by Renee Scott 

Earlier this year I had major surgery. For eight weeks (post-surgery), I focused on my recovery and total health. Despite the difficult first few weeks, it was the most glorious party of one. I can remember having that length of time to reflect, restore, and refresh my mind, body, and soul. Sure, you take time off after giving birth, but there’s a baby to pour your energy into. This time, it was just me. In God’s perfect plan for my life, he carved out those eight weeks for me to grow and focus. As I prepared to return to work, my sister asked me to share my biggest lesson. What did I learn from my time of stillness? I can sum it up in a few short words…..

The ability and power to hear and focus on my thoughts.
Yes!
A thought.
The simple ability to think.

Sound easy? Unfortunately, it’s not. I’m a blogger, mother, twin sister, runner, career woman, wife and community leader (not in that order). Just reading the list is exhausting. When I travel at the pace I normally do, I don’t always have time for my thoughts. They always come, but I don’t always take the time to dwell in them. I mean, I have awesome thoughts…..call my mom, send a text, encourage the woman you just met, or wash your daughter’s hair. Great intentions, but normally by noon, my goals have shifted.  

Well, for once, my hectic schedule didn’t hinder well intentions. I could finally take the time to listen and execute. I can’t articulate how powerful it was to realize the power of my thoughts. Reading, scrapbooking, writing and gentle exercises. That’s how my days were spent. I actually had time to send thank you notes (can’t say that always happens when life is crazy). 

I want to encourage you to listen to your blessed thoughts today. Take time to hear God’s gentle whispers this week. He’s always speaking, the question is, are you listening? When was the last time you quieted yourself to hear God’s voice? 

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10

Renee ScottRenee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog, where she doubleportioninspiration.blogspot.com shares encouragement and inspiration to men and women all over the world.  She’s been a member of Grace Family Church for four years. She loves to run and recently completed her first half marathon. She is a wife of over 14 years and mother of two children.

by Dani Catherine 

As July was approaching, I was thinking, praying, and brainstorming of what I was going to fast from. It changed from eating only 7 types of foods, to spending money only on bills, to “I don’t feel called to fast.” And then it dawned on me that, at that moment, I was feeling defeated in the area of appearance. I had the desire to look perfect. I had the desire to buy clothing, handbags and shoes…that would only leave me broke…and not just financially broke, spiritually bankrupt. I was craving to look perfect more than I was craving God.

It was completely obvious that I was going to make more room for God and less room for perfectionism. I decided that I was 1) going to go through my closet 2 times in July and give away all items I didn’t wear more than once (Note: most of my clothes still had tags on them) and 2) Not purchase anything that would “magnify” my appearance (No clothing, jewelry, makeup, shoes, handbags, etc.) Boy, was I in for a tough month.

As I was going through my closet, tossing dress after dress and shirt after shirt in a garbage bag, I realized that all this “stuff” had defined me at an attempt to cover up how truly broken and lost I once was. I used “fashion” and “stuff” to deflect from inner turmoil. God showed up that day in my closet. As the tears were rolling down my face, I let go of the “stuff” that kept me blocked from being vulnerable and from being who I truly was.  If I couldn’t be vulnerable with other people, how was I going to be vulnerable with God? I finally saw “me.” And that me is a girl whose identity is found in Christ, a girl who has bad days, a girl with a past and a girl who is tired of hiding underneath the “trendy clothes” and “dolled up container” to forget about the junk. I don’t need the latest dress from H&M or the cutest pair of shoes from Aldo, because my needs are met fully in Christ. I got rid of a whole lot that day- my ego, my pride, my past, my selfishness…and gained a whole lot- more room for God.

My prayer for you is that God shows you what to do with your excess, and where that excess is. I pray that each step you take to getting rid of “stuff”, guides you into the ultimate truth- that He is ALL you need!

Is there something you need to get rid of to make more room for God? Share your comments and thoughts below. 

Dani Catherine is the Communications Coordinator for the Beautiful Ministry, as well as a full time Substance Abuse Therapist. Dani loves to bake, eat ice cream, paint, snap photos and spend time with her loved ones…especially her dog, Jeter! 

by Kristin Bonham 

I can’t find my stuff. 
I need to organize my stuff.
I’m going to buy more stuff.
Aw, she has cute stuff!
What is all this stuff???

Taking on the challenge of reading Jen Hatmaker’s book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” has pretty much wrecked my stuff.  I mean… I like this stuff, and I might need this stuff someday so I want to keep it just incase!

A few weeks after we stared this Beautiful Experiment to eliminate excess in our lives, my husband and I moved our daughter’s stuff back into our house.  This includes a bedroom full of furniture, boxes, clothes, and collections from a 22 year olds life.  Many of the things are necessities, some are sentimental and some are just things that have followed her around for a few years. 

So, when I was talking to her after we moved all this stuff, I presented the challenge of getting rid of 1/3 or “our” stuff.  Because she is like me and goes through cycles of wanting to purge things, she was up for it.  One minor detail is that she lives in another state and I would be doing the initial downsizing.

I have to confess, I’ve been here before.  Anytime I come back from a vacation or being away from home for a few days, I want to clean out stuff and simplify my life.  The problem is, it always comes back.  The thing about the “7 experiment” is that Jen’s point is to make changes that give you new filters to see yourself and others through. 

I tackled the subject of possessions because I need to create some space and I really do want to change the cycle of stuff.  In the middle of it, I couldn’t help but think about another area… stress.

What I discovered is there is a direct connection with my how much space is in my closets and how much room is in my life.  When my spaces are cluttered and full of things I don’t use or really need, they are a direct reflection of how much margin is in my schedule, how much freedom I have to respond to the moment, and how much stress I am living with. 

So, this is what I’m doing about it.  I’m focusing on creating space in every area of my life and I started with my closet.  Funny enough, I just did a huge closet cleanout back in March.  This time, it came down to a cardigan.  I have this amazing gray cardigan that I’ve had for about 5 years.  I love this sweater.  The problem… I have another one that is almost identical.  My closet cleaning partner challenged me to get rid of one sweater.  I chose to eliminate the favorite one.  She told me if I wanted it back, I could ask her and that made me think, “Why am I so attached to this stuff?” 

I let the sweater go, along with 3 bags of things I can find a new home for.  I pray this is the beginning of the real change that I’m seeking in my life.  It may sound trivial but God has used the simplest things to teach me important truths.  He is my source.  It’s so easy to let other things creep in and take up a little space in me that needs to be satisfied in Him.  I love to give and I’m excited about this new level of giving that God is developing in me and I look forward to the empty spaces I will see in my closets and calendar.  I pray that you will ask God to show you if there is space in you that He wants access to and then do it. 

What is one item that you can’t seem to “let go” of? Are you up for the challenge of giving it away to create more space? Share your comments and thoughts below! 

Kristin Bonham is a pastor’s wife and the Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Family Church. She and Chris have been married for 25 years and have three children; Taylor, Abby and Casey.  She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Chris. She collects books and reads some of them. Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with her family and friends around the table.  

Todays writer, Becca Christensen, shares a personalized video blog of her journey through July as she purged her home! Click on the video below! 

by Becca Christensen 

[jwplayer mediaid=”2499″] 

Home Purge
 

 

Do you have a funny and memorable experience purging your excess and valuables?! Share your comments below! 

Becca Christensen works at Grace Family Church as a Ministry Assistant. She loves to  travel, entertain, read, spend time with family, and root on the Indianapolis Colts. In addition to contributing to the Beautiful Blog, Becca leads a table at Beautiful Monday Nights. You can read more about Becca on her blog, Oh, the Places You’ll Go

by Kim Wiezycki

I love a healthy challenge. And if it involves books, I’m even more ready to accept. 

When Kristin asked Beautiful Bloggers to read Jen Hatmaker’s book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess”, I couldn’t wait to begin reading! I was intrigued by the author’s self-imposed 7 month challenge and envious of her results. As she eliminated excess from her life, she was more focused on Jesus and his teachings and saw clearer ways she could help, serve, and love others.

My challenge was to decide which “fast” to do for the month of July in my own experiment. After thought and prayer, I settled on ‘excess spending’. Who couldn’t save a few bucks and practice delayed gratification, right? So, I talked with my husband about the idea and assured him that he and the kids did not have to participate. To my surprise, they wanted to! Well, Larry wanted to, but the boys were pretty good sports with only the occasional complaint. Besides, I had bought Adventure Island summer passes in June so they weren’t exactly deprived of all summer fun. 

We decided to halt spending in the following areas:

1. No restaurants.
Confession: We decided to allow Chipotle take-out as the occasional exception. Sometimes Mom needs a night off and I figured I can’t make the same meal cheaper with quality ingredients anyhow.

2. No coffee shop purchases.
If I wanted to meet friends at Starbucks,  I’ made my own homemade 50 cent coffee in my Starbucks mug. One can still be social and not spend.

3. No dessert shoppes.
I love our favorite ice cream, fro-yo, donut, and slurpee spots but adding it all up each month equals a college fund contribution. So, we bought grocery store ice cream and donuts! It’s half the price and the boys were just as appreciative.

4. No purchases of clothes, shoes, accessories, hair do-dads, make up, or running items. 
Our closets were already full. In fact, we were able to give away several bags of clothes!

5. No lunch dates, dinner dates, breakfast dates with friends (not even if the other party offered to pick up the tab). 
It was a joy to have friends and family over to our home or be guests in theirs. And we noticed that we have better quality time in the comfort of our home anyways! 

6. No movie theater visits, music, tv show, or on-demand purchases. 
We have enough already downloaded!

7.  No book purchases. 
I almost never say no to buying books, but when our shelves are already filled with novels we have yet to read, there is no reason to buy more. Plus, we had a great time going to the library several times in July.

What did this fast accomplish for our family? Well, who would have guessed that this month would be one of our financially tightest months in several years. We had a few unexpected circumstances that, had we been spending frivolously, would have brought much stress upon our family.  

July’s fast helped us through some challenges and yet the blessings were more obvious to us….we noticed how much we already have. 

We always had enough food in the house. We still had enough to give away. We rediscovered entertainment in games, books, toys, and movies that had been tucked away in cabinets. We intentionally donated household items and clothes instead of bringing in more.

I know you’re wondering if we cheated at all during the month. Well, yes there were a few moments where I felt like I “messed up”. For instance, one day (when I forgot about the challenge) I bought an app for my iPad so we could watch a re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. And there was a time or two my kids actually got excited that I “messed up”,  like the day they challenged me about why it was justifiable to order cheesesteaks at a graduation after-party that was held at a restaurant. Those times were great conversation starters and teachable moments about grace, pride, legalism, and the principles behind this particular challenge.

This experiment of curbing 7 ways of excess spending taught our family a lot more than just a few ways to save a buck. I knew that we would have to practice self-control and I suspected we would develop a few lasting good habits.  But through prayer, life circumstances, and conversation, we grew in more ways than we expected to, and I hope the challenge taught our boys something relevant as we lead them in the ways they should go. 

Have you ever curbed your spending? If so, what did you learn from that expierence?! Share your comments below.

Kim has been married to Larry Wiezycki for 17 years and they have two boys, ages 12 and 10. When Kim isn’t in church, she can be found teaching curly girls how to take care of their hair, spending way too much time on Facebook or reading real books, and running a half marathon here and there.