Archive

NaBloPoMo

Disclaimer: This post contains information about my personal beliefs! If you are offending by hearing about other people’s beliefs that may be different from your own, feel free to stop reading now. No hard feelings.

Throughout human history, people have been pondering the meaning of life. Of course some take a different view —  as one dear friend once said, “I’m not interested in being deep.” I’m amazed at those who don’t seem to give much thought to finding meaning in their lives, as it’s always been kind of important to me.

Well if you know me, you may know that it’s actually super important. I’ve thought about it quite a bit. And I am about to turn 30, so perhaps I am old and wise enough for my thoughts to be of value.

In the simplest of terms, I’ve found that life is about this: Love God and love people. In the Christian co-op that I lived in during college we had a huge art piece on the wall that said, “Love God with all you’ve got and love people with all He gives you.” This does come from the Bible, when Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Then you ask, but what does this mean practically in my life? What specifically am I supposed to do each day? Because the meaning of life is really more of an essay question than a multiple choice test.

I think it’s important to make the best possible decisions with the choices we are faced with, in light of the goals of loving God and loving people. We do not have total control over our lives, we can only make choices based on the circumstances we find ourselves in.

I choose to be a part of a church because it helps me with both of these goals. It helps me to worship and learn more about God, and to be a part of a community where I can love and serve other people.

I’m also a wife and a mother. Being a stay-at-home mother to a toddler is a 24-7 job. Being the best wife and mother I can be is my main purpose right now during my daughter’s formative years. Sometimes I get discouraged because I think I should be doing more. I used to be a teacher and I think, perhaps I should be teaching. Perhaps I should be writing books. Perhaps this or that. But prayer has given me the perspective that being a good mother is the most important thing I can be doing right now.

I could go into a long diatribe about my meandering career path, but I will just say that circumstances have led me to surrender to God’s will again and again. I have aspired to great success in terms of this or that career but now I feel at peace just being a mom. It is well with my soul. I am also a writer and am enjoying writing for the sake of writing. Writing is one of the things that brings meaning into my life.

As for you, if you are grappling with this question I would encourage you to pray. Ask God to give you purpose and direction for your life, and opportunities to love others. Then watch for those opportunities. Make the best choices you can with the circumstances you have.

Also, do this: Dare greatly.  If you’re really into this guy and you’re pretty sure he’s into you, but he won’t say it, then ask him what’s going on. You might find that ten years later, you’re married, with a beautiful daughter. Or not. But at least you’ll have tried. Audition for the choir. Apply to graduate school. Call that acquaintance and ask them to have coffee with you. Don’t let fear hold you back.

Maybe this post is overly cheese-ball and cliche. I get like that sometimes, late at night. But this meaning of life stuff really matters.

“But now, this is what the Lord says – He who created you Jacob, He who formed you Israel. Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” – Isaiah 43: 1

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

For further, better edited writing regarding the meaning of life check out the following:

-Storyline by Donald Miller (a workbook to help you find meaning in your life, by one of my celebrity crushes)

-The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

– the Bible

– T. S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets

 

 

Marie is almost 19-months-old and is acquiring new words at quite an impressive speed. It is really fun watching her learn new words. She’s quite the little parrot (so be careful what you say). She even puts words together. Here are a few highlights:

“Baby drives!” You know those grocery carts that have little cars in the front of them? I’ve been letting her ride in those at the store and it is quite the thrill. Last week I pulled into the parking lot at Safeway and she spotted the shopping cart and started yelling, “Baby drives! Baby drives!” You should ask her about it when you see her. She’ll tell you.

Baby drives.

Baby drives.

“Ruuunnnn baby!” In addition to being a good driver, baby is also a skilled runner. She has more space in our new apartment and likes to run back and forth through the living room yelling, “Ruunnnn baby!” Good thing we live in Track City.

“Up above the…” She loves music and enjoys singing this little part of “Twinkle twinkle little star.” Another popular tune is a high-pitched “Why oh why oh why,” a Woody Guthrie song my mom sang over and over to her in the back of the car on the way to Portland.

“One berry.” This little one is a major berry fan, and she likes to shove as many berries into her mouth at a time as possible. Apparently my mom told her that she should only eat one berry at a time, because the next time I fed her berries she looked at me, held up her index finger and said “One berry.” She then held up her next finger and said “two.” Learning to count!

 

 

 

Tuesday night my mom and I went to hear former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins read at the library. It was a packed, standing room only crowd, pretty impressive for a poetry reading. We arrived about 10 minutes before the reading was scheduled to start and all the chairs had long been taken. We ended up sitting on the floor in front of the merchandise table, which turned out to be highly strategic, since we were able to be first in line to purchase a book and get it signed.

Billy Collins signs my copy of his new poetry collection.

Billy Collins signs my copy of his new poetry collection.

Though he’s not (yet) one of my literary heroes, I do like Billy Collins. He seems authentic and warm. It’s nice to see a poet have a sense of humor about poetry. I’m sure that’s why he’s so popular. He makes poetry accessible to people. You don’t have to spend a lot of time analyzing his poems for meaning. They are what they are. He even said that poets aren’t thinking about the symbolic meaning of something when they write a poem, they are just writing.

I’m sure this depends on the poet. Of course your unconscious mind will create symbolism on its own, so if a writer is really tapping into their unconscious then their work might be rich with symbolism without them even trying. Take Homer’s Odyssey, for example. But I’m sure that plenty of poets use metaphor and symbolism quite intentionally.

So that’s the catch about Billy. What makes his poetry so popular is its simplicity and humor. But I love poetry that’s complex and that you have to really think about to understand. I really enjoy figuring out the hidden meaning in a poem. For Billy Collins, there is no hidden meaning. What you see is what you get. And maybe that’s enough.

A wise friend recently told me to “never compare your inner world to other people’s outer worlds.” As much as I want to follow this advice, it is very hard to do so. I find that I am always comparing myself to other people’s “outer worlds” and I find myself coming up short.

The problem is, it’s hard to have a good sense of perspective about your own life. If I could look at my life from a distance, what would I think? I don’t think I would be terribly impressed. My life looks pretty ordinary.

But that’s okay.

I often envy others who have impressive careers and make lots of money. Or a medium amount of money (ha). But that is not what life is really about.  I think if your life becomes all about pursuing material success, it will leave you feeling empty. I know that if I prioritized my career over my family and personal relationships that I might enjoy it for awhile but I would regret it eventually. Being a good wife and mother isn’t something that our society really values, but it seems to me that it’s of the utmost importance.

Honestly before I became a stay-at-home I thought being a stay-at-home mom was luxurious. But after realizing the cost of daycare, I think being a working mom is luxurious. You have to have a job that pays enough to make paying for childcare worthwhile. And you get to have an identity aside from being a mom. And you can talk to other adults every day. Wow — sounds amazing.

But realistically I know that being a working mom is also very difficult. Being a mom is hard in these early years. I think it’s harder than being a dad because there is more pressure placed on moms to be the perfect parent.

Yet when my daughter comes up to me in the morning and rubs her nose against mine and says “nose kiss,” it does seem pretty worthwhile.

According to a scientific study published online yesterday, there may be as many as 40 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And the Milky Way is just one galaxy out of hundreds of billions of galaxies in our universe. So the odds seem likely that many of these planets sustain life, and some probably sustain intelligent life. Perhaps more intelligent than ours. Perhaps it’s true that Earth has already been visited by extraterrestrials. Who knows?

IMG_0300

 

I’ve always assumed that life existed on other planets, so this news is not all that shocking to me. Why would God make such a large universe with just one life-sustaining planet? Going even further than this, it’s possible that there are also other universes. And could there be gateways here on our Earth into these other universes? The back of the old wardrobe, perhaps? Or via tesseract? I’ve always loved fantasy novels where characters suddenly end up in other worlds.

Some people don’t want to believe in life on other planets. The unknown can be scary. And truly, the vastness of our universe is impossible for our puny little human brains to comprehend. But to me, contemplating this just makes me think of how amazing God is. God is so much bigger and more powerful than we can understand. Not only did He create this beautiful planet we call home, He created billions of planets. And yet He also lovingly created you and me. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13). Being a mom has been an incredible journey for me as I’ve seen God’s creation in action in the form of my daughter. There is no way that humans could have randomly evolved without the hand of a Creator behind them. And besides, if there were no Creator, well, then where did the Universe come from? The Big Bang, you say. Yes, indeed — the Big Bang of God’s creation. Some matter had to exist for the Big Bang to occur. That matter had to come from somewhere. A creator.

So, how do you feel about life on other planets? Intrigued? Scared? Apathetic? Does this change your view of God in any way?

 

As you may know, we recently moved from Portland back to my hometown of Eugene. Although it was time for us to leave Portland, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to live there for seven years. Some of the things I will miss most about Portland are:

* The Zoo. Marie’s favorite place. We had a membership and were visiting quite frequently. When we first moved to Portland I even got to work at the zoo as a marketing intern. I even got to feed one of the elephants! Still I’m sure we will still visit the zoo several times a year.

* Restaurants. Portland has a great restaurant scene and we will miss some of our favorite spots including: Por Que No?, Lardo, Ken’s Artisan Pizza/Bakery, Grand Central Bakery, Screen Door, Pine St. Biscuits, Oaks Bottom Pub and the Belmont food carts. And the best margaritas ever at Nuestro Cocina.

IMG_0214

A spicy margarita from Portland’s Nuestro Cocina.

* Theophilus Church. For the past four years we had the chance to be a part of a new church that started in the Hawthorne neighborhood. It was great fun because we knew the pastors, AJ & Quinn, from when we’d lived in Eugene. AJ was even my husband’s roommate one year in college. We had the chance to watch the church grow from a small group of people meeting in a living room into a medium-sized church of 100 + attendees per Sunday. Prior to that we attended Imago Dei for three years, which I also loved for its great sermons, social activism and community of artists.

* Gorge hikes. Loved, loved, loved hiking in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. My favorite was the Eagle Creek hike even though the uneven terrain caused me to have a debilitating knee injury.

* Friends and family. Well it goes without saying that we will miss all our friends and family who still live in the Portland area. We had the chance to get to know a lot people during our 7 years in Portland, mainly through church and my master’s program at George Fox.

However, in spite of all that I am very excited to be here in Eugene because I strongly feel that this is God’s will for us at this time. And I’m finding that I appreciate Eugene so much more now than I ever did before. Here are some things I’m loving about Eugene right now:

* Lack of traffic. Compared to Portland and other big cities, Eugene basically doesn’t have traffic. I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was to me until I got here. I was having frequent anxiety attacks when driving around in Portland and that’s not really an issue for me here.

* Access to nature. Eugene is a smaller town so it is much easier to access nature. Rather than driving 30 + minutes to go hiking, I can drive 5 minutes to go hike Spencer’s Butte.

Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, one of my favorite hiking spots.

Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, one of my favorite hiking spots.

* More great restaurants. Eugene has a lot of great restaurants for a town of its size (approx. 150,000).  I will give a shout-out here to Anatolia, Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen, Taco Loco and Sweet Life. These are our old favorites and we’re excited to discover new favorites.

* Connecting with a new church. This is only the second week we’ve visited, so there’s a chance it may not become our new church home, but so far I’m very excited about University Fellowship Church. I’ve been enjoying the sermons and the worship and Marie has been tolerating her time in the toddler room. I love that the pastor also preaches on Sunday evenings at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Also I’ve been thinking that I really want to join a choir and this morning they announced they are putting together a Christmas choir. Basically it seems to me like a great fit. Although it meets in the gym of my old high school, which is slightly weird. But really it’s been so long since high school that it doesn’t bother me. Plus I have mostly positive memories of high school anyway.

* Family and friends. Yes, we have family and friends here too. In fact one of the main reasons I wanted to move back here was to be closer to my family. It’s been really great having my parents and grandmother so nearby. I’m also excited to have the chance to reconnect with some of my old friends here and to make new friends as well.