Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sneak peek

Our Christmas presents are ready!

I'm so glad. I previously mentioned my goal to get all our presents bought, made, and wrapped before Thanksgiving. Although that didn't quite work out (at a certain point you look at the big picture and realize the hurry required would negate the goal -peace- and so you choose to simply put the work down until time welcomes it again), they are ready now. And it feels so good that they are there in their pile ready to be loaded into the Jeep when the time arrives.

I am especially excited this year for these four beauties: the handmade gifts for the women in my immediate family. Here is a sneak peek for now, and sometime after Christmas I'll show you more.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 28, 2011


Confession: I consume way too much stuff.

I take, buy, and eat more than I need. I over-consume. We've talked about this, I know. But it has hit me afresh.

Many Americans are over-consumers. Myself included. I think pretty much all of us recognize the problem and its many, many ramifications. Many of us don't want to consume so much stuff, and we try not to, but we fall back into our well-trod path

Is this you? This is me.

Over-consumerism has become ingrained in our cultural identity, like pasta with Italy, safaris with Africa. I don't think it was always this way, but somehow instant gratification and getting so much of what we want became the norm.

Somehow I chose to let it become my norm.

This is definitely not how my parents taught me to spend! They taught me to be frugal. Just buying something on sale is not frugal. Buying what you need and a little of what you want; that is frugal.

I've been paring down the stuff all over our house. This cleaning out of home has been equally a decluttering of mind and heart. The list of what we no longer have is really long.

The list of what I have acquired new, however, is atrocious.

I'm about to show you a very scary picture. The faint of heart should avert their eyes.

All other purchases aside, these are the clothes I bought and those that were given to me this year.


Do I dare tally the tanks, sweaters, and dresses for you? Oh, what the heck.

{8 sweaters, 5 dresses, 3 skirts, 1 scarf, 3 shorts, 3 jeans, 1 pair khaki pants, 1 pair sandals, 2 belts, 5 tanks, 6 undies, 1 pajama pant, 2 nighties, 4 bras, 3 socks, 2 pairs running shorts, 4 running shirts, 1 sports bra, 1 fleece coat, 22 shirts}

78 new things.

The grain of salt you can take with this is that I did need to buy a lot of new clothes. After losing 15 pounds, very few of my old clothes fit. What you see here is around 80% of my closet.

Hopefully -and I really think it's true- a regular year would have me consuming 50-75% less.

Grain of salt taken, this is still so many clothes! For one person. For one year.

And this is what I bought used. One single, solitary pair of jeans for $7. It just makes me wonder what good could have been done with the money saved from not buying so many clothes in the first place or buying more of them used.

In the name of transparency, let's dig deeper. Please Father God let me not be the only ridiculous person who needs this lesson desperately.

Approximate spending:
8 sweaters x $15 each = $120
5 dresses x $30 each = $150
3 skirts x $20 each = $60
1 scarf x $10 each = $10
3 shorts x $15 each = $45
3 jeans at ($30 x 2) + ($7 x 1) = $67
1 pair khaki pants x $20 = $20
1 pair sandals x $35 = $35
2 belts x $13 = $26
5 tanks x $8 = $40
6 undies x $3 = $18
1 pajama pant x $5 = $5
2 nighties x $15 = $30
4 bras x $35 = $140
3 socks x ($5 x 2) + ($0 x 1 gift pair) = $10
2 pairs running shorts x $20 = $40
4 running shirts at ($0 x 3 "free" race shirts) + ($10 x 1) = $10
1 sports bra x $40 = $40
1 fleece coat birthday present x $165 = $165 (I'm still counting this because the cost came from my shared account with Husband.)
23 shirts at average of ($15 x 20) + ($0 x 3 gift shirts) = $300

Have mercy on me, please. Let's say this ridiculous total is the amount to buy one brand new, basically-from-scratch wardrobe for an average woman who obviously has more than her needs met. Truly, aside from old t-shirts and a few pairs of pants left over from college, I had about ten other things that fit. The wardrobe total doesn't seem as crazy when you consider I don't usually replace my wardrobe every single year.

Remember, hopefully a regular year would have me consuming 50-75% less. I know this is true. While I've always had a vice for new clothes, I really, truly don't usually spend or buy this much. And I really needed clothes that I would feel good in, in my new self. For these reasons, I don't feel as guilty.

However, it's still $333-665!

$300-600 for something that we don't actually even have a line item for on our budget. We've just included it somewhere between $50 miscellaneous and ____(apparently the cottage fund)____. We need to fix this.

Let's think more reasonably. What clothes could I reasonably need to replace in a given year? Remember, I'm working from home so I won't need to purchase dress clothes for a long time. I only wear my current ones about once a week.

Projected spending:
1 pair jeans x $30 = $30
2 bras x $30 = $60 (I need good ones, but I can save a bit by buying them on clearance.)
4 shirts (1 per season) x $30 = $120
Socks, underwear, & accessories = $30
= $240

That sounds much better to me, -doable- and it's only 18% of what I spent this year.

Why all the transparency? Why the juicy confession?

Because the budget doesn't lie.

Here at the end of the year is where I'm starting to see my poor choices add up. We have a lot of unexpected expenses right now for the move and our vehicles. In other years our budget always had cushion to absorb these extra expenses, but apparently not The Year Brooke Bought A New Wardrobe. Luckily our savings account is stronger than ever, but it just stinks to have to pull from there when we've worked so hard to build it up.

Because being responsible with what I've been given is important to me,
I have plenty of clothes now until they become worn out, and
I want to try a new approach.

I want to buy what I truly need, and only occasionally what I want. I want to replace only those clothes that become worn out.

So I took this pledge.

And this next year will not be characterized by consumerism but by contentment.

I will practice contentment.

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what is is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4: 11-13

"Keep your lives free from love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13: 4-6

Monday, November 21, 2011

Twelve in 2012

{Troubles in Blogland: On several occasions now I have written posts that proceed to spontaneously delete themselves. The frustration makes me want to plain quit sometimes. Alas, I continue and try again. Those posts do always seem to be the most wordy, can-she-spit-it-out-sometime-today writings. Here I go again with what I hope to be a more succinct, pleasant read, even though it may not have the same sassiness and passion of the original post.}

My last post has me thinking about priorities.

Did you ever read that email forward about priorities; the one that describes to put the rocks (most important) in the jar first, followed by the pebbles (those things of moderate importance), and last the sand (least important)? It says if you put the sand in first, there will be no room for pebbles and definitely not rocks. However, if you put rocks in first, there will be room between them for pebbles, and plenty of room yet for sand.

The next year is going to be a big one. The Year I Lived In Korea.

I want it to be good, to be great really. I believe it will help to prepare some goals, just to make sure all the big rocks fit. I've made my Thirty Before 30 list, and it's going pretty well. This will be a tangible way of fitting some of those things and a few others into 2012.

Twelve in 2012:

{First, I need to frame my 365 1/4 days so they don't slip away from me without meaning.}

1. Read Scripture first. I always feel better when I do this. When I do other things first, my day just becomes a mess. I need this to be healthy and centered.

2. Write right away. I love to write here, in my journal, and on my up and coming children's education website. Why do I always put this on the metaphorical back burner? Or sometimes off the stove entirely! I write best in the morning, and I want this to be my second priority in the day. It is after all the very work I feel inspired to do in this season.

3. Use afternoons for to-do's, to-make's, dog to-walk's, body to-exercise. I am most productive in the afternoon with a lot of quick tasks to check off. I don't do this well in the morning because, after all, I have the whole day to get them done.

4. Use evenings for relationships: to spend time with Husband, make new friends, and enrich relationships with family and friends through phone calls and Skype.

{Next, I want to make sure my year in Korea is characterized by the adventure it should be.}

5. Explore Korea. Don't sit at home watching TV (not that we'll have one...a TV doesn't quite work with our allotted 600 pounds of household goods) when I could be out experiencing this new culture!

6. Embrace travel. Travel Korea and to other countries, too, like Japan, Thailand, and New Zealand. I might never get another chance to be in this part of the world. I want to embrace the opportunity.

7. Eat. I don't want to be a glutton. I just want to enjoy the food and the eating without worrying about food journals or calorie calculations. I have kept this weight off for over a year. It's time to tune in to my stomach full time and enjoy eating the way it was designed to be enjoyed.

{I hope for a year of heart and head transformation.}

This is a 30 mm bullet (actual shell, replica -uh- whatever the top part is called...). Matt has hundreds of these at his disposal in the gun of the A-10!

8. Support my husband. Sometimes I forget he will have the task of defending South Koreans and their way of life. I am so proud of him for offering his skills on their behalf. However, I'm sure our whole worldview is about to change drastically. Also, I'm so glad we're bringing the little dog because Husband is going to be really busy at work. Thank goodness there will be other wives there who can become my insta-friends!

9. Volunteer in a Korean orphanage. I don't know exactly what this will look like, but I am so convinced I should go there.

10. Love God. I want to learn to love God just because he's God, not because of what he will do for me or because I want to go to heaven.

11. Trust God. I want to learn to trust God with the next ten minutes. Even with this list, I long to recognize that I plan my course, but God determines my steps. I don't want to get wrapped up in doing all these things this year or next year or in my life. I just want to trust God with what he's offering me for these next ten minutes.

12. Prepare for the next chapter God has in store for us: The Year I ________.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thinking about Christmas

I have been thinking a lot about Christmas lately.

Husband thinks I'm a bit crazy. Perhaps he is right. It wouldn't be the first time!

He's not thinking about Christmas yet (isn't Thanksgiving first, he says) because he has so much on his brain right now. He's 3 flights away from being mission qualified in the A-10! In fact he's flying one of the flights right now!!

Husband tries to comfort my "crazy" by reminding me that we get the best part of Christmas: all the enjoyment with none of the fuss. He's right, really. We won't be decorating, planning, or baking because we'll be moving.

He also knows his words are to comfort rather than inform because he knows how much I really enjoy decorating, planning, and baking. It's okay. I'm not sad because, like he said, we still get to enjoy and celebrate Christmas. In fact, I'm delighted that we get to do so together, because at first we thought he might already be in Korea by Christmas.

My thinking about Christmas in the middle of this move is mostly about traditions. What I realize more and more with each year that we are married (and in the military) is that we need traditions for our individual family, especially for when we have kids of our own, AND the only way they will work is if they are highly flexible. We both have family Christmas traditions from our childhoods, and I know we want to adopt some of them into our own family. The big thing, though, is that we can't make them place-specific. Because of our high family mobility rate, our traditions will only be as good as their ability to travel with us.

The other big thing is that I want our Christmas to look much more like this:

than this:

I am just not into hoopla, glitter, and commercialism. I don't do Black Friday. It's just not for me. I don't like the clutter of objects or commitments. I don't even care for tinsel. I love snow on pine cones, laughter with friends and family, and quiet thought nestled next to the Christmas tree. I just want meaningful, simple, pure Christmas.

After all, Christmas is about Love the Person, and learning to let that Love characterize our lives. In a non-stressful way, by the way. Loving is not about how much we do, but with what kind of heart we live. And I love that because it is simple. I can do simple.

I haven't had a chance to talk to Husband yet, but I think I've come up with some traditions we'll both appreciate. Not so much that we'll stress out about getting them "done"; not so little that we'll feel like we're chocking up the holiday season altogether because of our military mobility situation; enough that we'll have that familiar spirit of the Christmas season to look forward to each year as our family moves and grows.

What do you think of this plan?

1. Practice thankfulness while choosing, making, and wrapping presents. (Ah, two things in one: Thanksgiving thankfulness and Christmas gifting! I want to give gifts, but I don't want to be overwhelmed with them in the quick weeks right before Christmas.)

1. Advent calendar with daily devotions, fun activities, and ways to be love-in-action for others. (I won't have this ready for this year, but I'd like to make one that we can reuse year after year. I've seen some great ideas from friends, such as using a muffin tin with numbered covers over the openings. I'd love to hear your ideas or tips for this!)

2. Advent wreath at dinner. (On account of the move and just now planning it, I won't start this until next year either. I know how I want to make it though, and it looks something like this one, just scroll down to see it. I think it'd be great to light the wreath candles at dinner, and do the Advent calendar at this time. We could have until the next evening's dinner to meditate on the devotion, do the activity, and/or implement the love-in-action, such as doing something kind for a stranger. We could discuss what we did that day while eating dinner. I love this!)

3. Decorate the house Thanksgiving weekend with candlelight and while playing Christmas music. Sometimes we have a fake fireplace going on our TV via the internet. (I love how this sets the mood for the whole season. I prefer a tree, the nativity, and a wreath on the door in addition to a few other decorations. During seasons like this one though, when we're moving out December 16, I think I'll just stick the wreath on the door for a couple weeks, enjoy it whenever I open the door, and box it up quickly and easily while we're packing!)

1. Homemade pizza, drive around looking at Christmas lights, and open gifts on Christmas Eve wherever we are with whomever we are with. :) (This is a big tradition for Husband and I am so glad to have adopted it. For the gifts, we're do one "big" -relative term, yes- gift or three small ones for each of us as well as for those hypothetical future children. We still give to our immediate families for now, and while I hope to follow a similar principle it varies with the year.)

2. Read the story of Jesus' birth. (I have never actually done this at home with either family at Christmas, but it is something I would love to start. The other Christmas stories like The Night Before Christmas would be welcome and fun as well, I just want the one about Jesus to come first.)

3. Enjoy church as a family, then relax the rest of Christmas Day with coffee, playing with presents, fun games, puzzles, movies, playing in the snow, etc. and a good meal.

I am smiling as I write because I am so excited to have these simple, lovely traditions! Best to proof them with the Husband before I get too eager though:)

I'm sure other things will come along: Christmas cookies, cards, events with family and friends. Surely all these things will come and go, and some will find their way into our traditions as well. I'm not planning on stressing about these and only these traditions for the rest of time. I'm just excited that, even with the changes in home and location each year, we will have identified our priorities and can treat them as such.

The Small Notebook has some excellent posts about Christmas. Enjoy them via these links:


Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm following their stories

I see her post and I remember.

She is in Ecuador; she and the other bloggers at the Compassion child development center this week. They bring Hope to the families. (Click on the sidebar to join me in following their stories.)

They are close to my Diego, his home a long two day drive to the south.

I don't even know words for this, and I wonder how they'll ever be coherent enough for "Publish Post".

My heart gets so wrapped, tangled, intertwined in these stories of families. I read about families who I don't even know, but I see that they struggle and hope, struggle and hope, hold onto hope.

And then I get a letter in the mail from Diego, and he's colored me a truck again with a sun. And did you know that all the way over there in Peru the children still draw suns with smiley faces on them?

And this little boy doesn't ask for a soccer ball, his favorite, or money for a better home. He wants to know what I like to eat. I tell him lasagna and steak. And he asks me to pray for his parents, that they will come to know Jesus.

Jesus. Hope. Cling to the Hope with the capital H. The only Hope that stands firm when circumstances steal your footing.

And my heart warms that this five-year-old boy, across to another continent, knows the Hope that holds him.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Healing hope

I dedicate this post to my hardworking, always persevering, constantly hoping, most tender-to-me Husband.

They thanked us from the beginning, and their thanks came with a warning, too.

A warning that there would be many of these conversations.

"How does this work, again?"
"Well, you remember, just like this."
"Okay, now about that other thing. What does that stand for again?"

"How are we supposed to make that work?"
"I don't know. That's how it is every time."

"I just wish I could see you more. And I wish you could be less stressed, too."
"I know Babe, me too. But it will get better."
"I love you."
"I love you, too."

A warning that it would not be easy.

A warning that we would sacrifice much.

An instruction that when they cling together...

...so will our need be, too.

And we cling to it, Love. The thanks is for it. The warning is hold fast to it. It alone will see you through.

And so we let go of the disappointments, no life clinging to that rock. We take captive the ugly thoughts, conquer the stress, and wipe away the tears, again.
We choose Hope. We hold fast to His promises. There, in the Hope, is where we find Life in the battle.

When you are trusted with much...

...much will be asked of you.

Accept it with a smile, and choose Hope. Choose fullness of life. Only in giving life, giving an offering of self, is life itself resurrected.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Altar linens

Our Church uses special linens for the altar when we consecrate the gift of bread and wine to God, to remember the sacrifice of body and blood from God.

Like any other linens, they must be washed. At our new church I decided to volunteer to help meet this need.

It was a bit confusing at first. The linens came with instructions for washing, drying, ironing, and folding. The instructions even included using starch, which was a whole new world for me. Husband's experience pressing uniforms in the military was very helpful in this area!

Once I got the hang of it though, and discovered I was not in fact going to scorch the perfectly white linens, it was a beautiful thing.

It took watchful, careful hands to wield the hot iron and simple linen cloths gracefully, albeit not perfectly.

I thought about Jesus as I worked. I thought about his enormous sacrifice. I thought about the Joy set before Him. I thought about the gift of life He offers each day. Life through following The Way.

I thought about how this life requires watchful, careful hands to wield it gracefully.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Ugly chair make-over

I can't seem to find the pictures of this chair originally, back when we bought it from a local thrift store this spring. That is not necessarily a bad thing! It was pretty ugly back then.

First we replaced the ugly periwinkle and stained chair pad with a crisp, sleek black one. This was a great first step, but it was clear it needed to be refinished, too.

Refinishing was difficult. We realized when we found the chair that the chair and ottoman were slightly different colors. It turns out one is Beech and one is Birch. What you might not know until you've spent a few afternoons on the hot patio with the stain out is that Beech and Birch take stain very differently! I ended up having to sand off and redo much of the stain in order to get the colors close.

You can hardly tell unless you look really closely. And at the end of the day, close enough was good enough for me!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Inside the box

I'm kind of a nut for home organization.

Or school organization within the home, as the case may be.

Yup, a nut to every last inch of the closet.

(All of this takes up half of our guest room closet, which is improvement from when we moved in and it occupied 90% of the space! It's weeded out, consolidated, and packed more efficiently now.)

I don't just make it neat and clean. I make it strategic!

This summer I overhauled my classroom supplies. I sorted out the old, useless, and unwanted. Then I categorized puzzles, word games, decorations, posters, even music by which month of the school year I would use them in.

I find it much easier to organize school supplies by when you will use them (we study insects in May so the bug puzzle goes in the May container) than what they will be used for (the dinosaur, world map, and bug puzzles all together in one container).

I also made lists of the contents of the boxes, so if you wanted to pull out such-and-such from the October box in February, you would know where to find it and where to put it back to.

(I plan to print these lists, but currently they are on the computer. This is nice, because when I'm planning activities for my "blogsite" I can look at the list of supplies to help with ideas.)

Originally I put everything in paper bags because that was what I had at the time. Especially with our impending move though, I knew I wanted them in something stackable, transportable, and transparent. Fifty bucks in plastic tubs later, my stuff is ready for then.

Then being the time and place God wants me to teach again. I believe there is one. Despite a temporary and fleeting thought to ship all of my stuff to Africa instead of store it, I've decided to keep it.

One day I will teach again.

One day I will teach my future hypothetical children as Husband and I lovingly refer to them:)

One day I may teach in a classroom again.

One day I may travel to schools to bring programs to them.

One day I may choose to host a preschool in my home.

One day I may teach or care or love little children with this half closet full of supplies in some way that I have yet to imagine, fathom, or understand.

One day I will know, and it, too, will be very good.
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