I have been blindsided by the book I just finished reading.
It's called 7, by Jen Hatmaker.
In it, she takes a look at her daily American Christian life, and an even harder look at the excess involved in it. For seven months, she and her family go through a series of "fasts" from seven different areas of excess and waste.
Just reading this book has changed me. How many times have I looked around at my home, our stuff, and our lifestyle and just cringed at the excess? So many times. Is this pleasing to the Lord? Is it displeasing to Him? And yet, most would probably say that we live simply, below our means, and in a fairly small house--less house than most people think we need. But for some reason it still feels like too much. We are still the "rich folks" of the world, and how are we using our riches? And even if I am dissatisfied with that, what can I do about it? Where do I even start? This book is the story of where one woman started to change, and how she went about it.
I highly suggest you pick up a copy for yourself. It's a fast read, although you may want to go through it again as soon as you're done. Or share it with a friend! I gave my copy to my sister, and by the end of the day she was already posting quotes from the book on her facebook status!
This is not the first time a book has wrecked my self-absorbed point of view. It happened with Radical, and Crazy Love too. You might as well go ahead and buy all three together if you haven't read these two either.
Just as an example, I have been an absolute maniac around the house ever since I finished reading 7. The chapter about possessions is one of my favorites. Although she had planned on giving away seven items a day for the month (210 items), she ended up parting with over 1000 things instead. So, I looked around the house to see if there was anywhere I could "trim the fat." Ah. Magazines. I love them. Back when I was selling custom children's clothes on eBay, I would pore over magazines each month to jump-start the design process. I organized them meticulously in magazine files, according to month. And even after I stopped designing, I didn't see any reason to give them up. I have moved my entire magazine collection to a new house THREE TIMES. And then I read this book.
These beautiful periodicals, full of inspiration and project ideas were an anchor. So this week I went from this:
These are the Mary Engelbreit Home Companions, no longer in print, that I had to keep because of the paper dolls included in each issue. I've been saving them for an appropriate time for Emma since before she was even born. But wait. Why would I hold onto 10+ pounds of magazine, just for a few sheets of paper dolls? Somebody pass me the x-acto knife.
And here it is--what is left of the magazines I was holding onto for more than 7 years. So weird! I'm not even someone who holds onto things. It feels very good, and now I want more. Every time I walk past that empty shelf where the magazines used to live, it feels so good. So light.
I did something else that is even more out of character for me. In 7, Jen Hatmaker mentions that she and her friend moved into houses on the same street, and started a "neighborhood domination" project. She doesn't go into too many details, but that term was enough for me. There is a family across the street that I had been dying to meet. They moved in about six months ago and have kids similar in age to ours. But something in me, fear of something unknown, was keeping me from going over there and introducing myself. That seemed like something a grown-up would do, and sometimes I just don't feel very grown up. That changed this week.
Warning: for those of you who are naturally social creatures, this story is going to sound RIDICULOUS to you. I'm sorry.
I was at the grocery store picking out some bagels, when I thought why not jsut get some extras for our neighbors? They just had a new baby, and sometimes those easy meals are a big help. So I added some bagels to the cart. No big deal. But when I got home, I realized I hadn't bought any cream cheese. That's it! The plan is off! I'll just have to introduce myself some other time. But today, the Spirit wasn't going to let me get away so easily. I looked down at my groceries and saw the abundance. I had bought two bags of bagels, two frozen lasagnas, a huge bunch of bananas and a bag FULL of oranges. You know that verse that talks about having an extra tunic? It's Luke 3:11 "And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” It might as well say, if you bought two lasagnas, take one to your neighbor.
So I did. I filled a basket with some of the abundance the Spirit had opened my eyes to see and marched it across the street.
You cannot understand enough how out of character this was for me. I was scared as I crossed the street. I was scared as I approached their door. But I couldn't think about that because the Holy Spirit was practically roaring in my ear. Today, I just didn't have a choice. It was like He said, Is 7 going to be just a cool book you once read, or are you going to let it make a change in your life?
I'm going to let it make a change.
I already have. Someday I'll share what a treasure we have discovered in our new neighbor-friends. It will blow your mind! But that's a topic for another day.
Let me know when you get your copy. I want to hear how it wrecks your life, too.
Grab these books next time you're on Amazon! They are game-changers!