Thursday, May 10, 2012

Unfinished Business

I like making lists.

Lists help me plan and prioritize my activities. I'm much less likely to forget something if I add it to a list. I make packing lists, organizational lists, and to-do lists. I find great pleasure in completing a task and then crossing it off the list. (I have been known to add something to my list >after< finishing the job, just so I can cross it off. My children find this quite amusing.)

I also really like things to be organized. I prefer to have a place for everything, and everything in its place. This is because I tend to be absent-minded and forget where I have put stuff. As long as I put things back where they belong, I can find them the next time they're needed. This is a great relief - I've spent countless hours in my life searching for my glasses, car keys, Bible, and various tools. So I work hard at putting things back in their place.

However, I have an embarrassing tolerance for clutter. Don't get me wrong, it annoys me. It seems that every horizontal surface in my house is a magnet for mounds of paper, and I hate it. But not enough to really do something about it. Oh, I go through various stacks now and then, but I never seem to get all the way to the bottom. I sift through piles of laundry, but some things never get touched. I clean cat boxes and sweep the floor, but there's always more stuff on the ground.

I have heard it said, "What you can tolerate you will never change." I have certainly found this to be true in my life. And it's not just clutter. There are many things which I have simply learned to put up with, rather than fixing them. For example, when it was particularly frigid outside, the cold water pipe that feeds my tub and shower cracked and started spraying water everywhere. Fortunately there was a shutoff to that individual pipe, so my basement wasn't completely flooded. But rather than repairing it right away, I just turned down the water heater a bit and learned to shower with only the hot.

This incident did not happen this past winter, because it was very mild. It was the year before - so I have been living with no cold water in the bathtub for a year and a half! Clearly, it's time to do something about it. And I intend to... someday. But there always seems to be something else more pressing to do. Like checking Facebook or watching a baseball game. Sigh...

Recently I've been challenged to consider unfinished projects in my life. The voice of God spoke to me; well actually, it was my daughter Katie - but she spoke with the knowledge and authority of God. She knows me as well as just about anyone, probably better than I know myself. And she's not shy about pointing out blind spots in me, and areas that need work.

Sometimes my response is, "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't see that in me at all!" Well, duh! It's a BLIND SPOT - of course I can't see it. Anyway, she stated her opinion that I have a lot of unfinished stuff in my life. She pointed out that I often start a project with vigor, then lose interest halfway through and never pick it up again. After blustering a bit (as usual) I conceded there might be some truth in what she said. And as I drove home, I ruminated a bit more about it, and decided to take action.

I knew just what to do - make a LIST! (Yes - shocking, I know...) So I sat down and started writing out all the unfinished business I could think of. In a matter of minutes, I had filled a 14-inch legal sheet from top to bottom. And the list didn't include regular chores like laundry and mowing. I wasn't exactly amazed - I've considered joining the National Procrastination Union, but have never got around to it. I was mildly disturbed that I filled the list so quickly, and resolved to do something about it. Something more than making the list, folding it up and putting it into my Bible.

The list, sitting on top of parts of two unfinished projects

Some things on the list have been waiting a long time, some are relatively recent. Some are stalled for lack of money to invest, some for lack of interest on my part. There are a few things I've been avoiding because I dread the whole project, and some, like the cold water in the bathtub, I have just learned to tolerate and therefore get by without fixing. Some things are reasonably small cost in terms of time or money; others are major commitments. A few things will require help, but most of the items are things I can do myself.

If I cross one item a week off the list, I could have every project completed in under a year. Now, a few ot these items are such a major commitment of time and money that they will not all be done this year, especially with my daughter Melody getting married at the end of the summer. But a lot of this stuff can actually be accomplished, if I set my mind to it. It would be great to make a major dent in the list by year's end.

It has been a couple of weeks since I made the list. So, how am I doing?
I have managed to fold the list and store it in my Bible. YES!

And, I have crossed exactly two items off the list, so I'm right on schedule. I had hoped to make a bit more headway, but things came up. (Hard to believe, but you know how it is....) One finished project was to finally get all the Christmas decorations boxed up and put away. It's spring, for goodness sake! Thankful to finally have that one crossed off.

And in my yard is a small grove of trees we refer to as "Melody's forest." Years ago, when she was just a little girl, she staged a tree-hugging protest because I announced I was going to clear that area. So the woods were spared and have been designated as her forest. The second thing crossed off my list was cleaning out the brush and briars and road detritus and trimming the trees of Melody's forest.

 Melody's Forest

I also trimmed the bushes and the magnolia tree in front of my house, as they were threatening to cover up the front walk and keep our mail carrier from being able to deliver the mail. But that was on my regular to-do list, so it doesn't count as unfinished business. Too bad...

 The front approach to my house. Yes, this is AFTER trimming. More to do here...

A blossom from our magnolia tree, 'cause my mom loves flowers.

Another item on the list is to build and plant a second garden bed. I have purchased the materials necessary for this project, but that's as far as it's gone. "Get materials" is crossed off the list (woo-hoo!) but I don't think I can ethically count that as a finished item, as the project is still incomplete. And I won't be able to work on it this weekend. I'm hoping to get to it on Monday. We'll see...

My existing garden bed, filled with tomatoes. Bed #2 will have peppers.

So what's the point? I'm convinced we are not doomed to keep plodding along, never changing or growing. I believe old dogs CAN learn new tricks, or at least modify their undesirable behavior. And this old dog really does want to change. I'm publicly acknowledging my weakness and failings, even though I hate doing so. I have my pride, you know (and that's not a good thing.)

Since I really do believe God is nudging me to improve this area of my character, I fully expect the Holy Spirit to aid me as I actually do something. But if I do nothing, I can't really expect His help. Faith is demonstrated through action. And God has said His power is perfected in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) That verse also says that when we admit our weakness, Christ's power can rest on us.

The wall around Jerusalem had been destroyed when the Babylonians conquered the city. It was rebuilt many years later when the Jews, led by Nehemiah, put their faith into action. It would have never happened if they hadn't resisted their enemies who opposed the project. They continued working, with a sword in one hand and tools in the other. (Nehemiah 4:17)

Lethargy and procrastination are the enemies which have kept my unfinished project list long and growing. It's time to fight the battle, to chip away at the list one item at a time. I intend to hold myself accountable by posting regular unfinished business updates. I'll keep you posted.

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