community

just enough

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I had a chat over coffee with the pastor of our local church. He asked me what sorts of things I’d been up to. After I’d recounted to him everything I could think of, he looked surprised. “Wow, you’re doing a lot.”

“Yeah,” I admitted, “I guess I am.”

I don’t bring this up as a matter of pride. Internally, I’m usually driving myself so hard that most of the time I feel like I’m not doing nearly enough. But most of the time, when I tell people all the activities I’m involved in and projects I’m working on, I get the same reaction.

My pastor had a few follow-up questions: was I doing too much and was I spending enough time with my wife?

Both great questions.

For the second one, yes, I believe so. We try to be intentional about spending at least a couple evenings a week just hanging out. And we do have intermittent date nights. I tell ya, it really helps having family nearby to assist  with childcare.

As for the first question, I really don’t know if I’m doing too much. But I do think it’s an important question to consider on a regular basis.

On our anniversary, my wife and I visited a local museum. One thing I enjoy about where we live is how much history it has, especially for a place on the western side of the US. At the museum, we saw many depictions of the frontier life.

The common family lived rather simply back then: mostly they just did their regular work from sunup to sundown and only saw their neighbors for church on Sunday or for big community events.

Life is very different today. We’re connected with so many people and we do a lot more than just working the farm or taking care of household chores.

That’s not a bad thing, but just being more busy isn’t good either.

So how do you (or I) know whether or not we’re too busy?

Here’s a couple determining questions:


First: Are you getting enough rest? 

If you don’t take time to take a break—to reflect and relax—you’re bound to burn yourself out. 

I’m not super strict on observing the Sabbath, but most Sundays are rest days for our family. It’s a healthy practice to plan at least one day a week where you don’t work, or at least keep it to a minimum.

Also, lack of sleep is a proven detriment to personal health. It’s something I struggled with for a while, but have been focusing on this las year. As a result, I feel much better overall.


Second: Are you stressed out?

How do you feel most days? Do you take on more than you can reasonably handle?

I know this one can be hard to gauge (it is for me anyhow), but if you notice a distinct lack of contentment and gratitude, if you don’t have any margin in your life, or if you aren’t spending regular quality time with the people closest to you, then you’re probably doing too much.

It’s one of the reasons I recently changed the posting schedule on this site to one every two weeks. When I first started this blog, I was actually posting twice a week. I managed it for a while, but it got exhausting and wasn’t worth the stress.

It’s really easy to take on a new commitment and a whole lot harder to quit one. I’ve heard that Bob Goff gives something up every week. I can appreciate that, though I don’t think I’m there.

So, how are you doing? Is it time to let go or back out of a few things in your life?

As for me, I’m doing alright, positioned on the thin edge of just enough.

Still, you should probably ask me again in a week or two. Until then, the cows need a’milkin’ and the butter a’ churnin’.

Con-unity

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This summer, I attended a Christian writers conference called Realm Makers. It wasn’t the first Christian conference I’d been to, but it was my first writers con.

In short, it turned out even better than I had expected (not that I had a lot of expectations going in, good or bad). I met many a fine folk and gleaned quite a bit from the seminars and panels I attended. I boarded the plane home feeling rejuvenated and restored. Plus, I have a few new books and a bunch of new friends now.

There is something to be said about being around creative people with similar goals, mindsets, and experiences to your own. The sense of belonging I felt there was wonderful. It was a little like being home but with 300 people I’d never met before.

Generally, while out in public I have my guard up. Now, I’m a rather friendly guy, but I operate with a sense that most people I’ll meet don’t truly understand or resonate with where I’m coming from. Meeting someone I have a strong affinity with doesn’t happen often, even at other conferences and conventions I’ve gone to.

This event was an exception. Not a single person I talked to felt like a stranger, despite how different our personalities, backgrounds, and even appearance might have been. There was a connection, a feeling that, on some level, this person gets me, they’ve dealt with (and maybe still are dealing with) some of the same struggles I have.

Creatives, if you can find a place and people such as that—people who you can truly identify with—I highly recommend you make a strong effort to attend. Yes, such things can be expensive (besides just the registration, there’s travel, accommodations, and a time commitment). Despite my severe lack of sleep during the con, I felt refreshed by the end.

It’s healthy to live and work around people who have a different outlook and walk of life than your own, rather than living in an echo chamber of people who all sound the same. But it sure helps to take the occasional opportunity to refocus your creative energy as you glide along, squawking merrily with some birds of a feather at your side. 

Oh, did I mention we ended the whole shebang with an epic Nerf gun war? Totes awesome. And the sweet pair of mugs I won in a raffle didn’t hurt neither!