Tag Archives: lent experiment

The Great Lent Experiment Wrap Up

the Great Lent Experiment was inspired by 7: And Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. Read it!

So the Mutiny Against Excess is over . . . or is it?

Me and Haley came up with this idea for Lent, and it got a little bigger than I had thought. I have talked to lots of people who let the ideas of doing without and downward mobility influence their lent. It was exciting to even be talking about these issues with so many people.

It really didn’t feel like 40 days, did it? Now that the Easter celebrations are over I can start to process what this Lent Experiment meant to me.

The Easy Parts:


Limiting shopping for food and eating from my pantry/freezer was pretty easy, mostly because we only did this a week at a time. I did get . . . creative at some points. Hamburger helper (sans hamburger) with frozen vegetables and yogurt? Well, a certain little toddler ate it, and so did my husband. I really enjoyed the push to get out and walk to the farmers market every Wednesday at the local co-op. I do feel the roots of the importance of food and how we think about it taking shape in my life. And I’m glad.

Not buying new clothes also got a little easier  . . . It has now been several months since I stopped thrift storing for funsies. I did go to Goodwill one time for my birthday and got a killer dress and a killer pair of shorts. So. There you have it.

Not spending ANY money besides gas/groceries was actually pretty fun too. At first I was terrified, because spring weather in Portland is so so so bad and my baby can barely walk. So, when in doubt we go to a coffee shop and hang out. Since this was not a possibility for 2 of the weeks of Lent, we found other avenues:

1. New Seasons: they have amazing samples and free water! Plus everybody smiles at you and their hand sanitizer smells like lavender. We went here several times.

2. Petco. Or, as I like to call it “the free, tiny zoo”. The baby loved it.

3. The library. Which we already frequented, but during Lent we went there on average 3-4 times a week. I even got the courage to do my first mommy/baby story time activity, and we didn’t die! The baby is fixated on reading books about being “black and unique”, which makes me feel super weird as I read them out loud to her. Ah well.

The Difficult parts:

The no-media week was hard, because I seem to have few de-stressors that don’t involve 20 minutes of TV. Also, you know that feeling when you read TOO many good books and you feel like you might explode? Yeah, that happened. I am still assessing my dependence on media, and I know this is an issue I still need work on.

The Exciting parts:

The no-stress week was difficult (I am unused to the rhythms of contemplative life), but ultimately it turned out to be amazing, and I have continued to use Common Prayer every morning. To really engage in the Scriptures and the prayers for others does take a lot of work, but it feels like such important work. Even though I am easing into it slowly, creating a life where prayer is my first thought and not my last is high on my list of priorities. On good Friday my church opened their doors for a 24 hour prayer session and I actually went! You guys, I want to pray all the time now! And I am not just making this up to sound spiritual. It feels like a real, pressing need. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I am so grateful.

In summary, I am so glad I embarked on this journey. I want my life to flow by these rhythms: prayer, creative free time, doing without, purging possessions, finding joy in the simple.

Did you learn anything from Lent this year? Were you inspired to create new patterns?

If so, I want to know!

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eye twitch

First things: my new column is up. Extremely inspired by the Mike Daisy/Invisible Children debate, I decided to go ahead and look my own savior complex square in the eye. I am learning lots of things over here. God never ceases to surprise me.

This is the week of giving up stress, no? So I went to a cabin in the woods with two girlfriends over the weekend. It was very cabin-y. We warmed ourselves with a wood stove. It rained. We drank coffee and watched a large, muddy brown river roll by. We took some slow jogs. We ate a lot of food. We watched Mad Men. We, all three of us, read the Hunger Games (Team Peeta 4 Life!). We had feisty and interesting conversations.

While all of the above does not necessarily sound spiritual, it was all very restful. I am unused to cabin vacations. I am used to planning tons of adventures into what little time you have off and it isn’t a successful trip unless you come home exhausted from all the fun. Cabin time is different. You don’t actually do anything.

I liked it. It was perfect for some times of quiet, relaxation, prayer, and reflection.

But, of course, it wasn’t perfect. I am doomed, doomed I tell you when it comes to vacays. When I left on Saturday night, the baby was fine. That night, she got really sick. The next two days were filled with phone calls from the husband telling me the latest temperatures (104!) and me getting very very anxious. Like, developing-an-eye-twitch anxious.

It really was ridiculous. There was nothing I could do. The baby was surrounded by people who were watching her and taking care of her. I tried to relax but the anxiety was always there. The horrible thoughts ranged from what if the fever gets higher to my baby only wants me when she is sick to ohmygosh what if she dies in the middle of the night. Crazy thoughts, right? I think all moms get them, and it really sucks when they do.

Me and the girls stayed up late talking and then I went to bed. But I couldn’t sleep, because of the aforementioned thoughts. So I got out the Common Prayer book and read the Compline prayer. I am hardly ever up late enough to warrant it, but there I was. And it was lovely. It was the perfect prayer for those who are up in the middle of the night, due to fear or anxiety or sadness. And I started to really get why liturgical prayer can be so important. Sometimes, you don’t know what to say. You don’t even know what you need  at 12 o clock at night, when your baby is really sick and you are so far away. But saints have been praying for many years before, and they will be praying after you as well. I joined in the prayers, and they comforted me.

I came home last night and the baby woke up feeling much better and happy to see me.

 

These rhythms and streams of the contemplative life don’t come easy. But the more your life revolves around following God, the more it seems you are going to need a lot of prayer. So I am happy to be trying in my little way to be in a place where it natural and normal to live and breathe in the language of common prayers.

 

 

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The Great Lent Experiment: Week 5–Stress

image from commonprayer.net

The no spending week was a little difficult. A lack of options can be frustrating, and like a bad diet can make you want to go out and binge. In all honesty, I did cheat several times this week. One: we bought scones and cinnamon rolls and coffee after my 15k. Because come on! I deserved it (see my American thinking here?). Also my mom gave me money for H&M for my birthday and I bought a pair of pants and a shirt.

But other than that, it was time to get creative with our free time. We went to the library a lot. Used our passes at the children’s museum. Went for walks, made coffee for lots of people over here. It was a busy week, and not really having any excuse to go out and buy anything actually fit in rather well.

This is an area of my life I want to continually scrutinize and give up control over. I think doing a week like this periodically would be very, very good for me.

And now, on to this week: Stress!


Ok, no joke: I am excited about this week. Just last night I finished my last class and so I am heading into Spring Break mode. The anxieties in my life right now are all over the map, some being very small (I need to shampoo my carpets!) to very big (we have no idea what we will be doing in 5 months!). I am having a hard time sleeping. I am having a hard time being a pleasant conversationalist. I am a little stressed.

But how do you give up stress? You focus on something else. Specifically, Jesus.

I have always been terrible at praying, with my thoughts often turning to the random and mundane instead of the spiritual and uplifting. But I am excited for this week to be centered around structured prayer. The hubs and I bought Common Prayer and we are going to be doing morning prayers (also know as daily), midday prayers, and evening prayers. Not too overwhelming, but a nice bit of structure for this evangelical.

[note: you don't have to buy the Common Prayer (a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals) to participate. They have a great website with the prayers for every day listed, along with scripture readings. Go here to check it out].

This week really is going to be perfect, as we have some big decisions to make and need a ton of prayer. Plus, I will be going to the coast for a couple of days (without the hubs or baby–eek!) and am excited for the chance to pray more (case in point: while trying to do the daily prayer together this morning, the hubs and I were interrupted by a screeching baby clinging to our legs, one who was very tired due to waking up at 11pm and 5:30am–may He protect us through the storm of toddlerhood indeed).

So here is the recap for the next week:

Week five: Stress
Use this week as a chance to get rid of stress, and to identify those areas of your life where you are holding on to anxiety. The most crucial element of this week is to find a time to spend in prayer for significant portions of the day. As we learn to relinquish control and let God be in charge, we will no longer let our lives be ruled by stress.

Practical Fasts:
Commit to picking a space for every day where you commit to spend time in prayer.
Pick one day to be a Sabbath for you and your family and find your rest in Him. (Variations on the Sabbath abound–we would encourage a time for prayer and joy and rest and solitude, whatever that might look like for your family).

Prayer:
Use resources like the book of Common Prayer for ideas on when and what to pray.

How was no spending week? Do you have any resources for times of structured prayer? I would love to hear them!

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Lent, Week 4: Spending

Wow, is it already the 4th week of Lent????? And so our experimental mutiny against excess continues (inspired, as ever, by Jen Hatmaker and her book 7).

 

This week? We tackle spending. In the book, Jen and her family picked 7 places to spend money at for a whole month. Since this is only a week, I decided to make it really challenging for us. This week, we are only allowed to spend money at 2 places:

1. The gas station

2. A local food co-op

 

We happen to live really close to a pretty schnazzy food co-op. I was going to pick some uber-cheap grocery store, but I thought I would stretch myself and make this more about being wise (and local, and sustainable) with my money. The co-op has always seemed prohibitively expensive to me, but it won’t be if I am not buying coffee out or a new shirt at Goodwill. So today me and the baby and a friend ambled over there (in the rain!) and shopped at the farmers market they have on Wednesdays. This is going to be a week of tofu, kale, and onions, and honey. It could be worse!

 

Here are the guidelines, if you are playing along:

Week four: Spending
This week we will look at all our little justifications for spending money squarely in the eye. By curbing our own spending, we can better identify with our brothers and sisters throughout the world who have little or no money to spare. Limit all spending this week: food, drink, restaurants, entertainment, possessions: put a hold on all  them.

Practical Fasts:
Pick one grocery store (preferably local), one gas station, one all-purpose store (obviously if you have bills to pay, you should do that). Don’t spend money anywhere else.
Invite people over for coffee, and watch old movies that you already own. Be creative!

Prayer:
This week will be another chance to repent of the idols in our life and to refocus our priorities on the kingdom of God. The Bible is full of passages on social and economic justice that we can look to for encouragement and support as we learn to do without.

 

If you need a refresher on what this is all about, go here.

 

And, as always, I want to hear any thoughts you have if you are doing this in any part!

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Media Week: Guest Blog

Sure, sitting too close to the TV screen will make you cross-eyed, but not turning it on for a week will make your mind melt, which is what I have decided so far. This is D’s husband, writing. She graciously allowed me to write a guest blog, because media week has been a million times more impactful for me than any of the other weeks have been.

Basically, through removing media this week, it made me realize exactly what role it plays in my life. Actually, I realized it within 48 hours. So I think: that was all we needed to do, we can go back to watching TV (and playing video games, if you are me, which for the record, I only do when I work until late and need a way to wind down).

At first, I figured out that TV helped me shut off my mind, which I viewed as a good thing, because without TV my brain runs on and on and on – about injustice, about group therapy techniques, about how to become an spoken word rock musician, about the books I’m reading, which, within the last week have included childhood trauma, pacifism, the Kingdom of God, just war theory, adoption, and therapy. Even when I try to unwind with some fiction, Hermione ends up ruining my mental shut off time by bring up S.P.E.W. which then makes me think about all the injustices that plague both Hogwarts and our muggle world, whether it’s against elves or humans.

So I decided that TV is healthy because without it, I think too much and I don’t know how to rest. I need TV to rest my noggin, and so in the clinical opinion of this counseling intern, I am deeming watching TV very healthy.

Since I came to that conclusion, a few days have gone by and I have primarily focused on an upcoming counseling class titled “Trauma through the Lens of Attachment,” and I have to read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s NotebookI haven’t even gotten to the chapter of which the title is named, but I have read five chapters so far, each with multiple stories of violence against children, and I will not tell you at all what they are about, because then you would be as sad as I feel right now. And to be honest, it would be easier to sit with these children in a session than to read about it, because sitting with the traumatized allows you to attend to and focus on them, and one may even get to witness the beauty of resilience; but when you read it in a book, or read this in the newspaper, you are forced not only to attend to the victim, but to equally attend to the perpetrator — you are forced to face depth of brokenness that exists in humanity. In fact, it is the violators that make it more difficult for me to have hope – I can hope for recovery for those who have undergone the most heinous crimes, but what about those who commit violence without remorse? It can be downright spirit-crushing.

Then the other stressors in my life are primarily responding to that brokenness; I need to prepare for my oral exam so I can graduate with a master’s in counseling so I can help people (which is actually, in itself a flawed statement that I don’t have time to address here); I need to  put together a resume to see if non-profit organizations will take us; I need to respond to the pile of emails from ministry organizations that we might partner with.

So these days, I feel that my brain capacity is filled with (a) emotionally responding to the pain of the world and (b) practically responding to the pain of the world. And in this moment, all I want to do is hear Liz Lemon say, “What the what?” and I am seriously thinking that I definitely deserve some TV.

But then it occurred to me that if I alternate between feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders and feeling the numbness of watching Liz Lemon make witty one-liners, I am missing something big. The weight of the injustice and pain in the world can drive us to TV (or drinking, or other ways to separate ourselves from reality), or it can drive us to God. And I’ve been asking myself this week what exactly it means to rest with God, because up until now, I always think being quiet in prayer is just about waiting for God to tell me what to do next, which usually adds more stress rather than less. And I know that God created the Sabbath, but Jesus taught us that doing good and relieving suffering is not exempt from the Sabbath, so I just feel kind of confused. If there is endless suffering in the world, how can we ever have a sabbath in good conscience?

And I think this is part of what resting with God is, turning to him in the moment you want to numb yourself (and by the way, in the mental health world, we identify this as landing on some spectrum of dissociation, just so you know). I respond through the mind-numbing way all the time, usually courtesy of hulu.com.

So tonight, rather than playing video games or watching TV, since I couldn’t do either of those things, I decided to just sit (well, just sit in some warm bath water with candles lit) and read out of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary RadicalsOf course, I also did a little free-style praying as well. But basically, I prayed for the kids in my childhood trauma book, not only them specifically, but the demographic they represent (including many teenagers I interact with on a regular basis), and it was really relieving. more relieving than ignoring my emotions and watching Parks & Rec. Even though I felt that I was caring more and not less, nor was I shutting off my brain, I felt invigorated rather than drained because I felt connected to the Holy Spirit as I joined Him in grief over injustice, and at the same time it was also so relieving that He is much more powerful than I.

Out of Common Prayer, I prayed the compline prayer which is the last prayer of the day. Part of it goes like this:

This is what we are about: we plant seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects are beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

You guys know that D is a radical, but so you know, — me, not so much. In fact, two weeks ago I prayed that God would give me love for the poor and the disenfranchised because I pretty much didn’t care. And over this past weekend, the Holy Spirit moved my heart in this way, and pointed out to me that there were demographics of people that I had simply given up on, which is not the way He sees things. And I think part of learning to care is learning to rest in God (and maybe not in TV as much). We might be afraid that if we care, if we really give it our all, we will care too much and our we will be crushed under the weight of stress, powerlessness and hopelessness. Basically, I trust the writers of Friday Night Lights to bring redemption and justice to the town of Dillon, Texas more than I trust God to bring the same to my neighborhood and community, and thus I am more invested in those characters than I am in the people I see every day. But through this TV- and videogame-less week which I have resented every step of the way, I’ve learned that rest is not just about shutting off our brains, but it’s about hope, it’s about trusting that God is still working, even when while we ourselves take a moment to catch our breath.

(And also, maybe we kind of broke the lent rules today because it was D’s birthday). Edit: ok, by that my husband means we watched 15 minutes of Parks and Rec before my baby woke up very very very early from her nap. It’s the birthday rule, OK????? Also, isn’t my husband the coolest?

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The Great Lent Experiment (AKA our own “mutiny against excess”) Week 3: Media

graffiti from Glasgow.

In case you missed it, I wrote about possessions week here.


I never thought I would be one of those people. You know, those who watch current shows on TV. Like, watch an episode every week. I used to be really busy and then watch an entire season of some show on the rare weekend I had a chance. And for some reason, I watched more movies.

Now, TV is the way the hubs and I relax at night. We work alternating nights and the baby wakes up real early, so we usually watch one 20 minute episode of something nearly every night. I don’t know how it happened, it just did.

I have always admired people who did “kill your TV” week or month or year, but it never crossed my mind that I should do that. But then I gave up Facebook (for all intents and purposes) and that was not even a big deal. Out of all the weeks, this one seems like the one I most DON’T want to surrender. So I am sure I need it, badly.

We over here are giving up all TV/movies/facebook/twitter/pinterest. Even the baby, who has become alarmingly hooked on Elmo (I really don’t know how I am going to cook dinner without that 20 minute reprieve during the “witching hour”. Which makes me realize that this is getting ridiculous). We will still listen to music (and the occasional podcast? I dunno. You guys need to act as my counsel and tell me if you think that is media). I am still going to read my blogs via googlereader, but only once in the morning.

I am excited to read more books. I am currently reading Interrupted  by Jen Hatmaker and The Barefoot Church  by her husband, Brandon. I am re-reading The irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne, because we all need a little inspiration for creativity. I am also reading Still  by Lauren Winner (the jury is still out on that one) and maaaaaybe am re-reading the Hunger Games in anticipation of the movie. Maybe. Plus, the ol’ Bible and Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. And a bunch of Christian parenting books.

Whew.

Before I get too enmeshed with all the reading and the brain-spinning that happens as a result of reading, let me just say that so far Lent has been a season for actively seeking the voice of God. And listening. And waiting. And receiving–just not in the ways that I would expect. But it has been very encouraging to experience that His voice is all around, and sometimes we just need to take some small, sacrificial steps in order to hear it. And I expect that from this week as well.

Ok, after all that ranting, here is the breakdown for this next week:

Week three: Media:
We are a culture that loves to be entertained. How much more space for others (and God) can we create by shutting off all of our devices for a week? This will be a great chance to practice old-fashioned community and hospitality. Fill up the silence with good things: worship music, good books, coffee with friends, or just hanging out with your family.

Practical Fasts:
Commit to a week without media: no facebook, twitter, pinterest, television (hulu) or movies.
Limit cell phone and e-mail usage

Prayer: Use this week to focus on communicating with God, allowing silence and a space for listening in your relationship. Use your downtime to get together with other Lenten observers and pray together in true community!

How was week 2? What are you doing for week 3? Let me know!


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Lent, week 2: Possessions

I knew this week wouldn’t be terribly difficult. We have been trying to wean off our dependence on new “stuff”, plus we are most certainly probably maybe moving in a couple of months. So getting rid of stuff is a no-brainer!

And it feels so freeing. In a frenzy from reading 7, I gave away half of all of our clothes 3 weeks ago, and I don’t really seem to miss very much. Plus, I want to transition to dressing like an actually adult, not just wearing a bunch of ill-fitting bargains from a thrift store. So, now I just pretend like I am packing for a trip to Europe. A couple of pairs of jeans, some Danskos and some Toms, some long sleeved black shirts and a scarf or two are all you need for the winter. It feels good to simplify.

And, as sad as it was, we got rid of a TON of books. I kept about 2 bookshelves worth, mostly non-fiction, because I realize you can’t take it all with you.

As for the rest of our stuff–I will have to tackle it this week. We have been house sitting out in Clackamas which has made it a challenge to sort through our own sorry apartment.

Things that were hard this week: Baby ran out of bubble bath during day one, much to her chagrin. Baby started walking (thank you Jesus!!!!!!) this week and she only has one pair of shoes which we kept losing. I have not been clothes shopping since January (I have not even stepped inside of a thrift store) and I am starting to get grumpy about it (I am going to try and keep this up all of Lent). I love bargain hunting!

But overall, it was pretty easy. We just aren’t in a position to be hoarding anything right now. Plus, I lost one of my jobs on Friday, which was a good reminder of how fragile finances can be. If we keep running a tight ship it won’t be a problem, and I actually think this is a nudge from the Spirit telling me that I DO have more time now for my community.

Cheater Confession: The refugee girls I have been working with forever came over for a sleepover. Their mom asked me to buy them unmentionables, so I did. They very rarely ask for things like that, and I didn’t think twice about breaking the fast. The bad part is that we went to Walmart to get the stuff, because I just don’t know where to buy sweatshop free bras/underwear/socks. And you know what? Target is just as bad as Walmart (actually, they give less money away but use the same horrid labor practices) but because they have better marketing everybody goes to Target and looks up their noses at Walmart. So maybe this was my small way of rebelling? I don’t know, I feel conflicted about it.

Aaaaand, just to keep it real: We went to IKEA yesterday. But only bought a kids meal. The weather is so awful (rain! slush! snow!) and we just couldn’t mall walk. So we put the one pair of shoes the baby owns on (they are from China–thanks grandparents!–and they squeek) and walked the tarnation out of that child. It was very cute. And there were lots of things on sale but I wasn’t even tempted.

 

Tomorrow: Week number 3! No Media Week! I am freaking out about this one!

what a lovely swedish bedroom!

what a lovely swedish bedroom!

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Lent: A Mutiny Against Excess. Week 2: Possessions!

one of my heros

 

OK, yesterday I was feeling it on the food thing. I was also really cranky and wanted nothing more than to go buy a pastry. But I didn’t. and I feel proud. Also, I am feeling so lazy (and recovering from crazy other things in life) that we might not make it to the store today. Something with eggs for dinner it is!

So here is the lowdown for the next week:

Week two: Possessions.
In this week we will focus on both clothing and possessions. Focusing on reducing our clothes allows us to be free from the tyranny of fashion and trying to impress people. Focusing on reducing our possessions will allow us to de-clutter our lives and highlight what we truly need to live in the kingdom of God. Set aside extra time in this week to go through your house and be prepared to get rid of a lot! As we reduce our possessions we should also look to a future where re-using, recycling, and doing without becomes our new normal. Stuff will never make us happy.

Since this is not only about living a more simple life but also doing with less so that others can have more, we would like to do a community garage sale at the end of Lent with all the proceeds going directly to help establish a safe house for children coming out of trafficking in Haiti. If garage sales aren’t your thing, feel free to donate to a women’s shelter or a local clothing closet or better yet–give it to people you know that are in need.


Update: If you live in the Portland area, Haley has graciously offered her place for the garage sale. We are thinking the weekend of Spring Break (the 24th-25th). Contact us for more details!

Practical Fasts:
Clothes:
Sort through your clothes (and your families clothes) and reduce by ⅓-½. There is no need to hoard when so many people in America are struggling to clothe their families. Think about what really fits you and what you actually wear (not what you want to wear).
Make a commitment to not buy new clothes for the week (or, for the rest of Lent).
Note: If you do choose to purchase clothes between now and Lent, consider shopping at thrift stores.

Possessions:
Do not buy any new possessions this week.
Commit to weed through your possessions. Tackle different areas on different days. If at all possible, save items for a garage sale. Areas to target include:
Kitchen
Bath
Books
Toys
Decorations

Prayer Focus:
Pray for the church to become less materialistic, and pray for Christ’s rule and reign in our hearts. Pray for our gospel to become bigger than success, and pray that we would get to know our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Resources: (AKA things that have helped me mutiny against “stuff”)

The Corporation  (a documentary that will change the way you shop. Guaranteed).

A Better World Shopper (click here for the website). (A great resource for finding out what is a sweatshop and what isn’t)

Clothes Off my Back clothing closet (A clothes closet my mom started to help the community in Park Rose. If you don’t want to mess with a garage sale, this would be a great place to donate your clothes! E-mail me at dlmmcsweeneys@gmail.com if you would like more info).

What are your resources? What are you excited about for this week? What makes you nervous?

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Food: A mutiny against processed.

image from Sugarboo designs

Go here if you need a refresher on the Great Lent Experiment (AKA our own mutiny against excess).

 

Let me just say this now: I love food.

Before, I never used to think much about it, except that I loved it and needed it constantly. Then came a baby, a health scare (the hubs blood pressure was SKY high), and the overall need to make some lifestyle changes. We did a week long detox diet in January of 2011 (we basically ate whole foods, and no caffeine, sugar, corn, soy, gluten, or dairy) which kickstarted out desire to eat food that was actually food. We watched all sorts of scary documentaries and made decisions about where our money should go. We started off by changing the way we bought eggs, dairy, and most meat. Then, my neighbor told me about a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that she wanted us to participate in.

 

I had never heard of a CSA before, but it is basically a share you buy in a local farm. You pay the money upfront, and then you get your share of fruits and veggies once a week for as long as the season is. What sold me on this particular CSA is that my neighbors (refugees from Bhutan) were the growers. Mercy Corps had started a program where they set up refugees with plots of land all throughout the city where they could grow food and then sell it through the CSA program. It is wonderful, because many of the refugees grew up farming in traditional ways–no pesticides or chemicals for them. So it was a perfect fit for a city that was starting to get really into the organic and local way of eating.

We forked over our money and then began a great culinary adventure. I am not going to lie: there were a lot of beets and radishes and many other things I still am not quite sure what they were. But we ate it, man, and I learned how to cook it. We were forced to eat seasonably, to incorporate vegetables into every meal, to learn how to cook and use and be creative in order to not let things spoil. We ate like the pioneers, and it felt great.

And we learned that what you eat and how you spend your money on food really is a matter of social justice. We are in a win-win-win situation now, since buying delicious, fresh, organic produce directly benefits our neighbors. We are healthier (we both dropped a substantial amount of weight), we are supporting our community, and we now know how to cook parsnips (sorta).

my neighbors!

No matter where you live, this option is available to you. You just might have to search it out. As this week has shown me, if you do without in one area (say, eating chicken McNuggets–just a hypothetical, that is totally not my most favorite food in the world) you will have enough money to buy food from local farmers. The impact of these small purchases might seem silly, but they add up to a more just way of eating.  As Jen Hatmaker writes in 7, we vote with our dollars every day. And that actually counts for a lot more than our votes for a president.

If you live in the Portland area, I would encourage you to check out the Grow Portland CSA program. You will directly be benefiting my neighbors, as well as yourself. I will even come over and show you how to make radish-leaf pesto.

 

As for this week?

The hubs and I are poor, so one of the only ways we “get out” is to go walk and get a cup of coffee. This week? We just  . . . walked.  Imagine that! I did miss my Americanos, I will admit.

I did make a killer clean-out-your-pantry-and-freezer minestrone soup.

We did manage to save some money.

We did not go to the grocery store!

True Confessions: I did buy a cup of coffee for someone (they lived at the Simple Way, OK?) and I also bought my younger sister dinner. I was at the Justice Conference. This is my only excuse.

 

But not going out to coffee does seem to leave some extra cash around, and the hubs and I both want to be more generous people. So instead of going out to a coffee shop to do my writing, I will just hole up in my room for awhile. When its nice, we will just walk and look at the trees. When we are bored, we will go to New Seasons and eat the free samples, and not buy anything. Because we are classy like that. I think we can keep this up for the entire period of Lent.

We will be donating our money saved from this week (and the rest of Lent) here. Please pray about joining us.

 

So how has Week 1 been for you?

I want to know! If you are blogging about it, please tell me in a comment so we can all share!

 

And . . . tomorrow I will post the guidelines for Week 2. 

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The Great Lent Experiment (AKA “the mutiny against excess”) Week one: Food

art by nikki mcclure

Wow, I never thought I would say “Yay! Lent!”

But here we are.

There are some strange winds blowing, and so many of us are feeling more trapped by our excess than gratified. More of us want to know our Jesus and our neighbors and our poor better, and to live simpler lives in order to be more generous. How exciting is that?

So today is Ash Wednesday, which I know people celebrate in a variety of ways. For me, I am eating breakfast with lots of family and having friends over for coffee. It seems like the perfect way to start off–not by focusing on what I am giving up, but rather focusing on true community.

 

So today starts Week 1: Food. (For a recap on the reasonings behind this project, as well as a look at everything we will be attempting, go here). ( PS: This Experiment is based on and inspired by 7: an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. All props to her). (PPS: You can buy the book for $7 for the next several days! Details here).

 

As a reminder, here is what we will be looking at this week:

Week one: Food
For this week, focus on how much you normally spend on eating: going out to restaurants, getting coffee, and even grocery shopping. Much of the world is living on $2 a day, but we spend much more than that on a single latte. Commit to limiting your food choices and your spending, and at the end of the week you should have cleared our some space in your pantry and freezer, and also be left with a nice sum of money (which we would then encourage you to donate to people in need).

Practical fast:
No eating out/drinking coffee out
Eat from your pantry/freezer
Limit grocery shopping as much as possible. If this means several dinners of beans and rice, then so be it. Enjoy the feeling of solidarity with the majority world!

Eat with your friends/neighbors! Maybe have a last-dregs-of-the-pantry-party next Wednesday?

Prayer focus:
Pray for those with limited access to food and clean drinking water.

 

 

I’m excited to start with food because in the past year I have changed so so so much in the ways that I think about buying, preparing, and eating food. I was always terrified to submit this area of my life because it seemed so difficult and overwhelming: factory farms, famines in Somalia, gluttony, processed foods–you know, all that happy stuff.

But looking back over the past year, it never felt too overwhelming. Small changes were made, one at a time, and now I see the trajectory we are on. One that values all the good things that the good Lord created.

By not eating out (even coffee!) and by not going grocery shopping this week, I am estimating a savings of $50 (this is conservative, I know, but we aren’t really in an eating-out-phase of life). At the end of the week, we are going to donate that money here. Jen Hatmaker (author of the book this experiment is based on) set up this specific donation sight to build an anti-trafficking home in Haiti. Let’s get this place fully funded by next week! If you have your heart set to donate to other places, by all means do that. But it is so encouraging to come together and be in this for a cause much bigger than budgets or “simplifying” our lives.

 

Resources that have helped me think some thoughts about food:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Anything (seriously, any book) by Michael Pollen.

The More-With-Less Cookbook: Suggestions By Mennonites on How to Eat Better and Consume Less of the World’s Limited Food Resources (so awesome!!!!!)

Food, Inc. (a documentary).

Also, you can read about our theology of the kingdom of God and how that is shaping this whole Lent Experiment here.

 

I will probably write at some point in the week about our story with food (it involves high blood pressure, Bhutanese refugees, and CSA boxes), and I look forward to hearing you stories of doing without! Please leave a comment with details about your fast/link to your blog. We can all be encouraged by one another.

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