Thanksgiving 2016 - Thoughts on Abundance and Gratefulness and My Year of Un-Shopping

Luke 12:15 ESV “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Dearest Friends,

As always, as Thanksgiving nears and I think what I am thankful for, first off, I am forever thankful for my Lord and Redeemer, my family, my church, and all of you!!  So many of you have supported us in so many ways this year, encouraging Bernie in ministry!  It's been a wonderful year for him ministry-wise and we hope to re-do our website in 2017 to reflect a slightly refined focus. Bernie has been kept rather busy with many ministry invitations and requests and had much positive affirmation and feedback.  The Lord is using him in a rather unique way to reach out with the gospel message as told through the pages of American history. And the Lord is using Bernie's gospel centered words to bear fruit for His Kingdom!  What a privilege and blessing for us!

But this year something else comes to mind that I am grateful for, something I have been embracing and experiencing this past year, that is summed up with the phrase "less is more!"

It has been, my friends, a year of "Un-shopping."

Un-shopping - my definition.  "giving away, using up, selling and getting things out of my home in much greater quantities than what I buy and bring into my home."

Goal for 2016 - Each year I like to give myself some sort of focus for the year and this past January I set for myself a main focus to keep as I walked through the year - to "Simplify" in all areas. "Use it up, wear it out, make it last, do without."

Simplify our budget. 

Use up what we have.

Get rid of what we don't need or use.

Moving towards Minimalism? I had some inspiration on youtube and began my quest to move things out. I wouldn't say I am becoming a minimalist or expect to ever truly be one, but I think I have been inspired to seek a simpler lifestyle by the minimalist movement. Beautiful things give me a lot of pleasure - maybe I am an artist at heart and I love to create beauty and give gifts to that end.  But over many years a person like me can accumulate a lot of stuff!  Settling out both my parents' estates brought more stuff, too, things attached to their memory which is all that remains of their lives on earth.

This year something moved in me to desire to spend the rest of the time the Lord gives me on earth, becoming smaller, giving away, selling and getting rid of more than I take in - to go from 'more' to 'less' rather than the other way around (which is what happened in most all the years prior.)  I actually like to organize and de-clutter and do that fairly regularly, but yet, I was hanging on to too much stuff and I really wanted to work harder on simplifying my life as much as possible to have more time to focus on what is important to me.

Urgency - I have had, for some reason, a sense of urgency with this that actually produced some anxiety at times! But honestly it also was fun, even exhilarating to begin moving that direction. One result was my granddaughters holiday dresses made from a lot of purple dupioni silk I bought at a really good price after Bethy was born 7 years ago, for Kerin's mother to make dresses for baby Bethy, 1 year old Rachel and 3 year old Abbi.  Many yards of fabric were left, so now about 7 years later I used up most of it and added a layer of sheer fabric I bought a few years ago, to make 5 more dresses for the holidays this year.

Exhilarating! - It really has been fun to use up things in other areas, to find recipes to use up unusual dry goods I had bought and never used, and things in my freezer, as well as beauty products that had accumulated.  Chia and hemp seeds bought when I was making seed milks a while back had never been used up and were stored in my freezer - now they found their way into 'the best granola I ever had' (to quote Abbi).  Extra Burt's Bees lip balms became treasures for the grandchildren. Dan is beginning to sell our used books on Amazon. Things were sorted and organized to a greater degree and more aggressively than I have in a while, then released in much greater quantities. Clothes were consigned. I read and watched videos about the 'capsule wardrobe.' I know I love color and variety too much to ever have a true 'capsule' but am trying to reduce my wardrobe to what I really wear and love, and I am getting rid of a lot. I got a popular book on 'tidying' and honestly the author's system is what I have done all my life, so it is not foreign to me, but what was new was the idea to keep only what brings me joy.  It has helped me to think of 'stuff' that way, and helped me release things more easily.  For clothes if you don't wear it, let it go. If it's uncomfortable, let it go. For stuff, if you don't use it, let it go, if you have duplicates and 'back-ups', let them go, if it brings sad feelings, let it go!!! (Ha! Am I detecting a children's movie theme song that was very popular last year?  So funny, just thought of that as I am writing right now...)

1 Timothy 6:6-7 ESV "For godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it."

30 Day Challenge - Several months this fall I did a '30 day challenge' which was to get rid of the amount of things corresponding to the date.  By the end of the month you have culled almost 500 items.  Small things count, like something in your fridge you use up and don't replace, old pens that don't work any more, or things donated or sold can count as well.  I actually did this in August, September and October. :) Another thing that happened is that sometimes I pulled out something that had been stored and unused for a while and was inspired to use it rather than automatically getting rid of it, which was fun, too!  My house is a bit retro decorated this fall because of that, as I am using some country style things I purchased in the late 80s and early 90s.  But they make me happy and are attached to fun memories and work with other things I have.  So it isn't just about getting rid of things, also about joy and about using things I have rather than redoing or buying new.

Results! So here I am in November, and it is quite exciting and rewarding to have seen so much progress this year, and I hope to continue this for the rest of my life! :) Hopefully by the time I am ready to leave this earth, things will be simple for husband and/or my children to deal with - I am really hoping all the decisions have been made and the stuff left is not overwhelming.

I also had an emotional goal this year that I didn't do quite so well with, but if at first you don't succeed, try try again.  Still it was really good to identify it is as an emotional goal!  And I am sure the Lord will continue to help me in that area, and maybe next year will see better results, and maybe I will tell you about it next year if I feel I am succeeding. :)

But achieving in this area of 'simplifying' has been huge and worth the work and time it took, and I am so grateful for what the Lord has helped me achieve!  Many more layers will be peeled off in the future, Lord willing, and I am far, far from finished, but much progress has been made.

So this year, when I think of what I am thankful for, I am actually thankful for 'less.' Less to take care of, less to organize, less clutter!

How about you?  This Thanksgiving, I hope you all take some time to slow down and thank the Lord for how He is working and what He is doing in your lives! He is wonderful, magnificent, outside to boundaries of our wildest dreams in His incredible purposes for our lives!  May you all realize that, experience that, and live in that this year and every year! I definitely struggle to live in that daily, but I want that for myself and for all believers. Victory only lies in focusing on His character rather than your personal failings, on His power instead of your weaknesses, the reality of His  Eternity instead of the temporariness of our lives here.

Although I do know I guess I have a few strengths, I am totally aware most of the time that I am incredibly flawed and weak and easily hurt and when I look at that deep gloom and sadness can overwhelm me. But I must lift my head and look at my Creator and Redeemer and Lover of my soul to have any joy and hope! May it be so for myself and for you all as you look to your future!  Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Photo Credit - 2nd and 3rd pictures: Brianna Estrada

Luke 16:11 ESV "If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?"

God bless you all!  Linda for Bernie and me