That Planner Life

I started using planners when I was back in middle school. I’m not sure what I used it for considering I had no schedule of my own, played with whoever was outside after school, and also didn’t really have a sense of time beyond, “ugh why is my birthday so far away,” or, “ugh why is Christmas so far away.”

SO, after YEARS of researching, testing, and committing, about three years ago I found the perfect planner: the Moleskine Dashboard Diary. Things clicked. My J-ness was satisfied. My world felt ordered. I could look at a month at a time if I wanted. I could look at the week. I could even break my day down by the hour. It was magical.

UNTIL MOLESKINE DISCONTINUED THE PLANNER FOR 2018. UGGGGGHHHHHHH. I may or may not have had a very passive-aggressive chat with the random Moleskine employee trying to help me. He didn’t. Because he couldn’t explain why they discontinued it. (Ok, sorry to Moleskine chat box employee. I knew you had no control over whether or not they discontinued it, but DID YOU EVEN TRY!??!?!).

Anyways, I think I have found a worthy replacement! I’m posting this on here because I had to google about planners and formats for about an hour, so hopefully I can save someone an hour of their lives….while also using another half an hour of my life.

Announcer: please give it up for Caroline’s new 2018 planner… [badabadabadabada]

The 2018 Leuchtturm 1917 Week Planner
(with booklet for anniversaries and addresses!)

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Here’s a picture of the inside:

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Normally all my notebooks are black, but the color selection was too enticing. Seriously, look at this:

prettyyyyHere’s how it compares to my old Moleskine Dashboard Diary:

Leuchtturm Deets:

  • Size: Medium (A5)
  • Color: Emerald
  • Price: $31.70 including shipping. I got it direct on their website because it was significantly cheaper than Amazon, but it looks like this specific color is sold out.

The page formatting is very similar to the Moleskine Dashboard Diary, but the Leuchtturm is wider, which I actually like. It’s beautiful, the fonts are awesome, the quality is really good, it gives me the hourly breakdown, and there is space at the bottom for to-do lists and note taking. Moleskine does still have a kinda-sorta similar planner, but their hour breakdowns take up the full height of the page, so there is no extra space at the bottom. I knew it wouldn’t work for me, and it would end up feeling messy.

Why I didn’t get the Passion Planner: 

I think it’s ugly. The line weights and fonts are too heavy, and I feel like the pages would fall out.

Why I didn’t get the Bullet Journal: 

Too blank. I’m kinda artsy, but not THAT artsy, and really I want to use my planner as a calendar/actual planner. It would take too much time to draw in all the lines, and I’d be over it. Also, you have to learn a “system,” and that felt like too much commitment, even if it’s an arbitrary system.

IN CONCLUSION.

While my day RARELY looks like what I actually write out in my planner, life as a mom with all its interruptions and unexpected twists and turns can be pretty stressful for me, so being able to have a sense of what’s coming frees me to go with the flow. This is where Mason would laugh at me for “planning” so that I can “go with the flow.” Bahaha. But really, it makes a difference.

Here’s a how I use my current dashboard diary, and why I love the format so much. Also, Jaden wanted to eat the carpet while I was taking pictures.

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Don’t Be Perfect, Be Better

Our annual blog post is becoming biennial. Yes, biennial meaning I post every two years. Not to be confused with biannual which means happening twice a year. Totally had to google that. Also, remember that time Mason decided to catch up on blogging and posted like 4 posts in the span of one week? Someone get that kid a marketing book.
Here’s the TL;DR version of our life the past few years:
  • Mason graduated with a masters multiple times
  • I started working with InterVarsity
  • We finally fell in love with Boston
  • Then we moved to a city we don’t yet love
  • I changed roles with InterVarsity (I LOVE MY JOB!)
  • Mason started a Ph.D. program (#addict #modegreesmoproblems)
  • WE HAD A BABY

WUT. Right? Let’s dive right in rather than catch up about all of those things.

You would think that by now, I have become somewhat of a transition expert. Our family life has been marked by changes, and often times really big changes all at once. First it was marriage + move across the country + new jobs. Then it was move within our city + new jobs. Then it was move across the country + new jobs + baby. Why have one transition when you can have three? I’m Indian; I love a bargain.

For all the changes we’ve experienced, this one still hit me like a train all over again. No amount of personal growth or development can prepare you for loneliness, when your baby hates feeding and is losing weight, new stresses on your family, or the learning curve of new roles. Pain is still pain, and in this particular transition, there were times where even my faith felt like it was hanging on by a thread.

We’ve reached a relative state of equilibrium in our house (is there a such thing as chaotic equilibrium?), or maybe I’m more ok with not knowing what each day will bring. I’ve started listening to podcasts during my morning walks. Sidenote: how does the world listen to so many podcasts? Do you drive a lot? Do you walk? Can you multitask? Also sidenote: how do people read so many books? I started the Harry Potter series four years ago, and I’m still on page one.

ANYWAYS BACK TO MY POINT (sidenote: didja miss me? jk no more sidenotes). Something I’ve gleaned from a few podcasts I’ve listened to is:

Don’t be perfect, just be better.

I am not the mother I wish I could be. I’m not the wife I wish I could be. I’m not healthy in the way I want to be. I’m not as on top of my work as I want to me. In this season, pursuing perfection has left me exhausted and even more disappointed. But, it’s ok. I don’t have to be perfect.

More often than not, I am praying for “daily bread” from the Lord, clinging to His grace for simple things and big decisions. I never thought I would need to pray before checking emails or playing with trains, but I have also never been so aware of my own lack. But, maybe this is how I was always meant to live- leaning on Him and not on myself?

So! What can you expect with this revival? Probably nothing, but we’ll continue to invite you to journey with us in this beautiful adventure of life. Maybe I can temporarily rename our blog ugly adventure. Messy adventure? It is probably time to re-evaluate the purpose of this space, but for now, it’ll be a mini creative outlet/processing space for me. (Caroline in case it wasn’t obvious who was writing). < doesn’t count as a sidenote if I don’t say sidenote.

Here are some fun pictures of our cutie scutie!

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Open Your Ears

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered.

– Proverbs 21.13

 

Does God always answer prayer? Generally we answer “Yes, though sometimes His answer is ‘No.'” This passage makes us think twice.

The word in the passage translated as “cry” (za’aqah) is a technical term. It is not just any cry. It is not simply “Woe is me, for I am poor,” or “Please give me money.” Rather, it is a cry against injustice. It is the cry of the oppressed. It is the cry of a plaintiff to a judge. It is the cry of the poor for justice in the face of injustice. Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright says it is “the technical term for the cry of protest or pain out of a situation of injustice, cruelty or violence” (Christopher Wright, The Mission of God, p 272, n7). See its usage in the following passages:

“Then the LORD said, ‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.'” (Genesis 18.20-21, NRSV)

And what exactly was the sin of that most infamous pair of cities which typifies rebellion against God’s good design throughout the whole Old Testament? What was this “outcry” about?

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16.49–50, ESV)

How easily could this same thing be said of us in the West? Yet Sodom and Gomorrah were wiped off the map and serve as paradigmatic objects of God’s wrath for this reason: they did not aid (i.e. listen to and care for) the poor and needy. (See also Gen 19:13.)

But this outcry against injustice does not only provoke wrath, it also provokes deliverance. In fact, just as it provokes that most paradigmatic expression of wrath in the Old Testament, it also provokes that most paradigmatic act of deliverance in the Old Testament: the exodus.

“Then the LORD said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.'” (Exodus 3.7–10, ESV)

(For more uses of the same word, see also Gen 18.20; Isa 15.5, 8; 65.19; Jer 18.22; 20.16; 48.4, 34; 51.54; Job 16.18;Est 4.1; 9.31; Neh 5.6; 9.9.)

So God listens to outcries against injustice, and it provokes both judgment and deliverance. God listens. But do we?

“Whoever closes his ear to the outcry of the poor against injustice,
he himself will also call out but he will not be answered.” (Proverbs 21.13)

I have a pastor friend who said, “My Bible says God answers my prayers if I listen to the poor. And I want God to answer my prayers.” Yes, we can argue about the theological nuances, but don’t let the force of what God is saying get lost in the arguments about what He’s not saying. Let’s not use our theology to blunt the force of God’s Word. Let us let Him speak.

To whom do we need to be listening? Where is the cry against injustice among the poor in your world? Is it the refugees (Muslim, even?) in Syria, Sudan, Somalia? Is it Black Lives Matter? We don’t have to agree with or affirm everything, but we do need to listen to the stories, listen to the cries against injustice. Listen to the pleas for justice and equity. Is it the person living on the street that you see every morning on the corner? Is it the housekeeper? Is it the immigrant, documented or not? To whom do you need to listen?

God will listen. God will answer. And it may provoke Him to act in both judgment and deliverance. How will He judge us? How will He judge our country and society for closing our ears to the outcries of the poor against injustice? To whom do you need to listen?

“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Martin Niemoeller, Protestant pastor opposed to Nazi regime, served seven years in concentration camp

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He Restores My Soul

[NERD ALERT! This is something I wrote a while ago for a friend who was having a rough time, and who also loves Psalms and Hebrew. That said, there are only like three people who actually read our blogs (hi moms!), and they already know I’m a nerd and love Hebrew. So I have no qualms with potentially appearing to flaunt. I just love Hebrew. For those that don’t, skip this blog, or skip to the end. Also, (soap box moment!) I hope this at least demonstrates the value of learning Greek and Hebrew for actual, practical, relevant, helpful study of Scripture that can actually be encouraging. It’s not irrelevant for today, or for the things that trouble us. Encourage your pastor to know the languages, or learn it yourself!]

 

נפשׂ ישׂובב

“He restores my soul” (Psalm 23.3)

 

I was reading Psalm 23 again recently and it occurred to me to share this with you as an encouragement. I know this season has been a difficult one for you. I hope encouragement and hope are restored to you. And what better way to do that than Hebrew + Psalms!

Word Studies

נפשׁ is not just “soul,” but that which gives rise to life. It is life and liveliness and vitality.

ישׂובב is fundamentally to turn around and return to a previous position.

Piel

The verb is piel not polel. Factitive or frequentitive: either causing a state (a restored soul), or repeated/iterative action, respectively. I think it is factitive (i.e. causative [it causes a new state of being]). The iteration comes next…

Imperfect / yiqtol

As with most of the verb in this beginning section, this is in the imperfect “tense” (a.k.a. yiqtol). This is not so much a temporal “tense” in the English sense so much as an aspectual form. In this case it functions as iterative – repeated action (to the point of almost being gnomic – a general statement of universal truth).

Translations

HALOT [Hebrew dictionary]: “literally ‘to bring back liveliness, vitality’”
Mine: “He will cause my life/vitality to return” or “He regularly causes my vitality to return”

 

The sum total of these elements is that David is delighting in the fact that while some seasons might be as through the valley of deep darkness and others are at the banquet table, Yahweh, as the Good Shepherd of his נפשׁ [soul], regularly, repeatedly, often, dependably, iteratively brings David’s liveliness back to him. Yahweh regularly causes David’s vitality to return to him. Granted, it is in God’s timing and ways, and sometimes the valleys are longer and darker than we’d like. Nonetheless, [Yahweh regularly, dependably brings us back to life]. May Yahweh likewise restore your vitality, [for the sake of His name].

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A Word for Those with Lots to Do!

Most of us know that life can get overwhelming at times. You likely don’t need to be told that. “So much to do, so little time.” I recall my own grad school days: sometimes it just feels like the work never ends, and there is absolutely no way you can get it all done in time. Sound familiar? Furthermore, when we go about doing our best to get as much done as possible, we do so anxiously, fretfully, feeling the pressure that it all rides on our shoulders. And for the rest of us that aren’t students any longer, we know that it doesn’t get easier—it only gets more demanding.

We may know somewhere in our minds that we need not be anxious (Matt 6.25-34), but we can’t help it! We may know that we can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15.5) or that apart from Him our work is in vain (Psalm 127.1-2; cf. 1 Cor 15.58), yet we still feel it all depends on us. What shall we do?

While the Bible has plenty to say about all this (see below for a few suggestions), I’d like to offer just one verse and a practical suggestion to help us in this. (I learned this one the hard way: through the fire of experience myself.)

Paul is writing about the nature of his ministry, the challenges of proclaiming the good news that Jesus reigns as King, and helping them grow in maturity, and he concludes with this:

“For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

(Col 1.29 ESV)

Notice the switches in the pronouns (underlined), and the verbs (italicized) they’re combined with. Who is doing the work? Is Paul working or is God?

You are correct! Both! Trick question! (And you thought you could be free from pop quizzes!)

Similar to Philippians 2.12-13, Paul is showing us here that God calls us to work hard while trustingly depending on Him to provide the strength, energy, and ability to do so without fretting and worrying and anxiety. Yes, we are called to work hard within limits that God has established for us as finite beings (see Ps 103.14; for example sleep, good food, church, exercise, Sabbath/Lord’s Day, community, etc.). He know our limits — He made them! But when it comes time to get to work, we can do so without anxiety or undue stress or trusting in ourselves and depending on our own abilities. So many times this was drilled into me: I was all worried about an exam or a paper or something at work, yet God came through in miraculous ways. And this was not in spite of my laziness, but by means of hard work, the energy for which God provided. Faith and hard work are not mutually exclusive. Rather, faith and hard work can combine in a way that results in peaceful trust and dependence, and praise to God.

So how can we enjoy this seemingly impossible combination of peace and trust with hard work and lots to do? I’m sure there are many ways; I’ll suggest just one. Start your day / studying / work with a prayer, based on one of the following passages, to put your trust in God and ask for His help and strength, confessing that you depend on Him, not on your abilities or efforts. Then end the day with a moment of prayer recognizing His help through the day and praising Him for it. If this is established as a regular rhythm, you will find over time that you can lean more and more into it, and that He is indeed faithful. May we all learn the rhythms of working hard “by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4.11).

Suggested passages for meditation:

Ps 121, 127:1-2; Isa 41.10, 41.13, 43.1, 64.4; Matt 6.25-34; Col 1.29; Phil 2.12-13; 1 Peter 4.11.

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The God Who Celebrates

A Meditation on The Parables of the Two Sons (read Luke 15:1-3; 11-32).

Many of us today feel that God plays sternly by the rule book. Unbendingly. While we acknowledge with our minds that He is just and good, and His instructions in Scripture are for our good, and He will by no means let wickedness go unpunished, we take this a step further and we feel like that means He is morose, removed, and demanding. Tit for tat. Get it right and He’ll be happy; but if you mess it up don’t come to Him until you’ve set it right. And He most surely does not laugh. He is loving, but in a stern kind of way. Often we would not say we believe these things. We believe that God is gracious. But often we feel otherwise. We often feel like God is really pissed off at us and we have to clean up our mess first. And what we feel about God is often more telling than what we say we believe.

Think about the last time you messed up before God, whatever that means for you. Think about the last time you recognized your brokenness and sin before God. Maybe you lost your cool with your child or spouse, or were jealous of your coworker, or anxious about your exams, or lusted after another, or killed someone with your words. In that moment, in that very moment, what did you imagine God thinking and feeling about you at that moment? How did you imagine God would respond to your return to Him at that moment? Was He approachable?

These ideas about God are not new. The Pharisees and the scribes, the really religious people, thought God was unbendingly by the rules. Get your act together and then you’ll be in His good graces. But Jesus showed something different. And all the “bad people” in town, the tax collectors and sinners, actually liked to hang out with him (how many “sinners” like to hang out with Christians today?), and He actually liked to be associated with them (how many Christians have this reputation today?)! So the Pharisees were complaining about the situation, and Jesus responds with three parables, of which we have read the last.

All three have the same main point: God seeks and saves people who are lost and celebrates with great joy at a massive party when they are found. In this parable, the younger son represents the sinners and tax collectors, the older son represents the Pharisees and scribes, and the father in the story represents God, as embodied in Jesus. But I’d like to concentrate here on just one verse, because it offers us probably the most profound look into the very heart of what makes God tick.

This verse first struck me roughly ten years ago. I was in a really dark spot one day while on a short term mission trip in India: discouraged, lonely, generally very pessimistic about my own faith. I did not feel that God was pleased with me. I was reading through some passages, when I came to verse 20, and it pierced me to my core, shook me right up, broke me, and I wept. For a long time. Verse 20 reads:

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

The father was keeping a keen eye out for him. And when he saw him, his insides got all twisted up with affection, with gladness, with empathy, with deep deep love. And he ran! This old, dignified, respected man ran in front of everyone! Shameless and undignified! And instead of lecturing him, and asking if he had cleaned up his mess and if he was sorry and wouldn’t do it again, without a single question or word he ran and he embraced him and kissed him! And as the kid tries to give his prepared lecture of remorse, the father interrupted him, welcomes him back into the family as his son, because he just couldn’t wait to get the party started.

This is how God responds when we come home to Him. This is the reality, regardless of how you and I feel about what God must think of us. Jesus tells us, and demonstrates for us, that God is not morose, detached, and unbendingly by the rule book. Jesus shows us that God delights to show mercy, and He loves to celebrate.

Is that what we imagine when we recognize our own brokenness and look back to God in hope or longing? Probably not for most of us, most of the time. But I’d like to suggest one thing based on this parable. And I think this one thing makes all the difference in the world. I’d like to suggest that you dare to believe that God would celebrate your homecoming (next time you mess up).

Or perhaps you are not the younger son. I am an oldest son, and an older brother. To some extent, I identify more with the older son in the parable who is responsible, obedience, faithful son who never abandoned his dad, but is resentful on the inside and actually unsure of the father’s love for him, thinking it is earned and not free. To the older sons and daughters among us as well, God invites us to come home fully into His love for you, and promises He will celebrate over you too. For the older sons and daughters: Dare to believe that God would celebrate your homecoming.

Commenting on the fact that in all three parables the main character says “Rejoice with me,” Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen says: “All these voices are the voices of God. God does not want to keep his joy to himself. He wants everyone to share in it. God’s joy is the joy of his angels and his saints; it is the joy of all who belong to the Kingdom.” This is the heartbeat that motivates His welcoming of the younger son back home. This is the heartbeat that motivates His yet-unaccepted invitation to the older son to be fully loved. This is a God who celebrates. He is the absolute opposite of morose, detached, disinterested, or unbendingly by the rule book. God is the happiest being in the universe. He delights to show mercy — it makes Him happy! This is the God who celebrates.

I dare you to believe that God would celebrate your homecoming too.

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He stands ready to be found

Sometimes we feel like our worlds (figurative or literal) are falling apart. And sometimes we wonder if God cares, because He seems absent. Or at best, the Bible seems simply disinterested, being preoccupied with pie-in-the-sky praise of God disconnected from our struggles. But the hymn and prayer book of the people of God (Psalms) is quite the opposite.

In Psalm 46, we find two themes smashed together. First is that of chaos. Much like our internal and external worlds, the writer of this prayer/song looks around and sees utter chaos. He articulates this metaphorically (the psalms avoid abstract thought and instead concentrate on concrete expressions) as the mountains moving (sliding) into the sea and the whole earth giving way (verse 2); the waters of chaos roar and foam, the mountains tremble (verse 3); the nations raging and kingdoms falling apart (verse 6). Everywhere he looks, his world seems to be falling apart. Everywhere he looks there is chaos.

Where is God?

One could translate verse 1 as this: God is “a helper very ready to be found in times of chaos.” When we find God in the midst of this chaos, what do we find?

A second theme throughout the psalm explains what we find when we find God: a safe place. The psalm starts with saying God is a “refuge” and “strength.” A refuge is a safe place. One writer says this: “This idea of taking refuge may well derive from the common experience of fugitives or of men at war, for whom the adjacent hills provided a ready ‘safe height’ or ‘strong rock’ to which the often helpless defender could hurry for protection.” The repeated theme verse of the whole psalm (verses 7 and 11) summarizes this idea of protection and safe space: “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

A strange combination: chaos and safe place. How can this be? Because God reigns. God is King. Yes, there are kingdoms and nations and countries here and there that seem to be in control, that hold sway with their good or bad or mediocre authority. But the supreme authority over them all is God. The one who reigns with absolute justice and goodness is God. And now He is patient. But make no mistake, He will return, and He will make all things right again, either through judgment or through deliverance.

How can we find Him as a safe place in the midst of chaos? When the doctor calls with the results or the boss invites you into the office for ‘that talk’ or your significant other hurts you deeply or you don’t know where the next meal will come from — how do we find God as a safe place in the midst of chaos? Because it says he stand very very ready to be found. But that’s passive; He is found. How do we find Him?

Verse 20 gives us the answer: STOP. Stop. Cease. Stop fretting. Stop trusting in your own abilities and contingency plans. Stop planning in a fretful way as if it all depends on you. Stop acting as if your God didn’t exist, as if He didn’t reign. Be still, and recognize, call to mind, the reality that God reigns as king in absolute authority. In the end, He will be made much of among all the nations, and among all the earth. He will make all things right again in the end, whether through judgment or deliverance.

In the midst of this chaos, He stands ready to be found as our help. We are invited, in the midst of the chaos, to STOP, to cease from all our chaotic thrashings in attempting to contain and control the chaos, and recognize/remember that Yahweh is God alone. In this way He will be exalted among the nations.


Though the whole world is falling apart around us, God stands ready to be found as a helper to all who stop and recognize that He still reigns, and so He will be made much of among the nations.

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