New habits to cut down on excess

Like I mentioned in another post, I'm typically wary of things labeled Christian. I'm even wary sometimes of the church. But Jen Hatmaker's book, Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excesswas strangely refreshing; it was the antidote for my cynical heart. Basically, Jen chose 7 areas (clothes, spending, waste, food, possessions, media, stress) with which to practice simplicity. Each month was devoted to a new focus, and for those 30 or 31 days, she practiced simplicity by either completely cutting out that aspect (for example, social media/TV/radio) or limiting herself to seven things within that aspect (for the clothing month, she chose only 7 items of clothing to wear for the full month). The book takes readers through each month via her journals throughout the process and what she learns on her quest to cut excess. Hint: She learns a lot...and so did I.

I've grown about disenchanted with the Evangelical church. Admittedly, I've done a lot of finger pointing, but Seven made me realize that I am part of the problem. Ironically, my own cynicism of the church has weakened my capacity for compassion. In the first chapter, Hatmaker writes, "Cynicism wreaked some havoc  on my gentleness, my humility" (25). My own critical attitude of the church has done nothing but draw me further away from God (John 5: 39-40). I'm done with this. So halfway through the first chapter, I prayed that God would break my heart, that He would show me pain and suffering in my own city so that I'd be compelled to act. Just a note: When you pray for God to show you tough stuff, be prepared for Him to actually come through with that request. In the last three weeks I've learned just how many people are homeless in my small city of 50,000. I've learned about kids without homes, families without resources to provide basic needs for their children. Because my husband isn't too keen on me inviting more children to live with us, I've called churches and shelters and agencies and non-profits to try and find a service opportunity that our entire family can contribute to. I wanted something with a human element. We eventually found a church here in town that serves a meal to folks in need every Saturday evening. So, starting this month, our family and another family will join in with these folks who are truly living out the Gospel.

Next, I came face to face with my own excess. Here's what I'm committed to:
  • Eliminate our excess of stuff. If you have kids, you know how quickly toys/games/books/clothes/random plastic crap accumulates. Sometimes I end up buying junk we don't need because I'm too tired to determine if it's really a need (I'm ousting my middle class, first world status here...). Halfway through the book, I went on a rampage purging our home muttering about how we're being swallowed by stuff. We took one truck load of stuff to a local church to donate to their free clothing closet. We still have another truck load of toys/games/books/household decor that we're hoping to sell and use the money to donate to a local charity. 
  • Give social media the boot....temporarily. I've begrudgingly counted up the hours I spend daily on social media to try and promote my own writing and grow a following, and the amount made me nauseous. I'm too embarrassed to share. It's true that social media is an important aspect of my job as a freelance writer, but the noise of it has taken up too much of my attention, too much of time, and has really become an idol in my life. I need to learn how to live without it. I need to train my brain and hands to not reach for my phone whenever I have a free moment. So, I'm taking a 30 day hiatus from Facebook and Twitter and a 30 day hiatus from submitting any work for publication. I'll still write during these 30 days, but I don't want to be so driven by productivity, numbers, and publishing that the other more important things in my life get neglected. During this time I'll be reading Seven Sacred Pauses, and I'm going to try and figure out how to implement the seven pauses for prayer throughout each day. (I'm terrible about scheduled prayer, so I'm looking for accountability in this...anyone want to join me?!) 
  • I'm also renewing my commitment to a capsule wardrobe to cut down on clothing excess. For my fall capsule, I'm looking for used clothing and/or sustainable clothing. I'm also willing to buy from our local, non-corporate shops. So far, I've used the ThredUp app and my local consignment store to help me start building my fall capsule (I've also got my eye on a dress from Wearpact). I want to apply these same principles to my kids' clothes. I'm guilty of buying random clothes and crap for my kids not because they need them but because I think they're cute. I want to tighten my spending in this area so we have more room to give freely as the Spirit moves us. 
  • Honor the sabbath. From sundown on Saturday night to sundown on Sunday night, we will observe the sabbath--a time of rest. We will only engage in activities that fill our proverbial cups. I walked away from a catastrophic bedroom on Sunday that looked like a closet blew up and left its remains scattered throughout the room. Instead, I played Uno with my daughter instead, and it was awesome. We live in a culture that prides itself on productivity and full schedules; we no longer value rest, but God does (Hebrews 4: 9-11). If God--a perfect being--values rest and sees the need for rest, then perhaps I--an imperfect and totally flawed human--should also value a day of rest. This one will be hard for me. I am a busybody who can multitask LIKE A FRIGGIN BOSS. I know it's not healthy, though, and I don't want my kids to learn bad habits. So on Saturday night through Sunday night, we will rest. We will enjoy one another; we will nap; we will enjoy a nice meal together because I love cooking big meals but never make time for them; we will study God's word; we will pray; we will read and dance and play outside. I can't wait. 
  • Cut down on waste. I'm not ready to compost yet, but I can eliminate the everloving plastic sandwich baggies from our lunch boxes. I can utilize reusable containers for the kids' lunches. I can buy bulk items instead of individually packaged things. I can quit buying juice boxes and opt for water in reusable bottles. I can be more deliberate about recycling. 
So...those are my Seven inspired changes. If, like me, you're feeling overwhelmed by all the proverbial and literal stuff in your life--then head to your library to check out Seven...if they don't have it, contact me. I'll send you my copy to borrow. This book would also make an excellent book club book or small group book; it's always nice to have an accountability system when you're making tough changes. 

1 comment:

Kristin said...

You know this stuff is close to my heart... and it makes me happy that you are looking at PACT. Two of my shirts are PACT and they are super comfortable. They run a tad big, FYI :).