Want What You’ve Got! (thrift)

English: The Community Closet Thrift StoreI’m walking into the consignment store with Groupon in hand.

I spent $10 to buy the opportunity to get $20 worth of merchandise – an instant 50% off sale! I don’t really need anything, but that’s never stopped me before.

Searching through the racks of gently worn clothing, I realize that I’m always attracted to the same items – black pants (though I always wear my favorite pair). Shoes (to add to the ridiculous number already gracing my closet). Dresses (even though I rarely wear them). Jewelry (for when I dress up – see dresses). Purses (see jewelry).

Nothing that I’m looking at is even remotely a need, yet that Groupon burns a hole in my pocket. I settle on a pair of khaki pants – similar to my favorites which have long since been laid to rest in their hole-y state – and a pair of black shorts with lots of pockets (for traveling). I avoid the interesting jewelry display at the counter because by now, I know I’m weak. If it glimmers with potential at all, I’m afraid I’ll buy it.

Because it’s affordable. Because I can.

I’m reminded of something I have been known to tell my children while shopping together – “just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you need it.” Such wise words for the younger generation, right? For a fleeting moment, I wonder where I came up with that, since I so rarely subscribe to that way of thinking myself.

I don’t like to shop retail and I simply cannot stomach paying full price for anything. Consignment stores are great because the clothing is in good shape and probably recently laundered. Thrift stores are amazing because my purchases help to support a cause, which makes me feel better about buying all of that inexpensive stuff that I just don’t need.

It’s safe to say that shopping is my preferred form of entertainment.

But when I look at the stacks of jeans in my closet (which I forgot to mention earlier – I always look for jeans while shopping, too) and the piles of t-shirts beside them, I’m convicted by this season we’re in and suddenly I don’t Want What I’ve Got.

In Matthew 16:26 Jesus reminds us that “it is worth nothing for you to have the whole world if you yourself are lost. You could never pay enough to buy back your life.” (ERV)

The Message words it this way, and these words are a fitting reply to my hungry, bargain-hunting soul:

“What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself?”

Ouch.

The truth hurts.

Today I am compelled to shop my own closet for entertainment and to avoid adding to the excess already found therein.

Today I am motivated to weed out those things I don’t wear or don’t really like so that I can donate them to my church’s upcoming clothing exchange event.

Today I admit that no matter how found I am, there are hints of a lost soul being dropped here and there – hints that I need to take seriously and respond faithfully to.

Because I Want What I’ve Got in Christ more than what I’ve got in my closet.

Consign that.

Daily Questions: Where do you find duplicates and triplicates of purchases in your home? My husband has jokingly (but rightly) told me that I could open a clothing store with what’s in my own closet. Identify the excess, as I am doing today, and do something meaningful with it! Donate it to a thrift store or charity that you support (shoe collector? Check out Soles4Souls donation programs: http://www.soles4souls.org/ ). Give it to someone who needs or would love what you’ve got! Consider starting a seasonal exchange at your church or even with a group of friends. I’d love to share what our church is doing! Email me for details: brita@pinkshoesministries.me

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Sprinkles (a PINK Tuesday re:post)

Close-up of cupcake with pink frosting and spr...

Image via Wikipedia

Sprinkles was originally posted as part of the Trek to the Manger 2010 at Pink Shoes Ministries.

No matter how hard I try to avoid it, the illustration of cake keeps surfacing as I search for ways to connect with you on this PINK Tuesday (sorry)! I’m not sure that the Apostle Paul would have jumped right to food in order to paint a word picture to accompany his letter to the Corinthians, but I’m the first to say, “if the boot fits…”

And this ‘boot’ is a good fit. Even if it is edible.

Hear these words from Paul on this PINK Tuesday:

“I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple – in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things – your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out. I want you to live as free of complications as possible.” 1 Corinthians 7:29-32 (The Message)

As free of complications as possible… Is that even POSSIBLE?

What makes it so ridiculously difficult to grasp what Paul is suggesting is our fondness for what my friend Nancy Whitney-Reiter calls “sprinkles.” In her book, Now Is The Time To Do What You Love, Nancy explains the benefits of downsizing:

“…most of us are surrounded by “sprinkles.” Using the analogy of a cake: the cake itself has flavor and so does the frosting. But what do the sprinkles really add? Empty calories. Take a good look around you. Chances are, you’re surrounded by things that you no longer use and likely never will.”

Go ahead – do it. Take a look around the room you’re sitting in right now. Think about the space you live in – your shelves and cupboards and closets.

What are your preferred “sprinkles”?

What are the things that make your proverbial cupcakes look colorful and cute but fail to add anything of substance to your life? What constitutes “empty calories” – things you consume that fail to nourish your soul?

I seriously doubt that the Wise Men of old traveled with sprinkles. I suspect that they limited their luggage to that which gave them nourishment, sustenance and protection for the journey. Surely they kept it simple, in order to be footloose enough to travel as the star led them. In order to keep up with God.

Personally, I fail the sprinkles-test every time I pack for a trip.

I might need this.

I could want that.

If it’s cold, I’ll need that.

If it rains…

You’ve been there, too. I can’t even stomach the thought of going camping because the what-ifs end up creating such an intimidating packing list. Either the stuff goes, or the kids go. Both won’t fit in the car!

It takes discipline to pack a week’s worth of personal items into a carry-on. And it takes discipline to simplify a life that has been complicated by the things the world thrusts on us. Even if we were willing recipients of those things, you’ve got to agree with Nancy when she reminds us that “you expend energy on your possessions. Simplifying your possessions allows you to redirect that energy…”

I don’t know about you, but I sure could use some energy to redirect as the school year comes to a close and summer ‘vacation’ begins! Maybe I could channel that newly-found energy toward the process of freeing up space in my head and in my schedule for the Spirit of God to come in and move me. Or maybe I have friends and family who need my attention, but I just haven’t seemed to have the time to spend with them.

Sprinkle-maintenance requires time and energy and attention that Paul tells us is better spent on the things that matter to God. In fact, Paul says that:

“All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.” 1 Corinthians 7:35 (The Message)

I have a dear friend who just moved from an enormous house into a much smaller home – not unlike many of us who have been adversely affected by our country’s economic state. She was forced to downsize her estate within a very short time frame, creating stress and using up precious energy that could have been directed toward holding her family together in a season of emotionally challenging events.

What if we could choose to live in the same way that the Wise Men traveled – limiting our possessions to those which give us nourishment, sustenance and protection for the journey of this life that we are on? Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep it simple, in order to be footloose enough to travel as the Spirit leads us? In order to be able to keep up with God?

Take stock today of your sprinkles. Pay close attention to those possessions which drain your resources – time, energy and money. Consider asking God to help you give away these empty calories (or sell them on Craigslist)!

NOT so that you can turn around and shake some new, different colors on your cake, but so that you can direct more energy toward time spent together with the One who gave up everything for love of YOU.