Thursday, October 30, 2014

Leave... {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 here. Yesterday and today's posts are the conclusion of this series.
Also, it's Five Minute Friday! Each week, bloggers internet-wide gather to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then link up and share a little comment love. For more info, more posts, and/or to join in, head here!

As October and 31 Days come to an end, and November and Thanksgiving and December and Christmas and January and a new baby follow after (!!!), I read back through the journal I've kept this month and echo the prayer that I wrote on the first page:

Father, I ask for your blessing on this endeavor. Honor my intentions, and turn them toward you and your glory. I open my hands and offer this project to you - mold it, and me, into a vessel fit for your purpose. Convict my arrogant heart and wash away the dust that clouds the lens of my perspective, so that I may see myself and others as you see us: wretched yet beloved.

I trust that this idea came from you. I know that doesn't mean it will be easy or always enjoyable, but I ask for your guidance and strength to persevere. Help me not to take this lightly or flippantly and so open myself to failure and spiritual defeat. Please speak clear direction over this project, and give me the ears to listen and the heart to obey. Don't let this become a reason for personal pride, but let it be a source of renewed humility.

Draw me closer to you as I seek to distance myself from distractions and idols that have become an unthinking part of my life but have no place in your Life. Hold this challenge as you hold me, and let my measure of success be by a Kingdom ruler and not by an earthly one.

As I look back on this month and the changes you've worked in my life and my heart, I add one request - that I would not leave this month and its lessons behind as I move forward into a busy season, but that you would continue to remind me of my intention to be more intentional, to fill me with grace and gratitude for what you've given, to open my eyes to the rest that you so faithfully provide... even so, in Jesus' name, amen.

In my intro post for this month, I mentioned that we were going to donate any money left in our budget at the end of the month to Mercy House (I should state here that we've been consistently going over so staying under is kind of a big deal)... even after a string of unexpected extra expenses (like the battery in one of our vehicles dying and needing to be replaced), we're ending the month with $188 unspent over all budgeted categories, which is extremely exciting! This month has shown that with intentionality most of our guesstimated numbers should be totally doable (except gas - it was calculated based on Adam's car, which got better mpg than the truck he has now) and that's an encouraging discovery.

And finally, giveaway winners! If I don't already have your address, I'll be in touch soon to get it - and thanks to everyone to entered!
Market Bag --- Rebekah Ellis
Freaker cozy --- Trish King
Mercy House Shop item (chalkboard poster!) --- Shellie

I've deeply enjoyed writing this series, and hope that you've enjoyed reading it! 31 days isn't enough time to properly explore such a penetrating topic, so I'll be posting soon with my plans for turning this month into a lasting lifestyle.

A Cumulative Effect {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 here.

The weekly reckoning...
983. Adam having a day of leave in exchange for having to work last Saturday
984. A gorgeous fall morning, spent all together at the zoo
985. Lisa's gf chicken noodle soup - we both really liked it, and it made a lot!
986. The stylist only charging my half for my haircut, "since it didn't need much"
987. Brooklyn enthusiastically eating the soup, also - chicken, carrots, noodles, and all (a welcome break from having to make her a separate dinner)
988. A shared gf frozen pizza and a continuing game of Risk to end our evening
989. A fun, non-stressful commissioned knitting project
990. A fellow blogger stacking all of my favorite soap boxes on top of each other and handing me a microphone - a guest post I'll enjoy writing!
991. Finding a lamp for Sprout's room at Ten Thousand Villages - it's pretty, puts off the perfect amount of light, and it was on sale
992. That I remembered to tuck my journal into my bag before going to run errands - Brooklyn fell asleep in the car, and I spent half an hour in the Whole Foods parking lot, writing and listening to music
993. A design epiphany for Brooklyn, using yarn that I already have
994. Maintenance guys who come to replace the broken microwave handle, then notice that one of the florescent kitchen bulbs is out and fix that while they're at it (I didn't mind only having the light from one bulb, but I was slightly concerned lest it go out, as well)
995. A cold wet day with no pressing errands, so we were able to stay home and warm and dry
996. The cable guys coming right after we got up, so I didn't spend the day on edge and trying to keep Brooklyn's things semi-contained
997. Wired internet and our complex upgrading their provided service before we got fed up and started paying for our own
998. Kroger fuel points - $0.30 off a gallon really helps when filling up Adam's big truck
999. That Brooklyn is just now in size 3 diapers - the extra eight in the boxes of 2s has helped a lot for all this time
1000! Adam home "early" (on time) and somehow managing to clean up all of Brooklyn things and empty the dishwasher in the 15 minutes he was home alone before we got back from running errands
1001. That smoke alarms turn themselves off once they realize there's no smoke to be alarmed about
1002. Brooklyn's delight at walking in and out the open back door, and standing at the railing, just looking 

One thousand gifts. I started counting last year, on Thanksgiving day, and reading Ann Voskamp's book as I went. We were still adjusting to Brooklyn's dairy allergy, facing an impending-but-uncertain move, plus holidays and all --- I thought it might help me refocus and avoid stressing.

At first, it didn't (probably because I was just writing down things at the end of each day, instead of really thinking about it during the day). So after we moved in January I reread and journaled through the book, and started counting along with a dear friend. That led to a slight shift in what I wrote down and what I perceived as a gift (accountability is a wonderful aspect of community, as is seeing what others are grateful for).

Change has come hobbit-like, slowly and as I wondered if it would come at all, but the most noticeable leaps have been made this past month. I love to write, and I love personal challenges, and when I put those two things together they form their own sort of accountability. I want to write. I'm writing about this challenge. I have to be living the challenge in order to have something to write about it. Sometimes circular reasoning can be a good thing.

So by combining action with the conscious recording of that action, I've etched gratitude on my heart as well as the pages of my journals - both the one I keep by the bed for gifts, and the one I've been writing about 7 for 31 in. At the beginning of this month, I prayed for lasting change - and I've seen promise of that, in an increased contentedness with spending a day at home with Brooklyn, a better awareness of how our money and time are spent, and a spontaneous desire to blurt moments of thankfulness aloud in the moment instead of just waiting until the end of the day to look back and decide what I'm grateful for.

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

How do you make sure that your desires and actions line up with each other?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The No and the Yeses {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 media.

While I wasn't wasting minutes-that-add-up-into-hours on a too-convenient mobile device (and also guarding time spent online, in general) this month, I was doing lots of other things, instead. Like fully engaging in time spent with family, instead of taking pictures, then immediately captioning and sharing them (I'm not saying pictures are bad - snapping a photo only takes a minute. Finding the right filter, deciding on hashtags, and making sure it posts take longer).

I finished the hat I was designing for this month early, and had time to make a pair of legwarmers for Sprout, publish both patterns, and accept a commission knit without it being the kind of yes that requires saying no to something I shouldn't. (Also, the asker has excellent taste in colors - raspberry sorbet and vanilla icecream, yes, please!)

I made progress on turning Sprout's room into a bedroom fit for a baby - furniture is all rearranged (except for a few barstools that we use sometimes but not all the time), odds and ends are boxed up, I moved a bookshelf into Brooklyn's closet (we have surprisingly large closets for an apartment...), and I found the perfect lamp (it emits a low, golden glow that is bright enough to see if there's been a diaper malfunction but low enough to not blind you when you turn it on) at Ten Thousand Villages on sale (I spotted the green-and-yellow dip-dyed beauty a month ago and resisted - but my patience paid off!) Now I can spend the next couple of months doing the fun stuff and trying to find a stroller that will fold up small enough to fit in my car, once I have two carseats in it.

I've practiced peace (choosing to leave my phone inside, as well, while I sat on the balcony for half an hour or so each afternoon), gained a deeper understanding of the conversational nature of prayer, read entire chapters without pausing in the middle to check an alert, filled over half of a new journal that I started at the beginning of the month, and rested.

[Sea salt hand scrub in an upcycled Starbucks drink bottle, with a dear little spoon from Ten Thousand Villages]

I pieced a quilt block for the Peacemakers ministry at church, prepped for a knitting class I'll be teaching in a few weeks, and got a head start on Christmas gifts. Since I also covered waste and spending this month, I tried to do my crafting with intentionality, using what I had and trying to keep any necessary spending local/slave free.

I received letters and wrote prompt replies, and tried to make the interactions I did have on social media more intentional - commenting instead of just liking, responding to messages and emails as soon as I read them, and making an effort to comment on blog posts. We went to New Community at our church one Wednesday night, Mum came up for a day, and Dad has stopped by a couple of evenings while he's in town for a military school, and none of those things interfered with tasks that needed to be done (because I was also able to consistently finish my weekly to-do lists several days early).

Overall, I discovered that a yes I didn't even realize that I was saying every time I picked up that iPhone or sat down in front of my computer was robbing me of a whole lot of better yeses that I wanted to say but somehow couldn't find the time for. I didn't delete my Facebook, stop blogging, and donate my laptop to a worthy cause - but I did learn to say no with purpose, so that I could be free to say yes with intentionality.

Our constant pseudo-connectedness is a mixed blessing - what yeses might an occasional no to internet and social media use open up for you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Disconnected {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 media.

So, a funny thing happened... a few days before September ended and this challenge began, but after I had gotten all of my pictures/graphics for this month chosen and Instagrammed and PicStitched and Overed and uploaded to my laptop, the old iPhone 4(S? I think) that Adam had given me to use as an iPod Touch unexpectedly died. It was happily charging - it lit up to display a Facebook notification - it froze - and when I restarted it, it was trapped in a continuous cycle of rebooting... thinking... rebooting again... thinking some more... A Google search revealed that its memory was probably full, and that restoring it and updating the software would probably resuscitate it. Except that our internet connexion isn't stable enough to download the software update.

The timing was comical - that device accounted for most of my time online, and media use was a topic I planned to spend the entire month exploring. It was so much easier to check my email that way, so much faster to read blog posts and check Facebook and Twitter, so much more convenient to snap a picture, filter it through Instagram and share it than to take a photo with my actual camera, download it to my computer, wait 10 minutes for it to upload to Facebook... I was amazed how dependent I had become when I hadn't really been using it for all that long.

But I've discovered some things, as I've had to sit down at my desk and dedicate time to things that I was doing on a whim/while multi-tasking before. I've discovered that when my only Facebook friends are my actual friends (and a few of those are marked as "acquaintances" --- sorry, I'm not into sappy probably fictional stories about dogs, children, and/or veterans) I really only need to check it once or twice a day - and there's more time to actually interact instead of just skimming. I've discovered that no one complains when my pictures are rectangular and don't have a fancy filter and slightly darkened corners. I've discovered that I am much more likely to actually respond to an email if I have a real keyboard in front of me (I thoroughly despise touchscreen keyboards). I've discovered that I will actually comment on/interact with blog posts more frequently, too, since the app I used didn't allow me to comment.

It made my internet use/social media consumption a lot more intentional - without me having the option or temptation of it being otherwise. And I'm not planning on trying to revive that old iPhone... it's served two different people well, and imparted valuable lessons over the course of its (longer than usual) life.

I spent this month seeking true community, instead of the digital counterfeit - I'll write more about the outcome of that journey tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The End It Project: Slavery Footprint {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 here. Because it's the 27th, a day that I spend each month focusing on the 27 million slaves in our world, today's 7 topic is clothing and possessions.

Because I've been targeting slave-made products for the past while (and because clothing and possessions aren't areas of excess in our lives, at least compared to other areas, so I'm spending less time on them this month), I thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight Made in a Free World.

They're a group whose goal is to empower people (from individuals to corporations) with innovative solutions that will ultimately end the system of slavery. Among other things, they have a wonderful online tool that allows you to calculate your "slavery footprint" - that is, the number of slaves who worked to make the things that you currently own. It's an eye-opening exercise, if for no other reason than that, in order to get an accurate count, you have to dig through your fridge and bathroom cabinets and closet and take inventory - you may think that you don't have much, but I was honestly shocked at how many Tshirts and pieces of jewelry I have (since I only wear the same 5 pieces over and over, I should probably look into finding someone who would use and appreciate the rest). They don't give you a higher number than you deserve - in each category, you're given the opportunity to fine-tune. That also provides some eye-opening information (like, raspberries being a potential problem or how many hours soccer ball makers usually work consecutively), and they've put a lot of thought into the process of determining an individual's footprint.

So little of what we use and own is made by ourselves from raw materials - even if you cook your own food, the ingredients had to come from somewhere. If you sew your own clothes, the fabric had to be made by someone. As a knitter, I recognize that the yarn, needles, and other notions that I use are globally sourced. But that's not a reason to not try to make globally-minded ethical decisions --- that's a reason to try harder, because it is harder. Our little family's possessions were provided by the efforts of about 27 slaves - it's my hope and prayer that this month's efforts will ultimately have a global impact, as well as a lasting personal one.

I encourage you to visit MIAFW's website and take their Slavery Footprint Survey - then prayerfully consider the result, not with guilt or shame, but with the intention of moving on from the present into a brighter future.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Act Justly - Love Mercy - Walk Humbly {7 for 31 and a giveaway!}

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 Mercy House, the non-profit organization that any money we save as a result of this month's intentionality will be going to.

I first heard about Mercy House through (in)courage - they did a Pure Charity fundraiser for an expanded facility for the Kenyan organization, and the cause was one that stood out to me among all of the others, from volunteering at a similar Arkansas-local organization, as well as from working with several pregnant highschoolers who came to a knitting club I led at the Library wanting to learn how to make something for their baby-to-be, and seeing how difficult their lives can be due to social pressure and economic disadvantages - although the girls that Mercy House reaches out to have probably endured worse.

Founded in 2010, Mercy House was American Kristen Welch's "yes in her mess," a response to the desperate need of young pregnant women in Kenya, where many girls are raped or forced into prostitution, then may die from botched, illegal abortions (a girl can be kicked out of school, or her home, for being pregnant). Heart torn by the need she saw while on a blogging trip to Africa, she enlisted a Kenyan Compassion graduate as director and opened the doors of Mercy House to eight girls in need of the hope and mercy that only Love can show (the facility has since expanded to serve even more girls).

Maureen and her husband direct a facility that houses teenaged girls, provides them with medical care throughout their pregnancy, and gives them a home and educational, spiritual, and occupational training for two years so that they are equipped to care for themselves and their child once they leave.

Some of the fruit of their creative labor goes to the Mercy House Shop, which is stocked with lovely items, some promoting Mercy House and some just generally beautiful (above are a few of my personal favorites).

How about a giveaway? Visit the Mercy House Shop, then let me know in a comment what item you'd like to win, and I'll randomly select a commentor at the end of the month!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Unwinding {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 here. Today's 7 topic is stress.

A lot of the practices I've been engaged in this past week (knitting, journaling, photography, yoga, walking...) fall under the header of mindfulness. Journaling requires introspection and an examination of the day's events and their effect on me. My lunchtime quiet time is spent outside, away from electronic distractions, aware of every bird and butterfly, and the same goes for walks (and to some extent, photography).

Longer intervals of rest I spent knitting, and finished up a pair of legwarmers (intended for Sprout, but just big enough for Brooklyn's slender legs). Kick the Beat was simple enough to engage my hands while my mind was elsewhere - the project helped me concentrate on praying, but I could also sit it down if Brooklyn brought me a book to read.

Mindfulness on its own has never been helpful to me - what am I being mindful of? The injunction to empty my mind for some yoga practices is impossible, and, I think, causes me to miss out on the greatest benefit: the opportunity to occupy my distractable body with a simple task while leaving my mind free to pray with greater focus. The same applies to knitting, and praying on paper (the act of writing my thoughts is extremely centering).

Another concept is that of counted breaths - the Eastern idea that we're all given the same number of breaths, and that the key to longevity is to slow our hurried panting. I think of Ann Voskamp's words in One Thousand Gifts, when she speaks of slowing time by entering fully into it - by opening our eyes and hearts to the gifts that surround us, the ones we miss when we rush madly through each moment on our way to the next one.

I can use knitting or journaling or yoga or a walk out-of-doors followed by a hot bowl of homemade soup to unwind - but then I'm just a heap of string, without direction or purpose. The only thing that makes those mindful practices hold lasting value is when they are directed toward a Kingdom that never fades, and a God who always listens and never breaks His promises. The stress will come back unless I replace it with a peace that passes understanding, one that comes from outside of me and my transient, shifting ways.

Check out Thursday's post for a giveaway, and come back tomorrow for a new focus (and another giveaway, that you won't want to miss!)