No Bow Can Wrap This Up

No Bow Can Wrap This Up

It’s still winter in Queensland. Though we’re now back across the Pacific and across the equator, the scene that flashes across my mind is an unremarkable one. I am standing over the laundry sink, the Queensland sun streaming in the window, scrubbing my daughter’s school socks and cursing the fact that she’s once again managed to embed that singularly Aussie red dirt into the fabric.

It was only weeks ago that I was standing there, but it could have been months. It is summer here in Ohio, everything is lush and green and hot and humid, and my sense of place is still suspended. People ask how it is to be back, and my answer is usually a patchy attempt to explain that, while our plane landed weeks ago, I’m still waiting for my feet to hit the ground. We have flipped seasons and calendars (we left mid academic year and are arriving in time to start a new academic year next month). We have moved back into our home only to find that, though it’s unchanged, our habitation of it has. We’ve reconnected with so many family and friends, and it has been overwhelming to hear and see everything that has changed in the past 18 months. And we’ve only just begun to catch up.

Before we’d left, a year–or year and a half–didn’t seem like long. And it’s not, in fact. It flew by. But you know that expression about not stepping in the same river twice? Well, it’s true. I knew things would change while we were gone (including our own views and experiences), even if I didn’t know how. Neither did I know know how the transition back would go.

While in Australia, I had started half a dozen lists in my head of things I didn’t want to forget. They went something like this:

Things I’ll Miss Hearing:
The Aussie accent. Being called “dahl.” Even, dare I say, the screech and song every morning of magpies, cockatiels, lorikeets, rosellas, and cockatoos.

Things I’ll Miss Seeing:
Our friends and neighbours. Gum trees. The ocean. The one-of-a-kind colors of a Queensland sunset sky.


Foods and Drinks I’ll Miss:
Pies. Lemon Lime & Bitters. A really good flat white or mocha being easily available. (I have yet to have a Starbucks coffee since being back, and am in no hurry to reintroduce that brew into my life.) Date scones. The cornucopia of flavour-packed seasonal fruits and veggies, which would require a dedicated blog if I were to name them all.

Our Time in Queensland, Tallied:
Our oldest daughter learned to braid hair. We washed easily over 150 loads of laundry. Our younger daughter saw her first movie in a movie theater. The kids went to their first (and second) circus performance. My husband learned about half a dozen new classes of venomous snake bites to treat. We drove thousands of kilometers…on the left side of the road. I read probably 40 books. Our oldest daughter was introduced to the game of Monopoly. Both older kids fell in love with the game of Trouble. I wrote one book, and a first draft of a second. Our younger daughter’s speech went from the toddler speak that only those closest to her could understand to the very precocious–and intelligible–speech of a preschooler. Our oldest daughter fell in love with soccer. We went, most significantly, from a family of four to a family of five.


That was there. This is here. Here, when I haven’t been trying to return our home to some kind of physical order or to catch up with family and friends, I’ve been swept up in the political discourse currently consuming the societal psyche. It has, in fact, generated a lot of material for a future blog post. But I’m not ready to go there yet. Not until I can more firmly answer the simple question of how I am doing, how we are doing. Not until I can wake up in the morning and plant my feet on the ground with a solid sense of where I am and what I am meant to do that day.

There is a pair of my daughter’s shoes, shed mid-stride, in our entry way. Along the sides and bottom is a coat of that red dirt, picked up on our last trip, in Uluru. I think about wiping the shoes clean, but I am not yet ready to let the red disappear.

Joy Finds You

Joy Finds You


It is the first night of the junior school musical at our kids’ school.

While the children prepare with their teachers nearby, parents take the chance to catch up and chat amongst each other. Slowly, we find seats in the covered court that has been transformed into an outdoor theatre of sorts. My neighbour points out the kookaburra singing their song as dusk starts to settle.


20160318_182615I look down at the baby, sleeping beside us. The musical, incidentally, is about the story of Daniel (in the Lion’s Den). I look up and see the nightly path of the flying foxes over the car park beyond the court’s wall. Dusk has deepened.


Our kids parade onto the stage. Along with all the other parents, we snap our photos, beaming.

As the play ends, I am standing several rows back and off to the left rocking the baby, watching the joy on the faces of the kids, parents, and grandparents around us. I am thankful for this perfect evening, when the kids are beaming with pride at their hard work, and we are full of joy. We are all together and healthy, and life is good.

Fast forward to a few days later. It is Orthodox Easter weekend, one of the highlights of our year. This year, we have a newborn who is still nursing and crying often. Getting into the spirit of the services will be hard, a fact we are reconciled to; we know it is just temporary.

We celebrate what parts of the weekend we can with a small and loving congregation in Bundaberg, almost all of us expats, almost all of us far from the family and traditions of home, though those living permanently in Australia are more rooted in a new home and new traditions. A prayer comes to mind from the liturgy: a prayer for the “strangers, travelers, and visitors.” A prayer for us.

My husband and I have a few moments to pray and reflect on the significance of what we are celebrating. That’s something. But it is not the profound experience that comes from the culmination of a whole week of services and reflections. I don’t realize until it doesn’t come that I was still hoping for that penetrating joy.

Absent is the usual gathering of family, and with it, the chatter of my sisters, cousins, and in-laws as we congregate at home after a long Good Friday service. Absent is the pre-dawn awakening on Saturday and the most poignant liturgy of the year. Absent are my mother’s inimitable stuffed grape leaves, and the other delightful dishes that mark this feast. Absent is my father’s invitation to each of us to have a bit of wine with our dinner, telling us a little about the bottle he has selected.

This Easter weekend, our home isn’t pervaded with the smells of roasted, stewed, and breaded meats. I think to try and replicate some of the dishes that might make it feel more like a feast, but I don’t know how to make any but the simplest of them. Besides, even if I did, I lack the energy to prepare such a meal.

We call and FaceTime our family back home, the pace of the weekend out of sync with theirs. We call on Saturday, when they are still celebrating Good Friday. We talk on Monday, when they are still celebrating the feast.

What should have been one of the most joyous points in our year was understated this year, and what might have been a mundane weekday night attending a school event wasn’t. It was perfect.

I am glad I was in the state of mind to see that perfection and to feel such joy. I could easily have been distracted and wishing that Daniel was past this phase, or stressed about how to feed him and keep him quiet while the musical was on. But I wasn’t.

A cappuccino from Paradise Pie & Pastries, one of my favourite HB spots.

It is perhaps one of my greatest lessons from our time here: allow yourself to experience joy. Be open to it always. Sometimes it will be in the most mundane moments of the day. A pure and joyous smile from one of the kids. An unspoiled landscape. A conversation with my husband over a cup of coffee, perfectly prepared.

Be open to joy, for it won’t always come in the ways you expect.






Standing on the Edge

Standing on the Edge

Recently, I came across an unfamiliar word: koselig. It is the Norwegian word for coziness, and it resonated with me. I’m not sure why. It’s certainly not because I have any desire to be anywhere near anything wool, fleece, or fuzzy. Indeed not: it’s currently 28C/81F.

But this post isn’t about the weather. It’s about koselig, and the fact that as a couple and as a family, we are currently at this odd juncture of waiting for a pretty significant change to come into our lives (in the form of baby #3) and at the same time anticipating a settling in. A settling in, or a “koselig:” a finality, a completeness that brings a psychological coziness.

This time around, parenthood is surrender. I know there is little we can control about this child: how good a sleeper s/he will be, or how loud a crier. Later, what and who will this little person of ours love? Who will s/he become? (There is, of course, a lot we can and will influence, teach, discipline, etc., but from where I stand now, the unknowns overwhelm that which is within our  control.) How will our older kids adjust to the change in our family dynamics? How, exactly, will our day-to-day lives change? I’m a lot more at peace with not knowing the answer to this last question especially than I would have been even one year ago. That has everything to do with trusting that God will see us through whatever this new chapter brings.

“Koselig” is also reminiscent, for me, of rest, and comfort, and a sense of being sheltered. These are sensations that are too often lacking in the do-something, be-somewhere nature of our lives. We–and I’m not sure whether by “we” I mean Americans, most humans, or simply people like me–seem to always be seeking the extraordinary and exciting. But I would posit that the richest moments of our lives, and the ones which we look back on when we need comfort or the memory of happiness, are moments that are ordinary, homey even.

Cooking a turkey at Thanksgiving. Note the stylish cereal necklace, compliments of a certain 4-year-old.

Simple pleasures: swimsuits drying on a clothes line after a day at the beach, a mighty hug and good night kiss from a child, the smell of a home-cooked meal when you walk in the door.

What if we learned to savour these things, instead of always seeking the next sensational thrill? That thrill, depending on one’s personality and preferences, can be the latest purchase from a favourite store, or that newest, rancor-filled political article, or the next meal or vacation on a recent “best-of” list, or any number of other thrills. At some point, I think excitement and novelty became overrated, and small, ordinary joys became under-rated.

As we stand at the edge of this new chapter in our lives, my hope is that we–I–will learn to right that balance and embrace the koselig that is waiting right in front of us.



What Are We To Make Of It?

So Australia may be far from a lot of you, but in spirit we are not so far away that we can buffer ourselves from the realities of this world. My email and newsfeed have shown in past days, over and over, the orange jumpsuits and faces of the 21 men who were beheaded by terrorists in Libya last week. I could not continue to talk about my own journey without acknowledging those whose earthly journey has just ended–and another one begun.

For those of you who may have missed this, all but one of these men, mostly young men in their 20s and 30s, had crossed the border into Libya from impoverished hometowns in Egypt so that they could work and send money home to their families (the last man, a Ghanaian Christian believed to be Matthew Arayiga, was also in the area for work). They were kidnapped by members of ISIS (aka Daesh) at the end of December and in early January. Reports of those who witnessed the kidnappings say these men were targeted because they were Christians (evidenced by crosses tattood on the inside of their wrists, a common practice among Copts). I can’t bring myself to watch the video, but the accounts I’ve heard of the justifications Daesh announce in it make no sense: it was in retaliation for the killing of Osama Bin Laden (as if these men had anything to do with it), it was because Egypt has been fighting the Daesh and these men were members of the hostile Egyptian church (“the nation of the cross”). What’s clear to me are a few things:
a) they were targeted because they were Christians, and because, with the exception of one, they were Egyptian Christians
b) their deaths, though untimely and brutal, demonstrate a faith that leaves me speechless, and
c) that those deaths are no less heartbreaking, regardless of what they demonstrate.

This story first caught my attention, of course, because I am a Copt. It also caught my attention because my faith in God and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are central to who I am. And it was central to who these men were, too. So central, that by all accounts, their last words as their lives were ending were prayers and pronouncements of that faith. All they would have had to do is renounce the God of Christianity and who they believe Jesus Christ to be, and these extremists would, by the dictates of their own laws, have had to spare these men’s lives.

Imagine for a moment being cut off from everyone and everything that can protect you, knowing that you will undoubtedly die unless you say some words. “They’re just words,” your sense of self-preservation might shout, “say them and take them back later when it’s safe to do so!” How strongly would you have to reject the idea that you could deny your Creator (Matthew 10:33)? What faith would it take to give these men the courage to go through with this? [What] do you believe so deeply that you would die rather than deny it? Could you do have done this? Could I?

Yet this story is also about these men who were human beings with loves and personalities and dreams and families. Because of this horrendous act, mothers and fathers will be grieving, wives will be widowed, brothers and sisters will grow old without their siblings, children will grow up without their fathers, friends without their lives’ companions. These men were in Libya to try to provide for their families, and the guilt and anger their families and friends must feel now–well, I won’t pretend to understand. My heart breaks and my minds goes numb just thinking about such sorrow.

It is, incidentally, this profound and senseless loss, this brutality, that has prompted such universal discussion about human rights. It’s too obvious to state that innocent people, civilians who have kept to their own matters, should not be killed by others trying to make a statement (political, religious, or otherwise). But we do not yet live in an ideal world, where we all live full and fulfilled lives.

We Christians talk a lot as about treating this life as only the beginning of a life of the spirit with God, after this earthly life is over. (The saying that we’re spiritual beings having a physical experience has always rung true for me.) We all know our days on this earth are numbered. Many of us forget that, attaching too much importance to careers, or health, or countless other attractions that this life can hold. These men, I’m sure, did not want to die with so much and so many to live for, but like so many Copts before them, they died knowing that this was not the end, and with this, I will try to be at peace.

Some of the sources I’ve relied on:
Article in the New York Times
Statement by Bishop Angelous
Of course, an online search will yield dozens more viewpoints.

Civility is Such a Quaint Concept

I was having a conversation with a colleague recently about the decreasing ability people apparently have to carry on civil conversation when they disagree. Do we know how to have difficult conversations? As a society, do we have a lot of opportunities to practice having these conversations?

The cynical side of me says no: just look at all the talking heads and political pundits talking over each other and cutting down each others’ points. It is good entertainment: having made more jabs than the other person, one pundit can come out the clear winner. We like clear winners in a world that is otherwise gray. More personally, look at how we tend to drift towards people who think like us, and scoff, roll our eyes, or shut down when we encounter opinions we don’t agree with. (I’m generalizing of course: not everyone is this uncomfortable with difference.)

But that’s my second point. My first point is that, when I was having this conversation with my colleague, he said something that started me thinking. He said (and I’m paraphrasing) there is nothing wrong with having these disagreements, because there is not always an answer that is acceptable to everyone. Sometimes we value compromise and everyone getting along so much that we don’t allow for the fact that people are fundamentally different, and that we should not try to conform everyone to fit one way of thinking. Of course I agree with that, but my question is this: is there any benefit to even having dialogues about these differences? Not for the purpose of changing one side’s mind, but for the purpose of really understanding how each side reached the conclusions that it has reached? And if so, how do we do it in a way that is constructive, not destructive?

Or maybe he meant that sometimes one side’s position turns out to be just wrong. In which case, let the facts speak for themselves; no reason to get upset or self-righteous over it. The problem, of course, lies in how the facts speak. The adjectives that are chosen and which statistics are provided can lead to two completely different statements of the “facts.” How any of us understand a situation is colored by what we knew about that subject already, what we want to believe about it, and how it is presented to us. It is the rare and rigorous mind that is able to distinguish the facts from the personal beliefs associated with those facts.

So given that, I think it is all the more important that we as a society learn to have dialogues expressing why our opinions are what they are in a setting where others will disagree. This is hard, I realize. It’s much easier and more comfortable to stay where we know we will hear our opinions reaffirmed. But the older we get, the more, I hope, we realize that while there are some really wacky ideas out there, most opinions with which we disagree are not complete nonsense, but rather that their holders have looked at the same set of facts through a very different, and often not entirely absurd, lens. When we start to have conversations that don’t reaffirm our beliefs, but rather challenge them, that is when we really begin to think. Many possibilities emerge, including that our mind is not changed, but we now better understand and can articulate why we believe what we believe, or that we realize we have been looking at the facts with a very tinted lens, or that we believe the same thing as the other person but express it differently.

So back to my second point. How do we actually have these difficult conversations? Even if we can be calm and speak respectfully, how do we respond when someone else is simply throwing out insults? I think there are a few key principles to follow:

1) Focus on the ideas and arguments being presented, and avoid insults which serve no purpose but to alienate or rile up the other side. I know a person whose m.o. in most debates is to push buttons by insulting and accusing. It’s entirely annoying and completely unproductive.
2) No ad hominem attacks. Insist that others avoid the same. Listen to the words, not the speaker. Just because you don’t like someone, it doesn’t mean that what they have to say is worthless.
3) Seek to understand. Check your assumptions about what a person means, and ask clarifying questions with a mind to truly understanding the source of their belief/anger/frustration.
4) Listen. If you are moderating a discussion, make sure to create space for quieter voices to speak. If there is no moderator, be deliberate about not dominating the conversation with restatements of your position, but rather encouraging other(s) to explain theirs.
5) Know thyself. If you are speaking with someone who you cannot tolerate, or if you find yourself defending a position you are not sure you want to defend, walk away. Unless you are at a point where you really can (or at least want to) achieve understanding (see #3), you are more likely to do more damage than good.
What other principles are important? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

On Risk

Our culture values risk-taking. It may be because, as a nation of pioneers and immigrants, it is in our genes to walk on unproven ground, or because success stories of risks taken are glorified in our media and national lore. The point is: taking risks is generally viewed as a good thing.

This viewpoint, by the way, is a privilege: a cultural privilege, if you will. There are plenty of people in the world for whom basics: safety, food, clothing, shelter, and perhaps a small emergency fund, even if they have them, are very easily threatened or lost. Doing something to risk losing them is simply reckless: you are thankful for what you have, and you are careful to keep what you have. The idea that you should take risks seems quite irrational and unnecessary from this point of view.

So what does risk have to do with privilege (an assertion I may or may not have made in my last entry)? Again before I answer this question, I have to pause for an explanation. Many of the examples I have given thus far of privileges and risks are of material and other creature comforts: jobs, food and shelter, etc. I list these because they are the easy, and the most visible, privileges to point out. I’ve resorted to them perhaps more than I ought to. I said it in my last entry, and it merits repeating: there are different kinds of privileges, and risks to correlate with them: Material privilege/risk, social privilege/risk, personal privilege/risk, etc. Materially, you may be privileged with a stable or well-paying job, money, etc. Socially, you may be privileged with close and loyal friends, or a large and loving family, or a supportive community. Personally, you may be privileged with confidence, health, intelligence, a firm faith that helps you weather life’s storms. etc. And many of these are invisible: a person who doesn’t have the typical markings of privilege may in fact consider themselves very privileged in one or more of these other ways.

There is no clear answer to this question unless you also look at a third value in this privilege-risk equation. It is, well, values. (Pun intended.) What is most important to you? What are you not, or less, willing to risk or to lose? The defining question, in other words, is: for whom, or for what, are you taking this risk? Does the risk you are taking advance your life in the ways that matter most to you?

Here’s an example: if what you value most, and the way you are most privileged, is the wonderful and strong relationships you have with family and friends, and you take a material risk (by taking a job, for example, which is less secure or potentially pays less than your current job) in order to have more time and closer proximity to friends and family, you are acting in line with your values and taking a risk on a less valued aspect of your life.* Is it really a risk? Do you regret the move if the job doesn’t work out? Probably not, if your relationships are richer as a result. And the third part of the equation, privilege [of relationships], is even greater, or at least the same (ie, you are still privileged with a strong social network). 

But what if your values and your privileges don’t line up? To continue with the same example, what if you still value your friends and family above all else, but those networks are not very strong, or are troubled by some unhealthy dynamics/relationships? Your privilege lies instead in the area of your aptitude, and your resulting career, which is a very stable and lucrative one. What if you still make the same decision, based on your values, to take a lesser job because it will allow you more time and energy for your friends and family, difficult as some of those relationships may be?

Now do you regret it? If you still value those relationships above all else, then the answer is still no. It’s a more complicated no, because our society teaches us to hold onto our privileges– particularly the visible, material ones–unconditionally. 

I know how I answer this question, but let me post it out there, in case anyone has gotten this far into my rambling (and thanks, by the way): do you live according to your values, or to preserve your privileges? 

Sometimes, it is choosing our values over our privileges that is the riskiest choice we can make. And that, ultimately, is the connection I see between privilege and risk.
*Please pardon the cliche example. As I write today, I lack the imagination to come up with a more interesting one.


“To whom much is given, from him much will be required.”
Luke 12:48

At work this semester, I’ve been talking with college students about privilege. Have we been privileged in some way? Educationally? Financially? Socially? The word “privilege” carries mixed meanings: having privilege is generally recognized as desirable, but depending on context and tone, being labeled as privileged can also induce guilt or defensiveness. This is especially true for people who are expending energy and time figuring out who they are and what they want their life to be–aka, college students–but it can also be true for those of us who have crossed into full-fledged adulthood. Many are past the stage where they–we–feel guilt for the privilege we have, and others still struggle to acknowledge that we have any privilege. Either way, it’s allowed me to spend a lot more time articulating my thoughts about a topic that’s been on my mind for some time.

First off, there is of course the viewpoint that, if you’re lucky enough to have money, health, intelligence/aptitude, a stable home life, or any other privilege that opens doors for you in life, then you’re fortunate, and you can leave it at that. You owe no one anything.

I disagree whole-heartedly. None of us, no matter how smart, strong, charming, etc., has gotten far in life alone. Someone cared for and sheltered us, someone helped us with homework, someone paid, or helped pay, for our education. Someone connected us with someone who got us that career-making internship, someone was there for us when we needed the emotional support. To make Simon and Garfunkel’s point, to say “I am an island” is simply fooling oneself. 

This is all pretty elementary stuff. But I needed to lay it out as groundwork for my next entry, on risk. Well, maybe it’ll be on risk. I can’t completely articulate yet the connection between privilege and risk, but I hope to explore it in the next entry. 

Until then!

Life’s Seasons

To everything there is a season,
    A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, 
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace.
 -Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
This is as true today as it has been since it was written, centuries ago. There is a sadness to this passage, but also a comfort. It is a reminder that, if the season in which I find myself now is joyful and easy, it will not last. And if the season in which I find myself now is difficult, it will pass.

Life changes, and with it, we change. The things that used to satisfy us, the things we used to desire, we desire no more.  Things we did not used to understand, we now appreciate. We have all been told that one of life’s certainties is change. We have also been told that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I say the more things change, the more we confirm that the driving forces behind that change remain the same. Some things are universal beyond the basics of food and shelter: our desire to be understood, to be deeply connected to others, to be seen as who we are. I would propose that changes to our individual lives and to our society (present technological advances being a perfect example) are all efforts to achieve these desires.

So our lives are made up of chapters, each distinct. And while some are overwhelmingly happy and others disparaging difficult, I’d say that most are a unique combination of treasures and challenges. It’s easy enough to wish the hard ones away (and wish them good riddance when they’re over), but it’s much harder to stop and embrace the good chapters, or even the good moments of the mundane chapters. Advice abounds for surviving rough patches, most of it basically saying to just hang on; it won’t last forever. But what about advice for appreciating the moments of bliss? More importantly, how does one hang onto these moments? 

I suppose this is why people take pictures or videos, write journals, or create scrapbooks. We attempt to capture a moment in such a way that an image, a passage, or a sound will bring back the bliss of that moment. It’s as if we–I should say I–want to collect all the good stuff of life and put it somewhere to be accessed and enjoyed over and over. Sometimes we succeed in capturing these moments, but I would venture to say that even this is not enough. 

We don’t want to remember that moment, we want to return to it. We want life to be now just how it was then. We want to return to that chapter, that sweet spot, and stay. Right there. Not move.

Life will not comply with this desire, of course. And in the end, we wouldn’t want it to. How stale a life that would be if everything was always good and nothing ever challenged us, pushed us, stressed us. We know this. Our lives are made up of chapters. Each chapter, each time, will end, to be followed by another. That’s just the way it is. 

My challenge is to recognize each time as it comes, and to live it. If in nothing else, life will always be rich in change, both welcome and unwelcome. I will still try to capture the good moments, of course, because I do love my camera, and I do love the pen (keyboard?). But I will not pine for those moments. As a Christian, I know that life holds wonders and joy far greater than any collection I could store up, because there is much I do not yet know and much I have not yet seen. While I work to reach that life,  I will still appreciate the good times for what they are, be grateful for them, and when the time comes, let them go. 

The Modern World and Intuition Preferences Are Not Friends

The Modern World and Intuition Preferences Are Not Friends

It is the end of October in an election year. Like many people, I have spent far more time than I usually do reading political analyses and thinking about candidates, the issues our country is facing, its future direction, etc. No, this is not going to be another political post. It will, however, be an observation of the me who sits before the computer, reading some article or another, when the pressures of the day demand that she be doing something more actively productive (like blogging, perhaps).

One of the oldest personality assessments in the country is called the Myers-Briggs (MBTI). One of the spectra on it is sensing-intuition. This places people on a scale of highly preferring sensing (over-simply: detail-oriented) to highly preferring intuition (seeing the big picture first). I prefer intuition (I), if not highly. An inside joke among MBTI-ers is that someone who prefers “I” will be mid-sentence and suddenly say, “oh, look at that bird,” and their attention is suddenly transported away from the conversation. I can’t count the number of times that happens in a day — but my husband could probably tell you how many times, per conversation, that happens.

What’s my point? Oh yes, the point. Well, this is an age of information overload. Email, internet, magazines, good old TV and radio, billboards, yard signs, bumper stickers. In words and pictures, something is always demanding our attention, screaming at us its importance or desirability. And sure, some things are easy for us to ignore, especially if we don’t have an interest in them.

But what about things that pique our curiosity? Interesting things that aren’t evil or a waste of time per se, but don’t exactly help us accomplish our goals (professionally, spiritually, personally, etc)? (Those who are still students, of course, have the luxury of making the life of the mind a main priority in life.) These topics have some tangential relevance to our lives or our interests, and it is so easy to become distracted by them. For a consumer of words and writing, like yours truly, these things take on an allure that can make us push aside the more mundane yet necessary tasks before us. Result: we fall behind. (And as someone who prefers “J,” on the MBTI, I hate to fall behind. Very much a planner and check-lister, I am.)

So I can bemoan the information overload of modern day life–and then I can discipline myself to stay focused, efficient. In other words, I ought to buck up and carry on.

 But in a reflective moment, I have to ask: do I really want to live a life where I can leap, carefree, down the rabbit hole of words and ideas, with no regard for how long I’ll be there or how far it takes me? Do I want a life where every day starts with a nice hot cup of coffee or tea, and a couple hours to read spiritual reflections, the news, other things which are important but not urgent? A life that allows me to think about and discuss ideas for hours? For a month, maybe two, this would be heaven, in theory. But then the full picture emerges. What would disappear from my days for this to happen? I am a mother of young children and the wife of an amazing man. More time with books and ideas means less time hugging my children, laughing at the frankly hilarious things they say or do, less time trying to make my husband laugh, talking to him and discovering, these many years later, the person he is. It would mean less time caring for all of them, and doing things that matter to me, like my work, service at my church, maintaining friendships.

No, in the end, I choose my life. This is a chapter of life that holds fleeting treasures. My children will not always want so much time with me, and my health will not always be good. I am blessed to have this life, this time, and if the sacrifice I must pay is that a few [tens of dozen of] interesting books and articles have to go unread, then I will pay it, for the reward is priceless.