Thursday, December 26, 2013

I don't need a week at the beach


I have realized the perfect formula.  For what?  For feeling renewed, energized, and centered as a person.  And it only took a trip halfway across the country to realize it.

I was becoming vaguely aware of this formula for months, but it wasn't until I followed through with the formula while on vacation and thought, "Hmm...after this perfect hour and a half away by myself, I would be totally content to go back to my children and household duties and the general chaos of doing life together."

An hour and a half.  Not the whole weekend.  Not long hours spent soaking in the sun on the beach.  Not fourteen straight hours of sleep to make up for lost time after a year with baby.  Just a simple hour and a half laid out just right.

Now, I must warn you: you're a different person.  This may not be helpful to you in the slightest.  Sorry about that.  But, on the other hand, maybe it'll get you thinking about what you really enjoy and what you don't.  I used to think I had to like what other women like when they get away--shop or get coffee or get a manicure--which is silly, because we're all unique.

Anyway, you're dying to know just what my perfect getaway is, aren't you?  Good!  I'll tell you!

What is it about walking that clears out the mental cobwebs?  While reading Distraction Addiction, I learned that Charles Darwin went to great lengths to install and maintain a walking path at his country estate; while living (and walking) there, he was exceedingly prolific, including the publication of seventeen books.  Darwin not to your taste?  Then try Beethoven, C.S. Lewis, Tchaikovsky, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin...all walkers, all prolific, creative, and brilliant.  I might never be any of those things, but at least I'll get my legs stretched out.

Treat Eating
Is there any need to explain this one?  I like to eat.  I typically go for a diet pop and something sweet.  Enough said.

I bring along whatever I'm reading--fiction or non-fiction--and my Bible.  I read a bit of both while enjoying my treat, but since reading isn't my main goal, I don't spend a huge amount of time with my nose in my book (unless it's getting really good!)

Lots of daydreaming happens on these outings--LOTS--especially since I've had a good walkabout and plenty of time to think.  I open a notebook, brain dump, and then start making sense of what's spilled out.  Sometimes I work out whole sections of a project, reorganize my schedule, or draft a new-and-improved housekeeping plan...and sometimes I just add a few new ideas to my file.  Either way, I get a lot of nervous energy and mental clutter on paper, so I feel light as a feather on my walk home (despite a belly full of pastry).

And that's it.  Simple, maybe boring to an outsider, but extremely satisfying for me.  I'd love to hear from you: how do you recharge your batteries?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I am little, and that's okay


Little.  It seems to be the throughline of my days lately.

I got on an airplane and white-knuckled my armrest as we defied gravity (and left my stomach on the runway).  I looked out the tiny window, saw the familiar network of roads shrink to the size of model train tracks; the cars and trees and buildings that made up the entirety of my world were nothing but Thomas the Tank Engine props.  And I am that little.

I read about a man who realized his conceitedness by realizing it in a character and in an author he had previously discounted.  I saw Jane Austen in a new light, appreciated her ability to make much of the little, because the little is what our lives are truly made of.  Though I may have hopes and dreams to change the whole of the world, my sphere of influence is truly quite little (but even little can become deep, even if it is never big).

I left my girls--my sweet babies who need me for everything--with my parents while Professor and I are away.  There has been no crying for Mama.  I'm not as all-important as I thought; I am little.

I sat in on microbiology presentations (including Professor's, which was wonderful, of course).  They were entirely over my head, with their larger-than-life images of microscopic things that I have no hope of understanding.  I am little.

When my ineptitude and lack of caffeine drove me away from the scientists, I meandered toward the sea.  I had forgotten how loud the ocean is.  Wave after wave crashed to the shore, always and never the same.  The power, the roar.  I thought, "And this is but a shadow of the power of God."  He is big; I am so little.

Once upon a time, I was going to conquer the world, whatever that meant.  But maybe conquering my own self-importance is enough.

I am little, and that matters.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dear Santa {a break-up letter}

Dear Santa,

It feels strange to write to you; it’s been a long time.  I’m married now.  New last name, new state, kids of my own. 

I was a late bloomer in a lot of ways, including learning your secret.  One year, I got a new leotard for gymnastics, and my coach made the mistake of asking me the next week if it fit.  My parents seemed sad when I asked them if you were real, like a piece of my childhood was gone.

But you weren’t out of my life: I have a little brother, as you know, and even though somewhere along the way I’m sure he learned the secret, too, but he made the Santa=presents connection and never squealed.  So, you and I bumped into each other until my parents decided that married folks probably don’t need socks full of goodies.

And now I have two little ones of my own.  Some would say they’d definitely make the nice list…and that’s where our problems begin, Santa.

See, when we label kids “good”—and let’s face it, even the naughty ones get gifts, which means everyone is on the nice list—we forget that Christmas exists because of Jesus, who was born in the manger precisely because no one is good.

                “…it is written, ‘None is righteous; no, not one’” (Romans 3:10)

                “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

My kids are mostly well-behaved children, but they are not inherently good.  They are sinful creatures who need a savior far more than a pile of presents.  I’m all for presents for my children (what parent isn’t delighted to watch their child’s eyes light up at the sight of something new and already beloved?), but I cannot tie those gifts to their behavior and their worth.  And I can’t let them determine their value based on your judgment of them as good or bad.

I know what you’re thinking, Santa.  “I’m not trying to replace Jesus Christ!  That would be absurd!”  But if you see kids when they’re sleeping, and you know when they’re awake, and you know if they’ve been bad or good, and you have power over whether they receive blessings or not…how different are you from an omniscient God?

I can’t let my kids be confused, and let’s face it: you have toys.  Reindeer.  Jolly little elves.  Milk and cookies.  At their age, you are far more appealing than a baby in a manger or a man dying a horrible death, ushering in new life in a way they can’t even understand yet.

I cannot serve you and Jesus well.  There are probably lots of parents out there who make it all work, but, Santa, I am not one of them.  I'm sorry.

Someday we will tell our girls about St. Nicholas, about how he was a generous man who loved Jesus and helped others because of that great love, but for now we will talk about a baby in a manger, a star in the sky, shepherds and angels, and all that baby grew up to do for us.

We do still plan to fill stockings with treats, so think of that as our nod to you, even if you are not with us.  This is a hard decision (it would be easier to just go with the flow and the fun), but I do feel that it’s the best one for my family.  I hope that you can understand.


MK Jorgenson

image via AurelienS

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Top 3 Goals for 2014

 I'm rethinking how I plan goals.  This year, I'm starting with three big-picture goals.  Then I can make monthly/weekly/day-by-day action steps toward those goals.  My hope is that with these three life-sized goals always in front of me, I'll make more progress than if I have a hefty list of things like "lose 5 pounds" or "read 52 books."

As we'll likely be moving this year, a lot of things are up in the air.  But we can always come back to basics, to building the foundation of our faith and family.  And when I'm staring down the barrel of leaving behind friends, family, and all I've known in married adult life thus far?  I'd say foundations are crucial.  So I'm focusing on...
  • Pursuing God with purpose and discipline.  I need Jesus.  More.  And I struggle with making the time for study, prayer, and service, but I'm looking forward to growing in this area.

  • Creating a happier, more orderly home atmosphere.  Scrunch turned one this week.  I'm running out of baby-turns-everything-upside-down excuses.  We need order and cheer and peace in greater supply than we've had lately.

  • Putting X into savings, paying off Y in student loans.  Like the specificity?  I have a couple of numbers in my head, but the bloggity world will survive without knowing the details.
In the coming weeks, I'll be fleshing out the details, because S.M.A.R.T. goals (Small, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable,  Time-Bound) are ones that stick and help you win.  Stay tuned for more details.

I know it's still early, but have you started thinking about goals for 2014?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Wrap-up

What?  It's not November anymore?  I'm no good at blogging every day?  Shocker...anyway, I was still thankful, and here's what I've got to share:

20. Fancy Schmancy Swimsuit.  My old swimsuit went with me on my family’s last vacation together before I started college…making it eight years old.  I felt guilty spending this much on a swimming suit, but the quality is great, it’s American-made, and I love Jessica Rey’s thoughts on modesty.  The icing on the cake?  My editing earnings paid for it, so our bank account never even felt the pinch!

21. Supportive husband.  Now…that fancy swimsuit that lives up to my ideals?  Still a swimsuit.  Still tear-inducing, still terrifying to put on.  Lucky for me, I’ve got a wonderful guy who won’t let me wallow in the fat words too long.

22. Tough love husband.  I also have a husband who will eventually get fed up with the whining and tell me to love the body I’ve got or do something about it.  That may sound super harsh, but it’s what I needed to hear: my body is strong, healthy, and average in size and shape.  If I’m so concerned about those last five pounds, I’d better put my money where my mouth is.  Or at least not put more sweets there.

23. Girls who need each other.  If Scrunch naps too long in the morning, Pookie starts shouting so she’ll wake up.  If Scrunch wakes up first from afternoon nap and gets bored with me, she crawls over to their door and scratches and babbles until Pookie wakes up.  Sometimes that means longer days and crabbier girls, but the way they love each other is so worth it.

24. Family time.  Professor was home over Thanksgiving break, with not a single trip into lab.  It was glorious.

25. Thanksgiving company.  We joined Professor’s…professor.  Hmm.  Anyway, we joined him and his family plus a few other guests for Thanksgiving.  Pookie broke a water buffalo figurine, but she and Scrunch are such charmers that I think it was quickly forgotten.  A lovely evening with some very kind souls.

26. A new vacuum!  And then…I did it.  I got in line Thanksgiving night to get into Target.  I don’t feel good about shopping on a holiday, I hated the crowd, and I loathed snaking back and forth through the line just to get in the store, but I got a new, fancy vacuum on the cheap(er than normal) and already my family is breathing better.  Totally worth it but never again.

27. Toiletries on the cheap.  And while other people were pushing their way through the mall Black Friday morning, I was hitting up the Walgreens for free-after-rewards shampoo, toothbrushes, and other toiletries.  For just $20 I’m stocked for a year.  A-thankyou.

28. My church family.  There is a lot of love in this body of people.  It is beautiful and imperfect and inviting and ordained.

29. Nap time.  The girls napping and my own napping.  Without any editing jobs over the break, I took full advantage and napped like a…well, like a tired mom.  And it was wonderful.

30. My life.  It is small, but it is precious, and it is my God-given work and pleasure.
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