Because in the school of the Spirit,
man learns wisdom through humility,
knowledge by forgetting,
how to speak by silence,
how to live by dying.
-Johannes Tauler

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

a gift given

I gave my mom the Lenten Companion. It is very likely she needs it, certainly more than I do. I hope it works to lead her more deeply into the season of Lent. 

As for me, well, that's just some "spiritual clutter" I don't need. I'm trying to be simple, even with God, through this whole thing. 

This will definitely take me all year...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

That's it!

Julie and I were cooking dinner in the kitchen last night and talking about household appliances, cookware, etc. Just generally chatting, you know, and I said, "Oh! You know what I was thinking we need that is unnecessary?" 

and we both stopped and laughed. 

because well, that's EXACTLY what this year is about! 
Discovering all the things we "need" that are unnecessary

It's only January 16, and I am already learning much. 

Even just last night, I sat down with half-a-crate full of prayer cards, rosaries, religious medals, song booklets from pilgrimages, conferences, trips, scapulars, books from retreats, novenas I've printed out, bookmarks....all of it spiritual clutter. 

I was telling Julie that I could tell you who I got most of the things from, and why or when they gave it to me, and I could even tell you how it had made me feel at the time - how some of those little pieces of paper had sat on a desk or taped on a wall and had slowly, for a time, changed my life. Prayers that had spoken the words of my heart. Novenas that had calmed my worst fears at the time and had replaced them with peace. Little cards that had marked places in book after book, reminding me with each page of God's love and care. 

I threw most of them away. 

If they were nice and didn't have my third grade penmanship all over them or looked like they might actually mean something to someone else, I put them in a pile to give to a priest, that maybe he can pass them along. 

They're beautiful symbols of the Catholic faith and beautiful words that have probably touched more hearts than my own, but do I need them? 

Not right now. 
At one time, I did. 
And that's when I received each one of them. 
In a time of need. 

Now it's just clutter. I even said to Julie about one of the bookmarks that had been made for me, "These are the words of a prayer I wrote. At the time they expressed one of the deepest desires of my heart. Well, I prayed it and it was answered and now I have moved on! My prayer has changed, and so...I have to let go of this card." 

This is one of the hardest areas for me because it's so close to my heart, but I can't keep all these things forever. They're just paper, after all. 

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." (Mt. 24:35)

God will again give me what I need, when I need it. All those prayer cards, like that book I bought, certainly might help at some point, but if I just trust in Him, turn to Him, and be well aware of the many ways He is speaking to me in the present moment...I don't need them. +

Friday, January 15, 2010

Letting Go

I stand in awe of You
and everything You've done for me
You speak Your Word into my life
and where You are is where I wanna be

I stand before you Lord
Humbled by the Love you give away
A widow's mite, my will and pride
It's all I have to offer anyway

I'm holding on to Your Love
I'm letting go of myself
I say so long to everything else

I just wanna be in Your arms
I just wanna be in Your arms
Moving ever closer to Your heart
To Your heart

                                                                   Matt Maher


Monday, January 11, 2010

Shout outs

I have to give a shout out to Nicole, my former roommate, and on earth role model for this project. Your room is always clean (because you don't have so much "stuff"), your pocketbook is always full (because you don't go to CVS everytime there is a deal) and your heart is always giving (because you are just that kind of great person).

Another shout out to Amy, an inspiration to all bloggers. If I can be half as entertaining as her I will have accomplished something.

The final shout out is to Mary, my in heaven role model for this project, well ok and life. :) If we could all live as pure and simple as Mary the world would be a better place!

And now I will probably not post something for another month.

Big Ideas from the Bathroom

Unfortunately, the idea for this year long experience did not come from my personal inspiration but rather a magazine in the bathroom at work. I hate to admit that I actually picked up a magazine that was in a bathroom considering all the grief I've given my brothers for purchasing used "Useless Bathroom Facts" books from Amazon. Gross. I vow now never to put reading material in the bathroom. But I digress.

After I read the article I didn't think too much about it until some random day when I walked into my room and literally had to kick things out of the way to get to the other side of the room. 4 hours and 5 trash bags later, I realized how ridiculous my accumulation of "stuff" was!!! Really.. did I need the 5 extra coffee mugs that were sitting under my bed? (Although I did find a mini grill that came in useful when Nicole took hers on the move out - Providence!)

Then, I started thinking about all the things I had bought the past year that really I didn't need... a new board game when I already had a few, books when the stack of unread ones already reaches to the top of my elevated bed, dumbbells when I could just fill a few milk cartons with something, a new printer when my current one just worked fine, a used keyboard because maybe I would start practicing the piano again (which I haven't after a whole year)... I could go on and on.. It's not like I was buying things to be happy or because I have a lot of extra money, but because I would see them, "want" them and think I needed them for one reason or another.

And yes, the random hat and gloves from Walmart does come into the story. I think it was after that I finally realized I could survive without all these little purchases. Clearly God was trying to tell me something because I have since lost the gloves and been told I look like a Grandma in the hat!

My only hope for this project is that it forces us to stop being so tied to material things. To be in this world but not to be of it. I don't even know who will end up reading this blog and honestly I hope it's more of an encouragement for Missy and I than anything. A way to keep us honest if you will. :) Everyone else should be out enjoying life and not tied to this material thing we call a computer!

did I already fail?

I moved on New Year's Day. did I mention that?

and since I knew that starting that same day I would no longer be able to buy anything, I prepared as best I could over the last months of 2009. I was determined that even though I could probably make a good case for a purchase given my circumstances, I was going to stick to not buying anything in 2010.

11 days in, this has definitely been a very cleansing experience - there have been so many things that I've had to second guess myself on, whether I actually need them or not. Simple things, like shampoo. Yes, I'm still washing my hair. But, I'm using one of the cheaper varieties of shampoo, and with moving from a house with soft water to a city apartment with hard water, my hair is not happy with me. I feel like only girls would understand this plight, but none the less, there it is. 

I'm almost out of chapstick at work. Do I buy a new tube or use what I've got in my coat and my purse? 

Yes, these are ridiculous musings, but they are all part of the experience thus far. 

My parents have been a big help, actually! There were a few things I found I needed after moving, and my parents have since donated most of the items to me from their stock. The rest, I've just crossed off the list as unnecessary. 

But, do I even need the things I 'borrowed' from my parents? Just because I didn't purchase it, I'm allowed to possess it? 

Maybe by the end of the year, I'll have given some of the things back. Hard to say what will come from all this!

There's only one problem: I think I bought something...

It was a little Lenten companion prayer book that Magnificat publishes each year, and as I stood in the Catholic store (making a gift purchase for some friends...I'm pretty sure we decided gifts were not part of the package?) I debated whether this was breaking the rules or not. It's for my spiritual well-being. But do I need it? Could I have had a prayerful Lent without this little booklet? 

I have shamefully come to the conclusion that yes, my soul is not in danger without this little prayer book. The question now is what recompense do I make? Return it? Donate that much more money to charity or the Church? Take away money from something else? 

I'm determined not to let this happen again. I feel really guilty. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

it begins with the year

Julie, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it all started with a pair of gloves and a matching hat, purchased on a whim, and completely unnecessary. 

She's the mastermind of this revolution, really.

And I use the word 'revolution' purposefully. Not because there's a search for people to join or to change the world, but because I think the world could stand to ask the questions we're asking ourselves this year. The answers would be surprising. 

I use the word revolution because in some ways, it's a revolt against "needy" society. Really, against a needy mentality.

Over the past couple months, in the time since Julie and I started talking about this, I've come to believe that there is this mindset that we are needy. 
'We' is defined subjectively, and 'needy' too, although maybe a little less so. 

There are too many avenues with which we can be instantly gratified, whether that is looking something up on the internet for lighting-quick results (9,000,000 of them) or running quickly to one of the four surrounding corner stores for a snack or a sandwich, or a quick coffee. I hope you see my point. We want it, we get it.

Well, this year is a time to try to be resourceful. We want it, we find a way to get by without it, or we find something that can act as a substitute (something that we, say, already own or possess) or hey, the best yet: we just get over it! 

It's a cry for simplicity: to get back to basics and to realize that the excess in life can be trimmed away. This year-long exercise is precisely about discovering just what is excess, and what it will take to trim it away. 

So, to say what I mean: no buying anything this year. Apart from food and gas for the car, and toilet paper, of course, there will be no purchases made. At least not without an extreme examination of the deeper motives for desiring some sort of purchase...to see what happens in a life led without worldly want. 

Save money, save time (shopping is time consuming!), appreciate what we have, give away what we don't need, focus on the more important things in life, and
let go, trusting in the One who gives us everything we could ever truly desire. God's really in control of this whole experiment, and our whole lives, so all glory be to Him. +