Tag Archives: change

Confessions of a Self-important Slow-Learner

pumpkins

I will start off by just admitting that this is not the post that I thought I was going to write today. Over my morning cup of coffee, I felt a very strong urging in my heart. Naturally I pushed it aside thinking, “Oh, lovely idea. But I can write about that later. I have a plan.” Hmmm…why does this sound so familiar?

For those of you who know me already, you are probably aware that I am a bit of a slow learner when it comes to my spiritual walk. Reluctant. Recalcitrant. Stubborn. Obstinate. Disobedient. At my age, I really should know better. Whenever I make plans and hold on to them very tightly, God usually has another idea.

So, here is the first part of my confession: I thought that I had figured out the purpose of this blog. I had a plan. I had mapped out topics and scheduled them. I was primarily going to focus on our house refurbishment (Project Take Back Our Home). Now don’t get me wrong. I had every intention of sharing some personal stuff but I was definitely planning on directing (deflecting?) the topics away from me and toward more generalized commentary.

But this morning, God reminded me—in the way only he can do—that the purpose of this blog is about giving him the glory, not me.

Now for part two of this confession. Remember back to that whole “slow learner” business? Well I have just now figured out and am living into my purpose at home. Five years after I returned home.

Here is a quick summary for those who came in late. Five years ago I left my career and came home to care for my husband, teenage daughter and aging mother. I had worked outside of the home for almost twenty years—first as a museum curator and educator and later in children’s ministry. Although I believed (and still do) that I was called by God to come home, I struggled (fought) with God about being a stay-at-home mother and wife. I constantly told God (yeah, I know…) that I knew he had something b i g for me during this season. A new ministry? A novel? A business? Surely he wanted me to do something more than just care for my family. Yes, I do realize how prideful and ridiculous this sounds. I can’t believe he didn’t strike me down.

I was grumpy and whiney and quite difficult to live with (sorry, family). I am sure my friends have been sick to death of all the “Woe is me…I am a stay-at-home mom but I was meant for bigger things” (sorry, friends).

Two months ago my husband and I started a much-needed, long-overdue home refurbishment (Project Take Back Our Home). Suddenly I was completely immersed in the de-cluttering, simplifying and organizing. I began to have more time to do the things that we needed to keep our family and our home running.

So this morning as I was fixing breakfast for my husband and daughter, it hit me. This is my purpose. Simple as that. I am meant to love and care for my family and to keep our home running as smoothly as possible. It is big stuff.

It seems that once I was willing to embrace the purpose and the role that God had called me to in this season of my life and quit struggling to find “more important things to do,” I could finally see just how important my job is to my family. I think we glorify God when we are passionate about our calling.

So how does this confession and realization affect my blog? Well, I’m not quite sure, but I am pretty sure God is. What I do know is that you can probably expect a bit messier version of the typical lifestyle/decorating blog as I write about Project Take Back Our Home. My guess is that home refurbishment will not be the main focus.

I told you I was a slow-learner.

Thanks for struggling along with me, friends.

God’s peace–Amy

Domestically Dis-Inclined

Domestically Dis-Inclined: How One Family Takes Back Their Home

I have realized for a long time that we are not all created equal when it comes to the domestic home front. Some people are just born with the desire and ability to create order out of chaos, to maintain systems and to think ahead. Others have to really work at it. And some either have no inclination, no desire or no awareness.

I have discovered over the years that I fall somewhere between the last two. I do have the desire to have a clean, organized home, but I am not naturally gifted at creating it nor am I genetically predisposed to maintain order. The good news is that there is help for people like me as long as one has the desire and remains aware of one’s surroundings.

I come from a long line of women who believe that function follows form. Homes should be beautifully decorated but less thought goes into the actual orderly running of things. I suppose this was less of an issue for my grandmother who had staff to keep things orderly and clean. My mother, who worked outside of the home much of my childhood, had to tackle this on her own. She admitted frequently that she was not a good housekeeper nor did she get any pleasure from it.

The lesson that I gleaned from my mother’s example was that as long as the pillows were plumped and there were fresh flowers, as was well with the world. Clutter was what made a home looked lived in—especially if the clutter included beautiful and/or interesting objects and books. Books were always plentiful in our home and were kept close to hand (past and future reads were equally important as current). As long as there was a surface, there was no such thing as too many photographs, too many books or too many decorative objects. I believe that I have followed this example well.

Over the years, however, my family has accumulated more than our share of stuff. Some might say that this is simply “the American way” and perhaps I believed this as well. But now I realize that this “collection” is actually the result of disorganization, laziness and paralysis.

Two months ago my family embarked on an adventure to regain control of our home through purging and organizing, rethinking our spaces and how they are used and by refurbishing our 17-year-old house. We call it “Project Take Back Our Home”.

Project Take Back Our Home

Over the next few months, I will be sharing the process and the results of our efforts in this new series. I hope to give some encouragement to those who are where I was: in a state of complete denial and immobilization due to the enormity of the job at hand. I will reveal organizing tips from the perspective of a “real person” (i.e., one who is domestically disinclined). And I will share how our complete domestic re-boot has helped my family. I hope you will join me on this adventure!

 

 

 

 

How to Step Out in Faith

Isaiah 40: 31

Isaiah 40: 31 is my friend Elizabeth’s scripture for this season in her life. The image is a photograph (with a watercolor effect applied) of a tidal creek between Mt. Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013)

I am writing today in honor of my friend, Elizabeth Bumpas.  She left for Uganda yesterday in response to a call to serve the Lord. She leaves behind family and friends, her home and her precious dogs, comfort and security.

Elizabeth is one of the bravest people I know. She really knows how to step out in faith.

We have been friends for over 30 years and this is not the first time that she has stepped out in faith. Time and time again she has listened for the Lord to speak to heart, prayed for discernment and guidance, invited others into her discernment process, and sought wisdom and counsel from spiritual mentors. And then she has taken the bold step to follow the plan that the Lord had prepared for her.

Now I am not saying that each and every time she has gone eagerly into the unknown. Elizabeth, like most of us, appreciates her home and family and friends. She “hunkers down” as good as anyone and resists change. No, she is not perfect but she is most definitely intent on knowing God’s will for her life and in being obedient–regardless of the price.

My friend Elizabeth is like an Olympic athlete in training. Her heart has been well-trained to listen for God’s call. She goes through the discipline of the discernment process rather than just jumping into one thing or another. Her years of obedience to the Lord has shown her that she can trust Him to care for her.

I am so excited for her and her new adventure. She started writing a blog as she began preparing to leave and will continue to add to it while she is in Uganda. Click here to read more about her mission. I will share some of her reflections here as well.

Please click here if you would like to partner with her in prayer or if you care to make a donation.

Please join me in praying for her as she follows God’s call.

 

8 Ways to Have a Stress-Free Birthday

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?  Satchel Paige   Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/satchelpai103901.html#bKs6TdBhV2AOtrvI.99

How old would you be if you don’t know how old you are?

I celebrated another birthday this past weekend. A milestone birthday. A b i g birthday. Enough said.

I guess that I am now an expert on preparing for “decade birthdays”. Hmmm…not sure I want to be an expert in this but it is certainly better than the alternative.

So given my experience in this area, I have a few tried-and-true ways to make it through these celebrations. Here is my list of “8 Ways to Have a Stress-Free Birthday.”

1. It’s your birthday. You can cry if you want to.

2. Understand the cycle of acceptance: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. It is going to happen. You are going to age. Your birthdays will continue to come. Every year. On the same day. Learn how to accept this fact and recognize where you are in the cycle of acceptance. Now move on.

3. Be honest with yourself and your loved ones about how you want to celebrate your special day. Do some real soul searching and be as honest as possible about what you desire. Others cannot read your mind. If it is a milestone birthday, your family and friends may think they need to do something very big and very public. This is a lovely idea if this is what you want. If not then it could be a huge cause of stress. Know what you want and express these wishes to those who love you.

4. That being said, accept whatever gifts you are given for what they are: expressions of love. Do not read between the lines, judge the gifts or the givers, make comparisons, calculate cost or energy. Just accept them graciously. Gift-giving is a talent and few people have the talent of finding just the right thing. Giving gifts can be extremely stressful for many people and some are often paralyzed, overwhelmed and make poor decisions. This does not mean they do not love or appreciate you. Look past the gifts to see and accept the hearts of the givers.

5. Have your own little private celebration. Just you. No one else invited. Celebrate in whatever way you want. No one else needs to know this is what you are doing. It’s your little secret. Go buy a perfect red velvet cupcake and sing to yourself (no candles needed). Maybe a mid-afternoon, self-indulgent nap is your preference. Pedicure? A stroll through a park? A few hours at the beach? Wandering through your favorite bookstore? Give yourself this gift of time alone. You deserve it. And you will feel pampered afterwards.

6. Take some time to set your goals and priorities for the coming year and/or decade. What is really important to you, who is really important to you? Is there something you have always wanted to learn, do or try? How and when will you go about making this happen? Are there things that you need to add to your plate or more likely, take off your plate? What do you need to do to live intentionally? Take the time to actually write these down so that you can revisit them and make necessary adjustments.

7. Tell your loved ones that you love them. It’s frightening to think of all of the people I love and care for yet realize I have only said the words, “I love you” to a handful of people. Expressing love can be a great stress-reliever so make sure that your family and friends know how you feel about them.

8. Count your many blessings. This really works. Whenever you are sad or stressed or frustrated, take a few moments to be thankful. Keep a list. Write down a few everyday. Acknowledge and celebrate the blessings in your life. Poof! Negativity disappears.

These are some of the ways that I have had a stress-free birthday this year–and I have plenty of experience coming up with this list. I hope that it helps you to enjoy these special days!

How do you get through birthdays–especially milestone birthdays?

Moving Ahead While Looking Back

Amy Watson Smith

This is the time of year that most people look ahead, plan, make resolutions. But it is also a time for reflection, a time of looking back, assessing and reassessing. This is a time to learn from your mistakes.

Believe me when I say that I love to move on. I fully appreciate the value of a clean slate. I am a planner so the start of a new year is welcome and full of possibilities.

At the same time I am an historian, a writer, an observer. I have known for many years how important it is for me to learn from the past–my past.

I try to reflect during the Christmas holidays but it seems it is just too busy and full of activity even if the activity is basically non-activity (e.g., reading books, taking naps, eating, talking with family, eating,…). Every New Year’s Day I am shocked that I haven’t really done the thoughtful preparation that I meant to do and instead scribble a few generic resolutions on my [symbolic] list.

And every year a week or two into January I realize that I have not followed through on any of these resolutions. I might feel a twinge of guilt or disappointment in myself for a few seconds but I wasn’t really invested in those things anyway, I tell myself.

This year I am trying something a bit different. I am using the month of January as a time to look back and reflect as well as a time to begin crafting some thoughtful goals. I am focusing on learning some things about myself, asking myself some difficult questions and looking around for resources that might help me.

I want to know why I am doing what I am doing (or why I am not doing something I should be doing). I want to be invested in my future. I want to live intentionally, to be authentic and to love wholly. I want to learn from others and to share my experiences.

I have invested in several tools that I believe will be useful and I will share these resources and some of the results on my blog. I will continue to document my journey both verbally and visually though I have not decided yet how my editorial calendar will be affected by this period of reflection, learning and planning. Once I have figured this out, I will post about it here.

I hope that you will continue to check in on my blog and to share with me your thoughts about my posts as well your own experiences in looking back and moving forward.

Blessings for 2014!

Amy

 

Surprised by Subtlety: 4 Ways I Have Learned to Embrace Change

Lowcountry fall leaves

Autumn in coastal South Carolina is subtle. We don’t get much of the showy reds and oranges and yellows that one thinks of in the fall. We mainly have evergreen trees and plants in the lowcountry: live oaks, pines, palmettos, wax myrtles, loquat and holly. And the dramatic temperature changes can be a bit tricky: hot and humid one day, cool and crisp the next.

When I first moved to Charleston almost 20 years ago from the mid-Atlantic and New England regions, I would have said that Charleston didn’t have an autumn. I desperately missed the traditional fall foliage (though not the cold and snowy winters).

But I wasn’t seeing what was right before my eyes as I drove across the many bridges spanning the region’s salt marshes. I was overlooking the obvious: the subtle changes in color of the Spartina marsh grass from springtime chartreuse to the brown and amber of the fall. Even though I hadn’t noticed the beauty of this season, change was taking place all around me.

Twilight autumn marsh view

Sunset over the salt marsh, Isle of Palms connector, South Carolina (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

 

Sweetgrass turned purple

South Carolina sweet grass turns a lovely shade of purple in autumn (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

I began to wonder what other changes I had not noticed because of subtlety and my inattention.

Learning to open my eyes and mind to change. 

I am not particularly comfortable with change–particularly change that surprises me. I suppose that I should not be surprised when things in life do not go according to my plans. Change is happening continually.

But when I am feeling secure in a particular season of life, I somehow I convince myself that everything will stay as it is: children won’t get older, parents won’t get ill, jobs won’t end, . . . . This isn’t a very useful or realistic attitude to take. Looking at the list I realize that it’s a pretty negative view of things. I need to change my perspective and come to terms with the notion that change is a given. But not all change is a bad thing.

Learning to pay attention to the details.

Once I have learned to open my eyes to change, I can begin to see the small, incremental alterations that often lead to the big changes in life.

Lowcountry grasses

This field of grass appeared just dull brown from a distance but upon closer inspection I noticed green living grass peppering the field of dried grasses. (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

Lowcountry autumn

When my daughter was eight-and-a-half months old, she took her first steps. I was surprised because she did not go through the regular developmental progression of crawling before walking. She went directly from sitting to walking–or at least that is how it seemed. But there were indications that change was happening all along as she pulled herself up to a standing position and began cruising the furniture (at 8 months-yikes!). I must have realized this on a subconscious level because my husband and I knew it was time to move from our tiny downtown Charleston 19th century kitchen house to something with a bit more floor space.

For me documenting the details around me is how I am learning to pay attention. Writing about my life and photographing the world around me helps me to notice the details and the small changes taking place around me.

Learning to see the bigger picture.

Sometimes, though, I can get so caught up in the details that I forget to take a long view of things. It’s a case of the proverbial “not seeing the forest for the trees.” This happens to me creatively quite often when I get so caught up in the minutia of a project I am working on that I forget to step back to see where this particular element fits into the whole.

Lowcountry marsh in autumn

Fall sunset on Isle of Palms Connector

I am learning to see the bigger picture of particular seasons of my life by looking back and by looking ahead. I try to place this season on the time line of my life (yes, a literal time line) and am able to see that what seems like an interminable period may in reality be only a blip.

I am learning to see connections of a particular season of my life to a past event or time as well as trying to anticipate consequences in the future. I am looking for God’s hand in my life to see what he may doing to shape and form me. I am trying to learn from the difficult times and the easy times.

Learning to embrace the season I am in.

This may be the toughest part of it all. Complaining comes far too easily to me.

I used to tell the girls in my Girl Scout troop, “You get what you get, so don’t throw a fit.” I need to remind myself of this when I lash out and cry to God, “This isn’t fair!”

I’m not suggesting that we don’t have any control over things in our lives so just sit back and take it. Not at all. I am saying that sometimes we find ourselves in a place that is hard or painful perhaps because of something we have done or someone or something else has caused the situation. It may not be fair. It may not be fun. It may be very, very hard.

Lowcountry autumn afternoon

Learning to embrace the season I am in (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

Now what if I open my eyes and heart to gratitude? What is it in this situation that I can be thankful for? Where can I see the goodness of God? What can I learn? How can I thank Him in this hard season?

The only way I know to do this difficult step is capture it–embrace it–document it.

Do you have a way of embracing the season you are in? How do you respond to change?

 

It was one of those perfect English autumnal days