Inspiration · Month 1

My own experiment in self-reduction.

My last post was a month ago. I have good reason people! Well, not really, but everyone knows the time between Thanksgiving and New Years is pure insanity. But I am so excited that January 2014 is here because this means the beginning of a little project I have been anticipating for a few months now.

Side note: glancing down at my shirt while I type… “what is all this crusted shmear on my sleeve and how did it get there”? Oh yeah, I have a kid. Moving on.

A few months ago I began reading a book by Jen Hatmaker called 7. She and her hubby Brandon are pretty fabulous writers and pretty awesome people in general. I keep telling Chris that if we were to move to Austin there’s no way Jen and I wouldn’t be besties. For real. {don’t worry Mom, God hasn’t hinted at a move for us any time soon… though if He does I’m pulling for Austin}.  The basics about Jen’s book {which I did not write, but so geniusly copied from her blog}: 7 – An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess – The true story of how Jen took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence”.

Go buy it here.

This little project began as Jen’s “ticket out of nauseating consumerism”. She targeted 7 areas of her life {and the lives of most westerners} that were just “too stinkin’ much”:

  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Possessions
  • Media
  • Waste
  • Spending
  • Stress

“Seven months, seven areas, reduced to seven simple choices. I’m embarking on a journey of less. It’s time to purge the junk and pare down to what is necessary, what is noble. 7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through. I approach this project in the spirit of a fast: an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God’s movement in my life. A fast creates margin for God to move. Temporarily changing our routine of comfort jars us off high center”. (p. 4)

Sorry Jen, I will try not to post too much of your book on here {go buy it people!}, but you just say things so nicely and bluntly, I don’t want to screw it up.

Folks, if you and I are truly honest with ourselves, there isn’t a single one of us that can’t benefit from embarking on our own social experiment to simplify our lives. Personally, I am quite embarrassed by the amount of stuff I have accumulated over the past 28 years on this planet. Yes I have a husband and toddler who have added to the mix; both require stuff, but nothing near the amount that I have taken upon myself to hoard… just in case.

Brace yourselves, things are about to get real. I am sick of living under the crushing weight of my possessions. They don’t bring me joy. They actually cause me stress and worry. The stress and worry seeps over into my marriage and into my relationship with my daughter. I feel overwhelmed with simple daily chores, because in order to actually get to cleaning and cooking I have to sift through/pile up/re-arrange possessions. By the time I’ve straightened up, I’m to tired or have run out of time in the day to do anything else. I’m tired. and I’m tired of holding on to these things. Not only do these possessions consume the time in my day that could be used for family, friends, God’s kingdom, but I constantly find myself wishing for more {a bigger home, a better car}. I am constantly putting time and energy into these possessions that fill my home that, to put it frankly, have absolutely no worth to God. Then why do they mean so much to me? The American Dream is truly a nightmare. The need for more is a poison that has infected us all. Now, before you hate on me for being judgy, just know that I am not saying we should all sell everything we own and join a commune {though that has crossed my mind several times. anyone with me? … crickets chirp}. And I will be the first to say that I am one of the worst offenders. For so long I purposefully turned a blind eye to the fact that I {we} are so rich. Just one more quote from 7:

“I was so blinded I didn’t even know we were rich. How can I be socially responsible if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world? (You probably do too: Make $35,000 a year? Top 4%. $50,000? Top 1 percent.) Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer… What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can’t manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount?” (p.3)

Let that sink in. Seriously? I was actually in a little bit of shock after reading that the first time. and also the second time. Okay I’m still in shock. I probably shouldn’t be, since God has been working on making me more compassionate and less ignorant of the plight of others around the world for a while now. It began several years ago when God began making clear waves in my generally peaceful life; these were not giant squalls right off the bat, but little ripples that just didn’t stop {One of those ripples goes by the name of Kari, another is a hoard of ripples called The Catons}. God completely ignored my tendency for sea-sickness, the nerve, and has instead continued the onslaught of itty bitty waves that, over time, have completely changed the course of my life from what I wanted it to be to what He wanted it to be. I’m still surprised. Where am I? Where am I going? I don’t even know, I need a motion sickness bag. Having someone else in control, though, is honestly such a relief. I never ever never would have thought in a million years I would be okay with simply waiting around for a phone call from social services asking if we could take a child. That just didn’t fit with my plan. The good news is that I’m ok now with throwing out my plan. This experiment is another step towards accepting God’s plan for my life and letting go of everything else.  I’m not saying this will solve all of my problems. I’m actually pretty confident I may have to engage in repeated purges from each of the areas of this project. But it’s a start.

Just to make this post longer and wordier, I should add that Chris has also decided to take part in this experiment with me. One of the reasons we are both participating in this is our daughter, Charlotte. The more I navigate this journey called “parenting” the more I am thankful for the pretty stellar job my parents did in raising me. It wasn’t easy, for me or for them {As I’m learning now with my very own mini-me testing the limits each moment of each day} but one thing they did for me was show me God: in their marriage, in the way they spoke to me, in their priorities {to this day my father has never owned a new car and both of my parents are some of the hardest workers you will ever find}. My biggest focus at the moment is ensuring that Charlotte knows God. Not just that she knows who God is or hears the stories in the bible. I want her to see God at work. In her mom and dad’s lives. I want her to know why we give to the homeless, why we take other children into our home, why we don’t go overboard at Christmas, why we wear hand-me-downs, why we collected shoes for kids instead of collecting presents at a birthday party Because we are called to love and not judge, to care for widows and orphans, to live out the ‘less is more’ lessons we’ve all heard a thousand times, and that the earth is God’s creation and we should try our hardest to save not squander it. I don’t have all the answers, and not one of these ‘good deeds’ is enough to fix the problems of this world alone… but It’s a start.

In Jen’s words, speaking about her children, my child, your children : “It is not too late to untether them from the lie of more“.

Each month I have decided to mimic some components of Jen’s personal experiences {which she outlined in 7, which you should go read}; however, I will be modifying her experiment to fit my life a little better, without making things too easy on myself. After all, the purpose of this will be an intentional reduction of myself, my stuff, and my way of life in order to make space for God, God’s stuff, and God’s plan for my life. God and I both can’t fit into this space called “my life” {especially since my head is so big with my poufy hair}; I must decrease so He can increase. I’m pretty sure that’s gonna hurt.

Month 1, January 2014: Possessions. Get ready.

11 thoughts on “My own experiment in self-reduction.

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