My Month of Misery

Steph 1
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Alright, alright, that may be the teensiest bit pessimistic. But I assure you, as I write this to you it is only Day 4 of my September Challenge. It is already a major killjoy.

This is my challenge; brace yourselves. For one month I will not eat out, and I will not purchase anything new. Obviously, that does not include groceries and toilet paper, but most everything else. If something breaks or gets lost, that absolutely must be replaced, I can either borrow one from a friend or purchase one second-hand.

Some of you may be impressed with the severity of this challenge. Others are disappointed, saying, “That’s it? That’s all she can do?”

Possibly. It’s possibly all I can do. 

There are Two T’s in my life, and they are arm-wrestling for my affection. Their names are TARGET and TACO BELL.

Target, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . . your scarf section, your housewares, your shoes, your Starbucks and refillable fountain drinks, your Cartwheel app, your clearance end caps . . . it just goes on and on. Usually, twice a week, you would find me pushing my one red cart with one crazy wheel around, crunching ice and browsing while my children toil away for their futures at school. And I would be smiling.

Let’s put it this way: at the end of each year, I still expect Target to send me a thank you card for keeping them in the black.

Steph 2
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And in this corner, weighing in at approximately 150 shredded chicken burritos, is our challenger, Señor Taco Bell. (Live Mas everybody.) While I do love to cook and bake, and generally just be in the kitchen, I do not love to do it for only myself. It’s like going to the movies alone, it just makes me feel tired and sad. It’s far easier and faster to hit the drive-thru in between my daily errands. My local TB drive-thru workers don’t come right out and say they recognize me, but I can see the familiarity in their eyes. “Here comes Shredded Chicken Burrito, Sauce on the side, Cinnamon Twists and a Large Diet Pepsi.”

Sadly, these excursions are on top of the dining out we do at other restaurants as a family; once or twice on the weekends and probably one weeknight.

Now, this challenge is not specifically about saving money, or even calories, although I expect both outcomes to some extent. As a family, we have a budget, and for the most part, we live within our means, with designations for both savings and giving. The heart of this challenge is just that–my heart.

These two things, with very little, if any, long term value, have taken up disproportionately large amounts of my life; my time, my focus, my resources. Most of us are familiar with the Matthew 6:21 that says, “where your treasure is, there also is your heart.” When I took a good look at how many dollars and hours and emotional and mental energy I was offering up to not just the Two T’s, but the many ways of satisfying a craving, either for a new taste or a new belonging, I was not impressed. I felt ashamed. I did not think of myself as an impulsive, materialistic person, yet my treasure was suggesting otherwise.

I do not have anything profound to say about this yet. Except that when I meet my girlfriend at Panera tomorrow morning to catch up I will have nothing but a drink cup and a tear in my eye. But I hope that in sharing this brief journey with you, I will be able to share what God has used this experience to show me next month. If not, I will post a list of the first five places I will be going when I throw off my mourning clothes on October 1st.

Pray for me.


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