February 6, 2014

Seven months of eliminating the excess.

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I was putting away laundry the other night and had a few items that needed to be hung up in my closet. Those who are close to me know that I live in scrubs and sweats, so anything that's hanging in either one of my closets rarely ever gets worn, but as I walked over to hang up my freshly-laundered items I noticed a bunch of clothes piled on the closet floor. I nonchalantly reminded myself that they were there because I didn't have enough hangers, added the clothes in my hand to the pile and walked away. But within five seconds I stopped dead in my tracks as the truth of that sunk in.

I didn't have enough hangers.

I have two closets, a large chest of drawers and dresser full of clothes. Most of which either still have the tags on them, have only been worn once or haven't been worn in years. However, I still continue to buy another item here and there, steadily building up my collection of unworn clothes because I see another item in Nordstrom that's "so cute and I'll wear eventually." But as the image of 'too many' became tangible in that moment, I became angry with myself and realized that I had a real problem on my hands: I didn't have enough hangers.

The problem wasn't that I literally didn't have enough hangers, but that I was living in excess and my problem wasn't really a problem at all. I poured over how I got to this point for the rest of the evening and into the following day. What kind of world was I living in? What kind of life was I leading? People all over the world don't have enough clothes, yet I didn't have enough hangers. But there I was on that evening, putting away freshly washed clothes in my warm, well-lit house while wearing a pair of pajama's that were next-to-new, drinking hot tea and listening to Nichole Nordeman on my iPhone. I was kidding myself and right there in that moment as the pile of too many clothes kept staring back at me, I became disgusted with my excess and made the scary decision to address it.

But how I was going to address the idea that I don't have enough in a world where too much is never enough was something I couldn't figure out, until I came across Jen Hatmaker's 7: An experimental mutiny against excess. In true fashion, God led me to that book a mere 24 hours later and challenged me to the challenge of uprooting the excess mentality. So I'll be devoting the next seven months to focusing on seven areas of excess in my life, one area per month beginning now. Because now is always the best time.

February || only spend money on items within the seven essential categories of food, gas, health insurance, Dakota's food, my sponsor child, toiletries (toilet paper, toothpaste, etc) and my gym fee (because it's automatically withdrawn). Purchases can only be made at one of these seven locations: Kaiser (health insurance), LA Fitness (gym), Compassion International (my sponsor child), Grower's Outlet, Target, Costco (for gas only), and Fred Meyer.
March || give away seven significant items to someone in need
April || eat from a menu of seven categories: vegetables, fruit, fish, chicken, legumes, nuts, whole grains (no sweeteners such as honey or sugar and no drinks other than water and black coffee) 
May || fast from seven areas of media: Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Instagram, Pinterest, television, and unnecessary games/apps/media on my iPhone
June || stop everything and purposefully pray seven times per day
July || clothes - something with clothes. Honestly, I haven't settled on this one quite yet. Ideas?
August || make a real and honest effort at going green

Will I completely eliminate the excess in my life over these next seven months? No. But I'm hoping to make progress towards eliminating my excess. Over these last few years I've felt weighted down by it and it's finally time that I make a real effort to address the issue. There's something beautiful about living simply - something that's real and authentic about it, and I intend to push through to find out what that something is. I'll be blogging along the way (except for May, of course, when I'm fasting media), but I'll try to do a "thoughts" post following the conclusion of each month.



January 27, 2014

Trying

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Trillium Lake, Government Camp, Oregon

I do this thing at the end of every year and leading up to the new year - I ask the Lord for a word, one word to serve as a theme for the upcoming year. My word for 2011 was "gifted," 2012 was "rekindle" and 2013 was "success." He always reveals these words in the most obvious and unexpected ways: while sitting at my desk praying fervently for a word, while driving in my car chatting with Him, while sitting in church on the first Sunday of the new year, and this year while curling my hair before heading off to work. And at the end of every year, while reflecting back on the year and my word for that year, I realize that He always proves faithful in it time and time again.

Last year, when He gave me my word of "success," I didn't believe Him what-so-ever. In fact, I argued with Him over the word while driving home one evening because I had such little faith that my year would be successful. But looking back on 2013 reveals that the year was surely a success in every sense of the word: I finished off my post-bacc education with a 4.0 GPA, was accepted into medical school, exponentially grew my faith in Him and was blessed with a full-time job. He's incredibly faithful in letting my word serve as the theme for my year, which is exactly what had me nervous for 2014.

While I was getting ready for work one morning at the end of December, I nonchalantely asked Him for my 2014 word. He immediately provided it: trying. Excuse me? No. New word, please. I was instantly overcome with dread, fear and nervousness. The tears started flowing right there in the bathroom and I tried to give Him the word back. But He gave it right back: "No, Nicole, your word is trying."

I couldn't stop thinking about it for days on end. It basically took over every thought and the enemy had a great deal of fun with it, instilling fearful thoughts in me and leading me to believe I would face great hardships throughout the year. Finally, I had enough and decided it was time to stand up for myself. So right there in my bedroom while putting laundry away, I punched the enemy back: "I am a child of God, I serve and honor Him, believe He is living and actively working in my life. He holds my life in His hands and knows the end from the beginning. And because of this, He is on my side and fights for me. And you know what?! He always wins, which means I always win. So if trying is my word, trying it will be. But I will still win and you will still lose."

I had to come to the realization that regardless of my word, God will still prove faithful and will stand in the gap for me. He'll go with me to the hard places, fight my battles for me and will make a way. It's exciting to know that I'll find Him in the places I can't seem to reach, in the places where the water seems too deep. He's found in the gaps and uses such opportunities to demonstrate His goodness. So if my year is "trying" and full of gaps, I'll embrace it because that's where He's found. And as each day passes I'm beginning to see more and more of the beauty in "trying," because it marks the place where His beauty is found.

January 15, 2014

Standing in the gap

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Tuesday evenings have become my favorite night of the week. It's the night I get to gather with 15+ other women from my church and do life together. We pour over the Word together, laugh together, cry together and sometimes stand in awe together over God's awesomeness. I've learned a huge number of life lessons from these ladies, both young and old, and get the honor of teaching them a little bit too.

But one of the most valuable things I've learned from my fellowship with them is the privilege of standing in the gap. Whenever one of my sisters voices a need that hasn't been met, a feeling that is overtaking them, or a concern they've been stressing over, it immediately becomes my problem and I get the honor of standing in the gap for them. I stand in the place where they can't seem to reach, I pray for the things they can't put words to, I pour over the Word for them, listen to them, and take the next step for them because they can't seem to gather the strength to get there. Their problem becomes my problem and I stand in the gap.

And you know what? It's a rich feeling to know that when I have a need and voice it to these ladies, it instantly becomes their problem and they'll stand in the gap for me. It's reciprocal and it's one of the beauties of having sisters in Christ.

January 10, 2014

Yay 2014

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gussied up my bronchitis-infested self for a friend's birthday. suffered greatly the next day.

Just so I'm being honest here, my 2014 has not started off on the greatest foot. For starters, I was so sick on New Years Eve that I fell asleep at 7:30pm and didn't wake up until New Years Day at 7am, but proceeded to lay in bed all day. I attempted to take down my Christmas decorations, but any sort of physical exertion left me weak and out of breath. Fast forward a week and whatever infection I had progressed to full blown bronchitis, which has now left me with pressure in my chest and back. Yay 2014!

But, this is the year I will pack up all my belongings, head east with Dakota to Kansas City, be coated with my first white coat and officially matriculate into medical school. It's amazing, actually, that I'm here - the very place I never thought I'd make it to. The very place I doubted was achievable for a girl like me, ordinary and insignificant. Thankfully I serve a God who is extraordinary and significant, and am constantly reminded that He calls the least of these to achieve His purpose and plan. And for Heaven's sake, I want to be a part of His plan. He will most certainly achieve it without my help, but I feel blessed that He trusted me enough to let me be a part of it. 

So while 2014 is just another leg of the journey He has me on, it's a significant leg full of new adventures, experiences and most excitingly, the beginning of the rest of my life: medical school! So bring it on 2014, your bronchitis infested beginning will not set the tone for the rest of this eventful year.

December 24, 2013

A thrill of hope

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Between all the gift wrapping, bow tying, last minute shopping and sheer excitement of the season, I hope you've been able to soak in the thrill of hope that accompanies Christmas - that hope was born and pierced our world on one night during this particular season. The night of our dear Savior's birth, the night our world was flood with joy.

He's here. Merry Christmas!  

With love,
Nicole & Dakota
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