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Friday, May 27, 2016

Feeling Enlightened

I  currently listening to this amazing audiobook called Essentialism by Greg McKeown.  It fits in with my journey of less - less stuff, less junk food, less waste, less stress and it is fine tuning some of my ideas. 

He talks about how most of us spend our lives focusing on and working on so many different and sometimes unimportant things.  We do not define and focus on the 'vital few'.  Like most minimalists, he espouses ridding your life of all the extraneous junk so you can truly 'go big' on the important dreams. 

What's different is that he does not start with decluttering your house but with defining your focus.  Now I have never been a fan of mission statements.  They always seem boring, fluffy and a waste of time.  McKeown, however, talks about establishing your essential intent.  What is it in life you are passionate about, have a talent for, and meets a need in the world?  Then filter all opportunities, tasks, and requests through that screen.  There will be tradeoffs but this will allow you to let go of the trivial many and embrace the vital few. 

So - what does this look like and why am I so excited about it?

At work this year I have carried some resentments about jobs I was doing that I felt where not my responsibility but were not getting done if I didn't do them.  Then there were tons of time-consuming things that seemed meaningless and actually kept me from teaching.  Then there were things I ignored but felt guilty about. 

While reading this book, I asked myself - what is my purpose here?  What do I want to accomplish?  My answer is that I want to empower students to graduate.  Then I started looking at everything I do at work and asking whether it directly affected a student's ability to graduate.  Lots of my tasks do fit directly into that goal.  Those I can feel good about giving my time and energy too whether or not they are in my job description.  I can choose to do them rather than feeling put upon.  Lots of tasks do not fit that direction.  Some are not part of my talents or my passion.  Those should be given to people who better fit that need.  Some are someone else's job and I don't need to rescue them from their responsibilities.  Some are just dumb and should be minimized or eliminated. 

This shift in perspective is so empowering.  I feel lighter.  I feel permission to be true to myself and my calling.  I feel an excitement about next school year that usually does not come until after weeks of summer rest.  It is amazing! 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Does our wealth still separate us?

In my devotions today I read a familiar story.  Abraham and Lot were traveling together as God led them to the 'new land I will show you'. 

Then I got to Genesis 13:6 "But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together." NIV  They had to separate because the land would not support both their herds.  Their servants quarreled over who got to use the limited wells first.  They had to go their separate ways.

I never before realized how sad this was.  These two men were family.  They lived close to each other all their lives and now they might never see each other again... because they had too many possessions.  Wow.

So, I wonder, does wealth separate us today? 

I know I am uncomfortable visiting people who's houses are fancier (and cleaner) than mine.  I don't envy their pretty stuff but I also don't invite them over to see my humble abode.  That too is sad.  I am embracing a more simple life and I should be willingly sharing it instead of hiding and fearing someone else's opinion.

Most of the time I don't let someone else's poverty keep me from spending time with them or building a friendship.  However, I do know that most homeless people don't get many hugs.  I'm even a little hesitant to smile and wave if I'm not stopping to share food as if that's the only kindness they need. 

Then of course there are the folks who have very different ideas about how much people should be helping, ie. taking care of them and tend to be demanding in their requests.  I guess I tend to avoid them in order to avoid the inevitable conflict. 

So - wealth, or lack of it, does still separate us and it is sad.  Can we find ways to reach out a hand of friendship to people so very different than us?  What amazing new discoveries will we find when we do?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


So, do you know what happens when you stand up and tell 164 people (the number who read my last post - amazing!) that you are going to make some positive changes in your life...

'Life' smacks you in the face - crisis at church, difficult co-worker, arguments with husband, children melt-downs, etc.  Ugh.

A friend told me recently that when life knocks you down, God is there to catch you.  I guess that means succumbing to anger, fear, and depression are not the best response - oops.

This morning I read about Gideon.  He was living in a time when God's people were oppressed by the Midionites.  He was threshing wheat and he was hiding to do it so the Midionites would not steal his harvest.  Life was not good - or was it.  He was doing a boring, everyday job in fear of losing his food and profit.  On the other hand, even in a time when God's people were being disciplined for disobeying him, a time when they were in rebellion, God made sure their needs were provided for. 

If I have learned anything through my years of food addiction and depression, it is that nothing is wasted in God's plan.  Every path we tread is preparation for the future adventures He has planned for us.  If I let Him, God will use every event in my life to shape me into the person He wants me to be. 

So - here I come Life.  I am going to chose to look at you differently.  That wheat I don't feel like threshing today is a blessing.  Lord, help me reframe each circumstance, seeing them through your eyes.  Help me be thankful for the life you give me.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Back on Track

I am amazed that it has been months since I wrote a blog post.  How easily good habits get lost.  I imagine it is no coincidence that this same time span of over four months has been a time of slowly gaining weight and letting my house slip into disaster.  I seem to have an all-or-nothing pattern.  Now it's time to get back on track - back to the things that are important to me. 

I wrote some goals recently as part of a minimalism class I am taking.  I want to be healthy. I want to be generous and spend my time serving others.  I want to write a book. I believe continuing to simplify my life, my house, and even my food will help me reach these goals.  Joshua Becker says that cleaning up your house and reducing your belongings is only the beginning of the journey.  It is a tool to allow you the space (physical and mental) to pursue the things that are important to you.  It is part of the journey, but certainly not the destination.

I want to clear out more of the junk in my life to make room for the plans God has for me and my family.  This might include hospitality, compassionate ministry, and more time together.

Clearing out the junk is an appropriate metaphor for the work I need to do with my food addiction as well.   I get complacent and comfortable and don't press on toward the goal.  Health and freedom from obsession are the goals but weight loss is the signpost that lets me know I'm headed in a positive direction.  It's time to work the steps, surrender my will and search out God's path.  I'm afraid that is going to mean exercise.  The E word.  I have not trained this temple God gave me very well.  It is weak and unfit.  I despise exercise.  Any excuse will do to avoid it.  I am stubborn and adamant in my refusal.  It's time to start letting God have control of this area.  Oh boy...