Monday, May 14, 2012

Can You See the Light?

I woke up the other morning with the song "This Little Light of Mine" running through my head.  What a beautiful song!  I have such amazing memories of my oldest son singing this song when he was a toddler.  He loved the song!  I can still see him holding up his little finger as his "light" and just singing his heart out.  I hope that mental image never leaves me, and oh how I wish I had a recording of that sweet voice.  

As I was preparing breakfast that morning for the children and singing "This Little Light" in my head (the boys no longer like to hear me singing unless it is their nightly lullaby), I kept thinking of the significance of the words to the song.  We all have that little light, that inner light or beauty, that we hope the world can see.  And it struck me that the light is what matters, that inner "something" that others can see in us, that hopefully helps them to see God.  Maybe they see the light in our smile, or in our words.  Maybe they see the light in our actions or in how we care for others.     

There are so many ways to let our light shine in the world.  And our light does not depend on our outward appearance or anything we can purchase or consume.    

I view this material fast as an exercise to help me focus more on that light and less on the lamp shade!  And so far the fast is going very well.  Someone asked me the other day if I have cheated and I told her I did not think so.  I knew going into the fast that I would purchase home furnishings Jason and I had previously planned, such as a new dining room table, but as far as things for myself, I have bought only running shoes and one item that I justified for health purposes (my Garmin running watch/heart rate monitor).  I really have not felt like I am missing out on anything, and I do feel like I am growing and gaining.    

I'll leave you with these simple, yet profound lyrics:

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine, 
let it shine,
let it shine,
let it shine!

So, all you beautiful souls out there -- go let your lights shine.  You don't need new clothes or jewelry for that!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Yes, I will go to the Ball!

I am not one to frequent black tie affairs.  There are many reasons for this.  First, it is just not something frequently "required" of Jason and me in the social circles in which we run.  And second, it is not something I particularly enjoy.  I can remember being a young adult and reading the social pages of our local paper wondering if that might some day be my life.  I loved the idea of wearing the beautiful gowns and being important enough that people who did not even know me might want to see a photo of me all dressed up and out for the night, looking perfect and supporting a perfectly good cause.  I suppose I wanted "that life", not really knowing what I wanted out of life, truly.  

Fast forward many years and the society page has not been my life.  I guess I can say "thankfully," though that would not seem fair because I really have no idea if I would want that life or not.  But on rare occasions, Jason and I are asked to attend black tie affairs, almost always for a charitable cause.  Usually I try to make up a reason to NOT attend.  If I am really honest with myself regarding my excuses for not wanting to go, they are generally pretty shallow.  For the past few years, every January we are invited to attend the Pointe Ball here in Birmingham.  I have come up with excuse after excuse for not being able to attend.  The reason I never want to go is that I do not think I have anything pretty enough or special enough to wear, or I am feeling fat, and my body is so hard to fit that I do not want to go through the excruciating exercise of finding anything.  Finally, two years ago, I sucked it up and agreed to go.  I searched high and low for a dress that would actually hit the ground of my six feet tall frame and took the plunge and ordered one on line.  It was fine and fit okay.  Well, as my good luck would have it, I ended up with a conflict that prevented us from attending.  

Awesome -- dodged that one.  

January of 2011 rolled around to greet me with the same invitation.  Well, I had a dress, and no apparent conflict, so I agreed we should go.  I was self conscious all night long because I did not like they way I looked in my dress and did not feel good wearing it.  The icing on the proverbial cake was when about twenty minutes into the affair, the heel broke on my shoe and I had to hobble around all night on the ball of my foot.  Talk about an uncomfortable night!  I told Jason when we left last year that it was highly unlikely I would attend that event again, and if I did, I was certainly not wearing a full length ball gown.  

Fast forward to 2012 and I receive an email from my sweet husband asking if I would like to attend the 2012 Pointe Ball.  

Honestly, my idea of a perfect night involves my pajamas, a good movie, and a glass of wine.  It never involves a ball gown and uncomfortable shoes.  However, in an effort to embrace the inner me, I thought that I should accept this invitation as a challenge to myself.  

A challenge to dress in something I already own and in which I am physically comfortable.  

A challenge to look in the mirror on my way out of the door and see me, and not see a dress.  

A challenge to enjoy a night with my husband that does not involve worn out pajamas I have had since college.  

A challenge to not worry about what other people (most of whom I do not even know) might think about what I am wearing.  

A challenge to let others see me for the inner me, and not whatever I choose to wear to this event.  

I quickly responded to Jason with a simple "yes, let's go!" having no clue what I would wear.  But I vowed not to worry about it.  And I vowed to myself that I would go to the Pointe Ball this year with my sweet husband and enjoy a night with him without worrying about how I looked and being insecure about what others think about me.  

I am not my dress.  I am not even how I look in my dress.  

We went to the Ball and I wore a dress I have worn to numerous other events.  I won't lie to you and say that I felt beautiful, because I am entirely too insecure to feel that way.  But I was comfortable.  Mostly because I tried so hard to let go of worrying about how others would think I looked or if I had the latest, greatest, most fashionable dress.  

Life is not about dresses.  It is about our hearts, our relationship with God and with others, and our experiences.  We do not need a new dress to enjoy those things.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I'm Back

Well, I didn't really go anywhere.  But after my last post, I was on a "writing roll" and had so much on my mind that I wanted to share.  I started typing away and prepared two posts that I had planned to share with everyone.  Then something happened.  Not sure what it was, but I suddenly started to feel very exposed and not wanting to share anymore.

I had to really think about it for a while and I was discussing my uncertainty with a friend one day, trying to explain to her how I was feeling.  I couldn't exactly figure it out, but she was able to help find what it was that was making me uncomfortable.  I felt like I was bragging.  It's sort of weird to feel like you are bragging about not buying yourself anything, but in a way, that is what I feel like I am doing by talking about it.  I could have decided to do this fast and not mention it to another soul in the world.  Truly, no one would have to know.  Not even my husband.  He'd just think I'd had a stroke or an alien had taken over my body when, week after week, I just wasn't buying anything for myself.  So I had to dig deep and think about what my motivation was for choosing to share.  Initially I shared the idea with Amy, and she is someone I talk to on the phone while I'm using the bathroom (well, not a lot, but if necessary), so it wasn't odd to share it with her.  But exposing myself to everyone else was a different story.  Did I feel like I needed approval?  Did I want you all to know how disciplined I can be?  Or how self-aware I am? Ha!!  I have no idea...because I do not think I am either of those.

My friend said something to me that has resonated -- "sometimes God wants us to be uncomfortable."  So I have worked through my discomfort for the last two months -- I can't believe it has been that long -- and I have decided to keep writing about the fast.  I am not bragging.  I am not disciplined.  I am not self-aware.  I am just an average person trying to be the best me that I can be.  And along the way, I might have a crazy idea every now and again and want to share with others for whatever reason!  I hope my motivations are genuine, and I think they are.  I am hoping that others will find ways to challenge themselves too and find ways to grow into the you God wants you to be.  We can always keep growing.

That's where I've been, and I'm excited to say that I'll have more posts coming soon (including those that I wrote back in January).  The fast is going very well and I have not purchased anything for myself since I had to buy the new running shoes.  Though I admit I did have a dream about buying a dress...and I'm happy to report that I walked away with no dress in hand!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Rules

I have had a few people ask me specifics about what is or is not included in the Material Fast, so I thought this post might be a good idea to help better explain the "rules" of the fast.

Rule 1 -- My first rule would have to be that I do not expect my fast, which is a personal choice to me, to apply to anyone else in my life.  Jason (my husband) has made it clear that he has no desire to participate, and not because he has an obsession with buying things, but more because he does not seem to have an identity issue the way I apparently do!  I say if you see no reason to fast, then you must not have a reason to do it.  I, on the other hand, felt like God was calling me to do this, and so here we go.

That being said, Amy and I have both had people tell us they want to join us on this year-long fast.  We have a very dear friend, who would admit to you that she wants for nothing, who immediately told us she wanted to fast too in an effort to simplify her life.  Which leads me to Rule 2...

Rule 2 -- If you are wanting to participate in this material fast, your reasons or motivations for doing so do not have to be the same as Amy's or mine.  I think this is a personal decision, even though we are choosing to publicly discuss it.  Which leads to Rule 3...

Rule 3 -- Your rules might not be the same as mine.  I had one person tell me that he wanted to fast from buying hunting and fishing equipment, and another suggest she might need to fast from books.  Whatever "stuff" you see in your life that might be separating you from God, and from the genuine you, those are the things I would suggest you consider giving up.  It could be something different for all of us.  

Rule 4 -- My "stuff"!  For Amy and me, we decided we had a pretty defined list of things we would forego for 2012.  The following items will be off limits:  any form of clothing, from underpants and socks to pants and tops, shoes, jewelry, hair brushes, watches, sun glasses, hats, anything that will go on our bodies.  Our only exception will be running shoes, which I just had to purchase (thanks to my bad knees) and will likely need to replace once or twice this year depending on the amount of running I do.  We will also give up buying any other personal items for ourselves.  I had honestly not thought about this until questioned about it, but for me, that will include books or music (even digital).  We will allow ourselves to purchase basic care and hygiene items such as shampoo and soap, medicine, and replace the minimum essential makeup (though arguably makeup is not essential).  

Rule 5 -- Gifts are allowed.  I fully intend to continue purchasing gifts for others, and have already accepted a gift from a friend.  However, I do not intend to ask for a specific item as a gift.  In other words, if I decide I want something in particular, I will not ask Jason or anyone else to buy it for me.  I need to learn to live without the stuff I think I need or want.  

There may be more rules -- but that's all I can think of for now!

Though not necessarily a "Rule", we will also strive to reflect on the "why"...why we wanted to do this...why we are so consumed with stuff...why we beat ourselves up...why we let the outside world and material possessions define who we are...why we are not always happy with the reflection in the mirror...and what we can do to change get to the real "me".  To answer the question of "who am i" when we look in the mirror.  The rules are pretty simple, and though the stated objective is pretty simple too, I have a feeling this journey will be anything but simple...

maybe easy...but not simple.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I Hate Blogs

The responses I have received from my friends regarding our material fast and this blog have been overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging.  Well, all except for the one very good friend who declared, prior to even knowing what the blog was about, that she "hates blogs."   Thankfully the encouraging messages have outnumbered the one negative comment.  

I admit I was stunned and somewhat hurt when I initially read the "I hate blogs" response from such a good friend.  However, after a few email exchanges with my friend and learning why she hates blogs, I decided not to take it personally.  After all, she had not, and as far as I know still has not read a Mirror, Mirror post.  This friend explained to me that she is generally annoyed by social media such as Facebook and blogs wherein people chose to share their inner-most thoughts with the world in lieu of private diaries, prayer and reflection.  I can understand and respect that opinion.   Admittedly, part of why I thought Amy's idea to blog about our fast was a good idea was so that I could use the writing as a form of reflection on the purpose of our fast, and so far, at least for me, that has been the case. 

Days and weeks after my to remain unnamed friend made her declaration of hatred, I continued to think about what she had said.  I think it was the use of the word "hate" that surprised me the most.  As a mother of two young children, I have always tried to teach them not to say "hate" but to instead find another way to express how they feel about the object of their dislike.  I remember being about four or five years old and receiving a harsh spanking because I told my older sister that I hated her, so needless to say, I've always tried to be very careful about my use of that word.  

But the more I thought about it, the more I started to admit to myself that I too use that word, but in reference to myself.  It is sad to admit, but generally speaking, when the word "hate" comes to my mind or out of my mouth, it is usually when I am looking at myself in the mirror, or beating myself up about some perceived shortcoming of my own, whether as a wife, mother, or lawyer.  Sadly, I almost always find something to hate about the way I look when I glance in the mirror.  I think that if I use this fast as a time to try to see, truly see, who God sees and who God wants me to be, the word "hate" should not pop into my head when I look in the mirror.  I need to learn to love the wrinkles and sun spots, the gray hairs that seem to grow exponentially, and the weirdly stretched out stomach that has resulted from the birth of those two precious gifts from God.  I have a dear friend who once gave up mirrors for Lent -- now that is something to think about!  

I am going to try really hard to drop the use of the word "hate" when viewing myself, literally and figuratively.  I do not think for a second that God would want me to hate anything about myself.  After all, he made me, and I am his child.  I know he does not hate me.      

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Forbidden Fruit

Today is December 30, which means I have only one more day to shop for myself before the fast begins.  As part of my preparations to stock-pile undergarments, I was forced to take a trip to Saks yesterday afternoon.  Saks is a great department store and I am happy for Birmingham that we have one.  However, I typically try to stay away on the assumption that nothing good can come from my going in there!  Operating under that assumption, I generally go only once or maybe twice a year, and always for something specific (say, On Gossamer underpants).

Yesterday was no exception, and I was on a very specific mission.  The plan:  march straight to the lingerie department and do not stop.  That plan was quickly derailed when, within five seconds of entering the doors, I spotted a friend and her daughter in the shoe department.  Well of course I wanted to stop and speak.  And of course, standing there in the middle of the Saks shoe department, shoes starting speaking to me - "look at me, you better get me now, I'm on sale, I come in your giant size 11!"  To make matters even worse, Saks was having their rack shoe sale (confession that I hit the Gus Mayer rack sale last week and bought a great pair of black booties), and there was an entire side of a rack devoted exclusively to sizes 10-11.  Jackpot!!  I felt an actual obligation to look.  There could have been some life altering shoes on that sale rack, and how would I know if I did not even look.  So you know what happened.  I'm staring at these great shoes (Prada, Jimmy Choo...brands I don't even own and cannot afford to buy) and I feel like we are in a stand off.  It's really a weird feeling to be taunted by shoes!

I walked away.  I had to.  I don't consider myself to be a shopaholic by any stretch, but maybe that is how an addict feels when exposed to the source of their addiction.  I knew it made no sense to just stand there and stare at shoes I had no intention of buying.  After the black booties last week, I had decided that would be the last impulse purchase for a very long time (and by long, I did not mean a week).  I quickly made my way up to the lingerie department and found what I was there to buy.  Purchase made, I now had to get back out of the store -- right through these gorgeous dresses and adorable spring frocks. It was terrible.  Usually I would not care, but somehow knowing that everything was "forbidden" made it so much more desirable.  I suppose there are some Biblical references to be made there!

I made it out with only underpants in hand, I am happy to say.  But I think I need to stay away from shopping opportunities until I feel stronger!

So tomorrow is the last day and I have only a few more necessities to purchase, and then the fast begins in earnest.  I know it will be a challenge at times, but I honestly feel like I will grow from this experience.   It is ridiculous to think for a second that I need any shoes, or anything else material for that matter, so I welcome the exercise of discipline and reflection.  Let me know if you are in too...I think forbidden fruit probably tastes pretty bitter and is not really worth it in the end.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Please Help Keep Us From the Mall!

Rhonda's story:

It is hard to know where this idea truly originated -- probably many pieces of my life coming together into that one epiphany moment in the shower on Sunday, October 9, 2011.  As I was preparing to go to church to give a brief talk on my recent medical mission to Honduras, I had this idea that I should go on a "fast" of sorts.  Those of you who know me know that I am always going on my temporary chocolate fasts (though I can proudly declare I've been M&M free for months now), and the ever-rare wine fast, but I have never contemplated this sort of fast.  This fast would be more about helping me focus on finding the REAL ME.  I decided that i wanted to spend some time not buying for myself.  I firmly believe we should all devote time and energy to our individual well-being, i.e., exercise, reading, reflection, prayer, and family time, but we could probably all benefit from devoting less material "stuff" to ourselves.  Honestly, ask yourself, is there anything material you truly need to be who God meant for you to be?  

So, I decided that in 2012, I am not going to buy anything material for myself.  No shoes (cue the tear drops falling from my eyes); no boots (no, those are not the same thing as shoes -- and you should have plenty of both, right?); no new bracelets, bangles, hoops or studs (can you have too many?); no coats, jackets, suits or skirts; no party shirts or dresses; not even a pair of yoga pants or running shorts.  I felt really excited about my decision and started to list in my head the possible exceptions -- a new pair of running shoes, if required (that's a matter of safety), and clearly toiletries and my usual skin care and makeup would be excluded.  But forget the cute new outfits for the rare night out with my husband, or the annual new swim suits when we go to the beach -- those are all off limits.  Now I need to anticipate all the things I'll really NEED in 2012 and make sure I stock up (underpants, yes!).  

A few hours post-decision, and feeling exhilarated and liberated, I decided to share with one of my best friends this decision I had made.  Amy and I were in the car together when I told her the plan and, much to my surprise, she didn't think I was crazy!  She actually got it!  We started talking about how much STUFF we have and how we lose sight of who we truly are because we let what we have, or sometimes do not have, and how we look, define so much of how we feel about ourselves or define who we are.  We talked about how we want to look in the mirror and see who WE ARE, who God meant for us to be, and not what we are wearing.  We waste so much time and focus too much on what does not really matter.  Then we started the lists of do's and don'ts...the budgeted, planned house expenditures would be okay (but no impulse purchases just because that candle is a beautiful shade of green and smells so good), and we could buy gifts for others.

After Amy and I experienced a whirlwind shopping trip to H&M (with 5 kids in tow -- it was THAT important to shop knowing we were about to give it up), Amy called me with the brilliant idea that we should write a blog about our "material fast".  I agreed it was a great idea -- we would certainly be holding ourselves accountable if we shared with others our journey to be "material free" in 2012, and it would likely be therapeutic and help us grow in our spiritual journey to see our real selves in the mirror.  After we got off the phone, I thought of a possible name for a blog and sent Amy a text with my idea.  I ran to the computer to see if the name was available, but found myself googling this one pair of shoes I've been wanting since February instead of going to blogspot.  I want them soooo badly -- and haven't I waited long enough to get them?  And they are really practical and cute.  I haven't ordered them yet and I still don't know if I will, but I do have through 12/31/11 to decide!

That is the story of the birth of our blog -- the idea for our material fast, coupled with Amy's idea to write the blog.  Neither of us claim to be writers -- I know I certainly don't count the legal writing I do with my job to qualify me to write a blog.  And I definitely don't think I am knowledgeable or enlightened enough to give anyone spiritual guidance.  But what I do know is that I am a pretty typical person and I know a lot of others out there that probably struggle like I do with feeling in (or rather, out) of touch with who I really am and what really matters to me and makes me the person I am.  So, I have no idea if anything I say will make a difference to any other person, but I am hoping that this exercise will help me to be more in touch with the real me -- to be the me that God meant for me to be -- not the me that looks good in new boots or a great sun dress!  So, I pray to God, "mirror, mirror, on the wall, please help keep me from the mall!"