29 March 2013

7::clothes

[book club post]


[click here if you want to check out the book]

I wrapped up my 12 days of wearing my selected clothing. Actually, day 12 I just wore my work-out clothes all day long. And yesterday? My first day back to my closet and I pulled on way-too-short sweats and a ratty t-shirt. {mostly because of puckers the night before, and partly because I had been cold for so many days in a row}.

198.

Or possibly 187.

{I didn't want to recount and I didn't write it down immediately, therefore the number is in question}

One of those numbers represents how many articles of clothing I own; not counting unmentionables, pjs, or socks. How do I ever utter, "I don't have anything to wear"? 

As I counted, I admit, there were a number of items that I didn't want to count because I never wear them and/or I hate them. For the life of me I can't fully grasp why they are still in my closet. So they will be going during the next chapter, which is possessions. Counting the items reminded me all over again of the importance of trying things on before buying - whenever possible.  I'm happy to say that I don't have anything hanging in my closet that still has tags on it.  Most of the poor-fit/I-hate items are secondhand items that I probably didn't try on - or I tried them on and thought I could make them work because they were a "good brand."  So I can't say I really have wasted a lot of money on clothes, but I have wasted money on clothes.  That needs to stop.

I mentioned that I've been learning about the impact of how/where I spend money. I've been scouring store websites to find information about social responsibility - for assurances that the company does not use child workers, that they pay fair wages, that there are safe working environments, and that workers are treated respectfully. I'm pleased to discover that I have found these assurances on a number of websites. (There have been a few brands that I could not find this information anywhere on their websites; so those will be brands I don't buy.) Here's the thing though, every website that has a well-written piece about their policies seemed to have a bit of a disclosure - something like "to the best of our ability" or "we randomly inspect overseas factories for compliance." Which left me feeling a little skeptical. I'd like it better if they had zero-tolerance statements, I think.

The biggest take-away for me is again my sense of entitlement. I hate that. So much. One morning I was especially cranky because it was cold again. {I know northern folk, I know.} We had a string of unseasonably cold days and as I sat chilled with my coffee thinking about the day ahead, my mood was foul. Just plain grumpy-pants because the shirt I had to wear was a tank-top-tunic and even with my brown cardi over it I knew I'd feel cold all day. I wallowed in it for a bit. Commiserated over the fact that I should've checked the extended forecast, convincing myself that I would have picked better options.

And then that still small voice...the unmistakable impression that I was only fooling myself. The truth is that I was allowing - even possibly encouraging - myself to be discontent at the start of a fresh new day because of clothing. For real. It wasn't like I had to go out naked. I was just going to be dressed for the season in unseasonable weather - and I gave myself a green light to be cranky about it. Lord help me. I was totally missing the whole point. It wasn't really about my dumb clothes it was about my dumb attitude.

A portion of this chapter, Jen Hatmaker highlights Isaiah 58:6-7
“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?

“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
She went on to describe that often when we hear "fast" we put on a yoke of self-denial.  That is exactly what I was doing.  She later states,
"While fasting from futile things, I don't want to fixate on them, missing the forest for the trees."
The fact that I was allowing my self to scowl through my quiet time proves that I've got some work to do.  But I am hopeful.  And I am confident.  I do believe God is doing a work and making space for changes that are coming.  That confidence helps balance the uncomfortable tension in the middle of this whole thing.

I will definitely be getting rid of some of my 187/198 items. I'll remind myself to try-before-you-buy.  I'll be more conscious about where I buy clothes for our family. Lord willing, my heart will remain open to hear that still small voice even in the middle of a foul mood.  

28 March 2013

Summit 9

If you are friends with my devastatingly handsome husband on Facebook (or follow him on twitter) then you have surely noticed a number of recent posts regarding orphan care.

A fire has been lit in his soul unlike any other time I can remember in our 11.5 years of marriage.  It has been glorious to watch.  Although, if I am honest I waver a little between wanting-to-fan-that-flame and freaking-out-a-little-bit-about-where-this-will-take-us.

I will say this, when God lights a fire - the brilliance is amazing.  There is a radiant confidence in Brad that is contagious.  Call him and ask him about it.  You won't be able to help but smile.  So even though my steps feel a little wavering, his confidence in God's leading helps steady me.  I am so grateful to be able to walk alongside him in this adventure of our life.  And my prayer life is growing by leaps and bounds. 

If you aren't on Facebook and you think twitter is annoying, then I should probably fill you in a bit.  Obviously you know our boys came this way through adoption from foster care.  We are certain God arranged the whole thing from start to finish.  In the glorious way that only our Creative God can, He softened our hearts to the greater need.  Every set back in our journey, reminded me that there are SO MANY MORE children that are stuck in the tangled-up-mess of foster care... and then I was reminded that our foster care system is so great in comparison to what children outside of the US are dealing with.  It was never our journey alone.

My heart hurt for so many other children so many times.  But, then again, I cry at every episode of Biggest Loser, so I had no idea that God was actually planting seeds with those tears I cried for those children.  Those children that are orphans.  Its actually hard for me to use that word, because it seems so lonely.  So far off.

And there's that verse, that so-familiar, but often-rushed-over verse:

"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."  
James 1:27

After wrestling through the ups and downs and in-betweens of bringing twin toddlers into our family, we have settled in to our new rhythm.  God's redemption work has been evident all the way around and continues to amaze us often.  We are even able to go on date night at church almost every chance we get.  There was a time last year that I really wondered if we'd ever get to go on dates regularly again.  In February, part of our date night led us to Lifeway (following an equally romantic spell in Bed Bath & Beyond).  Brad found a book called, "Orphan Justice : Caring for Orphans beyond Adopting".  He bought it.  He devoured it.

I think its safe to say our adoption journey was the kindling, this book was the flint, and the Holy Spirit doused the whole thing with lighter fluid.  Repeatedly.

So the very next date night we sat dreaming in Panera Bread for a few hours.  Short term goals.  Long term goals.  Crazy-only-God dreams. It was glorious.  I am sure a few people around us were wondering what-on-earth-was-up with us and all-the-smiling. 

So now we need to start.  We have already, in some little ways.  We are organizing some donations for our local foster care office (you will hear more about that, promise). Brad met with our Bible study leader a few weeks ago and he will be teaching our Bible Study class the week after Easter.

We feel way over our heads in so many ways - which is really, truly the best way to begin a journey that God is leading - even if it is a little freaky.  God-freaky is always awesome.

We are getting acquainted with Orphan Care resources and reading, reading, reading all that we can.  We recently found out about Summit 9 which is a conference that covers all the bases when it comes to orphan care.  We've thought about trying to get there even though it is kind of short notice to plan for the childcare.  I don't know about Brad, but I have wondered if we are even the right demographic... we aren't part of any organizations as of yet, and we don't even have an orphan care ministry at our church yet. Then Brad sent me a link about a Summit Blogger Conference, and I realized that maybe we do need to get there.  I can imagine that walking into a conference center with a lot of like-minded believers would do wonders on the flame-fanning and would likely help secure a foundation to help sustain those fanned-flames.  So I am writing this post as part of the Summit 9 Blogger Giveaway. Check out all the details at www.summit9.org.



Even if we don't win, I think its fair to say we are in the praying-about-making-this-happen-stage.

So that leaves me with a question for you:: if we get to go, who wants to come watch 4 really adorable, amazing boys and that one giant dog of ours?

If you have more questions about orphan care stuff; y'all, bring it!!  We could chat this stuff up all day... and then we'll stop talking and get boots on the ground.  You want in?

26 March 2013

twin lessons

I think I can keep these short.  Lincoln & Franklin have taught me two distinct lessons over the course of the last 10 days or so.  God is so good to speak to us through our children's behavior.

First up.

I took four boys to a brand new playground a week ago Friday.  I think half of Columbus was there.  I was chasing toddlers, wrangling that free-spirited first grader, and being a tad-too-bossy to the big helper.  It was stressful because there were tons of adults along the perimeter of the playground but I was never standing still long enough to notice the children with each adult - thus leaving that sense of fear that one of the adults might be a creepy-freak.  So we were in constant motion the. whole. time.  I kept telling Lincoln & Franklin that we had to stay together because there were "so many kids."  After a final warning, Lincoln ran off as fast as his little legs would carry him (under the bridge part that is most awkward for me to follow, of course).  When I caught up to him I told him we had to leave because he ran off and there were "so many kids" that it was hard for me to watch him.  He was devastated.  Big sad tears.  He said, "sorry mommy!"  And I forgave him and gave him kisses as I buckled him into his carseat.

I decided we would grab Chick-Fil-A to bring home for dinner, so we headed that way.  Lincoln said, "sorry mommy" again, in that sad voice.  I told him again that I forgave him.  He then looked out the window and said, "so many kids."  I'm not exaggerating, we repeated this conversation at least 6 more times.  "sorry mommy"  "so many kids"  He just kept repeating it. 

He wasn't understanding that I forgave him because his circumstance wasn't changing.

How many times have I puzzled over a past mistake, bringing it up over and over to my Father because the hurt was still there?  Yes, I screwed up.  But He forgave me.  Sometimes I forget to receive that forgiveness.  Do you ever find yourself on repeat when your circumstances still reflect a bad choice?

"As far as east is from west - that’s how far God has removed our sin from us." Psalm 103:12

Second lesson.

Yesterday we took Muskoka to the groomer.  Big girl had been dealing with some seriously bad hair for weeks.  Lincoln & Franklin had never dropped Muskoka off at the groomer before, so it was all new.  When I told them we were taking her to get her hair cut, they asked if she would get the "phone" to play with {they have a special hair cut toy, reserved for hair cuts only}.  I told them that Mussy can't play with the phone.  I told them that we would leave her there to get her haircut because it takes a really long time.  I didn't want them to be surprised when we left her.  We repeated this entire conversation quite a few times before it was finally time to take her.  It was a trip trying to get the 80-pound-spaz through the door with the double stroller.  Of course, she hid behind me while we waited our turn to get checked in.  I tried to turn the stroller so Lincoln & Franklin could see some of the other dogs getting their hair cut and explained how they stand on the table. 

The groomer took Muskoka and Franklin started saying, "Watch.  Haircut.  Watch."  I told him that her haircut takes a really long time and that they would call Daddy when she was done and he'd bring her home. 
"Koka?
"Haircut?"
"Watch?" 
Each question was slightly more frantic than the one before.  Both boys were asking in very nervous voices.  I repeated the conversation piece from earlier in the day.  I reminded them that we had talked about it earlier and that her haircut takes a long time.  By the time they were both buckled in, I thought they understood.  As we merged on to the highway, Lincoln said, "Koka?  Haircut?"  I repeated my part.  A little further down the road, Franklin says, "Koka?  Haircut?" I repeated my part.

Now I have to tell you this...  the tenderness in their voices as they asked, kept me from getting irritated with repeating my part.  They were genuinely concerned and I was trying my best to reassure them.  Over and over again.  As many times as they needed to hear it.  They eventually both fell asleep on the way.  When I was carrying Lincoln up to his crib, he woke up and said, "Koka? Koka?"  I whispered, "Daddy will bring her home."

It didn't matter how many times I told them how things were going to unfold.  They weren't grasping it.  They were focused on what they saw happen, we left Koka.  Their little minds couldn't wrap around the idea that Daddy was going to bring her home...even though I clearly communicated that many times.

How often do I struggle with the Truth that I have heard over and over because I am focused on what I see happen right in front of me?  How often does my little mind get tripped up in that space between my reality and God's Truth because I can't figure out how the two will come together?

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."  Proverbs 3:5

25 March 2013

a whispered truth

I want to whisper a quiet truth to you on this Monday before Easter.  Its not meant to condemn or even convict, its meant to reassure the ones that just aren't sure.

You know, Easter is a big deal for us Jesus-followers.  Its a celebration of the culmination of all those things we believe.  Those crazy, unbelievable things that we believe with all of our heart.  We believe that Jesus - the very son of God - came from Heaven to Earth.  That He lived, breathed, and walked these dusty places as a man, perfectly.  He was sinless, spotless, loved all - and He did it well.  This week we celebrate His arrival to Jerusalem - the excitement mixed with resentment in the crowds that welcomed Him.  We remember He tried to tell His followers then some things they just could not comprehend.  He prayed and asked the Father if there might be another way, then He laid down His will for the Father's.  He was arrested.  He was beaten.  For me.  For you.  He hung on a cross before a crowd - forgiving and loving even then.  He died.  We Jesus-followers believe this to be absolutely true even though it is nearly fairy-tale-esque.  We believe He was dead.  No breath.  No life.  Really really dead.  Then He was buried.  We believe after three days that He rose from the dead.  We believe he lived, breathed, and walked these dusty places as a man again, but this time with scars.  Believing all of this with a faith that seems child-like, we celebrate this week.  On Easter we give Him glory because He gave us life.  We remember He did this for you, for me.

And the thing I want to whisper to you is simple really.

You don't need a new dress for Easter.

I don't know where this idea came from.  I'm not sure why "it's a thing" in some circles.  But I can tell you a little story about an Easter dress of mine from almost a decade ago.  I think its a story you might need to hear today.

I think it was the first Easter that I was a momma for reals.  I birthed that baby boy in the middle of summer and I guess I probably made myself fit into my fall & winter clothes well enough.  I must've checked my closet on Good Friday, because we were shopping on Saturday for an Easter dress for momma.  {Naturally, Wilson had received at least 2 outfits for Easter, maybe 3}.  No one told me I needed a new dress, I just thought I should have one.  I know we did not have the money for it.  But our credit cards were not yet maxed out, and no creditors had begun calling.  I don't remember a thing about trying on the dresses (or how many I tried on, no clue).  I remember the dress.  It was almost sleeveless.  It had flutter sleeves.  So I needed to find a sweater or jacket to wear with it.  I checked over the clearance racks and found some sort of zip-up sports-wear-like-jacket-thing in a color that worked.  I am pretty sure the dress was not on sale, so I made sure I found a cheap jacket (that was totally not the right style for the dress, but somehow in my mind I needed it).  Oh and I needed shoes.  I had no shoes to wear.  (Unlikely, but again in my mind, I needed shoes.)  I remember the shoes - criss-cross brown-wedge-sandals.

I don't remember what weekend Easter was that year and I am a little too lazy to look it up right now.  But this I know.  It was cold in Michigan that Easter.  I wore hose (aka nylons, pantyhose, old lady tights) with my new dress and my open toe wedge-heel-sandals and zip-up-sports-wear-like jacket.   It was ridiculous.  Absurd.  Probably $40+ of absurdity on a credit card we couldn't pay off.  (Oh and those sandals? They killed my feet. Awesome).

I almost missed it that year.  The glory of Jesus coming for me.  The power of Him that lived, breathed, walked these dusty places as a man.  For me.  For you.  He poured Himself out for me.  For you.  And the truth was (and is) no dress on earth would make me deserve that kind of love.  Nothing I could ever do would earn that, He gave it.  

I thought I needed to look good for Easter, but I couldn't quite grasp it; so instead I looked a little absurd and awkward.  That morning at church I knew, I needed to come and celebrate Him.  The One who rose from the grave, the One that defeated death.  He did it for me.  Not me in a pretty dress.  Me.   And He did it for you too!

So if you are considering attending a church service this weekend, and you are thinking maybe you won't because you don't think you have a dress to wear... or if you are panicking about having time to shop for your Easter outfit, because you need something new... Just let this sink in...

You don't need a new dress for Easter. 

You just need Him.  He just wants you.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. “And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.*"  John 14:1-6

*See, nothing about wearing a new dress to church on Easter in this passage.



{Just in case you are a curious, visual person like myself, here's the dress... at least I was smart enough not to wear the zip-up-sports-wear-like jacket for the photos.  I kept that dress for a sweet forever too.}




21 March 2013

what to wear?

We are almost halfway through the clothing "fast" in our book club. I gotta say, this one is not like the food one for me. Likely because I am a stay-at-home mom and I wear a lot of the same things day after day anyway.  I am a little more deliberate about what is going into the washer, but because no one else is doing this "fast" with me here at home, the amount of laundry is nearly the same.  I think Wilson and Walker would easily be cool with wearing 7 items all the time.  Honestly, if I wash a shirt they wore yesterday, they will wear it tomorrow.  No issue.  They don't care if they wear the same thing to church each week.  I'm learning that this is actually a good thing, and I would do well to encourage them to be content with what they have (even if right now I suspect some of it is just l-a-z-y; why force them into the marketing machine?)  Lincoln & Franklin really don't care either, but I sure try hard to make sure they wear something different for church and mom's morning out each week.  I guess in a way, Brad is always limiting his clothing choices, thanks to the uniform he wears every work day. ;)



Ok.  So there are my clothing choices.  I really r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to pick all thrifted things, but to try and pick things that worked together was a little tricky.  And being tall, makes thrifting pants/jeans a challenge!  I tried to add text, but you might not be able to see it all so here's the breakdown:
  1. green v-neck pocket tee (Target)
  2. India Not For Sale tee (buy here).
  3. Khakis (thrifted - I think they are Eddie Baur, I'm wearing them and too lazy to check)
  4. Tunic Tank top/dress thing (thrifted - Rue 21, dress for the young ladies, tunic for the not-as-young)
  5. Skinny Jeans (Old Navy) * I had to pick a pair I could put in the dryer, most of my jeans air dry because I have those super long thighs and I cannot allow my jeans to shrink in length.  I don't love wearing skinny jeans with t-shirts, not sure where my head when I was making these choices.
  6.  Brown Sweater Cardi (thrifted - don't remember the brand and too lazy to go get it.)
  7. Shoes (2 pair = 1 item, fuzzy math)
  • Sseko sandals (buy here)
  • Payless shoes from the Good Shoe Project (check it)
Jewelry links:
1. chunky necklace - The Apparent Project
2. set of bracelets - Pura Vida
3. + 7. green paper bead earrings + glass bead necklace -War (Women At Risk) International
4. + 5. + 6.  Multi-color paper bead necklace - blue earrings - multi-color bracelet -Bead for Life

I've been challenged about how I spend my clothing dollars.  I have a bit of a history with being a clothes-freak back in my single days.   There has been incredible growth in this category, but I still always a feel a pull to skim through the clearance racks whenever I am out shopping.

When we started budgeting, I had $7 in my clothing envelope each month.  Believe it or not, it felt amazing to have designated clothing money, even if it was only $7.  Before this, I often felt a pang of guilt over spending money on clothes.  Or I would buy one of each color of the $3 shirt on clearance, even though Stacy + Clinton hadn't clearly stated that this was a fashion no-no. With the budget in hand,  I realized it was important to spend carefully and choose things that fit me well.  For awhile, I felt it was better to buy brand new from Target (or Wal-mart {gasp!}) than buy from a thrift store for similar prices.  I still think that is true for some items and ALWAYS true for underwear and swimwear ;) I've found that you save a lot of money if you make time to try clothes on before buying.

Ok, but to the point already...while reading 7, what have I been learning?

I've started reading companies statements about their ethical & social policies.  (Here's an example.)  I've started reading labels to see where things are made.  I've realized that the money I spend DOES matter.  It is getting harder and harder to convince myself that the overseas-workers aren't my neighbors.  Those Sseko sandals?  They might be one of the happiest purchases ever.  They aren't cheap and it took me a good long time to finally commit to buying them, but I am so happy I did.  The India tee from Not For Sale was actually made in a factory in India that hires former human-trafficking victims or individuals that are at high-risk for human-trafficking.

When I think about the impact my clothing budget can make, it is mind-boggling. Buying from thrift stores is also a very "green" thing to do.  I'm sure most people don't think of it that way, but consider how many articles of clothing go in the land fill each year and suddenly thrifting seems pretty environmentally friendly.  Also, when you purchase used clothing, your dollars go further and they don't go directly to the pocket of the company with questionable practices.  Generally speaking, thrift stores often use their profits for good.  One I shop at here supports Vapor Sports, so the money I spend there goes directly to supporting their mission.  How cool, huh?

I feel like there are a bunch of different lessons springing up with this topic.  Hopefully I will find a way to put them into words over the next few days.

14 March 2013

beans + rice + entitlement

12 days of beans + rice. 

Well, I take that back, I had pizza at Sam's Club one of those days... not really on purpose, we ordered one slice per boy... who knew 4 slices equaled one pizza?  It just seemed wrong to throw the extra away.

I learned a few things over the last 12 days.  Some meaningful, others not so much.
  • I am such a lazy breakfast person.  Like seriously.  Scrambling eggs felt like I was making a four course meal.  Opening yogurt or pouring cereal is SO much easier.
  • I am not very good at making apple chips.  I'd say half a batch out of 3 batches was perfect, the rest were so-so.
  • I cannot for the life of me figure out how to make wheat bread rise.  But the boys loved the homemade bread, even if it was a bit on the shorty-side.
  • Peeling hard boiled eggs also seems to take a sweet forever.  Might have to try to crack that code.
  • My sugar addiction is worse than I imagined.  I thought about sweets a lot.  Like a lot a lot.  
  •  The combo of beans + rice and way-more-eggs than normal does not make one gassy like you would think.  TMI?  
  • My guys are troopers.  Especially Brad.  Poor guy had a terrible sinus infection but stuck to the beans + rice diet.   Also, Lincoln & Franklin did their best to gag down some beans each night.
  • Dinner prep is so simple when you make the same thing every day.  Grocery shopping is also quite delightful when you make the same thing for dinner every night.

To clarify, none of the above were the meaningful lessons.  Well, except for maybe the part about my guys.

I wish I could say that I was super convicted about the amount of food we throw away or about how much money we waste on groceries and eating out.  It would be easier to talk about that, than the real things that were uncovered.

First off, I am a super whiny-baby.  Poor Brad.  I am pretty sure I made a statement about wanting hot cocoa or that Almond Joy every single night.  He would just remind me that I signed up for this... I think he actually said, "you made a big-girl decision, now you need to stick with it like a big-girl."

Secondly, when I considered the whiny-baby-tendency coupled with all the excess that is available to me, I realized that deep down I felt like I was entitled to a little sweet each day.  After all, I was sticking to the plan.  Didn't I deserve a treat?  Oh middle class American and the things I think I deserve.  I'm currently reading a segment from Mended by Angie Smith each morning.  The other day I read "The Tyranny of Choice."  It summed up pretty well the place I find myself.

I've been convicted and overwhelmed over the nature of my humanity and the fickleness that is bred in entitlement.  It started a long, long time ago in a garden where God gave them what was good, but they didn't think it was good enough for them.  The first man and woman felt entitled to choose what they wanted even when He told them that choice was forbidden.  They didn't need it.  They weren't entitled to everything.  He had given them everything the needed.  He had given them Himself.... 
When you expect a choice in every situation, you need to pause and consider what is driving you.  Has God given you what you need?  Are you being overwhelmed by a drive to choose from a tree He has forbidden?...
I don't need a thousand choices in this life.  I need Him. 
I'm desperate for Him, actually.
 When you are tempted to feel overwhelmed by first-world problems and choices, whisper that word under your breath until you feel your bones ache with Truth.  Him. Him. Him.  He gave Himself.
There's no time to wonder about what else He could have given you.  Every bit of it is irrelevant in light of Him.  Live a life that loves Him back.  Choose well.  He is enough.

I'm humbled and bent low.  I knew I loved sugar, I didn't realize I felt entitled to it. 

I'm also reading two other books right now {I know that's a lot of books at one time! I'm taking my time with each of them, and I don't think its a mistake that they are overlapping.}  Orphan Justice and The Circle Maker.  I think it is fair to say I am a mess. It's uncomfortable.  Parts are just plain ugly.  I'm thankful for the pruning, because I know there is no growth without it.    I can honestly say I am done predicting what He is going to tell me in this.  I just want to lean in close and listen.

The other morning, I found myself in Nehemiah, and this verse resonated:

"When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven."  Nehemiah 1:4

I think there is much more pruning to come.

I'm so grateful for the other ladies doing this with me.  It's been a blessing and encouragement to hear how they are being challenged too.  There were a few times where my self-talk could pretty much convince me that "this whole thing is sort of dumb and silly."  Without fail, another lady in the group would share something meaningful and get my brains back on track.

Up next?  Clothing.  Oh boy.

06 March 2013

about the food stuff

I told you about 7: an experimental mutiny against excess in the last post.

I told you a little about how awesome the ladies are that are in the book club. (From 3 countries and at least 10 states, cool huh?)

I told you a little about how I tend to listen to the Spirit and how I see Him shifting my listening skills to be more beneficial to our relationship.

I briefly said something about the food fast.  And added that I might come back to tell you more about it.  So here I am.

For my fast, I decided I would do 12 days out of our two-week allotment.  I talked with Brad about it and we really didn't feel it would be practical as a family to try to choose only 7 foods to eat for 12 days.  We also decided that it would be a pretty bad idea for me to fast completely from a meal a day (or any other version of the-real-deal-no-eating-fast).  We also agreed that it would be absurd for me to try to make two meals at dinner - one for me to include my 7 and one for them.  In full disclosure, at this point, I thought Brad would suggest I just eat dinner like we normally do, and I was fully prepared to agree to that suggestion.  Instead, we settled on eating beans + rice for dinner as a family for 12 days.  Our version of beans + rice has onions, green peppers, and smoked sausage... and we actually eat this meal once or twice a month.  So in a way, I was let off the 7 hook a bit.  (The boys and Brad get to eat normal breakfast and lunch.  And the three youngest will get passes on the beans + rice with from-the-pantry or from-the-fridge replacements).

So this is my 7 list:
  • eggs
  • apples
  • green pepper
  • whole wheat bread
  • beans + rice
  • milk
  • coffee

Brad still thinks I shouldn't count milk + coffee; but because my beans + rice are rather luxurious I haven't added anything different.  At least not on purpose... I have eaten about 2 chips, 5 pieces of life cereal, and I added lettuce to my egg salad sandwich today - which had just a smidge of mayo to hold the egg together.

Day 1, found me in absolute shock over how often I walk through the kitchen and pop something in my mouth.  Like all day long.  And oh my the sweets.  I miss them.  So much.  I was prepared to blame my morning headache on lack of sugar; and was awaiting body shakes and cold sweats.  Instead I just day-dreamed. A lot.

Day 3, Brad brought home an Almond Joy candy bar for me.  He forgot.  But remembered as soon as he saw the look on my face when I saw it.  After the boys were in bed, I casually mentioned, "I sure would like to eat that Almond Joy."  You know why I said that to Brad?  Because I thought he'd give me permission to just go ahead and eat it.  He more or less ignored my statement though.  He's a good man.

Day 4, [yesterday] I had a dentist appointment.  If you know me a little bit, you might know that I am not a fan of the dentist.  I blame it on my childhood visits to the dental college in Flint and that dentist downtown Flushing that was "so cheap compared to everyone else" (and also creepy.)

So more or less, not a fan.  I usually break into a sweat - I compare the dentist's chair to a tanning bad - they need to be disinfected between use due to all the sweat.  Gross, but accurate.

Back to the point.  I recently got into the habit of buying myself a reward after the dentist.  Something like a donut or a hazelnut misto from Starbuck's.  Just a little something to brighten my day after all that sweating and fist-clenching.  I whined to Brad that I wasn't going to be able to buy myself a treat after my cleaning because of 7.  He didn't say much to this either.  He's a good man.

His silence left some space for the Holy Spirit though.

I was humbled by what I learned through this.  Its almost embarrassing to share it here, because it is SO OBVIOUS.

It is a privilege to have dental insurance.  I should know this because we didn't have it when I was growing up (hence dental college visits).  My husband works hard and pays a bit out of his paycheck so I can go to the dentist.  There is such a huge number of people that would LOVE that opportunity... a quick google search just told me that there are 100 million AMERICANS that cannot afford dental insurance.  I imagine in some parts of the world it is almost incomprehensible that we pay someone to clean our teeth.  We recently watched a clip on 60 minutes about the Africa Mercy Ships and the tumors they remove because of over-grown enamel - something that doesn't occur here because a dentist would spot it and take care of it before it had a chance to grow. 

And I usually complain about it.  Like every day between when I get the post-card-reminder and when I go.  I get all pouty about it even.  Like a five year old.

Worse yet, I buy myself a TREAT afterwards.  Like a five year old.

And even worse, when I find myself in a commitment that doesn't allow for a treat - I whine about it to my husband.  As well as gripe about it internally all morning before my appointment.

The fact that I complain about a privilege is sickening.  I was comfortable complaining about it every time too.  I didn't just complain once on a bad day.  Nope, it was my habit to complain about this privilege every single time.  Could I be more like the Israelites?  (cue Chandler Bing voice)

Thankfully the Lord is full of mercy and grace.  I pray that this lesson sticks.  I do not want to be a complainer.  I don't want to find portions of my days where I give myself a "pass" to complain about _____________ (fill in the blank).  I want to be grateful.

If eating eggs, apples, green pepper, bread, beans + rice, milk & coffee for 12 days makes me a more grateful Christ-follower.  So be it.

I was led to these three verses this morning.  Each one brought encouragement in a different way.  I hope you find a bit of encouragement too.

My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  
Psalm 73:26

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.  
psalm 73:28

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.  
I Corinthians 15:57

P.S.  a few of the awesome ladies from the group are also blogging.  You can check them out by clicking their names:

04 March 2013

listening : best practices

As you may {or may not} know I am participating with an awesome group of ladies in an online book club.  36 ladies to be exact.  I need to map it out, because they are from all over.  Which is all kinds of awesome.

We are doing the book 7: an experimental mutiny against excess.

The book came out last year and the internets were abuzz.  I wanted to read it.  But you might remember this time last year was a bit overwhelming - you know, with the new toddler twins added to the mix.  Thankfully over time, the overwhelming has morphed into our new normal.  I had sort of forgotten a little about 7, but not really.  So when I asked the awesome ladies in my book club if we wanted to start a 2nd book, the first suggestion was 7.

So here we are.  7 is basically a look into all of your stuff.  Jen Hatmaker breaks it down into 7 categories to really spend time looking at the excess via fasting & reducing in those categories.  Jen spent 7 months, focusing on one category each month.

The premise is to reduce all of the 'things' that fill up your time/space/thoughts/etc and allow Jesus that room.  As Jen says in the introduction, "Jesus, may there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom."  Yes, please, amen.

The first two weeks we are doing the "food fast."  Each lady in our group can choose to apply the fast in the way that makes the most sense for her.  I am blown away by the way the Spirit has led each of us.  I don't think any of us will have matching fasts.  Which is a beautiful reminder of the way God leads us always.  None of us have matching paths.  None. Of. Us.  Thank you, Jesus.

I might write more about my food choices and all the shock I am experiencing over just how often I long for some sugar.  Oh my heavens.  I think I knew this about myself, but I didn't r-e-a-l-l-y know this about myself.  You know?  But on to the listening part...

I am so excited to be clearing away some clutter so I can listen better to the Spirit.

Really listen.

The funny thing is, that I have been trying to predict the Spirit.

It actually reminds me a bit of Grandma Rose.  You must know I adore her.  She has been up in all my business for as long as I can remember.  Of course, this was super annoying when I was a teenager, but grows more endearing the older I get.  She even let my pregnant self + my potty-training-two-year-old move in with her while Brad was in basic and AIT.  {She earned so many jewels in her crown over those 8 months.}  Unfortunately for Grandma, her hearing is horrible.   She actually has complete hearing loss in one ear because of  a virus, and I think the hearing loss in her "good ear" would be labeled profound.   It complicates our long-distance relationship because we are left only being able to talk over the phone, which is difficult at best.  I would never call her during nap time because my shouting would surely wake the boys.  Sometimes I have to spell words out... and then add the "F as in Frank, I as in igloo, G as in george".  Usually it's only a few parts of the conversation that end up needing spelling + shouting to reach a place of understanding.  You know what parts?  The parts when Grandma tries to predict what I am telling her.  It gets hard straining to listen, so she tries to guess what I am saying.  Her mind starts processing what she has guessed and before you know it we are in two different places.  Its frustrating sometimes.  For both of us probably.  Our best conversations are face-to-face.  It has been a gift to get to stay at her house when we travel to the great north.  We take a few moments to sit and drink {decaf. instant} coffee and eat some of her cookies and just chat.  There are rarely misunderstandings in our face-to-face chats.  Usually there is a time or two that I have to tell her something that I don't want to the whole house to hear {think Christmas Eve}, so I have to lean in close to her good ear.  She almost always reaches a hand up to my face to pull me close - she adores a whispered word - if we're standing she'll even put an arm around me.  She doesn't want to miss it.

This is where I find myself at the beginning of 7.  Trying to predict the words the Spirit wants to tell me, jumping to conclusions as I begin processing what He *might* be saying. Maybe I get tired straining to listen, so I just guess?  Maybe I am in a rush?  All I know is that my guessing leads me away from where He is leading.  I don't want to do that.  I want to be still.  I want to sit down and soak it in. I want a face to face conversation.  Often.  I want to pull Him close so I don't miss a word.

Our Pastor said yesterday, "the key to your life is how well you listen," the bottom line is to "ACT on what you HEAR."  I needed those reminders.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 
and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 
then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 
For the Lord gives wisdom, 
and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  
Proverbs 2:1-6