Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: throwing money around

Spread the jam

Yesterday was pancake morning in our home. We offer a variety of ways to top your ‘cake around here – with or without almond butter, with or without blueberries, and with either jam or syrup. (We have dunking cups for the syrup – no dousers allowed.) With such a smorgasboard, kids have to do a little of the pancake-topping work.

I noticed one particular pancake with a large glob of jam and its owner getting ready to scoop more. I warned her to stop and she protested, “but there’s none on the edges!” I explained, we don’t need more. We just have to put it in the right places. 

That’ll preach.

Moving, buying a house, leaving the work in which I had been engaged, allowing our primary salary to land on a scale considerably less than our former potential… all of this adds up to a bit of money stress. Of course, we willingly took it on, we weren’t blinded. And we’re no different than any other family. No matter the income level, my friends are typically trying to stretch their dollars.

Then one day, I stumbled into a little passage in Deuteronomy 29. “I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot.”

In the Christian circles, “God will provide” is common language. And he does. I love the stories of the groceries arriving on the doorstep on the exact day or the check appearing in the exact amount. These things happen. The ways in which God is faithful to provide can often be found when we’re stretched to the point of need, rather than want.

This passage, however, tells us of another way that “God provides.” He simply takes away the need. God, being the Creator of the Universe, could have created Shoe Valley, in which the Israelites stumbled into a land of Nikes. (But probably not, because they’re not fair trade, and we know God is not into child labor.) This take on provision would’ve made a killer climax in the Exodus story. People would remember a land full of shoes.

But he didn’t. He simply made last what the people already had. They didn’t get new shoes because he made it possible to not need new shoes.

I have to wonder, especially in our current context, if the long-lasting shoe version of provision might be more applicable than the miraculous appearance provision we often anticipate. God could, indeed, drop a check in my lap. Or an opportunity to make more money. Or a really great sale on back-to-school supplies.

Or I could find that he has allowed our dollars to [miraculously] stretch. We could see God as the source of a smaller income that still pays all the same bills. We might discover the blessing of needing less. 

There are times when the jam doesn’t reach the edge of the pancake. Right now, I’m making sure the jam might not need spread out a bit.

 

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The memory making machine

Of growing up at home, I remember:

  • Playing dolls in the living room while my mother worked (the shop was basically the front porch at that time). I set my doll on top of the kerosene heater and it went up in flames. She put out the fire. The doll went into the trash.
  • Hours spent playing outside, just my sister and I. We climbed the huge farm gas tanks behind the barn. The little one was there first, a silver tank. We pretended it was a horse and named it Silver. Then this HUGE one arrived (I believe for diesel). It was also silver, but that name was taken, so the the mammoth “horse” was named Goldie. These two horses lived just yonder of Kitty Peak, a small pile of dirt where one of our barn cats birthed her kittens.
  • Convincing our friend Katie that Gummie Bears lived in our front tree.
  • Spending entire weekends on the couch, reading.

Of family vacations, I remember:

  • The long drives and finishing my homework for a week in the car on the way down.
  • The time my mom forgot her purse under the bench at the bus stop in Pigeon Forge and my dad sprinted back to the hotel to find it.
  • Spending lunchtime each day in Puerta Vallarta watching the time share salesman attempt another deal. We said it was better than our usual The Young & The Restless lunchtime show.
  • Every time we left the country, someone thought my sister and I were twins. Even despite the hair color, height, eye color and general face dissimilarities…. twins?
  • Learning to ski in Cumberland. Don said I couldn’t get back in the boat until I got up on skis. I got up the next time. (I subsequently got bored of the boat pulling me around and spent the follow up trips to Cumberland curled up in the front of the boat with a book. That’s my idea of vacation.)

Of time with my grandparents, I remember:

  • Grandma letting us pick out 3 kinds of cereal for our 3 day stay.
  • Riding to the lake and fighting about who got to ride “on the hump” while we listened to the Oldsmobile song on repeat. (Which was in a tape player, so it was the old rewind, stop, listen, rewind some more, stop, listen, rewind, stop, To Far!, Fast Forward, Oh Just Stop Here, method.)
  • When Rebecca put on some of grandma’s make-up and it was burning her face and we had to go to the neighbor, Jenny’s house to find grandma so she could tell us to wash it off with Pond’s.
  • Playing Hide the Thimble.
  • Grandma Cella’s homemade waffles. (I’m noticing a trend around the breakfast food theme of my memories here…)
  • Going camping and playing on the playground. I fell through the huge hole in the middle where you climb up and down and it knocked the wind out of me. I cried. A lot. I think this is why I hate camping.

These are a sampling of my memories, what comes to mind first. There are more, of course, but I don’t want to bore you with the non-poignant parts of my 35 years on this earth. For some reason, (we can probably blame Inside Out, though this has been brewing for some time) I’ve been pondering the ways in which memories are made. It’s probably because the past month has been spent doing one of two things: moving or vacationing.

I appreciate our culture’s sentiment at wanting to value the time with people we love over material things. A quick scan of Pinterest will give you all the wall hangings (our generation’s version of the cross-stitched pillow) with sayings about making memories, not money. I say to this, Cheers! I’m in wholehearted agreement.

Yet something about the approach is amiss. These memories we wish to make seem a bit contrived. Forced. Our culture’s general approach at Making Memories Not Money is to spend money as an attempt to buy a few memories. We go on this trip. We try that excursion. We bring home the t-shirt, the stuffed doll and the photo of us making the 9000 foot drop. And we ask the children their favorite part and it’s doing the monkey bars in the play area that looks exactly like our smallest city park.

Ask my small group, I’m all about “creating space” for the magic to happen. Slowing down, providing opportunity, the pause in the middle. If we don’t prioritize time with family and friends, these memories will probably never exist.

Creating space and buying the all-inclusive package,* however, are two different things. The problem with going into an event with the hope of Making Memories is that you’re ultimately buying a product. You fork out the $72.95 and spend the time, and now you want the memories. Remember when? And how we?

Memories aren’t made with purchases. They aren’t even created in the Big Events.  They’re not created in the rushing through of the outing, making sure to have “family day” and “date night” and hashtagging the Instagrams appropriately.**

Actual memories are formed when we’re fully present to the moment, not by the moment encompassing all attributes of perfection. The lighting doesn’t have to be right. We rarely catch it on camera. And if we ask our kids, chances are the memories will rarely involve what we think.

The only thing I remember about Disney World was my complete disappointment with Cinderella’s castle (a hallway? seriously?!) and the fact that my sister did not want to ride Space Mountain and it was a long line, so we didn’t. That’s what I took away from the Most Magical Place on Earth.

But the rest of the trip to Florida? I remember riding my grandparents’ 3-wheeled bicycles around and around the park they lived. I remember shuffle board. I remember sitting on their make-shift porch with strings of bright lights around the canopy. I remember watching Hee-Haw and Green Acres with complete confusion.

I’m not sure how do this memory-making thing right. I know my kids will make their own memories of our time, no matter what we provide. I simply hope that I don’t live under the guise that because we went to All of the Places and Did All of the Things and Bought All of the T-shirts (<- that will never happen, I’m too cheap), that their memories will be Big and Amazing and Wow.

Perhaps that’s the goal? Remembering what memories are and what they do. It’s not a competition. At the end of our life, we won’t be sitting around comparing vacation stories and passport stamps. We won’t recall itineraries of our vacations, the things planned and lived. We’ll remember the people we spent them with and how they made us feel.

 

*I just went on an all-inclusive vacation. It was delightful. This is not a statement of all expensive things are bad.
**I have done all of these things. Don’t read it as a statement of blame. They are not bad things.

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presence and presents

**spoiler alert** it’s very likely i’ll give away parts of the soloist in this post. predictable? yes. but still… if you like to experience “for yourself” before reading, be forewarned.

i’ll be the first to say that i know little to nothing about art. beautiful things are just beyond me. i can appreciate pretty things, but typically i miss the point. i remember one time hearing an amatuer (but talented) artist acquaintence talk about how the lyrics to a song he wrote might be misunderstood when paired by the actual music we hear. apparently when you heard that particular riff, it would (in a normal, art-sensitive person) conjure some sort of feeling that would make you think something contrary to what the lyrics were saying. i had nothing. i didn’t get how it didn’t really go. but i’m living in an awareness of my art ignorance and it is helping. hi, my name is michele, and i’m an art idiot.

tonight we watched the soloist and i was struck by the undercurrents. the main storyline, that jamie foxx is a schizophrenic, homeless, amazing cellist is nice. good box office sell. but if you ask me all the streams that fed the river is what make it worth watching. the first theme was the role of God, or faith throughout the movie. i have no idea what it was about. really. it was lost to me (maybe because they said it artistically?), so i’d welcome some commentary on what was trying to be established. it was a seemingly unfriendly tone, but i can’t figure out why.

most provocative to me was the human (american) reaction to the situation. when the journalist comes across foxx’s situation he feels compelled to help. a good, normal, healthy response. some woman donates a cello so he makes sure foxx gets it, along with setting him up with a mental group home. he tries for an apartment, lessons, eventually even medication and anything else he thinks would fix foxx’s situation. the city even follows suit, pledging kaboodles of money for the poor section of town. we see how that translates later when it’s raided, someone arrested for the illegal possession of a milk crate.

the way the journalist attempts to help is nice. and his response is probably a stone’s throw to my own. but it becomes glaringly obvious when foxx shows up at the workplace that the journalist’s desire to help has certain limits. he’s willing to lend a hand as long as it happens on foxx’s turf, away from the safety of his own comfortable and manageable life. the journalist sleeps on the street one night and can feel good about himself but when foxx shows up in the civilized world, the lines are drawn.

the journalist, like 98% of our population, is willing to give of stuff. willing to care to a limit. but what foxx wants, needs, is a relationship with a level playing field. someone that will listen – not just to fix, but to experience. isn’t that what all our good friends do? i mean, my best friends will surely offer advice (both solicitied and not – and i love them for it), not because they want to fix me, but because they love me. and then they walk with me.

and maybe that’s what the artistic theme throughout the movie was doing. it levels the playing field. when beethoven is present it doesn’t really matter your income or family status or even your ability to distinguish real voices from hallucinations. it’s something beyond ourselves, something we cannot grasp or conquer or claim for our own – it is to be shared.

hmm… now i’m wondering if the remarks about God throughout the movie were trying to expose the backward state of our religious movements. like music, God levels the playing field. He loves those who do right as much as He loves those who do wrong. i heard a great teaching this week about how God loves the people who (we think) have no reason to be loved. he loves them more, probably, than those of us who think we deserve to be loved. God is something beyond ourselves, something we cannot grasp or conquer or claim for our own – He is to be shared. maybe when the ultra-religious tutor was praying over foxx it was exposing our attempts to use God as a way to conquer rather than an opportunity to level and be present.

so now comes the hard part. if i’m being asked to live in a way that invites others in and levels the playing field; if i’m being challenged to give more than my stuff or my money but of myself, tell me: what does that look like? shall we all start scouring main street for out-of-sorts musicians? do i sign up to serve the local shelter so i can find me a “lesser” person to love?

i don’t think it’s about finding a project. when it was an article, the journalist had lines. when it’s a “volunteer opportunity” there are lines. but there is something to be said for putting myself in new places to experience people who are not like me. to open my eyes- not so that i become a better person, but to love someone, because there are lots of people who need to feel and know they are loved. because when we listen to music it becomes clear at a heart level that we’re the same and we should treat each other that way.

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