I Am Not Afraid

Stumbled across this song by Red Rock Worship this morning while I was listening to some teaching on YouTube.

What first caught my eye was their name, and I wondered if they’re from the red rocks of Las Vegas or  Sedona, Zion or Bryce.  Could they be from the King’s Canyon area, or other parts of the Sierra Nevada where we’ve explored and camped?

I still don’t know because the 2nd reason I decided to listen  immediately sucked me in, and I ended up in worship, tears streaming down my face,  in my kitchen at 6 a.m.

This happens a lot to me lately.  Jesus has been showing up.

ANYWAY, the guy singing this looks so much like my son, Adam, it’s amazing.  And I like to think that in a parallel universe, this IS Adam, who’s a musician and singer himself.  Serendipitously,  we’ll be seeing he and my daughter-in-law later today as they’re down from Seattle.  So it was extra sweet.

But I immediately forgot all that when I put my headphones in, cranked up the volume, and pressed the Arrow.  The first several bars in, and I loved it.  It reminds me of some of the melodies from the 50s and 60s, the decades of my childhood.

And the lyrics! This is literally what I’ve been saying for the last three years in particular, and the last several decades overall:  That I may have to walk through the Fire, but I’ll come out of it not even smelling of smoke, for the Lord is with me.  I shall not be afraid (….saying this even when I have been most afraid….)

God never promised life on earth would be easy.  In fact, we’ll be presented with all kinds of trials and experiences as we journey along.  They come along for all sorts of reasons, but for one purpose:    to demonstrate the power of God to heal, to deliver, and to save.

If you’re going through the fire, please listen.  You are not alone.

I’m Moving

Almost exactly 3 years ago to the day, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

At the time, it seemed this news – and the 18 month healing journey I would have to undergo – was the end of the world.  And, in many ways, it was.   I was physically, emotionally, and spiritual stripped to the bone and then some.  The pieces of my life fell dead to the ground, bit by bit,  along with my hair.  I lost so much… my career, friends, a sense of self…All swept away.

And during the blackest hours, I lost hope that I would survive.  All I had to hold onto, literally, was the promise of better days – a better LIFE – as I kept my eyes on Jesus.

Fast forward to today.   I am a happy, healthy Stay-At-Home Grandma, carpooling my grandson back and forth to school, drum lessons, karate, and Brain Balance.  I take long morning walks in the park that make my soul sing, and spend as much time in the garden as my fingernails can handle.  My husband and I, our marriage renewed as well, are members of a loving and supportive church family where we are making new friends and are in community with people who believe like we do.

This past December I was accepted into the Master Food Preservers Program, offered through UC Davis Extension, and classes started last week.  I am back in school learning and practicing another of my interests – home canning and food preservation – while having the opportunity to make  even more new friends.  I also get to volunteer at local farms, farmers markets, the OC Fair, and more.

Next week, I’ll start my part time job working through Tax Season (February – April) in a local CPA’s office while HomeBoy is at school.   Last year when I did this,  I REALLY enjoyed not only the work but the people, so when they invited me to come back again, I didn’t hesitate to say, “When do I start!?!”

This morning I’ll be heading out to attend a workshop entitled “Craft Your Creative Vision For 2018”, and then get my hair done.  (YES, it grew back and YES, I am blonde again! :) ).  I’m looking forward to hearing what the instructor has to say, and how I can take things to the next level because frankly, they are pretty awesome right now.  But, greedy wench that I am, I’ll take MORE of the good stuff any day!

The life I live today, this life of freedom, joy, creativity, renewed faith and new friendship, wasn’t something I could “see” 3 year ago. But it was THERE, waiting for me, just as God promised it would be.  All I had to do was take one day at a time, keep the faith,  keep moving and remember:

It Ain’t Over Yet

Once Upon Design

 

 

Yesterday, I was clever

So I wanted to change the world.

Today, I am wise,

So I am changing myself.”

– Rumi

 

 

There’s been lots of changing going on around here.

Even before I quit/let go at my job, I was making some changes in my home life.  Not the “relationship” impacting changes with my husband, daughter and grandson (although, I supposed in a way that is ALWAYS happening, and all positive).

These changes pertain to my/our physical space.  I am the “home maker’ in the family. Always have been, always will be simply because it’s who I am and I love doing it.  I “home up” where ever I find myself, be it a teeny tiny one bedroom apartment in the city, a half finished cabin in the desert, or a more roomy home in the Burbs.  I can’t remember ever NOT arranging my space, making do with what I had, trying to make things as nice as possible with what was at hand.

After living with me for so long, my family is no longer surprised to wake up in the morning to find the furniture rearranged, hutches done up differently, or artwork hung some other way.  Don’t get me wrong.  In many cases, once I’ve found the IT Spot for how I want a china cabinet to look, for example, I may not change anything about it for years!

But there’s this other thing that happens.  Early in the morning, while everyone else is sleeping and I’m having my coffee/meditation time, I tend “LOOK” at stuff.  If I’m in the kitchen, I look at the antique hutch that holds my vintage table and bar ware, and my big glass canisters holding baking ingredients.  I might wander into the dining room and look at the corner units I have in there, and check out the way things are set up, or into the living room where I have a lighted display case full of Carnival Glass.

Something about the way one of these hutches is arranged will bug me until I reach that “OK” moment with how it looks.  I’ll keep arranging and rearranging until my sensibilities tell me to stop, even if it’s just a minor adjustment.  It’s unclear whether this need to find “OK” is just having a natural eye for design, a need for control, or needing to tap into a Feng Shui feel, but

It’s

Just

Something

I

Do

And I’m ok with that. I like order, and have a natural bent towards organization. I also believe that our exterior space impacts our interior space.  Having an organized life – be it at home or in business – reduces waste, stress and time. (Side note:  Orderly does NOT mean dust free.  Ha!)

And visa versa, as well.  Our inner state can have a direct impact on our outer world. You know this is true if you’ve ever lived with someone with mental health challenges, be it depression, anxiety or some other mood disorder.

ANYWAY, when the mood strikes to change things up, I like to follow my inclinations and this past week I took advantage of  an empty living room to make a BIG change (furniture moved so Mr. Man could clean the carpets).  Seeing the empty “canvas” in front of me, I got to work right away.  A couple new pieces of furniture, a new rug, and Wha Laa!  I just put the finishing touches on a whole new look.  The room looks more spacious, there’s plenty of seating while still being homey and welcoming, and all just in time for the holidays.  And I reached OK!

I mentioned “control” as a possible motive and, in the case of my living room, there might be a little to that (although our old couch WAS getting a bit worn in places…) There is so much happening “OUT THERE” right now that I have no control over.  For example, we recently got the news my grandson has ADHD, Dyslexia and CAPD, and that he’s being bullied at his new school.  Other than support him emotionally and educationally here at home (and a TON of prayer), there’s little I can do to change that.  I also can’t change the ever rising cost of living here in Southern California, the fact that ageism is alive and well in the job market, my aging mother’s continuing decline or what’s happening on the global political scene.

But, I am not powerless.   With just a little money, a lot of elbow grease and even more imagining,  our home has undergone a positive shift.  Almost every room in the house has now undergone some sort of change that support and assist all of us in differing ways…AND that look really cool.

Which makes me feel good….Makes me feel like I have a purpose and that there is a PLAN for good things for all concerned .   Which, in turn, makes me feel at peace.

And inner peace is where it’s at.

Dance To The Muse-ick

The creative process is such a mystery to me.

Many creatives have rituals or props or specific locations they use in order to practice their art.  And I believe all of those things can be very beneficial.  I may or may not use a few myself.

That being said, there is this spiritual component to creating that’s a little more elusive and a lot more necessary.  Call it your Muse, divine inspiration or Being In The Flow, there’s an untouchable, uncontrollable “MYSTERY” that takes the ordinary and turns it into something special when it shows up. And when it’s not there?  Well, anyone who’s ever experienced writer’s block knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Bleck.

Being in that mysterious space seems a lot like what being in Heaven would feel like, as I picture it.  Time stops, the world disappears and everything vibrates with JOY.  And, like Heaven, no one who gets there ever wants to leave!

I’ve been spending a LOT of time in that Heaven in the last couple of weeks.   Even on those mornings when, at 2 a.m., I show up a little blurry eyed and unsure if anything worthwhile will make it’s way to the page, it does.  On some days, the first few sentences of a new chapter are already running through my mind before the coffee is even finished brewing.  Other days, I have to prime the pump a little bit before anything happens.  I might journal awhile, read something inspirational, pray a bit, let the dog in and out a bazillion times, drink more coffee.  And even then I might have just one word to go on when I sit down at the computer…a general “direction” to head.

But something magical begins happen when I sit down and, by faith, start typing just a few words.  Before long, an hour (or two) is gone and another chapter is complete, including whatever extras I’m adding to each chapter.

Being a crafty chick, I’ve made a lot of things over the years, and I’ve written a lot of things for both professional and personal use.  I know what it feels like to be inspired, and to love the finished product. But I have NEVER experienced anything like this before.  It’s as if I’ve been living my entire life preparing for this very moment, and now the appointed time has come for it all to come together.

Time stops.

The world disappears.

Joy fills my soul.

And I am so very very grateful.

“Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life.  And that’s about it!  That’s the human lot.  Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work.  It’s God’s gift!  God deals out joy in the present, the now.”  –  Ecc. 5:18-20, The Message Translation

Uncovering The Gift

I’ve been staring at it for years.

I see it while sitting at the little table in our kitchen where I have my quiet time with God, writing and praying, crying and thinking…you know, doing Life.

Even though hidden by a tan cloth cover, I can see it anyway.  It was something I coveted and longed for, for years: A brand new black and chrome Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer. I bought it one birthday about 5 years ago.  Initially, I stored it on top of our maple hutch while waiting to move somewhere that had more than the postage stamp sized counter space the 800 sq. ft. Craftsman we were living in provided.

4 years ago this month, we moved into just that sort of space. The Kitchen Aid, however, has remained hidden under tan fabric on the top of the hutch where it’s served as a book end for my collection of vintage cookbooks.  A very expensive, guilt producing bookend.

That is, until yesterday.

Thinking back on it now, I am again filled with awe at how God works in my life.  Waking at 1:11 a.m., I made my way to the coffee maker and the table.  From years of experience I know when I’m not going to be able to get back to sleep, and I have no problem doing “whatever” comes to mind in those pre-dawn hours. My mother’s life has taught me many things.  One is, don’t push against the insomnia.  Don’t fight it and bitch about it.  Embrace it.  Make it work FOR you, not against you. There are reasons for getting up while other’s are sleeping, and many (if not most) of them are sacred.

They are Holy Hours.

You would think that after so many years of being the recipient of Just In Time answers to prayer, worry wouldn’t wake me in the middle of the night.  But it does, and it did, and so I knew a a Mind Dump was needed…. the writing out of my concerns into my journal that always brings relief (and often, answers).

I write a bit, sip coffee, stare at the tan lump on top of the hutch, at the vintage dishes stored inside it, at my cook books and cooking accoutrements.  I REALLY should bring The Lump down and uncover it.  I REALLY should use it or sell it. (a familiar refrain for months).

For whatever reason, yesterday was the day and at 2:30 a.m., after rearranging items on the counter top to create space, I climb onto a chair and surprise myself at being able to lift the damn thing from so high up because it’s weighty.  Brushing away cobwebs and snatching the cover off, my breath catches.

KAOh my God, it’s SO beautiful!  So shiny and perfect. How did I not do this before? Why did I wait so long?

Not only does it fit perfectly in it’s new home, the things on top of the hutch are arranged in a more pleasing way as well.  A domino effect of order and attractiveness ensued, and with it, a sense of relief mixed with import in the moment.

The word “Artisan” catches my eye….black lettering on stainless steel….tugging at my soul strings, trying to get my attention.

It’s symbolic, isn’t it,  this lovely, costly tool that’s been covered up, unused and forgotten?  It’s something about me.  My life.

My gift.

I sit back down to pray and write some more. 3 pages in, I find myself writing about writing.  Recalling a time when I was in an inspired and prolific flow, when words literally poured out of me, I relived the sense of satisfaction from being in my purpose felt as I heard from people who were touched after reading me.  They didn’t feel so alone, somehow.  They felt understood.  WE felt understood, my audience and I together.

And then I remembered when that wellspring of creativity stopped, why it stopped, and who stopped it.

Ugh.

In the decade since, I’ve never again been in that sort of inspired flow.   Did I decide I would be punished like before if I “went there”?  That I would be hurt? Scribbling furiously, I continued along this line of self questioning…

Did I subconsciously BLOCK the flow in order to protect myself from feeling pain and frustration?  Is there something in me that wants to be expressed?

IS THERE A BOOK INSIDE ME THAT WANTS TO BE WRITTEN? THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ?  (all caps now)

…..Yes.

(ok, that wasn’t me….I keep writing….)

What’s it about?

.….Not giving up….

(huh.  yeah, well, I guess I do know something about that)

Is it fiction or non fiction?

….Nonfiction….

(whew.  I’m not so great at making things up.)

Who is my audience?

….Women Who Want More….

More what?

…. Hope, inspiration, understanding, fulfillment, guidance….

….. GRACE

And that’s when I am given the title.

I am stunned.  I think God just showed up.  For reals.

As I ponder all this, and the direction it was going – how this idea connects to that passion that connects with something else creative I started last year – I found myself grabbing a pencil and sketching in my journal.   It’s the Kitchen Aid mixer.  The sketching itself feels like a meditation as I sip coffee, adjust lines, and think about, well, what just happened.

It’s about 4:30 when I get it where I want it and write the title underneath it.

And just like that, I see it.  Literally.  Ideas start filling my head.   Excitement and inspiration course through me.  I run to the back office and pull out my project from last Winter.  I am amazed at how the disjointed pieces of half finished work and a dream left for dead start fitting together – like a puzzle. It was all right here, the whole time, just waiting to be uncovered. The Plan.  HIS plan.

I know what to do.

“I am the Lord Your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  –  Isaiah 48:17