The LL Challenge – Day 11

We’re eleven days in, how are we doing? Are you still with me?

Well, I told you I’d be posting periodically throughout the challenge to show you what’s in some of that pile-o-stuff. Unfortunately a bunch of stuff got in the way, one of them being whether or not I should even let you in on what I’m putting in that pile. I decided, however, that I have nothing to hide, and I’ve made a commitment to being real with everyone, so that includes you!

So, here’s a little bit about the very first item I pulled out:

{a.k.a. maybe one of the hardest posts I’ll ever write…}

This Easter-egg-yellow sweatshirt from Tennessee represented something absolutely major to me. But now, it’s become something that I’m also willing to let go of.

This was not pre-orchestrated. I had absolutely no intentions of pulling this sweatshirt first, nor did I even realize it was stowing away in the first drawer I opened. But there it was.

My Tennessee yellow. My emblem of freedom.

{Story}

You see, you may or may not know that once upon a time, what seems like a lifetime ago… {wait for it… wait for it…} I was married.

Gasp!

Neither the relationship nor its subsequent demise is something that today I am particularly proud of, nor frequently talk about. But let’s be honest for a minute, ok? I can’t change the fact that I was once married and am now divorced. I don’t announce that proudly, but neither can I ignore that it is the truth. It has now become a part of my history, just as much as is having had a pet hamster named Smoky when I was 10. I’m not trying to be humorous about it, I’m simply stating facts. Praise God that even through that season of darkness in my life {the divorce, not the hamster}, He saw fit to redeem me from really what felt like a grave. Thank you, Jesus. You are my Redeemer!

{If that’s going to cause you to stop reading and enjoying my blog right here right now, then that’s your prerogative. To which I would say, that’s also your loss.}

But let’s get back to that yellow sweatshirt.

When my marriage ended, I went on a long journey. It was quite a special journey, never to be replicated… One U-Haul with one car on the hitch, one iPod, one GPS, one loyal brother, one exasperated mother, and one very reflective, melancholy, brokenhearted, lost, deluded, troubled girl. And together, we drove. We sang, we cried, we ate, we yelled, we talked, we cursed, we sang, we shouted, we laughed. And we drove. Actually, my brother and I drove most of the time just to avoid having to sit spread-eagle in that middle seat, which wasn’t really a seat at all. {Sorry, Mom…} And when we got to Tennessee, things got a little chilly. So I browsed through the Cracker Barrel shop after dinner one night and found this. It was warm. It was a happy color. It said “Tennessee” on it, and I had never been to Tennessee, and so far, I thought it was just beautiful. It was the place where the first few real smiles had emerged from their hiding spot. I wanted to remember Tennessee.

Did I have to have it? No, probably not. I didn’t really think I had to have much of anything at the time. Life was just sort of swirling around me, dizzying me. Numb.

But it was late fall, a crisp wind was in the clear night air… and when one tiny thought suddenly flashed through my mind like a white-hot bolt of lightning in a summer desert sunset, it was settled.

I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to purchase it.

You see, he and I didn’t have any sort of mutually-trusting financial arrangement. I made a lot of money, and he made a lot of money. But I was not the accountant of the money, so the arrangement was pretty much this: If I wanted something, I had to ask first. And if anything was purchased outside of that arrangement, things didn’t bode well for me, which in turn didn’t bode well for the relationship itself. I will spare you the details, because this is really about that sweatshirt.

I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to purchase it.

I looked – ok, gawked – at the price tag. {Remember friend, I’m in the Cracker Barrel gift shop. Who buys sweatshirts there? Apparently I do.} I bought it because I didn’t have to ask anyone if I could. Surrounded by the glorious colors of fall on that early evening in Tennessee, I found my new leaf, this yellow sweatshirt-of-a-leaf, and turned it. That sweatshirt represented freedom for me. Hope.

Please don’t go thinking this post is all about women’s lib or how I must not be obedient to Ephesians-Five-Submissiveness. This is not about philosophy, feminism, or theology. This was simply one quiet act of acceptance that a very dark chapter in my life was nearing its close, and I was about to embark on a new one. A happy, yellow one.

Here’s where it gets a bit interesting. Naturally, I wasn’t eating well, wasn’t sleeping well. I basically had to remind myself just to breathe. I had lost so much weight through this ordeal, through my pain and heartache. Not by trying, mind you – that’s not my style – but just because. I already had major self-image issues due to the expectations of perfection that he had for my appearance, which didn’t help the fact that I wasn’t eating well. So I felt awful, and felt as if I looked awful. As it was, I was the skinniest I ever recall being.

But, oh the irony. That sweatshirt? I bought a size Xtra-Large.

I put it on right there in the Cracker Barrel gift shop and wore it for what seemed like another lifetime. But I was swimming in it! In fact, I think I kept myself hidden inside it for the rest of the trip.

Now, when I look at that sweatshirt, I see a lost, skinny girl who thinks she’s huge and feels like a $50 purchase is some sort of act of rebellion. No wonder I don’t wear it anymore. I certainly was pathetic.

I’m so thankful that God has pulled me out of that dark muck and mire that was tearing up my soul. Since He has put my feet on solid ground, He has helped me come to learn that:

  • The end of that relationship was not the true freedom I needed. Yes, it was not a good relationship for either of us, but my prison was much larger than the relationship itself. I want to make that distinction clear. I am free – not because I am no longer married, but because Christ has set me free. Jesus said, “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” {John 8:31}
  • Beauty does not depend on the size of one’s body, yet whose attention should I really be striving for anyway? “For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. {1 Samuel 16:7}

Dear Jesus, thank you for my Tennessee yellow, and the token reminder it was to me of the turning point I was going through. Thank you that it represented a new lease on life for me during my darkest days. I pray that it finds its way to another cold person who needs it more than I do and blesses them with warmth. God, I thank you most of all for allowing me true freedom which comes through you and you alone. O Lord, truly I am your servant; you have freed me from my chains. {Psalm 116:16} You are my Redeemer. Amen.

Do you feel like you are truly free? If not, do you want to be? What are the chains that are holding you back from experiencing true freedom? Just something to think about…

Ok, on to living lightly!

xo,

jen

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The Live Lightly Challenge

God’s been really working on my heart and calling me to rethink my lifestyle.

Ok, wait a second before you go judging… 🙂 First off, if you know me, I hope you know that I’m not exactly flashy. I don’t drool over name-brand purses, I hardly ever wear jewelry, and I’m still wearing the same pair of Payless tennis shoes since 2007.

But fancy purses and expensive shoes aside, I’ve still managed to aquire an awful lot of… stuff… And it’s becoming more and more obvious that God’s plan for me is to live lightly. Why? Well, here are a few reasons He has revealed to me.

  • Owning so much stuff is expensive. Looking back on my history, it seems as though I make a pretty considerable move every two years. By considerable, I mean across state lines, not just to a cooler apartment. This most recent relocation from Northern Virginia to Western Pennsylvania was especially stressful. I hired a moving company to do the hard work, thinking I was giving myself some relief from the stress of moving. Nope. My moving truck broke down leaving me with nothing but an overnight bag for nearly three weeks! That was my first wakeup call. When that moving truck finally arrived, I was ashamed at the amount of stuff that was unloaded – most of which I wasn’t even using! There are a lot more lasting things I can invest my money in, and I will save so much money {and stress} by owning less “stuff.” 
  • I often find myself clinging to what is familiar, instead of clinging to Jesus. With every move, the transition seems to get more difficult. I’m sure that’s because I’m getting older. I’ve become a bit more cautious. I’m still adventurous, but I don’t jump in with as much gusto that I used to. And in times of uncertainty like a big move, we look for what’s certain, what’s comfortable, what’s familiar. My things! I can see them and wear them. Familiar books can be reread, favorite bowls or plates dug out and all of a sudden my life looks like what I’m used to. But God calls us to cling to him during uncertain times. “Do not worry about tomorrow… Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.” {Matthew 6:33-34} Why is it so hard to cling to God when it’s unfamiliar? Well, that’s obvious. We have to look harder to see Him. He’s not as visible. But I know he’s there. By living lightly, I leave myself nothing tangible to cling to when I need a sense of security, and force myself to cling to God alone.
  • It’s one of the costs of following Jesus. When he sent his disciples out, he specifically told them, “take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic {Luke 9:3}.” What does that mean to me right now? Well, I’m preparing to be used. I am waiting for him to send me out. And when he does, I want to make sure I’m ready to go. What if he calls me to go to Guatemala and work in an orphanage? What if he sends me to India to work with rescued girls? Even if he were to call me back to Arizona, or to Northern Virginia, my “baggage” does not reflect my readiness to follow very easily. And I don’t want to give him any reason to think I’m not willing and able to go wherever he wants me to go – whenever!
  • It’s about giving to someone who needs it more than I do. In John 21,
    Jesus asks Peter three times if he really loves him, and each time Peter says yes. With each response and with no hesitation, Jesus calls him to prove it by saying “feed my lambs,.. take care of my sheep,.. feed my sheep.” By meeting the needs of others, even through giving my clothes away to others who need them, I am not only showing them Christ’s love but also showing Jesus that I love him. In one of his parables, Jesus also says that, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” I’m not willing to have the reputation of someone who is perfectly capable yet unwilling to meet a need. Especially when so much has been given to me.

I’ve been milling this over, and praying about it, and talking about it with a few friends for quite some time. Enough thinking already, it’s high time for action! So here’s my gameplan: I’m choosing 25 items of clothing to donate on April 1, and will continue selecting one item of clothing each day during the month of April. I’ll keep you updated throughout my destash. I’ll go through the good, the bad, and the ugly with what I’m saying adios to. I don’t want anyone to assume that I think this will be easy.

I don’t think it will be. {I’m already nervous about the end of the month and what my dress stash might look like.}

But it will be rewarding for all the reasons I’ve listed above.

Will you join me?

It’s not too late to start!

Here’s a picture of my day one pile to get you thinking!  I’ll tell you more about what’s all in there next time!

xo,

jen