this glorious maze

because life is full of twists and turns

Month: February 2014 (page 1 of 4)

currently reading: Notes from a Blue Bike

Do you ever read a book and find yourself thinking (or shouting), “yes! yes!!” the whole time?  Or, if you’re an annotator like me, you keep writing it in the margins, accompanied by a mixture of stars and underlining and brackets and arrows?  When I like a book, you can tell just by flipping through because it will be embellished with my pencil markings.  And if you were to pick up this book, I think you’d realize pretty quickly that I liked it.  It resonated with me in a deep way.  

Tsh Oxenreider is the founder of TheArtofSimple.net, a website inspiring people to live simply.  Her latest book is Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.  In this book, Tsh shares about the journey her family has taken to duplicate the slower lifestyle they enjoyed overseas as they have transitioned back to the States.

The book is divided into seven sections.  With an introduction and a conclusion as bookends, Tsh writes about the five areas in which they have chosen to be intentional: food, work, education, travel, and entertainment.  Notes from a Blue Bike is a collection of essays with tips for simple living sprinkled throughout, instead of a “how-to” book.

I hadn’t heard of Tsh before this book or seen her website, so this was truly my first introduction to her writing.  And I loved the book!  I loved the essay format and hearing how their family decided upon these intentional steps and reading how it actually worked within the family.  I appreciated all the sections (really!), but, at this point in life, the work and education sections held the most meaning to me.

In the work section, Tsh talks about managing a business from her home with her husband.  She writes about finding time to write in the midst of being a busy mom with little ones at home.  It was a message I needed to hear: that it’s okay for me to take time to do something I love.  She writes of slowing down and setting limits, but also of valuing your work and treating it like it is “worthy of my dedication, practice, focus, and excellence. (Because it is).”  I was interested to hear how she and her husband manage the business together, but I also appreciated that she included examples of many other families with different work schedules who have made adjustments in order to find what works for them.  In other words, Tsh isn’t expecting that what works for her family is what will work best for mine.    

I also appreciated the chapter on education as Tsh shares their journey to find the right fit educationally for each child, each year.  After swearing that she would never homeschool her children, Tsh spends a year homeschooling and falls in love with parts of it.  But later they decide that the best decision for their family is to send their children to public school.  She writes about the value of exposing your children to books and of giving them room to be creative.

Other reviewers have mentioned that Tsh’s life doesn’t seem simple and I understand where they are coming from.  Her life certainly isn’t straightforward – she’s lived all over, she works strange hours, and her children have had multiple schooling options within a few years.  Her life is complicated.  But I believe she wants to live a full life and is choosing to do so as simply as possible.  If you’re looking for a practical, step-by-step guide to simple living, you will probably be disappointed.

Notes from a Blue Bike is balanced, which is what I like about it.  The main message is to find what is important to you and then adjust your life to reflect that.  Tsh doesn’t write expecting that every reader will move to a farm and live off the land.  She writes for ordinary people and ordinary families looking to make small changes.  And I like that because I am an ordinary person with an ordinary family.  I hope that you read it and, if you do, let me know what you think of it!

I was given a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

**Like what you’re reading?  Consider following me on Bloglovin‘ or Feedly to get regular updates!

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because life is full of twists and turns

Did you know that my blog has a subtitle?  Well, it does.  At least, it does in my head.  In my head, it reads like this:

this glorious maze: because life is full of twists and turns

I named this blog at a confusing, disappointing stage in life  My life looked nothing like it had just a year before.  And it certainly looked nothing like what I planned it would look like.

I thought I would be working part-time and going to grad school full time while my husband served in the Air Force.  We would be blissfully happy newly-weds, working hard to pay off student debt, yet enjoying every chance to just be together.  We would adventure together, through travel and living overseas.  My plan was glorious.

Instead, that year I became a stay-at-home-mom to a baby that I adored, but definitely hadn’t planned on having.  Instead of my dreamy ambition to study, write important papers, and debate theology in seminary classes, my days were filled with diapers and spit-up.  We were exhausted and depleted, in every sense: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We were in the trenches in the war for joy.  I never would have planned this.  My life didn’t feel so glorious at that moment.

This wasn’t the first time my life has looked radically different than I had imagined.  And I can say with absolute certainty that it won’t be the last.

Because life is full of twists and turns.

Isn’t it though?

Stop right now, right where you are and picture what you thought life would look like.  Close your eyes, if it helps you.

Perhaps you imagined being married and instead find yourself single.  

Perhaps you planned on being done with diapers and potty training and thought you’d celebrate when the youngest child entered kindergarden.  But instead you welcomed a surprise baby and geared up for another 4,000 diaper changes (and, of course, innumerable joys).

Perhaps you planned on being overseas doing missions works, but finances or sickness held you back. 

Perhaps you thought that you’d still be at that Church or in the friendship or with that company.  But instead find yourself wounded and in shock and just trying to figure out what the hell happened that it could have ended like that.  

Or…perhaps you hadn’t really thought too much about the future, but you certainly DIDN’T plan on it looking like this.

The thing is, sometimes (often?) we look back and see that that out of the surprises, out of the horrible, came something beautiful.  Or, at least, something worthy.

There’s something wondrous about this maze of life, isn’t there?

Somehow these life events, the good and the bad, mingle together.  Pretty soon you’re not quite sure these good/bad categories are as exclusive as you thought they were.  Is it just the way life is, that we grow and learn from hard events?  Or is it God, with His nonsensical exchange rate of beauty for ashes?

This maze of life is beautiful.  And this maze is brutal.  (Author Glennon Melton mixes the two together, just as life does, and says that life is “brutiful”.  The longer I live, the more I think that should be a real word.)

When we get to the end of this maze, or when we just get to a resting point along the trail, will we look back and see how the good and the bad mingled together and how the maze turned into something glorious?

I sure hope so.

What’s ahead for you?  Does the path look straight?  Are you walking in a haze and unsure where you’re going?  No matter where you find yourself, take a deep breath, and then keep trekking.  I hope you’ll find that the maze ends up being glorious.

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parenting as a post-evangelical

My son is young.  18 months, in fact.  He’s just moved out of the nursery and into the toddler class at church.  Each week when we pick him up, we now receive a coloring sheet that coordinates with the lesson from that morning.  Never mind that our son actually doesn’t color much, his sheet always come back with a few scribbles.  (I have a suspicion that a kind teacher is the one responsible for those scribbles!  And to that I say, God bless our ever-patient teachers who works with a room full of busy toddlers!)

Perhaps it’s silly, but those coloring sheets represent one of my struggles with parenting: what do I teach my son about God?

I was raised in a world of Awana, Adventures in Odyssey, Veggie Tales, sword drills, and elaborate VBS programs.  I learned isolated verses and isolated stories.  I was told that this (very confusing) book was actually God’s love letter to me.  I sang about being “a C, a C-H, a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N” and about “O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E” being the very best way to show that I believed.  (side note: speaking for all poor spellers, why did churches require so much spelling in their songs??)

I didn’t just learn these things: I taught them too.  I spent two years in a Christian ministry teaching little ones about things like instant obedience and the umbrella of protection.  And, at that time, I really believed that I was teaching them truth.

Before I go further, perhaps I should clarify: this isn’t a criticism of my parents, Sunday school teachers, or VBS leaders**.  I know that they all had the best of intentions.  But as my faith has evolved, I have realized that I am no longer comfortable receiving the pat answers and equally uncomfortable giving them.

Here’s the problem, those pat answers, those cliches and platitudes, they are the script I know.  I am fluent in Christian-ese, but even more so in childhood Christian-ese.  I know the songs (complete with hand motions), I know the verses about obedience, I know the overly simplistic applications from stories like Jonah and the not-whale.  These are comfortable and familiar for me.

It’s one thing to change my own views and wrestle with my faith.  It’s quite another to figure out what to teach my son.

Right now, the best way I know how to teach my son about God is to live out my faith honestly in front of him.

I want my son to love God.  And I want him to have a big, big picture of God and of what He is doing in the world.  I want to teach him about hermeneutics, that there is more than one way to interpret a verse and that that’s okay.  I want him to know that we can disagree with denominations and yet still be united in Christ.  I want him to see that my husband and I have a growing, questioning faith, and that we disagree about some theology, but that it doesn’t make the other one “less than”.

I don’t want to shy away from hard questions or give trite answers to things that I totally don’t understand (which seems to be a lot of things).  I want to tell him that I don’t understand many parts of the Bible and that it doesn’t mean I am having a crisis of faith.  And I don’t want to shut down discussions by concluding that “God’s ways are higher than our ways” so we just shouldn’t worry about it.

Lately, faith for me has been getting down in the figurative mud and wrestling.  It hasn’t been pretty or clean or dignified.  But it has been honest and sincere.  I want so badly for my son to see this in my life.

I know this isn’t comfortable to read.  I know that some people will read this and think I am a horrible, God-forsaking parent.  But I timidly would like to speak up for myself and say that I am not.  I’m studying and seeking and trying to do the very best to teach my son a full picture of God.  I’m just not sure I can tell him pat answers to things I don’t even understand and teach him verses hijacked from their context.

This parenting thing is HARD.

This Christianity thing is HARD.

Put those two really-hard-things together?

Whew!  I think, in the most sincere sense, I could use some prayers.

**It IS a criticism of youth groups because to this day I get the heebie-jeebies thinking about church youth groups.  To anyone stuck in a youth group now, I have one message: IT GETS BETTER.

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