7 in really real life (week 1)

Thank you, friends, for your fabulous participation on Day 1 of our Read-a-Long. There was so much good stuff to take in, I could barely get to it all. And man alive, was there some raw, ouchy honesty going on. Whew. It’s never too late to chime in, link to your own post, or reply to other’s comments.

As promised, we’re taking Wednesdays to explore what it might look like to live that week’s chapter (in this case, the introduction) in the flesh. If you didn’t see Jen’s comment on the blog yesterday, she spoke perfectly to what I most certainly DON’T want us to do: turn this into a competition where we focus horizontally on each other and leave Jesus out of the picture.

Here’s part of what she said:

Welcome, readers! I just read all your comments and I am super, over-the-top thrilled about what the next few weeks hold! …

Remember: This is not a formula. Please resist the urge to compare. Our stories are different. The end. Let God have His way with you, in the way He wants to have it. It may look totally different from mine or Marlaโ€™s or anyone elseโ€™s here. Fine, good, wonderful, grand.

Last point: This is way more about your heart than your stuff. The stuff gets in the way, but the heart is what Jesus is after. So try not to get too bogged down in the mechanics or the reductions without also offering Jesus space, time, communion, your love. Donโ€™t leave Him out of the story…

Amen. (One of these days Jen Hatmaker is going to say something I don’t emphatically agree with. And when she does, believe me, I’ll let you know.)

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t have any great big plans for giving things up for huge chunks of time right now. With what my hubby is going through, I know I’ve got to put his health–and our family’s well-being–before any wild experimenting.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace an attitude of fasting, of making more space in my heart and my day for Jesus (goodness knows, I need that!!). So I’m going to pray about little things I can do. I’ve already thought of one.

I have this really bad habit of not planning ahead when it comes to grocery shopping/meal planning/dinner making. Holy cow, I’m awful. And what it often translates to is way too many trips to way too many stores a week, wasted food, crappy meals, and a bad attitude about cooking (okay, warming up leftovers) for my family.

I decided last Friday that I wasn’t spending one single penny on food until I completely cleaned out all the stuff that’s been sitting in my cupboards/fridge/freezer for an embarrassingly long time. I’m not a big food hoarder (no pantry, no 2nd freezer) but I’m all about buying new, fun food while there’s meat and veggies lounging in the freezer and beans/rice/tuna sitting lonely in the cupboards.

I’m thrilled to report, five days in, that 1.) my freezer is almost empty. 2.) the girls and I have been preparing meals together and 3.) God has miraculously worked it all out so there’s “just enough” butter and “just enough” corn and “just enough” chicken to feed everyone. I love just enough.

I’ve started a big grocery list of lots of staple foods, and I’m going to try to go longer between visits, use up what we have, and buy less packaged stuff and more rice, beans, potatoes, fruit, and veggies. And with Gabe needing to take time off work and getting a partial paycheck right now, I feel like this is just one of God’s sweet provisions to us: a reduced grocery bill + less gas running to the store.

So yeah.

Katie had a cool idea for the money she’s been saving on groceries. And Jen has a whole big list here of some stuff we could do without going all-out mutiny.

I’d love to hear some of your ideas. What has God been laying on your heart as it relates to practice application of this 7 stuff?

48 thoughts on “7 in really real life (week 1)

  1. Jessica

    We are on Day Ten – Month One of 7, The week before starting this one of our dear friends found out she has stage 4 breast cancer that has went to her lungs, bones, and liver as well. That has help me put 7 in perspective really fast. Everytime I want to whine or thing this is hard. I remember Lana and her family. That is hard. So I have dedicated this first month of 7 to her. Everytime I start to struggle, it is my cue to pray for her. So basically, I am praying alot. If anyone would also join us in pray for Lana & her family we would greatly appreciate it. Thank you. Here is a link to her blog page if I do this correctly. Thank you again.
    http://lanaelder.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/bone-biopsy-result/

  2. Valerie

    Today I started a 30 day fast of 7 types of food: fast food, soda, coffee, sweet tea, anything in the “itos” food group (Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos), refined white sugar/white flour products, and red meat. Compared to Jen Hatmaker’s fast in “7”, this should be a walk in the park, right? Oh boy. I am so much more addicted than I thought. I got such a salt craving before lunch that I was hallucinating about McDonald’s French fries. I stopped at Dollar General and bought a pack of roasted almonds instead. A very, very small victory.

    I estimate that I probably drop at least ten bucks at fast food restaurants per week, so I am going to send $50 to Jen’s Haiti project at the end of March. I am really enjoying, being convicted by, and being encouraged by everyone’s posts and blogs! Thanks, Marla, for doing this. I’m keeping you and your family in prayer.

    1. Sharon

      Valerie: I love the idea of giving up 7 food items (or categories of food) vs limiting yourself to 7 for a month. I actually have a chance at succeeding with your method. Just so long as I don’t put chocolate on my forbidden list….

      I used to be a fast food junkie and sometimes still miss the convenience and yumminess of eating out on a regular basis. My guess is, the longer you go without it, the easier it will be to continue on in that fashion. Congrats on your victory!

  3. Pingback: Rice and Beans, Beans and Rice | Living the Life of a Frugal Trophy Wife

  4. Amanda

    I’m not reading along with this one because our library doesn’t have the book (and I have committed to not spending money on new books until I’ve read the ones I already bought). But the blog posts are so interesting and the comments challenging. Seems appropriate that you’re doing this during Lent ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Amanda

        Oh, for sure! I could ILL it too…I’m an expert at tracking things down after 2 years working as a research assistant in a library, ha! That means I need to get my act together and get a library card here ๐Ÿ™‚ it’s definitely been added to my to-read list, just behind quite a few others ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Jessica Brown

    So, in our house we’re embarking on a spending fast. Basic groceries (which do have to include a lot of produce/milk for our daughter, but don’t have to include so much coffee/red wine/ice cream) and paying our bills.

    The fast starts tomorrow. So of course we went to Pei Wei, bought crap for our bathroom remodel, and bought ice cream tonight while we still could.

    We hatched this plan a month or two ago from a purely financial, “let’s be more responsible” standpoint. But as we’ve started Lent we’re asking God to be a part of this with us. We’re praying that God will allow this time of going without to open up more space for him. And as part of that space, lives marked more by gratitude and generosity.

  6. Valerie

    We’re doing a modified grocery store fasting here…. aside from milk, bread, produce I will not be buying anything else until we’ve used up what all we have. I would go all in on no trips to the store but since we have a toddler he needs the milk and fruits/veggies. Here’s the twist…I have $100 weekly budgeted for food/household items. Whatever I do not spend on milk, bread, and produce per week will be donated to a local church operated food pantry. On top of what we already donate monthly to the local baby pantry. I’m tired of living in excess and selfishness and I want to help others and I know what we’re doing is small but, it is a start. As we focus less on excess I’m hoping that we can start doing more for other people.

  7. brooke

    Dear Marla,

    I’m sorry for stalking your comments and responding to your readers. I just find this such a great discussion I can’t help myself!

    Since reading the book I decided to do a grocery store fast. Jay is well read on “disaster preparedness” and likes a stockpile of food in the kitchen. He’s a little uncomfortable with me using up our stockpile, but I want to know what we would truly use if I couldn’t grocery shop.

    My “rules” are simple – only purchasing fresh produce, bread, and milk at the store. Everything else must be used from the pantry. I think I’m about 3 weeks in, and so far loving it! The only challenge has been learning to make the transition from canned beans to dry beans, but even that has become easy peasy lemon squeezy.

    I’ve blogged it a bit, but its become a non-issue (and more of a grocery store vacation than a fast) i’ve sort of dropped off.

    Love,
    Your Bloggy Friend
    Brooke

  8. Jen Hanson

    There is so much I want to do – purge, lessen spending, focus time on others more, get out of “my own friends and family” bubble… SO much. But I’m getting mentally fried trying to think about all this (let along do it) while simultaneously trying to figure out this new stage of stay-at-home-nursing-mother-of-twins. I can hardly keep up with laundry and tidying up, never mind cooking or actually cleaning. I love my boys and I love being home, but it is so frustrating to feel like I’m at a “stand-still” in regards to serving others (not just my babes and hubs). I’m in a very limited time-warp-continuum that exists in every-two-hour-feeding increments and I feel like I can never finish anything, so I don’t start much.

    For example – I would LOVE to organize a garage sale of all my stuff to benefit orphans, but how would I swing that while nursing two babies every two hours? Even if I got a sitter, I would have to pump every two hours. Thus, I just cart a bag or two off to Goodwill every now and then and feel like I’m missing out on actually meeting needs of the needy (orphans or even direct connections with people in the community who specifically need the items I’m purging). Blah.

    I love this book and I love what she’s doing, I just feel like before-twins-Jen would have done a lot more with it. But this is life and I’m trying to figure out how to apply some of the stuff I’m noticing/learning through this book and other places into my “right-now”. Not sure where to start though and am so afraid of remaining stagnant.

    1. brooke

      i’m in a similar (yet not alike at all position) i have these great ideas of what i could do “IF” – if i didn’t work full time, if i only knew where the need was, etc. one thing I’ve found helpful is praying every day for an open heart – asking God to open my eyes to needs I *can* meet. that keeps me from using my situation as an excuse and the constant awareness keeps me from shutting off my heart.

    2. Leslie

      Jen – you’re doing some mighty important – and selfless – work at the moment. I don’t have the authority to “give you a pass” on the rest of life/spiritual growth right now, but just wanted to maybe suggest you allow yourself a little grace in this season. I know you’ve heard this a million times by now, but it really does go by so fast! I encourage you to be fully present in this precious, fleeting season while staying attuned to this divine calling!
      Signed,
      An empty-nesting mama on “the other side”!

    3. Marla Taviano

      I’ll tell you what I’ve told you before. You and Devin got a huge head start on this mercy & justice journey before the surprise sweeties came along. I didn’t start caring about this stuff until 2-3 years ago.

      I have one idea for you: spend a chunk of your nursing moments in prayer for 2 things: 1.) the poor/orphans/widows/etc. and 2.) that God will show you exactly what he wants you to be doing right now as far as loving the poor goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gives you some sweet opportunities that have never even crossed your mind.

      Love you!

      1. Jen Hanson

        Thank you Marla – you brought tears to my eyes. I will take you up on your suggestion. So many times while nursing the twins or hearing their hungry cries when getting ready to nurse them, my heart has choked up for the babies who cry and can’t be fed because they either have a mama who can’t feed herself enough to produce milk for her wee ones (and my heart breaks for her helplessness) or they don’t have a mama. I need to be more intentional about turning those heartaches into prayers for those in desperate places.

        Thank you.

        1. Danielle

          I just cried from reading this. I know I don’t know you, but my goodness you have GOT to be a good momma if you’re thinking and praying about the stuff that breaks God’s heart. Your twins are so blessed to have you.

    4. Samantha

      Perhaps you could do something like keeping a list of people, causes, organisations etc. near the place where you nurse your babies and if you happen to find a moment when your brain can put a sentence together you could pray for them ๐Ÿ™‚ Even just a one liner. You could keep a couple of scripture verses along with it as prayer pointers. That would be a huge way to serve ๐Ÿ™‚ Hang in there!

  9. Jennifer Ekstrand

    My husband and I have been on a path of simplification/being-more-purposeful for a while (though it seems we still have so far to go). I’ve been having a hard time going from less stuff to more Jesus though. It is so easy to value the changes for their own sake; when I donate a bunch of items to a wonderful thrift store affiliated with our church (their profits go to things like creation care and helping vulnerable women) I feel like I think about the benefits of less clutter that directly benefit me (more physical space, less stress) more than the benefits to others of giving it away. There has been conviction behind the changes, but so often I feel like I fill the margins that I’m making for Jesus with more of myself. I don’t have anything pinned down, but I’m looking for ways to work on “more Jesus” not just “less junk”… if anyone has any suggestions, I’m open to ideas.

    On a more concrete note, yesterday in my blog post, I wrote about this book revealing my critical pride (despite 7 being a great read so far)… and as I realized how much that comes out in my snobbery about books that “don’t meet my standards”, I decided to delete my goodreads “started-but-decided-not-to-finish” shelf which was slightly useful for reminding myself not to pick up books that I’d already tried but more about advertising my “superior taste” in books. Not a big change, but it is a change.

    1. brooke

      i love snobs! i’m one too ๐Ÿ™‚

      I suspect underneath we all really are – some of us are just more open to admitting it and wanting to change. does that make me a snobby-better-than-most-snobs? ๐Ÿ˜›

    2. Marla Taviano

      Reminds me of the line, “There is no truly selfless good deed.” I get what you’re saying. My slimmed-down closet and almost-empty freezer make me very happy. Now to make sure that I’m honestly focused on “more Jesus” and not just “less stuff.”

      And I love that you deleted your superior goodreads shelf. Good for you!

    3. Valerie

      Oh wow. You are reading my mind. I am looking forward to the pounds I might lose and the health benefits I hope to enjoy after my 30 day fast probably more than the spiritual benefits. Praying about that…..

      1. Jennifer Ekstrand

        It is that “more” that is getting me. I’m glad there are tangible benefits for myself as well as the spiritual blessings and blessings for others, but I feel like I tend to prioritize the wrong ones. I don’t want to miss God while focusing on good things.

  10. Kim

    I’m taking this week to evaluate where we currently are in each category–using February as the base line. Some of it is not pretty and in other areas it doesn’t look to bad.

    I need to do a ton of praying before committing to any action steps. I tend to run ahead of God unless I constantly remind myself to wait on Him.

  11. Teresa Henry

    Every one has the calling of Loving God and Loving Others on their life…how God has each person do that will look different. I love how we can glean from one another and be encouragers, examples, and warriors in prayer together. I know that God used Jen’s book to ignite a new understanding of the poor, oppressed, brokenhearted, and hurt in me. Sometimes I walk around in my own little world forgetting the small (and big) things that I can do that can make an impact. My friend just went to be with the Lord last night and she lived an amazing life. She Loved God and Loved Others with all of her heart. As I look at today and whatever other days the Lord allows me to have, I want to know that I did life well. That I read the Word and lived the Word. 7 reflects such a great vision of God’s desire for us to keep our eyes on Him and off of ourselves. By taking notice to the needs, reducing our “stuff” and focusing on the world around us. If it is being resourceful with food and giving back as a result, if it is taking our excess and filling another’s need, if it’s reducing our debt and spending it on the needs of others…any of these things are loving others…it is opening up our eyes and seeing the needs of our world. I love that we can be a community that choses that. We can be a community that takes action. My sweet amazing friend who is dancing with Jesus in a garden of flowers and fresh veggies…would tell me to do what God is calling you to do…put action to my dreams and thoughts…don’t keep them in my heart as a sweet thought…but put my feet to the pavement and do.
    Like Jen and Marla said, there is not a formula that each person can follow to do what God is calling each individual to do, but the underlining principle is to learn how to give our God the room He deserves in our lives and to open our eyes to the needs of our community and world.
    Do today well…as my friend would say.

  12. Tonia

    Really, the food thing is a different battle for me that I really need to pray more about to see what direction God will take me with it, but in the mean time I did just meal plan for the next two weeks and really bought a lot less than usual. I have been using plantoeat.com for the last year, and let me say it has really quite changed my stress level in many ways. I recommend it to anyone who will listen to me ๐Ÿ™‚

    Whatโ€™s hammering me in the head about this is just my time wasted on Internet (specifically Pinterest) and all of the โ€œprojectsโ€ that I have to do RIGHT NOW. I was attempting some Internet fasting for Lent, but Iโ€™m just going to all out give up Pinterest for Lent. It sounds shallow, but itโ€™s a big time suck for me and creates a heart of discontentment and anxiety about what I donโ€™t have in my life.

    I do want to try out mini-challenges for myself that correspond with each chapter and pray about where God needs me to be in those areas. Thanks for this Marla. I just moved across the country and havenโ€™t been able to start a study with church or find any genuine friends yet, so this is giving me a lot of comfort to feel that missing human connection.

    1. Marla Taviano

      We’re here for you, girl! I’ll be praying you find some sweet, in-real-life friends too.

      Yeah, the internet. Hoo boy. I may be proud of myself for quitting Pinterest, but what about Facebook, Twitter, and the crazy amount of reading/writing I do on this here blog? I need to honestly ask God what he wants from me in this area.

    2. Sharon

      Tonia,

      I won a year long subscription to Plan to Eat and have enjoyed using it, too. I haven’t added many recipes to my account, but you are welcome to add me as a friend on there, my account name is: hislovendures.

      I totally get fasting Pinterest. A couple of years ago I decided to fast Facebook for Lent. I end up giving it up for good. I haven’t gotten on Pinterest yet because I’m afraid I’d never shut down my computer if I do. I cannot imagine how different my life would be if I gave up all internet for Lent.

      1. meaning of equipment

        The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web browser. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it’ll do even better in those areas, but for now it’s a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod’s strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice.

  13. Danielle

    We recently paid off all of our non-mortgage debt. It was a 4 year process of learning what being good stewards of God’s money really meant. Late teens/early 20’s were some dumb hard years for both of us! We still don’t have it all figured out. But I digress…

    The day after I sent the final payment I sat back and thought “now what?!” While I know a lot of logical, responsible, serious adult answers, I’m not 100% sure they’re the right ones for the question. As I read about Jen’s family and church loving their neighbor as themselves (50/50) I got a little too excited. I’m thinking that’s closer to the answer for the “now what?!” So, I’m on a mission for the next 9 weeks to figure out what that looks like in our crazy house. Heck we’re already the weird people to our church, family, and friends, why not just go way out there? It will start with little things like eating everything in the house before I shop for more food, or filling my truck with maybe the final big load of stuff to get out of my house, but I hope that’s not the end. It feels like God’s answer is a lot bigger than I can dream up. So, starting small, let’s see what comes.

      1. Danielle

        I feel like our house is holding us back too, gotta get that out of the way. Hoping in the next week to set a reasonable goal for paying that off while still making sure that we follow God’s heart to care for people. We’ve already gone from 30 to about 20 years, but that still seems too long and doesn’t allow us to live as freely as we want to now. I can’t wait for the day when God can be more glorified in the gifts he’s given us!

        1. Marla Taviano

          I totally read your first comment too fast and thought you paid off your house. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I am STILL proud of you!! We’re down to just a few thousand on Gabe’s school bill (and now some hospital bills) and we’ll be able to say the same.

    1. brooke

      i found the 50/50 “what if we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves” portion particularly challenging. how exciting to be in a position to be both willing and able to do that!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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