Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Are We Crazy, or What?

I am totally sleep-deprived, but I just have to get this out of my head! I'd love to know your thoughts, as well, so please feel free to comment on here or FB or send me a message, kay?

Those of you who know me can pretty much hear my tone of voice as I utter the term "Hickville" with apparent disdain. After all, this is the "city girl" who relished her opportunity to work downtown Chicago, travel Europe, and leap at the chance of any other such adventure. But that was in another life. Or so it seems.

Jonathan and I have pictured our lives in various parts of the country and different types of areas, throughout the year in the all-too-familiar roller coaster of hoping, fearing, thinking this church will be the one and then ending up disappointed . . . again. Well, as we've gone through all of that, we seem to have arrived at some interesting (to me, anyway) conclusions about the kind of place we'd like to live and raise our sons. Now, of course, geography isn't the #1 consideration, and we really have no offers, as yet, but that is incredibly beside the point.

Here are some of our findings:

We'd prefer a church that does not have a Christian school (You see, if he's the pastor, and the church has a school attached to it, for better or for worse, we've lost our privilege of making decisions regarding our children's education.)

We'd strongly prefer someplace in the Midwest or Northeast part of the country, particularly where there are lots of trees and a significant amount of fluctuation in temperature throughout the year. And yes, snow. (I love that pink little nose!)

We'd like to find a somewhat quiet ministry and area, not one that would have us running the rat race. I strongly believe that many public servants and, yes, people in Christian ministry, often become workaholics to the detriment of their own families. And many ministries almost require that a person do so.

That last one has been startling to me. I mean, I want my kids to have opportunities and culture and all of that. I don't want them to be "hicks." But at the same time, I don't want to miss their growing up years or our chance to truly enjoy and influence them. I've been hearing so many people say (and even write, in Christmas letters and such) things like "well, like everyone else, we're busier than we'd like to be." I even know of one mom of teenagers who said she and her husband had always wanted to take a trip to the Grand Canyon, but their kids preferred to spend that money on fine arts and sports camps. Now they're all grown, and I wonder if she regrets not doing that kind of thing.

So many of my students' families, when I taught at a Christian school I still think is one of the very best, really had little to no family life. I don't want that. The rat race will be fine if we leave it. It's been fine for a while now, while we spend most of our hours trying to live "quiet, peaceful lives" (1 Timothy 2:2).

With our current financial situation, I'm also really learning to re-evaluate my definition of "need" and what is really important. I'm learning how materialistic I am and how unimportant most of what money can buy truly is. My boys don't care about "stuff" nearly as much as they desire my attention.

Now, my undivided attention would be easier to give them, if I wasn't constantly applying for jobs--mostly for Jonathan--and finding ways to earn and save a few bucks here and there on-line, but still! (On that note, a recipe I love will be featured on "Raining Hot Coupons" tomorrow, er, uh, later today--yikes! I need to go to bed! Anyhow, "Like" them on Facebook for great deals and to see yours truly--and vote for me at the end of the month, please! If I win, I'll get a rare $20 fun money!) Some money definitely makes life easier, but I digress.

Currently, I'm surprised at my "okayness" with a prospective church in Michigan's UP. It's literally 2 hours from a town of 20,000 people--the closest Super Wal-Mart, mall, etc. Really, I am. I guess I've changed. But if they don't have high-speed internet capabilities, that might be a little too far . . .

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Delusions of . . . Adequacy?

I heard that phrase a few months ago, while watching a re-run of the 90s classic sitcom "Family Matters" (on hulu, I think). The classic teen nerd, Steve Urkel, is doing what he usually does--he's trying to impress his neighbor, Laura. He's waiting in the kitchen of her house for her to come downstairs, ready for "the big game." She struts down the stairs in her pristine cheerleader uniform, just in time for him to walk up to her with a tray of milkshakes, which--you guessed it!--he drops, spilling a cold, milky mess all over Laura and her outfit! In her frustration, Laura rhetorically asks him what would make him think he could walk across the room successfully, while carrying a tray of milkshakes? You just can't help feeling bad for Steve as he hangs his head and says,"Excuse me for having delusions of adequacy."

Ever been there? Ever felt like your expectations of yourself, your life, is far from far-fetched? We're not talking "delusions of grandeur," here, just hoping what you are or have to do will be "adequate" or enough, to get by, but even that seems like a stretch? Young motherhood has been like that for me. And just when I've about convinced myself that it's like that for everyone, I read about a college friend with six children (including an infant!) who homeschools, works a part-time job, and just published her first book! (And no, I am NOT exaggerating!) I used to think of myself as a Type-A overachiever, but now I feel like if life were an academic class, I'd be far from a 4.0 student.

Maybe you're sitting there reading, thinking,"Yeah, that's me too. Thanks for reminding me," and you're ready to drown your less-than-adequate self in a pint of Ben & Jerry's about now, please keep reading! (And if it's near your birthday, you can find some ways to sign up for free ice cream--and other yummy treats--here.)

I think that when we realize we can't quite make it on our own, we're actually in a good place. Maybe not a comfy place, but a good place, nonetheless. I mean, when we think we've arrived, that's really when we're most hopeless, right? (Never mind, hard to live with!)

I feel like I'm just touching the fringes of understanding my own pride, a trait God HATES, and how ridiculous I've been at times in my thinking. I tend to be very opinionated and sure of myself, but as my world and experiences expand, my level of conviction on many topics just doesn't hold up. And that's good. It's good for me, it's pleasant for those around me, and it forces me toward humility, a character trait that endears me to my Savior. It allows me to realize that I need Him. Not just that I needed Him, once upon a time, to die for me. But I need Him every day. For every diaper, every meal, every budget category I like to think I can meet.

This is getting longer than I'd planned, and I'm kind of figuring out my own thoughts as I go along here, so bear with me. That last phrase--"I think I can meet"--reminds me of a story told by Jim Berg, one of the people I think is most gifted at the modern parable or illustration to communicate biblical truth. He tells about a little boy whose father gave him the chance to earn a quarter for washing his car. Proud of his earnings, the boy told his dad he knew what he wanted to buy--a bike! His father humored him and accompanied him to the store. The boy picked out the bike, walked it up to the cashier, and proudly plunked down his quarter on the counter. The cashier looked up at his dad, who held up his wallet and motioned her to let him go ahead. The boy walked out proudly, bike in tow.

The next week, the boy earned another quarter and figured he'd save some of his earnings, but he'd go ahead and buy a small toy for now. He went to the same store and picked out a small rubber ball. He walked up to the same cashier and plunked his quarter down proudly, just like he had the week before. "I'm sorry, but you don't have enough," she told him.

"But last week I was able to get a bike," he said, confused.

"Yes, but this time you didn't bring your Dad along," she explained.

Still gives me goosebumps. How many times are we so proud of our quarter, totally discrediting the $99.75 provided by our Heavenly Dad? And that same God that provides the $99.75 some days can provide $99.99 on others. So if you're feeling inadequate, good. Go to the One who is more than adequate, more than enough. You need Him even when you think you don't, but when you know you do, that's something more for which to thank Him.