Category Archives: Get real

So Resolved

Like half the interwebz, I made some resolutions/goals for 2012 and feel strangely compelled to share them here. I was inspired by this great printable sheet from Thirty Handmade Days:

new-years-resolutions-edit1-650x841

The “one word” concept has been gaining popularity over the last few years. The idea is that you choose a word that you feel God is laying on your heart and/or that you want to focus on or be guided by for the next year. My word for 2012 is:

PREPARE

I don’t know what this year may hold, but I know God is moving us toward the next thing he has for us, whether that be a time of waiting or busy full-time ministry or something else unexpected. It rings in my ear and heart how our pastor has talked with us about having a strong spiritual life to get you through the struggles of ministry. And I know that life never slows down, it only goes faster and faster, and so I want to start now to cultivate the habits that will build the life I want to live. I want to PREPARE: spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially.

Here are some of my goals in the other areas:

What I really want in 2012 is:

  • to blog and journal regularly
  • to read for pleasure

What I really need in 2012 is:

  • to keep the checkbook & budget in order
  • to be consistent in parenting/discipline
  • to read Scripture daily
  • to limit my internet/social media with a reward approach
  • to floss my teeth

What I will share in 2012 is:

  • call/connect with friends I’m thinking of
  • be available for seminary friends & wives
  • practice hospitality in our home

In 2012 I will succeed at:

  • acquiring a new author
  • exercising 180 times
  • finishing seminary with no credit card debt/with savings
  • reading at least the entire New Testament

So (since it’s the end of January already) how’s all that working out for me? Well, mixed results, but moving in the right direction, I’d say. I’m on the way with some of my Needs and Succeeds: reading Scripture at breakfast, getting on the treadmill or busting out my wicked (ugly) Wii dance moves 2 or 3 times a week (despite determining I have plantar fascitis!), wielding the hammer of parental justice swiftly and calmly, and yes, I was even able to tell the hygenist honestly that I’ve recently taken up flossing from time to time. Obviously I have a ways to go on making writing/blogging a habit again! But I’m hopeful that as I get better at working these Need habits into my life, they will begin to yield the space and energy needed to do better in some of the Want and Share areas–although I need to stay intentional about those things too.

And while I’m oversharing and enjoying this blogging time, here’s another way (via the Dalai Mama) to look forward and back:

Things I Think Will Happen This Year—Aaron will freak out about graduating. Aaron will graduate anyway. Aaron will freak out about not getting a job. Aaron will get a job anyway—or if he doesn’t this year, he’ll still have plenty of reason to trust that he will, in time. I will freak out about moving. Moving will work out anyway. Anna will be ready for kindergarten, love it, and start reading. I’ll keep unofficially taking on more responsibility at work.

Stuff I Would Like To See In My Life—More discipline by me to allow more time for the things that are good for me and that I need and enjoy—reading, spiritual life, exercise, writing. More obedience with less attitude from AJ (it’s on me to make this happen). My husband using his many gifts in a place we love. Old friends. The ocean.

Things I Regret—I regret dwelling on regrets… Not being as close with some friends this year. Not recognizing the help some friends needed. Letting savings slip away.

Things I Am Proud Of—Our daughter and our family as a whole are awesome (toot toot goes my horn). Coming up on 15 years of marriage. Knowing my strengths.

One month in, how are your resolutions going, if you made some? What would be your one word?

Energy

It’s 8:12 pm and I have zero energy. I know it’s because I was up really, really irresponsibly late last night (having way too much totally worth it enjoyable conversation and laughter). But many days I am just done by AJ’s bedtime–can it be mine? Of course I’m not bright enough to actually go to bed extra early. Then when would I waste time online take care of all the important things to be done?

I know I don’t have any less time in my day than anyone else. It feels like it sometimes, though, because I’m so mentally worthless after dark. And I’m already getting up in the dark, barely after 5:30. There are things I would like to build into my life, but when? I just can’t get up one single minute earlier. Until the snow gets bad, when I’ll have to. Bah.

I know I need to make better use of these couple evening hours, and I know I am not always as tired as I am tonight. It’s often a matter of momentum too–applying energy creates energy, or getting started keeps me going. Kind of the same theory that’s making me blog right now. (Well, that and stubbornness.)

And now that I’ve stared at this screen for ten minutes while my mind totally zoned out from any coherent thought I was going to add . . . I think I’ve made my point!

My name is Wendy. I live in a neighborhood.

In college I took a writing  for media class in which we wrote and produced audio pieces. I can still hear in my mind the voice of one of my classmates opening and closing a piece about her neighborhood: “My name is Christine. I live in a neighborhood.”

My name is Wendy, and I live in someone else’s neighborhood. I sit on this porch that is not mine and watch someone else’s community go by. For I am in the neighborhood but not of it, feeling its heartbeat but not part of its lifeblood, present but not incarnate.

I thought I would–wanted to–feel more connected than I do, living here this summer, but it feels like we are not here long enough. Or perhaps I’m not present enough, emotionally. I find myself alternating between wanting to go home, where my things are my things and my neighbors are my neighbors, and wanting to grasp our own little piece of soil our roots can dig down into. Really dig. Not play-dig.

Our pastor talked a couple weeks ago in his sermon about how he is a country boy planted in the city for God’s purposes, and he was very convincing–boy, the country sounds great! Let’s go there! I’m a country girl myself. But I don’t know if I’m ever going back. An urban setting is probably a better fit for Aaron, for us.

So can I do it? Can I be a neighborhood girl? A shared-fences, street parking, locked doors girl? A car stereos and sirens, sidewalks and strangers girl?

We are getting to the point of dreaming and scheming for what comes next year when seminary is done, not only as far as what kind of job Aaron might take but also on the assumption (based on the currently-sucky job market even for pastors) that we’ll have some in-between time before that. It makes no sense to stay in Tuliptown, so we’ll likely look to rent in GR.

Do we come back here by the church?

Would we stay here, or someplace very like it, for the long haul if possible, if called?

Could we go someplace “worse”? Could we be satisfied someplace “better”–someplace more comfortable–too comfortable?

Can I buy a house that won’t appreciate in a district everyone who can is fleeing–and handle it when no one understands why?

For seven weeks we’ve been playing “If we lived here…” both for the fun of imaginary home ownership and the spiritual exercise of imagining. We’re learning the discipline of dreaming aright, the work of turning “What if we…?” into “What if God calls us to…?

Could God be calling us someplace like this?

If he is, I think we have learned, our answer must be yes.

My name is Wendy. I’m looking for my neighborhood.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations. . . .

The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength. . . .

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. . . .

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. . . .

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

Psalm 90:1, 10, 12, 14, 17

Killing my money god

The god of money and stuff has died. It is no longer providing comfort and peace. . . . If your god is dead, you mope around anxiously, checking for signs he’s coming back to life. If your God is Jesus, your source of joy and generosity is alive and well. . . .

Jesus was poor and generous. All the other gods in the world are takers.

Pastor Tim

Last week I was moping. And worrying. And poking anxiously. And obsessing.

And generally getting nowhere but miserable doing it.

Last week was not a good week. Nothing was working; everything was swamped. Aaron was exhausted and overwhelmed by tests and reading and papers; I was exhausted and frustrated by temper tantrums and potty training and medical bills and my own inability to meet my minimum standards for work and income and saintlyness even a basic level of cleanliness.

By Friday we had a conversation about it that can be summed up like this: “I feel like I suck.” “I feel like I suck.” “I have to study.” “I have to work.” “I need a break.” “I need a break.” Well now, that was productive.

What do you do when something’s gotta give but there’s nothing left in the bank?

You give it up. You let it go. You look elsewhere. You leave that idol for dead once and for all (once again).

I had high hopes for myself–in myself–that I could make this work for us, this seminary thing. I thought I could do enough and make enough to make the house run smoothly and keep our brand-new savings mostly intact for three years (or good grief, at least more than three months).

What I did not, could not know was how different this life rhythm would be and how much that would affect me. I didn’t know how much I’d miss Aaron having Fridays and Saturdays off so I could work at the coffeeshop and being able to blow off steam acting crazy with teenagers. I didn’t account for simple things like having to plan and cook dinner seven nights a week instead of three or four and how tired and out of creativity I’d be at the the end of these days which start so early now.

I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t do it all well enough anymore.

I didn’t want to admit my god was dead.

If your god is dead, you mope around anxiously, checking for signs he’s coming back to life.

I moped. I worried. I calculated and estimated, checked and rechecked. No use. I had to admit: the money god had not come through. I had not been able to bring him to life and make him give me peace.

The stupid thing is, we’re not out of money. I fell short of my September goals, but we weren’t in trouble. That old house we sold in Oregon sent us on our way with more savings than we’ve had in years. It was truly God’s provision for us to come to seminary. Trouble was, I wanted to make it our security.

I like to think I don’t have a spiritual problem with money because I honestly have little desire to be rich. I try to give generously and remember that even when the checkbook balance runs down, we already are rich. We usually don’t have much extra saved, and I’m usually okay with that.

But as soon as we did have that “safety net”—I fell for it. I fell in love with it, because I thought it would make me feel safe. I thought it would make me secure.

Then I found out it can’t.

It can’t comfort me, because it’s not living. It can’t give me peace, because all it does is take.

This thing–this number–became something to take pride in rather than something to be thankful for. It became something to value in and of itself and a measure of my success and worth or lack thereof. And so every time I tapped into it, it mocked me and stole my joy: You need me. You can’t make it without me, because you’re not good enough to make it on your own. If you don’t make your life revolve around protecting me, I’ll be gone, and then what will you do? You’re screwed without me.

But God didn’t give us this money to protect at all costs. He didn’t give us this provision just so we could look at it and feel better. He gave it to us as provision for this time and this task. Whether we have ten dollars or ten thousand in the end matters not one bit to him as long as we are doing and becoming what he has called us to. What good will it be for me to preserve these measly digits and lose my own generosity and joy? What good is savings at the cost of losing our balance as a family as we follow God’s call?

Slowly this started to dawn on me last Friday, through all the ugly, exhausted moments: that the one thing I can control is my response to my inability to control everything. That I may not be able to do anything about the fact that my expectations weren’t realistic at this time, but I could decide not to be upset about having to rely on God’s provision instead of myself. I could go back to being grateful for it instead of protective of it—since it’s not really mine anyway—and trusting God that we will always, as always, have enough.

Sunday we got that much needed sermon on generosity (probably the best money sermon I’ve ever sat in). And in that holy irony—whether God was blessing me with a wink and a smile or I simply had newly opened eyes to see them more gratefully—this week I’ve had work opportunities coming at me from every angle.

And I didn’t even freak out when the truck needed repairs. Take that, money god.

My Provider is alive and well.

.

How do you turn away from the money god? Or what dead idol do you most often try to bring back to life?