Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Last of the Two-mores

Today is the last of our "Two-mores". After today, we're down to the "One-mores". One more Tuesday; one more Wednesday; one more Sunday worship. We're down to the last week and it gets harder and harder to think about leaving. We're making progress on the packing, but the thought of leaving all our friends and loved ones here is very hard.

The kids are taking it very well, but I'm sure this will psychologically affect them for years to come. We've started a new discipline technique with Sean. I told him he could blame grandpa (my dad) for telling me stories about how it was used on him as a kid. Whenever he gets sassy or has a bad attitude, he has to stand facing the wall with his arms out holding books while we count to 60. We may shift to exercise weights later, so as not to create a negative impression of books, but for now they are already packed. We'll see if this changes his attitude that has continued to worsen in spite of many timeouts and spankings. Other similar techniques we may try include push-ups and sit-ups. In addition to disciplining him, this will also help his physical development.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


[This was written last week on a flight back to Seattle from DC]

48 minutes out of Seattle. I just finished watching the Hillary Swank movie “Freedom Writers” on the 4 inch screen in the airline seat. I ended up in “Economy Plus” seating which has about 5 inches more leg room and it is greatly appreciated. Unfortunately I’m in the middle seat and I’m not sitting between 2 sweet little old ladies.

The movie was one of those about disadvantaged kids is a school where racial tensions are high, the teachers are just trying to make it though the day and the students are trying to make it to 18 without being shot. Ms. G. is a brand new teacher assigned to freshman and sophomore English classes. While the general theme reminded me of many other movies over the years (“Dangerous Minds”, “Stand and Deliver”, “Coach Carter”, and the dancing one with Antonio Banderas), it was still a very touching and entertaining movie. The theme was change. The students had to decide that they wanted to change their lives in the face of great odds and little encouragement from anyone other than Ms. G.

Change is hard. Sometimes change is forced on us such as with those in the Holocaust that the movie centers on. Many that survive the change come out stronger and as heroes to others as in the case of the lady (Ms. Gies?) who hid Anne Franke’s family. They are just ordinary people who inspire others to be more than what they are. The kids in the movie had a choice. They could be who they were and just accept their place in life, or they could make a change and be more and do more and possibly do more than just survive, they could thrive. These kind of changes are never easy and even unwelcome, but when we make the choice for change we open ourselves up to the possibilities of life. Another movie in this vein is “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith. I watched it recently and saw bits on the plane. If you haven’t seen it, you really must. Chris Gardner decides to be more than he is even though life keeps beating him down. The change from a life of woe to a life worth living is difficult, but it may not be the hardest choice to make.

Perhaps even more difficult is the choice to move from a life of comfort and mediocrity to a life this is spectacular. In my WASP, middle class lifestyle, I make choices every day, but these choices are often made for what is habitual and comfortable and familiar. I wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, do the same leisure activities, work at the same job, pray the same prayers, act in the same manner towards everyone around me. Everything is fine. Life is good. I’m well fed (too well). Well clothed. Well housed. Well loved and needed. I have no dreams or aspirations that I need to fulfill or at least none that I’m willing to devote the effort to pursuing. My life is all around a good one with ups and downs. I pay homage to God as the provider, but really it is me who brings home the bacon. At least that’s how I tend to see it. I don’t pray for provision of my daily bread because I’ve never had to go without (except for the 5+ hours on this plane because I didn’t have time to get something in the airport before boarding).

And yet I think of Ephesians 3:20-21 (which I will actually type in since I’m disconnected from the internet and http://www.biblegateway.com) “Now to Him who is able to do more, than all we ask or even imagine according to His power that is at work within us. To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Is a normal, comfortable life what God has in store for me. Or is there so much more that I could be tapping into. So much more power. So much more strength. So much more heart. So much more soul. So much more relationship, with both God and man. The problem is there is nothing external to push me towards change. Life is not saying “Change or die!” In fact, I’m sure Satan wants nothing more than for me to live a comfortable life, only partially dependent on God. Satan doesn’t necessarily need all of me whereas God does. All Satan needs is for me to be lukewarm. God on the other hand is a consuming fire that will overtake my whole being. If I will just let him. Is this kind of change harder? I wouldn’t dare compare my conundrum with the trials of the Holocaust or the inner city kids who face gunshots and drugs or the starving children in the third world. And yet, each of us is put in our lives by the hand of the Creator and it is a life we must choose to live.

To be continued...

Budget + Envelope + Cash = $50

We went to Walmart today and ended up spending $50 LESS than we had budgeted ($200) for the week. How many times has that ever happened. It happened because we had a budget, a set amount of cash, and a plan. Armed with the word "No" we were able to stick to that plan. We didn't buy just rice and beans or even mac-n-cheese, but we stayed away from a lot of premade stuff and we had the menu planned for the next week and knew what we needed for that. We were so excited we let the kids each pick out a candy in the checkout aisle.

This budgeting thing is really great. I wonder why no one ever told us about it before. :)

If we can do something similar next week, we'll have an extra $100 to put towards our emergency fund and debt. If we do it regularly thats a big step towards the financial goals we've just now started working towards.