Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Less is More: Food

My last post was about God working in me...changing me, despite my stubbornness and quite frankly, my disinterest. Thankfully, God is faithful ALWAYS, even when I am not.

I thought I would take a few posts to write more specifically about some of these changes, really for my own personal documentation...so that in 3 or 5 or 10 years I can look back and REMEMBER what God has taught me. But, also, I hope that we can share some dialogue about these things. Challenge each other. Encourage each other.

While, there are a number of different issues on my heart right now, one very prominent one, and one I feel comfortable(-ish) sharing on the world wide web is the issue of consumerism. And so we begin a series: Less is More.

I will start by saying that consumerism and materialism and excess is a struggle for me. It is an empty cistern that I return to time and again. I have prayed countless prayers regarding this sin, with Casey, with friends, and alone, but I suppose I've always had the attitude that I just wanted God to fix it, rather than endure change. Changing is hard. It hurts. I don't like it. And usually, I retreat when it gets too difficult or too lonely. But endure we must! Thankfully, I am certain that the God of Peace is the Initiator and Sustainer of this transformation. And what gives Him away is this... that I BELIEVE that my "loss" is my gain. I am not just taking off sin, but I am putting on...freedom and simplicity and gratitude, and those are worthy garments.

In NO way am I saying that I have arrived in this area. I am merely sharing with you a few little changes we are making and how God is beginning to transform my mind regarding how I spend His money and how I think about what He has given me.

We'll start tonight with food.

I love me a good drive through. Not for food so much, but for a mid-day pick-me-up, such as a Large Diet Dr. Pepper from Sonic or a Grande 2-Pump White Mocha from Starbucks. As I drive through, I feel entitled to my delicious beverage. I feel that I deserve it, or if I feel that I don't deserve it, then I convince myself that it will help me perform more satisfactorily my duties as a wife, mother and homemaker. Nice, huh? For a while, I was doing this almost every day.

But, a few months ago, I started thinking about how we, as a family consume, consume, consume, and I would talk and wish for a simpler life, but I was making NO changes towards that goal, like it was just going to happen miraculously all by itself. So...my drive-through habit seemed to be one of the more obvious steps in that direction. When I feel tempted to get myself a little something, I consider the calories that I don't want. I consider the money that I do want to save. I consider how I want to create less trash. (One large styrofoam cup every other day or so...that's a lot of BAD trash!) But of course, the biggest motivator for me has just been to consider the simpler, less consumeristic life that I want for me and my family. Learning to find joy and comfort and pleasure in Jesus and in each other and in what we have already been blessed with.

Now...let it be known. I have not cut the habit out completely. I grabbed a Sonic yesterday for a picnic and when I meet with students or a friend, I will gladly enjoy a Starbucks. But...generally, I am not driving through for no reason at all, like I was before.

I am trying to think this way about eating out as well. When we moved to Brenham we stopped eating out as much, just because there aren't as many options here. But, despite our sad restaurant selection, the option to eat out often seems better, or at least easier than eating at home. But God has been at work here too.

I desire to create a God-glorifying, family-centered, community-rich culture in my home, and cooking and sitting around the dinner table seems to be one of the sweetest ways to make that happen. 30 years from now, I want Braelyn to remember the conversations and camaraderie that happened in the kitchen. I want her to learn how to cook and how to be a good hostess. Arby's just can't make those things happen. Plus, eating at home helps to save money...God's money that He has given us to steward wisely. It helps us eat more nutritious, balanced food. It helps us actually eat the food that I buy at the store and waste less. And eating in helps us to produce less trash (especially by avoiding fast food).

Again...we still go out to eat. But I want it to be an occasional treat rather than the norm.

One more thing on this subject. As I have been cooking and preparing more of our meals at home, I have found meal planning to be a very helpful tool. For me, it works best to shop for a weeks worth of meals. I plan about 3 meals which leaves room for leftovers and going out and whatnot. I have also started keeping one or two easy, go-to meals on hand, such as spaghetti or rice and beans, in case the original plan falls through. Life happens. This has helped curb the temptation to say, "Ugh...I don't know what to fix. Let's just go out to eat." If I don't want to waste the food that I bought...and I don't, then mama's gotta get cookin'. For more on this subject you should check out the Family Supper Club blog. There are lots of really smart, frugal, healthy moms on there sharing their wisdom, plus tons of great recipes.

Sorry I got kinda long-winded here. It has just been such a blessing to me to find that while I was preparing myself to "give up" this and that, the Lord was preparing to bless my socks off by giving me MORE. More quality time with my family. More priceless memories. More peace of mind. More organization and order in my home. More to learn and more to teach my daughter. I am very excited about these things. And that's just food! Still to come...changing my thoughts on clothes and creating a beautiful home.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wherever I Go...

The Lord is moving in my home. And I delight at the thought of it. For a while I was hesitant to obey. Disinterested in sacrificing. Resistant to the unpleasant pruning process. Faithless.

But then, I suppose I was sharing the Gospel with myself...which is perhaps the best advice I could give anyone regarding any situation, but anyways...I was sharing the Gospel with myself, and an overwhelming sense of exhaustion came over me. I was exhausted with myself. Fed up with myself. Exasperated from wanting and needing and wanting and wanting. And the worst part, when one is confronted with the ugly truth of selfishness is that one can't very well be rid of themselves, can they?...Where ever you go, there you are. It's a dilemma that has plagued us all since Adam and Eve. But...WE HAVE THE GOSPEL!

And consequently, my heart is starting to soften.

I have been encouraged and challenged.

Through Bible study.

Through Community.

Through Doug Wilson's book Standing on the Promises.

Through reading blogs from women all over the world who are fighting consumerism, embracing simplicity and enjoying life more because of it.

Through meeting with women younger than myself. How real God is when you speak of Him out loud!

Through prayer and WRESTLING with God over the running of our household.

Through submitting to His answers...which, can I just say, is brutal to those of us who struggle with self-absorption?!

Through hard conversations with my husband, and seeing that while God was stirring in me, He was also stirring in Casey, uniting us with like-minds and like-hearts.

And so, together we have committed to take one small, giant step, and that is to think about what is true, and honorable, and just, and lovely and commendable and excellent and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8). Unfortunately, we haven't always set our mind on these good things. We will rest here for a while. Praying this Truth. Believing this Truth. Delighting in this Truth, because a promise follows..."practice these things and the God of Peace will be with you."

With this verse in mind, it makes me smile to think that wherever I go, there I am, but...so is the God of Peace.

Ha! That has got to be the thorniest thorn in the enemy's side!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Need to Spice Up Your Dinner Plans?

My great friend, Brandi just started a new blog, Family Supper Club. There are a number of contributors who will be sharing recipes, meal planning ideas, helpful cookbooks, reviews on kitchen tools and appliances, and anything to do with cooking for the family. I am very excited! Who doesn't love a little cooking inspiration? Go check it out! And trust me, y'all, some of these people have cooked for me on a number of occasions...DELICIOUS!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy to Hear...

That you can compost PAPER TOWELS (just not with chemicals on them)!!! This is good news to me, because, I do have a bit of an addiction to paper towels. I will still try to use sparingly, BUT...now there'll be a little less guilt! Now everyone can enter the weekend a little happier knowing that you can compost your paper towels.

If you are curious about composting, go here.
Have a great, GREEN weekend. :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Clouds in My Sunshine

Things are going very well for me and my family, I would say, but somehow I tend to dwell on the little gray clouds in my sunshine. The following are a few of my gray clouds:

- Preschool. Yeah...after that great first day of school, things went a little down hill from there. The second week, Braelyn was crying and saying that she didn't like school, and she wanted to stay home with me. It was awful. On Friday, I walked her up to the drop-off and the principal had to pick her up and carry her into the building. She was crying, calling my name, reaching for me, the whole bit. She seems to be doing okay once she's there, but gets a little nervous during transitions. Mrs. Cone said it could be like this till Christmas. Oh Lord, help me!

- The Garden. All my indoor seedlings are dead. My baby basil plants were doing pretty well until I started taking them outside for a little sun bathing each day. Now...dead. A few things seem to be growing outside in the garden, which is hopeful. I have a few onions, a few carrots. There might be some lettuce growing, but I'm not totally sure. Could just be weeds. It's hard to tell sometimes. In fact, my marigolds were growing so well, I thought they were weeds, so I pulled them. I have since replanted them, and they are again doing well. I'm still deciding what I want to do about the indoor seedlings. Should I try again? Ugh, I don't know. To be honest, I didn't really like having them in my house. I like taking care of my garden outside. Not inside.

- The Homemade Christmas Plan. The plan has failed. I have not kept my commitment to make a gift a month. I have 2 gifts done. That's it. So now I'm forced to kick it up to a gift a week, which is still a reasonable goal. I think I am going to put a Christmas Countdown thing in the sidebar with the number of gifts I have left to go. Yes...I will humiliate myself into knockin' those babies out. By November people! By November! Make me do it!

- Working Out. A few months ago, I joined the gym. It started out great. I was going. Toning up. Felling good. But, then we went out of town or something and it ruined me. I can't seem to make myself go. And the thing is, I like working out, I just like doing the other things I'm doing more, like watching our shows, and blogging and reading and hanging out with my family and friends. It's a real conundrum.

- Getting Pregnant. We're still not. I suppose that's one of my rainier clouds.

Silly clouds. They are but vapor. If I would just stand back a little, I would see a sky full of sunshine. I shall end this post with gratitude...

I am thankful for:

- Making new friends.
- Seeing our church grow, in both width and depth.
- Having people in my home...everyday
- Catching up with old friends.
- Having a Date Night again (Thanks Beth!)
- College students
- Feeling the Lord disrupt that complacency that was settling in my soul
- Family gatherings
- Beth Moore Bible studies (It's been a while since I've done a BM study, but I've just started one again with a friend, and man...a little Beth Moore'll do ya good! :)
- Big Sunday lunch
- Blogs that get me thinkin'
- And most of all..."But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Cease Acadamy

Subtitle: Lots of Learning Amidst Lots of Dust

A friend asked me how I am scheduling my time with Braelyn on our "school at home" days. So I thought, #1 I would try to answer her, and #2, hopefully, some of you wiser, more experienced moms might be compelled to share...your ideas, how you juggle it all, organization tips...whatever.

I have to say up front, that for us, this is not super rigid. I refuse to wake my daughter up in the morning unless it cannot be avoided. If we had a late, crazy night, the next morning we might just watch a Dora to ease into the day. I'm flexible. Life happens. Most importantly, I want to be sensitive to what I sense my daughter needs. I don't want to be so locked into my plan and so attached to my schedule that I miss her. This is for her after all, and I want learning here to be a pleasant experience. I will also say, that I think of this time more as good-quality, intentional, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually beneficial time rather than "school time." She is only 3 years old. :)

In a nutshell...
- We try to be dressed (out of our pajamas is really the goal here) and fed by 8:30.
- Between 8:30 and 10:30 (or so). I am really trying my best to give her my undivided attention for those 2 hours. Some of the activities we've done so far include:
* Gardening
* Craft projects - Last week we made a color wheel. Pink, naturally.
* Learning letters
* Writing stories (She talks, I type. My Human Development and Family Studies degree was good for something.)
* We practiced writing her name/tracing it with a highlighter (5 mins max)
* READING BOOKS! Lots of books. Everyday.
* Computer games - I've mostly just been using PBS kids. She LOVES this!
* Going for a walk - noticing nature, talking about what God has made, running, playing, taking baby for a walk (this is what we did today).

Obviously, we don't do all of those things in 2 hours. I usually think of 2 or 3 activities for each day. After that, I usually let her play or watch a Dora while I shower and get ready. Then we eat lunch and get on with the business of our day. I still try to give her my attention through out the entire day, but as we all know, there are things to be done. I am trying to include her in those things as well. Helping with laundry, sorting silverware, teaching her to contribute to the running of our home, but I'm not always so great at this. Sometimes, I just want to do it myself, y' know!

I confess, I am finding it difficult with this new schedule to actually spend time cleaning. I mean, I get done what HAS to get done...laundry, cleaning the kitchen, occasionally a bed is made, and there is usually an attempt to pick up toys, but in the area of deep cleaning...Martha would be so ashamed! And trust me, I'm not even aiming for Martha clean. Just kinda clean will do. So...I am embarrassing myself and laying it all out there so that you can either join in my confession and make me feel better, or you can share your ninja mothering & housekeeping skills with me and make me feel worse. Just kidding. I'd really like to know.

So that's kinda how things are going for now. I'm sure we'll adjust and readjust, but I'm feeling pretty positive, minus my filthy house. So please comment. Share how you schedule your day, whether you homeschool or not. Do you have a schedule or do you just clean when you need to clean, play when you need to play? I know I wonder how other moms make it all work. Surely, I'm not the only one, right? RIGHT?!