Hunting on Thanksgiving

This Thursday, millions of Americans will gather to give thanks. It is a time for reflection and quality time with family. It is a time of celebration and great food. It’s an opportunity to stop and acknowledge all our blessings.

This will be our first Thanksgiving without my Grandmother. It promises to be different. However, my family has survived the loss of my mother. We will also survive the loss of my grandmother. We will go on with our loved ones in our hearts.

This has been a difficult year for me. Of course, I have had financial trouble due to my lack of work. It’s been a tough year emotionally. It’s just been tough all around. Things are hard. Some days it’s hard to find things to be grateful for. Some days I can find something. Other days the mountain of problems is so high that I can’t see anything else. That is my reality right now. So how will I get through Thanksgiving?

For me, the best way to approach Thanksgiving is to go hunting, and I don’t mean hunting for bargains at the money-hungry retailers that will be open. I will approach Thanksgiving with a God Hunt. This is something that a friend recommended to me though she usually uses it with children. Simply put, a God Hunt is looking for ways that God is at work in your life. What good thing has happened to you today? How did God bless you today?

Though I am not a child, I find this exercise useful. When things go wrong it feels like God is on vacation while my life falls apart. When I am on the God hunt, I stop and evaluate each day. I look for the places that God is at work and I thank him for working in my life. Somehow, seeing God at work in my life (in even the smallest of ways) is extremely comforting. It lets me know that he hasn’t abandoned me. It gives me comfort to know that he is still there. More importantly, it gives me hope for the future. Seeing God work in my life today builds a sense of excitement for what he will do next. And sometimes you need that little bit of hope to get through the day.

So this week we pause to thank God for our many blessings. We stop to corporately acknowledge the ways that God is working in our lives. However, Thanksgiving has the added, and often under-appreciated, value of giving us a bit of hope for the future. I hope that this week’s celebration does that for you and those that you love.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Adventures on eBay

In the last month, one thing in particular has helped me to take minimalism to a new level: I have sold purses, old perfume, old jewelry, and even old books on eBay. Setting up an account is really simple.

Find Stuff

Look through your closet, bathroom, dresser or wherever else you keep stuff. Look to see if there’s anything there that you don’t use. Clothes, shoes, beauty products, anything. And don’t rule something out just because it is used. I have sold five bottles of used perfume on eBay. My aunt has sold used shoes. If you are looking to sell, chances are that there’s someone looking to buy. If you don’t want it, put it on eBay and get some cash for it. And a little extra cash is always good.

Set Up Your Account and Set up Your Auction

It is really easy to become a seller on eBay. Within a few minutes, I had registered myself as a seller. It took a bit longer to set up my first auction. There are a few steps involved. The loading of the pictures took the longest. You’ll also want to write an interesting description for your item. Set a price, specify shipping, and publish your post. Simple. And it is even easier with the mobile app. I only use the mobile app now because it is so much faster and easier.

Get Paid

Make sure your PayPal account is linked to your eBay account. You can go in and transfer the money to your checking account. There is an initial probation period. During this time, eBay and PayPal are checking you out, making sure you’re not defrauding people. During this period, it takes about three weeks for funds to clear. Funds clear faster after probation.

As you sell, eBay and PayPal get paid, too. They each charge a small fee for their services.

The Downsides

While eBay has helped me to simplify and make some extra cash (enough to pay student loans last month!), there are some downsides. The first is the constant running to the post office. I actually went to the post office twice today. It takes time out of your day to drive to the post office, stand in line, buy postage, and drive back home. This is time that could be spent writing, doing yoga, or doing laundry.

Another downside is that listing things on eBay can take time. Depending on how much you want to list, you could spend hours putting stuff on eBay. I have gotten faster, but it still takes about 7-10 minutes per item.

There is also packaging to consider. I am constantly going to buy bubble envelopes, boxes, and bubble wrap. I am always scouring the house for a box or newspaper to ship things in. Shipping supplies also cost money. This has to be figured into the cost of the item and whatever you charge for shipping.

Overall, selling on eBay has been a very good thing for me. There are some drawbacks, but I feel that the positives outweigh the negatives. If you have things you don’t need and wouldn’t mind having a little extra cash, consider using eBay to help you simplify.

What Happens After You Purge?

You’ve gone through your things. You’ve determined what to keep and what to part with. You know what things have to go. But what will you do with them? Here are a few ideas for those things that don’t make the cut:

Give it away. There is a good chance that someone could use the things you no longer need. Do you know a mom that needs kids clothes? Does your church distribute food or clothing? Do you live near a Goodwill or Salvation Army? There are may ways to give to people in need. That sweater you never wear could really be a blessing to someone else.

Sell it. Similarly, there are many places to sell your stuff. There are lots of consignment boutiques that will sell your things for you and give you a portion of the proceeds. I recently discovered the joy of selling on eBay. It’s pretty simple to set up and account and start selling. If you prefer something more immediate you could host a garage sale — alone or with neighbors. You could also sell things on Craigslist. If you want to sell, chances are, someone is looking to buy. And it never hurts to get some extra cash.

Barter it. Bartering is gaining popularity. It’s alternative to buying. It is a way to get something you need and get rid of something you don’t. And bartering is not limited to goods. You can barter services as well. Maybe you need a Powerpoint presentation made and a friend needs your books from last semester. Each of your needs could be met with a simple barter.

Toss it. If you can’t donate it, sell it, or barter it, you may have to trash it. Some things are fit only for the trash. You shouldn’t feel bad for putting these things in their rightful place. Recycle when you can. When you can’t, toss it.

Yes, purging is difficult. Not only do you have to decide what you don’t need, but you also have to decide what to do with the items you are parting with. Thankfully, we have options. And with a little patience and creativity, you may even be able to get something in exchange for the things you don’t need. See? Purging is good for everyone.


Greetings From Green Lake

Greetings from Green Lake, Wisconsin!

I am here at the Midwest-North Regional Vineyard Conference. This is the first night and I am really enjoying myself. I have high hopes for the remaining sessions.
This is a time for leaders of Midwestern Vineyard churches to pull back and focus on what God has for us. The organizers have built in time for reflection and have given us questions to aid in our reflection.
The structure of this conference is differtent from any conference I have ever been to. Usually, conferences are times of rushing from one session to another with hardly a minute in between.  Usually, conferences leave me exhausted.
This one is different. Each session ends with time for reflection. We have a nice break tomorrow. The organizers stress the importance of stillness. I am learning that taking time to spend with God away from the frantic activity of life is key.
Jesus knew this well. Luke 5:16 say a that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” We know that Jesus did this and that he had a thriving ministry and a close connection with the Father. We see how Jesus benefitted from pulling away.
Somehow, we have forgotten the importance of solitude and reflection. Many of us recognize that this was important, even essential, for Jesus. However, two thousand years later many of us fail to see their relevance in our harried lives and overcrowded schedules. Jesus needed solitude and reflection. We need them just as badly.
Take time to get alone with God. See what happens. The heavens may not split for you (but then again, they may) but it will be surprisingly restorative. Try it. I think you’ll come back for more.