Sunday, January 13, 2019

December Money Experiment, Season 1, Final Episode

“Your feedback on our December Money Experiment?”

It’s a rare occasion to have all six of us home at the same time. A quick glance at the family calendar provides a sense of urgency. I have less than twenty minutes for a team meeting. Now, huddled in the living room of our extra-large tiny townhouse, we’re asking those timeless questions, what worked, what didn’t? Asking, what might we do different?  

“Mom, our house is just kind of a crash pad right now.” Ezekiel’s eyes hold mine. I process his metaphor.

Later, I would look up the definition of crash pad… 1. informal – a place to sleep, especially for a single night or in an emergency. 2. a thick piece of shock-absorbing material for the protection of the occupants of an aircraft cockpit or motor vehicle. Also, for a gymnast or for boulder climbing.

This season of transition, the launching of ideas, work, goals, projects.

This experiment stripped the fluff and superfluous. In exchange for an overflowing pantry and refrigerator, we received the gift of insight.

There it was.

All our desires. Laid out bare.

Bare necessities, yes. Like food. Sure.

I’m curious, though… can a basic need like food cause the dreaded onset of …complacency? Maybe?

The first ten days or so landed nothing short of victorious. Working within parameters stirred my creativity and imagination, resulting in delicious culinary creations. The atmosphere went from tense and worrisome to hey, this might be fun after all.

Until the only items left on the pantry shelves were a bag of flax seed, white wine vinegar and yellow corn meal. Half a box of pasta and a bag of “Glorious Gluten-free Cookies” from Christ Kitchen faced one another in their private arena, their incongruence begging the question, What is the intention?

The challenge was to live on a grocery budget of $200 for a month with a family of six. That comes out to roughly $6.45 a day for December. Only ten days in and we had already spent $96.09.
Three dollars and sixteen cents a day more than the allotment.

Worry crept back in at the edges. The refrigerator door made a hollow fmp when closed. Instead of bold, faith-filled declarations, a few team members fretted, we might starve.

And, you know that question… What will you be famous for? Well, in our family, something I’m (in)famous for is “turning everything into a life lesson.” Yes, well, eh-hem… about that. Funny how a gnawing in an empty stomach can make space to consider the deepest desires of the heart. 

The stark reminder that we’re spiritual beings having a physical experience.

And the life-giving truths, metaphorically chewing on them, Delight yourself also in the Lord…* Then Matthew’s exhortation, But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness...**

Whispered reflection, what do I want most? What does my heart long for? Heh. I glance over at my vision board where there in the lower right-hand corner it reads …a gourmet chef’s kitchen and a team of world class chefs. They live on the premises and prepare healthy meals for all meals every day of the week. Ah! A small taste (excuse the pun) of heaven in all this grocery-budgeting, ingredient-improvising and recipe-innovating.

So, there’s the vision, the goal (at least for the kitchen)… and in the meantime… in the present…

{long smile} “Do not fret – it only causes harm.”*** And, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”**** Well, yes, about that, too.

Instead of fretting, instead of getting carried away by tomorrow’s unknowns, I wonder…

…how simple, how amazing if…

What if, I wanted to know more of God’s heart… you know, the way I want food? What if we longed to be filled with more of God’s Spirit, the way we hunger for savory succulence hot out of the oven? What if we decided to be wholly satisfied with the sustenance found in the Sustainer of our days? 

What if, we leveraged our physical longings as a nudging reminder of our soul’s deeper longing?

What if, we followed the example of the psalmist, the wholehearted declaration, One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. (Psalm 27:4) Yes, that… to encounter His presence… in “the premises” of my heart and soul… an ongoing communion…

Last week I read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. There’s a part where Screwtape, a demon on a mission to ruin a man’s soul, writes to his nephew regarding gluttony, “But what do quantities matter, provided we can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern?” Yes, there. Not the quantity, just the mere appetite.

Funny how something as fundamental as food presented possible epiphanies. How it shook up the complacent areas and caused me to consider this foodstuff on a soul-deep level.

Of course, I only pondered this all in my own heart as I looked at the five pairs of eyes looking back at me during this team debrief. Yes, the crash pad metaphor. Back to that. I especially like the second meaning, “a thick piece of shock-absorbing material for the protection of the occupants…”

{hold the wheel, that’s right, hold the wheel as we continue round this corner} This curve in the road with grown children finding their way, all of us – us parents included – stepping out into new endeavors, the faith-filled, bold declaration: I will behold the beauty of the Lord, to delight myself in Him, to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. To lean into the transition, the new rhythm.

To execute on an idea. To take on fulfilling work. To achieve a goal, and then another, and another. To challenge ourselves, stretch out of our comfort zone and pursue projects that build a legacy of impact, changing the world around us for the better.

What if those are simply the fruit of utilizing our appetites, cravings, hunger pangs – whatever you call them – to lay bare the deepest longings of our soul? And to know Spirit absorbs the shock of our disappointments, impatience, frustrations, and setbacks.

So, we didn’t exactly work out all the kinks and fumbles in this experiment. And we didn’t succeed in the $200 challenge. The receipts from December 1st through the 28th document $235.80. Then, for some reason, on the 28th, we ended the experiment… the receipts totaling $307.86 through the 31st of the month. whelp. 

Based on the numbers, the experiment failed. Yet, the insights gained are priceless.

“So how do we make this a strategic, functional, effective crash pad, not just to meet physical needs, but for soul-care, too?”

The next fifteen minutes or so, we brainstorm ideas, possibilities. We establish a few outcomes from the experiment that will inform our next steps. For example, this new season in our family creates an atmosphere that more closely resembles a fraternity/sorority house of creatives and innovators than anything we’ve had before. Rarely is there more than one or two people home at the same time. 

Based on what we learned, we'll continue to look for ways to practice frugality. 

We'll give each other grace and space as we're all entering and exiting the revolving door of our home. 

We'll support one another in our goals and ambitions.

We'll continue to look for ways to create a culture of honor both here and everywhere we show up. One way we'll do this is to check in with one another, "How is it going for you? Is there anything I can do to honor and bless you?"  

We'll up the ante when it comes to praying for and with one another. (Something we've allowed to fall by the wayside.) 

We'll continue to seize moments to laugh together and serve together. And, ohmyheart... the ongoing, life-giving conversations around here! Yes, those. Whether a few minutes or a couple of hours, we'll definitely continue those conversations. 

What about you? Where can you challenge yourself? In what area might you create an experiment that could help you and your team create an environment that's aligned with who you are and who you want to become? 

*Psalm 37:4
**Matthew 6:33
***Psalm 37:8
****Matthew 6:34

Counting blessings…

303. All this, written while my family is a swirl of activity around me, making the traditional requested breakfast for Ezekiel on this, his 20th birthday. French toast, scrambled eggs with sausage, and orange juice. Small tastes of heaven.

304. A new job for me! A continuation of my life’s work and passion: investing in and coaching families! Woohoohoo!! Thank You, Jesus!

305. A husband and grown children who are all stepping out in faith and pursuing God-sized dreams.

306. Difficult conversations and the ensuing decision to reign in ego, ask questions, listen, clarify and validate, share authentically, listen more. The resulting intimacy.

307. The glorious and exciting news of a friend’s outrageous success on a project.

308. An evening spent in the company of matriarchs who have loved, coached, mentored and invested in me for over twenty-one years.

309. A book that’s hung out at the top of my “To Read List” for way too many years, finally finished. And the 5+ pages of single-spaced, type-written notes from The Screwtape Letters which has given me plenty of fodder for future conversational musings.

310. A whole weekend to read and study Ruby K. Payne’s Doctoral Thesis, A Framework for Understanding Poverty.

311. An afternoon and evening with Aunt Kathy and Uncle Jake, (Grandma and Grandpa to our children), engaging in deep conversation, bouncing around ideas, seeking solutions to challenges. Aunt Kathy makes a lasagna dinner with all the sides and then we wile away the rest of the evening playing a game and laughing until we find ourselves reigning each other back in for the next round. LeRoy and Uncle Jake bond over the NFL game on television.

312. The anticipation of the week ahead.

313. All six of us home this morning for Ezekiel’s Birthday Breakfast. And again, this evening for his Birthday Dinner. Annnnd, in the interim, the opportunity for Ezekiel to go skiing with Eli and Israel. For LeRoy and Isaiah to hang out together and watch the NFL game at Uncle Jake’s and Aunt Kathy’s house. For a few hours of quiet space for myself.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing! I'm taking on a similar challenge for this month. :)