So I joined in the BNN challenge when a friend suggested it because I had been feeling convicted about the way we live and this challenge seemed like a great way to make some changes. The first month I had an accidental purchase (some clearance tank tops at walmart for the Fin), but I started paying attention and avoiding the places I tend to mindlessly spend money, and cut off all my email notifications and I was set. I was really quite surpised how easy the challenge was. Life seemed easier. Slower. I didn't have to stress about getting out into town to every store I wanted to stop at and try to remember everything I needed to get because get this: I didn't need anything. I didn't have to fight with the kids and the crazies at WalMart because I stopped going to WalMart. Brilliant. I like this life.
We also did some purging (and I'm getting the itch to purge again!) And this first month was also the month we sold the car. Shannon drives his Harley and we live on base. His office is 4.2 miles from our home and he is deployed for months at a time. I do not have a job outside the home, but we had a car, a truck and 2 motorcycles. So we became a "one car family" and again, to our suprise found this to be not a huge deal. Who knew? Over 2 months into the challenge, we found ourselves asking why do we have one vehicle that gets 17 mpg, no warranty, due for all its major service? Why didn't we sell the truck and pay off the newer car, with the better gas mileage and newer everything?? Ummmmm. Yeah. I don't know. We thought it over and obsessed about it a little and decided that using the truck as our main vehicle we were using a lot of gas and spending more money than we'd like. We decided to trade it in for a used Jetta Sportwagen tdi- a diesel engine that gets around 50mpg on the highway and about 40 in town. It's super practical and one of our friend's actually asked if we had a grandparent visiting. That's cool. I rock it. I still don't know if this was a good decision. Should we have kept the Kia? The truck? Should we have bought the VW? I don't know. But I do know that we are totally cool with one car. We really don't need two. And in the end- that's what we have. One car. And we're sticking with that.
Aside from some heavy whining from the girl child, the challenge has been pretty insignificant. We've spent ALOT less money than we usually do, just by not buying stuff. Again- who knew?? And we've been able to give a lot more away and pay more on the motorcycle loan, have that paid off in a few short months and then start throwing that money at my student loans.
So, if I talked to you in the first 3 months, I probably told you all of this. Easier than I ever imagined. Not a big deal. And I DO talk about it quite a bit. I was actually told by a friend, who was upset with me about something else at the time, that I was obnoxious about it. She didn't say those words exactly, she used many more words, but obnoxious sums it up neatly. She didn't understand the whys. She thought that it was me being "holier than thou". And to be clear, in sharing about the challenge, that is never my intent. I mostly share so that its out there in the world and this alone provides me with a great deal of accountability. But I also share because I want to encourage people. But I find more and more that alot of people don't want to be encouraged. Some do. Some don't. And those that don't are the ones that either don't want to think about the way they're living or they don't know me very well. They think that I am doing this challenge because I think I'm holy or pious or good. Believe me friends, I am none of these. I have the Spirit in me and He is good, but I am just me. Flawed as the rest of you. Struggling with selfishness, pride, insecurity, irritability, general sinful tendencies. And I am fully aware of my own sin. I am only less of these things when I am more focused on Him. And this challenge is one way that I try to focus on the Lord. This is a way that I try to fight my selfish nature and depend less on the things of this world to bring me joy. This is a way that I try to live out the Gospel. If I can spend less on ME, I can spend more time, money, energy on HIM.
We know Jesus was moved with compassion for the weak, the harassed, and the helpless (Matt. 9:35-36). We see in the early church that the needs of the poor and distressed was a constant priority (Acts 4:34-35; Acts 11:30; Gal. 2:10). And frequently we are commanded to love one another not only with kindness but in the concrete actions of generosity and material support (James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:16-18). Is it okay for me to just think about me, me, me all the time? Am I being a good steward of all that the Lord has given us? No. No, I'm not. I never have been. That's what this challenge is all about. Spending less, paying off debt, positioning ourselves so that we can live differently. This is only the about face. This is only the shifting of direction. It's a long, long walk before we actually start looking like what we want to look like.
Early on one of my fellow challenge participants who had fallen off the wagon asked me if I thought that we had made the challenge an idol. I was like "say what?!". Ridiculous. But fast forward to month #4 and I finally get what she was saying. Shannon has left again, marathon training is in full gear and school has started. The kids have outgrown their shoes, we're preparing for seasons to change and so many of their clothing is worn out (these are rough and tumble kids) and I want to make gifts for my friends and I don't have the supplies I need and I found myself on ebay all the time. The thrift stores here aren't all that great and as I was looking for pants for Finley (she's outgrown ALL of hers) shoes for both of them, and running shoes for me that were used but not used (floor models) I started to see what she was saying. It became work this month. The challenge had become harder. Because there were things that we really did need. My child came home from her first day of school with blisters on her feet because she wanted to wear tennis shoes so she could participate in gym, but hers were too small. She is starting gymnastics and we tried on her old leotard- um, let's just say NO. Too small. Lots of butt cheek exposure. And finding these items became a task in itself. And a friend pointed out that she felt bad shopping at the thrift store for childrens clothing because she only bought the best items. And she can afford to buy stuff elsewhere, so she felt like she was taking those items from someone else. Oi. I can't help but agree. I broke down. Tired of dragging my kids through thrift shops and finding few or no items worth buying, I went to target. We got Wyatt 5 shirts on clearance for $2.14 each. We went to the PX and bought them both tennis shoes- that fit. And pants- that fit.
We also bought a new wireless router. Ours pooped out. And we don't have cable. We're down to just netflix and this works great. It's cheap and has plenty of kids shows and stuff for Shannon. I'd love to have nothing and just have the kids watch their dvds, but we're not ready for that. Shannon is just now okay with not having cable. So, we need the router for the netflix to work. I was given one by my very generous friend, but it's not compatible with our operating system. So I just bought a new one.
So I've been thinking about these purchases. Stressing. Feeling guilty. Feeling ashamed. Hurrying in and out of the store in case I see someone I know and I have to explain myself when I realized that I was worried about the wrong thing. I was worried about the rules. I was worried about other people and their perception of me. I was worried about failing. I had let the challenge become an idol. The Lord doesn't care that I bought my children shoes that fit and pants that fit and replaced my router. He probably DOES care that I care so much. And for the wrong reasons. I actually feel so much better now that I've just replaced the things that needed replacing. I'm not concerned about them anymore. We carry on with life now. And we aren't spending mindlessly. I'm so much more aware now and likely to think of the differences between things I think I need and things I actually need. So I've fallen off the wagon. But I think its in a good way. I'm finding balance in a real life way that you don't find in a challenge. Is it an impressive feat, have I managed to not buy a single thing new and avoid all temptation? No. No I haven't. But in a short 3 1/2 months, my mindset has changed. My habits and tendencies have changed. And although we've had a rough couple weeks where I got off track with the challenge and turned it into something it was never meant to be, we're back now. I've decided we need balance. And although I should change the challenge name to the "Don't buy stuff you don't need for a year challenge" it doesn't quite roll off the tongue, does it??
|(Megan says every blog post needs a picture. Here you go.)|
So for anyone that has actually read this entire post (I'm guessing Megan Daigle stands alone as the sole person to make it all the way through...), we're still doing the challenge, but I'm trying to get back to the original intentions. I've allowed the stress of the past couple weeks with Shannon leaving, the Have to Half run, school starting, and reaching the midway point of marathon training just wreak havoc on my peace. I'm asking the Lord for my peace back.
Lord, we love you. Help us to love you more.
Lord, we need you, we can't change without you.
Please give us peace in the life we live. Lead us to live a life more glorifying to you. A life that pleases you. Help us to understand how to find balance in this pursuit. Help us to make sense of the discrepancy between our life and the lives of millions of others that live in poverty, distress, and pain. Thank you for the gentle reminders you give me daily. Thank you for your patience. Help us to live simply so that others may simply live. Help me to desire YOUR approval- not anyone else's. YOURS. Change my heart, Lord.