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    Thirty by 30: Installment Five

    May 1, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    This will be my last installment for a few days. Si and I are celebrating our seventh anniversary this weekend, and so I officially have Better Things to Do. It’ll be a lot more fun that writing a list of my life lessons, I am sure!

    But, here are today’s lessons. Even though, apparently, nothing can top baking soda.

    1. Idealism is a complement to realism. I have been accused of being an idealist more times than I can count. I have also been given that sardonic look, coupled with the idea that I will grow out of it, that all twentysomethings are idealistic {meaning irrational}.

      I was really worried that I would grow out of it. And I wasn’t sure if what people told me was true, that I really would be a cynic by the time I was thirty.

      Thankfully, my idealism is safe and sound.

      I think that idealists are often confused with perfectionists. Sometimes this is the case, but it certainly isn’t the case for me. My house isn’t perfect, my family isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect…and I’m perfectly willing to accept this fact.

      I believe that idealism, when used properly, can be a tool. At its core, idealism is the ability to imagine what could be or should be, but simply isn’t because of all the ways in which a sinful world fails. Now, this might bring about a state of depression for some folks, but I think a better approach might be to dream of a beautiful world and then figure out how to make our little piece of it match the ideal a bit more.

      And I don’t mean shoving everyone into the same mold.

      The landscaper who looks at a vacant lot and envisions an English tea garden is practicing idealism. A carpenter who looks at a pile of wood and sees a beautiful table around which a family will eat many meals is practicing idealism. And a mother who sees all that her child can be is practicing idealism, too.

      Or, to apply this to myself, if I think in my head that the ideal wife joyfully practices x, y, and z, then I can start to practice those things, too.

      Without at least a bit of idealism, reality would be all that exists. No one would ever dream of improving the things around them, their families, or themselves. As long as we realize the world won’t be perfect, and we don’t let failures get us down, there is no reason not to dream of a peaceful little corner on this earth.

    2. Our attempts at unity should focus on the essentials. This is probably a good balance to my previous statement about idealism. After all, out of control idealism can impose itself on others in a way that is inappropriate at best, and unnecessarily divisive at worst.

      The Bible says that our unity as believers is found in our agreement upon the essentials:

      There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. {Ephesians 4:4-6}

      This, of course, isn’t the only essential. The Ten Commandments are up there. Etcetera.

      My point is that folks can have the essentials and still look a little different. And, if we want to talk about Biblical ideals {which we all have, even though we don’t all agree on what they are}, there are also some limitations caused by a sinful world. So while I would say that, for instance, I firmly believe that homeschooling that is father-led is a Biblical ideal {since Deuteronomy 6 is really addressed to fathers}, I know very few families {ourselves included} that practice this in a literal sense.

      Living a Deuteronomy 6 family lifestyle is limited if, for instance, you are a widow. Or your husband isn’t a believer. Or you live in Post-Industrial society where the father works outside the home. Or you are illiterate. Etcetera.

      Another example might be so-called “natural” mothering. God has kept me very humble because I have not been able to even begin to attempt the natural mothering ideal. This allows me, I think, to balance realism and idealism in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise. So while I think that birthing at home with a midwife is great, lotus births are great, breastfeeding as a sole source of nutrition at least the first six months is great, I also understand that reality sometimes bumps up against this ideal. I have a friend with heart problems so bad that she is lucky to be able to carry her babies, and must have C-sections because labor would be very dangerous for her to endure. My body refuses to make enough milk for my babies to survive on, while other mothers have adopted or are on medications that interfere with breastfeeding.

      Ideals are not essentials. And it is only the essentials that are required for true unity. That is why women who have C-sections and women who birth at home and every woman in between those two extremes can all go to the same church and get along. All the different types and variations of Christian homeschoolers can all worship together and {gasp!} they can also worship with the private school families and the public school families as well.

      This is not meant to brush these issues aside. I already said I think it is important to have ideals. But in an imperfect world, those ideals will be worked out differently {actually, I think they would be worked out a bit differently even in a perfect world, but that is another discussion entirely}. What is important is that we worship the One Lord, that there is only One Faith.

    3. Protracted singleness isn’t easy. This is a unique lesson because I learned it from a book rather than life. I got married at 22 {turned 23 the following week} and know nothing firsthand about remaining single for a long period of time. However, reading Debbie Maken’s book Getting Serious About Getting Married made a huge impact on me as far as how I think about singleness. I now consider it a hardship suffered by many, many women in our culture. Now, many of them suffer it with grace and contentment, and I admire that very much. But I am not about to celebrate singleness. Hollywood would have us believe that singleness is the best thing since sliced bread, and there is something wrong with the people who don’t enjoy it.

      Many people think that marriage can be a burden. After all, there is someone else you always have to think of, answer to, be responsible for. But marriage also has a division of labor. So, for instance, I cook his dinner, but he washes my car. I clean the house, he cuts the lawn. And so on.

      In singleness, we find lots of folks doing it all themselves. There is no one else to pick up the slack. If they don’t do the job, it doesn’t get done.

      Understanding this has given me compassion for single women I know, living alone, struggling and feeling guilty for that because the world tells them they have it made.

    Installment One

    Installment Two
    Installment Three
    Installment Four

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  • Reply Brandy May 1, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Hi Sarah!

    I tried to email you a couple months ago. Don’t know if you received it or not. But I have thought of you often! I hope you are liking Kansas. I have good memories from a trip to Kansas my family took when I was a little girl.

    By the way, I did see Dr. Reynolds’ post, and when you reminded me of it, I cringed. I should have clarified the difference between singleness and the actual gift of celibacy. We have at least two men in our church that I can think of who have that gift, and their contributions to every one around them are astounding. I hope I didn’t sound as if I were being disrespectful of such a person.

    I suppose I was thinking more of my single friends who long, more than anything, to be married and have a family. That is a different kind of singleness that I used to misunderstand. I don’t think I was very sympathetic to the struggles involved in being alone against one’s will. Now I think I am learning to “be there” for these friends a bit better than I used to be.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify!

    Happy anniversary, by the way. 🙂

  • Reply Sarah May 1, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Hey Brandy!
    It’s Sarah (Mehrer) Jackson. Remember me? Gosh it’s been ages! A happy early birthday, and anniversary, to you! Did you see John Mark Renolds’ recent post on singleness on Scriptorium Daily? I found it to be an interesting perspective as well. Here’s the link:

    I check in often and enjoy following the adventures of you and your family. Tim and I live in Kansas (!) now, and just celebrated our first anniversary in March. It’s been a good year! But how would you know that, since I have no blog…

    Take care and enjoy your anniversary!


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