The Tension Between Crossing-Off Tasks and Achieving Ambitions

In case you’ve noticed, I’m taken a small break from my “Summer of 7” project. Actually, if I’m being honest, I’m reevaluating its value. One week is not long enough to change habits, neither is it long enough to impress enough discomfort on me that I’ll really learn anything. Not trying to be a negative-Nancy here, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I can actually do, and what’s worth doing, and what’s better left undone, and that’s all to say that I’m not sure I see the heart-changing value in altering my habits for a week, and then devoting time to writing about it.

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You can tell that I’m writing more because there’s laundry, unfolded, from a week ago, just sitting on the back of our couch. And basically none of our possessions are where they should be. Our home isn’t “dirty” in an unsanitary way, but it is disorganized, and that makes me feel a little wife/mom-guilty. At the same time, I’m grateful to be married to an English teacher who happens to love that I’m writing more, thinks that I’m really excellent at it, and isn’t bothered at all that my craft supplies (the ones I used to make the Instagram Magnets about a week ago) are still on our dining room table. He’s a saint. The guilt is all mine.

I want our home to be in a state that, if someone were to randomly drop by, I wouldn’t have to apologize for any messes. I could breezily offer our surprise-guest a cool drink (cucumber-mint water!), and we’d sit and chat on my front lawn, admiring my tiny garden. But to do that, I’d have to be tidying the house right now, and fixing cucumber-mint water, not writing. I’d have to be weeding right now, or vacuuming, or dusting, all of which are things I want to be done, but I don’t want to sacrifice my time in doing them. Not when I could be writing. I’ll try and jam it all in, once I post this, but you and I both know that they’re not all going to happen. And what about my other commitments?

Choosing what I will and will not devote my time to is harder than I expected it would be. Nothing is easy to cut back on; everything I want to be doing is good stuff. It’s not as if I’m watching television, or playing video games or something.

So I guess what I’m saying is that if you come over to my house, and all I have to drink is regular old water, and there’s laundry still sitting on the back of the couch, it’s because I’m doing something that I think is more valuable. I’m spending time with Elle, swimming, or playing at the park, or drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. I’m writing (sometimes) pretty words about beautiful things, or ugly words about tragic things, or regular old words about regular old things. I’m spending time talking with my husband, and learning more and more about what makes him tick. I’m serving my church, building blogs and maintaining social media presences. I’m pushing for greater cultural awareness regarding unsustainable design in technology, and its effects on people and the environment. Bigger things than laundry. Bigger things than dusting. And, finally, I’m not afraid to say it.

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Summer of 7: Jamie Sets Me Right

A “Summer of 7” sister, Jamie, of  Six Bricks High, recently posted some thoughts about “stress week.” She took a much wiser approach than I did, and, like I told her, I WISH I could have read her post before I began “stress week.” Talking about making time to read the bible, Jamie writes

It’s amazing how I have the urge to just get the laundry started and then I’ll sit and read.  Or let me just get the dishwasher unloaded first then I will sit and read.  When I’m spending time on Pinterest I never have those thoughts.

When I’m spending time on Pinterest, I never have those thoughts.

When I’m spending time on Pinterest, I never have those thoughts.

When I’m spending time on Pinterest, I never have those thoughts.

What is wrong with my head, that I check Pinterest borderline obsessively, yet I feel compelled to do every chore in my house before I sit down and read my bible? I know I’m not the only one in this boat, and I am SO grateful to Jamie for holding up a mirror to this particularly bad habit of mine.

Maybe you’re not a Pinterester; do you sometimes find yourself putting off reading because you have “too much else to do,” but still check facebook (etc) compulsively?

With every day that passes, I know that “media week” is going to be very very hard for me. But in a good way. In the way that training for a marathon is hard.

I am both eager, and terrified.

How to Be Joyful When Nothing is Perfect

Dude. Life is so good, isn’t it? I feel like I’m living in the sweet-spot lately, and it’ll be nice, when October rolls around, to look back at days like today and remember that I’m capable of being this joyful. I’d say “happy,” but to me, “happy” is to “joyful,” what “pretty” is to “beautiful,” you know what I mean? And yes, while I am “happy,” more than that, I’m deep-down-in-my-bones joyful, and that’s a whole other thing entirely.

Melissa Jenna and Ellie Godsey

We just got done swimming and were giddy from all the excitement.

Am I saying nothing is wrong or bothering me? Absolutely not. There are plenty of things that aren’t the way they would be “in a perfect world,” and a few situations that I would wave a magic-wand over if I could. (You guys: the first time I typed that sentence, I typed “magic wang.” And then I snickered like a twelve year old boy.) But, and I think this is the trick to “joy” versus “happiness” (if I may be so bold as to claim that I “get” joy): those temporary things do not matter, and I know it. Like, more than head-know-it, I heart-know-it. And, at least for me, it doesn’t matter how much I “head-know” something; if I don’t “heart-know” it, it might as well not even be true.

I’m joyful in my housework, and errands, and snail-hunting (garden’s full of ’em), and in swimming with my kiddo, and my silly little blog, and sharing dinner with my husband. And in probably the darkest, most psychologically upsetting circumstance of my life (my mother “disowned” me over a year ago, and continues to remain divorced from me and my family to this day), guess what? I’m joyful. It’s electric.

Past versions of myself would be ears-deep in depression right now, looking for a thing or a person to throw myself into, to lose myself in the midst of my anguish and multiply pain upon pain. But that person died, and continues to die over and over again, as my present and future self continues to be reborn. (My husband would call this “circling upward, rather than just going in circles.”) It’s amazing, and beautiful, and I’d say “unbelievable,” except that I have to believe it, because I am living it.

Do I “get” it? Why I have this deep wellspring of joy? I mean, why me, and not so many others? I certainly don’t “deserve” it. I wish I could give it away to everyone I know, but if I tried, I’d hand them a box, and they’d open it, and it’d be empty. Because the source of my joy isn’t a thing I can contain, or a thing I can impart on anyone, no matter how much I want to share it; the source of my joy has always been, and will always be, and is right there in front of each of our faces, just waiting, patiently, to be noticed.

But many of us are so focused on other things, red-herrings of joy, that we miss it, that plain, soft-spoken voice that patiently calls to us. We peruse those red-herrings, and each time we realize that the source of joy that we’re chasing is inauthentic, a phony, we simply begin chasing another red-herring. I did that for years. Some people do it for a lifetime. How exhausting. How depressingly and frustratingly exhausting. Why not consider giving up the chase? Take a break, and examine that patient voice that is waiting to be heard. You’ve got nothing to lose. And trust me, the red-herring chase will be there if you decide you want to go back to it.

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I really didn’t mean to get all spiritually weird on you with this one. I honestly just sat down to explain that the reason I didn’t follow any of the “Seven Sacred Pauses” for my “Summer of 7” today, was because I am so gosh darned joyful, that that book was actually messing me up in a bad way. (And that, my friends, is called burying the lede.)

This is seriously not a cop-out: the book was screwing with my biorhythms, okay? I had to put it down. So today, to remain faithful to cutting out the excess stress in my life (per my “Summer of 7” requirement), instead of obeying the “Seven Sacred Pauses,” once Ellie went down for her nap, I did my housework, then laid on my front lawn in my bathing suit and listened to an audio book. AND I FEEL NO GUILT.

I smell like warm Hawaiian Tropic and sweat, and I couldn’t be more joyful.

So there.

xoxo, mj

Oh, one more thing. Storyline Conference in TWO days! I am pretty gosh darn excited. You know who wrote a funny thing about Storyline? Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, that’s who. Never read her? You’ll love her, trust me. See you soon, Westmont!

Is Sleep-Shopping a Thing? (Why I Removed The Amazon App From My iPhone.)

Last night my Mister spent some time with his friends watching baseball, so I plunked myself down and recorded my first vlog in about a month. Topics include: I sleep-shopped (it’s like sleepwalking, but with internet shopping) and ended up buying a semi-embarassing item off the Amazon app for iPhone, and more “Summer of 7” talk, for my YouTube crowd because they only ever hear what I put on my YouTube channel.

Booyah. A “Summer of 7” Revelation.

The Summer of 7 Melissa Jenna GodseyExcuse my while I share a revelation.

Summer of 7, in a nutshell: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” –John 15:1-2

And this:

Pruning (via wikipedia): Pruning is a horticultural practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots. Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health, and both harvesting and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits. The practice entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants.

Doesn’t this just sum-up “Summer of 7” perfectly? ‘Targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound’ bits, in order to shape (by directing growth), improve health, and “harvest and increase the yield or quality of fruits?”

Booyah. John 15:1-2 manages to communicate what took me, like, 2,000 words, in a single sentence. Our “Summer of 7” is about pruning, both physically and spiritually. Cutting the ties of the earthly things that bind us that we might bear more and better fruit.

One more bit of spiritual smack-talk, then I’m done.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” –Galatians 5:22-26

Booyah (again). A reminder that we’ve already won, and if we’re living by the Spirit, that we need to “keep in step” with the Spirit, not becoming conceited, ie. this isn’t about me and my struggle in being pruned (“Ohmygoshyouguys, summer of 7 is so haaaaard!”). The story in our Summer of 7 is how what we’re being changed into, and by whom.

xoxo, Melissa

*** Not sure what I’m talking about when I mention the “Summer of 7?” Well, go here the post in which I ‘splain all about it, and here to read all about it from the perspective of the gal who wrangled me into it, Katrina from thepoorganiclife.com. ***

Join Me in Living “The Summer of 7!”

The Summer of 7 Melissa Jenna Godsey

Remember back when I said I was “being haunted by a book?” Well, I’m not the only one being haunted by “7: An ExperimentalMutiny Against Excess.” Turns out that “7” (by Jen Hatmaker) is ruining the lives of families across America! (Just in case you can’t sense my sarcasm, let me just tell you that I’m kidding. No need to go getting all nasty on me in the comments about Jen Hatmaker being a Saint. I know. I’m on Team Hatmaker. I even read her husband’s book, okay?)

Here’s the gist of Jen’s book “7”: most of us live lives of crazy excess. We might not see it, and we might, in fact, want more stuff, but that’s kind of the point. We’re so caught up in the pursuit of “stuff,” and the image of having lots of stuff, that we don’t even realize what we’ve become: a people who exist for the purpose of obtaining and enjoying comfort. Sloths, basically. Sloths with closets full of clothes we don’t wear, and stuff we don’t use, existing on diets of processed food. (My words here, not Jen’s.) And that–if I may be so informal–totally sucks. So Jen took seven months, and focused on eliminating excess from seven categories: food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress (which is where the subtitle comes from: “An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess). If I could force you to read the book I would, and though her journey is a spiritual one (Christian, specifically), the lessons learned, and the realizations acquired are worth reading about, regardless of your personal religious affiliation.

Why give stuff up?

If you’re familiar with the idea of “fasting,” (abstaining from all or some kinds of foods or drinks, especially as a religious observance) then take that concept, and apply it to things other than food, and you “get” the idea behind “7.”

Jen explains fasting well in 7: “A fast creates margin for God to move. Temporarily changing or routine of comfort jars us off high center. A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves.” She also lists six circumstances in which one might initiate a fast to “summon God’s movement in [their] life:”

  • Mourning
  • Inquiry
  • Repentance
  • Preparation
  • Crisis
  • Worship

Like Jen, I can definitely identify with fasting for repentance. Jen sees fasting for repentance as “a tangible way to bow low and repent of greed, ungratefulness, ruined opportunities, and irresponsibility.” To which I say yes, yes, yes and yes. Though I consider myself a thoughtful and grateful person, my actions simply do not match my view of myself. In so many ways, I’m a hypocrite, and I need to repent for that big-time, and will have to continue repenting for that all the days of my life. I’ll never be “perfect,” but that’s not the goal. I want to become more and more like the one who created me; that’s the goal.

And again, like Jen, I can identify with fasting for preparation. Like I may (or may not?) have mentioned previously, I feel as if I’m at a crossroads with my work, yet I can’t see a clear path ahead of me. I have a cloudy picture of where I might be headed, and I want to know for sure that it’s something God is calling me to do, not something that I simply want to do. So I guess I’m “fasting” for preparation AND inquiry. Even better!

So what does this all mean?

So yeah, here’s the kicker: I’ve joined a blogging group, y’all. Next stop: couponing, watching The Bachelor and, throwing linky-parties or whatever. (Does one “throw” a linky-party?) If you’d have told twenty-three-year-old me that in five years I’d be “serious” about my faith, or a mother, or PART OF A BLOGGING GROUP, I’d be all like, “this gypsy fortune-teller has got me all wrong. Doesn’t she know that I, like Miley Cyrus, Can’t Be Tamed?”

SO. I’m banding together with a group of bloggers (who are basically strangers to me, as much as anyone can be a stranger on the Internet) to try our hand at a summer-length version of “7.” I’ve considered going whole-hog on this thing, but I have a tendency to jump into things with two feet, only to realize that I’m in way over my head, and then I somehow have to weasel my way out. (I know, I know: I’m so honorable.) So rather than burning myself out and quitting halfway through, I’m committing to our “Summer of 7” project enough to give it its VERY OWN CATEGORY in my nav. bar. (Is this the blogging equivalent of getting your own drawer at your boyfriend’s house? Like, he’s “committing” to you, but not enough to put a ring on it quite yet?)

Digressions aside, I’d like to invite you all along with me on a mini-journey. A blogging-roadtrip, if you will. Here’s my (very flexible) “Summer of 7” schedule, and I’d love it if you participated right along with me!

Summer of 7 “Schedule”

(Details and rules and the like will be posted on the first day of the week. Or maybe the day before the first day of the week, I’m not sure.)

June 3-9, Stress: I’ll follow Macrina Wiederkehr’s “structured” prayer schedule in her book “Seven Sacred Pauses,” thereby forcing myself to pause throughout the day for prayer. Something tells me this is going to be more difficult than I imagine, what with chasing around a toddler and all. Also, I’ll be attending Storyline Conference this week, and I’m a little concerned about the timing of the sessions, and how they’ll coincide with Seven Sacred Pauses.

June 10-16, Food: Only eat seven foods for a week. I don’t have to eat them all in one sitting, and condiments count as foods. When Food Week begins, I’ll post a list of my seven foods. (Bear in mind that I’m going to be as nutritionally well-rounded as possible.)

June 17-23, Possessions: Each day I’m going to purge things from our closets, cabinets and garage, and at the end of the week I’ll bring them by a local women’s shelter.

June 24-30, WEEK OFF: I might be traveling to VidCon this week, and thinking back to how insane the week leading up to VidCon was last year, I’d be crazy not to take this week off. So, a brief intermission from “Summer of 7” is in order. If I don’t go to VidCon, then I’ll adjust my schedule and let you know.

July 1-7, Clothes: I’ll wear seven items of clothing for the week, which I’ll list at the beginning of the week. This one isn’t going to be difficult, because I live in California, and it’ll be summertime (“and the livin’s easy…”). I have plans to ramp this one up considerably, but I’m still hashing them out, so second half of this one is TBA. (Be excited.)

July 8-14, Spending: We will only spend our money in seven locations. I’ll kick this week off with a list of those places.

July 15-21 , Media: No Twittering, Facebooking, blog-reading, Instagramming, Pinteresting, TV-watching, video-game playing, etc for the entire week. BUT, and this is a big but, part of my job at iFixit is to be ever-present on social media, so when I’m being paid by iFixit, I will do my job as usual. It will take every once of my will-power not to log in to my personal accounts, but so help me, I can do this. I’m still not sure how I’ll update the blog on my progress for that week. Maybe I’ll journal it all on pen and paper, scan it, then upload full-res images of my scanned journal pages? That might be fun. We’ll see.

July 22-28, Waste: I’ve always wanted to start composting, so maybe this will be the week that I do that. Also, we’re TERRIBLE at recycling, so this might be a good time to establish solid recycling practices in our house. This is also Ellie’s birthday week, so I’ll figure this one out a bit better as I have time to think about it.

Things That Make Me Anxious About “Summer of 7”

(In no particular order)

  • I’m concerned that people will see this as simply a test of will-power, like “CAN I only eat seven foods for a week?” rather than an exercise in purposeful reduction in order to examine the condition of our hearts. How will limiting my buffet of choices make me feel? How will the very human part of me that cherishes comfort react to new boundaries? Of course I CAN do each of these challenges, but if the focus is just a matter of “how strong is my will-power?” then this whole thing is totally pointless. Fasting and restriction is not the point, but a means to an end.
  • Is my insecurity going to make me feel the need to explain every weirdo thing I’m doing whenever I feel uncomfortable? Or worse, will I end up bragging about it? Am I going to make this more about me externally, than me internally? A week is a short amount of time, and if I’m not careful, I could very well spend the entire week mourning my creature-comforts and not actually be changed on a heart-level at all. Double pointless!
  • Is a week really enough time to be affected? Won’t I just spend the whole week counting down the days until the next week of suffering begins? I’m not really sure that a week is enough, but I’m going to give it an honest shot.
  • I’m in a blogging group.

PLEASE let me know if you’ll be participating at all. I’d love love love to cheer you on, and hey, accountability is important! And if you’re not going get crazy and do “Summer of 7” right along with me, then leave me some encouraging words of support, because I will need it.

Last thing, promise: ‘member that I’m blogging with a group? Here are the other crazies that are blogging The Summer of 7 along with me:

Katrina from The Poorganic Life (whose post you should read if you want more info on The Summer of 7 and all the ladies involved)

Kay from Kay’s Counseling Blog

Steph from Only Here, Only Now

Amy from Permission to Peruse 

Alene from Positively Alene

Jamie from Six Brick High

Rachel from Occassional Boredom

Amy from Amy in Wanderland

And, well, me right here at melissajenna.com of course.

Love you all! xoxo, Gossip Girl

Just kidding.

xoxo, mj


  • About the Author

    Melissa Jenna Godsey

    I’m a wife, mother, accidental entrepreneur, wisdom seeker, and truth lover. We're trying really hard not to keep up with the Joneses. Click through for the whole story.

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