Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Surprised by Love

I wasn't fixin' to fall in love.

In fact, I was already in a committed relationship.

We'd been together for almost six years and had finally arrived at that place where, having worked through lots of our stuff, we were really getting along.

Not only were we comfortable, we understood each other, we served each other well, and we complimented each other.

There was plenty of grace for each other's quirks and neither of us demanded too much of the other.
We worked well together, played together even better, and had learned how to offer each other rest.
Of all the relationships I'd had, this one was the best.

I was pretty sure we would be together for the rest of our lives.

And then, Weekend Farmer Husband said, "It's time."

Time for what?

Time to get out of what I had thought was a long term relationship and establish a new one.

Unlike the previous relationships I'd sought, this time I had very few requirements.

I was looking for something that wouldn't cost too much, couldn't be long distance, and wouldn't for a time be too jealous that it was going to take awhile to disentangle from the relationship I was already in.

Probably something that needed a rescue.
I could anticipate years of quirks that might remain unresolved, either unresponsive to whatever fixes I  might offer or too costly to engage.
And, unlike ever before, this time I was faced with physical undesirability- bad smells, over all unsightliness - I was looking for something the world would not esteem.

It wasn't love at first sight.
As anticipated, the smells were overwhelming and the ugly I encountered was daunting.
Although initially "affordable", this relationship was going to require a whole lot of fixin'- time, money, patience, and sacrifice.
And, for me, perhaps the most frightening was the requirement to quite literally move into a region and a lifestyle that I'd never aspired to.
Not only was I going to have to physically, mentally, and creatively labor to nurture and grow this new relationship, I was going to have to make unanticipated heart sacrifices of hopes for a kind of future that had no place where I was headed.

I gave up finished.
I gave up spacious.
I gave up comforts.
I gave up perks.
I gave up (to some degree) perceived status.

And I gained the world.
Not the "worldly" kind of world, but the expansive, beautiful, giving, life nurturing kind of world that one encounters in the creation account of scriptures.
I found my place.
The kind of world that leads to being "emplaced" - understanding that where you are and what you're doing in that place has a profoundly deep significance not only to you, but to those you serve and the generations to come.

A place of wide open sky, waving grass, gentle dawn, and passionate sunset.
Seasons bless my heart and mind and I experience exhilaration as nature declares its intent and I rejoice in mud, blistering heat, dancing leaves, and wave after wave of lake effect snow.
Formerly indifferent to animals, (at best), I've been enlarged by creatures of the air that traverse our fields, make their homes in rotted fence posts, and chirp into the calm or cry alarm to the winds. Beasts of the field have become a thing of beauty and I'm astonished at their intelligence, charm, and at the end their sacrifice.  Symbiotic relationship abounds and now separated from the commitments of subdivision, street lamps, and sidewalks I see how I need the earth and it needs me to steward, bless, and as long as God tarries, preserve it.

I understand that I'm in love in a way I've never experienced before.
It was so uncertain at first and so hard to trust.
How could this possibly work out?
It was going to be so hard, and although on the outside I appeared confident and committed, I doubted myself.

But, I entered into the brokenness and the need.
I embraced the imperfection.
I forgave the ongoing quirks, and I still do.
Smells notwithstanding, I overlooked the ugly and sought the beauty that I knew lay underneath years of bad choices, neglect, and being overlooked.
In short, understanding that I would be taking on a multitude of shortcomings, limitations, and enduring marks of the past, I decided to love and redeem.

I wasn't setting out to be a savior.
And, since I had no glorified sense of self, I suspect that I've been more open to seeing the parallels to my own salvation.
As I (we) sacrifice ourselves over and over again for this new life I am overcome with gratitude for Christ who at once through His perfect life, ministry, death, and resurrection redeemed my broken life.
He, because of His unending grace, covers over my bad smells, is merciful about choices I've made, and with gentle strength requires that I yield to him and His perfect design for this life and eternity.
I, who was once dead in my sins, have been given new life.
The old has passed away and the new has come.

As we seemingly lay down our lives again and again to raise our family well, and to establish and preserve this "emplaced" vision I am generously and gently reminded of how my broken life has been made beautiful by the love of a perfect Savior.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us."
I John 3:16a

I'm thrilled to be linking up over at life{in}grace where Edie has cultivated a thoughtful, generous, and loving community to share in:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Winter Still


Furnace humming beneath me, sun not yet crested over the horizon, coffee in my cup, and most importantly- no coughing, sneezing, moaning, or sounds of the nebulizer interrupts sleeping offspring or my thoughts.


It's been several intense weeks of battling back a respiratory virus, and somehow in the nitty gritty of fevers, sleep deprivation, and mountains of facial tissue I've begun to suffer a congestion of my own.

A writer's sort of congestion. Thoughts, words, ideas all crowd each other, and I need a good clearing out.

Like I'm clearing the body of illness, I'll be taking a little more time to "rest".  Yes, I still have my notes and drafts of ideas for the series I've been working on.  It's not over, and I'm not giving up.  Just resting.

Like pushing fluids, I'm taking on "extra" reading. Getting to some ideas and lingering conditions of mind and heart that came clear in the quiet and suppression of physical activity brought on by several days in bed.

So, a little "hello" to you today.
Liberty Farm is hanging on a bit longer to winter rest.
Cultivating the quiet, making space, restoring routine.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Spending or Saving: Part 7 (4 More Habits to Cultivate)

Welcome! Thanks for joining in this series about financial literacy, finances, and our spending and saving habits.

If this is your first visit - wow, thanks for spending your time here.  Please stay awhile. I'd so enjoy getting to know you.

And, maybe you'll want to click here and check the bottom of the post to find the other parts of this series.

I'm stealing a few quiet moments away with a steamy, smoky, and spicy cup of coffee to keep pressing on keys and chronicle some habits we can cultivate to achieve both short and long term financial goals. Whether it's to have more money than month, take a special vacation, a kitchen remodel, or a great pair of shoes we all have things that we want to afford.  And, we all have things we need to afford.

I think this next set of habits will help.

Dave Ramsey  says, "Cash is King".
Really, is it any surprise that in general consumers show more restraint when using cash to make purchases?  There's something physical, visceral even, in drawing bills out against the sides of an envelope or billfold and using our senses to understand that there is such a thing as empty.

Talk to anyone who's used a zero based budget and a set of envelopes filled with cash for purchasing fuel, clothing, food, home goods- you get it, whatever, and they'll tell you it works.  They may no longer be using a cash envelope system, but I bet they'll tell you it was a valuable reset if not total revamp of their budget.  In a good way.

Weekend Farmer husband and I are slowly changing our practices to use more and more cash.  
Yes, it means more trips to the bank and more careful planning, but in our case that's exactly what we need.
Two changes in particular have been to purchase prepaid bank cards for specific events like Christmas or my occasional but important trips to IKEA.  And, as there is no particular incentive or savings to have Weekend Farmer Husband's paycheck direct deposited, we've elected to receive it in the mail (he works from a home office in one of our outbuildings), thus requiring us to bi-weekly at least pay attention to what's coming in, and you got it, what we're spending!

I feel like I risk insulting you when I write the next tip, but it seems like our culture has moved in such a way that this next habit is particularly challenging.  So at the risk of offending and or overstating.-

Save. (duh.) 
I'd venture to say eleventy billion words have already been written about this habit.  But, I cannot imagine what stress and suffering our family would have endured during Weekend Farmer Husband's season of unemployment if we had not had the sense to ask the question , "What will we do if we are suddenly without income?".  So, we were a little bit ready (if there is such a thing in relationship to trauma), and had a three to six month plan loosely formed for such an event.  It was messy and we disappointed ourselves, and our plans didn't cover our lifestyle and perceived needs as well as we anticipated.  But, phew, although we're set back a ways in saving for the future, we didn't incur debt.

If you read nothing else please read this:
God mercifully and abundantly provided for our needs, taught us gentle lessons about His character, exposed idols, ministered to our hearts, and gave generous gifts from family and friends.  
Although I would not choose it, I would not trade it.

This is pretty simple stuff actually.  There are expenses you can predict like insurance, taxes, gifts, monthly prescriptions, etc. that logically fall under the umbrella of savings.  Short term savings that is.  You know you're gonna spend the money, so put it aside or plan for the expenditure.  No surprises.

Sometimes surprises come.  I've lost track of the number of times I've had just enough savings stored up to purchase a new sofa, or a pretty light fixture, or a better set of pots and pan, and boom - time for a new transmission, or a hospital stay.  God's providence has always preceded us and we've often had just enough to meet the unanticipated.

But, that's not really what I'm advocating.  I'm storytelling.

What I want to make a better habit of is growing a small savings account that is specifically set aside for this type of surprise.  My understanding that this account should have about $1000 dollars available quickly, liquid.

Other savings include down payments for homes, vehicles, vacations, orthodontia - again, it's a spending plan that begins with saving.

I think I'd also categorize an emergency fund that covers approximately 3-6 months of living expenses as yet another savings plan.  When trauma comes, and it always does, this is intended for spending to meet needs and relieve at least a portion of the financial assault that loves to piggy back on trouble.

And, I must tread lightly here- I have mixed feelings about long term savings.  I have to admit that there's a tremendous amount of common sense that accompanies retirement accounts, IRA's, 401k's, annuities, etc.
But, here again, I tip so easily over into false gods and the idol of perceived security.  Weekend Farmer Husband and I try our darndest here, and a healthy portion of each year's income is deposited into long term accounts, but speaking for myself, I am too often confident of what our portfolio should look like in 30 years (r-i-i-i-i-ght), than I am what my heart should look like.  Do I depend entirely on my gracious and generous God for every good thing?  Or, do I work a little harder, tighten my belt one more tug, and place my trust in my works or man made structures more than the God of the universe therefore "allowing" myself to dabble in excessive work (or not challenging Weekend Farmer Husband to moderate his work) in order to self righteously prepare for whatever the future is?

What's the line between responsibility and trusting in things that will pass away?

Am I alone in this?

Credit cards?  Best advice - avoid 'em.
Some of you probably do very well with using credit cards for targeted purchases, perhaps taking advantage of incentives, and pay your balance off monthly.  That was never us.

If you've read this far and stuck with me until now, I would advise you to ask hard questions about whether or not you really do have the capacity to avoid the easy pitfalls credit cards present.
Some folks suggest they keep them for emergencies.
Ok. I can relate to that, but to me they add the potential for more trouble.
I like to keep cash/liquid assets for emergencies.
Emergencies are trouble enough without adding debt.
Sometimes it is unavoidable, and I've signed on the debt line enough times myself to understand being between a rock and an empty bank account.
May I present this to you as a non judging habit to practice?
Unless you can not love brownies, baby bunnies, unicorns, and all manner of awesomeness this life presents, it's likely best to shred the plastic as we were made to love and worship, so something is always pulling on our hearts, and often our bank account.

Learn how to wait.
Make do.
Find a substitution - shop the house, barn, garage, or closet first to see what you already have that might fill the gap.
If you have to buy now, buy used.
Life without craigslist and rummage sales would be very bleak indeed.  And, I'd probably still be sitting on my father in law's favorite couch from 1965, generously donated to our home some years ago.  When springs and sticky out metal parts began to threaten our legs and send us running for band aids after every story time, it was time to replace it.
We waited until we had enough to purchase a new couch up front.  And we put band aids on the old couch's poky parts so it's couldn't grab us every time we got near.
In our nearly quarter decade of marriage I can find 5 furniture items in our house that we bought new aside from mattresses.
Most of our clothes are from swaps or thrift stores.
All but one of our vehicles was used when we purchased it.

Not only can you find a great deal if you're patient and wait for the right amount of finances and opportunity for making a purchase, you have opportunity to discern if what you're pursuing is truly a need, or might it fall into a want category thereby giving you opportunity to evaluate if this is where your limited resources are most desired and best channeled.

None of these are too hard for us are they?
They're hard, but not too hard.
I'll tell you what I tell  myself and my farm kids.

Laura, farm girls are tough.  You can do it.
Fairy princess farm girl, farm chicks are tough.  You can do it.
And so on.

Friend, you are tough.
You can do it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Practicing some Frugal Habits: Sick Days (Part 6a of Spending or Saving- A Series)

I interrupt this series to bring you an update:

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you know we're responding to illness in the family, and it doesn't seem to matter, younger or older, it requires almost all my attention and energy to meet the needs of bodies sprawled on beds and sofas.

Looks like we're just in the thick of a respiratory virus.

I've lately been a little bit of an "Amish", hippie, granola, edgy, alternative momma to varying degrees.
If something occurs naturally in the created world, and has centuries of anecdotal and now research validated effects for the relieving of symptoms and aiding in healing, I'm certainly reading up on it, and possibly adopting the practice at our farm.

That's not to say that I don't use modern pharmacological helps as needed.

But, this time, as my stash of supplements, essential oils, and ingredients for healing foods has incrementally grown I have the resources to respond "naturally" to what ails us.

And, it appears that most of these remedies will prove more frugal than a trip to my nearby health, beauty  and seasonal decoration store.

Some of them are working great.  I'll write about those later in our series about spending and saving cuz' I think they're gonna be keepers.

Others? Meh.
Comme- ci, Comme ca.
There you have it - my occasionally francophile moment, lacking proper punctuation as I've yet to manipulate my settings to accommodate this occasional flakiness.
Now you have to search my archives to see how often I do it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Spending or Saving: Part 6 (My Top Three Habits)

Happy Tuesday dearies!  Thanks for stopping by.

This post is part of a series that explores the ideas, tensions, and practices surrounding money, income, and our approach to thinking about and managing this part of life.

You can find the other posts here.

No, the photo doesn't have anything to do with what's written - I am just hoping that you'll enjoy and join in the winter scene that is my little place on this earth, the country road that runs right past our home.

As promised, we're gonna get into some practical stuff today.
You've been so generous about reading along and joining in the big picture elements of what I've called financial literacy.  My definition of that term is here.

Near as I can tell, I've got three posts in the works on habits to cultivate.

Some of these are saving habits - ways to conserve the black on the spreadsheet.
Spending habits of course make the same contributions.  The less you spend the more you've saved.
And, really, by the time I get to the end of the list, I wonder if they aren't a little bit of each.

Although these are not particularly in any order based on research or reading, I'm going to try and post the habits that have had the most significant impact on our current financial circumstance. Maybe they're the freshest in my frail memory.  Alternately, I've heard from so many of you who wish to live this agrarian dream, so in response to "how did you do it?",  by ordering these habits I am suggesting merit.

Numero Uno-
Become a committed, YouTubing, stacks of how to books from the library, DIYer.
There are four things we've hired help for in the last three years.

A plumber ran the waste lines for all the new bathroom fixtures in this old farm house.

A young man set up his carpentry shop in our barn and assisted with whatever we needed on an hourly wage basis, sometimes demolition, sometimes framing, a handful of finish carpentry projects, and some floor refinishing.  All of these things we are now more than capable of doing on our own, but he had tools.  We didn't.  We traded use of his tools for use of our barn.  When Weekend Farmer Husband was up to his eyeballs in 24 different projects I could hire this young man (with WFH's blessing) to build a set of bookcases, closet inserts, what have you.

We now have all the tools.  Sometimes we get less done because we're doing too much, and I remember with an odd fondness just writing a check, and J.J. would install whatever I asked in a much shorter time frame than we currently do.  No complaints.  Just a weird nostalgia.

We hired electricians to finish the hook up for our solar panel inverters right before inspections. Weekend Farmer Husband did all the figuring, hung the panels, ran all the lines, but the trade certified electricians were on site for inspections having just completed the hook up.

Most recently, we paid for two guys to help with the huge job of pouring a concrete floor in one of our outbuildings.  Although we could have done it, and WFH wanted to do it, we determined we didn't have enough margin in other areas of life together and hired it out.  You betcha bottom dollah we paid close attention...Won't be long 'til that fine farmer of mine is a DIYer at pouring concrete.

Otherwise, with help from friends and family, we've done every shred of demolition, renovation, rebuilding, and farm work ourselves.

You don't have to be "handy" to be a DIYer.
You need basic tools and plenty of extra time.
I'm not sure you heard me - plenty of extra time!
Our general rule of thumb as seasoned do it yourselfers with lots of tools, is to allow three times as much time as the "expert" recommends the first time through.
The learning curve is always the steepest the first time you try.

Examples of other kinds of DIY projects you can take on:
Haircuts, auto repair (oil changes and brake work being the top two), all manner of home repair and improvement including painting, flooring, plumbing, and even basic electrical tasks like wiring switches or outlets, basic carpentry ( raised garden planters, dining benches, cold frames,deck or porch repair, and even chicken coops).

Be Creative.
I'm not glue gun, scissors, sewing machine, get my craft on creative.
And although I enjoy the occasional craft, I'm talking about a way of thinking and approaching financial and practical issues.

If you're scared to death of doing your own brake work and becoming an automobile DIYer has you reaching for the brown bag, maybe you could trade time or services.  Perhaps your neighbor could use help with book keeping come tax season and he/she would love to monkey around with your brake fluid levels in exchange.  What skills or resources do you have that you can barter with or exchange for another's area of expertise?

Being creative includes how you use space.  Most of us are likely familiar with the idea of stockpiling - purchasing multiples of consumable goods when they're offered at the best price, and storing them from future use.  Let's say Yellow Cling Peaches are a screaming deal at the market but you're holding back because you can't  figure out where you're gonna put 24 cans.  Look at space in a new way.  Can they go under a bed?  Is there a tiny corner of your coat closet that could make room for a tower of yellow? It's your house and you steward its space.  Think outside the kitchen cupboards!

Creativity means looking at items beyond their labels.  I'll talk about this again later, but for example, if you want the most bang for your buck for home furnishing fabric, look at tablecloths.  They're not just for surfaces anymore.  They can transform into pillow covers, dust ruffles, in my case curtains, and I've even seen them made into floor cloths in Pinterest. (Yup, that's next on my list)

Freeing our minds to reconsider paradigms, to shake off our habits of "that's just what we do", a marketing label, or a particular set of instructions has allowed us to spend our dollars and time on acquiring tools and skills rather than paying to have something done, or having to use something in a manner prescribed by someone other than us.

Slow down.  Stay home.
My personal goal for this habit is to seek opportunities to be home for five consecutive days.
It's random.
But, it's almost unattainable.
Which is why I sometimes wonder if it's truly a random number, or some subliminal wisdom that corresponds with the difficulty of actually accomplishing this.

When we stay home we consume less.
Less fuel for sure, but also less energy that could be used toward menu planning and a prepared pantry rather than take out, fewer snacks for the road, the travel bag doesn't need constant restocking with hand santizer, and in my case, the Starbucks drive through has become a fuzzy and distant memory.

When we stay home we are more likely to resourcefully use the tools and consumable items that are already at our disposal or on the shelves.

If you have trouble being creative as I suggested, stay home.  You've heard the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention" right?  It's true. Certainly I've invented recipes, activities, comfort measures, and all manner of home redecoranging projects because I've slowed down enough to tap into what's right before my eyes.

Co curricular activities for families with school age children can be enriching, bonding, and downright fun.
They are almost always costly.Consider how many activities fit your family goals, and consider backing out of one or two, even if just for a short while.

Not only will you not spend on fuel (again), and the possible quick meals grabbed on the fly, but you'll not spend on the fees for instruction and or equipment that often accompanies co curricular activity.
You may discover that you had "extra" stuff in your schedule that clearly can be permanently off your plate, or conversely, you'll discover it's significant value to your family, and will resume committing time, financial and other resources to its pursuit with confidence.,

There you have it.  Our toe just in the waters of practicality.
What are your top tips?
Let's talk about it...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Spending or Saving Part 5

Hello! I’m so glad you stopped by and since in my neck of the woods we’re getting buried in Lake Effect snow, I’d love it if you’d put something warm in your cup, stay awhile, and join me in exploring some of the principles, practices, and tensions regarding  finances.

This is part of a series and you can find the other posts here

I've had a lot to say about the some of the big ideas and principles that come to bear on the matter.
Today we’re going to get a little more specific and explore six habits to cultivate for greater maturity in stewarding what we've been given.

Believe it or not, I have more suggestions on this topic than the preceding ones. Today we're still in the big picture. I promise - next time - specifics!

I've loved hearing from you – keep the comments coming.
They help shape where I’m heading next, and I pray that the direction I choose serves you well.

It’s important to distinguish that these six habits are concurrently actual things to do as much as they are attitudes to develop.


Yup, I've already talked about this, but it bears repeating.
No budget is too tight to practice this habit.
For the believer it is more than habit.
It’s faithful, loving, and cheerful obedience to the direction scripture gives.

Whether it’s a regular percentage of your income given in a tithe to your house of worship, a charity, or another form of benevolent giving, open up your wallet and – be blessed. (Did you think I’d say give? I could have, but here’s the thing…)

You can’t out-give God.

How many times have you heard stories or experienced for yourself of having MORE money or exactly what you needed exactly when you needed it and there is no accidental correlation to how generous you’ve been?

The blessing of giving isn't always material of course.
But the principle of obedience always yielding blessing holds fast.
And, when we don’t obey, there’s trouble.

For the dear moms who heard this from me in early January, they got a firsthand account of how this has been the second biggest challenge for Weekend Farmer Husband and me. (The first is budgeting…but you already knew that).

We’re working on it – not by might, not by our power, but by His spirit.

Be Charitable.
Wait, I already talked about giving, so I must mean something else.

Is it ever difficult for you when you’re struggling to make ends meet to encounter someone reasonably close to you who with their surplus is doing something you’ve longed to do?  Or, maybe an offhand comment about finances or a purchase cuts you to the quick.  And you find yourself comparing.  The comparisons may tip into grumbling or forgetting to give thanks in all circumstances.  Might the internal dialogue turn personal and envy rear its unwelcome head?

Do you have plenty, possibly an abundance? Have you cultivated a meek and quiet spirit that is deeply grateful for what you've been given?  Are you approachable and in as much as you are able, humble?  In our times of plenty I can be so full of celebrating that I sometimes make the mistake of being too public about our blessings without considering how that might come across?

I’m trying to move us toward a responsible and gentle sensitivity.

If you lack and you compare, you are at risk of cultivating a root of bitterness.

Abundance easily deceives and tempts pride.

I’m suggesting we need to have charity in our hearts.
Really, it’s love one another. 
Quit comparing.
Give thanks.
Serve one another practically.
Be kind in word, in action, and maybe most importantly in your thought life.

Give Thanks.
Maybe this one is too obvious?

I’m of the mind to pay close attention to the things that are right in front of me as I’m most likely to miss those first!

So, thanksgiving in your heart, on your lips, and in your thoughts is something to make habitual.

Sometimes this is hard to measure, so I try  to make it something that I can connect to my feet on the ground.

Consider, would you, when your mail box holds nothing but bills, grasping those statements tight and thanking God for the month of utility service you just enjoyed, the orthodontist who has the expertise to correct your tween's bite, and the garbage truck that came on schedule to take away your smelly trash? 

Thank him for whatever amount is in your bank account and for showing Himself faithful again and again and gently teaching you that He is our true provider.  Move your lips and thank him for teaching you to be humble, resourceful, and committed to managing His resources well.

Move your lips, or your pen, or tap out your thanks on a keyboard – whatever.  Do it for real.
It is scriptural, profitable, and makes the next habit more attainable.

Be content.
How is this different from being thankful?
You’re right, they are closely linked.

In my case, contentment begins with thanksgiving, and then develops in to a deeply rooted more permanent awareness of how good things really are for me. 

It also reminds me to guard my eyes (in particular) very carefully.

I need to limit my exposure to all the home improvement, house decorating, richly photographed, food glistening publications and blogs “out there”.  None of those venues are bad/wrong.  I simply need to keep strict limits on how much I let those images into my life.

When I spend too much time studying other people’s homes (and by default possessions and circumstances), I fail to recognize how much I have.

I miss the colorful, pretty, vibrant, well appointed home that I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of. I am in danger of coveting someone else’s closet (yeah, when I write that it is just as ridiculous as I thought, but it’s true… I've coveted a closet before).

Oodles of good advice, insight, and practical wisdom has been written about the practice of cultivating contentment.  I don’t think you’re missing the point.

So, next time I’m putting together my menu plan and I’m heading off to the grocery store I am gonna first give thanks for this amazing first world culture I live in, (helps me get rid of any false guilt I might experience for the privilege of God’s appointment to this time and place), and then I’m gonna decline to complain about rising costs at the store. 

Instead, I’m planning to approach the shelves with contentment and thankfully put the store brand item in my cart rather than the name brand, be content with another simple meal, and in my case go one step further and bless the Lord for another week of all my offspring gathered around our family table enjoying His good gift of food.

Phew – two more.

Practice hospitality.
When we intentionally and spontaneously serve others through the practice of hospitality, we equip ourselves to more easily cultivate the habits I’ve already identified.

And, it gets our eyes off of other people’s homes and circumstances and forces us to cultivate ours.
I am more apt to prepare space, seek and cultivate beauty, make ready the heart of my home, and follow through on my intentions when I am committed to serving beyond my immediate family.

May I encourage those of you with small homes to move beyond the perceived “need” to have more space?  Maybe this is the perfect time to reach out to elderly couples in your church, the single woman in your book club, the newlyweds next door, or the widower at work.  You don’t have to have lots of people over to practice hospitality.  You just have to be willing to open your door and yield your heart.

Delight in hard work.
Yes, I mean that.

None of these ideas over the last several posts are rocket science.
But they’re all hard work.

If we fail to understand that this is work we put ourselves at risk of expiring too soon.
When we commit to delighting in the work at hand we fuel our passion, inspire our actions, and more adequately prepare ourselves for the process of incremental change.

All these ideas staring back from the screen have the tendency to fool me into thinking that I can just read and then do.  It is not so.

I remember high school algebra so clearly.  The teacher would review yesterday’s lesson on the board, and then introduce the next concept or function.  And, I always understood what transpired on the board. 
When trying to complete my homework I was a mess.  I rarely could finish a problem because I would forget or misapply the functions necessary to solve the problem.

This is much the same for me.  I must commit to the hard work of doing my homework, dealing with my lack of understanding, and correct my mistakes.  And, I have to come to class every day.  I cannot ever assume I've mastered this.

What’s next?
I hope to put together a bullet list of habits that are “doable”. 
Yup, a checklist of sorts.
Help me, would you? What habits do you regularly practice to stay in the game?