Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Year of the Avocado

self portrait
There are a lot of reasons why year 37 has been a turning point for me.  I'm calling it "The Year of the Avocado" mostly because I want to give it a catchy name so that I always remember it and what I learned from it. Avocado, because most mornings I smear a piece of toast with avocado and top it with sea salt and it seems to be the most perfect thing for me.  I know what I like now.  I've learned a lot about who I am and who I'm not and my unique calling in Christ.  During this season of my life- and mostly during this time away in the Dominican Republic with my husband where I've had the luxury of space and time to think and pray and rest without distraction- I've had time to re-start and to go back home with a more focused attempt at living the life that God intended me to live.

The Year of the Avocado is when I panicked (slightly) about saying goodbye to my youth but then remembered that I'm still strong and as young as my mind allows.  It's when I decided very firmly in my mind and more than ever that comparison, like expectations, are killer and have no place in my mind or heart.  It's when I was doing too much and then decided that I can't do everything so I'll be more intentional to do or not do things.  It's when I stopped striving so much.  It's when I walked on the beach with my husband and talked things over.  Big picture things, the most important things.  It's when my life went from good to much better not because circumstances changed but because the attitude of my heart did. 

I have a lot of this to owe to what I firmly believe was the Holy Spirit leading me to Shauna Niequist's book, Bittersweet.  I loved her other books- Cold Tangerines and Bread and Wine- both are amazing books I highly recommend and I of course feel like Shauna and I are great friends and I at least look forward to spending time in eternity with her, but Bittersweet hit so very close to home that it had me weeping on the plane ride here and I started and finished it all in one day.  Miscarriages, houses that won't sell, friends who move away, family funerals... it was all there.  It's one thing to use examples of similar struggles and trials, it's another to identify EXACTLY with EVERY ONE.  Of course, even if your struggles and trials are different and varied, you'll still gain great insight through this book.  It is such a gift.  But still, it's amazing when God hits the nail on the head and it's all there in black and white- exactly, exactly what you needed to hear.  For example:

"My friend Sarah, when her house in Grand Rapids was for sale, prayed every day for the family that would buy their home, for their health and safety, for any children who would be born in that home.  She prayed for the exact right family, to bring light and hope and significant connections in the neighborhood.  I thought this was very nice of her.

Meanwhile, my prayers sounded more like this:  Dear God, please let somebody buy our house.  Please let it be someone who's pre-approved.  I don't care if they bulldoze or start raising livestock in the yard.  I don't care if they're into midnight drum circles in the driveway or if they launder money in the basement.  Just let them have good credit.

There is, however, a moral to this story.  Sarah's house sold, and mine has not, and so now I have begun to pray for more than just solid financing.  I pray for the things that will happen in that home, for the new family that will, someday, make their lives there.  I pray for children who might be born in that home, remembering the moment we brought Henry home from the hospital to that very house.  I pray for the way a new family will add to the lives of our neighbors, for Becky and Claudia and Katie and their families.  I even try to find a reason that it's taken this long- maybe they're not ready to move, this family I'm praying for.   Maybe there's something I can't see.  And that's the core of prayer:  admitting that just maybe, there's something going on that we can't see.  So when I'm afraid, I pray, and I ask for God's help, that I will be able to see something I wasn't able to see before, or at least trust him to do the seeing." 
If you are on my home team and keep up with the life and times of Candace Chaney, you know this is SPOT ON.

But then there is also the list.  I'm usually a type B anti-list maker, but I thought Shauna's list of "Things I Don't Do" was exactly more of what the Year of the Avocado is all about.  Her thoughts on pairing things down and figuring things out made me put my list in writing and I feel so much more free, lighter.  She explains that she had come to a point in life that she felt like she needed to "do everything better" and then explained that "the three together, DO EVERYTHING BETTER, are a super-charged triple threat, capturing in three words the mania of modern life, the anti-spirit, anti-spiritual, soul-shriviling garbage that infects and compromises our life."  Her list looks a lot like mine but there I go again.... comparing.  Comparing is something I want to put on the list of things I don't do.  My list looks different from your list and for posterity and maybe for accountability, I want to share my list of Things I Don't Do.

Things I Don't Do:
1.  Bake (Except for special occasions- Christmas bread or birthdays and even then I'm not afraid to buy cupcakes and call it a day)
2.  Perfect  (I don't do perfect.  Pinterest worthy Valentine's Day treats fall into this category, for example.  And making homemade cheese crackers or 100% organic lasagna)
3.  Garden  (I admire my friends who can, but I can't and don't have time to learn.  At least not now.)
4.  Comparison
5.  Taking care of People Who Aren't My People  (Tough one, Shauna, but I got this from you and thank you for reminding me that I am not and can't be everyone's everything.)
6.  Family financials (Thank you, Jack)
7.  Shower everyday (Sorry, not sorry)
8.  Shopping for gifts (Jack does our Christmas shopping, I make it by on the skin of our teeth for close friend's birthday parties, and if you receive a gift from me it's because I saw something and thought of you.  Gift giving is really hard for me and takes lots of mental space and I'm sorry.  Please forgive me.)

My list of Things I Do is more than twice as long at least and  I won't bore you with it, but trust me- it is more than enough to fill my 24/7.  But I'm glad I wrote that down, too. I will venture to do those things with all that I have and on purpose. 

The list of Things I Don't Do is a great challenge, like she says:

"It's brutal, making the list of Things I Don't Do," especially for someone like me, who refuses most of the time to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a limit to her personal ability to get things done.  But I've discovered that the list sets me free.  I have it written in black and white, sitting on my desk, and when I'm tempted to go rogue and bake muffins because all the other moms do, I come back to both lists and I remind myself about the important things:  that time is finite, as is energy.  And that one day I'll stand before God and account for what I did with my life.  There is work that is only mine to do: a child that is ours to raise, stories that are mine to tell, friends that are mine to walk with.  The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be.  It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being." 

But anything that's worth its salt is at least a little hard, right?  Even a holiday on the beach- a big gorgeous, soul-refreshing Sabbath- takes time and planning and money.  Everything good costs something be it time or money or energy.

I'll continue to work on my Things I Do because that's what God made me to do and it won't be easy all the time, but it will be worth it and I'll know that it's all worth it because I've thought it over and this is what I'm supposed to be doing anyway.

So thank you, faithful and loving Creator God who clothes me with Himself and thank you my friend Shauna.

With every slice of avocado toast, I'll remember that things are coming together in my mind and heart and I *think* I just might be ready to meet three little ones head on and do this thing for as long as I have until the Lord calls me Home where the toast will taste even better and my heart will be even more free.

Amen. 

1 comment:

lifeinthevillage said...

Oh how I love this post. It makes me want to call you now and talk about it all night long. :) But alas, I will go to bed instead and mull on it for a while. Especially the idea of my "Can't do list" And I'm two chapters in on the book. Love it. Love you. And love the Year of the Avocado.