Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Own Mutiny Against Excess: 7 Goals for 7 Living

It drives me crazy to think that my stuff is weighing me down. I worry that my girls’ stuff is too abundant. I worry that others may think that they have too much and that they will be spoiled and that they will grow up to not appreciate things. I worry that the girls will be those people that believe they are entitled to things or jobs or to a certain status. That may kill me. I find myself making excuses about their toys to our closest friends that don’t really care that the girls have a lot of toys to begin with. I lose sleep over it. I also lose sleep over being sure that my girls are thoughtful and thankful always. Both Eliot and I have parents that have always worked really hard. We both had the things we wanted when we were young and neither of us ever felt like we wanted something and didn’t get it. And some how, we managed to walk away with an understanding of the importance of hard work, the importance of valuing people; our relationships, more than any thing that we could have; possess.

As I pondered these ideas, I was watching HGTV. This is not to say that I need a bigger home or fancier home. I just like HGTV. I like seeing hard work turn into something cool, particularly if it’s got some sort of vintage flare. Vintage may be a cool new word for old but to me it says homey. I digress; I was watching a show with the Hatmaker family. These Texans were so fun and easy going I did something I rarely do, I googled them. Turns out the Hatmakers are professional Christian authors and ministers. So I downloaded Jen Hatmaker’s book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” I read it. I had to slow myself down as I read it because I wanted it to seep into my skin. I was looking for an awakening, to be transformed in some way and I got it.

In the book, Jen Hatmaker systemically tries to addresses issues of excess for her and her family. For example, one month she focuses on the excess of their possessions so as they reduce the amount of clothes and other things they have around the house she commits to only wearing 7 items of clothing for the month. Another month, they decided to go green, so they identify 7 new behaviors such as recycling, gardening, and composting. There were 7 but I can’t remember them all. What I go out of it was a perfect segue way to into my own mutiny, as I read I was inspired. It shifted they way I want to live myself.

1. I want to be part of a church community that focuses on service. The image of the typical Christian from the outside looking in, sadly has increasingly become narrow minded, conservative and greedy. I struggle sometimes to defend the institution when the loudest of voices are arrogant and instead of caring for others are pushing them out of sight whether it’s a politically charged controversy of immigration or the regulations in towns on the homeless. The Jesus I know would likely have not been a modern day Christian. The Jesus I believe was the example I want to follow is that of an individual that was comfortable with those in society that were the most oppressed and casted aside.

To that vain, I want to be a part of a community of faith that seeks to care for those that need it the most. I want to spend less time in conversation about big giant Trunk or Treat party and more time in providing food to families without it in my community. Currently we are in process of building a “foot washing church” at least I would like to hope that we are. My church campus has suspended Sunday morning services every second Sunday to serve the community. We have service goals through February, which will be family and visitor friendly. We planning on being a true community church where the doors are always open, and so are our hearts.

 2.   I want to develop a habit of giving to others for our entire family. From the little things like donating used toys and used clothes to gathering food for Metropolitan Ministries to participating in family service activities.  

i.    I believe that giving is better than receiving. Empathy and compassion fulfill our lives in a way that envy and greed could never. It is part of that living by example that I believe children really see. As a child my mother opened her door to many in need, she was always trying to care for others, give to others whether it was a meal or a pair of socks, her heart is still one that focuses on giving. To this end, I want to be sure that we are doing our best to be giving people as well and talk to our girls about the importance of doing so. It’s a little holding hands and singing “Kubaya” –ish but there is value in generosity for all.

3.   I want to pick a day of the week where Eliot and I unplug together and connect to each other. I can’t completely disconnect, partly because I hardly watch television and vegging out to an hour of TV after the girls go to bed gives me great joy. But on the other hand, my incessant need to check email on the weekends or the evenings needs to be curved. Some things can wait, actually most things can wait. Life gets so busy and tiresome that Eliot and I will lay next together on our cell phones. He looks at soccer stats and I look at vintage furniture. An absolutely needed downtime, but once a week I want us to connect together together, rather than together separate. It is a tad counterintuitive perhaps to disconnect in order to connect possibly in another tech sort of way. Eliot and I may choose to watch a movie together or a show or a game, but at least we are engaged with one another; focused on the same thing.

     We disconnect with the girls often. We go to the park, or play games or do crafts without any tech oriented sort of thing, however, in Hatmaker’s 7, she had the entire family observe the Sabbath. They shared in a family meal and stayed home, stayed away from outside influences like phones, computers and ignored the host of household duties like laundry, mowing the lawn and simply just were together. Sometimes they ate popcorn and watched a movie, other times they played games, but I like the idea. Our lives are so busy that I would like to claim the Sabbath back. Ideally we would do this every week, but chances are that we won’t pull that off. I am trying to create habits of attainable goal setting so as of January I will schedule us one Saturday night a month as Sabbath night. We will wake up in the morning and go to church too.

4. Stuff is crowding my drawers, my closets, my garage thus I want us to reduce the amount of things we have. Now I should be specific because I am not claiming that we will give away everything and live in a state of asceticism. However, there is no reason we need 3 blenders. True story. I rarely blend as it is. So why 3 blenders? One doesn’t even work, but because it says magic on the side I shove it in a corner thinking that perhaps it’s inherent magical nature will revive it. It’s unlikely. We have likely 20 pots and pans, if not more and I am certain we use only 4.

So what I hope to accomplish is to evaluate the things we have. Things we do not need or no longer use we either sell or donate. This way we have things that we actually have a reason for and otherwise we let go of it. I am sentimental about photographs and a small handful of things, otherwise I have the tendency to let it go, the goal here is get it out of the house and into the hands of someone that needs it.

5. This past weekend we went to a local fruit and vegetable stand. We bought I think good quality items and I think a little less than we normally do. I want to be sure that we aren’t wasting food. We have definitely gotten better at this over the last few months. We have been trying to eat everything in our, 2 refrigerators instead of buying more things and forgetting we have it stored. One of the ways we have been doing this is menu planning.

Over the weekend, we try to talk through what we could have for dinner during the week and then purchase additional food as needed. Maybe everyone does this, but don’t really. I used to go to the store and just buy things that may strike my fancy on that day. So we ended up with 7 pounds of chicken or 12 bags of frozen vegetables. As we plan for the week, we consider at least one leftover day, and a day that my parents will make us dinner and a day that we may eat out.

6. At the risk of being redundant, I want us to evaluate our closets and pass things along to people that we have out grown or are out of style. I have been pretty good at doing this with the girls’ clothes because they out grow things so quickly, but Eliot and I have too much clothes. There is no reason I need 50 skirts in my closet.

h    There is also no reason that every drawer in my dresser doesn’t closed completely because there are so filled items get partly stuck at the back of the drawer and stop them from closing. I also have lots of clothes pre-pregnancy that do not fit because my body changed significantly.

      7. An item on the list of most Americans is spending. Addressing and evaluating where most of your money goes will determine what you value in life. I want to be thoughtful about our spending and to use our financial resources for experiences rather then the acquisition of more things.

Of course there are things that I want and there are things that I need, but there is balance. We also have a love for travel and a desire to feel financial secure as we enter our 40’s, 50’s and beyond. This is the time to figure that out the plan.

**I haven't blogged since June. It's hard to believe that life has gone so fast and that I have let go of something I love to because time has gone too fast. I will add writing to my list of goals.