Wednesday, 8 March 2017

House Sitting

I sit on fairly new flooring, surrounded by an entirely renovated section of my friend’s house, with a whiskey glass full of diet ginger ale on the rocks. I feel like a king. Music playing loudly in the background to a degree very close to being distracting but my love of music almost always wins out. Even though I know I want to write, even though I have so many interesting thoughts blatantly requesting to be released, I choose not to. If my senses were all strands of hair, they would be standing up at this moment as I reside in a house I have completely to myself. It is a vacation away from vacations. For the usual home-dweller with roommates or family also residing within the abode, you can relate to the breath of fresh air having the space entirely to yourself can be. But, the feeling is multiplied for me because the home I regularly dwell in is built into the ground and rather cold during these winter months. It is what has become known as a wofati (Acronym for a modern day building technique), but closely resembles a hobbit hole and so I normally stick with calling it the latter due to pop culture. This structure, which is comprised mostly of natural materials, was built on the property just outside the house I am watching for the week. Calling it house sitting or watching is a toss up, both are strange; ‘watching’ it being comical as if it would go anywhere. Regardless, it’s a quiet space for me to get away for the week, if technically only 30 feet from my residence. A getaway of both body and spirit.

So what does house sitting (or watching) include? Well, it varies from house to house, and person to person. It’s not my first rodeo, in fact, and with each one I enjoy most getting to know the people by exploring the house whilst they are absent. Sometimes you must take care of a pet or two, maintain the exterior and interior, grab the mail, make sure nothing catches on fire, etc. In this case, all I have to do is grab the mail and that’s about it. Best house sitting gig i’ve gotten in a long time. Curiously I wander around, opening drawers and cabinets along the way, testing various machines and devices to see their function. I love it. Everything is new, typically quite different from the house that I grew up in, which was a series of homes that consisted of simple appliances and second hand furniture. One thing I thoroughly appreciate from my upbringing, beyond the deep love my parents expressed, was the idea of ‘simple living’ that became ingrained in the fabric of my being. The lenses making up my optical vision are affected by this background and I look at things with an extra sort of wonder. Off the bat, what do I notice here? The small things. The water pressure is fantastic, top of the line, exactly what you would want to wash dishes, clothes, rinse hands, and remove quickly of excrement (the toilet flushes three times and has knobs off to the side of it. I thought a toilet only needed one handle, but apparently not). The washing machine and dryer are from the future, along with other appliances in the house including the newly introduced dishwasher and fridge in the renovated section. The fridge has more settings and space than I know what to do with, and it has an unremitting sound if left open for too long. I could see it being a sad reminder of how long we spend, fridge door open, with a blank stare looking for something to please our stomach with. I decide not to go near the fridge unless I absolutely must, and i’m not going to even bother with the dishwasher. I’ll use my old school hands and wash the damn dishes myself.

I would insert the dimensions of the house if I knew them, but it’s a rather small house, about a perfect size for their family of four. Although I recognize that we can all be living much more basically,  compared to how ridiculous we have gotten with possessions and size, the house is fairly modest. It’s an old house from the 1800s, with lead paint to prove it when they first moved in, which was cause for much concern. The house has character, with flooring and walls that aren’t exactly level or in line. I like it. I easily settle in and feel more than comfortable. Almost bizarrely I will become comfortable anywhere, in any situations, in many varying locations across the globe. After doing a short aldis food shopping trip for the week, which was mostly snacks and refrigerated items I normally couldn’t keep, I quickly relaxed and sat at peace by the fake fire. Oh, I didn’t mention, there’s a fake fire. It’s real, but it’s also fake, controlled by a remote. It emits heat and so I can’t really complain even though personally I love the rustic old wood stoves. On the menu tonight is battered fish (frozen from box), mixed vegetables with cheese sauce (frozen from bag), and a side of trader joe’s organic applesauce (from my friend’s cupboard). It’s a beautiful fixing if I do so say so myself, and it fills my stomach which is the desired effect ultimately. Interspersed in the evening I have some entertainment via a book and the computer, laundry that can finally get done (!), and talking to my father on the phone.

The laundry part was easy to figure out. I wasn’t worried about it, however, there was a load already sitting in the washing machine and dryer. Long story short I did their laundry as well, and that’s not much to brag about, but more of another delving into their personalities. At times while folding certain unmentionables I questioned whether this was a nice gesture or an invasion of privacy. Would they be upset to know that I handled their undergarments? That I know what they wear? Is that even a big deal? For me, it’s not, so I shake it off and continue to fold. Learning quickly that children’s clothes can be ridiculously tiny which makes for difficult handling. I now see why the laundry is seen to be a daunting task by the average parent. For me it’s almost therapeutic, a way to slow down and just fold, but my once every like 2 weeks is nothing compared their almost daily routine which is compiled of so many different people’s garments and towels and socks that it all becomes a mess. Some loads contain items that nobody takes claim to, which is intriguing. I now pass no judgements on people’s house regarding cleanliness, not that I ever much did, but I did have questions that were due to pure ignorance.

One dangerous aspect of house sitting is the pull to stay indoors and enjoy the peace and quiet. I could easily stay inside this house the entire week and be completely content (mostly). But there’s a world out there and i’ve got to make the scary venture out on occasion, if nothing else to make sure there hasn’t been a zombie apocalypse or something. I like socializing, don’t get me wrong, but my alone time is precious. Although it’s hard to be challenged by yourself, and it’s difficult to find friendship by yourself, and a number of other issues I could mention with being alone all the time. Let me enjoy this week, will ya?! Okay, Ben, continue with your story. Remember, the voices will always be here to (haunt) comfort you. I’d like to say that i’m the kind and unassuming smeagle in this interchange, but maybe we all of us have a bit of smeagle and gollum. Whether we have one thing we might be so called strong in, there are a number of other areas where we are flawed and need adjustment. That’s not going to change as far as i’m concerned, but it’s important to fight for what we can. In this moment i’m fighting the tension of doing something mindless and writing, and i’m happy to say writing is winning for a change.

This has been a segment of House Sitting (only 2 days in!)...

Friday, 25 March 2016

Log #2 - Holding On to You

"You are surrounding all my surroundings,
sounding down the mountain range of my left side brain,
You are surrounding all my surroundings,
Twisting the kaleidoscope behind both of my eyes"

-Twenty One Pilots

Alright, God has been revealing to me far too many truths to not let one slip out and transform into a blog. Where to begin?

Honestly, whether I want to admit it or not, I've become very emotional recently. One could accredit this to my current situation or season of life, which I wouldn't completely disagree with. However, this season of enlightenment leads me to believe this emotional state will more or less continue until the day I die. Don't jump to comment and cheer me up thinking that Ben has gone into a deep depression. It's more of a deep sadness which, although it sounds the same, I would give a different definition. Once you understand to a better degree how magnificently blessed you are to be a follower of God, you begin to understand that living for anything other than God is absolutely tragic. The more you're opened up to the empty darkness present in this world, the more you have a deep sadness for anyone that might fall into this nothingness, especially those that do it with glee. Let me step back for a moment and make it clear that I do not put myself on any sort of pedestal because I am a follower of God. Life is not about comparisons or pedestals, it's about priorities.

If I truly want to make God the top of my priority list, that will include having a heart and mind as His, and working to follow the instructions He left for us. "Go and make disciples", this message is nothing new and yet the importance of it never really hit me. In my mind, growing up, this was something we do on occasion when it 'feels' right and not something that should trouble us greatly. I'd think, 'Well, if the conversation gets around to God, sure I'll share my beliefs. Otherwise, just leave it be'. That is just as tragic my friends, just as tragic. For one to know there is something more than empty darkness, it must be revealed to them...yes? Because of these combined ideas, I have a whole range of emotions when i'm surrounded by emptiness. I feel sad because of the lack of purpose, for one. An interesting thing to ask people is what they're after at the present moment, what is it that keeps them going from day to day. Sure, it can be little things that change from one week to the next, but I believe those 'little things' can be extremely telling of what a person is ultimately living for.

Beyond just that, how are you being fed? Spiritual nourishment is what I long for, now more than I ever have in my life. If we're meant to be like Christ, we have so much room for improvement it's not even funny. Spiritual growth is crucial if we're to get anywhere in life. And with that I come to one of my main points of this post: 'Who/what you surround yourself with can mean life or death'. In no way do I feel I've gone too far with this statement. God has made it so unbelievably clear to me that I fully have faith that the Holy Spirit is at work in this. With that said, let's take a look at scripture because that should always be the base we operate from.

Can we note how often the psalmists sing about what surrounds them? "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance" (Psalm 32:7). "Those who surround me proudly rear their heads; may the mischief of their lips engulf them" (Psalm 140:9). "They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down" (Psalm 118:10). What surrounded people, whether physical or metaphorical, had a huge impact. It's important to see how people survived not by relying on themselves, but instead on the masterful creator of heaven and earth. During travel, you don't always get to easily pick and choose the groups you surround yourself with. I absolutely love the variety of people, cultures, backgrounds, etc. But often I need a spiritual revival which I feel is only possible when I surround myself with other followers that help to challenge and encourage me in my walk. Being in scripture is one thing, but being in scripture with others opens you up to so much more that you miss when reading alone. Jesus was a 'backpacker' himself, to some extent, since he too was always on the move. "Jesus replied, foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20). Even though Jesus often spoke of leaving all else behind to follow Him, He himself had a group of disciples that went nearly everywhere with Him. Even when He went up on the mountain to be transformed by God, He took a couple of friends with Him. Why is this? Well, it's mostly conjecture on my part, but there is something extremely important to surrounding yourself with good and godly people. We experience things together. The danger comes when we find ourselves in unhealthy groups that aren't looking to grow, or when we fill our time with meaningless things that don't ultimately bring life.

I desperately want to live. It's not that I know exactly what that looks like, only God knows for sure, but He has passed on plenty for me to work off of for now. More will come along the way as I need it. But He has prepared the way and I rely on that truth. So often you'll hear people pray for God or angels to surround a certain individual or place that is need, for protection and restoration. After returning from my most recent travels to South Australia, i'm looking for restoration. That's not to say that God wasn't at work as I traveled, for I felt His presence on multiple occasions, but by the end I had been stretched pretty thin. God has blessed me with a beautiful church family here in Melbourne, and for that I am eternally grateful. It got to a point where I couldn't breathe. Where I was surrounded by emptiness and nothingness, a darkness that is hauntingly subtle. We must live with a purpose, and for that we need our priorities to be straight. What do you live for day to day? What or who do you surround yourself with? Are you being fed? I completely understand the temptation to numb yourself from reality, but it's time we face it. We were designed to face it. God has big plans and and I don't know about you, but I can't wait for my reward of being with Him. Completely surrounded by God and His perfection, now that's what i'm talking about.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Log #1 - Battle of Perspective in the Mind

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Galatians 5:22

The idea of doing a blog does not interest me mostly due to the fact that my personal thoughts and experiences are shared with the general public. As a more reserved person, this is not something that attracts me, but like many others I've come across I have a longing for release. A release of these ideas and thoughts that fill my head on a regular basis and slowly become toxic when left to just sit there. I believe there is a purpose and importance to these thoughts. If nothing else they can be shared maybe not for anyone else but your own benefit of releasing them. That said, there are so many outlets for people to share their opinions that it feels things have gotten out of hand, but that must not deter us from sharing. The healthiness of writing my life journey attracts me to such a degree that I have decided to follow through with this blogging process, perhaps just as an experiment.

Don't lose yourself within yourself, I warn you. It's a typical practice of mine, or habit, that I am attempting to break. Paranoia takes control of me and takes me for a ride, having a hayday with any possible danger in my surroundings. Many times I have contemplated why I make such a big deal of these minor events. That's when I discovered that a microscope has been installed in my cranium. The installation was so easy that I was able to do it myself, although I can't seem to get great focus with it. A cheap microscope it may be, it does a fantastic job at magnifying my daily concerns. Boy do the small things appear much larger than they ever should, it's really something.

__I hate this microscope found in a microscopic heart that has made a reservation for one. Lonely feasts where camouflaged beasts serve the special twenty-four seven. A dish compromised of sinful pleasures that make you feel as if you're on top of the world. The best part, from a business perspective, is that the meal does not actually fill the consumer. This, of course, has them quickly coming back for seconds, thirds, and so on. All this because of a small device used to make large very small objects. Show and tell has sadly become one man or woman simply showing up. But what of our sponsor for this presentation? Do dogs appreciate the bone being thrown or the thrower? Who knows, for it is an animal. I fear any comparison to a human reveals our animalistic nature, but hardly shows our purpose. Besides, weren't we discussing microscopes?__

One example happened just recently on my travels to the east coast of Australia. Traveling and camping are adventures that I love to partake in, but with them come many unknowns. For instance, when you are out in the middle of nowhere or stuck on an island and something life threatening happens, what do you do? Sometimes for me it's just the pure fact of being out of my comfort zone and not knowing what will come out of the situation. I found myself on Fitzroy Island, enjoying a beautiful afternoon with a beautiful group of people, thinking I'd like to venture off on my own for a little bit. Not much was happening at the moment with everyone, perfect time for exploration and alone time. Long story short, I cut myself on coral out in the water when I was exploring. No big deal, right? Well it shouldn't be made into a big deal, but you know that cheap microscope always comes through. Fear quickly rushes in as I realize that these types of cuts can easily become infected and that I am on an island that is completely unfamiliar to me. As I hobble back to the campsite the thoughts begin to stir, "of course this would happen to me, of all people, i'm the one that worries the most already and now look at this cut that is cause for legitimate concern". 'Why me?' What a classic line used by humans, as if the world revolves around us. I'm afraid this example is just one of many where I blew things completely out of proportion and thought of this tiny event as being the catalyst for the end of the world. I discovered a tick burrowed in my skin when I landed in Hawaii a couple months back. Not knowing when this tick might have first attached itself, it no doubt took place in back in Connecticut. First thought, of course, is lyme disease. My mind could win a medal in athleticism for the lengths it jumps to. Funny these two particular incidences occurred on an island, rest assured I have the same fears on mainland as well.

This all stems from my brokenness as a human being, since we were born into sin and deal with the affects of it to this day. I am not perfect. Let me repeat myself for those that may also own a microscope of their own, I am NOT perfect. Some of my flaws i'm not even presently aware of, but the ones I can think of trouble me greatly. Not because of what it may look like to others as much, although that can come into play, but more because of how it can build a barrier between me and God. I have been overwhelmed recently with this feeling of being spiritually dead inside. If every small event in my life is made to be not only bigger than it should be, it can easily take up all the air time that fills my mind on a daily basis. If this is the case, then there is hardly room for anything else or anyONE else.

I put that verse up at the top because I was in the middle of reading Galatians and this small verse struck me. One i've read before, but this time two words stuck out in bold, 'self-control'. This is something I fear I do not have. Many things that I do, I do to an unhealthy level, and they take away from me and God time. You could argue that my priorities are not straight, and I would completely agree with you. That is, most of the time it seems that way, with the occasional wake up call that I need God desperately. I say I'll change my bad habits on a regular basis. Ironically, me saying this has become a bad habit in and of itself. Talk is cheap they say. Sometimes I'm so lost in the clouds that I don't even understand what my bad habits are, because my microscope brain is only able to identify one or two possible threats at once. It's a dangerous place to be in when you are alone in your thoughts and let things settle for too long. The time is, and has always been, NOW.

As I reflect upon my past behaviour and where I need to make changes, I understand that I can't do this on my own. That's part of the reason I want to try a public journal, because I recognize the importance of prayer and community. There is a Power beyond me that has given me a sweet gift of life. What we choose to do can mean life or death. The darkness in my mind has spent far too much time and it is way past checkout. I'm sick and tired of thinking purely for myself and what I can get out of life. Death of oneself is the only way to true LIFE.

More to come.