Embracing the In Between

By on September 27, 2017

It’s easy to get pumped about the milestone events. We plan for graduations, weddings, children, trips, and retirement. The excitement is almost too much at times. What we struggle with is embracing the moments in between major life events, and since those moments make up the majority of our time here on earth, shouldn’t we train ourselves to savor them? (more…)


Change Into Who You Are

By on September 20, 2017

“Shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the dust. Stop being who you were, and change into who you are.” -Paulo Coehlo

I absolutely adore this quote I found from The Alchemist. Now, to be honest, I’ve yet to read the book, or any of Coehlo’s work (sorry!), but that doesn’t mean you and I can’t benefit from his words. In fact, I’m deliberately not even researching the background of the quote because I don’t need it. I don’t need to know which character says it or what the circumstances are; I just want to focus on the act of changing into who I am. 

Our blog is all about what the name says: changing our default. Yes, we mainly like to spend our words on financial wellness, but it’s all within the greater context of changing our normal behaviors to attain contentment. Of course, with my friend’s recent passing, I’m thinking a lot about how to best spend my life. Life is too short to waste being anything other than who you really want to be. So let’s think of Coehlo’s words in relation to the changes we desire in our own lives. 

Shut the door.

Whatever is holding you in the past, don’t be afraid to shut the door on it and open up other doors that will serve you better. Is there a major fear that’s held you captive far too long? Put it away in its own closet and shut the door. Do you harbor room in your mind for past disappointments, betrayals, rejections? Close the door on those too. 

Change the record.

That same old depressing or discouraging tune that’s been playing over and over in your head for weeks, months, even years? Time to bust out some new music! Sing a new song. Dance to a different band. Let there be a new soundtrack to your days, one that’s life-affirming and daring and exciting. Don’t keep listening to that sad country song where you’ve lost everything. Make room in your playlist for confidence, for hope, for new beginnings. 

This year, my “record” is quite different from the past. Where life used to be filled with lesson plans and staff meetings, it’s now filled with dinosaur toys and cartoons and potty training. Where I used to be sad dropping my kids off at daycare, I’m now enjoying a lot more closeness with my kids.

Clean the house. 

Mr. COD is the cleaner and organizer of our household. It drives him bananas to see toys strewn all over the house, mail and papers scattered on every counter and table, and dirty clothes on the floor. I don’t love messes either, but I have a greater ability to turn a blind eye to the clutter sometimes. However, the weeks while we were showing our house and still living there, we found out how much better we felt with a clean, uncluttered house. We’re working on keeping a neater house for our own sanity. 

Cleaning house literally improves your outlook, your environment, giving you a fresh sensation. When we spring clean, we tend to push open all the windows, letting in all the scents of the outdoors. A clean house means open spaces to let your creativity run wild. It gives you room to breathe and to think and to start something new. 

“Cleaning house” might also mean doing relationship inventory. Letting go of toxic relationships, or at least affording them less space in your life. As we declutter our homes, we might also benefit from decluttering our lives in other ways.

Shake off the dust. 

In the Bible, Jesus told his disciples that if any place didn’t welcome them and their gospel message, they should shake the dust off their feet as they left. Taylor Swift also sang of this powerful act (haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…do you hate me now for putting this song in your head?). We can apply this to the changes we need to make. Anything that’s not advancing our progress toward goals, we shake it off and leave it behind. 

Has someone damaged you with degrading comments or tried to actively sabotage your success? Have you been carrying baggage from old relationships, failed careers, lost talents? Give yourself permission to shake all of that off.

A big struggle for me is letting rejection roll off me. I tend to let negative thoughts drag me down, and every time I get rejected in terms of freelance jobs, friendships, or anything else, I have a hard time moving past that. Shaking off the bad makes room for the good. 

Break Away!

Shall we borrow some words from the first American Idol winner as well? “Take a risk, take a chance, make a change…and break away.” Kelly Clarkson’s debut hit may seem really old nowadays, but it still rings true when I’m craving some inspiration. I need the positive encouragement from songs like that. Sometimes we have to break away from what’s easy or comfortable in order to grow and get to a better place.

Change ain’t easy. We all are well aware that it’s much simpler to keep doing things the way we’re accustomed to, the way that’s comfortable and familiar. Change hurts. It stretches us and bends us and leads us along paths that can seem dark and scary.

I can’t forget this one chapel speaker from my time at Wheaton. Her central message was how to deal with the inevitability of three things: change, loss, and pain. While I’m sure she presented a few useful points, all I can remember is how she punctuated the sentence every time she said the three things. She would count them out on her fingers emphatically: “Change, loss, and pain,” then pound on her chest with a fist and say, “Ouch.” It was so comical; we mocked her rather unkindly afterwards.

But no matter how painful, change (to the right things) is worth it. Whether it’s a change to a healthier lifestyle, a more stable financial future, a supportive relationship, it’s worth every bit of research and time invested. We can break away from our old habits, our old defaults, and create new ones that fit who we are. As said in The Alchemist, we can stop being who we were and start being who we are

When you look at yourself today, do you see the person you want to see? Or do you have a picture in your mind of who you’d like to be one day? Whatever sacrifices you have to make to become the new version of yourself, they just might be worth it. 

 

Of Legacy and Loss

By on September 13, 2017

I’m not quite sure of how to begin this post as I know my words will be sorely insufficient. It’s been an upsetting week, to say the least. For the purposes of this blog, I’m framing recent events in terms of a reminder. A reminder of what really matters in life. A reminder to let go of the junk that doesn’t matter at all. 

My hometown was rocked with a huge loss one week ago. A classmate of mine passed away suddenly, the victim of an auto accident. Just an ordinary day, going about the routine, and a sixteen-year-old’s failure to stop at a stop sign changed everything. Thankfully, none of her family members were with her in the car, but my friend Emily died at the scene. 

Just like that. One moment, she was thinking of any of a thousand tasks she needed to do, as a busy wife and mother of six. The next moment, she was gone and her sweet family, plus countless other loved ones, were left grieving. What an unspeakable loss.

It’s the kind of thing that happens all too often, yet when it happens to you or someone you know, it feels completely surreal. Impossible. Not her. I first heard the news from my mom, who of course follows all of my school friends on Facebook and had seen comments that hinted at the tragedy. She called me late that night to see if I knew anything, and within a few minutes I had learned that it was indeed our Emily, and the shocking truth that she was gone. 

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalms 139:16

I know my words will fall far short today, but I still want to share a little bit about this woman because she was so amazing. I hadn’t seen her or spoken to her in real life since college, but thanks to social media, we’d kept up on each other’s milestones. Just a few days before her accident, I had been pondering and for some reason realized that Emily was the only person I’d gone to school with my entire life. Kindergarten through undergrad. I thought, hey, that’s kind of neat and probably pretty rare. I can’t think of too many memories of growing up that didn’t include Emily in some way. 

Growing up in a very small town means everybody knows everybody. Our class was filled with kids who had known each other forever. We all went to school together, played together, celebrated birthdays together, did Scouts together…you get the point. In our eighth grade year, we consolidated schools with the next town over (not a huge deal, since we would have done so for high school the following year anyway). Still a small school, same vibe. 

Emily and I didn’t hang in the same core group of friends, but we did marching band and Lifesavers (peer counselor group) and cross-country together. She became a Christian early in high school, and that soon became her ultimate focus and passion. She was one of those rare people who made Christianity cool. Everyone knew where she stood, and even if they didn’t agree with her, they respected her for her convictions. She and I led team prayers before each girls’ cross-country race our senior year, and not all on the team were believers. But no one minded, and they appreciated the ritual. I’m fairly certain that was thanks to Emily’s kind way of sharing her faith. 

We ended up attending the same private Christian college (Wheaton) and crossed paths occasionally, in the dorm or at track meets. She always had a smile on her face. 

In the years since college, Emily married her college sweetheart, he completed medical school, and they began growing their family. Three biological children were followed by adopted twins, followed by another biological child. By all firsthand accounts, she rocked at mothering such a large brood. She also managed to keep it real on social media, often admitting her failures and shortcomings as a mom. She didn’t sugarcoat the challenges of adoption or of raising a large family. Always tying everything to the anchor of her faith in Jesus, she constantly maintained that everything she did was only by the grace of God. On many occasions, I found myself convicted by her posts to seek God more fervently. 

Now here we are. This friend won’t get to finish raising her beautiful children or continue loving others around her as she did so well. I didn’t attend her memorial service; a 14-hour drive each way was just too far. My heart was torn on Monday as I longed to be physically present with Emily’s family and friends to grieve. I’m thankful for the woman who live-streamed the service for those unable to attend, so we could mourn her loss and celebrate her life from afar. 

It’s so unfair. It really is. I am angry and so unbelievably brokenhearted for her closest family. I am not God, and I definitely wouldn’t have chosen this way to write this story. The knowledge of Emily’s deep faith brings comfort, and I trust that she’s rejoicing in heaven right now. But at the same time, the thought of the crushing grief her husband, kids, and all of her family are experiencing, is hard to accept. What God is doing in all of this pain, I don’t know. 

“You will show me the way of life, granting me tell joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:11

No matter what, this is a reminder to me, to all of us who cared for Emily, to embrace the life we’re given. Sometimes I think we forget how, in the end, we really have no control over our fate. I don’t fully appreciate the gifts of my life or the sweet moments as they happen. Emily’s death is reminding me, all the time, to take what God gives and do my best with it. Whether my life ends in fifty years or tomorrow, am I making the most of the gift? Am I being obedient to God? Am I telling people how much I love them? Am I truly living out that love? 

I’m reminded of song lyrics by Nichole Nordeman: 

I want to leave a legacy.

How will they remember me?

Did I choose to love?

Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering. 

Child of mercy and grace who blessed Your name unapologetically…to leave that kind of legacy.

Surely Emily has left an incredible legacy of love and faith, and that’s what I hope to do whenever my time comes. 

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave in the world? How do you want to be remembered?


New Home Cons

By on September 6, 2017

A couple of months ago, I blogged about some of the fantastic things we LOVE about our new house and town. Mr. COD and I feel so fortunate to be in the place we are right now in career, location, and life in general. He’s begun his new assistant professor duties and is feeling very positive about it all, and Junior COD just started preschool today! Lots of good stuff all around! 

Junior COD meets the class fish, Mr. Blue

exploring the nature preserve in Frankfort

HOWEVER.

Naturally, no situation is perfect! We certainly have found a few negatives in our new house and region, so to honestly document our journey of changing our default, we must admit the bad along with the good. Without further ado, I present:

NEW HOME CONS 

  • Our rural road is slightly dangerous. We’re just about one mile off a main highway into town, but that one mile is fraught with several risky corners where it’s BARELY wide enough to fit two vehicles passing one another. We’ve also noticed that other drivers on this road seem to drive recklessly. Hence, we do have to be on alert when traversing the area. 
  • Along those same lines, it’s not a great location for me as a runner. While I like that traffic is light, I don’t love the blind corners or the crazy, STEEP hills! I run on my own once in awhile, but it’s tough. Dangerous and hard on my wimpy Illinois muscles!  

    This hill is 0.8 miles from our house. It’s INSANE.

  • The rural area, of course, means limited options for Internet hookup. Our neighbor across the street informed us on our moving day that no matter who you go with around here, service can be slow. Plus, she uses AT&T, but when Mr. COD contacted them, we found that our home (just across the road) was out of their service area. Hence, we have HughesNet and it’s costing us a bit more than before. 
  • You’ve already heard about us meeting a plethora of creepy, crawly critters in our new abode. A large majority of these were prior inhabitants of the house and land who had enjoyed free reign for several months while our house lay empty of human occupants. Thankfully, having us and our feline family members patrolling the premises (and Mr. COD having cut back a ton of the overgrown brush and trees) seems to have largely eradicated the presence of giant spiders in the house. We still are constantly finding new creatures to examine, though. At least one black widow has been spotted (in the garage), several enormous fishing spiders (freakishly huge, but harmless), and just last week, a “cow-killer” (a red-and-black striped wasp that races on foot like a steroid-enhanced ant). Plus side: Junior and Mini COD are getting an early education in the art of not touching any unfamiliar critters without prompt notification of Mom and Dad and a quick Google search! 
  • Poison ivy. Umm…yeah. Mr. COD had a vicious encounter with this stuff a few weeks ago and is finally starting to get relief from the itching! He admits to not being cautious and wearing appropriate clothing to protect himself while mowing and trimming, but still, it’s caused some degree of misery for his first few weeks of work. Again, the kids are learning what NOT to do! They are sufficiently scared of poison ivy now thanks to Dad’s live demonstration of its evils.
  • Coyotes. Guys, these things are SOOO FREAKY to hear late at night! We first heard a pack of them shrieking a couple of weeks ago while our friends from Milwaukee were visiting. Let’s just say, we could definitely tell they were celebratin’ something sinister. Just last night, we heard them getting all riled up again. It doesn’t make me keen on camping in our backyard anytime soon! 
  • The steep hill of a driveway and yard are a pain at times. Hauling garbage cans up to the road is a bit of work, and there are very few flat spaces in the yard for playing or gardening. We feel a bit better about this when we drive around town and see that flat areas are few and far between, so we’re not alone!
  • As far as the house itself goes, nearly everything in it is kind of worn-out or near broken. The house is perfectly livable; it just needs a lot of TLC to get to the way we’d like it. A few examples: paint needs freshening everywhere, the patio door doesn’t function very well, the roof isn’t in great shape, and the main bathroom decor is pretty hideous. However, all can be done gradually as we have the funds and time! 
  • There’s no Aldi. Shopping at Wal-Mart is far from my favorite thing to do. Boo! It’s okay, though–there’s a new Aldi under construction in our town right now! We’re so looking forward to getting our fave grocery chain back soon. 
  • Driving everywhere is a necessity, because, again, RURAL. It’s no longer a five-minute walk to the nearest supermarket, so I do miss popping the boys into the stroller to go pick up just a few things. Planning ahead is a bit more important when running errands. Still, Mr. COD is now only a ten-minute drive from work (instead of 30), which is an awesome change for him and us. 
  • While we love having a bigger house in which to entertain guests (we’ve had a lot of people visiting this summer), more space means more to clean. This is no surprise; everyone mentions this con when talking square footage of homes. It’s still preferable for us to have the room and spend a tad longer cleaning. Totally worth the trade-off!
  • Not a good space for kitty litter. One of our cats is on the geriatric end of the age spectrum and has some trouble staying in the box. Unfortunately, the best space for them is in a downstairs open closet, which is carpeted. Hence, we have some gross odor to deal with as long as she’s with us. 
  • You’ve all heard this one before: we’re farther from our family and friends. It sucks big-time, but we feel the career opportunity for Mr. COD and the other opportunities for us as a family are worth the sacrifice. 
  • We are very isolated from other people here. At our old house, we even shared a driveway with one neighbor, and it became somewhat comforting to always see them leaving in the morning for their jobs and run into them during the warmer months. Here in this rural area, we can go days without seeing another human being. It’ll require some more effort to get to know people. *One caveat to this: our closest neighbors here have dogs who occasionally wander off into our yard. We love this, as their dogs are incredibly sweet and friendly and our kids adore dogs. Our day is always brightened when Roscoe or Piper amble through our grass for a pat or two. That opens up conversation with the neighbors as well, when they come looking for the pups!
  • The amount of space we have is amazing…BUT…the view from our house is actually very closed-off. We’re totally hemmed in by trees on all sides, and it would be nice to see more of the countryside around us. Our plan is to work on clearing out more of the trees and brush that separate us from the cow pasture, so that by next summer, we could enjoy some glorious pastoral sunset views!   

    Lovely, just not as open as we’d like!

That’s about it for the negatives in this new home in Kentucky. We don’t regret the house or the location we chose, but it does have its drawbacks. So far, the pros far outweigh the cons for us! I mean, look at this peaceful little slice of heaven!

Obstructed, but still pretty gorgeous!

My office view?

Have you ever regretted a move or a house purchase? How did you fix things?