Posts tagged contentment

This is not farewell

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I recently spent an evening listening to a 90-year-old woman talk. If you’ve never listened to a 90-year-old person talk about his or her life, you really should. Our conversation gave me a lot to think about.

Aunt Susie told me about her life; about her decision to marry a widower with 13-month-old twins instead of pursuing her own dreams, about raising 8 children while working in a nursing home to make ends meet, all the while taking care of a child who was in and out of the hospital. She told me of the pain of losing that son at the age of 18 after 13 years of illness. “I still miss that boy,” she would say. She has buried two husbands. She has housed and nurtured foreign students, been the live-in companion to the developmentally challenged, and adopted the 30 descendants of her deceased sister, in addition to her own large extended family.

Now in her 90’s, she starts her day by praying for each family member by name. There are over 200 people on her list, so this takes a while. People will approach her with personal needs and she prays for them. She calls one friend on a daily basis to pray with her over the phone. Aunt Susie has no idea how her friend’s problem can be solved, but this doesn’t stop her from praying for her. She’s confident that God knows the answer.

She journals. She writes down the minutiae of life: the phone calls she made, what she had for breakfast, which appointment she had at 10:00am. It keeps her mind sharp. I wonder what she would think if I told her that people are doing this on something called the internet for the whole world to see. She would probably think me insane.

She also journals about sermons she’s heard. Helps the teaching to sink in, she says. One would think that someone who spends that kind of time praying and reading her Bible would have no use for the sermons of people 30 to 50 years her junior, but she does.

And finally, Aunt Susie makes cards. Personalized birthday cards for the people in her life, complete with dried flowers arranged on the front and a verse or poem chosen just for them. Sometimes she makes up to six cards a day. She probably uses more stamps in a month than I have in the entire last decade.

Aunt Susie spends her time serving, praying, and counting her blessings. She is blissfully unaware of reality TV, which movies are now playing, what Lady Gaga tweeted about today, or who has posted new photos on facebook. She never has to check her e-mail, pay a cell phone bill, or install a firewall on her computer. What matters in her life are relationships with people and her Lord. That’s it. And I envy her for it.

Having said that, I already hear the rebuttals: “She’s 90 and living in a retirement home where all her needs are met. You’re 32, caring for a young family, networking with people, paying a mortgage, saving for retirement and your kids’ education, and trying to keep your ear to the ground so as not to appear totally stupid in a conversation.”

I get that. And still I envy the simplicity of her life. I envy the peace that emanates from her well-organized mind. I envy the discipline she has developed in her formative years and maintained in her later years. I envy the quiet of her inner being, the attitude of rest in her manner. Her contentment with her situation. The total absence of striving after meaningless things. I cannot help but compare her simple life to the social networking noise, the frenzied pace of technology, the worship of the environment, and the pressure to do it all because you are Woman!

So for this reason (and because it’s gardening season) I have decided to take a hiatus from blogging and unnecessary use of technology. This does not mean I will not return to this place to write down my thoughts in the future. This blog will still exist. But I have decided not to care about how many people follow my blog, or whether they care about what I care about. I have decided that, for now, I’d rather invest my time in training my children and being with my family than writing about it. I’d rather be in my garden than sitting in front of my computer writing about it. I have decided to invest my precious time in the relationships that are right in front of my nose instead of bowing to the pressure to “follow other blogs so that someone will follow yours.” This is the reason I left the juvenile medium known as Twitter, why I can’t be bothered to post statuses on facebook, and why I leave the computer off on evenings and weekends. As far as I’m concerned, this metal box full of chips and wires gobbles up too much time that could be spent doing other useful things – like riding my bike to visit a friend.

To be clear, I am not bringing my laptop to the curb. I rely on it for everything from banking to e-mail communication to running my piano teaching business. With the change of season, however, I am once again putting it in its proper place of servitude, and elevating relationships and real-world, tangible, sensory-stimulating things and activities to their rightful place of importance in my life.

The very first blog post I ever wrote began like this: Technology and I have come to a tenuous agreement: though I hate it and it hates me, neither of us are going away, and so here we are, coexisting in a space called Debbiesblog. (Now creationcarekids) As any shrink will tell you, a relationship where both parties are seeking their own advantage is doomed to failure, and so it is when I attempt to coexist with technology. My dear readers, do not let this temporary separation distress you, however. This is not good-bye, but merely see you later…

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The Fat of the Land

Thus says the Lord:

 “Beware lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; lest when you have

 eaten your giant, saturated portions of beef and rich desserts and are over-stuffed,

and have built your 2500 sq. foot home with 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, an interlocking brick driveway and natural gas hook-up for summer barbeques,

and when your stocks grow and your investments multiply and your house appreciates and all that you have multiplies,

then your heart becomes proud, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of bondage and poverty.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14…sort of).

This is how Deuteronomy 8 sounded to me when I read it this morning. How should I describe it? Convicting? A kick in the pants? A wake-up call? Yeah, something like that.

I’m 31 years old, with a husband, 3 kids, a minivan, and a mortgage on a house in suburbia. We started out 10 years ago in a dingy apartment with Astroturf carpets, colourful neighbours, and an over-zealous heating system. Like most other people we know, we slowly “moved up” in the world. After a year or two we rented a better place, which we left once we purchased our first home. We had a baby, and other factors became important: being closer to church and family. So we sold our starter home and moved into a home in a nicer neighbourhood, close to our church and family, and of course, good schools. We now occupied a home that gave our family of 3 the unofficial minimum of 300 square feet of living space per person. We also had great neighbours, great curb-appeal, and two Toyotas in the driveway. Finally, we had arrived.

Two more kids and a few years later, there’s a problem. We’re now at only 200 square feet per person, and the Toyotas are getting old and rusty. Somehow, it doesn’t feel like “we have arrived” anymore. Common sense tells us that we need to consider another move to make room for the growing family. A 1000-square foot bungalow simply will not accommodate three boys and their parents for the next 20 years.

I have yet to meet anyone who would argue that point with me. In a society where personal comfort is one of our highest values (especially where children are concerned) it is assumed that any effort put forth to secure those comforts is justified. The thought of subjecting two or three children to sharing a bedroom for years just rubs most people the wrong way. After all, how can a child flourish if they are not given the best possible… everything?

For many of our grandparents (and perhaps even parents) going without was a fact of life. Christmas presents included hand-knit socks, oranges, and perhaps one toy. Children of long-ago could not have conceived of the gifts that have now become standard Christmas fare: video game consoles, televisions and high-priced electronic toys. The families that occupied the homes in our neighbourhood back when they were new had an average of 3 or 4 children where today’s families have one or two. Somehow, despite having to share rooms and crowd around a kitchen table, these children grew up to become hard-working, productive members of society.

I recently saw a Real Estate listing for a “family home” where we knew the owner. A business owner, he had built this 6000 square foot mansion for his family of six, not sparing any expense. It seems a looming bankruptcy had forced the sale of the ultra-luxurious house that was supposed to be the fulfillment of every desire these people could have conceived of. If I’m honest though, I suffer from the same ailment this ambitious business owner does: it’s just never enough. If money and comfort are the goal, we wander perpetually, yet never arrive.

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