Did I lose my wallet or did my wallet lose me?

God must have taken me seriously with this whole thing. He had to have with what happened next. Now, let me preface this by saying that I don’t pray about whether I should wear the three-quarter-length red shirt or the v-neck black one and I don’t face a spiritual crossroads when I debate oatmeal against waffles for breakfast – who knows, maybe I should. That said I am certain that God took me seriously in all of this when, within the first week of this little experiment, I lost my wallet!

The craziest part is that, only days before, I handed over hundreds of dollars’ worth of credit and gift cards to my husband. I borderline panicked when he threatened to cut them all up and trash them.

“That’s like real money,” I said. “You can’t throw away money.”

He countered, “Do you not see that throwing it away is exactly what you will do?”

He walked away from the dining room table and I had to sit with my rage at the idea that he may or may not be throwing away this money, some of which I had worked very hard for –it’s not like Buffalo Exchange takes just anything! How many hours had I waited in that selling line? And how many baby gifts from Target had I returned in order to build up a hefty credit? Of course, even when I accumulated half the cost of a Little Cottage nursing chair, Spence was still not convinced that a chair needed to be designed specifically for breastfeeding in order to get the job done. Needless to say, I’m nursing just fine in a chair we already had. But still, those were hundreds of dollars in his hands. And you don’t just throw away money!

I’m sure he thought there was some big lesson in mysteriously retreating with all the dough. On the other hand, since he’d asked me not to spend any money in September, I shrugged the whole thing and decided to let God rearrange my icky heart in the meantime.

And rearrange he did!

Somehow the weekend came and I didn’t feel wanty like I usually do. Even powering through two birthday parties didn’t stir my desires.

And then my wallet came up missing.

At first, I thought someone stole it. And I was angry! What were they charging? Hurry and cancel. Cancel it. Now.

I was mildly relieved that not a dime jingled inside that cute little leather Hobo clutch, save for my credit and debit card, but I was annoyed about the item itself (it’s appeal factor was so high that three of my friends asked if I minded if they got the exact same one) and the pain of ordering a new driver’s license. That Hobo and I had wrangled some serious bargains; it was like a friend. Would I ask for another one for Christmas? Would it be the same? But by the time I got home, somehow I didn’t really care. Spencer had canceled the cards and I remembered that I had another wallet (also cute, but in that 2008 kind of way) up in my closet somewhere. I would be okay!

Don’t get me wrong, Spence and I weren’t exactly thrilled about the whole thing, but it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. And once our eyes met, we didn’t need to say a word. We knew that was some kind of test or lesson, so we went with it.

That night we had friends over, cooked on the grill and ate on the back patio while our kids enjoyed the first cool grass of fall.

The wife of my husband’s former college roommate sat across from me. She cocked her eyebrow and gawked, “He wasn’t mad at you for losing it?”

“No.”

And that was it. He wasn’t mad and I wasn’t upset. We just moved on.

And the next day was Sunday and we piled into the car for church. Spence noticed something in between the seat and the door. He picked it up and handed me my old friend.

I tossed the thin, light leather clutch into my diaper bag. I was relieved and renewed. The Hobo and I are starting fresh.

Home & Hearth (and Retail Therapy)

I don’t sew. I’m not crafty and I can’t really cook. I am so far from the Proverbs 31 woman, it’s depressing. My house is a mess and the only time I am up before the sun is to feed my baby at 4am. Don’t get me wrong, I long to be this biblical saint, but I have no one in my field of vision to look at as an example. I live in America. Materialism and consumerism reign supreme, even in the church. Is anyone living biblically? Does anyone, who can afford it, avoid sale racks and stores and coffee shops simply because they don’t need anything? Is anyone really satisfied? I read that being rich isn’t having everything you want, it’s wanting everything you have. Does anyone want what they have? Do I? And if not, why not? My culture tells me that shopping makes everything better; if you are down, the mall will cheer you up, especially once you have a full bag hanging from your wrist. Problems disappear if you have Daddy Warbuck’s credit card, it seems.

But have I not done that? Have I not filled every want with something –a caramel macchiato from Starbucks, a new second-hand pair of Tory Burch rain boots from Buffalo Exchange or a Free People dress, yellow tagged to $29.99 on the clearance rack, at Marshall’s? I’m not in credit card debt and I’ve never spent $400 on Dior sunglasses, but I have wasted money on things that won’t fill me. I think about that Jennifer Knapp lyric:

“All the pennies I’ve wasted in my wishing well I’ve thrown like stones to the sea. I’ve cast my lots, dropped my guard, searched aimlessly for a faith to be faithful to me.”

How many pennies have I wasted? To look at it another way, how many pennies have I stolen from my family and from God that could have been used for something greater than scratching my itches?

And I want to say I will change. No more shopping. No more Coffee Bean. No more anything! Groceries and gas only, right? But the truth is, it’s just another diet. And I can go on a diet, but has my heart really changed? And this is where it is out of my hands. God must change my heart to be like His, to want the things He wants. Because I will search this world, use and discard until it’s empty, unless He transforms my heart and mind. And I want Him to. Of course, if I want my heart to look like His, I need to know what His looks like, so I guess it is not entirely out of my hands. I suppose it is what I put in my hands and before mine eyes that matters most. So what will it be?

Scratching the Itch

Too often, I scratch the itch without examining what’s causing the tickle. My itch is the purchase; something new at a low price. Right now we have a new (to us) home, so we are on a fairly tight budget. I have a few gift cards in my wallet and when the tickle reaches its height, I can make a purchase without money actually coming out of our bank account. In other words, I can buy without getting caught. Ugh, even the sound of it is sickening. But I love the bargain and the new thing. Yet, as much as I love it, I have never really counted the cost. I have never looked at its consequences on the planet and on my soul –what causes the itch? There is a part of me that doesn’t even want to look into this. And yet I know it is a combination of things. First, I am an average Amercian. I think I am thrifty and frugal, but that is only true in my visual sphere. Compared to any third worlder, I’d be a terrible steward of my resources. Secondly, I think I am exempt because I have an eye for a bargain. And once the bargain is eyed, it would be criminal to let the deal go. And, lastly, shopping is one of the best distractions from doing what I’m supposed to do, from getting my work done. Shopping makes me excited and I feel like I’ve conquered (although I’m not sure what or whom) when I come home with the kill. But does it really satisfy? Or have I just wasted hours I can never have back on stuff that won’t make me happy.

And I could probably ignore this conviction if it weren’t for my adorable 6 month old son who looks up at me from his snap n go as I push him through clothing and home goods aisles. He doesn’t speak yet, but his face seems to ask, “Whatcha lookin for, Mommy?” And I am looking. One of the greatest gifts of my life is right in front of me and I’m desperately hunting for a bargain to satisfy my soul.

I want to ignore this –or laugh it off –and be on to my next bargain, but I did something terrible. Horrible. I lied to my husband –yes, omission is lying –about 30 bucks I spent at an outlet mall. On crap. That I don’t need. But which did make me feel good, at least for the afternoon.

I didn’t want to sit down at the dining room table and review our expenses over the last six months, probably because I want to believe I am frugal. But as my eyes focused in on our expenditures, the truth was too ugly to ignore.

It all looks so innocent –a latte here, fast food there, a shirt for $9.99 at Anthropologie that I could not leave on the rack for someone else –but it adds up. I watched my patient husband’s face as he went through and itemized how much I’d spent at certain stores. I could have vomited. I’d never thought of how this affected him or our family. I just saw it as saving us money in the long run. Spencer says you never save money if you spend. He asked me not to spend any money in September. On the bright side, it is already September 4th, but I know this goes deeper than me keeping my debit card in my wallet for a month. Because what happens after the fast ends. Will I binge?

I marched to my wallet and pulled out every gift card I have –my little rectangular excuses for dropping into Target or Buffalo Exchange –and handed them over. No more excuses and no more cheating. Or lying.

No one is taking care of our money and Spencer has been asking me to be our financial manager for years. I don’t even pay the bills. In fact, I don’t even look at the bills. Or my bank account. I am so confident in my frugality, that I assume the money is there. But we have a son now, and I’d like to add another kid or two to the mix, so it has to stop. What happens when I don’t shop, purchase or even browse?

Is there life after shopping? Ugh, even the sound of it scares me because so much of who I am is wrapped up in the steal, the 75{69cdb236979761836b643e1b0f0857ba9ff75f480871fb5c30c4103aecfdbb6a} off on a Thursday before the weekend rush tramples through. Who am I with no logo? I guess we will find out.

Unplugging the Lie

I’m over it. I’m just done! I’m tired of spending money and spinning my wheels on things that do not satisfy. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the world tells me they satisfy and too often I believe the lie. But I have a child now, and the stakes are too high. There are eternal consequences for the actions I take today. Sure, what’s a quick run through TJ Maxx to check out the sale rack? But what is my child seeing? And the thrill on my face when I find something designer that I could normally not afford –does that excitement match my love for Christ? And is it a lie to advertise brands that are far outside of my budget? If my treasure is where my heart is, I’ve got some shallow treasures. These are the things that taunt me when I return to God’s Word in the quiet of morning.

Job 29:14 “I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.”

Galatians 5:16 “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

What my children see will affect who they become. And so, I unplug. I unplug from the mall. I unplug from shopping for sport. I unplug from looking around and rationalizing behavior because other Christian families are doing it. No more. No more Proverbs 31 manipulation to affirm my bargain hunting. From now on my standard is God’s Word. My fashion sense, my homemaking and my interests will be dictated by His desires for my heart and life. Goodbye, Neiman Marcus Last Call and Pinterest (you’ve been tempting me to set up an account, but I’m shutting it down right here), I have a new instruction manual and Guide. Thank you, God, that in this ever-fickle world, your Word doesn’t change.