Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Introducing... Pampered Bed and Bath

It is a significant understatement to say that life is busy. Life is busy, complicated, hectic, worrisome, and full of unexpected challenges. As I grow older (more and more rapidly, it seems, as years go by!), I've begun to realize that the times of peace are few and far between--mere pockets of quiet in the midst of a din of noise.

I think this reality forces us to appreciate the little things in life. This is sort of a cliche, but I think it happens to be true. When life seems to be endless cycles of meals, chores, errands, appointments, deadlines, car repairs, and more, the small pleasures of life become very important for cultivating genuine joy in the midst of everything.

Small pleasures, like... A bunch of ruby red gladiolas you bought on sale... A gourmet brie enjoyed with fresh baked bread... A fresh cup of French-pressed espresso (even if you're drinking it with your Cheerios)... Or, a longer-than-usual shower with a bar of homemade organic soap... These little things may seem trivial, but I think they're important. After all, God has reconciled all of creation in Christ and that creation is good and meant to be enjoyed.

So, what's my point? Well, I think this is this little reflection is the best way to introduce a wonderful new business to you, launched recently by a friend, Sonya Duren. She is the dreamer, founder, and owner behind Pampered Bed and Bath, a small online business that provides an assortment of organic and natural products for the home. If you peruse her website, you'll find a lovely selection of linens, towels, baby items, soaps, candles, and much more.

I recommend Pampered Bed and Bath to you not only because Sonya is a friend and a good person, but also because she is offering quality products. And, who doesn't like the idea of buying from a good person who makes good stuff? I have personally been enjoying a couple bars of the PB&B Essentials Soaps and, in case you're wondering, my personal favorite is Cinnamon Honey.

So, my blogger friends, take a look when you have the time. Let Sonya help you to enjoy some of the little pleasures in life. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Addressing My Faithlessness: I am Not God

Well, friends, we have eight more weeks until the next member of the McGowin family is expected to make her appearance. In real life, this means we have anywhere from six to ten more weeks to go--because babies are finicky about when they choose to enter the world and rarely arrive "on time." This means that I'm going through my share of anxiety and trepidation about... well... everything. There's so much to worry about with a new baby, you know? Money. Time. Space. Work. Physical recovery. Sibling rivalry. Etc. Etc. Etc.

My worries are only multiplied by the fact that within a few weeks of her birth, I'm going to be back in the classroom at the University of Dayton--both as a student and a teacher. I'll be taking a doctoral seminar of my own and beginning my first year teaching the freshman level, Introduction to Religion course. In this class, I'll be teaching about 25-35 18 year-olds about Christianity and religion from the perspective of the Catholic intellectual tradition (literally, Bible to 21st Century in one semester). I'm excited about all of this, of course. I love what I do and am blessed beyond measure to get paid to do it. But, the thought of adding a new baby to the mix is more than a little daunting.

To be honest, my recent response to the anticipation has been anything but ideal. As I have attempted to imagine what the fall schedule will look like and how we'll manage to get everything done and still be a family, I have been quite fearful, actually. Fearful, anxious, and... frankly... faithless.

All of this came to head for me this past Sunday as I worshiped with our church. Despite the dark, menacing clouds of fear that I have created around me, somehow a bright ray of light managed to break through and remind me of God's faithfulness. Sitting in the pew on Sunday, I had a illuminated slideshow taking place in my mind's eye, showing me scenes from the past year (and years) where God has provided even when I doubted. Here are just a few highlights that bounced through my head from the past year:

- Ronnie left a well-paying position last February out of firm conviction, without any back-up job or other source of income. In the few months that he looked for work, we never missed a bill. Also, we managed to hold onto our house, despite the fact that we could no longer afford it, while watching a number of our neighbors go through foreclosure and/or eviction. And, the church continued to provide health insurance for us until William's birth, despite the fact that they had no obligation to do so.

- William was born May 5 into our newly uncertain life. Even though it was a rough first few months adjusting to life with a baby, Ronnie and I made it through stronger than ever (as cliche as that sounds). Now, over a year later, we still love each other, still like each other, and still play on the "same team." And, William is healthy, happy, and growing like a weed.

- In August, I started my first year as a doctoral student at the University of Dayton. Just a week prior to starting, I was still debating whether or not to go through with it. Ronnie still didn't have a stable job and the pay for my graduate assistantship was going to be one-third of what I was making in a full-time job. But, mostly at Ronnie's insistence, I took the plunge. Somehow, we had the money for books, a parking permit, and all the necessaries. William survived the adjustment and Ronnie began his new adventure as a part-time stay-at-home dad.

- In October, in the middle of the school year, when Will was six months-old, we sold our house--a feat in itself in Ohio!--and bought a house in Dayton. We downsized just about everything about our life and moved within walking distance of UD. And, in the transition, I never missed an assignment and (more importantly) William never missed a meal.

- Now, as of June 1, I have finished my first year in the doctoral program. All told, I have read approximately 2-3 books a week since August, written four research papers, taken and passed an oral and written exam in biblical studies, and managed not to go insane. Meanwhile, Ronnie has grown into a wonderful full-time father and gotten a perfectly suited part-time youth ministry position at a church nearby.

I know that in the scheme of things, these events are quite paltry. Certainly, there's nothing especially "miraculous" about anything mentioned above. And, in light of what others have come through, my little examples of God's provision are pretty unimportant. Moreover, I should point out that there are countless people for whom the money wasn't there when they needed it, the house didn't sell, the work didn't come, and the kid didn't stay healthy. I realize that, too. And God is still God even in those situations.

But, at the end of the day, I view the following excerpts from our past year as the manifestations of God's grace. It certainly can't be credited to me. For most of this journey, I have been a self-absorbed, fretful, whiner, looking for the easy way out. And yet, God has been good to us. For this I am grateful and must give thanks.

On Sunday, as I marveled over what we've come through this year and reflected on my current state of anxiety and faithlessness, I realized that to worry and fret about the coming weeks and months as though I have control over any of it is tantamount to asserting that I am responsible for what's come to pass over the past year. That is to say, if I am responsible for tomorrow, then I am responsible for yesterday, too. And that, my friends, is not the case.

So, even though the point I have to make is very basic--so much so that we "experienced" Christians should have it mastered by now, right?--it seems important to my discipleship to Jesus right now to make it anyway. I am not God. God is God. God has provided for me in the past. God will provide for me in the future. Neither is my responsibility and neither is to my credit. Soli deo gloria.