What to do when you are all wound up

Do you remember playing tetherball when we were kids?  You know the one where the ball is attached to a string on pole?  You hit the ball back and forth with another kid trying to get the string all wound up on one side or the other.  You hit the ball and it goes round and round winding up the rope in one direction.  Your opponent hits the ball and it unwinds and starts to wind up the other way.  Round and round the ball goes getting wound up and down and up again in a new way.  Eventually the winner is whoever can hit the ball so hard that ball goes around the pole so fast that the other player can’t act fast enough to stop it and all the rope is wound up tight.  Remember this game?  (I found these awesome tetherball videos for your viewing pleasure.)

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel a lot like that tetherball.  I’m just being whacked back and forth getting wound up about one thing and then the next.  Budgets due at work *whack*!  The house is a mess *whack*!  Accidentally replying all to that unfortunate email *whack*!  Parent/teacher conference *whack*!  Whatever the things are in your own life that cause you to get all wound up.  Confession time:  Nothing in this world makes me crazier than messy, dirty, and cluttered spaces.  And currently both my office and my home are in transition for a move.  So my office is a disaster.  My house is a disaster.  And I am a disaster.  I am all wound up and feeling pushed around by stuff outside of my control.  I want the stress ping-pong to stop but I can’t make it stop.

 Ever felt like that poor little tetherball being whacked back and forth between one stressful situation and another?

It is incredibly difficult to stop or even slow down this kind of stressful winding up.  There are a lot of things we have to deal with that we simply cannot control.  We cannot make our co-workers more agreeable or easier to work with and we cannot make our jobs any easier either (unless you get a new job).  Sometimes you are going to come up against deadlines and it is going to be challenging and exhausting.  We cannot control things like accidents or disease.  A phone call from a doctor or a police officer has the ability to send us reeling and change our lives forever.  We cannot control other people in our lives.  Our friends and family have the ability to make our lives very stressful.  Certain situations are always stressful- moving for instance.  Any kind of change can wind us up and make us feel like that out of control tetherball.

If this is where you are right now, please know I am sorry and I want to pray for you.  It is an awful, awful feeling to be trapped and tossed about by circumstances we can’t control.  It is not okay and I am so sorry.

So what’s the answer?  Well it’s not avoidance.  You can do all the right things to stay healthy and still get sick.  You can be the most productive worker in your office and still struggle with a particular assignment.  You can have an amazing relationship and still have to work through difficult issues.  You cannot out run it.  You cannot out plan it.  You cannot stop it.  S@#* happens.  And you can’t avoid it.

So now don’t you feel super encouraged?  Ok that’s it!  Have a great day!  Ok no, I’m totally kidding.  But seriously, I get it.  You can’t avoid it. You can’t stop it.  And all you want is to stop being whacked around by the stress and trouble in your life.  So what do you do?

I’ve only found one thing that works, at least for me.

I have to stop being the tetherball.  I have to step away.  

Get out of the game.  Take a break.  It does not make my problems go away.  I’m still going to have to face all that.  But for one day I don’t have to fight those battles.  For one day I can just breathe deeply and rest fully.  This sounds easy but can be very difficult to actually do.  If someone you love is battling cancer it can seem incredibly selfish to just step away for a day.  If you up against a deadline at work taking a day off can seem incredibly stupid.  But I’m not kidding when I say sometimes you have to just unwind.  It doesn’t have to be any big soul-searching retreat.  It can be as simple as spending one day at home in your pjs not doing laundry, chores, or answering emails.  It can be a movie-marathon.  It can be an epic bubble bath + good book combo.  It can be a day spent working on a project that does feed you- maybe a home DIY project, gardening, or a special craft project.  I’m not the boss of you.  YOU have to know yourself well enough to know what will feed your soul and let you rest (if you don’t  know what feeds you, you have a much, much bigger issue on your hands).

So my guess is now you are coming up with a list of reasons (excuses…let’s be real) why you can’t possibly take a day off.  You’ve got responsibilities!  You’ve got kids!  You are the primary caregiver!  You are the point person on the project!  No one else will take care of that!  Listen…some of that might be true.  Maybe even all of it is true.  But you still aren’t the most important thing in the world and the world will keep on spinning if you take a day off.  You can find someone to take your kids for an afternoon.  Or have time to yourself while they are at school or once they go to bed.  You can ask another family member to come take care of your ill loved one for a day (and choose a day when that is possible with schedules of doctors appointments and treatments).  You can delegate responsibility to another team member- and you know that once you take a break you will come back much more productive.  Letting yourself get so wound up that you snap helps NO ONE.  Stop pretending that it does.  You don’t have to be foolish and you do not have to be a martyr.

It may be difficult.  You may even feel some guilt (try to let that go) but when you are being whacked around by trial and tribulation and you are feeling all wound up you have to take a break.  You have to stop being the tetherball for just a little while and find your balance again.

 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord.  They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”  But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.
 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
~Exodus 14: 10-14

When you feel slapped around by life remember that these aren’t your battles to fight alone.  And, I know this is going to make you uncomfortable but, you can’t win these on your own.  Life is hard.  We get stuck between an army and a wilderness.  Don’t just stand there and think it is better that you were dead (whiny Israelites can’t even see the redemption right in front of them…oops…I do that too).  Stand there and trust that the Lord will fight for you.  God will fight for you.

You are not a tetherball.  You are a loved child of God.  You can take a rest.  God will fight for you.  So for today…you only have to keep still.

Simple Living Series: What to do with the stuff

Hey it’s the fourth part of my series!  Huzzah for sticking to a series!

So having decided I want to live with less I am now forced to look at all of the things I own and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.  Then I have to figure out what to do with the stuff I want to get rid of.  I’ll be super honest and admit that I mostly wanted to throw it away.  Because I have a big trash can and that would be super easy.  And when you make the decision to get rid of it you just want it gone!!!!  But then I did some googling and learned some stuff that changed my mind.

In the United States we throw away enough trash each year to cover the entire state of Texas…twice.

Y’all may not know this but Texas is freaking big.  This is a lot of trash.  250 million tons of it to be exact.  And that trash isn’t going to remove itself.  The waste industry is a $52 billion/year industry.

We throw away enough aluminum for the entire auto industry to build new cars for a year.

Not only that but the average American family also throws away about 6 trees worth of paper every year.  We dump most of the magazines printed in the U.S. each year (about 8 million tons) into landfills. If we recycled just half of them, we could save over 12 million cubic yards of landfill space.  Americans throw away enough used motor oil every year to fill 120 supertankers.

Ok I think you get my point.  We are throwing away a lot of stuff that could be recycled or reused.  And all that trash has an impact globally.  We generate 21.5 million tons of food waste each year. If we composted that food, it would reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas as taking 2 million cars off the road.  There are 5 known garbage patches floating in our oceans from trash that didn’t make it into landfills.

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
        reflecting our nature
    So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
        the birds in the air, the cattle,
    And, yes, Earth itself,
        and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
    God created human beings;
        he created them godlike,
    Reflecting God’s nature.
        He created them male and female.
    God blessed them:
        “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
    Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
        for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

~ Genesis 1: 26-28

God gave us responsibility over the Earth and told us to be good stewards, to be responsible, for all the things in it.  God’s beautiful creation is ours to care for and marvel at.  And we’ve gotten really good at filling it with trash.

In light of all of that there was no way I could throw away my purge-stuff and feel good about it!  The idea isn’t just to get rid of stuff but to learn to live with less- to be a good steward of my resources.  So once again I turned to the Internet.  I got online and have been selling stuff on online yard sales in my area!  I just take a picture of the thing I’m looking to find a new home for, post it online with some info and a price and wait.  And I haven’t had to wait long.  So far I have sold: curtains, a bag of work clothes, a box of picture frames, a shadow box, and 2 glass pumpkins.  Next on the chopping block are scarves, purses, and shoes.  I’m not selling it for much but it only takes $30 to fill my gas tank so a few things at $5 goes a long way to putting extra dough in my pocket which is really just a bonus since I wanted to get rid of the stuff anyway!  This can be a hassle if you don’t have the time to photograph each thing, post about it, and respond to any questions or comments.  Plus you do you have to meet up with whoever you are selling the item to unless you ship it, which has its own set of hassles.  I’ve just started sticking the items for sell in my trunk so that I’m ready to meet up with any buyers any time of day without having to run home real quick.  So far it hasn’t been an issue.

One of the things I quickly discovered was that there were somethings I couldn’t donate or sell.  For instance, when I was 9 my grandfather got me a nutcracker for Christmas.  He passed away from cancer that year and it was the last gift he gave me.  For years afterward family members would give me nutcrackers until I had quite the collection.  And I loved them.  They remind me of my grandfather who has now been gone 20 years.  My grandmother who passed away in 2008 usually gave me a nutcracker and so they’ve become a cherished memory of her as well.  But living in small spaces meant not having a place to display my collection and over the years my beloved nutcrackers have taken up permanent residence in storage units, attics, and spare closets.  So when I started going through my things I had to make a decision on whether or not to keep the nutcrackers.  I don’t want to sell them; they are priceless to me.  And I don’t think donating them makes any sense either.  So I’ve been giving them away to loved ones and I have to say I feel really good about it.  I have kept back 4 out of the 28 that have a special meaning for me and I have found other people who can cherish and love my other nutcrackers and what they mean to me.  So if you have heirlooms or gifts that have sentimental value but that don’t meet your criteria for keeping them think about who else would love to receive them as a gift.

There are plenty of other ways to find new homes for your stuff.  You can donate nice clothes to women’s shelters or community closets.  There are some cool organizations who help people improve their lives and provide for themselves by giving them professional clothing to go on job interviews.  And if you have some old formal dresses you want to get rid of you can also donate to groups like Operation Prom to help a young man or woman who wouldn’t be able to afford dress clothes  go to prom.  Then your stuff can become something that gives hope and joy to someone else!  What a great way to fight against consumerism and make your stuff work for you again!  I’ve also checked out Freecycle but haven’t posted anything on there yet or found anyone looking for what I’m giving away so I can’t say for sure how that one works but I’ll let you know if that changes (if you’ve used it please let me know how it’s worked for you!).

So that’s the plan: sale, give, and donate.  My 3 ways of simplifying my stuff without contributing to the landfills and waste!  There’s a lot of joy in knowing that someone else is finding enjoyment from my things.  Do you have any other tips, tricks, or thoughts on how to find new homes for our stuff?  I’d love to hear about it!  Happy purging!

Simple Living Series: Say Good-bye to Your Stuff

Ok so this is part three in my new Simple Living Series.  If you are new to the program check out the previous posts otherwise you are going to be one confused little kitten.  Enjoy!

So you’ve gotten to know your stuff.  You’ve looked around the house, under the bed, in the back of closets, and inside of all those little nooks  where our stuff just loves to hide.  You’ve decided which category your stuff fits in. You know whether or not it’s stuff you use, stuff you love, stuff you wish you used, or stuff you wish you loved.  This is where it starts to get really tricky.  This is where you start to say good-bye to your stuff.

As we talked about in the last post it is possible for things to be in more than one category at a time.  For instance: I use my bed every day and I love it 🙂  Ok but a better example might be a special coffee mug.  Theoretically you don’t need that fancy little mug but you use it every Saturday as a special treat.  So you love it and you use it- you’re good to go!

So let’s go category by category and figure out how we should decide what to keep and what we need to relocate (we’ll discuss how to go about this relocation more in depth in the next post).

Stuff You Use

This one is the easiest category because chances are good that if you put it in this category it can and should stay.  The trick here is to be ruthless in determining if it really belongs in this category or in the Stuff You Wish You Used category.  Ideally if you aren’t using something at least 4 days a week you want to consider whether or not you really need it.  That may be really hard to actually do and there a few necessary things that you may only use once or twice a week…although I can’t think of a single one now.  There are a couple of things to be aware of in this category though, even if you use the item every day.

1)  Do you need as many or as much of this particular thing in order to meet your needs?

2)  Could something else you already have be used in the place of a particular thing?

Yes you use a glass everyday but do you really need 12?  Chances are pretty good you don’t.  (I’m going to have to write a whole separate post in order tackle the kitchen…kitchen stuff is tricky.  Stay strong!)  Yes you exercise every day but unless you are regularly participating in various kinds of sporting events that require specific kinds of footwear you probably only need one pair of tennis shoes.  Seriously.  You don’t need 6 because they look good with the thousand pairs of athletic shorts you have…and you don’t need that many pairs of workout shorts either!  You have a washing machine!  Wash your clothes!  See where I am going with this?  You may use shampoo and conditioner every day or every other day but you don’t need 3 different kinds of shampoo so get rid of 2 of them.

The other trick here is identifying whether or not you have something that can do multiple jobs and eliminate some of your other belongings.  My favorite personal example of this is a bookshelf I am getting from my mom.  It was in her study but she recently re-decorated so it’s all mine now.  Anyway it’s not a tall bookshelf, it’s wide, so I am going to put some of my books in it AND I am going to put my tv on it.  Bookshelf + Entertainment Center= one less piece of furniture to have to move and clean.  This works for smaller things too.  Measuring cups make great soup ladles…no need to keep ladles around!  Glasses are great at cutting out circle shapes in dough…yeah for biscuits and no extra cookie cutter clutter in your kitchen drawers!  You get the idea.  Be creative.  Can something you already own do the job of something else?  Well then get rid of the redundant item and enjoy less clutter!

Stuff You Love

I have a white elephant statue that sits on my desk that I just love.  I don’t have a good reason to love it.  It has no function or use, I constantly have to dust it, and it takes up valuable workspace on my desk.  But when I’m working or writing at my desk I see it and it makes me smile.  I’m keeping it.  I love it.  But by far my most sincere love is dedicated to my books…and I have a lot of books.  Asking me to give them up would be like asking me to get rid of some of my best friends.  Forget it.  Not gonna happen.  I love them.  In my opinion you should keep things you love and that bring you joy.  But be careful and make sure that you really love them.  It’s easy to mistake something for a “stuff you love” item when it is really a “stuff you wish you loved” item.  Let me tell you if you aren’t using, looking at, or enjoying regularly you don’t really love it.  True love requires regular visitation.  So be careful and be ruthless.  Don’t let that “stuff you wish you loved” crap creep in here!

Stuff You Wish You Used and Stuff You Wish You Loved

In both of these categories it is time to get down to some serious purging.  Listen, you are not your stuff and holding on to the “right” stuff won’t make you feel, look, act, or “be” better.  Stop believing the lie.  The only people benefitting from this lie are the advertising and marketing people.  You are awesome! And you don’t need to worry about accumulating the “right” stuff to prove it.  So (in my best Frozen sing-song voice) let it go!  Let it go!  Don’t let it hold you back anymore!!!  If it’s been sitting in the back of your closet for 6 months- let it go.  If it has been collecting dust on a shelf- let it go.  If, when you found it, you realized you had forgotten about it- let it go.  Seriously, these are the categories where you will find all that stuff that has been causing you stress, debt, and work.  So just let it go.  And read the next installment of this series to find out how you can do that responsibly!

So I get it.  This is the hard part.  Actually deciding what to keep and what to get rid of can be really difficult.  Sometimes going through your closet can feel really personal.  But stick at it!  Don’t give up!  Remember why you are doing this!  You want to enjoy living with less!  You don’t want to spend your free time organizing, cleaning, and maintaining your clutter.  You don’t want to be a victim of consumerism anymore.  Don’t feel overwhelmed but go at it at your own pace.  As I’ve been going through my things for my upcoming move, I set aside certain days and certain rooms and know that my goal for that day is to tackle say the craft room. This weekend I am tackling my closet and my bathroom.  If you are somebody who wants to hit it all at once put aside a weekend and GO TO TOWN.  But most people need to make this more of a process and that is fine.  The point here is to make your life less stressful- so make tailor this part of it to what works for you.  Good luck!

Is United Methodist just a punch-line?

“The church is full of oxymorons.  Want to hear one?  United Methodist.”

I laughed.  It was funny.  But I also winced.  Because it’s painfully true.  Our unity as a denomination, as the church universal, has been a joke for a long time.  I can’t imagine what it looks like to people standing outside of our Christian community.  Well I sorta can.  I’m sure it looks ridiculous.  I’m sure it looks like we are haters and liars.  We say one of the marks of the church is unity…and then proceed to fight it out Jets and Sharks style (we do have some awesome songs and hand motions).

When I was younger, although certainly old enough to know better, one day I got mad at my sister.  She was annoying me even after I had asked her repeatedly to stop.  Finally I started yelling at her and then…I tried to choke her.  Not my finest hour.  I quickly realized this was a bad idea…like super quickly…and stopped.  I hadn’t consciously thought “Oh I should choke her now” but I was just so ticked off!  I was a kid, I was mad, and I had zero impulse control.  I don’t really remember what happened after that.  I remember letting go and backing away.  I remember her crying.  I remember my mom staring at me in disbelief as my sister had told her what happened.  But I mentioned it to my mom the other day and she doesn’t remember it.  My sister doesn’t really remember that much of it either.  But I remember it very vividly as one of the most shameful moments in my life.  I am the big sister.  My job is to love and protect and encourage.  But I got angry and it got ugly.

My sister and I are very close now.  We talk most days, although we both have very busy schedules so we don’t get to talk every day.  We definitely don’t agree on everything but we do respect and love one another too much to let that be an issue in our relationship.  We are sisters and that comes first.

I recognize that the bad blood and difficult divisions between our denominations and our church members run much deeper than anything that exists between my sister and I.  We don’t have centuries of animosity and bitter fighting between us.  But scripture tells us to love each other as brothers and sisters so we need to look at how families interact when they are at their best and try to learn from that. That means being respectful even when we disagree.  It means listening even when all we want to do is get up and walk away.  It means agreeing that no matter what we disagree on we are still family; we still love each other.

It doesn’t mean finding creative new ways to separate ourselves.  It doesn’t mean choosing sides and throwing separate parties during annual conference.  It doesn’t mean congratulating ourselves on our ability to be “mostly civil” when radical, familial love is the standard we are called to.

One of the fundamental parts of the Christian life is the celebration of the Eucharist, although some of us call it the Lord’s Supper or the Lord’s Table or maybe something else I’m not yet familiar with. We don’t all celebrate it in the same way, look at it in the same way, or celebrate it at the same time.  This fundamental ritual (sacrament, ordinance) of our faith shows the seriousness of our divisions.

Jesus sat at his table and blessed the bread and the wine in the presence of his actual enemy, Judas.  Yet as Christians we can’t come together over this same holy meal because we cannot agree on theological issues.  Don’t misunderstand me- the divisions in our denomination and the church universal run deep and a long way back.  I respect that these divisions are real and are often heartbreaking and critical for people.  Hear me clearly: I don’t deny that these divisions are real and important.  What I am denying is the idea that we can’t find a way to still be one church.  Really?  We can’t all agree that Jesus is Lord?  We can’t come to his table?  We can’t disagree with someone and still worship with them?  Still exist as one church?

It gets easy to separate from those who disagree with us when they aren’t people that we know or love.  And that’s hugely problematic because loving our neighbor is the second greatest commandment we have.  Is there any debate there?

If instead of seeing division and debate we saw people what would happen to our church?  If we picture it as one big feast with all the members of our church family seated at the table what would happen to our view of the church universal?  Could you stand on your chair and cast them out?  Could you refuse them a seat?

I’m not saying we have to agree.  Because frankly I’m not going to agree with everyone and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.  But I don’t want to be the church without Africa.  I don’t want to be the church without Asia, Europe, South or Central America.  I don’t want to be the church without women, men, or children that don’t look like me.  I do want to try to love people as Christ loves them and see them as Christ sees them.  I want to find ways to compromise, to agree to disagree and to let that be ok.  Because I don’t want to not be in community with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

This first semester in seminary has been a struggle for me.  I’ve struggled with the sheer volume of differing thoughts, doctrines, and opinions.  How can we possibly hold all these things together?  And the truth is we can only do it if we hold them with an open hand.  If we close our hands and decide that these things alone must be right then we will have to let go of the ideas and people that don’t fit.  But if we hold them with an open hand we are able to stay in community and conversation.

I don’t agree with you.  I think your theology is sketchy at best.  But I love you as my brother/sister.  I love you because you too are made in the image of God.  I don’t want us to be divided.  Can we talk about it?  Can we each be uncomfortable so that we can at least be together?

I don’t have any real answers.  I only have a burning desire to take seriously our calling to be a united church.

I want to come to the table our Lord has set for us, together.  

Simple Living Series: Get to know your stuff

When I started packing all those things up to move last time I was amazed at how much stuff I had bought and then forgot about.  You know the stuff I mean; the back of the closet, still in the bag, hidden in the shame of an impulse buy stuff.  I found candle holders, picture frames, an antique jewelry box, a ridiculous amount of t-shirts (thank you, youth ministry), and some shoes that are super cute…and uncomfortable.  And to my eternal shame most of those things got boxed up and moved to the next location anyway.

Our cluttering stuff tends to break down into a few groups.

  1. Stuff We Use
  2. Stuff We Love
  3. Stuff We Wish We Used
  4. Stuff We Wish We Loved

Stuff We Use

This category is pretty self-explanatory.  It’s made up of the stuff you actually use every day or at least 4 times a week.  So things like my computer, my hairbrush (or most toiletries in general…although not all so don’t get crazy.), and my purse.  (Ok Jesus Juke moment:  I feel like I should say my Bible.)

Stuff We Love

This category is for stuff that we love!  That shirt that just makes you feel so confident.  That coffee maker that gets that blissful first cup to you sooner.  That awesome piece of art that makes you smile every time you look at it.  Basically anything that just makes you happy- it goes here.

Stuff We Wish We Used

This category is awkward because this is the category that gives us guilt.  This is the category for the unused exercise equipment, the unused cleaning gadgets, and the unused cookware.  This is the category of “I know I should but…”.  And everybody has got it.  We have the best intentions and we buy this stuff in a fervor of get-it-done attitude (I am looking at you yoga stuff).  But the next day the fervor passes and the stuff gets relegated to the back of a closet fueling our self-loathing when we stumble across it every so often.

Stuff We Wish We Loved

This category is for the stuff that we bought because we thought owning it would make us better or happier.  Like that cute top that somehow was going to help you change your entire wardrobe but you never wear it because it’s not comfortable.  Or those shoes that are just gorgeous but pinch your toes.  Or that china set that was just so elegant in the store but that you are afraid to use.  This is the stuff that you hoped would be the glass slipper that would whisk you off to a happily ever after but it doesn’t seem to fit just right.

2 things before we go any further.  Yes it is possible for an item to fit into more than one category simultaneously and no not every little thing will definitely fit into a category (so please don’t waste precious time trying to come up with stuff to mess with my system).  But most things, probably 95%, will fit into at least one of these categories.  Frequently we just haven’t thought about which category a particular item falls in.  And we can’t decide what to do with a thing before we know which category it calls home.

So your minimalist challenge for the day is this:  get to know your stuff!

Look at all the items in your home.  Walk around, look in the back of closets, under beds, in the garage.  And ask yourself these questions about the things you see:

  1. Do you use it?  How often?
  2. Do you love it? What makes it so awesome?
  3. What would your daily life be like if you didn’t have it?

That’s it!  So go introduce yourself to your stuff and try and figure out which category it fits into.

Don’t worry I’ll wait.  Take your time! 😉

Simple Living Series: Deciding to be a minimalist

I graduated from high school in 2003.  Since then I have moved 11 times.  That’s right I have moved 11 times in 11 years.  And no I didn’t move every year.  Some years I had the joy of moving more than once.  Mostly I’m ok with moving…which is good since I want to be a United Methodist pastor.  But the last time I moved I got really frustrated with myself.  It was the first time I had lived on my own in a place that wasn’t the size of a postage stamp.  And somehow in the 2 years I lived there I had acquired quite a few new things.  Without realizing it I had filled every nook and cranny of that place.  I stood in my closet, filled with clothes I never really wore (since you always have just a few you really love), shoes I barely wore (they hurt!), and jewelry I had bought on a whim and I just felt so guilty.  I’m not super good at math (although in case he is reading, I do think it is super important, David) but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that a lot of money went into building a wardrobe that I barely utilized.  And that would be one thing but every room in the house was this way.  Every cabinet, closet, and shelf was filled with stuff most of which was only used for collecting dust.  And don’t get me started on the storage closet filled with things I might need at some point but had so far not touched.  But what was I supposed to do?  Life requires stuff, right?  So I got rid of a few things, boxed the rest, and moved it to the next place.

But over the last year and a half I have begun to lean more on the hate side of the love/hate relationship I have with my stuff.  I started routinely going through my closet and mercilessly purging because it would feel so freeing to be rid of some of my stuff!  I started freaking out about things like dish towels…how many dish towels do you have to have anyway????   My stuff is a burden constantly requiring my time and attention to clean and maintain it.  My stuff wants to be the boss of me.   And I have had it.

Enter my decision to be a minimalist.

I don’t know how you feel about your stuff and I’m not trying to tell you what to do.  Deciding to live with less is a decision I’ve made after a few years of reading, studying, talking to people, and consistently paring down my stuff.  I’ve found that it is really true…I don’t need as much stuff as I thought!  And more than that I love having more space and less clutter!

And now I’m moving again.  This time from a house into an apartment.  A smallish apartment that I fell in love with because of its quiet, beautiful community and simple layout.  It’ll hold just what I need.  And that’s the point.  Not to just get rid of a bunch of old stuff but to really find the joy in living with less.  To appreciate small things and find contentment in enough.  I’m done buying a bunch of stuff because I think I need it until I forget about it.  I want to buy just what I need and really enjoy it!  I want to enjoy the things I already have and actually use it.  But mostly I want to make space so that God can move.

My life is, and has been for a very long time, filled to the brim.  With work, friends, family, school, and church I always have a full calendar.  I love all of the ministry, learning, and working I get to be a part of and I love all the people I get to share it with.  My heart is full!  I want to make intentional space so that my life can be full of those things without the weight of consumerism and material possessions holding me back.

So this starts what I hope will be a regular series on something I’m passionate about- finding joy in living with less.  I’ll share my transition with you guys and talk some more about some of the myriad of reasons I’m starting on this adventure.  My hope is that it makes you think about the things that you are holding on to and that we can find common ground as we work out what it means to be content with enough.

 

For more info on minimalism or how to become a minimalist check out these sites:

What Is Minimalism?

21 Benefits of Owning Less

http://bemorewithless.com/

Or check out these books*:

The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

I love Francine Jay and her book Miss Minimalist started me on this awesome journey to less!  This book is great with helpful hints and lots of inspiration.

Living in the Land of Enough by Courtney Carver

The thing I love about this book is that the author references her faith something I totally identify with.  This one definitely tops my minimalist book list!

Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life by Joshua Becker

This book has some great tips and advice to get you on the way to cleaning and decluttering your house right away!
*Full disclosure- I have read these books and I think they rock but I am not some kind of fancy-pants reviewer.  So if you don’t like ’em don’t blame me.  No one has paid me for mentioning any of their work and all opinions are my own.

 

 

Smelling the Roses

My sister had a science teacher in junior high who was teaching them about different parts of the body.  To help them remember  olfactories (which is something in your nose…it’s your sense of smell I guess) she told them that old people smell. Ol-Old-Old people smell.  I thought it was hilarious.

The other day I was giving some test taking tips to a student who was experiencing a lot of test anxiety.  I told her my best tip is to spray yourself with a certain kind of perfume- whatever kind you like- each time you study.  Then right before the test spray yourself with it again.  Your sense of smell will help you remember what you studied.

One time I heard a sermon about the Kingdom of God.  The sermon equated it with coming home and how for the preacher coming home always reminded him of baking bread.  The ingenious worship director placed bread machines throughout the worship center so that all throughout church that morning everywhere you went it smelled like baking bread.  It really drove the point home…and made me hungry.

All of this to say that there is incredible power in smell.  Apparently a lot of what we taste when eat a delicious meal comes from the smell of it. (Click here for more weird facts about smell.)  Try it some time.  Pinch your nose and take a couple of bits of something.  Then let go of your nose (what a weird thing to type) and take a deep whiff of whatever you’re eating (this will probably not make much of a difference with Lucky Charms so ya know…try it with real food) and see if you notice a difference with the next couple of bites.

The way things smell can bring us so much enjoyment but we don’t often stop and really smell things.  Lately I’ve made a practice of taking a deep breaths as an attempt to relax and enjoy each moment.  And I’ve noticed there are certain things that I just love to smell.  Garlic roasting, laundry as it’s tumbling around in the washing machine, the weird chemical smell of a nail salon.  I love the smell just before and after a good rain.  I like the way the library on campus smells- old books, plastic technology, and wood polish.

In an article from the Mirror Online (look for the link below) it says “Studies show that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell which is linked to pleasure, well-being, emotion and memory…”  So maybe the expression stop and smell the roses isn’t such a joke after all.  Maybe we are designed to be able to have this small moments of joy and stress-relief throughout our day by stopping and smelling something good.

Have you stopped?  Have you appreciated any of the tiny, beautiful details around you?  Are you so busy running that you don’t even see the roses?

Today, may you take the time to stop, smell the roses, and appreciate the small details of the good things around you.

PS:  I hope your day doesn’t stink!  (See what I did there?)
Check out this article for some more interesting facts about smell:  http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/20-fascinating-facts-sense-smell-1977351#ixzz3F0KJqWnN
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Forget and Forgive

It’s Thursday morning.  Spent all of last weekend in San Antonio on a girl’s weekend with my mom, sister, aunt, and some other lovely ladies.  Worked the beginning of the week squeezing what used to be a 5 day work-week into 2 days (I was out Sunday).  Drove to Dallas Tuesday night, got to campus and went to bed.  Up early on Wednesday to read for class, and go to class for 7.5 hours, wrote a paper, and attempted to be social (which really just looks like me eating and nodding…or being incredibly grouchy…I’m grouchy this week).  And now it’s Thursday.  I usually get to the library early and get as much work as possible done all day.  I have a spiritual formation group at 1:30 and a class from 6-9 but I spend the rest of the day reading or writing or whatever other work I have.  But it’s Thursday morning and all I have managed so far is a shower, a trip to Starbucks where I chugged a double shot of espresso and watched Netflix on my laptop, and now I am in the library in a comfy chair with my feet propped up on a table (possibly not supposed to be doing that) reading some stuff I found online last week.  So…a productive morning to be sure.

I am certain you have had days like that.  When the work of your life just doesn’t seem to compare to the sweet, sweet idea of doing…nothing.  When you need to drink a cup of coffee and just troll around online.  Or take a long walk outside.  Or read a book you’ve been neglecting.  Or whatever your thing is.

To be sure, the work of our lives is just that- work.  Whether it’s a job someone pays you for, a ministry you feel called to, a tiny human (or humans) who you are caring for and raising, volunteering for a cause you feel passionate about, or whatever it is, the things that we dedicate ourselves to can sometimes become overwhelming.

It is a joy to have work to set your mind and your might to but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have times when your brain is tired and your body is worn out.   

Today is that day for me.  And yes I will still drag myself to class. Truthfully, once I get there I will probably really enjoy it because my professor is SO SMART and I love hearing what he says about New Testament interpretation.  But all that other stuff I would normally be doing this morning…I’m going to forget about it and forgive myself.  Maybe after lunch I’ll feel up to it.  Maybe it won’t be till tomorrow or Saturday or Sunday.  But most likely it’ll be later this afternoon when I’ve let myself take a break for a while.  Cause sometimes you need to take a break.  Yes the work you do is important but it’s not more important than you.  There is always someone who can pick up your slack for a while.  Someday you’ll be that person for someone else.  Forget about it for right now and forgive yourself.  And then get back to it tomorrow.  Or Saturday.  Or next week.

Because you aren’t valuable for the work you do but simply because you exist.  

You don’t have to do anything today to earn your spot in the world.  Right now you can breath and it’ll be ok.  Seriously…it will.  Promise.  It might not feel like it but it really will.

Forget it and forgive yourself.  Hang in there!  If I can pray for you today I would LOVE to do that.  Just comment or message me!

Hello again.

It’s been about a million years since I posted.  Life gets busy…I find other things to do.

Today however I am feeling the need to write.  To explain to the universe what in the world is going on in my head right now.  Mostly because seminary is a weird, weird place.

I’m in the library now, theoretically finishing my reading assignment for class tonight and writing a self-inventory of my current understanding of the New Testament.  Not sure what to write I’ve ended up here instead.  The guy behind me is typing so aggressively I think he must be trying to punish the enter key on his keyboard (seriously…what could it have possibly done to merit such torture???  calm down!!)  The guy across from me is reading something old looking…and text messaging up a storm.  There are scantly clad undergrad girls wondering around outside and dazed-looking grad students scurrying around with those backpacks on wheels because they have too many books and NO TIME!  Did I mention seminary is a weird place?

One of my classes is called Introduction to Christian Theology…a very serious title.  One of the assigned readings for that class asserted that theology is “paying attention to God” and how God is related to everything going on in the world (or I suppose also how everything going on in the world is relating to God).  It’s been stuck in my head since we read it last week…theology as simply paying attention.  Here, at school, I only have 1 thing to do…school…so things seem to move a little slower and I seem to notice a lot more of the small things.  Like how I really really like blueberries.  And the odd way the buildings smell- old, musty, and…something else sorta spicy.  I notice how kind and eager for contact people are…and how guarded and careful some people have had to become.  See earlier note about noticing the aggressive typing of the guy behind me.  Basically I’m just sort of creeping on everyone and everything around me.  And I’m finding it very, very interesting.

The absurdity of it all grabs me sometimes.  These fancy buildings (totally have a crush on the library) and important scholarly terms (ask me about eschatology…no wait, please don’t) all seem a bit absurd if the light is right and you tilt your head a little.  But then there are also moments of such eye-opening clarity and soul-refreshing honesty that you think “oh, yes. finally.”   It’s like everything else- a mix of the beautiful and the broken, the holy and mundane (guy behind me just burped LOUDLY).

And there are a lot of new ideas and new cultures and new ways of thinking that I just don’t know what to do with.  A professor yesterday told us that the story of Barrabas might be just a metaphor for Jesus taking the place of every human being on the cross.  Really?  Ok…I’m not sure what to do with that.  In another class we discussed the brokenness of systems- like juvenile detention systems- but can’t figure out how the church should address it.  Not sure what to do with that.  My roommate anointed the furniture in our rooms with olive oil from the kitchen so that she could feel the presence of God.  Not sure what to do with that.  There are people in my classes who struggle with whether or not they even believe in God…and they are in seminary?  Not sure what to do with that either.

At first all of these things had me worried.  What am I going to do???  And then the answer…which is such a gift…do nothing.  Just be for now.  Let it all exist in all it’s glorious tension.  Let it happen around you and flow through you but don’t hold on to it.  Just let it be.  At some point I’ll have to wrestle with some of this stuff but I’m not graduating tomorrow…I’ve got time.  Today’s job is just to pay attention to God…and get back to work on this self-inventory.

Toughen Up, Buttercup

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I’m a Southern belle from Texas through and through. I remember sitting on my grandmother’s back porch one afternoon talking to her about something or another that I was working on or wanted, I honestly don’t remember now what it was, and she was encouraging me to go after it. She said ” There are no shrinking violets in our family.”

Is this just a Southern expression? I don’t know who else says it but it’s definitely an apt description of most of the women in my family. We are tough, stubborn, opinionated, and hard working. We get stuff done even
though sometimes we run right over people to get it done. That sounds negative but truthfully it’s one of my favorite inherited qualities (the ability to drop grade A sass at a moment’s notice is also in this category).

Sometimes I get the impression that I am supposed to feel negatively about this ability to just push right through stuff. I rarely feel guilty about it though because in a culture that avoids conflict of any kind, including healthy conflict, and spends 30 minutes crafting the perfect vague and unassuming email I tend to find myself uniquely situated to help move things along. And I like that.

I wasn’t always like that. I mean opinionated and stubborn sure but ready to tackle problems? Not so much. Avoidance was the order of the day. But I was blessed by some really tough situations when I was younger and it taught me that it’s better to deal with stuff head on and aggressively than to let them build steam and cause more problems for you later. You tackle enough of the tough stuff long enough and you start to realize that it’s not so tough after all. You CAN do this…even if you thought you couldn’t.

I know there will be more problems that come my way and no matter how tough I am I won’t be able to tackle all of them. I can’t cure loved ones who get sick or create jobs for unemployed friends. But I can go to doctor’s appointments, do research, and hold a frightened hand. I can keep the faith when it seems like no help is coming and I can ask everyone I know if they are hiring or know of someone who is. I can’t think of many instances when there isn’t something you can do…even if it won’t fix everything.

Don’t get me wrong. I have cried buckets when people I love have been hurting and there is nothing I can do to alleviate that hurt. I have spent long hours in prayer asking for answers that didn’t come. But, as I’ve grown, I have learned that crying and sorrow aren’t the same thing as surrendering to despair. And I have found the ability to move forward in the faith knowing that unanswered prayers don’t mean that your prayers weren’t heard.

The world is broken and not as it should be but people of faith are tough people. We aren’t tough because of the things we have weathered but because we know the One who calms the storms. We press on and fight on and look for blessings in broken places because we know that the brokenness of this world doesn’t have the last say. We know that sorrow, loss, death, ruin, and decay are going to come to an end one day. We don’t bow to the powers of this world because we know that only Jesus is Lord…so nothing else can be.

Stuff is going to happen and you are going to have to be tough. But you don’t have to be tough alone.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4: 4

So be brave today. I know it’s hard and I know it feels like it is coming at you from all sides.

But…

It won’t always be this hard.

It won’t last forever.

You don’t have to face it alone.

Go get ’em.

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