Thoughts on Enoughness

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There have been seasons of life when my laundry happened in a laundry mat.  I am not mad that where we life now has washer/dryer hook ups, but occasionally I miss that point of contact with the world. Sometimes beautiful things happen in a laundry mat.  A young boy asks you for help with his math homework.  You observe a tender moment between mother and child. Your favorite hit from the 90’s comes on over the loudspeaker.  Sometimes you need more soft rock with less talk in your life.

But it also can bring out all my self-interest, insecurities, and hoarding tendencies. 

For example.

The unavailability of laundry mat carts is a serious problem.

Gotta get one, maybe two- as soon as I get there.

Keep it right by me. 

Probably should rest my hand  on it during the spin cycle.

This cart is spoken for. 

Then I see someone else, ready to switch their laundry over.  Sucks for them, they have no cart. 

Cue the following internal dialogue:  “I can offer them mine, but I need them to give it back to me right away.  I’m not done with it.  I could offer to let them borrow mine?  What if they think I’m letting them have it?  They better give it back.  Don’t make me get crazy in the laundry mat!”

Then I realize. 

What if everyone just uses the cart when they need it?  Is it possible that there would be enough carts in the world?

Its a bit radical I know. 

Once I had the thought, I began to notice this behavior all around me, and have to fight the impulse within myself on the regular basis.  Crowded afternoon at In N Out?  You order, I’ll go save us a table.  Divide and conquer.  Long line at the airport?  You stand it line, I’ll go use the kiosk to check us in.  I can just crawl over and under and past a million people to catch up with you. They will all be totally cool with it.  Because its not irritating at all. [Can you tell I have traveled internationally recently?]

Why do people stand in line for hours on Black Friday?  Why do people use coupons to by 1200 bottles of free mustard to keep in their basement?  Why do I seriously considering putting my name on my peanut butter in the fridge at work?

Because believing that there is enough is a radical act of faith when our culture is is permeated with a deep fear of scarcity.

Recently I have made a conscious choice to live with open hands.  It doesn’t always happen. It requires trust.  It requires an acceptance of inefficiency.  Sometimes it requires that I fight off every natural tendency that I have. But I think this is an essential part of believing that I have a good Father who gives Daily Bread. 

The security in a stockpile is false.  It won’t last forever, and what good would moldy bread be, anyways?

 

*(at the risk of always talking about Brene Brown, she has some great thoughts about scarcity and its impact on our culture.  I highly recommend her work.)

 

 

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The Darkness has not overcome.

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I tend to pray in metaphors.  Subconsciously it makes it easier when I feel like prayers go unanswered.  Especially when life is gritty and things that happen in this city make no sense.  I know God doesn’t need me to protect him like this.  But never the less, I tend to pray in metaphors.

My lips have often uttered the words “Shine your light on our street.”  I think what I mean when I pray this is: may I bear witness to acts of kindness, may it become easier to reach for forgiveness instead of bitterness, may walls of suspicion be broken down by moments of trust.  May goodness overcome evil.

At the end of our street, where it curves to the ally, there seems to be lots of shenanigans.  The dance between taggers and city workers that paint over their scrawled attempts to monumentalize their existence never ends.  There is a certain boldness that the cover of darkness affords.  Driving down a dark street seems to just make everything feel a little bit more sinister and suspicious.

So imagine my surprise when one day God literally answered our prayers.  We were walking some friends out after a luminous evening of lively conversation when we noticed- the streetlights had gotten a facelift.  New LED bulbs that significantly increased their  power.

More light on our street.  

My excitement over this little upgrade probably seemed a strange to our friends (“Look at the lights!?  Have you seen the streetlights!” “Uhhhh……yeah….”)  but in a way I was really rejoicing over about a little piece of the Kingdom breaking through.

In the Kingdom there is no fear.  

What is hidden is made known.  

And a Light shines in the darkness.

Why I don’t miss my DVR, or:

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When we made the decision that the best thing for our family would be for my husband to quit his corporate job and start his own business while I continued working as a teacher full time, we knew that we would have to make some lifestyle changes to accommodate the change in income.  This is not the first time we have made things work on one(ish) income during our marriage.  Along with a few other things, we said goodbye to cable.  

Here is why I don’t miss it:

1.  We still watch TV.  Whether it be on Hulu, Netflix, or on a network in real time (yes, people still do that!)  I haven’t really felt deprived.  And my husband has McGyver’ed a way to still watch sports somehow from some website.  I don’t ask too many questions. 

2.  We watch TV with intention.  There was a bunch of shows that I used to watch just because they were programmed on our DVR.  And I used to think that they were really important (just ask my husband if he will ever cancel a recording of Grey’s Anatomy to watch a Laker Game again- he only made that mistake once).  But now that I am not up-to-date, and realize, I don’t really care if I am up to date!  I have broken the cycle of “Cliffhanger.AHHH!!!!.Cliffhanger.AHHH!What happens next!!!” and it feels good.  Because seriously, I was taking it too seriously.

3. I go to bed earlier.  The element of inconvenience has greatly cut down on the time we sit in the dark, mesmerized by television’s flashing glow.  There is no more “Just one more…”

4.  I have found other ways to “decompress.”  Instead of just zoning out in front of the television, maybe I’ll spend some time browsing blogs.  Or baking.  Or reading an actual book.  Maybe sometime I’ll actually feel inspired to work out.  The bottom line is, there are ways that I can de-stress from my day that are way more effective in reviving my spirit than television.  

5.  $Money$.  It may not be saving us a million dollars, between the income of a teacher and an eutxrepreuer, we don’t need to be paying for TV.

Reflecting back on my relationship with television, I see that it had an improper priority in my life.  Though cutting our cable was a financial decision, it also has ended up being an excellent life choice.

How are you are strategic about your “screen time”?  Do you have any Netflix recomendations?

 

 

OneWord365

ImageSwim Team. Softball. Basketball. Piano Lessons. Voice Lessons. Becoming a Runner.  Eating Vegan.  Playing the guitar.  

You will find all these activities filed under the category of “Things that I Have Quit.”  It was not until after a very indignant conversation with my husband that I even paused long enough to see the pattern in my life of enthusiastic starts  that for various excuses reasons kind of sputtered out (Funny how marriage has a way of making you aware of your weaknesses).  I think I’ve figured out a couple of reasons for this:

1.  It kind of mitigates vulnerability.  If I don’t throw myself COMPLETELY into something, than failure doesn’t really say anything about me.  “Didn’t make the basketball team in Junior High?  I’m sure if I would have really practiced before the try-out I would have been good enough.  Oh, well.”

2.  Too much good stuff. “Why yes, I would love to be on that committee.”  “Ooo that’s cool and exciting.” “Being part of something meaningful and awesome?  Sign me up!”  I first started becoming aware of my desire to pursue all the great stuff that comes my way when at a professional development we were introduced to the concept of GRIT, as researched by Dr. Angela Duckworth (the grit scale that she talks about is here).  Her TED talk identifies the quality of passionate perseverance sustained over a long period of time is a key factor in achievement.  This usually involves being in an “uncomfortable place” in order to zero in on weaknesses.  In case you were wondering, I don’t like being uncomfortable.  I suspect my aversion to sweat may explain my short-lived athletic career.  Historically speaking when something becomes uncomfortable, I look around, find something different in which to be interested, and jump on a new bandwagon.  But it’s time to take the advice of Julia Child: 

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” 

So.  In 2013, I want to be about the word WHOLLY.   According to the dictionary definition, it is the anecdote to my preferred mode of operation: doing things halfway and umping from thing to thing.

In the next few months, I want to be intentional about solely and completely devoting myself to the priorities of the areas where it is important to be to be great.  In responding to God’s work in my life. As a mother.  As a wife.  As an educator.  In participating in my church community.  In being a good neighbor.  

Living WHOLLY will certainly be “to the exclusion of other things”  that don’t point towards my main priorities.  It will push me out of my comfort zone, because there are very few things to which I have given myself “to the full or entire extent.”

Well, just saying that out loud makes my want to pray. 

God, the world is so enticing to us-we want to taste everything.  Our minds are cluttered with desire.  You alone are worthy of our desire and worship.  Today we devote ourselves wholly to you.

Amen.

-prayer from the Moravian Texts

 

For more info on OneWord365 and to see what words others have chosen, visit the website.

 

 

Great Reads: Christmas Edition

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For several years now, my dad has requested a mix CD from his kids of the songs that we have enjoyed over the previous year.  It’s been fun to revisit those old playlists from time to time and remember through songs. For example, 2007 (the year things were a bit deconstructed for me)  is such a different playlist than 2008 (the year I fell in love).  

However, this past year wasn’t really about music for me, and so I have had a hard time thinking about which songs I would put on a playlist.  Instead, I thought I would put together a list* of articles that have made an impression on me.  I’m pretty sure the purpose of the CD was to be a little insight into our lives anyways, so this should do the trick. 🙂

So Dad, without further ado:

Sarah Bessey: In Which I Am Practicing and In Which Its Not Much Fun Being the Project

Emily Wierenga: On How to Have and Extraordinary Marriage

Patheos: Dear Christian…

Sorta Crunchy: The Truth About Urban Schools

Sarah Markley: For When We Clothe Pride in Generosity

Alyssa Bacon-Liu: The Blood in my Ballot

Kathy Escobar: Down We Go: Big Tables Where Everyone Eats

Jen Hatmaker: The Election: Thoughts From a Christian Independant and In the Basement

D.L. Mayfield: Mutuality

Sarah Odell: Musings on Motherhood

Rachel Held Evans: God Can’t Be Kept Out

Joy the Baker: I Love You, Los Angeles

Kristen Howerton: How to Teach Kids How to Help with Packing

*This list is by no means comprehensive. So.Many.Good.Thoughts.

Happy Reading, and Merry Christmas!

 

Marbles

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Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to hear Brene Brown speak about the power of vulnerability.  As part of the event we were given a copy of her book, The Gifts of Imperfection which I promptly read in one Saturday (clearly this happened pre-baby!).  Something about her ideas and research really resonates with me.  When I saw she had a new book out, I knew I had to get it.

Ever since, I’ve been thinking about marbles.

You see, I read it during a time when I was feeling a bit restless in my relationships.  Which sounds awful because I truly am surrounded with wonderful family, friends, and a faith community.  Perhaps the dissatisfaction could partly be attributed to the isolation that is part of new motherhood.  Probably a lot of it comes from playing the poisonous game of comparison.  Bottom line, it was a season of feeling like I was running low on marbles.

In the book, Brene uses the metaphor of a marble jar to explain to her daughter and the reader how trust and relationships are built (a marble jar is often used in elementary school as a classroom management technique; class is good, marbles go in.  Class misbehaves, marbles come out.  When the jar is full, The class earns some kind of reward).

“Whenever someone sticks up for you, or honors what you share with them as private, you put marbles in the jar.  When people are mean, or disrespectful, or share your secrets, marbles come out.”  Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Basically, I love marbles.  Who doesn’t?  It feels great when someone remembers your birthday, or asks you about something because they listened when you were talking, or gets you a gift because they saw something and were reminded of you.  But I realized: I suck at giving marbles.

 I have great intentions.  This is how the conversation in my head usually goes: “I need to remember that Tuesday is a big day for so-and-so (first day at a new job, their birthday, important doctor appointment, fill-in-the-blank).  “Oops, how is it Wednesday?  I wonder how such-and-such was?  I need to text them and see how things went.” And then I get wrapped up in something unrelated and totally forget.  Its not because I am trying to be selfish with my marbles.  I guess I just think about myself more than I thought. The fact that I even spent a moment thinking about how I wish people were more considerate of me is all the proof that I need.

Instead of focusing so much on my marble jar, I have been looking for ways to be a bit more open-handed.  I don’t give marbles with an expectation of reciprocity.  The point is generosity.  To be generous not only materially, but with who I am.  My appreciation. My gratitude.  My time.

I like to call it: “Getting Over Myself.”

Care to join me?

(Linked up with Fancy Tuesday Link-Up!)

Great Reads Vol. 1

Deciding that I wanted to actually write a blog while I have a newborn may not have been super realistic.

However, I have quite a bit of time every day when I am feeding my son, and therefore am browsing some really great thoughts online.

Here are a few from lately.

On Mission

Jen HatmakerHati, Personal Crisis, and a Manifesto

” I can assure you I do not hate my own sin nearly as much as I hate everyone else’s. Nor is any injustice as grave as those done unto me, in my First World setting, where I imagine I know the slightest meaning of persecution.

When it is all over, what is my legacy in Christ?”

The whole afternoon after reading this, I walked around asking myself: “What prophetic story am I telling with my life?”  

On Motherhood

Jessica Valenti: I’m Not a ‘Mother First’

“It’s no longer enough that women love their children. To be a truly committed parent, women are expected to be mothers above all else—we’re “‘moms first.'”

Long before I became a mother, I knew it was important to me to be able to define myself not by the roles I play as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, and now mother.  My identify is found as an image-bearer of the Creator, not found in relationships to other people.

On Education

Becky Pettit: What You Won’t Hear in the Presidential Debates: Facing the ‘School-to-Prison’ Pipeline

“Including inmates shows that there has been no improvement in the black-white gap in high school completion among men since at least the early 1990s and the racial gap in high school completion has hovered close to its current level of 11 percentage points for most of the past 20 years. Moreover, young black male dropouts are more likely to be in prison or jail than they are to be employed.” (emphasis mine)

I would not consider myself a single issue voter.  But as a teacher, I always listen carefully to what candidates say about their plans for education reform.  I work in an alternative program whose main goal is drop-out recovery.  While my young men might not know the exact numbers, they do know that the statistics are stacked against them. These aren’t just numbers to me, they represent the faces of my students.  I can’t tell you how much I long to see this turn around.  But I don’t have a lot of hope that either candidate is going to change some of the policies that maintain the status quo.

So there you have it…some things that got the wheels turning this week.  Feel free to weigh in!

Photo-Op

Having a baby for the sake of a picture is silly, I know.

But part of me would be lying if I said that the thought didn’t cross my mind last fall when we were talking about having a baby.

This November, my great grandmother was to turn 100 years old.  The last time I saw her was at Thanksgiving.  Though her hearing was gone, she was still relatively independant and her mind was still sharp.  She was looking forward to her centennial.  I promised her we would be there to celebrate.  When we found out in January that we were expecting a baby in September, I got excited at the thought of taking him to meet her.  One, because she is the classiest lady I know.  And two, because we would have the opportunity to take a picture spanning five generations: my great-grandmother, my grandma, my dad, myself, and our son.

This past summer, her health began to deteriorate.  Her mind  become more muddled and confused; her body began to fail her.  Still, I really thought we would be celebrating her 100 remarkable years, and I life that had spanned a century of tremendous change.  After all, when my grandma told her we were expecting, she said, with a twinkle in her eye, “I don’t think I know anyone who has a great-great grandbaby.”

As August came to a close, it became apparent that the picture was never to be.  On August 23rd, her earthly life ended. And while I wish I could have been with her one more time, sad would not be the word to describe my emotions. There is nothing to be sad about when someone lives a full life and slips away peacefully in their sleep.  The only tears I cried were at church the Sunday before while we sang the hymn “It is Well with My Soul.”  Because it truly is.  I know she had no regrets.  Her marriage lasted more than 60 years.  She raised two children who were faithful in service to the Lord and to their families.  She weathered hard times and could testify to God’s faithfulness to her in the midst of it all.  And she had a way of making those around her feel important and loved.

I know her legacy will live on, picture or not, as begin the journey of raising my son.  I hope he learns to value hospitality, faithfulness, grace, strength, and the beauty of simplicity, because these are the things I’ve learned from her.

P.S.  When I asked her how she met my great grandfather, she said “We met when I moved to town my senior year of high school.  He was dating someone else at the time.  I don’t think she ever cared for me much…”  Now if that’s not moxie, I don’t know what is…

Attitude Adjustment

Sometimes, I can be a bit stubborn.  We can blame it on being the oldest child. Or that I have lots of good ideas. Or that my mom told me I was smart.  Bottom line, I’m not really proud of it, but I tend to form strong opinions and then it takes a lot to get me to change my mind.  Sometimes this is a good thing.  Other times, it causes me to fight with my doctor.

Early in my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which makes this a “high risk pregnancy.”  I have been extremely reluctant to accept this label for a lot of reasons that I don’t necessarily need to get in to here, but a result of this diagnosis has been that I have had more appointments than expected, have gotten really good at sticking myself with a needle, and have had to re-imagine my birthing experience due to an increased likelihood of induction or c-section (the main bone I have to pick with my doctor).  I was also informed a few weeks ago that after 32 weeks I would have to start going to the hospital twice a week for non-stress tests in addition to my regular appointments.

My first reaction?  Not happy.  It makes working more complicated.  The hospital is not convenient to work or home. Now I am going to have to fit this in during a lot of transition and things going on.  I know.  This all sounds so ungrateful.  I mean, I don’t take for granted that I have health insurance that makes this all possible.  Of course making sure the baby and I are healthy is my top priority.  But I’ll be honest, it all sounded like a huge hassle, especially when my sugars have been well controlled since early in my pregnancy, weight gain is on track, and baby is the right size.

So that brings me to this past week when the tests began. And  I thought to myself, “What am I going to do just laying in a bed, hooked up to the monitors for thirty minutes?”  And then it hit me.  Nothing.  I am going to do nothing.

I am going to lay there.  And listen to my healthy baby’s heart beat.  In a quiet room.  For a whole half hour.  I am going to close my eyes.  And I am going to be thankful.  Thankful that this pregnancy has been completely uneventful. Thankful that all day, every day, I feel my baby moving (although at times this involves a rather uncomfortable pressure on my ribs that is not really that cute).  What mother in the world would complain about that?

See, I have never been good at slowing down and just taking in the moment.  But I realize that this is happening, whether I want to accept it or not.  And I get to decide if it is going to be an annoying inconvenience, or a quiet moment to breathe in the midst of a lot of change.

Let’s just say I’m looking forward to Tuesday morning.

What Makes it Great

“It’s supposed to be hard.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great.”

-A League of their Own

Most of the things worth doing in life do not happen by accident.  Yet paradoxically, intentionality is not easy.

This will be a blog dedicated to thing things that I find worth pursing, despite the cost:

Missional Living.  My husband and I live in Compton.  A city notorious for crime, poverty, and violence.  But we have found this is a place where God is present in suffering, relationships are priceless, and Community has the power to transform lives.  It is hard.  But  I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Raising a Bilingual and Bicultural Child.  We are expecting our first son in September.  I am white, my husband is Guatemalan (afro-mestizo if you want to get really specific).  I was born in Guatemala, lived there until I was 2 and a half, and spend 4 glorious months there in college.  It is important to both of us that our son understands the role that place had in forming both his parents.  Imparting the best of both cultures and bringing him up to speak both languages is not going to happen by accident.  Sometimes, speaking English takes much less work for me.  But I don’t want the comfort I find in my mother tongue to deter us; there are also parts of my heart that only Spanish can touch.

Urban Education.  I am a teacher working in an urban setting. My students are teenagers.  I love my job.  My job is hard.  Enough said.

Making a house a home.  We have lived in our house for 2 years, and are still working to make it “ours.”  My husband’s version of nesting involved knocking out a wall that has led to a DIY kitchen remodel.  This has caused me to put my money where my mouth is as far as values like simplicity, frugality, and the satisfaction of doing it yourself (let’s just say my vision of his and her power tools has not yet materialized…)  But I know when it’s all said and done I will not regret pursuing a considered home.  It just may take awhile.

So, that’s where I see this going.  I want to be honest about what is hard.  But more than anything, I want to document What Makes It Great.