a new (old) mantra for me

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

~ Aristotle

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still adjusting

So much about our new life has been unexpected.  Not necessarily bad, but unexpected.

One unexpected aspect is that I just don’t feel like blogging in the way that I used to.  I’ve been re-evaluating what role I want this blog to play in my life, because it does not mean to me what it once did.  It’s not that my blog means less, it’s just that it’s … different.  I still feel like I’m transitioning in my new life – and on this blog – to what I will eventually be.  And I don’t know what that is yet.

One aspect of life here that I knew would be somewhat different but didn’t realize just how much different is that of our family’s finances.  We have a lot less expendable income here.  We knew our income would go down after we moved, but we didn’t anticipate it being quite like this.  It’s been an attitude adjustment as well as a lifestyle adjustment, and we’re still adjusting.

Recently, I said to my husband that in many ways, our life has gone the opposite of most people our age.  We started out with the big house, and now we’re in the smaller house.  That’s opposite of most people.  We started out with plenty of money, and now we’ve come down.  That’s also opposite of many people.  We’re certainly expanding our family on the slow side, which is also different than most people our age, but that hasn’t been by our choice.  Still, it does make our lives different than many of the people our age that we know.

Another aspect of our new life that I still feel like I’m adjusting to is that of our house.  Downsizing has not been easy for me.  I come from a background of frugal people who saved everything, perhaps saving too much.  I thought we got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved, but it still seems like we have all of this stuff.  I think we DID get rid of a substantial amount of stuff, but now that we live in this smaller space, we notice how it fills the space that we DO have.  There continue to be times when I inwardly grumble at how cramped everything feels.  Our kitchen eating area is small, our bathrooms are small.  I wonder how we’re ever going to babyproof this house once the new little one arrives, and I wonder where we’re going to put all of our baby gear!  There’s no doubt that we will feel the squeeze a bit more in this house than we ever would have in our former house.

But, with the realization of our decreased income, I have come to appreciate more about this house.  For one thing, we got it at a good price, which means our mortgage is manageable.  Also, because the house is literally new inside and out (except for the roof, but it’s not in too bad of shape yet), we have not had any repairs that we’ve needed to do on the house.  Nothing has broken, nothing has caused us problems.  That’s a big blessing, and buying this well-flipped house, small though it is, has given us those extra benefits.

It’s good that I can appreciate this house a little more, because within the last month, I made the sobering realization that we simply can’t afford to move.  I had hoped to live in this house for a year or two, and then find our “real” house.  But, the fact is, we don’t have the money to move again.  There are SO many other expenses that come with moving, and we don’t have the money for it, unless we could make big bucks off of selling our current house, which isn’t likely.  So, for better or for worse, we’re kind of … stuck in this house.  That realization made me sad.  I really wanted a four-bedroom house.  I really wanted bathrooms that I could turn around in.  I wanted dining areas where no one is bumping into a wall or a counter or furniture.  I wanted storage space so that we could fit our one car into our garage rather than using our garage as a storage unit.

But.  (Sigh.)

We’re here, and it IS a good house.  Many families make do with more people in much less space.  And we ARE making do.

I’m thankful for what we have.  I’m still getting used to it, but I do see the blessings, and I am thankful.

the way it’s supposed to be

There is so much in my life right now that is not the way it’s supposed to be, at least in my opinion.  And I don’t know how to accept things for the way they are.

To a certain extent, I have no choice but to accept certain things the way they are.  If my car is broken, I have to accept that and fix it.  If I’m hungry, I need to find/make food.  There is elemental acceptance of my life.

But the deeper things in my life, that’s what I have a difficult time accepting.

Is it universal, this desire to do whatever we can to twist and change various elements of our lives to shape them more as we would have them be shaped?  I suspect it is.  I certainly feel that way.

Yet, there comes a point, or many points, where one meets a roadblock of sorts.  Whatever it is, you realize that a certain thing is always going to be this way, it’s never going to change, and there’s nothing more you can do about it except to accept it.

That’s difficult for me.  I can’t help seeing how things could be better if a change were made.  It’s like seeing something as perpetually broken when I feel it would be relatively easy (if people did things MY way, of course!) to make it whole again.

Maybe that’s just part of living in a broken, sinful world.  Whether I am right or wrong about the impact that certain changes would make, the fact is that in this world, life will always be broken.  We will always see the effects of sin.  Very few things will ever be perfect, and if they ARE perfect for a fleeting moment, soon that moment is gone and the perfection is only a memory.

“In this world you will have trouble,” says Jesus as recorded in John 16:33.  Jesus goes on to say, “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  That’s a good reminder.  Jesus is bigger than the world.  He’s bigger than our troubles.  And it’s also good to remember that “now I know in part, then shall I know fully” (1 Cor 13:12)  Someday the imperfections in my life will all make perfect sense.  That very likely may not happen until heaven, and that’s okay.

I suppose that’s where true acceptance lies.  It’s the idea that God knows the plan, even if I don’t, and I won’t understand his plan fully until I’m in heaven.  Until then, I’ve got to continue to strive to keep my eyes fixed on him and what he has done for me, rather than focus on the problems in my life and my failures towards God.  I have God’s promise that somehow, in the end, it’s all going to work out.  It’s ALREADY working out according to God’s plan.

Even thought it doesn’t always feel “right” to me, my life truly is the way it’s supposed to be.  What a comfort!

crossing thresholds

I found this quote recently, and I thought it rather sums up how I feel these days.  Remember this post?  My future is starting to look a bit more clear, and some decisions will soon have to be made.  Doing something new is always a bit scary, so I found this quote rather inspiring.

“Crossing thresholds is a part of the Christian journey. It is not possible for us to move forward without crossing some thresholds into new places, new experiences, new opportunities, and new victories the Lord has waiting for us on the other side. While it takes faith and obedience to cross a threshold, it also takes faith and obedience to remain on the other side of the threshold and possess the promises of God.”

from “Evaluating Bible Studies” presented by at the 2010 WELS Women’s Conference.

speaking well

It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me in real life that I would describe myself as an extrovert.  I love to be with people, carry on conversations, be social, and while I do enjoy moments alone, I feel most energized being with others.

Over the past week and a half, I have been blessed to cross paths with many interesting people, and to have many interesting conversations.  These conversations are still swimming around in my head, almost so much so that I am having a hard time coming back down to earth and caring for the mundane details of life.

There has been lots of activity around our church that has facilitated all of these conversations.  Apparently that’s one of the benefits of being at the Big church – many of the events come to you!  It’s been a lot of fun, and definitely one of the perks of being here.

Thankfully, I seem to have developed my conversational skills to the point that my husband is no longer worried when I open my mouth to speak, nervous about what I might say or how I might say it.  Tact hasn’t always been my strongest skill.  My willingness to say practically anything to anybody has caused my husband more than a bit of consternation over the years, especially because he is so (perhaps too much so) very careful about what he says and how he says it.  But, as time has gone by, we’ve softened each other, sharpened each other, been each other’s best teacher and toughest critic, and now when I speak, my husband is almost always grinning with pride at me as I talk.  I’m still not perfect, but I think I’ve matured quite a bit.

It’s interesting to look back and see how our former congregation was such a good learning experience for me.  Boy, if JJ’s first call had been to this big church we’re currently at, I would have been quite a liability for my husband.  This past weekend I heard a pastor say that one’s first church always remains dear in a pastor’s heart, because they’re the church that really had to put up with you.  When I heard that, I immediately agreed!  I wasn’t the pastor, but I was the pastor’s wife, and our former congregation certainly had to put up with me!

It’s lovely to feel like I can be confident enough to say what I think, and to know how to say it (for the most part) nicely.  It’s not going to my head, though; don’t think I’m bragging.  But just like it’s nice to finally know how to tie one’s own shoes or to finally get one’s driver’s license, it’s nice for me to know that I can do this.  I can talk to people and be myself without embarrassing myself (or JJ), which hasn’t always been the case..

This is especially important when those people that one is having conversations with are Important People in the little world we call the WELS, which is what has been happening the week or so.  For example, JJ and I went out for a private dinner with the president of MLC last night (who, by the way, is one of the kindest Christian men JJ and I have ever met)!  How many people get an opportunity like that?

I know I’m still not finished yet, but it seems I have, for the most part, finally crossed this milestone.  Of course, who knows what new milestone will be around the next bend in the road, waiting to be conquered?  But it’s a good feeling to know that, just as he has in the past, God will continue to send me the people and experiences I need to continue becoming the woman he has always intended me to be.

As the president of MLC said last night, “There are no coincidences in the Lord’s economy of events.”  Whatever happens is God’s way of working things out for my good.  What a blessing!

unexpected, but not a coincidence

This weekend at my local Farmer’s Market, I experienced two women in high heels, short skirts, big hair, and ukeleles sing Bryan Adams’ hit song “Summer of ’69.”  This classic song is a favorite of mine, but hearing it sung by women accompanied only by their ukeleles didn’t do it for me.  But I was cleansed of this mildly disturbing experience when, by total random chance, I heard the original version of the song on a local radio station on the way home.  I was struck by how odd it was that of all the songs in the world that could be played on any given radio station, THIS particular song came on at THIS particular time.

(Kind of reminds me of the scene in “Casablanca” where Rick says, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world – she walks into mine.”  But I digress.)

I remarked on this odd experience on Facebook, and a friend commented, “Coincidence?  I think not.”

I replied, “See, it honestly WAS a coincidence!  Or else God agreed with me, and he wanted me to hear the original version of the song, too.  But I don’t usually think that God cares about things like that.  :)”

She responded, “God cares about EVERYTHING in our lives.”

I wasn’t sure what to say next.  Does God really care that I hear the “correct” version of an old rock ‘n roll song (a song that isn’t even promoting particularly Christian morals)?  I always thought that God cares more about making sure I get to heaven rather than influencing my musical tastes.

But still, why did this happen?  For that matter, why does anything happen?

I don’t know why I happened to hear the “correct” version of that song when I did, but ruminating over this experience has reminded me that there have been other seemingly meaningless events in my life that turned out to be very meaningful.  Now when I reflect on those events, all I can ask is, “Why, God?  Why did you let that happen to me?  I wasn’t looking for it, it hadn’t even crossed my mind, but it happened.”  And, if it’s an unexpected problem, I’m left asking God the question, “Now what do I do?”

Some of these have been good events, like a seemingly insignificant first conversation with the man who would eventually become my husband, or the Call process working itself out in various ways so that my life crosses paths with those of other people who I now call my dear friends, or having a good job land on my lap almost totally by chance.  And sometimes other seemingly insignificant events have led to results that were more problematic.  But so many times in my life, I wasn’t looking for something to happen, and yet somehow something DID happen, even when I didn’t realize it at the time, with many repercussions following in its aftermath.  And often it wasn’t until those repercussions occured that I realized the enormity of what had happened in that first seemingly insignificant moment.

I suppose it’s easier to focus on the problematic events and whine about why those had to happen than it is to ponder the good events and marvel at the wonder of those happening at all.  But I always try to come back to the fact that, whether an event is positive or negative, God is always working it out for good.  Romans 8:28 is often used tritely, but it remains a powerful promise of God.  When things happen in my life that I don’t understand, for good or for bad, the thought that God is working this out for good helps me to keep my focus in the right place.

But as life has gone on, I’ve also come to believe that sometimes God lets bad things happen to his children.  God is not the author of evil, but he might let evil happen to us.  God doesn’t tempt anyone, but he may allow his children to be tempted.  God gifts us with unique personalities and gifts, but those very gifts from God might be what tempts us to draw away from him.  The struggle to deny ourselves is a very real struggle for Christians, and it seems that that struggle doesn’t go away until the day we die.

I have so many questions about why things have happened in my life, from the small things like hearing a certain song on the radio to the big, life-altering events.  I don’t know that I’ll ever know the answer to most of them.  Perhaps, no matter what the event, God is giving me an undeserved blessing, or perhaps he’s teaching me a spiritual lesson in patience or wisdom or how to be content.  But no matter what, he’s always weaving together the random threads of my earthly life into something good for my spiritual life.

And all of this from hearing some random women sing a random song in the Farmer’s Market!  Perhaps my friend was right after all.  Perhaps nothing really is a coincidence, at least not if you’re a Christian.

unsettled

I’m sorry that I haven’t felt as much like blogging as I thought I would when I re-started blogging a few weeks ago.  Life is just so … different now.  Not necessarily worse, but definitely different.  Our lives have an entirely new schedule to them, and I haven’t yet figured out for sure where blogging fits into that schedule.

On a positive note, this new schedule means I go to bed earlier, and it means I am getting more sleep, which is good.  I’m also going walking at least four days a week, and that’s a great help for me physically and emotionally.  Although, unfortunately, my anxiety has been creeping back in a bit lately.  Never too bad, but I’m always disappointed to see it return.  But, I’m trying to do the right things: sleep, exercise, and enough food, including snacks throughout the day to keep my blood sugar stable.  That helps.  I’ve got a few other ideas of things I can tweak, so we’ll see if those help at all.

Despite not blogging much, I’m not getting things done hardly at all in the house lately.  I’m not sure what’s to blame for that.  Although, part of the problem was that for some reason, I was SO tired last week.  (No, I’m not pregnant.  Sigh.)  I just couldn’t seem to pull it together enough to start a project and see it through.  But, hopefully this week will be better.

For those of you who don’t follow my husband’s blog regularly, I want to put in a plug for his sermon yesterday.  Our church did a Service of Remembrance for the ten year anniversary of 9-11, and he preached a wonderful sermon about the lessons that tragedies teach us.  He used as his text Luke 13:1-5, which reads:

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Terrorism and towers falling happened in Jesus’ day, too, and his response to those events is a bit surprising, to say the least.  So, I would highly recommend that you read my dear pastor-hubby’s sermon on 9-11.

We’ll see what this week brings for our family.  I hope it leaves me feeling closer to being finally settled into our new lives here — and into our new house.  I like the house a little more every day, so that’s good.  I think I’ll like it a lot more once we finally figure out where to go with all of the boxes in the house and get our pictures up on the walls.  Right now, life still feels strangely unsettled.