Monday, October 20, 2014

Surrender, Pray, Listen {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is stress.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the concept that each area of excess leads to a corresponding deficit (after all, we only have so much attention to give). When I was journaling through that idea at the end of September, I listed seven pairs, a 7 topic with whatever it was overshadowing, and next to Stress I wrote Prayer (in part because that's the Good Christian Answer).

I've been keeping up with a few other 31 Days series(es?), one of which is 31 Days of Resting in Him over at Abiding Love, Abounding Grace. While I highly recommend all of her posts thus far, the ones that have stood out the most for me are on listening prayer. That's not something that I'd ever heard of before - to pray, asking specifically to hear from God, then journal through whatever happens next (and check it against Scripture afterwards). While I've definitely read through a passage of Scripture (or some other book), jotting down words and phrases that stood out, and looking at my list afterwards as a method of personal introspection, writing down thoughts and attributing them to God seemed a bit... iffy. Like something that would have a lot of potential for coming up with the answer I wanted instead of the answer I needed.

However, a side effect of stopping and praying every three hours is that I've begun to run out of things to pray about (after I go through my nice little list, and the default topics, my imagination fails and my mind begins to wander). So after yesterday's sermon on worship I took my journal onto the balcony to work through the notes I took, and decided to finish with listening prayer. Because I can focus better on paper, I wrote out my prayer, pausing to consider possible answers before beginning. Read more. Memorize Scripture.  Doing-y things. Then I started writing. Please reveal to me specific steps that I can take in order to grow closer to You. Before I was even finished, three words pressed themselves firmly into my mind: Surrender. Pray. Listen.

Not necessarily what I wanted to hear (as a recovering legalist, I kind of like doing things and those are very non-do-y things) but undoubtedly what I needed to hear. It's true - I do need to let go of both my hopes and my fears, actually pray (instead of whining in God's direction), and then pause to hear His reply (you know, like, a conversation).

So I've been trying to actually apply the steps that I was given, since I asked for them and all - I'll write more about how that's going later this week. It's only day two... I wonder what the next five days will hold?

Do you take pauses in the midst of your busyness? (Head here for Karrilee's post on listening prayer - it's a perfect pause!)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

To Give Us Pause {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is stress.

Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. The fourth commandment. After making sure that our relationship with Him is on track, and before moving on to our relationships with others, God gives us a gift - a chance to stop and recalibrate our busy lives. And as such, it may be the easiest one to overlook and dismiss as culturally irrelevant, or simply impossible.

A few days ago, I was aggravated at Adam (not over anything dreadful - we just both decided to act human at the same time). I put Brooklyn down for her nap, ate my lunch, and seethed. It was giving me a headache, so I sat down and prayed about it, then curled up on the couch. When I woke up two hours later, my headache and my frustration were gone. I feel like that's what Sabbath does - it derails whatever mindless train of thought we're on and then offers us an opportunity to start again on a better track. Sure, I might have gotten the dishwasher emptied if I hadn't taken a nap, but I would have fumed the whole time and our evening together after he got home from work would have been less than pleasant - and that's not really a worthwhile exchange.

Still, trying to get a whole entire day of rest as a family with a Little can be more stressful than renewing - so I'm learning to embrace Sabbath pauses, like my new ritual of sitting on the balcony to eat lunch, then spending some time reading, journaling, and praying. Even though I've only been doing it for a few weeks, I've already begun to love and look forward to that time, and to guard it jealously, even from my own impulses and cravings. Hmm, Chick-Fil-A would be nice for lunch... no, I'll just snarf it down in the car and then I won't want to sit down to rest later. I actively miss it when something comes up to keep me from being able to take that time, even if it's something enjoyable.

So this week I'm focusing on pauses. Jen observed the "seven sacred pauses" - seven times of prayer spaced out over 3 hour intervals throughout the day. I'd like to make an effort to pause on hours that are multiples of three and spend a few minutes praying - over my family, this project, and Mercy House, specifically - as a modified version of that (in this season of life, sleep is a gift that I do not want to throw away. If I'm awake at midnight and 6am for some reason, I'll pray. If not, I'll worship through the surrender of sleep in the presence of a wakeful, watching Father). I'll also maintain my now-beloved lunchtime quiet time, and I'd like to work through the Quiet*ologie journaling exercises that Emily Freeman writes each month for Hope*ologie (coincidentally, there are seven of them so far).

In this season, what does rest look like for you?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Three Rs {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is spending.

The end of spending... or, at least, of Spending week. Consumerism is a near-inextricable part of Western culture, and while I know there are self-sustaining people out there who grow their food and make their clothes and only set foot in a store every few weeks, that's not really a possibility for a Southern city dweller.

That said, this project has gone extremely well so far - events have conspired together (or maybe that's God...) to have sales on things we need and would have to buy anyway, a drop in gas prices, a busy work schedule that reduced eating out opportunities, a visit from Fayetteville (instead of us driving up), and even almost silly things like having a free ticket to the State Fair and not having to pay for parking either, or a jeweler Adam got me a Christmas gift from a year or two ago sending a "free pearl earring" postcard in the mail for our anniversary (I took them up on it - I love pearls!)

I've still had to be intentional - slowly retraining myself - and I've discovered that wise spending (at least for us) can be encapsulated in three Rs:

Reduce... Just buy less (I know, I know, just buying less isn't that easy) - examine need vs. want, and if we're feeling deprived, we should compare ourselves to someone who has less than us (they do exist) instead of more. Make things out of what we have instead of buying them, or just make do.

Rethink... When we have to buy, consider the source. Choose fairtrade, second hand, or exchanges with friends whenever possible as alternatives to big box bargains. Check the book out from a library instead of buying it (especially if you've never read it, or tend to collect unread books). Just because they make it (and put it in an engaging package with a temptingly low price somewhere near the check-out) doesn't mean we have to buy it. And a little preliminary research will reveal all kinds of specials and promotions that allow us to attend events and attractions for less than the general admission.

Restore... balance and community. Every time we reduce and rethink, it's a blow to consumerism. And if we mindfully pass on the things that are still usable (imagine being well enough acquainted with the needs of those around us to be able to bless them with needed items!) and recycle (hey, another R!) the things that aren't, we're doing our part to help out our global community and respecting God's Creation - both the resources He's provided and our fellow souls.

Tomorrow I'll be starting a new focus and I hope you'll join me - and thanks for sticking with my journey so far!
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Long... {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is spending.
Also, it's Five Minute Friday! Bloggers internet-wide joining together to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then linking up and spreading a little comment love. For more info, more posts, and/or to join in, head here!

I am grateful for a hard-working husband who makes it possible for me to stay home with Brooklyn... but sometimes, the days at home are long. We have our routine (breakfast, play at home or run errands, nap for her and lunch for me, play or go for a walk until dinner, dinner, bath, bed...) but the days run together in a sea of sameness, even with the occasional mixer-upper like going to the zoo or walking at a different park.

Sometimes I feel bad for feeling that way, but the absolute ecstasy that Brooklyn exhibited when my Mum came down to visit for a day makes me think that she gets just as bored with the sameness - that her days drag, as well (also that she was happy to see Grammy, of course). The toys are all played with, the books are all read, the mystery of walking is almost mastered and the allure of sitting on the couch decreases as she gets better at getting up and down by herself.

Boredom accounts for a decent amount of our expenses - not "retail therapy" but gas and snacks for a drive or adventure, or the parking fee for a walk by the river, or the temptation of cookies at Dempsey Bakery after visiting the zoo (at least we have a membership to the zoo...) Nothing big, but the little things add up (partly because they're easier to justify than larger purchases).

So I'm being driven to more creative tactics. I pulled The Artful Parent off my shelf and read the section that's relevant to Brooklyn at this age (and also got some inspiration for myself), rotated her toys, hunted up a doable recipe for gluten free play dough, made a list of what to give who for Christmas and made as much of it as possible crafty, started planning for a knitting class I'm teaching at church next month, got a few rounds done on my current design and did the preplanning for my next one, and, in general, have begun working and praying toward seeing the slowly passing moments as a blessing rather than a curse, counting breaths and counting gifts and rejoicing, even when the days are long.

When we're not actively engaged in restoration, we tend to unintentionally waste - time or money or something else. How can you seek to create instead of consuming?
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Invested {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is spending.

The weekly reckoning...
938. Being able to meet Adam for lunch
939. Discounted fair tickets at Walgreens
940. A peaceful shower and an hour at Starbucks blogging after everyone else went to bed early
941. Finishing my current design way ahead of schedule - I may have time for two this month!
942. Brooklyn gaining almost a pound in the last month, bug and all
943. A dark and stormy night, perfect for sleeping, with the promise of no alarms in the morning
944. Being in the car during the classical station's Saturday film score hour the morning they did "swashbucklers"
945. Going bowling, all together - Brooklyn was a patient and enthusiastic spectator
946. The first day of a three day weekend after several long weeks
947. Sweet hugs and snuggles from Brooklyn when she and Adam came to wake me up
948. Watching a kingfisher fish in the creek by the Armory when we stopped to get something on our way to church
949. Skip Bo and a shared bowl of frozen marshmallows
950. Sales that apply to clearance items - none of my maternity things were cold weather appropriate
951. A restful rainy day
952. Time to journal and take a hot bath while Adam was at STEP, after Brooklyn went to bed
953. Generous relatives who keep us supplied with clothes for Brooklyn
954. Back up batteries for when my camera unexpectedly dies
955. Several inches knit on a pair of legwarmers for Brooklyn while she napped
956. Wednesdays at Whole Foods - last week's sales and this week's sales both apply

957. Brooklyn being excited and thinking it was a grand adventure to go to church (instead of bed) after dinner, instead of being upset
958. New Community, and prayer circles. I wish we'd made the effort to go sooner!

Money, time, energy... we're always spending something. Even if I stopped all unnecessary purchases tomorrow, between rent and gas and bills we would still be living on far more than $2 a day. Then too, you can only really save one at a time. If you want to save money, it will cost you time and energy. If you want to save time, it will cost you money and energy. And if you want to save energy, it will cost you money and time. In the end, the best we can do is try to spend wisely what we have.

So that's what I've been trying to do, this whole month, really. This week I'm focusing on Spending, but also on Waste and Media (they're month-long), which are kind of about expenditure, as well. I'm not a huge pinner or blog reader (although, this month has definitely given me more to read!) and can't spend more than half an hour online before I start getting antsy and wanting to do something more tangible (unless I'm working on a post, but I disconnect my internet to reduce distractions while I do that).

I've also been trying to be more intentional, in general, but especially in the 7 categories. Social media can have a weirdly distancing effect on physical community, so I'm trying to make my interactions there count. The 31 Days Facebook group is a great example of online community done right - bloggers encouraging each other, providing accountability (and grace for missed days), sharing ideas, asking for advice, and spreading comment love.

But online community is easy to walk away from, either because it's time to start dinner or because something got awkward. It has a disposable escapability that physical in-real-life community doesn't have. Our church does their monthly communion service on a Wednesday night and calls it New Community. We went (for the first time - it's kind of late for Brooklyn, and it seems like that's always a bad day for us anyway) yesterday and experienced both the awkwardness and the beauty.

Walking in with no idea what to expect? Awkward.
Brooklyn being excited about staying up late and happily going to the nursery? Beautiful.
Trying to find a circle that wasn't either completely full or completely empty? Awkward.
Being waved into a circle, cheerfully welcomed, and introduced all round? Beautiful.
The first exercise of the evening being to all pray aloud what we're thankful for, church-relatedly and personally? Awkward.
One of the ladies who knows Brooklyn from having her in the nursery expressing gratitude for her and for Sprout? Beautiful.
Praying for those who were crushed by past fear or failure and crippled by self-doubt, and praying for one guy's son who we, at least, didn't know? Awkward.
Adam feeling compelled to talk to the guy afterwards, and offer some words of encouragement? Beautiful.
Going to pick up Brooklyn and loitering in the lobby for as long possible to give them time to talk? Awkward.
That they talked for half an hour and exchanged numbers at the end of their conversation? Beautiful.
Wading through a sea of people with Brooklyn having a meltdown because I wouldn't let her pet the seeing eye dog? Awkward.
Being chased through that sea of people by someone who overheard us talking and connected me to my Twitter handle, and wanted to introduce herself? Beautiful.

In the end, any worthwhile investment comes with a certain amount of risk. But I think that time spent in community, of any sort but especially in-real-life interactions with the Body of Christ, is definitely well spent and any awkwardness is worth working through in order to reach the beauty beyond.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will trust in Him.
[Lamentations 3:22-24]

Won't you join us in counting (and recounting!) His mercies anew? Just grab a journal or notebook (it doesn't have to be fancy) and a pen and write them down, then join us each week to encourage each other by sharing all of the blessings we've spotted. Catch up on everyone's posts and if you don't have a blog, feel free to participate by commenting, instead!

Check out these #NewEveryMorning hosts, as well, and don't forget to use the hashtag on Twitter so that we can find each other:
   Kayla [at] Renown and Crowned
   Kelsey [at] Faith Fun and the Fergusons

Do you tend to seek online or in person community?
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Price, Cost, Value, Worth {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is spending.
As a side note, if modesty, gender, or other compulsion or conviction means you'll be uncomfortable reading my thoughts on a pair of underwear, now's your chance to stop reading.

I bought a new pair of underwear today. It cost $17, and while being fairly cute, it certainly isn't in the slinky-silky category. Just practical bikini-cut cotton, the same kind I could find in a 5 pack at Walmart for half the price.

But it isn't the same. Ladies, pull a pair of panties out of your drawer and take a good, hard look at them. Even the simplest styles are made from a lot of little pieces - the least-plain pair that I own is made up of 15 tiny parts, the simplest, 7. This is not something that can be made by a machine - a live human being has to sit down and do it with their own two hands. And unless otherwise noted, that human being is underpaid, if paid at all, for their labor. The next time you see hot lingerie advertised in a window at the mall, think sweatshop not sexy.

I seized third trimester hip spread and its detrimental effect on already worn elastic waistbands to slowly invest in ethical replacements from Pact. "Slowly" because the price of fair trade items is higher - but knowing that it's ethically manufactured is worth it to me, and it's manageable at one pair per pay period, with reductions in other areas (that chocolate bar that's tempting me at the register probably isn't ethically obtained anyway).

Slave-free shopping can be hard on a budget, and there's a reason that slavery still exists: we support it, not realizing that many of our bargains are costing people their humanity. But combining ethical purchases with moderation combats consumerism on every level, and helps alleviate the expense (really, do we need a whole drawer full of underwear?) - and reorganizing our budgets can also help reorganize our priorities, shifting our focus from convenience and consumerism to compassion and restoration, from ourselves to others, from a personal perspective to a global one.

The price may be higher, but is the cost of supporting those who don't value basic human rights worth it for a "bargain"?
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Internet and Introspection {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is spending.

So, here I sit in the local Starbucks on the third day of spending week, typing this post. We use our complex's provided internet, and they're upgrading it this week (which I'm not complaining about) but that means it's even iffier than usual, and I was driven to the nearest place with reliable wifi in order to get this up this week. It has given me some thoughts, though.

Today was Butterfly Day, a holiday I invented as a child - the second Tuesday of October marks a celebration of butterfly migration, and a proper send-off with a picnic and a hike (yes, I was an odd child - I was also blessed with a wonderful mother who has happily continued to observe my holiday for almost fifteen years).

Because of the cool weather, an utter lack of energy, and a desire to not spend unnecessary money, we stayed home this morning - although, I did have my tea in the sun on the balcony (once the sun shifted to the other side of the building, I had to come in - the shade was a bit chilly).

I felt like it was an appropriate occasion for a new dress for Brooklyn (new to her - it was gifted to us, and I think the giver snagged it at a yard sale, and a very good find it was!) and I enjoyed watching her toddle around in it looking like a Little Person all morning.

We braved the wind to walk at the park later, and I thought as we walked. Not spending isn't very hard for me - strength of will isn't something that I struggle with (other than when I misuse it, but that's another post for another day), and I'm capable of "fasting" from almost anything, especially for a definite period, without it leading to any inner change. To-spend-or-not-to-spend doesn't really benefit my habits as a whole. I think a more important practice for me is a shift in my perspective of cost and value - which may mean not spending sometimes, or it may mean spending less... or it may mean spending more, but with good cause.

I think it's a concept that bears further thought and consideration, probably some journaling, and another post. More on that tomorrow!

What's harder for you: spending wisely, or not spending at all?
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