Can You Hear Me Now?

About a year ago, I was considering a significant change in my professional world. I teach in a public high school and had been approached by a private, religiously affiliated school in my area to consider teaching there. To say that I was torn is an understatement. I was blessed to be working in a school often referred to as the “best kept secret” in our county because of its small size and close-knit community with a big heart. However, in case you’re not involved in education or have missed the headlines, public education is a mess right now. For teachers, the demands keep on piling up and the funds keep on getting cut in a climate defined by teaching to tests with very little accountability placed on students. The private school seemed to be an easy fix to those problems. More importantly though, the prospect of being able to express my spirituality freely in the process of mentoring youth was quite tempting. Still, I was content where I was, no need to fix what wasn’t broken. As I struggled with whether to entertain the idea of a switch, I prayed over and over again to God, asking for a sign of what I should do.

He gave it to me. As I drove to school the morning after my first incessant series of requests to Him, I saw a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, a rainbow right over the school I currently teach at. I would like to say I recognized the sign and listened right away, but I can be rather, well, slow at times. A good friend whom I taught with had just been diagnosed with cancer and she lived right by the school, so when someone pointed out that God had sent her a rainbow, I quickly dismissed the notion that God could be speaking to ME through that rainbow.

A week and two more rainbows directly over the school later, I still didn’t get it. I struggled through my decision on my own, deciding to stay put after countless hours of back and forth, pros and cons, worries, guilt and strife. As soon as I made the decision, though, I felt this immediate sense of peace and finally acknowledged that maybe just maybe, God really had been trying to speak to me all along. I simply wasn’t listening. I can just picture Him sitting back and chuckling at me, like what I do when my Little Miss Independent 3-yr-old insists on doing something “all by herself”. I find it slightly comical to witness the irony of her kicking and crying, “I can’t do it,” because she can’t accomplish a task on her own, but boy do those cries escalate to wails if I offer assistance. “No! I do it my own!!!” Yes, I feel sure that I know exactly how He felt watching me stumble through that week. Fine, do it yourself. But it would be so much easier if you would just let me help a little. If only you would LISTEN!

Double rainbow

My Sign

Since that time I have seen countless rainbows. Honestly, I am sure that I have seen more rainbows in the past year than in all of my previous 35 years combined. Is it just because I’m paying attention? Maybe, but I believe it’s much more than that. Rainbows aside, this has been one of the most difficult years of my life but also one of tremendous spiritual growth. I refuse to believe that it’s all coincidence. You see, I’ve not only seen regular rainbows, but a couple of double rainbows and even a triple rainbow! The first double rainbow I had ever seen appeared on my husband’s birthday in June! I saw rainbows on my brother-in-law’s birthday (March), my son’s birthday (November), and most recently my oldest nephew’s birthday in December. I also saw one over my sister and brother-in-law’s house as we went to visit them just after their son’s birthday (August).  I have seen so many rainbows that I stopped snapping pictures of them months ago!

Looking back at the cumulative sum of these rainbows is astounding, but I have to admit that it took me months along the way to really truly accept that there might be a message in them for ME. Confirmation came to me in the most unlikely way. My family and I belong to a small church full of true believers who ooze faith and love. Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, our pastors reconnected with some distant relatives of theirs who are also involved in ministry. They were invited to come to our church one Sunday in August, and after the service they stuck around to pray with people on a personal level. My husband and I introduced ourselves to them only by name, yet as we began, they prayed over us for things that no stranger possibly could have ever known. I will never forget the moment when the wife leaned in to me and said “God wants you to know that it’s Him. He’s been talking to you and you want to believe that it’s Him but you doubt. Don’t doubt, because that feeling that you have that it’s really Him is right. It is.” WHOA!

Are you like me? Are you ignoring a voice that’s whispering to you? Are signs being laid out that you’re missing? Is your soul crying out but being muted by the chaos of the world around you? Is God speaking to you but being drowned out by all the other noises?

Ten Things To Remember About Your Home

For more than a year now I’ve been blogging about the importance of home.  And, throughout my articles I have written about home in terms of décor, color and design as well as how to truly live well in your home.  I’m grateful for all the readers that have supported me by taking the time to read my posts but my guess is that not everyone reads each and every post.  (Ya think?!?)  With that in mind, as another year begins in my world of blogging and because today is my birthday and I can do what I want to, I thought I would give you a quick list of my top ten beliefs about home that I think each and every person that dwells in some form of shelter should know.

I’ll make it simple and concise and leave it up to you dear readers to digest each of my top ten things to remember about home and interpret them for yourselves how best they fit your way of life.

My Top Ten

  1. When you decorate your home you decorate your life.
  2. Your home is an outward expression of yourself.
  3. A beautiful home impacts your mood and behavior.
  4. Elements of Nature radiate calming energy when used in your home.
  5. Much like the Russian Nesting Dolls (Matryoshka), your home should be beautiful layer after layer beginning with the streetscape.
  6. The décor of your home should be designed with a sense of “studied indifference” with things arranged in a way as if by mere happenstance.
  7. A beautiful home is not the result of material consumerism.
  8. Creating peace and harmony in your home will create harmony within.
  9. Living Beautifully + Living Peacefully = Living Well.
  10. Everything begins in the home.

My birthday wish today is that each of you have or aspire to have a home filled with peace and harmony!

And one more thing…

Here’s a very special shout-out to my dear twin brother, Craig Balzer.  What tremendous joy I have in my life to have been so blessed to share life with you.  It’s been a wonderful ride with you ~ from childhood having two cakes on the dining table for our birthday (year after year yours was all chocolate and mine was white with chocolate frosting) to spending Beach Week together with our friends when we graduated from high school to sharing the breakfast table each morning during our college years in our townhouse at VA. Tech (and on occasion watching you literally fall asleep with a spoon of cereal in mid-air from being up all night in the Architectural building) to watching our children grow up together and to now at the awesome age of 56 realize how truly alike we are (as I wrote in my post, Design From An Architect’s View).   Without a shadow of a doubt we have a wonderful bond between us.  Happy birthday, I love you!

The twins with Mom

The twins with Mom

Home – Through the Eyes of My Son

Ben, three years old

Ben, three years old

Today is my son, Ben’s birthday  (I call him “Bub”)– he is 33 years young.  He is the oldest of my children.  The world totally changed for me the day he was born.  Nobody’s going to tell me there is any real responsibility in life until you have a child.  Everything else is simple stuff if you ask me. As I have often said, you aren’t playing in the big leagues until you parent a child.  Ben put me in the big leagues for sure.

Some days I think he is wiser than I am.  I call him an old soul.  Sure, he drives me nuts at times but most often I enjoy listening to his unique view on life.   He’s a little bit liberal where I’m a little bit conservative and he’s often a little bit conservative where I am a little bit liberal.  This makes for some wonderful conversations! I have even learned to enjoy times of silence with him in the last few years.  I believe it is in these moments of silence together that I learn so much about him – merely through being together.

My Wish for my son

Ben and Kathleen visit Chicago

Ben and Kathleen visit Chicago

Ben married a wonderful woman in 2007. Kathleen and I have a great relationship and have shared many moments of commiserating over his quirks and what I gently refer to as his “issues”.  I always remind her that yeah, I birthed him but honey, you chose him!  Ben and Kathleen got engaged in November of 2006 and married one year later.  I needed every day of that year of engagement as I needed time to prepare myself for the mother-son dance at his wedding.  You see I chose a powerful song by Rascal Flatts, My Wish.  It said so eloquently all that I wanted to say to him.  I literally listened to it every day while I exercised or worked in my garden to prepare to dance with him without crying buckets and buckets of tears.  Seriously, I listened to that song several thousand times.  To this day it still chokes me up as it expresses all I wished for him on that day and every day after.

There are many times in the last 33 years that have been special to me.  There are even a few times I regret the situations we found ourselves in as mother and son.  Forget those – I want to talk about the wonderful ones.

My grown-up son is a little bit Fred Sanford, Archie Bunker and Tim, The Tool Man wrapped all in one with a HUGE heart and an incredible analytical mind.  He loves dark beer, slapstick comedy, Civil War history and anything in nature.

From the time I first explored nature with Ben I saw his love for it.  Searching for rocks, walking in the woods, berry gathering – you name it.  We did it together.  I also loved reading with Ben, hearing about his antics with his imaginary friend, My Friend Monkey, working in the yard (he had his own little lawn mower and would follow behind me) and now as an adult simply spending time together in whatever capacity possible.  He has even unknowingly given me the title for my book I am writing, And so…The Shadow Woman Emerged as a few years ago he gave me a book for Mother’s Day on Native American History.  This book gave me the inspiration for the title of my own book.  Thank you dear son.

So, today is his birthday.  I wanted to give him a gift from my heart so I decided to write about him on my Blog.  I asked him to give me his top five things that are important to him in his home.  I wanted to hear directly from him what they were in order to write a post from his point of view.  What I got was oh so much deeper.  I found a new side of my son.  His words he wrote told me who he is in a way I never paid attention to.  What an incredible gift he gave me.  While reading his top five, I got to visualize him deep in the woods where he finds the most peace.  While reading his top five I felt closer to him than I ever have.  I could hardly read through it all as the tears flowed for this man that my son has become.  What started out as a gift to my son (this post) has turned out to be a precious gift for me.  Clearly, it exemplifies that it is in the giving that we receive the most.

HOME according to Ben

Here are the answers to the question I poised to him the other day of what five things were most important to him in his home.  Except for a few typos he made, I have copied what he wrote word for word.  I hope you enjoy!

  1. Keeping a clean and organized home.  Without that my life outside of home feels discombobulated and stressful.  It is easier to do things when you see them than it is to procrastinate and try to do them all in one day- plus you never know what else will come up.  I try to improve at least one thing in my home each day.
  2. I am not a hoarder, but a bit of a pack rat.  I don’t like to waste things that can be used later.  When I fix things around the house I try to use things that I already have instead of buying new.  For example, my wife and I got a new knife set for Christmas one year and we put the old one deep in a kitchen cabinet.  I decided to sharpen them one day and guess which set we use now?  It seems as though sometimes fewer is better.
  3. Fire.  I love fire.  We have a fireplace in our living room with what I think is a beautiful mantle.  There is nothing better in the winter than a few beers and a roaring wood burning fireplace.  We also have a fire pit in our backyard.  I designed it, dug it and built it myself.  It declines from the front to the back inside the pit and the rock wall does the opposite.  With the absence of very strong winds, it always draws in the same direction.  I specifically planned it this way with both the way it is placed in the yard and the seating around it.  The fire pit always draws a crowd when friends are over but I can also sit there by myself for hours and feed my love for nature.
  4. My garage and tools.  There are few things I enjoy more than tinkering in my garage.  I have quite a collection of tools and enjoy doing everything from hands on tasks to fix up the home to simply cleaning old tools and arranging them in order so I can find them when they are needed.
  5. Guns.  As I am writing this I am sitting in a tree stand in South Carolina with a deer rifle across my lap.  Don’t worry, I am still peeking up every few seconds and scanning the woods with my eyes looking for meat.  I love everything about guns.  How they look, feel and sound.  I have an extensive (probably excessive to most) collection of guns.  Everything from old style black powder rifles to the new stuff you see in the movies.  Each one is special to me in its own way.  I enjoy shooting them in target practice and in hunting, cleaning and disassembling them and taking them apart.  I will never have too many.
Enjoying a fire

Enjoying a fire

Ben (Bub), you already know what my wish is for you today ~ just listen to the song once more.  Happy birthday and love forever and always…

Mom

For any of you reading this today, humor me – google the lyrics to ”My Wish”.  Read the words carefully and then hand them to the universe as a prayer for every person you encounter.  Wishing that life were all that someone wants it to be is a powerful wish.  Reach out and touch someone today with the words of this song.