank tops, short-sleeve tops, pants, etc.). Before I knew it, I had gone through all of the clothes on the floor. Not too bad.

I still felt overwhelmed by the closet, so I decided to hit the armoire next. I opened both doors and sat down to take a good look at all of those clothes. I thought to myself, “What is my true style? What items don’t fit my lifestyle anymore? What items am I holding onto to get back into, fix a button, etc.?” I felt I needed to process some deeper thoughts before moving forward. In order to be brutal, it was important to get a true focus on who I really am. I think we all have various style ideas that we like to play with, but somewhere in the mix of that is our true style. When you wear an outfit that is so comfortable that you practically forget about it…where it makes you feel good about yourself whenever you wear it…that is your true style. The armoire was going to be a bit tougher than the stack on the floor because these were items that had been shoved away for a while. It meant I was going to have to…dun, dun, dun…try them all on.

Yep. Some items I knew I could just toss, but most of what was in there, I put on. If it didn’t fit well enough, was a color that made me go, “eh…”, or was something that I knew I’d rarely or probably never wear again, it was tossed into the bag. For instance, my many pairs of slacks. I have not worn a single pair in a year and half…not even to church. With the exception of my black pair, I tossed them all in the bag. The stack of “work shirts” – meaning, those shirts that are big and comfy and have stains on them that we tend to think will be perfect if we decided to paint the house or work in the garden…yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Tossed them all! For a year and a half, I’ve worked around my home, inside and out, and I have never put on one of those shirts. I wear my normal everyday casual attire. So, this went on and on as I worked my way through four full and stuffed shelves. Between the floor clothes and armoire clothes, I filled to-the-top two large garbage bags. For the items I kept, I folded and put on the bed with the other grouped stacks of clothing I “intended” to keep.

Cleaning, organizing, uncluttering…it’s a mental thing, and as the floor cleared and the armoire emptied and the bags filled, my momentum and energy picked up. I headed for the dresser on my side of the bed.

My top drawer is filled with under garments. Let me just say this to the girls out there…throw away the stuff that needs to be thrown away! There is nothing sexy about undies with holes and bras with wires that only impale when worn. Toss them! To the guys…do the same with your under stuff. Friends, toss anything that is too big, too small, needs repair, or whatever other excuse you’re using to hold onto them.  Forgo a week’s worth of coffee at your local favorite coffee shop and use the money to get some new under stuff.

My dresser has three drawers, so I made my way through the other two; one with ALL of my sleeping attire and the other with ALL of my scarves, wraps, hats, etc. I pretty much did the same with these two drawers as I had before. I had so many pj’s; many that I didn’t even really like and most that I rarely wore. Again, we have our favorites, so I got brutal and tossed them into bags. Because scarves and wraps can become such a tangled mess, I decided I would find another way to store those, so I left my bottom drawer empty for now.

So by this point, my floor was clear, my armoire was empty, and my dresser was organized and ready for a re-do. It was time to tackle the closet. …dun, dun, dun…

My closet is an odd little space behind our bedroom door. Several years ago, HB extended our master bath so I could have the tub of my dreams…a claw foot. Yeah, dreamy. (I’ll talk more about my bathroom on another day.) By extending our bathroom, that meant he had to use our old full-sized closet. When he sealed up that wall, that used to have our closet doors, we still had an area behind our door about three feet wide and deep. He hung two poles; one high, that only he could reach…and one low, for me. In between the two was a shelf that was sort of crowded all the time from his clothes above. My clothes came so close to the floor, that my shoes were kind of hidden underneath it all. We had a curtain – a bulging curtain – that hung from a spring rod in our attempt to create a door.

I honestly hated this little closet set-up and decided it needed a change. In our bathroom is a dresser that belonged to my great-grandparents. I love it but, in the bathroom, it’s became a place to collect all sorts of junk. So, I decided I wanted this dresser in my closet area. That meant I would no longer have a pole for my clothes to hang from, but I wanted something more useful where we really needed it.

I poured more coffee and went to task on our closet. I pulled each item from the pole, and went through the same motions as I did my armoire…I tried everything on and probably got rid of 3/4’s of it all.

One thing worth mentioning… There is nothing more depressing than going to your closet, dresser, armoire…whatever…and fishing through clothing that does not fit you. I had done this for far too long, and I believe it’s part of what took me down my frumpy road. It was discouraging to have so much and be able to wear so little. The dust on the shoulders of each item was a tell-tale sign of how long it had been. Take my advice and do yourself a favor, be kind to yourself and release the pull that clothing has on you. Keep what fits well and that you love. When the time comes that you take off those extra pounds or you take that cruise and can wear those fancy items…you’ll find a way to get a few more things that work perfect.

Before I knew it, the pole was empty. Just as I’ve collected jewelry, I’ve collected clothing; jackets, slacks, blouses, skirts for days, vests, sweaters….I could go on and on. I had to keep asking myself, “What is my true style and what makes me feel good about myself?” I tossed anything that didn’t fit into the answers to those questions.

I continued on like this until I had gone through every items of clothing, every shoe, and every purse I had accumulated in my bedroom. The feeling of air and space around me felt wonderful! I had filled three Hefty-sized bags with clothing, one with shoes, and a smaller bag with purses. I moved the bags out of the room so I could see and feel the space. I won’t lie…it was tough, but it was freeing!

We have hardwood floors in our room. What a pleasure to be able to see them so uncluttered. It was time to go through the mound of clothing still left on the bed. Yes…there was still a mound of items I intended to keep. Remember me mentioning my first go-around? Well…this would be my second, because as I had freed myself from all of that clothing clutter, my brain clicked into gear and I was ready to raise the bar on brutal cleaning mode. These were all items that I could wear, so now I had to go through and filter out those things that I was still kind of holding onto “just because…” but that continued to be tossed around without actually being worn. I filled half a bag with many of those items. 🙂

Now because I was putting the dresser in my closet area, I no longer had a pole to hang clothing from. I recently read this little idea of rolling certain clothing items to save on space. Yes, I know…sounds weird, but I decided I was going to give this a try. I decided I would roll my skirts and my more flowing shirts and blouses (material that doesn’t wrinkle). I filled the two empty dresser drawers with those and let me tell you…I love it! I can easily spot a skirt and blouse and they take up hardly any space at all. In fact, in my skirt drawer, I was able to add a basket that holds my belts (yes, I have a small collection of those too). I used my armoire to hold my folded items (tank tops, regular shirts, button-up shirts, pants, etc.)

Now I know our rooms are set up differently. My way of cleaning might be weird and foreign to your way. The gist in all of this is to simply…unclutter. I believe that we hang onto a lot of stuff for mental reasons. I don’t know about you, but inside of me lives this other woman who I long to be. I can’t help but wonder if a big part of my clutter is to try to get closer to her. Or maybe as a kid we didn’t have stuff that we wanted, so now we’re working jobs and living lives where we can, so we fill that old void that we had. I can only speak for myself, but I believe it causes a vicious cycle in us; like an addiction, and so we collect and collect until our precious homes are bursting at the seams and we’re left feeling miserable and overwhelmed surrounded by it all.

Even though I’ve uncluttered a lot, I already know that there’s more for me to get rid of, but just like my jewelry, I plan to let them linger for a season or two to see which ones become my favorites. By the first of the year, I should have a good sense of what else can go – that’s gone untouched.

Take out your calendar today. Where do you have space to spend an hour really looking at your home?  Schedule it in, and plan to walk around…looking into drawers, closets, corners, shelves…just some time to take it all in. Then, pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit down and plan a day for a brutal cleaning. I have found it’s best to do this in stages. In fact, I’m still working through mine as I share with you.

And know…this process might feel overwhelming and it might make you cry. It did for me. I cried because it was the realization of something much deeper inside of me. I’m not a hoarder who has trails through my home, but one who has trails through my heart.

THAT’s what I want to tap into. THAT’s where I want to encourage others. To put on some fresh new eyes..clear your mind and heart and get to the root of who you are underneath all of this clutter.

*raising my coffee cup to you*
Here’s too our continued pursuit of The Uncluttered Life! Cheers!

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If you have any tips to share or questions to ask, please comment below.

Coming soon: Peace and Calm| Completion of the Master Bedroom (with pictures)

we can do it

 

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The Uncluttered Life: The Beginning

This is actually where it all began. The Uncluttered Life journey, that is. It’s been a year and half since I was taken out of the big work world. Now, just for the record, my intent isn’t to start this off on a negative tone. I’ve gotten past all of that, but recently, I realized the lasting affect it’s had on me. I have since come to terms with that big movement in my life and have embraced – and LOVE! – this new place in my life that I’m in. I’m only sharing that little blurb because it sets the picture of how this all came to be.

Back then I regularly dressed in slacks, skirts, blouses, cute shoes, matching purse, and all of the adornments that pulled the entire outfit together. When that part of my life ended, I put all of those things away. It was as if a part of me was gone and I associated these things with the person I “was.” My slacks were shoved to the back of my armoire. My skirts and blouses remained hanging in the closet, collecting dust. My shoes were all tossed to the closet floor and changed out for flip-flops and slip-on tennies. Beautiful purses were shoved into a box in the corner of the room. And my adornments…I kept only a few things out and dumped everything else into a big box lid and shoved it under my bed, where my toes have kicked it ever since.

I put a part of myself away. A cluttered mind and heart, I’d say…

So after kicking this box lid for the five hundredth and fifty-first time, I decided it was time to pull it back to the surface and go through it all. You know how we all have that big ol’ ball of Christmas lights to untangle in December? Well…that’s a good picture of what this looked liked. I cleared my dining room table and brought every single piece of jewelry out and began the four-hour task of dusting, untangling and sorting. Yep…four hours.

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It’s interesting the pull of emotions that came with this task. It brought back a painful memory for me, but also a new excitement for a life that I have embraced and love. I truly have the fondest of memories for those years of my life and I allowed a moment to kind of snuff it out – and to snuff out a little flame in my heart. Pretty jewelry, tangled and dusty, was the perfect reflection of that little area I had tucked away. I wanted that piece of me back again.

I decided, as I was conquering this huge task, that I would do my best to be brutal. I could only commit to “do my best” because well..I do love jewelry. To me, it’s like the signature on a painting; the final touch. Beside me was a bag, to put everything that I didn’t love or that needed repair and couldn’t be fix on the spot. I wasn’t going to keep anything that was not useful in this moment.

For three days I kept this now untangled, sorted, and sparkling collection on display in my dining room. When my kids and grandkids would stop by, they were shocked by the amount that I still had…even after filling a decent sized bag with the items I wouldn’t be keeping. It wasn’t on display for them as a “look what I have!” sort of thing. No, it was for me. There was something painfully revealing in it all. Some sort of connection to a part of my heart that needed to be faced and revived. I suppose one would think it crazy of me, but I spent a lot of time sitting there, looking at it all, touching, remembering…feeling.

Materially, I couldn’t help but feel shame in such a collection of stuff. I was probably everyone’s favorite person to invite to the jewelry party. I couldn’t help but wonder if having all of this was to fill a void I had then. I joked with my husband one Saturday morning over coffee and told him, “If you’re wondering what to buy me for any occasion; my birthday, Valentine’s Day, Christmas…DO NOT buy me jewelry. I think it would be best if you bought me therapy!!” We had a good laugh over that, but honestly, I think there’s some truth in it. Now, please don’t get me wrong. In telling you my little stories, I am in no way trying to say that we shouldn’t enjoy the fruits of our labor. But for me, this was excessive. Okay, maybe for anyone…this is excessive. Right?!

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Spiritually, this day took on a deeper meaning inside of me. Just like these pretty items that were tossed in a box lid and pushed under a bed, so was the condition of my heart. Inside, I had a big part of me that was tangled, dusty and broken. My home, my jewelry, my clutter, was a direct reflection of what the outer me had become. I didn’t realize the rut I was in; jeans, frumpy t-shirts, and flip-flops had become my new uniform. I mean, we all love days dressed like this, but this really became a reflection of the inside me.

With the untangling, dusting and fixing of each pretty piece, it was as if these motions were doing the same inside of me. It was as if a part of me that lay dormant began to wake up again. I felt inspired to reclaim my life; what I was and what I am now! In spite of the daunting task, I felt a spark of excitement to MOVE!

While I had no idea I would need this in such a big way, God knew that this moment would approach. I’m left feeling thankful, even for that rough time of my life. I’m a very deep and passionate person. As I said yesterday, I only allow people to see what I want them to see. I’m a fighter at heart, so I always do my best to move forward and rarely allow people to see into the true depths of my heart. I am not one to reveal my pain and suffering. So while this might seem an odd realization about a pile of old jewelry, this was a deep picture of what God does in our lives. As I was lovingly cleaning pretty things, He was lovingly cleaning something pretty deep inside of me.

Do you see the relation there? I believe that our clutter is a direct reflection of something so much deeper inside of us that only He can fill.

So you might be wondering…”Well, what did you do with all of that jewelry?” Well, friends, I cleared off a lovely shelf that was overflowing with other clutter (more stories to come), found some pretty baskets, trinket boxes, and frames that I misplaced in another cluttered location 🙂 and put them on display where I can see them – and wear them! – every single day.

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As you can see, it’s more than I could probably wear in a year, so the process isn’t over for me. But I’m going to allow these items to linger here for a while, as my heart continues to heal, feel, and reclaim its beauty from the inside out.

An aside: Do you have an excessive area that you collect? Is there a deeper void that you’re trying to fill?  What needs to be untangled, dusted off, fixed and maybe even tossed, in your home and heart? The realization of this is your beginning to healing.

Up next…the clothes!!
Oh, I have so much more to share (with tips)… 🙂

*raising my cup of coffee to you*
Cheers!

 

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The Uncluttered Life

I’ve been in this crazy-brutal-cleaning mode for several weeks now. So many times I’ve wanted to sit down and start writing about it, but I was afraid that if I broke the momentum, I’d break the flow of energy and focus. I’ve taken lots notes and pictures, so I will go back and tell you more about what I’ve already accomplished. But for today, I simply want to tell you about…today.

I spent the morning reflecting on these past weeks, as I’ve charged through my home making both easy and painfully emotional decisions on what to keep and what to let go of. Wow. What an eye-opening realization of what’s been going on inside of my heart. Somehow, I believe the two are connected.

I’m pretty good at hiding the clutter in my home (a closet here, a drawer or two…or five, there) so everyone sees only what I want them to see. From the surface, one would think I have a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Isn’t that the way we are even in our hearts?! I only allow you to see what I want you to see. On the surface, I can look very well put together…hair done, nice outfit with all the right jewelry, cute shoes with matching purse. That’s surface stuff. What you don’t see is the turmoil inside of me…the clutter! Financial worries, children worries, grandchildren worries, stressful schedules, undone chores, and lack of balance in my life. It’s a mess and all stuffed into the closets and drawers of my heart.

My first step to an uncluttered life was to go room by room – FAST! – and get rid of anything that I didn’t love or wasn’t useful to me. This was tough, but I just began tossing. It needed to be quick and swift, so I wouldn’t take too much time to think about it. As the bags began to fill, I began to feel.

I didn’t realize this connection between the two until I began to set my mind on getting rid of a “few things.” But as I tossed stuff into bags and boxes, I began to feel something. Not only airy space around my home, but a lightness in my heart. I kept asking myself, “Is there some mental reason that I’ve acquired these things? Am I trying to fill some sort of void in my heart?”

In some weird way, as I’ve let go, I’ve become kind of high on this feeling of freedom and want it even more, so I’ve revisited the rooms of my home (and, in turn, my heart) to see what else is causing the clutter. To date, I have gotten rid of several hefty-sized bags of clothes, shoes, jewelry, makeup…I’m going to save all of those details for another day. i promise, I will tell you about it all.

But today…as I entered my study, (which is quite clean, uncluttered and almost completely organized), I opened up my various email accounts (I have three) to find THOUSANDS of emails!! My first thought was, “Ugh.” I wanted to close it and come back later. Seriously friends, this is clutter!! I receive emails from restaurants, clothing stores, furniture stores, shoe stores and grocery stores. I receive newsletters from health sites, writing sites, home and garden sites, magazines that I’ve subscribed to (yeah…that’s another area I’ll get to), not to mention all of the coupon deals I’ve signed up for.

Somewhere in the mix of ALL of this CLUTTER are my bills, notes from friends, and work-related projects. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed one of these because it’s smothered out by everything else. No lie…each day, when I log into my emails, I am inundated with hundreds of junk emails, most of what I’ve signed up for. Good grief, who do I think I am?! I mean, I love to read, but it would take me an entire day to get through it all and so they just accumulate. I never get a chance to read them all and honestly, when I log in and see the number of items in my Inbox, it stresses me out!

So this is what I uncluttered today. There’s this nice little box above all of our emails, where it will put a check mark on everything. I have found this is simpler, since most of my inbox is filled with clutter. Then, I work my way down the list and unclick what needs to be kept…resisting the urge to save any clutter that peaks my curiosity. Now, I have done this many times, where I have only deleted the junk mail. But, do you know what happens? It’s all back the following week and I get behind again. So today, I did the same routine, but kept one of each of those items. Once I did the big delete of over a thousands emails. I was left with about 60 to tackle.

I opened each one of those and worked my way through the pretty pictures, links…clutter…down to the bottom of the page to search for the teensy and faded “unsubscribe” link. The entire process took me about an hour. And wow…some of those sites make you feel really guilty about unsubscribing from them. While some will say “We’ve made a note of this and we’ll miss you.” Others make you select a box for the reason you’re leaving. Sheesh…it’s crazy how guilty that can make you feel (or maybe it’s just me). I was a little put off by one that had options of: Check here if you want to receive our newsletter once a week, Check here if you want to receive our newsletter once a month, Check here if you NEVER WANT TO RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER EVER AGAIN! Ha! That’s the truth!! My first thought was, “Wow, that’s really harsh! I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” Fortunately, I came to my senses and told them goodbye forever!

My goal here in writing about all of this is to simply encourage you to open your eyes to all of the things that are cluttering up your life and your precious time. As I’ve worked my way through rooms, so much more is becoming clear to me. I never would have thought my emails would be something on the list. But that’s what I want to encourage you to do today. Just take a look at your email Inbox and ask yourself, “How often do I read this stuff? What can I live without? I mean, seriously…will I die if I don’t see this great deal? Does all of this make me feel stressed?” …and then start unsubscribing from it all!

Yes, I lost about an hour of my time unsubscribing today, but I think I just gained a whole bunch of freedom! Gone is the temptation to check out that great deal. Gone is the stress felt because I cannot catch up on all of the emails waiting for me. Gone is that big number next to my Inbox link. I cannot wait to log in to my mail tomorrow morning to see what’s NOT there!!

*raising my cup of coffee to you*

Friends – follow me on this journey. Let’s find some victory in “The Uncluttered Life!” I have much more to tell you. Cheers!

The Uncluttered Life (08-09-16)

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Oh, Lover of My Soul…

It was two weeks ago, at about this hour, that I was sitting at this very keyboard when a message came through on Facebook; a note from a childhood friend telling a group of us that another childhood friend had died sometime during the early morning hours. She was found in her bed…

…and I was undone.

For two weeks I have struggled with my words, something that usually just fills my head and heart and easily rolls right out of my fingertips. But every time I sat down to try and write something, I just stared at the blank whiteness on my screen.

She was beautiful, inside and out. A woman with a colorful past, with a heart so filled with vicious love, it consumed her. Her life wasn’t perfect – but let’s be honest…is there any one of us that can make this claim? No. She had her quirks and faults…all that she willingly named and claimed. I adored and even admired her for that. There’s so much of myself that I keep tucked away from prying eyes, but she didn’t care who saw the anguish and longings of her heart.

But she wasn’t someone who begged for attention. She didn’t write “oh woe is me” kind of comments. She’d get her vents out there where they no longer had a hold on her brain and then she’d be done. In spite of her venting moments and troubled loneliness, she was one of the biggest encouragers I knew. “Smiles & Laughter” was her regular sign-off before the end of the day.

I notice, on her last day, that something was up. That morning she called out to her friends to send her some energy for the day. A few of us chimed in with good thoughts that she took to heart. All seemed well. But that afternoon, something had changed. Her posts were ones of anger…

…and I didn’t respond.

I thought she was just having one of her venting sessions and soon she’d be okay. Her last post of the day said, “I hate life…”

I saw it and responded with “Praying!” I woke up the following morning (two weeks ago today) with her heavy on my heart. I sent her one of my favorite passages, Lamentations 3:22-24…Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Along with that, I told her that I was praying she’d wake up feeling refreshed and renewed.

…and she never saw my note.

When the message came through, I wanted to scream. I literally gasped, both hands over my face, and all I could utter was, “OH GOD!! OH GOD!! OH GOD!!…” It took me days to process this type of grief I was feeling…disbelief, guilt…and anger!

My prayers were anguish cries “at” God, “I told her that because of Your love we are not consumed! Well, she was consumed, God. Consumed by her loneliness!!! My words feel empty even now. She never even saw them…” And this went on for days as I wrestled with Him. While I’m good at explaining things, it’s impossible for me to fully explain how loved I felt in those moments. Even in my anger, I could feel His hugs.

I believe He cried with me. After all, she was His as well as I am. The anger in me subsided a little, but then came the guilt. You see…she had moments like these. We had many private message, behind the public comments, and so many times she would tell me what a gift I had for encouraging and comforting her. She never felt like I was shoving God down her throat, but that I always brought some sort of BIG hug along with my words. So guilt moved in on me. I saw the change that afternoon, and I didn’t say a thing…until it was too late. Now I know that God is always in control, but I didn’t use the gift that He has given me to even try to mend her battle wounds. I am ashamed to admit that I passed it off as, “She’s having one of her vent sessions and she’ll be fine.”

…but even there, God has comforted me.

God is in control, and I am not. I have no idea what happened that night…it seems that no one does – or isn’t saying. It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t need to know the details, in fact I don’t want to know them. All I know is that I lost a precious childhood friend and my heart deeply misses her presence .

I lean towards introvert tendencies. I am an open book in various areas of my life that I choose to share with others, but there’s much that I tuck away. I am always in tune to my audience of readers; never wanting to offend. But…I am guilty of missing opportunities to speak life, truth and healing into the battle wounds of those who call me “friend.”

Never again!  

My Dear Friend – I am so sorry that I said nothing. I miss your presence every single day, but assure you that your presence will forever remain in my heart. Because of you, I am changed in many ways. When I feel those nudges to speak encouragement into someone, I won’t just pass them by. Holding up my coffee cup to you.
Smiles and Laughter to you, Sweetie. *cheers!*

Oh, Lover of my soul – You are truly my Comforter, my Savior, my Rock and Redeemer. This has been a rough heart lesson for me. Help me to be confident and bold in my faith…to speak the words that You always put into my heart. I am so thankful that I can have childlike faith, stomping my feet in anger and grief, and that you love and hug me even tighter. Thank You for helping me find my words.
You’re a good good Father. *hugs!*

(Please forgive lack of edits today…this was all about getting the words out of me.)
Holding my cup of coffee up to all of you, dear friends. *Cheers!*

 

lover of my soul

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Two are better than one…

“Will you be my accountability partner?” Eeeeeeeek!!

I have nothing to hide. My life is an open book. I’m known to be a good encourager. But when faced with that question, I would often prefer the ground open up and swallow me before I force my response of, “Sure.” Honestly, it’s a question that sometimes makes me feel trapped! I mean, how does one possibly say “Sorry, no.” to that question?

Here’s the deal with me…I lean towards being an introvert. While many become depressed and discouraged in solitude, I actually become revived and refreshed. My preference is to always do things alone. I want to make it very clear that my reasons for resistance are all about me, and no one else. I want to be in control of what I do – and don’t do. I don’t want the responsibility of letting someone down, because I know I will. I struggle with guilt, and I don’t want to create another “thing” that I will end up feeling guilty about. I do not care for drama or pity…and these are all things that I associate with accountability. I’m a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of gal so I usually don’t linger too long in drama. I like to brush myself off and move on, so I’m not good in this area if someone wants to linger way too long for my amount of comfort. And pity…I do not like people to feel sorry for me, so I’m reluctant to share things that I’m struggling with. If I only have myself and God to be accountable to, then I won’t have to deal with any of this.

When I started out with my walking last summer, I would typically head out around 10am or so…by myself. The wheels are always turning in my head. I am always aware of my surroundings; waiting for my take-away lesson to journal about. Some days I would listen to music as I walked. I loved how it would flow with the breeze through the trees and orchestrate all life around me. Other days I preferred to walk in silence to just give my mind a rest, or maybe I’d decide to make it a prayer walk, lifting each person up that I saw along the way. I’d pray for my friends and family as they were put on my heart. It was therapy, in sweet, sweet solitude.

My closest friend saw what I was doing and wanted to join in; however, we would need to change the time of our walk to the crack of dawn. I’ll admit, I was not thrilled about this when we first set out on this little “accountability” thing. She was excited to be doing this together, but I really wasn’t fully invested and did it a bit begrudgingly. While I walked for exercise, it was so much more than that to me. And now…it would be different.

Here we are, eight months later, and I can’t imagine walking without her. Something really happened in me. Oddly enough, I found myself excited to get up, get dressed, lace up the shoes, and wait for the peppy blonde chick to show up at my curb. Our walks went from one-mile to six-miles in a matter of a couple of months. Our fitness apps show that we walk anywhere from an hour to an hour and thirty minutes, but to us it feels half of that.

We talk about everything and nothing. My walks have now become a different type of therapy. I have found other ways to find the solitude that I still need, but I’ve learned that it’s not good for us to go through all of our journeys alone. If I am struggling or having an off day, she is somehow in the opposite mood – and the reverse is true. Like iron sharpening iron, we are able to lift, encourage and nudge each other into healthier ways of thinking and feeling in all aspects of life. Being an accountability partner goes in both directions. It’s being equals; when one is weak, the other is strong. It’s each of us being transparent and sharing, believing in one another, and lifting each other to new and improved heights. As well, it’s all about celebrating together in our victories!

Left to my own vices, I wouldn’t depend on anyone when I’m struggling. Because of my optimistic nature, I know that I’d make my way through it…but without some accountability in my life, I don’t know that I would have grown to the heights I’ve reached; mentally, physically and spiritually.

What about you? Where do you land where the A-word is concerned? I want to encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone, just dip your toe into an atmosphere that you just might need, but have been avoiding. Why not invite a friend or a couple of friends over for a simple cup of coffee? Invite a friend to walk, or go on a bike ride. Pay a visit to a group at your church and be open to making a connection or two.

Encouragement and motivation is out there waiting for each one of us. Don’t wait for it to come knocking at your door. Take it from a lifelong encourager like me…take the first step and dare to be someone’s accountability partner.

Have a wonderful day, friends!


Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
~Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
~Proverbs 27:17

tandem_blue_vintage

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A Leap of Faith

I’ve learned all the rules about taking the perfect selfie; phone held high, chin up, face the window, lean in…and there you have it, a flawless selfie. I don’t want anyone to see my lumps, bumps and other flaws, so I have this unwritten rule among my closest friends that if you’re going to post a picture of me, you’d better let me review it first. If it shows something that you would be unhappy with, then you’d better know that I will be unhappy with that too.

This past weekend we had a little family get together. Facebook recently added this live-feed option, so we decided to have a little bit of fun with it and show all of our friends what was going on inside of our home. I was in the moment, having fun, and never even thought about positioning myself for a perfect live feed.

So imagine my shock and dismay when I later sat down to view the video. No perfectly placed chin, no perfect angle, and no sunny window nearby…it was me…the real me.

My first reaction was, as I said, shock. I went through the “Do I really sound like that? Do I really look like that?!” montage, and then discouragement and a bit of sadness fell over me as I really looked at myself. What a reality check that really hurt.

Now don’t get me wrong. If you’ve read much of my stuff you know that I’m Optimist Extreme! I like me and don’t beat myself up too much. But…I can honestly say that sometimes I’m guilty of turning a blind eye to the truth. I am always looking for silver linings and somehow, even when I look in the mirror, I refuse to see what needs to be seen. So I spent my pitiful little moment in shock and disbelief. Actually, it was more than a moment…I lingered there for quite a while.

I’ve been away from writing for so long, that many of you don’t know that I’ve actually become an avid walker. Back in July, I started out by walking about a mile a few times a week. By September, I was walking 5-6 miles almost every day. Currently, I walk 4-miles several times a week. Seriously…I should be a twig by now!

So seeing myself in this live video destroyed me a little bit. I felt like a fraud. I walk and talk healthy living, happily posting my miles from my fitness app, but this video of me told the truth…that I’m not healthy at all. Maybe in mind and spirit, but definitely not in body. Yes, I do a lot of walking and so my strength has improved, but in many ways I am sabotaging my efforts and my health.

This morning, I thought about a gazillion things I could write. I wanted to think up something fun and clever for this Leap Day…and then I came across that video again. I so want to be real in all aspects of my life; not just to my friends and family, but more importantly…to ME!

So today I’m taking the leap! I’m leaping with faith and forgiving myself, leaping with strength and making good choices, and leaping with courage and being completely honest to me!

Is there anything in your life that you’re turning a blind eye to? Is there something that you just keep brushing under the proverbial carpet because you don’t want to see or believe the truth of it? No matter what it is…I want to encourage you to start brand new today. Assess the damage, forgive yourself, and with faith and courage…LEAP!

Happy Leap Day, Friends!


I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
~Philippians 4:13

Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health physically just as you are spiritually.
~3 John 1:2

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“I know the plans I have for you…”

feet-walking-forward

What I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me–and not without results…It was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.
~I Corinthians 15:10

Good Morning! How are you all doing?! It has been so long since I’ve sat down for a little chat. Part of the struggle for me was not knowing where to begin again. Today, I just decided to…begin!

I’ve been reflecting this week. Last year, at this time, I was faced with huge changes in my life. I lost my job and was left a bit unsteady. I still remember the HR Gal (whose friendship I always cherished) telling me, “Cindy, a year from now you’re going to look back and see that this is the best thing that ever happened to you.”

Okay, seriously…when you hear that at your exit interview, those are not encouraging words. I put my poker face on, and showed her much grace. She was someone I considered a friend and felt her words were truly sincere, but inside I was thinking, “How on EARTH can you say that with a clear conscience?!”

Well…here I am…a little over a year later and her sincere words have come to fruition – and she was right. While our budget is much tighter, we have our heads above the water and I’m enjoying the freedom of an early retirement. It was truly the best thing that happened to me, because God had other plans…

In January, I took on a voluntary position to be my pastor’s assistant. I only work a few hours, a couple times a week…but, I LOVE IT. When I left the big work world I told everyone that I would never – EVER – go back to office work. Sign me up to be anything but! Funny thing…I really love being back in an office. I love the office chatter and an atmosphere that feels so familiar to me. More than that…I love that I’m giving it freely. I know not everyone can do that, so I’m thankful that I can.

We can get caught up in the “what am I going to get out of this” attitude when we step out in an act of service. I’m human – I have – and I do. But this time, it’s different. This year has been a huge journey of deep soul searching for me. I think God must have giggled a lot through the year as I stomped my foot and said, “But I don’t wanna…!” I felt like I had lost my sense of self with my job, but I hadn’t. It’s who I am and that’s why I was good at it. I don’t mean for that to sound all self-centered, because I do believe that God wants us to acknowledge and embrace the gifts and talents He give us. He wants us to increase them, not hide them away. And that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to stuff that part of my life into some box and leave it be.

This has been the biggest part of my personal journey…realizing that these gifts and talents are a deep part of who I am. What a wonderful attitude adjustment I’ve received through this entire experience.

I guess my take-away from this is…what are your true gifts and talents? What are the things that you are just naturally drawn to? Are you stuffing those away, thinking that they’re of no use? I would encourage you to do a bit of journaling. Sit down and write out what you feel your God-given gifts and talents are. Be still, and allow His voice to drift through you and write down the ideas that settle in your heart. And then…think of a way to just begin. Give it a try! You just might be standing in the way of inner peace, freedom and happiness as you begin to embrace, claim, and use all that He has gifted to you.

Happy Friday, Friends!
Hope you have a wonderful day!

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“You are the only person on earth who can use your abilities. No one else can play your role, because they don’t have the unique shape that God has given you.” ~Rick Warren

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~Jeremiah 29:11

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The Best Laid Plans

So here we are a week later and how did I do? Great! All things considering.

Almost as soon as I wrote my last post, the winds kicked up in our city and the allergies set in. There was a point, over the weekend, that I thought it had morphed into a full-blown cold. I was miserable. But fortunately, as the winds died down, so did my symptoms. Today I am breathing freely. It’s a warm 84 degrees in sunny Sacramento with only a very light breeze. My kind of weather.

I did my best to eat wisely, but…when you’re just not feeling well, it’s pretty hard to focus in on everything healthy. It’s during those times when the comfort foods call out. But I decided that I wasn’t going to have one of those throw-in-the-towel moments and tell myself I’ve failed again. Nope. I decided that I’d enjoy my comfort foods in moderation.

I’m happy to report that I’m down 3.2 lbs. Not too shabby. It’s amazing how a turn of perspective can make all the difference in the world. I have seriously yo-yo’d for years and when I’ve allowed myself extra things “off the plan,” I would often beat myself up for it. As the week progressed and the way I felt went downhill, I decided to just forgive myself ahead of time, for any little rabbit trails I headed down. And it wasn’t like this gave me permission to just eat anything and everything. I still kept a certain focus, but allowed myself a few little treats. And look at me…I did just fine. I’m not thinking about what I would have lost had I been perfect, I’m celebrating the steps I made in moving forward.

In my humble opinion, it’s our mental state of mind that can be so damaging in our efforts. We tend to say good things to ourselves when we’re being perfect, but when we slide just a bit, we say awful things. Things that we would never take from anyone else. So that’s the area that I’m focusing in on…talking nicely to the person that beats inside my heart. She’s perfectly imperfect and so I want to show her love and kindness.

So today I’m telling myself, “Good job!” And I feel encouraged and confident to face the week ahead. By the way, today is my birthday. Most of my clan will be here for dinner and dessert tonight. We are a pizza and ice cream loving family, so that’s what we’re going to enjoy – just for this evening. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be a glutton, but I am going to enjoy this little moment. And tomorrow, as I start my new day, I’ll reflect on what a fun evening we enjoyed together and then I’ll keep on moving forward.

Be kind to yourself, friends. Wherever you are in your own personal journey, learn to focus your heart and mind on all that is good. Health begins in the heart.

~CindyLu

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Flipping the Switch

It seems as if it’s been forever since I last wrote something here. I think that as life threw its curve balls at me, I just didn’t know how to put it all into words…and so, I didn’t even try.

To give you a bullet point, the job that I had invested about seventeen years of my life into was suddenly eliminated. As a result, it sent me into a spiral of emotions that shocked even me. I’m an even-keeled person, and it takes a lot to send me tossing about, but this life event sure did. Just like they say, there are certain things in life that cause you to go through the grief emotions, and I did just that.

But, I have found my land legs again and honestly, it was a blessing in disguise. I mean, how fun that I have all this time to write! The problem has been that I’ve hardly written a single thing for people to see. Yesterday, the switch flipped.

HB and I spent the day with some good friends of ours. We visited a nearby flea market and took several random photos of food, flea market finds, and selfies, as my girlfriend and I tried on funny and super cute hats. I have always loved hats and have been told that I have great hair for hats, yet, I never wear them. I decided that I was buying not one, but TWO new hats and committed to actually wear them.

But as I said, we took lots of fun pictures and as I sat down last night to take a look back at the day, I was so surprised to see myself in these photos. All I could think was, “Who on earth is that woman posing as me?!?!” Feelings of shock and disgust fell on me, and I almost deleted them in that moment. But then decided, no…I need these. It was actually very sad to look at this woman who allowed the past couple of months to derail her life a little bit. In truth, I love this woman and seeing her like this made me want to take care of her. While the day was filled with fun, I could clearly see the toll life’s events had taken on her.

And so, the switch flipped right there.

This new feeling of energy, encouragement and excitement overcame me as I looked at my reflection in this photos. I walked into the bathroom and pulled that dusty scale out from under the dresser and decided to face the reality of it all. Shocking, yes – I weigh more than  ever have – but it didn’t surprise or destroy me.

I stepped back down and looked at myself in the mirror. When I’m all dressed up, jewelry and makeup on, and hair styled, it’s easy to ignore the unhealthiness that I’m trying to hide. So, I really looked at myself, and all I could think was, “Good grief…I am so sorry at how unkind I’ve been to you.”

Next week is my 52nd birthday, and the gift I’m giving myself is declaring this time of my life, “MY” decade. I have been raising children since I was 17 years old (yes, I started young). They have all grown and are creating lives of their own, so I’m giving myself permission to step away from their lives a bit and turn the focus around to me. I’m flipping the switch.

For those of you younger than me, I have lots of advice and insight to send out to you about the baggage we carry through our decades. For those who are in my age range, I hope to encourage you as you also blaze through this era of your life. As well, I look forward to soaking up the insights and encouragements of others as they come my way.

Join me on my new and improved journey as I approach a brand new year and finally embrace and seize this decade of my life.

*raising my coffee cup to you!* CHEERS!

 

~CindyLu~

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O Christmas Tree

It’s one of my fondest memories as a child. The first time I got to decorate the tree with my dad. While my mom was busy baking, my dad would set up the tree and then decorate it. I can still remember him telling me how to spread the colors around. To step back every now and then to make sure the ornaments are balanced; you didn’t want a big clump in one area or the same colors too close. Once we were finished, he lifted me up to put the star on top. It seemed like the honor of a lifetime to a little girl.

I have always loved Christmas trees and it is the first decoration I put up when the season arrives. One of my favorite things to do is turn out all the “lamp” lights in the room, and just sit and look at the lit up tree. I am fascinated by the simple beauty of it.

When I enter a home at Christmas, I’m not as interested in anything else but the Christmas tree. Big and grand, small and simple, real or artificial…they take center stage. When HB and I drive around to see the lights on homes, my eyes are always fixed on the front windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the pièce de résistance.

There’s something so beautiful and nostalgic at Christmas time. It often takes us back to a place or a moment from long ago. So what about you? What is it about Christmas that tugs at your heartstrings? Do you have a special memory or tradition? I would love to hear all about it.

As the day is quickly approaching, I pray that you embrace the moments and enjoy the simple beauty that surrounds you.

~❄~CindyLu~❄~

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