Embrace Holy Interruptions & Be Gracious

This past Sunday, I had been asked to preach at a local Methodist church (due to my Lay Servant School training) while they transition to a new pastor. Fortunately, my own church meets early, and since the churches are in the same small town, I got to attend my church before giving the sermon at the other one.

The lectionary this past week featured Mark 5:21-43, which tells of Jesus’s encounters with Jairus and an unnamed woman as He and the disciples travel through a village. Jairus’s daughter is sick, so beckons Jesus for help. The unnamed woman also seeks healing, but rather than throwing herself at Jesus’s mercy, she simply finds Him in the crowd and touches His garment.

My pastor spoke about “holy interruptions,” which I thought was an intriguing takeaway. These stories are technically interruptions to whatever Jesus and His disciples had been on the way to do. If we look outside of ourselves and take the time to really see people and situations around us, and if we actively try to follow the Spirit, we might find that God constantly throws “holy interruptions” in our path–conversations and actions we didn’t intend/expect to have/take…but they were meant to be. Another word that’s often used for these instances is “divine intervention/interaction.”

I think of the good samaritan story here. The priest and the Levite missed the holy interruption God put before them because they were in a hurry…because they were putting their convenience before others’ suffering…because they were too stringent about the rules/laws.

It’s perfectly possible to justify their actions by pointing to said laws. Yes, it’s true that one would be ceremonially unclean for several days if they touched a dead or dying person, which would be especially inconvenient for a priest or Levite. But there are also laws about caring for your neighbor. God had already modeled unconditional love to them. So, to me, it’s a matter of discretion. They should’ve known helping a neighbor in dire need would be worth not being allowed to enter the place of worship temporarily.

We, too, often lack discretion…mostly out of selfishness or short-sightedness. The combination of those qualities causes us to lack generosity with time, money, grace, love, patience, peacemaking, forgiveness, etc.

I’m not going to call my grandma back because she’ll keep me on the phone an hour (But once she’s gone, will I lament how I clung so hard to my time instead of sharing it with her?) That friend hasn’t apologized, so why should I be the one to initiate reconciliation? (But once they’re gone, will I regret holding that grudge?) My fiance always leaves the coffee table a wreck, and the fact that I have to straighten it up makes me naggy and resentful. (But in the grand scheme of things, is it reallyyy THAT big of a deal? If he got in an accident tomorrow, would that matter to me anymore?)

Remembering that we all die and life is short, fragile, and unpredictable grounds me. Be joyful, be generous, love hard, forgive swiftly, all that jazz. Easier said than done, but yeah, worthy goals.

Anyway, my pastor also talked about peace. When Jesus tells the woman to go in peace, He doesn’t just mean to be well and be blessed. He means, “go in salvation.” Jesus offers peace that passes understanding. In my message, I discussed how Jesus offers HOPE to hopeless and desperate people.

It was an emotional morning. I got teary-eyed several times during my home church service and rode on the verge of choking up through my sermon. To me, this is one of the most stirring stories in the Gospels, period. And it’s ripe with important lessons on peace, hope, faith, mercy, healing, compassion, and more.

I’m thankful for that beautiful story and thankful I can write out my thoughts on it. Writing is a therapeutic exercise in reflection. I needed a little break, to remind myself that this is a hobby instead of a job–I’m not obligated to post week unless I want to–but I’m happy to be back.

In honor of today’s topic, shalom!

P.S. Check out my YT channels! 🙂

I Gave Up Online Shopping for Lent This Year (Sort Of)

With Easter just in the review mirror, I’m admittedly relieved that the season of Lent has passed. This year, I attempted to give up online shopping. I didn’t completely fail, but I didn’t completely succeed, either.

FYI, Lent is the six weeks leading up to Easter that symbolize the forty days Jesus spent in the desert–mentally, emotionally, and spiritually preparing for His ministry while Satan tempted Him. Lent is a season of preparation and reflection–preparing to celebrate Easter and reflecting on what Jesus’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection mean for us (salvation, eternal life, a call to follow Jesus and love/help others).

To commemorate Jesus’s temptation in the desert and Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, many Christians give something up for Lent like a certain beloved food or social media–anything that would genuinely be tough for that person to go without for forty days.

My own experience with Lent has varied over the years. When I was younger, I didn’t REALLY understand it. My conception of it was superficial; I knew WHAT but not WHY. For instance, I might decide during Lent NOT to get any of the freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies that sat next to the cash register in my high school lunch line. But they were just sooo darn tempting and delicious that I would eventually break…and that was that, experiment=failed. I was metaphorically gritting my teeth to do it, almost arbitrarily, rather than using it as a way to draw closer to God or enrich my spirituality. Once the futility of that–giving something up only for the sake of giving something up–dawned on me, I stopped commemorating Lent for years.

As of this year, I’m making intentional choices for what I’m giving up and why and approaching it differently–which brings us back to my Lent resolution.

During the pandemic, I’ve practically become an online shopping addict–it’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s fun, it’s fulfilling–and that last one is so problematic, for reasons I’ll expound on in an upcoming sustainability post. Knowing how this compulsion has gotten out of hand made it a clear choice of something from which I should attempt to abstain for forty days.

I had some urgent purchases, like “need to buy more of this skincare product I’m running out of” and “my laptop might have a virus so need to back everything up to an external hard drive ASAP,” but I resisted many temptations. Admittedly, I went plant shopping in person a couple times, which felt like a loophole. A couple plants I ordered before Lent arrived during it, which also felt like cheating.

As far as using these temptation opportunities to turn to prayer, I didn’t always do that; there was still a lot of good ol’ teeth gritting where I resisted the urge but didn’t use it as a spiritual exercise. It’s hard for us to lean into God’s grace, which goes back to the ever-prevalent “saved by grace vs. saved by works” concept; people have always tried to be righteous on their own instead of asking God for help.

This whole experience has made me reflect on a lot, like how blessed I am to be able to afford fun stuff while many have to penny pinch, how the cycle of consumerism is insatiable (you always want more), how consumerism is inherently self-centered and self-serving while Christians should be serving others as much as possible. While I’m probably not going to stop online shopping, this experience will make me take a little more pause when I want things and be less impulsive.

Though I hope to do better in the future, I did at least learn some things from my Lent resolution this year; it wasn’t just superficial or arbitrary.

What’s your experience with Lent been? How did you commemorate Lent this year? Thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid, a fun break from serious stuff. Check it out and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your support! ♥

Brain Dump: My Unhealthy Work Mindset

It’s one of those weeks. My creative sparks are fizzling out. So, I’ll just write what I know, emptying my brain onto the page, giving it an extra shimmy and shake as we do when we dump the contents from a trashcan. 😉

I’m feeling tired as I write this. It’s been mostly rainy and cloudy this week, but today, the atmosphere has remained a medium grey all day. Sitting next to a big, South-facing window usually provides the light I need to work, but a flourescent overhead light illuminates the room now. I much prefer the warm, orange-y rays of the sun to the kind of artificial lighting that hurts one’s eyes when staring directly at it. But at least it’s keeping me awake.

My phone just alerted me that we’re under a tornado watch. Whew, boy. No wonder today’s weather has been awful; it signaled impending doom…and possibly power outages…please, God, not another power outage.

All the writing I do each week is burning me out. Between video scripts, my job at a biweekly paper, a weekly blog post, bookstagram captions and a weekly devotional (in the place of Sunday school–until it’s warm enough to gather outside again), it feels like I’m being wrung dry of my creative juices. I fret that my blog posts haven’t been as good as they used to be, and I’m generally not writing out the devo until Saturday morning, though I at least meditate on it throughout the week.

I think the solution will be two-pronged: I need to improve my time management and I need to give myself grace. With the former, I’ve started creating a daily to-do list, and it’s helping me to spend less time between productive activities contemplating what to do next or goofing off on social media. Though I’m good at keeping myself busy, I really need to work smarter, not harder. I think I’d be able to churn out better writing in every area consistently if I mapped out when to do what in a way that gives my creative muscle ample downtime.

But I also have to get real. I need to prioritize working out three times a week with my trainer, even if the driving and exercising and showering and what not takes up a decent chunk of my waking hours, because my disabled body will deteriorate otherwise. I need to spend a few hours reading books and blog posts each week, though it’ll take away from the time I worked–for my mental health, for my vocabulary expansion, for my bookstagram posts, for inspiration. I need to be okay with going out with my mom or watching a couple movies with my fiance or hanging out with a friend without the persistent thought in the back of my mind that I could be accomplishing things if I were home and/or alone.

I realize when reading back the last paragraph that my mindset about work is pretty unhealthy. I’ve really got to start giving myself grace. I have to accept that I might skip weeks sometimes with blogging or get videos out late or not make a bookstagram post for weeks (okay, admittedly, I already do that last thing). I look forward to exchanging the written Sunday school lessons for less formal group discussions. C’mon spring!

It’s pouring cats and dogs outside now, but funny enough, the sun is shining brighter through the clouds. It’s coincidentally reflective of how I feel after getting things off my chest. I may just be able to cut off this dang vibe-killing overhead light.

What are your tips for time management and taking care of your creative muscle? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here is my latest video. Give it a watch if you have six minutes; I think it’s pretty funny, thanks in part to my fiance’s editing advice. Thanks a million to anyone who watches. ♥♥

P.P.S. I post videos on a weekly basis, but I don’t always share them here because some are political, and I don’t want longtime readers to feel alienated if they disagree with me. But if you’re curious, check out some of the other vids on my channel!

The Bible Can Justify Anything, So Weigh Scripture Against Scripture

You read that title right! So, how can we discern the heart and will of God–if His Word can be twisted to fit any narrative? Well, I won’t pretend for a moment to have all the answers–as if all the answers could be had. But looking at scripture as a whole is a good suggestion.

People have gotten upset in the past when I’ve spoken against fixating on one tree within a whole forest. I think some Christians are so wary of “progressivism” that their blasphemy radar is waaay too sensitive. Viewing scripture holistically is the only sensible way to approach the Bible. The alternative is pulling verses out of context and building a doctrine out of them.

In the book Oliver Twist, the orphanage director, who serves as the parish beadle, is a mean, selfish man. When he meets nine-year-old Oliver, he gives him a cold, stern lecture (because why be kind to a CHILD WHO IS ALONE IN THE WORLD, right?) and quotes 1 Cor 13:11: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. Hey, man, ever read the one where Jesus says that we should become humble like children? Or the one where Jesus insists His disciples let the children come to Him? Guess not.

This fictional example reflects the contradictons that lie within so many Christians who are condescending, rude, and unempathetic–in the name of Jesus. Pride and righteous indignation reign even more supremely than God in many of our hearts. Have we forgotten that Jesus said the first would be last? Or how Paul wrote that none of us have cause to boast because we are only saved by faith, not our own works? Or, like, the other countless ways we are told in the Bible that arrogance is condemned? I think the man who went out to eat after church that’s screaming at a waitress because the chef messed up his order missed the memo. The town gossip who happens to hold several “power positions” on church committees just doesn’t get it. [SN: I’ve literally heard the term “power positions” used in reference to church committees. Hmm…ever heard of “servant leadership?”]

In a totally different instance, I once wrote a post in which I said that followers of Jesus should be active in helping their neighbors. A reader pointed out the sentence fragment of 1 The 4:11 (and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you) as a way to negate what I’d said. I replied that, perhaps in that particular scenario, the Thesalonnians–Christians in Greece–needed to keep a low profile to avoid persecution (confirmed by a Google search). But it’s clear when one reads the entire New Testament that we are called to really love our neighbors, and biblical love is an action verb. We must take up our crosses and follow Jesus, being His hands, feet, and face in the world, because the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

The Bible has been used to justify so many things–slavery, bigotry, political agendas, etc. I don’t want to delve into it all because ain’t nobody got time for that here; countless others have written articles, essays, and even whole books on these subjects. And people disagree.

But here’s the point: weigh scripture against scripture. And always stay humble enough to learn and take direction from the Spirit.

Have you ever seen a Bible verse taken out of context? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Life as a Middle Eastern Woman in Literature

Last year, I read The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, and this year, I read A Thousand Splendid Suns and Persepolis. These literary works have given me a window into the lives of women who lived in middle eastern countries around the late 20th century.

In the first book I mentioned, journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon recounts the true story of one brave young woman from Khair Khana, Afghanistan. Kamila is bright and ambitious, but her dreams are squashed after the Taliban arrives in Afghanistan in 1996. Soon enough, women are treated like second-class citizens; they cannot work, attend school, speak to a man or look him in the eye, appear in public without a male chaperone, etc. After a while, desperate for money to take care of her family, she and her sisters start a dress-making business from home. Each time she goes out to advertise their merchandise to male shop owners, she runs enormous risk of being beaten in the street–or worse. She goes on to employ dozens of women who were otherwise trapped at home, broke and bored out of their minds (anything fun was deemed “decadent” and “sinful” and thus forbidden).

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a fictional story, but Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini says he was inspired by a visit to Aghanistan during which he heard countless stories of tragedies, discrimination and violence faced by women there. The novel spans a longer time period than The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, as it starts in 1959 and ends in the early 2000’s. It starts out focusing on the adolescence and life of Miriam, born in Herat, Afghanistan, and eventually spans to the adolescence and life of Laila, at which point they are both in Kabul–then, enter the Taliban. Their stories end up intertwining, and both women are incredibly resilient and admirable; the book is heart-wrenching and unforgettable. But just as in Kamila’s story, here again the Taliban’s harsh rules crush women’s independence and hope along with the small pleasures of life–like watching a show on T.V. or playing a musical instrument.

Persepolis by the sharp, opinionated Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novel she wrote reflecting on her adolescence in Iran and studying abroad as a teenager in Vienna. The story starts in 1980 during the Iran-Iraq War in her home country. The Taliban wasn’t around in this book (the Soviet-Afghan War was underway at this time, which set the stage for the Taliban’s rise in the 1990’s–many Afghans fled to Iran during said war), though women still faced oppression because of the Islamic Revolution. As was the case in the other stories, too, people weren’t allowed to throw a party or openly date (you were married or single, no in between), and women couldn’t wear makeup, go out without a hijab, laugh in public (seriously), show their wrists, etc. Thankfully, Marji had the means and freedom to leave and get a quality education.

Reading literature from/about Middle Eastern women has been a fantastic albeit sad learning experience. Women are incredibly strong in a way that goes far beyond physicality. I’m thankful and blessed to live in a place that prizes liberty and free expression, and thanks to the last couple centuries of Western feminism, I can do or be just about anything I want (while wearing fire-engine red lipstick–if I choose).

Have you read any fiction or non-fiction books on the Taliban or this general setting? Have any facts or stories to share? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

A Ranty Pep-Talk on Combating “Blogger’s Block”

This has certainly been a thing since writers of all walks of life first created their own corners on the world wide web and began producing regular, bite-sized articles called “blog posts.” But, in the last couple months, *multiple* bloggers I follow have lamented their struggle to open a new, blank post and simply write. For some, this longterm struggle finally morphs into dread (that’s the term someone used in a recent post, for real!).

I’ve been blogging for 3.5 years as of posting this, and this doesn’t generally happen to me (unless I wait ’til the day before my post goes live to start it, as I don’t do well AT ALL under pressure, but that’s more of an anxiety issue…anyways…). So, I’d like to share Retrospective Lily’s two cents. Here we go–

A major reason people experience “Blogger’s Block” (writer’s block for bloggers, if that wasn’t obvious) is because we tend to pigeon-hole ourselves. Maybe it’s a psychological thing; we NEED rules and guidelines to help us navigate our world with relative safety and self-assurance, so we sometimes, even subconciously, give ourselves unnecessary boundaries. So, allow me to ground us with a few important reminders:

  • Most of our regular readers don’t care that much what we write about.
  • Most of us care much more about our blogs than our readers do.
  • Most of us don’t and will never generate (a large amount of) money from our blogs.

Well, that was certainly blunt and controversial. I’ll explain, then you can feel free to disagree on one or more points.

Most of us will gain followers based on how we market ourselves. For instance, a fashion blogger’s followers will likely be interested in fashion, or a Christian blogger’s followers will mostly be Christians. But, for your CORE readers–the small sliver who actually read/like/comment on most of your posts–the main appeal is YOU. The true ride-or-die supporters of your blog won’t stop reading because you deviate somewhat from your main focus.

Not everyone agrees with this; a blogging buddy of mine recently made another site to keep his personal life updates separate from his more scholarly main posts. Maybe it depends on how strict your focus is or how far you stray from that focus. But MOST bloggers will hang on to their core readers regardless of what they do because they’ve established relationships (even if they are weird, distanced ones in which we put forth whatever persona we want).

And to add to that–most of our readers care less about our blogs than we do. Shocking, I know! But we’re the ones slaving over our post ideas, editing, adding/creating images, obsessively reading it again and again. Others see our post, and most skip over it without a passing thought but a few skim it, maybe leave a like or comment, and swiftly move on with their own day and their own life. IMO, it’s silly and perhaps a bit vain to stress over what our readers want and how they’ll perceive us when we’re a tiny blip on the radar of their world.

Additionally, most of us will never make money from our blogs (aside from some chump change, if you host ads). Ignore me if you’re an author or a graphic designer or something. But most bloggers are really doing this as a hobby.

Here’s the point of my rantings: the (blogging) world is your oyster! Write what you feel. The fans you have will likely stick with you, and who knows? You might attract some more this way. Because writers flourish when they lean into passion and showcase their personality.

It’s helpful to keep a list of blog ideas that you add to on the go, and talking about yourself (life updates, something interesting that happened to you or that you observed, etc.) is a reliable back-up when your mind is blanker than a fresh, empty post. But, when I start a rough draft, I just go with the flow–which is how this ended up as a rant instead of the originally-intended, neatly-formatted list of tips.

Funny and semi-related anecdote: my fiancee has an IG account on which he posts daily with pictures of his movie room or film reviews that he writes and I edit (give @garth_riot a follow!). He recently got a comment on a post that irritated him, so he called me to complain (what are best friends for, after all?). After entertaining his rant for over half an hour, I firmly instructed him to channel his passion into a video script (he’s got a YT channel in the works). Within a couple hours, he texted me that it was three pages long and thanked me for giving him that advice.

Do you experience blogger’s block? How do you fend it off? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Random Life Updates: COVID-19, Ice Storms & More

Well, the plan was to write a blog post to coincide with my newest video on whether money is really the root of all evil. But after a crazy week, I’m typing this the evening before posting, fearing I’ll lose power at any moment. Looks like this’ll just be a casual “updates” post, and you’ll have to watch the video if you’re curious about the money topic. 😉

It’s a longer story than you likely care to read, but getting to the point, my fiancee and his mom have COVID and have been quarantining in her house for a week and half. I’ve had two COVID tests five days apart that both turned up negative, and I haven’t experienced any symptoms. Somehow, I avoided catching it from him. [Though I still feel paranoid in the back of my mind, since the incubation period can last up to two weeks. Pray for ya girl!]

Part of me wants to shout–thank the Lord! But I feel weird/guilty for thinking that way because faithful people, and good people in general, have contracted and even died from this virus. So, I don’t know what to say or feel. But I am grateful. [BTW, my fiancee and his mom certainly haven’t had a jolly time, but based on what’s happened so far, I believe they’ll be okay.]

Of course, while they’ve been sick, we were hit with freezing rain that caused widespread power outages. Thankfully, they didn’t lose theirs, and mine came back within one day. Sadly, some people went days without it, but everyone finally got it restored…then, we got MORE freezing rain. As it turns out, my last post on dealing with the cold weather as a disabled person was well-timed.

(Somewhat) unpopular opinion: WINTER IS HORRIBLE!

This week, I also worked my tail off finishing our next District United Methodist Women newsletter and completing my tasks for the newspaper, along with spending a lot of time editing this week’s video to be informative yet fun and fast-paced. Plus, I filled in for my pastor Sunday, so I wrote, recorded, edited, and uploaded a worship service with some music spliced in, too. Last Saturday’s power outage didn’t help me on any of these fronts!

So, that’s how I’m doing. I’m ready for this season and this pandemic to end!

How have you been? Have you also experienced wacky weather? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Please watch if you’re intrigued by the title/thumbnail; like (helps with the algorithm) and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your support! ♥

Complaining About Cold Weather as a Disabled Person

Dealing with a disability is always hard in some ways. But surviving winter seems to take it all to another plain of misery (partially saying that for dramatic flair, but partially serious).

First off, the cold exasperates achy joints. Cold AND rainy? Ugh! My seven-year-old knee injury isn’t letting go of her grudge any time soon. UN-limber limbs and balance issues go together like peanut butter and mustard.

Recent pic of my family

Using a wheelchair obviously means I get less blood circulation throughout my body. While most people walk and stand frequently, my doing so is restricted to transfers (like getting out of my chair and pivoting to sit on the toilet seat) and the 3ish (give or take) times a week I work out and/or squeeze in some assisted walking practice. So, whether I’m freezing my butt off outside or sitting inside, still colder than I’d prefer to be (don’t wanna make the electricity bill too high), I’m lacking the warmth that comes with full-body movement. If I’m sitting outside in the winter while the wind is blowing hard, I’m done. Thank goodness my fiancee’s mom gave me a space heater for Christmas so I can now get more toasty when I’m relaxing at home.

Due to what I mentioned above, and my nerve/blood/etc.’s general inability to travel efficiently to the furthest corners of my body, my calves are literally always cold. Even on a hot summer day, I’ll reach down to touch them, and they’re moist and clammy…yet still cool! But their perpetual iciness reaches new heights in the winter. The coldness in my calves seems to actually radiate and spread into my bones; I wonder at times if they might, on some chilly day, shrivel up and detach from my body.

Sometimes lately, I have this fun, new FA symptom where I’ll be so cold while climbing in bed that my leg muscles tense up uncontrollably. I have to pull on the covers and wait a few seconds for my body to warm up before my muscles relax–then, I can adjust myself into a comfortable position.

And let’s not forget the dreaded shower. It feels sooo nice inside, but opening the door/curtain and feeling that blast of chilly air collide with my damp, warm skin…it’s just cruel.

Needless to say, my plants and I are anxiously awaiting Spring!

What’s your attitude towards and experience with cold weather? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Please watch if you’re intrigued by the title/thumbnail; like (helps with the algorithm) and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your support! ♥

Is Christianity Superficial & Arbitrary?

Those who’ve read the Bible and/or had God set their hearts on fire for mission and ministry know the answer to this question. In case it wasn’t obvious…NO! But I have to remember that many people did not grow up in church (or didn’t grow up in a church that was actually passionate about meeting people’s physical and spiritual needs and also exemplified grace within its walls). For so many, ideas of Christianity as a religion, Christians as individuals, the purposes of church, etc. stem from bad experiences, sterotypes, etc. But you know what’s the sad part?

We did that!

Generally, the responsibility for distorted views on these subjects lies with Christians and the church.

The Christian who walks in a grocery store without a mask and harrasses the cashier about going to hell may be the only “Jesus” that person ever meets.

When sects of the church turned sexual purity into an idolatrous obsession or fixated on the blasphemous horror of R-rated films and secular pop songs, they sent out the message that Christianity’s main purpose was to dictate people’s lives.

When certain mega churches opened their doors to preach a prosperity gospel yet closed them to the hungry, freezing homeless people outside, they demonstrated that religion is only needed when it can be manipulated to support capitalism and the status quo.

Maybe that ruffled your feathers if you believe R-rated movies and secular pop songs are sinful. Self-control, wisdom, discernment, and conviction are integral to the Christian life. And if a song or movie or whatever else makes you feel uncomfortable or promotes wrong choices, don’t partake in it. I know some things convict me waaayyy more as I’ve grown closer to God. For me, it’s more often things like “the harsh words I said to a loved one in a moment of impatience” or “an instance when I could’ve witnessed but was afraid.”

But, I digress…

Here’s the point: Christianity is about being reconciled to the God of the universe, who created all things and loves us dearly, through Jesus, who died and was resurrected to defeat sin and death. The Holy Spirit guides us through life in pursing God and following Jesus, and this relationship with the three-in-one God gives us a life abundant in love, joy, hope, peace, and strength; we’re driven to share these things with others.

THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS. It’s sooo much more than the “rules to follow for a ticket to heaven” box in which we want to confine faith.

This week’s video briefly delves into this topic. Amazingly, what I wrote here isn’t even part of it; I just said a prayer before opening this blank post and word-vomited everything above as fast as I could type it. Divine guidance or the heretical musings of a misguided woman? You can decide. 😉

If you have five and a half minutes, I’d so appreciate a watch. Also, hit the like button and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thanks so much for watching and/or reading!

The Making of a Neat Freak: Maturity, Priorities, a Pandemic & a Progressive Disability

For most of my life, I didn’t care about organization and cleanliness. In fact, when I come across an old ‘bathroom mirror selfie,’ I cringe at the disarray on the shelves behind me. I was the typical teenager whose room was usually a mess, and wiping dust off things? Forget it! Every surface was cluttered. The room next to mine, a sort of den/bonus room, was a catch-all for anything and everything. My walk-in closet bordered on a disaster zone. Christmas gifts still laid haphazardly near where we display our tree by the time I was wearing shorts and tank tops again.

My childish habits carried on to the beginning of adulthood, and at age 19, living away from my parents for the first time, I hadn’t changed much. My roommate was on my same basic maturity level. Living without supervision, my irresponsibility extended further. Not only was my room still a wreck…but we would throw parties and awake the next morning to sticky counters, half-eaten food on the kitchen table, and a recycle bin overflowing with beer bottles/cans. It wasn’t unusual to run out of toilet paper and have to use napkins on our nether regions for three days. We two ladies had a place that exuded “bachelor pad” vibes.

Fast forward through moving back home, moving out again, moving back home again–I had gotten somewhat better with age, though not drastically. I did go through my bathroom shelves in a wild frenzy one day, throwing away two trash bags of old hair and skin products. I rearranged the bonus room a bit and went through some of the useless junk lying around. I got rid of unworn clothes in my jam-packed closet.

But my mindset has dramatically shifted in the last 2ish years. Maturity/priorities, the pandemic, and my disability each played a role.

See, through my teen years, my initial college years, and the back-and-forth moves, I was still walking, though I started using a walker towards the end of that period. I transitioned to a wheelchair in mid-2016 (age 23), but I was still pretty nimble and was hyper focused on my English studies. In Dec. 2017, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

In the last 5-10 years, a lot has changed. I’m 27-years-old as I write this. I’ve gone from years of constant preoccupation with homework, classes, tests, actually getting around campus (ugh) to relative freedom to order my time. Could I spend all day every day watching Netflix (aside from the handful of hours I work for the newspaper each week)? Sure. But I wouldn’t be happy. So I do a gajillion things. It’s still nice to do things because I want to, rather than because I have to (I don’t miss ya, big assignment deadlines!).

Being closer to my 30’s than to high school, my maturity has increased. I’ve noticed, though, that plenty of adults are messy, so I guess age and organization skills aren’t directly correlated for everyone. But it seems to be for me. Since my priorities have shifted from “partying/being cool/chilling with friends” (18-21) to “making straight A’s and being consumed by reading books and writing essays” (21-24) to “doing what I want” (24-27), I’ve had the mental space to self-reflect and care about my surroundings. The pandemic has of course forced me to stay home more, giving me extra time and motivating me to make my nest a happy place.

But my disability might’ve been the biggest factor–subconciously. As the years and my condition progress, I gradually lose abilities and freedoms. Okay, that sounds really depressing, so I’ll just note that thanks to my constant workouts with a trainers, my insistence on regular walking practice at the gym and at home, and God helping me be strong and driven, I’m doing fantastically under the circumstances.

Anyways…

As you lose more and more control of your health (or something else in your life), you gain a greater appreciation for what you can control. I may have no power over my coordination, but I can control my muscle strength–so I do. I may be unable to go out and work 99% of full-time jobs (due to disability but even moreso thanks to fatigue), but I can do productive things from home at my own pace–so I do. I may have no control over most things in my life and in the world, but I can create a clean, clutter-free space for myself–so I do.

What are your cleaning and organizational habits? What is it in your life that you can or can’t control? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Please watch if you’re interested and like/subscribe if you enjoy it. Thanks for your support. ♥♥