Another 21 Days…

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Welp…if you are reading this in sequence, you’ve probably noticed that I only made it to Day 4 and then a very large gap ensued.  That was my THIRD attempt to complete 21 Days of Prayer with Monique McLean.  This…is round 4.  You know what they say…4th time’s the charm, right?  That’s how it goes.  I’m sure of it.

Either way, I have actually completed thru Day 7 this time.  I did it the first time without a workbook.  I don’t even remember how far I made it.  The second and third attempts are written out for me in the workbook so I can look back on my progress (or lack thereof). Wait…maybe this is my fifth try…there are notes in my phone from another round.  Clearly…I’ve found this process difficult to complete.  Rightfully so…the questions are HARD.  Its challenging to be so introspective, to step out on faith and to grow because growth=change and change is…HARD.

Another saying…Everything that’s worth doing is hard.  I’ve definitely found this to be true in Soldiering, Motherhood and relationships…physical transformations after babies to regain sense of self-worth & strength, growing a successful business…apologizing. So, it seems fitting that a spiritual journey would be just as difficult and likely more than worthwhile.  So, here we are…again.

In the last 6 months, I read the book Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist and I’ve been using the companion book, Savor, as a daily devotional.  I don’t connect with all aspects of her story but others…man…boom…they hit me RIGHT THERE.  Learning to pray by “pouring out the vinegar first”…praying for growth versus escape during trials…simplifying #allthethings.  Its been very cathartic.  So, maybe I’m ready this time to face the full 21 Days?  I guess you’ll have to stay tuned to find out…

First things first…let’s see what I learned from Days 5-7, shall we?

Day 5: Be Intentional. How fitting and appropriate since that word seems to keep coming up over and over again in my life.  Intentional prayer.  Intentional joy.  Intentional thoughts.  Intentional time.  Allowing things to remain in my life…with intention.  If Declutter was my word for 2018 (not wholly successful but its a process when you’ve been a hardcore packrat for 40 years)…and Simplify is my word for 2019…Intentional is a pretty solid foundation.

Why aren’t I more intentional with how I spend my time? my money? my emotions?  With what I fill my home and closets with? My refrigerator (ugh…don’t get me started)? Monique says it typically boils down to lack of focus and being too busy.  But, why is that? Its because I wasn’t intentional in the first dang place about what I let fill my calendar and mind.  I get overwhelmed and then I let other people and things dictate my priorities.  You may have noticed I’m fond of sayings…well, the old “if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority” is going off in my head like alarm bells right now.  I’ve felt “stuck” for quite awhile now. I have struggled to find my footing as a wife and mother and now that I’m retiring…my urgency to reconnect with myself is even greater.  It’s time to Be Intentional about getting “unstuck”.

I need more balance in my life.  More joy.  More being present.  But, I am a perfectionist, a control freak, a planner and in general terms, I simply CRAVE productivity.  I recently heard the quote (attributed to Margaret Thatcher) “Women CAN have it all.  Just not all at the same time.”  Boy, does that ring true?!? The thing is…I’m not sure I even WANT it all anymore.  What I want is to prioritize my life around Family, Faith, Rest and Fun…this is enabled of course by being intentional with my prayer, my organization, my stuff, my people and my time so that I can grow my business to the point that it allows my family (for multiple generations) to LIVE.  Simply…LIVE.  Don’t put things off. Don’t wait for someday because everyday is a gift and tomorrow is not promised.

So, I’ll be looking to simplify…to outsource…to establish boundaries that are more for myself than the outside world.  I need to reconnect with myself and circle the wagons with my girlfriends.  I need to love myself and all my roles again.  And with my retirement from the Army…I have choice again about what those roles will be.  So, here’s to rediscovery!

Day 6: Always Growing.  Truth- babies grow up faster than we want them to.  But, at a certain point…adults can stop growing.  Growth is change…change is hard (I’ve heard that somewhere before, I swear).  So, we resist growth.  We ask for release from our challenges and trials rather than embrace the change with faith in the process and His plan.  It is certainly true for me.  I ask God to get me thru something rather than for the patience to persist and with faith and a grateful heart for what lies on the other side.  Motherhood has definitely taught me something about that…I want so badly to get thru “phases” like whining, diapers, picky eating, etc and yet…I desperately want time to stop so that I can enjoy the moments intermingled that will certainly be missed.  Why can’t we just enjoy the process with the good and the bad?  I suppose we can and some people do…why not me?

So many times I’ve been disappointed in myself, others, life because it didn’t work out the way I had planned.  Almost always, His plan and His timing…revealed much later…were better than anything I had envisioned for myself.  So, why do I cling to those “failures”? Why do I think I know better?  Why can’t I just enjoy what comes one day at a time?

“Consider it a pure joy, my brothers and sister,s whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”                          – James 1:2-4 (NIV)

As I was reading this chapter during nap time (attempt at nap time, rather)…I heard Anna singing in her bed and before I snapped at her to be quiet and go to bed (sigh…), I realized she was singing the prayer I sing over them at bedtime. And it struck me…I don’t just rack up the failures everyday.  Some days…most…okay probably at least part of everyday…I get something right.  There are a lot of things that need to change around here…less yelling, less fighting, less stress, less stuff…more joy, more fun, more intention (that word again) and more connection.  I believe this is our year.  It is definitely a year of transitions…why not make this one too?

Day 7: Don’t Give Up. I admit…I read ahead for this one.  Day 6 reflections were kind of a downer.  So, I needed to hear this message hot on their heels to keep from slipping into frustration.  I’m currently reading another book by Shauna Niequist called Bittersweet.  In it, she says that we can’t subsist on the sweet alone.  That it rots not only our teeth but our souls.  We have to struggle to truly appreciate the sweet.  And, I think that’s certainly true.  If I had not struggled in my first marriage…I would not have nearly the same appreciation for the wonderful gift God gave me with Drew.  If we don’t experience some loss, we can’t be truly grateful for what we have…not in the deepest sense…in the way only those who have truly experienced loss can appreciate.  I’ve lost dreams but not people…yet.  But I’ve witnessed some folks walk thru that fire in the last year and man, alive.  That’s a lesson I can wait for…but it does make me appreciate their faith and want it with all that I am.

In Bittersweet, Shauna also talks about how we face waves in the ocean.  If you fight them, they will drag you down, scrape you across the bottom.  It will be painful and frightening.  But, if we simply go with the wave and roll with it…we can float.  We can find rest.

“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”                         -Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

I happened across this verse a few months ago and here it is again…on Day 7.  Message received.  Faith is what keeps us afloat. I can’t fight the changes this year anyway…so, I might as well try my hand at floating.