Wednesday, September 3, 2008

When Nothing Adds Up to Something

Last year my MOPS group had a great speaker who talked with us about sin. In her talk, she made the point that Satan tells us that we are not satisfied with our lives so that we'll seek out what we're missing. The irony is that in seeking for what's "missing" we actually lose what we already had--a close relationship with God. Our greed takes over and separates us from Him. Sounds a lot like the situation in the Garden of Eden, no? She used a word that buzzed around in my head all summer: contentment. "Be content with your lives," she warned.

And so I set out to be content. It lasted about 2 hours. Then I drove home and saw that my neighbor had hired a professional landscaper, and her yard looked awesome. Oooh...I want that too. Then I opened the refrigerator and discovered that I had all the ingredients for a perfectly nice chicken dinner but lacked the motivation to put it together, so I took my family out to dinner, where we ordered chicken much like what I was going to prepare but a lot more expensive. And so went the summer.

A couple of weeks ago my minister preached on contentment. It just so happened that it was the first Sunday that my 6 month old baby has ever stayed in the nursery happily for the entire service. I sat uncomfortably in my pew feeling as though he was talking right to me. "You fool, you didn't at all do what you promised yourself you would do," he said--but not in those words.

Then Mary (of wrote about the 30 Days of Nothing. For the month of September she and her family swear off all unnecessary expenses. There are no rules, exactly. The idea is to decide what is necessary to your family. She has her reasons for doing this project, but I won't recap them all here. Go to her site if you want to get the whole scoop. When I first read about it I thought that it sounded interesting, but I had no intention of joining in.

Near the end of August I ran into Target to pick up a few things on our shopping list. You should know that I'm a Target-junkie. I enter with full intentions to buy 1 tube of toothpaste and a box of dish washing soap, and I reach the counter with $72 worth of treasures. Every time. It's a sickness. My kids have discovered the Dollar Zone. It's chock-full of junky toys that, because they only cost $1, Mama will purchase. So, we enter the store and immediately fill our cart with about 9 toys from the Dollar Zone. Then we make our way around the store and eventually end up at the counter with--yes--$70-something worth of items. I swear, I should go on The Price is Right because I can hit that $70-something mark with my eyes closed. But the story doesn't end here. No, I got home and realized that, despite the fact that I brought home approximately $50 in things that were NOT on the list, I managed to miss one necessary item that was ON the list. So, we head back to Target, mere hours from our last trip. But I'm no dummy. I knew my husband would not be pleased with two big receipts from Target in one day, and I also knew that my kids would not willingly leave the store without their precious Dollar Zone toys (never mind that I already bought every one that they wanted that morning). So, I had a chat with them in the car on the way there. "We are NOT buying toys this time. We just bought some this morning. We are NOT buying a slushy or popcorn. We are NOT buying candy in the checkout aisle." Whine, whine, whine. Well, at least we're clear on the rules. We enter. And it starts. Can-we-gets galore. "No, we are not buying another punch balloon simply because you popped yours this afternoon." "No, we are not buying a pretzel, even though your offer to share it with your brother was most noble." "No, we are not buying cat food. We don't even have a cat!" This is out of control. I went home fuming. My children are spoiled brats. How did that happen? I was reminded of exactly how that happened when I got home and tripped over 35 cars, 22 balls, and 3 huge boxes of Lego's all spilled across the floor. They want more because I've taught them to want more. Yikes. We're SO doing the 30 Days of Nothing.

So, for our family, what is necessary? We haven't exactly pinned that down yet. I think that, rather than sitting down and drawing up rules for the month, we'll just play it by ear and see what we decide we need and what we decide we can do without. I feel certain that we'll purchase things that someone else would deem frivolous. My goal here is not deprivation. My goal is for us to become aware of how very well we have been blessed and, hopefully, find some contentment with our lives.

Today we went to the library for story time (as we do every Wednesday) and saw a couple of the boys' friends there. The boys wanted to go to lunch with their friends, but I was firm that we were eating lunch at home today. We made sandwiches and ate on the back porch and then played on their swing set. It was wonderful. And, for just a few minutes, I felt content.

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