Writing 101 – Day #16 Losing Magnolia (part 3) – Losing a Magnolia Life

At my table today sat an inspiring woman. She’s a woman who has faced a great deal of hardship, for a great many years. Recently she had the courage to say ‘Enough!’ This has caused her even more hardship, but she’s stronger for it. She has lost much, but gained so much more. She told me today that she has only been able to do this with the strength that God has given her. She has felt his empowering, loving presence in so many ways.

We were sitting at my table enjoying Marcella Hazan’s ‘Tomato and Anchovy Sauce’ with spaghetti – having a lunch break after sanding and painting my old outdoor furniture set. One of the seats also required some serious nailing to keep things in place. With irony, and perhaps good timing, one of the slats broke while we were sitting having our morning coffee break. I hasten to add (as it was my seat that broke) that the furniture has needed restoring for some years. The breakage is in no way related to any weight that may or may not have been gained during my ‘Marcellan’ cooking adventures! (In fact, my ‘Marcellan’ adventures are helping in the losing of some pounds gained during earlier ‘Nigellan’ adventures)

Today’s writing challenge was an appropriate one to reflect on this evening. My house renovations, inside and out, are coming to an end. The whole project, while necessary, has been something which I have given to God, trusting that he would use it to bring fresh life into a weary heart. He has been doing that.

Yet, in some ways I am a little nervous of the project’s completion. I have moments where I fear the silence that might ensue, the sitting and wondering ‘What now?’ But again, I trust that God will give me plenty to ‘find’ in place of that which is ‘lost’. I also know that I follow a Saviour who promises that as I lose myself, I will gain everything. That ‘everything’ may not look like I expected – but it will be an ‘everything’ that lasts evermore.

My renovations have been part of ‘Losing Magnolia’. My adventures with Marcella’s cookbook have been part of ‘Losing a Magnolia Life.’ That is, losing a life that is safe – safe in the sense that it involves no degree of risk and every degree of grasping at security.

The thing that I have found, sometimes through my choosing, sometimes through God choosing it for me, is that the greatest security comes when I give up my stubborn efforts to keep control. When I let go of control, God steps in and leads me in paths I’d never have experienced before. Some paths by still waters and green pastures. Some through dark valleys with deathly shadows.

But life with him in control is nothing like a Magnolia life!

Oh, how I’m learning to love that Magnolia-free life!

Today, at my table: #31 ‘Tomato and Anchovy Sauce’ with spaghetti and a woman who knows God’s love and leading and absolutely no trace of Magnolia!



Writing 101 – Day #13 Losing Magnolia (part 2) – Finding Space

In the first part of a series of three posts (see Day #4) we were to write about losing something or someone. I was in the process of losing Magnolia – the paint colour. This proved a little difficult for some of my international readers as they only realised I was talking about a paint colour by the end of the post. Sorry!

In the second part of this series we are to write about finding something.

I have recently found space. Literally and figuratively.

As I’ve had to essentially move house – inside my house – I have been driven to get rid of more and more stuff. I became temporarily enamoured with ‘Gumtree’ when I realised that strangers would actually come and take your things away – free! They would come to my place. They would take stuff away from my place. Stuff that I didn’t want in my place. Stuff that people want in their place. One lady even brought me a bottle of prosecco to thank me for letting her take away an old bed! (The contents of that bottle were enjoyed at the ‘renovations-warming party’ last night).

In the process of losing Magnolia (that is, painting the house) I have lost many things (deliberately and accidentally) and I have subsequently acquired a lot more space.

A while back I read an article, in one of those magazines that one only reads while waiting for an appointment with a medical professional, about the art of minimalism in your home. I was intrigued. This woman, whose name I can’t recall, was inspired by the efforts of a man, whose name I can’t recall, to reduce the contents of her house to 100 items.

If you wished to follow her (and his) example, you were allowed to count furniture and the contents of your kitchen as one collective item. But everything else – books, cds, socks, hairbrushes etc – were to be reduced to 99 items. She was only starting with 600 items – so it wasn’t too difficult for her. I figured I couldn’t be bothered counting the contents of my house. So I decided to start by reducing the contents of my house by 100 items.

Within an hour I had reached 100 items – either in bags to go to the charity shop or into the bin. So I kept going. I soon reached 300 items.  A whole box of cassette tapes catapulted me into the second 100, as I realised that I no longer possessed a cassette player!

The minimalist approach to life has continued in stages. I find it very liberating. The charity shops find it very profit-boosting. There is less in my house to look after, store, dust or feel burdened about.

As this woman said (the one with the name I can’t remember), it also gives space in your mind to focus on other things. I have found this to be true. I would also add that opening your hands to lose some of your possessions also has the benefit of leaving them open to give of your life generously in other ways.

So I’ll put the challenge out there – the challenge that came from one nameless woman to this nameless woman – to lose 100 items from your house. I like to call it ‘Project 100’ – at least I think that’s my name for it – not the nameless woman’s name for it….

Lose stuff. Find space.


Writing 101 – Day #4 Losing Magnolia (part 1)

Today I lost Magnolia.

It’s all gone. Every last inch of it. I should say every last visible inch, as I am sure there are a few invisible inches left somewhere in this house.

Am I grieving the loss of Magnolia? Certainly the process of losing it has elicited Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief:

1. Denial: ‘This painting lark won’t be so bad! It’ll be good for me! I’ll get some exercise! The home will be freshened up and be just wonderful to live in. It’ll be good for my soul.’

I experienced this stage up to, and including half of, the first day of painting.

2. Anger: ‘Does nobody paint properly?! Who thought this previous paintwork was acceptable?! Who built this house and what kind of plaster did they think they were using when they finished the walls?! And what on earth is that tissue doing plugging that hole between the wall and the radiator pipe?!’

I experienced this stage before, during and probably after the loss of Magnolia, as I will potentially see more chunks of plaster (now newly painted) fall off the walls.

3. Bargaining: ‘You are only allowed to make a coffee when you have finished the cutting in of the second bedroom. No, you may not have your dinner until you have thoroughly cleaned that roller tray ready for the next day’s painting. Yes, you may have an alternative life once you are finished.’

I experienced this stage each day, anytime I was feeling in need of food or caffeine to sustain me – sometimes just after breakfast.

4. Depression: ‘Are you sure you wanted Country White instead of Magnolia? It’s looking a bit modern and bare now. Magnolia was an old friend. Now it’s all gone. And to add further pain, you still have to continue painting with even whiter ‘stay white’ satinwood paint, as you continue to grieve the loss of Magnolia. And, let’s face it, this painting lark doesn’t seem like it will ever end.’

I am experiencing this stage now.

5. Acceptance: ‘Magnolia may have been an old friend. But it’s gone now. Country White is here to stay and the ‘stay white’ satinwood should stay white forever (well, for 6 years, according to the tin). Say goodbye to the old. Embrace the new.

Embrace this stage and remember how painting another house, in another time and place once helped you embrace a new life after the old one had crumbled more than a little bit.