warning: this post could potentially be long because i have a lot on my mind. and it will definitely be "rambly". but you've been sufficiently warned so i feel i can proceed.
i've been reading a lot lately. lots of fiction, lots of self-help, lots of just plain interesting stuff. i love to read, but that's a gross understatement. next to listening to music, reading is my absolute number one favorite thing to do. up until recently, i was a strictly fiction only kinda girl. my parents have sent me numerous self-help and religious studies books over the years that simply collected dust and made me feel guilty. what kind of good Christian can only read fiction and never a book that will draw her closer to God (excluding the Bible of course, which i read faithfully but often trudge through because it's not fiction... just being honest).
but recently i've stumbled upon (often thanks to my book club) nonfiction books that i've eaten up just as enthusiastically as my fiction books. it's kind of exciting to branch out. all of this is just some unnecessary background to my main point, but i'm fond of disclaimers and unnecessary yet interesting personal facts.
in any case, i've been reading two books that i would consider life changers. just how they're going to change my life i haven't yet decided. i started reading the happiness project a month or so ago, and it has made a huge impact on me. i love that gretchen rubin writes the book from her perspective about herself instead of trying to preach or teach at/to her audience in hopes that they'll change. it's a reflective book that allows the reader to decide if gretchen's changes might be necessary in their own life.
the book is about gretchen's search for more happiness and how she practically makes changes each month in the pursuit of happiness. i love that she has done all the research on "happy factors" and succinctly shares them in the book. the happiness project abounds with facts and statistics on numerous topics... topics with which i can relate and am interested in hearing about.
without any prompting, i've already made several significant changes that gretchen herself went through. most of the changes seemed natural and easy and obvious to me. there was no hesitation. unfortunately i had to return the book to the library before i finished it. so i haven't read the second half, but i'm certainly anxious to do so.
sometimes we just need a little push, a little reminder, a little suggestion that there are simple ways to improve our lives. and i'm not talking about gaining more material possessions or finding that golden career. there's so much more to life than those things, but it's often hard to focus on what really matters. especially in this culture and society.
that brings me to the next book i've been reading. 7: an experimental mutiny against excess by jen hatmaker is knocking my socks off. it's made me cry and laugh and question everything i believe in and long for in life. i'd already been questioning a lot of my current "western civilization" principles, but this book is taking my thoughts to the extreme. always dangerous as i'm a "dive-in-with-both-feet-and-think-about-ramifications-afterwards" kind of person! jen is a Christian and therefore weaves Christian principles into her similar take on a "happiness project." her purpose is to let "there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom."
for each of seven different months, jen chooses seven of a category to live with for that month. for example, the first month she chooses only seven kinds of food to live on for that month. it seems kind of arbitrary and a little crazy, but her purpose and the insight she gains from these "fasts" is convicting.
i don't know what to do when i read or hear something like this. you know how when a missionary comes to speak at your church and you're ready to sign up for the mission field? (that's how i always feel anyway, and jay always has to talk me off the ledge). these books are kind of like that. where do i sign up? who can i give my excessive clothing to? do i really need this big of a house? do my kids really need gifts and candy on easter? oh how my head spins.
yes, as a Christian i long to be Christ-like. but i honestly think there are VERY FEW people in america who have the slightest clue what that really means... including me. not the slightest. we "civilized" Christians often focus on character and little else. but Jesus was completely revolutionary for his time and beyond revolutionary for a culture like ours. he had no possessions, was not attractive, preached about giving everything you have to the poor, was surrounded by the misfits and unwanted and unloved and sought them out. just think of how we scorn homeless people and ask yourself how Christ-like that is. talking to myself here too. we are so far off, the target isn't even in sight anymore.
so what to do? my best friend and i have often talked about how to live in our culture, raise our kids in this culture, but still be Christ-like. how do we fight consumerism when i feel like a deserve a $5 cup of coffee cause it makes me happy and relaxes me. i don't even drink caffeine anymore! but i still want my grande decaf soy latte. sometimes i make myself sick. sometimes i have out of body experiences and think, "seriously?! is that really how you're living your life?!"
so i'm going to give all of this some serious thought. these books have challenged me. not only as a Christian, but also as a responsible human being. of course thousands have probably followed in these women's footsteps and started their own fasts and happiness projects, and i think that's great. i think we all need to think outside the box a little and become more aware of what we really need to survive and be satisfied with life.
but i want more than just a month-long challenge. i want my changes to be permanent. if i decide to fast sugar for a month (that means no more andy's, folks, Lord help us!), then i want it to be a permanent change. not something i'll look forward to indulging in again once that month is up. but i also don't want to make changes that are so extreme i know i'd fail at them at some point. i want to be purposeful, meaningful, selective. i also don't want to become legalistic or try to change others along with me. it's so hard when you feel like you've had a personal revelation not to expect others to jump on your ship with you. but everyone has to find their own ship to navigate! that will probably be the hardest part of all... especially with my immediate family. (aka jay)
whew... this was a marathon of a post, but i needed to hash out my thoughts on all this. so in conclusion, i'm going to be thinking about all of this, praying about it, and maybe someday soon i'll start sharing what all of this is going to look like and mean for me personally.