a paycheck

How much do we really need in order to “make a living”?

For three pay cycles toward the end of summer, the accounting department at my work overpaid me by about a third.  When we all realized the error, I took a 1/3 cut for the next three checks (which worked out to more like 1/2 of what I’d been making for the previous six weeks).

Because clergy are in a strange tax situation, we took the extra and put it away in our account for saving to pay our taxes–ours aren’t taken out check-by-check–so we’ll be set a little bit earlier this year.

The wild-and-convicting thing?  My husband and I didn’t much notice the difference.  Sure, we spent less and kept closer track of our spending decisions, but our lives didn’t look or feel significantly different; indeed, now that the first “normal” check arrived in our account, I realize how much more we could (and probably should) be giving away.  Have you ever tried to live on less?  What did you notice–anything?

Since January, I’ve been on a clothing-spending-freeze.  You see, there’s an intentional living community in Durham, NC (the Community of the Franciscan Way) that fostered my adoption and growth in the Anglican tradition; this group reminded me how to be Christian again.  My heart longs for those people and the way God is present in them, but my work is elsewhere now.  To stay invested and connected with them this year, I decided to give to them monthly, and since money doesn’t grow on trees, I looked at my budget (and my closet) and decided I really didn’t need any more clothes.  I’ve been sending them my clothing budget this year, and though I’ve missed the numbing sensation of retail therapy (I hadn’t realized till this commitment what a “therapy”–perhaps in a bad sense–it really is!), my closet is plenty stocked to accommodate my fashion whims.

Full disclosure: after ripping my one set of jeans on a recent grocery store trip, I did buy a new pair.

What sorts of habits have we fallen into with our money, mindlessly spending rather than intentionally enjoying, and sharing with others?

this morning

as I spent Monday morning sleeping the weekend off (in a facilitating-a-junior-high-retreat way, not in a Duke-girl-socialite way), my dear husband ran to CVS to buy more Allegra-D (the only way to survive autumn in South Carolina) and then sat in the next room, reading “his friend” (we use this phrase very liberally in the Hylden household) Rod Dreher’s blog.  When I awoke at noon (maybe I’m becoming the junior-highers with whom I spent the weekend…), I checked my email and found this excerpt:

“I started it on Sunday September 3. Here’s why I bring it up now: I found that after doing without wheat, corn, rice, and potatoes, the mono symptoms had dramatically declined. Not gone away, but gotten a lot better. Normally I have constant inflammation in my nasal passages, and feel worn down, as if my body were doing all it could to fight off an invader. That still happens, but not nearly as often. Every day I was having to take a nap several hours long, in the middle of the day. I’ve only had to do that once since I began this diet. I even noticed that symptoms of Raynaud’s Syndrome, an autoimmune condition with which I was diagnosed six or seven years ago, have become milder.”

While his wife was starting up the seasonal sudafed regimen and sleeping several hours in the middle of the day (of course, those two alone are probably related), Jordan stumbled upon the witness that broke the camel’s back.

IMG_0203I’ve been wondering about the relationship between gluten and autoimmune diseases for years (having activated my Rheumatoid Arthritis about this time of year 13 years ago), and toyed with going gluten-free two or three years ago.  In the end, my passion for baked goods, pasta, pizza, and all the good things in life (even a burgeoning affinity for beer) won out over trying a lifestyle without wheat.

The voices in my head of my doctor-father and my common-sense-filled (child-of-a-farmer) Midwestern husband, had helped my rationalization, along with colloquial witnesses that attested at least a six-month cleanse period before any effect was noticeable.

With the shift of Jordan’s vote and my generally-antsy feeling at this seasonal shift, I’m ready to try it.  Maybe not for six months, but if changes are noticed in a mere 5 days (as in Rod’s case), surely a few weeks is a reasonable goal.  Starting today (for better or worse, I didn’t have a croissant or any gluten this morning before my resolution), till the end of October (coincidentally, the anniversary of the day my RA went full tilt), I’m giving up gluten.


As last November dawned, I remember thinking to myself, “Good lord, where did September and October go?!”  Trinity had hosted the former Archbishop, Lord Carey, I’d started up with the Canterbury College Ministry at USC, launched a monthly Drinks & Discussion, and I turned around, and autumn was gone almost without a mention or moment of reflection.

May this intentional and somewhat terrifying commitment demand a bit more attention to the present this season.

How are you mindful about what you eat and how it affects your general well-being?

Being Present – On Which to Chew

“The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them for eternity.  He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present.  For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

– The Screwtape Letters

Screwtape goes on to talk about the various pros and cons of trapping a given “patient” in either the Past, or the Future; the Past, while distracting, is of limited use, he says, because there isn’t much unknown–it’s been experienced, it can draw one off a good path, but it doesn’t take them much of anywhere else.  The Future, however, is very fruitful for despair’s handmaids, as tempters may suggest all sorts of fearful, disastrous, unknown, untested events, possibilities, and thoughts, all of which come at an alarming speed, producing a scurrying mind with little connection to reality.

Mindfulness, a practice I suspect our dear mystical brothers and sisters knew well, is fantastically useful in combating the mind’s susceptibility to darting around anywhere except This Moment.  Reality, which can sometimes burn us with its brightness, might make us want to run behind the dark shadow of the Past, or to find tasty unreality in the Future, but it is only in living in the bright reality of the present moment that its healing heat can transform us (in this Church season of Epiphany, the bright truth of God’s love shines hot on humanity through the person of Jesus Christ).

More by me on The Screwtape Letters: here & here.