Cut From the Same Cloth

 

I don’t know if it is just how my brain works, but I am constantly seeing the connections between seemingly unrelated things.  Perhaps that is one way that God is helping me to process my issues on a deeper level.  Perhaps it is just the teacher in me, looking to find ways to promote critical thinking.

In either case, here are my top ten reasons for believing that over-spending and over-eating are cut from the same cloth.

  1. I  have to eat and I have to spend money.  Clearly, there are significant variations and proportions but my life requires both actions for survival.   So, unlike other addictions or issues, total “cold-turkey” avoidance is an impossibility.  I do have to confront both things daily.

 

  1. Healthy eaters and spenders have plans and they stick to them.  (I prefer to call them plans as opposed to diets or budgets so that they sound less punitive.)

 

  1. When I overdo it, I feel guilty, truly guilty.  It is not the elusive false guilt where there is a looming sense of doing something wrong; rather, I can pin point a specific action that is contrary to what is right and I have to acknowledge that fact before I can move on.  I guess this is essentially, the way over-eaters and over-spenders “fall off the wagon”.

 

  1. Both involve numbers but aren’t really about them.  It’s not what the scale or the      MasterCard bill says that is the problem; the issue is what they reveal about my unhealthy choices and patterns.  In that sense, focusing on the numbers is not a complete solution (they are merely a way of tangibly measuring change).

 

  1. Both over-indulgences bring short term pleasure but long term pain (classic theology about sin).  Unhealthy bodies and unhealthy finances will lead to all kinds of difficulties:  stress, physical ailments, discouragement, relational strife, loss of freedoms, and umpteen other consequences.

 

  1. If I  make poor choices, I will eventually lose my freedom to choose.  At some point, I have to face the reality of what has been overdone and when that happens (my health is compromised, I am drowning in debt) I no longer have a choice about my own      eating and spending; essentially, the doctor or the bank decides for me.

 

  1. Both are challenges in determining wants and needs and there are no clear cut      definitions for these terms.  Perhaps I can rule out the glaringly obvious poor choices (eating a  whole bag of Lays dill pickle chips by myself), but most consumption and      spending choices cannot be deemed distinctly right or wrong.  I am trying to see my choices within a healthy and principled framework where there are parameters and logical reasons for each choice.  As a side note, comparing myself to others when it comes to eating or spending is a slippery slope.  It is one thing to solicit advice and helpful strategies but I must work through my own set of principles and avoid      measuring my success according to someone else’s convictions (see 1 Corinthians 10:23*).   

 

  1. Retail Therapy and Comfort Food are idols: inadequate substitutes for the only thing that really satisfies.  They are both temporary escapes from deeper struggles that are only suppressed for the moment. They are distractions at best and they will never lose their power over me unless the root causes are addressed.

 

  1. Lack of contentment is often the motivation behind patterns of over-indulgence.  The concept of  “enough” is elusive, especially in this part of the world.  My behaviour often promotes the myth that more is better.  I am learning that less is more, if I want a truly fulfilling life.

 

  1. Both issues cannot be tackled with willpower alone.  They are spiritual problems and they require supernatural solutions.  Frequently soliciting God’s help through prayer and the support of other journeyers is the only hope for establishing long term change.

 

In what ways do you see similarities between these issues?

 

*1 Corinthians 10:23 (MSG)

Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.

 

#40×40

On March 1, 1976, Kiss released their single Shout it out Loud while The Four Seasons topped the billboard charts with their catchy tune, What a Night.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Clearly both hits were proclaiming my arrival to the planet.

Readers, this bit of trivia means that I turn 39 and enter my 40th year of this blessed life, tomorrow.  I realize that this shocking news to most of you since I don’t look a day over 38 but, it’s true: the big 4-0 is only 12 short months away.

In order to approach this milestone birthday with the right a better frame of mind, I’m deciding to go with “personal project” rather than “pity party”. I think that embracing this looming date as the impetus for some needed changes sets a tone of anticipation rather than dread.   I’m preparing to enter the second half of my life with increased strength, clarity and focus and am setting some goals to help move me in that direction.  (As an aside, for inspiration about living #clearbraveandstrong follow Cathie’s blog here.)

My #40×40 goals:

1. #Publish40: Publish 40 blog posts by my 40th birthday.  I find that I begin many posts and then get distracted and never quite get around to hitting that daunting “publish” button.  This is my year to go public and form a better habit for my writing by floating at least 40 ideas into cyberspace.

2. #Lose40: Lose 40 pounds by my 40th birthday.  I have always struggled with over-indulgence and have written about it before.  I have set goals and failed (207 is still a sad reality) but I’m choosing to set a new goal and not give up.  Hitting 40 as a healthier and stronger person is a POSSIBLE and hopeful prospect.

3. #Thank40: Offer specific and personal thanks to 40 people by my 40th birthday. There are certainly more than 40, but I feel the need to acknowledge at least 40 who have significantly impacted me on my journey so far with a sincere word or token of appreciation.

4. #Read40: Identify the titles on my Essential 40 Bookshelf by my 40th birthday.  I have read many books – far more than 40 – but reflecting and narrowing the list down to the 40 that have changed me profoundly over my lifetime is an inspiring endeavour for a book nerd like me.

5. #Live40: Add 10 points to my 30 for Sanity Manifesto to create my #40×40 Manifesto. I have realized the motivational power of setting a vision for my life and I want to continue to live according to my 40 intentions.  Because, as Annie Dillard explains, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

So, there you have it, folks:  5 goals to motivate me in my 40th year.

Do I have any teammates for this #40×40 plan?  Cheerleaders?

Comment below with your advice or experience related to turning 40.  How did/will you approach this milestone birthday? 

Just for fun, a few trivia highlights from 1976:   Apple Computer was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak,  Happy Days was the most popular TV show, Rocky took home the Oscar for best film, and the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

Lessons from the Lake

As we wrap up another summer of freckles, sandy toes, and ice cream cones what wisdom can we take with us from our lazy days of reflection by the lake? Here are a few lessons that we learned (or remembered) this year at the cottage:

  1.  Less is more.  If we can fit 6 people and all that we need to live for 3 weeks into a mini van we must have too much stuff at home.  All the fussing about with our wardrobes and our decorations and our kitchen gadgets and, yes, even our bookshelves can be a distraction from the things that matter most (which are actually not things at all).  Living simply allows us to be fully being present in the moments of our lives.  Consider the true cost of the stuff you bring into your homes in terms of the time and energy it will sap from other worthy endeavours.
  2. Water IS therapeutic.  It turns out that the inner calm you derive from the sound of crashing waves on the shoreline physiologically and psychologically relieves your stress.  We are more at rest when water surrounds us with its healing powers. Water also reminds us of the living water that is promised through Christ in Scripture and this elemental connection is no coincidence. As Canadians, we are blessed with beautiful waterscape that we shouldn’t take for granted as we cultivate #bluemind.
  3. You are doing too much laundry.  Although this may also be a positive byproduct of the limited options of a simple wardrobe (see #1), we manage to do very little laundry with limited cottage facilities and somehow we still have clean clothes. I don’t know about your kids but mine have thought on occasion that cleaning up their room meant putting every article of clothing that was on the floor into the laundry basket.  In response to this sweeping and unnecessary overload of the laundry basket we instituted a new rule: unless something is stinky or stained it can be worn again.  (Underwear and socks are, of course, always laundered – without inspecting stink or stains!) At the cottage, this rule is diligently followed; at home, it is a work-in-progress.
  4. Wasting time is not a waste of time.  My daughter recently purchased a shirt that reads, “I waste my time wisely” – isn’t that a great slogan?   An extended sabbatical is a wonderful respite from the daily grind but we can’t always wait for a vacation to take a rest.  Coming home to a Sabbath-rhythm is essential. Just be sure to waste your time wisely by filling it with the things that rejuvenate your soul.
  5. Boredom fuels creativity.  When my kids use the b-word I remind them that I am not their entertainment director and that boredom is a gift for their imaginations. I can’t remember the last time I was truly bored but I long for boredom because it is in those moments where we pause to be still that we open ourselves up to new burst of creativity.  At the cottage, songs were composed and stories were written as the kids mined the beauty from the boredom. Just today my “bored” kids decided to set up a comic book studio, assigning appropriate roles to all siblings based on age and natural talent.  I would not have come up with that idea as entertainment director, I assure you, and if I had rushed in with another suggestion, they would have missed out. And this is not just about children; each of us needs a chance to be bored in order to fuel our creative genius.
  6. Art is imitation.  When an artist attempts to capture the beauty of a landscape s/he is first inspired by the Creator’s canvas.  Even the photos I took at the lake did not begin to capture the grandeur of the vibrant double rainbow or the vast starry sky – the scenes that took my breath away.  Beauty and wonder surround us, no matter where we are. Look for it. Revel in it. And let even the most creative imitations remind you of the original artist.
  7. Even rainy days are full of joy.  The sound of rain on the rooftop or droplets dripping from heavy-laden leaves are further examples of #bluemind. But beyond that, on rainy days, or snow days, or any other days that the weather drives us indoors we have a valid excuse to stay in, to stay put, and to readjust our agendas.  These days permit freedom from the pressure to “get out there” and provide opportunities to “get in there”.  Instead of seeing inclement weather as a spoiler of great plans, choose to see it as an unexpected opportunity for a different kind of day, one that can be full of the joys of reading and reflection.
  8. There is a song in the stillness.  There is so much noise around and within us every day that we can’t enter into the quiet with much ease at all.  On those rare occasions that we manage to hush the noise we’ll find that there are still sounds in the silence.  A bird’s song, rustling grasses, and lapping waves -natural music that is muted by the usual cacophony – are rediscovered when our ears are tuned in.  Life is so much richer when we rediscover the still small voice in the wind and can finally hear it again.
  9. A different view offers a different perspective.  When we take ourselves away from the things that we typically look at we begin to see our circumstances in a new light.  There is something real and honest in our need to get away to regain perspective; a different visual space will promote a different mental space. Frequent breaks from our usual surroundings will freshen our outlook and help us to see things anew.
  10. Families who play together stay together.  My favourite moment in our entire vacation was the spontaneous outburst of the Covey a cappella rendition of Celebration – complete with back-up vocals and multiple harmonies. Though our Dutch Blitz game was temporarily interrupted by this flash mob, a fun-loving spirit that we had been searching to reclaim was revived by its energy.  The fam jam on the porch overlooking the lake fostered the same closeness; banjos, guitars, vocals and a stack of chord sheets will set the stage for memories that last a lifetime.  Play – games, music, sports – together and you’ll strengthen the ties that bind.
  11. Rent is not a four-letter word.  Too often we (in North American Society) see rental options as “throwing our money away”.  We choose to rent our cottage and many people have questioned us in this decision; yet, it makes all the sense in the world to us.  It functions like an all-expenses-paid family vacation:  we budget a set amount and show up to relax and enjoy it. When you own a property you cannot get away from the obligations to furnish, maintain and fix. We go away to get away from all those obligations at home.  Why would we want to double our to-do list at a time in our lives when keeping one lawn cut is a challenge? Rental options can provide a wonderful level of freedom that ownership does not.  Besides, even the things we think we own are only borrowed for a time; they’ll all go back in the box.
  12. Second breakfast is as important as first breakfast.  Experts have always encouraged us to eat a healthy breakfast to start your day properly.  But we really don’t hear enough about second breakfast.  At the cottage, the day really doesn’t start with much activity until after second breakfast and this seems like a habit worth bringing home. Another expert on living well, J.R.R. Tolkien, put it this way:  “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

How did your adventures teach you about life this summer?  What did you learn (or remember) that you want to apply at home?