Archives For Accountability

December, oh how I love you! It brings colder weather, Chase’s birthday, snow on occasion and the Christmas season! It really is my favorite time of the year! The joys of bundling up with a good book in hand while the fireplace sends off it’s warmth, decorating the Christmas tree, shopping for loved ones in wonderfully decorated stores that are playing those catchy Christmas tunes. And you can’t forget all the fun Christmas movies that are always a great addition to this time of year! There is only one thing that puts a damper on this glorious season… STRESS! We all get stressed from time to time. Those packed shopping malls can be the cherry on top of a stressful sundae. You all know what I am talking about… the crowded walk ways that no one can ever get through without feeling squished. Then there are all the other stresses that can come around this time… budgeting for presents. We all want to be able to afford to give everyone we love something nice for Christmas, but on a nice fee-sable budget The last thing anyone wants is to give a gift that screams budget.

While most of these things are never really that big of a deal, when the moment comes that we feel overwhelmed the stress has finally come and everything is a big deal! Here is a confession… when I am stressed chocolate and I are best friends-especially Reese’s peanut buttercups! I know, this is a terrible habit to form. It’s either the chocolate or crying. Well this month I am attempting to tackle this issue! Month two of my Searching for Simplicity began this week and I am doing the stress fast. Yes, I am well aware that I can not prevent from stressful situations coming my way, but that is not the point of this fast. This month is all about being intentional in how we respond to stress, making it a habit to run to God in prayer instead of our typical responses.

This fast is all about setting aside seven times in my day for prayer, praying over specific subjects during each prayer time. Currently my alarms are set for midnight, 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.! Yes that’s right, my alarm is set for midnight! It won’t be easy, but already in the first week I am amazed at what I have begun to learn about myself, but that I will share with you another time!

 

Photo Credit: Allie Caulfield

Have you ever read a book and when you were done you put it down and thought, wow, that totally just wrecked my life! Well that just happened to me! Recently my friend Michelle Clark wrote a post, One of those Christians, about her journey of reading and fasting through the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker. After hearing all that she learned from this book and how highly she talked about it I decided I should check it out. All that I have to say is WOW! I finished the book in a week and realized this was one of those life changing books! We all have our share of clutter, excess and stress. Boy does this book really make you take a look at these areas and realize that you can do something about it. I knew when I put the book down that there was no way I would be able to simply read this book and just walk away, l was inspired! I decided to take Jen’s book to heart and follow in her example. I am on a seven month journey to seek simplicity, growth and change. I call it Searching for Simplicity.

Jen’s book focused on seven areas of excess. She picked one area of focus a month and then fasted from seven things in that area. Her seven focuses were food, clothing, waste, media, possessions, spending and stress. So as of November 1st I started month one of the seven month-long fast. Which area did I pick to focus on first? Clothing. Why is it that I have a closet full of clothes and there are mornings where I will complain of nothing to wear? Why is it that I can pick out a shirt only to change saying that I wore it recently, assuming that people truly pay that much attention to my clothes. How often can I so easily walk by a shirt in a store and see that it is on sale for only $5 and think, oh, that’s a good price, and it’s cute! I can honestly say that sometimes I will walk away without buying and other times I find the deal just good enough to buy, as if I need anymore shirts. The sad thing is how many items of clothing I keep in my closet for the “just in case.” I’m sure you know what I am talking about, it’s that shirt that you wore only once or twice but maybe if you find the right pair of pants you’ll wear it again. Or, that pair of jeans that doesn’t really fit right anymore but you stash it away in case you find yourself able to wear them. The kicker are the shirts that I have and I know have been in my closest unworn for more than year, why am I still keeping these?! 

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My seven articles of clothing

Thus begins month one of seven. In doing this clothing fast this means that I can only pick seven articles of clothing to wear for the next four weeks, SEVEN! This was not easy! That means seven articles to wear for the next four weeks, whether I’m awake, asleep, out and about or at home… SEVEN, that’s it! I have picked my articles, and yes I have swapped and switched a couple of times until the final decision was made. So here it is people, my seven articles of clothing that you will see me wear time and time again this November:

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of sweatpants
  • Green LifeChurch.tv Financial Operations t-shirt
  • Grey blouse
  • Orange t-shirt
  • Pink long sleeve shirt
  • Multi-color cardigan

Here is what I am not counting against my seven articles. Shoes, I have picked two pairs of shoes to wear during this month, a pair of Vans and a pair of winter boots. Also, undergarments are excluded from this number because that’s just an essential. The last and final item that I do not count is a coat. Jen did not wear a coat, however I am making this exception in regards to my Lupus. One of my struggles I have is my fingers turning white and numb when I am cold and the doctor told me it is important to keep my core warm to help with this issue. So, I tossed in a cardigan to wear for the chilly days but if it gets cold I will wear a coat while outside. I have approved this with the “council” which is my two friends who are like accountability partners during this journey, which Jen also had. I don’t think that a coat on a small occasion will keep me from growing, but also I will only be using the coat if I honestly need it.

So yes, you will be seeing me repeat my outfits on a pretty regular basis this month. And yes, I will probably be more aware of how often I wear a shirt than everybody else. But, I am excited to hear all that God has to teach me during these next seven months. Sometimes the greatest lessons happen during those moments when we are the most uncomfortable, and that is what I intend to do during my search for simplicity!

For those of you that have followed the guest blog posts you will remember Michelle Clark of Miss Banana Pants from her earlier post she did for me about All Moms are Liars. Well today she brings some great insight into her journey of a seven month fast…

 

We’ve all felt the clutter of life at one time or another. I think that it comforts us to a certain degree. Having more “stuff” makes us feel secure, distracted, and accomplished.  I’ve truthfully never been very materialistic. Stuff doesn’t mean very much to me. Just ask my husband in the way that I take care of my mess of a car, continuously pile clutter in every corner of my house, and resolve to the fact that we will never have super nice furniture because we have kids. I’m okay with it. To a certain extent.  The truth is I’ve been a horrible steward of my stuff. I should take better care of what I’m given/what we can afford. I’ve just always had a very “disposable” mentality about stuff. It’s here today, it’s helpful, if it breaks/is stolen/goes through the ringer, it’s okay. It’s all disposable and we will just get something else. I trick myself into thinking that my stuff does not own me.  Maybe it doesn’t. But my perspective on my stuff does. Just because I don’t cling to my stuff, doesn’t mean I don’t take it for granted. I’m not concerned with it being gone, because “out with the old, in with the new”. Do you struggle with this? Or do you hold on to your possessions as if they define you?

Enter the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker and my life is wrecked.

I made the massive mistake of taking this “simple-looking” book with me on vacation to read by the beach. I think I must be the very first girl ever to sit in a lounge chair in the sand staring at the ocean waves and reading a book about EXCESS. Seems a bit hypocritical.  Not an easy book to read while on vacation, I’ll tell ya!  Try reading it at the pool…in your ocean condo…while your kids argue about cable TV stations.  It did feel wrong.  I was so spoiled at that moment.  No, it wasn’t wrong to go on vacation.  Actually, it was an amazing free blessing/gift to our family and we were humbled by the love that has been shown to us.  It just wasn’t an ideal place to read about excess. Not at all.  We just have so much stuff and are so selfish.  Don’t you ever get tired of how greedy we have become?  It seems like the more we get  –  the more we THINK we need.  We feel like we DESERVE it all.  It’s a terrible cycle and I was ready to get off.  Something definitely had to give.  I soaked in each word and let it simmer in my mind and heart throughout vacation and came home with a resolve.  This stuff that Jen Hatmaker covered in her book wasn’t “new” new but she did something about it.  She put feet to her words.  I knew that I wanted to begin to put feet to mine as well.  I was not going to be just another woman who simply reads this book and says that it’s a “life changing” theory and experiment.  I wanted to do.  I wanted to act.  I wanted to be wrecked to the point of change.  It was official.  I didn’t want to be comfortable anymore. I wanted to take on Jen Hatmaker’s challenge to fast in the seven areas of my life that were defining who I was:  Food, Clothes, Possessions, Media, Spending, Waste, and Stress.

Currently, I’m just finishing up my Food Fast for month one and boy, am I glad it’s almost over! Not because I didn’t learn a TON, but because I am ready to try to be a better steward in this department on my own. In the book, “7”, Jen just chose seven different foods and ate nothing but those seven things all month-long. What dedication! I am not that spiritual! Ha! I, instead, made seven food rules for myself to adhere to for the entire 4 weeks, and I have to say, I followed most of them pretty well.  They were:  No Fast Food, No Pop/Soda, No Alcohol, No Pork, No Chocolate, No Eating After 7 pm, and Only ONE grocery trip per week.

During this whole first month, the main things that I’ve learned are just how spoiled I am in the area of food. I’ve never had to worry about what I will eat until now. I’m having to plan ahead because I can’t just grab something on the go. Sometimes I have found myself literally consumed with how to organize my day around us having enough time to come home and cook something. I’ve never had to think about food so much in my life! I am realizing what a blessing it’s been to be born into a society that, for the most part, doesn’t have to worry about food.  I live a privileged life.  I’ve never known hunger, poverty, or despair. I have been ridiculously blessed relationally, spiritually, and physically.  My life is so happy, it’s almost embarrassing at times when I think of it in comparison to so many other people in other countries.  And yet, this month, I let the little things like the fact that I couldn’t just run through a drive-thru window for lunch or grab a soda obstruct my view on my reality.  I struggled to see how blessed I am because I wasn’t able to see the forest because I was concentrating on the trees.  Even before this month I did that.  I concentrate too much on the few things that I can’t have instead of all the endless things that I do have at my disposal  I have more food (even with all this month’s limitations) in one single day than most of the earth’s population see their whole lives.  If anything is ridiculous, it’s that fact. But how many times do we really stop and think about that fact?  If we did, it would not only change the way we think about food, but it would revolutionize the way we think about life.

As this month ends and I am about to embark on the next phase of this 7 month fast, I’m excited to see what more God has to teach me. Next month’s focus is “Clothes” and I’ve decided to mirror the experiment that Hatmaker did in her book.  She chose only 7 articles of clothes and wore nothing but those things for an entire month. Sounds completely ridiculous, eh? But I really think that this month might stir in me a new-found appreciation for what it feels like to not only not care about what you look like, but focus more time and energy on changing the ME behind the facade of fashion.  This month I’m sure to see some inner change. I can’t wait.

For those of you who think this whole thing is so WEIRD, you are totally right. I think it is too, actually.  Really, it’s okay to think I’m becoming one of those Christians. But in the words of our pastor, “I welcome WEIRD. Normal isn’t working anymore.” It’s not. I’m sure that most of Jesus’ ideas weren’t so popular either.  I’m convinced that He got the “I-thought-you-were-normal-but-now-I-see-I-was-clearly-wrong” face plenty of times. He seriously knew how to thin out a crowd.  He always gunned for less, reduced, simplified.  He was the most fully and completely unselfish, ungreedy, unpretentious man to ever live, and I just want to be more like Him.  It’s as simple as that. If limiting myself of my favorite things for 7 months can help Jesus overcome me, then so be it.  I’m okay with an oddball label.  I think we should all learn to be a bit more different. One of my all-time favorite quotes came from a speaker at a youth conference I went to almost 10 years ago but it has always stuck with me.  “You cannot make a difference in this world unless you ARE different from this world.”

 

Photo Credit: Rachelulgado

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

Lately I have changed my routine from reading my Bible before bed to now waking up early and reading it after I work out. It was a challenge making myself actually do this because I do not like getting up earlier than I have to, but I am glad that I finally did. That first week was rough. I was tired from not being used to getting up early and satan was attacking me every which way. It felt like that week I just couldn’t seem to catch a break at all. I was continually reminding myself that he was attacking me because I was doing something right, I was starting my day off with God and satan was going to do everything he could to make me stop. Wonderfully, God has also given me some good friends at work that I was able to share this with and get encouragement. He alwasy knows just what we need and who we need in our paths, it’s just amazing how He does that!

Now that I have adjusted to my new routine I find my days better, my moods better and just feel closer with God through out my day. Morning Bible studies have always been a challenge for me but something that I have felt that I should do for a while now and I am so glad that I made that change! It never fails that when we are doing something right satan will attack. Don’t let that defeat you, don’t give in! God will bless you for diligently seeking Him!

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan