Work

Frolicking in the Meadow

dsc_0594robyn rasmussenNot long after I became used to the idea that life could be joyful, and even somewhat fun, I began the journey of finding out the difference between happiness and joy. Summertime has long been my favorite time of year with warmth and activities to occupy even the most downcast soul. Invitations from birds and blooming flowers to sing their Maker’s praise make their shout out through songs and brilliant colors. The hippy child in me longed for a beautiful ankle length skirt, side hung braid and barefoot toes in deep grass. Soon, frolicking through the meadow I lost my way like a toddler chasing a butterfly.

Settled into the home and my new body shape I became so comfortable that the safety of my faith, resting deep in my soul, would soon be put to the test. The comfort of a home that now felt like HOME allowed the ease of shifting into “roll down the hillside mode”. I traded the desperate cling for life on a rock in the middle of an ocean leading to daily prayer sessions and hours in the Bible to be easily traded for dancing in the rain. The water was still there in my life, it just didn’t seem scary anymore. I traded in the life saver for an umbrella. Instead of fears inching up my torso the blessings were pouring down from above.

I suppose it was my perspective shift that was finally completed late that May that led me down the path of tip toeing, actually, hopscotched down life’s path. The delicate dance of one foot on the line before the dance to the other foot narrowly missing disaster. The tease of playing with the lines and hoping to win the game in the end. I tossed a pebble in the direction I hoped it to go and then admittedly took pride in the way that it landed.

Comfort was a dangerous spot. It gave me the false sense of having it all figured out and then falling right back into the same habitual sin pattern of looking to my own strength to solve life’s problems.

Innocently late May I stumbled upon an opportunity to bring favor to our home through health and wellness. It began innocently as an opening to make life for the family in the house with the teal door so much better. One tip toe after another I found myself knee-deep in the meadow of “I can solve things by myself”. That same enticing meadow had drawn me in more than once before in the course of my husband and my fifteen years together. It was the same meadow that opened and closed a home business and nearly into a separation from my spouse. The meadow that I tiptoed in bragging about the beauty of the grass without thanking the groundskeeper. That meadow is trouble.

Looking from the top of the mountain or from the depths of the valley the meadow was pleasing to the eye, it appeared to be ankle-deep and gently rolling with wildflowers and honey bees. What I  didn’t see were the occasional ruts, snakes and ground squirrels. I knew my Shepherd would allow me to run and play there for a while but He wouldn’t go too far, for fear that I may get ensnared in a thicket while pushing the parameters. I was flirting with happiness. I equated happiness with Joy and took that equation as a solid reason to chase the butterflies.

Even as a child I was able to sense when I was doing something mischievous. Looking over my shoulder I would stop to see if my parents were looking. If they were nearby I took that as a cue to keep playing. Silly enough as a parent I should have smelled the skunk, and turned back around when I smelled trouble. Instead I used the smell to follow my nose to see just what was making the stink.

Skunks are pretty little creatures that actually mean well. However, God created them with a warning to sound when danger is in the air. Looking at the patterns in nature should have been obnoxiously apparent but it took further investigation for me to come to my senses. My Shepherd took His staff and gently corrected the path. And more than that He gave me a warm spot to rest my head.

Just to be clear, I’m not ever going to look at that frolic as a mistake, or even mistake the skunks as bad creatures. While frolicking in the meadow I had the opportunity to link arms and skip in wide, playful circles, with other wanderers in the wide meadow. The Shepherd needed me in that meadow to lead me to the next journey. It was through that experience that I found out that happiness and joy were not the same. Happiness required that I rest on results for contentment while Joy required that I learned to be content no matter what the results were.

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Home

Sunshine.

May gave way to sunshine and suddenly the future appeared beautifully bright. The routine was broken with the ending of our first year at the private school. Mornings shifted from a hustle to get all shoes tied and lunches packed to a casual breakfast buffet and couch snuggle piles. Afternoons became the “get things done” zone and evenings traded homework lists for four square tournaments. Summer was officially here.

The overwhelming task of never-ending weeding and mulching was alleviated by a little preparation. The careful placement of grass seeding and methodical watering had the tiniest, bright green blades peeking up in even the most shady spots in the yard. Gutters, unfortunately involved a ladder that only the hubby was brave enough to climb. One by one the dams that the squirrels and birds had built were swept away with the force of the power washer. Each morning new perennials peeked through and we plotted out the plans to divide and multiply their bounty.

The yard was coming along nicely but it was the development in my heart that shined brighter. The first year had brought us so many firsts and drug me through the dirt kicking and screeming. I wasn’t going to exude peace and joy when I was under the cloud of pain and weakness. Once the fog of sugar left my body the glow was undenyable. Suddenly the hours that I had poured out in my prayer journal that seemed so insurmountable were nothing but mole hills. As I spent time painting the home and weeding the gardens I was able to sort through challenges and speak truth to each lie. Little by little gratitude snuck in and before I knew it the stack of Joy was waist deep. With just a little more time the feeling crept up to my head and I was able to go forth with excitement for the future.

Looking back the first year was comparable to the first year of each of my boys lives. Home ownership was like having a baby. Falling in love with it at first site I was suddenly overwhelmed by the chores that come along with the good. Weeding was comparable to diaper changing, washing dishes a never ending task like nursing sessions and running up and down several flights of steps much like chasing a toddler. Through all of that, those little “chores” helped me to fall madly in love. Investing time and energy had all been worth it. Those countless hours of effort traded off for comfort in the place that we called home. Emerging from the fog of new home ownership I had a smile on my face and a sparkle in my eye. It was a blessing and it was mine! And so the year of celebration began.

May was a marker in my life. The month that welcomed the one year anniversary in our home. The month that my body was finally operating as it should. The month that I felt peace in my heart. The month that I made a resolve to SMILE. Life was good, life was abundant, life was a blessing. Sure, rainy days came and went but they were just a day. A day that had a begining and an end. Whatever that day brought it was only temporary while it also was propelling me forward. The steps forward often felt like one step back but they were all adding another day to the past.

I began to start dreaming and asking God to help me make steps toward where He would want me. Much like Moses I had been wandering in the desert, a dry spell in my faith in myself. While I was able to cling deeply to my faith in God, I was struggling to have faith that he promised me blessings in exchange for my obedience. I could sing along to many a song proclaiming this truth, I could read many a chapter in the Bible reminding me of God’s goodness but I had failed to see how this pertained to myself. Once the sun was shining brightly and I slipped on my rose-colored glasses my perspective shifted. Having faith meant that I understood that I would not reach a single milestone or success without God having already knew.

Grabbing ahold of the faith I had deep inside, I began to alter my attitude. Instead of focusing on shortcomings and disappointments I clung to the faithfulness and goodness of my Creator. I placed a smile on my face and things became intentional. I was now intentional of every word I spoke, every thought that went through my mind and where I would let it rest. Every action I took, every piece of food that went into my body was meant to serve a need. Everything became “on purpose” in my life. And I also let go of trying hard. Having purpose, I found, didn’t mean exherting all the strength, it meant understanding where me strengths already were! 

This was only the start.

Home, Yard

Growth.

If I could have moved the calendar year to begin in April we were right on schedule. Perhaps it was my own lessons to be learned that brought snow on the 8th of April 2018? Thankfully April was pretty sure she was January as well and we welcomed spring together.

As the first year in the home was closing in I began to feel comfortable in the darling little teal door beauty. The backyard was warm even with snowflakes gently collecting on the wooden boardwalk. The creaks and cracks of the old wooden staircase brought anticipation of who was joining me in the cozy bedroom or racing me to the only restroom. The barking of our dog followed by the clink of the mailbox meant something would be waiting for me there. Friends and family soon began to wish our home would be the meeting place for any reason.

Things finally felt like home. With the life changing addition of a full-sized WORKING dishwasher my evenings of dish washing turned to food prep. The kitchen counter grew by two feet without a constant stream of dirty dishes waiting their turn. Soon the outdoor space began to take shape as well. I faced the facts and decided that gardening was just not in the cards for me this year. While I loved the idea of fresh produce from my own yard I also loved the idea of working from home and that was not yet a reality. So I set the husband to work demolishing the raised flower bed and making space for a larger table on the patio.

Part of home ownership we discovered, is making something your own. I spent a lengthy and rather embarrassing amount of time contemplating a new color palette for the living spaces, finally settling on a neutral gray. Who knew there would be entire Pinterest boards devoted to the single paint swatch Gray Owl? I was told that this is the  perfect gray for honey oak floors and woodwork. Even after all the planning the gallons of paint still waited patiently for their opportunity to grace the plaster walls in late June.

The shape of the yard welcomed an extra parking pad that was danced around by a sweet picket fence. Opposite the parking my eldest son and I played roulette with packets of heirloom seeds purchased from hardware stores. Aster, Bachelors Buttons, Poppies, Marigolds and Sunflowers were scattered in somewhat neat rows that were later mixed by the dog bounding through. A fresh coat of white paint coated the interior picket fence connecting the garage to the side fence. A home with a white picket fence was finally coming to fruition.

The school year also came to a close. The once apprehensive boys began to enjoy school so much they often cried when it was time for us to pick them up for the day. The littlest son began to read with a passion and the eldest competed in both the Geography and Spelling Bee, winning champion of the Geography Bee in our school. Walking to productions at the school were always a treat with music and fellowship with the families we had met. We had been praying about whether or not they would get to attend the next year and were pleasantly surprised when God showed up in a big way and answered with a big “YES” that they were going back. I was at peace about it and He provided.

Marching forward to the close of the first year in the Teal Door home we had to notice how much growth we had seen with the cultivation and effort day in and day out. The hours of yard manicuring and projects in the garage gave way to large strides forward in the value of our home. The growth personally was also extravagant in nature. While my heart had been pruned in a painful yet necessary manner, my body had drastically shrunk to fit into the comfort of a beautiful pair of hand-me-down jeans. The boys each grew several inches in height and leaps and bounds in social and emotional ways. My love for my husband changed for the best. Everything is growing right on track.

 

Home

How to have your cake and eat it too?

IMG_5928In between long nights and even longer days the autumn turned cold and more bitter by the day. Thankfully the mid-week was met with the warmth of friends gathering around my table each Wednesday. We all brought our Bibles and an open heart to discuss how our lives were moving forward. We were a group of women who all represented a different season of life, representing grand-motherhood, teen-motherhood, school-motherhood, and infant-motherhood. Selfishly I enjoyed preparing food and serving these women, it brought me satisfaction to treat them all to dessert while we dug into life’s quandaries. Speaking of sticky situations, if I were to consider which autumn was the hardest personally, it would be the autumn of 2017.

One autumn Wednesday stands out in particular. I had carefully prepared homemade bread and set the table to pass communion together. A raw gesture of the appreciation of the Cross and what the body and the blood meant to my life. We took the time to commune then delved into our regular round-table discussions of personal journeys and quests for advice. For whatever reason it seemed appropriate that day to lay it all out. I had enough of the long days and unanswered prayers and sat there divulging my deepest frustrations to these women. There was an attitude of concern I was met with, along with Biblical advice. Advice that over the next couple of months would send me into a journey I had never expected.

As I cleaned the table off that day, once the women had left, something strange began to take place. I had been ruffled. I still cannot place how it got to me but it led to the deepest valley of the dearest friendship I have ever had. She knew without my ever saying a word that something had broken within me. Shattered pieces of myself lay crumbling around a plate I had filled much too full. Marriage, motherhood, work life, friendship and faith life hit their maximum capacity.

Everything became dark. Life was becoming real. Suddenly the things I had wanted so badly in life became the things I despised the most. I suppose this was a test of sorts, to see who I would listen to. We are taught to listen to our “inner self” and I’ve learned this can be an absolute joke. My inner-self was in a constant chuckle at the person I had become. Somehow it was hilarious to point out literally every fault and misstep I had ever taken up to this point. Looking in the mirror my inner self would sign a gigantic “L” across my forehead, absolutely losing at life. Reading the Bible I heard the opposite. I had been chosen? I was special? I was loved? Pills that become hard to swallow are typically what medicine that is needed most.

If I were to count it would be an understatement that I had cried 15 hours a week on average in the year of 2017. Usually it was quietly as I lay trying to fall asleep or as I reached out to God on my knees, but sometimes as I was shouting over the phone to my friends who never left my side. Sometimes I would stand washing dishes and the warm dish water felt as though the tears had slowly flowed, collecting in the sink. Other times I would feel them welling up as I simply walked into the automated door for 40 hours of torture each week.

Where had I gone wrong? I had this false sense of hope that I would be able to have my cake and eat it too. I was dreaming of a 20 tier cake, layers of delicate frosting, thick white frosting, gobs to lick off the fork as the bright and perfectly dense cake tantalized my taste buds. But what I had failed to realize is that cakes are a pain-staking process of layers and waiting, frosting and time.

It took the better part of the winter to struggle my way through the recipe of life. The sweetest thing happened just shy of Valentine’s day, the memorable start to 2018. I woke up one day to find a gift of new perspective. The ability to recognize the gifts I already have.  I had been doing a study on prayer and had asked very politely that God show me how to have joy. I was finally ready to accept whatever He had for me. Suddenly as tulips in the spring, my heart blossomed and my head was finally able to understand. I suppose the tears were the equivalent of the raindrops. Life is a process of learning to enjoy the cake and you can eat it too, but you do so only when you realize the time, energy and ingredients that are necessary to make it delicious.  Then you can taste and see that it really is good.

Yard

Autumn on the front door.

With a rush of wind and a slow but steady change of the leaves down the street the neighborhood became blanketed by a glorious palette of rust orange, crisp golden hues and deep reds that faded from dark purples. There stood the proud teal door, just boasting of her beauty in her newest owner’s favorite season. I hadn’t honestly ever thought specifically about the excitement that could be felt for planning seasonal decor around a front door. And suddenly it was the beginning of September and what marked the obvious start for all things fall.

Several months before an old friend caught my eye with her delicate felt flower making abilities and I demanded she created the icing for our beautiful art piece of a door. Together we were able to work through the internet to create just the perfect combination of rustic hues to dawn the teal door in the autumn. The simplicity of a grapevine wreath seemed perfectly understated for the spectacular showcase of hand-made floral perfection.

Autumn pulled me in to a frenzy of pumpkin spiced lattes and walks to school on the falling leaves as they crunched underfoot. Dew still dripping most mornings, so enticing, that I reached above to gently touch each little droplet that danced from dramatic pine trees that hung just above my head. Cardinals perched one by one picking individual seeds left behind from the summer flowers that graced the fence line. Squirrels ran about playfully gathering nuts and seeds with a serious perception of just how near the cold was closing in. Rosie rather enjoyed dreaming of catching those little guys with bushy tails.

Each morning after her bowl of carefully measured pet food she would sit perched on the top step looking out the back door, waiting, watching for her friends to tease her into a game of chase. When I would hear her first whimper it was time to open the back door which would lead to a frantic chase out through the gate which led to the second part of the backyard which holds two, one-hundred foot tall, pine trees.  The game continued round the tree. The squirrels would climb before getting just tall enough to wave their bushy tails and jump to a higher branch. All the while they chirped to each other as if they were speaking playful taunts to the poor four-legged creature who could only climb the first three-foot of the tree. Other days they would wait by the far gate within the beautiful red leaves, sending her through the piles of leaves lying below creating a ruckus from above dropping the scarlet leaves as they headed for the power lines that hung above the alley.

Equally exciting was the hunt for the perfect pumpkins and Mum’s to frame that adorned teal door. Plump bouquets of bright yellow and rust flowers rounded out the color wheel once adding a couple of deep orange pumpkins. Together with the wreath the front stoop boasted of it’s beauty to all the passers-by. Singing a song of glory to the Creator of the Heaven’s and the Earth- the teamwork of the nature and the creative in myself, made for a striking display of autumnal artwork.

Beauty was fleeting in life. An autumn drought led to the rapid drying of leaves and the carefully handpicked Mum’s all at the same time. Soon the wide array of colors in the neighborhood all looked about the same. A brown, crumpled mess on the yards that led to a perpetual collection of leaves in our bagged lawnmower. Another stark reminder of lessons learned in life was the accumulation of another’s baggage. The wind drew a new dusting of leaves daily while we did not have a large tree to give such a problem. To be fair, we had our own set of problems in the never ending sprinkle of pine needles, seeds, cones and sap day in and day out. Trudging ahead my husband proved to amaze me once more with his ability to work full time then come home and do another load of yard work.

The crescendo of all that beauty was a let-down in what I see as the Devil’s holiday. Really it’s a shame that we have allowed such a beautiful season of leaves, smells, and sites to be put out by a day of ghosts, witches and goblins. Greed and lust fed the senses and overshadowed the glorious capstone to the summer. Harvest made a load more sense, when it was just a celebration of the fruits of the labor. Maybe we have allowed the tide of emotion and drive for responding to advertising of what we need to override what was meant to be seen as a celebration of the drying out of things, gathering and storing in the beginning.

Fun

Family Nightlife.

The summer was finally drawing to a close. Just like that we traded long evenings on the patio grilling and making campfires to setting bed times and schedules. Late sunsets inched up every day as if to remain a constant reminder of the closing of another season. The sidewalks weren’t sweltering and the kiddie pool found it’s way to the back of the yard shed. The end of the summer is disappointing to a child and a mom all the same. Soon the day’s are marked with lines on the paper instead of the lines from the sleeves on your arms from the days spent in the sunshine.

I had to appreciate the effort of my husband late last August. When he jumped at the chance to plan an evening on the town. For years I had been wanting to browse through the downtown streets of the Big City for the downtown farmers market. A mish-mash of everything wonderful. Arts and crafts, plants and baked goods, entertainment and people-watching galore. A smorgasbord of the senses that drew an artist like me right in. Upon giving up the mega-shifts of the weekends when leaving my job, it was much to our delight, when the evening farmers market was announced.

Walking down the street just at dusk we made our way across the bridge as though crossing the gap between work and play, anticipation of the filling of all senses, almost forbidden. Soon we drew closer to the hub of activity. People of all ages walked in every direction. Rows of vendors lined every street in the downtown district. As we set out the sun drew closer to its rest and the rows of food carts and fruit stands seemed to step in closer, inviting the sense of taste to follow the sense of smell to its delight. So many choices overwhelm a child but they kept it simple. Rounded heaps of shredded ice flavored with multi-colored syrup seemed the perfect recipe to a long summer day. As they dug in the shavings sprinkled a path behind as we sought out the smell of donuts around the corner.

Entertainment was not lacking. There were so many bands, and art stands that while the eye wandered the ear took in. The delicate balance of each sense left the body floating in a sense of satisfaction. As the line moved in closer, it grew equally as long behind me. The smell of grease and fresh raised donuts made its way through the air. A mix of autumn’s first picked apples and coating of sparkling sugar. The mixture did not disappoint the quick moment it lingered on the tongue before nearly absorbing into our bodies. The memory of inhaling donuts appears to be a reoccurring theme in my life during my thirties. Thinking back it is also a memory much cherished from childhood, of visits from my uncles from Michigan, and the batches of donuts my mom conjured up to please them.

Moving slightly the motion of the crowd pulled us forward towards a performance done solely by the light of the moon, rhythmic dance club tunes, while flourescent neon clothing lit to reveal impressive dance moves. Leading us past one food truck after another it was a struggle to decide upon one indulgence over the latter. Soon we came upon a previous co-worker of my husband, who much to my amazement, was able to resurface memories of bar-close as a twenty something. Hot dripping Gyros loaded with tender meat and crunchy onions, melted into the pita, dripped down the wrapper inching towards my forearms. Lady-like table mannerisms flew out the window as I placed my lips around the delicious mix of Mediterranean cuisine. The boys chose a more barbaric tone with skewers stacked with perfectly grilled meats. A masculine nod to ripping flesh off the bone.

The senses of sober motherhood somehow resembled the drunkeness of youth. However this stage of life I learned to experience a high on life rather than sipping a bottle. The clouds above began to threaten to rain on our parade. Soon we were bouncing out, full bellies throughout the crowd. Stopping for a quick slice of freshly cut melons from the Amish booth we made our way forward. The sound of a street band tapping garbage cans and clinking glass begged for us to stop and sway our hips to the beat. My boys were born with the same sense of rhythm as their mom. Ready to move, shake and have a blast. The mood of the make-shift band left smiles on our faces. The beat moved further away and faded into the sounds of far-off sirens and rumbles of thunder.

As we made our way past the baracades and down the sidewalk we began to run as the fat rain drops began to fall. That was the icing on the cake for a night out on the town.

Work

Two speeds.

IMG_6718The summer had flown by at a furious pace. Decisions were made and now it was time to iron out the details of that wrinkled mess I had created. I would learn to quietly sneak those thoughts into the permanent press cycle and let the dryer do the work. God wanted me to look at Him as the ultimate wrinkle remover but for some reason I repeatedly chose elbow grease over the well oiled machine.

The end of the summer was a mix of moving forward at warp speed with moments in slow motion. One example being that my boys decided to develop coordination, in the space of one week, to both tie their shoes and ride bikes overnight. It had been a fight for 5 years now but this summer it happened. I was excited for huge steps in my kids life but I still had in the back of my head the search for the perfect job.

I made decisions based on what I thought the outcome “should” be. I bargained with myself. If I was going to be sending my boys to school every day I absolutely was not going to work every weekend. The last two years had included 18 of the longest months of my life working nights for 24 hours every weekend. I later switched to days but still dreaded the thought of cramming all those work hours into the weekends, a time for fun. Once again, I decided I must fix it. When I discovered a problem that I had a solution for I did one of two things: search, seek, study, absorbing information at a speed only helpful if you know what you are looking for or freeze completely, stopping and unable to move, function, or gather the ambition to do a thing.

Hours were spent online browsing through jobs in the area. Moving to the Big City had so many opportunities that it paralyzed me. I was able to send out resumes but I didn’t have the willpower to wait for the best solution and went back to the first job I had so many years ago. The very job I had vowed I would never go back to. Sure, I shouldn’t have placed my identity in my job but it felt so opposite from what the world screamed at me.

Time stopped that day late in August as I buttoned a crisp white shirt and zipped up black dress pants. A familiar rush came over me while securing the floppy bow tie, paused at the last stop light before arriving at the brick building with bold gold and red lettering. It was a literal fight to get out of that car. I called my bestie and declared; “I can’t do this, I don’t think I’m supposed to be here.” She assured me that this was not outside of God’s plan as long as I kept looking forward to Him and trusted that He’s got this. Fear gripped me and crippled me, the exact opposite of what she had just informed me to do.

Control is a funny thing. It took me to my knees once again. I wish I could tell you it was a quick lesson, that within the day or week, that I learned that I wasn’t going to control this part of my life. Instead, it would take the better part of five months before I would grasp the real issue at hand. The next couple of months following that first day back were a blur of tears and smiles. Somehow God found it possible to give me glimmers of hope sprinkled just perfectly throughout the days.

Coming home from work I would get the inevitable “How was your day” and honestly I cherished that I had someone at home to ask such a question. Shamefully the days, while moving quickly, only seemed to highlight the frustration I was feeling in the depth of my toes. “Honesty is always the best policy” didn’t fit this situation. It was becoming more and more evident that when you put your “big girl panties on” that you often have to “fake it till you make it”. As I searched things out in my wrestling I experienced something for the first time in my life. I realized that even though I was wrestling with God on my identity I didn’t distance Him. Running away from the situation was not the solution and it was time to face the facts head on. Did I know that joy is a choice?

I’ve read that pain and stretching is part of growth, that endurance leads to overcoming. I’ve also heard that life is what you make of it. Seemingly I had found a way to make my life much larger than where it belonged. I pushed things in a fashion that didn’t go naturally and refused to let my control flow over to God. His infinite power is much larger than my measly idea of perfection. Don’t hear me say that I am insignificant, but I am not the Creator, I was made to allow Him to flow through me.

The months of putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes in puddles, other times into blistering winter winds, there was a lesson to learn. That sunshine is the hope. There is always hope, even if you can’t see it through the thick clouds of life, it will always make its debut again. Perhaps this is why I so thoroughly enjoy sunrises.