My husband and I got married on May 22, 2011, when I was barely nineteen. I've learned some things since then, and I'm sure in several years I'll have thoughts about "What I Wish I Knew As a 24-Year-Old", but here are some reflections on things I've learned, of varying levels of importance.
Your husband will severely disappoint you in marriage. You will severely disappoint yourself in marriage. Stop expecting so much from either of you and look to Jesus.
Don’t underestimate the power of meaningful church membership. You don’t need a job in “ministry” to be useful to the church; simply being a part of a healthy church is hugely important. And if the whole church culture is committed to Jesus? You have no idea how amazing biblical community can be.
I have no idea who told you that you’re supposed to put used matchsticks in the kitchen disposal, but no. Just no. That will break it. Common sense, dear self.
It’s nice that you’ve been able to stay thin even though you're addicted to sugar and you never exercise, but that will not last. At some point, you will gain weight and people will notice. But, more importantly, it is so good to be healthy and strong. So strive for fitness now, whether your teenage physique needs it or not. Perseverance and discipline now will pay off not just in your physical strength but all areas of your life.
Some people can handle social media use, but you are not one of them, and that’s okay. I promise you will be so, so much happier when you quit Facebook and focus on real life. Trying to uphold a respectable internet version of yourself is going to harm who you really are.
You’re never going to “graduate” to a level of wisdom and greatness beyond love. Love is the best thing. Never give up on loving others. Never forget Christ’s love for you.
I know you think homemaking isn’t very important, but it’s like your base of operations. Prioritize creating a thriving home environment and it’s amazing how rich your life can be.
You’re entering a completely different life stage now. God doesn’t see you in categories, but people do, and most of your friends are either going to treat you differently or drop you completely. That’s okay. You're going to really hurt some people as well. Show them grace—you need others to show you grace—and seek friends who are outside your life stage. It’s healthy to have friends from all ages and situations. The aforementioned healthy local church is critical for this.
Prayer and scripture memory will never ever be a waste of time. Pursue Jesus hardcore and you’ll never once regret it.
Hospitality is the best way to show people Jesus. Open your home.
You should really buy food storage containers that have lids attached to them. It will make your life so much easier.
In a few months, someone is going to introduce you to this magical wonderland called Pinterest. It’s amazing, but just make sure you guard your heart from comparing yourself to others…and you should actually do stuff, not just pin it to your board and feel productive.
People you love are going to say incredibly hurtful things to you. They can't say anything about you that the gospel can't cancel out. Know Christ's love for you and devastating criticism won't be quite so devastating.
I know you think Romans 8 is awesome now, but it’s only going to become significantly more awesome. Never think you can move onto deeper truths than the gospel. From time to time, you’ll remember that Jesus loves you and you’ll be so pleasantly shocked.
Regularly read good blogs, and get a subscription to The Atlantic. Thoughtful articles have the power to change your life.
In a couple years your family income is going to increase dramatically. Don’t let it destroy you. Invite others into your life to keep you accountable. You might think you’re the last person who can fall prey to materialism and ego, but you are not. More money, more problems!
You finished pre-marital counseling, awesome. But pre-marital counseling has such limited capabilities because, well, you haven’t been married yet. Don’t be afraid of getting marriage counseling after you’ve been married.
This is a biggie: I know you haven’t thought too much about being a mom someday, but (spoiler alert) you’re about to have a bunch of kids really soon. Your daily life is going to look about 5% how you always envisioned it. But guess what! God’s plans are better, and eventually you’ll conclude that motherhood is extremely important…probably the most important job on the planet. So consider that role a world-changing privilege.
Humility's the goal. It doesn't matter if you're right or not: if you're not teachable, you're wrong.
Now that you’re a wife, the facts that “God is enough” and “you are the bride of Christ” are not suddenly irrelevant. Whether your dream has been fulfilled or not, God must be enough. Whether you have a husband or not, the Lord is your husband.
Finally, take a cue from Colossians 3: "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
What do you wish you would've known when you were nineteen? Leave a comment below!
About nine years ago, I found myself sinking in a quagmire of my own self-righteousness. I deemed myself “discerning” and looked down upon people who didn’t see things the same way I did. Was I right about what I believed? Yeah, I think so, and after much research and experience I still believe most of those things. But was my heart in the right place? Not at all. I would walk up and down the aisles of the Christian bookstore with my like-minded friends and giggle and snort about the ridiculousness being written, marketed, and—worst of all—sold. I would eye-roll at nearly every preacher I heard and disregard most things that those who loved me said. I put people in blanket categories that God never compartmentalized. I was a “cage stage” theologian by every definition of the word, and it left me feeling so very empty. I remember consciously thinking “This is too easy.” The vacuousness of being judgmental made it quite obvious that this isn’t what I was created to do.
I’ve felt that way multiple other times since then, and parenting has opened the gates to all kinds of new shortfalls. Five years ago when I first started learning about natural childbirth and breastfeeding, I got involved in a group that strongly advocated those things as well—and who respected me for my level of commitment as a “crunchy mama”—and I had trouble seeing how other moms could possibly choose differently for their kids. Then, a couple years later, I started really believing in the value of family, and I simply could not grasp why people didn’t want to have kids right away when parenting is so awesome. Most recently, I think I’ve become even more opinionated than ever and I just really wish in general that everyone in the world would think and act exactly like me. Yikes. Lately I’ve been experiencing that same feeling as I did a long time ago when I was snickering over other people’s bad theology. It just feels way too…natural. I’m going along with the vicious tide of my self-exalting nature and trying to ignore whatever is harmed in the aftermath.
I still advocate reformed theology, natural birth, breastfeeding, the value of families, homeschool, etc. And even in the midst of my most judgmental seasons, I have had genuine love for people who disagree with me. I think it would be an insult to the God who is changing me if I admitted to always being a total loveless monster and hypocrite. That said, I don’t think I can really overstate the badness of my natural disposition. Who I am without Jesus is truly a terrible person. And when that person oozes through this new person that I’m becoming, it’s a bad thing. I need to expose it, I need to kill it, and I need to be overcome by something better.
At root of being judgmental is, of course, pride, but I’m pretty sure it’s the kind of pride that is wearing a sneaky disguise: insecurity. I can reflect on all my most judgmental seasons and see a girl who wasn’t sure of herself and needed to drag others down to elevate myself…if not with my words, I would belittle people with my thoughts. Little judgmental thoughts are like taking bites of a candy bar that help me feel better about my own insecurities. I make a mistake or a poor choice, I start to feel bad about it, but then I remember, “Hey, so-and-so does this all the time and worse!” or “At least I’m still better at this than most people.” That, my friends, is toxic thinking.
So…what’s the solution? Whelp, I’m convinced it’s not “loving myself.” At risk of sounding judgmental, I’m going to firmly disagree with the popular notion that the cure for insecurity is telling myself I’m awesome. Here’s why: self-focus in one way is not going to be cured by self-focus in another way. Self-focus, whether it’s arrogance or insecurity, is going to be destructive. I am so very finite and have so many problems and so many weaknesses that “finding myself”, “loving myself”, etc. can only have, at best, severely limited results. There is only so much “greatness” to peer into, if any, and I have so little to offer myself. Historically I’ve only gotten myself into trouble. Aren’t we all this way?
I’m only ever becoming more and more convinced that the key way to grow in self-confidence is to grow in confident humility. Say what!? I am privileged enough to know some of the happiest and most awesome people on the planet, and guess what! They care so much about others that they don’t have much time to think about themselves. And that is not to their detriment. When we’re not seeking approval from other people (or ourselves), we are freed up to love recklessly. And, of course, the only way we can see ourselves rightly with a sense of confident humility is if we behold the Greatest thing, the only being in the universe who does not need to be humble (because there is none greater than Him) but who willingly chose to humble Himself and become a servant. Jesus said that anyone who wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all, and He has exemplified that in His birth, His life, His ministry, the washing of His disciples’ feet, His prayers, His death, His resurrection, His Church, and then there’s that gloriously mysterious verse in Luke 12:37 in which Jesus suggests He will have us recline at the table and He will serve us. (What!?)
This weekend I heard a speaker say something quite profound: Christianity isn’t rocket science. It’s simply good news. I need a Savior, God has provided a Savior. He changes me. Notice that little children aren’t fretting about insecurities; they’re not thinking “Wow that person is so weird” or frequently comparing themselves to others (unless we train them to do so.) They know their parents love them and that's all they need to know. They’ve got too many holes to dig and Play-doh snakes to make to worry about if they dig more holes or make better snakes than most kids do. Why can I not learn from them?
So, to summarize:
Being judgmental is an easy but empty way to live.
As we get older, we should grow in graciousness; we must not mistake “crotchety” for being the same as “wise.”
Confident humility and loving others recklessly will free us.
There is no true humility without knowing Jesus and beholding God.
Let’s become like children and live in delightful assurance of being truly, deeply loved.
For some reason we as mothers tend to believe that once we have kids, our interests have to be separate from theirs. In other words, we have to watch Paw Patrol and listen to I’m A Little Teapot and read Goodnight Moon and playdates at the park during the day, and if we want to do the things we like or need to do, it’s gotta be when the kids aren’t around. So, in the little years, we drop pursuits such as art and reading and exercise and prayer and personal Bible study and spending meaningful time with others. Or, we find someone to watch the kids so we can do some of those things. More likely, we tend to grow a little resentful towards our children for all the limitations they’ve put on us in this season of life. We firmly put a cap on our family size so we can get back to a sense of normalcy.
I don’t think this has to happen!
Our interests and our children don’t have to be exclusive of each other.
All the time I’m seeing the poor thinking on my part that is robbing myself and my kids of enrichment. Because the truth is, most of the things I need and want to do for my personal health and growth (and ministry!) can happen with my kids, even when they're 4, 3, and 1. Here are some examples:
Media - I’ve always had a rule about this and it’s been quite helpful for us: If I don’t personally enjoy whatever my kids are watching or listening to, my kids don’t need it either. We want to consume things that are well-made, pleasing to the senses, and instrumental in our growth. And I want to join them as they watch things. If TV must be a babysitter, I try to at least fold laundry and watch with them so I can ask them what they learned. (Wild Kratts is awesome, and Prince of Egypt is our go-to movie.) If we’re going to listen to silly songs in the car, I want to pick music that I find amusing as well. (Slugs and Bugs is such a Godsend for this.) We read a lot of books because they are well-illustrated, well-written, thought-provoking books that I truly enjoy reading. I get excited when we pull out Farewell to Shady Glade or One Smart Cookie or Nurse, Soldier, Spy.
Crafts - I’m not particularly good at art, but I’m a human made in God’s image, so it’s healthy and delightful to me when I express myself creatively. I used to think I could only do that when I have “free time,” but I found my “free time” being absorbed by cleaning up the kids’ art supplies. (They’re absolutely crazy about art, especially after I got rid of almost all their toys.) So then I realized, why can’t I just craft with them? I remember how much I loved coloring with my mom; she outlined the edges with darker crayon and colored lightly—perfectly—inside the lines. In the same way, my kids love watching me do paint and draw and sculpt and use washi tape. I have about 4th-grade-level skills, but my kids act like I’m making masterpieces. They’re getting guidance about how to be better artists, and I’m getting practice and learning too. Plus, we use our best art to display or give away, so it’s a productive and worthy activity.
Exercise - This one is new for me as I try to figure out how to exercise. I don’t want the kids watching my exercise videos because the camera zooms in on the bodies of the athletes, and my son doesn’t need to be staring at a lady’s six-pack and perfectly toned butt. But a friend told me that she finds time to exercise by playing with her kids. I might not have time to run on a treadmill but I can play tag. Going to yoga is a laughable idea in this season, but I can play Twister. (When my son is in charge of the spinner, he takes his time watching it spin and calling out the commands and I’m holding the poses for awhile. My daughter, on the other hand, makes up commands quite quickly and says “One foot on red, one hand on green, two feet on blue, two feet on green, one hand on yellow” and I get more of an aerobic exercise, ha!)
Reading - One of my favorite memories growing up was “Reading Circle,” and I wish I would’ve participated more often. My mom would summon my brother and I to the family room and we would all read our own books. (She and my brother still do that, but now it’s Reading Line Segment since I’m not there. They're so dorky and I love it.) Since the kids don’t read on their own yet, we can’t do this, but I permit reading during lunchtime, and when the kids are playing outside I like to sit on an exercise ball in the yard and read while I lightly supervise. If my husband isn’t in the mood to talk while we’re driving, I’ll read in the car. We’re making it work. I’ve got to make reading a priority, because my whole family benefits as I become wiser and more knowledgeable through books.
Time with My Friends - One of my resolves since becoming a parent has been “Don’t only hang out with other moms, and certainly don't only talk about motherhood!” Frankly, mommy talk is so boring and it would drive me to madness if all I talked about was naptime schedules and growth chart progress and ballet class. Indeed, it can be helpful to discuss these things with others (I can't imagine how frustrated I'd be if I never got advice from other moms about some of these boring but pressing issues), and of course I care about how my friends’ kids are doing, but that can’t be it. My goal every time I’m hanging out with others is “explosive with joy.” I want our time to be rich. So, when we’re sitting around the table, I can ask my friends questions and my kids can listen in. I can say “Stephen, Ms. April was just telling me about this awesome opportunity she had to talk to somebody about Jesus” or “Piper, you should ask Ms. Lauren what she did today! It was so cool!” Of course there are private matters that my friends wouldn’t want my kids to hear, but so much of our conversation is edifying to my children. And my children can be edifying to my friends and me!
Prayer - The biggest spiritual discipline to take a hit since I left my single life has definitely been prayer. In my pride I have considered other pursuits more urgent than private prayer—seriously, I almost never ever do it—but I always have so much more joy when I’m depending on God and seeing Him work powerfully in the ways I ask Him to move. Several months ago we had some time to kill before we left for our church gathering, and my heart was really heavy for some things. Then I realized that I didn’t have to put the kids in front of a TV so I could go pray. I could just invite them to pray with me. So we got on our knees and begged of God. Why can’t we just do that all the time? Mealtime and bedtime prayers don’t have to be cheesy rhyming repetition and they don’t have to be the only times we pray. We can beg God to change the hearts of ISIS, we can ask Him to lead our arrogant and self-seeking president, we can ask Him to encourage our friends who are having a hard time, we can praise Him for being so wonderful and letting us partake in beautiful things He has made.
Serving Others - We have not been exemplary in this so for now I will just share examples I’ve heard from moms I admire. One family would visit a particular nursing home every other Friday to play music and spend time with the residents. I was amazed watching a 16-year-old and a 5-year-old sit with an elderly woman and ask her questions. Another family makes it a point to give thoughtful little tokens of thanks to their garbage collectors, postal carriers, etc. And foster care, of course, involves the whole family. In this season it probably wouldn’t be helpful if I brought my very-young-and-not-quite-obedient kiddos to a soup kitchen, but as a family we can welcome hurting and lonely people into our home. Who cares if they use language we don’t use or have lifestyles we don’t encourage? It didn’t phase Jesus when he hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. We can just have conversations with our children before and after about varying worldviews and matters of the heart.
Other hobbies - Whether it’s baking, gardening, hiking, or origami, chances are that with a little bit of sacrifice and flexibility, you don’t need to give those things up when you become a parent. (Obviously interests such as welding and motocross cannot be done with children, ha.) In fact, if your passions bleed into your kids’ passions, they’ll be better off for it. And who knows, they might have a major underlying talent! By abstaining from a busy schedule, not having too much stuff, or refusing to obsess over appearances, it’s amazing how much we can be freed up to learn and grow and enjoy. Pleasure is God’s idea and it’s a good one. Have fun, do the stuff you love, and welcome your children into it! :)
2017 is such a weird year so far but I’m hopeful!
-Early in the month, we went on a road trip to Georgia. We stayed at Stone Mountain for a couple days, and they brought in acres of snow, so we were all able to throw snowballs, go snow tubing, and build snowmen...but it was in 60 degree weather! So awesome. We also hiked up the mountain…with our kids ages 4, 3, and 1! It was a great lesson in perseverance for all of us, and I had fun making up legends and stories to try to pass the time. Then we visited my family up in North Georgia and my cousin treated us to fresh deer heart! (Yep, I can’t eat salad without gagging, but I ate deer heart.) Being outside a lot is so good for the soul.
-As stated previously, I’ve purged a lot of stuff from our home recently. I also hid a lot of things and I’m trying to figure out if we will miss them. Right now we are trying to take a break from toys and it’s been awesome. So much more dancing, playing outside, baking together, reading…so much more art! As the kids are getting older I think we’re getting more freed up to serve others, so I’m trying to navigate what that should look like. But till then, it’s still important to enrich them and teach them obedience so we can more effectively bless the world.
-Piper’s been saying cute things like “I didn’t notice” or “unfortunately” and her favorite book of the Bible is “Genemias.” She is still as adorably pessimistic as ever. Stephen uses quaniftifying phrases such as “a decent amount” and is continuing to wow us with his kindness, and Evey gives us her monosyllabic versions of whetever we tell her to say. Which leads us to what I learned…
What I Learned:
-There is a lot of talking going on in our house these days. I’m getting a tad weary of “Hey Mommy?” a hundred times a day, especially when it’s followed by “Can you wipe me?” But when I stop and think about how selfish I’m being in that moment, and when I remember these kid s aren’t just pets or trophies but people whose hearts need great care, it doesn’t feel like a burden anymore. My situation is not a hindrance to my happiness. And motherhood is quite a blessed situation.
-The kids and I had to be out of the house for a couple little chunks of the month because Peter was replacing the floors, and we all felt so displaced and grumpy living out of a suitcase and traveling between my parents and grandparents’ homes. (My mom and Mammaw were amazing hostesses, by the way.) I felt so self-pitying about not having a home for a week. But right now there are millions of refugees all around the world who did not leave their homes to get cool new floors, but who were forced out of their homes due to violence/terrorism/horrible tragedies. I can’t believe how selfish I can get. Things that feel so big to me are in reality, and especially in light of eternity, so terribly small.
-I’ve also been working out more, eating healthier, and I started getting counseling from one of the pastors at our church who has been helping me with some of my emotional issues. Those three factors have helped me greatly. One night I remember journaling something like “Wow, God, I trust You! I actually trust You! You are my hope!” For a fleeting moment I was really okay with whatever happened to me because I belong to the Lord. (The next day, of course, I was back to my self-pitying and despairing little old self.) So I really hope He continues to give me faith, and I’m really grateful for all the ways He pours grace into my life. I love my church more than ever.
I’m in Luke right now, and I’ve really been enjoying the gospels. Jesus is so upside-down and never gives the answers people were expecting. A prevailing theme in not only the Gospels but the entire Bible, Old Testament included, is how much God values humility. In Mark 9:35 Christ said “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all”; how many Christian celebrities—who are supposed to be exemplary in their faith—are seeking to be “last of all and servant of all”? In Luke 1 I was so inspired by Mary’s response to her calling as the mother of Jesus. She referred to herself as God’s servant and sang a beautiful song mentioning humility over and over, praising God for His mercy. Nobody wants to consider themselves in need of mercy.
-This month we’ve been listening almost exclusively to Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible Vol. 1 and 2. I love the scriptures that were chosen and I’m amazed that they could even make some of these songs silly without being irreverent. (Check out the songs “Alien”, “Raisins”, the very-imaginative “Whoever Sows.”) Whether we’re singing “therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” or “strengthen me with raisins”, it’s all from scripture and it’s all so good.
-We also listened to the Moana soundtrack quite a bit, but once I started examining the lyrics a little more I realized that they contain some pretty strong messages of subjective truth, self-focus, rejection of authority and community, and moral relativism. I haven’t seen the movie, but from the music I hear a lot about “listening to your heart”, which historically has been a bad idea that neither my children nor myself need to hear. But the music is absolutely beautiful and incredibly well-made and I can imagine the movie is the same. So we continue to enjoy it, just with some discussion about the content. :)
-I really appreciated the article "Friends Your Age Are Not Enough" by Jacquelle Crow on Desiring God. It's been so healthy for me to be constantly immersed in multi-generational relationships in my church.
-I love the Bedtime Stories video on Joshua Harris's YouTube channel. "Bedtime stories are not just for putting rambunctious children to bed. Stories of the truest kind tell us who we really are. Bedtime stories matter because the stories we tell ourselves shape our destiny." Excellent and well-illustrated comparison of perspectives; my kids love it ad it profoundly strikes me as well.
Stuff I Wrote:
Yearly Ponderment: 2016
Beef and Praise for Minimalism, Part One
How I Scored Free Chick-fil-A for A Year (Three Times!)
I was also featured on David Murray's blog HeadHeartHand as a Digital Detox Testimony and on his daily roundup of articles to Check Out. I've been reading his blog for several years and I'm really enjoying his series on how to navigate technology. I definitely recommend adding HeadHeartHand to your blog feed!
And now for some pictures!
This week I got to participate in one of my very favorite events ever: The Chick-fil-A First 100 campout! Chick-fil-A has finally opened a restaurant in the Bloomingdale area of my town, so my husband and I made sure to be a part of its Grand Opening, and by the end of it we each earned a card loaded with fifty-two #1 Combos. That's over $300 worth of chicken each, and this was my third time doing it! As an extrovert, former employee, and admirer of all things Chick-fil-A, I of course relish being part of the First 100 and I would do it even if there wasn't free chicken at the end. So I welcome you to join my enthusiasm and make plans to attend the next Grand Opening near you! :)
The basic premise of the event is this: Arrive at your new Chick-fil-A the day before it opens, usually at 6 am on a Wednesday. If there are more than 100 people present, there will be a raffle determining which adults get to be participants. Participants, their guests over age 5, and alternates (who get to move up in the line if someone is disqualified or receive a consolation prize) then camp out in the parking lot of Chick-fil-A and stay overnight. The next morning, everyone is awakened before the restaurant opens and they are awarded their prizes. Here's the grand prize in all its glory:
Every Grand Opening is different---and the Operators of my restaurant are particularly awesome and planned some extra-special activities and even service projects---but I figured I would share a photo-essay (terrible iPhone pics) of my experience and explain my biggest takeaway from the event...yep, it was even bigger than a year's worth of chicken. It's such a privilege to be part of the #CFAfirst100!
6 am - We arrived. Thankfully there were only 80-something people there so we were able to skip the raffle and start on the paperwork. (By the way, I'm pretty sure there will still openings into the afternoon!) This disclosure-reading and waiver-signing is definitely the most boring part of the event. It's not like we're going to read anything appalling that's going to make us leave, anyway. We're committed to the cow.
8 am - We were permitted to visit our cars one final time to set up camp in the parking lot. Passersby are always quite confused by the spectacle of it all, and that's one of the best parts about this thing. There's also a strong sense of community, solidarity, and love for chicken. And I was beginning to catch a whiff of peanut oil because...
9 am - They fed us! Apparently the restaurant is not required to feed the campers, but I'd assume that most do. So we relished our chicken biscuits and played some Tenzi with our friends. (Tenzi is a really fun and simple game, by the way.)
10 am - I always bring books and notebooks to these things so I can do something productive. Doesn't happen! Chick-fil-A has too many fun things planned! They bring in an awesome emcee/DJ/game guy/announcer and there's stuff to do almost every hour...and it usually involves giveaways. This is my friend Andrew nae-naeing for some extra swag during Name That Tune.
I also won a coloring book and pencils. I just loved Chick-fil-A more and more every minute of this thing.
And there was a quite intense Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship. #TeamKathleen
1 pm - We ordered lunch and walked through the drive-thru. Peter pretended to be inside a car and roll down his window. I really like that about him. Also, lunch renewed my appreciation for the Strips; I really think they're the meatiest option on the menu.
Afternoon - As I said earlier, this Grand Opening did some really special stuff. One of the highlights was that they invited us to volunteer to help package food for Meals on Wheels and prepare 10,000 servings of dried soup packets through Feeding Children Everywhere. There was some awesome teamwork involved with people who were formerly complete strangers. My crew was the Dream Team as far as ingredient-pouring goes, by the way.
They also brought in an 85-year-old Zumba instructor from our local YMCA. She was amazing, we were sweating like crazy, and my evil husband recorded some of it on Facebook Live. Here is a screenshot.
They also brought in a drum circle instructor! Peter beasted it on the djembe. (The couple in the background is the Operator and his wife, Paul and Tammy! They're awesome!)
6 pm - After a day full of fun and serving others, we were fed dinner and it was delicious. At this point in the day I tend to get extremely sad that this event is almost over.
7 pm - There were more games! We had a Lip Synch battle (with none other than the Cow as our background dancer) and I performed a mediocre rendition of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song. One of my favorites was a lady who was dressed as a cow lip-synching "Call Me Maybe" with the Cow. The night just gets weirder and---you guessed it---more awesome. And seriously, what other fast food restaurant has a lovable mascot? (Ronald McDonald is way past his prime.)
9 pm - Again, Chick-fil-A doesn't have to give anyone a night-night snack but 3/3 of the Grand Openings I've attended have provided this. At this special Grand Opening, however, we received both a cookie and ice cream. I'm not sure why all this sugar was given to us right before we were supposed to sleep, but it was glorious nonetheless. Those cookies have no equal.
10 pm - And then it was nighttime. Or at least it was supposed to be, but some people thought bedtime was the best opportunity to play cornhole louder than ever. I never knew I could hate the sound of a tossed bean-bag so much, and I almost cried or screamed or spoke some stern words to these young men...but then some kind stranger silenced them for me. And I fell asleep.
4 am - I heard people talking, so I woke up. My poor, stubborn husband insisted that air mattresses are better than cots, but alas, I felt well-rested, and he was sleeping on the cold hard ground because his bed deflated almost immediately.
After taking a moment to feel sorry for him, I wandered out into the tent village to try to find cameramen who would consider featuring me on their news segment. It didn't work. So I just tried to be in the background whenever they were filming. Let me know if you saw me.
5 am - In my experience, Chick-fil-A wants to wake you up in annoying-and-loud fashion. Historically that has meant going around to our tents and banging pots and pans, but for this event they brought in a trumpet player from Newsome High School to play the Reveille. So we packed up our tents and waited in line to get our armbands checked and...
5:30 am - Voila! Once receiving our oddly-fitting shirts and dorky hats, we paraded through the restaurant and exchanged this card for the one displayed at the beginning. And alas, yet again the fifty-two free #1 combos were ours. It was all so worth it, and as I stated previously, I would do this even without those fifty-two free #1 combos.
So what was the most incredible part of this adventure? What was my biggest takeaway?
Well, $300+ worth of chicken was definitely a big takeaway.
But I received something even better: a lesson.
The joy of servanthood.
This event (and the others I have attended) have been simply shocking in some ways. The marketing team---and all the staff, really---makes it clear that they are here to serve us. To serve us! We are taking $34,000 worth of free chicken---plus however much it cost to run this event!---but we are not treated as free-loaders. We are treated as honored guests.
This reminded me of when I trained as a Chick-fil-A employee and learned that corporate policy is "Going the Second Mile," borrowing directly from Jesus's words in which He said that if someone makes you go a mile with them, go two. Jesus called us to consider ourselves "last of all and servant of all." And Chick-fil-A, though certainly not staffed exclusively by Christians who treasure Jesus, takes this seriously, and that's part of what contributes to the joy and light-heartedness of events like this.
In conclusion, I had an amazing time, I learned from the example of the amazing staff that hosted this event that putting others before myself can actually make me happier, and...I've got some Chick-fil-A sandwich credits burning in my pockets.
I hope you can do one of these in your lifetime as well!
Check the website frequently and make sure your zipcode qualifies. Eat Mor Chikin.
Anyone who’s been to my house knows that cleaning the home is not my strength. There’s always stuff everywhere. Nothing is clean. When you visit, I will not give you a tour and show you the rooms of my home, because I am utterly embarrassed by them. I understand that perfectionism kills, that houses with tiny kids are going to be messy, etc., but my house has always been a serious problem. We hate being home because it’s so chaotic. I find less and less time to enjoy with the kids because I’m always picking up after them, and due to always being weeks behind on the housework, I don’t feel freed up to do the things I find extremely important (meeting with people, reading, writing, praying, exercising, etc.)
My husband just started a new business that does polished concrete and epoxy floors, and desiring to gain more experience, he decided to start with the bedrooms in our house. I didn’t know he planned to start so soon, but before I knew it his employees were loading things out of rooms and I had to face how much stuff we have. It was not only embarrassing but nauseating. Something major had to change, and since the rooms were now empty (and the floors are now extraordinary) I figured it was a good time to finally follow a wise friend’s advice and begin to pursue simplicity.
I devouredThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. I spent hours reading articles and listening to minimalist YouTubers (including a mom of 10!) I talked to some of my friends who are exemplary in their simplicity and whose peaceful lives have always, for some reason, made me really jealous. I prayed. And I went crazy. I pared down my wardrobe to about 30 pieces. I got rid of almost every toy. I purged probably 2/3 of my kitchen and the kids’ rooms. And I’m not done.
This has all felt so good. Minimalism is certainly trendy right now, and I hate trends, but simple living really is the anti-trend as it’s what the vast majority of people all over the world for all of human history have been doing. These days it’s easier to purchase items than it ever has been in human history, and we don’t realize how much our stuff has stolen from us until we have less. Soon I hope to write about my favorite gleanings from what I’ve learned and share some pictures of my simplified home. But first I want to share my “beef” with the modern minimalism movement, or some warnings from what I’ve observed so far:
Part of the reason all this purging is so thrilling is because I’m doing it. I’m a self-made woman. My house used to never feel clean, but now it’s far easier to keep tidy, because I made some enormous life changes. I completely turned around our family dynamic. I took away the chaos and replaced it with peacefulness. Good job, self. You saved the world.
It’s dangerous to view ourselves as saviors, and prideful thinking such as that invites a downfall. But finding our hope in the good works of a mere human being (especially from such a flawed one as myself) is an extremely dangerous path. A bit more on that later.
2) Minimalism cannot be your savior.
Some parts of the Minimalism documentary were deeply troubling. The stars of the documentary, who are some of the leaders of the modern movement, described minimalism in words that were nothing less than religious. Anecdotes were shared such as a friend’s dramatic change in demeanor attributed solely to minimalism. One “expert” shared that the most responsible thing you can do is live in as small of a space a possible. (Really? The most responsible thing?) Multiple people shared about how minimalism helped them in the midst of immense suffering. “Simplicity” is an idea, even a lifestyle, but not a person and not a God. It is limited completely by you. It is no less than infinitely more helpful to trust in an omnipotent and transcendent God.
3) Just because you’re less focused on material things doesn’t mean you’re focused on the right things.
I must mention that many of these people who are minimalists for the sake of saving the planet also advocate the killing of unborn children. (Obviously this is a very common and heart-wrenching hypocrisy in our culture.)
However, the more pervasive problem is that most people embrace minimalism for themselves. It’s all about making ourselves happy, meeting our own goals. Simplify your life so you can travel more. Own fewer things so you absolutely love the things you do own. We can still be minimalists and focus on our stuff; we are just focusing on less stuff.
But eternity is at hand! Deciding to have a simple life or a busy life is extremely important, but it’s not life or death. It won’t matter that much for eternity. Figuring out if there is a God, and if He’s imparted any self-revelation, and if you have good standing with Him…these things are more important than clean countertops and tiny homes. I have looked into these things and concluded that there is a God, and He has revealed Himself through the Bible, and there is no way I can have a good standing before this holy God unless the One perfect Person takes my filthiness and gives me His righteousness. And now I get to spend the rest of my life enjoying this God, awaiting an eternity with this God, serving the world that they too might know this God…in many ways, focusing on simplifying my life can be a distraction from what is most important in light of forever.
4) Yes, meditation is extremely important to incorporate into your day, but it wasn’t invented by minimalists or Buddhists.
One of the high-profile advocates for the daily practice of meditation is none other than Sam Harris, one of the most famous atheists in the world. So as far as he is concerned, there’s nothing religious or theological about meditation.
I think meditating on nothing or on “positivity” is beneficial. Our bodies were made to have times of rest, we are designed with a need to slow down and breathe. But, of course, as a Christian I know that modern ideas of meditation are completely selling themselves short. Christians have been meditating for basically our entire history (the earliest direct reference I could find was in Genesis 24), but our meditation is rich and heals not only the body but the soul and mind, because we actually have truth on which to focus. We have statements like “from everlasting to everlasting You are God” and “O death, where is your sting?” and “He will rejoice over you with singing.” These types of thoughts can really change my day.
5) “Mindfulness” shouldn’t negate thoughtfulness.
The dictionary defines mindfulness as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something” or “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” One of the things I love about minimalism is how technology is not a crucial part of it. Social media is recognized as an addictive distraction from the important things. But so much of this thinking is still self-focused. I’ve heard and read lots about how a simplified life frees you up to travel or have more time for yoga, but I haven’t heard too many things such as “Now I have time and money to feed the hungry!” or “I’m so grateful that my simple life now allows me to serve the elderly.” From my research I haven’t heard very many truly selfless voices praising minimalism for the others-focused opportunities that simple living provides. I would argue that a person who thinks about others won’t have to spend so much time repeating “I am strong and awesome” mantras because, well, not thinking about yourself takes the pressure off yourself! As Tim Keller says, humility is the most relaxing thing in the world.
Those warnings and concerns aside, I think there is so much value to minimalism and much praiseworthiness about it. I will share that (and pictures of my newly simplified home!) in a future post. :)
Receive new posts via email here! :)
My name is Hope.
I'm 24. I have a sweet husband (Peter) and three little people ages 4, 3, and 1. I like lime green, calligraphy, spinach brownies, and have about 10,000 other random little passions. Read the About page for why I write here.
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today