Life; Organized

There’s a meme floating around the internet that says something along the lines of “Great! It’s the weekend! Time for me to do fifteen loads of laundry!” I laugh every time I see it because I cannot even begin to tell you how true the spirit of this message is to my life.  All my house cleaning is saved for the weekend. I wish I didn’t do it this way and I tell myself every Sunday evening that I’m going to do more through the week so I don’t have to spend my entire Saturday cleaning my house and my entire Sunday afternoon doing all of our laundry. It never happens though. I clean someone else’s house all week, so it makes it difficult to be gung-ho about doing my own. I’m so sick of domesticity by the time I get home in the evenings that sometimes it’s hard for me to get dinner on the table and we fend for ourselves more often than I would like to admit. It sort of makes me feel like a bad mommy-wife.

I at least keep clutter in our living areas to a minimum. I put forth some effort in that department. People never know what I’m talking about when they come over and I tell them to please excuse my house. I just don’t want them looking too closely because the truth is, I’m a “Monica’s closet” person at heart. If you’re not familiar with the sitcom Friends, Monica Gellar is a character on the show who is an extreme clean freak.  On an episode in season eight, however, it’s revealed that she has this closet in her apartment where she hides a mountain of junk that she just can’t seem to get rid of.

See, cleanliness really isn’t the problem. My husband and I have always been the type of people to clean up after ourselves. We don’t normally leave dishes in the sink. We put our clothes in the hamper and we rinse the sink out after we brush our teeth. It’s not really clutter either. The things in plain sight and the things that we love, that actually bring value to our lives, have a place. We put them back in that place when we’re finished with them.

No, what really gets me, what really makes me feel like my life is in a constant state of disarray is the hidden clutter, my versions of Monica’s closet. Under the beds. The things in the closet under the stairs. The top rack of literally every single closet in my house. Under the sinks. And it’s all things that we don’t use anymore that I just can’t seem to get rid of, like purses that I haven’t carried for years, rolls upon rolls of yarn when I rarely knit anymore, and like Monica, the proverbial punch bowl that I need to keep in order not to step on anyone’s feelings.

About twice a year, I  pump myself up to get my life organized. I tell myself that there’s no sense in keeping all of that junk. Occasionally I’ll actually clear some of it out, but more often than not I get all sentimental or end up convincing myself that I’m really going to lose this last ten pounds and be able to fit back into that. So most of my junk ends up in a different closet than it started in or organized in a different way, but still there. I just can’t help it. I guess Monica Gellar is my spirit animal.

The Beauty of Real

My husband and I got rid of cable TV almost as soon as the Roku hit the market. We have a lot of scorn for our previous provider, who charges outrageous rates because they are the only company in the area (yes, I live out in the country, but not quite as far out as you might think). Switching over to the Roku has been a blessing in more ways than one though. It’s helped the budget in a gigantic way. I’m talking cutting our bill by more than half. We also love that the shows we enjoy are now “on demand” for us. It’s nice to come home and be able to watch whenever we like. Even for shows that come on weekly through suscription services like Hulu or Starz, we wait until the season is over and then binge watch. If it’s a suscription service that we don’t use regularly, we also have the added benefit of only having to pay for it for a month instead of the length of the show’s season.  The biggest benefit of cutting out cable for me, however, has been no commercials, and probably not for the reason that you think.

See, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy and I am particularly susceptible to the sins of seeking the approval of man and covetousness (I am not afraid to get gritty and raw with you. When we share our brokenness and need for Christ with others, they can recognize their own). Coming to know the Savior has shown me that I have value that is not based on the approval of others, but I still struggle occasionally and try to avoid certain triggers that may cause me to sin in this area. What this means for me is that I avoid certain stores and I never, ever look at magazines. Here lately it has also meant a Facebook break. I may end up deleting Facebook altogether. I am still praying about this. What I didn’t realize until they were gone, is that commercials make me feel the same way that these things do.

This may seem crazy, but think about it. Commercials and advertisements are hardwired to make us feel inadequate. Their core message is that our life is not complete without their product or service. We will never be attractive. We will never be good parents. Our children will miss out. We will never be happy. Unless we buy what they are selling. If that’s not a recipe for temptation, I’m a raccoon (albeit a cute, chubby one). What’s more, is that the images and ideas that they try to sell us are not real. Stainless steel pots and pans, leather furniture, expensive make up, hip clothing, and the most high tech gadgets on the market will not satisfy us or make us beautiful.

Only Jesus can do that. He’s enough.

So what exactly is true beauty? What’s true joy? Only the work of Lord in us: A quiet and gentle spirit. Meekness. Humility. Servanthood. Thankfulness. Obedience. Compassion. A heart bent on loving others no matter the cost. These things are of eternal value, and do not fade away with the passing of time. Now that’s real. And beautiful.

 

 

 

Coming From a Trailer Park Near You

When I was growing up, I was friends with a girl from my church.  We were really tight for a while, and spent a lot of time together.  Our nicknames rhymed, which was kind of cute and made us seem like quite the pair.  We were at this incredibly awkward age where we just sticking our feelers out and dipping our toes into our own identities. We’d only begun to ask the question “Who am I really?” I think that was truly the cement of our relationship, because looking back on it now, I’m not so sure that we would have been friends otherwise. We didn’t have much else in common, at least personality wise. We were both chubby and insecure though, and just plain boy crazy.  I had the most dehabilitating crush on her older brother. It was a good time.

Near the end of our friendship, right around the time we were about fifteen or so, I remember riding in the car with her and her mother. They were taking me home. I don’t remember the exact words she used, but she said something derogatory about people who live in trailers, something that made her seem like she was above them, better. And I remember how it felt to get out of the car when they dropped me off at home, where I lived in a trailer.

As an adult, I understand now that she wasn’t necessary scorning people who live in trailers, but the poor (which I was not).  I want you to know that I’m not knocking this girl down. I honestly don’t think that she said it to hurt me. It was thoughtless privilege. We were only kids and everyone is guilty of the “I’m better than you” complex from time to time. This type of thinking is actually endemic in the church today, as sad as that is, especially when it comes to the needy.

Poor people tend to have problems, problems that are unique to being poor, like not having enough to eat or not being able to afford to pay the light bill. They have messy lives that bleed onto others who associate with them. They are often impacted by drug abuse and domestic violence and tend to have a lot of family problems. I’m not saying that these types of problems are only relegated to poor people, but the fact remains that poor people are more likely to have them.  They don’t really have much to offer when the offering plate comes around and it’s not much of a picnic to go about the business of helping them out. It’s quite costly. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret, a secret that I’ll bet you already know: Jesus died for them too. It’s pretty simple really. The ground at the cross is level. And believe me, I am not coming at you from a self righteous place. My heart is convicted this morning.

The Bible is pretty clear in its commands to help the poor and the needy. I think it’s funny that we waffle around with questions about God’s will for our lives when all we have to do is look in our Bibles to know. What’s God’s will for your life? Well, He wants you to help the poor. How do I know? Well, because He said so.

So what are we doing? Are we really living the scripture? Are we truly devoted to following Christ’s ways? How are we welcoming the less fortunate into the church? A better question might be how are we going out of our way to be the hands and feet of Christ to the poor? Because on top of all of their problems, there is one that trumps the rest. Coming from a trailer park near you, is someone who is dead in their sin and desperately needs the Savior.

 

 

The Insomniac Diet

It’s another one of those nights for me. I’m awake. I’m miserably tired, but I. am. awake.

I swear I know the landscape of every tiny bump of the popcorn texture on my bedroom ceiling and just the way high moonlight creeps in through the curtains. I know how many times the night trains rumble by on the tracks a few miles away.  I understand that my husband never moves after he falls asleep and that my child does gymnastics. I know these things firsthand. Ever since my pregnancy, I go through periodic bouts of sleeplessness. I’ll have a few nights of peaceful rest, and then I’m up the rest of the week, maybe settling down enough to sleep a couple hours each night. Maybe.

I guess I function okay during this time. I go through the motions of doing what needs to be done at least.  I take care of the kid and do my work, but it’s all done through a haze of tiredness and dread of bedtime. Dread because I know that one sleepless night usually sparks another one.  And I know why.

There’s a diet that all insomniacs are on. It’s a diet of anxiety that we feed ourselves at bedtime. If you can’t sleep on a regular basis, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Oh my, is it really three o’clock in the morning? What in the world am I going to do if I don’t get any rest? Please, I just really need to get some sleep. Is it really getting lighter outside? Okay, okay, okay, no more looking at the clock.  Just rest your eyes and maybe you’ll drift off. 

This is my life. And I know it’s my biggest problem when it comes to getting to sleep. I’ve fixed everything else. I cut out the caffeine. I dim the lights. I drop off screen time about an hour before bedtime.  I lay down at the same time every night. I have a sleepy time routine. I still struggle.

I know there are options out there for me. I’ve tried the over the counter sleep aids. They don’t even touch my sleeplessness. I’m a stubborn insomniac. I don’t really like taking them anyway. That’s a big reason why I haven’t seen a doctor about it, even though I probably should. I hate the thought of having to take pills for the rest of my life, and I don’t like the thought of being dependent on drugs, even if it’s not about getting high. I’m not knocking anyone who has found relief this way. More power to you. This is just about me, about my personal preferences, and about my history with drugs. I’m pretty scared of anything that might springboard me back to the state I was in when I was seventeen or eighteen. I’m a much happier person now, insomnia notwithstanding.

I guess I don’t really have any other options. So I’ll be over here. Awake. And trying to change my diet.

 

 

 

The Gravity of Time

My brother graduates from high school next week, and he moved out of parents’ house this past weekend. I really can’t believe it. I remember vividly the day we brought him home; I was eleven when he was born. Over the years, I helped change his diapers and I helped him with his homework. I encouraged him. I fussed at him and I occasionally tanned his hide for him when he needed it. I watched him struggle with acne. I watched him excel at school. I told him he needed to grow up a million times when he was acting like a turd. Now he is. Grown up, I mean.

He’s still a turd most of the time too, but that’s besides the point.

How exactly did he get this old? Didn’t I just graduate high school? How did so much time fly by? I want the answers to these questions. And most of all, why don’t I feel this old? I am on the inside of my body, and I’m watching as the outside is garnering the effects of age. A fine line here. A little paunch there. The gravity of time takes the beauty of all.

I guess I’m also a wee bit jealous. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life, but I’ve never been much for planning the future. I find that the present moment demands every ounce of my attention. It’s both a blessing and a curse. My life may not be a dream, but I’m relatively happy at least. What I’m truly jealous of is all that potential. Don’t you remember what that was like? To have all those choices before you? To have all that power to shape your life? To be whatever person struck your fancy? I wish I had paid more attention back then, been more deliberate, chose my path instead of floating along the way I did. I suppose that’s a choice I made too.

I’ve been trying to find the words to explain this to my brother, but I am not gifted in the oratory department. I stumble over my words in real life conversation. I don’t really think it matters anyway. Like all eighteen year olds, he alone holds the secrets of the universe.

But if I could, I would do my best to impress upon him the gravity, the seriousness, of time; that we only get so much of it. Don’t waste it. Don’t regret how you spent it. Look to the future, but try not to worry too much about it. Be deliberate, but don’t let planning take your joy. Put your feet on the path to take you where you’d like to go, and then go do something fun. Make choices, and make sure your good ones are what defines you. Regard things from an eternal perspective, not a temporal one. Be carefree until you find a reason worthy enough not to be.   And in the infamous words of Jack Dawson, make every moment count. God only gives us so many on this earth.

Maybe it’s not too late to take my own advice.

When Fire Meets Gasoline

When I was a kid, I spent an enormous amount of time with my first cousins. We were more like sisters. We all congregated at my Granny’s house through the week when school was out and our parents were at work. There were three of us: Rachel, Chelsey, and Emily, and we were all right around the same age. Rachel was about a year older. Remarkably, Chelsey and I were born on the same day, mere hours apart. I’m the oldest, as I so often liked to point out back then. I have a lot of fond memories of that time, of those long summer days spent entirely outside, playing whatever games we could dream up, just daring to get away with tip-toeing on the large, slab-like rocks that surrounded my Granny’s flower beds, and running down the gigantic hill that made up her yard to catch the ice cream truck. These moments are important to me. They are a part of my story and they’ve helped shaped who I am.

The particular memory I have in mind now happened when I was seven or eight.  When we were that age, our latest obsession was the family roller skating rink. We loved to go hang out in the attached arcade, eat those nasty concession stand nachos, and maybe, just maybe, get asked to skate in the couples’ skate by the cute boy in the Jnco jeans and the Independent hoodie. Even as I write this, I can still smell stale popcorn and the polish they used on the floor. Anyway, this was a day that we wanted to go and our parents said no. This was just Rachel and me; Chelsey wasn’t there that day for whatever reason. I don’t remember whose idea it was. I’m inclined to say it was Rachel’s, but she may remember it differently. We decided that since we couldn’t go to the skating rink that day, we would make our own skating rink. See, my granny’s back porch was concrete, and when it got wet, it was slicker than goose poop. We were both quivering with excitement as we grabbed the jug that granny kept nestled down next to the big standalone freezer on the porch. We wet that bad boy down and slipped and slid until our hearts were content. It occurs to me now, that it’s amazing one of us didn’t break our neck or at least knock some teeth out. We were lucky in more ways than one that day. Soon we tired of our shenanigans, and like young kids do, moved on to another game off in the yard somewhere without another thought. At that point, we didn’t understand what we had done. We were soon enlightened.

Later in the afternoon, my Aunt Angie walked onto the back porch to light a cigarette and smelled gasoline. That’s right. That jug we found by the freezer was red. We had wet down my granny’s back porch with gasoline to create our own personal skating rink. I think it’s important to point out here, that neither Rachel or me even knew what gasoline was. We didn’t do it on purpose, or rather we did, but we didn’t understand that what we were doing was that dangerous.

Unequivocally, that is the worst butt whooping I ever got. And the punishment befitted the crime of nearly burning down my granny’s house.  I deserved it. Truly, I deserved much worse than what I got.

The reason why I share this story with you is because, firstly, I enjoy telling it. It has become one of those stories that we often tell around the holidays when my family is all together and we want to take a trip down memory lane and remember my granny, who went to Heaven several years ago.  But I also tell it because I wonder how close and how often we come to inadvertently and metaphorically burning down someone else’s house.

I see stuff like this on the news all the time. A moment of distracted driving results in two cars wrapped around each other, and a daughter or son who will never come home. If only I’d left a few minutes earlier. If only I hadn’t decided to stay late and work on that project. If only I’d told that person about how Jesus died for them when I had the chance. It’s scary to think that some small decision could hurt others that badly. All it would take is the right set of circumstances, like when fire meets gasoline. And to think that we go around making these types of decisions all day.

Some things are chancy and we have no control over them. I understand and  have peace with that, even though it’s still kind of scary. But we should be careful with our decision maker when we can. It’s the most dangerous weapon we possess.