Monday, December 7, 2015

2016: Year of Connection & Gratitude - Challenge Guidelines #ycg16

In my last post (click "last post" to read said post), I share the backstory of our journey toward our 2016 plans to live lives of gratitude and connection - and to not make any purchases in 2016. We've come to realize we're raising entitled kids and that our "stuff" has begun to rule our lives. We're taking that back.

I also shared that a few friends of mine are teaming up to do this with me through a Facebook support group. Related side note: how blessed are we that we get to live in community??? Click here to join us, if this challenge sounds interesting. We'd love to have you.

Here's what we've done so far, and what we're planning to start on January 1. If you'd like to participate with us, you're welcome to join in what we're doing, or modify to fit your own family's needs.

Step one: get in alignment.

We're not necessarily in the "we must do all things with our spouse at all times" camp (my hubby is an only child and I'm the independent oldest of 3 - we need our space!), but this is one time where we feel it's extremely important to be in 100% alignment. This kind of a thing is just too hard to do alone! Let me just say, though, in the less than 24 hours that this has been "out there" it doesn't seem like any of the men are having a hard time getting with the program!

Step two: draft a family mission statement.

To tirelessly seek God's will each day by living lives of Holy Spirit-led integrity, honoring God with our health and wellbeing, owning what we have with contentment, growing together in faith, and committing our time, talents and treasure to serving Christ and His people.

If you're in a mixed spiritual situation at home, or aren't currently walking in a relationship with God, don't worry about developing a faith-based mission statement. The important thing is to decide who you want to be as a family together. Use whatever language works best for you. I pray and hope for all my friends to come to know God as the source of all contentment, but if that's not where you're at right now, you're still very welcome here and this challenge will still work to drive you toward a life of gratitude and contentment.

Step three: agree on a list of spending guidelines. 

Ours are:
- We'll only buy things that we consume - food, personal care items, gas.
- We'll fix things that break - and evaluate broken items according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. If anything breaks that relates to our survival or safety, we'll fix it or replace it immediately. Any item that breaks and doesn't support those two bottom levels will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- All gifts will be "experiential" in nature - tickets to an event that can be enjoyed together, a special day trip, a gift card for a meal. No items of any kind.
- We won't buy any clothes for ourselves or the kids unless there is absolutely no suitable replacement in the house.
- We'll limit eating out as a family to twice a month - both my husband and I will take bag lunches to work (him) and school (me). The only exceptions will be when meals out foster connection - with a seminary friend, for example, who couldn't otherwise afford to eat out, or treating friends to gelato at the neighborhood market, where we find truly authentic meaningful friendship.
- On Saturdays, we'll eat "leftover meals" that use up whatever we have left in the refrigerator, in an effort to cut down on food waste.
- We'll evaluate all tentative travel on the calendar and cut whatever doesn't build authentic connection.
- We'll set budgets for personal ministry and business expenses and agree to stick to them.
- Filter all purchases through two questions: do I need it? and if it wasn't an option, what would I do (for example, if I couldn't buy a thank-you card, would I make one myself? do I need store-bought almond butter or can I use the giant bag of Costco almonds sitting on my shelf to make my own in my amazing Vitamix blender)?

Your guidelines might look different than ours, or you're welcome to use exactly what we've written. Whatever works is fine. The really important ones are the first three, in our opinion. If you stick to those, you'll go a long way toward a more contented and connected year.

Step four: agree on a start date. 

We're going with January 1. It's easy and it's soon. We know that if we delay our start date, we won't do it.

Step five: share your plans with community.

For us, this means telling our extended families, our close circle of friends, and, obviously, the blogosphere. Letting folks around us know will help keep us accountable. We're going to want to slide, obviously, so we're putting safeguards in place that can at least help prevent it in a small way.

So there you go - the five steps that constitute "the plan." If you're signing up to do it with us, we'd love to hear what you think the comments section below - or in our Facebook group.

P.S. I drafted the guidelines from two books: Scott Dannemiller's "The Year Without a Purchase" and Kristen Welch's "Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World." Both are wonderful and would be amazing additions to your home library, but you don't necessarily need either to complete the challenge.

2016: Year of Connection & Gratitude (#ycg16 challenge)

2015 has been a really interesting year - filled with lots of fun (ministry work, plans for a new business, travel, hosting friends and family in our home for short and extended time periods, conferences, etc), rough stuff (a couple mini adrenal fatigue and autoimmune relapses, church hurt, relationship difficulties) and a total lifestyle change called "seminary."

Through it all, and perhaps because of it all, I've begun to start craving more authentic connection with "my people," less clutter around me, and more gratitude. I've been praying for the last couple months that God will help me see how to make all of that happen.

And He seemingly answers "out of nowhere" with these two in the last few weeks:

The title of the top book is pretty clear: The Year Without a Purchase: One Family's Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting by Scott Dannemiller. The printed pages with my (messy) handwritten title is Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned that Saying No can Lead to Life's Biggest Yes by Kristen Welch. I'm so blessed to be on the launch team for Kristen's book that will be out in late January, so I get to read the advance PDF copy. I tried to read it online, but found myself taking so many notes that I decided to just suck up the cost of the ink and print it out. So glad I did - the pages are filled with doodles, plans, notes and highlights.

Both books point readers to the beauty of not letting our need for "more" run our lives and ruin our relationships - with God and the people He places in our lives. Scott's book shares his experience with curtailing family spending and Kristen's focuses more on practical strategies to overcome a general sense of entitlement. Both are compelling, excellent reads.

As I read through the books, my 1st-grader and 3-year-old gave my husband and I several reasons to pay closer attention to the words on the pages. Every single night for two weeks in a row, they threw massive tantrums during playroom clean-up time at the end of the day - seriously - screaming, crying, the whole nine. They wanted absolutely nothing to do with picking up all their stuff that they're so lucky to have.

When we entered into the third week of said fits, we decided enough was enough. We cleaned out all their toys. From the playroom and their rooms. We left books, dress-up clothes and Legos, so they can still develop creatively, but all the other toys are in storage. As we put them all away, we realized how much we really do have - and how much we really don't even value what we have. We were embarrassed.

Our shame reached another level entirely during that same timeframe when we took the kids to Target  - not for anything big, lotion or something like that. While we were there, we didn't even make it past the bargain bins before they both started "needing" new ______________. They filled in that blank with almost everything they saw. Seriously.

Then, the last straw .... I closed down their "Christmas lists" (lists of all the stuff they want for Christmas), so they both started in on their birthday lists. Their birthdays aren't for several more months.

#parentfacepalm anyone?

All of the above is so not ok. We want different for our family!

So .... we're taking a stand against entitlement and consumerism in 2016. We're going to follow Scott's plan and go a year without a purchase, while also implementing many of the suggestions in Kristen's book.

I posted about the challenge on Facebook and it turns out that we're not the only family ready to take on this challenge, so we're starting a little challenge group to support each other. Click here to join in the effort and watch my blog for posts to come with all the challenge guidelines.

Looking forward to a connected, grateful year!