"The real winners in life are people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work or make it better." - Barbara Pletcher

Saturday, January 14, 2012

7 and 10

We've said at least a dozen times over the past few days: it feels like our 10-yr anniversary vacation happened over a year ago.  We hopped back into normal so quickly, it was like it never really happened.  We loved it.  It was beautiful and perfect.  We'll do it again.  (Maybe not for another 10 years.)

August, 2001, on our honeymoon in Cancun.

A decade from now our youngest will be 13, and our oldest might even be moved out of the house.  Lord willing, they'll be the kind of teenagers who are easy to leave at home for a week...

A few weeks before we left, I took the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of Jen Hatmaker's newest book, 7 in exchange for a review on my blog.  All 13 of my readers will immediately buy it from Amazon, so I'd say it's a fair trade.  Jen and I are BFF's (read: I follow her on twitter and stalk her blog), and she makes me laugh.  I mean, literally laugh out loud to myself.  Our one-way relationship is sorta creepy/pathetic/awesome.  I'm completely OK with it.

I identify with her personality-she is an "extremist".  Hello.  I've recently admitted this to myself.  I need a challenge.  I can't do it unless it seems crazy.  Eat "sensibly"?  Can't do that for longer than 4.5 hours.  Refuse all sugar and flour?  I could go a month.  Jen and her family spent seven months addressing 7 areas of excess: food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.  They ate 7 foods for a month, chose 7 clothing items to wear for another month, gave away 7 possessions per day for a month...

Seven was, "an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God's kingdom to break through." Yes, please. "Jesus, let there be less of me and my junk and more of you and your kingdom."

It's the beginning of a new year, and my natural inclination is to purge, organize, simplify, create a new budget, mess with the routine.  Reading this book, at this time of the year, is straight up dangerous for my family.  Me, to Mitch: "You should probably go ahead and skim through this book.  I'm afraid it's going to motivate me to do something crazy and you'll want to be on board."

Enter major conflict: reading this book while sitting poolside at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.  I'm surrounded by more excess than I've ever experienced.  Spoiled, pampered, overindulged.  Loving every carefree, relaxing, kid-free, "well deserved" moment, but feeling a little uneasy at the same time.  "Do you think these waiters are getting paid a fair wage?  The girl who brought these towels looked about 17, do you think she likes her job?  Should we have just used the money we paid for this trip to feed a Lincoln family in need for an entire year?"  Oh, mercy.  Guilt wasn't invited on this trip! 

"We cannot carry the gospel to the poor and lowly while emulating the practices of the rich and powerful."

Rationalization ensues, "We haven't taken a trip like this in 10 years, and won't do it again anytime soon.  We have a lot to celebrate, I mean, even WE weren't sure we'd last a decade.  Our kids will be better for us spending this week to reconnect and renew our energy."

"The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change."

I feel like we live fairly modestly.  (I mean come on, we don't even have cable.)  We have more than most of the world does, and don't even realize it.  "How can I be socially responsible if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world?"  Two vehicles that run, a roof over our heads, and plenty to eat.  "Excess has impaired perspective in America. We are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer."  We volunteer, donate stuff we don't use anymore, and raise money for charities.  But.  None of that requires us to get uncomfortable.  

The Hatmakers tackled 7 areas of excess, but I feel especially drawn to two.  Spending and Stress.  

Maybe it's the new year making me want to reorganize everything in our life, including our budget...or maybe it's something more. I "gave up" the budget a few years ago, because Mitch offered to take it and I honestly needed to dump something off my plate.  It's been g.l.o.r.i.o.u.s. not knowing what's going on with our banking.  I mean it.  For me, ignorance in this area is truly bliss.  I don't log into our online banking, everything is set up on auto-pay, and my handsome husband makes all the deposits into the ATM so I never see a receipt.  I have no idea what is in our bank accounts.  None.  Suddenly, I feel like that might be a problem.

If I had a nickel for every time someone said, "you must be SO busy" or, "my gosh, you have your hands full!" or, "why aren't you insane by now?"...I'd be a Bazillionaire.  I get it.  We're ridiculously busy.  Stressed?  I hate to use the word "stressed" because I feel like that's so negative.  Everything on our plate is important and so worthy of our time and energy.  Or necessary to pay the bills.  We aren't big time-wasters in my opinion, or running around to a hundred different activities bringing on all kinds of unnecessary busy to our already full lives.  It's just that five kids + home school + daycare + a small business + full-time job = busy.  There's no other way around it.  Or is there?  God has instructed us to rest, but we have a really hard time keeping the Sabbath holy.  If we truly rested one day out of the week, I wonder how we'd change.

"What if we are camels on this side of the needle, dangerously content with our fake gospel and avoiding the actual Christian life described in scripture?"  Love your neighbor as yourself.  As yourself.  What if we really did that.  What if we spent as much time and money on our neighbor as we did on ourselves?  This was the part of the book that really made me come unglued.  What if we lived so far under our means that we could give away 50%.  Half.  I don't even know what to do with that thought, except that I think it's probably the ultimate goal.  My mind is blown. 

This book definitely has me thinking, what are we missing?  Life feels too comfortable, which is starting to make me uneasy.  There's a tension I'm just becoming aware of, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

     "Love God most.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  This is everything.
      If we say we love God, then we will care about the poor.
      The earth is God's and everything in it.  We should live like we believe this.
      What we treasure reveals what we love.
      Money and stuff have the power to ruin us.
      Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God. This is what is required."

The Sallingers are in.  We're exhausted from being big consumers caught up in the machine with no real idea how to love our neighbors as ourselves (and no time or money to do it with).  "Jesus, let there be less of me and my junk, more of you and your kingdom."

10 years and 5 months into marriage, we l-o-v-e-d our time away.  Mitch was so relaxed by the third day, I actually worried there was something wrong.  Evidently, he's unrecognizable when he's unwound.  We didn't miss our kids until we stepped into the Cancun airport, and then it was like we couldn't get home fast enough.  They had fun splitting their time between the grandmas, and we didn't worry about them for an instant.  (Thank you G'ma Sue and G'ma Rowe, for doing the hard work while we laid around and did nothing for a week!)


*Disclaimer: I have never reviewed a book before and it's been a dozen years since I did a book report, so I'm sure I didn't quote things properly.  Anything in "quotes" is from the book, 7 by Jen Hatmaker, which you can buy HERE, and you should.  It's a well written, hilarious, easy read that only gets difficult if you think too much (or love Jesus). 


Tori Kyncl said... Best Blogger Tips

becky you must read I should have seen it coming when the rabbit died by teresa bloomingdale. and all her books to fallow. you will love, i promise!
great vaca pics! ;)

Elisha said... Best Blogger Tips

glad you got rested! love the names in the sand... shows what was on your mind there :)
Im intrigued about the book... but scared I'd only learn of my total selfishness! Doing a study on James right now... and alot of it goes along with this book youre reading. Are we merely hearers of the word? or doers? how much DO i do for others? etc....
And how sad is it that the MORE crap we have... the more stress comes with it!! I mean... Xmas toys alone are a pain in my butt to pick up all the time and avoid tripping over and they hardly get touched now... how sad is that that we have $$ to absolutely WASTE this way. Whats worse is we spend 3 days opening gifts... and about 3 hours in church over Christmas.... hmmm. I dont want to raise my children like this... how do I convince the grandparents and hubby to STOP THE SPENDING??? My idea to have a "homemade" or thrift store Christmas was NOT well accepted... then again Im the only freak that gets a thrilll out of spending hours redoing a 50 cent thrift store item! haha.
Lots of Blab.... glad the Lord allowed you some R & R time together..... dont be guilted about it.... IT is so GOOD to get away for the sake of our marriages... sometimes they get put on the back burner and we forget how important it is to nurture them! Especially with how long marriages last these days! :) welcome home!

If These Walls Spoke said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm all over it, Tori! Thanks for the suggestion. My mom says I need to read Hunger Games but I'm a freak and honestly can't sleep after watching CSI so I'm afraid it'll scare me too much. Mama needs her sleep, mmmkay?! :)

If These Walls Spoke said... Best Blogger Tips

You might remember we did a homemade Christmas one year when I was in high school, at the urging of Marcy. It went over like a lead balloon. The grandparents love to buy stuff, so we actually do a purge beforehand to make room in our house. We've also asked for annual passes to the zoo, children's museum, and this year included a family pass to the pool...so they get to spend money on the kids and we get to do fun family stuff for free all year! It's WAY better than another toy. God love Nerf guns and Barbies, but enough is enough :)

Christiancari said... Best Blogger Tips

I love everything about this post. Seriously! I love the names in the sand, the internal conflict you experienced about first world problems on your amazing & much-needed vacation (don't we all experience this conflict?!) and the book you read. I think I'd better not read the book, though, because I tend to want to give away all our stuff on a normal day and I have a feeling this book would prompt an extreme reaction from me. My husband doesn't appreciate those extremes...