Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 3: Possessions...Oh, and I Survived Clothes Week

Clothes Week is over! I may never wear either of the t-shirts from my 7 again...especially the long-sleeved one since I pretty much lived in it Days 4, 5 and 6 thanks to the cold front that arrived midweek. 

And I may or may not have worn my towel wrap for several hours one day waiting on my clothes to come out of the wash...

What I learned:

1. I do have something to wear...despite my constant complaining in the closet when I am trying to get dressed. It may not be the most fashionable thing or from "this season" but I have enough clothes I could wear something different everyday without repeating for a month...or two. That's disgusting and it will be changing. 

2. My children have more clothes than they will ever wear in their lifetime and certainly before they out grow them. Thankfully, I have been blessed with hand-me-downs and we try to reciprocate with others by passing along the things that no longer fit. But seriously, how many dress shirts do little boys need? There are only four Sundays in a month. Geez. 

3. Jeff has a lot of gray t-shirts, but this really not about him...yet! 

4. Yoga pants are an essential part of my wardrobe.

5. I have way too many accessories (Exclusion Clause: Noonday Collection). Thankfully, God provided an opportunity to purge most of those in an positive way. A dear friend is working with a women's group in Burkina Faso and will be taking gently used jewelry to them in a few weeks as "happies." I unloaded almost all non-Noonday pieces and can't wait to see those beautiful smiles!

6. It takes a long time for jeans to dry (see first paragraph). 

7. I am blessed. I am blessed. I am blessed. That is all. 

Jeff has asked me several times what "the point" of all this "7 stuff" was. That's hard to answer, because I think it's different each week. Food Week (in all it's misery!) was about realizing and facing excess for me. Clothes Week (yes, again with the excess!) was more learning to be content with less...with fewer options. Do I really need seven black (almost identical) shirts to choose from?! 

NOTE: I will admit here that I did suffer "bracelet withdraw" after Day 2. Noonday gals, can you feel me on that? #armparty

Clothes Week for me was also about being grateful. Grateful that on most days, if I "want" to go buy a new shirt or new shoes, I can...with very little thought for "Do I 'need' this?" Thank you, Lord, for the blessings. 

And finally, Clothes Week was about wants vs. needs. And that's where I am...learning "need" from "want" in a way that will allow me to stop spending so much time and money on "wants" and hopefully, redirect new shirt/shoes/bag money and energy toward things with more impact. Blah. As a lover of cute clothes, shoes and bags, that was painful to write...and will be even more painful to implement.

Thanks for nothing, Jen Hatmaker. I thought we were friends. 

So, this week is about POSSESSIONS. Nice transition, right? The challenge is to give away 7 things each day. I actually started a little early with last week's clothes week, but I'm making great headway in (finally) cleaning out our garage. Who knows, we might actually get a car in it before the week ends...novel concept, right?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week 2: Food Week is (ALMOST!) Over...Let's talk Clothes

I'm naive...or maybe just stupid. I did not anticipate how difficult last week would be. It was very "enlightening" (Read: painful!) to say the least. It has really made me rethink my relationship with food. I eat to cope. I eat to celebrate. I eat poorly...period. I drink way too much Dr. Pepper. And I spend way too much on junk that is neither good for me nor makes me feel better...past the few minutes when I'm eating it. 

So after last week, this week doesn't seem that difficult (again, maybe I'm stupid). I'm actually looking forward to it - there will be very little time spent thinking about what to wear and I won't ridiculously stand in my closet lamenting over having "nothing to wear." 

It's fairly simple: Seven articles of clothing for seven days (undies and one set of pjs are a pass.). 

NOTE: Our group has also made exceptions for gym gear, swimwear and family photos thus far...we're a kind group of women, really. 

Here are mine:

1. Dressy black pants 
2. Black skinny jeans
3. Green top
4. Grey V-neck sweater
5. Long-sleeved t-shirt
6. Short-sleeved t-shirt
7. Animal print flats & grey Converse (per Jen's example, these count as 1)

Noticeably absent from my yoga pants. I can do this. I'm going to think of my black skinnies as being like my yoga pants. Yeah, right.

Also noticeably absent is a coat. Wednesday could be difficult. Thank you, Lord, for no soccer games that night and only indoor activities. 

Two additional Clothes Week stipulations (for me):

1.) I will also be getting rid of seven articles of clothing each day. I have not decided where they will go, but I will be bagging up seven things to - at some point - give away

NOTE: If you know of a charity or organization or family that could them, please let me know!

Count them...Yep.
That's 7accessories, folks.
2.) I'll wear (ONLY!) one accessory per day - each hand-crafted in a different country. While some folks might not think this is a big deal, my fellow Noonday Collection gals will completely understand that this is going to be difficult...possibly more difficult than only wearing seven articles of clothing for seven days, if I'm being honest.

Regardless, the country from which my daily accessory came will be my prayer focus for the day.

So, there it is. Clothes Week. Let's do this...

NOTE: I'm writing this in the waning hours of the (cursed) Food Week. I may be sitting in my kitchen floor at midnight eating cheese cubes, but I did not cave for seven days. Don't judge.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day Four: The End is in Least the End of This Week!

It's Day Four of Food Week in the Seven Experiment. (Read this post for the back story!).

No one's died or been rushed to the hospital for an IV drip from lack of energy. Although I did momentarily consider acupuncture yesterday for this headache...momentarily.

For the most part, I think we've all turned the corner and are embracing what we're learning about ourselves - good or bad. But, dear friends, don't let that fool you to think there might not be seven lovely ladies standing in their kitchens staring into refrigerators and pantries at 12:01 a.m. Sunday...ok, maybe that's just me. 

Results thus far (in addition to the previous notes):

1. My friends are funny. I wish you could be privy to the dialogue between this amazing group of ladies - so encouraging of one another and so real about their struggles. Suffering together has definitely been a great relationship builder for us.

2. Granola bars without chocolate taste like cardboard. No further explanation needed.  

3. I've lost 5 lbs in 4 days. So, this might sound like I'm bragging or a good thing, but it's really more of a slap in the face about the excessiveness in my diet. My diet would send a nutritionist into the fetal position and make him/her regret their career choice. I'm pretty sure I've eliminated between 2,500 and 3,000 (EMPTY) calories A DAY with just seven things...pretty sure that's more than I'm supposed to eat TOTAL each day. 

4. I eat to cope. Yesterday was a rough day for a number of reasons and it was all I could do not to pop on in to Sonic and grab some mozzarella sticks and a LARGE Dr. Pepper (at 8:30, mind you!). I put my pajamas on as soon as I got home to prevent an outing. Whatever works, people. I know my limits. 

5. I miss cheese more than Dr. Pepper. Yes, I just wrote that. 

6. I need change in my life...and food is only the beginning. I'm not sure where this is going, but if you're curious, just hit that "Join this site" button to the right and follow along to see what God does with this experience. For now, I know He's moving me to purge the excess and teaching me that I deal with stress and failure and difficulty in ways that are in direct opposition to His word.

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 
Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Next week is clothes. Originally, I thought this was going to be my tough week, but I'm pretty sure it will feel like a piece of cake after this week. We'll be wearing only seven items (in a myriad of fashionable combos, I'm sure!) for seven days. I'm actually looking forward to the simplicity - pretty sure it will come down to a daily this or that decision (In case you're wondering, under garments and pjs are freebies). Working on that list...

My life is full of excess. I didn't need this experiment to admit that, but I think God is using this to reveal excess in areas I wanted to hide or others that I wasn't even aware of. I hope over the next seven weeks, He can help me restore balance and reestablish priorities that are HIS - not my worldly wants. 

Are there areas of excess in your life? What would balance look like for you?

Monday, October 14, 2013

An Ode to Jen Hatmaker

Oh, Jen. I know we could be best friends if we lived closer, but right now, I'm wishing I had never read your book or heard your name!

I read Seven: The Experimental Mutiny Against Excess this summer and it rocked my world. Since diving into it, I have been purging things from my cabinets and closets (and secretly from all the toys my boys just haaaaddd to have) for months. But, friends, this just got real.

I began to talk to two dear friends a week or so ago about "doing" Seven...maybe not to the 30-day extreme that Jen did (I mean, she IS Jen Hatmaker), but at least taking baby steps. We've now grown to a group of six (we really need one more crazy girl to join us to make it a complete seven!)!

So, five of my sweet (Read: craziest) friends have come on board to do this thing with me. We're doing seven days instead of 30 but we're doing it, nonetheless. We have reserved the right to repeat a week, if necessary.

Food is first. We started yesterday. I chose to "give up" seven things while most everyone else chose to only eat seven things. I felt like "giving up" things would be more beneficial for me (from what perspective, I'm not sure. Blah.) since these seven things make up, well, 90% of my daily caloric intake.

It's Day Two of Food Week; if someone came near me with a Dr. Pepper right now, I might attack them. You've been warned.

Here they are:

1. Dr. Pepper
2. Chocolate
3. Cheese
4. Candy
5. Chips
6. Sweet Tea
7. French Fries

(Don't judge. I have serious vegetable issues, people.)

When I told my dear, sweet, and oh-so-supportive husband, he said, "Can you just eat those things?" After receiving "the look," he responded with, "Really? Dr. Pepper? I think you should reconsider this."

So, here I am, almost 48 hours in and here's what I've learned thus far...

1. I drink waaaayyy too much Dr. Pepper...says the girl popping Aleve because her head is pounding.

2. I eat a lot of junk. It's really amazing I'm not fatter than I am.

3. I am resistant to change...especially when it involves cutting cheese out of my life.

4. I am ungrateful and selfish. Seriously. Instead of focusing on the millions of options to stave off my hunger (options my five sweet friends do not have!), I've been focused on what I CAN'T have...this is pretty much the story of my life.

God has poured out blessings upon blessings on me and my family. Yet, I continue to chase after what I can't have...what I WANT that will "make me happy" instead of being grateful and appreciative for what I have already been blessed with.

And herein lies problem. Just like with food, in my life I am constantly wanting more or something different or oftentimes, things I don't need that are - more often than not - bad for me. I have found myself constantly trying to fill any void in my life - the void can only be filled by daily and deliberate time with Him - with junk.

Yeah. This week is going to be big for me. I've already found myself face down in prayer asking for strength not to eat a bag of potato chips several times...and it's just Day Two.

So, my dear friend Jen, you've got me. You've got me started on a path I don't really want to go down, I'll be honest. But I'm here and I've got five amazing friends here with me willing to let God have His way in our lives and with our stuff.

Let's do this...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Learning from the Past

In "The Lion King" (one of the greatest movies of all time, btw), there is a scene in which Simba realizes he must stop running from his past and return to his community. It goes a little something like this...

Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back means I'll have to face my past. I've been running from it for so long.
[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick
Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for? 
Rafiki: It doesn't matter. It's in the past. [laughs
Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts. 
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the from way I see it, you can either run from it, or... learn from it. 

Lately, I've been reminded of my past in some good and some not-so-good ways. Good in that I serve a merciful Savior who has never given me what I deserved...and bad in that Satan continues to use the guilt from my not-so-stellar past to create doubt and insecurity in my faith and most recently, in my call to mission work in Haiti.

Twenty years ago (which is really not all that long ago!), I was a very different person. Sure, I claimed to be a Christian. I wore the t-shirts and was in church every week. I even worked at Fellowship of Christian Athletes camps as a counselor and won Star Camp at another summer camp (I might still have that medal. Just sayin'.). 

But my life was about ME - about momentary gratification of the flesh. I was all about whatever I could do to enjoy the moment. Looking back, I am grateful: 1) to be alive and 2) that my God is a God of mercy and grace who - for some reason - will NOT give up on me. 

My past is marred by years of excessive drinking and partying and ultimately culminated in a failed marriage. My past is not exactly something I am proud of. In fact, I feel a lot like Simba some days and would really like to just run from it - block it out and pretend it didn't happen. I know there are people who knew me then who are SHOCKED that I have become a missionary and soon-to-be preacher's wife (some probably shocked that I'm still alive, if I'm being honest!).

And while I'm still no saint and fall on my face daily (see previous post), my focus is different. It's not about me anymore - it's about Him. And I pray that in some way, others can see God's forgiveness and grace in my life...that if He can use me in His kingdom, He can use EVERYONE! That if He can forgive me for my blatant disobedience and obvious waywardness, He can forgive ANYONE of ANYTHING! 

Satan is the author of lies and creator of doubt. He likes to bring up my past...often. 

But God's mercy is new every day. He's forgotten about the sins I have left at the alter (so many times I'm starting to annoy Him with them, I'm sure!) and will be faithful to forgive me for the thousands more I'm still to commit. As Brennan Manning writes in The Ragamuffin Gospel, "I have been seized by the power of a great affection." 

I will never understand how God can forgive us for our mistakes (even the ones we make time and time again) but I am so grateful He does. I will never understand why He hasn't given up on me and just said (in His best gangster accent) "Forget 'bout it!" but He hasn't...and I truly believe He won't. He will continue to relentlessly pursue me - even in my waywardness and ungratefulness. "Oh, how He loves us all!"

"He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west." 
Psalm 103:12 (NLT)

What a beautiful promise! Can you embrace it and let the past remain in the past? What will you learn from it?