Media Free Month – 1 week in

We are now one week into our media free month. Here are some of my observations:

– The first week has felt a bit like a vacation. When we are on vacation we limit our media sort of by accident. Traveling, experiencing new things, spending time with people we don’t usually see, not having regular access to our screens just creates a natural break from our media consumption. So last week felt like vacation, even though we were still at home.

– Our evenings feel more peaceful and we are getting lots of extra sleep. Our evening routine used to consist of turning on Netflix after the boys were in bed. Aaron and I would watch a show while also each interacting with our own screens (Aaron on his laptop, me checking Facebook and Pinterest on the Kindle). We usually ended up staying up later than we anticipated. Now we brew some tea, curl up with a book, or have a conversation. We have consistently been in bed by 10pm because there were no other distractions!

– I feel like my “mental space” is more peaceful. By not reading blogs and not seeing peoples opinions on Facebook I feel much less anxious. I have the tendency to compare myself with others and I am seeing that while reading blogs can be useful it also causes me to constantly compare myself and my life to others. Just one week without blogs and I feel like I have more mental space to enjoy the life I have and not worry about whether I am “doing it right” or “doing enough.” And let’s face it, being subjected to everyone’s opinions on Facebook is just tiring. Or at least I am realizing it was for me. It feels good not to be subjected to everyone’s political, social, parenting, yada yada, opinion.

– The boys have been doing great! With screens not even being an option they just don’t ask me about screen time. They automatically find other ways to amuse themselves and so far have not seemed to miss screens much at all. This has relieved a lot of the constant back-and-forth about who gets how much screen time and when. I have also noticed that being disconnected from screens really does have an effect on behavior. We have had fewer arguments, tantrums, etc.

– I have been so productive.  It really is amazing, and humbling, to see how much has been neglected around here because I was distracted by a screen. I have been cleaning, baking, organizing, working in the yard, giving our budget an overhaul, all because I have the time. When I find myself with 15 minutes I have to think of something to occupy myself besides a screen. It really is amazing how much can get done in 15 minutes.

– Not having screens does not eliminate the antsy feeling of needing to be distracted. There are certain times during the day when I just want to check out. I love to read, so I am doing a lot of reading. But that can also become a habit that disengages me from the people around me and distracts me from doing what needs to be done. There are still plenty of ways to shirk my responsibilities, screens just make it a bit easier.

– The beginning of the 2nd week has become more difficult. I do use Facebook as a primary form of communication with many people and I am starting to feel just a tad bit disconnected. Friends in church are due to have babies, weddings are happening, family members are scheduled to take trips, and I feel like I will be missing out on a lot by not following their adventures on Facebook.

So the fast continues and I am learning a lot about myself and our family. Have you ever intentionally taken a media fast? How did it feel?

7 Experiment: Media Month

The month of May is Media fast month for our 7 experiment. For the whole month our family is going to turn off screens.

No Netflix. No Facebook. No blog reading. No Wii games.  No computer games. No movies. (I don’t have to list “no tv” because we haven’t had regular tv channels in 4 years.)

This is going to be hard. Very, very hard.

Yet, I am excited to see what will happen. The goal of the 7 experiment continues to be “to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.” (pg 4) and I know without a shadow of a doubt that screens take up too much space in the life of our family.  I know that I often retreat behind a screen to escape my responsibilities, to waste time, to distract myself. It’s time to stop that cycle and hit the re-set button.

I have removed my Facebook and blog reading apps from my Kindle Fire (which is the only mobile device we have). I  have set my computer homepage to open straight to my email and calendar. I have a pile of books waiting to be read. I have a list of projects waiting to be tackled. We have talked to the boys about the project and they are reluctantly on board.

We will check our email. We will use text messaging on our phones. We will use online streaming to listen to music. I will continue to post on the blog. Aaron will use internet resources for his work.

I suspect that this will end up being the most difficult month of the experiment for me. But here we go…

7 Experiment: Possessions & Generosity

The 7 Experiment has been continuing. I have lots of thoughts about lasts months clothes challenge, but I can’t seem to corral them all into a coherent post. I am working on it though, so it may appear randomly in some other month. This month, April, is the month of “possessions.” The purpose being to get rid of 7 items a day or 210 items for the month.

True confession: This is a piece of cake for me. I love simplicity in my surroundings. I dislike clutter. I am constantly editing our possessions and have a permanent “Goodwill bucket” in our mudroom that I frequently throw stuff in.

True confession: I rarely give when it really costs something to give.

It is easy for me to get rid of stuff and give out of our abundance. We have lots of stuff. I can easily give away 210 items this month and not blink an eye.

As I was thinking about all this I remembered a conversation that happened this summer that stunned me.  We were in the initial stages of considering the placement of a sibling group of two. We had started visiting and even dreaming about adding them to our family, even though all the legal wrinkles hadn’t been worked out by DFCS yet. An elder in our church came up to me and offered me a set of bunk beds. I asked him, “If you are not using them we would definitely take them off your hands for you.” To which he replied, “Well, our kids are using them now, but if you need them more we will figure something out.”

That is generosity that humbles me. The kind of generosity that gives of something we are using because someone else needs it more.

I give my time, money and stuff out of my abundance. But I rarely give the time, money, or stuff that I am currently using to someone who needs it more than me. I would like to exhibit that kind of generosity but I rarely do.

That is where I have landed on this so far. A few months ago I would have written about how I “should” give more. But I am not saying “should” anymore. The Holy Spirit is working in my heart in this area and I don’t know right now what that will look like. So for right now I will continue to give out of my abundance and keep and eye open for opportunities to practice giving even when it is a bit painful.

7 experiment: Clothes

The February food fast ended up being a bust for me. For most of the month it was a struggle for me to eat much of anything. Which I guess taught me a lot even though I didn’t follow the fast the way I had intended.  So now we are in to March and the next challenge/fast – clothing. In chapter 2 of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess , Jen Hatmaker explores issues of image, pride, and waste by choosing only 7 items of clothing to wear for 30 days.

About 2 years ago I did a drastic minimization of my wardrobe with the help/inspiration of Project 333. Through that process  my approach to clothing has changed. While I assume this will be one of the easier fasts for me I know that I still have much to learn.

7 clothes 002

Here are my 7 items for March: 1.  jeans
2.  grey khaki pants
3. grey denim skirt
4. long sleeved black shirt
5. long sleeved red shirt
6. blue flowered button-up shirt (not pictured because it was in the dirty clothes)
7. black boots & sneakers

Note: The black corduroy jacket will be the jacket I wear if it is cold, which it still can be where I live.  I will wear only 1 pair of pj’s. I do have a hoodie sweatshirt that I wear around the house because we keep our heat very low. I will wear my wedding ring and pearl earrings as my only accessories.

While I assumed this would be an easy month for me I did have some struggle in choosing the items I was going to wear. I kept thinking, “But what if?” and finally had to just make myself commit. Even the choosing revealed a certain level of pride and concern of what others would think.

The other decision that I made was that I would not give anyone any explanations or justification of why they may see me wearing the same thing unless they specifically ask. The fact that this was a decision that I had to consciously make reveals two things. First, it would be easy to be very self-righteous and prideful. “Look at what I am doing! Look how holy I am! Look at what I am willing to give up!” Second, that I care very deeply what other people think of me.

So here I go, 7 items of clothing for the month of March!

the 7 Experiment: Why

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

 

I mentioned in my last post how I was initially not sure about participating in the 7 Experiment with a group of ladies from my church. I tend to have an all or nothing type of personality and I would have jumped into something drastic like this with enthusiasm and maybe not much thought. My motive would have been to show myself  and God (and others, probably) how spiritual I could be. I would have wanted to prove something about my spirituality.

As I read the Introduction I began to see what was at the heart of this experiment:

7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through. I approach this project in the spirit of a fast: and intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God’s movement in my life. (page 4)

This goal fits perfectly with what is going on in my heart recently. As I am learning to let go of fear and performance I am making room for God’s love to break through. My relationship with God is becoming more and more about who He is and how much He loves me and not so much about who I am and how much I can accomplish for Him. My mind and my heart have been cluttered with spiritual junk and it has taken a complete removal of that junk for me to begin experiencing God in a new way. So it can also be with the physical clutter and excess in my life. The more I have the more distracted I am and the more energy I have to put into maintaining that excess.

I tend to be a simple person by nature. Some of the upcoming fasts are exciting to me. Like only wearing 7 items of clothing for one month, I am all about that! Some of the fasts will be more difficult. I am already dreading the media fast month. I want to continually remind myself that my goal for this experiment is not simply to have a healthier body, de-cluttered spaces, and extra money by the end of this. No, I want to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.

When I wrote my first post about this experiment I was all ready to jump right in the month of February with only 7 foods. I had my list and was excited about the challenge. Then I got sick and basically didn’t eat much of anything for 2 weeks. It was obvious as February 1st neared that it wouldn’t be healthy for me to start the month as described in the book. So I let it go. I didn’t beat myself up or try to convince myself that if I was truly holy enough I would start the 7 foods fast no matter what was going on with my body. I extended grace to myself.

I have started the February fast with some guidelines. No sweets. No snacks. No extras (2nd helpings, condiments, etc.). Next week I will give an update on how that is going.

In the mean time my prayer continues to be: Jesus, may there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom. (page 5)

the 7 experiment

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

A few years ago I began to get very uncomfortable with all the excess in our life. Our pastor was doing a Lent sermon series in the book of Isaiah. I was reading Francis Chan and David Platt. I was following numerous blogs of people who were adopting, giving, living “radical” lives for the gospel. At the same time I was reading and learning more about the real cost of consumption to the earth and to people. Over the years we have made baby steps in many areas in order to simplify our lives. And when a favorite blogger of mine, Jen Hatmaker, came out with a book titled 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess I knew I wanted to read it.

Here is the description on Amazon: American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born.

7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.

Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence.

The year rolled on and I just never got around to ordering the book. I continued to read Jen Hatmaker’s blog and her posts were always inspiring and convicting and funny. Then late last year a friend at church asked me if I had read the book. She had just read it and was eager to discuss it. She mentioned organizing a group of women to read the book and do the experiment together. I told her that I would love to be part of it!

In early January the idea was brought up again. At first I was reluctant to join in because I am at a tender place right now. I have leaned towards legalism and rule-keeping all my life and I wasn’t sure that starting an experiment like this, when I was trying to lean into grace and unconditional love, would be the best thing for me. But I talked to friends, and prayed about it, and I was so excited by the idea that I decided that I didn’t have anything to lose. So I ordered the book and when it arrived devoured the whole thing in a day and a half.

I do not fear doing this out of legalism any more (I will explain more about that in another post) and I am eager to embark on this experiment. I am going to share this journey on this blog as a way of documenting my process and maybe even inspiring someone else.

Here is how the 7 Experiment is working for the group at our church. A bunch of us are reading the book and also doing a version of each “fast” as described by the author for a month. As we go through the experiment we are encouraging/challenging/sharing on a private Facebook group. Here is how the months will break down:

Food = February, Clothes = March, Spending = April, Media = May, Possessions = June, Waste = July, Stress = August

So there is my introduction to what we are doing. Next week I will give some more thoughts as to the “why” I am doing this. Feel free to get a book and jump into this craziness with me! Even if you chose not to do the “fasts” I highly recommend this book. It is funny, convicting, thought provoking, and challenging in all the best of ways.