Tag Archives: possessions

Keeping an Eternal Perspective: Clothing

7 Jul

{This is the second installment of this weekly series.}

For the past several years, I’ve been wrestling through the practical implications of my faith in Christ. If I say I desire to glorify God and that He’s my greatest treasure, what effect will those declarations have on what I buy, how I spend my time, and what my goals are? While God has given me a lot of insight and I am more at peace about these things that I was before, I still struggle with feeling guilty for buying new clothes, spending 6 hours a week training instead of volunteering, and doing things I enjoy just for pleasure’s sake.

Last weekend while we were backpacking {sorry that I haven’t posted pics yet – last night was busy!}, I had some time Sunday morning to sit alone with my Bible. The passage in Matthew 6 caught my eye:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

These verses showed me the following:

1. God gave me these convictions – I didn’t come up with them on my own.

Ever since I started to analyze my motives and why I do certain things and don’t do other things, God has been changing the way I look at the world. It started out as guilt from buying another $25 t-shirt that I didn’t need when that same money would buy food for a month for a kid over in Africa. It morphed into guilt from doing anything with my time that I alone enjoyed – I was convinced that that was the epitome of selfishness. I couldn’t escape the guilt. It was everywhere. A caramel macchiato from Starbuck’s. A pedicure. A good book. A nap.

But looking at these convictions a different way, I see them as God’s way of inviting me into a life of infinite joy (to quote C.S. Lewis again) – a life of love, selflessness, freed from the snares of material possessions and keeping up with the joneses. He has given me a desire for a simple life:

  • to wear the clothes I own
  • to make wise purchases (after researching options nonetheless!)
  • to fully use everything I do spend money on (and make sure I’ll fully use it before buying it)
  • to treat my possessions well so that they last
  • to only replace things when they need replacing
  • to make the effort to be creative in making things last longer

Anyone who knew me in college would not recognize the girl writing this post today. I am that different in my approach toward money. And God has shown me that this is His work in my life, refocusing my attention on things that are unseen and eternal, rather than things that are seen and transient.

Oswald Chambers’ devotional yesterday said it perfectly:

God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. Yet we are always in such a frantic hurry. While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.The vision that God gives is not some unattainable castle in the sky, but a vision of what God wants you to be down here. Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.

It has been a long, hard struggle to get to where I am in accepting that God is in this. That God is calling me to a simple lifestyle and to give up caring about fashion, money, beauty, decorating, etc.

That said…

2. Sanctification looks differently for everyone.

I have just recently realized this on an even deeper level. For so long, I had been frustrated with feeling guilty for shopping “just because” because I had a list of reasons why I believed I could shop in faith. We tithed every month, I wasn’t spending an extravagant amount of money, and the biggest one, I saw other Christian women doing it. If they could do it, why couldn’t I?

A recent situation opened my eyes. There is a young married couple at our church whose wedding I attended. The toasts given by their families and friends all praised this couple for being very godly and strong in their faith. The time I had spent around them in a group setting seemed to agree with those assessments. I viewed this couple as two people who “had it together,” especially in their approach to money (which moved them up a notch in my book). Then I spent some time one-on-one with the woman and heard about their marital struggles, ones very common to young married couples. I realized that they were just human too.

And that got me thinking… those women with the latest fashions at church – I don’t know what’s going on in their hearts. They very well might be able to buy new clothes in faith, but that also could be an area of their lives that God hasn’t yet refined and sanctified.

All that to say, I can’t judge which of the Spirit’s promptings I’m going to follow or not based on what other people are doing. Oswald Chambers’ devotion for June 28 says, “At first, Jesus Christ through His Spirit has to restrain you from doing a great many things that may be perfectly right for everyone else but not right for you.” These things that I have been fighting may be perfectly right for others to do, but not me. I have to pay attention to my personal convictions.

All this time, I had wanted to go back to the way things were before. I was rejecting this new way to live. Instead of viewing it as God’s invitation to me into greater, deeper joy resulting from letting go of materialism and my own assessment of What I Should Be Able to Do With Christian Freedom, I had been fighting it and thinking there was something wrong with me, since I was struggling with this and no one else was. But as I drove to work yesterday, I realized that in doing that, I was assuming that I should be “above that.” I should be above materialism and selfishly using my time for myself. Well guess what? I’m not. God wasn’t fooled for one moment either. He knew all along what I’m really like on the inside. The joke’s on me.

3. For me, buying new things should be the exception and not the rule.

You remember my sandal post from a while back? I still haven’t bought any. I can’t decide which ones I want. Actually, I had decided which ones I wanted but then they were out of my size. Boo. I just don’t want to buy the wrong ones and then regret my decision. So I’m at a standstill on that one.

But I don’t feel guilty about wanting those sandals. The difference between this purchase and other past purchases that have given me guilt is that: 1) I’ve been wanting these sandals since I started my new job 2 months ago and 2) They wouldn’t be just another version of something I already have 10 of. So those are my new guidelines for purchases (notice that I said guidelines, not rules): Wait until I know of something I would really like and would be very useful to me. Research the options and pray for the Spirit to convict me if I shouldn’t buy them. Go purchase said item sans guilt. My other strategy is to mention all of the things I would like to Travis “just in case someone asks what I’d like for my birthday.” 🙂

My cousin is getting married on July 30th and I’ve been thinking about buying a new dress for the occasion. I might go peruse a thrift store to see if there’s anything good but otherwise, I feel like the best decision would be to wear a dress I already own – I have one that is great for summer weddings and I’ve only worn once or twice.

Oh and I’ll wear my new sandals. (I’m going to go look at some tonight.)

What does all of this have to do with keeping an eternal perspective?

For me, the question underlying all of this is: Where does my happiness lie? Is my happiness wrapped up in having cute clothes? Or is it in knowing that Christ died for me and I’m going to heaven someday? Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? When I see a chunk of my paycheck every month going to our church, Campus Outreach, and our Compassion child, am I thankful to God for allowing me to participate in growing His kingdom? Or do I wish I could use that money to go on a trip to Hawaii?

Christ didn’t say to store up treasures in heaven instead of on earth just because that’s a good thing to do, or because they really need more treasures up there. Instead, He said this: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” God knows our humanity. He knows that we focus on what we treasure. So He says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” He wants us to keep an eternal perspective.

Simplifying.

22 Apr

I am on a simplifying kick right now. About a month ago, I took 4 or 5 boxes of clothes, home goods, and books to Arc Thrift Store. Then I went through all of my old magazines, recycled all the ones I’ve read (after ripping out articles I wanted to keep) and making a stack of ones I want to read, which I am slowly but surely making my way through. Once I done with a magazine, I either flag the recipes I want to try and add them to my kitchen stash or I throw it in the recycling bin. I have also started buying groceries for only one week at a time and choosing recipes that include ingredients I already have in my cupboard (some of which have been sitting in there for quite a while).

The way I used to operate was “Buy more.” If I wanted a certain kind of tea but didn’t have it, instead of drinking what I did have, I’d go out and buy more. If we ran out of bread but had buns left, instead of using the buns, I’d go buy more bread. If I saw a nail polish at the store I liked, instead of trying to think if I already had a similar color at home (which I most likely did), I’d just buy more. The result was food going bad, closets packed to the gills, and a bunch of stuff sitting unused. (And I am not a hoarder!)

But now, I am on a quest to eliminate all the excess by systematically using up everything I currently own before buying more (if I need to). I have already gotten rid of everything I didn’t need: mugs we never used, duplicates of kitchen gadgets, a plethora of water bottles, clothes that are just a bit too tight or short left from my pre-Christian days. Now I am getting rid of all the things that I will use, just not all at once. For example, tea bags. I really want to go buy a delicious flavor of Tazo tea but I’ve made a deal with myself that I have to drink up all the tea I currently have (because if I go buy more tea, I’ll never drink the stuff I have right now).

The point I want to get to is that I have nothing cluttering up my home that I don’t actually use on a daily, weekly, or at least monthly basis. If I haven’t used something in years, I have to either use it now or throw it out. It’s amazing how mentally freeing this concept is! Clutter in my house actually adds clutter to my mind. When I don’t have a ton of stuff to worry about, organize, or keep track of, I have time to focus on what really matters.

The other day, I was in Target and happened to spy a very cute purse. I was tempted to buy it because I did still have some Blow Money (cash I can spend on anything I want) left for the month. But I reminded myself, “Simplify,” so I walked away. And I didn’t feel deprived! I already own more purses than I want to but I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of them yet. The question in the back of my mind is always, “What if I regret getting rid of this?” (which isn’t completely crazy because it has happened in the past). So I’m taking things in stages. The first stage is to just not buy more.

My current experiment with this is groceries. Travis and I have decided on a monthly grocery budget of $300. That’s $75 a week. I can buy fruits and vegetables for a week, plan 2-3 good meals (banking on the leftovers for lunch), and still have money for snacks like crackers and cheese, yogurt, cereal, etc. But this month, we hosted a barbeque for friends, which totally threw all of our numbers off. The result has been that we ran out of grocery money on Wednesday, with 10 days to go in April. Whoops.

The old me would beg Travis for more grocery money. We can’t possibly subsist for the next week on what we have in our fridge and cupboards!, I would say. But the new me told Travis about our dilemma and said, “I want to do an experiment to see if we can really make this work. Do I have your permission to not buy any more groceries in April?” (Historically, when we have run low on food, Travis has whined, “We don’t have any food around here!” If he agreed to my experiment, no whining would be allowed.) “You’re asking to not spend any more money? Heck yeah, I agree!” Travis replied.

So the experiment is on. It shall be interesting. I’ll post again in a few days to let you know what we’re eating…or not eating. 😉

A Shopping Hiatus

21 Nov

Yesterday, I went shopping at Old Navy. I have been on the hunt for a classic, slim jean skirt that I could wear in the winter with my boots. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I finally found exactly what I was looking for at Old Navy on the clearance rack for $8.50. Can’t beat that.

While I was there, I also found a tank top for $3.75, a sweater for $6.00, another sweater for $9.50, and a scarf for $12.50. In college, I never bought things off the sale rack – I felt like it was too much effort. Now, not only am I surprised by how often I find great deals, I am also surprised at how rewarding it is to save money!

All that aside, I left Old Navy feeling slightly guilty. Even though I had only bought things that were on sale (with the exception of the scarf), and only spent $44.34 on 5 items, something didn’t sit right. I went next door to Michael’s and bought some wooden letters to spell HOPE, which I am going to paint pink and orange, decorate with sequins and polka dots and hang up in my office, as well as a basket that I’m going to fill with lots of food and goodies for my friend D for Christmas. That was another $32.67.

As I pulled out of the parking lot with my purchases, an unsettling yet subtle feeling of guilt stole over me. The same feeling I have any time I buy clothes, accessories, or shoes for myself.  Frivolous things. Unnecessary things. Things I cannot justify needing in any way, shape or form. The feeling is then compounded by spending money on anything additional, even if they’re groceries.

At first, it was the needy, hungry kids over in Africa with their sad puppy dog eyes that gave me guilt over a new sweater. Then, it was the homeless in Denver who needed a Thanksgiving meal that cost the exact amount of a new pair of shoes. And just recently, it was the realization that I was shopping for myself during the holidays, when “everyone else” is shopping for other people.

Most forms of guilt are from the devil. I know this because the Bible explicitly disputes the things the devil tells me to feel guilty about. Like I’m not good enough. I can never change. I’m not a loving person. I only think about myself. In Christ, those things are utterly untrue.

But when it comes to clothes and the like, there are no Bible verses to back me up. In fact, the only verses I can find actually point to the opposite:

“Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5).

“For they gave according to their means…and beyond their means, of their own free will” (2 Corinthians 8:3).

“Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing…” (1 Peter 3:3).

“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:8).

“But God said to [her], ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the [clothes] that you have [amassed], whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20, bracketed words changed for emphasis)

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).

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

All of these are very persuasive but none penetrated deeper into my heart than Romans 14:23, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Even though I don’t believe that shopping or clothing are sins in and of themselves, and I do believe that many Christians can shop and buy clothes in faith and with thanksgiving, I cannot escape the fact that I, right now, am not one of them. My guilt cannot be rationalized away. Believe me – I’ve tried!

I’ve tried to tell myself that since we donate to our church, support 2 campus ministering couples, and sponsor a Compassion child, I can spend some money on myself. I tell myself that I don’t buy clothes very often – maybe once every couple months – and that I usually find the good deals. I analyze each purchase to make sure it’s exactly what I want and that I love it. I try not to buy things that look exactly like something else I already have in my closet. And hey, I’m a lot more financially responsible than I used to be!!

My heart doesn’t buy it.

Alas, I have come to accept that since I cannot buy clothes in the freedom of faith that I am pleasing God, buying clothes (or shoes, accessories, purses, etc) is, for me, right now, a sin. As I was driving home feeling guilty, God asked me, “So if you feel so guilty every time you shop, why do you keep shopping?” I paused… and then said, “Good point.”

The deep feelings in my heart about this are written very succinctly by Thomas Merton, “The more goods I  keep for my own enjoyment, the less there are for others. My pleasures and comforts are, in a certain sense, taken from someone else. And when my pleasures and comforts are inordinate, they are not only taken from another, but they are stolen. I must learn to deprive myself of good things in order to give them to others who have a greater need of them than I.”

I cannot escape the conviction that I should not be buying more things that I don’t need, at the expense of giving those resources to someone who could really use them. I have been fighting this feeling while continuing to shop because I wanted to know WHY I felt this way. It’s not a sin to shop – so why can’t I shop? But this morning, when I stopped and asked myself why this fight continued and I didn’t just yield to the conviction that shopping was a selfish desire and repent, I realized I hadn’t conceded because deep down, I want happiness in the forms of clothes. I wanted that more than I wanted to obey.

“Surely God isn’t asking me to give up buying new clothes,” I thought.

“But what if He is asking that?”

“Then I guess I have to give it up.”

So here I am, still not understanding exactly why this is a conviction of mine, but out of love for God and a desire to be obedient, I am going to stop buying clothes. I figure I have about 7 years before I’d literally need anything new. (Good motivation to workout I guess!) And I will only start again when I can do it in faith. Sans nagging voice in the back of my head telling me my money would be better spent elsewhere. Maybe this is the beginning of something big.

My materialistic dream come true

27 Apr

Ever since I saw a Coach purse however many years ago, I’ve wanted one. Coach is just one of those brands–I love every style and design. The North Face is also like that for me. I drool over just about anything I see that is made by The North Face. They also have one more commonality: they’re crazy expensive.

Which explains why I didn’t have a Coach purse, nor did I think I ever would. I don’t have $300, let alone $300 to spend on a purse. So I relegated my Coach purse dream to the part of my brain that stores all the “Maybe someday…probably never” dreams that I have (those dreams usually involve possessions and things of superficial worth).

But my mom got this gift card for $50 off a $150 purchase. She asked me if I liked Coach purses and I said “Uh…yeah!” She asked me if I would use the gift card if she gave it to me. “Well, $50 off…but I don’t have that extra $100.” And then she said, “Well Dad and I could give you $100 now for your birthday (which is in July).” Sold.

I was still a little dubious about whether I could find a purse that I really wanted for $150. But I was willing to try. So I headed off to the Coach store at Flatirons Crossing and I did find one that I really liked, the only problem was the stupid handle. It was only long to be carried on your forearm, not put over your shoulder. I’ve had purses like that before (and I’ve had a LOT of purses) and it’s always just a little annoying. It’s what separates a great purse from a good purse. So the more I thought about that purse, I knew that if I bought it, I would always be a *little* disappointed about the handle.

Thinking that maybe the Coach store didn’t have EVERY style out on display, I checked out Coach.com. And I found 3 viable options, 2 of which were realistic. 🙂 When we went back to the Coach store yesterday, I found the 2 purses that I liked, tried each on and looked at myself in the mirror. The one I had expected to like better was actually a tad big for my taste. Travis thought the same thing (and the bigger one was more expensive so that was an automatic “I like the other one better.”) I ended up buying the other, smaller one that cost $218. With my $50 off, it cost $182. So I have to pay $82 out of my blow money, $40 for the next 2 months. It’s worth it!

As we walked out of the store, me carrying my ritzy Coach purse inside its own Coach pouch inside a glossy Coach bag, I wasn’t completely sure that I bought the perfect purse. I really wanted one with gold on it but the style I wanted didn’t have that as an option. The one I bought that is very sophisticated and will en vogue even when gold is out. 

Nevertheless, the minute we got to the car (after Travis went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to look at hunting scopes), I transferred everything from my old purse to my new purse. And the more I used it last night and this morning, the more I absolutely love it. My materialistic dream has finally come true!! I am the proud owner of a Coach purse! (And it doesn’t have as much to do with the “status symbol” as it does with the fact that I just really LOVE Coach purses. I mean if you asked me if I wanted a Louis Vitton purse, I’d say no. I just don’t like Louis Vitton.)

So here is a picture of my new beloved possession:Coach purse

Beautiful, eh?

On another note, the half marathon is in exactly a week. Travis and I ran 11 miles today so I think we’re pretty well-prepared.

On yet another note, I never get sick of making analogies between the Christian life and running. So I have another one before I end this post. I have been pretty dedicated to training for this race because I know that if I don’t do the short, weekly runs, I’ll never be able to do the long, weekend runs (or the race for that matter).

My dedication to running makes me think about the dedication I have to other areas of my life, especially my time with God. Too often, I’m not that committed. I think, “Well I have to train because or else I won’t be able to run the race, but it doesn’t REALLY matter if I don’t get into the Word today. I mean, what’s going to happen to me?”

But I think that if I saw the whole race stretched out before me and I saw what would be required of me down the road (or what I would be able to achieve with consistent training), my approach to time in the Word and in prayer would be quite a bit different. God doesn’t want me to spend time in the Word because “it’s a good thing.” It is a good thing but I am not just training for a little stroll in the park when I get in the Word. I am training for battle. I am training for challenges and circumstances that are only possible for me to face and stand against when I am grounded in God. Just as the distance I can run increases the more I train, so the difficulties of the obstacles I can face increases the more I train my soul and mind.

That’s food for thought.