A Life Contrary

living a life out of the ordinary

Books, man…

Books. There are so many ways that books can affect us. For the better or worse. Some can transport us to distant worlds and teach us about the ideas of courage, bravery, and perseverance. Some teach us about people who display those characteristics and more. Some books educate us on facts and figures and concepts. And some books are just for nothing else than good, ol’ entertainment – giving us an escape from whatever is going on at the moment.

It’s for this reason that I love books. From my childhood, I can remember being read Little Golden books by my mother and when I got older, I can remember my sister reading me Little Women and A Tale of Two Cities. Reading has always been a big thing in my family. I can remember reading Great Expectations in school and my mom joining in so we could discuss it. I remember reading I am the Cheese and being so shocked that I took it straight to her room and insisted she read it too. I remember my sister and dad reading Stephen King and Les Miserables and discussing it even though I had no clue what they were talking about.

So it’s no surprise to me that a book would have such an impact and change my life in such a way.

Two years ago, I heard about something called a launch team and never one to turn down a good author or a free book, I applied. It was for Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love and little did I know I was one of 5,000 applicants. Greater still, I found out that I was one of the 500 who were picked for the team. Can you believe that?  I couldn’t.  Next came a secret Facebook group and 499 new friends that I couldn’t have ever dreamed up.

What’s more?  After two years, we are still going strong and getting ready to launch another book.  I’ve been on a few more launch teams since then (10 or so), but nothing will ever come close to my first – that original group.  My friends.  My people.  My church, especially at a time when I’ve become disillusioned with so much, these women have provided a constant and a safe place to land.

Thank you, Jen Hatmaker.  Thank you, my FTL sisters.  Thank you, Jesus, for this phenomenal opportunity that I thought was once in a lifetime, but turns out I get to do again!  Keep an eye out for Jen’s latest book, Of Mess and Moxie.

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Politico, I am not…

Once upon a time, I thrived on the political arena.  As a youngster, I loved staying up late to watch Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.  I would debate along with the rest of the panel and loved figuring out my position and listening to others.  Government and civics were my favorite subjects in school.

I had decided to major in Political Science in college.  I even had an ‘in’ in the department.  Then I went to my first class.  It was bad.  Political Science in college was nothing like I thought it would be.  It was… boring.  It took me a minute, but I finally found a different major.  Though, I still kept my political side alive and thriving in the background.

After I got married, I would watch news channels constantly.  I didn’t talk as openly, but I didn’t shy away from discussion either.  My BFF and I would debate news (and news stories) all the time.  I followed most of the important stuff and few of the minor things.

Things slowed a bit when I had a toddler running around and Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews were exchanged for the Backyardigans and Blue’s Clues.  I still tried to hit the wavetops, but I couldn’t keep up with the minutiae for a while.  I still loved to talk about politics with those who I felt comfortable with, but I also listened a fair amount.

Once we moved to Rhode Island, my love for the political arena was waning, but talk radio on my commute was still a lot of fun.  I enjoyed talking back and, let’s be honest, New England politics is pretty much like a soap opera. Voter fraud, politicians who were legit criminals, and teamsters!  

It was quite sensational and also very eye-opening.  I realized that politics was always kind of sensational and salacious.  It was also always pretty corrupt.  Politics was a business just like anything else.  It was a career that people chose and worked at.  It was no longer a body of elected peer chosen to represent the people and area they came from.  I looked around and realized that my options for representation weren’t people that looked like me or that held my beliefs and opinions, they were people who’d been taught how to talk and act to get the most votes much in the same way that I had been taught the best way to sell a product to a customer.

Politics was much more than government and civics and history as I had studied in school.  Now it was a national soap opera that would be fascinating and amazing to watch, were it not for the fact that these are the people that we select to make laws and represent us to the world.

All of this is a roundabout way of stating my opinion on today’s inauguration and all the hullabaloo that is surrounding it.  Did I vote for Trump or Clinton?  Am I a Republican or Democrat?  None of that really matters to be honest.  We have a new president.  That’s it.  We have to respect the position whether we respect the person or not.  We’ve had this issue before.  We elected a suspected adulterer to the country’s top office.  We elected a suspected “dimwit” as the leader of the free world.  We elected a suspected “socialist” as the President of the United States.  Now we’ve elected a bigot or idiot or whatever you want to call him.  Each term, we have to deal with faults and issues, whether “our guy” was elected or not.

I am not happy with the state of things, but that is not anything new.  I’m not necessarily happy with my elected officials.  However, whining or sticking my head in the sand will not help anything.  Complaining and making an idiot out of myself on social media will not affect the outcome.  The best thing we can do is to pray for our leaders and be the best we can be.  Love God and love each other and see where that takes us.

Organization is the Thing…

So, I have noticed an uptick in people talking about organization, meal planning, and budgeting.  I guess it’s a thing to do at the first of the year, right?  So many people are starting with planners and calendars and lists.  And I have to say, organization is my jam!  

Planners are totally my thing.  I have a friend who had been trying to get me into scrapbooking for quite some time and in theory, I love it.  But practically, I just can’t seem to master it.  Then one day, we head to Hobby Lobby and while she was perusing the scrapbooking aisles, I saw the cutest planners and organizers.  My friend exclaims, “No wonder you can’t get into scrapbooking!  You’re a planner girl!”  And it’s true, I am.


Last year, I got a planner that I love.  It’s Mary Square’s Life Planner and it rocks.  The whole beginning is a review of the previous year and casting a vision for the current year.  There’s also a toolbox for helping you reach your goals.  It’s only a couple weeks in and I am so in love with it.  There are so many great planners out there, though.  It’s all about finding what works for you.


But I have to say that one of my other great innovations that I have used for the longest time is… Microsoft excel (or equivalent spreadsheet program).  You see, I normally plot out my work schedule in a spreadsheet and other immovable items and then see how everything will work around those.  My life works so much better with certain set items like meals, bedtime, and wake up times.

Once I have those fixed points set, I look at my to-do list (more on that in a minute) and see when the best times are for those tasks.  So, if it’s a laundry week, then I look for when I have a significant chunk of time and plug that in.  Once the to-dos are done, I look for chunks of time for self-care and fun stuff – like writing and reading.  Then I have a workable schedule and plan that I can put into my planner.

schedule-pic

Now, for the to-do list, I also use a spreadsheet.  Since I have a perfectly capable teenage son, I started by working on his chore list.  I broke it down by daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and ‘as needed’ tasks.  Then I noted when I had him down to do certain tasks and put myself down for alternating weeks.  So, a task like cleaning the bathroom, I would break down like this:

Week1:  Me

Week2:  Charles

Week3:  Me

Week4:  Charles

Now, the bathrooms are being cleaned each week, but I only have to do it twice a month, and he only has to do it twice a month.  So, I have my home and house tasks laid out by week.  And I use this to plug into my weekly schedule.

Since I work nights some and have other things going on, I also use this schedule to work up menu planning.  For example, if there is a day that I am off, I know that I can spend some quality time in the kitchen and may plan for a more involved dinner.  If it is a Wednesday night when we have church and I work until 4 pm, I’ll just plan on making tacos or pasta with meat sauce.

This works perfectly for me.  I know that not everyone has the patience or desire to be quite this… organizational, but It works for me.  Again, I do think it’s all about finding what works for you and using that.

What are you doing this year to get yourself organized?  Have you found the perfect planner?

2017’s Word – “Light”

I have been doing the “one-word” thing for a couple years now and I have to say that it has totally made a difference.  I’ve written about the concept and how it’s all worked for a while, so I don’t know that there’s a need for that.  

I will say that this year has been a lot more difficult in choosing a word.  In the past few years, it has been pretty miraculous how God has shown me the focus for my year.  This year I was thinking about a couple different ones, but there was no real front runner.

I knew I wanted something Jesus-focused, but ‘Jesus’ seemed a little too one the nose, so I started thinking about his other attributes – healer, redeemer, love.  Then the word ‘Light’ came to me and it really seemed to fit for a plethora of reasons.  Obviously, Jesus is the Light of the world.  But also, Light is pure energy, which signifies power and positivity.  There is also the dual idea of ‘Light’ as a lessening of a burden or load.  Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is Light.

A week into the year and I’m not entirely sure how this is going to play out.  At our candlelight service on Christmas Eve, Light seemed so perfect.  Then a few days later, Nathan was at a friend’s house and the friend turned on his Christmas lights to show Nathan.  He remarked that they looked better in the night, to which Nathan replied, “Well, yes, they light does look better in the dark.”

I have been thinking about this.  On the one hand, things have been getting steadily better in our life and as Nathan keeps reassuring me, “We’re about to turn a corner.”  So, this is the Light at the end of the tunnel.  We’ve also got some major changes coming up.  They are scary, but I think it’s going to be good.  Because of this, I have to focus on the Light and not the darkness.

I’m still toying with the verse to go along with it all, but I’m thinking of John 8:12 (ESV):

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Books for 2017

Since last year’s book list was all but a complete failure, I decided to go pretty low-key this year.  Also, since I still kept buying books, even though I wasn’t reading them, I decided to pull from my shelf first for my list.  It’s kind of a light list, but I figure if I shoot through those, then I can add a few tougher ones in later.

So, without further ado, here is my reading list for 2017:

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen*

Out of the Darkness by Kevin Jones*

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin

Bride(zilla) of Christ by Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Poets & Saints by Jamie George

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper

A book by CS Lewis (still undetermined)

A book by Wendell Berry (still undetermined)

Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

Like I said, it’s a super short list right now,  I’d by averaging little more than a book a week, though at my current pace, that may be all I can manage.  However, I am also starting a book club.  This should double my list and also push me out of my comfort zone.  I’ve added some super smart ladies that I’m sure will have some great books for us to read.

What are you reading for the year?  Any recommendations or suggestions?

Goals for 2017

I’m a natural born planner and list-maker.  I love starting my day with a to-list and the joy that it brings each time I can mark another item off that list.  I love a schedule with neat lines and boxes that show me what needs to be done and when.  So, it’s really no surprise that I would begin my year with a list of New Year’s Resolutions.

However, I have gotten to the point where I no longer call them resolutions.  I’m not opposed, they just don’t accurately describe what I’m trying to achieve with my list.  It’s much more accurate to call them goals since I try to list out things I want to achieve or habits I want to instill.  I try to begin from a positive rather than a negative.

I’ve done this in several different formats and in several different ways over the years, but mainly I take the 4 pillars of health and figure out what I need to change or do better within the next year.  I list out the Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual and I’ve begun to add a Family and Work list, too.

This year I went to the next level of organization and bought Life Planner from Mary Square.  It has a year in review section as well as a place to list goals and prompts to cast a vision for the next year.  It’s pretty amazing for the super organized, detail oriented folk like me.

Each month begins with goals and tasks then has the week set up with lists.  When the month is over, you have checks to see if you have met your goals and how to review progress.  Will this help me?  Will I fill it out in detail each day, week, and month?  Will it actually benefit me and my family’s 2017?  I have NO clue!  It’ll probably be like most things and I will contribute to it off and on throughout the year.  And after all, it can’t hurt, right?

So what are my goals for 2017?  Well, there are a lot of physical/health related goals.  I am signing up to run a 5K in April so I have to get ready for that.  There is also my cleanse/health stuff that I have to complete.  Seeing as I’m getting a little thick in the middle again, I know that I need to cut out sugar.  I’m also going to try to keep up here on the blog and not go silent again.  I also want to finish my chronological reading of the Bible.

There are just a few and I’m working on my plan of attack for each one.  I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at my list for 2016 and realized that I had actually accomplished some of my goals for the year.  I can only hope that 2017 will see even more success.

2016 – A Reading Failure

There’s a classic 90’s era movie called Airborne starring Shane McDermott and Chris Conrad with a supporting cast featuring two unknown but up and coming actors you may have heard of – Seth Green and Jack Black.  It is a truly awful movie whose storyline revolves entirely around a California surfer “dude” who is forced to move to Cincinnati, OH, which just happens to be a hockey town.

Why would I begin a blog about books by talking about an obscure and little watched movie from 1993?  Mainly because I am weird, but also because there is a line in the movie that I feel captures my view on books.  Seth Green’s nerdy and unliked character, Wiley, has to give an introductory speech to the class and in an attempt to be well-received, he lauds his knowledge and prowess at the town’s beloved sport of hockey.  He rambles for a bit and ends with the statement, “My Dad drives a Zamboni!”

When talking about how much I love books, I could prattle on for hours about the smell or the knowledge contained therein.  I could tell you about how giddy I get over titles and synopsis or how I love looking at covers and reading bios and more!  And I would end this speech by saying, “I even work in a BOOKSTORE!”  All of this to say, books are my thing.

Now, I’m saying all of this to lay the groundwork for the fact that 2016 wasn’t my best reading year.  Life just took over.  Well, life and a tv, if I’m being honest.  My schedule at work kept me pretty busy so when I was at home, I had to do the tasks to keep things running and when that was done, I was just tired.  It was much easier to watch a tv show or listen to a podcast while washing dishes or cooking dinner.  By the time all the housework was done, I’d watch a show with Nathan or we’d watch something as a family and then I’d fall into bed (often falling asleep before the show was over!)

I did get a few books read, but I didn’t get anywhere near my goal.  I had even abbreviated my reading list to only 18 books with the intention of adding 6 books by the end of the year as I came across new books.  And come across new books, I did!  I think I only actually read 2 books off my original list (Help My Unbelief by Barnabas Piper and Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans).  However, I did come across several that I was able to read or listen to on audiobook.

Some of the ones that I readily remember are:

5 Habits of a Woman Who Does Quit by Nicki Koziarz

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

Why We Aren’t Emergent by Ted Kluck and Kevin DeYoung

Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall

King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight

I just didn’t do well with reading.  I also began When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper, The Bride(zilla) of Christ by Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin, Household Gods by Ted and Kristin Kluck, Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen, and Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin.

There may be a few that I finished or that I started that I don’t have listed, that’s kind of how bad my note-taking and follow through were.  I began the year with such a promising list and a record of when I began and finished each book.  It was so nerdy, so wonderful!  But I just couldn’t keep up.

I will say that a few of the books that I just absolutely loved were Help My Unbelief by Barnabas Piper, Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall, and Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs.  I would go so far as to say that these books were transformative.  Each book really changed my life this year and I would highly recommend them to anyone and everyone.

The great thing is that there is never a shortage of good books, and I’m excited to try again in 2017!

One Word for 2016

Considering how most people have lamented 2016, it’s almost comical that my word for the year was ‘Joy.’  But then again, what better word could you pick for such a stinky year?

I started picking my One Word for the Year back in 2014.  I had first heard of this concept and really appreciated the idea of meditating on one word or discipline for the entire year.  Studying one trait or one idea and letting it permeate all that you do and building on it each year.

While reading in Proverbs in January, my word of 2014 came to me – Wisdom.  I spent most of 2014 trying to figure out what it meant to be wise and how to increase in wisdom.  At the end of the year, I wasn’t sure exactly how to measure success, but I didn’t feel like I had achieved it.

In 2015, my word was Peace.  It came to me while trying to navigate a particularly stressful week and realizing that I had the tendency to stress long in advance of projected activities.  I tried my best to figure out how to cultivate peace in the midst of ever increasing anxiety.  I never quite felt like I had gained what I was after.

Last December, while singing hymns at the Christmas Eve service, I knew what my 2016 word would be – Joy.  It was confirmed on New Year’s Day when my husband noted that I had lost my joy.  This year I worked really hard at figuring out what joy was and how to find mine again.

Some things that I realized in perspective is that it does hold true that Joy is based on circumstance, it is in spite of it.  That is why you can take a year like 2016 and still have joy, still have it categorized and colored with joy all the way through.

To answer the question, Did I regain my joy in 2016?  I would have to say yes.  But honestly it is only by looking back at my previous words that I can tell, because a year alone isn’t really enough time.

A couple weeks ago, I had a really busy week.  Most of December was crazy.  I had a Cookie Exchange Party, a work Christmas party, a church Christmas Party, a Women’s Fellowship Christmas party, and various other obligations and gatherings.  It was enough to make an ambivert like me retreat!

One week in particular, I had 3 events scheduled plus work and home stuff, I was just ready to be done with it all!  On the day of the last event, while I sat waiting for everyone to arrive at my house and began to reflect on the week.  Instead of stressing out about all that I had to do and what was coming, I had peace.  I wasn’t freaking out or rushing around.  I’d chosen the path of wisdom and had enlisted help in cleaning instead of taking it all on my own.  I’d also made the wise choice of fixing one dish for each gathering – a no-cooking dip – so that meant that I only had to shop and prep once and had enough ingredients for every gathering.

When I looked back and realized that habits and “words” that I’d picked in years past were still affecting my behavior today and that I was still increasing and cultivating those ideas.  So, I realized that even though at the end of 2016, I may not feel as if I’m just full of Joy, that’s okay.  I definitely feel more joyful than I did in January and I’m not done yet.  I’m still growing and working on it.  How great is that?

2016 in Review

How do you sum up a year like 2016?  For many, it will absolutely go down as a year in infamy.  There have been so many bad things that have happened even during the last week of the year (RIP George Michael and Carrie Fisher).  

And I will admit that this hasn’t been the greatest year of my life.  It has definitely had it’s share of ugliness and trials.  However, I can’t say that it was all bad (can any of us?).  I can’t even say that it was the worst year of my life.

All in all, a review of 2016 sheds light on some huge successes and some rather large failures, but still reveals a pretty decent year for the Drake family.  We ushered in 2016 huddled in a cold camper and gathered around my broken computer watching a movie we’d rented from our local library.  Now, as I write this, I am sitting all alone on a nice, comfy couch watching Netflix on a gigantic tv and typing on my brand new computer (thanks, Mom!) in a nice warm house.

To say that this is a contrast of events would be an understatement.  Early in 2016, we had a massive snow which knocked out our water in the camper and forced us to abandon our homestead and head to a friend’s house to hunker down until we could get it fixed.  To say that wintering over in a camper was difficult would also be an understatement.  I cannot truly express how grateful I was for that camper and what it meant to me and family, but I equally cannot express how difficult our time there was.

But we are no longer there, in that camper or in that state.  We’ve been richly blessed again and one of our neighbors has allowed us to live in his house, which I have mentioned is basically a palace compared to where we’ve been (I will need to remind myself of this again when I am complaining about one of the many… eccentricities of this house).  Our circumstances have definitely changed for the better.

Yet, the homestead still isn’t finished.  Nathan worked diligently on it for most of the year.  An illness and a prior commitment caused the work to stall in the latter half of 2016.  I will admit that this has caused a great amount of resentment in me toward our house and land.  It is such a HUGE project and I know that it will take a long time, but my impatience has colored most of 2016.  This is an attitude that I must leave in 2016.

Work was also a bit of mixed blessing.  I took on a new position, as well as a rise in seniority.  We had massive staff turnovers which saw me going from working 2 days a week to working 5-6 days a week.  This has continued right up until Christmas when we lost 3 team members in the span of one week.  I do love my job and I love my new position, but working that much has definitely taken it’s toll.  This will also be changing in 2017 (more on that to come).

Our church has also had a rough year.  It’s been a year of transition with many growing pains.  And it is still going.  I wish that I could elaborate more on this, but there are still so many gears turning and ramifications yet to come.

This blog itself has show a great deal of 2016.  Last year was a banner year for my writing.  I hit my goal of writing at least one blog a month and for most months, I exceeded that.  After that, I was quite ambitious for 2016 and intended not only to write every week or month, but I was endeavoring to post new blogs 3 times a week.  And it worked for a while, but with a big house to keep and work demands, I fell behind and ended up letting go altogether.  But I did move and begin the blog that I really wanted to write.

Added in the plus column, I did make a new friend, deepen some existing relationships, and rekindle some old ones.  I was able to organize a Mom’s Night Out in August with a pretty good attendance and a Cookie Exchange party in December with a great turnout.  Both were such a blessing and I’m hoping to continue on with such things.

So, how will I look back on 2016?  With fondness.  Sure, there were some huge, awful things that happened and perhaps even the majority of the year was such, but in the end it was another year of life that was lived with my family and friends and in service to my Lord so I can’t see it any other way (plus I lost 35lbs, so there’s that).  I’m quite eager to say farewell to 2016 and usher in 2017, but it is a fond farewell full of happy memories and blessings.

Homesteading Update…

Okay, so since it’s been a while since I’ve written and I’m sure you all are just waiting with baited breath to hear how our homesteading experiment is going.  Right?

Well, there is some good news.  We are out of the camper that we were living in.  And while I was super excited to have it while we did, I can not explain how happy I am to be out of there.  There are so many things about living in a house that you can take for granted.  It is so nice to have a full-sized kitchen, a proper hot water heater, and a real bed.  Not to mention how nice it is for our little family to be able to spend time in separate rooms!

The house we are living in is actually our neighbor’s.  This is great for so many reasons.  First, we are close to our place, so when Nathan works on the house, he doesn’t have to go far.  Second, we really love our place and our neighborhood, so it’s great to be able to stay in the area.  Third, our neighbor is amazing and we are so thankful for them.

So, how’s the house coming along?  Well.  It’s not.  We’ve had a few setbacks and basically, no work has been done in about 6 months.  It is so hard for me not to get discouraged and be totally bummed.  But it is what it is and there’s no point in crying about it now.

Nathan has had a few side projects that he’s had to work on, but other than getting our car taken care of, he’s pretty well done with that, so we’re hoping that he will be able to refocus on the house at the beginning of the year.  Of course, he’s also going to be starting his second Masters and finishing up his final project for his Doctorate, too, but I guess we’ll see.

As for the land, it’s in about the same boat as the house.  Other than a bit of upkeep, we haven’t done much.  But since our neighbor is quite neighborly, we’ve been helping him out with some stuff, such as his garden plot.  Hopefully, it will be ready by spring and we will share the bounty.  He also has bees and though we’ve got nothing to do with them, I cannot wait until there’s honey!

On a side note, Chas has been hired on as a farmhand and helps out with odd jobs and takes care of the animals (two donkeys and a horse) when our neighbor doesn’t come out.  We’ve also got a few defectors – a hen and two roosters.  I’m not sure where they’ve come from or where they roost, but they seem to like staying here throughout the day and the hen has at least begun sleeping in the holly bush at the front of the house.  We’ve named them – Matilda Cluckenbach and her boys, Homer and Herschel.

So, now we’re kind of breaking for the holidays.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to regroup and get things going again soon.

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