Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On open and closed doors

On my farm growing up, we had a screen door on our back porch. We would enter through this door and try not to let it slam shut, which would take us inside the enclosed back porch. 

On one end, in a corner, was this very small but tall triangular closet made out of whitewashed bead board with a tall skinny door in the middle with a latch. In this tiny closet would hang my dad's work overalls. The ones for summer that looked like striped denim and the ones for winter which were insulated. 

Next to this closet was the door that took us from the porch into the house. It wasn't really an insulated door. More like just a regular door with the top half being windows we could see through.

Doors keep the heat out and the cold in. They keep the heat in and the cold out. They form boundaries for us where we need them. 

Usually with physical doors, we can control when we open and shut them, at least that is what we hope. We hope that our door isn't plowed through by some unwelcome intruder.

Rarely do we want a door to remain closed that we want open. Especially if we are dreamers.

Lately it seems my family is having encounters with doors. My husband walked through a new door two weeks ago into a new job. A new career from Engineering into Marketing. He waited at least three years for that door to open. (many more actually) Many prayers were pleaded for a door like this to open. It finally opened and much rejoicing has been happening over this open door!

My son has been waiting nine months since college graduation for a door to open for a full time job with benefits. Next week, he will joyfully walk through that door that has been prayed for. The wait has not been easy. We are grateful.

But, what about those doors that we pray for that don't seem to open when we want them to, or maybe not at all?

Like the healing door that we've been praying for a loved one or ourselves for months.

Or, maybe you've been praying for a door to open for a new job or a new relationship or a new house.

We are created to desire new and adventurous things, so it can be disheartening when we badly want a door to open and it doesn't seem to budge. 

The hinges are rusty and the door is crusty and it seems completely immovable.

In a certain way, I've been behind a proverbial closed door for three years. The door to my dream of attending a specific graduate school has continued to remain shut. I've asked lots of questions, grieved, and have finally come to peace with it.

My husband's new job is right where we are, so we won't be moving to the Northwest, near that desired school any time soon.

But, finally, I can see a tiny crack opening in the dingy old door that's been seemingly blocking my path. The one I've put claw marks in trying to make open through my sheer will power.

I've had to look for the tiny opening. The sliver of light.

Instead of staring at the closed door in disbelief and anger, I've had to look for the tiny opening that might provide the consolation.

Doors can be friends or foes depending on what side of them we are on and what side we'd rather be on.

May we continue to pray for open doors where we'd like them. 
May we keep dreaming.

But, may we keep looking for the tiny speck of light that might already be shining through that closed door that might give us guidance and consolation on our journey.

Linking up today with Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart and with Beth at Three Word Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What I’m reading {plus a confession}

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to books.

When I was little, I didn’t have a library card. We lived eight miles out in the country and we were not library people. I went to a country school which hosted the Book Mobile once every two weeks or so, but that’s about it.

I was not too much into reading, other than what was assigned to me in class.

I read My Antonia in seventh grade. And The Scarlet Letter as a sophomore. 

I didn’t do a lot of reading just for fun when I was younger. Not like my cousin, Valerie, who devoured books then. I couldn’t understand how she could be so engrossed in other people’s stories. She was glued. She sat there in the corner and ate sunflower seeds by the bushel and read and read and read.

Now, I understand.

In fact, I think I have been trying to make up for lost reading time in the past fourteen years.

Fourteen years ago we made a move from Illinois to Iowa. And, for the first time in my life (it seems) I got a library card. At least that's when I really started using one. And, to make matters even better, the library was a short walking distance from our back yard. And still is.

I started immediately feeding my new addiction.

I confess. I check out way more books than I can possibly read in a three week time frame. 

Why? I do not know.

I pay way too many fines. My consolation is that I love the library so much and my money is helping them.

Sometimes I feel like a book hoarder. Like if I don’t check out all that interests me this time, maybe they won’t be available next time. My logical sense knows that this is hogwash, but I can’t seem to change my ways.

A few weeks ago, I checked out a book called Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart. This is my favorite book about writing memoir (I’d like to write one someday), plus she listed her absolute favorite memoirs in the back of her book. And, she is a memoirist herself, so I trust her. Period.

I started a Good Reads account that day, just so I could add all those memoirs she suggested. The next time I went to the library, I scrounged for any of them. 

The next time I went to a different local library I looked. 

We went out of town, and I sniffed around in their Half Price Book store, and I did find several on her list. I had to buy one. It was like finding a little treasure. I had to limit myself to one book, mostly since my husband was with me and would surely question an armload of books, even at half price.

“How many can you read at one time?”

Well, it turns out, I have an answer for that. 

Currently, I am reading four books. I have read more at a time before, but four is the current number. 

There is the library book by Corrie Ten Boom called Tramp for the Lord. This book caught my eye because I remember seeing and being so moved by The Hiding Place as a teenager. She and her family hid Jews from the communist regime and then her whole Dutch family ended up in a concentration camp. They all died there except for Corrie, who was miraculously released after some time. 

She then went on for twenty years, traveling the world and telling her story of how God did miracles in the death camp and how God had worked in her and her family through those years.

I am fascinated at how someone’s faith can stay intact in that grim situation, watching people die every day at the hands of evil people. I am also fascinated by the fact that she faced and forgave the German officer responsible for her sister's death.

The Healing Light I picked up at my church's bookstore. It was written in the 1940’s and I am a little fascinated by reading authors from long ago. This book is about healing yes, but it is really about prayer. I am passionate about both.

The Good Good Pig is one of those memoirs that is on Beth Kephart’s list of favorites. I happened upon it in a Salvation Army store. Again, a treasure found! I didn’t have my Goodreads account with me, but it is a story about a pig. So it had stuck in my memory banks and I knew it when I saw it. 

I am still in the beginning pages of this book, but it is an entertaining read and full of all the antics that a young pig causes, like getting out of his pen repeatedly to eat in the neighbor’s lettuce garden. I usually pick this one up as a bedtime read.

I’ll See You Again is also a memoir. I checked it out of the library once before. It is a story about a family who tragically lost three little girls in a car accident and how they lived through the trauma and grief.

I didn’t read it last time it got checked out. I couldn’t bring myself. It seemed too depressing. But, I ran across it again last night and started reading it at the library. Again, I am curious how this mother, this father could survive this awful tragedy and keep their faith and their marriage intact.

I guess you might say, I am addicted to stories. 

Our stories are who we are. As my husband said last night, “Everything I’ve been through has made me what I am today.” I couldn’t agree more.

The good, the bad, the ugly. It all makes up us. God's grace covers all. 

Reading other people’s stories gives me hope. It shows me how different all of our stories are, but how really in the end, we all are alike. 

We all need some sort of healing from the past, hope for the future and strength for today.

I am going to keep reading stories. I am going to keep telling mine. 

And, I’m going to try really hard not to rack up huge library fines.

Thanks for joining me today!

I'm linking up today with Coffee for Your Heart and Three Word Wednesday.

Friday, April 11, 2014

when you paint a color wheel

Today I'm linking up over at Lisa Jo Baker's for Five Minute Friday. Today, the prompt is "paint". This is the time where we write for five minutes straight without worrying about perfection or editing. Won't you come on over and join in?

I walked in my usual five minutes late to class. 

She said, “Tonight we’re going to paint a color wheel.”

I had been warned about this the week before. Not warned in the sense that it was going to be a bad thing. But, reminded.

She handed out a photocopied blank color wheel. 

We all stared at them.

Then, she had us start mixing colors. That’s the idea behind the color wheel right? To learn the true primary colors, the secondary colors, tint and tone, and then the other ones that I forgot the name for.

my unfinished color wheel

As I got to work, the primary colors were easy because they were squeezed out of the tube. But, then the mixing of the colors with water on my pallet.

Orange wasn’t too tricky, but red orange and yellow orange? And then tints and tones of each?

Our teacher was so patient and forgiving. We whined that our colors were not like our neighbor's. 

She said, “All I want you to see is that each section is different. Otherwise yours will be different than the person sitting next to you."

For two hours I concentrated.

I struggled a little.

I am a perfectionist so I wanted to get it right the first time. like always.

As I came home and had a cup of tea after class, I was thinking how much I struggled to make all the colors on my color wheel and how God, in his infinite Creatorship and artistic ability, threw all the colors on His canvas with just His Word for us to enjoy.

God's color wheel

I never realized how painting a color wheel would make me think of God.

Thanks for stopping by!

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

for when you have shaky knees

My journal lately has become something much different than it used to be.

It used to be all prayers, and mostly whining and begging God to do this or that, or give me this or that, and do it yesterday.

I'm not beyond giving Him thanks, but my words have been slightly weighted on the "gimme" end of the spectrum.

I've noticed a shift in recent months. I haven't recently gone back to study old journals, but I do occasionally peruse the previous entries in my current one.

Instead of lots of begging God for what I don't have, it seems I'm recognizing more what I do have.

I'm comparing the tone of my journal to what's happening in my life.

I'm more content where I'm at. 

It was a struggle to get here.

I'm noticing more lists in my journal. 

Lists of things I've learned.
Lists of possible book topics.
Prayers of gratitude.
Answered prayers.

I see in these pages that I've stepped out and done some hard things recently, but been truly blessed for the doing.

I've stepped into some arenas where the so-called critics seemed like they might devour me, but instead I wasn't devoured. I re-discovered courage to use my voice. Courage to be me in my raw form.

Old patterns threatened to take over, but didn't.

In stepping out into the arena, so often I find strength and beauty there instead of the critics I was expecting.

Strength, power, courage and voice rise up to meet each step I take.

This is beautiful to me.

When I was a little girl, I remember my Dad teaching me the simple melody of an old hymn on the piano.

The words of the chorus go like this:

Trust and obey
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey

These words come to mind as I think of taking steps of courage into the arena.

Through shaky knees, sweaty palms and a racing heart, the steps into the arena---silencing the fear gremlins---has brought liberty.  


How about you? What's the arena you find yourself needing to enter?
Give yourself credit for taking steps to enter through shaky knees, sweaty palms and a racing heart. I applaud you!

Blessings to you, friend!

Linking up today with Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

it's no Picasso

Well, I'm back at it again.

Last fall I took the' Brown online class based on Brene's book The Gifts of Imperfection. I absolutely loved the class and when I heard that she was going to offer a part two (to cover the last half of her book) in April, I about jumped out of my chair!

Part two started on Thursday of this week. I didn't get a chance to do any of the work until yesterday, so I felt a little bit behind. 

There were three or four short videos to watch. 
And, then, the creative assignments.

One of the very first assignments Brene' wanted us to do was to draw our self portrait. 

Using ONLY crayons. 

Oh. My. Gosh. 

"Let's get back to that place where we created art with wild abandon."

~Brene' Brown

I don't know if I ever have drawn a self portrait! And, surely not without sketching in pencil first and erasing and sketching and erasing until I nearly had erased all of the paper away. 

Because, that is how much of a perfectionist I am! 

It just amazes me how deeply ingrained in me is this compulsion to edit myself. To edit the version of me that anyone sees. This editing is done subconsciously most of the time to protect myself.

it's no Picasso, but it's me

In fact, this blog is an attempt to put my true self out there. As I said this week, it took a lot of courage to attempt a blog. Two of them went by the wayside until A Ready Listener was born.

Writing my heart is one thing. 

Drawing an elementary quality drawing of myself and letting other people see it, is an entirely different story.

I sat down yesterday afternoon. In front of me was my journal. 

And, my daughter's box of 48 Crayola crayons. The only consolation is that the crayons are basically brand new, and who doesn't love coloring with brand new crayons?

I soooo wanted to go find a pencil! No one would notice! No one was watching me and making sure that I followed Brene' Brown's rules for this creative assignment! I could have sketched to my heart's content and then covered the pencil lines with crayon.

But, I did what Brene' told me to. (I am compliant that way.) Plus, you know what? Brene' had already done her self portrait crayon masterpiece and showed the world. It was no Picasso, and she was smiling and even laughing and poking fun at her drawing saying, "Do you see the resemblance?"

I thought to myself, if Brene' Brown can do this and show everyone in the world, I can do this. 

So, I sat there staring at my blank journal page a few minutes. 

{Oh, actually, I have to say that I did look up a very basic drawing demo and he told where the eyes needed to be (half way down on the oval face) and where the tops of the ears should be (even with the eyes).}

Is that cheating? Nah!

That's all I did to prepare. Honest.
Then, my crayons went on the white page. 

Once I drew half of the oval because I didn't want my "apricot" crayon I used for my head to show in my hair, and I started putting on the other features and drawing my hair, I actually started to have fun. 

Do you think that is Brene' Brown's point for these creative assignments?

Brene is testing my self compassion
Well, that, and... 

giving up on the misconception of perfection and embracing imperfection.

I'm game for kicking these perfectionist tendencies to the curb.

Stick with me. I'll be sharing more of what I'm learning from the class as I go along!
Come along with me by subscribing to get my posts in your in box!

Thanks for stopping by!

Linking up today with Beth at Three Word Wednesday.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why {A Ready Listener}?

Today I am linking up with other life-giving writers for Five Minute Friday over at Lisa Jo Baker's blog. Today the prompt is "writer". We write for five minutes straight. Not worrying about perfection or backtracking. Writing for the sheer pleasure it brings! Come on over and see what others are writing, or join in!

I started two other blogs before this one. And failed. 

The first one was called Annie's Pathways. I took so long in picking the perfect name. Then, after all that, I didn’t have anything to write, or so I thought. I couldn’t seem to eek out more than one post. I think I was too bound up. Too worried of not saying things right that I was stopped in my writing tracks.

I tried. I sat at the screen and sat and sat and the words would just not form. Out of fear! Fear about what others would think. Fear of sharing my thoughts and my heart and my opinions and having them trampled.

Well, the second blog took a different direction. I called it The Happy Junker. See, I love to decorate and redo furniture and “things” into something usable for me. I love to thrift and do DIY. 

But, I put before and after photos of one project of a chair I recovered. Cool project no doubt, but this didn’t last either because I was not sharing what was most important to me. What sat deepest within me.

The second and third posts didn’t come, even though I’ve done other successful projects over the past several years. I didn’t think this is what my online presence should be.

Then came 2012. And, another go around at finding a name to express what my blog would be. You see, I really wanted to be a writer. I really wanted to express my passions, my heart. 

I really wanted to encourage others who happened to stop by.

I want to be a ready listener to what God says to me. And I so desire to pass that along in the form of encouraging and life giving words. So, this is what The Ready Listener is all about. 

"Understand {this}, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear {a ready listener}, slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry..."
James 1:19 {Amplified}

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of a disciple and of one who is taught, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He wakens Me morning by morning. He wakens My ear to hear as a disciple {as one who is taught}. 
Isaiah 50:4 {Amplified}

Thanks for stopping by today!
And Blessings to you,

Thursday, April 3, 2014

if joy was a falling star

If joy was a falling star I'd capture it 
and put it in your pocket for safe keeping.

That small but mighty, glowing ember right next to your heart would light the darkest of nights and pave the way for the brightest of days.

This joy-star promises something.
It promises to make you and then keep you strong.

And when you are strong, you are mighty.

You are mighty to fight down the foes of 
and every other negative emotion.

Yes, those foes threaten.
Yes, they seem stronger.

But, they are not.
The joy in you is stronger.

God promises that it is.

How can you stay in joy when everything outside you is anti-joy?

Remember the anti-dote.
The Truth is the antidote.
The joy of the Lord is your strength.

(inspired by Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”)

I'm sharing with other encouraging writers at The Weekend Brew and Spiritual Sundays.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When you're not sure if you should take the risk

Even though you know the news is coming, you are never quite prepared for it. 

The first thing I wanted to do after hearing about my step-brother's death, was to write out my reflections (process). Then, I dug into my stash of old pictures.

Why do we say that a picture is worth a thousand words? Because it is. 

Especially if it's a picture of a loved one who has just passed out of this life and into the next.

What do these photos say?

Why do they bring so much comfort?

I wanted to scan in and share on Facebook an album of pictures from growing up with my step-brother, Greg, on our Nebraska farm. I found just eight pictures at first.

When I looked at these photos of him as a little boy, and me as a big sister, sweet memories came flooding back. 

How Greg had that silly wink-grin he'd do quite often.

His sense of humor.

The way he was a big brother to my little brother.

But, as I got ready to hit "post album" I hesitated.

How would my step mom feel to see these? Would it hurt her more? Would it make the grieving worse?

I wasn't sure, but I took the risk.

That night she left a message on my phone, "Thank you for posting those old pictures. They are just precious. We are downloading them to use on a picture board at the memorial service."

I called her the next day and I admitted that I was hesitant to post them. She said, "Oh no, I loved seeing them."

I do believe we need to be very cautious about what we post on the internet. 

But, sometimes I swing to the conservative extreme out of fear of not "saying it right" or "doing it right." Because I'm "not perfect." 

These are my old tapes.

In thinking about whether to post the picture memories, I had to ask myself,

 "What's my heart behind this?"

I admitted that it wasn't to bring attention to myself at all. It was to encourage my family.

To bring joy.

To help us remember the good times.

So, I took the risk of showing up, being seen and living brave by sharing these treasures I found.

Let's post the joyful memories if it feels right and if we have peace about it.

Let's speak the joyful word.

Let's send the note.

And, let's be the encouragement this world so desperately needs.

"Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances."

Proverbs 25:11

"Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing."

I Thessalonians 5:11

Blessings to you,

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