as a mother

Comedian Ali Wong has a short bit about hoarding and helping her mom clean her house.  Tensions ran high when her mom wouldn't let go of a calculator manual.

"You never know when you might need this!"

"Buuuutttt, I do know that I'm gonna have to clean all this $#&@ up when you diiiieee."

It was funny until I thought about my own basement.

I pictured my kids, many years from now, standing trapped in the middle of my crap, still in shock from learning about our financial situation, feeling totally duped.  And then pitying me because I must have been shamefully hiding problems and bad habits and baggage all these years.  Eventually it would all rot into annoyance because cleaning everything out was taking forever.

The last thing I want for my children is to not know the real me.  Ben and I have worked too hard to make our family and our home the safest places for them to be and dream.  

I want them to have a broader, more accurate world view.  I want them to know that owning and renting are both respectable housing options.  I want them to be thoughtful about their choices.  I want them to be unafraid of vulnerability and course-correction.  I want them to make the time to know and love themselves as their Creator does.  And hopefully these things will all converge to create the authentic lives I desire for each of them.

Encouraging them to be brave or be responsible or to confidently be themselves in a resistant culture will have no traction if I'm not doing the same thing.  So here I am, owning my crap, taking big steps to fix things, and staying true to my values regardless of how upstream they are.  All in quite plain view.

 

we're moving

Did you see my Instagram post?

We just did what I said I'd never do.  We sold our house and I will no longer die in ripe old age under its roof as originally planned.  In two weeks we plan to be fully moved into our new home and will turn the keys to the house over to its new owners a month later.  A slow, daily move and lots of time to finish cleaning up = sanity.

Here's the deal in a beautifully-bulleted nutshell: 

  • Sell house
  • Pay off mortgage and all consumer debt
  • Move family of 5 into a 900ish sq ft, rental home (hence the tag #fivetonine)
  • Eliminate 80-90% of our material possessions

The plan is a messy labour of love.  Our priorities have demanded re-sorting.  We have had to confront a lot of unglamourous habits and past decisions.  We have made reluctant acquaintance with impracticality and unpredictability.

And God has proven Himself faithful and gracious.

I have tapped into the wisdom of various movements: minimalism, tiny homes, essentialism, simple living, KonMari, etc.  For example, this has been a strong guide for me:

Simple living means living holistically with your life’s purpose. - Tsh Oxenreider, The Art of Simple

This stuff is all very en vogue these days.  Below all the adopted philosophy, though, are roots secured to Scripture.  Like this passage:

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8 NASB)

This is about six months in the making, but the road leading up to this is definitely years-long.  I have no idea how the posts to follow will flow, but hopefully, at the very least, something I share will ignite or affirm something in you that works toward living a life that, from every angle, faces its purpose.  Because that's what I'm trying to do too.

Next: about debt

another look at the deep end

It took me three weeks to publish yesterday's post.

The lesson I thought I had learned on that last day of class evolved into something so different in the days and weeks that followed.

The idea of turning 40 this year has got me on this mission not unlike many of my friends to define and deepen the meaning of my choices, career, etc.  Taking that big plunge into the deep end of the pool that night seemed like a super-awesome metaphor for just doing it, trying new things, chasing crazy dreams, run fearlessly.  And maybe it still is and will be soon.  But I realize that, for me, for this slice of my life, the jump is about something less fantastic and less postable and has much less fanfare tied to it.

It's about admitting that I have been running on fumes for months.
It's about letting go of and delaying some commitments.
It's about nurturing a beautiful marriage that boasts a long tenure but is still so much a delicate, work-in-progress.
It's about pausing during sporadic, desperate prayers for my children and listening for how God wants me to be His answer.

And all this because it was time to get still, bringing leaning on God back to the top of my priority list instead of assigning the concept a hashtag, time for entering into hard, necessary conversations, making difficult decisions and understanding the truth of my past and current choices.

I stopped my Lenten fast two weeks ago.  What worked beautifully in the last two years was not this time.  With the season starting much earlier that usual, in the middle of a challenging job transition, my expectations were unrealistic and my motives were facing the wrong direction. (Since when do I post recipes?!)  It was doomed from the start.  And even the plan to stop had poor motives...I'll break it with a home-baked loaf of bread that I saw on Pinterest.

Come on.  Seriously.  I've never even baked bread before.  What was I thinking?

Sure enough, God called me on it.  I walked into church that Sunday, discovered it was Communion week, and was quickly corrected.  This was the bread He wanted me to have, and This - He - was enough.

 I eventually did bake a few loaves of bread, by the way.

I eventually did bake a few loaves of bread, by the way.

I'm still walking through a valley and I don't really have anything poetic to round that off. The last two weeks have been more intentional and rich and rough and still a bit exhausting, all at the same time.  And maybe this is perfect timing. In absence of the unrealistic meal-planning, the five books I was reading at once (not kidding), unreasonable expectations of myself and the ones I love, and pursuit of my own glory over God's, I am assuming a more proper, humbler posture towards the amazingness that this coming week commemorates.

five people to pray for this Christmas

I have an aunt who religiously (pardon the pun) opens her grace-before-meals by thanking God for the gift of life.  It's so notable that we cousins (you know, the grown adults) reduce to poorly hidden giggles every time.

Our immaturity aside, few things are more noble than showing gratitude for our lives, and I enjoy that it is the most consistent staple of our extended family meals.

As I'm sure you are, we are already knee-deep into the Christmas gatherings, with the big ones in clear view.  We are going to bless the food, give thanks for the year, lift up the homeless and lonely, and lots of other amazing things that working with God can do.  This year, I intend to step a little outside of my regular holiday prayer repertoire and pray for a few other people not usually on my radar, and invite you to join in.

The people who made our outfits - I'm in my last month of my no-new-clothes year and since we are two days away from Christmas Eve, I'll be shopping in my own existing wardrobe for what to wear.  But these items were still made by someone, just like all the sweaters, skirts, dresses, slacks (okay nobody says slacks anymore but it's more fun than 'pants'), and jewelry we are giving, getting and wearing in the next ten days.  Someones's daughter, mother, husband, breadwinner, last hope, and inspiration created these things, and these people deserve my attention far more than the discount and free shipping I scored buying them.

The most annoying person at work - Maybe there's a Scrooge in accounting, or a Susie-does-Christmas-better-than-everyone-and-won't-shut-up-about-it, or management is dragging you through h-e-double-hockey-sticks in what should be a quiet time of the fiscal year.  Whoever it is, bite down hard, take a gracious breath and pray good things, like, really good things, over his or her life.  And mean it.

The catalyst in the family - Come on now, people, let's get real.  I have been to sucky family Christmases and so have you.  There are deeply-rooted pains in many families that even the best gravy ever can't hide (mmmm gravy though).  There is someone in the wreckage who serves as the cornerstone of the whole thing - check your ego at the door - who needs our intercession to nudge/shove them into the place of mercy or repentance or humility or rebuilding. Or all of the above.  Without judgement, I am lifting these people to the only One who knows how to fix these messes.

The non-believer on the cusp, within reach of my influence - You might already know who it is because of past conversations, or you may have no idea.  But there is someone that God has placed within earshot who He has been inviting to the party and I want their hearts softened and receptive to the possibilities of that something they're thirsting for but can't put their finger on it.

Me - Sometimes I feel selfish taking up airtime to pray for myself, but in cases like the one above, part of their story hinges on my obedience to how God is asking me live. I am (forever) praying for the courage to live the follower's life outrageously and contagiously, beyond intentionally greeting everyone Merry Christmas at Starbucks and posting classic nativity verses in all caps on social media. I want to be brave enough to do the counter-cultural things and love the haters and be a proper steward and say no when I don't want to and not care who's watching or if anyone is watching. Well gosh, Baby Jesus, I guess that's my Christmas life wish then, Amen.

 

Given my track record since the 31 days series, I doubt I'll be posting anything new before Christmas.  My sweet friends, I wish for you all a God-breathed week that fills your soul with life, fills your tummy with nourishment and fills the rooms with belly laughter on Christmas Eve and Christmas and Boxing Day and every moment before and after!

check list for the fortieth year

I am turning thirty-nine this week.  I want to use the coming year as a launching pad towards a more beautiful, whole, authentic me when I officially reach forty next November.  Here is what I am assigning myself to get there:

Decide what I believe is truth and not be afraid to believe - This is an existing work-in-progress.  As I continue learning more about living as a Jesus follower, I want to come out of this year firm in what it means for each facet of my life.

Familiarize myself with my body - Its strengths, limitations, what makes it thrive and what doesn't.  This should probably start with a physical and a reconnection with a few paramedicals.  Things already don't hang, grow or spring back the way they did when I was in my twenties.  In addition to learning general best practices for healthy living, I want to know exactly what foods and activities work for me specifically.

Discover what my genuine interests are, independent from my family members, friends and peers – I was all over hand lettering earlier this year, but I discovered I don’t love it enough for the ten thousand hour journey it will take to become Lindsay Letters.  Which I kind of put on my list of goals for 2015.  I know that I genuinely love Adele’s new album because I cry that hurts-so-good-put-it-on-repeat cry every time I listen to track 10 and not because all things her are viral right now.  I want to identify things that I will lalalalove after they stop trending and that I will comfortably agree-to-disagree with others about.

Establish best responses at difficult moments – When I walk into a funeral home, if a loved one announces their engagement to the dude you hoped was a phase, when someone tells you their unfavourable diagnosis, when encountering someone with physical disability, when she is in anguish or he is aloof, I want to respond with intentionally crafted words and/or actions that speak love and compassion.  Only.

 

Friends, let me know if you decide to tackle any of these yourself in the months or years ahead, or share how you have grown into a more authentic you!

the "oh ya? well i'm sadder than you" habit

If you want to witness something shake-your-head-foolish, get within earshot of a group of women sharing labour and delivery stories.  It doesn’t take long for it to escalate into a tug-of-war of hour-counts, staff abandonments, epidural horror stories and most dramatic water-breakings.  I myself have been known to bust out my early-morning petrified cab driver bit when I feel the attention waning in my corner. 

 Found this gem at Hallmark.

Found this gem at Hallmark.

Years ago I shared the story of my mother’s illness and death with another woman and she responded with “So?…”  It was devastating enough that the story she proceeded to tell is little more than a Charlie Brown teacher schpiel, but I can still envision the scene when she spoke that hurtful and invalidating word to me in full detail.

Not only do we compete for (or lament the loss of) the titles of Most Capable, Most Beautiful, Most Fabulous at Anything and Everything, Most Postable Life – sometimes we compete for the Most Miserable too, we must admit.  (Just listen to people in Toronto this month talking about the effects of the PanAm Games traffic control measures on their daily commutes.)  The more pathetic we look sometimes, the better.  A sort of cheap imitation of martyrdom.

I can play the victim, but I have dished it out too, though.  I am not proud of it.  For the exact reason that I was proud of it in the second I spat out my two cents.

I am listening more now than I used to, holding back a response and simply receiving testimony, and only creating a dialogue when it can offer the mutual comfort of common ground.  It gets easier, resisting the temptation to one-up in favour of empathizing, the more I come to know that I am who God says I am.  Not more this or less that than anyone else.  Just enough.


be careful what you wish for

In the last few months I’ve gone all James 4:8, constantly asking for God to draw our family near to Him.  There’s something poetic about the word draw in this context – a gentle pull closer, hand-over-hand on a rope bringing the boat closer to the safety of the shore.  But that’s a bit of a naïve image to keep in God’s economy, because the focus is more on the hands or the rope and not on the surrender of the boat to go whatever direction it’s being pulled to.

Be careful what you wish for.

Christine Caine warned once about singing songs like Hillsong’s Oceans:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

By the time we reach that part of the song, we’re floating in passionate worship, unaware that we are placing an order from the Holy Spirit, inviting Him to take us deep, to press us, to lead us to a place where there is nothing to lean on but God Himself.  Are you ready for that?  Can you handle that?  Really?

I blindly committed this prayer to Him over and over and then one day a couple of months ago, he started drawing.  Subtly, we started sensing a falling away of relationships and systems we relied on.  I felt that we were starting to get misunderstood, judged and left alone.  What was more difficult was that this went beyond my own experience – this was happening to my children too.  I prayed this prayer for us, not just me.  It’s no secret that managing your children’s suffering is much more carnal than dealing with your own.  I began angrily grieving a loss of their innocence, forgetting that my husband and I had both waded through life-shaping waters much more turbulent than this by their age.

I didn’t clue in until a few days ago.  

Following Him means putting Him first before family (in the various contexts of community that could mean), so if I’m asking to get closer to Him, he’s going to bring me places where I will learn that He is my best and only option.

It was noteworthy enough that Jesus’ brothers not believing in Him appears in the Gospel (John 7:5).  Not everyone will understand or agree or let those feelings manifest the way I would prefer.  My response to a lack of empathy, as unwilling as I can be to dig for it, must be, well, empathy.

Lastly, suffering is what perfected Jesus’ earthly ministry (1 Peter 4:1-2,12-19) and if we are trying to become little Christs, we need to learn to process our sufferings, big and small, in a way that respects His purpose for them.

I got it.  And then a funny thing happened.  He reintroduced what He seemingly held back until I understood, keeping it in an imperfect light (by my fleshly standards) that reminds me that He must still be my No. 1.

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Might God be answering one of your prayers in a way you didn't expect?