Archives for June 2012

The Summer of 7: Excessiveness in Clothing

Clothing RackThis post is a two-part post.  Read this one first and then right after, go read the second part over at my friend Cyndi’s blog Walking in Grace and Beauty.  She has graciously allowed me to guest post over at her place so I could fit these two posts in one day.  Cyndi is a pastor’s wife that loves fashion and I think a perfect fit for these posts.  If you are a fashion lover too, you will love her and her blog!  So first, read this below and then head straight over there!!

 

On the surface, the clothing week of The Summer of 7 has been easy.  These 7 articles of clothing I’m wearing are a cinch.  The make-up thing has been awkward at times but overall both things are have actually streamlined my life. 

I think, though, that God had me take a look at the heart of the problem.  Because isn’t the heart usually the problem? 

I think in any situation where you have excess, you can remove the excess but if you don’t rearrange your perspective, it’s just going to keep coming back.  It’s like weeding without digging up the roots. 

I want to get to the heart of the problem but the first thing I want to address is the areas of concern for me.  Perhaps you can relate. 

 

Clothing

Well, duh.  I know this whole week is supposed to be about clothing.  On the surface it’s simply a numbers game.  Many of us just have too many pieces of clothing in our closets.  I touched on this last week so I won’t beat a dead horse but the fact of the matter is we just don’t need much of what we have.  Either it doesn’t fit or it’s out of style or it’s just not you or you just have so much that it doesn’t go into “rotation” often enough. 

I’ve been wearing only 7 articles of clothing this whole week and while I admit I haven’t been “in the mood” for some of these outfits, I don’t need to wear anything different.  Many of us could probably go weeks without washing clothes and still have some left in our closets.  It’s TOO MUCH.  Too many others could be blessed with what we have and I still truly think it has spiritual roots.

Challenge: Go give your closet a good purge.  It’ll feel great—after you get over the depression on how much you’ve let build up.

Money

The number of clothes leads us quickly to a different numbers game…how much it cost to begin with.  I can’t imagine how much money America spends on fashion every year.  It’s a lot.  As for me personally, I can easily drop a few hundred dollars in an afternoon.  I’ve always been kind of a cheap-skate but my weak spot has always been clothes and shoes.  $20 here and there and I’d have another huge chunk out of my budget.

God has been working on me for years.  When Dani and I started the Blood Water Belt almost two years ago, I  learned every dollar counts.  Blood:Water Mission says that one little dollar can give someone clean water for an entire year.  That $12 shirt at Walmart is even on deck for scrapping.  You could give a whole family or two water for a year.  I’m serious, ya’ll (me!).  Every single dollar matters.

I’m still not great at this.  But when I am successful, I always ask myself am I ok with clothing myself with this OVER providing help for someone.  It’s so hard to know the line and I still haven’t found it.  I just know that at some times, God gives me peace about owning certain things.  It’s no easy answer, I know.

One caveat to this is to say it does NO good if you just funnel your money to something else that is of temporary value.  I think we’ll get more into this during the Spending week but just food for thought for now.

Challenge: Look at your receipts/checkbook/Mint.com.  How much did you spend on clothes in the last 3 months?  Would you be willing to share that number?  Challenge yourself not to buy anything new for a few months.  Yes, months.

Time and Focus

You can get lost in Fashion magazines, Pinterest, blogs.  Heck, even, in your own closet.  Fashion can be quite time-consuming. Our time is important.  Why are we focusing so much of our time on something in the physical realm so much when there is so much else of eternal value we could be using our time?

Challenge: Stop a magazine subscription or unsubscribe from a blog or Pinterest user that really feeds your excessive behaviors.   Spend the time thinking about what you could to replace at least some of that time.

Others’ Focus

My preacher talked this weekend about a passage from John 3 I’ve never understood. 

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

He’s talking about being like the best man at a wedding.  Isn’t it so joyful to see two people you love get married?  He says that’s how he feels about leading people to Christ and see them fall in love with him.  THAT’S what I want my life to be about.  Having a hand in leading people to Christ to find an everlasting love.  Is that where our dress is leading people? 

By putting too much emphasis on our physical, what are we leading people towards?  Their next best outfit or Jesus?  A mind full of lustful thoughts or Jesus?  Jealousy or Jesus?

That said, I do think there are certain people who are legitimately gifted in fashion and I don’t want to diminish that.  I think we all just need to really assess in what ways God wants us to help draw people unto Him.  For a lot of us, fashion is not our calling but we spend time and money on it like it is.

Challenge: Make a reminder sign for your closet to double-check your outfit for appropriateness. 

 

We have to ask ourselves these hard questions about excessive behaviors.  Am I spending too much money on clothes?  Am I thinking about what I’m wearing too much?  Am I shopping or browsing too much? Are people fixated simply on what I wear?

The problem here is that we can’t fix these excesses by simply swearing off clothes (well we could, I guess.  Hello, nudist colony!). 

The question that these excesses and challenges lead me to is as a Christian woman that loves clothes, what is is my appropriate response to clothing?  I know this was kind of a negative Nancy post and there may be questions and “but maybes” after reading this one alone so I NEED you to head straight over to Cyndi’s blog and read the second part for some encouragement.

 

Below are the other Summer of 7 Clothing posts so check them out!

 

The Summer of 7: Beginning Clothing Week

I am entirely unprepared for this week.  I hadn’t even thought about what my 7 articles of clothing would be until last night.  I quickly realized all my favorite clothes needed laundered so I stayed up last night washing a load.  I didn’t even pick out the last 4 pieces until this morning.  So here they are:

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Clearly I’m in a black and blue mood for the week.  Fitting, no? 

So the idea is I’ll wear the black dress to church and work, the blue dress two days that Scott is home next week (at Scott’s request) and then mix and match the two tops and shorts the other days.

I’m counting the shoes as one but only picked bare necessities.  I’d wear the flip flops every single day but not sure my office would appreciate that.

To be honest I probably have picked out too many items to wear for 7 days.  I’ll embarrass myself here and say on the days I don’t go anywhere, sometimes I just wear the same clothes for two days.  I know.  I’m gross.  But not really.  All I do is sit at my computer most of the day and don’t even come near sweating or even stretching my clothes out.  I don’t see the number of clothes as much of a challenge.

What IS the challenge is WHICH clothes to pick.  I find already I have a lot of emotions tied up into my clothes and I want my outfit to match my mood.  When I feel blah, I wear jean shorts and gray top.  When I feel happy, I wear my blue top and yellow skirt and lots of jewelry.  Part of this week is figuring out what of that is acceptable.

Did I mention I’m not doing makeup either?  If you don’t know, I love makeup.  Ever since I was 15 or so I never left the house without it.  Ever.  It wasn’t until this past year I even attempted to go without it.  In fact, last year I became a personal consultant with Mary Kay because I bought it so regularly and wanted a discount.

But l’ll tell you a secret: ever since we went to the doctor back in February and he told me not only was I sensitive to gluten, but chemicals as well, I’ve been not wearing makeup most days.  And I kind of like it.  It makes getting ready so much easier.  However.  I really, really love putting makeup on. It’s a creative outlet to me and I don’t know if I’d ever NOT wear makeup for good.

In any case, I’m most nervous about the no makeup thing at work.  I’m sure no one will say anything but still. I think I have some pride wrapped up in there somewhere.

In fact, my hope is that God opens my eyes to all my blind spots and shows me some things I wouldn’t see without doing this.

Should be an interesting week!

The Summer of 7: The Purpose of Possessions

These are my clothes. 

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That I don’t want.

Are you as nauseous about it as I was?  That is more clothes than some people can even fit in their closet.  I cleaned out my clothes as the last task of my week of possessions.  I knew it needed it but didn’t expect it to be painful.  Since we just built on our addition last year, I had already gone through my closet last Spring so I figured it couldn’t be too bad.  I was wrong.

Before I even started going through my closet, I thought about the fact that we are doing a clothing week where we wear just seven things for a whole week.  Why did I need hundreds of items in my closet?  I usually end up wearing the same thing over and over anyway.  I decided before I even started that I would be cut-throat and only keep the things I absolutely LOVED.  Another blogger referred to them as “tier 1 clothing”.  You only go to tier 2 when all your favorites are in the wash.  Tier 1 was the only thing staying.  I ran into things that I liked, things that I once loved, things I wondered why I bought and things that had been hanging in there for 10 years.  No lie.  I found the dress I was wearing when Scott graduated from police academy.  In 2003. 

I kept taking stack after stack to the garage, getting more and more disgusted with myself for keeping these clothes around.  Who else could have used them better when they were more in style?  Or better yet, where else could I have funneled the money in the first place? 

A few of my items were beyond repair and I decided to take them out to the fire pit where Scott burned some scrap wood earlier.  I couldn’t use them as rags because guess what?  I had found a stack of about 20 of those when I cleaned out one of my kitchen drawers.   After reading this article someone posted in the Summer of 7 Facebook page, I just couldn’t bear to add a single other thing to any trash pile.  Burning them felt right.

As I was watching them burn, God just said, “That’s all those are.  Ashes.”  I had been investing in dust.  Things that would pass away.  I kept asking God why?  Why do I hold on to these things?  It was the same the other day with my books.  I can’t let go.  And I think he may have given me a glimpse. 

I don’t know this for fact but could I suggest that it’s spiritual warfare?  That these clenched fists around books and clothes is straight from Satan’s playbook?  Yes, we have pride and selfishness that we all deal with and that’s part of the problem but I think something bigger is going on too. 

I started thinking about my books and how they’re full of words and Jesus is THE WORD and how books bring me happiness and in some cases, have changed my life, even if in small ways.  I think about my clothes and how happy they make me at times.  And I just thought, wouldn’t it just be like Satan to convince me to hoard the very things that could help someone else?  Wouldn’t he just hate it if someone else felt beautiful in that dress that made me feel beautiful ten years ago?  Wouldn’t he just hate it if God spoke through Love Does or Crazy Love like He did to me?  If he could just keep one more book on a shelf and one more piece of clothing in a closet, he could stop a blessing straight in its tracks.

See, I think God really, really wants us to enjoy what we have.  I don’t think he wants us me to give everything away.  I’ve struggled with that.  I really have.  But I’m convinced that he’s gracious and he blesses us with things that we love and are grateful for and give him glory for.  But there comes a time when a blessing becomes a burden.  Some blessings are not meant to be kept but to be given to another when the time is right.  And when God blesses us with something and then we’re not enjoying any more and aren’t grateful for it anymore, it’s time for it to go.  Seriously, if you can’t look at that book on your shelf and say God, I know you have this book in my life for just a special time and I’m SO GRATEFUL that it’s in my house, it should go.  And if we can’t see it as a blessing from God in the first place, we’re missing the boat altogether. 

And God in his very ironic, funny, HILARIOUS timing made the girls’ devotion tonight about guess what? POSSESSIONS.  When I opened up the devotion book I literally laughed out loud and yelled at God “YOU’RE SO FUNNY”.  I think the girls thought I’d lost my mind. 

The title was “God Wants You to Share”.  Ha.  Hahaha.  The short devotion was explaining what possessions are and simply saying we shouldn’t be stingy and share.  But the verses.  The WORD.  I want to finish this post by sharing the verses that accompanied the devotion because by the end of those, I was crying.  If these don’t confirm all that I just spewed up there, I just don’t know what else will.

Genesis 12:2-3
“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you. ”

Acts 20:35
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Proverbs 11:25
A generous person will prosper;
    whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

1 Timothy 6:17-18
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

 

 

Read more posts about possessions from The Summer of 7…

 

Amy and the Big Apple

I have a Big Post to match the Big Apple. So hang in there.  Or just quickly scroll through to see all the pictures, it’s ok :)

At the end of last week on vacation I received an unexpected call from work asking me to attend a brainstorming session in New York.  I considered it an honor to be asked to attend and whatever this "gamification" word meant, I was in.  I flew out Monday afternoon and was in by dinner time. 

At arrival, I was hit with a major case of the nerves.  Although it was my 3rd time to New York and I’m normally quite independent, I felt scared to death of traveling alone around the Big Apple.  Since I hadn’t had time to plan my trip, I hadn’t researched any restaurants around me so I wasn’t sure what was good, what was near me and exploring by myself just sounded dangerous (I know. Silly).  I ended up hitting up a steakhouse I’d visited before, but only after paying taxi fare there and back.  Fear can be costly.  So can steak.  But it was every bit as good as I remember and I was happy to get back to my room to plop in front of The Bachelorette for the evening (who do you want to win?  I love Jef and Sean).

I still had some anxiety about taking the subway on my own to the meeting Tuesday morning–I know, it’s safe and it’s silly to worry–and my friend Liz convinced me (thank you, Liz) that my 15 block walk to the office was doable so I walked to work.  I don’t get to say that very often. In fact, I think it was the first time in my life I’ve ever walked to work.

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It was a beautiful, bright, breezy, cool New York morning. 

I passed Bryant Park where a large group was doing yoga.  I stopped and watched for a few minutes and sipped my coffee. 

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The best commute ever.

The business portion was done by 3:30 so a coworker and I hit Times Square.  With a travel buddy, I was excited to explore and all my anxiety was completely gone.  Can you tell I’m happy to be there?

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Is anyone else excited Emily from The Bachelorette and I are in the same picture?  Two Carolina girls in Times Square!  Because, you know, it COUNTS even though she’s on a billboard.

We hit up the Barbie house in Toys R Us to get the girls two Barbies.

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We kept exploring and ended up a grabbing a shake at Shake Shack.  I see now why everyone raves on Foursquare about it.  One of the best milkshakes I’ve had.  Go for chocolate peanut butter.  It’s a winner.  We checked out some more stores around Times Square.  Forever21 had this cool camera that filmed folks on the street.  See if you can spot me :)

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I’m standing between the 2 and 1 on the bottom and have my Toys R Us bag on my arm and my camera up taking the picture.

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We then headed out towards Central Park with the last few minutes before our dinner.  Just for the record, I didn’t know we were going to be walking so much so I had my heels on and I was developing a nice blister by this point.

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Central Park is pretty much nothing like I imagined. 

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I had no idea it was hilly with huge boulders and a waterfall and amusement rides and all sorts of things to enjoy.  Who knew?

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Dinner was at China Grill where they thankfully had a gluten-free menu.  I enjoyed steak again as well as this crispy spinach that melted in your mouth. The guys at dinner were fawning over Isaiah Thomas seated a few tables away.  I had no clue who he was but they seemed pretty excited.  After dinner we all headed back out towards Times Square to pick up some cheesecake at Junior’s

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It was every bit as good as I recall.  They had these little slices that had no crust which means no gluten which means happy Amy.  While we were there, Ricky Martin was across the street leaving from his Broadway play Evita. 

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I caught just a glimpse of him over the crowd in his SUV. It was enough to satisfy my celebrity appetite.  He’s no Justin Bieber, who was in town the whole time I was, but you know, he was a few steps above the Naked Cowboy.

 

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After cheesecake the guys decided to walk me back partway to my hotel and after seeing the Empire State Building lit up on our way, we decided to go (nevermind that it was like 10:30, they’re open until 2am). 

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I visited back in 2001 but during the day.  It’s a whole other beast at night. 

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All the lights over the city were just gorgeous and it’s so overwhelming looking down and seeing all the buildings, knowing all the work went into them and also knowing all the LIFE (and DEATH, literally and figuratively) that is going on below. 

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At this point, we’d walked miles. I’d been carrying my laptop bag and the two Barbies in a separate bag and my feet were cramping up in my flip flops I’d changed into.  As I told my family, my flips wouldn’t even flop at this point.  I was never so glad to be just a few blocks from my hotel where I passed out right after I got my feet to stop cramping.  I was up just 5 hours later for my flight.  I was so tired and sore but there’s nothing like looking through an airplane window and spying Manhattan that makes you realize it was all worth it.

Later, Alligator! Saying Goodbye to Family Vacation 2012 – Hilton Head, SC

Our annual family vacation in Myrtle Beach didn’t pan out this year.  When I saw that Ashley was auctioning off a week in Hilton Head as an adoption fundraiser a few months ago, I knew it was the perfect fit.  If you have a few spare dollars, I’m sure they’d appreciate a donation to their adoption funds as they’re trying to bring home TWINS from Congo.

This year’s vacation will have a few special memories.  Perhaps you’d like to hear a few?

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On a Mommy blogger note, Emma showed some signs of maturity this year.  First, I loved that she rode her bike to the beach every day and was excited. 

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If you’ve been around awhile you know the bike hasn’t always been her strong suit.  But I suppose everyone has to learn and now she’s terrific.  Since our house isn’t really suited for going anywhere on a bike, this is the first I’ve seen her use a bike with purpose.  And speaking of bikes, they were EVERYWHERE. I’ve never seen so many people biking.

 

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Second, she gravitated towards the adults sometimes just to talk.  I mainly hung out at the hot tub in the pool area and she would drift over, sit with us and just talk.  I’ve heard of these perks of aging children but I think I got a glimpse of it on my own this week.  Third is her branching out to the deep end of the pool.  Since we have an above ground she doesn’t get a lot of practice and always has shied away from anyone else’s but this week she swam across and jumped in.

 

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Hilton Head is a very natural, green place.  Lots of natural attractions and wildlife.  I have to say when we first got there I was a little scared about seeing the alligators.  All anyone could say was DON’T FEED THE ALLIGATORS.  I even asked the front desk lady how likely it would be to see one.  She said very likely and sure enough, we saw one swim up in the lagoon behind the resort’s pool on the second day. 

 

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No fence, no zookeeper, no ditch keeping it from coming for us.  But for whatever reason, he minded his own business.  We also enjoyed the live oaks and Spanish moss.  The trees were an attraction of their own.

 

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Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House in Savannah was definitely a highlight of the trip.  We will talk about that place for years to come. 

 

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Mrs. Wilkes is an 80 year old restaurant that serves family style meals.  Dining room tables were set for 10 with sweet tea and then 23 Southern dishes are laid out for everyone to pass around. 

 

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I’m not saying this lightly but it was the best food I’ve ever had.  I loved the lima beans for crying out loud.  I loved that the owner said grace before the first table started and we were responsible for taking our plates and cups to the kitchen.  Mrs. Wilkes is a must for all Savannah visitors.  Just get there early . They only serve 11-2.  We got there at 10am and were already about 10 people back.  The funniest part was when the girls claimed it was even better than PawPaw’s cooking and then Lexi’s disclaimer saying "only a titch better."  A titch is some word Lexi made up meaning just a little.

 

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Another memory will be the toll bridge bypass to get on and off the island. It’s $1.25 each way and we were all the time hollering for change.  We managed to round up enough every time without paying solely with 125 pennies.

 

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I will always remember Emma and Lexi getting into it helping me eat my crab legs when we visited The Crazy Crab in Harbor Town.  They really got into it and even tried some and didn’t hate it.

 

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I’m sure visiting The Salty Dog Cafe and tie-dying their shirts will be memorable for the kids. Nevermind that they have 20 other t-shirts at home.  It’s all about the experience!

 

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And finally, this will be the trip where we spent way too much time watching TV and were introduced to The Turtle Man.  Have you been watching his show The Call of the Wildman on Animal Planet?  The Turtle Man is in Kentucky and grew up catching turtles in ponds.  As he’s grown, he has gone on to catch any "critters" for folks in his area.  And the trick is he catches them all with his bare hands.  He and his friend are straight up REDNECK and it is straight up hilarious. 

It was SUCH a great week.  Exactly what we needed to reconnect as the kids finished school and Scott came back from several weeks out of town.  As it turned out though, I went to New York two days later last minute for work.  It was almost a vacation from vacation :)  Coming up next is a wrap-up post from the Big Apple!