Thursday, June 30, 2011

Holding Loosely

During pre-marital counseling (about 2 ½ years ago, crazy!), we began the never-ending discussion of what finances would look like in the lives of the New DeLews. We talked about our view of money and how we are to use it. Everything was pretty theoretical at that point, as we were a one-income family, so our financial decisions were somewhat limited (do you want pasta or rice for dinner tonight, honey?) But even in our limitedness, we still had the power of choice in little things. And as Mark and I would review the palette of choices in front of us, we discovered that we share the elusive value called generosity.

Generosity is a really broad term with about a billion perspectives of what ‘being generous’ looks like. A hypothetical example: Mark offers me a bite of his Kobe beef burger. This is an incredibly generous act for him. But if I don’t realize the abnormally high value he places in this dead animal-turned food, then I won’t understand his act of generosity. In fact, I may feel like he is stingy by only giving me one bite. Marital issues emerge, cultural miscommunications explode, and suddenly an act of generosity morphs into an argument about who is more selfish, ungrateful, or you name it. Sweet. Sounds like fun.

So over the past two years, we have been exploring two primary questions—what is generosity? And how should generosity take shape in our lives? I’ll focus on the first question in this post. First, I think that we should broaden the ways in which we express generosity—through our time, skills, sharing resources, etc. Our goal is not to simply give money away so that we feel good about ourselves. But I believe that inviting people into our lives, giving to others, and being open to receiving generosity are all components of it. Everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status or situation, is called to be generous. That’s one of the things that connect us to each other—we all have something to give, and we all are in some kind of need.

Through all of our conversations, I’ve come to understand being generous as the state and act of holding loosely your possessions, time, control, and status, so that you may share with others. Being generous is more than writing a big check to a community center or buying dinner for your friends. The generous action must be accompanied by an openness to let people into your life and to relinquish your sense of control. And actually, when I frame it this way, I start to realize that naturally I’m not so generous after all! It’s something I have to intentionally work on and practice. If I start to feel like I’m tightening my grip on something, it’s a sign that I need to open my hands and share it with others.

This is an important habit because as humans in a community, we are designed to share with each other. I think living generously is moving closer toward who we were meant to be. We were meant to give ourselves to each other in response to the generosity we’ve experienced—from God, friends, or whomever. It’s tough to hold loosely the things I value. And yet, when I realize that I have been the recipient of generous love and grace, I am encouraged and empowered to share that with my community.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How I'd survive the Apocalypse

The other day, we had an unnerving realization. Now usually, the Other DeLew and I talk about a lot of important things, (like world events, wine, living in community, insert cool/socially conscientious buzz word here.) But this revelation came from a mundane conversation about our car. Recently we’ve noticed a clanking sound from beneath our car. Like something is loose. The last time I was at the auto shop, the mechanic removed a rusty bar from the bottom of our car and told me that it’s just an unnecessary scrap of metal that holds the muffler in place. But I’m sure that ‘lack of rusty bar’ isn’t causing the clanking… Right?

I asked Mark if he had any ideas about what might be clanking. Mark replied, “of course I have no idea what it might be.” We both laughed at how little we know about cars, home improvement (one of the main reasons we’re not itching to buy a home), gardening, or really anything that involves hard labor. At this point, Mark said, “You know, if the apocalypse happened, we’d be the first to get kicked out of the surviving community. We don’t have any hard skills!”

(At this point the conversation turned into a debate about zombies. I, personally, don’t like them and think they’re stupid. As a result, Mark was defending the zombies. Maturity reigns over here.

Back to the matter at hand: in high school I went on mission trips to Mexico where my team built houses for Mexican families. Mind you, I wasn’t the most adept at using a hammer or nail gun, and neither were most of my teammates. Few of had ever seen a, well, I don’t even know any tool names to use as an example. A henchsaw? Let’s go with that. We were really eager to serve, but I’m not sure if serving with a hammer was the best use of our skills. In fact, I’m pretty sure there were a couple of locals who knew a thing or two about construction who may be willing to work … I better explore this topic in another post.

All this to say, I started thinking about what value I could bring to a post-apocalyptic world in which we were fighting off zombies. I could manage a project, facilitate clear communication processes, write a pretty convincing letter to the Zombie King requesting that he be generous with us and let us live. All of this sounds pretty lame when you’re fighting for survival with swords and bayonets (this is my picture of post-apocalyptic living). But I actually think those things would be important! I think it would help the community survive and perhaps thrive!

Sometimes it’s hard to see how our specific gifts can be of use. But I’m convinced that we have all been given gifts for the good of the community. We all have our unique skills and passions, and it’s through identifying and nurturing them that we might be able to make our community stronger. And together, we may in fact survive the Apocalypse.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Highs and Lows

It's been a couple months since I've posted, but instead of lamenting about how busy I've been, I'm going to share the highs and lows of the past few months. That's probably a bit more interesting.


Viva Costa Rica. For the fun of it, and because the New DeLews hadn't been out of the country since 2008, we decided to take a trip to Central America. Incredible coffee, deserted beaches, bike rides to local bars, practicando mi espanol, sunburn, losing a wallet in a taxi. We learned something that we've always thought- we're awesome travel partners.

(F)Easter. To celebrate
resurrection, we hosted a Feast the day before Easter. Seventeen people came together for stuffed lamb, chicken, stuffed mushrooms, sourdough stuffing, and wine was a'flowing. It was a sweet time of celebration and community.

Two Years. The New DeLews may not be so 'new' anymore. In May we celebrated our two-year anniversary. We took a staycation downtown and reflected on how thankful we are to be with each other. I feel like we've grown a lot as a couple and as individuals in the past year especially.
Summer weather. There is nothing like Chicago in the summer. A couple weeks ago, like a lightswitch, it became summer. Grilling out, late-night bike rides, free concerts
downtown, beach volleyball. This is the reason we are able to survive the 8-month winter tundra.


Missing out. Living in Chicago has its incredible perks, but one of the hardest things about living here is that I miss out on George Family events. My nephew, Manny, was born in the spring and I have yet to meet him! Pictures and skype aren't able to capture what it's like to be at 3 year old birthday parties, orchestra concerts, or summerfest. That's definitely a low.

"Spring" weather. Yet again, Chicago has been confused about what spring is. Torrential rain, spring snow, 40 degree weather. Just, bah! come on, Chicago. Pull it together.

Friends leaving. This is a transitional time for a lot of our friends. A couple of our close friends are moving away and so we've had to say goodbye. It's a little bizarre for us to be some of the stable ones in our community. I'm thankful that we are more settled in our careers and community here in Chicago, but it means that we see people leave for exciting new things, while we remain here.

Lack of running. Have I mentioned the weather yet? My goodness, after I ran the marathon, I promised that I would never get out of shape again. I was all geared up and ready to start running outside in March, but it was cold, snowy, and windy, my body just couldn't handle it. So now it's the end of June and I'm re-learning to run in 85 degree weather. Oh Chicago.

Through the highs and lows of every season, I think it's really important to take a deep breath and reflect on where we have been and where we are going. Before we get caught up in summer vacations with family and really busy times at work, I want to be a woman who remembers the little things that shape our lives-- whether that's awful weather, good friendships, or bike rides. So I'm thankful for the highs and the lows. And looking forward to oh so many more.