Oy! March 6th and I’m just now getting to my March goals. I am so behind on updating this blog. I have dozens of posts half-written, but for some reason the step between draft and published is really hard. Story of my life right now (btw, is anyone else mad at One Direction for ruining that phrase?).
This month is sure to be a good one, though, with birthday celebrations and weekend trips and warmer weather and daylight savings. I will exchange an hour of sunlight for an hour of sleep any day!
Celebrate my dad’s 60th, sister’s 30th and 27th birthdays! (March is a very birthday-heavy month over here!)
Put knobs and pulls on our cabinets
Finish at least one book
Write at letter to Jacques, our sponsored child through Compassion
Make a plan for our backyard — things to plant and where a vegetable garden would go
Create a will for our family
Buy term life insurance for our family
File our taxes!
Gather supplies to bring to Haiti
Go to the gym at least 8 times
What’s on your list of things to accomplish this month?
It’s February! The month of love. I am really excited about this month, mainly because two of my friends are having babies sometime in the next four weeks. Huzzah! Otherwise, it should be a pretty quiet month of routine. We had our first real snow last week, which means I’m satisfied with winter and ready for spring. (Can you tell I’m a Southern girl?:) Hopefully this month will start to show signs of spring approaching. My mom and I planted bulbs in the fall and I’ve already seen a few little green leaves break the surface. I can’t wait to see what blooms in the next few months.
Throw a Super Bowl party with friends (already accomplished, but still wanted to add it to the list:)
One of my goals this year is grow and learn more about the world we live in. I would like to be able to speak intelligently on topics other than the drama going on in the lives of my favorite TV characters. I know, a tall order.
Here’s more background from my 2014 goals:
I rarely watch the news because I find it boring, but there is so much I can learn from the rest of the world. And one day my kids will learn this “history” we call the present and I’m not going to know what they are talking about.
I decided to start small, so I added to my January goals to “listen to NPR on my way to work every day.” A simple start.
I added this goal rather begrudgingly, but surprisingly have really enjoyed listening to NPR every day. Maybe this is a sign of me getting older or how simple-minded I viewed the news before, but it wasn’t boring at all. I loved the varied stories and learned about the conflict in Syria, the upcoming Olympic games, a bombing at a restaurant in Afghanistan, how people are helping the homeless in sub-zero temperatures, and the fight for teacher’s salaries here in North Carolina.
Last week I read an article on signs of a Type A person. Aside from interrupting (that’s actually one of my pet peeves, so please tell me if I ever do it to you), all signs point to me as being very Type A.
One of these signs is fear of wasting time. I am so guilty of this. When I’m waiting in a line, I check my phone and try to multitask because God forbid I stand idly by when there’s things to get done.
But I think that’s why radio is my favorite medium of receiving news. It doesn’t really interrupt something I’m already doing — driving to work — so it’s more passive on my part. Sitting in front of the TV to watch the news is not how I want to spend my time, and navigating news websites overwhelm me. I don’t know where to begin.
The radio it is. I’m on my way to a smarter 2014.
How do you consume the news? I’ve heard a lot of people use Twitter, but I get lost in all of the status updates. Maybe I follow too many people.
January. The only thing I thought about in January was the marathon. Training for it, praying for it, running it, and then recovering from it. We also hosted friends for New Years at our apartment, had a great trip in Charleston, and celebrated my father in-law’s 60th birthday.
March. My sisters and brother in-law came into town and we had a great time celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. We went to Greensboro to celebrate the many family birthdays, spent Easter with J’s family, and said farewell to some friends who moved to Germany.
May. We went to Asheville for a weekend getaway where we ate delicious food and toured the Biltmore. We also went strawberry picking and celebrated Mother’s Day in Greensboro. We went to St. Augustine for a wedding over Memorial Day weekend and enjoyed the gorgeous warm weather with friends/family.
June. We celebrate J’s 28th birthday in Boone with old friends who moved back from Austin, TX. We spent lots of time at the pool and went to Greensboro for a family staycation.
September. We finished painting and moved everything into the house. We bought a washer, dryer, rug, couch and ottoman. Our two families went to the beach together, where I celebrated my 28th birthday. We met our neighbors and I went to Greensboro for a wedding shower for my cousin.
October. I had two girl’s weekends — one in Asheville and one in Charlotte with old friends — and J hosted his old college buddy for one of those weekends. I painted abstract art over the mantle. My mother in-law celebrated her 60th birthday and we surprised her with a few fun events, including the first party at our house. We also saw lots of family at my cousin’s wedding in High Point.
November. My sister and brother in-law came to stay with us and we cheered Andrew on as he ran a half marathon. We went to Boone for a lovely autumn weekend with friends, and hosted a Friendsgiving. We celebrated Thanksgiving at my in-laws and did a lot of Black Friday shopping.
December. We decorated our house for Christmas, attended a few parties, went to see Handel’s Messiah, the Nutcracker, and hosted a surprise party for my friend’s 30th birthday. We had Christmas early with my in-laws and spent the real Christmas with my family. We went to Charlotte for New Year’s and toasted the new year with my sister, brother in-law and good friends.
December was such a great month. The holidays don’t last long enough, but I think we definitely packed in as much holly and jolly as we could, between hosting or attending parties every weekend, dressing up for holiday shows, spending cozy evenings in watching Christmas movies, and spending lots of time with family.
+ Going to see Handel’s Messiah at the Duke Chapel with my sister Lucy
+ Walking or running every day with my Mile a Day challenge
+ Dressing up to go to the Nutcracker with J’s family
+ Lots of family time
+ Celebrating advent and remembering the reason for the season
+ Finding ways to bless others with J
+ Dressing Leia up like a reindeer
+ Spending time with my cousins on Christmas Day
+ Celebrating my friend Becca’s 30th birthday
I mentioned in my 2014 goals that I’m going on a spending fast for three months — today I’m going to share a little more on why and what it’s going to entail.
Actually, as a sidenote, if you look at my monthly goals, this year is starting off pretty LAME-O. I started a Paleo diet on Monday and am announcing today to fast from shopping for three months. What in the world am I thinking? On bad days, what will comfort me when I can’t eat bread or shop in Target?! I guess we’ll find out. But both cleanses are much-needed, and like I’ve said before — it’s good to take advantage of January. Everyone else is watching their wallet and their waists, so I’m in good company.
On to the spending fast….
Well, you see, for the past four months I have been on a spending spree. Buying things for the house, decorations, clothes, gadgets, you name it. I spent all summer pinching pennies for our house down payment, and as soon as we bought the house I was like a kid in a candy store. If I wanted it, I found a way to buy it.
Now, before you send the Debt Police on me — yes, there is a Debt Police and his name is Dave — I haven’t gone over budget or gone into credit card debt for these expenses. But on the other hand I have been creating that budget and making more room in the discretionary expense category than probably should be.
Here’s the truth: I love buying new things. It makes me happy. I love all the things that we bought. I love walking the aisle of Target and grabbing a cute picture frame on my way to pick up groceries. I love walking into Anthropologie and dreaming of how I can incorporate all of their kitchen stuff into my house. I love trying things on in J.Crew and envisioning where I can wear it next. I love walking the large aisle of Home Depot looking for ways to improve our home.
Part of me justifies my spending these past months: - I need new clothes for work! - Our house is so empty! - I still don’t spend nearly as much as some people do! - I have spent years getting out of debt, paying for our wedding, and saving for a house… isn’t it time to enjoy our money now?! - We are still giving away money, isn’t it okay to get ourselves a little something?
All of those excuses are justified, and I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending money on yourself. Please don’t hear me say that. I’m just feeling a little unsettled about it all. It’s not a money thing, but my heart. And lately my heart has become greedy and ungrateful. Not so pretty.
So I’m deciding to go on a spending fast to get back to what’s important – relationships and giving and being content with the things I have now, not constantly being consumed with what I don’t have. I want to be content in any and every situation.
I follow Nancy Ray and Lara Casey’s blogs, and they recently went on a Contentment Challenge last year, taking a fast from shopping for a few months, which has inspired this whole project.
I’m going preface the rules with words from Lara Casey (she said it best):
This is not about rules. It’s about doing what God has been urging me to do. If He puts it on my heart to buy something for a good reason, I will do just that. Like Jesus healing people on the Sabbath, this is not about following guidelines just for the sake of guidelines. God is bigger than rules. It’s about fasting from something that I feel is keeping me from a deeper relationship and understanding of God’s heart.
My Guidelines (modified from Nancy’s and Lara’s just slightly):
Prepare your heart and organize your closet. During the week of Christmas and New Years I went through my closet and got rid of old clothes and accessories I never wear or use. This is only one of five closets I want to tackle in the next few months. If I don’t wear it, use it, or find it beautiful, it’s getting donated. (Also part of my goal to simplify and make my home meaningful and purposeful).
Make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months or plan for them. I have a list of things I will allow during the challenge. These include gray or khaki pants for work (I have a $50 giftcard to Gap I’m hoping will cover this) and new tennis shoes (I still haven’t replaced mine since running the marathon — ack!). Also, I am planning to put up a gallery wall behind my TV in the next month or so, but will only use frames I have at home or shop at thrift stores instead of buying them new.
I am fasting from buying new clothes, household items, craft supplies, accessories and general stuff. If I want to read a new book, I will borrow it from a friend or the library. The biggest tempting place will be Target, especially with their new Cartwheel App. Yes it saves so much money (download it if you shop there often!), but I also buy more things I don’t need just because I don’t want to miss out on a good deal. Food, gifts, items for basic living and experiences are not a part of this fast for me. For example, if I am making a craft with my friends (an experience) or crocheting something for a baby shower (gift), then buying craft supplies are fine. But buying crafts just to buy them or because I’m bored is off-limits. (Michael’s is another trap for me.:)
Focusing on giving during this time. I’d like to give something away every day. Whether something physical, a prayer or encouragement. Just something that is given to someone else. (Carrie from the Caroline G shop has a lot of ideas on little ways to encourage others. I highly recommend following her Instagram account!)
I am hoping to do this until April 8th. My goal isn’t to be legalistic, but to cultivate a heart of contentment and satisfaction. I may decide to end it sooner or extend it longer, but my goal is not to buy anything frivolous until our anniversary.
Choose something to read during this time. I read Seven over the holidays and am in the middle of reading Radical. I plan to read Whispers of Hope, 1000 Gifts and the Bible. (If you have any other book recommendations, please let me know!)
Gifts are okay! I have lots of birthdays and baby showers in the next few months, so I am absolutely still buying gifts. And if someone gives me something, I will receive it graciously.
Necessities are okay! If I break my glasses, I will buy a new pair. Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. Ex: “I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.”
Actively pursue something good that helps to replace your tendency to buy stuff as a source of comfort. Let’s go ahead and nix food from that list. ;) Something that points you back to what matters most. For me it may be prayer, running, painting, gardening, taking walks, making memories, or finding an organization to get involved with.
Immediately after setting this goal, a whole host of doubts and questions pop in my head: - But what about all of the great sales after Christmas? - How will I rebuild my wardrobe when I am not buying any clothes? - What about decorating my house? There are still so many things I need to furnish and decorate this place!
Then I tried to think of the people who had some of the things I wanted – beautiful clothes or a gorgeous house or the newest, nicest gadgets – and asked myself, “Do I like them for their stuff or for them?” Absolutely, without hesitation, 100% for them, not their things. So why do I want to be the kind of person with so many things? Why are we so consumed with stuff?
A while ago J and I made a list of really big money dreams we have for our future. All were focused on becoming financially secure enough to give generously and live to the fullest. None of these things included having the perfectly decorated house or stylish clothing. They are financial goals that would put us in a stable position, but all so we can live a simple life that gives generously and loves great.
My goal for this challenge is that my spending afterwards will be more thoughtful and less impulsive, that I will choose quality over quantity, and that I can bless others through my saved time and money.
So that’s what I’ll be up to for the next few months. :) We will see how it goes! I plan to touch base every couple of weeks to give update on the challenge, what’s been difficult and what I am learning.
Do you want to join me on this journey?No pressure at all. But if so, use the #contentmentchallenge hashtag to join Nancy and others.