Books and Revelations and Such…

I finally finished reading The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg. It was a wonderfully written book about following God’s calling for us as individuals and learning what that can look like for each person. It also took me incredibly too long to finish. Unfortunately, I am one of those obsessive readers who gets through the first 50% of a book without sleeping and then loses the ability to read more than a chapter a week (if I’m lucky) until I finish.

(I don’t know why I am the way I am with books, but I’ve fallen into this pattern multiple times now – regardless of my interest in the subject or love of writing style. I digress…)

John Ortberg ends the book with the sentence “Ask for a mountain” (p. 254).

Leading up this, he gives several examples of how “life is not about comfort” (p. 251). He teaches the reader that “…facing challenges in community gives life and isolation destroys it” (p. 251). “The pursuit of comfort,” he says, “[…] is terminal” (p. 250). Pretty heavy thing to read at 7pm after a hard day of walking the dog, taking a nap, researching recipes, and reading a book, waiting for my husband to get home.

John uses the word “terminal” in his writing not as some ominous-but-harmless literary threat… He actually cites research on rats which documents shorter life spans for isolated rats that have been fed cheese than those in groups forced to seek out their meals together in mazes or obstacle courses.

There’s literally death in comfort!

I’m in trouble…

After closing the cover on this 254 page book, I started to reflect on the way I have been living my life, the people I count as my community, and my unwillingness to seek out new mountains. I have been the epitome of a comfort-seeker lately. You can see it in my workday, my evening routine, my ever-tightening wardrobe, and my reluctance to tackle new recipes in the kitchen – just to name a few.

Today is actually a perfect example: On top of my nap and hours spent looking up recipes, my evening culminated in a feast of tortilla chips while hanging around the house in my gouchos (Remember those?! I should be more ashamed. Hey, at least I took the dog for another walk (although admittedly, I was still wearing those free-flowing, ridiculous half-pants. Help me!)).

This all has got me thinking about my next mountain – my next communal project of discomfort for growth. Yes, discomfort. As much as my laziness tells me that I enjoy comfort or “security,” my heart tells me that it’s bored and yearning for more. It’s almost audibly yelling, “God, give me the mountain!” (p. 254).

And then it dawned on me: A fixer-upper could be my next mountain.

Now of course there are still some obstacles to work out in the typical buyer-seller negotiations, and of course I am prepared to walk away from the house if needed (or highly encouraged by my partner in life-and-love depending on how negotiations go), but let’s just say for purpose of argument that we get the house. This, my friends, would be the most awesome and thrilling and intimidating mountain that I have come up against in easily over a year. (Yes, I’m aware that a year doesn’t sound that long – but remember that each day is this life lived…that’s over 365 days of death-hastening comfort. I better get climbing!).

The mere prospect of a fixer-upper has already gotten me well into the foothills. Freddy and I have pushed and pulled and argued and hugged over the thought of putting a good amount of our cash safety net into projects around the house. That’s the community part. Freddy is 100% my partner. And I think that’s why climbing mountains with a companion is so important – you both grow from it and you’re able to encourage one another as the incline increases and muscles fatigue.

I’m going to take a bit of a tangent here:

Procreation aside – I think this is why God speaks about marriage the way that He does. You don’t need to be married to have companionship, but I think it makes it an easier day-to-day occurrence. It can also force you out of your comfort zone with greater frequency. I have really started to appreciate this about marriage. Some days, I force myself to trudge up the mountain of laundry ahead of me not because I want to tackle a mountain but because I know that Freddy will feel blessed if I move it out of his way. And sometimes, when my own comfort wins, Freddy gets behind me and pushes me up the mountain so I can get some exercise ;). It’s a beautiful thing.

Back to the house: 

The house as my mountain is an important revelation to me. Freddy and I really have pushed and pulled about a move-in-ready home vs. a fixer-upper. Freddy has the experience to know that we have years of work ahead of us with this house, which is why he needed to know where I was at in my willingness to keep climbing the rocky terrain. But I am certain that my heart is pulled to this potential-project like a calling from God (and I’m starting to believe that’s exactly what it is). As I said before, I realize that we might have to walk away from the house if we can’t get some needed updates first, but I also know that I am prepared to get my hands dirty if the time comes. I know that my partner will be by me throughout this Everest-attempt and that he will take turns with me leading, pushing, following, and dragging at different times and on different days.

Bottom line: I fully intend to come out of this with a home and life improvement. Bring me the mountain!

Me I Want to Be

Well, I finished Made to Crave. I’m no lighter for it – heavier even – but that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s not a magic pill. It’s constantly working to redefine the quenching of our cravings. In truth, I’m just not ready to fully subscribe to being a mindful eater. Not. quite. yet.

But I’ve started making healthier decisions on a sporadic basis. I’m back on vitamins. I’m drinking more water. I’m seeing a chiropractor for the back pain I’ve been feeling and I’m taking steps in the right direction.

When I put down Made to Crave, I picked up Me I Want To Be by John Ortberg. This one is about “becoming God’s best version of you.” My mother sent me this book two years ago and I didn’t have the desire to dive in at the time. I picked it up this week, after coming home from a tough day at work during which I told off one of my coworkers, and it grabbed me in by calling me out – sometimes it’s all about timing.

My reading habits are very God-focused lately. I tend to act better when I’m constantly reviewing God’s words or plan or purpose – that’s applicable to any area of life, be it food or work or self. At least that’s what I’d like to think!

Oh, and I’m dying for Spring.

That is all!

The Power of Words. The Art of Class.

I honestly don’t know why I don’t read more often. I loved reading when I was a child. My library card was a prized possession of mine growing up. I got a thrill from using the self-checkout where I could slide the spine of the book across the block all by myself. I would gather books from the library and proceed to spend an entire day and night consuming the written words. A flashlight was a staple by my bed, enabling me to read under the covers until I was too tired to keep my eyes from jumping lines and I was always getting my hands on something too advanced for me. I would spend hours struggling page by page until a vague plot could rise up from the coded style of writing or plethora of large words in front of me.

Side note: An interesting challenge would be to re-read the Jane Austen novels or political/social novels such as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair that I read as a child to pick up on all of the intricacies of language that I missed in my younger days. Perhaps a future project…

I don’t know why I hadn’t been reading more often, so I started. At this time, I’m currently in the middle of two books, just finished one today, and have at least one more ready to start when I can finish off another. If you’re a steady reader here, you already know that I’m currently reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and Classy: Exceptional Advice for the Extremely Modern Lady by Derek Blasberg. Admittedly, there’s no reason not to have these two books finished by now but it will happen in time. I finished How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World by Jordan Christy today and have The Me I Want To Be by John Ortberg, which my mother recommended to me, on deck. Yes, it seems that I have established a pattern for myself. The books could be categorized as self-help or improvement reads, but not in the typical, depressing, the-world-is-over-and-I-need-someone-to-talk-me-through-it sort of way. Quite frankly, I think more of us should put some of the positive improvement reads in our arsenal. I can’t say that men would enjoy those that I’ve listed above, but I definitely encourage my female friends to leaf through a few. They’re good markers of where we are and where we ought to be as women or people, really.

How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World discusses many attributes of a woman of class that I’ve already fallen in love with, but struck me with a sad note that we really need to be doing more to instill these attributes in ourselves not only for our own lives but for the lives of those whom we influence, mentor, or parent. Thinking of the next generation lends an awareness to our actions which can help keep us in check when we feel compelled to throw caution to the wind and embrace a celebrity-type night out or engage in the latest gossip ring about one of our fringe-friends. I know that I find myself in these situations more than I would like to admit and have still not mastered the art of gracefully bowing out.

When I first picked up Blasberg’s Classy, I wrote about the timeless attributes of a classy woman without really mentioning any specifically. Well… Grace, I believe,  is one of the most identifiable traits of a woman with class. It enables a woman to tackle a difficult conversation, exit, or faux paus while simultaneously leaving people relatively good-natured about the ordeal. It’s also an area in which I have been found lacking in the past. My acquaintances from high school (and a great deal of college) would probably describe me as outspoken, confrontational, etc. I have gotten in people’s faces over trivial things or run my mouth over things that, while true, would’ve been better left unsaid. At the time, I believed that being right about something trumped the need to be discrete about it. Geesh. Although I suppose that’s not to say that I’m not still lacking, because that certainly isn’t the case. In fact, just this past weekend I let my frustration over something manifest in a very obvious harshness of tone which squashed the mood between a friend and me – but hopefully these occasions are now exhibited in a lesser degree (and frequency) than in the past (and with faster recovery). What can I say? I’m a work in progress. But I am progressing. Slowly but surely.

I suppose it can be summarized thusly: Class really is an art form requiring diligence and active pursuit in our every day lives. Better yet, Jordan Christy states that “class is not defined by our circumstances–it’s our reaction to those circumstances that defines who we are.”

Noted, Ms. Christy. Noted.