Friday, November 2, 2012

Vacation, Sandy, & My Birthday

This week has been vacation week. Well, really, it is more like a staycation. I am not working, but I have not left town. I went into this week with lots of goals. I wanted to check off a long to-do list around the house. I had several books I have been wanting to read. I wanted to start doing some writing on some projects I have been ignoring. I had several hopeful things to do this week. Unfortunately, things have not turned out exactly how I planned them to turn out.

Hurricane Sandy
I was shocked to find out on Monday night that the kids would be off school on Tuesday. I guess high winds and lots of rain were in the forecast over the night from Hurricane Sandy that all the schools closed. That was a pleasant surprise. I now was able to spend some time with the family But what also surprised us was having the power go out really early Tuesday morning. For almost 18 hours, we were without the modern conveniences that we have come to enjoy. We do have a generator that runs our water and wood pellet stove and a few other things, but it is not the same. Going to the bathroom by candlelight is a bit too archaic for me.

Of course, during this time, our family was trying to stay thankful for all that we have. Seeing the pictures of what Sandy did on the East coast, made our short time without power nothing much easier to go through. Maybe the things we go through in life can be redeemed when we see them in light of a much bigger picture. 

The highlight of Tuesday with the kids was playing a 5-hour game of Monopoly. Yes, you read that right. Five hours. It was one of those games that just kept going and going and going. I thought it would never end, and probably wouldn't have if we did not set a time limit on it. In the end, Karsten won because he had more money than JT. It was one of those memories that we will have for a long time.

My Birthday
Yesterday was my birthday. I want all of you who contacted me to know how much you mean to me. The phone calls, emails, and text messages mean a lot. The cards in the mail were very encouraging. The notifications on FaceBook are nice. But there is something about my birthday that I just really do not understand. I should be studied by some psychologist or something. The past several years, something weird happens to me. Late the evening before my birthday, it feels like a dark cloud envelopes me. I get really depressed. All I can do is think of all the negative things I have done the previous year. I cannot help but think about all the ways I have failed everyone. I feel like a complete loser in so many ways. And no matter what I do, it just does not seem to shake from me. 

I read the Bible. I spend time praying. I try to read. Everything is just extra hard on that day. This morning, I woke up and was myself once again. But yesterday, it was just honestly hard. In the days leading up to my birthday week, I was reading Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges, and one statement seemed to leap off the page at me. Maybe this is my problem that brings all the negative thoughts into my mind on this day. He says,
"Another aspect of the pride of achievement is the inordinate desire for recognition. All of us appreciate commendation for a job well done or for many years of faithful service on the job or at church. But what is our attitude when we do a specific job well and don't receive recognition? Are we willing to labor in obscurity, doing our job as unto the Lord, or do we become disgruntled over the lack of recognition?" (96)
I am an overachiever. But I am also a competitor. Most of the time, I want to get more out of giftedness than the next person. I know that sound stupid and sinful. And I'm acknowledging that it is. But that is why I have a hard time taking vacation. That is why I have a hard time each year evaluating my year, because I only focus on all the ways I am failing instead of focusing on what God has done through me the previous year. 

As I was struggling with this yesterday, the thought came to me. "Isn't the gospel of Jesus Christ the complete opposite of my desire for a life of achievement?" Yes. But that doesn't mean that working to be the best 1, 2, or 5 talent person you can be is wrong. But there must be a balance between realizing my acceptance in Christ and my desire to be the best that I can be for Him. And not for me. 

I appreciate your prayers. I have just a few days left of vacation. I think I am going to forget all the stuff I want to get done and go grocery shopping with my wife. That should cure my desire for achievement.  

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