In Which I Get Rid of Excess, Then Buy a Lot

For the last few months, my women’s Bible study has been studying Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  In the book, Jen realizes that her “typical American life” is full of excess and decides to try a 7 month experiment to try to live a more simple, focused life.

Each month, she targets an area of excess (food! Stress! Media! Possessions! Clothing! Waste! Spending!) and makes sacrificial lifestyle changes in order to rebalance and gain proper perspective in those areas.

Naturally, our Bible study couldn’t just READ a book like this—we wanted to experiment along with her.

As part of our experiment, we decided to go through our homes, collect excessive items, host a yard sale, and donate the proceeds to a local nonprofit.

We found out that a local church was hosting a “giant parking lot sale,” where you could rent a parking spot (or 2! Or 3!) to sell your wares.  So we booked a few spots, dug through our homes, priced our items, and got ready for a fun Saturday morning.

I pulled up to the church at 7:15 am to see my friends hard at work.  Maegen had already pitched our beach tent (“it adds legitimacy” she said.)  Leah was going through our clothing with the authority of a buyer for Saks, deciding which pieces should be displayed on the clothing rack and which should be relegated to our tables.  Beth and Charmel were unloading their cars, setting up card tables, and offering us bagels and coffee.  Alison had contributed a jogging stroller that she now wanted back.  Arwen was defiantly wearing an apron advertising OUR church, which is located down the street from the host church.

These are my friends.

As we organized one another’s excess, conversations like these occurred:

“Are you really done with this purse?”
“Um, yeah, that’s why I brought it to our yard sale.”  
“Oh, well, can I have it?”
“Sure!”

“I was going to donate this a while ago, but it was too cute to just give away to the homeless.” 

“This is totally Zoe’s color! Take it!” 

“I think I’m going to take those sheets back for my au pair.”
“You have an au pair?”
“No, but I will if I have a third child.”
“Are you having a third child?”
“I’m on the fence.”

By 7:45, the early birds were already circling our tent and tables, asking questions like, “does that foosball table have a ball?” and “how much for that tricycle? Would you take less?” while we tried to finish staging our items.

I was irritated by their predatory behavior until I looked at the parking spot to our right and saw a woman pulling a Little Tikes child’s double easel out of her car.

I dropped the shirt I was folding and ran.

“How much for the easel? $3, like that sticker says?” I asked, pointing to an old yard sale sticker that clearly was not her handiwork.

She sighed. “Oh, is that still on there? Okay, $3.”

“DONE!!!” I said, hauling the easel back to the tent we were attempting to organize and adding a big sign, “SARAH’S.  DO NOT SELL.”

Little Tikes Easel

(This is what I am talking about, in case you are picturing an actual
artist’s easel like David was when I excitedly texted him about my purchase. Also,
please tell me what yard sale I need to hit up to get those fantastically loud green
overalls for Zoe.  I’m there.)

It was 7:45 on the morning of our “rid the excess” sale and I had already added a board book, two shirts, and two outfits for Zoe from my friend’s wares.  Now, I had added an easel.

Still, I consoled myself, I was still ahead on the “donated vs added” items count.  

The woman walked back over.  “Here, this goes with it!” she said, giving me a bag of crayons, chalk, and an eraser.

Gulp.

And so it continued.  One of the parking spot vendors had the cutest baby girl dresses.  Obviously, Zoe needed 5.  Another featured a giant box of Melissa & Doug blocks for $1.  It would be stupid NOT to buy those!

All in all, I wound up leaving our “rid the excess” sale with a fuller car than when I drove there (although to be fair, the easel and blocks take up a lot more car space than things like a Magic Bullet and clothes.)

I don’t feel bad though.  I added things for our new stage of life and got rid of things from older stages of life—some of them, things that hurt a bit to get rid of (beautiful work clothes I just do not use anymore and that might be more useful to someone else in this stage of life,) and others, things I happily gave away (McKay and Kenny, join with me in celebrating that David has finally parted with his “Alaska” ringer t-shirt.  Unsurprisingly, it did not sell.)

Sure, it may not have been the best exercise in reducing possessions for me (or the group member who sent a crowing list of her swaps and purchases to the group two hours after the yard sale—although she remains anonymous here, you may call her “a woman after my own heart.”)

But who cares? We had a blast, raised $228.30 for an awesome organization, donated the leftover items to a homeless shelter and Dress for Success, and de-cluttered our homes (some of us may have very quickly re-cluttered, but at least we’re not piling new stuff on top of old stuff, Hoarders style!)

Also, we’ve decided to do an annual fundraiser of some kind now that we understand our collective power!

Our tentSetting up

Thanks to all my Bible study girls for such a FUN morning and fun memories!

Advertisements

Upbeat and Happy Post With Lots of Photos

David told me that it was time for a “happy post without a lot of words and with lots of pictures of Zoe.”  I never realized that my husband had such a vision for my blog’s narrative flow.  Looks like my post on the inevitability of death will have to wait…just kidding! That’s not something anyone wants to think about, much less write about (TAKE NOTES, The Good Wife!!!)

So in an effort to live up to my husband’s creative vision casting, here are some photos along with sparse and upbeat narrative about Zoe’s life these days.

***

Presented without comment… <–except this one.  Which is HAPPY.

Mel Gibson Zo

***

You know you’ve succeeded as a caffeine-lovin’ mama when your 15 month old’s favorite part of the morning is “making coffee.”  Zoe is a vital part of our morning operations over here and knows exactly where to find the coffee (and exactly how to break through the “childproofed” cabinet.  Attagirl.)  

IMG_2144

Zoe’s skills have real breadth–she knows how to push the button on the Keurig OR drip coffee maker.  However, she prefers the Keurig because K-cups are fun to play with.  

Zoe coffee“My precious”

IMG_2148This should surprise no one…

IMG_2155My child has turned out just like you’ve always expected.  

***

My sweet friend Jessica recently visited us during her graduate school spring break (because nothing says “college spring break” like turning in for the night at 10 pm and waking up to the sound of baby crying at 5 am!) 

But really, we had a lot of fun.  Jess is getting her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Expressive Arts therapy, so naturally we had to do some expressive arts with Zoe.  Analyze this!

IMG_2156

IMG_2158

IMG_2160

IMG_2161

IMG_2174

IMG_2175

***

While Jess was here, Zoe showed off a surprising new skill: her ability to take a “selfie.”  

IMG_2180

“That one was too upbeat.  Time to look pensive.”

IMG_2181

Every day is #selfiesunday over here.
IMG_2182

If anything needs to be analyzed, it’s probably THIS and not her finger painting…

***

Finally, I have been attempting to assign Zoe “jobs.”  She loves to help me with tasks like taking laundry out of the dryer, clearing the dishwasher utensil drawer, sweeping the floor with her toy broom, the aforementioned coffee making, and (her latest act of benevolence) feeding the dog.  

Note that I said “feeding.”  Not “watering.”

IMG_2187

Good luck staying hydrated, Java!

But really, it is interesting to see how her mind works and how much joy she gets out of helping with household tasks.  It might not be the most efficient way to get the jobs done, but it’s definitely the sweetest!

Hope this fit the bill, David!!

Writing in the In Between

I’ve been struggling lately with filling this space.

For me, writing is the process of tossing all sorts of loose ends to the ground, wrestling with them, and coming up with them neatly tied together.

But what do you do when you can’t organize your thoughts, when tying your words together is too great of a challenge because your life doesn’t feel tied together? What do you do when your prayers are so tangled up that you don’t even know what you’re praying for, when your emotions are so high and low when you’re used to stability, when your brain says move on and your heart says how? 

You can’t tie that together into some nice paragraphs and a conclusion.  You can’t write straight if you can’t even think straight.

And so I’ve journeyed on, thinking maybe someday I’ll have something to say, until today when it began to dawn on me that in this case, maybe the medium is the message.  Maybe the fact that I can’t put this all together into some clear message IS the clear message.

Grief isn’t neat.

Life isn’t neat.

Love isn’t neat.

Following God isn’t neat.  It isn’t safe.  It isn’t even fun all the time.

But as C.S. Lewis writes, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He’s not safe! But He’s good.”  

And I’m in this in-between place of knowing that, and believing that.  I’m torn between trusting regardless of understanding, and wanting to understand.  Life doesn’t look like what I thought I would look like.  God didn’t work like I expected.

And so I’m doing my best on a day to day basis to lean OFF my own understanding and lean ON His. I’m trying my hardest to lay down whatever I can that day without stressing about what I don’t understand enough to give up yet.  I’m praying that every day I feel worse leads me to feeling better in the long run and I’m thanking Him for every day that I feel happy and light and awake to His presence.  I’m listening to songs that piss me off as they talk about God’s goodness one day and I’m singing them the next day, trusting in their words and feeling their truth in my heart.  I’m taking steps forward while continuing to grieve what was left behind.  I’m looking at a little face and feeling the hope of seeing her future while I pray for the future of her sister that I won’t see. I’m clinging to my husband in love, feeling blessed for the sweetness we’ve shared in the midst of the pain we’ve also shared.  

I’m in between wrapped up and a hot mess.  I can get dressed and cook meals and I am confident in my ability to spend the day doing normal life again, but I am not ready to say “I feel normal” again.

In many ways I prefer the absolutely, 100% broken stage.  At least nothing is expected of you.  You can just BE a hot mess.  And your emotions are predictable.  You just feel sad.  There isn’t this weird back-and-forth thing, a tension between the old you and the new you that you don’t understand yet.  You’re just the devastated you.  It’s pretty straightforward, and people bring you dinner.

But I’m realizing that maybe being so broken and uncomfortable in this world and so pitifully aware of my inability to understand what I need, much less to heal myself from this, is right where the Father wants me to be.

“Do not love this world nor the things that it offers to you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but from the world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.  But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”  (from I John)

He never promised us comfort and an easy life.  He never promised us that our journeys would be safe and neat and protected from pain.  He didn’t tell us to seek those things, either, but as a lover of predictability and routine and control I’ve sought them anyway.  I’m learning that I can survive without them.

I’m learning that what I want most in this in-between time is not a return to safety—but instead, to be within His will.  I want to seek Him—not a specific outcome.  I want to be the person He wants me to be—not just my old self.

As Emily Freeman says,

“Maybe you’re asking what in the world is going on in your own life.  One way to ask that question is with a frantic soul, a furrowed brow and two tightly clenched fists, What now?!? 

…But there is another way to ask – same words, different posture. In the midst of the waiting, of the wondering, of the time of transition, we can rehearse the things we know for sure.

Our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

Nothing can separate us from his love.

We will never be alone.

And so we ask with hopeful expectation, with open hands and a willingness to sit with our questions as we whisper these words before God. What now?” 

It is from that place that I write.  It’s not where I want to be, but it’s where I am.  And so I offer it to Him.

Your Grace Finds Me

It had been a long day.  I had woken up at 5:15 am feeling sick, got right to work mothering at 6:10 as David had a morning meeting, and continued working throughout the day.  We had a fun day, but it was now 6:45 pm, David was still at work thanks to an evening meeting, and Zoe was getting progressively crankier and crankier—her fatigue and my fatigue locked in a battle.

Is it bedtime yet? I wondered wearily.  I looked up at the clock and sighed.  45 more minutes…

In that sigh, my heart sank.

Though I know it’s natural to feel tired, I feel guilty every time that I catch myself wishing time away.

I didn’t become a mom for nap time and bed time; I became a mom for the waking moments, when I get to watch Zoe develop and grow and explore.  I didn’t become a mom to have time to myself; I became a mom to give of myself.

When I told my boss I was not coming back to work full time, she said, “The way this baby found her way into your family was such a miracle.  I’m glad you’re not wasting the miracle.”   I’ve thought often of this as I’ve watched my sweet baby grow faster than I could have ever imagined.  This IS a miracle.  Every moment.  And our recent failed adoption reminds me of just how miraculous it is for a mother to give up the privilege of parenting so that her child can have a better life.  It defies logic.  It defies the cry of a mother’s heart.  It is a miracle—a heartbreaking and perplexing and yet ultimately beautiful miracle when God takes a child who needs a family and places it into the arms of a family who need that child.

It was now 7:00.  My sweet little one was relaxing on my lap and drinking her bottle as I thought through all this, chastising myself for my lack of discipline and energy and appreciation for our miracle and my general suckiness as a mom.   (You know, the loving things you say to yourself that really spur you on to greatness.)

In the midst of my motivational inner monologue, I happened to glance outside and realized that the scenery looked different than our usual 7:00 darkness.  Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, a beautiful sunset was happening outside our window.

It’s a shame we’ll miss that sunset, I thought.

And then it hit me.

Why do we have to miss it? 

Just because I set an arbitrary bedtime—just because we have a routine—just because I planned on a 7:30 bedtime—doesn’t mean that we had to follow through.

A few weeks ago I had heard a sermon where Andy Stanley challenged us to ask ourselves the question “what would an extraordinary person do?” in our ordinary circumstances.

As the sunset gleamed outside, I asked myself what an extraordinary mom, one who doesn’t want herself or her child to miss a miracle, one who doesn’t want to end their day in fatigue and discouragement, would do.

And just like that, Zoe was done with her bottle.  I looked her in the eye and said “baby, do you want to go outside?” 

She ran to the door, confused and excited, following at my heels as I grabbed my shoes and keys.

We stepped outside and I walked us to a place where we could see the sunset.

And as we looked up at the sky and pointed to squirrels and birds and picked flowers and waved to each car as it went by, I realized that the only people missing the miracle tonight were the people who didn’t look out their car windows to see the loving little girl waving to them and the people whose hands gripped the wheel too tightly to wave back.

Tonight, I wasn’t one of them.

Thank you, Lord.

(Want more? This song.)

Little Moments, Large Photographs

The other night, I had to admit: I officially have a toddler.  My baby no longer looks like this…

IMG_0599

Instead, my little one is ready to take on the world…including, apparently, the working world.

IMG_2116

Life with a toddler is basically nonstop running around and although I actively enjoy most of the day every day, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to reflect on the things I’m enjoying.  So, I’ve been trying to pull out my camera more to help me remember these little moments.  Here are a few of my favorites lately!

1. Mother-daughter baking.  

Zoe and I have been having a lot of fun in the kitchen together recently.  She loves to help with meal preparation and although involving her makes things messier and slower, it’s fun for both of us.

Zoe baking

On this particular morning in photographic history, we made blueberry-banana muffins. We had a blast stirring, sifting, whisking, and pouring the batter into the muffin cups.

As we watched them rise in the oven, I was awed by my own parenting skills (baking together=precursor to math! Developing fine motor skills! Teaching cause and effect! Providing opportunities to practice helping! Showing that patience pays off in delicious ways!)

I am ROCKING at parenting, I thought smugly as I surveyed the scene without even a twinge of frustration at the thin layer of flour now covering my floor.  I am hands on, creative, enthusiastic, flexible, and willing to provide learning opportunities at 7 am.  Plus, FRESH BAKED MUFFINS FOR BREAKFAST?! Where is my “mother of the year” trophy?! 

20 minutes later, I looked at my sweet girl’s muffin-covered face and wondered, why are you covered in hives? 

Oh yeah, because she’s allergic to blueberries, you idiot, and you just made blueberry-banana muffins.  

I put that imaginary mother of the year trophy back in its box real fast…

2. Zoe’s balloon obsession.  

IMG_2131

A few weeks ago, a friend ding-dong-ditched a Valentine’s Day balloon and some cupcake mix on our doorstep.  The balloon was a source of tension for Zoe for a while, as she REALLY wanted to touch it but was simultaneously terrified of it.  Two weeks after Valentine’s Day, she has finally grown used to it and now enjoys walking around carrying it.

The other morning, she woke up at 4:45 am and wouldn’t go back to sleep.  After gulping down her bottle, she catapulted off my lap and immediately raced to turn on the iPod docking station and grab her balloon.  Morning priorities, you know.

Zoe balloon2

3. Playing in the yard. 

Whether we’re walking or running down the street, riding in her Cozy Coupe car, pushing her doll in her toy baby stroller, blowing bubbles, “making it rain” with leaves, waving at cars, stomping on manholes, imitating bird noises, pointing at squirrels, barking like dogs, playing with her water table, picking up sticks, or playing with flowers…we have fun in our yard.

Outside collageI’m thankful we have such a safe and fun place to play.  And I’m thankful that our neighbors aren’t openly judgmental of the bizarre stuff they see us doing (let’s just put it this way: my manhole stomp and “leaf dancing” are a bit…loud.)