taking it home

Only one more week of shopping at 7 stores to go. I’m not all that excited to go back to “normal.” OK, I admit, I am dying to go to a nursery. Those little hostas and heucheras have been crying my name for a month, and I am willing to answer their call. But I have lived just fine without.

And I do miss eating out. With the only restaurants on our list being Starbucks and Jamba Juice, well, let’s just say no one goes to either one of those for the food. (Although Jamba oatmeal is unparalleled, if you didn’t know.) On the run and wanting lunch, I’ve felt the limited options. But I have lived just fine.

I’ve been trying to figure out what all this is teaching me. Giving away things, wearing only seven things, shopping at only seven places–it hasn’t been that hard. Isn’t something like this supposed to be earthshakingly difficult? Shouldn’t the deprivation have formed me into an ultra-generous, Gandhiesque person by now? Shouldn’t some life-changing lesson have jumped out at me like one of those pop-up ads that spins and sings? (Good thing it didn’t. I would have closed and ignored it immediately, the annoying little bugger.) If an experiment doesn’t return immediate observable results, shouldn’t the scientist throw it out?

Not necessarily. Sometimes, something stands out not because it’s loud and flashy but because it’s quiet and slow, in the midst of a world that prefers flash. If every dog in the shelter is yapping like a crazed chihuahua, you may not notice immediately the silent one that just looks at you with eyes that say, “I’m yours.” But when you do, chances are good you’ll take that one home.

What I’m “taking home” from this month, the last three months, of limited options is the opposite of what it implies. It’s that I have a lot of options. And one of those options we often forget is the choice to choose nothing.

I can choose not to stop at a store and get something I don’t really need.
I can choose not to answer my phone and be available to someone who doesn’t really need me.
I can choose not to keep something just because it’s mine.
I can choose not to eat something just because I can.
I can choose not to spend time and money searching for the perfect thing and accept what works fine.
I can choose not to do and just be, especially with my family.

One of the strangleholds of the millennial generation is the plethora of choices they have. So much spread out in front of us paralyzes us to the ability to choose anything. So, learning to choose nothing is a skill I didn’t know I didn’t know. It’s one desperately needed. And I’m glad I get to take it home.

the worst/best place to go

This week, I went Easter basket shopping for three teen-twenty-something daughters at Menards. And it was fun. I realize that does not sound possible. After all, it was one of those daughters who, years ago, gave us this conversational gem:

(Setting: Dinner table, serious family theological conversation)
Child #1–“The worst place to have to go is hell, right?”
Great theologian mother–“Yes, that’s right.”
Child #3–“No, the worst place to ever have to go is Menards!”

Apparently, child #3 had been on far too many trips with her father, who is known for his need to examine a single 2×4 for 30 minutes to ensure that it is the perfect 2×4 for the job.

Only seven stores to shop at in the month of April, and guess what? Easter generally falls in April. So, off to Menards it was. True, we can also go to Target, so hammers and paint brushes were not all they received. Nevertheless, it was a good time.

Did you know you can get fuzzy pink socks at Menards? And lots of candy? You probably do know this, because it seems you can buy anything at Menards, including your shampoo, right next to the plumbing aisle. I saw the tank tops and camis, but I passed on them. I just imagined the conversation when child #3 wore one to high school.

“Oh–that top is sooo cute. Where’d you get it?”
“Um . . . I . . . I don’t . . . remember. Nope. No idea. Really.”
To use child #3’s favorite word lately, Awkward.

And, I figured, two of them will leave home in the next few years, so they will need things like hammers and screwdrivers and things to patch the holes in the walls that they will inevitably make. (Note: I did not purchase the girly hammer kits. My girls now own real hammers, thank you very much. However, I would definitely use a flowered hammer.)

So the lessons learned in our first week of shopping at only seven stores?

–Creativity. If life hands you Menards, make Easter baskets. It stretches your ability to find value where you didn’t think you would and make something out of nothing. That’s a good exercise for all of us.

–Simplicity. The baskets were less full this year. And you know what? No one cared. They loved what they got. I didn’t go around to twenty different places looking for exactly the “thing” I thought they needed. I had only a couple choices, and they were plenty.

I already love shopping at only seven stores as much as only seven items of clothing. Simplifying my world, one shopping trip at a time.

no one cares

And so we begin April, the month of “We may only shop at seven stores.” 

March was not too bad. I must say I was quite successful in wearing only seven articles of clothing. Mainly, because it made life so much easier. Yes, most people react to the idea of wearing only seven things for a solid month with fear and trepidation; easy is the last thing they associate with it. 

But honestly? Waking up in the morning and asking myself, “What shall I wear today?” and having the answer be, “The only clean shirt you have among the three allowed”? Totally freeing. I never had to think. 

OK, I had to think the one Sunday I was preaching a sermon. I do feel like people deserve a pastor who doesn’t look like she hasn’t done her laundry in two weeks and wore whatever fell out of the drawer first. Still, I easily was able to stay within the seven.

I loved the freeness of not worrying about it. Just get dressed and go. There were complications. No one anticipated the 80-degree weather of a March in Chicago when we chose jeans and long-sleeved shirts. Still, I sweated on. Until the evening I fell down the steps and sprained my ankle. Hard enough to make me unable to walk for several days. 

Which means, that since no one else in the house has a genetically programmed code for tossing in a load of laundry, including six of my seven articles of clothing, I had to chose to violate the seven covenant or sit in the living room naked. I really didn’t think anyone wanted the latter. Although it might have been enough to motivate some laundry action. 

I considered this a circumstance beyond my control and surrendered to other clothes. Although, some might say that if I watched where I was going on the stairs, it would have been completely within my control. 

It all makes me think, of course, of those wonderfully wise words of Jesus, knowing as he did how much we worry about things that matter so little.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.” (Matthew 6)

We care so stupidly much about our clothes, and our “style,” and our need to put a good fashion show on for anyone who sees us. But I dare say not one person noticed that I wore only three shirts the entire month of March. No one pays as much attention as we either hope or fear. Only we put so much faith in what we look like and so little in the one who created us and called us beautiful. 

Not saying we should all go around looking like we don’t care. That’s really another form of pride. But maybe breathing in the unalterable fact that he promised to care for us, both in terms of our needs and in terms of being crazy in love with us? No matter what we look like when we wake up? 

I think I’m ready to add some clothes to that pile of things to give away we started in January. I just don’t need that much.