The Worst of Me

Recently it occurred to me that giving God my all does not mean simply giving him myself when I’m fresh and energetic, when I’m happy and outgoing, when I’m ready for whatever comes my way. That is an aspect of full surrender, but it is not the whole story. Giving God my all means giving him all of me–the best of me, and, yes, the worst of me.

I frequently face the monster of exhaustion. It terrifies me sometimes when I think about starting a family because I know the fatigue my mother faced with four small children, and I know I am my mother’s daughter. I try to combat it with diet, exercise, and regular sleep, but when any of those three elements eludes me, my energy plummets, and I would love nothing better than to curl up on the couch and read.

Because I know what exhaustion feels like, I often hold back a piece of myself. When I ride my bike up a hill, I don’t push quite as hard as I know I can. When I run, I give up when that sinking feeling of the dread of exhaustion hits me. When I get home from work, it’s often so much easier to pull together whatever odds and ends I can find in the pantry and fridge than take the time to make a nutritious meal. It seems like the path of least resistance to leave the dishes undone and the floors unswept. But this mentality only contributes to the problem. My fatigue is compounded when I see the mountain of things undone looming ahead of me, when I feel the despair of never bettering myself, when I become lazy and stagnant.

Giving God the worst of myself means recognizing my weakness and crying out, “Oh, God, I am broken, but I am yours.” It means giving my all even when I’m afraid there’s nothing to give. Facing that hill and the miles ahead with a determination that says, “God, you put me here; you will bring me through it. Here I am. Use me.” Letting go of that little piece of myself I hold onto  “just in case.”

When I give God the worst of myself, he gives me the strength to overcome. Then, maybe next time, it will be the best of myself instead.

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Home-Improvement Hodgepodge

The title of this post makes me think of a certain 90’s show and how I decided to be in love with “JTT” because it was the cool thing to do. Ha, what a silly girl I was.

But this post isn’t about 90’s TV or childhood crushes. This is about how crazy busy we’ve been lately.  Because being busy is even more in style than being in love with random movie stars. We’ve been up to an interesting assortment of home-improvement-related activities lately.

  1. Home office renovation. As I mentioned when Jordan’s parents were here a few weeks ago, we’ve been working on putting up drywall in the back room. Interesting fact about this room–when this particular style of house goes on the market, some people advertise the back room as a bedroom. Others advertise it as a study and part of the “master’s suite.” (Jordan tells me “owner’s suite” is the politically correct term. Take your pick.) The closet is so tiny that I think “study” is more appropriate, but I guess an extra bedroom makes the house more marketable. In any case, the back room had this lovely (ha!) 60’s fake wood paneling that our plumber had to cut when he re-ran our water lines. And everyone knows wood paneling looks fantastic with a line sliced horizontally across the middle of the wall. As gorgeous as it was, we opted to replace it with drywall, and Jordan and I have spent some time since his parents left sanding and applying drywall mud.

    Getting there

    Getting there

  2. Decorations. Sigh. I haven’t taken nearly as much time as I’d like decorating our home, but I did make what I think is a nice arrangement of bridal portraits on the wall below the stairway. Jordan is a fan. 🙂

    Jordan's six favorites

    Jordan’s six favorites

  3. Bathroom mirror. Before we moved in, we had all the bathrooms renovated, but we didn’t have the mirrors replaced. Unfortunately, our contractors never put the old mirrors back (a couple of them don’t fit anymore), so we’ve been without for a while. We did buy a new one for the master bath a while ago, and after an evening of sanding drywall this week (see point 1), we decided to finally take the time to put up the one for the downstairs guest bathroom. In the process, we discovered the mirror was original. It’s in beautiful shape for a 46-year-old mirror (no sarcasm this time); the other two didn’t fare so well, so we’ll be buying replacements.
    Stamp on the mirror's back

    Stamp on the mirror’s back

    No more blank wall!

    No more blank wall!

  4. Kitchen renovation. Sadly, nothing has been done with this kitchen in all of its 45 years, and it shows. Drawers are missing, doors are nearly impossible to open, linoleum is stained and peeling back from the floor, and the whole thing feels a bit cramped. We’re hoping to get the whole thing redone in September, and part of our money-saving plan is to buy RTA (ready-to-assemble) cabinets and put them together ourselves. In the interest of time, we’ll pay someone to install them and the new flooring (repairing our broken laundry line in the process–woot!), but we can handle the demolition and assembly. So I’ve been looking at RTA Cabinet Store’s website and trying endless variations in their planning tool. I’ve finally decided on the Rustic Brown style (solid wood, soft-close doors and drawers, and a gorgeous finish–all for under $3000!), and I’m almost finished with the layout. Keeping my fingers crossed I don’t make any stupid mistakes!
  5. New refrigerator. I’ve got to say it–the refrigerator that came with this house is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen. I’m a little embarrassed that I’ve been using it the way it is, but with the craziness that was our move into this house, I never had time to clean it. And there’s really nothing I could do about the pieces of it that are broken. So I’ve had my eye on this refrigerator for a little while. Wanting to save money, though, I checked Craigslist last weekend for bisque refrigerators (I’ll explain in a later post why we’re going with bisque). Lo and behold, the only bisque refrigerator for sale in our area was the exact one I’d had my eye on, and not only was it just three years old, but they were asking half what it advertises for online. Can we say “sold”? So Monday we went to look at it, decided we wanted to go for it, and paid a deposit. We came back Wednesday to pick it up (thanks to Nick for his last-minute help!) and spent yesterday evening cleaning it up. (It had been sitting in this couple’s garage for a little while and hadn’t been cleaned, so there were some minor mold issues.) It doesn’t fit in our refrigerator cubby yet, but I’m so eager to get rid of the old one, that I’ve already started using it. 🙂

    (Almost) like new

    (Almost) like new

  6. Duct repair. OK, this one hasn’t happened yet, but I finally scheduled someone to come repair our crushed air-return duct. Here’s hoping it improves our energy efficiency.

Whew, who knew owing a home took so much work! In all fairness, we knew this was coming when we bought it–that’s how we got the price we did. But everything I hear tells me there will always be something to do.

How about you? If you own, did you have any unexpected repairs after closing? What do you do to keep your home in good shape?

Things I’ve Learned In the Past Week

flat out of luck

flat out of luck (Photo credit: 7-how-7)

 

In no particular order:

  • Carrying a bicycle flat kit is a non-negotiable. Jordan got a flat on Saturday when we were 4.5 miles into our 9-mile ride home from the bike shop.
  • Keeping both derailleurs in corresponding gears (e.g., 1 with 1, 2, 3; 2 with 4, 5, 6; 3 with 7, 8, 9) reduces chain wear.
  • Cycling sweat is supremely sexy. At least that’s what the boys around here seem to think. I got multiple cat calls/whistles/hollers on every single one of the 4 days I rode this week (the hottest/sweatiest week so far this year).
  • My office has a Cycling Advocacy Network (CAN) chat room that is frequented by friendly, helpful, and generally competitive people.
  • The spout cap of the Blender Bottle makes a distinctive *snap* when it’s closed. If you don’t hear this snap, you will get your shake all over your desk, your two work notebooks, and your dry-clean only skirt when you try to shake the bottle.
  • When said Blender-Bottle mishap occurs, a kind office mate will let you use as many of his paper towels as you need and will even try to make you feel like less of an idiot by telling you about how he did the same thing with a bottle of orange juice that same morning.
  • Grilled peaches with brown sugar taste like peach cobbler.
  • A grill works best when it has the right number of briquets.
  • Fleas are at their peak in July.

 

Book Review: Mistborn Trilogy

As a friend (hi, Amy!) so astutely observed Wednesday, I have not blogged at all this month. I may or may not have a valid excuse. On June 20, Jordan left for Canada for a reverse-engineering conference. I was originally supposed to go with him, but funny things happened with employer budgets and plans, and I ended up staying home while he went. To keep myself occupied, I started reading a book that I’d borrowed from Nick and Bre and found myself instantly hooked. Jordan was gone until the 24th, and I spent nearly all of my free time devouring the book’s 650 pages. I think I finished it before Jordan returned.

The problem with this book is that it’s only the first of a trilogy that was obviously designed to be one continuous story. And since my dear friends have all three books, I informed Bre that I needed them to bring the other two when they came for our Fourth of July cookout.

Jordan’s parents also came to our cookout, staying for the weekend. So Jordan’s mom and I spent some quality mother-in-law/daughter-in-law time together in the living room, reading, while Jordan and his dad put up new drywall in what will eventually be our study. I tell myself we were being productive too, because rest is necessary, right?

I finally finished the third book yesterday, and I think it’s a testament to the author’s power as a writer that I read all 2100+ pages in under a month. Or maybe I was just desperate for something to read. In any case, I highly recommend them.

Cover of "Mistborn"

Cover of Mistborn

I don’t want to spoil the books for anyone who wants to read them, so I’ll keep my summary to a minimum. Mistborn is the first of a fantasy trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, continuing in The Well of Ascension, and concluding with The Hero of the Ages. The novels are set in a place called The Final Empire, where the sky and sun are red and ash falls more commonly than rain. The Lord Ruler, emperor and god-incarnate, became god and king when he defeated a mysterious evil known only as “The Deepness.” The universe’s system of magic, Allomancy, allows those who are born with its abilities (and have subsequently “Snapped” into the ability to utilize their power) to swallow and then “burn” within themselves specific metals to access the metals’ magical properties. This power supposedly belongs only to the nobility and not to the lesser skaa peasants.

Considering Sanderson is a practicing Mormon, it is not surprising that religion factors heavily into the novels. I read the author’s bio before starting the book, saw he taught creative writing at Brigham Young University, and spent the entire time reading the novels trying to guess if his religious beliefs aligned with those of the university. (According to his website, they do.) His approach to religion I found rather unexpected for a Mormon, however–there is a definite duality to the god(s) of his universe, which was created by the opposing forces Ruin and Preservation. Men become gods, and gods become weak and die. All religions contribute to humanity’s understanding of truth.

Although the religious aspects were rather puzzling at times, from a pure storytelling perspective, I was hooked. The truth is, fantasy is probably my favorite genre, but beyond my personal proclivity, Sanderson is an exceptional writer. His descriptions are vivid without being excessive, his characters are alive and developing, and his approach to storytelling tells you just enough to leave you wanting more but not enough that you can ever be quite sure what’s going to happen next. The endings to both The Well of Ascension and The Hero of the Ages caught me completely by surprise, although I felt like Sanderson gave away more throughout the final book than he did in the first two.

After I finished the books, I discovered Sanderson has extensive chapter-by-chapter annotations to each book available on his website. I think I just might have to read through a second time with annotations in hand!

How about you–what do you like to read (if you’re a reader)? Have you read any of Sanderson’s novels? If you have or end up doing so, I’d love to know what you think!