Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Title; Just a Whole Lot of Randomness

Even though I haven't blogged much, I've had lots I wanted to blog about, but have lost or misplaced my thoughts. Why, yes, I am a middle-aged woman.

I really need to come up with a better way to keep track of things like that. Any suggestions?

Rather than try to organize this into something resembling a coherent post, I thought I'd just throw stuff out there as it comes to mind. So I feel this post should come with a warning: BE ADVISED: SHARP CURVES AHEAD. POSSIBLE DETOURS.

Someone on facebook linked to an interesting article in the New York Times about how sewing has seen a resurgence in the last few years. They project that more than three million sewing machines will be sold this year alone. Classes abound and it's not just those who want to save money by making their own clothes that are signing up. Young men and women are taking to sewing like ducks to water, because they see they can use these skills to create unique items. Others are finding that sewing can be therapeutic after long hours at a demanding job.

I know that's certainly true for me. The therapeutic part, I mean. Taking time to be creative, especially through sewing, has become part of what I do to maintain emotional balance. Life can get craaaaazy and stressful, but when I sit down to make something I can feel the stress draining off. What do you do to de-stress?

Someone else on facebook linked to a thought-provoking book review in Christianity Today: "Views of the WEIRD (Western Educated Industrial Rich and Democratic)". The book being reviewed, "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion" by Jonathan Haidt, postulates that "modern liberals lack the full range of moral instincts possessed by conservatives and traditional religious believers". Obviously this is a generalization, but I did find some of the points to line up with my own experience, especially when he discusses how most (other) cultures "value authority that gives a society structure. They invest ideas, images, and religion with sanctity. They prize loyalty to one's country and family, and they hold these values equally and in tension with each other." That's certainly been true of the other cultures I've been exposed to in Africa and South America. From the article, it's my understanding that Mr. Haidt is not a conservative "singing to the choir" but is actually a liberal, trying to convince other liberals of his thesis. Not that I want to get political here but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts because I know I have readers on both sides of the aisle.  But PLEASE, if you decide to comment on this topic, keep it civil! Any comments I deem snarky will be removed. There's enough negativity out there without us adding to it.

Along the same lines, but taking a different approach, Peter Blair in First Things suggests that Christians have focused too much on politics and neglected the arts. He proposes that culture comes before politics, and believers have missed that very important connection. Being a big fan of West Wing, I completely agreed with what he had to say about that show:
The TV series West Wing was not kind to Christian social conservatives, but Aaron Sorkin, the series’ creator, did occasionally offer grudging respect for fiscal conservatives. Though himself a political liberal, he often put his characters—the top staff in a Democratic administration—in situations where they were forced to reconsider their biases against conservatives, or forced to reevaluate their positions on key political issues. The occasion of these reconsiderations was often an encounter with a compelling conservative character (e.g., Ainsely Hayes). These occasionally sympathetic portrayal of conservatives did more to normalize conservatism among some of Sorkin’s liberal viewers than any real life political speech could do. What if we had one or two popular artworks that interacted with Christianity in a similar way?
I've italicized the last couple sentence because those are what stood out to me. As for the rest of the article, I'm still mulling it over. I rarely agree with anyone's point of view in it's entirety, which is as it should be. Scripture makes it clear we have to be discerning, and not accept whatever anyone says, but run it through the filter of the Word of God. I do, however, agree with most of it and especially with the main point: Christians aren't doing enough to influence culture. Some efforts are being made to change that, but too many still have the old school attitude that Christians don't belong in some places, be it the theater, music, art, whatever.

I also agree that we can't merely label something "Christian" and consider it good. I read very little "Christian" literature because there's very little that's really good out there. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the majority of books with the "Christian" label are not even mediocre; they are just flat awful. I love to read, but I can't tell you the number of books I have thrown away or deleted from my Kindle because they were so poorly written, I was embarrassed to even pass them along to anyone else.

I think God places His children in a variety of "jobs" but He commands us all to do our very best, no matter what it is. If you're a teacher, be the very best teacher you can be. If you're a government employee, be the very best government employee you can be. If you're an actress, be the very best actress you can be....

Okay, climbing down off my soapbox now.

But I will say that the server at the coffee shop we went to the other day does her very best when serving customers, and when she delivered my friend's beverage I was struck with what a beautiful presentation she'd made:
That's chocolate syrup on the bottom, milk in the middle, then coffee and a bit of whipped cream on top. I snapped the photo before my friend stirred it, mixing it all up into a delightful concoction.

Speaking of presentations, I am most impressed with my newest book: Sewing Clothes Kids Love, which comes with a nice spiral binding that allows me to open the book to a page and it will stay open so I can reference it while working on a project.
photo from amazon.com
The photographs are lovely and the diagrams easy to understand. I like that it has a pocket in the front to store the patterns, and instructions for each step of a particular process (like "attach the waistband") are kept together on one page. A lot of thought went into the book, to make it as efficient and easy to use as possible. The people involved worked hard to produce an excellent book, and they succeeded!

The book was hand-delivered by Ivan's brother, Aldo, who came to help us with the electrical portion of our project. He also brought some other goodies in his suitcase, including some much needed 18 volt batteries for Ivan's hand tools. We brought batteries when we moved here but they have slowly died, one-by-one until we only had two left. Since Aldo was willing to haul some stuff down for us, Ivan was able to order three more batteries which will greatly aid in the various "jobs" we have going on at the lot.

We're down to ONE MONTH before we have to move. Yikes! I was a little panicked last week, wondering if we'd have everything done in time. But several friends have offered to let us stay with them if the casita is not quite ready to move into, and that helped allay my fears.

To be honest, even though I'm really, REALLY excited about building our own place, the upheaval that precedes it is not so fun. We'll be moving into, and living in, the casita indefinitely. I'm praying it's only for a year, but it might take longer. I keep telling myself that it will be "cozy". And "temporary". But I'm still a little freaked about living in a space that would fit in two rooms of our current rental house.

On so many levels it will be easier, because Ivan will have all his tools and supplies over there then, and can work on the house in small chunks. It won't be the ordeal it is now to load up the car and trailer, haul it across town, set everything up, work for a while, then have to tear it all down, pack it back up and bring it home.

We can really start reaching out, getting to know people and getting established in our new neighborhood.

Life will resume some semblance of "normalcy" -- although I was reading another missionary blog the other day and one of her statements really jumped out at me:
My heart cries out for normal, but as my international friends keep reminding me, “Normal is just a setting on the dryer, and most of us don’t even have a dryer.” 
That really resonated with me. So I guess what I should say, is life will settle into a different kind of routine. Some parts will be easier, other parts might be more difficult. But I'm learning to be content where God has placed me. He knows exactly how long we'll have to live in the casita. He knows exactly how long we'll even remain in that "new" neighborhood, before He calls us to the next place. Meanwhile I need to just be faithful where He's placed me.

Contentment. Happiness. It depends on our expectations, our perception of what that means, doesn't it? I have really enjoyed the series of posts on "the happiness gap" that Wally Metts has written:
I think you'll enjoy the posts, too. Wally was one of the first Christians who pointed out to me the truth that believers should be actively engaged in our culture, and that we should be doing our very best in whatever God has called us to do. So while I can get pretty wound up about it, Wally is very thoughtful and articulate and makes a much better case for it than I can. He's also one of my favorite writers and I can wholeheartedly and without reservation recommend that you subscribe to his blog posts.

Doing that would make me very happy.

5 comments:

The Bug said...

Lots of stuff to mull over in this post!

I am a Christian liberal, so I don't necessarily fit into any of those boxes (in fact I really really wonder how you can be a fiscal conservative & still be a Christian - but that's probably because I'm terrible at managing my OWN money - ha!).

I have a number of friends who don't consider themselves Christian, and have disdain for a lot of Christians. There's a really big disconnect out there, and I think an emphasis on the arts would probably help a lot - especially if it showed that not all Christians are rabid :)

Mari said...

You've given me lots to think on here!
I'm one of those fiscal conservatives, but i really think we all have valid thoughts and can learn from each other. I guess I don't think that Christ would fit into any of those categories and would tell us to help each other, not judge each other, but at the same time do it with common sense and not just give hand outs, but give hand ups. We also need to influence culture more, as you said.

Lhoyt said...

The contents of this post are the "stuff" of much of my thinking lately, and I sometimes "feel like a motherless child, a looong way from home".
The thought of living in a cramped and unsettled situation such as you will be doing is what has offset the Hoyt in me to the point that I gave up the idea of buying and remodeling a beautiful, but needy old brick house on Market or Center street in Warsaw many years ago.

Katidids said...

Wow, lots to stew on in this post. Often the traits others admire in a person are based on their Christian faith...and once the word "Christian" comes into play... then it becomes a dirty word to them. *Sigh*

It sounds like you will be organizing some creative packing and stacking in the casita...just know it's a temp. thing right?

rita said...

I am not the thinker you are.
You reminded me of a young friend in India who is dedicated to impacting society through beauty and truth. He heads up Art for Change: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxdqp3s4oU0&feature=share