Friday, August 27, 2010

Decluttering Frenzy

Once my husband announced that he was ready to have our final garage sale and donate all the rest, I knew I had to get jumping. Having completed (hopefully) the attic above the garage (which just means I got out all of my stuff), I immediately went to tackle the attic behind the cat closet (we cut a pet door in a closet door to house the litter box and their food and water dishes). I pulled out four boxes and hung the clothes and priced everything for sale. Later I had my son pull out 4 more boxes, a mirror, 2 large wooden Christmas trees, and several framed posters. I have at least 5-6 more boxes to go through, leaving only my husband's stuff, Christmas and Halloween decorations, and a suitcase.

I wish I could remember to take before and after pictures because words can't express the relief I feel to get all that stuff out - even if I leave dh's stuff, I can feel the "space" where my old junk used to be. Not to mention, I've found several cute outfits for my nephews to wear, who love wearing their cousin's ("Tay-wor") clothes.

This leaves one more attic and the attic at my mom's house. If it sounds daunting, that's because it is. I am hoping a large portion of my mom's attic is just my husband's junk.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Job Confusion

I am in angst again over my job situation (new job, not old job). I feel that I acted in haste and now am worried that I made the wrong choice. I am not sure how I am going to cope with having no alone time whatsoever.

My gut is saying work a late shift, so that I can have my mornings to myself. This has been the most soul renewing part of my time off- the quiet mornings I spend alone. I also am concerned that although I love children, working with them impairs my ability to be patient and tolerant of my own children. I feel that I would be better suited to a job in retail, until my children are grown.

Unfortunately though, I have made a commitment and so I have to follow through with it at least until May. If I find that this job/schedule doesn't work for me, I can make a change after taking the summer off to spend not working, but playing with my kids.

The upsides to this job is that it allows me to be home when they are home, with the exception of some school holidays that I don't have off, and allows me summers off. That means no day care for the girls, which is preferable for me. They seem to need a lot more down time, like I do.

We will see how this works out starting the Tuesday after Labor Day. I hope all goes well. It would be nice if it worked out to my benefit considering the summers off.

God sees the love I have shown...

Last night's Bible study was another tearjerker. My mom came. I thought it was a great way for us to reconnect, and I also thought that she would really enjoy the study.

I have spent the last (almost) four weeks crying since I resigned from my job. (Of course, this was preceded by the months of crying I spent wanting to resign.) Some was regret, some was guilt, but most was hurt. I hate leaving my families behind. I hate leaving a church that I called home for 4 years. I feel guilty for those whose lives were disrupted by my leaving. I honestly didn't know my worth to these families until I was gone.

You would think that the most important thing about a center is the teacher. These parents said the opposite. They said I was the reason they came, that they knew I genuinely loved their children, and that I would look after their children no matter who the teacher was. This both broke my heart and renewed my spirit.

After spending the last six months being systematically beaten down emotionally and spiritually, I had come to believe that I was not enough. That I was not good enough. That I was not smart enough. That I was not organized enough. That I was not working hard enough. That I was not holy enough. These parents told me that I was enough, that my love for their children was visible and that it was enough.

Still, why is it so much easier to listen to the negative voices than the positive ones? I am continually being told of what is being said about me by my former boss, my former employee (who I had thought was my friend but I see now how wrong I was), and my predecessor. These voices drown out all the positive things I have heard.

Last night though, I spotted a verse that spoke volumes to me.

Hebrews 6:10
God is not unjust, he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

God sees it all. He doesn't care what the gossips are saying about me. He doesn't care if I neglected the finances and organization while I worked my fanny off this year teaching 4K and directing the program, not to mention acting as a de facto Children's Minister for the church. He saw the love I showed the children and their parents and will never forget how I helped them. He said, "L, this was never about money or neatly organized file cabinets. This was about caring for my most precious gifts. The love was more important than anything."

I am a reality show, with an audience of one. When I watch "Big Brother" or some other guilty pleasure reality show, I always root for who I like. "No, don't align with them - they are snakes!" "Just walk away! Don't lower yourself to their level." "Don't be fooled- if they backstab others, they WILL backstab you!"

God is my audience. He is watching me and rooting for me. I need to spend more time listening for his voice so I can avoid the pitfalls and make the right steps. It helps to have hints from the audience, because sometimes when you are in the show, you get caught up in the drama and deception and lose sight of the big picture. He is the only one with the big picture, so I need to listen for his secret messages to me.

How? Spend more time praying, spend more time reading scripture, and spend more time around Godly friends, who won't tell me what I want to hear, but will tell me the truth.

A wonderful post at Becoming Minimalist

Living in the Land of Enough This was actually a guest post from Courtney Carver at Be More With Less.

7 Ways to Live in the Land of Enough

1. Save Your Money – There is no need for credit cards or therapeutic shopping in the land of enough. There are also no overdraft fees or ATM charges. Just put your cards away for 10 days. Then, keep a list of purchases you would have made if you were using your credit card, or if you were shopping for sport, and take note of the money that you didn’t spend.
2. Take Your Time - In the land of enough, you have time to breathe. Stop trying to squeeze so much in. If you are always running late, falling behind, or trying to catch up, try slowing down. Cancel a few unnecessary appointments and don’t schedule any new ones if you can help it. Then, make a little time everyday for solitude.
3. Disconnect – Set a specific time to disconnect each day. In the land of enough, there is less need to be plugged in. If you can, commit to not using a computer after dinner or before lunch time. Be mindful of how much time you spend online and are virtually available. Protect your time and your mind.
4. Eat Real Food. Only eat food that you prepare. Summertime is the perfect time to eat fresh food – fruits and veggies are often fresh, local, and less expensive than buying them in winter. Do not eat anything from a box, restaurant or drive-thru. While you may choose to eat less by eliminating processed foods, you may find that you naturally eat just enough.
5. Make Space – Clear out some space in your house. You don’t need to take on big purging projects during this time to make space. Simplify one room (or even just the corner of one room) and keep it as clean and clutter free as possible. Even if the rest of your house is cluttered, this area can be a great reminder of how you might feel living with less.
6. Entertain Yourself – Unplug your TV and plan to enjoy your friends, family, the great outdoors, or a book you have been meaning to read. Do not spend time and money on expensive shows, travel or recreational activities. While the land of plenty calls you to spend more money for entertainment, you already have enough right where you are.
7. Say Thank You – As you go through these steps, you will find enough time and space to be grateful. Through prayer, thank you cards, or a kind gesture, share your gratitude every day.

I honestly think these seven things comprise the "quiet life" I am seeking. I don't know that I could have ever come up with such a succinct and accurate list of what my life needs. So today, I am going to post them in a special place for me to read every morning.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Commercial for the Kindle

As I have said before, I was a devout "real book" fan. I never thought a Kindle would replace my bookshelf... until I got one. I LOVE it! I despise reading on the computer. It hurts my eyes, and there isn't a comfortable reading position when you are holding a laptop. The Kindle is nothing like reading on the computer. The screen has such a "flat, matte" finish that it doesn't feel any different that reading a page of paper. It is light, portable, and the size of a smallish trade paperback. I can read in bed with my headlamp on just like I do with any ordinary book. I thought I would hate that it wasn't backlit (because I do most of my reading at bedtime with the lights out), until I realized that it would be impossible to read in sunlight like my cell phone often is. It is no biggie. I have an Energizer headlamp (bought at Walmart in the camping section for around $12) that I have always used to read in bed (the small directed light is less distracting when hubby is trying to sleep). This works perfectly. I love that I have dozens of books in my purse at all times - fiction, non-fiction, kids' books, the Bible- whatever I am in the mood if I get stuck somewhere. This is the pinnacle of my testimonial- last night, I actually reached up to turn the page before realizing that it was the Kindle and not a book.

In short, I thought I would never love an electronic device like I love the weight and feel of a paper book in my hands, but I do. And I am no techie. I just convinced hubby to downgrade my phone because it is too hard for me to use. I don't aspire to anything but my netbook and my Kindle, though I am excited to get a Blackberry phone (yea! keys! I hate touch screens) and I do like my Ipod for when I cannot read (like while I am driving- yikes).

So my advice is that if you are serious about minimizing your book collection, you will love the Kindle. I wish I was half as motivated to finish that bookshelf full of books to read as I was to look for new books on the Kindle...

Bible Study Epiphanies, Possessions, and the Kindle

Anyhow, how did my Bible Study last night relate to me seeking "a quiet life"? I was absolutely excited when Kay read Hebrews 10:36, which reads in my translation (NIV), "You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions."

As far as I know, every major religion espouses simplification. Not valuing possessions. Not storing up treasures on Earth. Valuing God, your spiritual growth, your relationship over material things. Could I joyfully accept the confiscation of my property? Yikes. We actually discussed this last night.

I said that I would actually find it a relief to give up everything.... except my Kindle. That was good for a laugh, but it really made me think about what I was willing to give up. Of course, books are not as important as God, my soul, and my family, but they sure do make life enjoyable.

I do value reading material more than any other possession. I got the Kindle free (almost) a month ago. My husband found a credit card deal that was offering a Kindle and 1,000 miles on United, if you opened a credit card and spent $250 dollars. He jumped on it knowing I was saving every penny for a Kindle in my attempt to downsize my possessions, and he has been on a roll lately in doing super sweet things for me. The one caveat was that there is a $60 annual fee. So while not totally free, it was a far cry from the retail value of $189 (oh, yeah, I got the 3D version).

After receiving my card, I immediately charged the $250 (for work expenses) and before we even got the bill, I had received my Kindle. I was so excited. My husband ordered me a beautiful red book-like cover to protect it.

Honestly, I am a hardcore "real" book lover. I had tried to read pdf books on the laptop before and hated it. I find it preferable to print blogs even if I have to read. I resisted the idea of a Kindle for a long time. As I got more and more serious about minimizing my possessions and simplifying my life, I realized I had to let go of my *vast* collection of books. I don't think I have gotten rid of any books I have owned since high school. In fact, I have an almost complete collection of Sweet Valley High books that now sit on my girls' bookshelf (top shelf- they aren't old enough). Ironically, I was so obsessed with twins when I was growing up, and now have beautiful identical blonde twins, just like in the story- except neither one is the "bad" twin in my family. At least not consistently. ;)

I had always envisioned having a room that was a designated "library". I loved going to other people's houses and looking through their bookshelves and finding treasures to read. I liked the idea of having a room where people could go, peruse my floor to ceiling bookshelves, settle into a comfy chaise lounge, and read to their hearts' content. The thought of giving away my most precious possessions was almost nauseating to me. I felt that owning a room full of books "defined" me. It would tell people who I was. I definitely judge people by their bookshelves (not in a bad way, but you can tell what someone's interest is by what they read or *if* they read). I babysat for a woman once who had a collection of books almost identical to mine, and I felt we were reading soulmates and should be friends. Unfortunately, she moved before I could forge that friendship.

As I started researching the minimalist movement, I found more and more reasoning to downsize my books. First, my books are not displayed in some fabulous library. My husband doesn't see books as decor, but rather clutter, so I am afforded one bookshelf in the bedroom that irks him to no end with its' constant tendency to overflow and look "a hot mess", a shelf of cookbooks near the kitchen, and a basket of magazines in the bathroom. The rest of my "precious" collection is confined to boxes in various attics. Needless to say, I am not enjoying all of these fabulous books I own, and if I am truly honest, I have found that it is easier to rebuy a book than figure out where I stored it. So, if I can't even get to all of my books, if I don't even remember which books I have, and if they (while relevant at one time) are no longer relevant to my life, why am I holding these books hostage?

There are so many fabulous posts out there that talk about "releasing your possessions" so that someone else can enjoy them rather than selfishly hoarding them for yourself. Besides, if you think about it, there isn't a published book out there that you can't replace for a price. Why must we "own" something simply because we love it? Can't we set it free and find it again when we are ready to enjoy it again?

So, I wasn't ready to let go of every book I owned, but I thought that for those books I reread on a regular basis, perhaps I could switch to a Kindle. Now not everything is available on the Kindle, so I have allowed myself, my very small bookshelf in my bedroom, to be the sole proprietor of all of the non-digital books I will keep. I am deep in the process of going through my books, deciding if I "need" to read them again, if so are they available on the Kindle or through the local library system. If I can get them on Kindle or through the library and I am not ready to reread them now, I have put them in the "let go" box. If I haven't read them yet and I am sure I want to, they go on the bookshelf on the "to be read then let go" shelf. If I have read them, but am unsure if I want to read them again, I skim the book to decide if it is worth rereading now, worth putting in my wish list for later, or not worth it at all. Are you following my hairbrained system?

So far I have about 6 boxes full of books in the garage. I sold a fair amount at our garage sale (the books along with children's clothes, toys, and craft items got me $173 dollars). I plan to take them to Books-A-Million which has a store that buys books. I also plan to have another garage sale, then I plan to take the rest to the used bookstore to trade for books the girls will read. I don't like to take money from the man at the used bookstore. He is raising his grandson and is a very generous and kind soul. I always take books in for trade and spend more than the credit. I appreciate someone who is spending his retirement years passing through the dangerous waters of raising a teenager again.

Whatever is left, I will donate to the local mission. They don't technically accept things like toys or books. Their main objective is to give food, clothing, and household items to needy families. But they love to give special "gifts" in addition to help brighten someone's day. I donated some toys, and one of the workers told me the reaction of a little boy when he handed him the brand new looking hotwheels storage truck. I have volunteered with the needy since I was a teenager, and after hearing the story of that boy. I was sold. The mission gets all that I give away. I do try to sell it to be frugal- my husband is super thrifty. Right now I am saving for a trip for my son to go to Washington. He missed out on the 5th grade trip because he was homeschooled and we never managed to take him, so I'd love for him to go this year (his junior year). But anything I can't sell that is of value, goes to the mission. I actually hope to do some volunteer work there if I don't end up taking a job immediately (which my husband would prefer). We shall see.

Amazing Bible Study Night!

Bible Study was amazing last night. We are doing Faithful Abundant True. I was so powerfully moved by the DVD viewing. Normally such things leave me cold, but last night's speaker was Kay Arthur (may I have her energy when I am her age). She was on fire and really spoke straight to my heart. I have been going through such travails with my (former) job, and she spoke on suffering and persecution.

I don't want to go into too much detail, but I had just left my job because, although it was a church, and I was in charge of running a Christian ministry, I felt that I was being pressured to make un-Christlike decisions. I refused, of course, but the fallout let to such dissension among my employees and with my boss that I eventually felt I had to leave. Constantly fighting for what you believe in is stressful, and it was negatively impacting my physical and emotional health, as well as my family.

Running a ministry isn't something that you just walk away from. I fought hard to ensure that the employees and clients were protected, but ultimately I have no power. I had to leave it in God's hands.

I was blown away by this verse, Proverbs 4:27. "Do not swerve to the right or the left..." Kay said something like, "I will not turn to the right or the left- I will do as God has commanded me!" I felt like that that was the position I had been in, being pressured to swerve, but I walked God's path even as it led me out the door. Even as it led me away from what I had *believed* was my calling.

So many tears have been shed. I had to pray last night to forgive myself because I was mired in guilt from leaving people I had made promises to, even though it meant that those promises might not be honored. I had to trust that God is in control, not me, and that I had to lay their situations at His feet, and let myself off the hook.

I also had to pray to release myself from the sin of pride. I have such a deep need to be respected, admired, and appreciated. I have been so weighed down by the thoughts and feelings that by quitting others would see me as weak, incompetent, not capable, not good enough. I don't feel like I can share all the things that led me to quit without dishonoring my former church, pastor, and ministry. I have been burdened by the feeling for the last several months that my boss, my pastor, didn't like who I was. While he once seemed so grateful to have me on staff and seemed to regard me as a valuable asset, I felt he began to criticize my every word and every move. I felt that he looked at me and saw someone who was trash, not Godly, not good, not competent, not reliable, not capable. But...God never promised us that we would have high regard from others. He said we would be persecuted and we would suffer. Even though I have done wrong- I am not perfect- I have said and done things that weren't in God's will, I have also done so much good. I have tried my best to overcome my sinful nature and be as much like Jesus as I could. For now, I need to let myself be fulfilled by how God sees me, not by how others see me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

1 Thessalonians 4:11

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands..."