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Category Archives: faith

Measuring Up

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My sister and her whole family came to visit me today. I was all in aflutter trying to get ready. I wanted to make sure the lawn got cut, but four days of rain and a broken mower belt seemed to conspire against me. I bought food for lunch for when they were here, but was worried whether it would be enough and whether they would like it. Then I noticed my rosacea was acting up, and that always makes me feel self-conscious.

Things were fine while they were here. Husband fixed the mower and I got all the grass cut just in time (and even managed to get a shower before the family arrived!) No one complained of being hungry after lunch (though perhaps they were being nice). I was worried about whether they would be entertained, but we had volleyball and badminton and a tour of the property and my nieces especially enjoyed the baby rabbits. And we played Apples to Apples and one nephew entertained me with card tricks.

I met another nephew’s girlfriend and wished that I could be more like my mother-in-law who can talk to anyone and can draw people out and who learns about and connects with people in a way I cannot figure out how to do. In the end, I did not get to know the young lady as well as I’d have liked.

All in all, I realized that I’m always trying to measure up to someone. I want to do everything well. This is an impossible task. I know that. But the impossibility of it does not stop me from desiring it. I want to garden as well as my brother-in-law despite the fact that I hate weeding. I want to connect with people like my mother-in-law even though in reality, I don’t really like people. I want to be as detail-oriented as my mother and sister, but the fact is that I would rather look at the big picture.

I ask myself: If all my dishes were plates, how would I eat soup? If all my appliances were refrigerators, how would I cook? If all my tools were hammers, how would I tighten a screw? I know that God made each of us different because things just wouldn’t work if everyone were the same.

I just don’t always know what He wants with a misanthropic, unathletic hater of details like me.

But here is what I do know.

I teach middle schoolers and I love it. And that is an age a lot of people don’t love.

Today, I talked relatively intelligently to my niece about knitting and to my nephew about the ukulele.

Over the past decade or so, Husband and I have had guests in our home countless times.

If you need help with your grammar, I’m the gal to ask.

I don’t excel at mathematics or art or using power tools. But God made me a unique person, and I need to be as happy with His creation as He is.

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The Swirl

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At 9pm, my eyes get sandy and my energy drops.  Time for bed.  I tuck myself under the covers and drift to sleep.

At 2am, my bladder wakes me and I pad off to the bathroom.  When I return to bed, I snuggle back in, thinking that sleep will return to me.

Instead, a hurricane of thoughts fills my head.  Lessons I need to plan, copies I need to make, a quiz I need to alter.  The research paper I need to write for the class I’m taking.  And when will I get it done with house guests two weeks in a row and a mini-vacation planned after that?  And the refrigerator needs to be cleaned, and I forgot to buy flea prevention for the dogs.  There’s a log cabin show at the state fairgrounds this weekend.  Where will I buy the fruit trees I want to plan and when should I plant them and where?  Do I really want the strawberries where I had originally planned them?  If we buy a tractor, will there be enough money left to purchase the supplies to build an outhouse this summer?

I roll over, hoping a change in position will help.  The cat shifts her weight on my legs, wondering why I’m disturbing her sleep.

I remember I didn’t put away the laundry yet, or vacuum the living room rug.  I wonder if bleaching the well is the best way to get rid of the sulfur smell in the water.

The cat box needs to be cleaned.

I ask God to clear my mind so I can get back to sleep.

Will the research project I thought of for my eighth graders be too hard?  Is it okay if it’s hard because they need a challenge?  Why haven’t we heard back from the meat processor about the deer Stephan took there a few weeks ago after he hit it with his car?

Flip the pillow to the cool side.  Look at the clock.  Thirty minutes have passed.  Forty-five.

Everything I just thought about runs through my head again, this time in a different order.  Trees, tractor, strawberries, outhouse, research, guests, fridge, vacuum, lessons, laundry.

I try to release it all, but mostly it continues to run in the mental hamster wheel.

My eyes droop again, and I hope this time it will be for good.

Soon, it will be time to get up.

We’re not dead yet.

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We are surviving country life.

The dogs get to run around, the cat is enjoying her new home, and the rabbits, who now live in a colony instead of separate cages (more on that in a later post, I hope), seem more active.  The washer and dryer, moved into the house last Monday by the hubs and a young friend of ours, finally got hooked up yesterday (leaky connections followed by husband’s trip out of town for work delayed the process) and I’ve spend the last two days doing loads and loads of laundry.  The plumbing, which now works, provides us with water for washing, but not for drinking.  My father-in-law wisely recommended we have it tested prior to drinking it. 

The result was everyone’s favorite vomit-inducing bacteria: e coli. 

So now we need to treat the well… only first we have to find the well.  There was a diagram in the bathroom, but there is nothing that sticks up out of the ground or anything so it’s not obvious.

There is still much to do at the other house — moving some items out, doing minor repairs, and cleaning.  My mother-in-law came Saturday and helped me clean the upstairs.  We have a date for next Saturday to work on the basement.  (Bleh.  I have always hated that basement.  I am hopeful that with her company and thoroughness will make it a less painful task.)

We spoke to a Realtor at our church this morning.  We hope to have him over to look at the place in the next week or so.  Once we have the stuff moved out and the house cleaned, we will put it on the market.

Meanwhile, school begins in two weeks so my mind is thinking less of the moving process and more about teaching and planning and organizing my classroom.  I was stressing out last week about everything that needs to be done, and I felt like God was telling me, “You don’t have to do it all yourself.”  And I don’t really know what that means, but I’m trying to trust that it is true and that I need not worry.

Moving

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Sometimes God wants us to be content with where we are.

Sometimes He pushes us out of contentment because He wants us to move to something different.

It’s a lesson that has taken me a while to learn.  I had known the one about being content with where we are.  The part about being pushed out of contentment was new to me.  The idea was first introduced by a friend of mine.  She taught second grade for over ten years.  Then, she had a really horrible year.  Her second-grade colleagues were hateful.  One of her students brought a gun to school.  She spent the year upset, stressed out, and exhausted.  Finally, a position opened up in fifth grade, and she thought about taking it, but she wondered if she was just trying to escape, if she was failing in being content.  But over this past year teaching fifth grade for the first time in over a decade — and loving it — she realized that God pushed her out of that situation in order to get her some place different.

Stephan and I have been looking at houses and property for a long, long time.  Probably for eight years, at least.  Just dreaming, hoping that someday we would be able to move out of town and into the country.  Dreaming of the house we’d build.  Dreaming of a place where we would have room to have a big garden, to raise chickens and rabbits and honeybees, room to have his business on our own property instead of renting a place a few miles from home.

Mostly, it just felt like dreaming.  Every couple of years, we’d get on a kick where we’d drive around and look at property, or get online and look at house plans.  But we were never in a financial position to take any action.  We just liked looking.  We’d talk about things we liked and things we didn’t.  We’d just imagine things together.  It was often a fun date on a summertime Sunday afternoon — driving around, looking, talking, dreaming.

Last fall, though, I determined I had to stop looking.  I was getting really discontent.  Every time I looked at a place, I became more dissatisfied with where we were.  And I wanted to be content with where God had us.  Isn’t that what He wants?  For me to be content with where He has me?  So I looked for all the good things about our home.  We have pretty good neighbors.  We can walk to the bank, the park, the library, the post office, the dollar store.  The actual house is pretty nice, and we have improved it since we first moved in.

But this spring, I started to feel closed in.  We have a mere eighth of an acre, and it felt like it was getting smaller every day.  The privacy fence felt confining rather than secluding.  The neighbors seemed too close.  The yappy dogs never seemed to stop barking.  The trains that rumbled by on the tracks just a block and a half away seemed to get louder (as if that were even possible!)  I felt like insanity was creeping in, but I tried to push it down.  I tried to force myself to be content, but it was hard.  I felt closed in.  I couldn’t breathe.

On Sunday, May 4, I finally broke down.  I was just so unhappy.  After church, my friend and my sister-in-law noticed that something wasn’t right, and I just began to sob.  I haven’t cried so hard in years.  It was the kind of crying where jagged breaths take over and you can’t talk at all.  I felt like I was being completely stupid.  God had given us this great house in a great neighborhood, and all I could think about what how much I hated where we were living.  They prayed with me.  I went home, and struggled for a while in putting words to my tears, but I finally was able to explain it to Stephan.  We decided that we would begin looking again.  We could be prepared and open, but not put our hope in anything we might find.  Our financial position is far better than it was three or four years ago, so it wasn’t a complete fantasy to think that possibly we could afford something.

That Tuesday, I began to think that maybe God pushed me out of my contentment for a reason.  Maybe He wanted me to prepare to move, to think about and look at land and houses.  But I couldn’t figure out why.  Sure, we’ve saved a decent amount of money over the past several years, but I didn’t think it would be enough for a down payment on property.  And our own home is not market-ready.

Thursday we looked at a house.  The property was nice, but the house was too big and the price was too high.  Stephan also decided he wanted to have at least five acres so that the county can’t restrict things like livestock.  I felt a little more discouraged because I couldn’t fathom having the kind of money a five-acre plot of land would require.  But we thought that in the next three years, we could save enough, and in the meantime, we could keep looking and be prepared.

Friday, May 9, I was reading Deuteronomy.  Chapter 28, verse 8 says, “The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.”

Saturday, May 10, we looked at another place.  It was on five absolutely beautiful acres.  It had everything we wanted: a pole barn for the business; open, full-sun area for a big garden; wooded area for hikes and hunting; lots of mature trees in the yard.  There was an old manufactured home that needed work, but we thought it was workable until we could afford to build our own.  And the property was bank-owned (as the result of a foreclosure), so the price actually seemed doable for us.  Now.  Not in three years.

Most of all, I felt like I could breathe.  And that was a feeling I hadn’t had in months.

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We checked on financing.  It seemed possible.

On Friday, May 16, we made an offer.  The following Monday the bank-owner made a counter-offer.  We countered back.  On Thursday, May 22, our counter-offer was accepted, and on Friday the 23rd, Stephan and I signed paperwork to make the offer official.

And today, we closed. This property is ours.

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A Goal in Mind

The husband and I have lived in the same home for a dozen years now.  We like it here.  The house is old and has character.  The neighborhood is nice, and we are in walking distance from the park, our bank, the Dollar General, several gas stations, the library, and a couple of decent restaurants.

Still, we have dreams of something else.

Dreams of living on some acreage, of having his business on our own property, of tending a large garden.  We’d like fruit trees, and maybe some chickens.  We can’t do any of that where we are now.

We’ve got our eye on some property just three miles from where we live now.  It’s a dump.  The house is falling down, and the two outbuildings on the site need to be demolished.  The grass is waist-high and littered with trash.  The trees are overgrown.

But it’s got potential.

The property reminds us of ourselves, and how we are kind of a mess sometimes.  But God sees the value in us and redeems us, not only from our sin, which is amazing enough, but from our ridiculous, sloppy selves.

This property can be redeemed.  Though it would take a lot of work, several Dumpsters, a serious chainsaw, and a Bush Hog to uncover it, we know there is beauty there.

We don’t know if it’s in God’s plan for us to have that land, but we’re praying about it and we’ve made a plan in the meantime.  Our consumer debt is gone, and we just refinanced our home for a lower rate and shorter term.  Now we have a goal to increase our emergency fund and then begin saving for some land, whether it be this property we like or another place God may show us.

And since Dave Ramsey says to put your goals on paper, we did that, too.

And because I like charts, I made one.

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I’ll probably do a happy dance on the day I can completely color that second bar.

Until that time, we will continue to pray and dream.

The need for a quiet space

I can’t remember when was the last time that I sat down to really, truly write.  Sure, I’ve posted some things on this blog now and then, but they tend to be quick and without enough thought and completely void of any revision.  They have been just my thoughts spilling onto a keyboard, but not honed or polished.  Not real writing.

A friend visited us this week.  He’s an artist, and in India he has a ministry using art to help people connect with the Creator.  God is the original artist, and we are made in his image, so we are made to be creators, too.  Being creative shows us our value, makes us feel our worth, and connects us with God.  Even the most destitute individuals, when they allow themselves to create through art, begin to lift their heads and their eyes.

When talking with our friend as we sat in our living room, he sipping Sweet Dreams tea and I struggling to stay awake far past my bedtime, we began discussing the real need to create.  We need to have a quiet space in which we can create and connect with our Creator.  And that is something I have been sorely lacking.  Life is busy.  Weekdays are filled with school and having people over for Monday Night Dinners and church on Wednesdays and training for my half marathon.  Weekends are jammed with running errands, cleaning the house, grooming the dogs, cleaning the rabbit cages, planning the next week’s lessons, and church on Sundays.  Even during my prayer times, I find that my mind cannot rest.  I start thinking about my lessons or students or all the chores I need to do.

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I’ve lost my quiet space.  I’ve sacrificed my time to create for the busyness of life.  But how do I fix it?  I can’t neglect my responsibilities.  My job almost never leaves my mind, and I must work a lot in order to keep caught up.  Even when my Mr. Wonderful is home and not terribly busy with work, we manage to get behind in chores — dirty dishes stack up, clean laundry waits to be folded, and the dogs beg to go for a walk.  How do I make the time?

Maybe I do what I’m doing right now — put aside my lesson plan book, move away from the television, and let the shirts and towels sit in the laundry basket.  Maybe I just sit and write.  Maybe I try to thrust aside the nagging voice that tells me what I should be doing and instead listen to what my soul needs.  Maybe I stay up a little past the time I’d normally go to bed, or maybe I make a chunk of each Saturday priority writing time.

After the conversation with our friend, I realize how out of sorts I am when I don’t create as often as my spirit needs.  I need to connect with my Creator, so I need to figure out a way to make being creative a priority.

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