What Is Normal?

As she added another event to her Outlook calendar, she shifted her priorities in her mind. What would she have to give up to fit this in? Her mind easily wandered to all she’s been wanting to accomplish, but just hasn’t had the time. She thought, “I just haven’t had consistent time in my art studio, and I really need to work on the yard before it gets too cold. But I’ve really got to go through those clothes before fall is too far underway. If I just had one normal week without anything extra happening, I could get so much done.”

I found this thinking invading my mind so frequently that I realized what I consider “normal” rarely happens. The root of normal is NORM. What is the norm in my life? Is it that uneventful week I keep dreaming about? No. My normal week is as varied and unpredictable as my husband’s work schedule (which changes from day to day).

This wrong thinking of what is normal is unhealthy. It breeds discontentment. The various events and experiences of any given week can become burdensome if viewed from a skewed lens of normal. Rather than thinking of what I am losing by adding or moving around events during our week, I must think of what I am gaining. Life should be approached as an adventure. What adventure will I face this week? So I have readjusted my thinking and now view my ever changing ebb and flow of weeks as normal.

When that rare gem of a quiet, uneventful week comes along, will I really tackle all those things that fall to the bottom of my priorities? I may just throw that list out the window and go bask in the sun. After all, Normal will hit again very soon.

amanda ∞

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Decompression

For almost two years, my family has been preparing and serving meals each Friday at VERONICA’s Voice. This past Friday was our last day. God had been leading me to reevaluate our service this summer, and once school began for us, the answer was obvious. It was time to stop.

I really have mixed emotions about this decision. I absolutely loved serving those women. God truly gave me a heart for them, to serve and treat them as the precious women they truly are. My kids did too, immensely. But there is such freedom in following God’s lead.

My greatest question for God about giving this up was, who will take our place? Who will love these women like we do? I prayed for help, then a replacement, but neither came except more help from my own family. God’s answer to me was to just let go. He would take care of the details. 

As we served up our last meal on Friday, I received confirmation in several different ways that we were supposed to be there that day, and that it should be our last. I was thankful for that. Upon driving home, van full of dirty dishes, I felt relief wash over me. A burden had been lifted, not the burden of service, but the burden of carrying too great a load.

I think that I was questioning God a bit about what He was asking me to do before Friday, wondering if I was hearing Him correctly. One of the books I picked up at the library about a month ago was Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God by Dallas Willard.
 Developing a Conversational Relationship With God  

But, you know what, I was too busy to read much of it. How ironic.

So this next week, with an extra 10 hours added to my week, I plan on reading, pondering, loving, listening, and keeping up with year 3 of The Latin Road to English Grammar. And I plan on thanking God for directing me. His way is always the best, even when we don’t have the whole picture.

amanda ∞

Balance again

Balance is a continuous theme in my life. Probably because life is not stagnant. I love change, but always have a difficult time finding the new balance in change.

I had a rough summer. My husband was gone for long periods for much of his work. My empathy for single mothers rose significantly. As I balanced life without his presence, my weakness and inadequacies became very evident. This is not all bad as I drew closer and much more dependent on God’s Word and my prayer life took on a new level.

Now another change is approaching. We will begin school on Monday. This week has been one of preparation and planning so we can start fresh. A recurring theme is presenting itself, one I face each year. How do I stay involved, interested, enthused throughout the WHOLE school year? How can I be a better teacher for my children?

This past year God has directed me to rest from many extra activities like leading our homeschool group and Keepers of the Faith club. He took me on a journey of creativity. I have found that I am able to bear a much heavier load or work through issues in my creative time. It is important for me to incorporate this into my school year so that I am able to stay fresh and charged up as teacher, mom, wife….

When my children were younger, we used a family schedule so as not to waste our time and to free me from directing my childrens’ every moment. The schedule allowed us all greater independence. The last couple years we have not used a schedule, but we are going to implement one again. This will allow each of us to accomplish our specific priorities that get set aside when we don’t plan. Mine would be time in my art studio, my daughter’s would be cooking and creative time, and my son’s would be playing games and writing comic books. What led me back to scheduling? My children took the initiative this summer and each created their own schedule so that they wouldn’t waste away their time. Often the teacher is the student.

Besides scheduling our priorities, God has made it evident that my year of rest is over. He has led me to help on Sunday mornings with the elementary art class, and the kids and I will begin volunteering at the Kansas City Urban Youth Center once a week when the public school year begins. Although I will have a time to get acclimated, I am hoping to introduce art journaling to the kids there.

God always accomplishes His plan. In my life He used this very difficult summer to make me even more dependent upon Him. This year I’m allowing Him to work out the balance and direct my “schedule” more so than ever before. Although change is afoot, I am at peace because I’m not trying to juggle it all. With God, balancing has become much less wobbly.

amanda ∞

Sabbatical

I’m taking time off to listen and observe. God is calling…

amanda ∞

Art Journal Randomness

I’ve been enjoying the new art studio. Some of these pages were done there, some in a coffee shop. Tonight I had the thrill of spilling a bottle of blue ink all over the journal, but besides the immediate freak out in trying to keep it from running further, I’ve accepted the incident as one that “adds character” to the journal. It’s another story behind every layer.

Yesterday I was reminded why I told myself never to have another garage sale. Our neighborhood has a garage sale date each year, so at the last minute we cleaned out the basement joined the neighborhood, putting things out for sale. I made about $3.50 per hour. 😦 Good did come of it. I met a very cool neighbor that lives just a few houses down the street, and we did get the basement cleaned out. All that was left was loaded in my van ready to be donated to the local thrift shop. My storage area in the basement looks quite tidy. Yeah!

amanda ∞

Manipulation vs. giving

My son was born with an abundantly generous heart. This week we had a wonderful time together. We gave the ultimate gift of time to each other. Yesterday we decided to go back to You Say Tomato so he could have just one more piece of cake. This time I told him he had to buy his own. As I grabbed a cup of coffee and a table, he ordered his cake. Much to my surprise, I was served a delicious piece of peach pie a la mode. The pie was my son’s treat. The ice cream was the store owner’s treat. This gift has touched me so deeply. He gave from the depths of his heart and wallet because of his gratefulness of our time together.

And on the other hand is an elderly woman that is a part of our lives. We give her rides to church when she wants to go. We help her at her home when she needs things done. But sometimes I feel manipulated and used by her. She asks for one little thing done and when I agree to help she begins asking me for one more thing and one more thing. Then she begins to ask me if I have this and that from home that I could bring. The thing that bothers me is that I feel like she is not being honest me about what she needs. She feels she needs to trick me into helping. I would prefer she just ask for the whole thing. I am very willing to help her. But when the week drags out and she continues to change her plans which deal with me coming to help her, I feel even more frustrated. Now she is not only changing the job, but is also not valuing the time I have set aside to help.

I have another friend who has an abundance of Solomon’s Seal growing by her house. She knows I would love to have some, but rather than giving it to me, she tells me I must first clean out her garden bed. My stubborn nature reveals itself when I feel manipulated. If there is a condition on a gift to be received, or a bait and switch tactic involved when it comes to my service, I suddenly don’t want to help anymore.

Now the choice of integrity would be to help anyway in most situations. Sometimes the best choice would be to step away from the relationship. Manipulation in any form is not friendship, nor does it promote generosity.

I gave this week. My son gave this week. We both are receiving an abundant measure of joy. My son is now folding my daughter’s laundry by his choice as she lays on the couch watching a movie. His well-spring is overflowing with generosity. When he does things like this for her, she suddenly has the desire to spend more time illustrating his comic book.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

What’s most perplexing about this paradoxical truth of giving and receiving is that it does not work when the intent of giving is to receive. Only when the intent of giving is unselfish does magic work. Only then are we truly humbled when we receive in return. Then we are gracious.

My elderly friend is very fortunate that my son was so generous this week. My cup is overflowing with generosity. So although I may feel manipulated, I will give to her and love her fully. My prayer is that my generosity will affect her as it has affected me.

amanda ∞

Demons transformed

Yes, I read a stack of books at a time. I just got done with One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry. What an excellent book. I was inspired.
One Hundred Demons
At the end of the book Lynda challenges the reader to draw their own demons. Although it was not intentional, while I was working on my art journal, the demons came out of a doodle. I listened to what they were telling me. They were anger demons. After telling me where they came from, they transformed into something beautiful, something nurturing.

 

The nests were mouths, and if you look carefully, an eye and nose can be distinguished on the right side.

I’m really enjoying the results from the Artistic Alchemy Workshop. It has been so fun, but I have been getting little sleep. I don’t want to stop the flow.

amanda ∞