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. :)
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today