Discovering Simplicity: Part 2

photo credit: http://www.gardenguides.com/vegetables/

 

 

As you probably know, over the past few months God has been tuning my heart to hear what He has to say about excess and waste and greed and my role in all of it. I typically never thought of myself as greedy, but after analyzing my life, I realize that my actions have a tendency to show more self indulgence than they do generosity, more carelessness than intentionality. This stuff is counter-cultural to Jesus. He came and did everything with intention. He gave freely. He moved people. He changed lives. So we wanted to see if we could remove some of the dependence we have on food, on things that are unhealthy, and on cooking well (aka: spending money), and replace it with self-control and gratefulness for what we’ve been given. This is a huge lesson in stewardship and it was hard, but guess what??

WE DID IT!!!

We intentionally spent only $100 dollars on groceries for our home (actually it was $97, but who’s counting??), and it really, really worked. We didn’t go hungry, we didn’t lose weight, we just limited and cut back and had self control at the grocery store. It’s really amazing what can happen when we plan ahead, only go to the store for certain things, and cook creatively.

One caveat would be to say that we did eat out the same amount as we normally do (in April, this will be our target item to cut back on) and if we were in a hurry (meaning not if we ran out of food) we sometimes bought food/coffee at work. Mostly though, we tried to pack as much as we could, which meant that packing lunches was a part of the $100 goal.

This was an incredible month. We both stopped snacking, and we ate smaller portions, and we thought about and prayed for those who are hungry way more. We were grateful for every meal and it was amazing to find things to make for dinner even though we had “nothing to eat”… God wrecked me once again and I am so grateful that He did. This fast was incredibly successful and it’s my hope that He was glorified.

We would encourage as many people as we can to take a look at their lives and find one area where cutting back could be more helpful than harmful and challenge yourself and your family. Whatever your motivation: financial, awareness, simplicity– you will change through it for the better. I promise.

Some of our friends/family asked specifically how we made this work. Remember that we chose to only live off of 30% of our typical food budget, so creativity did occur, which made it a very fun project for me. So here are some tips on cutting back that really helped our success in this endeavor:

1) Pick 7 guideline foods. For us, we’ve used more than 7 in the end, but starting there gave us a foundation that was very helpful when shopping. None of these food were processed and many had “superfood” qualities. We got most of these foods from the book “7” which was the inspiration to the whole month. Our 7 foods were: chicken, avocado, apples, wheat bread, spinach, rice, and sweet potatoes. We added foods like cereal/oatmeal, grapefruit, and peanut butter/jelly, tuna, eggs, and yogurt, in order to accent the other items and to have more variety when it came to packing lunches/eating breakfast.

2) Eat smaller portions. We started using our salad plates as dinner plates and we filled them to create the illusion that we were eating more. This part is a mind game and it works. We ate the first plate of food as slowly as we could and had a rule that we could only go up for seconds (and the portions the second time around had to be smaller than the first– this worked most times because the portions I cooked were less too) and not thirds. We realized that sometimes going for seconds is about hunger and sometimes its about desire (and we still wanted to enjoy the food we cooked).

3) Eat less meat. We chose to make our food go further by cutting up chicken instead of eating it in whole breasts. Therefore 3 fresh chicken (skinless, boneless) tenders was enough to feed both of us when mixed with veggies and rice. This made the meat last longer in our freezer/refrigerator and we didn’t have to buy it each week which is a huge money saver.

4) Shop local. As much as we could, we used Central Market as our fruit and vegetable go-to place. Dan and I really like fruits and veggies, and we tend to spend a lot of our budget on this stuff at the grocery store. At market, we spent a total of 25$ there for the whole month and ate veggies every night and fruit daily. This called for extra planning since market is only open 3 days a week from morning to early afternoon, and my work schedule didn’t always comply.

5) Be on the same team. For most of this we were completely in unity. Dan was really on board with saving money and I was excited about living simply. This helped, because I can’t imagine trying to do this without him being into it. It also helped when one of us was really craving our favorite snack, or just really wanted to spend money and cook a nice meal, and we could remind each other what our goal was. For the most part, we had a lot of fun doing it together too!

Thank you to all of you who supported us through this. While we will not be holding strict to the $100 budget anymore, we do know that our goal is to maintain self control and learn from what we’ve been taught. This month we are going to be working on stewardship, and I will tell you a little more tomorrow about what that entails for us! We are excited to see what God will continually be doing in our lives!

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Ache

Coming back from my two week writing hiatus because of exhaustion and busyness, and today happens to be Friday. On Fridays I like to stop, drop, and write for 5 minutes with no editing, back-tracking, and over-thinking. I’m doing it with the lovely ladies over at The Gypsy Mama.

 

There is an ache inside me and I’m not sure what it means. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember and I wish I could just figure it out. Sometimes I perceive it as a discontentment, sometimes a calling. Sometimes its just a yearning for more, for change, and sometimes I understand it as a simple need to roll down the windows and drive.

This ache moves me, and there is so much I just can’t figure out about it, that I hope I’m moving in the right direction. It’s the desire that spurs me to more– to be more, to do more, to love more, and to hear more. This ache can be so good, so well-used, and it can be so hard and so misunderstood.

It leads me to my passions and it determines what steps I take and I think that I misunderstand it because sometimes I say that it tells me things that I know it wouldn’t.

You see, this is a holy sort of thing, and sometimes I lay it on the dirt of my own desires and call it by names it would never answer to. And the aching is there and it wants to be used right.

I heard once that the place we are called is the place where our deepest longings and God’s holy desires are combined and in that we will be most satisfied.

And I search for that. For the finding of the fulfillment of  my ache within. And I know it will change, and I know it will grow, and that ache might never leave until we are fully dwelling in Him. So I ache for the day. And I’m learning to find it.

Trust

Five Minute Friday: So it’s that time of the week where I join other women and The Gypsy Mama in writing my heart, unedited, unscripted. Just write for 5 minutes.

Todays topic:

Trust

He asks me to open my hands. To keep them that way. To not try to hold on again, grasping at what I love. He requires this. That this is how I live. Open-handed.

I wish that I could say I want to. But sometimes I don’t. I ask for Him to teach me, to guide me to show me, and He has. But He needs the creases of my hands to face upward. Empty.

Because when I ask for patience, we all know that’s not what He gives. Opportunity. That’s what this God is all about.

But the labor can take years, and there is no epidural sometimes.

To trust Him with our growing pains? Isn’t that what He desires? That resolution doesn’t need to come, and the peace that passes understanding should do just that. I wish I could welcome peace without the need to understand. 

So I try to take the hands from my pockets, and I try to pry each finger from the fist.

But it always goes back.

I say I trust Him. But do I? Do I give Him all of me? Every time?

Oh how I want to…

Discovering simplicity…

If you looked at the life of Dan and I, you might not find it very grand. We are very busy, and our home is cozy, with decor that has been acquired through wedding showers and years of being the daughter of HGTV herself. We don’t spend exhorbitant amounts of money and our technology is relatively little compared to many other americans our age (one tv, one computer, one ipod, one stereo). Our closet is probably the most extravagant, and most difficult to maintain, but that too is many things from years past that have maintained their color and their shape enough to be re-accesserized (at least my part of the closet, that is) ;). And our food consumption/waste is definitely not well balanced, but is not to the gluttony stages that I consider unhealthy, but that one is all a matter of perspective.

But here’s the thing, this is a ridiculous amount of stuff compared to the rest of the world. Period. We live in privilege and we aren’t grateful. We aren’t grateful enough. I love our life and the coziness, the beauty of the new familiar, the peace that can be found in our home when it’s clean. But I started thinking a few months ago things like: Where does all of the money go (granted, much goes to debt, but still…)? Do we really eat all of the food in the refrigerator without it going to waste? What really is a healthy and moderate and reasonable portion size? What is the balance between loving fashion and knowing there are people without any clothes? How can we just keep living, talking about loving the unlovely, talking about decluttering and simple living, and at the same time maintain the status quo of our lifestyle choices, without giving them a second thought.

So a tangible thought came to me… What would we do if our food resources were limited? How much would we save if we ate, and planned to eat, only when we were hungry? If I were a better planner, would our food budget decrease simply by more conscientious choices?

And so I created a goal… Let’s try, for an entire month, to live on 30% of our typical food budget. This figure would end up being about $100. I knew I would have to get creative, and I knew that we would have to live with a lot of self control. sigh. 

After that I started reading a book that is kind’ve wrecking my world about necessity and love and giving and discipline. It challenges our habits, our motivations, our true heart’s intent, to the point where I am now looking at my life and realizing that our heart for God’s people is not demonstrated wholeheartedly within our finances, even though we’ve tried to make wise and discerning financial decisions as we go along.

I began to pray that God would move our hearts to desire Him alone in this process. That instead of it just being a budget cutting tool, it would become a sort of fast, a way that leads us to His heart and aligns us more with His will. And that is what He is doing.

I am seeing God move in my life in ways I never thought… I am starting to see so much excess and greed in my life and want to rid myself of it for good. I see that though I am grateful for my possessions, I still act like they are my possessions, rather than relying on Christ alone to provide for our every need and want. I am realizing that we are rich. For real. Even if we are just starting out, even if we are paying off a bunch of school debt, even if. Because much of the world doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from and many Christians are literally relying on God for their daily bread, and somehow I sit in my house with my refrigerator and freezer and hoard the possessions God has given me to share, and I still am willing to call myself the sister of one of those many when really I don’t even know how to begin to identify with them.

So we are cutting back. Intentionally. And we are more fulfilled. Already. There is so much more I could say as to our reasons, and how God is teaching us through this, but I literally would have to write much, much more than I have time for right now.

So…

30% of our food budget is first (and we are only choosing 7 foods— and a few extras for work— that are allowed to be purchased at the store, full of health and goodness), maybe clothes is next, or possessions, or whatever, I don’t know.

But I sense something is happening, and I wish you could catch my fire, enthusiasm, excitement for this endeavor over the blogsphere. Because this is real and God is working and it’s awesome!

“Freely you have received. Freely give.” Matthew 10:8

 

 

*I would seriously recommend the book 7: An experimental mutiny against excess, by Jen Hatmaker, even though I am only on the second chapter. Read it folks, you won’t be sorry. Not one bit.

Real

It’s Five Minute Friday with The Gypsy Mama again… Time to write for the love of it, without the second glances and over-editing that we all do.

 

We need real. We need depth and purity and hard stuff and honesty. We need openness and no-makeup faces, and hands that hold the broken. We need tears to cry and someone to catch them, the arms of that dear one who knows you so well.

Who is it for you? There are places when I am most real. No, I don’t have trouble with the heart-on-my-sleeve deal, but sometimes it’s the vulnerable that get the most hurt, and then who do you turn to? Only the trusted. Only the ones who take it all. Everything you have to offer.

And we crave real. We don’t always know it, but then it pours like a floodgate whether we like it or not. Oh the  riches of the waterfalls that flow. Were not they healing streams? I believe that those beautiful moments, they are the defining ones. Who are we to the everyday person, who are we to our closest ones? Are we different? Or do we align?

Because these hearts need to start beating outside our chests. We need the rhythm of each other to identify ourselves. So what do we do when everyone stops beating and we can’t find our pulse? It can’t be good.

I want to break the bonds that so bind me. That even I, so naturally open, would chase away the hidden parts, the insecurities, the brokenness. And speak so openly so healing can start. So these bones that are dry and scorched and weary sometimes, can find life again.

Oh, thank you, my people. The ones who take me. Who get me. Who welcome me. You are few and you are fair and I would be nothing if your shoulders were not beside me.

You know who you are. You are the real ones to me.

Tender

So I’m writing to you here, from my sofa, as a girl in slow motion, praying for her coffee to kick in. The week has caught up with me, and I’m not sure what to do, because for me, the week is far from over….

So I will try to keep my disciplines and I will start by writing today, even if the thoughts are running slower than ever.

Today is Five Minute Friday, where The Gypsy Mama invites us to stop, drop, and write for 5 minutes without over-thinking or editing or backtracking. Today, this could be interesting :).

So here it goes:

Tender

Sometimes life causes us to callous. It causes us to crack and bruise and grow hard shells. It causes us to build walls triple our size and manufacture sentences so when people ask the “how are you” questions, we don’t really have to tell. There are events that can change us, that when paired next to the grand, beautiful moments of life, these hard ones take more stalk in our spirit. Why is that? Why is it that I look at the lovely parts of life and they matter, but the hard ones make weight? Why is it that when my dreams take over in the middle of the night, the regrets play out again and again, not the cherished moments that I wish I could relive? Why is it that the vulnerable, bruised parts of my soul, need protection and covered, so that I don’t feel I will break at any moment?

And he sees this, the man I have committed my life to. I’m not sure he realizes, but he’s the one who gets the brunt of it. The defensive mechanisms, the angry reactions, the parts of me that don’t want to let him all in. But it’s not because of him. He is wonderful and he loves me, and I don’t tell him enough. I blame him for not fighting for me, for not breaking down my walls, for not trying to be my hero. But how can he when I just build more? How can he when he doesn’t know they are there?

And it’s not his job to do these things, it’s his job to love and its my job to nurture and if I’m waiting around for him to do his part then I never get to doing mine.

And so I must open, I must grow. I must crack and show these bruises, these heartaches, so that we can live life, so that we can live whole.

I must learn tenderness, and I must overcome my defenses. I must grow softer, and more gentle, because in that I will find fulfillment and in that he will rise up. These are the hard parts. These are the parts they don’t tell you.

Oh tenderness, rise up in me. I want to learn what this grace means.

Am I willing to worship without my voice?

The past few days, I have been sick– gross sick. One of the casualties from this sickness was that of my voice and it got me thinking…

Many of those who know me would know that my voice is the way I convey myself, sometimes more effectively than others. I convey my passion through my volume, and most days go by when I wish I had talked less, thought more, listened better, and had more control of the fire that can sometimes be this tongue of mine. On the other hand, my absolute favorite way to worship my Creator has been through my voice– through writing and singing and leading. I love the sincerity of our hearts when singing pure and true words to our Maker and Savior. I love the redemption that I am reminded of when I relive the very human moments of my week where my tongue has said things I would never articulate in the presence of Christ himself.

But what’s funny is that during this time of not being able to sing and vocalize, I have felt disconnected from God. And so I wonder, do I like hearing my own voice more than I crave hearing His? Why could I not truly savor the quiet that came from less speaking and more listening? Why couldn’t I relish in the slow-down and accept what my heart needs most– restoration?  Because I do believe that some of my most effective prayers are the ones where I stop talking and that my heart is most aligned in Him when I am truly living listening.

And isn’t that worship? Isn’t it that we allow God Himself to pour into us, so that we in response can give all we are to Him. Why don’t I recognize this in the daily life? That if I lived more quietly, I would learn to receive the grace that is His presence, that is His rest. Why don’t I understand that if I truly trust Him, then I would let Him do more speaking and I wouldn’t have to speak nearly as much? That I convey distrust to my redeemer every time I let my words get out of control.

The Lord will fight for you, and you need only be still… Exodus 14:14

Do I trust that He will fight my battles, and I don’t even need to raise an arm or speak a word off of my tongue? I believe this truth with all of my heart, but I, daily, forget who is fighting my battles for me. And don’t we all just like to fight for ourselves sometimes for the sake of fighting. But that gets exhausting.

Lord, let my words be few.


Vivid

It’s Friday again, and that means I join many other bloggers and write for five minutes without editing or over-thinking on a topic The Gypsy Mama selects.

Vivid…

Oh, I see it.

Our life unfolding.

With the colors of walls and paint splattered souls.

And I see us changing.

I see us not being two separate colors anymore,

But learning to become one shade, one tone.

And maybe sometimes we mix the wrong way

and the color comes out ugly.

But soon, I do hope, that the color we create will be

more vivid than we can know.

more colorful than we dream.

That the blur of who we were and are and will be

will mingle together.

I hope this color will be painted on canvases all over this earth.

And I secretly hope that this world will make us richer, deeper,

like the jewel tones.

So that we may be precious, and valuable, and all together lovely.

And so husband, walk with me. And let’s mold together.

I promise and I yearn that my color will learn match yours.

And that we will be pure and beautiful, and unstained.

That we will be a shade of peace,

and a tone of hope.

The kaleidoscope of our natures,

a vived re-creation of two stained-glass hearts.

Formed into a glorious picture that lasts forever.

Dreaming.

Today, we celebrated a man who has changed the course of our history, who changed the perception of human minds and challenged the ideas of society, who spoke truth and wisdom with peace and love, who lived what he spoke and was full of integrity. He loved. He served. He dreamed.

And this day hits me in a number of ways. I am so grateful, because my family is made up of a multitude of colors and ethnicities, and I love it. I love the variety of it, the beauty it portrays, the questions it causes people to ask, the Jesus that it shows. I love that our world is not made up of people who look the same and I love that God is so unique and interesting that He chooses to make us mimic this in the portraits of ourselves. And I love that because people of courage and people of peace chose to recognize injustice and speak for the misunderstood. I love that these acts of bravery have changed the course of many friends and families that I know, and that there are people like this in the world to admire. I love that he is recognized as a hero. I love that he lived Jesus.

And so I wonder, did he find himself so significant, or did he just speak the words he knew were right? Did he ever think that his words would ignite a movement that has changed the course of our nation? I think he knew there was power in what he spoke, but I don’t know if he understood that his dream would be a reality.

It makes me question myself and the things I am so willing to talk about in the confines of my friendships, of my safe places. Am I willing to say them publicly? Am I willing to stand for the injustices that I see and have the courage to speak words? Would I do it in humility? Would I do it with grace? Would people even listen? Is that the only reason I would start talking?

These world changers, these peacemakers, these people of courage have challenged me. They have shown me character and humility and how to follow what is right. I hope that I can dream the big things, the hard things, and be willing to stand for truth. I wish that I could look these people in the eye and say thank you for the difference they have made in my life, thank them for the courage they portrayed, because the people who make a difference often don’t get to see the fruits of their labor. I am so grateful for these people that we can show to our children, and teach them the truths that can so often get lost in the shuffle– that good can win, and love does work, truth is the answer, and Jesus makes all the difference.