Negativity is Like Kudzu!

A little negativity is like a little kudzu; there’s no such thing!

A little negativity is like a little kudzu; there’s no such thing! If you don’t know about kudzu, let me introduce you. The plant is also known as Japanese arrowroot and was brought to the mountains of  western North Carolina decades ago in hopes of controlling erosion. Its rapid growth controls erosion very effectively, but it destroys everything in its path in the process. Negativity does the same if allowed to propagate.

Here are a few pictures of the kudzu in my neighborhood:

 

Once it takes root, kudzu is virtually impossible to stop. Stolons (runners) form new plants faster than its seeds. It kills all existing vegetation by blocking light. Covered vegetation and buildings lose their identities and become grotesque caricatures of other-worldly creatures.

Negativity spreads in the same manner. A little seed or runner seems harmless enough at first; but if left unchecked, it will block the light and alter the landscape of my heart.

Both negativity and kudzu require fertile ground to grow; so the next time negativity shows up at your door, remember these images of kudzu and ignore the knock!

Sorted Past

The most difficult part of downsizing is sorting and deciding what to keep and what to do with what I don’t. The process has been a painful one in many ways, but it has also been a very freeing one. Starting is the most difficult part of any process, so God gave me a three-week window in which to work. While the girls were away, I had the freedom to work through my past as I packed. I needed time to remember, sort, and let God help me pack for my move.

As I’ve packed, the smallest objects have triggered my biggest memories and led me down the path to my past. I’ve downsized several times in the last thirteen years, but I’ve never had a move like this before. I’ve gotten rid of things I didn’t want or need before, but I’m giving away things I love and didn’t imagine I could ever leave behind this time. My heart grew along with the piles that formed as I sorted my past with my present and future in mind.

Technology helps immensely, and that’s been a big lesson in my moving forward. Simplifying became my mantra, so I made the decision to move into the 21st century in regard  to music, movies, books, and photos. That was not an easy decision for me, but it was one that opened up a great deal of space. While the kids were away, I uploaded over six hundred photos so I didn’t have to decide which ones to hang on the walls of my new apartment. I plan to display them all on my television screen. I gave my CD’s, DVD’s, and both players to the girls because I don’t plan to use them anymore.

The most beautiful side effect of sorting is seeing the joy others find in my treasures. That has been especially true with my books. The museum in town was happy to get my old books, and several wonderful young teachers are treasuring my old classroom treasures. I was deeply touched when I listened to one of them telling me how much she loved going through the student writing I gave her. My students loved to read each other’s work and the writing of their parents. Now, her students will be able to read the work of their parents and their grandparents. That makes my heart happy!!

I don’t have a sordid past, but with God’s help, I do have a sorted past. That has been the beautiful blessing of the Lenten season this year. I go into Lent with an agenda, but God always has a different plan in mind for my heart. I usually go with mine and suffer through the season; but occasionally, I let go of my plans, go with God’s, and find the transformation He has in mind for me.

Sorting my past has made this move amazing. I finally understand that purging must come before packing, and that’s lightened my load in an amazing way. There’s nothing sweeter than the peace that comes from knowing I am moving in the right direction without my old baggage, and knowing my treasures are in good hands. I know that with all of my heart this morning 🙂

Baggage

 

Dead Ends

God placed the image of a very familiar dead end street in my heart this morning. I haven’t thought about Mrs. Norton in a very long time, but God reminded me of the strange little woman who lived near my childhood home. Mrs. Norton captured my imagination as I watched her walk up and down our street each day, talking to herself and ignoring all of us. There were many rumors about her, and I was shocked to learn that she had once been a school teacher. Her husband was dead, and she lived in an old Victorian home that was in a little glen at the end of a dead end street near my home.

Mrs. Norton had long toenails that curled upward, and her cheeks were covered with rouge. Her hair was a mess and her clothing disheveled. Anytime I asked about Mrs. Norton, my mother would warn me not to talk to her. She also told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was never to go anywhere near her home. One day, my sister Edie and I threw caution to the wind and decided we were going to see the inside of her home. Curiosity got the best of us, so we ignored mama’s warnings and headed down that dead end street.

The house had been grand at one point in time, but that point was long gone. There were rumors that she had once been a very wealthy woman. Her house had the appearance of the classic haunted house, and my knees were knocking as we walked up the rickety steps to knock on the door. I’m sure Mrs. Norton was used to kids knocking on the door and running away. The windows of her home were broken, so I suppose some threw rocks to prove their courage. Our curiosity was stronger than our common sense, so we waited for her to come to the door.

She did come to the door and even asked us to come in. I thought of Hansel and Gretel and of mama’s warnings as we ventured in. She was kind and told us to stay near her because the floor was filled with holes and stacks of all sorts of things. I remember the books; they were everywhere! It was dark and musty inside, and there were cobwebs on everything. She brushed them aside as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do, but I didn’t like brushing against them! I don’t remember much about that visit, but I do remember that she gave us books. We ran home excited about our adventure and our treasure.

Mama was not happy when she saw those books and found out where we had gotten them. She never did spank me and rarely raised her voice, but she put Edie and me in the tub and scrubbed us until we were pink all over. She was especially attentive to our hair, and I suppose she was concerned about lice. The books went straight into the garbage can, and our clothes were put on the back porch. Edie and I never went back to Mrs. Norton’s, but we had a grand adventure that we shared with the kids in the neighborhood. We both decided it wasn’t worth another one of mama’s scrubbings to revisit her. Besides, she said she would tell daddy if we ever did it again!

Mrs. Norton lived on a dead end street in more ways than one, and I’ve been on too many of those dead end roads myself. God reminded me that a dead end is a wonderful place to hide my heart, and it can even be a happy trail; but it leads to nowhere. I’m learning that walking in God’s kingdom is much better than happy trails and dead ends. Joy comes from obeying and trusting Him, and I love enjoying what God so graciously gives. He asks that I give Him everything for a reason. If I don’t, I’ll never be able to get off those dead end streets. Mrs. Norton was stuck in the past and could not move forward. I may not have her appearance, but I have shared her desire to hold on to what I have lost. I see now that I miss all God has for me in His present and presence when I dwell on that dead end street.

There are many folks in this world like Mrs. Norton who have given up or shut themselves away from the world. It’s not easy to move on when love is lost, and separation from love is the definition of hell. I wish I had been able to learn more about her story because I’m sure it would explain her odd appearance and behavior, but I pray remembering her will make me more mindful of those in my path who are on a dead end street and need a little love. 

Seeking Answers or Looking for Validation?

Seeking answers and looking for validation are two different quests. Answers are for going and growing; validation is for parking and barking. Love seeks and lets God take the lead. Lust looks for a pat on the back and follows self satisfaction.

I’ve looked for validation far too often in my life. The need to be right, to be loved, to be needed have kept me from the kingdom of God and held me in the confines of selfish need. Validation placates; answers bring peace. They may look the same on the outside, but they lead me in opposing directions. Seeking answers helps me break free and find His desires. They are so much better than my wants:)

Self is strong and pulls me off track, but God is stronger and pulls me back when I cry out to Him. I found myself wheezing and unable to sleep at three this morning. God is faithful and will use my tossing and turning as a teachable moment if I let Him.

Tossing is a sign that my mind is too busy to return to sleep, and that is a sure sign that I’m looking for validation. Satan is in charge of validating, and he knows a busy mind is connected to a busy body:) He gets me into placating mode and brings out his rationalizing gear. Between the two of us, God cannot get His Word in edgewise. God doesn’t push. He waits.

Conversations with Satan soothe and pacify. They contain mostly I this and I that. Capital I’s make wonderful fenceposts, and soon a white picket fence surrounds me, and I’m right in the middle. I like to be right, and that’s what validation is all about. Being right makes me feel safe and sound and satisfied, but God knows it doesn’t provide answers or make the changes He desires in my heart.

God’s answers tear down fences forged with I I I I I! He silences the me me me me song! He bids me to sing a new song and live a new way. He asks me to love as He loves. If I listen, I learn that forgiveness replaces my need to be right with a desire to be light. The world has more than its share of those who are right but is in need of those who will be His light.

The choice is mine, and that causes me to toss and turn at times. Validation is tempting because answers are not always what I expect or want to hear. Answers lead to more questions, and that is what life-long learning and walking in God’s kingdom is all about. Those who have all the answers stop learning, and that is worse than death. I pray that I will leave validation to parking tickets. I’m not ready to park or pack up and pray I never am. I am ready to move forward, seek answers, and trust God to continue teaching His lessons in love:)