Sunday, March 2, 2014

Marriage and the Simple Life

If ya didn't hear, I got married 2.5 months ago. It's been awesome. 

My wife and I come from very different backgrounds and family dynamics so it's been fun to get to figure out our routines, lifestyle, decisions, etc. together. 

That said, even while we were dating we decided that we both desire to live simple lives. We decided to start living a simple life right from the very start and did our best to keep our wedding ceremony simple and cheap (it's possible!!). 

The desire to live simply has continued to grow in both of us and was brought to the next level when some friends of ours, who share a similar passion, invited us to start reading a book together. The book, Almost Amish has been really great and has challenged us in numerous ways. 

Here's a list of things that Britt and I have decided to implement together:
  • Budget. We don't really have a choice here, we're living off my income while she finishes up graduate school. But here's what happens each time we get paid: give, save, spend. We give above our comfort level but that's what we felt God wanted us to do. And, we've loved the ease of Mint as our budgeting platform.
  • Electronics. We choose to put away electronics on a regular basis. We leave them home when we run errands together or go out together. I made the decision to disable email on my phone which is hard but worth it. Britt is naturally good at this and we're both pretty good accountability partners to assure that we don't sit around aimlessly surfing the net. 
  • Laundry. We don't own a washer and dryer and do coin operated laundry at our condo complex. But, we decided to stop drying our clothes, spend $5 on parachute cord, and hang all of our laundry in our 700 square foot condo. It's not convenient -- the drying process is very slow but it teaches us patience. And, it's kind of odd when people come over and we have clothes hanging around but my wife likes to tell people that we're "becoming Amish."
  • Food. Britt loves, loves, loves, perusing the weekly ads for grocery deals each week. She's a coupon'er and saves us so much money (just yesterday she saved us $52 at Sprouts via coupons)! We've also decided to eat natural and locally grown foods and are nearly 100% vegan at home. One might assume that I'd freak out eating vegan but I've actually loved it and I feel so much better (I've lost close to 20 pounds)! Lastly, we both love to eat at nice restaurants but we've made the decision to only eat out once a month. It's hard but it helps us appreciate our once a month rhythm even more (and it's made easier by Britt's amazing cooking skills)!
  • Schedules. This is probably the thing that we have the hardest time with. We both say yes too often. But, as I heard it put recently, "say no to many small things to say yes to a few big things." So, we're trying our best to de-clutter our schedules in order to do a few big things! 
  • Compost. Because we've gone vegan at home, we produce lots of "compostable" waste. We were lamenting that we couldn't really have a compost pile in our rented condo with no yard. But, we asked some friends if we can use theirs and of course they said yes. So, we collect our compost every day in refrigerated bags and bring them to our friends compost pile every ten days or so. 
  • Recycling. In our opinion, God loves the earth and we really want it to be around for as long as possible. So, we've taken recycling very seriously. Fortunately, our condo complex offers basic recycling for free. But, we've also tried to cut back on using plastic grocery bags by using reusable grocery bags. That said, we haven't been able to fully cut out plastic bags so we save them and recycle them at a local Sprouts store. 
  • Mail. Anytime we get junk mailers or catalogs, I unsubscribe using the following websites: Catalog Choice and DMA Choice. There are two reasons for this: (1) we don't want to be tempted to buy things we don't need and (2) we don't want to waste the paper, ink, etc. It's kind of sad to find an empty mailbox but it's for the better! 
  • Clothes. We both have a lot of clothes. So, prior to getting married, we committed to not buying clothes for one year. Britt's been awesome at this. I haven't bought clothes but purchased a new pair of shoes for working at DAM (they were used, via eBay) and a pair of basketball shoes because mine were stolen from my car (they were used, via Craigslist). I really loved this statement from Almost Amish: "If someone else can use it now, why should we store it for someday?" So, we've done our best to give away lots of clothes and have donated four large trash bags of clothes to the Joshua Station in the last couple months.
  • De-Cluttering. I'm 30, she's 25...we have a LOT of stuff. So, we've gone through things we haven't used much or at all and we're either selling them online or giving them away. I sold some old motorcycle gear, police gear, and gave away some old cycling stuff. It's nice to make a little extra cash and to make it a habit to de-clutter! 
  • Books. We both love our library collection and love to read. But, Britt bought me a Kindle for Christmas so we've decided to not purchase any more books. I've found great and easy ways to rent books on my Kindle through local library's and Britt's too busy reading cook books/recipes or graduate school books to buy any. We've saved a ton of money by eliminating this expense.
  • Additional Considerations. One thing that we've had significant discussions about is our TV and cable. We pay a very low price each month for cable which has helped us decide to keep it for the time being -- we just love our sports too much and Britt loves the Food Network. We might decide to cut it soon, though! Another thing we considered but decided to opt out of was a local CSA (community supported agriculture). While we support local and organic foods, we decided it was too expensive and we didn't want to get stuck with produce we wouldn't use. Maybe in the future!  
What about you? What have you done to live a more simplistic life?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

my commissioning

when i went to seminary, i had lots of people ask if i was going to have to live in the mountains, alone, and celibate for the rest of my life. no.

okay, i made up the celibate one really asked that but i know lots of people were thinking it.

well, i graduated in december. seminary was awesome. like the world race; i'd recommend everyone do it...but i'd never do it again.

and, if you didn't hear, i was commissioned by new denver church last month.

i admit "commissioned" is a weird word and concept. but, put simply, i was commissioned by the church leaders and church community at ndc into a life of ministry. into a calling of sorts.

if you wanna hear the podcast on the night, you can find it here. it's really good and is made up of four parts: my story, two "charges" from my pastors, and a time of prayer.

the whole night was powerful and meaningful. truly, one of the highlights of my life.

i'd like to share one highlight from the night that brought me to tears, and tears, and tears.

rewind a bit: on one of the darkest and worst nights of my life (but, in retrospect, one of the best) life had fallen apart. i was wasted. i didn't know what to do. a million horrible options were going through my mind.

but, ultimately, i landed on calling a close friend. one who i admired. and one who happened to be a christian (i wasn't at the time). i called him...and i was a drunken, crying, and slobbery mess. though i don't remember the exact details of the conversation it went something like this:

me: "dude, my life is over...i don't know what to do (more rambling)" 

chris: "(probably something profound was said here)...i honestly don't know what to say or do...can i pray for you?"

me: "yes, please" (all crying multiplied tenfold)

fast forward to my commissioning service.

chris came.

during the time of prayer...chris came forward to pray over me. it was the first time i'd heard him pray for me since the darkest night of my life...and here he was praying again...on one of the best days of my life. (and all crying multiplied tenfold)

redemption at it's finest.

may we all be bold...and when we don't have the answer, may we turn to the one who does.

Friday, October 19, 2012

(g)race: a poem

i'm in an amazing class at denver seminary right now: social and cultural foundations of counseling. it's stretched me, it's challenged me, and ultimately, i hope,  it's made me a better person.

one of our assignments was to watch the movie crash and develop a creative expression afterwards.  

if you haven't seen it, the movie is powerful. so powerful that it pushed me to write a poem as my form of creative expression.

i'm not a poet. in fact, i don't think i've ever written a poem. i'm just not all that creative (or, better yet...i don't give myself a lot of room to be creative). but here it is:

but can be so hurtful.
we judge others based on the exterior,
which makes one of us inferior
and the other “superior.”
but what about the interior?
exquisite, unique
and all desperate for His

may we all break down the walls of our own biases, our own racism, and our own hate. and may we all draw nearer to the ultimate healer...the one who's color is of water.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

you are not alone

the other day i was hanging with a friend at a local establishment. we were talking about life and he started sharing his recent struggles: marriage, job, relationships, faith.

he's going through a lot. and honestly, i was in over my head. i had no clue what to say, where to start, how to offer hope.

it's part of my job. this idea of listening to people and helping them through life. i love it. but, honestly, i had no clue.

i said a quick prayer as he talked and asked god for some wisdom and guidance. for something to say. some way to offer my friend a sense of hope.

i felt like praying helped but i was still at a loss for words. so, i continued to sit and listen to my friend.

new career.

and a couple minutes later, the song "timshel" by mumford and sons came playing through the speakers. i thought it a bit coincidental. and perfect.

so, that's where i started. i offered this piece of hope to my friend:

"you are not alone in this, i've got your back. and more then that, god is with you."

he lost it. he cried. right there at our table.

it didn't solve all his problems...he's still facing them. but after the tears dried...he had a sense of hope.

you see, that's what every one of us needs. a sense of hope...that we're not alone. that someone is willing to hold our hand through the good times and the bad. that someone is willing to love us in the midst of our struggles. when they can't see the light...they're still loved.

may we all look to our left and right and may we look for someone who just needs a friend. who needs a hand to hold. who needs to feel loved. may we be like jesus.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11, 11 years later

"dude, wake up...someone's bombing the east coast...the whole coast is on fire."

i was a freshman at the university of northern colorado when my roommate woke me up. i rushed into the living room and sat in front of the TV in awe. i watched the second tower collapse. i watched flames engulf the pentagon. i watched people jumping out of windows.

it was insane.

i was a bit worried because half my family lives on the east coast. fortunately, they were all okay.

photo via
i went to class and my sociology professor dismissed us early. she told us to watch the news because 9/11 was going to the change the course of history. that was an understatement.

i drove to the gas station and waited in the 30 minute line because the media was certain that our oil supply would be cut off.

i went to a candle light vigil that night on campus. it was powerful. i cried.

i went to church for the first time in a long time that weekend. i was scared.

it was one of the first times i came face to face with this cold, hard fact: life is short. it can end at any time. and most of the time, we never know when death will come.

that's a bit scary if i'm honest.

today, i find hope in this simple, yet profound, verse from the message translation of the bible:

"the things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. but the things we can't see now will last forever." -2 corinthians 4:18

we all die. we can spend our life chasing houses, wealth, status, cars, looks, relationships...but they'll be gone the day we die. gone. forever.

yet, we can find hope in this: heaven, jesus, and eternity await us on the other side.

may we all take a moment to reflect today on the senseless tragedy of 9/11 and the loss of life. but may we also take a moment to reflect on our own life today...and the things we're living for...let's not waste the lesson of 9/11.