October 17, 2012

Reality Check

You know how you can see someone at church week after week  dressed in her flawlessly coordinating outfits, her hair blow-dried and shaped exquisitely, and her happy little family lined up in the pew beside her with perky smiles on their faces and you inadvertently form the assumption that her life is perfect? I think the same thing happens with blogs.

I love reading blogs about other people’s adventures in marriage, homemaking, minimalism, healthy living, and being thrifty. But one of the pitfalls of blogs is that they present only a partial view of one’s life. Like seeing someone only one day a week, in her Sunday best, reading a blog is viewing that person’s life only in the moments she’s willing to share, solely from the perspective she cares to present. I don’t think many bloggers intentionally portray their lives through rose-colored glasses; it just happens.

The result is that sometimes I read blogs and start to feel this creeping notion that my life is inadequate. The only photos I see are carefully-selected glimpses of the stylish parts of her home just after a major cleaning; therefore, it must follow that her whole house is impeccable. All I read about are the happy marriage moments; so I assume that the blogger’s relationship is perfect. She only writes about life’s trials after she’s emerged from them, processed them, and learned from them; so it seems that even her darkest days are gloriously surreal growing experiences. By the end of this carefully culled, narrow view into someone else’s life, I realize I’ve grown a bit bitter about my own. Why isn’t my life perfect like hers?

I know I’m not the only one who experiences this phenomenon, because sometimes I get comments from people who seem to feel this way after reading my blog.  

In the interest of being genuine, I’d like to let you in on a few secrets.

My world is mostly not cute and color-coordinated.

I do love those blogs that are easy on the eye. Some people have a knack for design, and they draw me into their little watercolor world. Every image gets Photoshopped into soft hues that blend well with their blog’s theme. I view those blogs enviously and think, “Wow. Her life is a work of art. Everything in her world is earth-toned! Even her husband! Even her kids! Even her 99-cent thrift store sofa!”

Here’s my reality: There are a lot of ways to be frugal and stylish at the same time, but sometimes being thrifty or more natural means you go with the option that isn’t chic. Don’t let all those cutesy blogs out there fool you. It takes a lot of creativity (read: hard work) and skill with PicMonkey to make frugality look classy.  

And the real world is not Pinterest (thank goodness). Some people are going to hear about your making your own laundry detergent or sewing uber-cheap burlap bag curtains, and instead of hitting the “Like” button, they’ll tell you to your face that you’re crazy. That’s okay. Life’s more fun if we’re all different.

My marriage is not a fairy tale.

The anecdotes I share about my sweet husband are completely true; however, they are not the whole story. The sweet moments are only possible because of the tough moments, when he and I are at odds. In those times, one or both of us must die to self and choose to serve the other. That’s real love. Those stories aren’t always easy to tell, they’re really personal, and they’d probably be boring in a blog post. But it’s those mundane, unpleasant, untold times of sacrifice that make our relationship so sweet overall.

My house is not perfect.

Despite my obsession with minimalism, we still have a few corner cabinets stacked with wedding gifts we don’t need now, but that might be useful someday. Even though I love homemaking, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it and procrastinate on ironing all those dress shirts. And while the rest of my home may be beautifully clutter-free, if you visit me unexpectedly, the door to my bedroom will be closed and will stay that way.

We are not punctilious about our home, health, and entertainment preferences.

And we don’t look down on people who make different choices.

Even though we love simplicity, frugality, and whole, healthy foods, sometimes we splurge and enjoy doing it too!

I put a lot of time into milling our wheat at home and baking fresh, whole wheat products for our everyday meals. We raise our own free-range eggs, and we buy organic produce from a local co-op whenever we can. We do our best to drink only water and the occasional glass of milk. We never buy refined sugar or white flour. To save money we use cloth napkins, and we dry our laundry on a clothesline most of the time. We're pretty rigid with our budget. For the sake of our relationship and our finances, we don’t own a television; we also don’t have Netflix or any other kind of viewing subscription.

We get interesting comments when folks find out about some of these choices.

But we are not fanatical about this stuff. (I chuckled a few days ago as a friend handed me two books on healthy eating while we were standing in the middle of McDonald’s.) We drink refined sugary sweet tea and HFCS-sweetened cola when we’re dinner guests in others’ homes and we love it. I choose white flour tortillas instead of wheat when we visit our favorite burrito joint. Sometimes I grab one of those expensive paper towels to clean up a particularly difficult mess. If it’s cloudy outside or I’m just extra busy, I skip the clothesline and put our laundry into the dryer. As careful as we are in budgeting, occasionally we share a peach milkshake on impulse. And not having cable doesn’t stop us from watching “Once Upon a Time” together on Hulu.

Preferring to do things a little differently from our neighbors most of the time doesn’t mean we’re snobby or perfectly consistent in these choices.

All my dreams have not come true. 

I love the life God has given me, but there is much I still hope to do and be for Him. Just because I rejoice in and write about answered prayers doesn’t negate others that still weigh heavily on my heart. Everyone has unfulfilled hopes and dreams, and always will have some of those no matter how marvelous life is. No one ever "arrives." 

I'm learning to not allow a Sunday glimpse of someone else's life to fool me into being less satisfied with my own.

October 15, 2012

About My Best Friend

Let me tell you about my best friend.

Since I live with him, I know him pretty well.

He’s a busy man. Every morning while I’m teaching online, he waves goodbye and mouths “I love you” as he walks out the door to go to work. Some days he comes home on his lunch break; those days are the best.  The day goes by faster and life feels lighter when I get to see my sweet friend in the middle of the day. He works hard and returns home again tired in the evening. But all afternoon I look forward to the hug and kiss I’ll get when he walks back through the front door. Because he is an extraordinary chef, we often cook dinner together. Tandem cooking with him is one of my favorite things in the world. After dinner, some evenings he has to do homework for his college courses. Sometimes he must practice long hours for worship team on Sundays. Some nights he pours over his Bible and study resources in preparation for teaching Bible study on Thursdays. But he always manages to have time for me.

He has grown in many ways in the past year and a half. He has become more patient, more courageous, more mature. He has developed adeptness in home maintenance, budgeting, and even meal planning. He has learned much about nutrition and has made commendable changes based on his findings. He has successfully tried his hand at restoring old furniture, gardening, and raising chickens.

In one Saturday, he can make our large yard look like a well-kept wonderland.

My youngest niece adores him, and he loves her about as much as I do. (With this pair, consider my heart officially stolen and irretrievable.)

He can do anything but the dishes with a MIDI controller, a MacBook, and Apple Logic.

He speaks to me with kind words, in a loving way.

Early in our marriage, when he found out that vacuuming is my least favorite chore, he took it upon himself to keep the carpet vacuumed. I've never had to do it since.

He is a phenomenal songwriter. Other people only hear the few songs he feels ready to share; I get to hear most of them as he writes them. They are heartfelt and creative. They will make you laugh or cry or stand in wonder.

He enjoys good food. So do I. Together we have a frightening enthusiasm for cuisine. We talk about places we’ve eaten and dishes we had years before. We compare notes. Late at night, we lie in bed fantasizing together about restaurants we want to go to someday and foods we’d love to try.

He listens to me when I speak. When everybody else is too busy, or when my voice gets lost among the many louder ones, he hears me.

He’s almost always game for spontaneous dancing.

Upon request, he can extemporaneously tell the silliest, most clever and original bedtime stories, flawlessly.

He reads voraciously. I love that.

He’s not afraid to be goofy to make me laugh.

He knows the dreams and desires that I hold too dear to talk about with anyone else. He makes me feel like they are important and valuable and maybe even possible.

He gets me. When I feel like I have to explain myself to everyone else, he just understands.

I am thankful for my sweet friend and for the fact that he is my husband.