Under the fig tree

August 20, 2015

I want to be an authentic steward of Jesus’ love because of a faith grounded in the knowledge of God’s goodness.

I’m so ready to be ready to do the first part [be a steward/missionary], but it’s the second part of that statement that I’m working on. I’m not certain of God’s goodness apart from Jesus. I can blindly believe it, trust it, and defend it, but I want to know it.

I want to open myself up and see my life how it truly is. What parts were God’s goodness? Who’s responsible for the bad stuff?

I know who God is supposed to be. God is love. He is unconditionally loving, of everyone. He wants the best for me and for everyone. He is the Orchestrator of the good and the bad, the Giver of every good gift, and the Creator of everything beautiful and weird in this world.

That’s who I think God is. That’s who I want him to be, I think.

I just can’t reconcile that with the God in the Bible.

I want to sugar-coat it all by telling myself, “Who cares? Even if the Bible makes it seem like he hates some people and is sending people to hell, and even if he’s made a pretty unfair world, at least I got the long stick. God clearly loves me.” So he should be my God, no problem. Right?

But I really can’t do that.

A small voice is saying to me, “Well, the God of the Bible gave you Jesus. Can you start there? Isn’t that enough to go on?”


Seeing others’ responses to Ty’s death agitated me in a way I’m not proud of. I felt like they were faking it. I wanted these people I knew in college – who went to the same weekly Cru meetings and the same retreats and conferences, had the same teachings, and heard the same preachers as I did – to admit that they were as scared and unsure as I was. Or I wanted them to give me proof that their faith wasn’t fake – to somehow quantify to me what God had done for them or said to them that made them so at peace with death. To me, they sounded foolish in their assurance of heaven, but I desperately wanted to be that way too. I was afraid, and ready to say “I quit” to the whole doubting process if only I could.

But I couldn’t, I figured, at least not without some work. So I tried to gather my life together piece by piece. At the time I felt – as I often do – overwhelmed by all of life’s tasks, and I was on an emotional roller coaster due to, well, my absence of faith and Brett having to travel for work. Ty’s death sort of sent me plummeting, and in the three weeks that followed, I had the physical presence of my husband as support and a shoulder to cry on for a whopping 24 hours. But I tried to take care of myself. I took up yoga, picked up books, cooked, called the insurance company, paid medical bills on time, got dinner with friends, and got by.

Prayers/cries to the vacuum of space were finally answered when Brett got a new job at the beginning of September, right before we left for a week-long, much-needed vacation with his family at the beach. On this vacation I took three books: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven (a Rich Mullins biography; I was still thinking of him as my guardian angel. I know it’s weird), the second Game of Thrones, and a tiny little copy of the book of John. I became fascinated with the story of Jesus and the disciple Nathaniel in John chapter 1. In this story, Jesus introduces himself to Nathaniel by saying, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” Nathaniel then asks how Jesus would know that, as they’d never met. Jesus replies, “I saw you while you were under the fig tree.” And at that, Nathaniel calls Jesus Rabbi, the Son of God, the King of Israel. Jesus says, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.”

And Nathaniel did. As one of the twelve disciples, he saw 5 loaves and 2 fish feed thousands, he saw a storm calmed at a wave of the Teacher’s hand, he witnessed the dead come to life. But all it took for him to believe was one simple thing. A private moment, when Jesus saw him and knew him. I don’t think Jesus “caught” Nathaniel in an act of sin. I don’t think “under the fig tree” was some sort of innuendo, and I don’t think Jesus was being sarcastic when he called Nathaniel an honest man. But I don’t know. Nathaniel could have been napping or reading or thinking profoundly, or he could have been at rock bottom, calling out to YHWH for answers. Whatever it was, the fact that a strange man said that he saw him there and knew him in that moment, was enough for Nathaniel to believe that he was in the presence of God. Maybe the only point of this story is that Jesus knows us, and Jesus can keep a secret.

This story meant so much to me because too much of my faith was based on big moments with God. Mountaintop highs that my generation chased through youth retreats and college conferences, praise and worship songs soaring through little wooden chapels and huge concert halls alike. I have always looked to God for big things, clear answers, epic moments. Kind of goes along with how I want to be a missionary. I’m kind of dramatic. I’ve read Radical. I want experiences with God to be extreme. Bible stories in Sunday school were kind of dramatic, so don’t you dare blame me for this. I was conditioned! I believed in God and Jesus and the Bible my whole life, and I wanted to see the “greater things” that Jesus told Nathaniel he would see. I was due. The disciples followed Jesus for three years, but I had followed him for twenty-two.

But when I read that story that September, because I was at this point in my life, all I wanted was to know that Jesus saw me and knew me. I wasn’t sharing my doubts with others, and I wanted a moment that no one else would notice. Something small that would make me believe.

Anyway, I think this story was part one of me finding Jesus objectively intriguing. For the rest of vacation, I finished this sentence every day: What I love about Jesus today…

  • He’s badass. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John 2:19
  • He came to prove God’s love for me.
  • He took so much joy and got so much fulfillment from his first recorded action with one of the “least of these” – the Samaritan woman at the well – that he called it food. For him, the feeling was better than being full.


This post is a continuation of several about my journey with faith and doubt. The previous three posts are here, here, and here.

“God, what kind of guy are you?”

I talked about the beginning of my journey with doubt in my first post like it was a conscious decision, and on one level, it was. I had a bit of an, “Ok God, don’t forget I’m a rebel now!” attitude. I stopped reading my Bible and didn’t care. My attention span in church (when I went) was shorter. Singing in church didn’t feel very honest. I wanted to see what would happen. Instead of dipping my toe in a sea of doubt, I put both feet in… and found out that it was a puddle. I discovered I could stand. Life without paying attention to God wasn’t so different.

Then my friend Ty died of brain cancer.

My experience with death was pretty well-rounded already. When I was eight my youngest brother, who was born with a heart condition and had many operations and hospital stays during his two-year-lifetime, passed away. When I was a kid and a young teen, I watched my grandpa die through a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis. In college, my Yiayia, who I felt very close to since I’ve always been described as her “mini-me”, declined swiftly from a blood infection. The same year, my brother’s roommate fell from a cliff while hiking. So I fully understood that death could come for anyone – young or old. Slowly or unexpectedly. Yet, for some reason, as I read the news about Ty in a Facebook post on the way to my brother’s wedding rehearsal dinner, I felt shaken. For the first time ever, perhaps because I was practicing distrust of God, I felt afraid of death.

What a wonder of a wholly Christian upbringing – not feeling afraid of death until I was 24 years old. But it’s true. I think because of Adam’s death when we were very little, I looked forward to and believed in heaven with a greater hope and assurance than most kids. Maybe I never questioned heaven because it meant more to me – I had a little redheaded roommate up there. And I never believed that death should be “fair.” My brother’s friend was so full of love and life that his memorial service blew me away. He was in his early twenties, studying to become a nurse, good-looking, was going to marry his girlfriend one day…  People said that it wasn’t fair for someone like that to get taken to heaven so early. Because of Adam, I never felt like that when young people died. Sure, it wasn’t “fair,” but death wasn’t supposed to be.

Yet, Ty’s death was a shock, and I felt the injustice of it. He was another popular, funny, good-looking Christian guy. He left a large legacy of strong Christian men whom he lead in Bible studies and spent a lot of time with. He sang and played guitar. He was the kind of guy who made you feel like a cool, good person if he took some time to talk with you. His wife, Carrie, was a year above me in college, and she was my favorite friend from the pool of young married women I sought out relationship advice from while Brett and I were dating, engaged, and newly married. They became part of a ministry called the Traveling Team, where they adventured through the northwest region, visiting colleges and speaking about world missions along the way. This was something I saw myself possibly doing in the future. The last time I saw Ty was about a year after his cancer diagnosis, when they drove hours out of their way to see Brett and I, just to encourage us with our missionary goals.

I read that the brain tumor had won, and I sucked in tears and anger, went to the rehearsal dinner, and greeted cousins and aunts and uncles I hadn’t seen in years. I tried not to think about Carrie. I tried not to think about cancer. I had a wedding to get through. I made boutonnieres and corsages as I questioned my belief in heaven. I got my hair done and read Facebook testimonies from his friends, all of them half if not fully joyful and celebrating that Ty was pain-free, tumor-free, and with Jesus. I stood at the altar next to the bride becoming my sister-in-law, looked out at the crowd, and saw more friends from college who knew the news and held back sad and happy tears.

It was an emotional weekend.

When it was all over, I sat awake at night, imagining if I was dying of cancer, and someone was holding my hand telling me to “go to Jesus,” would I fight to hold on? Would I really believe, in that moment, that I was going… anywhere? I tried to take a break from my doubt and find comfort in God.

God, how am I so far from you? Where am I? Have you lost me? Don’t I know that Adam is up in heaven? Don’t I know that Yiayia is there? What about Grandpa, running around with strong muscles again?

I don’t even know what I believe
I don’t even know if I believe

Everything you’re trying to say to me
Open up my eyes 
Tell me I’m alive…

Say something, say something like you love me*

I thought about Brett and my fear grew. Brett had just turned 26; when Ty turned 26, he found out he had a tumor the size of an orange in his head. Could I hold Brett’s hand in two years and tell him to go to Jesus if he was suffering?

I decided I did not have that much faith. And that, no matter the faith of my  hundreds of Facebook friends eulogizing Ty, I could not behave like I did.

Brett left for a business trip right after the wedding, so I drove myself up to Lake Erie College for Ty’s memorial service. I sat with my friends, who all had someone to hold their hand, and felt so lonely. Lonely without Brett, and lonely with my own shaken faith. I watched Carrie walk down the aisle between Ty’s parents, head tall and softly smiling, and I felt this courage radiate off of her. The service was about faith and suffering. It could have been funnier.

After the service was over, we stood around, old friends who rarely saw each other, and had this awkward hesitation as to whether or not we should hang out. Was it appropriate? But we made the best decision and went out for burgers and shakes, sitting around one long table swapping Ty stories and laughing. It was healing and wonderful. Then, about half of us decided to take advantage of the nearby beach. We ran through the sand with our shoes off; we collected smooth, round pebbles and spelled Ty’s name in the sand. Everybody left, but I stayed behind, not wanting to drive the two hours back alone to an empty apartment. I happened to have a blanket, my journal, and a biography of Rich Mullins in my car, and that and the sunshine were perfect medicine.

During my time on the beach, I realized that there were two things I didn’t question or need to question: that God was real, and that Jesus is who he said he was. From there, I wanted to start from scratch. I knew I had forgotten to pay attention to Jesus in all of this, and that, if I still trusted Jesus, I could try to trust what Jesus said about God. Other than that and my own life experiences, I wanted to delete everything – all the confusing and conflicted messages I got from the Bible, church, and other peoples’ experiences. My big question wasn’t, “God, are you there?” but, “God, what kind of guy are you?”

Ty’s death ended up motivating me to delve deeper into doubt. Weirdly, though I was questioning whether I liked God, I wasn’t questioning whether I still wanted to become a missionary one day. I needed to figure this out, because I couldn’t go through life sharing Jesus half-heartedly. I couldn’t say, “Look! Here’s Jesus, who will save you and be your friend and give you all the love you need,” if I didn’t really believe that the One who sent him is Good. Death had made me wish I could take a break from my doubts, only to find out that this was a ride I was on – there was no getting off voluntarily. But I felt like Ty and Rich Mullins were my odd-couple guardian angels, and as I drove home I had hope.

In this wasteland
Where I’m living
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it’s all that I need to get by **


*Song lyrics from “Believe” by Mumford and Sons
**Song lyrics from “Wasteland” by Needtobreathe


Little problem, big problem

My gut reaction to the conversation I talked about before was anger. Not at the YWM in particular, but that in the world there existed such difficult questions that I had to find the answers to. So my mind immediately went to how to solve my problem.

Problem: Maybe I didn’t know so much about what the Bible says about homosexuality. I definitely didn’t know how to have a very intelligent conversation about it. My “all you need is love” answers weren’t enough anymore, it seemed.

Solution: Talk to my favorite pastor.

As a twenty-something Cru-graduate Christian Girl, that was the obvious answer. I laid out the Facebook conversation with the YWM to my friend, Joel, over sandwiches one afternoon. We talked mostly about the gay marriage/what the Bible says about homosexuality issue. I thought that if I could get answers to the questions that were on the surface, all my other fears and questions would go away. Plus, Joel is my kindred spirit. We think alike. If he could be like me in personality (albeit way smarter than me) and still have the assurance that God is good and unchanging, then I could too. I left our meeting with a list of books and materials to dive into and started to feel better.

I started reading a book that he recommended, and about 20 pages into it, I put it down. All I could think while reading it was, You know what, I don’t care. If you’re gay and you want to know if your attraction is a sin, you figure that out with God knowing that you are loved and created by Him. I still want you in my church and as my neighbor. I want you serving. I want you fed. I want you to preach and to tell your story. I want you to raise families and have holy marriages.

So, in the course of a week, what I thought had shaken my faith – the question about whether homosexual behavior is a sin – became totally unimportant to me. I knew how I felt about it, and I knew what I wanted God to say about it. I realized that my true questions weren’t about other people, they were about God. I started to fear that I only knew the God I wanted to know, and not the Real God. And if that was true, the Real God might not be someone I liked or trusted.

The arguments in the book I read 20 pages of started with the neutral assumption that God is fair by our standards. The basis for their argument was that God wouldn’t create someone for the sole purpose of condemning them. Being gay isn’t a choice, and being celibate – without the God-given gifting, they said – isn’t a true choice either if you want to have a good relationship with God. And I realized that, unlike the authors… I wouldn’t put it past God to be that unfair.

…Because if God allowed the Egyptian babies to be born only to be struck down by the Plague of Death, they why wouldn’t he make people gay just to tell them they’re sinners? If God, even today, is in charge of a world where IF you live too often depends on where you were BORN, then why wouldn’t he make and condemn gay people? You can’t choose if you’re gay, but you can’t choose where you’re born, or who your parents are, or what your health will be like at birth – and I’ve seen plenty of those things bring about much distance from God.

God allows many things.

It all boiled down to this: my big, deep, theological struggles with issues like homosexuality were just average struggles with God’s character.

The silly, stupid place I’m in

I haven’t been blogging because I don’t want to complain to you about my life. And, truthfully, I’ve never felt so unoriginal. I may have been impressive and worthy of applause by blogging with my heart on my sleeve back when I first started this, or when we were all tender and in high school and my parents confronted me about my Xanga posts. The internet has evolved so much since then, and I’m actually sick and tired of everyone’s authenticity. People are too much sometimes!  Even Internet People (you know, the ones we haven’t met in real life) who seem to have the lives I want to live can whine about the most ridiculous and small things for the sake of being “real.” We millennials are scared to gloss over the bad stuff. Even if the worst thing that’s happened to me is only a 5/10 in your experience, you can’t invalidate my pain, man! Now we’re all a bunch of whiners.

So here I am, being one of those people. Just to set the tone: what you’ll read below will sound sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek at times.

In all my privilege of being safe and secure in Jesus, in all my knowledge of His Word and experience of His love, I decided to take a spiritual walkabout almost a year and a half ago, hold my hand up to God in a very “no” fashion, and pretend I didn’t think He was good anymore. “Prove to me,” I said to God at one time, “that the good you promised for me doesn’t end up being bad for somebody else.” I wanted His love to be equally spread out. (As if it has to be spread. As if there isn’t enough to wash all the feet of all the people in all the world.) I wanted Him to give me what I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember: a life filled with purpose and meaning, centered on serving Him and others. I don’t think I have that right now, because I have a job in a secular field, because I don’t have the energy or the time I think I need to serve, because I’m paying off student debt, because I can’t get over my selfish habits, because most of the time I fail to do basic human things every day, like make food for myself and put my laundry away.

Since the day Brett and I added up our student debt and realized it would be a long, long time before we could ever be missionaries, I have been holding a grudge against God. What could I possibly do with my life that would please God more than to go be a missionary overseas? To help the poor and needy, and tell people that Jesus loves them? Obviously, nothing (I thought/think). And yet God won’t (hasn’t) made a way for me to go and do this thing that I want to do for Him. So I’ve held it against Him for four years.

I know that so far it sounds like me wanting to go be a missionary is all about me. And don’t get me wrong – it is. Because it’s like the greatest thing you could do as a Christian, and what point is it to be a Christian if you’re not the greatest? But I would go to all those poor people and be like, humble about it, you know? I wouldn’t go out there with tracts, or thump them on the head with Bibles. I wouldn’t learn apologetics to use as a defense of the Gospel. Nono. Who needs to do all that work when it’s all about Love!

“All you need is love.” – The Beatles Bible

Obviously I am ready to go be a missionary and God is the only thing holding me back, and He has no idea what He’s doing.

…I’m being silly. Writing this out is making me see my circular and egotistical thinking more than ever. But holding a grudge against God and telling him that he’s not a good guy… that’s not silly.

Junior year of high school was the first time I had a twinge of doubt about God. I remember sitting in Philosophy Club (lol), patiently explaining – straight from my homeschool science text book – how when the flood happened in Genesis, the “firmament” that separated the heavens from the earth could have literally been broken to allow this downpour of rain that no one had ever seen before. (Yes, I believed that I had nothing more to learn back then, too.) And my friend and founder of the club made a joke about the Big Guy in the Sky “parting” the firmament with his hands and peeking over the clouds to see what damage he’d done. Within the same half hour that friend asked me, “So if God is good, why did he kill all the Egyptian babies?”

I had never thought about that before. I realize now that this is quite a common argument about the tyrannous, bloodthirsty, OT God, but it was all new to me. I did what any steadfast teenage Christian Girl would do, and asked my mom about it. She gave an answer that sounded passable, and the next day I brought it to my friend.

“In the Old Testament, God was all about his people, the Israelites. He did everything to protect them and fight for them. Now, we can all be his people, so it’s all good. Plus, those babies went to heaven.” He looked at me adoringly because I had found the answer for him. It was good enough for him that it was good enough for me (he was way more accepting of my Christianity than I was of his athiesm), and that was good enough for me.

Fast forward to June of 2015. I’ve already been mad at God for not giving me what I want for more than three years. It’s not like in those three years I never had any growth in my faith or experience with God, but underlying it all was this frustration about my life plans being put off. Anyway, June 2015. The SCOTUS decision about gay marriage had just happened, and that same night Brett and I went to a Walk the Moon concert. I was feeling like a very cool, pro-gay marriage Christian. So enlightened above so many of my Facebook friends. So deserving to go carry Jesus’ message of love throughout the world. People, of course, are posting all sorts of things on social media, and what do I do that I swore off doing as a New Year’s resolution in 2015? I engage. The conversation, as best I remember it:

YWM (young white male): You can’t be gay and be a Christian
Me: Oh yes you totally can!
YWM: No you can’t, and also the Bible is dumb
Me: Jesus’ love is for everyone, also read the Bible
YWM: Read the whole thing, girlfran. Also, God is a jerk
Me: …Not in my experience
YWM: Yeah, but what about the Egyptian babies? Etc., etc.
Me: You are lost. Peace out, byeeee *dies inside*

This was the moment when I, an upright and outstanding virgin-till-marriage, dry-till-21, AWANA-graduate, missionary-wanna-be, decided to give doubt a try.

And I will leave you there for now. Peace out, byeeeee

Capsule Wardrobe, part 6: Winter Capsule

It’s done!

After months of planning, blogging, shopping, failing, deconstructing, and reconstructing, I have finalized my winter capsule wardrobe… Tadaa!

I am very excited to be done and to share the results with you. First some imaginary Q&A:

Do I feel like I’m at the peak of fashion? No.
Do I love every item of clothing I wear? Not really.
Am I comfortable in everything I wear? Yes.
Is everything in my capsule passable and appropriate for my life and style? Yes.
Do I feel like my capsule perfectly envelops my style? No, and I’m still figuring out what that is exactly.
Did everything in my capsule stay within my budget for clothing? Yes.
Did I own the vast majority of it already? Yes.
Am I super happy with the purchases I did make to complete the capsule? Yes.
Is it easier for me to get dressed in the morning than it ever has been in my adult life? Yes.

So let’s talk about math. I have 40 items of clothing in my capsule, which I decided does not include shoes, coats, pajamas, or workout clothes. The 40-item capsule consists of:
20 tops
6 outerwear/cardigans
5 top/bottom combo pieces
9 bottoms

Does 40 items feel like not enough clothes? No.
Does 40 items sometimes feel like too many options? Yes. I would say this is on the high end for the amount of items as far as capsules go, when not including shoes and coats. But when I counted up what I wanted to include and ended up with such a nice, round number, I couldn’t resist just leaving it at that. It seemed meant to be, and not a bad accomplishment for my first capsule.

Before we move forward, let me say that my apartment is half-underground, and by the time I get home the sun has mostly set, so there is hardly any daylight in which to photograph my clothes. And I don’t have a professional doing this for me. And yes, these are heavily edited, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Don’t judge lest ye be judged.

So here are my clothes:


  1. Gray polka-dot sweater | already owned
  2. Mustard yellow sweater | purchased on sale after Christmas. It was in my color palette, fit right, very comfortable, and I felt like I needed a few more cold-weather items
  3. Silver-beaded gray long-sleeved shirt | already owned (gift)
  4. Olive green sweater | purchased after Christmas with the yellow sweater for the same reasons
  5. Charcoal and scarlet sweater | already owned (gift)
  6. Taupe knit sweater | This was a stupid online purchase from last fall, but I actually ended up wearing it three days in a row once it came in the mail, and I’ve loved it ever since.
  7. Gray sweatshirt | already owned
  8. Pink long sweater | I had decided I needed one super bright color for winter, for days when I felt the effects of dismal Ohio weather. My sisters and I went to the outlet mall last month, and this was $6, super cozy, and long enough to wear with leggings. I’m wearing it as I type this. It’s awesome.IMG_9054
  9. Flannel shirt | A friend and I went through each others’ giveaway bins, and I ended up with this cozy goodie.
  10. Gray and navy print tee | another outlet mall purchase post-Christmas. $4.
  11. “If not now then when” tank top | already owned
  12. Elephant tee | I bought this for my brother five years ago when I was in India. He has since outgrown it, so I took it back.
  13. Burgundy 3/4 sleeve top | already owned
  14. Long black tank top | already owned
  15. Chambray button-up | already ownedIMG_9056
  16. Tan sweater dress | already owned (gift)
  17. Green geo print dress | already owned
  18. Dusty blue dress | already owned
  19. Dark gray maxi skirt | already owned
  20. Light gray sweater skirt | purchased around Thanksgiving when I got to be a part of  Garment Collective‘s winter line launch. Garment Collective sells ethically-sourced clothing made by women redeemed from human trafficking in Nepal. This skirt is so cozy and you should get it! *Right now everything is 70% off!*
  21. Fuzzy rust cardigan | already owned (gift)
  22. Paisley purple shrug cardigan | already owned (gift)IMG_9057
  23. Black and gold print pants | already owned
  24. Floral sweater dress | already owned
  25. Black sparkle dot shirt | already owned
  26. Ivory long-sleeved blouse | already owned
  27. Olive green blouse | already owned (gift)FullSizeRender-6
  28. Black shirt with zipper | already owned
  29. Colorful geo print boxy shirt | First purchase when I first started this capsule process
  30. Cranberry long-sleeved button-up | already owned
  31. Emerald green tie-dye shirt | already owned
  32. Black dressy joggers | already ownedIMG_9059
  33. Black cotton leggings | already owned
  34. Shiny black leggings | already owned
  35. Dark wash jeans | already owned
  36. Black jeans | purchased as part of my birthday gift last month
  37. Gray corduroys | already owned
  38. Ivory chunky-knit cardigan | already owned
  39. Soft dark gray jumpsuit | purchased ($17 from Madewell!) as part of my birthday present. The most comfortable thing I own.
  40. Navy and ivory poncho/cardigan | already owned

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? I feel like this proves that living with a capsule wardrobe and living with less doesn’t mean you’re depraved in any way. It’s a personal choice to limit yourself and be creative and comfortable within those healthy boundaries. It’s learning how to be an adult and make good choices for myself, I guess.

Through my choices, I’ve noticed that the value of the dollar still matters a lot to me. The proudness I feel after a thrifty buy has a lasting influence on how much I like that item of clothing. Most of the things I kept were not only at least a year old, but bought on sale or thrifted. I actually expected to feel the freedom to spend more money on clothes since I would have less clothing, but that didn’t really happen for me. Everything I’ve bought since starting this process has been on sale. BUT the sales don’t tempt me like they used to, because I have my color palette and style guidelines to keep me in check. No more buying cute dresses that I’ll only wear one time! I also noticed that a lot of the items I chose to include were gifts, so sentimental value means a lot to me (and my friend and family have good taste). With these things in mind, I have to conclude that not only is my wardrobe smaller, more stylized, and more comfortable that it’s ever been, it’s also very inexpensive. I wasn’t expecting that, but it makes sense for me.

In case you’re wondering, though I didn’t count shoes in my capsule, I did get rid of a lot. For winter, I’m rotating five pairs of different boots/booties, and so far that seems like the perfect amount. I’ve also gotten rid of probably half of my scarf collection, and have only been wearing about half of what’s left. Some of them I’m only holding onto because they have sentimental value, but changing them up helps me not to get bored with my clothes (though that hasn’t been a problem yet). I also have two winter coats that I rotate – one casual and one more dressy.

I’m hoping to do a post with some outfits soon, but first I need to get around my lighting problem (and my unwillingness to go outside in this weather) to give you some better photos. In the meantime, leave some thoughts! Does this make living with a capsule wardrobe seem feasible to you? If you’ve started one, where are you in the process? I would love to hear both success and failure stories (no judgement here).🙂

If I can Whole30, you can Whole30

If you know me fairly well, or if you’ve read my blog recently, you probably know that cooking is not my favorite thing. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it when I do it… it’s just that when I get home from work it’s not very high on my list of things I want to do. Plus, my kitchen is hands-down my least favorite room in our apartment. It’s small, cramped, dark, and ugly. There’s not much I can do about it. The light above our sink flickers like in a horror movie (and when there’s a stack of dirty dishes in the sink, it basically is my version of a horror movie). I can put chevron contact paper on my walls all I want, but it’s like putting a band aid on… well, a super ugly room with ugly laminate floors and ugly old cabinets. I’ve been able to make almost every other room of my apartment feel cozy and homey, but not so much the kitchen. Anyway, I digress…

So cooking. Not my fave.

Luckily, I have a really attractive husband with a servant’s heart, who sees cooking as a challenge to master. He understands, unlike I do, that love of food and eating must naturally flow into an enjoyment of cooking. He also understands that when I come home with a certain look on my face (and if I’ve texted him many clues during the day about my current state of anxiety) that there’s no way I’m going to spend an hour or two in the kitchen in order to nourish myself. I would rather (literally) lay around hungrily until falling asleep and see how I feel about making food whenever I happen to wake up. Very much like a helpless baby and white teenage girls, there are days when I literally can’t even.

So you might be beginning to understand how the already challenging Whole30 might pose a unique challenge for our family. During this month of restricted eating, our marital roles were skewed yet further in my favor, as Brett did most of the work while I lay helpless and overwhelmed with anxiety on the couch. (I sound like I am exaggerating, and that is intentional because I can laugh at myself – but seriously, the anxiety struggle has been REAL.)

However, while Brett did most of the cooking, I was leading us into this whole endeavor. I did all the meal planning, and I knew that in order to make this doable for us, we had to keep things very simple. The easiest way to do the Whole30 is to limit yourself even further. For example, the Whole30 has some odd restrictions that, honestly, aren’t difficult, but just take some getting used to. Like not cooking with vegetable oil. Really, the other options of oils to use are very numerous – coconut oil, avocado oil, duck fat, evoo… And bacon is technically compliant… as long as you can find some without added sugar, which is nearly impossible. So, if you can’t afford to go to special stores for your groceries, it’s actually more complicated to find certain ingredients rather than cutting them out. In short, no compliant bacon for us. We stuck to coconut oil and olive oil and just left it at that. We weren’t afraid of substitutions, like water or chicken broth for beef broth. I have the ability to overcome my fears in the face of a chicken carcass, apparently, but adding beef bones to the mix was just not going to happen. And just because a recipe calls for an expensive ingredient doesn’t mean you can’t try it with something else (even if your dish will end up tasting faintly of coconut).

Also, we rarely prepared lunches. We just made sure we’d have leftovers from dinner, or I would make hard boiled eggs as I got ready in the morning and pack a few of those with some salad and other fruits or vegetables. When there weren’t leftovers, we could eat some chicken, a microwaved sweet potato, and some vegetables for lunch. No need to throw something together and make a “meal” out of it. Our goal was to get through the month without breaking the rules, not to try new and complicated things every day.

We spent about one night a week prepping a few things that would last the week or help us cook more meals. (i.e., twice Brett made a whole chicken, then made bone broth from the carcass in one night. Throughout the week we would use that chicken broth and the chicken in other recipes. I also spent one evening a week making us breakfasts.) The rest of the evenings, we would make simple meals. One of the most pleasantly surprising things about the Whole30 was how good everything we made was. There was only one recipe we made that I didn’t like, and the rest was delicious. This is why it was so easy not to be tempted by other foods when eating at home. The only times it was difficult to stay on plan was when we were in situations where we were reminded of all the things we couldn’t eat. Or when we were just sitting around, speaking one-word complains, like, “Poppppcoorrrrnnnnn…” “Piiizzzaaaaa…” “Choooocooollaaateeeee…”

Don’t do that. It’s not going to make you happy. But these meals will.

Here are three weeks’ worth of our meal plans (I don’t have pictures, because, like I said, our kitchen is dismal-looking. I could never be a food blogger). Whenever a recipe looked too complicated, we would simplify it. Feel free to do that and substitute as your heart desires! I also have a Pinterest board of all these meals and some others, if you wanna follow.

Week 1:

  • Breakfast sausage  – I used the recipe from the Whole30 cookbook, but this one is similar if not the same.
  • Egg breakfast muffins  – I would make these the same night as the sausage, and use the sausage in the recipe
  • Taco salad – This was adapted. We used salsa as the dressing and didn’t include the plantains or olives. For the “starch” we used tapioca powder, but you could probably use any compliant flour-like substance of your choice.
  • Chocolate chili – Found this on the @Whole30Recipes instagram, which is a great resource
  • Shepherds pie – Definitely one of my top 5 recipes we tried
  • Roasted curried root vegetables – from the Whole30 cookbook
  • Chicken tenders with homemade ketchup – Another top 5 fave

Week 2:

  • Sweet potato and scrambled egg breakfasts with salsa (I roasted a baking sheet full of sweet potatoes tossed with oilve oil, paprika, salt, and pepper; scrambled 9 eggs, and separated it all out into about 5 servings for breakfasts.)
  • Whole chicken – This recipe was from the Whole30 cookbook. It was So. Good. It would come out of the oven all crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and Brett and I would stand over it and just pick at it. I picked at a chicken carcass because it was delicious. I don’t even know myself anymore. But this was one of the most useful things to do, because we made bone broth from it and used the chicken in multiple recipes throughout the week.
  • bone broth – Whole30 cookbook recipe (but I’m sure you could find one just as good). Used in recipes such as tomato soup, chili, and spaghetti sauce.
  • Tandoori chicken – served over salad greens instead of rice, or in a lettuce wrap. This was one of a few recipes we had already been making before the Whole30 that we were pleased to find out was compliant when we made a few slight changes. Definitely a top 5 for both Brett and me.
  • Coconut curry with roasted cauliflower rice – the rice was another Whole30Recipes instagram recipe – basically you put cauliflower in a blender or food processor, sprinkle with some salt and roast it in the oven.
  • Tomato soup – our own recipe. Roast like, a sheet pan full of tomatoes tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, with a little garlic. Blend it up, add some chicken or vegetable broth, maybe add some more spices. Voila!
  • Buffalo ranch chicken stuffed peppers with guacamole
  • Zoodle (zucchini noodle) spaghetti with homemade spaghetti sauce

Week 3:

  • Steak salad (a fancy night!) – Brett just made some steak, put it on salad, and we used a homemade compliant balsamic vinaigrette recipe from the Whole30 cookbook.
  • Almond crusted pork chops  – best way to cook pork chops EVER! We skipped making the fancy salad with this recipe and just served the pork chops on top of a bed of salad greens, with applesauce on the side.
  • Taco salad – same one as above
  • Greek meatballs with avocado tzatziki – we used beef instead of lamb, because we’re not rich.
  • “Lazy Sunday” casserole with the homemade breakfast sausage recipe – another top 5 fave.

What we always had in our fridge and pantry:

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Salad greens
  • Eggs
  • our favorite/most useful vegetables – broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, avocados (guacamole was ESSENTIAL – turns out I will even eat raw cauliflower and broccoli as long as it’s dipped in guac), onions
  • almond meal flour – this was the only flour-type product we used all month
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Applesauce
  • Coconut milk (the full-fat Thai Kitchen brand was compliant)
  • Pecans and/or walnuts and/or almonds
  • Sweet potatoes and russet potatoes
  • Almond butter
  • Meat! I don’t know how vegetarians and vegans do the Whole30. I’m not a big meat person (except maybe I am now?) but I feel like meat was necessary to have with almost every meal in order to feel satiated.
  • Coconut flakes + dates – this was a snack-y thing that was probably at least a little better than a Lara bar. I put coconut flakes, a few dates, and some nuts in a snack-sized ziplock bag with some cinnamon and shook it up. It was delicious.
  • Seasonings – most of the food you buy will be plain. Having a variety of seasonings on-hand means your dishes will be so much tastier.
  • Tea – at night, while watching TV, it’s hard to not want a snack. Drinking a cup of tea took my mind off of what I could be eating.


    All our pantry items for the Whole30 fit on one shelf! It’s definitely simpler to not buy or use so many ingredients.

Things it was easy to find compliant versions of:

  • Anything without a label! (fresh produce and meat – what you’ll mostly be buying anyway)
  • Canned tomato products (diced, paste, crushed, etc.)
  • Salsa
  • Vinegars

Things I want to try next time:

  •  Making our own ghee! We went through the whole month without clarified butter for cooking, but I think it’s pretty simple to do
  • Making cashew butter. This is supposed to be a better peanut-butter substitute than almond butter
  • Even more meal prep. You’re supposed to eat three square meals a day on the Whole30, but there were days when what I ate couldn’t really be considered “breakfast.”
  • Going to bed on time. I tried to make myself go to bed at 10:30 every night, but I totally failed. I need nine hours of sleep to feel well rested. It’s a curse. But to get the full benefit for your body, the Whole30 program recommends a set bedtime every night.

Questions? Comments? Recipes? Tell me about your favorite meals from your Whole30!

Let’s talk about the Whole30

I’ve been sharing a lot about my relationship with clothes, exploring how that relates to body image, insecurities, and how I feel perceived by others. It’s time to tackle an (I’d say) even riskier topic: food.

I think women my age are given two options of socially acceptable ways to handle food. Option A is to do all we can to eat healthily. Buy organic, cut out carbs. Cut out dairy. Cut out grains and gluten. Cut out meat. Don’t eat the whole egg. Order the most pathetic thing on the menu. Be the picture of nature-nurtured wholesomeness. Be Women Laughing Alone With Salad.


Option B is basically as far away from that as you can go. Option B is to be the Cool Girl. Don’t care what anyone thinks. Don’t care about calories, fat, preservatives, or cage-raised meat. Ain’t nobody got time for that. All the nays are a drag, and who can keep track of it all? And YOLO! We want pizza. Our idol is Jennifer Lawrence, ordering McDonalds from the red carpet.



On one hand, we’re supposed to care so much that food runs our lives, and on the other hand we’re supposed to seem to care so little and pay so little attention that we don’t notice how often food becomes a crutch.

Since graduating college, getting married, and putting on a few pounds, I have wavered somewhere in the middle between Options A and B. I want to be healthy – mainly in the way of knowing where my food comes from and that there’s nothing in it that’s going to give me cancer. But it all felt like so much work. There’s so much information out there, and a lot of it is conflicting about what is okay to eat and what isn’t. Paying close attention felt like something I just didn’t have the capacity to do. There was too much on my plate to pay attention to what was literally going on my plate.

However, in the past year I’ve been experiencing new and exciting health phenomena (a bit of sarcasm there) happening in my digestive system, and began to get the sneaking suspicion that I’ve had a problem for a while that started out very subtly but had increased to show more serious symptoms. I had been considering since college that there was a reason I often feel fatigued, experience abdominal pain (and other health phenomena!), bloat for no apparent reason, and have increasingly worse breakouts, occasional anxiety, and charming mood swings. I know these all sound like #PMSproblems, but they are more random than cyclical. I decided to do a Whole30 to see if I could pin point an allergy or sensitivity to a food without getting expensive blood tests done.  Plus, even if my problems are hormonal, hormones are influenced by what we eat.

The Whole30 cuts out added sugar, alcohol, legumes, grains, dairy, and a lot of little things added to food, like certain preservatives, MSG, and sulfites. Cutting these out for 30 days is supposed to give your gut time to heal if you experience systemic inflammation due to diet, which I suspect I have. Added bonuses were that most people who do a Whole30 report having higher energy levels that remain consistent throughout the day, clearer heads, clearer skin, higher feelings of happiness and optimism, and weight loss. I “warmed up” to the Whole30 challenge by trying recipes here and there, practicing reading labels, and eventually doing a 5-day trial run, which was a big success. I woke up on day 5 feeling well-rested and, for lack of a better way to  put it, loose. My joints and muscles felt well-oiled instead of achy or sore. All week long, I didn’t experience my normal 3 o’clock slump of energy. Part of me wanted to keep going, but the holidays were right around the corner, and I knew it would not be a good time to start such a strict program.

Brett decided to join me the first week of January for our first Whole30. Without him, I would not have been able to do it at all. Not only would I not have had the stamina to resist eating All The Things, but I would have literally had nothing to eat, because I am lousy at cooking consistently. Additionally, the week we started the program, things at work took a turn and I was blasted with a great big ball of stress, which didn’t die down until this week. Also, my anxiety came back like it hadn’t since the good ol’ days when I was a panic-stricken college student. Who knows if my results would have been completely different if it wasn’t for these outside factors, but here is what I experienced:


  • The bouts of fatigue still happened as much as they ever have.
  • I actually went home from work sick from anxiety one day – literally shaking and unable to get my heart to stop pounding. So the feeling happy and optimistic report you will not hear from me (though I’m not blaming the Whole30).
  • Everything in the digestive area did not get all worked out. There were still some kinks – though not a terrible month.
  • I’m not a sweets person, but I thought about cake and/or donuts and/or chocolate every day. I had the impression that these cravings were supposed to die down after a couple weeks, but they didn’t.
  • It was really hard to be in social settings at all. At home, as long as I was full, I wasn’t tempted to eat something off-plan. But while I was out with family or friends, it was really difficult.
  • I felt too… normal. Mentally, there were more positives than physically. I finished the month not really knowing if cutting out any of those things really helped my gut at all.


  • Brett and I learned to enjoy sharing the kitchen and cooking together! He still did more of the cooking than I did, but I did more than I have in a long time.
  • Speaking of Brett, I think he would say he experienced more of the positive effects of having more energy, sleeping well, etc. than I did. Although I don’t know if he would consider the trade off of no-pizza or Chick-Fil-A worth it.
  • I don’t know how much weight I’ve technically lost (my weight always fluctuates in a wide range – I could be as much as 8 pounds lighter or heavier from one day to the next), but I feel like I’m back to my “normal” weight. The body I see when I look in the mirror feels more “me” than the body with some extra pounds that I’ve had the past two-ish years.
  • There is the possibility that my face cleared up a bit. However, I also started using some new skin-care products, so I don’t know which was most beneficial. And it’s not all gone.
  • I was aware of and happy with the fact that I was eating healthily. I felt like I was making good choices. Even though I had plenty of days where I felt so overwhelmed that all I could do was crash on the couch when I got home, feeling like I was in the process of accomplishing a huge feat that would have a positive impact on my health made me feel like I had a good excuse to drop a few other responsibilities here and there. Brett and I were prioritizing ourselves and our health, and there is a good feeling that comes with that.
  • Brett and I are both more aware of what a healthy choice looks like. I don’t think we even noticed how often we ate out or ordered pizza until we completely cut it out as an option. Or I would eat toast with peanut butter for breakfast, toast with avocado for lunch, and a carb-based dinner. I thought I was eating vegetables because I was eating like, one vegetable a day. I didn’t realize how much it took to actually get all the servings of what’s healthy, and that when you choose to have all the servings of the healthiest stuff, there’s less room in your body for the less-healthy stuff.
  • I actually loved the simplicity of having fewer choices. It made cooking and grocery shopping less stressful. There were so many sections of the store that I didn’t even need to go to! Favorite dinners were repeated, and we didn’t choose meals that looked too complicated or required crazy ingredients. We never felt like our variety of food was too limited, and we never got sick of eating the same thing several times.
  • It gave me lots of practice with meal planning, which I had gotten out of the habit of and was never great at. I would plan only three meals a week or something, banking on having leftovers, which happens much more rarely than I hope it will. For the Whole30, I was planning at least seven meals a week, including ones that were breakfasts for the entire week, and sometimes purposefully doubling some recipes in order to have leftovers. I understand much better now how much food it actually takes to feed us without ever going out to eat.
  • If I hadn’t had 30 days of quitting diary, grains, and sugar cold-turkey, I don’t think I ever could get to where I am now in my relationship with food, which is…
    • Feeling like I have more say in what I choose to eat. I am a compulsive eater. If something good is there in front of me, I will eat it, and it’s hard to stop. Parties where there’s a table of food and no one’s paying attention are kind of my downfall. Brett thinks I have a complex from growing up in a house full of brothers, where we didn’t have treats like Pop Tarts or donuts around all the time. If you didn’t eat a HUGE bowl of the good cereal (and maybe go back for seconds) it would be gone before breakfast the next day, and who knows when Mom would let us buy it again. During the Whole30, that kind of compulsive eating and snacking was not an option, so hopefully I’ve kicked the habit.
    • Not even wanting the things I was craving that much. I’ve had both wine and cake – the two things I wanted to eat the most – since our Whole30 ended. And not just any wine or cake: “Bentgate,” my absolute favorite Cabernet Sauvignon from Traveling Vineyards (holla, Coralie!) and the most delicious white chocolate raspberry cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes. They were both amazing, but I found that a smaller quantity was much more satisfying than the large portions I thought I would want. I feel like I have a better understanding of what it means to listen to my body and know want it wants, so it’s easier to say no sometimes, even to my favorite things.
    • A positive new perspective on social gatherings. I waited through 30 days that included a handful of group get-togethers, my own birthday, and family dinners, and guess what – there are more coming up just around the corner. There will always be something to celebrate, and there will always be good food to go with it. Cheers to that!

Reintroduction of foods after a Whole30 is supposed to be a process, but I haven’t necessarily been taking it slow. Brett and I realized with our first post-Whole30 meal that we had consumed dairy, grains, gluten, added sugar, sulfites, and alcohol just from one roll of sushi and a glass of wine. The next day, I had cake for breakfast because it was my boss’s birthday. But today I was hungry and wanted to eat half a bell pepper instead of tortilla chips. So we’ll see if the pounds lost stay off and if the lessons learned will stick. In a few months, when other things in life have settled down, I’ll probably do another Whole30 and see if I’ll get to experience all the positive effects that anxiety might have kept me from this time around. In the meantime, I think I’ll be living in a happy medium between Options A and B, instead of a stressed-out, guilt-laden medium.

Have you ever done a Whole30? What was your experience like? And if you’ve done more than one, did you notice a difference in how you felt from one to the other?

2016 Golden Globes best dressed picks

Ladies only, of course. I’m not about to judge a line up of strikingly similar suits. When men start branching out on colors and textures, I’ll be there for it. But as of right now, it’s 2016, and men’s fashion is still basically no fun.

Oh how I love that my birthday week and the Golden Globes so often overlap! I’m doing a Whole30 (restrictive paleo diet meant to restart your system if you suffer from any autoimmune diseases or systemic inflation, among other things), so my “birthday week” hasn’t felt very celebratory. No donuts. No Starbucks. No CAKE. NO ALCOHOL. Thinking about these things can really bum me out, but remembering that Brett and I have made delicious homemade dinners every night for ten days is happiness. We’re like, living in the 50s or something.

Anyway. I put my hope in the red carpet for a pick-me-up, and the ladies did not disappoint. 2016 looks like it could be the year of bold, bright colors – people might finally be moving away from neutrals and Marsala! Neutrals and Marsala are still my fave, but let’s keep the red carpet exciting, shall we? I look at my top ten picks (along with some that didn’t make the cut – I’m looking at you Jada Pinket Smith and Lilliana Vazquez) and see a line up of delicious colors. It’s as if my eyes could eat and they’re a bowl of jellybeans.

…and on that note:

10. Kate Bosworth

10 Kate Bosworth 1

She really brought it with the sparkles. You know how much I appreciate that.

9. Jennifer Lawrence

The slits on the sides are a little too gaping and a little too much. If not for those, she probably would have been higher on the list. I think this is one of her favorite colors to wear, because it isn’t the first time she’s stepped out in this bright orangey-red hue. I love her matching lip and the choker necklace this simple dress needed.

8. Gina Rodriguez

Ok, don’t be mad at me that she’s only number 8. It’s okay! This ranking thing is really hard sometimes! It’s only because it’s navy. It’s navy and it’s beautiful, but everyone else showed up sparkly or bright, so there you go. You look very nice, Gina.

7. Helen Mirren

People bow down to Meryl Streep, and for good reason, but I want to draw your attention to the wonderful elegant fairy queen that is Helen Mirren. Just. Look at her doing her little twirly thing. She IS poise. Look at her holding her neck up with all those diamonds hanging on it! How?

6. Zendaya

Okay, so this one is Marsala, but what was I to do in the face of Zendaya? She slays. Every time.


5. Taraji P. Henson

I haven’t watched Empire yet, but after last night I’m even more excited to, because Taraji P. Henson seems like my kind of person. Her acceptance speech was one part normal acceptance speech, two parts adorable, and three parts sass. Her dress is great, but I really like the whole thing put together. Her earrings topped it all off, and that awkward picture of her with her mouth open is the best one I could find of them. They were all emerald and glinting in the lights, set off against her white dress. It was lovely.

4. Melissa Benoist

When Melissa stepped out to present, I immediately loved this simpler dress. The high slit was so nice and drapey when she moved (as opposed to whoaa-watch-your-step-or-you’re-gonna-flash-someone). Her makeup, hair, and soft-colored accessories go with the girl-next-door ambiance that’s been working for her since Glee.

3. Jennifer Lopez

6 Jennifer Lopez 1

Speaking of slits and accessories, J-Lo is the va-va-Voom version of Benoist’s ensemble. Bling and bright, with a cape AND a train. How does this all work for you, J-Lo? How did you do it? You’re so calm about it! If I was on the red carpet pulling off this whole deal, I’d be grinning like a doofus. Look at her nails! Who wears mustard yellow and still looks that fierce?!

2. Alicia Vikander

It’s perfect. Look how it moves! It’s girly and youthful and beautiful and it twirls.




1. Viola Davis

Viola Davis looked like my dream version of Cinderella’s fairy godmother. I’ll just leave it at that so you don’t have to read more words and can spend more time looking at these pictures of her. Better yet, go find a video of her from Sunday night – it’s better “in person”. You have to watch it sparkle.

Who was your best dressed pick? Would love to hear your opinions on fashion, especially if you’re as oblivious to high fashion as me!

Capsule Wardrobe, part 5

My wardrobe (and blog posts) have fallen by the wayside during the holidays. I’m also in a season of feeling easily overwhelmed, so if you are a praying person, any petitions for grace on my behalf would be so much appreciated.

Despite not being fully complete, I would say that in between my last post and now, I have been living the (hashtag) capsule life. I’ve sectioned off a portion of my closet for the 30-40 items that make up my winter (read: weird Ohio fall/winter/spring hybrid) capsule, not counting shoes, underthings, socks, pajamas, athletic wear, and coats. It’s been very easy to go into my closet and choose what to wear, with naught a thought nor a worry about it. I can even think of one or two items I’ve only worn once since November, so sometimes it still feels like too much clothing. So what’s still left to do is: finalize my list, count all my clothes, lay them out in piles, and sort them into seasonal capsules. Luckily, nearly all my laundry is done at the moment, so I have a rare opportunity to do this if I get it done soon!

In the meantime, I want to tell you about another great experience that has come out of this process. The natural byproduct of narrowing down my wardrobe (and Brett’s!) amounted to three large canvas grocery bags, one garbage bag, one large box, and one laundry basket of clothing and shoes to give away. Gross, I know. I couldn’t believe how much stuff we had and how much space it was taking up. We learned from our apartment complex managers that they used to have a community garage sale here every year, so we eagerly signed up for the next one. But, when the time came around, they didn’t have enough people signed up to make it worth their while.

In the 7 group study, Jen Hatmaker encourages all experimenters to donate their unwanted possessions in a way that means something to them. Dumping bags at Goodwill can be as impersonal as leaving a Bible tract on a doorstep. The message isn’t received like it would be with face-to-face or heart-to-heart contact. So, without the garage sale, and with a desire to do more than just facelessly donate, our stuff sat around in our second bedroom for months.

We live in a neighborhood of apartments that are clearly a living space for low-income people. Many of our neighbors that we see out and about are foreigners, there are tons of kids around always riding their bikes and playing games outside, I’ve met a few with clear mental and physical disadvantages. And, of course, we’re not wealthy, and most of our money goes to student loans, so we know the rent is cheap, and our neighbors must have reasons of their own for living here.

For the months our stuff sat there, I wanted to have a “garage sale” of my own. But would I have permission to do that? Would I get in trouble for posting signs on the buildings? What if the people who put a bullet hole through a window of the apartment across the parking lot showed up? What would I have to give them if they came and didn’t find what they needed? …What if they didn’t like me?

Thanksgiving rolled around, and I heard of Giving Tuesday for the first time. Give thanks on Thursday, stampede the stores on Friday, buy local on Saturday, order online on Monday, and give on Tuesday. It seems the world has it all worked out how we should spend our money and our holidays, and giving comes last. It did for me, too. Giving time came, at last, when on Monday I had had enough waiting, made posters, and put them up at the entrances on the apartment buildings here. They said come on Tuesday night for hot chocolate and free stuff. Here’s the sizes we have – take anything you want for free.

Sidenote: Before you go and commend me for actually doing this, I want you to remember how I sat on this idea for nearly a year. Since we moved here in August of 2013, I’ve had a sense that God has Brett and I living here for only a season, but for a reason and a purpose. Meanwhile, I still waste my time. There are other things I’ve been talking about doing here to serve my neighbors, and whenever I put that out into the universe, some form of encouragement comes along. God’s been pretty clear that I’m holding all the cards to start something He’s going to honor here, and I just need to take action. So, again, if you’re a praying person, I think maybe the reason I’ve been feeling easily overwhelmed by a lot of other things in life may be a distraction from this, and I could use some prayers!

The results? They came.

Actually, we got a knock on the door the night we put up the posters. A young woman came to say that she worked the next night, so could she look through things tonight? We told her to come back in thirty minutes so we could set it all out, and she gave me her phone number. As she was pulling out clothes to look at, she said she’s tried to be neighborly by giving people cookies, asking for a cup of sugar, proverbially, but nothing was reciprocated, so she gave up. She’s lived her for three years.

After that, I was pumped for the next night. Oh my gosh, you guys. I just fell in love with everyone who came through our open door.

A Muslim man from Morocco looked for things for his wife and two daughters. Brett got his phone number. A senior in high school with a mental disability looked through all my dresses and lit up at a pair of glittery red shoes. They were the last piece she needed for her Dorothy costume for this Halloween. Her dad opened up to us about some of his recent medical setbacks, which are part of why he hasn’t been able to pursue a job in his field of study – tourism! Two tall, beautiful young girls came in very quietly. A man was standing in the doorway, keeping an eye on them, and I asked him how long they’ve lived here. He said, with a heavy accent, “Oh, they have just arrived from Africa eight days ago!” He had been here for eight years without them.

I kind of want to just leave that there and let it sink in, but I want you to think about this – what can God do with your possessions? Everything we have is an asset, and everything we have is God’s. If God can use a long-regretted, $13.99 purchase of a pair of too-small ruby red slippers to love a struggling high school senior with size 6 feet, what can He do with your unwanted possessions? Your home? Your pot of chili? There’s a lot of folks to love out there, and as possessors of the knowledge of Christ, we have an unending supply of love to give.

I hope this story was encouraging to you! If you have stories of how God’s blessed others through your giving/simplifying/taking a step, please share!

Capsule Wardrobe, part 4

Things I’ve learned recently:
– getting rid of things so I can have a capsule wardrobe was not the hard part
– the hard part is standing in a dressing room…
– trying to figure out why you don’t love the adorable olive green cozy sweater
– that honestly fits you perfectly
– and you know you would love on anyone else
– and realizing what you don’t love about it is the body inside it
– and that maybe your body image issues are what’s holding you back from having the style you want.

I went shopping with Daniella, my beautiful friend who is helping me build a capsule (she is well qualified – see for yourself on her blog, Fox and Bloom). Poor, poor Daniella, who walked with me through five stores, picked out things for me to try on (after studying my Pinterest boards and the worksheet I did through her website), and gave excellent advice. Who grabbed different sizes and colors for me while I was in the dressing room, who was honest with me, and who told me I was pretty. Poor Daniella, who watched me unravel over a buy-one-get-one-50% off sale on sweaters. After two hours, I couldn’t make a decision on anything, and we thankfully called it quits. Mall: 1, Hanna: 0.

As I stood in front of the mirror wearing an item of clothing that I a) had on my shopping list, b) fit perfectly and was even flattering,  and c) met all my color, comfort, and other requirements, I knew that what I really didn’t like about what I was seeing wasn’t the sweater – it was the curves underneath.

That’s all it took for me to want to give up on my capsule altogether. I was feeling doubts about whether what I want to wear is what will look good on my body. (Or at least what I apparently think looks good on my body. Daniella liked it, and she’s usually right. Do I really have such a poor perspective on how I look?) When I was creating my Pinterest board, was I pinning because I wanted to wear what that girl was wearing, or because I wanted to look like the girl wearing it? And if I can’t look like that, who cares what I wear? Why even try? Why even put myself through this shopping experience? What could be more reasonable, ethical, and cost-saving than deciding to just wear what I already own until it falls apart?

Feeling low, I hugged Daniella goodbye and started walking to my car… or so I led her to believe. I actually entered into some sort of dazed dream sequence, blacked out, and came to in the check out line at Forever 21. Funny how that works. For about a year I’ve been struggling to climb up to the high ground where I can stand and truthfully say that I never, never, shop at Forever 21. In fact, one of the reasons a capsule wardrobe appealed to me in the first place was because fewer clothes = fewer purchases = I can shop ethically. Jen Hatmaker talks a lot about that in her 7 Experiment Bible study. Sure, I love the two shirts I bought (one of which I wore three days in a row last weekend – shhhh), and I found the scarf of my dreams, but I left with the guilt of knowing that my clothes were probably made by people who are paid next to nothing.

So that’s where I was after my first capsule shopping trip: guilty of putting my dollars where my heart doesn’t belong, and body-shaming myself. Not ideal.

It’s times like that when I’ve had to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place. I was shopping so I would have things that I love to wear, so I don’t have to put on clothes that make me feel bad about myself, and so I don’t have stress while getting dressed in the morning. It might sound silly, but that’s the reality of my relationship with clothes. They dictate how I feel, take up my thoughts, suck away my money, and feed my insecurity. I don’t know what your relationship with clothing is like, but we all have one. Women have to deal with judgement from others regarding our clothing, feeling like nothing is made for our bodies, worrying about modesty or being sexualized, carrying emotional baggage from when we were “uncool” in our younger years, wondering what we are saying through what we wear… and I have never said this with more honesty: the struggle is real.

Deciding to never shop again and just wear the clothes I have until they fall apart was kind of a serious consideration, but one that would never work. It would only give me a false sense of not caring how I look. Never updating my wardrobe, while ethical and cost-saving, would just end with me internalizing and bottling up my hate-how-I-look feelings, and when a few of those feelings leaked out, I would impulse-buy something, just like I’ve been doing for years. But, with my capsule, I am aiming for the same kind of peace of mind I would have if I could happily wear the same sweats every day. Once it’s done, I won’t have so many worries about how I look, I won’t do needless shopping, and I won’t own so much.

I reminded myself of these things as I drove home, hoping that I wouldn’t regret my purchases the next day. It was a good thing, I told myself, that I was building a capsule. Less stress, fewer possessions, less money spent in the long run… all good. It was even a good thing that I was facing these feelings and fighting them, but since when have good things been all easy? I have had a lot of fun building my capsule so far, but it wouldn’t be honest of me to glaze over the difficult part. You can start this capsule wardrobe process with all the gusto in the world, but eventually you will hit an emotional wall and have to face yourself and fight the bad thoughts. But it’s okay! We’re here for you! Cheering you on! You can do it, you beautiful thing, you!