MY Abundant Life

grapes-690230_640

In a prior post  I asked about YOUR version of an abundant life.

Thank you so much to those who chose to share some of your thoughts with me! I am honoured that you would share your abundance, and your struggles toward it, with me, and pleased that my questions were of some use.

I figure that anyone who was going to take time to ponder their own version of abundance will have done so by now, so I’ll add some of my own thoughts on abundance. (If you are coming into this post cold, check out THIS ONE first, to avoid cluttering up your abundance with mine.)

I tend to be a little odd (those who know me are currently rolling on the floor laughing at the understatement there), but for me an abundant life has never been about the big house, the new car,  granite counter tops, career advancement. By far the most important elements of an abundant life for me have always been TIME and PEACE.

Time has always been far more valuable to me than money, or things, or status. The richest I could ever be would be having no obligations on my time except those I choose. Time to linger over coffee and deep conversation, time to walk in the woods, time to read, to lend a hand; that is wealth beyond measure.

PEACE is the other critical ingredient in MY abundant life. I like for life to be low stress, quiet, calm. I love to move slowly through the days, finishing what I start and enjoying the process.

Aren’t I boring? I am. I know.

I would be even more boring if I could afford it.

I was enormously gratified though, when I first noticed 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and 1 Timothy 2:2. Mine is certainly not an ‘ambition’ I’d heard encouraged here in the US of A, but God, at least, seems to be cool with it. Who knew?!?

So, then:

1)   What does ‘an abundant life’ mean to me?

  • Having an abundance of time! (Big shock there, right?) Not living for work, not filling my free time with a host of activities morning to night, but using it on the things I truly value.
  • Living fairly frugally and simply, in a way that does as little harm as possible to the world around me, and preferably even improves the world a bit.
  • Taking great pleasure in the decadence of simplicity – eating simple, delicious meals, walking in the woods, growing a garden, savouring a perfect cappuccino, talking far into the night with dear friends.
  • Not being in pain every day. (If you’ve not lived it, that may sound like a given, but trust me, it’s a luxury of enormous value.)
  • It’s not important to me to make a lot of money, but I do feel that handling it well, and making enough so that I am not stressing over how to pay the bills every month, are requisite to abundance.
  • I want to buy a house again once I get settled somewhere. I miss feeling that my home is truly mine.
  • Maintaining strong friendships, and contributing to community. I will never be a social butterfly, but I love that I have a strong group of friends (some of whom are family) from many different parts of my life, and I want to be part of building the kind of society I want to live in.
  • Having a broad margin in all the critical areas of life, so that I am able to invest myself in what I value rather than wishing I could have, but being too broke, too busy, too ill, or whatever.

2)   Am I living it?

Some pieces of it, yes, but I am far from the whole picture right now.

I hit a significant road block on the path toward my idea abundance and it’s taking me far more time to dig my way out of that than I’d have preferred. I imagine it will ultimately set me back 3-5 years. I am slowly getting back on track now though, and once again looking forward (mostly) hopefully toward buying a house in a place I truly enjoy, realigning my time to my values, hiking more, contributing to like minded community, and enjoying FAR more quiet than I do where I am at right now.

3)   If so, what brought me to it?

SOMEDAY I’ll be able to fully fill this in! Hopefully soon!

For the little pieces that I have been able to achieve, God’s blessing is certainly a huge part of what has brought me here, and the other part is that I decided what I wanted most – what I wanted enough to sacrifice for.

If I succeed in this quest, I know it can only be because I sacrifice the many options for the one that matters most.

4)   If not, what is the next thing that will inch me closer to it?

Well, this blog is one thing. I hope that if I keep at it I’ll eventually stumble across like-minded community here, maybe some mentors, maybe I’ll even help someone else reach whatever step I’ve gotten to on this path.

I’m getting ready to vote in my state’s primary.

And I am currently planning a trip of exploration to the area I really want to live. I don’t know if I can afford to live there, I fear that I simply can’t, but I’m going to at least go see.  🙂

We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.

beach-917336_640

We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.  TobyMac

 

This quote came through my Facebook feed back when I was first trying to figure out how to shape this blog. I knew a lot of what I wanted to write about was this really high controversy stuff, and the last thing I had the energy for was devoting a large chunk of my very precious free time to inciting contentious brawls. 

Mr. McKeehan’s comment reminded me that tough topics have to be talked about, but how you talk about them can make all the difference.

We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.

Splendid! I had, thankfully, grown into this concept prior to Mr. McKeehan’s note, but I’ve got to tell you, it didn’t come naturally.

I was pretty familiar with the ‘Do Anything, Agree With Everything, Rather Than Face Any Conflict’ camp.

And I had always been more of a fight than flight kind of girl, so while I didn’t view disagreement as necessarily scratching and pulling hair, brittle civility was a much closer image than kindness.

I did eventually meet people who somehow had the gift of standing their ground but still being lovely, and loving, people. I’m not quite one of them yet, but by my 90s I may have it down. 

At just this point in writing this post, I found myself in a Facebook comments conversation on this very topic.

Most of the commenters were in agreement with a meme about being kind whether we agree or not, but one woman, who had been terribly hurt by really appalling racism was adamant that she could not be kind to people on ‘the other side’. From the comments that she related, I could certainly understand why; I was embarrassed just to share skin colour with the people who had said these things to her.

This conversation gave me a lot of food for thought. Belabouring the point with a complete stranger in serious pain just for the sake of my research didn’t seem quite, well, kind, but I thought I’d ask everyone here: 

What does it look like to be kind when we, perhaps vehemently, disagree?

I definitely do not believe in placing oneself, or remaining, in a situation where someone demeans or abuses you. I don’t believe in pretending to have no opinions just to avoid conflict. I do not respect people who do not, by their character and actions merit respect. But I think I do have an obligation to TREAT them with respect – which I define as being decent and kind to them.

To me this looks like arguing the issue rather than attacking the person. Like not insulting or belittling the person I disagree with, or trashing them to others. It looks like treating them with human decency throughout, and despite, the argument. Listening in an effort to understand. Speaking quietly and calmly, if I can; apologising and regrouping if I can’t.

For Christians, I also see it as praying for them – and NO, not just that  prayer for God whack them upside the head! I mean truly seeking God’s best for them.

Sometimes it means agreeing to disagree; sometimes it means agreeing to not touch on that topic to preserve the relationship.

And for those who truly are abusive and uninterested in civil discussion, I see it as walking away from them, the argument, without having to attack them as human beings, without having to hurt or humiliate them, simply doing what is necessary to avoid them harming you or others. (*see footnote though!!)

But my brief conversation with this lady on Facebook reminded me that it doesn’t look the same to other people.

So how about it?  

What does it look like to you to be kind to one another even if we disagree?

Is it even possible?

Do you think it has merit?

 

 

 Let me be clear, I am talking here about normal disagreements between people who have the same degree of power, which have turned nasty in the heat of the argument; not about  actual physical, sexual, or verbal/emotional abuse. True abuse does not necessarily obligate you to be cruel to the abuser, but PLEASE do whatever is necessary, physically, and legally, to stop the abuse and prevent it from happening again. And seek support to recover from it, and whatever made you vulnerable to it.

Protest

sprout-1147803_640

 

I try to make a point of writing on topics about which I actually know something, but this week I’m breaking that rule.

One of my dearest friends is also a Facebook friend, as is her lovely 16 year old daughter, whom I will call K. Just over a week ago I opened Facebook to find a frantic note from my friend asking K to get in touch, because a shooting had occurred at K’s school and  reports were that two young girls were killed.

Naturally this caught and kept my attention until everything was resolved and my friends were both safely home.

I’ve been keeping in touch with the situation a little bit, because when you’re 16 years old, having two fellow students, kids your age, whom you might even know, die in a violent way can be pretty disturbing. And having to wait for news, and to see your daughter in such a situation can disturb moms a bit too. I’m happy to say that my friends are strong healthy people who are doing pretty well with this.

In following this event though, I came upon an entirely separate  disturbing situation.

While this group of high school kids walks through the confusion and fear and grief associated with having two people that they know suddenly dead in a violent way, there are protesters standing outside their school waving signs condemning the two girls, and apparently the whole school, because the two girls who died were  lesbian. This disturbs me because it’s hurting my friends, but it also really confuses me.

Firstly, a 15 year old child, in a moment of apparent emotional despair choose to end both her life and that of another child.  Two families are grieving the loss of their children. One of them has the added horror of knowing that their child took the her own life.  And the life of another human being.  Is the question of these girls professed choices about sexuality really the most significant concern at a time like this?

Secondly, dear protester, what is the intended outcome of this is protest? 

Are you trying to convince these two deceased young girls that they shouldn’t be homosexual? If so, at the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, and possibly further paining any of their loved ones who may read this, IT IS TOO LATE to affect the choices of these girls.

Are you trying to convince the school or the other children in it not to have lesbians in their midst? [note] On the chance that any Independence High School student should ever happen across this post, I want to be clear that I mean no disrespect in my use of the term ‘children’ in describing you here. I chose this term to make a point, and because it is the legal status under which most of you fall. My experience of you is limited to only one example, but if she is any indication, you are a mature, competent, and thoughtful group of people; certainly this has been indicated by your compassionate and dignified handling of this recent tragedy at your school. [/note]  I’m pretty sure the school doesn’t get to choose whether or not to educate people based on their sexual orientation.  And frankly, what benefit would there be if they did? Uneducated people with whom you disagree will remain just as distressing to you, and I’m doubting that rendering them unable to get a job, support themselves, pay taxes will improve that any. And as for the students, they need to grieve the luxury of believing ‘things like this only happen to other people or on TV’, which they no longer have, regardless of how they individually may have felt about either of these girls.  And they need to grieve to remain human in an inhumane world.

Is the point to publicise what the Bible says about homosexuality? This is the United States, love, anyone here who isn’t already clear on this almost certainly doesn’t care what the Bible has to say about anything.  But if you truly feel the need to educate people on this particular Biblical stance, there are ways to do so that are humane.  And I suspect you’ll get a better hearing from people who haven’t been alienated or traumatised by your cruelty in their time of horror and loss.

Or to convince those who do not agree? Seriously, does this strike you as the logical or quick path to influencing people’s hearts? If you’ve done nothing else in this protest, you have created solidarity among these young people, with each other and with these two young girls who have died.

People who probably never gave a thought to the moral rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, or even hold similar views on it to yours, now have a more thoughtful and empathetic perspective because in their tragedy they’ve been forced to pull together to face a common enemy.  You.

Is the point just to have your views expressed? If so speak with the principal – in his or her office. Picket a school board meeting. Make an appointment with your state senator. Or surely, in a place as large as the Phoenix metropolitan area, there must be at least one gay rights activist organisation. Run by grown ups.  Grown ups who have dedicated themselves to this issue. Speak with them. 

Not with a bunch of traumatised school children. 

Is the point just to inflict pain? I get that. I do. Sometimes life just sucks and nothing helps, but at least if someone else is miserable you aren’t alone. Not the most noble stance, perhaps, but we’ve all been there. But you know, even in pain we can maintain a degree of decency. There are adults you can lash out at. Or you can speak with a trusted friend or a professional counselor. It is not necessary to hurt confused, grieving children. There isn’t a Geneva convention for emotional warfare, but we can choose to live as if there is.

It isn’t easy to choose kindness and decency over anger or cruelty when your most crucial beliefs are challenged, but it is possible. And it’s right. And I strongly suspect it is designed to be the most effective way to connect and gain common ground, too.