The Art of New Things

I’m not always good at new things. I love the idea of new things, but many times I can’t quite get behind them enough to follow through. This is why I was a bit nervous when I signed up for the the 31 day blog project again. The concept  of writing something every day is exciting, and even more exciting is the idea that people would come and read my words, but the space between the warm fuzzy of your comments and encouragement and the time it has taken this month to write all these thoughts is wide and there are days when I haven’t wanted to keep working my way across.  But here we are with only a few more days at the end of the month, and I have a plan to keep writing, and a plan to move just a wee little bit from here to my own website, another new thing to learn.

I sometimes think the idea of newness is a bit addictive. New is shiny and flashy and exciting until the time comes to put the work into it deserves.  Then it’s… well, it’s work.  Work isn’t always flashy or exciting so we abandon the old, new thing and move on the the latest, greatest new thing – on and on we go until we have piles of new things all around us but nothing has really changed at all, except for the amount of space our new things require.  And we just keep searching for that next “new thing” fix.

The reality of newness is that it isn’t an concept, a one and done approach to life, but an art.  Each and every new thing is an art and we are one of two people. We’re the people who just keep buying more art, or we are the artist.  The artist sees something beautiful and works to bring it to life.  The medium doesn’t matter, what matters is the true genesis not in acquiring but in creating. Ask any artist and he will tell you that beauty doesn’t just happen.  It’s work. It’s work and sweat and sometimes tears. It’s falling and failing and trying again, sometimes starting over completely from scratch. It’s not walking away when the shine wears off because you know that somewhere, buried deep, is a thing of such immense beauty that the world is less without it.

This is true newness.
We are the artists and the medium is our lives.
We can keep dressing life up, and masking it in all the trappings the world has to offer, or we can get to the real work of peeling away the dross and the excess, bringing to light a beautiful new thing that’s never been seen before, nor will be again.

But we have to decide to stop looking everywhere else and focus on the work at hand: our own unique life.
What we make of it will be our life’s work or our life’s waste.

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Rev. 21:5

 

31 days button

Minimal Me

In six days, I will have been a minimalist for two years.
Two Years.

Before I became a minimalist I didn’t think of myself as someone extravagant or someone who stockpiled against future possibilities. I didn’t even intend to become a minimalist in the first place. I intended to write for thirty-one days on the idea of simplifying my belongings.  We had moved three times in three years, with a great deal of purging in each move, and we knew our housing situation at the time was temporary.

I was just dang tired of packing and unpacking boxes.

I knew that the idea of less was appealing. What I didn’t know was how much less, how many people would find it odd, and how wonderfully revealing it was to free levels of myself through simply letting things go.  The more time I spent researching and thinking and writing and assessing during those thirty-one days, the more I realized that organization wasn’t the answer, nor was closet size, storage space or square feet. In the last four years we’ve lived in the three biggest houses of my lifetime and we have less and want less than ever.  What I had been searching for fell under the loose definition of “minimalist.” I jumped in and I haven’t looked back.

In the four years since we’ve moved to Georgia, we’ve discarded literally hundreds of pounds of books, clothes, furniture, toys, electronics, home goods. You name it we’ve purged it. Most we simply drop off at local thrift stores. A few things we have given to friends who we know want them and will use and love them.  We’re also pretty good at calling trash trash, and we aren’t afraid to throw it away if it’s simply no longer beautiful or useful to anyone.  We’ve disposed of five bookcases worth of books, two dressers and at least one closet full of clothes, chairs, tables and sets of dishes. We even call our sofas disposable furniture since they work beautifully for our family, and we won’t feel like we have to take them with us if we get called away on a grand adventure.

We don’t miss the stuff.

I cannot think of one time I thought to myself, ‘I wish I hadn’t given that away’.
Not even once have a looked at an uncluttered surface or clean wall and thought, “I should get something to go there”

I feel free even though I am constantly explaining that I am not opposed to owning things, merely to the concept of owning things because everyone else has it or wants it. I am not opposed to spending money on something. I am opposed to debt, overspending and waste.  I am not an ascetic. I like beautiful things, frittering time away in the hammock, and ice cream, or a glass of wine. I like travel and leaving big tips at restaurants and surprising my kids with small treats. In fact, we have a more fun more often then we ever had with more things.

It’s been a great beginning.
Now after two years it’s time to revisit my lifestyle in writing again. Which is why I will be joining the 31 Day Project.

31 Day Project

31 Day Project

I’ll be calling my own project: Minimalism HNL (once again that’s ‘hole notha level for those of you just joining us)
Being a minimalist isn’t just about getting rid of things anymore, it’s about what to do with the time, space and money that I have now that those things are gone. It’s also about really examining all the things we still own and care for in order to determine whether or not those things align with our family priorities. It’s time to fine tune and polish. Thirty one days ought to just about do the trick!

Excuses

I never MEAN to go a week without writing. Writing is such a funny thing. Sometimes words skitter around in my brain. They coalesce into glistening soap bubble thoughts and phrases and I think to myself, “Oh yes, that’s really good!” But soap bubbles are so ephemeral that if I don’t catch them at the moment they float by they tend to disappear.  I sit and stare at a blank page opening all the drawers and closets of my mind and cursing minimalism because obviously someone else besides me is to blame. I blame Middle Places a lot too.  I blame kids and home school and life and facebook and real books, but the reality is that like anything else, if its important enough we will find the time to do it.

It is important, but it’s also a little bit scary, like riding the crest of a wave that could come crashing down at any moment, driving you ankles over ears into the sand, or worse yet, tumbling you round and round underneath it while never quite letting you reach the surface for that desperate gasp of air.  It’s also like a new-born child which you grew inside you, feeling it move and kick, flip and develop, occasionally hearing it’s whispery heartbeat. You wait so long for it to arrive, sometimes the labor is long and intense, sometimes it slides right out with barely an effort, but either way it’s every bit yours and oh-so-fragile and new.  But there’s always the chance that someone is going to stare at it slightly aghast and ask why does his nose look like that. Then you are caught between committing murder and running away to hide in a cave with your precious, perfect baby where no one will ever hurt you again.

It is like that too.

It’s work and it hurts sometimes.  It’s a little bit scary because no one else anywhere, ever will see things the exact way I do.  Which is why it’s important to share, which is why it’s ripe for criticism and critique.  Sometimes it skates across scars and pulls thorns from my heart and I bleed a little bit.  Sometimes it stands on the edge of a cliff and dares me and everyone else to just take one more step. Sometimes it flies free soaring over all the things that wait underneath to catch it and drag it down.

Oh yes, I have a million excuses.

But the words will leak out, like giggles when you aren’t supposed to be laughing, or the tears that prelude the big ugly cry. They tumble out the cracks of my pretty, pretty mask and lie there in brittle honesty on the table before me.

And I must catch them, my precious babes, and lay them gently down on paper so that I can see the world aright again.

The Doing of Things

I have planned for several days to sit down and write here, again. Only I haven’t. I haven’t because the last thing I posted about Encouraging Words received a fairly impressive (read: intimidating) number of hits and I simply couldn’t figure out what to say that could  follow that up.  So I sat, and I looked, but I didn’t write.

Earlier tonight while the Hunky and I were making dinner I exclaimed “Whoo-hoo! We followed our budget and squeezed all our pennies perfectly this week!”  His response? “Whoo hoo for one whole week (insert sarcasm here).”  But as I was explaining my thoughts on baby steps, and each day, each choice mattering all on its own, I realized that I haven’t even been taking my own theory to heart. First of all, just because we had a great week this week, doesn’t mean I can expect the whole rest of the year to float by on that one attempt. I have to get up tomorrow and repurpose to follow our plan. And the next day. And the next, until there is another perfect week, then a month…I think you follow. Just because today was great day for our goal, doesn’t mean I can walk away from the rest of the days.

I’ve also purposed to run 1,000 miles this year. I’ve been pretty impressed with myself. Not before running though, before running it’s cold, and I remember how hard that hill is. My calves chime in with their soreness, and this dadgum germ that is flirting with me rears its head and I. just. want. to. not. go. today.  But I do go. I throw back the covers.  I put on my clothes and shoes. My feet hit the pavement, and I’m running.  Every morning. It’s not because I feel like doing it, because I love getting out of bed into the freezing temperatures (though I do love running once I am actually doing it, and mostly when it’s down hill).  Each day, a little bit more until 50 miles is peeking at me, right around the corner.  That’s more than I’ve ever run in a month. Each mile, each day, each week the miles stack up and suddenly, that thousand miles isn’t as scary as it was when I stepped out for the first step. But I had to do the thing, and I’ll have to keep doing the thing, day after day, mile after mile, because this first good chunk isn’t 1,000 miles and it won’t turn into a thousand miles left on its own.

At the end of last year I made the declaration that this year would have “office hours,” time each day that I would sit down and actually write something every single day.  So here we are.  Three weeks into the year, and I haven’t put in even one single office hour. I have a million excuses: my desk isn’t as clean as it ought to be, I don’t know what office hours should look like, I don’t know what I should write about, there’s dirty laundry… They are all valid. And all crap. The only way I’m ever going to make this writing thing a habit is to do it. Every day. And the next. And even the next. Until the days and the words add up, and I can look back upon them rolled out behind me and say, “These are the words I had to share, and  they mattered. Maybe not to everyone but to someone. To me.”  So yes, the last thing I wrote got a lot of attention. This one…well, it’s less inspiring and practical and more the maniacal ramblings of someone who grapples daily with discipline and spends most of her time in fuzzy jammie pants.  Here we are thirty minutes later than when I sat down. I’ve done this thing. Today. And tomorrow…I’ll be back again.

Where Seldom is Heard a Discouraging Word

I’ve had some vicious words spoken over me.

Like a tapeworm they hatched in my heart, burrowed into the muscle tissue and grew. And reproduced. They made me sick for a long time.

I’m ashamed to admit that I retaliated with more vicious words. If someone tried to destroy me then I should try to destroy them twice as much, as though that would solve anything or heal anyone, or in some way flush the poison from my own soul. It did not.

I think what began to change everything for me was when I really purposed, not just gave lip service, to stop complaining ( http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org is the place the start).  I began to really investigate the power of words. As a wordy girl, this sort of thing was right up my alley anyway. I began learning that words are not just a vehicle of communicating. They are in fact powerful tools that can shape a day, a year, a life. They can be strong foundations or wrecking balls. They can uplift and inspire or slowly poison and destroy. Words matter. How they are used matters. Like it or not, our words will define us to large portion of the people with whom we come in contact.  And I get to decide what that definition will be.

After a time I went deeper than just the complaining – the layers of that were many and disgusting. I looked at how I speak both to and about people, about whether what I say here at my keyboard is something I would say to someone’s face. I dismissed the concept of “healthy venting” and recognized it as the verbal vomit of discontent that it is. I examined all the times someone said something and I then made it all about me: why I thought the opposite of them, how I was obviously right. I thought about opinions and tirades and vitriol and passion.  I considered the peace of keeping my own counsel and the confidence of holding an opinion without forcing others to hold it too.  Though this paragraph is short, I assure you, these thoughts and observations took months, even more than year to arrive here. where I am today.  Where is that? Imperfectly walking this life path. I have bad days. I mutter under my breath sometimes, sling that sarcastic slam, engage in dispute rather than accepting diversity. I’ve apologized for my mouth a million times. But, I’m making progress, each day a little lighter and more loving than the last.

I’ve developed some personal word observations/ guidelines for myself, and for you to read should you wish:

  • Words really are either life giving or poison. It’s better to limit exposure to poison people. This can be done, and it doesn’t have to be mean or obvious. Step quietly away. The more poisonous the person, the less likely they are to notice.
  • It’s ok to disagree, to even strongly disagree and say nothing. It will probably be appreciated.
  • It’s ok to walk away from being directly asked your opinion if you know it won’t be respectfully received.
  • Encouraging words are profoundly powerful, yet somehow they seem to weigh less than negative words. Therefore, they should be spoken often and enthusiastically.
  • Joyful people attract joyful people. It’s ok that some of those joyful people vote differently from you.
  • I don’t have to have the last word.
  • When in doubt, say something nice. If you can’t do that, shut up.
  • Believe that everyone has the best intentions, it spares a lot of drama and misunderstanding.
  • Say I’m sorry when you’re wrong. Say it as soon as possible.
  • Take every opportunity to tell someone you love them.

I’ve used my words to belittle, gossip, vilify and curse in the past. But I don’t have to be that person if I choose.  I want to be seen as joyful and loving, an encourager and life-bringer. I want my words to be worthy of remembering when I am no longer here.

I choose life with my actions and with my words.