Archive for January, 2010

31st January
written by Michelle

Henri Nouwen is one of my heroes. His perspective on people, faith and life is inspiring. However, I often find myself experiencing this internal tension when I read something that he wrote- first there is pure amazement at the eloquence and honesty of his words, but then envy creeps in and I immediately become jealous and wonder why I can’t write like that? This is not one of my finer qualities.

So with that disclaimer, read this because he says it far better than I can or ever will:

“At first sight, joy seems to be connected with being different. When you receive a compliment or win an award, you experience the joy of not being the same as others. You are faster, smarter, more beautiful, and it is that difference that brings you joy. But such joy is very temporary. True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler.”

I find it humbling that in so many areas of my life I strive to be different. I think we all do. We all want to be unique or set apart. We want our writing style or our blog or our fashion sense to be set-apart and special. I like it when my friends compliment me on something that I’ve made or praise me for some random fact that I’ve shared simply because it was different or unique. It feeds some part of me that seeks to be known and viewed as one-of-a-kind. But in reality, I think Henri is right- these compliments and shorts boosts of self-esteem for not being different from other people only brings temporary joy.

And who wants temporary, or fleeting joy, right?
What I long for in life is real joy.

Perhaps this joy comes from admitting to each other and ourselves that we are all really the same?

We come as broken and fragile beings, who actually need each other. Maybe we should stop striving to be different and instead try acknowledging that there is joy in being the same.

Quote Credit (and basically all thoughts and inspiration goes to): Mr. Henri Nouwen.

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13th January
written by Michelle

Lesly is a friend of mine from Westmont and a fellow blogger, who creatively started writing these “I believe” posts. Her writing is marked by a sincerity that captures both the simple and complex moments of life. You can read more of her blog here.

So, in the spirit of capturing the simple and complex moments of life, here is what I believe-

i believe remembering peoples’ name is important and that’s it’s ok not to finish every book you start. i believe in farmers markets, reading the newspaper and reusing tea bags. i believe washing my hair is overrated. there is nothing wrong with honking. and people would be happier if we hugged each other more often. i believe writing is healing and car naps are essential. i believe in post-it notes and not putting syrup on my pancakes. i believe in a God that can handle my questions, even when I am too afraid to ask them. i believe war is not the answer. i believe “I’m sorry” and “I love you” go hand-in-hand. I believe good-byes are important and that the little things matter. i believe in leftovers, teenagers, and creativity. i believe eating outside makes food taste better. i believe in not always following the rules. i believe fabreezing and washing are almost interchangeable. dark chocolate makes everything better. and grace and generosity cover a multitude of sins. i believe in still using old fashioned maps. i believe teaching makes me a more patient person. i believe in good jokes, beach days and campfires. i believe in listening to what kids say. i believe saying yes, means saying no to something else. and i believe that sometimes not being in control, is a very good place to be.

what do you believe?

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7th January
written by Michelle

According to my reliable sources at Real Simple most people give up or simply forget about their new years resolutions by February 17th. Well, it’s January 6th and I am happy to report that I have kept my one, yes, just one, new years resolution:

I will floss my teeth everyday.

You would think as a fairly responsible, healthy adult I would naturally floss everyday, but truth be told- I don’t. And it gets worse. I am also am one of those people who causally lies to my dentist every 6 months or so. (oh, just confess, I know there are others out there who do it, too!)

“Are you flossing every day? uh-huh. I mumble, nodding my head to convince him, just as much as myself.

Because new years resolutions often dissolve into new years ideals that seem to either get forgotten or broken by the 3rd week of February I’ve decided that my new years resolutions should be 1) simple and 2) shared. Cassie, a friend of mine who has this way of bring simplicity and joy to just about everything in life, told me that she only has one resolution each year-just one thing, however small or practical. One year she decided to stop biting her nails and for a whole year that was her goal.

I was inspired by the “just one” rule because so often I tend to over do it. I tend to create unrealistically long lists of every hope and goal imaginable for the coming year. Now there is nothing wrong with dreaming big dreams and writing out hopes for the year ahead- I still do it, but my lists are too long and far too personal to publish on the public-sphere of the blog world. Nonetheless, there is something significant about having a very tangible, measurable new years resolution, however small or practical it may be.

Last year my one resolution was to not use a plastic grocery bag for the whole year.

And thanks to my handy-dandy, reusable chico bag that was compacted and stuffed into in my purse, I did pretty a good job keeping this one. And now we will all breathe a little less CO2. Thankyouverymuch. I plan to keep this one up, only because every little thing helps. And I am convinced that a world with less plastic bags will be a much better world.

So, dear twenty-ten, this year I will floss my teeth everyday.

Please ask me about it. And remind me that although the world may not be a better place because of my diligent flossing, I am convinced that my gums and teeth and my future children will thank me for it. And if nothing else, I will not have to lie to my dentist anymore.

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2nd January
written by Michelle

Last night I celebrated the end of 2009 with my two, wonderful sisters, all dressed up and out for a night on the town. So it seems quite appropriate that I welcomed the beginning of 2010 with a lazy morning in my uggs, all curled up on the couch with absolutely no plans for the afternoon.

I am convinced that one of the reasons this time of year with all of its’ fancy festivities and holiday traditions is so hard for many people is because it comes with a lot of expectations.

Sometimes there are expectations that I call the “keep it the way it is” expectation. These are the desires to keep things the way they are simply because this is the way it’s always been. These are the people who hang on to the tradition and the routine just because. It’s seems a bit ironic, but expecting things to stay the same, the way they’ve always been, is still an expectation.

And then there are the other kind of expectations, the kind that hope and imagine what it could be like it if only…(fill in the blank). I call these the “wouldn’t-it-be-great-if-it-could-be-like-this” kind of expectations. These are the people (ahem, yes me) who constantly are on the lookout for how to make things better or improved. These are the expectations that long for something new, something different.

But regardless of which camp you fall in, the reality is when there are expectations, there are also disappointments. Expectations lock you into a stand still and don’t leave much space for change or flexibility or…surprises.

I have been thinking a lot about expectations lately. I have always been one of those people that holds high expectations for myself, my job, my family and basically, for everything else in life. But often these expectations leave me just a tad bit disappointed and discouraged because nothing seems to quite measures up to my expectations, even myself. I honestly think sometimes it’s easier to go through life without having any expectations— and then anything that happens is better than you expected!

But I know it’s not quite that simple. At least not for me.

A friend of mine gave me this passage a few weeks ago. It’s an excerpt from Helen Cepero’s book Journaling as a Spiritual Practice. She describes the tension and limitations with expectations far better than I can:

“Understanding the difference between hope and expectation is critical if we are to allow our future to be shaped by God. Hope longs for good but is able to be flexible about how that good might appear. Expectation grasps at solutions and becomes easily attached to outcomes. When we are hopeful, our imagination and creativity flourish. But when we are locked into expectations, it is easy to turn our pictures of the possible future into an idol.”

“Expectations assume that everything will turn out as predicted…but sometimes our expectations must die in order for us to live in hope. When our expectations are dashed our prayer then needs to look toward the God who is not only with us but also is in front of us, forming a future that we cannot yet imagine happening out of our own effort”

I have started to ponder what expectations in my own life need to die in order for me to live in hope. It’s a humbling process, but one that I want to embark on during 2010.

This is my prayer for the year:

Lord, in my pride and insecurity I often take matters into my own hands. I try to create and build my future by my own effort, littered with my own expectations. I can become so attached to specific outcomes that I miss your mysterious presence walking with me in the process. I want my expectations to die, so I can live in hope.

May you too live in hope during the coming year.

Happy New Year!

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