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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Compact Lessons

It's been 46 days since I took the Compact pledge. It has been a interesting experiment in self-discovery...I have learned so much about myself and my spending habits. A few things...
  • It feels so good to NOT buy something after having the urge to do so. Realizing that I actually demonstrated self-control is exciting.
  • Shopping at Goodwill is fun. It's much more exhilerating to find the exact item I need at a thrift store...than to just run into Target and walk right to it. Less convenient, yes..but more fun.
  • I can overspend just as easily at thrift stores as I can in Target.
  • I am extremely senstitive to how I am feeling when looking at advertisements. I can take the time now to dissect those emotions and realize that they are constructed.
  • There have been several times when I've thought, "I would have totally bought that if I wasn't Compacting!". I started to add up all those things I kept saying that about...and it was several hundred dollars. It's a great feeling to save that money instead of spend it on things that I wouldn't want a few hours later anyway.
  • Doing the Compact seems to make some people upset & confused. Like the fact that I am actually THINKING about my purchases throws their whole existance out of whack. Apparently, compacting is very threatening.
  • I haven't found it to be particularly difficult to buy used, barter/trade, or make do. It's been great!
I have especially enjoyed finding Christmas gifts this year. I thought that it might be difficult, because I am usually a Christmas Eve "hurry up and buy anything!" kind of shopper. Total procrastination. I am happy to say that I am almost done shopping for everyone on my list! Here's to 319 more happy days of Compacting!

Military Girl

Approximately 8 years ago, I graduated from Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. I know, I know...I can hear some of you *gasping* right now! It's true. I'm a military girl in a military family. My father was a top gun fighter pilot and my brother was a crew chief. I was born on an Air Force Base (Davis Monthan, Tuscon, AZ) 30 years ago and I was a photographer in the Air National Guard (North Dakota and Nebraska) for 6 years (1998-2004).

Basic training is such an intense time of emotion and physical can't help but make lasting friendships, because if you don't, you're utterly alone. It was the greatest spiritual time of my life...the ultimate in simplicity. The only possessions I had for 6 1/2 weeks were my clothes and my Bible. Some nights, I would pull my blankets over my head and snuggle in with my flashlight and read God's promises over and over. I understood the importance of memorizing scripture during that was the one thing they could not take away from me.

My subsequent technical training was 6 months long. I was stationed at Fort Meade, MD. It's such a gorgeous part of the country...I was so blessed by being there. We spent many weekends in Annapolis & Baltimore. Washington, D.C. was close as well.

I lived in an extremely diverse community of people and became friends with quite an interesting bunch. Bethann was from South Carolina and could turn anyone's head, anywhere. She had a southern drawl to die for...and the attitude to match. She went on to be a combat photographer in Afghanistan. Lee was from near New York City...complete with the accent as well. He went on to be a police officer in Middletown, NY. I've never forgotten them...and often wonder how they are doing.

Many memories have faded...but photos bring them back to life. I found a bunch of them while cleaning this week. I scanned and uploaded them to Flickr with a few notes. See them here.

My days in the military were difficult at times...and great at times...but worth every moment. I am SO glad I got out when I did, but I have so much respect for others that are still serving. I have changed so much since I wore that uniform...I have new opinions, new ideas. But I will always remember my time serving our country with a happy heart.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I love incense. I love it's sweet, musky smell filling the room...but more importantly I love the symbolism of the smoke swirling and rising. On it describes incense as:
Figuratively, incense was symbolical of ascending prayer. The multitude were praying while Zacharias offered incense (Luke 1:10, thumiama), and in Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3 f., the incense in the heavenly temple is connected and even identified (Revelation 5:8) with "the prayers of the saints."
Watching the smoke rise from my incense is even more powerful when I think of how my prayers ascend to heaven to my heavenly Father. I'm a very visual it helps me to "see" my prayers go up before Him in my mind.

I do understand that incense has been heavily used in eastern and new age religions...but I don't see why they get to claim exclusive rights to it! It's biblical!
A psalm of David ::: Psalm 141.

1 I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me;
hear me when I call to you.

2 May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer ::: Revelation 8

1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God's people, on the golden altar before the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God's people, went up before God from the angel's hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

My favorite scents...nag champa and a great oolong tea incense I got at Gong Fu. My incense holder is from Lotus in the Old Market of Omaha, NE. I love watching the smoke escape from the different cut-outs.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Clothes. We all wear them (well, hopefully!). They can be a symbol of power and success …or poverty. They can be a source of ridicule at school or at work...or they can land you in the “cool” crowd. Do you ever notice how clothes tend be a major conversation starter? It's always interesting to talk with people about their clothes. You can learn a lot about people by how they view their clothing...where they shop, etc. Clothes are a powerful tool…but they can control us if we let them.

When you are trying to simplify your life and downsize your possessions, you can’t ignore this area. It tends to be avoided because clothing is so personal...there are often a lot of emotional attachments connected to it.

As I looked through my closet about 6 months ago, I started to ask myself some questions?

  • Why do I have 4 plain white t-shirts?
  • When was the last time I wore those shoes? Last year?
  • Why do I “need” 6 pairs of jeans?
  • How many pairs of socks do I really need?!

I had to look inward and try to discover why I felt like I needed all of these clothes…when there are others who have so little. I also started to wonder when our culture became clothes obsessed. According to the website, clothes used to be stored in chests or armoires up until after WWII...and then there was a bigger need for housing and they started to build closets as they build the new homes. This is also around the time that TV was being introduced to the masses. I can't help but think that all advertising created the false sense of need for more clothing. Even today...if I watch too much TV/advertising, I immediately start feeling discontent with my current possessions and feel like I need to buy more to be happy. After we stopped watching so much TV, I no longer had a "voice" coming into my home telling me what to wear, what to think, and what to buy.

Stewardship: What would Jesus say if he opened your closet door?
I have to admit that I hadn’t ever really thought about what Jesus says regarding clothes up until about 6 months ago. Growing up, I had the typical attitude that you just couldn’t have enough clothes. And don’t even think about wearing USED clothes! *GASP!*. It takes time to change how you’ve always thought.

When I started studying on that topic…I realized that Jesus really doesn’t care about clothes much at all…and he tells us that we shouldn’t focus on it so much.

John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Luke 3:11

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1 Tim 6:8

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" Matthew 6:25

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin." Matthew 6:28

He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Luke 9:3

It’s clear that Jesus thinks we have better things to put our time, energy, and money into than clothes. If you are going to focus your energy on should revolve around getting clothes to people who truly need them.

“But...I Need It!”
Our clothing needs are really very minimal. Depending on where you live in the country (seasonally) and if you work outside the home, you will need a couple pair of pants, a couple shirts, undergarments, shoes, and a coat. That’s it. Now…I’m not saying that’s all we should have…but it will do us good to think about what a “need” truly is. I’m also not trying to turn everyone into a minimalist or say that clothes are inherently bad. Clothes are fun. It’s great to find that “perfect outfit”…I’m just asking you to think about your closet and what it says about you and what you value. On the Simple Living boards, there are several threads about clothing. In one of them, I found this little tidbit:

"I found out that the less you shop, the desire to shop would decrease. And eventually, when you are walking in a mall, you have this weird feeling while watching people buying stuff...thinking, why would people need THAT...and you suddenly feel like an alien."

I can definitely relate to that feeling...especially now that I'm not shopping at malls. It's a very weird phenomenon.

New...or Not
When you are purchasing a new piece of clothing…why do you have to buy it new? There are so many second-hand stores, consignment stores, etc. that have racks and racks of clothes at a fraction of the price. You can look just like everyone else (if you want to) and have all the same brands and still have money to go out to eat. If you are someone who “just doesn’t shop at thrift stores” … examine why that is. Is that an attitude handed down through your family? Do you feel some sort of shame by not buying new? Granted, it is much easier to just run to the mall or Target to pick out the latest fashion. It takes a little planning to buy used, but it’s so much better for the earth AND your pocketbook. There are many fun groups and websites that focus on recycling clothing and "re-fashioning". I've shared them on another post, but they are worth sharing again:

Wardrobe Refashion
Little Brown Dress

Passing it On
Ok. So you’ve made the decision to downsize your closet. Where do you begin? There are several “methods” to help you decide whether or not you still need an item of clothing. I would suggest taking an afternoon and putting all your clothes in a big pile. Set up 3 boxes and label them “Give”, “Keep”, and “Not Sure”. Then get to it. If you think you should keep an item, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I feel GREAT in this?
  2. Does it fit me correctly? Or have I just been telling myself that?
  3. Have I worn this in the last 6 months?
  4. Is it practical?

If you can’t answer yes to all of the above, throw it in the “Give” pile. If you having some emotional issues letting it go, throw it in the “Not Sure” pile. The key to going through your clothes is to do it FAST…the more you sit and think about each item…the more you will THINK you want/need to keep it. Clothing is easy to come by…if you give away something you need later, find another one. Also, it does help to have a friend or spouse do this with you…so that when you need a second opinion, there is one readily available. However, don’t ask your packrat friend to help you…she will only hinder.

A side note…I know there are some of you thinking, “What about my Aunt Berta’s pink leather jacket”! If you have heirloom items in your closet that you no longer want…you should ask around the family and try to pass them on that way. If not, take a photo of the item, put it in an album and write out all of your memories about it…and then get rid of it.

Where do I take it? Can I sell it?
If you want to sell some of your clothes…try a consignment store. You can take your clothes into the store and as they sell, you will get a percentage of the profit. I prefer to just get rid of it all and be done with it…so I usually opt for Freecycle or Goodwill. Fill a bag, take it in, DONE. You could also take them directly to a women's shelter...they are always happy to receive nice women's and children's clothing. I have sold some nicer items online if I know there is a market for them and I needed some quick cash. You could also try a a clothes swap...or as I've heard them called, a "Naked Party" and invite a bunch of your girlfriends over to swap clothes. Here are the details on how to do it.

Disposable Clothing
We live in a "disposable" obsessed culture. I have switched my house to completely re-usable/cloth everything... so why do I buy disposable clothing? The items that I've bought in the past from Old Navy, Target and other discount stores are usually a one- season item and then they are trashed. If I would have just bought higher quality to begin with, many resources (and headaches) would be saved. Now that we are Compacting, I'm not going into those stores at all anymore and my closet is so much better off! I think that is one of the great things about thrifting...almost everything I've found has been a high-quality brand that will last and last...but without the high price.

I've also found that when you have less clothing, you tend to take better care of what you have. With my "disposable" clothing, I didn't care if something stained it or if it ripped.

What does YOUR closet look like Sara?
In the photo above, you can see what my closet looks like. The far left section is mine. Over the last 6 months I have gotten rid of about 75% of my clothes…and I don’t miss them! It’s so much easier to do laundry, to clean up, to sort…when you don’t have a mess of clothes in your closet. It’s immeasurably easier to get dressed in the morning when you only have a few choices. Since moving into the apartment, I’ve gotten a few more items simply because we don’t do laundry as much now. But I LOVE the simplicity of having less clothes. Less stress. Less mess. Less is good…now go clean your closet!

Monday, November 13, 2006


This weekend, my friend Kristin came to visit. I am so blessed to call her my sister, my confidante, and my friend. She is generous, creative, fun, silly, kind...the list could go on and on. I love that we can be real when we are together...we know each other's shortcomings...but we love each other in spite of them! We have so much in common...we kind of blend into one another :) It's been such a blessing to be able to spend so much time together over the last couple of years. God is good! Here's to many more spring rolls, my friend. Check out the details of our weekend here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Self-discipline does not come naturally. We are born with the desire to do whatever feels the best, and it's difficult to overcome. However, once it is mastered, it makes a huge difference in every area of life.
Self-discipline defined: the act of denying yourself; controlling your impulses.
Ah-ha! No wonder it's so hard. When is the last time you heard a commerical on TV telling you to DENY yourself? It's a dual struggle...against our flesh AND the culture we live in. The only way for me to gain control of my impulses, as the definition implies, is to pray continuously. Here are some of the areas that I struggle with:
  • Sleep. I wrote about this no need to go into detail. I have a hard time denying myself of more internet time and my bedtime gets pushed later and later and later. Consequently, I am too tired to get up at 5:30 a.m...which is when I desire to meet with the Lord.

  • Exercise. I used to work out daily at 5:30 a.m. 6 days a week. But that was back in year 2000 BB (before Bella). I have the desire now...but no discipline. For the time being I get my "workout" by chasing Bella, lifting her on my legs, climbing the stairs, etc. But it's not enough to maintain a healthy heart. Maybe I will add that to my things to do when I get up at 5:30 a.m. :)

  • Money. I have battled money issues throughout my adult life. It started in college...they told me I could have a free t-shirt if I signed up for their credit card. Sweeeeet! Next thing I know, I have $5,000 on that card and it's only the end of my freshman year. Luckily, I snapped out of that, paid it off, and met Matt. We still had to learn a lot of money lessons the hard way when we were newlyweds, but it's under control now. Especially with the Compact in full swing. We have no consumer debt and we only pay with cash, using an envelope budgeting system. However, even though we are following a budget, the struggle is with the DESIRE to buy things...not actually buying them. Wanting more, when I have more than enough. Even while on the Compact, I have choices to make regarding what we do spend. For example, I went grocery shopping today and I could have easily spent $100 if I would have allowed myself to buy everything I "wanted"... bread (instead of making my own), a sandwich for lunch (instead of going home to eat), apples (they are so expensive right now!), crackers for Bella (instead of making our own)...the list could go on and on. Instead, I stuck to my list and got an amazing amount of food for only $55.00. It was exhilierating to deny myself in this case, because it resulted in saved money.

  • Food. I have always had a fast metabolism...and didn't really have to watch what I ate. Now that I'm getting OLD...I need to be more mindful of what I put in my mouth. I have a horrible sweet tooth, and if I let myself start down a sugar's hard to come back. With that being said, I have incredible self-discipline when I want to...especially in the area of food. Eating only raw foods for an entire month? No problem. No meat for 2 years? No problem. It's all the other little battles. Having another peanut butter cup doesn't really seem like a spiritual battle...but it's the attitude of that heart that matters. If I can practice self-discipline in the little will be easier during the bigger trials.

  • Maintaining my home. When I discipline myself to clean the apt. throughout the day and put everything away after each use, I am a MUCH happier person. Disciplining myself to create a "place for everything" blesses my family. If I decide that I don't "want" to do the laundry for 2 weeks...there are big problems. Isn't it amazing how God can teach us lessons even through the mundane?

  • My mouth. After high school and college, gossiping became a thing of the past for me. However, I still have to be very careful about my use of sarcasm...and my tone of voice in everyday conversation. It is especially important as a Godly wife to never speak badly about my husband to others. Every word out of my mouth is counted in heaven...I long to please Him with every breath. So challenging...
Basically it comes down to denying myself now for a greater reward/benefit in the future. Getting up early might not feel great now, but the long-term spiritual benefits are plenty. Deciding to exercise and eat healthy even when I don't feel like it will bring health to me through the years of my life. Not buying everything I desire will allow us to save for more important things in the future. Having a discplined mouth brings honor in the present and no regrets in the future.
"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Cor 6:12
I want only to be "mastered" by the Lord...who knows my struggles and my heart. He knows how to best teach me in this area. He displayed the ultimate self-discipline as He willingly went to the cross to die for our sins. My prayer is that I will die to myself daily...for I am not my own.

The Miniature Earth

I came across a wonderful website today. The Miniature Earth explores what the earth would "look" like if it was reduced to 100 people, but the proportions remained the same. It's so easy to forget that we, as Americans, are not the only people on this earth. It's easy to forget that we are wealthy beyond measure when compared to others across the world.

Along the same lines, Peter Menzel has created 3 books that have been life-changing for me. Material World, Hungry Planet, and Women of the Material World. He compares famililes from around the globe and give us a glimpse into their everyday lives. Here are a few of the families that are featured. These books were pivotal in my journey towards a more simple and sustainable lifestyle...I just could not go on doing the same wasteful things, knowing that the rest of the world has so much less.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Breaking the Chains of Sleep

Throughout my life, the most rewarding and wonderful times in prayer have been when I have gotten up EARLY in the morning to meet Him. When I give Him the very first part of my day, I am able to accomplish much more than I ever thought possible. When I can make breakfast, get the laundry done, put supper in the crock pot, and have prayer time in before 9:00 is GOOD. Scripture speaks over and over about the benefits of rising early.
"She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls." Proverbs 31:15

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35
There are two women that I have been so encouraged by over the years. The first is author and speaker Becky Tirabassi. About 6 years ago, I read her book, Let Prayer Change Your Life. She is the one who initially got me into "the early hours" and also into journaling. Secondly, a woman named Laine who writes letters of encouragement to Christian women on the web. She has written so much about her early appointments with the Lord. She's an amazing woman of God and I come away smiling after every letter I read.

E.M. Bounds is one of my favorite voices on the topic of prayer. Even though he was born in 1835, the wisdom he relates is clearly still applicable. Here are some of his thoughts on prayer, excerpted from the book "E.M. Bounds on Prayer":

A desire for God that cannot break the chains of sleep is a weak thing and will do little good for God. The desire for God that stays far behind the Devil and the world at the beginning of the day will never catch up. It is not simply getting up that has brought men to the front and has made them leaders in God's hosts. It is the overwhelming desire that stirs and breaks all self-indulgent chains that does so. But getting up gives vent, increase, and strength to the desire. If they had lain in bed and indulged themselves, the desire would have been quenched. The desire aroused them and inspired them to reach out for God (p. 491).

More time and early hours devoted to prayer would revive and invigorate many a decayed spiritual life. More time and early house for prayer would manifest in holy living. A holy life would not be so rare or so difficult a thing if our devotions were not so short and hurried (p.518).
The first step to being able to get up early in the to stop staying up so late! So it's off to bed I go. May you greet Him early...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Celebrity Green

I subscribe to very few magazines, but one of my favorites came this week. VegNews is packed with great recipes, vegetarian news, fun interviews, and more. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fabulous article on Daryl Hannah and her efforts to promote green living and other social issues. She has a website with "mini-documentaries" that I have fallen in love with. Each little movie is so rich with information. She covers a wide variety of topics...from bio diesel to hemp to bike culture. Go check it out for yourself!

Another celebrity that I have come to love is Woody Harrelson. Woody isn't afraid to speak the truth, and I think anyone who is actively trying to educate others about living "greener" and more simply deserves respect. I first learned of his activism when I found the documentary "Go Further" on Netflix. The film shows Woody's bicycle trek down the West Coast. He makes stops along the way to educate students and anyone else who will listen about bio diesel, the sustainable uses of hemp, deforestation, raw foodism, and more. There are tons of "extras" on the DVD, including a little clip of Julia Butterfly Hill, whom I also admire. You can check out more of his work at his website, Voice Yourself. If you decide to watch the will also love the companion book, To Go Further: A Guide to Simple Organic Living. It's a favorite on my bookshelf.

Simple Pleasures

It's the simple pleasures in life that make everyday fresh and new. This weekend, while visiting with Matt's family...I realized that I had the rare opportunity to wash clothes and hang them OUTSIDE on the line. Oh the excitement! I've never had a clothesline of my it's quite a novelty for me. It was a gorgeously sunny fall day, and I savored every clothes pin. Every breeze. Every piece of clothing was lovingly adjusted to look just right on that line. What are some of your simple pleasures?
The Compact Blog Ring
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