Friday, October 19, 2012

I Skipped J Crew And Lived to Tell

So, we sold our farmhouse.

Haha! I'm cracking myself up here. Who's sick of me talking about selling the dang farm?? (raises both hands) Well, I'm sorry. I really am. The problem is, that's sort of the best starting point for all of this. The "inciting incident", if you will.

As you are all painfully aware, we sold for two main reasons.
1) We had more than we needed and believed that there were bigger things we could do with our $ than pay a mortgage.
2) We felt called out of our hide-away.

Things got confusing for a while, when we had to spend so much time stressing over details for a brand new house. (That was never in our plan. N to the E to the VER.)

But now we're settled in. We're happy as a bowlful of clams in our little home with the ridiculously lower mortgage.

The first week here, we cozied right up to Dave (I told you we were still friends - mostly) and reorganized our finances on the iconic monthly budget spreadsheet. We made new commitments and we made them quickly, because I knew that if we waited, we would learn to love our freed-up cash. And not in the good way.

So, now we can do more with what we have, support people and ministries we believe in, help others Go. From the start, it felt really right.

But I'll be honest, a month in? It's cramping my style a tiny bit.

I will now say the brattiest thing I've ever said out loud: For most of my adult life, I have been able to pretty much have the stuff I wanted. I never wanted anything too big or flashy. But I'm finding that I'm woefully out of practice when it comes to telling myself no.

I whine sometimes. I want to go to shopping, man.

I keep defaulting to that shiny place where there's always extra, always enough. An impromptu road trip to Ikea? Sign me up. Old Navy is 40% off store-wide? Let me grab my keys. A new antiques store? Screeeeeeeeeech!

The savings account was plump and rosy-cheeked. Our old beaters with their constant ailments were but a fleeting annoyance. Even when we started to consciously simplify a few years ago, we always knew there was some level of safety net.

Things are different now.

So while I knew all along that our choices were sort of backwards and strange, it's a whole 'nother thing to live them. It's harder than I would have hoped, to process living more sacrificially. It hurts to confront my gimmes.

We just got back from a few days in Ohio and I didn't make the short haul down I-75 to the J Crew Outlet. Why? Because window shopping through their glass = torture to me.

I did do some thrifting, though. I found a winter coat for Calvin for $3.49 and two dresses for Ruby for next Spring for $1.99 each. I ask myself, why just one year ago did I think $20 for a coat was a steal? Why did I ever pay $14.99 for a little girl's sundress?

I'm reminded all over again that we really can live with less.

I'm not shutting down the commercial machine, here. As sure as I'm shuffling around in high-water pajama pants, I'll live to see another frivolous retail cardi. But for now, we keep leaning into the change. Seeing it all here in print makes my face feel a little hot. I'll have to find a new hobby, I guess. Big whoop.

It's push and pull, the feeling of wanting something I don't really need then finding myself still alive and kicking after I say No.

I'm not gonna lie, I hope I get better at it.

I'll keep you posted.


  1. Fear not my friend, you will get better at it. Like my husband and I like to say, we are far better at being poor than we are being rich. Those who have little give much.

    Our household feels closer to God when we have less and depend upon Him to provide for our needs. True it is difficult to live among those who get what they want when they want it. My best advice, look for fun and free activities to do with the family and look at recipes. My husband and I cook every day together, food and family.

    Nuthin' better than that.

    1. Well said. Living it. By choice. Sometimes I wrestle with the whiney self absorbed "me". Other times, loving the feeling that denying self made room for being able to say "yes! " without skipping a beat. That is the reward. The joy of giving. Nothing like it! (Well going to Goodwill and finding what you've been really needing with the stickers still on it is awesome too!)

  2. i have so much to learn from you...thank you for the little reminders. God is speaking to you through me...for sure.

  3. Tonight I went on a date with my hubby. We ate at Five Guys and then I went to Kohl's. I bought 8 placemats for .59 cents a piece. I saw some really pretty "fall" placemats for $8.99 and I was shocked at that price. I told my husband that I couldn't imagine spending forty bucks on placements, but that's only because we've been living on too little for too long. It's all perspective, right?

    My thinking right now isn't "normal" and I am sure one day I will be ok spending more on placemats, but for now, there's so much more to be done with forty dollars.

    I don't even really know what my point is in this comment. I guess I am just saying I know how it feels to pass over the stores with great big SALE signs in the window.

    I admire what you are doing and your reasoning behind doing it.

  4. after losing our home, i realized that being together with less was SO enough.
    but i let the greed slowly creep back in as our finances started to recover.
    i STRUGGLE with this. and although it's not necessarily at a retail shopping level, i realize i do this with thrifting...a lot, and i justify it because it is cheap and SOMEONE could use it for goodness sake!
    feeling i NEED to stop to look and buy when my closets are bulging, the basement is PILING, and i'm constantly bawling over the disgusting amounts of laundry that are piling up in my living room and in every empty container around here.
    i blame the kiddos, but it's TOTALLY me.
    it has been a learning process for sure, and i'm trying to relearn to live with less AGAIN, and i realize that when i leave the thrift or the target dollar section without that darn grapevine pumpkin, i'm still alive. the world is still turning. i feel GOOD.

    i'm with you, sister.

  5. Funny...I used to live in Ohio and know the Outlet Stores well. Now I live in Orange County, CA (South Orange County if I want to be a total snob!). The thrift stores in Ohio are amazing...I bring an extra suitcase whenever I visit to have room for all my "finds". I have always loved shopping for pretty clothes and things for my home.
    I have loved reading your blog. God called us to move across the country a couple years ago and now we live in a really nice place...many times I feel like it is way too nice. I've been reading many of the books you've mentioned and certain things that I used to be totally comfortable with (like shopping at Old Navy because there is a coupon)are beginning to not sit so well with me. We adopted our son from Vietnam and are adopting again from China, but I feel like I want to be able to do more. Not sure what it all means, but I am trusting that God will continue to show His plan for our family.
    Keep sharing your journey...I think many Followers of Jesus are experiencing similar thoughts and feelings. How can we live in our comfortable culture, when there are so many suffering?

  6. Was just cruising the internet drooling over some reproduction Eames chairs for around our dining table. There was a niggling reminder that I have perfectly good chairs from IKEA I had happily found for $5 a piece and had planned on painting. You've reminded me that they are, in fact, enough.

  7. I honestly would love to leave the house we are in, get something cozy and useable, ours is not 'huge' 1680 sq ft two story, but it is not functional in style we are retiring in 3-5 years and I want a single level nicely laid out 'newer' less expensive home. We will be getting a good retirement but that has to last for YEARS to come don't want to place it all in a home. Love your idea.

  8. Me and you, Miller, me and you. I think about buying something or other every day. Maybe we can practice together.

  9. OH HEAVENS! You are speaking my language. I am a reformed shopaholic. I tell you. I go through seasons. Right now it's fall here in Ohio (as you well know) and I cannot help but fall into the trap of, we all need new boots scarves, hats etc.. You know, all the fall essentials - ha!

    Thanks for keeping it real and I have to be honest. I was going to head out to the J CREW outlet today after the soccer games. *sigh* I will have self control and NOT do it :)

  10. A totally shallow thought to share with you, the JCrew stores in the UK look distinctly frumpy to me, they do!! Better off without! Ha! Sorry JCrew just a personal opinion.

    On a less shallow note, your blogposts are a constant thorn in the side of my conscience, and I think God is using them to unsettle me into Truth. Which is a huge thing really, and although it is most uncomfortable sometimes it is also FANTASTIC and being a bit church less at the moment, the imput is gold.

    Other posts just make me crack up and crave salsa and the ability to say words like dang and n to the e to the ver in my English accent without sounding a complete twit. Bxx

  11. it's always fun to find jcrew while thrifting, though.
    i know that's not the point.
    i hear what you're saying, sister.
    your friend,
    highwaters in colorado

  12. I was thinking along those lines this week. When do I tell myself "no" anymore? When did I get to the point where I never have to sacrifice? I like reading this. The hard stuff is always better for us. Always.

    On a side note, there's this huge farm between a bedroom community and the big city on one of the back roads near where we live. There was pressure for the farmer to sell his farm for a new neighborhood development a while back. My husband would roll down the window as we would drive through (farm on both sides of the road) and yell, "Don't sell the farm!" to show his support. When you mention selling the farmhouse that's the first thing that comes to mind. ;)

    1. Ha! I can't even tell you how much I love this. You're my kind of people!

  13. My hubby and I are nearly empty nesters and really want to downsize. We put our house on the market last summer, but NOTHING happened. My 'stuff' really has become a burden to me. My blessings require so much upkeep, but I am finding that it is really hard to get rid of 'stuff' when you have enough room.

    I want to do more with our money. I want to be the financial miracle for people who are doing "even greater things". Praying and asking for discernment and for my hubby and me to be on the same page....we are fairly close, but not quite there. SO, in the mean time I just need to be faithful to do my part.

  14. I have never felt so good about leaving those clearance underwear on Marshall's rack yesterday.
    ::old stretched out underwear work just fine---i guess::

    1. Dude. Were your ears burning in the underwear aisle? We were totally talking about you yesterday. :) Good stuff. Great stuff.

    2. My ears weren't burning but my nose may have been itching? As long as it was okay stuff, I'll deal with it.

  15. "It hurts to confront my gimmes" Amen sister! I love to work in my yard and EVERYTHING you do is so flowers, buy mulch, gimmes, hurts, fetal position. I'm trying to find new ways to enjoy a hobby of mine without spending all that money. A friend of mine gave me a lot of plants from her overflowing beds and I happily made a bed. I found an old mailbox and I went to the thrift store and bought old plates 8 for $1 and came home and made a mosaic on the mailbox and put it on a piece of wood I found in a holds my garden tools now. Long story cute flower bed with mosaic mailbox cost $5....that's more like it????

  16. Well, you know our story. Fancy labels in the shirts. God made me quit my job. Then the eyes. Then the foster care. Now the EXPENSIVE lawyer.

    Here's the point: This is what I have learned. Living frugally out of neccesity causes you to look in closer and choose one thing, instead of twelve. It makes you decide what really is the ONE thing you want most, and if it's really all that important to you then you can wait a few days, or a week or a year to get it. And, from experience, if I had to wait a year to get it I probably have moved on to something new- it was fleeting.

    BUT, there are those times when I can pout with the best of them. Sometimes I just want to buy something. ANYthing. There are those days.

    Have a great weekend Brave Girl.


  17. Hey, Shan! Just read this blog post that fit right smack in here, and I thought you and may some readers might enjoy.

    Excerpt: "In the book, The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne says, 'We need neither the gospel of prosperity, nor the poverty gospel, but the gospel of abundance rooted in a theology of enough.' This is taken from Exodus where God commanded the Israelites to only gather what they could eat, and no more (Exo. 16:16) and of course from the Lord’s prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'"

  18. one of my lifetime's favorite skirts came from J. Crew...via a thrift store...for 50 cents.
    My main problem is not saying no to myself. The temptation is so great to just say YES!
    But a yes is usually a no to someone else I guess. Things to think on. May God bless all your thrifting adventures. :)

  19. I find myself wondering if the saying no will ever become comfortable or maybe, I'll stop saying no because I'll find that what I have is always enough? I'm turning the ship and it's one large boat in waters that aren't turn friendly! Thanks for sharing to a heart that needs to hear it!

    P.S. - High water pj's are in at the Chupps! ;)

  20. I can so relate to this post. Sigh. It is a battle raging on in my heart. We still live in the farmhouse, but I (think) I want out. But, not enough for me to actually go. Get it? Ugh. To make things more difficult, neither my husband nor myself are good at denying ourselves (as he aerates the front yard to plant grass seed for the spring-first world problems). Keep posting. And keep praying for those of us who need to go. Thanks.

  21. Ironically, I've had to tell myself to NOT go into any thrift shops. I don't need another 25 cent basket. Or, this wooden whatever-it-is that would be great to hold such-and-such (which I'll never actually fill.)

    Have I mentioned lately how EVERY morning the first thing I do it grab my coffee and scan my e-mail for your post? Well I do. Thanks for the morning grounding. :)
    ~ Dana

  22. I was going to suggest you thrift shop but you were already paying for the items :) But I'm seeing in my own life that it's a heart issue more than a shopping issue, and I'm trying oh-so-hard to turn that around. A lot of prayer and Bible reading is a massive help, though the temptations still come. I've got two 40% coupons in my purse right now, just screaming at me to GO ... so far, I've resisted. I keep asking myself, Do I really need that? And I guess it's my age (nearly 60) that helps wrap my brain around that reality oh "no, I seriously don't need it." Good luck with your Dave renewed friendship, he and I go back and forth as well. Hugs ~ Mary

  23. Everyone can learn from you. Thank you for your continued inspirational blog posts. Love them!!!!
    xo~ Cheryl

  24. So good to do this! Wow. Sometimes I ask myself, "what is the hole in my heart that I am trying to fix with this shirt?" It sounds so dramatic, but you know what I mean? Shopping is oft tied to an ugly heart thing with me -- competition, insecurity, pride, escape from an unpleasant situation. And on and on. I think, too, that the more we train our hearts to say no, the easier it becomes next time?

  25. About 2 years ago, we moved out of suburbia and into a house in the "hood." My husband quit his job in corporate america, and we started this journey to move overseas. It was s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g to live on a tighter budget, but in the end it was SO life-giving. It gets easier!!! Hang in there and have fun seeing all the little ways God is going to surprise you. He's such a kind Dad who delights in you and knows the desires of your heart. I'm guessing there's the perfect J Crew shirt waiting for you at a thrift store one day!! : )

  26. Gosh I hate that feeling...I gotta go SHOPPING. Why? don't know, don't need, practically don't want...just love to see the pretty things and search for a FIND. God bless us.

  27. It is sooo hard - the tendency to revert back to the "gimmes" is ongoing for me. It's just the culture we live in. Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey, it's encouraging to me!

  28. Going through very similar changes here over the last couple of years! Great to read the thoughts of someone else feeling the same way!

  29. We are in the process of trying to pay off our debt. That means lots of saying no. It is hard! But if we want to be able to use our money to help others, then we have to pay off this seemingly impossible debt. Hearing your take on it is encouraging!

  30. I love that you say it's not easy - because it's not. We are immersed a culture that says it's ok. YOU are worth it. It's getting harder and harder for me to justify a lot of purchases when reading about so many people doing without the basics. Sometimes I do good; sometimes I do bad. But I am determined to keep on trying.

    Sometimes I think we should have sponsors - you know, like in those 12 step programs...

  31. You have a gift for not just telling us what it's like, but showing us, being real and honest in the process. And funny too. :)

  32. "So, now we can do more with what we have, support people and ministries we believe in, help others Go."
    This is a worthy goal...and our family has a similar one. We incurred some debt and are determined to pay it all off by the end of 2013.
    This takes sacrifice! Truth is, I don't think there was ever a time in my life---single or married---when I was financially stable enough to buy at will...unless it was Goodwill :0)...except when I was engaged and working in the Big Apple and living in Brooklyn, NY. That lasted about 3 years...and then BABIES!!! YAY.
    So, now we are on our third "round" as it were of facing the debt giant. We knocked it down twice over our 23 year marriage and so we know HE is faithful and will get us through now. UP the few little things I love to find at Salvation army??? REALLY LORD??? Half price day at Sally's is too much? Sigh...not easy when we have to actually give stuff up :0).
    For us, like you, it not so much about the blessing we will have when we are debt free, but the freedom we will have to give to His work! I cannot imagine having that $600 a month NOW, but it is worth keeping in my sight! $600 "extra" out tax what we will need to reach a goal of being debt free by the end of ext year.
    Prayer appreciated and sent up for you as well!
    So glad you posted over on Bloggy Mom so i could "find" ya!
    Enjoy the week

  33. i've been catching up on your series. excellent. so glad you keep this crazy blog, i need you here.

  34. you wouldn't be a bit human if you didn't whine a little on this road to sacrificial living.

    love your heart for following after what God is calling you to.
    honestly, he's calling us all to it, isn't he? we can say it's just for you, but it's SO NOT just for you.

    praying we learn more and more to say no to ourselves and yes to more of what God wants.

  35. Ah....I am a grandmother (a cute, young looking one) and I feel your pain. I live in the city, in a declining middle class neighborhood, and God won't let us move. In fact He is moving our grandchildren next door. Occupying...colonizing these streets with some heaven in 'da hood. We are entitled to wear black sunglasses and have savvy political opinions, without being hip, urban loft dwellers. And we can be wise and earthy, and entitled to eat from "farm to table"!without the seclusion and livestock...or acreage. Keep writing, dear Shannan. This Preacher's Wife is a honking big fan...

  36. do you ever get tired of over-thinking everything? if you find a winter coat for your boy for 3.49, awesome. i grew up in thrift stores, and not the cool kind. (it didn't use to be a hobby for everyone like it is now, thank you martha stewart!) so my whole life, i've thought making do with what you find WAS the option... not something you teach yourself. my mom and my aunt would take us kids to "large trash pickup" in Englewood... where people set things they didn't want out by the curb for rumpke (or my family.) we'd cruise around in a pickup, stopping and tossing in things that looked... promising. NOTE: this was entertainment, not how we furnished our houses. most of the time. anyhoo, back to the coat. the thing is: if he needs one, and you HAVE 20 bucks... be thankful you can buy it. remember all the people who just can't. "so don't worry about these things, saying 'what will we eat?... what will we wear?' these things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, BUT YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER already knows all your needs". see, the thing is, He'll provide the 3.49 coat or the 20 bucks. sometimes He teaches me, sometimes He treats me! So, the moral of this story is: Trust God and enjoy the life He gives you. (i think. the moral might be that thrifting is the way to go.) either way, have a great day!

    1. Englewood Ohio???? Girl.

      And as for your question, yes, sometimes I obviously do get tired of over-thinking it because sometimes I go shopping. :) Mostly I don't think of it as "over-thinking". I have this conscious "thing" in my head now that tells me (usually nicely) that there's a better way... Does that make sense? But I like the way you put it. He does always provide and I'm living proof that sometimes He treats me. :)

    2. makes perfect sense. i'm just glad that the "thing" in your head is being nice... i over-think EVERYTHING and even my inner self gets fed up with me! so here's to the "better way" becoming a habit for you.
      (and here is some genuine advice: ask yourself WHERE exactly am i going to put this when i get home, and WHERE exactly am i going to wear this after i buy it?)

  37. I totally got you.....most of my clothes and my kiddos are thrifted or bartered...ill do photos of your kids for free for your kids guess thats why i asked you for your ruby are waiting on a court date to bring her home. please say a prayer god sees fit to give us that date soon....and by the way...are you on instagram?

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  40. Ok, I know my comment is a little late, but I just have to confess that I have the worst retail fever in YEARS!!! I'm ridiculous! I actually thought to myself as I was leaving Kohl's yesterday, "stay the stink away!"...which I believe is a direct quote from you. Back to the Goodwill for me, sister. Yes to $1.99 dresses. Now, I didn't go completely crazy with spending, but I must say that I was a little surprised at the sudden desire to do so. Is it the Christmas trees already in the window? Is it seeing "lowest prices of the season" every day in my inbox? Whatever it is, it almost got ahold of me. Luckily I'm still a tightwad and my dear husband is decidedly worse. So I think we'll make it. Good for you for skipping J. Crew. Stay the stink away! :)