Saturday, June 25, 2011

This is Your Life!

Switchfoot's reverberating song lyrics say "This is your life--are you
who you want to be?"
Asking yourself this question could mean the difference between living
a regret-filled, un-remarkable life, or living your life to its full
potential, realizing & pursuing your dreams.
I LOVE the simplicity of this question, but although the question
itself may be simple, adequately answering it is probably not easy.
Anything that causes you to think long and hard about your life is
never easy.
But I think questions like this one, "are you who you want to be?",
and wrestling with the answer is a healthy and valuable exercise to
perform every once in awhile. Just like taking your car to the
mechanic for a tune-up, or your child to his yearly physical exam,
occasionally analyzing your life is something you can do to keep
yourself in top form.  A self tune-up, if you will.
And they don't have to be complicated questions, but things like, "Do
I have regrets or recurring guilt about an event, opportunity, person,
or situation in my life?", "Do I know what I want to do or should do,
but am too afraid to do it?", "Do I have unfulfilled dreams, and if
so, can I do anything to make them happen?", "What's holding me back
from making this area of my life more fulfilling to me?", or "Do I
have a gift or talent that I'm not using, and if so, why not?"
So, even if you don't have some clear, life-altering gift to bless the
world with, or even if you don't have any clearly-defined dreams that
you dream about, I would encourage you to find something, anything,
that you enjoy doing to add a little extra purpose and meaning to your
life.  I had an acquaintance in college who recognized her love and
skill of writing encouraging notes & thank you cards.  She simply
called herself an Encourager, and she was right. She randomly sent me
a little uplifting card in the mail once, and it made my week, let me
tell you!  I had it pinned to my bulletin board for months because of
her sweet words.  Her kind gesture may not have changed my life, but
it sure made my week.  And I remember her to this day because of that.
And, if you find and follow a passion, however small and
inconspicuous it may seem, you could impact someone's week and be
forever remembered by one action.  Heck, you could impact someone's
life!  Believe it!  It happens everyday.  But, even if I only ever
change someone's week, and by the following week I'm forgotten, I'll
know that I did something worthwhile.  Hey, I'll take it!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

God's Unexpected Provision

I firmly believe that God always provides and that He "will never break a bent reed." What's interesting, though, are the ways God chooses to help and provide. I would prefer God just end this time of darkness in our lives and take away our problems, and do this by helping my husband get a lucrative job where all of our needs (and wants) can finally be met.
God, it seems, has other ideas. God's version of "provision," and my version, are very different, as things usually are when I compare myself with God. He has been financially providing for us, all right, by occasionally having members of our families give us money. This money is extremely useful and we are sometimes desperate for it. We use it to pay bills, buy groceries, and sometimes have a little fun, like buy souvenirs on vacation. We are extremely blessed with a wonderful family, there's no doubt about it, and I only hope that I can be as selfless and generous with my money as our family is with theirs. They truly are an inspiration, but it's very humbling and slightly shameful to have family give you money. I know they are glad to help us out, but we always feel a bit ashamed that we need their help in the first place.
God is fulfilling His promise to always care for our basic needs, and not let us "be destroyed", and as usual, we are getting by.
One day, of course, we'd love to actually have a bit of money to save, spend, and donate to improve others' lives. Will that day be soon? Oh, how we hope & pray so. But if not, we have to be content in the fact that God will bless us in whatever ways He deems prudent, whether we'd prefer it or not. Part of our job right now, it seems, is to accept the donated money gratefully and humbly, and to use it wisely. Thanks be to God for His unexpected and unusual provision!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Thoughts Are Like TV channels.....Huh??........

I read and enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert's best selling novel "Eat, Pray, Love", and also saw the movie starring Julia Roberts.  The part of the movie that struck me as the most memorable was when the author was bickering with her friend, Richard, at the Indian ashram.  He was encouraging Elizabeth to pursue meditation as a strict discipline, and she was doubting her ability to focus, saying that her thoughts always took control and ran away with her.  
Richard said something along the lines of, "You've got to choose which thoughts you let into your mind to think about."  

As someone whose mind runs away from me as well, Richard's words present a profound and novel concept:  the idea that I can pick and choose what I want to think about.  This concept of meditation or "emptying the mind" is typically associated with Eastern philosophy & religions, like Buddhism, yoga, and the culture of India, however, I am becoming more & more convinced that this practice would be a worthwhile pursuit in our normal, everyday, American existence.  I've read scientific studies describing how participants' blood pressure and stress levels decreased drastically when meditation was practiced several times a week.  I've even read scientists' speculations that disorders of the brain, like Alzheimer's, might be prevented or reduced by regular meditation.  It seems as though the scientific community is saying that having a few prolonged quiet moments throughout the week will make us all a little healthier by directing effecting our bodies and brains!   

So I was thinking of an analogy of meditation that our media-obsessed, American culture could comprehend, and I thought of television channels.  Meditating and thus choosing your thoughts is like picking which tv channel you want to watch.  How is it there's 600 satellite tv channels and there's still nothing on?   

So I have been trying emptying my mind and being "in the moment" as I'm trying to fall asleep and my mind is buzzing with thoughts about how my day went, what I have to do tomorrow, and such.  And you know what?  It works!  When my brain is quiet, my body is able to realize its fatigue and drift off to sleep.  

So now, if a thought enters my mind that's negative, self-bashing, or fearful, I think of television, and I change the mental channel.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Oscar Playing Falls Off Couch

This is Oscar, our 2-year old playful ferret! (We have 2 ferrets total now!) Enjoy his cuteness!

I'm a Mountain Girl!

I have family roots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (my Dad's side of the family) and we would visit the area a couple times a year when I was growing up. I have grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins who live there now, and it's a gorgeous area! I always assumed that I would live in Tennessee someday, working during the week and going into the mountains on weekends.

Now that I have seen the majesty & beauty of WA state, my plans have changed. WA state has 2 mountain ranges (the Olympics on the coast & the Cascades inland), and the Pacific Ocean, which I had never before seen until Eric brought me out there the first time. The weather is mild because the area is a temperate rain forest, (ironically, just like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee!), and because the weather is milder than the Midwest, there's more time of the year to be outside and actually enjoy it. Plus, there are so many trails, parks, mountains to climb, bike-friendly roads, farmers' markets to buy fresh, local produce, and a health-conscious culture.
(The State of WA should be paying me for all the positive publicity I give them!) :)

I've always loved the mountains and have always been a mountain girl, so I know I will fit right in in Seattle!
I look forward to having such majestic, rugged landscape in such a close proximity, and being close to Eric's brother's family, our newborn niece, and my parents-in-law.
I love the ocean, but if I had to choose between the ocean and mountains, I would always pick the mountains! (But that's just me)

Seattle Vacation!

My hubby & I are super excited about leaving on Friday for our 2 week-long vacation in Seattle, WA! I had never been there until I met my husband about 3 years ago, and he has since taken me out there 4 times. I loved it so much that I heartily agreed to move out there whenever the time came for my husband to pursue a different job. Well, that time has come and he is applying for positions in the Seattle area. We're hoping to get out of Ohio by winter.
These are pictures from the last time we were there, last July.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

May the Force Be With You

I brought my laptop outside for awhile Tuesday afternoon.  I was pondering what to write about, and my mind was wandering.  Like most women, I am fully capable of thinking of a million different thoughts at once, and I often do without difficulty.  The difficulty, in fact, comes when I try to silence my thoughts or only think about one thing at a time, which is nearly impossible.  Sometimes there are so many thoughts & emotions swirling around in my head all at the same time that it feels as though my head is "buzzing".  
So my mind was buzzing as I situated myself outside in a shaded area of the backyard.  My puppy, Levi, who of course could spend all day in the backyard, gnawing on sticks and chasing birds, lay quietly near my chair, chewing on a fallen tree branch that was almost bigger than he is. He was completely absorbed in his mindless fun.  He probably was not thinking about a whole lot, and he was simply being in the moment and enjoying lying in the grass with his stick.  
I, however, was lost in thought, too busy thinking to take a deep breath and enjoy Mother Nature.  I was thinking about my husband's job search,  how disappointed I was for not losing weight faster, and leaving soon for our vacation to Seattle.   I was thinking about everything, when really what I needed to do was to clear my mind and think about nothing.  
So I took a deep breath, remembered where I was (the beautiful & serene backyard), and looked up.  I watched the trees sway gracefully as the wind moved invisibly past.  
I was struck by how an invisible force (the wind) could so noticeably move the objects around it (the trees).  I think the there are other real-world forces that invisibly move objects around them, like love.  Love has the power to move mountains and produce miracles.  As actor William Hurt's character in "The Village" says, "The world moves for love.  It kneels before it in awe."  That is a gleaming nugget of profound truth in an otherwise inconsequential movie!  
Another unseen force to be reckoned with, if you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, is the Holy Spirit.  This "Person" of the Trinity (Father, Son, & Holy Ghost) lives in the hearts & minds of those who follow Christ and helps us to understand and apply Scripture.  He also changes us from the inside out, and encourages, heals, comforts, and empowers us.  This force literally changes believers for the good, and guides them to be the best possible version of themselves they can be.  He is the part of God that walks side-by-side with us in our daily lives, every step of the way, never falling behind or giving up.  One by one, God changes people, and eventually, the whole world is effected.  Our church just finished a message series on the Holy Spirit called "The Guide", where they described him as being our knowledgeable and caring "Guide", leading us safely through the wilderness of life.   
Nature is another extremely powerful force, and the devastating effects of its power has been in the news a lot lately.  The earthquake/tsunami in Japan a few months ago, the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, the flooding in the Southern U.S. states.....Nature can definitely be destructive, but it can also be beautiful, majestic, peaceful, soothing, and extravagant.  
These are just some examples of unseen, powerful forces that we humans cannot fully understand or explain, predict, or reason with.  This world is truly an interesting place, isn't it?    

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Waving Veteran at the Retirement Home

A retirement home for the elderly sits at the end of our street, and we drive by it everyday.  When the weather is warm, a few of the residents sit outside by the road in their wheelchairs.  
One resident who wears an old folded military hat with various pins on it, sits in his chair, hand constantly in the air, waving at all the passing cars.  Some folks see him and wave back, others don't.  
When Eric & I see him, we try to always wave back and smile as we pass.  
We were talking about him the other night as we took an evening stroll around our neighborhood.  We were discussing how it makes our day every time he smiles and waves at us, even though we're strangers and only one of many cars he waves to throughout the day.  But still, we're impressed and appreciative that this man takes the time to see us and wave as we drive by.  It's nice to connect with another human being, even though it's a brief encounter, and even though we've never met.  And we don't even have to initiate the interaction; we simply need to respond.  So we wave and grin, hoping that we're reflecting some of that positive energy back to him.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thunderstorms and Clean Bedsheets

Two things made me incredibly happy today: thunderstorms and clean bed sheets!
A storm front moved through our area today and brought 2 thunderstorms with high winds, adding a yellowy hue to everything. One thunderstorm started in late morning; the other a few hours later in the evening. My puppy Levi certainly did not want to venture outside in that weather, even though he desperately needed to go to the bathroom!
I have decided that I love thunderstorms. They exude this feeling of majesty, danger, unpredictableness, and anxiety, like the earth is expectantly waiting for the thunderstorm to hit. I find it all very exciting!
My pets apparently did as well, because Levi sat at the back door for quite some time, and even our two sleepy ferrets woke up and looked out their window at the storm.
As the wind and rain relentlessly pelted the house, I was reminded of the simple reassurance of being underneath the roof of our small house. Our basement may leak sometimes in heavy rains, but our old little house is sturdy and has withstood many storms in it's 50-odd years. In short, I was safe. Safe and sound inside my house, with my pets. It's something we take for granted sometimes, and perhaps it's okay that we do, but there are people in the world who do not have adequate shelter. So once again, I was reminded of life's 'little' blessings.
I also washed our bedsheets today, with an all-natural laundry detergent purchased from Sam's Club. I love the fact that the detergent has no harsh chemicals and it was affordable. And it smells fresh & citrusy, which is always a plus! I love taking the still-warm sheets from the dryer and holding them against my face and body. They radiate warmth, and the fresh smell permeates my nostrils, making me smile on the inside.
And our bed looks so amazingly refreshed when we put clean sheets on it! It's such a simple thing, but it changes the look of the bed so drastically that it's almost like we purchased new sheets. But we didn't.
It's such a sweet & wonderful thing to lay on freshly laundered bedsheets for the first time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

"Keep Calm & Carry On"
I've seen this humorous saying on everything from tee shirts, to mugs, to stationary. It's funny; but it's also true. I've been applying it to real-life situations!
After my last 2 posts, you might be thinking that I am habitually stressed or always worried about money or survival.
I'm not. God has always provided for us, and tell Him everything we need, and He has never let us down.
Don't get me wrong: there are times when we lose it and freak out about our financial situation, or we go to bed wondering where the money is going to come from to pay bills. But, in general, we apply this funny saying to our lives, and we decide to not let our emotions run wild, but to control ourselves, and "keep calm & carry on."
Because really, what else can we do? This is all God asks of us. Just to stay calm, trust Him, hang in there, don't give up, let go of worry, take a deep breath, and hold fast.
I think all those phrases are synonymous with each other, and I think they are all healthy practices to adopt. I know my husband & I's faith is tested a lot, and we have to decide if we're going to believe all those nice things we are told about God, or if we're going to take matters into our own hands and thus show that we don't trust that God can take care of us.
We have chosen to trust, and although we have sometimes have a momentary lapse of resolve, we always remember to make a habit of letting go of fear, "what ifs?", and uncertainty. We know we are loved by the One whose "perfect love drives out fear" (1John 4:18)

Money Can't Buy Happiness, but It Sure Helps

We hope to someday be able to give money to church, non-profits, and other organizations that do good in the world. We've both always felt called to help change others' lives by giving money to organizations who will put it to good use to help those in need.

I think some "middle class" people take for granted how much money they actually have. They are able, for the most part, to eat out a couple times a week (or sometimes much more!), make some large purchases (like new tires for their car, for example), and have some saved money. Just the fact that they are able to have this is such a blessing!

So yes, I believe that my happiness in some part will improve when we have more money, because whether we like it or not, money makes the world go 'round, and if you're poor, you know this fact all too well.

We have learned a great deal, however, and we have seen God do some amazing things. We've literally seen money just appear in our bank account, and we didn't know how it got there! It was God providing in His mysterious, often unusual, way. And we now appreciate more fully the things we do have, and we know that it could always be worse. We are thankful for every day that we have food in our pantry, clothes on our backs, and gas in our tanks, even if we wish we could have more.

We've learned to budget our money and look for bargains, this has made us extremely fastidious and careful with our money, and we almost never buy anything full price. We are thankful for the little things, and we've realized, the little things are never that little. They are actually pretty big!

Again, God has been using the "little things" in my life to help me empathize with those less fortunate than us (they are many), to help me appreciate what I do have, and to enjoy life's simple pleasures, like His natural wonders, loving people He has put in my life, and the joy of unselfishly doing something kind for another human being.

So, on those days that I cannot leave the house because we cannot afford the gas for my car, I meditate on the simple fact that I still have so much to be thankful for, like my wonderful husband, compassionate family, loving friends, and my physical health. And more than anything else, I long to be able to help other people out of the soul-crushing poverty that entangles them. Perhaps someday, when all these financial tribulations are behind me, I'll be able to do just that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Life is Made Up Of Little Things!

A concept I've learned in the past 2.5 years of being a young housewife is this: isn't life in general made up of the little things? And don't the "little" things sometimes end up being rather large things?
I do not work outside the home, and I don't know if I ever will. I take care of the house and the pets, do chores, and make sure home life runs smoothly. So my daily life consists of nothing but "little" things!
I am not going out and changing the world, getting rich, or even touching the lives of crowds of people. My little world does not impact very many people, as far as I can tell.
Or does it? Will it? I think that maybe my life does impact more people than I realize, even when my social sphere is rather small.

I have much to celebrate in my little life.
I am healthy, I have lovely friends, loving family, a great husband, I have youth, I have never gone hungry, and I have a roof over my head. Isn't that really all I can ask for? And it's more than I deserve.
I am so blessed with family, friends, love and provision. I think we all have much to celebrate in our little lives. And I believe that all those "little" insignificant things that fill up our daily lives have the potential to create an expansive, joyful, world-changing life.

I hope to write this blog to celebrate my lovely little life, to find God in the midst of my little daily activities, and to realize and accept my place in this large, crowded world.
If I let God into my little life, He may keep my life "little", but He will help my heart grow to be expansive and peaceful, to impact the world.
Because I am more than the sum of all the Lovely Little Things in my Lovely Little Life.

My Little Romance

My life may be little, but God has proven that even 'little 'ole me' is worthwhile & valuable in His eyes. An amazing way that He has shown His incredible love for me is this: He literally and directly reached down and divinely intervened in my life, leading me to find, fall in love with, and marry my husband, Eric. He literally performed a miracle in my life; a miracle that saved me from missing out on the opportunity of finding my One Great Love.

Eric & I met and fell in love by, what we believe, was the direct intervention of God in our measly little human affairs. He fell for me early on in our friendship, but I was unsure of myself and him. I hesitated for awhile, trying to figure out my feelings, when God lovingly crafted a blaring, neon arrow-shaped sign in the sky, pointing at Eric. God's voice was quietly but firmly repeating in my head, "That's him. Eric is the One for you. That's him."
God didn't wait for me to "have it all figured out", but clearly directed me to make a crazy decision and jump into a serious relationship with Eric, even when I was still a little messy on the inside.
We have now been married for over 2.5 years, and we perfectly complement each other.

I will always remember this as a moment when God reached down and changed my heart and my mind. He directly interacted with me and with Eric, in our lives and our hearts. I believe that God cares about the large events in our lives, like marriage, careers, children, etc, but I also believe that God deeply cares about the small things in our lives, like our day-to-day chores, hobbies, all those small things that fill up our day, and those quiet moments right before we fall asleep at night.

Eric pursued and won my heart by doing the "little" things, like driving 45 minutes to my house in a snowstorm, helping me into my coat, holding the car door for me, being quietly persistent, showing me that I was the most amazing and beautiful woman in the world, and unselfishly putting me first. And all those "little" things added up to reveal this amazing, honorable, kind young man who won my heart with his persistence.

The little things turned out to be not so little, after all!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Lovely Little Life

My name is Rachel.
I am 25 years old.
I am nothing special.
I am an average female with average looks, brains, and quirks.
My life is quiet, small, and uneventful.
For some people, these words would describe a meaningless, unproductive, boring, pathetic life. But for me, these words are not negative at all; rather, they are positive descriptors of my good life.
Actually, my life isn't just good; it's great!

I am extremely blessed, and I hope to talk a lot more about appreciating the little blessings in life, because they really aren't that little. When God extends a loving hand and chooses to bless you so you can enjoy your life and know Him better, there is nothing "little" or inconsequential about that.
This is how I am learning to feel about my own life, that even though some may look at me and say that I'm nothing special and I've got nothing special going on; I know otherwise.

I am a stay-at-home wife to an amazing, hardworking husband. We do not have children; we have 2 ferrets and 1 puppy named Levi.
I take care of the house and do daily chores, and this work is important for life at home to run smoothly.
I wash my husband & I's dishes, clothes, and bed sheets, and this work is caring, loving, and important for hygiene & health.
I spend most of my day alone, just me & the pets, but this alone time is important & beneficial to my emotional, mental, & spiritual well-being, because I use this time to pray a lot, to love on my pets, to journal, relax, and meditate.
I have several hobbies that I pursue, like exercise, writing, knitting, scrapbooking, and journaling, but I haven't found a "life passion" that burns like fire inside me; something I want to dedicate my life to. Is this weird? Maybe. Wrong? Absolutely not.

For these reasons, I have classified my life as "little". But I contend that my life holds great importance to God, and to myself.
Do I love staying at home everyday doing chores? No, but I accept that this is where I am in my life right now; this is my role in my marriage right now, and so I want to perform my role to the absolute best of my ability.
Do I crave a life full of adventure and maybe some danger? Oh yes, please!
Do I wish I could find a life passion? An exciting dream? Of course I do! But I have also been learning patience as I pursue interests, and I believe that God truly has an important Reason, a Purpose to my life, even if I haven't found it yet.

And what if I have found it? What if my entire life is going to revolve around me being a housewife, then a mother, never working outside the home? What if I'll never have a successful career? What if I'm always in this old-fashioned, stereotypical housewife role?
These are questions I've been asking myself, and I'm learning that the answer is simple. It may not be easy; but it's simple.
The simple truth I'm realizing is this: I have an important, special purpose on this earth that no one else except me can do.
So this blog is going to explore this concept of me living a "little" life, and how it's a very purposeful, blessed, God-given life!
After all, life is what we make it.