Going Through Changes

I have made an abundance of work for myself in these first couple weeks of the year. We’ve changed banks and accountants, both of which have been the same for over twenty years, and I’m in the process of navigating a new accounting method for our business and personal finances that challenges my love of learning.  

I like change but I may have gone a little headlong into this new year and bitten off more than I can reasonably chew, especially since I enjoy paperwork about as much as paying taxes. I also don’t like managing finances.  I wanted to make a fresh start, but as with decluttering or deep cleaning the house, the mess and chaos is usually doubled before it’s halved.

I also decided to move my blog from Wordpress to Squarespace, which “they” tell you is simple and here are 5 easy steps and we’ll walk you through it but really, I think they all have a degree in computer science and love that kind of stuff. I don’t love it.

All of these changes had two goals: simplify and save money.

This space here may not look a whole lot different to you—big, sweeping change wasn’t my goal. Squarespace offers me an easier way to customize and change things without having to know coding, plus the hosting is cheaper for me and I’ve always loved the look of Squarespace blogs. I’m not exactly a designer and there are a few things left to do (fix a bazillion broken links, for example), but I’m settling in and sprucing things up a bit. 

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(Also, did you know I’m slightly colorblind? Picking the exact shade of green that I want for the blog title and links has been difficult, so let me know your thoughts. I’m going for an evergreen-type shade.)

I brought all this work upon myself, wanting to change things up and hoping to simplify. I long for beautiful spaces and simple routines, in everything from our finances to my blog to our home and school, and I’m just enduring growing pains right now while we do the work on the front end that will, hopefully, pay off in beauty and simplicity on the other end. 

As Edith Schaeffer says, “—a Christian, above all, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively.” We all have work to do and spaces to live in, and being created in the image of God gives us the freedom to bring His inspiration into every aspect of our lives, even the mundane stuff of reorganizing our finances.

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Several of you reached out and shared a word you were focusing on for the coming year after my last post and it was encouraging to read your reasons. I’ve settled on stewardship. If you’ve never chosen a word of the year it might sound silly, but I am surprised how often God brings this word to mind. He knows all my inner workings and short-comings when it comes to stewarding things. 

I’ve been frustrated this week by the flu and the paperwork and all the things I’m behind on since getting sick, and I’m tempted to feel the way we all feel when we’re unproductive: worthless. Worth less than we are at our full potential. Worth less than the person being busy. Worth less than our spouse or our children deserve. Why do we use productivity as a measuring stick? The thing I’ve had to steward this week has been my mind.

To that end, I’ve lit candles, disinfected surfaces, put my favorite oils in the diffuser (eucalyptus + orange, currently) and managed to wash all our bedding yesterday so my sweet husband could sleep in a germ-free bed and not on the couch. Stewarding my thoughts and reigning them in from the deluge of accusations about my worth is closely linked with beauty.

If you’re under a mountain of laundry or schoolwork or bills or a big project, may you find a way to live in it artistically, aesthetically, and creatively. It's not always easy but it makes all the difference.

Something New

It's that time of year when we're all looking for something new: a habit, a routine, a discipline, a skill, a word, a life-change.

I have 48,000 emails coming in to my inbox daily that are reminding me of new planners I should get and new courses and accountability groups and studies I should be involved in to start 2018 off right, and as I meticulously unsubscribe to almost all of them (I don't even know how I got on so many lists), I wonder how in the world people choose The Right New Thing for them. There are so many options.

I've taken to narrowing my options. My burdens for the new year are lifted with each unsubscribe and it's ridiculous, but I feel I've already accomplished something just by saying no.

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Our oldest daughter left Tuesday for two months—just got on a plane by herself and flew away to India, for two whole months, alone.

Obviously she won't be alone in India and obviously, at 19 years of age, she is going with our blessing; but we've taken some flack for letting her go alone and it does feel a little bit like crazy.

It feels a little bit like life beyond my control, like grown children stepping out into the world we (hopefully, dear Lord) prepared them for. I have to trust that the world has also been prepared for them, both ready for them and pre-pared-like-a-beautiful-guest-room for them. God has this amazing plan we don't see until we step into or are thrown into it, or until it drops itself into our lap in the form of a child with a dream. A dream with a child. It all unfolds as we move along and you don't plan a life of faith on January 1st with your special pens and your new journal.

You don't plan for most of the things you end up worrying about, either. Instead, you plan to avoid those worries and you do everything you can to live a life that skirts causes for concern. But sometimes you just wake up and there they are—all those things you worried your life around.

The things I'm currently worrying about are typical of most worries: they're beyond my control. Honestly, my child leaving for India is one of the bottom-rung concerns. She's wanted to go back ever since her first trip with us, when she was 11 and it just sounded like a cute idea. Now it's reality and so are a billion other things she could decide she wants to do.

You always tell your kids, 'You can go anywhere! You can do anything!' So when they do, what can you actually say?

Saying no is not always an option.

We can't preach to our kids to follow the Lord and go where He sends them and then question their discernment at every step. Granted, we have a lot of experience with the particular area and people she's going to, so that makes a big difference. If one of our kids wanted to go to the jungles of South America we'd be at a loss and saying no would be a little easier. But whether they go or they stay, we have to give them two feet to walk on and be a support to their dreams.

(Yada yada yada. That all reads good on the screen but check back with me in a month, okay?)

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I've been thinking about the new year because beginnings are my favorite and I like a bit of change now and then. I am praying for one word this year to hold my feet to the path, one word that will re-focus me when I drift and remind me when I forget. I haven't settled on one yet and it's January 3 as I write this, but oh well. I can start over whenever I want and I'm not interested in stressing about time.

(Again, that all sounds good, doesn't it? But I do stress about time. I'm just trying to convince myself that I don't.)

My word might be STEWARDSHIP because so much has been entrusted to me—time, people, talents, resources—things that belong to the Lord but that rest in my hands. I need to re-focus and be aware of how I'm stewarding those things.

Or my word might be LIMIT, because limiting options and choices is one of the best ways for me to make decisions. Adding something new is not high on my list of priorities this year, but limiting myself in certain areas would be a good discipline.

It would be funny if I chose NO as my word of the year, right?

Can I go to...No.

Do we have time for...No.

Can I have a...No.

Do you want to...No.

Whatever I choose or don't choose, I know I'll be making some plans for the year that include ways to worry less, ways to avoid worrisome situations, and ways to communicate with a remote village in India with spotty electricity.

How about you? Are you choosing a word for 2018 or making big, new plans?

Beginning Again

All creation groans for a new beginning, and here we have January—the clean slate of new calendars and new planners and new expectations. The two week period after Christmas, when we take down the tree, pack away the Christmas decor, give everything a good cleaning and prepare for a new year, is my favorite.

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Often my own groanings are more about regrets and missed opportunities, though, rather than an earnest expectation of glory to come, and a new year can look like the false hope of The Year We Finally Do Things Right.

The trap is in thinking that new equals better, that starting over fresh will create an opportunity to live failure-free. When I wake in the night with the crushing burden of all my shortcomings—some of which are real and true and some of which are just the enemy’s rummaging through my garbage—the way out of the trap is not to develop a new plan or system or list, though I try.

The way out is only ever through Jesus.

Continue reading at natalieogbourne.com.