Saturday, December 05, 2015

no shirt, no shoes, no problem!?

Have you ever noticed the warning:
"NO SHIRT, NO SHOES, NO SERVICE posted on a storefront?
I remember reading that as a kid and wondering why a sign like that was even necessary?  Why would anyone NOT wear a shirt or shoes to the store?  Who would intentionally look so shabby and disheveled in a public place?

I have shared in a previous post that there is "a certain liberation in knowing there is nothing new under the sun in my closet."   Getting dressed had become as routine as brushing my teeth and I had come to a point where I didn't lament my commitment to this challenge.

"Enter closet,  choose something, get on with the day"  had become my pattern.  
No feelings, no moods, no creativity.  Only the weather would guide my process.

When I began this gig back in January,  I was oddly excited to get closet creative.  I knew if I switched up this scarf with those jeans and that sweater with these boots, and my fave floral dress with a T-shirt atop - I'd get through the monotony of the same old duds.

And that worked.  For about 5 months.  What happened after that became a bunch of apathy -- dressed down in stretchy pants and flip flops.

I didn't want to think that how I dressed mattered.  Because it in the grand scheme of things - it doesn't.  But when I was sick and tired of my clothes,  (many of which were from a thrift shop in the first place) somewhere along the line I decided to throw in the towel and slap on the totally oversized sweatshirt I borrowed from my Dad's closet.   And wear it for days.

Someone.  Call the fashion police.  
Lock her up and throw away the key.

It got worse. After we moved to the country county in which we reside,  I was making numerous trips to the local Dollar General for this, that and the other thing.   One day, I had been too lazy get out of my PJs.  When that evening trip to the store came,  I figured what's the point of getting dressed just to go buy coffee creamer and ziplock bags?   Who do I need to impress anyway?

I think the moment I realized I had "let myself go" was at the checkout counter.   There I stood.  Leopard pajama pants and a mismatched 2012 5k T-shirt & nearly burned out flip-flops.  I glanced back and the fella behind me in line was also sporting pajama pants and what can only be described as slipper boots. He was holding a can of beef stew.  We smiled at each other and shared our mutual affinity for Dollar General, noting especially the "come as you are" atmosphere.

Such an extreme shift took place.  Where I once gave effort to staying fit, clean and stylish, I now more often than not, didn't care.  I stopped running and since I "hated" all of my clothes, I often seemed to pick whatever was the highest in comfort but subsequently sloppy and unattractive.  Sure,  when I had to clean up (church, work, family photos)  I managed to look presentable, but the struggle was real, folks.

What is this interesting co-mingle of garments, behavior and mood?  Do a few new items of clothing at the beginning of a season, or for a special event motivate me to take care of and feel good about myself?

Should that even be??

Consider the new mom who discovers she can fit back into her pre-pregnancy jeans

the kid who finally finds a pair of jeans to properly fit his long legs and skinny waist.

the man who wears greasy uniforms all week and dresses in a suit for Sunday church

just the opposite... the fella who dons a suit and tie all week and can't wait to leave those at the door for holey jeans and a MSU T-shirt. 

the gal who reaches her weight loss goals and buys a new wardrobe.

the toddler who is so sweetly excited about his light up sneakers.

the husband who searches online for top of the line hunting gear.

the teenage girl who saved up to buy the prom dress in that perfect shade of gold

I could go on,  but the point is-  in different ways, we all have a few feels about our clothes.   And that's OK when kept in healthy balance.  Before this year,  I may have bought clothes to make me feel better about my looks/myself/my bad day.  At times this year,  I've allowed the shopping deprivation to dictate so many things,  among them,  my mood and self care.  Neither one a healthy balance.

Moving forward,  it's good to know these patterns and how to keep them in check.  I look forward to buying that first new dress and feeling fresh and lovely again.  I'll get dressed up for a night out with my husband and he'll be thankful too,  that I burned those yoga pants and washed my hair.

More posts from this series:
Contentment, Interrupted
Halfway Home and Finding Fruit
Cold Turkey and Everyone's Hungry
Caramel Colored Loopholes
Life Lessons from First Grade
Blue Light Special
To Be Clothed In Contentment

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Contentment, interrupted.

When last I blogged here the summer season was at its mountaintop and so was I in regard to my year long challenge in clothing contentment.  The halfway point in this experiment had come and I was hitting my no-new-clothes stride.

Ok, well- yes.  I struggled with wanting all.the.dresses! Pop up clothing parties, and thrift stores called out to me week after week.

But a special mix of stubborn will, encouragement/accountability from family/friends and ultimately the Holy Spirit's gentle care I've kept from buying anything new. Toss in some lessons in identity learned and a gifted to me pair of black leggings and I was sitting pretty pleased. (with myself)

What's the saying based on Proverbs 16:18?   Pride goeth before the fall?

" aren't buying clothes this year... but you bought a house?!?"commented my co-worker late this summer.  I remember feeling somewhat defensive to his comment.   Was he actually suggesting that I bought a whole giant house to fill the gaping shopping hole I created for myself?
The nerve! Didn't he know I was knocking this thing out of the park?

Well, as the Lord would have it - we did buy a new (to us) home.   Shortly after my last post,  we offered on a house,  prepared, listed, & sold our home.  Closed the deals on both houses....moved out and moved in all within about 6 weeks.

The chaotic stress just about did me in,  but folks. I survived.  Now, looking back during that time, an underlying theme was taking shape.

Suddenly, I had a new house to design, fill, and decorate.
My shopping license had been re-issued!   I could buy stuff once again.  

Going to HomeGoods never felt so good!
Who needs new clothes when you can buy a brand new washer and dryer?  Or an antique dresser or coordinating storage baskets?   and for reals... every new home needs a shiny new coffee pot and fresh throw pillows!

There was a moment or two along my purchasing way when I took pause and I realized that two whole months went by in a blink!  And wouldn't you know... I didn't give two hoots that I had been wearing the same oversized sweatshirt, yoga pants and flip flops for daayys on end. (more on my extremely poor fashion in an upcoming post)
Besides, all of my new candles took care of any smell I may have emitted.

What changed?  Did I suddenly not care about clothing any more?  Had I truly arrived?

Something larger was revealed to me during the last few months.   Perhaps my struggle isn't just with contentment, but with consumerism.   I'd dare say those two things walk hand in hand like co-dependent lovers.

When we have a void in our lives,  do we let it sit as is?  
Uncomfortable and raw.


Do we (knowingly or not) find a way to fill what's missing?  so the yearning stops and our souls seem to center.

I suppose my co-worker was just making light of my purchasing irony.  Obviously, we didn't buy a new house because it was all I was "allowed" to do.  But.  I am fairly sure that buying new rugs and wall decor filled the shopping void,  and detoured me from center.

Important things to think about as I near full on purchasing power come January.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  --2 Timothy 3:14-15

Sunday, July 05, 2015

halfway home and finding fruit.

I remember, back in my upper elementary days, a friend of mine who would wear the same outfit to school for two consecutive days before changing to a new one.  Then she would wear those clothes for two school days. Even as a 10 year old, this was curious to me.  I don't remember if I asked her, or if she just flat out told me something like:

"my mom wants me to do this so we don't have as much laundry"

Honestly. That mom was a practical genius!  But I wonder too...maybe her mother was also teaching her something I still grapple with 28 years later.

That flashback from 1987 came to mind after I read this really timely article: 

(if you get a chance, check it out, it's a quick read)

I have learned a lot as I've been in conversation with people about this no new clothes challenge I've taken on.  Some think it's crazy,  some would never entertain the thought,  some think, what's the big deal? -- I could do that forever and without even trying!   I have learned about personality types, behavior patterns, motivations, personal history, and self-identity.  I have learned these things about myself and also others.

In the article referenced above the author who wore the same 5 articles of clothing all week states:

"The most important thing I’ve discovered in this experiment is 
that self-evaluation cannot be the goal; the fruit of it is."

I agree. I can self-evaluate all the day long and this blog has been a handy place to wax introspective.


If nothing changes it's just a bunch of thought bubbles and keyboard strokes.   If I go through this year desperately counting the days until I can again buy floral dresses with reckless abandon I am not producing the fruit this challenge was meant for.   Choosing new actions and shifting my thoughts to collectively result in change is what I hope the last 6 months has planted and the next 6 months will grow.  

So,  where's the fruit?

I'll be honest, this challenge is really irritating at times! My patient, dear husband most often has to hear the dramatic reasons why.  However, if I think in terms of fruit,  this whole thing has forced me to feel less about my clothes and understand more that the outfit does not make the woman.  I believe this is something I've always known but didn't personally practice. I may have let my exterior speak louder than my interior.   

I am reminded that I could absolutely care less what anyone I know wears or what fashion trend they do or do not follow. I love the people in my life for so many other things. Their hearts & humor, their passions & quirks, their struggles, their talents, their steadfastness, their honesty, their faith.  All things interior.  

There is something strangely liberating and simple in knowing there's nothing new under the sun in my closet.   What was grueling is now just methodical.  
Enter closet.  
Choose something. 
Get on with the day. 
So, still a work in progress.  Good(?) thing I have 6 months left.  I would dare guess there's more to learn.  For today I reflect on my grade school friend and what I can learn from her experience.  I can't suppose she was as bothered by her clothing rule as I would have been.    Perhaps she was wise beyond her years and knew that clothing was just an exterior expression and we loved her all the same.   Maybe she believed in the practicality.   I think she was just an obedient soul.  All good things.   

Here's to more fruit!

A word of thanks.  I realize this challenge is a small and sometimes silly thing in the big scheme of complicated life,  but I've been encouraged and held accountable along the way by many of you and for that I am grateful.   

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cold Turkey and Everyone's Hungry.

On the long road trip to spring break last month I triumphantly declared to my husband that I have pretty much learned all there is to learn through this "no new clothes" challenge. If I remember correctly I did indeed use "air quotes" and eye rolling to emphasize the fact that it was all just a bunch of silliness. Silliness,  it appeared I was ready to be done with.

I had arrived.  Lessons were learned,  my eyes opened, and seeds of contentment sown.   I could wear the same shirt for days because I was so enlightened.

In a humbling twist of thought, the moment I think I've learned all I can, becomes precisely the moment in which I have so much more to learn.

I thought I had it licked.  I could declare my purchasing purity and it wasn't really as hard as I thought.  Sure, I saw all the new spring hues and trends starting to appear on the arms and legs of my peers,  but I would burrow into my closet and find something suitable to me, and I'd survive.   The hardest part was picking out something to wear from my old news selections,  but once I was dressed --I didn't think twice about it.

That felt like progress.   And it was.
But probably not enough. 4 months wasn't the end all to this challenge as I learned shortly after my victorious rant in the van.

My success thus far cannot be attributed to my strong will and resolve - But probably more to my complete and intentional avoidance of placing myself in situations where I would be faced with temptation.  In other words,  I was avoiding stores like the plague.

My kids would clammer,  "Mom!  why don't we have like, any food?!"

My husband would woefully discover no soda in the refrigerator.

My Target card had a zero balance.

I ordered take out Pizza two times in one week.

In an effort to avoid what I thought was temptation, but was really just frustration with the fact that I couldn't get what I want,  I cut myself off. Cold Turkey.

That truth hit me when we were in Florida and the ladies were going to take a morning and do a little vacation mall shopping.   Vacation shopping is special and my favorite.  Since, when on vacation the wallet is a little loose and the impulse buys are more acceptable.  My daughter really wanted to go and I felt uneasy.
Do I stay?
Do I go?
I don't know.
The group of gals we vacationed with were extremely gracious and understood why I stayed home.  Even my daughter seemed OK when I shared that "I better just stay home so I don't buy any clothes"

She was picked up and as the minivan that carried her drove away,  I felt horrible.   Somehow this challenge had taken over in a way that I needed to adjust.   I was missing a moment with my daughter and friends so I could keep myself comfortable.

I've written here before that shopping isn't only about the acquisition of stuff, it can also be about spending time together and connecting.  I need to find a way to do this.   

So tomorrow,  I will go with my girl to Target.  She's grown like a flower and needs a few new summer duds.
We will drive there together,  we will loiter,
I will want to buy her a floral dress and she will say "ugh, no."
I will make eye contact with the Women's Clearance rack and respectfully walk away.
We will get a Starbucks Frappucino.   She might tell me how she feels about entering middle school next fall.
And I will learn that although this year will be annoying and frustrating at times...
that's precisely the way it's supposed to be.

Also.  It's really time to grocery get. We can't survive on box wine and string cheese!

Monday, May 04, 2015

caramel colored loopholes.

I had a few moments of weakness early in this challenge.

When 2015 was brand spanking new I was dilly-dallying with the idea of not buying any new clothes for one year.  I was "trying it out" just to see if I could get 2 weeks into the new year without a clothing purchase.

I did it!

You may be sarcastically thinking,  wow! what a feat!
I know.  It's laughable.  But not easy.

During that time I was hot after a pair of caramel colored booties.
I had ordered and returned 2 pair prior to Christmas because the first one didn't fit tight enough around my ankles and the other pair smelled like moth balls.
So there I sat,  in January with a nice credit on my ModCloth account.   (Oh, how I miss you

SO, what's a girl with no caramel colored booties to do?

Find a loophole.  So...technically ... I bought the boots in December.
Make the rationalization.  I can't just let ModCloth keep my money!
Do what I want.   I ordered the booties 

And it felt right.
Until it didn't.
The boots sat in their pretty box in my closest for a week or so, as I debated if I could/should wear them. Technically speaking, they were new and purchased during the reign of Contentment 365.

It confounds me how shifty my thoughts can be! If one day I am unsure that the boots are legit, the next day I wear them because they and only they could complete my outfit.

What I am beginning to see as a bigger picture here is just how easily I loophole my way to get what I want.
Sometimes it's a mindless click of a mouse,
Other times it is a twist of thought.
Most commonly it's a manipulation of truth.

It's a changing season...  I need new shoes.
It's Spring Break... I need a new swimsuit.
I feel fugly today.  I for sure need a new floral dress.
It's finally Friday and I made it though the week.  Steer me to the nearest sale rack!

I did wear the boots a handful of times the last couple of months,  hoping no one would notice the new shoe shine and my sad little failure.

They didn't.  (Or maybe they did and were quietly kind) 

Yet my eyes have been opened if but a bit more.
And I suppose that's what this year might be about.

To identify the deliciously caramel colored loopholes in my life... and close them.

More posts in this series:
Life Lessons From First Grade
Blue Light Special
To Be Clothed In Contentment

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

beauty among the brown.

Today was an early Michigan Spring that begged us all outside.

For me, springtime absolutely takes the cake when it comes to the 4 seasons we experience here in the midwest and I take special delight in its arrival signs.   The first weed in the garden,  my first robin sighting,  and oh, the rejoicing when I first lay eyes on a blooming daffodil!

Last week, as a family we journeyed to spend a week in Florida.  I marveled the whole trip down.  Each state greener than the last as the temperatures rose and the clouds cleared.   Usually, about Virginia I find my daffodils.
I squeal, "there they are!" and my family teases me for the rest of the trip.
It's not quite the same on the trek back home.  Not so much marveling as mourning as we cross state lines back to Michigan. It's remarkable, really. The closer we get to the Mitten the cloudier and browner it gets.  Last year,  and I am not kidding -- the moment we passed the border to our home state,  it started raining.   5 years ago when we returned from a Spring Break trip a storm would come to pass in our lives.

Today I was neck deep in post vacation laundry chaos but finally made it out of my robe at noon to go outside to hang a couple of white shirts on the clothesline. I glanced around looking for emerging signs of life and suddenly remembered the special daffs that grew rogue amongst the brush and tangle behind the shed.   I couldn't find them at first and felt a bit desperate.  So special these daffodils because of the year my daughter Joy discovered them and came running into the house to gift them to me.
"They just have to be here" I thought.
And then I spotted them.
I was filled with gratitude.  As long as the earth endures!
Life bursting up through last year's death.
For me, among many things in the last 5 years, daffodils have been a symbol of God's goodness.
His sovereignty.
His grace.
His love.

5 years ago this night I was quietly admitted to the hospital and we numbly waited on my delivery of our 5th baby who was still, who had passed in my womb. We named her April. I don't think my typed words can rightly express how wonderful and beautifully made she was, how loved she is, and how painful it was. I speak of the pain in somewhat past tense as 5 years has given us much healing and hindsight. It's all I wanted back then, you know... to rush to the future, to restoration, back to the normal. But time does not speed nor slow. In this life we are given sorrow but promised that good will come from it. Friends,  so much good has come, I have been taught so much.  We are grateful.  Let's go out for coffee and I will tell you all about it.

That day, much like today Spring had sprung all around but I couldn't see it through my swollen eyes and broken heart.  Today I see. I trusted through the hurt that each new Spring, when the daffodils blossomed -  I'd know God's grace in greater measure.  The only way to move forward after you've handed over your lifeless baby to a nurse only to go home empty 5 minutes later, is to continue to lay it all down at the feet of Christ. The months and years went by and He is faithful.
My challenge, my lifeline during these times of trial is to see the gifts God gives,  trust His sufficiency, and rest in His love.

God can bring New Life to the hopeless heart.
His Grace is certain and His Salvation sure.
He will display beauty among the brown.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Life Lessons From First Grade

A couple of Fridays back my tender-hearted second born daughter had a meltdown.   A Friday morning-pressure-cooker-getting-ready-for-school-in-a-cramped-bathroom-end-of-the-week-fatigued-meltdown.

This sweetie was made for school.  Loves it.  Can't wait to get there.  So, when at 7:25am I heard her wail,  I knew something wasn't right.   I (wrongly) assumed her older sister was pestering her.   I shrugged,  poured my black coffee into my initialed mug,  placed it on the counter and went to investigate the issue.

When I entered the bathroom I learned the bawling was due to the frustration she felt about a 2-layered shirt she just couldn't figure out how to don correctly.    

Why all of this drama over a shirt?
She had picked out her own clothes this day and per usual when she does so, she chooses this shirt.  It's her favorite.   I wondered, "Does is even matter what a first grader wears to school?"   "FOR THE LOVE,  just choose from the plethora of tops you have!  Any one will do!  We can't miss the bus!!!!"

During this year long challenge,  I've thought a lot about my particular attachment to clothing.   Like any good introspector,  I've dialed it back.
Way back.

In First Grade I desired Lee Jeans.
Pin Striped Lee Jeans.
With a leather patch.

I don't remember when, or how or why, but I obtained them.   Thanks, Mom!

I was proud as a peacock the day I wore them to school and helped my teacher rearrange the bulletin board.  I needed to stand on a chair to reach the top and thankfully my green shirt was tucked in so everyone could see the leather "Lee" patch.

Did I just say thankfully?  Yeah, this clothing thing runs deep.

As the years went by it was one thing or another.  Reebok shoes,  stirrup pants, silk shirts, Guess jeans,  Polo shirts, Tight Rolled Levi's Silvertab Jeans, Abercrombie & Fitch oversized anything.  In adulthood my brand attraction continued --Gap, Express, J.Crew, Banana Republic, Free People, The North Face.   Something changed though.  When I was younger I wanted to wear what everyone else was wearing.   As I aged,  I desired uniqueness.  Bring me to a boutique where everything is nearly one of a kind and I am a happy gal.

Back to my unhappy gal.   That Friday morning,  I was annoyed and tired but needed to meet her where she was at.  I assisted her with the shirt and out the door they skee-daddled just in time for the bus.   I was left thinking that I was really not that different than a First Grader.
I may not have difficulty with the literal task of dressing,  but what kind of scene do I create when I am getting ready to go to church, or a night out,  or even just figuring out what activewear to choose for a run?

Well, I'll tell you.   At times,  it's a mess.   A pile of cast-offs that make me look pale, or heavy, or old, or (GASP) boring!  I may not be crying about it like my little one was, but if I what I wear has to be just right... just the right brand, or style or whatever ---What's that about?

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Matthew 6:25

I'm not here to say that wearing quality clothing that fits well and looks attractive is wrong.  Not at all.  In fact most of the brand name items I buy outlast the discount store must-haves that shrink and fade and pill.   Clothing is a necessity,  I get that.  What continues to impress upon me is how much of my identity, my branding do I find in my apparel?   When I just can't seem to get the right outfit together leaving a tornado of floral dresses in my wake, it's time for a change.

My frustrated thoughts at my daughter's clothing predicament come back to me, to teach me...

"Does is even matter what a first grader wears to school?"  
Michelle,  it really doesn't matter what you wear to Costco.

"FOR THE LOVE,  just choose from the plethora of tops you have!  Any one will do!
Michelle,  just pick a scarf, any scarf.

We can't miss the bus!!!!"
Michelle, don't miss out on the life that is truly life.

Other Posts:
To Be Clothed In Contentment
Blue Light Special

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blue Light Special

I come by this rightly, you fondness for shopping. For clothes, for discounts.   My late Aunt Pat who I loved and miss dearly was a discount fashionista and an awesome bargain hunter.   One of her faves was the K-Mart Blue Light Special.   When my mom, us kids, Aunt Patty, & her girls went to the K-Mart it was bound to be special,  Blue Light Special.   
The announcement would carry across the fluorescent glow of the store and depending on where we were located it was either loud and clear,  or distant and faint.   Didn't matter though, all we needed to do was look up and find a path to the flashing blue light and undoubtedly we'd go home with something great at a significantly marked down price tag.

My last post was the official jumping off point (albeit 2 months in) to the 
No New Duds. 365 Lessons in Contentment challenge. 

Around January 1, I knew I would be committing to this.  But,  before the famine I had to (thought I had to) sneak in one last feast.  I suggested to my kids that we should go to Target and they could use their Christmas gift cards to find some post holiday bargains.  While they were there scouring the toys and electronics, I was drawn as if by magnetic force to the colorful, brightly orange stickered women's clothing clearance!   I picked through the racks with anticipation.  I was confident I would leave there with some trendy delight for a cool 30-50 percent off.   My own Orange Sticker Special!

I found a dress and two cardigan sweaters that day.  Sweetening the deal was an extra 5 percent off if I used my Target RedCard.   I did.

My eldest son was with me that trip and I told him,  before he had the chance to ask...
"I am starting the no new clothes thing on Monday, January 5 when you go back to school.  That's when Christmas break is done,  that's when real life resumes".  
Could he smell the rationalization?   He did.  

As you can see,  I was a bit squirrelly at first,  I hope to get stronger.
One of the biggest reasons I have ended up with excess clothing is because me, myself and I (not my mom or my beloved Aunt) have bought into the idea that if it's a "good deal" or a "sale price" I then have full license to purchase it.  Even if I don't truly need it,  even if I have something similar but in a slightly different hue, even if I don't have the cash on hand.   
It feels better and more successful going home with something, than without. 

It's a mindset I'll need to crack open as this challenge takes shape.  

I look back on those days at K-Mart in the1980s as warm memories.   Not because of the stuff we purchased, because I cannot remember a single item,  but because of the time spent together.   Shopping can be about that too.   But, that's a post for a different day.

Good night!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

To Be Clothed in Contentment.

Three years ago I read a book penned by author/speaker Jen Hatmaker titled: 

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

For many a reason of which I won't go into today (check the link, or just read the book), Jen embarked on a 7 month journey.  In the spirit of a fast she committed to each of the experiments  listed below. 

Only seven foods for a month. 
Only seven pieces of clothes for a month. 
Give away seven things we own a day for a month. 
Eliminate seven forms of media for a month. 
Adopt seven substantial habits for a greener life.
Spend money in only seven places. 
Practice "seven sacred pauses" a day
In her words, "a deeply reduced life to find a greatly increased God" 

I should mention that I read this book while on a 7-day 15th anniversary cruise with my husband.  Oh, the irony was rich as we sailed the seas in that mammoth vessel where excess was celebrated, expected and blissfully enjoyed.   Naturally, we had a great time on that vacation but the 7 book really captured my thoughts.  All gussied up in our new duds we feasted on a 5-course (of course) dinner where I shared with Dan all the ways this book had challenged me.   He graciously listened and curiously smiled at my new passion and plans for simplifying our lives upon returning home.    He knowingly nodded his head up and down and then proceeded to order three desserts.  

You guessed it.  I didn't change a thing.  The book went on the shelf and I hit the nearest Target.

Many months zipped by, yet the quiet, muddled corner of my heart that wanted to apply what God was teaching me since reading the 7 book became louder and clearer.

Last Autumn my sister mentioned that a couple years back she and her good friend decided to embark on a challenge to purchase no new clothing for a year.  I vaguely remember this.  I think I heard about it,  dismissed it,  and felt satisfied that I "didn't have to do something like that." 
They had their rationale, rules and from what I understand they stuck it out.    As Stacey reminded me of this,  I was suddenly pricked with the memory of the 7 book and how fired up I was at the time about addressing my main area of excess:  CLOTHING.  

Then came the holidays.   And I needed a new outfit(s).

What really swung my pendulum was an experience I had right after this new year.    I invited my sister-in-law over to browse through my closet for a dress to wear to a wedding she was attending.    I love to share my clothes so I happily and pridefully brought out dress,  after dress, after dress, after dress, 
after dress, 
after dress,

after dress.

She was gracious but clearly surprised and somewhat shocked at all the offerings.  
It was then that I realized it was time ~~insert shudder here~~ to make a New Year's Resolution.  
It was then that I knew I needed to -- for once,  actually challenge myself.


In January I loitered around fully committing and just tested the waters a bit.   I tried out what it might feel like to withhold from buying clothes whenever it fancied me.   Meanwhile, I secretly hoped this trial period would be my window to screw up,  buy a pair of boots and coyly say "Oh, well.  It was fun (#notfun) while it lasted..."

Friends, it's almost March, me thinks it's time to fully commit.   

It's not just the mass quantity of clothing I have that sparked this experiment.  Too many dresses is just the presenting problem. And hear me when I say,  it's not a stretch to say this is a problem.  I just counted 39 sleeveless tank tops in my drawer.
What's the problem behind the problem?    From where must change originate?   Why do I feel called to this? 
These are some of the things I hope to explore and learn in the midst of this experiment.  Here at the blog I'll talk about this challenge along the way as a means of accountability and learning.    It's been 8 weeks and I already have a few stories to share.     More on those cheater boots later.

Here goes nothing.    As in I have nothing to wear.  really.  14 skirts can't possibly get me though the summer!!??


**No NEW clothing purchased by myself for myself.   My sis said that during her challenge Thrift Store items were acceptable to buy when and only if there was a need.   Add to that - at time of purchase a clothing donation to said thrift store is mandatory.    I am still wondering about this.   Is it just a loophole?     I'm afraid if I allow myself this,   I'll be scouring Goodwill every week for something just SOMETHING FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, to buy.

**Gifts can be accepted but not begged for.    (Praises be for my upcoming birthday!)

**Get creative with the clothing items I already have

**Continue to clean out my closet and downsize.   Find the things that fit well,  have longevity in condition and style.   Eliminate the things I don't intend to or rarely wear.  Stick with the old trustys.

**Pray for resolve and sticktoitiveness with this challenge.  Petition God to teach me through this, even as it may just seem like a silly venture.

** Matthew 6:28-30  28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Stay Tuned.  Or , maybe even join me?

Monday, August 04, 2014

Ham on Buns.

Sometimes I'm so oddly conscious of things that some folks might not give a first thought to... much less a second thought or a 15th thought.   Often, it bugs me that I'm this way.  Sometimes it's exactly how I grow...

My first unsettled experience with ham-on-buns came about 17 years ago.

Wait.   Ham-on-buns, you (did or did not) ask?
In the mid-western,  religious, Dutch influenced culture where I've grown up, life events most always involve food.   Okay,  food at life events aren't just ritual in our little corner,  but ham-on-buns may just be.   As my life has been filled with weddings, baptisms, graduations, and funerals-- often included like part of the family is the tray of lunch meat on buttered rolls (buns) and starchy side dishes.   
Ham-on-buns.  It's what's for dinner. 

Okay, back to the story. 

I was 20 and my paternal grandmother had passed away. Following the funeral service I watched my male cousins carry and lift the casket gently into the hearse.   

A touching moment. 

Witnessing my older, tall  and normally jovial cousins visibly and audibly emotional was uncomfortable.   
And sad.  
And good.   But it didn't last long.   
I sensed there was but a brief window for that kind of emotional let go, as moments later we were being quietly instructed to go to the basement for lunch. 

"What!??"  I thought.   "How am I supposed to feel this kind of sorrow one minute and indifferently slather mayo on a sandwich, the next?" 

No way.

I'd dare to assume at this point most normal people would be anxious to move things along.  Grief is not an enjoyable state,  eating lunch is.  But as I sat there staring at the foam plate and bakery bun,  I was somber and silent.    17 years ago, I found absolutely no value in the post funeral luncheon.  

And then we went home.

Early this spring my paternal grandfather (Gramps) entered his eternal home and many of the same scenes and faces from Grandma's funeral were present at his.  It was, in part a thankful celebration.  Of the life he lived and loved,  and of God's faithfulness to our ever growing family-- of Jesus' redemption in Grandpa's life. 
All of the great times,  the painful times,  the strong as well as strained relationships were brought to the first five rows of church pews that morning.  We lifted our voices in "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and it will go down as one of the most precious moments of my life.  

Following the service and recessional I felt the now familiar inner struggle welling up.  Slip away and grieve, or line up for ham?   I hugged my Dad, my husband, my brother.  I could have stayed there all day.   Then from the corner of my eye I saw my eldest daughter embrace my mom and begin to weep.  I know she loved Great-Gramps but I wasn't sure how her first funeral experience would effect her.  I talked with her quietly and realized something.   These sad feelings were difficult for her and as glad as I was that she could express them,  she might also learn from the upcoming hour.  

So, just like the well meaning white-haired ladies at Grandma's funeral 17 years prior, I asked my girl,

"How about we go and eat lunch, does that sound good?" 
It did.
We walked to the other side of the church and what began with- quiet tones of wiping tears and blowing noses beautifully transitioned into smiles,
and memories--
and breaking bread together.  

I had finally found value in the ritual. 

A large (but not the whole) part of the family poses for a photo 
following the --much to my delight-- Ham-on...croissants!

It was Sadness and Celebration.
Pain, still Praise.
Death, yet Victory!

Joy and sorrow are often intermingled into the ways and the days of this life.  

What is your only comfort
in life and in death? 

That I am not my own,
but belong—

body and soul,
in life and in death—

to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
The Heidelberg Catechism above says "all things"

I desire to be a person who can see the big picture, have that keen awareness of all the gifts and all the grace surrounding life's circumstances.   
In the great moments and especially in the hard times be less bogged down with fickle feelings and more attuned to what The Lord wants me to see and learn

It's not easy. 
Just about anything can fog our senses.    
But by the same token,  just about anything can be used to teach us.  

Even a ham sandwich.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

when winter came.

(Photo from our back yard one rare day 
when the sun broke through)

It's been a winter for the record books where we live.  Snow upon snow upon snow that we push into piles and create pathways to go where we gots to git.   (sorry for the poor grammar- but I'm not a professional writer, so I can get away with it!)   We deal with winter's blow and look forward to brighter days when the sea of white will dissipate,  because we know it will.  As long as the earth endures, seasons change.  It's a promise.    

As we wait for the literal winter to secede there is a figurative winter that our family is waiting through.
May I share a little more about it?

First though,  a little background from my childhood...

When we heard the back door open,  we'd come running.

Barbie dolls,  Legos, dress up clothes all left in the dust when we realized our Daddy was home from work!  

It was like an amusement park ride how he could lift up all three of us at once and tote us around.  Did he have super human strength?  I'm sure I thought he did.  I was wee and he was mighty!

Day to day experiences like that among many others throughout my childhood sealed for me the impression that my Dad was amazing, invincible and unlike no other.    I am grateful for this.

Our Dad's mild stroke just after the new year took us all by surprise.  Over the last months many have expressed to me how Dad is so healthy, strong & fit and didn't seem likely for such a health crisis.   Initially,  I shared those sentiments as facts because as far as a 61 year old goes,  he is active,  full of vim and vigor.  Not living a sedentary lifestyle and responsibly monitoring his health status,  I always assumed from a medical standpoint Dad was better than the average.  As his doctor could attest,  that was a fair assumption.

But what was really happening for me was something less factual and more emotional.  (I know, imagine that?)  It didn't matter to me that he didn't fit the typical risk factors for stroke or not--yet suffered one anyway.   In my heart he wasn't supposed to have a stroke because he was the Super Human father that lifted me up both physically as a child and in every other way since childhood.  

(Photo courtesy of Footstock Barefoot Tournament) 

It was the first time I would come to the awareness that our Dad is in fact,  super! Yet also... human.  

I know,  rather a late realization.   But an important one.    Although an uneasy understanding for me that my Dad wasn't invincible after all,  I began to see Dad as God's child!   In unique and powerful ways our Heavenly Father carries His children through seasons of winter in our lives.   As the weeks went by this was very true for Dad.   You see,  a super hero wouldn't admit weakness or see the need for help.    In Dad's humble humanity he worked hard at regaining strength.  He wasn't too manly or macho to take a break from work,  or even driving for that matter.    I smiled often in the dead of this very long winter as Mom escorted Dad everywhere for awhile. They really are two peas in a pod.   I'm inspired by and have learned so much from them through this experience.

As our Heavenly father strengthened Dad's health and resolve following the stroke,   He also strengthens my heart against worry and fear.   We experienced again the gifts bestowed though community,  His Word,  hugs,  prayer,  & conversations.   God blesses, even through hardship and unresolved outcomes.  He doesn't let us go!   In His strength we are lifted and carried around when we run to him.   I like to picture it in much the same way my Daddy lifted me as a youngster.

Dad's prognosis is good, yet still-- we  wait.   For winter to melt away and for the possibility of Dad's vision to return full and clear...  for spring to arrive.   

But,  we wait with hope,  we hope with faith.  We are always held,  no matter what.   No human,  not even the biggest, strongest, wealthiest, hero you know can offer this kind of assurance when the winter comes.    
Only The Lord Almighty, 
as we humble ourselves before Him.

Run to Him! 

Song of Songs 2:11-13

New International Version (NIV)
11 See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Birthday Buddies

On this date in history 10 years ago and 38 years ago,  two mothers labored for their firstborn daughters.

In this true story, the two mothers are mother and daughter.  Have I lost you yet?

It's one of my life's greatest gifts and a fabulous fun fact that our daughter Joy was born on my 28th Birthday,  10 years ago today,  March 1.

 Last night,  instead of a hospital room where I found myself 10 years prior I looked across a hotel room where my girl was fast asleep.    For this duel birthday we took a brief girls getaway and it was so so good.   As I watched her browse the racks at the thrift store,  order a grilled cheese for supper,  find her birthday gift (a Go-Go Pillow) on clearance,  and swim with glee in the hotel pool,  I sense we are nearing the end of an era.     I feel it like a tightening in my chest,  the future.   This care-free soul will in the years to come find challenge,  disappointment,  heartache--just all the things about being a teen.

I wonder if I used the last 10 years wisely.
Have I taught by word and deed and by the Word?
Have her father and I planted the seeds that will grow into healthy self-esteem and confidence?
Will she ease into the changes that await or clumsily stumble through?
Does she know,  Does she know of God's goodness and grace?

and then I see her ways..
she leads,  she nurtures,  she's brave,  she's fiery,  she's persistent,  she's expressive,  she creates,  she thinks,  she's independent,  she questions,  she serves,  she loves.

Little pieces of her fallible parents
Large works of a great God,  and He is only just beginning.

Undoubtedly,  the next decade will pass as quickly as her first,  so milestones (like reaching Double Digits) compel me to celebrate and reflect.    Perhaps I over-think at times,  but it nearly always brings me to the same place...


Her name befits her.  

I rejoice in life today- past, present and future!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

of pride, humility, irony, grace. just all of it.

It's kind of a family joke that us Hopkins have a good sized egos.    We like to call it a healthy self confidence... perhaps too healthy.   Is that possible?


When your ego (or mine in this case) gets too confident it quickly and lastingly turns into pride.
Isn't that one of the seven deadly sins?


I think over the last year I've let pride get a strong grip on me.
From my view I was managing life pretty well.

5 kids?--  I've got this.
Husband working a lot?-- not a problem,   I'm used to it.
Meaningful service at church?  -- check.
Social life?-- blessing upon blessing.
Healthy grieving following the loss of our baby April?  -- Thank you, Lord.  Yes.

When things are calm and life steadily rolls,  pride sneaks in.   I begin to think that every move I make,  every word I speak is all good,   all right,  all according to God's plan.

I wholeheartedly believe that truth,  that of God's sovereign will,  His plan,  His purpose.   Each high and low and middle ground I experience is part of this.

Here's the thing,  though.  God created me with free will.  So when I make mistakes,  or let's call them what they often are -- Sin,  that is on me.

After hurting a long time friend last year through a series of prideful actions I am learning just how hidden my ego and pride are to me.   This has caused me to be largely silent here at the blog but also because I started to think that writing here seemed like a big fat brag and I needed to shut-up.   
Here are MY thoughts...
Hey - check out MY kids!!
Look how I have MY life put together.

I wondered if this blog, much like Facebook is only another avenue for self promotion and it made me uneasy.  Not because I am a private person (I'm not) but because who in the world am I to say anything at all?

I often have a skewed attitude and no perspective
I make judgements.  On people,  situations,  and anything else I can form an opinion about. 
I consider myself responsible to change others,  outcomes,  and situations.

It all reeks of pride.
Could I be more fallible? 

Yes.  Here's how...

As I read more teachings on humility and pride  I see the irony and twisted humility I possess to even write about this struggle.    Knowing this,  should I never introspect?   Perhaps I should just shut down the blog and deactivate my Facebook.    I'm not clear yet what God is calling me to do, but I am searching.

I read this quote from Tim Keller last week and found inspiration to complete this post.   You see,  I started writing it months ago and was stuck every time I tried to finish.
I felt I couldn't complete the blog post until I had nicely put this pride struggle in the lesson-learned-never-to-repeat compartment.   I'm realizing now-- that compartment has a revolving door.  

In this New Year I pray for God's Grace and His Spirit to fill me more and more.  

Let true humility reign.   
Keep my ego in the right balance.  
Gratitude,  always gratitude. 

The Radical Humility of Jesus

Thursday, September 12, 2013

a new school year... infused with 10% more gratitude!

I haven't blogged but twice in the last year and I hope to pick this up again.  There have been many thoughts that swirl in my head and heart the last 3 years that I've found helpful to explore here in blogsville.  Reading my former posts also creates for me a convicting archive to look back on and see if I've grown... as a mother, a wife, a follower and servant of Christ.  And really, if I'm not growing, what's the point of all this expression besides just a bunch of cyber hot air? 

I wrote the post copied below one year ago today.   It's really kind of amusing and comforting to read it now as I feel very much the same.  Minus the orange soda disaster but with the added bonus of even more inside out, balled up sweaty soccer socks. 

Yes, today's post is a bit of a repeat but I had to jump start the minivan somehow!

more(new)to come.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

small victories.

"Made it to Tuesday!"  my friend texted me yesterday.

I smiled because I was really feeling that text. 

Making it to Tuesday seems almost laughable doesn't it?
How can we not make it to a Tuesday?  it's only the 3rd day of the week,  how hard can it be?

Sometimes Monday is such a Monday, that Tuesday's arrival is a thing of victory!

"Made it to Tuesday!"
It's not nearly as accomplished as the victorious shout,  "TGIF !!!"
...but, at times it sure feels like it.

It's that time of year where I have to right my attitude rather often.
School is back in session,  and with it comes all the busy.

The big irony of my life is this...

It annoys me.  Unlike some,  I don't thrive on chaos,  but secretly wish I did. 
I tend to lose function (and graciousness) right at the height of the busyness.
It's not a great scene.

After those moments I am always left with this:  a pile of crying kids,  sky high laundry,  incomplete homework.   Oh, and let's just throw in a completely spilled 2L of orange soda,  Dan working out of town and a teething toddler for good measure.

How do I reconcile my aversion to busyness with the reality that I have 5 kids going in 5 different directions?  I ask myself that question quite often because wishing my life was slower paced,  more home based and less minivan occupied is really not going to help matters.   I must take actions to keep myself from the quicksand of grumbling discontent.  

This week's action:  ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE
with a rambling  manifesto  prayer...

How can I not completely bust open with thankfulness for all that God has given me?  Does sticky orange soda ALL OVER EVERYWHERE really amount to anything when compared to the 5 healthy, funny, naughty, unique kids that spilled it?

NO.   Our kids are gifts.  Every moment that I cart them around, wipe their butts,  fold their laundry, make their sandwiches,  give them tylenol,  cheer them on, and put them to bed is a gift of a life with them.
Yes,  of course I will feel like I am going off the rails from time to time but, Lord,  help me not to lose perspective for too long.  
God,  speak to me when I can't seem to do one more math problem or tackle the dishwasher for the millioneth time   Remind me Lord, that these moments are purposeful, sacred.   
YOU have called me to them.

During it all help me celebrate the small victories,  see the wins, may they stimulate my day and my attitude so I know just how precious this life is.   

May I always thank you, Lord for these days... even the Mondays.

The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases,
His Mercies Never Come to an End.
They are New Every Morning,
New Every Morning.
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Oh Lord.
Great is Thy Faithfulness! 

Lamentations 3:22-23 

Monday, April 15, 2013

an offering

I remember my Mom telling me what song they sang in church the Sunday morning following my delivery of our 5th baby,  a girl we named April.     Mom said I would have had a difficult time singing the words,  as did she that Spring Sunday morning, 3 years ago.

Blessed be Your Name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

The reality of pregnancy loss and the literal giving away of our deceased baby to the nurse was,  as the lyrics of the song truthfully convey,  a painful offering. 

Was it a true offering?   Something (someone) was being taken that I was unwilling to give.  At the time it seemed to make no earthly sense.
Why was I given only 17 weeks to carry her? 
Was I to offer God the life of this baby?  a life that had already ended?  

I used to think of an offering as a voluntary action.  I give my time or my service,  or maybe even a gift or tithe.   Offerings were something I initiated,  that I was comfortable with.   Meaningful and fruitful,  but not painful offerings. 

3 years ago today God moved in my life to make an offering of a different sort.   When faced with the devastation and sadness of April's death I learned (although not immediately) that I had to offer it all back to the Lord.   The confusion,  the ache,  the tears,  the emptiness,  the doubt,  the fear.    I had to release my plans,  our hopes for the child this baby would become.   Hanging on so tightly to these things would never give me peace.

The song continues and within the chorus, these words:

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

I had always found these lyrics perplexing.
Yes,  God gives.  That was easy to see.  All I had to do was look at the beautiful faces of my 4 children.
He gives immeasurably more than we need and most certainly more than what's deserved.  Perhaps this song speaks also of the comfort God gives,  or the Grace and love he lavishes on us.   Or the joy in Salvation that circumstance can't deplete.  
He gives.

But,  the next part...
He gives... AND takes away?  Lord Blessed be your Name?  
If I sing this,  do I claim that God took our baby?   am I supposed to praise His name anyway?
That seemed to make lesser sense.
Praising God in the midst of pain is work,  it is a choice,  it's an offering.  It takes faith.  For me it opened my heart for healing.  I believe this song speaks also to the way Jesus takes away our hurts,  our anger,  our sadness,  our guilt,  our sin. 
He takes. 

I don't want to imply that 3 years later everything is tied up nicely with a bow and this chapter is closed.  Nor do I mean to over simplify healing or equate my loss with the pain another may be experiencing.  I do desire to be honest about what I've learned.  I am thankful to see the ways the Spirit moves in my life through our loss of April.    So, yes.  Her short life was an offering.   An offering of my heart to ways that were not my own.   A yielding to the Father when my circumstance was beyond my understanding.

In those days I realized with new eyes that God held my life,   just as He held April's life until the moment her heart stopped beating,  and that He holds her still today.

If you are new or are interested in reading more about my story...
 Here is a link to click.  It's a summary with additional links to other posts.