All Good Things Must Come to an End

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

You’ve heard and said this phrase before, but probably don’t know that the medieval poem Troilus and Criseyde, penned by Geoffrey Chaucer during the 1380’s, is considered by most to be its origin.

There’s your useless bit of trivia for the day.

For the last two hours I have alternated between the fetal position and a renewal of my intimate acquaintance with the throne of porcelain. My face has that lovely gray, haggard look familiar to all who may release the contents of their stomachs, via their esophageal passageways, at any moment. There’s a small bruise on my “elbow pit” encircling an even smaller, red puncture wound, left behind yesterday by the phlebotomist who relieved me of some blood for a CBC panel. I would describe my hair as “wild,” but the term is far too banal for the masterpiece that juts out every which way from upon the top of my head.

Yes. Very glamorous.

This seems as good a time as any to share the following with you:

In the summer of 2000, about six weeks shy of my sixteenth birthday, I took an after-school job, paging for the library. Never did I imagine that, the better part of two decades later, I would still be doing library work – from paging to the busyness of the front desk to the detail-oriented tasks of technical services. The passing years have held many milestones and changes – high school graduation, college, marriage – yet the library and my place within it have remained constant.

Just as I did not imagine that so much of my life would be devoted to this unique and necessary form of community service, the possibility of a long and ongoing battle with illness never entered my mind. None of us have control over whether or not such things become part of our reality. This struggle, for better or worse, marks each moment of my days. Thus I find myself, however begrudgingly, brought to a moment of decision.

As the saying goes, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. At this time, I must acquiesce to that weakness. Therefore, I resign my position as Technical Services Specialist, effective June 30, 2017.

It’s time. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know that this is passing into the behind. How seventeen years could have come and gone so quickly is a mystery to me. I possess many good memories. I believe that I have done work that matters, work that contributes to the proper functioning of a community.

“Librarian” is now a descriptor that drops from my list. (Or, rather “library clerk,” since I don’t have an MLS degree, but nobody outside of the Dewey Decimal world knows what that means). Yet I do not feel bereft. Jobs are jobs, not identities. They provide money to pay bills, not meanings for life. I remain entirely myself.

And really – I have never been career oriented. There were brief moments when I flirted with the idea of becoming a teacher or a lawyer, but what I’ve always wanted to do is write. Climbing ladders and management positions and corner offices have never featured in my dreams. At age nearly-33, I am content to be an author/awesome homemaker/professional sick person (well, okay, I could do without that last one). This good thing must come to an end so that another may begin.

I look forward in hope.

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Photo credit: Dmitrij Paskevic

Stop the Glorification of Messy

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

Long have I debated about whether or not to write about the concept of stewardship, defined as “the responsible planning and management of resources.” Something tells me that this, more than any other topic, has the potential to offend my women readers. (Note that nothing in this post is directed at any individual, though it is at the front of my mind after talking with a friend today).

Stewardship is about so much more than money.

It’s not just writing that tithe check.

Stewardship is bound up in recognizing that God already owns everything. We are tasked with caring for and using wisely whatever He has given us, be it much or little.

I am the last person on earth who will tell you that women must do all the housework. Nor do I believe that men should do all the yard work. The family shares the space, and so each member should contribute to its maintenance in equal measure. No kid is ever harmed by doing chores, no man will die if he does laundry and no woman will faint if she mows the lawn. Each person within the family has preferences, of course. I’ve never mowed a lawn in my life and have no interest in doing so. I also hate cooking.

So this isn’t about rigid gender roles. It’s about figuring out what works for the people living in that space. There’s no “one size fits all” cleaning schedule. There isn’t a hard-and-fast list of rules.

However (and I say that with caution), I have noticed a trend among women authors and photographers in which mess is glorified. In one sense, I get it. Women are busy. We all have jobs (and being a stay-at-home mom is a job). We have schedules to juggle. We have things that we are passionate about. We don’t want (or need) to be wrapped up in a legalistic system of house perfection. We shouldn’t be the only ones doing the housework. So, if the floor goes unvaccumed for a week, that’s fine. If the dishwasher doesn’t get unloaded the second it’s finished running, that’s fine. Nobody needs to be stressing out about having an ever-spotless house.

Neither should we revel in slovenliness. Yes, everyone is different. I don’t collect anything (other than books) because I can’t stand being surrounded by a bunch of stuff. I crave order. I couldn’t leave a kids art project strewn all over the table for more than a day if my life depended on it. But it’s perfectly normal and fine that other people collect Depression-era glassware or have easels set up 24/7. It’s normal and fine for other people to be more neurotic than me or less neurotic than me.

The whole left-brain, right-brain, creativity vs. logic stuff is at play here.

All of that being said, there’s no reason for our homes, inside and out, to be disaster areas.

There really isn’t.

We’ve swung the pendulum too far in the “did you come to see me or to see my house?” line of thinking. Again, I’m not talking about the elimination of all dust bunnies ever or never having a dirty bowl in the sink. We don’t have to strive for hospital-level cleanliness. We should, however, recognize that people feel more comfortable in a tidy home. The carpet doesn’t have to be new. The furniture doesn’t have to match. Nothing has to be fancy or expensive.

It should be inviting.

It should send a message: “I respect myself. I respect what God has given me, whatever it is. I respect you and want you to feel safe and at ease when you come over.”

My question is simple: Are we taking care of the things God gave us?

I grew up very low middle-class, maybe upper-poverty level. We lived in a single-wide trailer on two-and-a-half rented acres. Money was never plentiful. Except for the every-summer, tightly-budgeted school shopping, clothes came from thrift stores or from the hands of my mom as she pushed fabric through a sewing machine. I learned to make my own brown-bag lunches in third grade. My first car had approximately three moving parts, none of which were a heater, an air conditioner or, on one memorable occasion, windshield wipers.

Yet our home was never dirty. The yard and plants were always well-cared for. Our clothes were clean and mended when needed. We all bathed daily. My parents – who worked together and shared the load – communicated to me and my brother, without ever actually saying the words (that I can remember), that it didn’t matter how poor we were or weren’t. You took what you had, cared for it, used it wisely and made the best of it.

That’s what stewardship is.

We need to stop the glorification of messy, because it’s truly a celebration of laziness and a rejection of responsibility. I write this with real understanding that “life happens”; chronic ill health means I’ve had to sometimes redefine what “clean” means for my family and let go of a lot of little, nit-picky things. (And trust me, my husband knows that he’s just as responsible as I am in caring for our home). I know that seasons change.

I also know that if I have time to blog, I have five minutes to wipe down the kitchen counters. If I can read for half an hour, I can scrub the toilet if necessary. I can make the bed every day, except when I’m at my sickest. Doing little bits of cleaning or organizing throughout the week keeps the chores from getting overwhelming.

So, instead of sloughing off responsibility for our homes, let’s figure out what works. This isn’t about condemnation or comparison. Set your space up in a way that works for you. Get your people to do their part.

Let’s be thankful to God for whatever we have.

My journey to faith. (15)

Addendum, 7/14/15: A lovely friend pointed out to me that my words here can come across as condemnatory, despite my desire that they not. I failed to address the fact that there are homes without able-bodied residents, whether they are ill, elderly or dying. It is not my desire than anyone in this situation feel embarrassed or ashamed. I do not want to put pressure on those who don’t need it. My post is directed at the healthy and able-bodied (or those of us on the “high functioning” end of chronic illness) who may take a perverse sense of pride in having a chaotic home.

Church, this is where we need to step up. We need to offer help to those who need it – and keep offering. Even if, gasp!, the people needing help aren’t part of our congregations. (Or, double gasp!, aren’t Christians at all). Those who need the help, please accept it. I know that you might be gun-shy after being hurt or mocked by others. But there really are kind people who will mop your floors or pull your weeds or do anything you need in order to be supportive.

When I am at my worst, there are people who gladly offer to clean my home or cook meals. If Chris wasn’t here and my family didn’t live just around the corner, I would take them up on it. I know they are sincere and seeking to express their love. If there aren’t people in your life who are like this, if your church doesn’t have the first clue about benevolence of this fashion, then…well, I’ll be blunt: it’s probably time to raise a stink with the pastor or other leaders (who may be willing, but dense) if you are able, or to cut ties and find a new church if you’re not.

My prayer is that anyone who reads this and is not able-bodied will not feel accused. You are not the intended audience.

Five Minute Friday: Rise

Rise

Gentle Reader,

On the couch. Feeling sick.

Linking up with Kate and the crowd. We: rise.

Go.

Don’t want to rise to the occasion. 
Don’t want to get up on my feet. 
I want to pull the covers over,
And just go back to sleep.

These are the first words that came to mind tonight. I’m sure it’s the stupid thrush. Third time I’ve had it. I’m tired and achy on a good day, so throwing this pestilence into the mix makes things worse. Probably should have stayed home today, but we’re so busy at work right now…

Does anyone else feel that way? Feel compelled to get up, to go, to be there when you really shouldn’t? When someone else should pick up the slack?

I’m sure there are. I’m sure there are people reading this who feel that pressure. Who can’t discern if it comes from within or without.

We are schooled in this world of ours, this society obsessed with the vaguely-defined “American dream,” to sacrifice all on the altar of success. The house, the cars, the 2.5 kids. The corner office. The title. The not-necessarily-bulging-but-definitely-not-empty bank account. The race of rats and the Jones’ with whom to keep up are particularly plaguesome for the Type-A folks who really do want to do a good job.

But you know…it’s not worth it. Going to work when we’re sick and overextending and saying “yes” when we really mean “no.” Constantly covering the behinds of  the slackers. Automatically replying with, “No big deal” because we can’t recognize when we’re about to burn out.

Last night I listened to was is easily one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Psalm 119 starts off immediately confronting the franticness of our lives:

Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart! – vs. 1-2 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Those who seek Him with the whole heart are blessed. Not the ones who ignore fevers and families for one more hour at their desks.

Stop.

I believe in working hard. That’s how I was raised and that’s why I find slackers so everlastingly irritating. I believe in doing the best you can do at whatever it is you do. But I wonder. I wonder why I put so much emphasis on my job in comparison to seeking Him. It’s not that I don’t seek Him. I’m thinking in terms of attitude and time. I wonder why I worry when I miss a day or two of work, even for a vacation, and yet don’t worry if I miss I day or two of Scripture reading.

It’s a dangerous place and a dangerous time we live in. No, there are not guns held our heads. We are not (yet) compelled to renounce Christ or die. But how easy it is to set seeking Him aside in the pursuit of that which lasts no longer than the smoke from an extinguished candle. The seduction of this Western world and the hope of winning the prize of the dream made real clouds our thinking. We blend faith with culture and think God wants us to have the house and the cars and the corner office.

But what if that’s not His plan?

Do we even ask?

I may just be preaching to myself here, but I suspect not. I rise early to get to work on time, but do I even think of rising for Jesus? To spend time with Him? To lay myself at His feet?

Time of sweet, holy, worship. Thanking Him for who He is. Seeking to know Him more.

That is an occasion is should rise to.

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