Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lessons from home buying

My lack of substance/lack of posts lately has some justification: besides the nearly 60 pages I'll be writing before the end of the semester, we have been in the process of buying a house! I wanted to document the whole experience in play-by-play format, but since this is a public blog and because things were up in the air for a while, I didn't want to post anything too soon. We close April 30, so I'll post pictures and more details when it's official, but suffice it to say that God has very clearly led us to this house, starting a year ago before we even knew it could be a reality. Until it's all official, though, here's what I've learned about home-buying in the last month:

  • Home-buying is a spiritual experience. Seriously. It has reminded me of God's sovereignty and has made me long for heaven. So often, I ask God to give me more faith and wisdom, and my expectation is that some switch will go off in me and suddenly I'll be a woman of great faith and wisdom. But God doesn't work that way. Instead, He gives us opportunities to exercise faith and wisdom. So, as things outside my control have come up and as confusing decisions have presented themselves, my prayer has changed to, "Thank you for these opportunities to trust You and to need You." As for longing for heaven, I'm realizing that all houses are imperfect structures built with imperfect materials by imperfect people, so there will always be a to-do list on houses.  And this never-ending toil reminds me off the fall, reminds me that I'm not made for this place, reminds me that I'm a part of a much bigger story. 
  • Learnin' some lingo. Like any field, real estate has its own lingo. I know maybe 10% of it, and most of that I've learned in the last month. More than anything, I know that I have so much more to learn, which is probably a good place to be.
  • Buying a house is like playing poker. You know your cards and make a move. They know their cards, see your move, and make their own move. At any point, one of you could be holding out on the other, waiting to score big or completely ruin your game...and you have no way of knowing when and if that will happen.
  • $300 here, $450 there. I knew that buying a house would involve costs beyond the amount on our contract, but good grief! Everyone wants a buck--my buck! I've never written so many back-to-back checks for hundreds of dollars in my life. We'll make it financially, but until I start my job and get paid for it, we'll be pinching a few pennies. As hard as it is, it's kind of refreshing to simplify our lives, finding ways to cut back and cut out what we don't need. And there's a LOT we don't need.
  • I never want to be a realtor. If I had to deal with all the paperwork, crazy people (especially first time home owners), and constant emails and phone calls of the real estate business, I think you would find me in a mental hospital somewhere. It's just not for me. Thankfully, it is for other people, and we are so grateful to have a very patient, wise, and godly realtor.
  • The "oh shit!" factor. While we are extremely excited about buying this house, there's a large measure of what I call the "oh shit!" factor. Those of you who have bought a home know what I mean; the rest of you can figure it out.
  • House vs. Home. It's so easy to get caught up in the details of a house--what the floors are like, what light fixtures are there, how much yard work you'll have to consider, how you want to arrange the furniture, what the to-do list is for the house you haven't even moved into. But we're trying to remember that this is not just a house; it's a home--a place of peace and rest to all who enter, a place where we will share our lives with one another and with others, a place that will be more than bricks and mortar. We buy the house, but we make it a home.
There's so much more to share, but no one likes a super-long blog without lots of pictures, so I'll stop for now. Besides, I have a little paper writing to do.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I'm just sayin'

Have you ever noticed how there are certain phrases that are excusatory, that can get you out of anything, that smooth over a biting comment? Down South, we like to say "Bless their heart," but for those of us who might find that a little too old-ladyish, we have an alternative: "I'm just sayin'." For example:

"You'd look better in that blue shirt.  I'm just sayin'."
"I'm just sayin', that conversation was really awkward."
"The guy in this picture? Odd. Really odd. I'm just sayin'."

It's as if this little phrase justifies any words that come before or after it. Try it. I'm not sayin' it will always smooth things over, but just see how it goes. I bet most of you say this several times a week and don't even know it.  I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Independence Day

They may be pale, they may be unpainted, heck--they may even be hairy, but today my feet are declaring their independence. Sure, I'm wearing cords and a fleece, but my feet are enjoying the liberation of flip flops...for the first time since August. And because this 70-something degree sunniness gives me that kid-out-of-school-for-the-summer feeling, I'm going to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. There should be fireworks for days like this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Goat babies!

You might recall that my parents were the proud owners of two pregnant goats...and I say were because Maggie and Daisy (the goats) are now proud mamas of two kids each: Frodo (compliments of my 11-year-old brother) & Minuit (French for midnight), and Danny & Bubba. Minuit is the only girl and therefore has my heart since I grew up with three brothers and understand where she's coming from. We'll be selling the 3 boys, so if you're in the market...

I can (thankfully) take no credit for naming any of them, but I can say that these goat babies are oh-so-cute! From past posts, you may have picked up on the fact that I'm not an animal person, but these goat babies have changed my mind. I may not be a fully-grown-animal person, but I am definitely a baby-animal person. Did you know that within minutes of being born a baby goat can stand and walk? and that within a couple of hours they figure out how to eat? Here are a couple of pictures we took yesterday. The goats are 2 and 4 days old. Commence the ooohing and ahhhhing!
Joseph & Frodo
Phil & Minuit
Danny & Bubba (the lazy one)

"Sucklin," as Phil calls it.

P.S. I tried all day to upload 2 short videos of the goats, but blogger it was taking hours to upload and even then didn't finish, so I gave up and am posting pictures. Any suggestions or uploading video? I exported the video in the smallest format possible from iphoto and have searched the Internet for answers. Help!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lent part 2

Thanks to so many of you who have taken time to respond to my post on lent a few weeks ago (make sure you read the comment from Noelle on that post--it has a link to a great article). Below is a blog from a pastor that another friend sent to me recently, and I thought it was really insightful. Don't let the absence of a picture keep you from reading! I'd love to hear more thoughts on lent...especially now as my Lenten resolve is waning.

Lent Reconsidered
"So, what are you giving up for Lent?" I imagine most all of us have been asked this question at some point in the past few weeks. Sometimes, Lent almost becomes a game of who can make the biggest sacrifice, as if our holiness is in direct proportion to our level of discipline. But what is the purpose of giving up chocolate, or meat, or TV for forty days? Is self-denial for its own sake what Lent is all about? As we enter the season of Lent, this time meant to prepare the Church to celebrate the resurrection, consider the following suggestions for how we might practice Lent with renewed purpose.
1. Link physical practice with spiritual significance.
Fasting, while an important spiritual discipline, can become a mere mind game ("Can I hold out until Easter?") or a strategy for weight loss. However, with intentionality, the physical practice of fasting can show us our own spiritual frailty. You might find that fasting reveals your impatience and a quick temper, for fasting tends to bring up the inner "junk" that hides itself when we are well fed. So, use the discipline of fasting as a way to bring before these Lord the sins that emerge when you are hungry. You might also reflect on the many material things we rely on (food, money, etc.) for our well-being, thank God for his provision, and ask Him to help us trust in Him more than in those material things.

2. Let Lent drive you toward community, not away from it.We often tend to think of Lent as a time for deep introspection, to do business with God. Lent is certainly a time for personal reflection, but it is also a time for community reflection, to seek together the ways in which our community falls short before God. In addition, sometimes our sense of our own sin drives us to isolate ourselves. However, God has made us to be in relationship with others, to know and practice his love with other people, not just in our "prayer closet." So, perhaps this year we might use Lent as an opportunity to draw closer to those in our families, neighborhoods, and church, repenting of keeping other people at a distance rather than actively loving them.
3. For each thing you give up, seek to "put on" something righteous in its place.
Self-denial has its place, but true fasting is more than simply "giving up" something. In the Ash Wednesday service, we read from Isaiah 58, where the Lord reminds his people that fasting is worthless if we are still trapped in our quarrels, refusing to repent of our deep heart attitudes, and lacking compassion for the needs of those around us. True fasting is more than ascetic, it is proactive: caring for the needy, feeding the hungry, seeking justice for the oppressed. So, this Lent, rather than simply focusing on what you will give up, begin to consider what God might want to "put on" in its place.
4. A few suggestions for creative ways to enter into Lent more deeply:
  • If you give up watching TV or other forms of entertainment, spend your extra time praying, reading, volunteering at a local shelter, or simply enjoying your family.
  • Participate in the 40 Days of Water project. This project, organized by Blood:Water Mission, is designed to link the fasting and service aspects of Lent. Participants drink only water during Lent, then donate the money they would have spent on other beverages to provide clean water for people in Africa who currently lack access to safe drinking water.
  •  Fast from clothes shopping and donate money or used clothing to a shelter in the area.
  • Invite a newcomer at Redeemer to your home for dinner, practicing hospitality and active love.
  • If you are a disciplined person already, practice patience with those less disciplined than yourself.
  • Read a book such as Not the Way It Is Supposed to Be, available from the church for $15, which explores the nature of sin and its deep effects on our lives and our world. (On a personal note, this book was life-changing for me, and I highly recommend it.)
  • Give up complaining and "put on" gratitude.
  • Give up judging and "put on" loving.
  • Give up criticizing and "put on" encouraging.
Lent is not a self-improvement project. It is impossible for us to "put on" righteousness on our own. Lent is a time during which, even as we practices disciplines that God can use to refine us, we remember that we cannot make ourselves holy. Our Lentan practices - prayer, fasting, giving - must be soaked in prayer; prayers for repentance, prayers for strength, prayers for the Spirit to refine us, prayers for the Spirit to convict us, for in prayer we acknowledge that we are powerless on our own, that only God can transform us.
So, during this new season of Lent, let's rephrase that common question. "So, what are you seeking to put on for Lent?"
— Amanda
Amanda Holm, M.Div.
Pastor for Worship and Congregational Care
Church of the Redeemer

Maggie Valley

Phil and I took off to the mountains for a few days this past week and here's what we saw:

Notice the sign on the church. The other side said: "Dusty Bibles lead to dirty lives"
On our hike. It was about 50 degrees, but we were hiking through snow that hadn't melted, so it was quite the workout. Think taking a walk on sand vs. taking a walk on concrete.
One of my favorite views

Of course, we couldn't help capturing this little wonder on the side of the road. Videos AND tanning? Say it ain't so!