Related to my previous post about culture shock and readjustment, I’ve written down a few things I’ve thought about throughout our trip that I’d like to change in my life, especially once home. It helps to share because, maybe it will encourage or inspire others, you’ll find others to talk to it about, and, they can hold you accountable. I’m sure Tyler has his only list that maybe he’ll share with some of you one day as well. I also have a list of recipes to make at home someday, which I’m sure you all will find much easier to hold me accountable to.
A lot of times life is so different at home than from when you were traveling, or wherever you were, that it’s easy to just separate the two, letting “what happened in Vegas stay in Vegas” and losing all those little treasures you’ve built up in your journey. Christians talk about returning home from the mission trip or field as being the most challenging, the time when the Enemy is most likely trying to attack, and the usual approach is by allowing you to get caught up in your old life, thinking it’s too difficult to process what you’ve went through, that you have no one to share your experiences with, and so you slowly forget what you experienced and let go of how you’ve changed. In order to try to prevent that, I’m going to build this little landmark, or altar if you will, of what I’ve been thinking throughout the last year, and how God has been faithful to us.
1. Do the things you don’t want to do now and you’ll feel better in the long-run. It’s a simple lesson I feel most people learn early in life: you don’t want to do laundry but you should, and once those clothes are folded and put away, you feel a certain sense of relief and accomplishment. You don’t want to go to the gym but you feel better afterwards, especially after months of going start to show results. I tend to put these things off as long as possible, spending that time complaining and wishing they were done, as if I could do nothing about it. Stressed that I needed to wash my car, instead of just washing it. Stressed that I was running late to work, instead of just getting up when my alarm went off instead of hitting snooze three times. Annoyed at the pile of papers I need to file or recycle, or the things I need to put away, instead of just turning on some music and getting things done. Depressed that an entire Saturday passed by and I did nothing but watch TV, depressed that I missed church three weeks in a row because I was “too tired” to get up on time, when I could JUST DO IT (thanks Nike).
I do this a lot, and I’m trying to change it in all aspects of my life, but especially beginning with my morning routine. I’m certainly not a morning person; I sleep in until the last possible minute, eat breakfast in my car, if at all, and only spend about 20 minutes getting myself ready for the day. This is disrespectful to myself and insufficient. When I get up earlier, my day has a more peaceful start and I feel more centered and balanced all day, especially if it includes breakfast, coffee, and some reading. The problem is, I’m always tired, always. But, what I always forget is that I’m not any more tired by getting up a little earlier. In fact, being tired is a fact of life I frankly need to get over already. I get enough sleep, that’s not why I’m tired, so why not treat myself to a longer morning that will make my whole day more enjoyable? It’s not what I want the moment my alarm is going off, but it’s better in the long-run.
Related, since I’m not a morning person, I’m not about to get up at 6 a.m. right now. I am, however, trying to get up before noon each day, which you may laugh at, but is actually quite difficult for me, someone who struggles with depression, and frankly, is only getting up to sit on my computer and look for work most days (a struggle for motivation). So, I’m focusing in setting an alarm 8-9 hours from when I go to bed, and getting up when it goes off. I’m trying not to stay up ridiculously late so I can get up at a reasonable hour. What’s important, however, is that I don’t just get up and sit around in my pajamas all day, brushing my teeth at 5 p.m. and never really “getting ready” for the day. I need to get up, wash, brush my teeth, make myself look presentable, get fully dressed, eat breakfast, and then do whatever I have to do on the computer that day. This may sound incredibly simple and self-evident to everyone else, but it’s a daily struggle for me and something I really hope I can change, especially now that I can sort of ease into it now during this transition time, making it less difficult when we have jobs. So far, some days have certainly been better than others, but I’ve certainly made progress.
2. Giving when the giving gets tough. It can be hard to be generous when you’re traveling: you’re on a tight budget; you want to bargain so you don’t feel taken advantage of, and frankly, it’s easy to become self-centered. We wrestled with this a lot while traveling – wanting to tip less or haggle more to save money, but ultimately one dollar to us means a lot more to someone in Bolivia, so it’s not worth the added stress or the effort. What we were reminded of abroad was to give, and give freely. What matters at home is how to be generous when it’s tempting to save every penny you have, because you don’t have very many and you’re almost surely going to need all of them before you find a job. Well, this isn’t how the Bible teaches us to life our life. So, we’re trying to continue giving – supporting friends, supporting churches, missionaries, whatever, because we’re meant to give out of generosity, not obligation. And we’re meant to give even when we have very little, trusting that God will provide for us. This might mean that even though we give we’ll end up homeless (doubtful) but it’s all part of God’s plan for us, however unpleasant it might be, and we’re meant to learn from every situation. So while we’re trying to be prudent and make wise decisions, we’re also trying to give freely and live with a happy heart, because, like they say, mo’ money, mo’ problems. So with each penny we give away, we’re also giving away the stress it brings with it, and the opportunity for God to show his faithfulness to us.
3. Slow down, take pleasure in the moment, stay focused, and seek balance. I mentioned this is in my previous post, but I would like to continue living my life feeling balanced, and centered. I like to be busy, and I like to do a lot of things, and that’s all fine, as long as I can do each one in turn, fully absorbing and enjoying the moment I’m in. I also need to do these and remember to take care of myself, and I’m not talking spa days here, but simple tasks like taking even minimal care of nails, skin, and teeth, keeping my room clean and listening to music (which is something I often neglect even though it’s so important to me – see #4!).
We heard a sermon our first weekend back where the priest challenged us to try doing just one thing a day. It sounds simply, but think about it: we read while drinking coffee and listening to music. We eat and watch TV. We talk about something while our thoughts are a million miles away. I laughed and said,’ I already did that! I just drank my cup of coffee this morning and looked out the window, doing nothing else.’ It was true, and I did it without thinking, and I hope I can continue to live my life that way, enjoying the small moments and keeping an eye on the big picture, without getting too caught up in it all, and remembering what matters most.
4. It takes effort to do the things you love. This is something I actually learned in the year or so before we left for South America, but I still want to share it and keep doing it. In high school, I loved the outdoors: I loved camping and snowboarding and backpacking and going to the beach. I let those things slide in college and the years afterward, filling my time with school and work. I found myself years later overweight watching What Not to Wear marathons on sunny Saturday afternoons, depressed about “not doing anything.” I was shaken awake when by chance a co-worker invited me to go on a backpacking trip to the Enchantment Lakes in the Northern Cascades of Washington, known as the most beautiful area of the state. The 3-day trip was stunningly beautiful, but it was also shocking how bad I was at what I claimed to love. I wasn’t in proper condition, I didn’t have the proper gear or knowledge, or even experience. I realized I had let something I really loved doing fade away, and fought to get it back, spending a year going to the gym regularly, finding hiking partners and books, joining the Seattle Mountaineers, learning to rock climb, continuing to pursue rock climbing in Argentina, and hiking and backpacking all over South America. I’m trying to continue that here in Oregon, hence the recent hikes and kayak trip, trying to build mental and physical endurance by jogging the SE Salem hills every other day, and I’m planning on climbing South Sister in September, joining the Portland Mazama’s, and continuing to enjoy and love the beautiful countryside around me.
What’s important is the realization that the things I love don’t just happen…”you gotta make it happen…” as Oasis would say. It takes effort, and sacrifice and planning. It takes getting up at 6 a.m. when I don’t want to, knowing I won’t regret it for a second when I’m standing between two glaciers on Mt. Hood on a beautiful sunny day. To do these things I have to train, and I have to practice, I have to pursue friends and organizations with similar interests, and I have to stay committed and persevere. The same goes for my love of Spanish: I’ve got to keep getting out there to conversation groups, get to Powells to buy books in Spanish, and apply for jobs where I can use my skills. It takes effort, but it’s worth it because I find enjoyment in these things.
5. Live Simply. Related to my post about consumerism and materialism, I’m going to continue to try to focus on what’s important (people, not things). I’m going to continue to try to find joy in cooking meals that take time to prepare, as well as ones that I throw together quickly at the last minute. Instead of complaining about washing the dishes by hand if we don’t have a dishwasher, I’m going to try to remember it’s a common, everyday reality for most of the world. Instead of envying the newest gadget or gizmo, I’m going to try to be satisfied in what I already have. I’ll try to recycle and creatively re-purpose things, and make environmentally supportive choices, like buying local, organic produce when I can afford to, and walking instead of driving. I’m going to keep finding joy in making things from scratch, whether it’s bread, jam, cookies, cakes, beer, or even soap. I’m going to keep getting excited about the small things, like seeing hummingbirds outside or a serve yourself local honey stand or a ‘free land for brew-pub’ sign. I’m going to try to remember that even if things don’t look the best, if they’re functional, they’re fine. I’m going to try to keep the TV gone, watching only shows and movies that I actually like, and find funny, witty, informative, or moving, and I’m going to try to keep reading more. Instead of turning to the usual suspects for comfort or zoning out (hulu, TV) I’ll turn to God, and to more productive things (exercise, writing, reading, contemplation). In short, I’m going to keep trying to learn to be content, in the midst of this world that always seems to want to make us the opposite.
6. Stop worrying, and have more faith: relax and enjoy! It’s hard for anyone not to worry these days, and that’s a theme a lot of people have been talking about lately: transition, and change. I tend to over-think things a lot. Recently I pulled up an entry I never posted about Spiritual ADD. Without getting into details, I talked about how I (and many others in my generation) have a lot of interests and I’m sort of, all over the place, making lots of short-term commitments to different “things.” While the need for commitment is real, I also, frankly, fret too much over the whole subject. Sure, I’ve traveled around a lot, I’ve been involved in a lot of different issues, I have doubts about the choices we’ve made, but I’ve also got to have faith that “in all things God works for the good of those that love him” (Romans 8:28) and that God has a plan for mine, and Tyler’s lives (Jeremiah 29:11). We may not always make the best decisions, but God’s strength is shown through our weaknesses nonetheless (2 Corinthians 12:9). I had to memorize these and 48 other key Bible verses way back when at a whacky, conservative, southern Christian missions camp in the Florida swamplands, and looky-here, they’re still verses I turn to today, because since I was forced to memorize them, well, they come to me, even if haven’t read the Bible in ages. And even though this point was brought up in a sermon this past Sunday, by a guest preacher I immediately disliked, holy-hell it’s still true, and God can even speak through people you dislike! There’s a testimony of God’s faithfulness right there, and I would have missed it if I put off writing this blog. God is faithful to us all the time, speaking to us and leading us all the time, if we only try to listen and look more often.
So, in the meantime, I could have a lot I could worry about (and believe me, sometimes I do, but I’m always learning): bills to pay with a shrinking savings account and no income, no permanent home, looking for a job in a double-dip recession, but hey, I’ve got the Maker of the Universe on my side, and if he can take care of the lilies on the fields, the Israelites in the desert, I think he can handle us too. We’re blessed to have a wonderful family that feeds us and gives us a place to stay, could we really ask for much more? With each job application, with each interview, I’m trying not worry, I’m trying to see it as a learning opportunity, and if I don’t get the position then hey, it must not have been meant to be. And while I’ve got all this free time, I’d better put it to good use (see other commitments above), and at the very least, remember one of my favorite Psalms, made so crystal clear to me on that balmy night in Indonesia six years ago, with my beloved banana crepes: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (34:8).
In closing, these are just a few of the big thoughts I’ve been thinking lately, that I’d like to hold onto and build my new life in Oregon around. (Other inspirations have been the movie Hook, my beloved Naruto anime series, and Trigun, but that’s all material for another day). I hope I can stay true to my goals, and receive grace when I don’t. I hope it was somehow meaningful to anyone who reads it, and, as always, feel free to share your thoughts. We always love hearing from you.