Book Review of "7" by Jen Hatmaker

You might have heard me mention on Facebook a week or so ago that I was reading a book called 7 by Jen Hatmaker. The book is a journal of sorts which Jen keeps as she, her family, and a circle of friends intentionally begin to experience the process of reducing or separating from the overindulgence of the American norm. They took seven months and chose seven areas in which to simplify their lives. Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress. I read the book this week and was given the wonderful opportunity to review it. So here is my opinion (for what its worth).
Several months ago I had the privilege to hear Jen speak at a conference. At the time I was struck by how real, normal and relatable she was. I’m the one who drove her back and forth to the airport and the hotel. She had plenty opportunity to reveal her true self during those times and while our conversation certainly touched on the spiritual and the motivation for the conference. We also talked kids, gardening, food, college football and the Big 12. (My husband is laughing hysterically right now at that picture in his head!) I met the same person at the conference that I met while reading the book. Funny, irreverent, earnest and willing to be honest about who she is.  That’s why the book “7” works. It’s not a pie in the sky, super spiritual book that you walk away from thinking, “Wow what an amazing Christian woman!” (No offence please Jen!). You walk away thinking, this woman is like me, and that means if she can do it I can do it. Which makes us want to look outside of ourselves to see our community, our neighbors, our environment and our role in each. The book tackles issues that many people want to avoid thinking about, like the homeless, the environment (which conservatives like me run screaming from for fear of being considered liberal) and keeping the Sabbath with a Biblical perspective you might not have heard before.
The impact this book had on me wasn’t perhaps what you would think. Three years ago, when our life changing stuff really began to happen I experienced by circumstance not by choice some of what she talks about in her book. Ask people who have been in the same situation; it’s amazing what you can live without when you have to. As for getting rid of stuff? Ha! My closet is a perfect example of how much stuff we have gotten rid of. It is plenty full now and literally a quarter of the size it was when we started this journey. I was impacted so much more by the things I least expected. The Chapters on Spending, Waste and Stress were my big “Ah Ha!” moments. Jen spends time on the modern church in the chapter on Spending, and it was one of those times I had to keep interrupting my husband’s bowl games on TV to read excerpts out loud so he could appreciate it too!
Don’t read “7” with the expectation that it will change your life. Jen definitely leaves that up to you. But it will confront you with the question of whether you really want to change your life, or whether you just want to live with your status quo. She doesn’t ask us as the reader to do what she is doing to achieve a better relationship with God. She doesn’t set this up as an ultimate how to book nor is she angling to become your social awareness guru. Jen is just honestly sharing with us what this process looks like to her, and in doing so what it would look like to you if you are willing to step outside your comfort zone. So my view if you couldn’t tell? Do Read “7”.

Cha Cha Cha Changes!

My family is cranky. Maybe it’s the fact that the kids are ready to go back to school, or maybe it’s because they aren’t ready to go back…….Maybe it’s too much of everything; Christmas, time off, time awake, togetherness. Who knows why? But they are cranky. Maybe I am too. I insisted today that we get out of the house and away from the TV/video games/movies/mindless vegetation. So we went to the library to use the Internet, and to Radio Shack to talk to someone about how to get it at our house. (Yes there is a place in this United States where normal people don’t get Internet.)  Then came back home to watch more bowl games and do nothing! We did that a lot this break, at least the half of break after Christmas. Before Christmas we had snow days, finals, projects due (we hardly saw Randy for two weeks!) and crazy busy schedules. We didn’t watch TV the whole time though. The house is super clean, and we re-did the office. Now you can actually get to a computer without climbing over boxes and chairs. I need to see if we have any before pictures so I can post an after picture so you can really appreciate all that was accomplished.

Some super fantastic friends came out New Years Eve from KC and spent the night and everything! We did nothing except eat, talk and have fun together for 24 hours straight. I so appreciate their friendship and the joy they brought to me by doing that. Not everyone would have put up with the chaos 10 adults and 13 kids can create especially overnight.

So now it’s 2012. I have a feeling it’s going to be a year of great change for us. Some things have already happened; some things are yet to come. Have I mentioned how grateful I am for a God who is constant even when our lives are not? I can’t really talk about a new year without mentioning that. Even when I feel like I have no idea where I’m going, He is there.   He knows where I’m headed before it even enters my mind. He knows my heart’s desire even more than I do. No matter how confused I am. He never is. He offers such peace WHEN I REMEMBER THAT! How is it that I ever forget?

Psalms 139:2-12 (The Message)
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!
 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,

You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

House Updates

We bought this house last year because it has great potential. In Real Estate speak that means it needs work, and it does. Nothing big, just a pretty upgrade, because we like to say that while this house was build in 1990 it looks like it was decorated in 1970. We had about $80 on a Home Depot card after we took back extra stuff from the renovation on the house before we left KC. So that, and maybe $30 extra has funded the upgrade so far.

 Our first re-do was Caleb’s bedroom on the first floor. The kids really hadn’t had their own space since we left Lenexa in ’09, so we wanted to get bedrooms done first. When we first moved in we gave him the slightly larger room since it shared a wall with the bathroom. That way he got the noise J It was a lovely mustard color (I don’t know if I can really infuse those written words with the sarcasm that the spoken word conveys) and had Kelly green curtains. I went through the house the day we got here and took down all but one set of curtains. Randy couldn’t understand my mania but they were awful. The mauve plastic mini blinds in the kitchen survived slightly longer, but that was only out of necessity.

Since he was back in KC last winter we moved his stuff out of the room, scraped the ceiling, and painted the trim, windows and walls. We didn’t paint the doors; I think we will replace them later. That was one thing we learned from the flip. Replacing doors is relatively inexpensive and made a HUGE difference in the overall look of the house. Painting the cheap, flat, wood doors just made them look cheaper

 We moved into that room after it was finished and started on the, I can’t think of the proper adjective, avocado green room. It was a surprise for Caleb when he came back home for the weekend. I want him to feel like he has a place here even though he has been pretty transient with college and everything.

 We scraped the ceiling here too. Odd thing about the house is the different types of ceilings. Living room is smooth, kitchen and upstairs rooms are bead board, all other rooms are popcorn. The big chunky kind. I hate scraping ceilings. Randy does the big parts I do the areas around the light fixtures and edges. I will say though it is totally worth it to go to the trouble. If you dry scrape and paint them they look like they were knockdown from the beginning.

We also replaced the light fixture. We had one left over from the flip. It’s crazy how those simple things can have such a big impact. The ceiling fan in our room was actually really nice already.

I will post pictures of the other two bedrooms later. We haven’t done anything to Em’s she is having a hard time figuring out what to do. I think I have almost convinced her to just let me make the decisions for her!

I’ve Been Thinking……….

I was standing in the kitchen last night staring blankly at my kitchen “renovation” (I use that term very loosely, I think you actually need a budget for a renovation) but that’s going to be a whole ‘nother blog.
Anyway, as I was staring at the floor, Randy asked what I was doing. I said “thinking” His immediate response was “Stop!” He knows me so well. My first step to every disaster starts with those words. So believe me when I say I will understand completely if you close the page J
I know Thanksgiving has a tendency to wake us up from our daily slog through life to see the things for which we are thankful. (Even if it’s only at the Thanksgiving dinner table as we scramble to come up with something to be thankful for before we have to take a turn around the circle) And, since it’s that season, I’ve been thinking about the past few years, and all we have to be thankful for as a family. Honestly there is no way I can even process all that has happened, all that God has provided. Several years ago I remember my oh so impressionable oldest child in a moment of drama, crying over being homeless and living in a box on the side of the road. (all over a not so great class report in third grade mind you.) At the time I remember telling him that we had family and church friends who would never let that happen, and that God would take care of us. Kind of a knee jerk response, not that I thought it was untrue, I just really hadn’t thought about something like that ever being possible. In 2009 when everything started to crumble financially around us, we really did have family and friends step in and act as the hands and feet of God in service to us. “Thankful” seems like a puny word to describe how I feel about them. But I still have to say, I am so thankful for those people who stepped up and helped, loved us, and listened to my whining (on blogs, Facebook, and in person, I am a very prolific whiner)
I am thankful that in the last two years God has provided jobs for us, a home for us and financial options with college tuition for our kids. He has allowed us to start paying off debt left over from the hard times, and given us hope that one day we will be financially stable again. God has shown Himself to be faithful, even though we made stupid decisions, and mistakes, which proves to me that it is so much more about God’s faithfulness than my goodness!!
Don’t misunderstand me however; this has been a rough couple of years and I am not simply saying as I did before, that God took care of us, not really thinking about what that meant. God has taken care of us when things were hard, but not by sending a magic check in the mail to ease our suffering so we could go back to our clueless, status quo existence. God allowed us to go through stuff that wasn’t fun and to be confronted with hard questions about what our purpose here really is. I have gone from the SUV driving suburban stay at home mom who loves Jesus cliché to someone who has experienced the grace of God is so many ways that I am changed by it.
I am thankful for hard times, which is much easier to say on this side of them! I know I am supposed to be thankful in the midst of hardship, and I’m still working on that.
I am thankful that God has used these circumstances and my failures to  force me to depend on Him. Ultimately all I want is to be used by God for His purpose, whatever that looks like in my life.

1The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the LORD weighs the spirit.
3 Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.

                                                                 Proverbs 16:1-3 ESV

Adoption

I have watched people I know and love go through the process of adoption. I’ve failed miserably in the “after”. I wondered myself what that would look like for my family.  I have to share this link for those involved in supporting friends and family “after” . PLEASE READ Jen Hatmakers blog. Not only is she hysterically funny, she opened my eyes.

Short Attention Span

I realize now that I am a parent that what I remember frommy childhood might not always be accurate. I say that because my kids arealways saying something about an event or time and I look at them knowing fullwell that they are totally wrong, but their perception of that event or time isaccurate in their minds. That said; don’t judge my dad too harshly by mymemories. If he were here he could defend himself.

My dad went through hobbies like nobody’s business. The onesI have a clear memory of included. Flying and airplanes; Computers, Photography-I think this is where I really got started loving photography. He gave me myfirst 35mm for my 16th birthday. Jewelry- he designed a ring for mymom and bought some diamonds as an investment. Real Estate- he was a licensedagent and my parents owned rental property from time to time. Baseball Cards, Snowplowing, Cars- this was the one hobby I remember lasting through all the otherones. He was always messing around with the car. Rebuilding engines, body work,collecting parts, our garage was an insane mess of stuff. Ask anyone who knewhim!

 I know that many ofhis hobbies came out of a need to provide for his family. (Real Estate and snowplowing for instance.) Being a full time pastor of a small church didn’texactly bring in the big bucks, but the Pastorate was his passion. His heartwas always invested in Jesus, the WORD and people. I think those things definedhim, not all the crazy things he got involved in outside of that. The crazythings engaged his head, but his heart was always in the Pastorate.

I guess I’m coming to realize that I’m more like my dad thanI even thought I was. I’ve jumped around so much with so many different thingsthat I know I’ve driven Randy crazy. I get a great idea I just KNOW is the solutionfor my short attention span (and in which I could never lose interest). I giddilydo that thing for a while, looking for ways to do it more until I start doingit less, get distracted and start thinking of new ideas. I know what you’rethinking, and it’s totally possible that you’re right. I’m a head case.

Real Estate has been a way for me to help provide for myfamily and it is fun. I enjoy it and it really engages my head. But it doesn’tengage my heart. I think I’m helping people, I don’t think I could work in aplace where I felt like I wasn’t contributing something, but my heart cravessomething more.  After the conference inSeptember it’s just gotten worse. I really want to be involved in work thatengages my heart. The fact that I have one kid in college, and two gettingready for it means I have to do something that brings home a paycheck. So hereis the quandary. How do I find something that engages my head and my heart? CanI? Is my heart discontent here because I’m not made for this place?

                If Idiscover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy,the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. C. S. Lewis

Or do I just really have this character flaw of a shortattention span? Any thoughts, besides the ones dealing with the fact that I’m ahead case? If you have it figured out, let me know.

My Life Interrupted

I had one of those moments this weekend. You know the kind I mean. The kind that totally changes your perspective, and you have a sneaking suspicion, your life. I was at the conference I speak at every fall, this time not only as a speaker but an organizer. The theme was Interrupted, based on a book by Jen Hatmaker, our keynote speaker. (check her out)  We talked about how sometimes God interrupts our lives in such a way that we can’t help but react.
 We really wanted a conference that would be challenging to the women attending but I think God went so far above and beyond our expectations we were flattened. I shouldn’t speak for the other organizers I suppose, but I was flattened. I really don’t even know where to start sharing. There was no part of my heart that wasn’t affected. So many things I feel it necessary to change in my own life. Things that now that I know I can’t possibly not get involved. For instance;


Did you know that we have more people literally enslaved in the world at this time than at any other time in history?


Did you know the chocolate industry is a major contributor to the enslavement of children?


Did you know that Sex trafficking is alive and well in Kansas?


Check out this site for more information.


Honestly I wanted to come home, quit my job and jump right into ministry full time. That of course is going to have to be another posting. I’m praying God might open a new path.

Family Camp

I’m having a hard time re-adjusting to normal life this week after being at Clydehurst Christian Ranch last week with friends. Before you turn your nose up at the thought of camping, let me give you something to think about.
1. No cooking for a week
2. No deciding what to cook for a week.
3. Kids running around with their friends like its 1955. Coming for meals when the bell rings and back to the cabin at curfew.
4. Naps everyday if you want.
5. Activities organized by someone other than YOU.
6. Mountain temperatures in the 50’s at night and 80’s during the day. All with no humidity.
7. A heated pool.
8. Hanging around with friends you don’t get to see every day and just talking!
9. Bedtime snacks prepared and provided for you.
10. Time alone with your husband/wife to just be.
Really there are more than 10 good things, but that seems like a great place to start.
Does that change your perspective? I know you still think “You drive how far to get that?!” and yes you’re right it is a long trip, but totally worth it. And yes my friends who travel with me, it’s not just about the kids and Randy any more. I needed that time this year!

WOW

Yes I freely admit that I failed at blogging in 2011. Totally, epically failed. If there is an excuse it’s just been that I’ve been really, really busy and the result of that is that I have a tendency to scramble from one event to the next. Since I blogged late in January:

Caleb left home and moved back to KC to attend Johnson County Community College to finish out his high school career. He split his time between his two fabulous Grandmothers who were amazing enough to let a 17 year old move in with them for a time!

Emma turned 16. I know, really that deserves a blog all on its own about what a fantastic daughter and blessing she is to my life. And she is. I think she’s pretty fantastic.

Randy and I celebrated our 21 anniversary. Yikes.

Caleb graduated from High School and turned 18. (if none of the above had succeeded yet in making me feel REALLY old this did it.

I started attending a fantastic women’s Bible study at church on Monday mornings. 66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb. Check it out it is amazing!! The ladies in the study are pretty cool too, so that helps!
We stood in line for a total of 3 hours for the Food Networks Great Food Truck Race and got nothing to eat. The picture above was taken that day. Obviously very early in the waiting. They were much crankier later.

I planted a ginormous garden.

The deer and birds ate about half of that ginormous garden.
I started selling real estate on my own here in Manhattan. Which accounts for some of the busyness.

Honestly its all I can do to just get up and get out the door some days. I know, you are wondering what has changed to enable me time to do this wonderful and informative post, and I have to say absolutely nothing. I’m sitting at an Open House on one of my listings (at which no one has shown) and supposed to be putting the finishing touches on a conference I’m speaking at next weekend, procrastinating. something I seem to do pretty darned well.

AUDACIOUS

AUDACIOUS:
Extremely bold or daring; recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law, or the like.

A lot of people have been choosing words for 2011. I’ve had conversations with friends a couple of times and not thought about it much. To be honest I kind of wrote it off. Funny the way God works though. I think I’ve been pursued by a word.  
Ever have that happen? Not necessarily with a word, usually it happens to me with a scripture passage or thought that God repeats to me over and over validating with other scripture until sleepy, slow to learn me finally gets it. I got it this week. Now to see where it leads!