God wink…

Happy New Year.

Today marks the first day of 2022. And I am excited to start a new year with a fresh slate.

I have to admit, I’ve been saddened by so many of the comments on social media regarding 2021. 2021 was overall a good year for me. It wasn’t perfect, or even what I envisioned going into it, but overall I can see the good over the difficult, but that’s about perspective I suppose. And if you’ve followed me for any length of time, it won’t surprise you that I see perspective as a choice. I choose to see 2021 as a win.

Some years I do a retrospective on my blog. Reviewing the past year, reflecting on it. I don’t feel compelled to do that this year. Instead, I want to jump right into 2022. Because I’ve already seen God’s hand in this first day and it’s not even 10:00 a.m.

We all have our vices – food, clothes, books, smoking – things we turn to when we need comfort, feel fear, want to celebrate. It’s not that these things are inherently unhealthy, but when they get out of hand, become a compulsion, that’s when they may call for more attention.

My vice? Shopping for “stuff”.

If you ask me if I like to shop, I’ll immediately say, “No.” Because the word shopping conjures up long, daunting trips to the mall with my mom in my youth. The trips went something like this:

We would arrive at the mall in the late afternoon, when the sun was still shining. We didn’t always have an objective when we went to the mall. Often it was just to kill time, or to people watch. Mom loved people watching at the mall. We would always enter the mall through an anchor store and begin touching and exploring all the displays.

Mom would shortly stumble upon a pretty object, let’s say it’s a purse. We would look at the purse, admire it’s design and color, spend time with the purse. She’d throw the purse on her shoulder and find a mirror. She’d look inside to make sure all of her normal purse items would have room in it. Then she would put the purse down and we would move out into the mall. But that purse would be stuck in her mind. Now we were on the hunt for purses.

Over the next 2-3 hours if we saw a storefront that offered purses we would be going in. And the ritual of inspecting the purses would begin again.

It made for long visits at the mall. And though I loved the time spent with my mom, I was bored. I was pre-teen and wanted to be doing just about anything other than looking for purses, which I didn’t even use yet. There was no use complaining. Mom was not to be swayed from her adventure at hand.

After time passed (meaning: the mall was now closing), we would head back to that anchor where we first came in. And there it would be, THE purse. The one that set the bar three hours ago. We would visit it again and admire it. Often we would wind up giving the purse a new home, but just as often mom would put the purse down, sigh and we would walk to the car empty handed. And that baffled me. Why spend all that time admiring an object and then not getting it?

The lesson I learned? I detest window shopping, it’s time consuming and often ends in no reward. I feel a physical reaction just thinking about it to this day.

However, if I’m being honest, I have come to acknowledge that though I may not like shopping, I do like buying.

In terms of shopping, I would describe myself as a hunter and not a gatherer. If I have to go to a physical store, I know what I’m getting and tend to dart in, get the object, pay for it, and get out as quick as I can. And I won’t do that often. Go to the store. Why would I.

With the online choices for shopping, I never have to leave my house. Click, search, find, click to buy and done. The next day, or shortly thereafter, the item I wanted shows up at my front door. Easy peasy. Instant gratification (or near instant). And therein lies the problem.

With our access to technology, the store is always with me. If I forget a birthday, click. If I hear of a good book, click. If I’m bored…click. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of clicking. And, I finally realized, I’m somewhat consumed with all.the.things.

I’ve been doing a lot of introspection these last few months and I’ve come to some truths. One of which is that if I didn’t shop for any wants, and only shopped for literal needs (food/shelter, etc.), I would literally want for nothing. We live a comfortable life. We have a nice house, we have nice “things”. Anytime I click “buy” I have come to realize it’s very much on a whim. And truth be told, I can do this because we’ve been blessed with good jobs that provide comfortable incomes.

With that said, the other insight I’ve stumbled upon is that Frank and I are 30 years into our careers and one day we’d actually like to not be working in our current jobs — we’d like to retire and shift our focus to other passions — maybe not stop working altogether, but to be able to spend our time working for fulfillment rather than a significant paycheck. In order to make that a reality, the cold hard truth is, I need to make some changes.

I am a fan of Dave Ramsey. For those of you familiar, we have been Dave-ish over the last few years. Dave-ish enough to be starting this new year with no debt other than our home, which is out next serious target. We have set forth a plan for the next few years and have committed to each other to follow it and be accountable to each other. Not that we haven’t been in the past, but in a more intentional way beginning now.

One of the things I have been prayerful about is that I need to stop the impulse buying. This morning I have spent way too much time unsubscribing from advertising from some of my favorite stores. I no longer welcome their sales announcements in my inbox. It’s crazy how many ads I get. The other commitment I’ve made to myself is to not surf mid-night.

I’m not a great sleeper. I tend to wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. To occupy my mind I will sometimes click through Facebook and see what I’ve missed in the three hours since I laid my head on a pillow. Silliness. One of the dangers of this I’ve noticed is when there isn’t a lot of people activity (which there just isn’t at 3:00 a.m.) there is a LOT of advertisements. And when I’m both tired AND bored, I have learned that is a dangerous combination. I can’t tell you how much unnecessary click-to-buy I’ve done in the wee hours of the morning.

But here is where God is so good.

I have a planner. An old-fashioned paper planner that I love. It’s called the Prayerful Planner and it gives me space to plan my day, week, month as well as providing a daily scripture passage, an area to record praises, an area for focus on my physical health, important things to tackle for the day, and then a space for a prayer.

I usually start by reading the short scripture at the top of the day, but this morning I had a prayer heavy on my heart and so I immediately set about writing it:

Lord – I praise you and am so thankful for your hand in my life. I am thankful for the clean financial slate Frank and I come into 2022 with and I am asking you to intercede in my habits. To come and fill the Jesus-sized hole in my heart that I continually try to fill with things of no value. Please help me to remember to turn to you when (and before) the impulse to spend is strong. Remind me of the bigger picture an don’t let me be as Eve in the garden — caught in the moment of instant gratification.

Amen

And then I looked up to read the scripture for the day.

It was Hebrews 2:18 — Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (NLT)

I was and am overwhelmed with gratitude for that God wink this morning. I’ve copied that scripture and placed it in places I look to everyday so I can remember that God hears me. That He understands my struggles and desires because He has gone before me, and His sacrifice covers me. I am not alone.

I am excited to start 2022 with this perspective and can’t wait to see all the places I meet God in my life throughout the coming year. I wish the same for you as well.

Happy New Year.

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