Going “All-In”

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Happy Summer, faithful readers. I hope you all are enjoying the season and getting some needed rest time. I hope this for you primarily because we have, for the most part, NOT been getting our needed rest. Such is the life with two tiny humans and we are rather matter of fact about it all. We know the sleeplessness won’t last forever and we’re fighting the good fight with as much joy as we know how. In the big picture, we know we are well.

Before Ethan was born, my mom told me often about the fact that one child plus another child, will feel like more than two. She is not wrong about this. HA! Sometimes it feels like the minute you get one child situated and asleep the other one has a problem and you could swear on a dear one’s grave that these two have coordinated a game of “keep them awake” tag until the morning sun comes up. Some days you throw in the towel on getting any quality sleep and slump down the stairs to make the strongest pot of coffee possible. I think the hardest part for me right now is never having a minute to just sit down with your own thoughts. I find this particularly problematic because my career of choice actually requires me to sit down with my own thoughts and write about them. In ways, I’d prefer, that make sense to an adult English speaking audience.

Since Ethan arrived, I’ve made the decision to go “all-in” as a working writer. I’ve felt a calling towards writing since college and I knew once he was born that if I didn’t really go for it with both feet I would always wonder. Of course, going “all-in” has some severe limitations in this season. With no income yet, I have to find cracks of time to write in and sometimes those cracks get swept away by a kid that can’t sleep. Honestly, I think more than anything, my decision to go for a writing career has been more of a decision to say “no” to a bunch of other good things I could do in spare time that might distract from the goal of pursuing my calling as a writer.

All of this had me returning to John chapter 5 last week to read the story of the healing at the pool of Bethesda. I swear this is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. A man who has been sick for 38 years is sitting by a pool of water that he hopes will heal him. Of course we could mock the man for thinking that water could save him but after 38 years I’m certain we’d all do the same. There’s not a one of us who would not turn over every last rock to try to find some relief after literal decades of suffering.

So here’s this man, wanting to get into a pool, and Jesus arrives to ask him a super direct question: “Do you want to be made well?”

I love the man’s response because it’s so relatable: “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Do you see whats happening here as clearly as I do? The man didn’t really answer Jesus’ question? Jesus asked him a simple question that would clarify his deep desire and the man responded with all the things that were getting in the way of a short-term and therefore short-sighted task: stepping into a pool that, we know, likely wouldn’t get him any closer to healing than anything else he had tried to date.

Jesus doesn’t waste any time. After 38 years, he knows this man needs Mercy with a capital “M”. So he doesn’t press him like he might other individuals he encounters. He tells him “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk!” and the man does only to throw the Jewish leaders into a tizzy, starting a fight about what is right or wrong to do on the Sabbath. (Side note: this is a very typical move for people with power who don’t partner with the Holy Spirit – they nit pick your every move, looking to discredit your wholeness. The best answer for these types of people after you are healed from a season of uncertainty is to just keep on walking with your mat under your armpit. LIKE A BOSS.) (additional side note: I’m getting so amped up as I write this. Did I mention that I love this story? Well, I just love it. And you should love it too.)

Clearly, I’m getting off track here. Let me just tell you that this story came to mind like a total grace bomb on a night last week when I felt like the ship was going down. We were at the height of our summer kiddo shenanigans last week when all four of us caught a summer cold. Andy and I felt awful and wanted nothing more than to curl up and go to sleep but instead found ourselves dealing with two kids who only managed to feel the real symptoms of their colds at night when they went to sleep. One night, I went into Ellie’s room and laid down next to her, my mind drifting anxiously to the commitment I’d made to write more in the coming months.  I found myself talking in my mind like the man in the story. “Every last brain cell I have, and probably some of my neighbor’s, is wrapped up in these kids right now.” “There’s just no time to write. Ever.” “Who even wants to write anyway? At this point I’d go for a week or two of sleep with a package of Sudafed and some throat lozenges.”

Then the pool of Bethesda came to mind, kind of out of nowhere. I recalled “Do you want to be made well?” which might as well be another version of my favorite question of all of Jesus’ questions: “What do you want?” I could feel my heart answer: “You know. I want to write beautiful things with you. I want these kids and this marriage and all the joys and difficulties that come with them.” All I can say is that the Holy Spirit responded in the same way he usually does. With the memory that the man who was sick for 38 years was cured followed by a peaceful and authoritative silence that felt like this:

“I already know, kiddo. Don’t stop answering my question. The fruit will roll out, bit by bit. And it will all be exactly what we’ve always wanted.”

Sigh.

I love God.

 

Going Deep

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About once every six weeks or so I come across a person asking the world how to best limit technology. It’s a common question these days. We’ve all had that experience where we sit down to check in on the world after a busy day and find ourselves, 90 minutes later, still chuckling at cat pictures on social media. I’ve never really known what to say when folks ask for tips. I’ve tried to limit social media in various ways. For me, social media platforms can be like having a bag of candy in my pocket. I consume it because its right there.

I don’t have any moral quandaries about social media use. I’m just wondering if it makes me slothful. After a time, it feels like consuming candy and its instant sugar surge as opposed to more edifying things for my mind and soul.

I recently read a book called Deep Work by Cal Newport. Newport is a business professor at Georgetown University. He’s also a young father and husband who wants to see his family at the end of the day. Ask any college professor and they will tell you that work/life balance is a hard target to hit in the field. Newport had to rearrange his work day in order to keep all the balls in the air. For him, the answer lies in long stretches of time working on important, hard to solve issues without the distraction of social media, email and even meetings with students. Newport has published four books in his short amount of time since completing graduate school and the only network tool he has used is a blog. It drives his publishers crazy but he’s making a great point. You can succeed and not get sucked in to the call for quicker and faster connection to your community. In the long run, you might even find yourself more fruitful.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, I finally feel like I have something substantive to say to people who ask for tips about tech use. I believe people are really asking this: How do I live well in a social media world? How do I contribute in a significant way to my family and workplace without getting sucked into this secondary world of people who are not actually present in my living room? My answer? I think you need long stretches of time when you shut the platforms down. I think you have to have faith that you won’t need to keep up with the current sarcasm trends to remain relevant. In fact, I’m starting to believe that people are so distracted these days that the person who’s the most present with themselves and other people will become the most relevant person in the room.

Maybe there will be seasons like Halloween where you join back up and reconnect with old pals. But likely, for the rest of the year, it needs to stop coming into the house. Afterall, if you’re anything like me, and there’s a bag of Kit Kats on the counter, you’re going to eat them. I’m saying all of this as a person who wants to get published one day. And still, I can’t get past the notion that my best work will come from long periods of time spent wholly in my own life.

All this helps me consider the problems and issues that I really want to put my hands to. For me, its my people and my writing career. I realized a few weeks ago that if I was to survive the summer with my kids, I would need to make a significant change in this department. I became far too reactive, specifically with my energetic three year old. I also realize that what’s most important in my writing career right now is to actually write. Yes, there might be a time when I need to share my work more regularly in a viral way. Social media tools can be helpful with this. But these tools don’t matter much if I don’t have anything of substance to share. So I made the decision to shutdown Facebook for the summer in order to go deep.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a great article on the topic: The Art of Focus by David Brooks.

“The information universe tempts you with mildly pleasant but ultimately numbing diversions. The only way to stay fully alive is to dive down to your obsessions six fathoms deep. Down there it’s possible to make progress toward fulfilling your terrifying longing, which is the experience that produces the joy.”

We’re all in different places in life, but perhaps you’ll find these thoughts helpful. How are you living wholly in your life right now? Are there ways you limit technology that you find helpful? Would love to hear from you.

The purpose of a man’s heart is like deep water

but a man of understanding will draw it out. 

Proverbs 20:5

 

Poetry: We Have Everything That We Need.

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We Have Everything That We Need

By: Courtney Beck

 

Too often, I live my days

in the future. Too often I catch myself

Believing the lie that we’re behind,

the Establishment is watching,

and they are unimpressed.

“It’s time.” they say.

“You’re late.” they say,

All the while, my whole body nodding,

in its unconsidered agreement.

 

That is until the days, mostly recent,

when I sit back in my chair,

asking quietly, atleast at first:

 

“What is it time for?”

“What are we late for?”

“And who, might I ask, ARE YOU?”

 

We’re different, you and I,

in just as many ways as

We’re the same. 

We’re looking out the same window, at the same field

And we see, more and more,

that the boundary lines,

made in our minds, 

can be redrawn.

 

Cut to fit us, like a fitted suit

They feel like a finely crafted power

Made by the tailor, who sweeps and tugs at the fabric

he’s shaped to fit our shoulders

 

Do not be afraid, my love.

We will have what it takes.

Let’s go together.

We have everything that we need.

Poetry: American Robots

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American Robots

By: Courtney Beck

 

If there’s a chicken in every pot, who prospers?

Do I? Does my child?

I guess, I’m not quite sold.

 

I’ve had chicken prepared

A thousand ways in my lifetime.

Quickly, quickly after work.

Quickly, quickly before bed.

 

Is something missing?

Do we ever stop to ask?

When will be the right time?

 

Will we ever realize that Chicken Elizabeth,

after a time,

Drowns the senses for a summer salad

prepared from nobody’s garden.

 

There just wasn’t time to plant this season

And so, they won’t be showing for dinner tonight.

Chicken’s on the menu at their house this evening too.

On the Brink of Adventure

 

Mary Poppins returns

Good morning friends and readers!

Its a beautiful day today in Atlanta and while I only have an hour to write I figured there’s no time like the present. I’ve taken what feels like a year long pause on this blog primarily because I was working on another masterpiece for the world that required most of my brain cells and attention. Might I present to you Ethan Hutchison Beck who was born on February 26, 2019 in the late hours of the night. He has stolen our hearts (and our sleep, for that matter) and was truly worth the lost writing time – though I’ll be honest that I have missed this space and am excited to launch again. (Now on a personally hosted site! http://www.courtneytbeck.com)

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Fair warning, this might happen in fits and starts as my time is even more limited than it was before now that we have a second kiddo under our roof. But I have faith that God is in the driver’s seat and that he will lead the way.

Speaking of which…

If you haven’t seen the Disney movie Mary Poppin’s Returns, do not delay. It is JUST as glorious as the first and might I say that I have developed a minor girl crush on its lead actress Emily Blunt who hit an absolute home run in the title role. My favorite scene is the moment the Banks children and Mary Poppin’s enter the fictional world of their mother’s favorite porcelain bowl to fix a broken horse-drawn carriage (OF COURSE) and decide to stay for a ride around their porcelain surroundings. Everyone clamors and questions about their destination on the way into the carriage when Mary Poppin’s stops them all and exclaims:

“We’re on the brink of adventure children! Don’t ruin it with all of your questions!”  -Mary Poppins.

Readers, this is probably my favorite line of any movie ever in the entire world Amen. Right?!

Having just had a baby I can assure you that I’ve had my own series of clamoring questions for the Lord and for the world as we’ve struggled in fits and starts to get our feet on the ground. So many of those questions still don’t have answers and I think I’m starting to realize that this is OK. I keep coming back to the words I heard loud and clear from a blog post sent by a friend just a few months before Ethan was born.

“Follow Jesus.”

Two words. So powerful because I am confident of this: the Holy Spirit of the living Christ has not failed me yet.

So, my dear ones, if you are reading this now, give yourself permission to sign up for the adventure that is following Jesus. I am cheering you on. Sometimes it will be damn scary. A lot of it can be confusing. Yet the Lord has a way of speaking to us in ways that we can eventually understand if we will allow ourselves enough time with him to hear him speak. He’s like the ultimate Mary Poppins, if you will. He’s called us to adventure. Want in? This carriage has plenty of room…

Are you or someone you know in need of direction or encouragement? Would you consider sharing this website with them? Anyone who wants to read regularly can subscribe above. I look forward to sharing more in the coming year.