Posts Tagged ‘countercultural’

(This was originally published in error as a separate page two weeks ago.)

Notes along this journey:

I’m not made for the corporate life. I’m just not. Others are. I’m not. It’s a box I don’t fit into. Small organization, yes. Work for myself, yes. Freelance, yes. Just be, yes.

Job searches are so much about trying to fit into the corporate life. It’s a bit disorienting that way. When people ask me what kind of position I’m looking for, I need to figure out a better way to answer, a simple way to say I want to earn enough to support myself by being a writer and a maker and a mentor and a learner and a teacher and a simple living guru and a disciple and a disciple-maker. And not worry if anyone else thinks that sounds irresponsible. I’m very responsible.

I believe I am called to live in such a way that shows another way is possible. A personal way, yet a community-building way. An artisanal way. An intergenerational way. A simple way. An ancient way. A contemplative, spiritual way. A way that supports justice and participates in restoring shalom to our world.

I do not know if in that description there are ways to fully support myself. But if God calls me to it, God will make a way. I have been consumed with how to continue to make a living. After all, paying the bills is pretty necessary in our culture. But it’s had me bound. And that’s a sign of not trusting. I don’t want to be bound. I want to make a life. My life.

I have this vision of a house like Nonnatus House. If you are a fan of Call the Midwife, you know what that means. Maybe not a full blown convent, because maybe it could be co-ed. But a place where people who like each other enough to live together share expenses, thus easing income-pressure for everyone, and share common areas. Share life. Share vision. Share service. Neighbor with their neighbors.

I stand at the crossroads, and I’m looking hard. I ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, because that’s where I long to walk. There I will find rest for my soul. (Jeremiah 6:16)

God wants me to see the path, and I want to see it. So the way will open. On that I’ll rest.


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I’m trying an experiment. It’s inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, in which she chronicles her journey of a different kind of fast for each of seven months. Why would she do such a thing? Isn’t that kinda crazy and extreme? She writes that her decision came out of the question, ” Where have I substituted The American Dream for God’s kingdom?” Her plan for 7 was to be “an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.”

Now, in many respects I’m already Ms. Simple. Some of Jen’s fasts wouldn’t make sense for me. Clothes, for instance. She writes about how appalled she was when she actually inventoried her wardrobe and was faced with how obscenely abundant her clothing options and therefore her clothing spending were. I, on the other hand, for example own three pair of jeans: one paint-spattered and holey, one blue denim, and one black denim. I’m still wearing my husband’s black socks to work, and he died six years ago. Hey, they’re warm, have worn like iron, and mostly don’t show under my slacks. No, they don’t work with dress shoes, but I barely ever wear dress shoes. Bunions and hammer toes are not welcome in my life. Just sayin’.

But going on this kind of a journey, opening up space for growth and movement with God, really appeals to me. Maybe my frugal nature will mean that my discipline somewhere along the way will be to add something instead of taking it away. I don’t have it all figured out yet. But I’m starting with food.

Jen carefully chose seven whole foods to limit herself to for a month. I already eat very little processed food and meat, enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables, and major on whole grains instead of highly refined. My goal will be to go without wheat or sugar this month. April 1 was the first day, and my first challenge came within hours, when my colleague Sean delivered to my desk the bag of dark-chocolate covered dried cherries I’d ordered maybe a month ago from his daughter’s high school band fundraiser and then forgotten about. “After this,” I told myself, and opened the bag. So good. I’ve had some each day. Until today. Because I felt so sluggish yesterday after I indulged in some. So they’re going away. Then my dear friend/cousin/soul-sister Becky and I decided to share Easter dinner, and the first thing out of my mouth was “Let’s just order pizza.” As good as that sounds, we’ve made a different plan. My part is to bring broccoli salad from the deli. It probably has sugar in the dressing. I’m at peace with that. it’s Easter after all.

Along with the dietary change, I want to see what exploring the concepts of bread, wheat, and sweetness, metaphorically speaking, reveals to me.

Today I read Psalm 81 because my concordance told me it has a reference to wheat in it. Just starting simple, you see. And by golly, it speaks to sweetness too. Sweet music, specifically, expressing joy and praise. So hmm, what if when I get the urge for chocolate or pie, I at least turn on music or better yet make some? Take a joy break? Consider the sweetness of God’s love for me?

Further in the psalm God says he desires to feed his people with the finest of wheat. That set me to wondering what the finest of wheat was in Biblical times. Thank you, Google, for filling me in. Given how different modern wheat is from ancient grains and how it’s prepared now, it makes sense that the vast majority of the types of carbs we eat have such an adverse affect on our health. We are settling for dust — too often contaminated dust at that.

I’m also on a quest to find raw, unfiltered, local honey.

I hope you’ll read Jen’s book, but be warned, it could shake you up. And that’s a good thing.

I’ll let you know how this goes.

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As we approach the Christmas shopping and gift giving season, I give you this quote, from Jane Martin in The Plain Reader:

“A child needs little more than warm loving arms. How Toys R Us can fill thirty thousand square feet full of toys is beyond me. When a pile of rocks is so interesting to a toddler, when sliding on the snow or making a house out of tree limbs is such wonderful fun for the elementary school kids, when a shovel and sand provide an afternoon of play, and when helping Mom sweep is a four-year-old’s favorite activity — how can we need thirty thousand square feet of toys? I say, keep you money and your child might be better off!”

Blanket fort, anyone?

2 children in pajamas play under blankets held up by chairs

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People are not products. They are not to be manufactured — as in schools — or warehoused — as in elder-care.

I have a granddaughter in preschool. She is highly imaginative and sensitive. She is not just like every other child her age, and her parents and I consider that a good thing. Her teachers, not so much. This makes me sad, and angry if anyone tries to make her fit into a little generic-child mold.

My late husband’s mother is in a “retirement home.” I say that vaguely, because she seems to be caught in a neverland that I don’t know how to name. She’s in rehab, when the surgeon said very clearly he thinks she belongs in skilled nursing right now. Later, when she can bend her knee, it will be time for the rehab unit. It all comes down to what Medicare will cover, I’m sure. I’ll find out more tomorrow when I meet with the social worker there. Mom just lost her internist because now the facility’s house doctor is in charge. I understand this is required. Yet that doctor was not even aware that she had congestive heart failure, which was diagnosed 5 years ago. Does the house doctor even communicate with her internist? Mom is not just like everyone else in the country who just had a knee replacement, as Medicare says she must be treated.

Ken Robinson says our current education system is built on a fast-food paradigm. I think the same is true for our current western elder-care system. We need something different. Something local as opposed to the monolithic Medicare system. Something artisanal rather than based on mass production.

What would a local, artisanal approach to elder care look like?

I was a home-educating mother for ten years because I believed my children were individuals and should be educated that way. I was present at the home birth of my son’s first child, which my daughter assisted to deliver as a student midwife. I cared for my mother in her home as she died of cancer. Artisanal. Now I’m wondering what a counter cultural, home-based aging would look like.

Based on what I’m learning and seeing Mom experience in today’s American elder care system, my gut tells me I don’t ever want to have to be in that position myself. This is why I’m getting extra emotional around her situation. Yet I also realize the day may come when I need to accept what I don’t want. If that happens, I hope I can do it with grace, but luckily that’s a long way off because right now I’m appalled by the thought.

Here’s what I’m contemplating for aging. I’d say it’s a plan, but it isn’t yet. I’m agitated. I’m reacting. I’m thinking, but too tired to think clearly right now. I mostly know what I don’t want, and that has to translate into what I do want.

  1. Stay as healthy as I can as long as I can.Exercise and eat right. This means I need to form the habit of exercising, something I lost seven years ago. It also means I need to Stop the Stress Eating, which will be easier if I can tame the stress, which is necessary anyway if I want to stay healthy. I get that.
  2. Enjoy life. I won’t live forever, and I’m not even sure I want to try.
  3. Talk to my children about their feelings and our options. What are they thinking about where I will age and what they are willing and able to do?
  4. If I ever have a cancer diagnosis, if it can be completely surgically removed , go for it. If not, just let it be. No chemo. No radiation. Good nutrition, more of what supports health, make the most of every day of life, and pray. Leave the rest to God. I saw my mom give her all to chemo, and she died an ugly death anyway.
  5. Cardiovascular problems? A sudden massive heart attack would be better than being warehoused in a nursing home. Of course I know that lots of people have heart attacks and strokes that don’t kill them, just damage them. That’s partly why I don’t know how to answer this one yet. See number 1.

Perhaps to be continued. Thank you for allowing me to think “out loud.” I’m still thinking, but right now I must sleep. See number 1.

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