Two-Dozen

Yep… It’s my birthday! 🙂
It’s been a good one.

It started off yesterday with two friends treating me to lunch after church.

Then in the evening a friend had [pre-planned] to grab Chipotle for dinner. Of course, I’m always down. And people kept showing up. It was grand 🙂

Then, I’m informed that we’re going over to someone’s house for games. (Heck Yes!) One friend was surprisingly amazing at Guesstures and I think we laughed too hard to really guess. She won, of course. I mean, ultimately I won every game, even the ones I didn’t play, because I’m the birthday girl.

Two of my friends made this PERFECT cake for me. Yes, it was just as (if not) more delicious than it looks. My mouth is watering just remembering it.

Then after work today, another friend and I went out to dinner. So this weekend was great and I wouldn’t have changed anything about it!

Thanks for all the cards, emails, texts, calls, facebook messages/posts, etc. You guys rock. Birthdays are always weird because you always have that uneasy dread of, what if no one cares enough to remember? I mean, facebook makes it easy to remember, but so many of you also went beyond the call of duty and I appreciate and love you all. You reminded me that I am loved, even from a distance, and I wish I could hug you all.

 

24 will be a good year. Bring it on!

Thank you LORD for the amazing people in my life, allow me to bless them in the small ways they have blessed me multiple time.

#8 Reduce your spending

What do you spend your money on.
Today I spent money on…..

Getting dressed, those clothes cost money. The shower and hair and make up cost money. The incense I burned while getting ready cost money. The rent, water, electricity, and insurance that is invested in my apartment. The computer I own and the songs I listened on on iTunes, that I downloaded from the internet that cost money. My car I drove in, the CD I bought at the concert I went to the night before, the gas, insurance and maintenance, Starbucks Breakfast, and my cell phone I talked to my mom on, and updated twitter by. And this was only by 8:45am!!!!!  I’ll spare you the rest.

Compared to most of my friends, I’m ridiculously aware and usually tend to be on the side of frugal… except when I really want a Persian rug that was made for me. But look at how much money goes into my life, I am always spending money, even if indirectly. And I take it all for granted. Everything costs [somebody] something. And even in trying to simplify your life, it still comes with a cost.

And even though more affordable than most, Nashville is a HARD city to save money in, because everything costs money, and everyone spends money, and a lot of people spend their family’s money, and it’s just HARD to do the freebies. And those $5-10 ventures that are available on a nightly basis, well… they add up!  According to the Business Journal, Nashville is ranked one of the top spenders in America! “The average Nashville household spends more freely that San Franciscans. More than Washington, D.C., residents. More than New Yorkers.” (Read more: Analysis: Nashvillians among nation’s biggest spenders – Nashville Business Journal: ). Yikes!

I don’t think there’s ANYTHING wrong with spending money that you have. Read that again. There’s nothing wrong with spending money that you have, we cant take our money to the grave, but neither our possessions. And if we aren’t living within our means are we really able to enjoy the freedom that comes with being a good steward?

I’m no pro, I’m not a financial adviser, and I do not claim to be. But thankfully my dad and some other people in my life have taught me valuable lessons and been great examples that I try to watch and live by. It’s not easy, and I’m not great or even good at it. But I try to get better each day. I’m learning.

Tithe 10%, first and foremost
-Save 10%, emergencies always happen, try to have 3months of your financial obligations in savings just in case
-Spend 10% on others, or 10% of your time/talent.
Pay your bills first

-If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out
-If you can’t afford to insure it, you can’t afford to have it
Pay for it in full, you don’t want to be making payments longer than you have the product
-(as stated in a prior blog) leave the store, you will come back if you want it
-Spend money in local ways, putting money BACK into our local economy, (see 350project)

-SAY NO NOW, SO YOU CAN SAY YES LATER (and this is so true in other areas of life as well).

Anyways, those are basics that I try to keep in mind. they aren’t necessarily “rules” but good reminders, or guidelines to spend within, with allowing room for flexibility. Splurging when able; treat yourself and keep your friends and sanity, but have self control. It’s hard to say no, especially when you’re on a tighter budget than others. But I’ve learned that if you are willing not to unnecessarily spend money, or are working within a budget, many others are too. And if you save up a little, you can say yes to better things and enjoy them more because they are a treat! It’s a matter of perspective, aye?

I don’t want to be ‘wealthy’ by any means, but I want to be financially free so that I can have a more simple and fulfilling [Christ/others focused] life, rather than just the weary obligations of paying off stupid debts.  It sucks now, esp paying off school loans from a private college. But as my dad says.. how do you eat an elephant? one bite at a time

Lord, help me to be a better steward of my time and money. 

#7 Lend a helping hand

 

I wish I did this more than I do. But what it really boils down to.. is that I’m completely selfish. Even on basic servant-hood responsibilities. I had an opportunity this Friday to help someone and it “inconvenienced me” (not really) and I really had to have a prayed over attitude check. It’s so easy to help someone when you are planning on helping someone, working an event, doing a “mission trip/event” or are in a physical or mental place to see a need.  

But how often do we in the daily hustle and bustle of life pay enough attention to our surroundings to see needs. If we are paying attention it’s usually out of insecurity or arrogance, not for the need for humbleness. This doesn’t come naturally for me. I want it to, but I fail so many times, LORD forgive me.

 

 

 

 

Here are two near effortless ways to help others internationally.

World Vision is an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Mocha Club www.mochaclub.org

Mocha Club is a an online community of people giving up the cost of 2 lattes a month – or $7 – to fund relief and development projects in Africa. We work in five main project areas: Clean Water, Education, Child Mothers + Women At Risk, Orphan Care + Vulnerable Children, and HIV/AIDS + Healthcare.

I encourage you to check out not only these two well known organizations, but some local ones. Of course you need to be good stewards of your finances, and that may mean that right now you can’t give to one of these organizations. Totally fine. There will always be those around you that daily need assistance, no matter how small. And ask me what I’ve done for someone else lately. Lets encourage each other and hold each other responsible.

LORD help me pay attention to my surroundings and help those in need. I have to able hands, help me to be more willing and mostly, more observant.

#6 Enjoy what you have

There was this Persian rug.

It was perfect. It was as though the rug maker thought about me the entire time they were making it. I spotted it across the store and spent a good hour weighing the pros and cons of this big purchase. I had decided that yes, even though this was a big purchase, I could not leave the store without it.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that this was not a typical Leslie moment. My idea of splurging is usually $20-30. And even then I usually talk myself out of the purchase by the time it comes to actually paying for it. So this Persian rug really was perfect. My uncle Vic has told me many times, that if you like something leave it in the store; you will always go back go get it if you really want it. I try to follow this rule and most of the time it works, but this rug… I just didn’t want someone else to get it! It was MINE! It was made for ME!


So I called my dad. My dad is where my logical side and my frugal side comes from, we speak the same language. I knew if it wasn’t meant to be he’d talk me out of it. And he did… eventually. I tried explaining to him over and over again all the reasons WHY this rug just HAD to go home with me. What it boiled down to was that even though I had the money, there were so many other things that I could use it for, like school loans, that just keep coming each month like clock work. He also tried to console me in the fact that there will always be another rug. (But not this one, this perfect beautiful rug…). Usually after still wanting something at this point I would have returned for the purchase, but I know next time I will not be strong enough to say no.

I feel so selfish wanting something material so badly. It’s silly really. I mean, money isn’t eternal, but neither is a rug.

I didn’t grow up in a family with a lot of money, but we were provided for way far and above the essential needs of life. We were never in need, even if we were too selfish to stop wanting. There were a lot of hand-me-downs, a lot of garage sales, a lot of casseroles and leftovers, and a lot of lessons about love, loyalty, grace, forgiveness, gratitude, stewardship and blessing. I may not have everything our society tells me I need to be happy, but I am blessed, and so thankful for what I do have, and the family and friends that love even my worst self.

Today’s simplicity: Learn to differentiate between needs and wants. Instead of thinking about what you don’t have, thank God for what you do have.

Lord, never let me fail to see the many, many blessings I have and daily take for granted. Help me to better enjoy the substance of life and extend myself as a blessing as so many wonderful people have done for me.

#5 Spend reflective time alone

How often do we really allow ourselves to just… be? Alone… what a hard, hard thing to do.  For anyone. Many of the places we go and the things we do are to avoid being alone, ever. Even God said “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18). But there is a difference between alone-solitude and alone-lonely, and we need to learn to separate the two definitions.

Everyone needs some degree of alone time to rejuvenate. The problem is, our society grows us up with the subconscious understanding/belief that being busy means being important, and being important means being acceptable. But ACCEPTABLE TO WHOM!?!?! I’ve spent a good portion of my life and exhausted most of my resources aiming to be accepted by people. Even when it happens, it’s not fulfilling, because it’s only temporary. And in the meantime I become so busy I can’t even keep my days straight, and my caffeine addiction becomes more necessary. No matter what “busy” looks like in your life, it will eventually exhaust you if you do not allow time for solitude.

Henry Nouwen says that “To bring solitude in to our lives is one of the most necessary but also most difficult disciplines. Even though we may have a deep desire for real solitude, we also experience a certain apprehension as we approach that solitary place and time. As soon as we are alone…. an inner chaos opens up in us. …when we have removed our outer distractions, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force. We often use our distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. It is thus not surprising that we have a difficult time being alone. The confrontation with our inner conflicts can be too painful for us to endure.”

True loneliness is the naked terror of standing alone and being confronted with the chasm between God and me, knowing I cannot cross over. The fall of man created a fundamental division in the essence of man, between the bodies and the consciousness. This division has caused us to take our focus off of God and put it onto ourselves; at our nakedness, at our undone-ness. There is nothing is lonelier than this realization. Adam sinned and went to death a divided man, and Jesus rose from death undivided and sinless. Accepting this helps us find real humanity at last, where we can forget our nakedness, see God’s face, and live. –excerpts from Athol Dickson The Gospel According to Moses

I tried to have alone/ solitude time last night. Tried and failed. All the chaos, the stress, the worries, the hopes, the disappointments….. everything started to rise and I became so overwhelmed that eventually all I could do was just hug my Bible and empty my mind as I drifted into a restful sleep. I guess solitude can look different to different people and in different circumstances. My mind always seems to wander from one unimportant thought to the next. Lord help me to find daily solitude and rest in you, alone.

It is a simple, though not easy, way to free us from the slavery of our occupations and preoccupations and to begin to hear the voice that makes all things new. Henri J.M. Nouwen

Take time today to sit quietly and reflect on what is important to you.

Let us all strive, hand-in-hand, for holy simplicity.

#2c Conversations about simple truths

The responses and opened dialogue with you guys has probably been one of the coolest things I’ve been apart of lately! I am absolutely LOVING the responses I’ve been receiving. They keep trickling in and I’ll continue to post a few of them. I wish I could have a face-to-face conversation with all of you about these simple truths; from the funny ones to the ones that you can tell have come out of circumstances that have made you the amazing people you all are today. If you are reading this now, even if you have stumbled across this randomly, feel free to post a comment below about your simple truths.

Alright, some of the ones that have still trickled in….

John 6:68-69

1. He is always Faithful!! It is so amazing that no matter how many times I turn my back or am questioning things, God will always love me…and that love even grows over time! I need to have more faith…
2. More of love. I always thought I knew what love was, but I had never had anyone “slap” me in the face and then have me turn around and show them love still. In Kenya those situations really happened, and I had to learn what true love is. I don’t even think I fully understand it all yet, love is a great and powerful thing. Our God is amazing for loving us.
3. The Bible was real back in the O.T. times, but still really is true today!!!! The same God that was the God of Moses is the same God to you and me! I need to remember that our God can heal, forgive, and love the same as He did back then! I am also learning so much from the Holy Spirit and I understand that God can do all of that through the H.S. through me!! I am totally humbled by that. The main thing I have loved learning about is the Holy Spirit…. He is crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!
4. If we are supposed to live just like Christ lived, then doesn’t that mean we are supposed to live the same kind of simple life that He did? This is something I am still figuring out… Christ didn’t have anything, but He was the most joy filled, most lovable, most perfect human being! I am not 100% on all of this, but I do know that I want to be JUST like Him!!
(Thanks Whit! You are beautiful to the core and I love hearing your wisdom!)

Amen sister! To all of that, esp #4, which is what this journey for me is all about, seeking simplicity in life and in Christ. I over-complicate everything and I have so many unnecessary desires and possessions and I just want to be RID of them. I’ve found that the more I have, the more responsibilities I have, the more I have to keep up with, and the less time, space, and energy I have for service. Even in the smallest of ways. 

          First, “Honesty is the best policy.”  I always held that honesty was the way to go regardless of the theoretical situation, and I truly believe that honesty is always a good choice.  Not an easy choice, or a comfortable choice, but a good choice. I really value the ability to be honest and to give others (and yourself) the benefit of the doubt by providing your best/most truthful self.      

          Next, “Listening is very hard, but also the only way you can know/help someone.”  I am guilty of psychoanalyzing friends, mind-reading, and jumping to conclusions.  None of these have anything to do with listening for more than five seconds.  They all have to do with insecurity, arrogance, and at best a misguided desire to be helpful.  Real listening takes time, effort, and sometimes awkwardness (and shock — silence).  It is much easier to put our own experiences on others and reduce them into easy formulas.  But our experiences can at best help us to relate.  It is others’ experiences that allow us to do the following: offer advice that is useful, learn new insights into ourselves , and grow in actual relationship. “We can’t control everything and everyone needs help”

         Finally, “Pain is a gift, and risk is worthwhile.”  Pain is truly a gift.  I recently heard that when Christ healed lepers he was restoring the gift of pain to them.  In a very simple, palpable way — pain keeps us safe.  But it also is one of the only ways that we are motivated to truly change. Do I wish for pain and run joyfully into risk? No, but pain and risk are necessary evils and running from them only leads to paralysis and hopelessness.
(Thanks Jim! I feel like you were telling me exactly what God has been trying to remind me of lately! Thank you! Such [simple] truths!) 

I wanted to post both of these in their [near] entirety because they put into words the thoughts/ feelings that I can’t always articulate. I strongly believe that when life boils down to it and we discard all the clutter, the only thing we have to cling to IS the truth, in every season of our lives. Claiming the truth that comes through Christ changes our perspective on everything, even pains. 
This last response above has resonated with me the most. Some of you don’t know me well, but it doesn’t take very long to know that I’m strong-willed, opinionated, and as they say down here “a hot mess”. But who isn’t ‘a hot mess’… REALLY!? When I am honest with myself, life boils down to this: to live is Christ and to die is gain. Christ’s life wasn’t luxurious, easy, or pain-free,… but it was for our eternal. That’s what I want to live for. 
Not to run from the pain, but be liberated by it. To remember that God is faithful in spite of me, and that I should spend myself on others for the sake of Christ and look to him for new strength. If we are honest with ourselves, and others, what life boils down to, our basic need, is Jesus. It’s that simple. We complicate it. Not that life isn’t complicated, not that dealing with the junk isn’t hard work. People are a mess and therefore relationships between people are going to be twice the mess. But it all comes down to Jesus, and if we fix our eyes on that and rest in him, the clutter starts to clear away.
 
It’s about freedom. It’s about holiness. And I have a long, long way to go.

Truth consists in the mind’s giving to the things the importance they have in reality. –Jean Danielou

 
ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος 
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.-Philippians 1:21  




#4 Choose uplifting entertainment

Many of us (I’m assuming) grew up being told not to watch something that we wouldn’t watch if Jesus was sitting right next to us. I got grounded once for watching… Saved by the Bell. Yep! Tis true. It was a “teenager show” and I got caught as an adolescent sneaking in an episode. It’s funny now though, especially considering all the junk that even younger kids are able to watch. What happened to all the great shows? Boy Meets World? Magnum PI? Scarecrow & Mrs.King!!? Full House? Gilligan’s Island? Duck Tales!!! Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers!? There were SO MANY great, quality shows, that were age appropriate. In all honesty, I prefer many of them over the shows we have now.


The saying that what goes in, eventually comes out is true, however you want to spin it or try to deny it. If I watch too much Dr. Quinn I keep one eye open at all times to find my Sully. If I watch too many older movies I wish I could sing conversation with everyone and start to Google local tap dancing lessons. I drive too fast when I listen to rap music, Country makes me want to wear cowboy boots and off-road in a pick up truck, and The Weepies make me want to pack up a suitcase and road-trip across country, leaving Nashville and all it’s current stresses “behind”.
We live in an entertainment driven society, there is no escaping it. But do we need to escape it? Or do we need to just be intentional about the things we will not allow ourselves to be engaged with. These things are different for everyone. I myself am a very visual person. I’m an artist, being visual is a given. If I watch something violently graphic, overly sexual, etc., I can’t shake the images for a week or more and have to pray that my mind is clear from the clutter. And some movies don’t even give you enough warning to reach for the remote. Some music is great but the message in it is so crude, or despairing it really can affect emotions. Am I saying to avoid media? By all means no. I’m not suggesting the impossible. There are also so many things we wouldn’t get to enjoy, and I love a great movie, show, or song. I’m not willing to give that up.
But we need to know our limits. Know what areas are triggers for you and avoid them. Learn what struggles your friends have and out of encouragement and protection for them avoid those things. Media or not. We’re in this together. Lets take responsibility for ourselves and each-other and push towards the things that are uplifting. The media we intake can be such clutter in our lives and be more exhausting than relaxing.
If you’re really crazy, stop paying for cable, Netflix your favorite shows or bug your neighbor and make time for community during show times. Invest in a good book (that still is within the uplifting/ appropriate guidelines), grab a blanket, find a great tree, and grab your favorite beverage (support your locals) on the way there. Here are a handful of my personal favorites, in case you aren’t sure where to start. And I’m always looking for new suggestions, so if you have a book that you just love, pass it along. I want to love it too!
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  –Philippians 4:8