Save the Journals or Burn Them…?

 

Although New Year’s Day is often a day to toss out the “old”, the January 1st purging of my home office was not planned. I just happened to smell a fire brewing outside and discovered my husband burning some Christmas wrap and nonsense snail mail.

I was sitting in my office and looked around at what I could hand over for the “burn pile” as we call it in my house. I decided to quickly scan the files in my cabinet, pulling out 11 months of Kohls charge bills, water bills, etc. for my husband to throw into the fire. Then my eyes caught sight of several prayer/life happenings journals. I opened a few and perused the dates, ages of the kids and what I had written. Some of the writings were not pleasant.

Very fervent prayer requests – all received a hard “no” – at least up until now. I was so detailed…so “Mom”…so clearly overwhelmed and crying out to God to help with this whole parenting thing. Much of the writing was also in gratitude, but many frustrations were there in ink.

I wondered why I thought of these journals as such treasures. I have many. One of my habits over the years was to start a new journal whenever I needed a fresh start, and that wasn’t always on January 1st. For several years, I thought about my children discovering my journals someday and enjoying the pages filled with their Mom’s thoughts. On January 1st? I really didn’t think some of my writings needed to be read. I also questioned whether or not they would care about my thoughts and prayers at the time.

I didn’t want my kids to someday look at my prayers that didn’t get answered as I had prayed them and resent God. They had to walk a faith journey of their own.

I had recently asked my kids if they cared if I saved a slew of thank you cards I had received over the years. I had actually tossed an entire carton of thank you cards about three years ago and wondered if my kids would have someday enjoyed reading about all the thoughtful  things their Mom did (wink wink). Would such writings help them know me more? I threw them away and Tuesday, I was looking at another small pile that had collected in my desk drawer. I decided to hand them over to the burn pile.

As I continued to question whether or not to turn a few journals into ash, I contemplated two things I observed recently.

1 – I painted my dining room a couple of months ago. Prior to painting, I had to empty my credenza full of china and glassware. I set up a long folding table in the front foyer and put all the credenza contents on it. That table sat there for days and every time I walked by it, I couldn’t help but think of all the estate sales and garage sales I had seen where tables just like this one supported a lifetime of someone’s collectibles, now for sale without regard to sentiment. When I finished the paint job, I got rid of several things. Guess what? I don’t miss any of them. I kept what was truly worth keeping.

2 – If you read my post, Determined to Enjoy the Breathtaking Beauty of Nature, Despite the Profound Pain of Life, you probably noticed that I lost my beloved friend two years ago. I am very close to her daughter who recently got engaged and is moving into a new home. Although we had previously gone through my friend’s belongings, we were together again last week, purging even more “stuff” so she could lighten the moving load.

After good counseling and two and a half years of additional time to heal, her daughter was ready to let go of more belongings. I asked her about a few things in particular…if she was “sure”. She answered, “Yes. I just can’t hang on to everything.”

As I held my journals in the office, I thought of my friend’s daughter who kept scrapbooks but certainly not every written thing her mother wrote. The truth is, she is busy now. A new career. A groom-to-be. New home. Overseas travel. Already planning her first child as soon as possible after the wedding. Even though she will no doubt become much more sentimental about her Mom’s writings once she becomes a Mom herself, every single thing won’t be read.

In addition to journals, I have endless pages (surprisingly organized) of typed happenings specific to each child that I have created over the years. Funny stories of when they were two years old, cute things they said or sentimental talks we shared, birthday party happenings…pages of “life” that I have in piles for each of them. I’m confident they will enjoy those stories someday when they have children of their own.

Pushing off my decision whether or not to burn the journals, I pulled out the folders of orthodontic work (and the costs) that I was saving. The folder of my older daughter’s senior trip to Europe (and the costs!). The folder of 10 years of ice hockey…ice time, equipment, hotel rooms, team fees…Field hockey, lacrosse, soccer. I decided my kids wouldn’t care about what we paid or the hours of planning and investment, so into the burn pile they went.

I still struggled whether or not to save the journals. I actually came across one I had written years ago and marked “not to be read until you have children of your own”! Hahaha.

Ultimately, I decided to burn a few. I still have plenty left that I will take time to decide on but those first few I tossed…? I feel okay about it. I don’t think I’ll regret letting go of the few I read through.Writer’s write. If I’m not at the computer, I’m in a journal or, the blessing and curse: I’m writing in my head….always words and articles and chapters forming…just like most of you reading this right now.

After I watched to be sure every personal page was ashes and wouldn’t fly by air into the neighbor’s lawn, I walked back to the house. Guess what I wanted to do? Write about how I decided to burn some writing! And so this post was created.

If you have thoughts regarding the saving (or not) of your personal writings, I’m interested!

Happy Thursday!

Do We Really “Need” It? A Former Student Says NO.

A student from a few years ago just came to mind as I began to notice how many people around me were saying what they “needed” for Christmas. “I really need black boots because all my other pairs are brown…I need a TV for the bathroom…” ? Then, I noticed I too was inappropriately using the same word…“I need to get Christmas hand soap”… “I need poinsettias for the living room…” Um, no I certainly do not “need” them. They are yet another decoration on top of an already well-decorated house.

My student was 23-years young and she entered the class armed with creative graphs and charts on actual boards, along with PowerPoint slides. The class was tasked with offering a “persuasive” presentation, their chosen position requiring data, personal experiences, evidence or other concrete material to support their stand. This student’s claim was that the modern couple in contemporary America did not need the income they professed to need.

Hmmm. I leaned in. This one might be truly interesting. She was so young to determine that she didn’t “need” a new-built house by 27. So young to claim that kids should have one parent at home and for most, they did not “need” the second income. On that note, my eyes darted around the room, certain there would be protestors following her controversial comment. When I began college teaching 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have thought anything of her words because people tended to simply accept whatever family choices their friends, neighbors and co-workers made. Now, students are so offended that all statements – conservative or liberal, happy or sad, ethical or unethical, etc. etc. etc.-lead to someone expressing offense.

After making a few controversial claims (as required in stating a “position”), she proceeded to support her points, beginning with the story of her grandparents. They lived on one income, grandpa worked without a college education and raised two children. The story was compelling, with grandpa ultimately retiring close to being a millionaire after owning a fine home and putting his kids through college. He was not an entrepreneur, but a laborer. They did not live in squalor but a nice middle-class neighborhood. She emphasized that they did not go without, but had plenty including the occasional family vacation.The presentation wore on, charts with credible sources showing the average income in 1950, along with the prices of several products used daily then and now. She compared prices, inflation, took into account the skyrocketing cost of vehicles and housing and contrasted everything against the incomes. Upon completion, there was an overflow of cash among modern couples after the “needs” were met. Where did this overflow go? To the new “needs”: everything from $500 birthday parties to regular manicures, pedicures, multiple devices per person, per household, overseas vacations for spring break instead of trips to Florida, new cars every two years…and on it went. High school senior trips are no longer using district budgets for a fun field trip, but parents are expected to hand over a thousand for a senior trip to France.

We fell into the too-much-spending more times than I care to admit while raising our children. When I was growing up, my parents and step parents would have never given such luxuries a thought, let alone paid for them.

These “new needs” are the norm. Unlikely that many people will end up millionaires on two full time incomes, let alone one household income with the way we spend.

She effectively argued that the cultural beliefs Americans espouse profoundly affect how they handle their money. The cultural belief system, regardless if flawed, emotionally harmful or even if it causes neglect in marriages or parenting, is one of the leading factors in “needing” more money and stuff. Although excruciatingly unpopular in the modern college classroom among peers who vehemently disagreed with her fundamentals could not deny the power of the data.

Just like the next girl, I have been guilty of buying more than I should during Christmas. Perhaps a combination of age, maturity and having older kids, I don’t splurge like I once did. But compared to half the world’s population, many in poverty, yes, I still spend more than is necessary. When kids are little, there is thrill and excitement that’s still worth every penny to me. But, little kids also don’t “need” much to truly be joy-filled.

As individuals dwelling on this planet (even though we’re not of it), it’s natural to want cool stuff. Collectively, no matter how devout or grounded we are, we periodically look over the fence to see what’s up with the seemingly greener pastures next door. We know better, but we still occasionally ponder our choices. Frankly, bigger homes have more space and that’s not a bad thing. Convenience household items that we don’t necessarily “need” honestly make life easier. But, at what emotional, spiritual and relational costs?

The points are priorities and balance. As Franklin Covey says in his famous Habits books and in First things First, if everything important is cared for first, then go get the rest.

I’m a fan of setting goals – earning anything you want…a degree, income, achievements…they are part of life. What my student reminded us all of that day is that the earning requires balance.

What were once “treats” are commonplace. What was once “special” is now expected. And for those who still can’t earn enough to get those treats and special-everything, it makes them feel bad. It really shouldn’t, but it stings. Pulling back from the cultural norms is necessary to regain some perspective. That is hard during a season when we spend hours online shopping and walking through beautiful stores enticing us with all sorts of things we never knew we always wanted!

God knows what we “need” and fulfills more wants than we give Him credit for.

He knows we want to spoil our kids and surprise someone special with a “wow” gift at Christmas. There is nothing wrong with those things and I embrace them. During this holiday season, I’m just going to retreat every now and then, so I can fully give thanks for what I already have.

Gratitude

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

He remains the same.

Me? Well…this happened about a week ago:

The morning: I was driving in heart-felt praise singing along to What a Beautiful Name. I was in tears. Connected to our God. Thankful. Happy. Resolved to have a peaceful day.

But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Matthew 13:6-7

Mid day: The weeds of life were choking out the good seed that was planted in the morning. I realized I was clenching my teeth. Catching my reflection in a glass door, I saw deeply furrowed eyebrows. I was annoyed by many things. Suddenly, the lyrics to the early morning song began playing in my mind. I lowered my shoulders…Breathed deep…Raised my eyebrows off the bridge of my nose and loosened my jaw.

Today, I’m grateful that He is the same. With us. Present. Loving. Bringing us back again and again.