TENDING A QUIET LIFE

Feeding the Quiet Life.

Feeding the Quiet Life.

By Lisa Huddleston

When I was a life coach, one of the hardest things for most of my clients to believe was that taking care of yourself was not being selfish. It was actually the best thing you could do for yourself as well as for everyone who had to be around you. When you are well-fed physically and spiritually, you can give to others from the abundance of your life. When you are starving and puny, you may try to keep on giving, but your efforts will be mighty weak. And if you are anything like me, no one will want to be around you while you groan and whine and generally become a pain in the neck.

Naturally, that good advice is as easy for me to overlook as it was for my clients. In fact, if I am not super vigilant, I will allow too many activities to push me over my mental health cliff (always a short push!). For example, last Friday was Concrete Pouring Day. Yes, it deserves capital letters as it is a big deal around here. Chuck had spent all week preparing the ground for Friday, and I spent it worrying, I guess. Sure, getting the house ready for my son and his friends took some time. And going to the grocery store to load up on food for hungry workers took some more time. And cooking took some … well, you see where I headed.

I have a very low tolerance for busy-ness. I like to ease into my day with several cups of coffee, some good reading and then some good pondering. (Today is a good day!) Housework, tutoring, visits with friends, mowing, and other activities are carefully spread throughout the week so as not to stress me out too much. But I can’t always control my time as carefully as I need to and that’s when things (mainly me) get ugly.

I really do see how blessed I am. Not everyone has the freedom I do. And that knowledge makes me feel guilty and selfish. Just like my clients did. But as my dear husband pointed out recently, how terrible to have such a gift and then to reject it. Talk about selfish! He reminded me that God has placed me where I am and that my writing and availability to others are my work. And, despite my guilt and feeling selfish, I am starting to see what he means.

Yesterday I read a passage from the Book of Acts, and verse 3:15 appeared in neon letters: “And you killed the source of life whom God raised from the dead.” Jesus didn’t come as the expected Messiah should have. The people were looking for a Warrior King and instead received a Carpenter Rabbi. Instead of realigning their expectations to match what God had given, they stubbornly kept their misguided beliefs in place and killed the very source of life! And that is so often what I do. I devalue the gift of my “Quiet Life” and try to be what I am not–and sometimes I come way too close to killing the source of my life. The further away I move from where God has put me, the further I move from Him.

This morning’s readings reiterated that same truth: “In the same way a Christian can lose the Christ-life which has been put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep it. But even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam–he is only nourishing or protecting a life he could never have acquired by his own efforts” (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis; emphasis mine).

I could never have acquired this life on my own–neither physically nor spiritually. God has put me where I am, here in a “Quiet Life” on Hudfarm, and it is my job to feed it and look after it. Thanks for the reminder, Coach.

PAVING THE ROAD

By Lisa Huddleston

I’ve been pondering the idea of “good intentions.” For example, is it really the thought that counts or is it the results? If I mean well but my actions end up causing pain or disruption or if I never get around to any action at all, do I still get credit for my good thoughts? And can I expect people to forgive my faux pas because my heart was in the right place or should I rather expect to be treated as if I meant to do harm? Like everyone, I hope for grace and strive to give it, but actions really do speak louder than words.

Austin, Philip, Nick and Chuck hard at work.

Austin, Philip, Nick and Chuck hard at work.

I’ve considered this quite a lot lately, and I believe that the proof really does lie in the pudding. Remember the story Jesus told about the two sons who were asked to do something for their father? One son said, “Sure, Dad.” But he never got around to it–maybe his intentions were good, but his actions were pretty useless. The other son grumbled, but when push came to shove, he did what his father had asked him to do. Which one did his father’s bidding? The second son, of course.

Our son and two of his friends came out to the farm yesterday to help my husband pour another section of our slow-growing driveway. If you’ve ever had a chance to work concrete you know that is hard and dirty work–something no one volunteers to do and most will look for any opportunity to avoid. But there they were. Right on time and ready to go. We couldn’t have done it without them. It wouldn’t have done a bit of good for them to send their good wishes or to tell us their hearts were with us while they stayed in Nashville and enjoyed a day off. It was their elbow grease we needed and that was what they gave.

And that pretty well sums it up. It’s great to have a desire to do good, but it’s the doing of it that really matters. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the driveway is paved with hard work.

Thanks guys!

DISCLAIMER: Our other son and our son-in-law have put in their fair share of elbow grease on our driveway, too. We thank them for their help as well.

SACRED SPACE

The Village Chapel

The Village Chapel

By Lisa Huddleston

A large room with clear windows to see through and the sunlight to pass through where angels can dance through and light in the corners around the ceiling

Real silence giving God space to speak and us quiet in which to listen

Unanswerable questions that cause minds to stretch and crane and seek desperately for truth

Empty minutes and hours to be still and ponder life without any doing in them at all–isness

Breathing room between the tips of angel wings that hover over the mercy seat leaving nothing but

Space for God

MORNING JOY

By Lisa Huddleston

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

I went to bed expecting to have a lost dog at my house in the morning. Sarah and John, my daughter and her husband, had found a chihuahua while walking their dog, Hiltie, and the little guy had followed them home to their apartment. Sarah wanted to bring him to me right then knowing it could be a rough night, but I didn’t make the offer since I knew the same thing. Instead, I told her to bring him to me in the morning and that I’d keep him while they worked. We would see what happened from there. I already have one rescued dog and four abandoned cats so we both knew chances of him staying with us were pretty good–if we couldn’t find his home.

Diesel and John enjoying their time--worry free!

Diesel and John enjoying their time–worry free!

I went to sleep planning to welcome Sarah and the dog early in the morning before she headed to work so, of course, I worried all night long. How would the other animals feel about his arrival? Would Pippin, our biggest and bossiest cat, attack him? Would Dottie have her doggy feelings hurt? Would he try to mark his territory in my house? (I never have had a male dog so that really worried me.) And mainly, would Chuck freak out over the possibility of a dog scratching the furniture? Yeah, I woke up a lot during the night and pondered all these “what ifs” as I tossed and turned.

As luck would have it, and is usually the case, my worrying was all for nothing. Sarah learned about a Lost & Found Pets of Wilson County, TN, page on Facebook, and before she even left her apartment this morning, Diesel had found his mom! They had a tearful reunion at the pavilion on the Watertown square, and everyone went on about their days. Crisis averted!

While I am relieved to know that our family won’t have to add another pet, I have to admit to being a little bit disappointment. Diesel (what a name for a chihuahua!) was a really cute and friendly little guy who I was already thinking of new names for. (No–don’t call me with any lost animals, but there is a great place on Facebook that will give you a hand.)

Anyway, this story had a happy ending with a well-worn moral: Worry is always a waste of time. Whether your worries come to pass or not, you’ve lost good hours you can never replace–like my lost sleep–and you’ve shown how tiny your faith can be. (Luckily, just a mustard seed sized faith can still move mountains.) I’m glad Diesel’s mom didn’t give up, and I’m even more glad he went home with her!

Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. (Matt. 6:34)

COLD WATER ON A HOT DAY

By Lisa Huddleston

This summer, Wednesday has been the day to mow the grass—several acres of it. In the good ol’ days, this job belonged to my sons, more recently we hired my nephew to do it, but this year I chose to make it mine. It’s one way I can contribute to the unified good of the family (now just Chuck, Mom and me), and I usually don’t mind doing it. But today was hot! With the weathermen calling for a heat index of over 100 degrees and the humidity dripping, yard work was really the last thing I had on my mind. But today was Wednesday, and I knew Thursday wouldn’t be getting any cooler.

Since I’ve been handling this job for several months now, I have a pretty standard routine down. I start at the far end up by the gate and work my way down to the garden where I have to weave the large machine between the berry canes and the fruit trees and the two rows of vegetables. Next I move to the small sections on either side of the front walk and then head around to finish up in the back yard.

imagesBut today I had an unexpected interruption. As I made the first sweep along the long, plank fence between the yard and the pasture, my eye caught something stirring in the tall “yellowtops” that paint the field. I kept the mower going but tried to see what was struggling to stand up to my right. Then I saw the poor newborn calf tottering on shaky legs and looking at me. “Oh no—not this again,” I literally moaned.

Although I wasn’t raised in the country, this ain’t my first rodeo down on the farm. I have come to face the dire truth that every year there are one or two calves who don’t make it; but, I still hate it when I see a baby left alone to suffer. And today it was just so darn hot! But after shedding a few tears, I deliberately hardened my heart and just kept mowing. I knew from past experience that my efforts would be for naught. The cows weren’t mine, and I didn’t have any way to help. I steeled myself and kept mowing. Back and forth I went and up and down the poor calf went. When he lay back down I couldn’t see him in the weedy flowers, and I tried to put him out of my mind. I even prayed out loud for God to harden my heart. What had happened to me?

There was a time when my children were small that we would call the owner of the cattle to come help—but I had long since given up hope there. He was a busy man with a full-time job and cattle on several farms. He wouldn’t be coming, I knew. Another time the kids and I had followed a calf with an eye infection all over the field trying to give it some water to keep it alive. He ran away from the help I offered, and I never did reach the poor thing. But at least I had always been tenderhearted toward suffering animals. What was wrong with me now?

But, no, I had a job to do, and my previous efforts had been in vain. It was useless. Period. But I did change my prayer to, “Please, God, send his mother back to get him!” I pleaded as I mowed. But my prayers, too, seemed vain. Finally, I couldn’t keep going. It had been over an hour and the poor thing was still lying there in the stifling heat. I parked the mower in the shade, walked down to the garage, got a towel, and filled a bucket with cool water. At least I hoped to ease his suffering—although I knew I didn’t have what he really needed. I had to do something.

Slipping in wet flip flops, I lugged my bucket through the yard, out the gate, and into the dry, crunchy field. The calf, a little boy, was standing now and watching me come toward him. I talked in a soft, sing-songy way thinking that might make me seem less scary while he just stood and stared. I slowly walked right up to him, dipped my hand in the water, and reached out to let it trickle down his nose. He looked surprised and then kicked up his heels scampering a few feet away. He didn’t look so bad after all! He watched me for several seconds then headed off at a trot—a good, healthy-looking trot—toward the shade of the woods.

I knew I’d never catch him, so I smiled and emptied my bucket in the dirt. At least the “yellowtops” at my feet would get something out of my attempts to help. I still wished I could see the calf’s missing mother, but I was glad to know that he was healthy and strong enough to run. The cattle would be back, and I hoped that he would be okay until they returned on their daily rounds.

Relieved I put the bucket away and walked back to the mower to finish my work. Was I disappointed that I’d given in to my emotions? No! Even though, once again, I didn’t manage to do any good for the calf, I was glad to know that I still cared enough to try. And isn’t that what really matters—caring enough to try? Faith and works. Yep. I think so.

As Jesus said, “There will be poor always.” But I hope that I will always care enough to at least try to ease the suffering in the world. To give a cup (or bucket) of cold water in Jesus’ name is a powerful thing changing the lives of the thirsty as well as the one who extends the cup.

I’m thankful you didn’t give me the hard heart I requested today, Lord. Keep me soft enough always to care even though that means there will be more tears and pain. But I wouldn’t mind your answering my prayer about that little calf’s momma. Please, send her back soon and strengthen her little boy. Amen.

STOP GIVING UP

By Lisa Huddleston

32636_10200983346923055_1308627103_nLike many of you, I usually take a look at my iPhone before even getting out of bed in the morning. Just to catch up on what I missed during the night–awful, I know. Anyway two posts (one on Facebook and the other on Twitter) grabbed my attention right away. The first was this annoying but true photo message: “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.” I wanted to reach into my phone and slap my “friend” for posting it. (Love you, Diana.) And the second message was a Tweet from Rick Warren which said, “Every time you make a bad choice, it becomes harder to make a good one.” Ugh.

Why is it that even when the truth is truly true it can still make me want to argue against it when it isn’t something I want to hear? Today I just felt like giving up. Yeah. I wanted to stay in bed until 10 or 11, eat whatever I wanted to whenever I wanted to, and generally give up on any attempts to exercise. I felt weary of swimming upstream–literally and figuratively.

Instead I read the handwriting on the screen and got up. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with my coffee, bagel, a thought-provoking Stott devotional, and the last few chapters of a good book (another Walker Percy–I need to write about him sometime soon). By then it was time to make a choice: to exercise or not to exercise? That was THE question for today.

There was a Zumba class at noon that I have been attending for a few weeks that I had been planning to go to. I’d even passed up an invitation to hang out with some friends in order to go. But, today I just didn’t feel like dancing. Instead, making a tough choice, I dressed to bike, filled my water bottle, and struck out from the garage to take a familiar route. It was HOT (I had waited too late to avoid the heat) and the first big hill on Cedar Grove just about sent me home. In spite of my social media inspiration, I didn’t make it up the hill without quitting. Cursing myself out loud for being such a lazy fatso–yes, I talk to myself when I’m worked up–I pushed the dang bike to the crest then drank some cool water, kicked my butt back up on the tiny bike seat, and pushed the pedals. And I kept going and going and going. I even added about 7 more miles to the ride by taking a new route up Berea Church Road and lots more hills. And it felt sooooooo good–when I finally got home and could get off that bike in victory.

Isn’t that so often the way it is? Something may be really hard to do (THE question is different for each one of us), and it really doesn’t feel great while you’re doing it (the “right” thing), but afterwards you rejoice. And the opposite is also true. It may feel great to eat a cream-filled, chocolate-covered eclair or a delicious, warm apple fritter from the local bakery at the time you’re eating it, but later the regret can be overwhelming. And the price you pay for the bad choice (extra pounds, more exercise required, guilt, etc.) just isn’t worth it.

While you and I both know there’s nothing wrong with an eclair now and then, it’s the general drift that really counts. The direction your choices are leading you. Recently my pastor said something like, “It’s not where you are when God calls you that’s important–it’s the direction you’re facing that matters.” And I can agree.

A beautiful view on my new bike route.

A beautiful view on my new bike route.

Tired of starting over? I am. Next Monday or next week or when I finish this bag of chips or bottle of wine or see that person one more time or … whatever you’re postponing the truth for isn’t worth it. Make a good choice today (and hopefully tomorrow and the next day) and turn your momentum in the right direction. I promise, it’ll feel soooooo good once it’s done.

THE LA LIARS OF LEIPERS FORK (SUBURBS)

Unloading the bikes.

Unloading the bikes.

By Lisa Huddleston

Yesterday we headed back to ride the Natchez Trace. Chuck had surprised me with a new road bike that I wanted to break in, and because the Bike Ride Across Wilson County is only five weeks away, we decided to ride a little further than our last trip out. Twenty five miles seemed like a good stretch to attempt. Five miles more than last time, but still less than the BRAWC.

After circling the parking lot a few times to get used to the gears on my bike, we headed out with plans to turn around at about 12-13 miles. We were covering a few as yet uncharted miles so we were happily surprised to discover a rest stop right around our designated turn around point. We pulled in to sit for a bit at a picnic table under a shady cover, drink some water, and eat a couple of Fig Newtons (our standard bike snack). While there we saw a map of the Trace and enjoyed looking at the various sites there were to see “some day.” We had already passed a ramp that led to Leipers Fork–a small, artsy town that we had heard of but never seen–so we decided to pull off on our way back to the car. Our plan was to see how far it was, and if not too far, then to take a ride through the town.

Near the off-ramp we saw a little market-style gas station which we passed on the left as we rode along the narrow country road. There were beautiful, old homes on either side, but we didn’t venture far before heading back to the market to learn the actual distance to the town. As I said, the road was narrow and hilly, and we had already ridden 15 miles by the time we reached the market.

Pulling in we said hello to two older men who were sitting in rockers on the front porch. They gruffly responded and upon further questioning informed us that we were in the “suburbs” of Leipers Fork. Although only a mile or so away, they said they really couldn’t tell us what was in town. They had been born right where they were and they were not from there. They didn’t know anything at all about “that place” or “those people.”

The famous Loveless Cafe.

The famous Loveless Cafe.

Chuck went inside to buy some ice cream bars while I stayed outside with the bikes and my new “friends.” Trying to make conversation, I said that we were from Lebanon to which the nicer of the two men responded, “Lebanon. It’s different over there.” Hmmm. Okay. Then I mentioned the 15 miles we had ridden and how I hated to add more miles by riding to an unknown destination. Seconds later, the nicer man asked where we had gotten on the Trace and I told him near the Loveless Cafe entrance. Smiling (sort of) he said that we could ride into Leipers Fork and down Old Highway 96 to get back on the Trace without having to backtrack and add unwanted miles to our trip. Chuck was back by then and promptly pulled out his iPhone to check the route on the Maps app which the men claimed to be unable to read as they quickly emptied the rockers and headed back inside the market. We thanked them as they hurried through the door, mounted our bikes, and headed into town.

Leipers Fork cemetery.

Leipers Fork cemetery.

Leipers Fork was pretty cool. We enjoyed looking around a while then decided to follow our instructions and head down 96 to the Trace. It was a nice road that passed beside an old cemetary with tomb stones dating back to the 1700s. Chuck’s phone showed that we were on track to intersect with the Trace and we happily pedaled along. The only problem was that when we arrived at our road there was no ramp to get back on! Real funny. Stunned we just stood there in the shadow of the road and took our bearings for a minute. The highway continued away from the Trace so there was no hope of there being another intersection up ahead. We had no choice but to go back the way we had come. We turned our bikes around and headed back eventually passing the empty porch rockers with angry hearts–at least I know mine was angry as I mentally named our now ex-friends the Lard A** Liars of Leipers Fork.

The worst of the ride was still ahead of us as we faced long climbing stretches of road that seemed to go on forever. It didn’t help that my attitude was terrible, and I kept fighting back tears as I pedaled slowly uphill. By the time we reach the near-empty parking lot my new bike showed 32 miles, my body was aching, and my heart was broken. How could they have done such a mean thing to total strangers? To sweet little gray-haired me?!

How do we get up there?

How do we get up there?

As in most experiences, there were lessons to be learned. First, know who it is you’re following. Anyone can say they know where you should go, but that doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. Second, it’s easy to hate those who are different than you. Obviously those mean old men thought we were more like “those people” than we were like them so they felt justified in their meanness. Third, you can never know what is in someone else’s heart. Motives are hard to measure, but there are often red flags–which are easy to ignore when you really want what someone is selling, like to see Leipers Fork and not add miles to your trip (or maybe to believe in another’s innocence or guilt in order to justify your own bias). Ignoring the warning signs, gets you no where but on the underside of the road you need to be on.

Just what I want! Not for sale. :-(

Just what I want! Not for sale. 😦

Well, that’s it for me. No more detours to see the off-road sites, or to save miles, or to find retro porch furniture (another story) …. It’s the main road for me from here on. At least until the next time.