A while back, I wrote about the $40.22 I saved after carefully keeping my change for a year. What I didn’t include in that blog was the precious thing for which I saved “all that money.” I didn’t share it at the time because I was ashamed, but today I’m going to lay it out for you as an example of how twisted a mind can get.
I was a staff pastor in Nashville for four years, responsible for women’s ministry and discipleship/small groups. I did that job with my whole heart and the excessive amount of free time I had as a single woman. Then the church laid me and seven other staff members off due to financial constraints. It was a terrible shock, but I chose to live, believing it must be time for God to show me something else to do. That opened my eyes to other possibilities and one month later, I started dating a midwestern farmer.
In the space between pastoring and getting married, I worked as a nanny. While I folded mounds of laundry, I enjoyed their cable television, which I didn’t have at home. I watched hours of a show called “Say Yes to the Dress”. Enamored with the princess treatment, I thought, "It's time to live!" I began to dream of getting married in a custom-made gown. My budget would be a modest $5000.
You read that right. $5000 for a wedding dress seemed modest at the time because the brides on that show regularly spent much more. What peasant would buy a dress in a big box shop for $500? At the time, $5000 might as well of been $500,000. Realistically, $500 would have been a stretch!
But I’d been a pastor and I had faith! I faithfully worked to get out of debt, paying on my graduate school and college loans while I cleaned spilled baby food off the floor. Meanwhile, I saved my change, which amounted to $40.22, all the while asking God to multiply it so it would be enough for a $5000 wedding dress.
God HAS multiplied that change. 13 years later, I write from a comfy chair in the corner of my beautiful home that’s full of children and a husband who loves me. For the last few years, I had someone help with my mounds of laundry and other tasks I was too overwhelmed to do.
As for the $5000 wedding dress, thankfully I recognized the ridiculousness of it before it was too late. It really wasn't the time to live extravagantly. I bought a lovely dress on clearance, within my budget, in a little boutique. I loved that dress. Thank God for multiplying my wisdom!
If a pastor who’d taught Bible studies almost every day could so quickly find her mind distorted by a television show, how are the minds of the rest of our country affected by what we’re consuming? When I “innocently” filled my mind with the dresses of the fantastically wealthy, $5000 seemed reasonable for someone with student loan debt who worked as a part-time nanny. It totally warped my thinking! The ridiculousness of praying to God to give me enough money to buy one was completely lost on me. It was enough money to buy a used car or drill a well in a place where people walk miles to get water every day. How many other brides spent the money they should’ve used to buy a house, pay off debt, or provide water to a village in Africa because of the envy created from watching that show?
How are the things you’re putting into your mind right now impacting YOUR life? Are you checking out from your family because you’ve gotten lost in a fantasy world of novels and “reality” TV? Are you numb to the problems of the world because you’ve been self-medicating with excessive shopping, scrolling, alcohol, or rich foods? Do you spend much of your time and energy making up for your excesses – working crazy hours, extreme exercise, intermittent fasting, and vacations from your vacations?
Get out of the crazy cycle. Wake up! Cancel the distractions and look at your life. Satan has us so numb and full of un-reality that we’re missing life! Yes, WE. I’ve been very convicted by this message, beyond the ridiculous wedding dress.
I’ve shoved a stick in the wheel of the crazy cycle and brought it to a screeching halt.
I started writing a weekly newsletter to share some of the things I’ve been doing and encourage others to grow up, stop living numb and disconnect lives, and see what’s going on in our world. Jesus IS coming back soon and we can’t be like the five virgins who didn’t have enough oil in their lamps, so they went to find more but it was too late. It’s time for revival. It’s time to put Satan back in his place and free ourselves from addiction and self-inflicted misery! It’s time to live like we believe the Bible is true.
The newsletter shares a lot more, but here are a few steps I’ve taken to stop the crazy cycle and LIVE again:
1. Eat three reasonably-sized meals a day without restrictions. The only rule is to include what’s needed for health purposes/disease management 80% of the time. Stop measuring and counting. If you catch yourself overdoing it, get back on track at the next meal. Break the crazy cycle of extremes. (I’ve done this for two years now and my body has responded very well, which has given me increased energy and a lot less joint pain. That’s led to increased movement because it’s so much easier and feels good.)
2. Cancel diet-culture. Stop looking at ads for weight loss and checking out what magic potion your neighbor is taking. There are no short cuts that bring lasting change. (These first two steps were incredibly important to get me off the crazy cycle of body obsession that consumed my mind, time, and energy. I doubt I’m alone.)
3. Take a media break every January and July. No television, movies, radio (advertisements), social media, or video games. Cancel the influence of Hollywood, social media envy, and excessive screen time. (This negatively impacts the reach of my blog, but I’m leaving that up to God.)
4. Make preparations for another pandemic-type lockdown or weather emergency. Our government and the World Health Organization are making plans for one, so why aren’t we? Consider what your family needs in an emergency. What if the internet, electricity, gas, and running water aren’t available for a while? Gather three months of supplies. We have no excuse not to be prepared next time.
5. Stop spending money frivolously. You can offset the cost of creating an emergency plan by limiting internet streaming services like Disney+. Stop buying consumables. Cook real food and eat at home. Buy in bulk from Costco, but research prices and make sure it’s actually a deal and something you’ll use. Use up what you have in your freezer and pantry already. Stop spending money on non-necessities for a while.
I’m so serious about this that I’ve made some huge changes to our lifestyle that have saved a lot of money, but have been very costly to my convenience and comfort. I decided that comfort had been my god for too long, and it wouldn’t damage me to be inconvenienced. As I’ve repented from worshipping the idols of comfort and people-pleasing, I’ve come back to life again! Things that felt almost impossible to do before are now easy and life-giving.
I recently asked my doctor if I’ve crossed over into some kind of mania because I feel so good. She thoughtfully asked me questions like,
“Do you find yourself driving too fast?” (I’ve slowed down.)
“Are you sleeping?” (I’m typically get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I often wake up very early and get a bunch of stuff done before the rest of my family wakes up, but I’ve also been going to bed earlier.)
“Are you overspending?” (I’m doing all kinds of things to save money.)
“Is anyone close to you saying that they’re concerned about you or that you’ve gone off the deep end?” (Everyone around me seems pleasantly surprised by the changes I’ve made.)
Her response was, “Welcome to living well.”
Well, then I cried. The most happy tears. Making myself uncomfortable helped me come back to life again? Giving up the hours I wasted watching Netflix helped me shake free of the fog of depression? Smashing the idol of people-pleasing set me free to live like God intended me to live? I was just trying to be obedient, and I did it with so much fear. Praise God for His kindness.
Please join me. Step away from distractions. Get some real perspective back. If you’re sick, seek healing relentlessly. Repent from worshipping the idols of fill in the blank: comfort? people-pleasing? gluttony? whatever you need to smash today.
IT'S TIME TO LIVE.
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