Lessons from an L Shaped Hallway

This post written for Women Connect. You can read more about that here .

“the in-between place is still a place” Christie Purifoy 

I read these words a few weeks ago now and as sometimes happens with words that strike a chord, they’ve stayed with me.

They made me think of my narrow L shaped hallway.

IMG_8553Its an in-between place.

In between the living areas of the house and more business end of the house.  I charge down this hallway arms full on one mission or another day in and day out. Another towel being delivered to the bathroom because no one in this house remembers to take a towel with them to the shower. Or on my way to the laundry, another load of clothes to go in or come out or be hung up, sometimes all three. School uniforms to be ironed, hair to be washed, a bath to be filled. Always something.

Theres the familiar give in one tiny section of the floor where a board has cracked that my feet always seem to find. Dust collects along the skirting boards and gathers in corners and seems on a mission as well – to constantly collect in great heaps just to taunt me. Swishing a mop along those edges right up to the front door feels like a victory in itself but that dust  – it has a way of finding its way back.

 

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I wonder how many miles I do in a day,  early morning, late at night, up and down – how many do we all do.  

A lot of life is lived in these seemingly inconsequential in-between places. Not where we were but not where we want to be either. On our way.  Between what was and the place our hearts compass has us pointed – the longed for job, the house finished, our goal weight, the debt paid off, something to come or something to go, a big break, a move, a healing,  an answer.

And we can either be in one heck of a rush to put some space between where we are now and where we want to be or we get lost in the throws of the everyday hard work,  the up and down of the same hallways, the in and out, the dust piling up again and lose sight of where we are headed. Drowning not waving.

Either way the difference its the same – we can miss  the gift that is the “right now”.  We can miss the unique shape and rise and fall of it, we can miss what it might tell us and teach us, we might even miss how lovely it might be. 

And I get it  “right here” might not be where you thought you would be because you know as well as I that  life can’t be trusted to stay the same or to do whats its told. Right now  might feel about as  bent out of shape as it can get with so many “not yets” and “what ifs”, with so many questions and so much waiting –  that somedays we might wonder whose life we are living because it sure doesn’t feel like ours.

Yet even in the in-between place are signs and signposts of the eternal running right beneath our fingertips, just below the surface of our daily work. They point the way , they remind us of who we are are and where we are going, they remind us  of the story God is writing with our lives right here, right now.

I’ll tell you a few other things about my skinny hallway

Ken  calls it “the gallery” as a bit of a joke but space is short in my tiny house so each part has to play its part – even the most ordinary of parts. So its lined with paintings  – mostly the thrifted kind and mostly Australian landscapes  because I love a country landscape and they make me feel peaceful just looking at them. Photographs too – wedding photos and the cutest of the squishy faced baby photos some in ornate frames some in old vintage frames because I like the mix of the old and new and I love their little faces. I’ve positioned them all in groups so there is a “view”  as you come out of each door. Destinations for my eyes – like mini breaks and a diversion from the dust.IMG_8547IMG_8546In one corner theres nothing. A  hall table was there for a very long while and now that its  moved the clear space too is a relief for my eyes. No furniture to wash around, nothing in the way just clear uncluttered space.

On the walls theres maybe a 100 tiny nail holes  that have been made in the wrong place – evidence of my picture arranging and rearranging and arranging again and not measuring ever. I’d like to think I was more precise and methodical but the nail holes tell the real  story.

Theres a bookshelf  too – an ordinary looking bookshelf except that it isn’t. My father made it for me what must be 30 years ago now and its still standing strong despite its age. Me too I hope. It was pushed into the hallway just to get it out of the way and it seems like it was made for this space. A happy accident. Its narrow and tucks into the wall barely noticeable but its a spot to put a few nice things on and the extra storage goes a long way.

IMG_1335IMG_1337It just so happens that it covers a hole in the wall. A dual purpose right there.  That hole was first made by Ken years ago now. He hit it out sheer frustration when our boy Ethan 18 months old broke his leg for the second time in a year and it felt like our world was coming apart again.  Our only job to protect him and keep him safe and we couldn’t seem to do it. Ken patched the hole later and painted it over but a few years later it was opened up again. Exact same spot. This time by Ethan himself. His hand went through it running full pelt up the hallway playing chasies with a friend on his back. Yes a house full of kids, a birthday party I think, a rollicking good game being had and Ethan a force to be reckoned with. My heart full. I remember Ken being a bit annoyed at the time with the kids “wrecking the house” but truly that ship had sailed a while before and I reminded him, as good wives do why the wall was weak in that spot. I reminded him that Ethan running full pelt anywhere was our prayers of years ago answered, our dreams come true with his bones gaining strength all the time and him growing fast and big and strong. 

Yes even the things we think broken and gaping, the things we might choose to cover up carry messages of our redemption and are reminders of where God has shown up in our lives.

And in my rushing up and down that hallway I only have to catch a glimpse of those sweet little baby faces and I’m reminded oh this place is good and this life is good. My prayers were answered and I can believe they’ll continue to be answered. The questions and the frustrations and the overwhelm are real but they find there place smaller and less significant than they seemed before because life is a whole lot of dealing with “bad”  but just look how glorious is the good. IMG_8549IMG_8548IMG_8550

“Even in the waiting, the listening, and the watching for what’s next, there is still so much right here”. Emily P Freeman

So much goodness, so much life, so much of our  story, so much of God,  more than we often see with our eyes or even touch with our hands.

Even narrow L shaped hallways can remind us of that  somedays

So here’s a few thoughts – in that in between place:

  • Create some diversions from the dust – some mini breaks for your heart and soul. 
  • Leave yourself a little blank space. 
  • Let the nail hole shows. Remember our mistakes tell our story as much as our victories. 
  • Celebrate  the “happy accidents” because “when things aren’t perfect, which is always, you have to choose what you are going to focus on” Myquillyn Smith
  • Look for the  handprint of God in your life, run your finger along the  lines – see  how far you have come and take note of where He has been. That casts a different light and gives meaning and perspective on where we are now. 

“Surely the Lord is in this place and I wasn’t even aware of it” Genesis 28:16

Yes  God is found in these awkward in between places, in the cracks and crevices of our lives, in the places we feel stranded or squeezed in tight.  The very One who sent Jesus down low to the ground with a purpose,  to embrace us travellers weary and dusty and dirty from the road. 

xxx

 

Linking Up with #Porch Stories with Kristin Hill Taylor and Chasing Community with Brenda Bradford Ottinger and Tell His Story with Jennifer Dukes Lee

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The Things That Grow

This post written for Women Connect. You can find out all about that here .

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You know I’m always amazed by what grows and what doesn’t grow in my garden. Wild and overgrown for the most part yet its a constant source of inspiration to me.

Not too long ago in my wandering around out there I pushed the tiniest tendril of a plant that had fallen off another plant into a pot. I planted it  with only a whisper of hope it might grow and then forget about it.

Another of my potted plants though got the best of my attention. I moved it into the best light and out of the wind, watered it and fussed over it and kept a close eye but it was having none of it – it shrivelled and died just the same. 

My forgotten little plant though while I was busy elsewhere had doubled its size and was growing lush and strong and lovely. 

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. Ecclesiastes 11:6

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We sow the seed, we pour the water, we think we know –  but the growth, the life – that magic isn’t ours.  

That part is Gods. 

And we can lament over whats not growing in our lives, throw ourselves prostrate trying to will something out of the ground that we are convinced should be growing but to no avail. And while our back is turned, in the place we least expect it,  is the growth and life and increase we are longing for.  Our prayers answered after all.

Ours to sow but its Gods to grow. 

Lets not miss what’s growing by fretting over whats not. 

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And April is as good a time as any to consider just that. We are four months in and the place we started in January may not be the place we find ourselves in now.  Things dreamed of and hoped for then may be scarce on the ground right now and disappointment is always tempting.

Gods timing is everything and His beats ours.  And goodness me He grows unexpected things in the unlikeliest of places.

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So whats growing for you right now 

Whats feels like a sweet stream coming up on the inside

Whats bringing you life 

Whats bringing you joy

Whats bringing you peace

Let’s take  in the fragrance and shape and feel of that.

Let’s take our fill of whats growing and be inspired by that 

The rest is God’s.

Love to you all today

Tracey xx

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All In

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life – – – Psalm 23:6

Theres a little sign attached to a low red brick wall that I pass each morning as I walk the few blocks from my car to work. Im almost at work when I pass it, breathing heavy from fast walking, a thousand things in my head yet this small sign all washed out and faded that shouldn’t even be noticeable any more always gets my attention. It marks the entrance to a car park and it simply says IN .

www.waterintwineblog.comA lot of days I feel about as faded and washed out as that inconspicuous sign but every morning it prods me with the same question.

You IN ?

My answers the same as I make that last dash to get to work  each day.

Im IN  I feel it under my breath, in rhythm with my feet  I’m IN, Im IN. Im all In

Both hands, both feet, whole heart.

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I need that prod, I need  to make that decision  – – – because when life feels like its all a bit too darn much as it has done lately I have a tendency to look for the out.

Not physically but mentally

When I’m stretched out thinner than what I think I can handle, when I feel in over my head – – –  I’ll start to tune it all out. Dial everything down, create a good arms length, hide from the kids, stop answering the phone and just generally ignore a whole lot of things.

Works for a bit –  but avoidance is always, always counterproductive and creates more stress than it ever alleviates.

And theres a few people that need me  In

The people at the end of the phone calls I take each day need me In – not distracted, not dismissive or disinterested – all IN

And My kids need me In – not distant, not put upon, not crabby,  not slamming food down in front of them and not keeping a safe distance so the noise doesn’t deafen me. All IN because when the ground isn’t level and their heads are full of questions I know what they need from me are open arms and an easy smile and ears that are listening. They  need me finding joy on the hard days  and laughing at the crazy and trusting God against the odds because thats how they’ll learn to do it.

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That little sign reminds me to pay attention,

To be all In the moment with the people He’s given me, to give the best I’ve got right then and there whether that moment brings warm breezes and sunshine or whether it brings a pile of clothes about as high as me in my back room, a great load of dishes in the sink and the kids fighting over the TV.

If I  run, if I hide, if I tune out to avoid the hard  – I might miss the good and the worthwhile and the lovely.

I might miss the magic of finding God right here with me.

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So a  different or a hard or a crazy busy totally in over my head season doesn’t mean its not a good season.

Change can throw us off bad, so can a lack of control –  I can resent what the season requires, I can  tune it all out – – – or I can  recieve  it all as from the hand of God.

And when I pay attention what I notice is the beautiful and the good pressed right up alongside the ordinary and the hard. They’re mixed right in together. And when  I pay attention, when I look below the surface of things what I notice  is the abundant generosity of God in every area of my life.

“life is better when we let ourselves feel lucky” Shannan Martin

Lv Tracey xx

Now I  realise no-one is likely to be losing sleep wondering about this one but I thought I’d let you know I haven’t forgotten my “What I Found In” end of month post for October. I decided I’d do a  a double whammy  that will cover October and November – lets call it Octember  – and it’ll be coming your way soon.

Linking up with Three Word Wednesday, Works For Me WednesdayTell His Story, Coffee For Your Heart

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Woven with Gold

I read this earlier in the week:

Perfect spaces, perfect people, perfect things – they are not real to me. Add a little wonkiness to a house, some mess to the waves of someone’s hair or a few tell-tale signs of age on items and they become more interesting to me. And usually more beautiful.  Recently I read about Kintsugi – a Japanese art form that sees damaged items repaired with gold (or silver). Rather than throw away broken crockery or smooth over cracks in rendered walls, the imperfections are highlighted with gold leaf and sealed with lacquer, creating an interesting feature of a home or allowing a favourite plate to continue dishing out your meals – with a little bling on the side. The method humanises things – giving them some attention, patching them up and letting them continue on their merry way rather than just giving up on them at the first sign of a breakdown. It’s giving even the most ho-hum items a history, a story and a chance to shine. The Happy Home

http://www.thehappyhomeblog.com/2016/07/beautifying-and-highlighting.html
Photo by Belinda Graham – The Happy Home

How beautiful is that. Now that’s a language I understand.

A language of reclamation and second chances and never too broken.

For the least of, the worn out, the flawed, the done in.

I think maybe God knows a thing about Kintsugi – all of us a bit dinged up, with our chippy edges and bits worn thin.  Even cracked right through in places

And of course we think it puts us out of the game, one of the ones to be kept for sentiment but of no real use, too damaged, not worth it, the fault lines too deep.

Except that they make room for gold.

And leave room for redemption.

They make space for the beautiful and transformative to happen, right there where the damage is. In the ravine a reworking of our hearts, a different story – a richer one, increase in the place we feel empty, filled –  not thrown out.

“Courage usually shows up in the cracks” Micha Boyett 

The cracks are where the grace gets in.

Where mercy does its work.

I know – we want to show our smooth undamaged side to each other but I’m  not sure I’ve got one anymore and maybe that’s OK. We think that’s the best bit of us or maybe the acceptable bit, but truly the best bit is our own unique shape of imperfection and redemption and coming back from the brink all bumpy with scar lines but woven in with gold. That’s a story I want to hear,  that’s the bit that shines, that has the power to reach others. Lets not hide ourselves away for want of perfection.

The real us, the real story  ——-  that’s where there’s gold.

I’ll leave you with this:

“I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.” ― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

And this

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6

Love to you all today

Tracey xx

Got a minute? You can read Belinda’s full post on her Kintsugi experience  here. Inspiring!!

Linking up today with Celebrate Your Story, Three Word Wednesday, Grace at Home and Bloggers Pitstop

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Five Minute Friday – Want

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Sunday here now but it works just the same.

Prompt word, five minutes, just write – no over editing, no overthinking.

This weeks prompt word:

WANT

I read this on Instagram yesterday

“Grateful that some things didn’t work out the way I once wanted them to” (myinspired mind)

Oh me too.  Arent we all.

Yet we were so sure at the time that we knew exactly what we wanted – that person, that job, that home, that opportunity, that group of friends, that phone call – and not at all impressed that it didn’t go to plan. Yet looking back later, much later sometimes – so grateful that there was a different plan.

But there’s lots I want right now.

I want to do things that matter.

I want to contribute.

I want to be a good mother and wife.

I want to be thinner.

I want a lovely cushy “statement” rug for the lounge room floor.

I want fire warming the house each night during these wintery months.

I want to see England and America, and Italy and – – – –

I want to have more adventures with my kids.

I want an uncluttered, comfy house.

I want to write good words.

– – – – and that’s the short list.

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Some wants hold more weight then others, some run deeper. Some get me up in the morning and have me doing things I don’t necessarily feel like doing. Some take work. Some have me putting other things I want aside for a while. Others are sweet day dreams, “one day”, “all in good time”, “won’t it be nice when” kind of wants. Then there are those that are deep down where only God can see – the ones that make you cry – the contour of them only God knows.

I’m not sure “want” is the dirty word we often think it is. Wanting keeps us looking and foraging and mining the depths of what’s possible. Wanting keeps us growing and changing. I think God created us rich and diverse and hungering.

But we don’t want it to ruin us. To make us miserable and ungrateful. We don’t want it to blind us to how good and rich where we are right now is, even when its not all good.

Maybe the wanting isn’t really the issue.

Maybe its what we do when we don’t get what we want. What we do when we think its all gone pear shaped. It’s what we learn and how we navigate this life when we don’t neccessarily get what we want in the colour or shape or size we ordered it in or it just doesn’t arrive at all. And right there is where most of our living is done – in the place we never planned for, the unwanted zone.

But its where the magic can happen all the same. Where the near to God -ness can truly happen.  Where we can find more and better and true- er than what we thought we wanted. Where our hands get dirty and our hearts get broken yet we come through wholer than what we were anyway.

David found out about wanting at the sharp and pointy end of life. Found out that he could be good and OK and not needing a thing right now because he had God with him. We can assume these words were said by one at their ease, fully satisfied by life rather than one running for his life, alone, accused, defenceless , all at a loss – – – – but God. A man who out the depths of a place he had never planned or wanted to be, was able to say “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”. Now theres a thing or two I’ll spend my lifetime learning.

Not what we would choose, not what we want – – – – –  but just as well we don’t always get what we want.

I wrote this recently (not in five minutes):

We would choose an easier way with saner people if it was up to us. We would choose less heart wrenching, less exhausting and less scary.  We’d choose people we could get a handle on, not so messy and mixed up. We’d choose bigger and better and looking good while we do it. We’d choose things we feel more qualified for.   

So just as well we don’t always choose, because we’d choose the easy way and we would never find out what we are made of, we’d never reach deep, we’d never lay hold of the miracle of God in us and God flowing out of us.  We’d never discover that it’s not just about us, that it’s so much more. We’d never discover what He has put us here for, we’d miss the eternal – – – – we’d miss the whole point of it. On Making a Difference

Love to you all today

Tracey xx

How I Do Five Minute Friday

So if you haven’t read a FMF post of mine before I’ll let you know how it works for me. I go to the host site Heading Home and see the prompt word usually on a Friday. Many a time I see it and just call it a day right then and there but this week I was determined. I never read any other FMF posts already linked up there before I have done mine – it would just totally skew my thinking about the word and defeat the purpose of it – which is free writing. I give myself some thinking time and may not come back to it till the next day but mostly the ideas or real thoughts only come when I start to write anyway. I set my iphone timer and write fast for five minutes  – whatever ideas come. After that I will spend up to half an hour fixing typos and grammar, adding any links needed and making sure I actually make sense (even partially will do) because no one wants to read my unedited, un previewed ramblings. I don’t add any new ideas to the ones already there even though its very tempting to add in a fancier word or another thought – but I do round ideas and sentences out, rejig them a bit so it flows. It may not be a true five minutes (more a 45 minutes) on my part but I find it a great free writing exercise that gets the words flowing without me over thinking and something good(hopefully) being said.

Got a minute? You can read other FMF posts here.