Chasing Contentment

Wednesday, May 31

Boxes, boxes, everywhere. In another day or so, we'll be sitting on boxes. We're headed South today to see Aleece and to swap baby stuff for a treadmill. And to see Aleece for the last time before we leave.

I admit that I've been really looking forward to this visit, quick though it will be, but this morning when I realized that I won't see her again for a long time, it was such a sad moment.

We don't see each other more than once every few months, but we talk every day, and I know that will continue. But somehow it's sad anyway.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, May 31, 2006  ]

Monday, May 29

It is important, I think, to have friends who knew us when. It is important, too, I think, to have friends who know us now. It is a profound blessing, I am sure, to have friends who know both.

I had a really good weekend in Texas with Mika and Tara. We laughed and shopped and ate and laughed even more. And I had these amazing talks with Tara on the drive.

I'll be anxiously awaiting our girls weekend next summer, even if I have to get a flight instead of gassing up the van. I am truly blessed by God to have friends like these.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, May 29, 2006  ]

Friday, May 26

Technically, I'm on vacation for the next week or so, but after that I'm unemployed. And thus far, I'm liking it. :)

I'm leaving in an hour or so for a girls' weekend in Texas with two of my dear friends from college. It's good for us to get together each summer and renew and enrich our friendship. We've each had very different years, with their own difficulties and tensions, and it will be good to discuss them with one another.

Lots of laughter and talk and good food... a lovely weekend.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, May 26, 2006  ]

Thursday, May 25

This is my last morning at work. I've cleaned out my office and cleaned off my computer files. I've finished up all but one project, and I'll have it completed later this morning. Around noon, I'll take the keys off my ring and leave them on my desk before walking out of here for the last time.

And I am sad beyond measure. I know without a doubt that this is God's will for my life, for the lives of our families. But it is so hard.

I have worked at this job for 14 years. In truth, this is the only grown-up job I've ever held. The desk I sit at now is only feet away from the desk I sat at on my very first day here. I met Mike in these offices. I have hated people (ok, only one person) and loved people here.

I've been blessed these last few years to work with amazing women who were friends more than co-workers. I will miss them most. But I'll also miss the lady whose office is next to ours & who I can hear talking through the wall. I'll miss the older gentleman who flirted harmlessly with me through the years. I'll miss ... so much. Everything is changing.

I told Mike last night that I am leaving so much. I know that I cannot imagine all that God has for us in our new home, but I know intimately what I'm leaving here in this home. For me, it's always the people. I won't miss the job, but I will miss so many people.

So often I think that in order to enjoy the good things God offers us, we have to be willing to experience the hard things just prior to receiving the good.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, May 25, 2006  ]

Wednesday, May 24

I love Slate's Today's Papers, and some days after I read that, I bop around and see what else they've got. Today, Blogging the Bible caught my eye.

David Plotz, Slate's deputy editor (and author of "Genius Factory," which is on my Amazon list), is reading through the Bible and blogging about his impressions as a "proud Jew, but not a terribly observant one." Clearly, because he is a Jew and I am a Christian, we have different responses to many of the Bible stories he's blogging about.

But because I'm currently trying to read through the Bible myself - 'fresh' as he calls it, without commentaries so my impressions are mine alone - and because so many of the customs of Biblical times are so foreign to my understanding, many of our responses are similar, too.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, May 24, 2006  ]

Tuesday, May 23

I'm looking for a new job in our new hometown, and I'm trusting that God has the perfect job for me. I believe that if I'll trust in Him, He will lead me to the place He would have for me.

I've been thinking a lot, though, about what I realistically want from this job. I'd like a job that would allow me to do my job and then leave it at work. I want a job that carries more positive challenges than negative stresses. I want a job in which I can grow personally and professionally. I'd like to be somewhere that would allow God to use me to touch my co-workers for Him. I'd like to use the talents He gave me to the best of my abilities.

My dream job, though, would have all of that plus a little extra. Aleece is always asking what my dream this or that would be, and I so rarely have an answer. I've decided that maybe it's time for me to start dreaming more and accepting things 'just because that's the way they are' less.

If I could do anything, I'd like to bead. To be in a bead store, helping people with their designs and learning more about my own. I'd like to be making jewelry. Who knew?! I've been doing this for such a short time, and I had no idea I would fall in love with it so.

Our friend, Courtney, designed a website for my jewelry, and Josh and Mandy are hosting it on their website, and so I have the opportunity to sell my jewelry online. Courtney did an amazing job on the design, and I love the feel of the website. I've already had several people see it and email me about buying something. And for now, this feels like a good step toward my dream job.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, May 23, 2006  ]

Monday, May 22

This move has felt very real for quite some time now, but I gave my two weeks notice at work this morning, and everything feels very real now. I've got enough leave time that this Thursday will be my last day at work.

In a lovely bit of perfect timing, my boss and friend here at work has gotten another job and will be leaving the same day as I am. She, Aleece, and I have had this work magic going on... this lightening in a bottle thing happening. We have each complimented the other, balanced one another out, made one another better at our jobs. We've most likely made one another better people, too.

I don't hope to find this again at a new job. But I will forever treasure this time that I've had with these two remarkable women. We've laughed and cried together. We've lived through births and deaths and all manner of things in between.

While I'm excited about the new lives Mike, the kids and I are going to create, there's not much between now and the move that isn't packing or goodbye. And leaving these two precious women ... with whom I have had the good fortune to spend my workdays... it's one of the hardest goodbyes I'll say.

Having the opportunity to leave these jobs with Linda is a lovely thing, indeed. Somehow it seems fitting that we do this together.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, May 22, 2006  ]

Friday, May 19

I am no Pollyanna. I rarely expect people (outside of my immediate circle of trusted ones) to do the right thing. And Mike and I have been in a certain situation for long enough that very little surprises me.

People pursue money and fame and power, and they become corrupt, whether that was their initial nature or not. I don't believe that all money, fame, or power corrupts, but I do believe that the unflinching pursuit of any or all of those things can corrupt.

This week, I've watched as men and women with power and revenge in their sights did harmful things to good men and women... to their careers, their reputations, the very lives. And it has hurt my soul to be near this kind of evil. Evil that hides behind a veil of 'Christian values' is still evil.

While all of this has swirled around me this week, my grandparents have been visiting and providing much-needed distractions. They've been enjoying time alone with Eliza, their only great-granddaughter, and I know that they'll visit us less often once we are living in Florida, so this is precious time.

But my heart has been heavy with their visit, too, because when they leave for home tomorrow, they'll take a dear member of our family with them. Mike and I bought a Boston Terrier puppy after we'd been married a few years, and it was only after Griff was born that my allergies finally were so bad that I was tested. By then, I loved that dog too much to give her away, and I began taking allergy shots to help with my allergy to pet dander.

But with this move, we decided that it would be better for my allergies if she didn't go with us. My grandparents had been looking for an inside dog, and my Bernie loves them already. She'll get more attention from two retirees than she gets from my bustling family anyway. But still, my heart is breaking to let her go.

I'm torn between anxious to go and get settled and too heartbroken to leave.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, May 19, 2006  ]

Tuesday, May 16

It has been an incredibly difficult day. I cannot reveal the specifics, but lives have been changed today, and my heart is heavy... heavy with hurt for other people who have lost so much so quickly. There is little I can do to help because this isn't a situation that lends itself to help. This is simply sadness and learning to cope with whatever comes next. This is trusting that God will work something good out of the bad that men create.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, May 16, 2006  ]

Sunday, May 14

Only in the deep South could the keynote speaker at the commencement ceremonies of a public institution of higher learning focus her comments on faith. At Mike's doctoral graduation Friday evening, the speaker - Sally Ann Roberts, anchor at WWL in New Orleans - did just that.

She had me in tears within moments of beginning her remarks. I was touched by her. I was inspired by her. At a school where 4,000 students were impacted directly by Hurricane Katrina and 1,000 students have yet to return, her remarks were poignant. She reminded those in attendance that faith was what got them to that moment in time and that faith was what would continue to carry them along.

Toward the end of her talk, she said that we should not hide our light. And then she asked everyone to join her in singing the first verse of "This Little Light of Mine." The voices joined in softly at first and increased to a great swell that filled the coliseum. It was astounding.

I am so proud of my Dr. Mike and all that he went through to achieve this distinction. I will remember that evening forever.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, May 14, 2006  ]

Thursday, May 11

My kids inadvertently remind me routinely of the power of words, both in what I say and how I say it.

In the van with Griff and Eliza today, he was telling me that his class was asked to raise their hands if they loved their mothers. He didn't raise his hand. He said they were then asked to raise their hands if they hated their mothers. He didn't raise his hand, he quickly assured me.

"I don't hate you! I just don't love you all the time. Sometimes you annoy me."

Ugh, just stab my mama heart, why don't you? Geez. But I know he loves me, and I understand what he's saying. He's growing up, and he's learning that it isn't always easy to love. There is often a big gap between liking and loving, and he's learning that.

He and I have talked about how I sometimes get annoyed with them, but we also talk about how I always love them. All of my favorite children's books are about the endurance of love. Sure, there are plenty of days when I'm annoyed with Griff and Eliza and there are even more when I'm unhappy with their actions, but there is never a moment when I don't love them.

Someday, Griff will figure out that it's entirely possible to not like someone you love deeply. And I'm just going to keep telling myself that he wouldn't be so excited about Mother's Day if he didn't love me.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, May 11, 2006  ]

I do Site Meter because I think it's fun to see where people come to my blog from, and I do Google Alerts on the blog because it's interesting to see the ways the phrase 'chasing contentment' is recorded. This morning's alert was particularly good.

The 'chasing contentment' mention was in an article entitled "The world is not enough!" by Andy Christofides and published in 2002 in the Evangelical Magazine of Wales, a bimonthly journal that witnesses to the historic evangelical faith of the Christian Church.

"One of the wisest men ever to walk on this planet, King Solomon, at one time set himself the task of finding contentment in the things and people of this world. He indulged himself in every area imaginable (and he had the money and power to do it). He tells us he denied himself nothing - he even had a thousand wives (and a thousand mothers in law!). What we can only dream of, Solomon did. He devoted himself to pursuing knowledge, physical pleasures, building projects, parks and gardens; he tried hard work, toil, amassing more wealth, endless women... the result? He tells us it was all vanity, all empty, all unfulfilling. Chasing contentment in these things, says Solomon, is like chasing the wind - you never get it."

I think we all chase contentment in different ways, some healthy and some not. There is such a temptation to put our hope in things outside of our Lord, whether that hope is in positive or negative endeavors. Now, I've always said that we need certain creature comforts (ike the tenderness of another person), and I believe that God sends people to provide us with what we need here on this Earth.

But I also know that periodically I have to stop and re-evaluate how I'm chasing contentment. Right now, I'm ignoring move stress by shopping (though I've limited myself to beads and legitimately practical things for the new house). I have friends who do other things to ease the tension. I know people who have needs in their lives that they seek to fill with the wrong things or the wrong people.

And so, I know it's important to stop sometimes in the midst of our crazy lives and look at what my desires are and at whether or not those desires fall in line with what God would have in my life. And I need to remember that the contentment I chase is in Him.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, May 11, 2006  ]

Wednesday, May 10

It was an off day for ultrasounds yesterday as my friend, Aleece, wasn't able to find out if her little one is in need of pink or blue clothes. And as both of these dear friends of mine anticipate such blessed arrivals, I'm reminded of the sad parts of this move. Not being here to hold these babies is certainly on my sad list.

A mentor of Mike's came by my office this morning and said she has really mixed feelings about our move, saying that she understands it but that she really doesn't want us to go. In a lot of ways, I agree with her completely.

Every morning as I drive Eliza to daycare, I pass the same kid standing at his bus stop and the same old man walking (though in all of these years, I have never figured out where he walks to and from each morning). I know the other parents at the daycare, and the workers adore Eliza and ask about Griff since many of them worked with him, too. By the time I drive to work, the little boy has gotten on his bus and begun his school day.

I'll miss those things. I'll miss the guy in our neighborhood who walks everywhere and waves but rarely says hello. I'll miss Buzz and his garden and watching him train the puppy that replaced Murky, the best trained dog I've ever seen. It'll be weird for the pizza guy not to know Mike on sight, and it'll be challenging to find a new church. So many things...

In no way do I doubt that this move is exactly what we needed. But just as I told Griff, there are days that are just sad.

There are, however, things that are encouraging like the success with both houses and the proxemity to family (and spring training). And it doesn't hurt that with the heat index here at 97 today (and 100 yesterday), the 89 there sounds like a breezy spring day.

A friend told me that this move would be hardest for me because I would make it easy for everyone else in my little family, and that keeps ringing true to me. Mike made the statement to me one day that someone had told him he was lucky to be moving to Florida because it was easy to sell to Griff. I reminded Mike that he was actually lucky to be married to me because I could have sold Griff on anywhere.

As long as the four of us are together, anywhere will be okay.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, May 10, 2006  ]

Tuesday, May 9

This morning, I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying my friend, Mandy, to her first ultrasound. And I got to see that precious baby on the monitor. It was a beautiful little monochromatic blob with a heartbeat. I am always astounded that something 7 cm. big could have a heart beating strong enough for me to see it on the screen.

I had lots of ultrasounds with both of my kids because of problems I had, and with each one, I was astounded by that heartbeat. There's something magical about that. There's something humbling in it. God created that baby, and even though it looks like a little blob with a heartbeat to me, God already knows his or her preferences and looks and personality. And that is amazing to me.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, May 09, 2006  ]

Monday, May 8

I read a column on the opinions page of our local newspaper yesterday that made me so angry. I walked around ranting about it at various times yesterday, and if I think about it now, it still makes me angry.

The columnist wrote about her young adult son and dating these days. She mentioned how shocking it was that young teens were engaging in and talking about such grown-up physical activities. (I'm shocked by that, too, for the record. I am routinely astounded by things I see on the "Today Show" and "SVU.")

She mentioned that her son was propositioned when he was only 13 years old, and I agree with her that things of that nature shouldn't be happening... at 13 or 23, for that matter. But she said that when she confronted him about it at that tender age, he assured her he didn't accept the girls' offers. She said that at the time she was sure that the day would come when he would. And later, she said that he did, indeed, accept those offers at some point.

But that wasn't the point of her column. Her point was that it was difficult for boys these days to find 'nice girls' whom they could respect. There just aren't that many girls a son is willing to introduce to his mother, she suggested.

Whether or not girls should call boys on the telephone was her jumping off point for this discussion, and she said that her mother never allowed her to call boys and that she told her son not to respect a girl who would call a boy. I have a problem with that, though I admit my parents wouldn't allow me to call boys, either.

If I am going to tell Eliza that she should be looking for a relationship in which she can be an equal partner... and if I'm going to tell her that she is strong and smart and created perfectly by a perfect God... and if I'm going to tell her that she and the husband God has for her one day should draw on one another's strengths in order to minimize their individual weaknesses... and if I'm going to tell her that they should work out things in their marriage in the ways that the Holy Spirit leads without regard to traditional male/female roles... then how can I tell her it's not okay to call a boy?

If I tell her that she should be an equal in the relationship, why should she not be an equal at the outset of it? Why must the boy/man make the first move? A man's strength of character shouldn't be measured by his boldness of attitude. Truth be told, I asked Mike out on our first date. Sure, I worked it so that he felt like he'd asked me, but he didn't really. (And he'll tell you that himself.)

Certainly, I don't want Eliza to be forward with boys, to lessen herself by doing or suggesting improper things. But I don't want Griff to be forward with girls or to lessen himself by doing or suggesting improper things, either. Why would I expect something different from one than the other?

All of this got me riled up, but the thing that bothered me the most was this columnist's insistence that there were so few 'nice' girls for her son to meet and call and bring home to meet mama. Maybe the nice girls have figured out that her son has been accepting the other girls' offers and weren't interested in that kind of boy.

After all, what would be the value in saving oneself to be taken home to meet the mother of a man who didn't bother saving himself, too?

[  posted by Chel on Monday, May 08, 2006  ]

Thursday, May 4

I read an article in the religious press earlier this week that described a person who was not a Christian as a 'pre-Christian.' I'm not okay with that. I don't believe that every single person we encounter will become a Christian at some point. Every person is not a 'pre-Christian.' The Bible clearly states that some will hear the truth of God and choose not to believe. I don't believe those people can be termed 'pre-Christians.' This is one of those crazy things that really bugs me even though I'm not sure why.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, May 04, 2006  ]

Wednesday, May 3

Have you ever wished for something knowing all the while it wouldn't work out the way you want? It's a cotton candy wish, no substance to it. And that's okay. Cotton candy wishes are fun because there are no expectations of them.

I've had this cotton candy vision in my head for years of how a certain event would happen in our lives. I always knew it wouldn't work out that way, so it wasn't upsetting to think of the way it really would happen.

And then, for a very short time, it seemed as if my cotton candy wish might turn into something more substantial, something possible... a chocolate cake and ice cream wish. And then it didn't. And when you're planning for cake and ice cream, cotton candy just doesn't seem as enjoyable.

And yet, nothing has really changed from the first reality of how things would go to this reality. And I've very aware of the fact that this is one of those moments in life when my enjoyment of things is based entirely upon my attitude and how I choose to handle myself.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, May 03, 2006  ]

Tuesday, May 2

I'm a list girl. I make lists for all sorts of things. I make lists in my planner, lists on scraps of paper, lists for the store, lists for the move, lists for plans. I have a notebook in the van to make lists in traffic.

When I was in college, my roommate, Mika, would periodically go through the apartment and pick up all of the old lists I'd left lying around and throw them away. I'm a list-maker from way back.

Which is why I love this blog I found today titled simply To-Do List. I'll have to find a list of my own to submit.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, May 02, 2006  ]

Monday, May 1

For me to remember... to record the excitment...

May 1, 2006
My dear Mandy,
I am beyond excited about this baby you're carrying. I know you and Josh are, too. And all of your family and your extended family and on and on. Eliza and I sometimes play a game of naming everyone who loves her (I did that with Griff, too, and now he plays when we do it with Eliza), and there is always such a long list. Your baby is going to be that way, too... well loved.

As I get ready to leave, not being here with you as you go through this pregnancy is one of my greatest regrets. And yet, I know God's timing is perfect, and there are reasons we cannot yet imagine for the timing of our move and of your baby. And you know that you can call me anytime, and I will listen and help. And you know that when you or Josh call and say that it's time, I'll get the first flight out so that I can be there with you when this little one arrives, even if it's only to sit in the waiting room and monitor The Trinity... those dear, sweet women who are going to smother this baby in love and drive you crazy in the process.

Since I'm going to miss a lot of the day-to-day opportunities to wish you well in this journey toward motherhood, I thought I'd write you a monthly Mama Mandy letter and give you all of the really crazy advice I could think of at that moment. :) Sounds like me, huh?

So this is your first one. And I'm going to try to do one on the first of every month between now and your due date, with the exception of July 1, when we'll all be moving us to Florida. I'll write that one later. Promise.

The missed ultrasound this morning is just another example of how being pregnant and dealing with appointments and such helps to prepare you for motherhood... it involves lots of planning and rarely goes the way you expect it to go. But there's always next week's appointment to anticipate, and much of being a mama is like that. There will always be something frustrating and something else to anticipate.

For the rest of your life, I'm sorry to say, people will want to give you advice on how to mother your children... shoot, I'm doing it now, aren't I? I've told you this before, but it really is great advice... listen to all of it, sift through it, and keep what fits you. Ignore the rest. Mothering is about instincts. Learn to listen to yours. And Josh's. Some. :)

Sleep now. Watch movies in the middle of the afternoon now. Take a trip or two with Josh now while you don't have to pack baby stuff to go somewhere. Take hot baths while you can still get out of the tub without assistance.

Take it easy. Your body is about the vigorous work of creating a baby! I think the way our bodies can make babies is one of God's best works.

And you are going to be a great mother. Really. When I found out about Eliza, and I wasn't at all sure I wanted another baby (since we'd always said we didn't), I took lots of comfort in something a friend of mine once told me. You and Josh have wanted this baby for so long that I know you're not hesitant about the baby. But on those days when you're tired and weary and unsure about what your future will be like, remember this...

You don't have to supply any love at all for this baby. God sends babies with enough love for all of you. All you have to do is show up, and this baby will give you enough love for you to give it back in overwhelming amounts. And you and Josh and this baby will be something amazing... you'll be a family.

love you,

[  posted by Chel on Monday, May 01, 2006  ]