Remember to Love

In light of the historic Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states this week, I wanted to share a few thoughts that have been on my heart. I really hate social media during times like this. It’s so emotional and so exhausting. Everyone expresses their opinion. At times this is great and I’m rejoicing, at times I’m embarrassed and humiliated, at times I’m livid and want to fight back. And here I am sharing just another opinion.

It seems to be worse that I am open about my spiritual beliefs being a follower of Jesus. Much of the time I want to remove myself from the “Christian” category all together and walk away from the church for good. I’m hurt by others who bear the name of Christ, but openly judge and hate.

My life has taken me on an interesting journey. I came from a very conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical background. (Lots of big words, I know. I could also just say “the south”). I learned the Bible inside and out. I once believed that everyone should live life from my worldview. Looking back, I’ll admit I was very close-minded and judgmental. I didn’t know what to think about people who were different than me. So I did what everyone else did, I pushed them away and expected them to conform to my viewpoint.

I was very shallow, naive and inexperienced. Life had been pretty easy going. I hadn’t faced much adversity. I’d followed all the rules. I had a very closed off perspective about the world – it was safe, good, and rewarding, IF you maintained all religious and social expectations.

This was great, for the most part. Until I began experiencing the world. I made a few mistakes. I lived in shame and guilt and secret, protecting my “good” image so I’d be kept in right standing.

For years, I suffered from depression and anxiety. I wasn’t comfortable with who I was. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. I couldn’t seem to find my place in the world. I didn’t fit into my “church and Christian” community anymore, but neither did I fit into the “secular” world.

Again, I was so shallow and naive. Not that I’m super intelligent and have everything figured out at this point in life, but I feel my real-world experiences, outside of my safe, Christian bubble, have truly taught me more about what it means to follow Jesus, than I learned when I lived with my closed off perspective. I’ll share a few examples.

1. I once thought I was somehow better than others because I was more dedicated to my faith and didn’t struggle with “big sins.” Comparison is a terrible thing. Over the years, I’ve seen in my own life that I use comparison to make me feel better about myself. I can find someone out there who is living life “worse” than I am, and that seemed to make me feel better about my own stupid choices. Because she was doing this and I was only doing that, I was therefore superior to her. We use comparison to justify our own sinful actions.

2. I realized that we all make dumb mistakes. We are human. And I’ve realized we are always going to make dumb mistakes. I make them. You make them. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and justifying our stupid decisions. Instead of pointing out our differences in choices of sin, let’s come together and realize we are all sinful. It does no good to judge and slander each other. But what if we work together and support one another in order to overcome our issues that we all face. Now we have this shared, common experience and we aren’t so different after all. We can’t overcome sin alone. In fact, that’s what the church is supposed to be all about. A body of believers, living life together and supporting one another. Not a ranting bunch of idiots (which is exactly what we look like) calling out sin by judging others in the name of standing up for the truth. It’s embarrassing. The Bible says that believers will be known for their love, not their annoying protesting, or not even because they stand up for the truth, but for their love.

3. I don’t understand why being different is so offensive. For some reason, humans seem to be afraid and offended by what they don’t understand. And in order to “fix” this problem, we want those who are different to become exactly like us. The issue then is that every group of people wants every other group of people to become exactly like them. We rarely desire and support diversity. Which is a shame. Why do we want everyone to conform to our ideals and standards? Why are we not celebrating the uniqueness of others? As a follower of Jesus, I believe that each and every person was made in the image of God, just how they are. These differences should be seen as glorious and wonderful! But so many times we make fun of and persecute someone just because they are different…their religious beliefs, skin color, country of origin, social class, language, style of worship, gender, beverage preference, etc. Again, I think this somehow makes us feel better about ourselves in our own twisted little minds.

4. We struggle with huge insecurities. I feel that the root of comparison and the reason differences are offensive is our own insecurities. I mentioned my struggle with identity, anxiety and depression. Today, I can proudly say that I’ve overcome those challenges (with help of my faith, my church, my family and friends, and a good therapist). For the first time in my life, I am proud of who I am. I know I’m quirky, independent, and don’t fit socially constructed gender roles, but I’ve learned to accept myself as who I am and love it. It’s who God made me. I’m comfortable knowing that I don’t have to be like everyone else. In addition, I know that I’m flawed. I know I’m sinful. I know I need Jesus. Learning these truths has helped me love others better. I don’t feel a constant need to belittle others to build myself up. I no longer see myself as superior, nor do I feel I need to be seen as better than anyone else. I’m just me. And you’re just you. And that’s beautiful.

5. Another common similarity we have is the need to feel valued and loved. Because we are insecure and flawed, we need to be reminded that we matter, that we are important, that someone cares. Every one of us. We have this incredible opportunity to rally together and be that positive influence on one another. Yes we are different, but we also have so much in common! We can choose to seek common ground and praise one another because of it. This is a huge opportunity for the church to stand up and be known for their love, yet the church today is majorly missing out.

6. People are people. We think because someone makes difference choices than we do, that somehow that makes them less human, less worthy of acceptance. It’s hard to relate to others whom we don’t understand. It’s hard to want to help a starving child in a third world country, until you’ve visited that child a third world country. It’s easy to keep them at a distance, out of sight out of mind, calling them “different” and ignoring the so-called problem, or in this case, pointing out the problem. It’s messy to jump in with two feet and build a relationship and share openly our weaknesses and let others in. But, we can’t continue to dehumanize others. We can’t ignore someone we consider to be a problem.

I really want to ask those who are against same-sex marriage if they know anyone who is openly gay. I want to ask if they’ve ever talked to anyone who is gay; if they have ever attempted to build a friendship with a gay person. Because when we actually open our hearts to others and see the commonalities we have with them, it’s a whole lot harder to point fingers and cast blame. You may just discover you’re more alike than you think. You may discover that they are people, just like you. People who just want to be accepted and loved. People who have families and friends, people who have jobs and hobbies, people who laugh and cry. People who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and honor. People who we, as Christians, are called to love.

In conclusion, I’ll say that my life has been filled with personal struggles. It’s nothing like I ever expected. I’ve made huge messes, I’ve felt like a failure more than once, I’ve celebrated amazing victories. I’ve learned that people matter most. Every person matters. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done or where you’ve been, you matter. The Bible says that if we don’t have love, we have nothing. If we can’t look past our differences and preferences and love others, life is miserable. At the end of the day, despite my actions and my choices, I serve a God who extends love and grace over me even though I’ve done nothing and will never do anything to deserve it. I will always be a sinful human being, and so will you.

When I look at the life of Jesus, whom we are called to model, I see a man of love who spent time with societies’ outcasts, the broken, the hurting, those who were different. He didn’t come to fight a political battle or establish an earthly kingdom. He didn’t create a Christian bubble and play it safe. He chose to be in the world, loving those who weren’t being loved by his followers. Ironically, he was also called out by believers for hanging out with sinners, accepting gifts from prostitutes, and partying too hard. In scriptures you never see Jesus ranting and rioting in the name of truth, except when he was in temple over-turning tables of the religious. His pursuit wasn’t winning favor in the government or changing the laws of the land. That stuff didn’t matter. His pursuit was the hearts of people. He came to love.

As the church, we’ve missed it big time. Our sights are so off course. Our mission has been so skewed. We spend an outrageous amount of our time, finances and resources fighting the wrong battle, one that we are still severely losing. My plea is that we would stop fighting the wrong fight and remember. Remember who we are, remember what we’ve done, remember who Jesus is, remember that people are people, remember we are called to love, remember that we need to be loved, remember that God is love.

The Importance of Culture

I’ve been a world traveler since a spring break trip to the slums of Mexico in college.  You could say I caught the travel bug.  I became mesmerized by new languages, people, customs, landmarks, history, patriotism.  People I’d met in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Honduras and even London had a deep set pride for their country and their culture.

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This struck me as very odd, because I’d never felt that type of connection to my country.  In fact, it was my dream to live as an expat in a foreign country and learn to embrace a new lifestyle that I could call my own.  I gave this a trial run in Kathmandu, Nepal back in 2012.  It was the most difficult experience of my life.  To this day I have a great admiration and love for the Nepali people, but I was not cut out to be one of them.

Upon my return to full-time living in the states, my own homeland, I was once again discontent and frustrated, feeling very much out of place.  I was an American citizen.  But, that meant so many different things to so many different people, and unfortunately, meant absolutely nothing to me.

Yes, I was grateful for my freedom, for the safety and security.  Though I never seemed to connect with what other Americans valued as “our” culture…independence, materialism, baseball, hotdogs, Fourth of July, English, democracy, Christopher Columbus, pant suits, politicians, Wall Street, corporations.  That’s what I thought when I thought “America.”  That and sadly some very jaded views of rednecks, cowboys and hillbillies.  I didn’t relate to any of it.

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In other countries I saw beauty in dance and a cup of tea and traditional dress and multiple languages and historic buildings and family ties.  Parts of life that held depth and meaning, centered around honor and relationships.

With the highest pursuit in my world being independence and wealth, life felt cold, distant and empty.

I had no history to connect to, no place to feel at home, no culture to thrive in.  In fact, American history was centered around Europeans destroying the very culture and society of my ancestors, the Native Americans.  And my country expecting me to be happy about that and grateful for it.

Yes, I realize that I wouldn’t be here had it not been for those Europeans and my Spanish great-great-grandfather marrying my Chickasaw great-great-grandmother.  But I’m still working through the bitterness of how it’s all been presented in history and the loss of my own native culture.

Because ultimately that’s how I feel.  I feel that my culture, Chickasaw culture, was crushed when our land was “discovered.”  Our heritage and our values were not “good enough” for the new system of government and city planning and religion.  My true heart-language ceased to be spoken.  My family was stripped of their name-sake and literally given a number, and told to conform to a new, “better” lifestyle, AND to like it and be thankful for all of those who fought for its freedom.

And yes, maybe my tribe and my state and my family has already come to terms with this ancient history.  Our governments have become partners and have made peace with it all.  But for me, as a twenty-something, I’m still dealing with it.  This is why…

This weekend, my family and I attended the Red Earth Festival in downtown OKC.  At the event, I saw art and dance and dress; I heard music and prayer and language and laughter; I felt supported and accepted and instantly part of a family with a deep sense of belonging.

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For the first time in my life, I made the connection.  THIS is me.  THIS is my culture.  THIS is who I am.  THIS is who I want to be.  THESE were my people.

The pride for a community was there – the admiration, honor and respect of leaders; the awe, humbleness and thankfulness for God the Creator; the importance, thoughfulness and beauty of culture; the respect, care and value for each member.  These values I’ve longed for and sought after, but never knew where to find.

As I get older, I’m realizing just how meaningful and necessary a culture can be in life.  It’s a sense of identity and community.  It allows us to connect with others and share experiences.  It reminds us of where we come from and what’s most important in life.  It’s something I want to embrace and pass on.

With that I’m elated that the Chickasaw Nation is opening up a new community center in Oklahoma City.  Living outside of my nation, I’ve felt disconnected from my roots.  I will be forever indebted to my tribe for all they have done for my family, growing up and even now as an adult, to enhance the quality of life and provide opportunities for me as a citizen to flourish.  In that I do feel a great sense of pride.  I’m proud of what my nation has become and what it is doing and will continue to do in the future.  And for the first time in my life, I feel like this is home.

 

Erin Condren Hasn’t Been My Life Saver


I’m sure it’s no secret that I’m a little OCD. I really enjoy planning and order and being prepared. I’ve kept a planner since middle school and couldn’t see myself living without one. Buying a new planner each year is one of the most difficult decisions I make. Especially with all the new designs out there right now – Lilly Pulitzer, myAgenda, Erin Condren, May Designs…just to name a few I’ve researched.

And I’ve done the research. Reviews, blog posts, ratings, photos, testimonies…all of it. Yet, there’s just something about holding the planner in your hands, feeling the pages between your fingers, writing on the texture of the paper. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t do a quality review of a planner without having used it. I need to get a feel for how it functions in my everyday life before I make up my mind. Which is a huge downside of having to buy online and the made-to-order designs. Too bad there isn’t a planner borrowing/renting program.

My other struggle with planners is costs. I have a very difficult time paying a large amount for a planner that I may or may not like using. I am guilty of purchasing a planner, using it for a few weeks, then purchasing a new planner. This can get expensive. Again, I’m terribly OCD. It has to be just right.

Many friends who understood my struggle sang the praises of Erin Condren. I just couldn’t get over the price tag. So, when I changed jobs mid-year and noticed a half-off sale for Erin Condren 2015 planners, I decided to give it a shot! After all, I had 50% less to lose.

I’ve had my Erin Condren life planner a little over a month and a half now. I’ve finally solidified my feelings for this much sought after spiral bound book. And I’m ready to share them with the world. Lucky you!

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weekly view

Erin Condren LifePlanner
Price I paid: $35
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Sorry friends, Erin just didn’t win me over. After much consideration my ultimate conclusion is: I enjoy my lifeplanner. I feel it is worth the half-off price tag. But, I do not consider it worthy of a full-price investment. I will continue using my planner until the end of the year, but I will not be purchasing another Erin Condren in the future.

I love the bright colors and my personalized cover page. The tabs for each month and folder pockets are handy. Inspirational quotes and cute stickers included are awesome perks. I enjoy the vertical daily layout, though I’m not fond of days being broken up into “morning,” “afternoon,” and “evening.” I’d rather have no breaks or times instead. I also can’t get over my week starting on Monday. This has caused me so much confusion, and I’m constantly marking off dates and resetting them. I’m a fan of the “weekly goals and notes” columns on the side panels. And I like the idea of the “lists, meal plans, exercise, daily dos, etc” row of note space at the bottom, but it’s just too small for all I’d like to add.

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I know the extra additions and edits I could make for the planner would solve the problems I mentioned, and I’m almost positive would make me enjoy the planner much more. But, with each additional change comes an additional cost. I purchased the bare-bones, bottom of the rung, pre-printed, half-off option. Even at that price, it was the most I’ve ever spent on a planner, and honestly was more than I wanted to spend.

Overall the life planner is really pretty and it gets the job done. It’s very sturdy and totes around well. It’s possible that I went in with too high of expectations. But, I’m not convinced it’s the right planner for me. I’ll keep searching for my 2016 purchase. I still have six months to go.

I decided while I’m at it, I may as well review the other planners I’ve used. Stay tuned for my experiences with Paper Source and May Designs.

I Know More About Pugs Than This Important Life Stuff

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Sometimes I wonder how I’ve made it this far in life.  I thought getting older and wiser would make grown-up life easier.  As an adult, I’m learning new things and growing some-what wiser, but it seems the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.

The world is vast and exciting and full of opportunities, but it’s also a confusing and challenging adventure.  I’ve always felt that there are possessions in my life that I don’t know enough about to have the right to own.  My car is one example.  I can fill it with gas and drive it to work, but I can’t change the oil or replace a fuse, or even remember to take it in for routine maintenance.  I can barely remember to take myself in for an annual doctor visit or bi-monthly hair trim.

Other things I shouldn’t own include my iPhone, a computer, and a house.  I just simple don’t understand enough to care for them properly and I end up feeling really dumb.

On the other hand, I’ve mastered gardening and landscaping.  (Except when I leave the mower out in the rain.)  And I have an impeccable knowledge of pugs.  I know more useless facts about the toy-breed than I’ll ever need, thanks to library books, Dogs 101 and Pugopoly.  I’d do just fine living in a garden with my two pugs forever!

Living as a young professional in Oklahoma City, however, has me stumped.  I don’t feel that I’ve ever been prepared for “real” life.  College taught me skills specific to my career, and for that I’m forever grateful.  I can write a thesis on women’s rights and international relations, and present on social media’s role in the nonprofit sector.  Yet, I have no idea how to file my taxes.  Thankfully I have a husband who does!

I discovered throughout the home buying process that I know nothing about applying for a loan, property taxes, interest rates or credit scores.  Did you know a company can sell your loan?  Or that you actually end up paying about three times the purchase price of a car or home due to interest?

When it comes to having health insurance, I know I’m covered…and that’s about it.  Deductibles make no sense.  You have to fight the company to cover your payments, because they never seem to want to. The time and effort it takes to file a case is often not worth it, which is probably how they make so much money.  Don’t I buy insurance so that I will be helped when there is an accident?  I’m just expecting to get what I pay for.  Maybe I’m asking too much.

And because I’d like to retire one day, I’m told to start contributing to a 401K.  (I don’t even know what that stands for.)  You can put in, but have restrictions for what you can take out.  What happens when I change jobs?  Where does my money go?  Then comes the fancy term IRA, along with roth and deductability rates.  The commercial on tv shows growing dominoes.  That’s all I want.  But where to invest is a whole other can of worms.

Between legal jargon and contracts, insurance agents and investors seeking their own interests, government documents that need decoding (I think they are written in English.)  I’m not sure how I survive.  And I haven’t even mentioned a life insurance policy or saving for my future children’s futures.

I need to find a life coach who can explain to me how this life stuff works.   There should be a grown-ups’ civics class for succeeding in America.  If you find one, send them my way.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy a cup of kool-aid and watch animal shows with my pups.

Norton-Sanner Scenes Vol 2015, No 5.5

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The year 2015 has been a crazy one already!  And it’s so hard to believe that it’s almost half way over.  Our family has experienced extreme loss and taken a some hits the past few months.  Manny Pacquiao, we feel your pain.  I’ll do my best to catch you up.

Scene 1: We started the new year in January coming off a weekend set of church services, followed by Christmas mid-week church services, followed by another weekend set of church services with my job.  In addition to nonstop holiday work season, we had three family Christmas events.  And coming back from the holidays in our hometown, we experienced the first full week of living in our new home!  That was exhausting to say the least.

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Scene 2: Our new home was wonderful, except for the plumbing issues, which you may have previously read about.  Long story short, we had to replace the sewer line in our front yard within the first month of living here.  Not a cheap or easy task.  Then our washer kept flooding the garage, over and over again.  After that, on Easter weekend my car decided it wanted to give out.  We had to have the clutch replaced.  Followed by my husband’s Jeep playing along and not wanting to start, leading to a day long tune-up.  It seemed that everything we owned thought this was the year to cause problems.  Without the help from my parents, we would have been down two cars and out thousands of dollars.  Repairs were made and we moved along.

Scene 3: Only two months into the year, having faced this much stress already, we asked our small group to pray that we have a very slow, normal first week of March.  The slow and normal lasted two days.  Chris and I were woken up around 2am due to a power flash.  Apparently a drunk driver ran into the electric pole on our block.

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Chris’ mom and dad with us at our wedding

Before going back to sleep, Chris checked his phone to find a message saying his mom was sent to the ER.  We drove two hours to meet his family at the hospital.  A few hours later, she was sent to OU Medical Center in the city where she spent several days in ICU.  Our second day at the hospital with family, Chris caught the flu.  His mom passed away that week on March 5.  Which also happened to be my birthday.  We went back to our hometown to prepare for the funeral the next week, and I ended up going to the ER and also being diagnosed with the flu.  A week and a half later, I went back to work.

Scene 4: A lot of March was a blur.  We struggled through grief of such a big loss.  I tried to juggle an intense work schedule with comforting my husband, who didn’t have his mom anymore.  Chris and I also helped the family clean out his mom and dad’s house and sort through her belongings.  Niether of us got much rest.

Scene 5: In April, I lost my job.  I’m still not really sure how to explain what happened, or if I’ll ever be ready to talk about it.  When Chris’ mom passed away, that opened our eyes to see just how demanding and unhealthy of a work environment I was in.  Over the past year, I’d worked myself so hard that I had neglected family (among other things), which Chris and I had decided would always be our first ministry.  Through grief, stress and frustration, I tried to talk to my boss about making a shift in the organization, but was given no choice but to move on.  It was ugly and messy.  It was unfair and I was told not to talk about it.  It makes me physically sick to think about it, above all because it was a church, and I still to this day have nightmares about it.  I wish I were joking.

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Scene 6: Remember when we adopted a kitty for our new home? Well, that didn’t last long either.  We quickly learned, after having him a few weeks, that Mr. Django was an escape artist.  He attempted for two solid weeks to get outside at all costs.  On occasion he slipped out, and we’d scoop him up and bring him back in before he could climb the fence.  Finally he succeeded to run away, only to return beat up, bleeding and with one eye missing.  We honestly didn’t think he was going to make it.

Chris took him to our hometown so we could give him a proper burial.  Kitty was left with family because we just couldn’t handle to deal with another loss.  We got a call later that evening saying that Django was just fine, he was running around like a crazy cat and wouldn’t shut up.  Now more than ever, I truly believe cats really do have 9 lives.  Today, he’s at the barn chasing mice and being as loud as he wants.  Chris and I have decided we just aren’t cat people (sadly).  We had the same issues with KiKi.  At this point, we are happy to stick with our strengths: pugs.

I told you this year was rough!  But, I won’t leave you on a bad note.  Through it all, God has been so faithful to us.  We’ve seen miracles happen, our needs have been met and he has provided, in ways beyond what we’ve imagined.  You’d think after all we’ve been through, especially being hurt by the church, that our faith would be shaken.

But, it’s been quite the opposite.  We are looking for a new church family to join…one where we find authentic community, where our voices can be heard, where we can use our gifts to change our community and the world, where we are taught the Bible and encouraged to grow in our knowledge and faith, where God is glorified.  Yet we know God is moving in our family, as we’ve seen the evidence, and we will not walk away from that.  God has confirmed through many people and events that we are right where he wants us.

At the beginning of the year, I never would have guessed this is where I would be.  There has been so much loss and so much pain, but on the other side of that has been joy.

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Scene 7: I started a new job this month. It’s beautiful.  I’m using the gifts God has given me in writing and communications to make a difference in my community.  For the first time all year, I’ve had significant time off and we have been able to rest.  Chris and I have been able to attend family gatherings, support our nephew at the Autism Piece Walk (where I met Batman!), and take a mini-vacation late-birthday-celebration for me.  We’ve had deep conversations about faith and church and what that looks like for us and other millenials.  We’ve written and photographed and planted trees in our yard and played with our pugs and sat on our porch.  Life has slowed down.

For the first time all year, I feel like I’m breathing again.  I’m enjoying each day, the simple moments.  I feel valued and accomplished in my work.  I have time to pour into relationships and participate in the community where I live.  We are dreaming again.  And at the end of this year, one of those dreams is finally coming true for me.  I’ll share more on that later.

Thrift Shopping Tips & Tricks

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It’s a new, exciting season for our family. I will be making a career transition back into the non-profit world!  One of the things that I have missed most has been dressing up for work each day.  The past year, I’ve worn jeans and t-shirts to the office.  Now it’s time to trade in my casual style for pencil skirts, blouses and blazers.  Though I had some slacks stored away and tops tucked in bottom drawers, I was in need of a wardrobe update.I am a terrible shopper.

I find it very difficult to spend money.  I can talk myself out of any purchase, and rarely do I want to pay full price for anything.  What does work well for me, however, is a good thrift shop.  The prices and variety can’t be beat.  I like the fact that I’m recycling and typically supporting a good cause.  It’s also like a grand treasure hunt.  I find satisfaction in finding that one diamond in the rough.

To find true gems, it does take patience and a keen eye.  I wanted to share my strategy behind thrift shopping, in hopes that you find your own unbelievable deals.

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Tip #1: Schedule plenty of time for your shopping trip.
Thrift stores are often unorganized and messy.  Sizes are out of order, genders are often mixed up, and sometimes there is just lots of junk to sort through.  It’s more difficult to find what you are looking for.  Make sure to set aside plenty of time to sift through racks upon racks.  It’s not a quick way to find an outfit, but patiences does pay off in the end.

Today I spent two different hours in two different stores.  I split my time up so I didn’t get bored or feel overwhelmed.  And I made sure my husband knew I would be out for a while.

Tip #2: Take advantage of sales, half-off days and free stuff.
Most thrift shops have some type of deal.  It could be a clearance-type section where prices have been marked down.  Often times each article of clothing is noted by a colored tag, and the store will have 50% off days for a specific color.  Additionally, some stores have “free” items, and allow you to take a certain number of free merchandise with your purchase.  Keeping an eye out for these deals, which make the savings even better!

At the first store I visited, it was 50% off yellow tagged items today.  I made sure to note the tags and most of the items I chose were on sale.  The second store had a clearance section with many things marked down 50% to 75% off and items marked “free” scattered throughout the store.  I picked up lots of items that were only 99 cents and got a free blazer!  

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Tip #3: Look for brands you love for guaranteed quality. 

You will find every brand you can imagine at thrift stores – from department store brands to designers.  It helps to know which brands you like most and which brands are the best quality.  When you are searching, pay attention to the tags and research online if you find a name that isn’t familiar.  It’s amazing what you can find that people have donated.

I found clothing from Loft, Banana Republic, BCBG and my favorite, Old Navy, today.  I know these will be good quality, last longer and feel more comfortable.

Tip #4: Examine every article of clothing closely for any problems.
Because these are second-hand items, some of them will have problems.  It’s important to check for stains, holes, tears and worn fabrics.  Most of the time, I don’t run into any issues.  Occasionally though, I will find something I really like, that has a defect and I put it back.  I wouldn’t want to buy anything, only to realize at home I won’t be wearing it.

On this trip I did see two items that I wanted to get, but they had issues.  One shirt I liked the color and cut, but it had a hole in the back that could not be repaired.  I also picked up a skirt, only to find it had a stain on the bottom.  Generally, if you see a stain on an item in the thrift store, it is permanent.  You can almost bet that the previous owner attempted to wash the stain out before getting rid of it.  Also, you may find items that are brand new, still with original tags!  Two of the things I purchase today had their original tags.  Those are true steals!! 

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Tip #5: Always try it on.
Because of the large variety and unknown brands, it’s hard to count on sizes.  I’m sure you know that a 6 in one pair of pants does not fit like a 6 in another pair.  It’s amazing how sizes vary in tops and bottoms.  Try it on to make sure the fit is what you are looking for so you aren’t disappointed later.

The clothes I brought home vary is size.  I have skirts ranging from size 4 to size 10, shirts that are extra small to medium, blazers that are also varied.  In addition, I tried on a large range of items I didn’t purchase in my size, simply because they didn’t fit right.

Tip #6: Don’t buy something just because it’s cheap.  
This is where a thrift shopping can get you in trouble.  Or it gets me in trouble anyway.  I want to buy all the things because they are such good prices!  But, I know that if I were just going off price, I would buy clothing that I would never wear.  I always ask myself, “if this item were not this price, but more expensive, would I still want it?”  If the answer is no, I won’t get it.  If the answer is yes, I take it home.  This may seem silly, but I’ve wanted to buy several things just because it was a good deal, instead of because I actually thought I’d wear it.

I carried many items around the store debating whether or not I really liked them or would wear them.  I put several items back on the racks.  In the end, I walked away with clothing I knew I liked, I knew it fit me well, and I knew I would wear it.

Today was very successful!  I came home with 7 blouses, 3 blazers and 5 skirts all for under $40.

 

What deals have you found thrift shopping?  Are there any tips or tricks you’d add to my list?

Growing a Vegetable Garden

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Springtime is wonderful.  From the warming temperatures, to the colorful flowers, to the smell of grilling burgers, I feel like spring makes me come alive.  We get to see the transitions from death to life in the world around us – flowers bud, trees bloom, my puggies awake from hibernation to sunbathe.  Nature seems to be restored to it’s fullest, producing luscious fruit.  A vegetable and herb garden is one of the greatest expressions of this transition.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always worked alongside my family and friends in our garden.  We would toil and till until the soil was rich and ready for planting.  The smell of the cold, wet dirt so natural and raw.  The warm sun beating down on your neck and bare arms.  It took hours and days, but that preparation mattered so much.

Then came the planting – building mounds for squash, poking holes for okra, creating wire cages for tomatoes.  All this was followed by watering and waiting.  At first, nothing happened, at least on the surface.  But in mere weeks bright, strong greens emerged from the ground in various shapes and shades.  In that moment, all of the sweat and muscle made sense.  Rarely have I felt such a sense of accomplishment.

Not that I really did anything, just prepare a way for a miracle.  The true work was done by the Creator calling the plants to grow up out of small seeds with His strong, quiet voice. 

Tiny leaves matured into full, ripe plants.  With a little more water and a little more love, it was time to reap the harvest.  What started as black and beige seeds mixed into dull, brown dirt became sunshine yellow squash, rose red tomatoes, woodsy green peppers and fire orange carrots.  All even more delicious that they appeared.

Never just one or two veggies were collected, instead it was a bounty. More than we could ever eat!  So my family always shared.  There were jars of homemade salsa distributed through town, cucumbers traded with neighbors, and meals prepared for friends.  The garden taught us giving and brought us community.

Lessons learned from a silly vegetable garden have shaped my views on work ethic, patience and results.  They have altered my expectations for stewardship and generosity.  They have set an example for discipline, discipleship and duplication.  They have grown within my soul a desire to be a part of God’s restoration, making all things new and a desire to invite others along on this miraculous journey.

This spring I couldn’t help but plant a garden in the backyard of our first home. The preparation was a family affair, including the two mischievous pugs.  Excitement arises each day as I examine the soil and am already seeing the fruits of our labor.  I couldn’t be more delighted, as the tradition of growing a vegetable garden continues with my own sweet family.