The 7 Experiment: Clothing

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I talked a bit in my last post about this 7 experiment. If you haven’t heard about it, go check out Jen Hatmaker’s book 7. Great stuff. We have now completed 2 months based on this book. The first month was on Food. It was rough, but very eye opening. Next up was clothing. Seven articles of clothing for four weeks. Sounds kind of crazy, but I’m always up for a challenge. Being a stay-at-home-mom, this really was quite simple. The only person who sees me everyday is a two year old and she couldn’t care less what I am wearing as long as I keep her fed and clean, oh, and dance with her. My husband had it easy since he regularly just wears a T-shirt and jeans. Me, on the other hand, I like color and pattern and variety. So instead of trying to pick out the perfect set, I went ahead and let my sweet husband do it. He actually does quite well in picking outfits for me regularly. (Like when I’m standing in front of a closet full of clothes and say I can’t find anything to wear.) Out they came: 1-my best fitting pair of blue jeans. 2-a loose, gray T-shirt that says LOVE. 3-a navy blue polka dot tank top. 4-a cream cardigan (that I actually bought the day before we started this month… You know, the one where I’m supposed to realized how much clothing I already have? Yeah, that one.) 5-a loose, plum cardigan, which actually got switched out in the second week for a teal 3/4 sleeve shirt because I hadn’t worn it yet and couldn’t handle switching between two shirts every other day. 6-a simple black cotton tank dress. Which I’m pretty sure I only wore twice. 7-shoes which we counted as one, but I chose two pairs: navy polka dot flats and brown flip flops, but I mostly only wore the flats. I supposed I could have just taken a picture, but use your imagination.

Now this month was much easier than month one by many standpoints. It made getting ready a breeze and laundry was minimal so that was a major plus. But a few weeks in I started asking the same question I asked during the first month, “Why are we doing this again?”. This time it was for totally different reasons though. With the food, I just really wanted to give up on it (and that was after about three days). But this month, the experiment had hardly crossed my mind. I talked to loads of people about the crazy food thing, people who probably never even saw me eat a bite of food. But clothing? It came up only a few times, and mostly with people who already knew I was doing it. And you would think with something so tangible, like the fact that I wore the same pair of jeans for almost four weeks straight, that someone might have noticed. Then I realized something: Nobody cares! I mean, people care in general, but what I wear? Nope. No one cared that I wore the same shirt every other day and the one cardigan that I had because it decided to get cold in Southern California in March. That was pretty much it. No huge, profound thoughts. Just the realization that any time and effort and money that goes into my wardrobe has little to no appreciation. Maybe I just have amazing friends who are so not materialistic that they don’t notice things like that. Or maybe they did notice and thought something might be wrong with me. Either way, it was not anything grand enough to be addressed.

I am not a shopper by nature. I like to save money and am a self proclaimed cheapskate. Rarely ever do I buy something for myself, so when it comes to clothing, I shop maybe a handful of times a year plus a few more if there is a special occasion. And at that, its clearance or a discount department store type place. Gotta love a good deal. Also, it has to be husband approved so a lot of the time half the stuff goes back to the store. Let’s just say we have differing tastes and I figure he’s the one who has to look at me so normally, he wins. Now here comes my dilemma. The week after we finished our month of 7 articles of clothing, it was Easter. Easter is always a great excuse for a new dress. But I just got through telling myself that no one really cares, so why in the world would I go spend money on a new dress when I have a closet full of perfectly good ones? I thought about it… a lot. I really just wanted to go pick out a cheap dress and not make a big deal and just move on, but I couldn’t. We bought two Easter dresses for our daughter during this time, TWO! And returned them both because we decided they weren’t right for her. I think I was actually more concerned with what she was going to wear than myself. The decision was finally made: no one was buying new easter clothes this year. Or maybe I just ran out of time, that’s quite possible as well. Instead, I decided I was going to get creative. A yellow button up thrift store shirt and some lace trim became my baby girl’s homemade dress. I rummaged through my closet and found a white dress I had bought for our anniversary last year, added a few accessories and voila, Easter apparel 2014. Would it have been nice to have a new dress this year? Sure. Would it have been necessary? Not at all. Did anyone notice I wore a dress that *gasp* I had already worn once before? I doubt it. And I had so much fun creating a dress for my daughter. Now she will have that as a memory and hopefully be able to keep it for years to come. What a gift.

All this to say, I think the experiment is working. I am learning to be content with less. Not that we were necessarily extravagant in our clothing before, but I know that we can live on much less than we currently have. What a relief to not have to worry about my clothing as much. That’s not to say that I haven’t flipped through the closet over and over to “find” something to wear since the end of the month. But the pressure is much less, like my priorities may be shifting.

I think about verses like Matthew 6:28-30

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  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?”

And Matthew 25:38, 40

“When did we see you … needing clothes and clothe you? ”  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

This led to a purging of the closets and gave me loads of ammunition for the next month: Possessions. Its gonna be a good one, stay tuned.

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This Week, My Body

These past few weeks God has been teaching me so much. Relationships, marriage, friendships, children, family, waiting, obedience, hospitality… the list goes on. I’ve hardly had a chance to sit and process through it all, let alone write about it. But I recently had a refreshing look through a familiar passage that is just filling me with awe and gratitude, so I want to share that with you. Also, I’ll share a bunch of other stuff that has been going on in my head and maybe at the end I can pull it all together and it will make some kind of sense.

Psalms 139:13-16

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

I know I’ve seen this passage used in maternity photos and above baby cribs, but this was the first time I was able to really hear God saying, “No, this is for YOU, too.” Maybe I am just more in tune with this scripture after having a child of my own, but this just became so personal to me. To think that God was there, knitting me together, forming me in the seclusion of my mother’s womb, it must have been such a sacred time. I think of how wonderful it has been to see our baby girl grow these first two years. Every milestone has called for celebration and so many of them have been experienced by just my husband and me. It makes those times so special, seeing her learn and develop and grow. So now I imagine God there, as I was just a tiny bit of multiplying cells and he’s working away forming me and growing me. Before a single soul experienced a kick, a cry, a coo, God saw vertebrae forming and a tiny heart beating. He saw arms and legs protruding and little fingers and toes sprouting on each end. He said, “Oh, look at my sweet child, yawning and tumbling.” These are the moments that no one else has, but God and I.

I studied a few weeks back on what the Word has to say about our health. My general thought on caring for my body has been that I will be getting a new glorified body after this life, so I don’t really need to worry about this one. Boy, was I wrong about that. See, there’s this awful thing about being skinny by nature (please hold your “boo”s), I don’t really have to watch what I eat, so I don’t. I eat bread, and cheese, and more bread, and then some cheese with jalapenos and throw in some bacon, and then I feel gross and tired and so I don’t get up and get active and then the vicious cycle repeats. But really, I don’t eat terrible all the time, my family loves veggies and all kinds of good fresh foods, but pizza…. yes I love pizza… Mmmm. So last month my husband and I did this really weird thing to start cutting out excess in our lives. We got this book 7. Luckily, quite a few of our friends have at least heard of it, so we didn’t look like complete crazies, but this first month we cut out the excess on our food. We ate only 7 foods. And since everyone always asks, it was: eggs, chicken, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocado, apples and wheat bread. We gave ourselves a little leeway when it came to parties and being at other peoples houses, but for the great majority, this is what we ate. I learned quite a few things through this experience.

1. I have terrible self discipline. As in, I cry like a baby when I can’t eat whatever the heck I want. OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s pretty bad. I read a sermon during this time about how our culture puts no importance on self discipline. Everything is about relaxation and recreation. People pay ridiculous amounts of money to watch other people play a sport that many people do just for “leisure”. If that doesn’t show us what our society puts importance on, then I don’t know what does. At the beginning of the month I kept asking my husband, “Why are we dong this again?”. I had a really bad attitude about it some days which God would quickly remind me of how ridiculous I was being because I could only eat these 7 delicious foods that many others would be overjoyed to eat. That brings me to my next point.

2. Food is a luxury. I would have never thought this before doing the 7 experiment. I eat extravagantly. And not like caviar and champagne. But the fact that I can walk into a warehouse full of all different kinds of foods with 14 different types of peanut butter to choose from… it’s kind of excessive, don’t you think? It doesn’t stop there though, you know that giant stockpile of nourishment, yeah, it’s across the street from my house. But I don’t go to that store because I like the one two blocks away better. Oh, and then after going to the store and filling our refrigerator and pantry, I might be just too tired to cook or maybe it’s date night, so we leave all this perfectly good food here so it can begin decomposing in our kitchen while we go out and have someone else cook and serve us food for ten times what it would have cost us at home! Am I the only one this sounds absurd to? All in all, we’ve got it gooood. With all these options for meals and eating out, I hope to be much more grateful for this luxury.

3. Good food makes you feel good! I was so used to having a stomach ache here, a little heart burn there, it just seemed normal to me. But take a few weeks and only eat whole foods? What a difference! This was really strange to me because I have never in my life been on a diet. I used to say my diet was anything cheap or free. But produce is not expensive and it’s a whole lot cheaper than eating out. I feel like a diet commercial saying this, but it really is true. The thing that opened my eyes to this was the few times that I did eat something other than those 7 foods, I felt absolutely horrible. So to think that’s how a marshmallow made me feel, I must have just felt like that all the time and didn’t realize it. From that, I have decided that we will be eating more whole foods. Also, I will be learning how to make marshmallows that don’t make me want to throw up. Because there’s no way I can live without marshmallows.

4. Cooking is creative. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a rule follower. I like recipes and baking and things that tell me exactly how to do something the right way. Let’s just say when you only have 7 things to eat, you start to get creative. Creative like homemade sweet potato flour, apple juice salad dressing and whole wheat pizza dough apple empanadas. Don’t forget the sweet potato souffle and avocado egg salad. I really enjoyed coming up with different things to make although when it came down to it, it all tasted the same. Being able to use my creativity in the kitchen opened up a whole new venue for my “art”. I know this will help me in the future to not look in a pantry full of food and say we don’t have anything to eat. It has given me an excitement for cooking that I never had before.

So now what does all this have to do with being fearfully and wonderfully made? After a month of cutting out excess and a week of studying health and body scriptures I read this verse:

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photo credit: hipster scripture

John Piper says in a sermon regarding 1 Corinthians 6:20, ” When God paid the price of his Son to purchase his people from sin and guilt and condemnation, it was the ransom for their bodies as well as their souls.” It’s not just about your soul being saved from sin, this body is part of the package. He goes on to say, “When God bought us he did not buy us as slaves but as dwellings. His aim was not to make us work for him, but to make us full of him.” If I am going to be really serious about this perfecting process, of glorifying God with everything I have, my body needs to be part of that as well. He made this body and redeemed this body. Yes, it walks around in this fallen world and will one day be renewed in heaven, but I have a responsibility while here. Taking care of myself so that I can do more of the good works that he has prepared for me is nothing more than an appropriate response to the one who sacrificed his entire body for my salvation. My prayer is that I would be conscious of the things that I put in my body and even on my body, purifying myself out of reverence to bring glory to him.

Let’s chat:

How do you feel about your body? Do you use it to glorify God?

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Scripture Shield

After the trauma of my daughter’s birth, I dealt with a lot of anxiety. I know that I said I had peace while going through it all, and now know that God has worked it all together for good, but I was a wreck for a good long while afterward. All the hormones and fatigue from having the baby and then round the clock care for a newborn, it was incredibly overwhelming. I replayed the days of labor and the delivery over and over in my head wondering what I could have done differently. You see, it wasn’t just the birth that devastated me, it was the effects after. I didn’t have the rush of hormones that you get from a natural birth that quickly bond you to your child. I didn’t get to hold her right away or nurse her and have those special moments of connection. She was then in the NICU for days and I was unable to feed her on command. While my body was recovering from surgery it wasn’t able to produce the milk needed to sustain my child. Supplementing with formula and wondering if she was getting enough added stress to the situation. Nothing had turned out the way I had wanted. There was a million ‘what ifs’ that swirled through my head every moment of everyday.

There was also the reality that set in of being a mother, wife, homemaker, friend… the list goes on. I couldn’t do it all and do it all well. In those early days, I felt accomplished if I could keep myself and my child fed and clean. I was working on about 1 1/2 hour increments of sleep throughout the night (and sometimes the day). My sweet husband was supportive and selflessly picked up everything I wasn’t keeping up on. This added to my guilt of not being able to care for him and our home. I would meltdown every now and then under the weight of the expectations I placed on myself. After months of attempting to do it all on my own, I finally found the way to get through it. I needed more than moral support or helping hands. I needed God’s help. I told Him, “Lord, I give you control, I know that I cannot do it on my own.” I needed His strength and His promises and His truths. Those words were a turning point for me. I came to him daily with my worries and fears, my failures and shortcomings. Our God and His love for us truly does not ever fail. He supplied me with everything I needed to face the day.

One of the things He offered me was a shield of Scripture. I know that in the “armor of God” the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit, but I was in no position to be on the offense. I was so weary and weak that I just used these scriptures to shield myself from the attacks. I memorized these scriptures and repeated them over and over as often as I needed.

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I could pull these verses apart and explain how God used so many of these pieces to minister to me. The greatest comfort was having the inexplicable peace of God guarding my heart and mind. The attacks subsided as I fended them off with the holy truth of God. The enemy was sifting me and I was losing the battle for a while, but God drew me back to Him and fought the fight for me. Through surrender, prayer, scripture and faith, God brought me through that rough time. I have been able to use these verses to encourage others many times since then. I hope that when you encounter the attack of worry, fear or anxiety that you remember these words and cling tightly to them. Meditate on these things.

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Control Freak

I never would have thought of myself as a control freak really. Planner, yes. Perfectionist, definitely. But having to be in control? God taught me a lot about this through the birth of my daughter. Let me start by saying that I consider myself a fan of “crunchiness”. As in granola, natural, holistic, hippie type stuff. Notice that I don’t claim to be crunchy, I just like the idea of it. I’m much too conservative and eat way too much bacon to be considered granola. Anyway, when it came to childbirth I really liked the idea of a natural birth. I have friends and family with amazing natural un-medicated birth stories and I wanted to experience that. I had this idea that God made our bodies to birth babies and so I wanted to experience it fully. Then there were all of the health reasons and benefits with bonding and hormones and all kinds of other stuff that I won’t get into. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate modern medicine and I often tell people that if they don’t have any type of strong conviction about having a natural birth, then by all means, do what you gotta do. I just really wanted a natural birth. Looking back, I realize that I was putting much more faith in myself and my body’s ability to give birth than in the Lord’s strength and what his will was for me. The whole birth story is kind of long and ridiculous so I may or may not share that here some time but I’ll give you some highlights of what all we went through.

Week 39 mention of induction from our nurse midwife
Week 40 nurse midwife plans for induction the next week, we refuse (remember, we wanted this birth to be natural, so the labor would have to start naturally)
Week 41 we are assigned to an OB and considered ‘high risk’ because we are now post term
Week 42 multiple Non-stress tests are performed to make sure baby is OK (she’s fine, very comfortable in there)
Week 42 1/2 we decide to induce hoping to avoid complications due to long gestation
12 hours later . . . Nada.
2 hours later water breaks naturally
2 hours later contractions are not starting so pitocin is introduced
Labored for 20 or so hours (5 cm, halfway there)
Decide to get an epidural to conserve energy for pushing
5 more hours haven’t progressed well
I begin to shake uncontrollably (thanks epidural) and my temperature spikes
Baby’s heat rate becomes unstable
Our last and final option (my worst nightmare) we decide to do a caesarean section
46 hours since we entered the hospital our sweet baby girl, Miss Love, enters the world

But wait . . . there’s more

Our daughter’s blood tests come back with an abnormality. Because of my temperature during labor they are concerned that she may develop an infection. She is taken to the NICU that evening and spends the first week of her life there. I spend the first week of her life recovering from surgery and visiting her 8 hours a day.

Talk about devastating. It could not have played out further from what I wanted it to be. That little section there about choosing our last option of a C-section, it was awful and beautiful all at the same time. I bawled the whole time the doctor talked us through the procedure. I can’t even tell you a single word he said because I was a wreck. We had spent hours before that praying and singing worship songs and begging God to move. He did, just not how we had hoped. Once they wheeled me into the operating room I was more calm than I could have ever imagined. My poor sweet husband was shocked at the sight of his wife being cut open, but I was able to carry on conversation and keep from dwelling on the fact that my baby was now being cut out of me.

The one thing that I held onto during all this, including the time my daughter was in the NICU, was this overwhelming inexplicable peace. Never once did I worry that she or I was in danger. I knew without a doubt that God was in control and he was taking care of us. And it wasn’t a fake confidence like I had about my body being able to birth this kid naturally. It was undeniable love from the Father that even though my worst nightmare had occured (and then some) He was still good and he was still God and he was completely in control.

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This is something that I knew God was teaching me soon after Miss Love’s birth, and I have a good grasp on it now, but it has been a long process to see how God has worked it all together for good.

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Pride and Vulnerability

I have to share with you this wonderful truth that I have come across recently. This new endeavor for me in this blog has come with much hesitation. God has asked me to share what he is teaching me and that means I’m putting a lot of myself out there that may not regularly be seen by people. Like I said in my last post, I have spent most of my life with this idea that others saw me as perfect. I always knew that was completely untrue, but there was a fight that ensued within me when people would tell me how “good” I was. I definitely had a healthy self confidence, but I knew that I fell short when it came to comparison with our Holy God. So in my surrender to God’s work, I have asked him to show me what areas of my life are not “good”. A funny thing happens when you ask God to show you where you need some work done in your heart . . . He answers. And he doesn’t hold back. I couldn’t see it at first, but the pride in my heart became quite clear. This self righteousness that I was not as bad as “those people”, whoever those people are, was now glaring. So he’s been working on my heart, humbling me, teaching me wonderful truths and that I am so in need of his amazing grace. And then to test that faith, he asks me to share, to open my story and life and heart and let him use it for his kingdom. The short comings, the hurt, the guilt, the repentance, the renewed heart, he wants me to share it all.

Enter, Vulnerability. That awful word. Or at least so I thought. Then I saw this video:

Actually, I saw her TED Talks originally which are amazing and if you have time I recommend checking them out:

Brenè Brown at TEDxHuston

Brenè Brown: Listening to Shame

But this gets the basic idea across, that vulnerability is a good thing, a great thing even. It helps you to live life wholeheartedly. It also takes courage. Brenè talks about in her second TED Talk how we look at vulnerability as weakness and with fear, yet when you see someone being vulnerable you think of them as courageous. This was exactly what I needed to hear. God’s good about bringing those right words at the right time, isn’t he?

I’m going to start getting into my story here soon, I promise. I just wanted to preface with this awesome idea and ask for your sensitivity. I also want to encourage you to be open to the idea of being vulnerable. If not here with me in the comments, maybe with a friend or family member. It’s one of those really scary, thrilling, freeing things. Give it a try.

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The Perfecting Process

I suppose now would be a good time to explain what this “perfecting process” means to me. Let me start by saying that I am by no means perfect, no where near perfect actually.

God is though.

He is perfect

He is holy

He is righteous

always.

I won’t ever be perfect, I’m human. But something in me desires to be more like God. And it’s not the snake enticing, apple eating kind of desire. Its the humbling, selfless, I can’t do it on my own kind of desire.

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I used to be perfect. At least that’s what I thought. That’s what everyone told me, “What a perfect little angel.” I liked to do good things. I liked to do things right. I hated getting in trouble. So I didn’t. Not that I didn’t ever do anything wrong, I just made sure that I didn’t get in trouble for it. Because I wanted to be good. Me, good.

So I planned it all out, the right way to do things. Go to school, get good grades, find a nice boy, get a good job, marry the nice boy, and then have a family and start the whole process over again with a perfect little child. My plans worked for the most part. It wasn’t that hard for me to follow along those lines. I was a good student, I had a great relationship with a Godly man, we had a perfect little wedding, I had a nice job that I was successful in. Of course there were little hiccups along the way, but all in all the goals were accomplished. Sure it was a lot of pressure on myself to do it all, but I could handle it. I had done it for so many years all on my own, I couldn’t stop now. Then came the final step in the plan: a perfect baby. And not only did I want a perfect baby, I wanted a perfect delivery. Someone told me while I was pregnant that once you have a baby all your plans go out the window. Well, my plans were thrown out before she was even born. I will have to write about that whole experience another time. Let’s just say that it didn’t go as planned and I was devestated. Motherhood started out as a complete failure in my eyes. But that is exactly what I needed. God needed to show me that I was not in control, I was not perfect, but he is. God had to bring me to a place where I had nothing left but him.

He is so good that way. He wants to make me holy, perfect, just like him. But as long as I thought that I was “good” on my own, I would never have been able to resign myself to this perfecting process. So the story begins here: broken, humbled and surrendered. God has taught me so much recently and I want to share that with others. He is the great refiner. He turns up the heat to get all the bad stuff out. I can see now that God has been leading me to this place in his ever perfect timing. It has been scary at times to open my life to him, but he gives me strength and courage every step of the way.

Have you ever thought that you could be “good” all on your own? Do you notice God perfecting you in any way?

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Not the Blog I Wanted

This is not the blog I wanted. I have had many ideas through the last few years of what kind of blog I might like to have. I wanted a crafting blog with lots of tips and tricks and tutorials. Or maybe a hair styling blog with pictures and videos. I thought a decorating blog with decor for holidays and DIY up-cycled ideas would be fun. I also love to bake, but I have no idea how to come up with recipes myself, so that might not have gone very well as a blog. Being a stay at home mom, I see all these ‘pins’ for activities and games to do with your children. I am very resourceful person so I’m sure I could come up with plenty of ideas in that respect. There are so many great options out there.

All of these had some type of draw for me, but I just couldn’t commit to a single one. I could think of a few possible posts, but to keep something like that going for the long run would be difficult. I love to create and I love sharing my creations with people. Writing has always been a lesser used love of mine and a blog is something I have been feeling led to start especially in the last few months.

One thing that I know will always be true in my life is that God will be teaching me something, giving me opportunity to be more like him, perfected. Whether I am listening intently or just trying to get through things on my own, God is speaking. This truth has become increasingly real to me since our sweet baby girl was born about a year and a half ago and has rocked my world. This perfecting process is rough, and crazy, and absolutely beautiful.

So while I had dreamed of something light and fluffy and pretty and perfect, God has had other plans for me. This is often the case. This is the blog that God has planned for me, the story of his work in my life. I don’t know that it will be anything completely profound to you, but writing here helps me process all that I am learning. And if God can use just a tiny bit of this to speak to your heart, all glory be to him. Just know that the main character here is not me, Duana, it is God. He is working in my heart daily and through obedience to him, I will share that story with anyone who will listen (or read, I suppose). I know that this will not be easy, but through the power of His holy spirit I know that I can accomplish whatever he asks.

Pray for me, will you?

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