Shoes and Other Stuff


Three weeks ago, a pile of shoes in front of my dresser caught my attention: three pair of Converse, one Asics, one Mudd, and a Skechers. I snapped a picture, knowing that at some point I’d feel compelled to confess to you my leanings toward materialism.

Oh, goodie—today is that day.

See, today is the first day of the season of Lent—the 40 days leading up to Easter (minus Sundays, which would require a tangential explanation from which I’ll refrain). If you don’t identify as Christian, this likely means absolutely nothing to you. Take heart: The same is true of a significant percentage of churchy folks—including me, until fairly recently.

During Lent, Christians are encouraged to give up something—in solidarity with Jesus’ suffering and as a way of being more mindful of Him as we prepare to celebrate Easter. We’re supposed to deny ourselves in the same way Jesus denied Himself.  Alternatively, one could take on something, rather than give up something: reading Scripture, for example, or doing random acts of kindness. In short, we should remove something that distracts us from our relationship with Jesus and our desire to live more like He did, or we should add something to deepen the relationship and support living differently.

Confession: My Lenten resolutions typically have nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with kick-starting a diet plan. Down with M&Ms and Diet Coke and up with water, trips to the gym, and raw food. I’ve failed miserably every year—at both the diet plan and the Jesus bit.

This morning, I woke up thinking about my pile of shoes. And then I started thinking about how pissed off I am about homelessness. And then I started thinking about how Jesus would have something to say about how I’m supposedly pissed off about homelessness, yet I have a finished, 1500-square-foot basement that’s unoccupied most of the time—except for the four hours each month when I host a group at my house to talk about homelessness. And then I started thinking about Lent.

And then I started feeling nauseous, because it’s perfectly clear what my Lent thing needs to be: Until Easter, I’m not going to buy “anything.” I’ll get to the air-quotes in a second, but let me first explain why this makes sense.

I spend several hours each month at The Bridge, a place in the city that cares for folks without homes. I also spend some time with Bridge Bread, a social entrepreneurship program that employees homeless people, and Home First, a grassroots organization that’s ending homelessness through—get this—housing people. I have ridiculous dreams about developing tiny home communities and creating mobile laundromats and turning buses into showers on wheels. Aside from passion, you know what those sorts of endeavors require? Time and money.

Well, I spend a lot of time and money buying stuff and taking care of that stuff. Jesus spent His time taking care of people. You see where this is going?

Jack and I have talked about significantly downsizing our home and possessions to release some resources to do what Scripture says: Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. Living in—and with—less will create space in our heads, wallets, and calendars to do exactly that. The trouble is, we just keep talking about it instead of doing it because we have so much junk cluttering us up. At some point—soon—we’re going to start purging our stuff, right-sizing our possessions for a much smaller living space. But first, I need to stop bringing in new things.

So we’re back to this: Until Easter, for the purpose of denying myself as Jesus instructs and to release resources that will allow me to live differently, I’m not going to spend money on “anything.” The air-quotes are essential due to necessary exceptions:

  • food, but only from a grocery store
  • personal care products (toothpaste, TP, and so on) (This includes mascara. It’s necessary. Trust me.)
  • cleaning products
  • fuel, bills, and sundry unavoidable grownup responsibilities
  • pet care (I’ll bathe them, but I’m not about the anal glands, teeth, and nails.)
  • gifts for other people

When I reached this decision at 6:20 this morning, I immediately had a temper tantrum. You see, I’m preaching in two weeks and I’m teaching at a conference the week after that, and those types of occasions have, in the past, required Outfits. And now it’s too late. I’m going to have to wear something I already own. Horrors.

In addition, I’m going to keep track of what I wanted to buy but didn’t—and the amount of money I saved as a result. I’ll share that total—which is sure to be horrifying—on Easter. Today, I saved $16 by not buying a soda, not eating at BreadCo during our staff meeting, and not giving in to my craving for a latte.

Finally, I may, on occasion, look to you people to help me decide if an exception is truly “necessary.” And that’s why I’m writing this post at all: accountability. Scripture tells us not to be all boastful and woe-is-me-ish when we’re fasting; we’re supposed to do this type of thing in secret. I talked with my boss/pastor about that today, and he agreed that it’s a heart issue. I’m not putting my Lenten resolution out there so you can admire my bravery and sacrifice. I’m putting it out there because I need you to sound an alarm if you see me in line at Target with anything but dog food, toilet paper, milk, and window cleaner. I’ll be equipping you all with tasers in the next week.

So that’s it: That’s how a photo of too many shoes is going to solve homelessness. Through Lent.

(I’d love to hear your give-up or take-on for Lent if you have ’em, and I promise I won’t judge if it’s related to eating habits. For some people that is a significant issue and a good thing to tackle during Lent. It just wasn’t for me.)


  1. Cindy   •  

    I suggest NOT going to Target. At all. No one can walk in and out of there with only the necessities. I worked there from 16-20. I’m pretty sure they even write off their wages as investments as I’m certain that I rarely walked away even while I worked there not to mention paying in back infinity-fold since.

    I still haven’t decided on lent, and now it’s 22:30 hours in to the first day and I’m limited to what I haven’t done yet today or what I can start doing in my PJs in bed…

    • Kelley   •     Author

      True story. Target is the devil. A really shiny one.

      Did you decide? That list you posted on FB was fabulous.

      • Cindy   •  

        I landed on overall distractive negativity. I’m making an effort to reject those thoughts that elicit fear, worry, etc that place doubt on God and not to allow them any traction.

        I also think I’m going to post some kind of inspirational song on FB everyday sort of along the same effort. Music speaks to me.

        • Kelley   •     Author

          I’ve seen your song posts on FB. Sooooo, how’s the avoiding distractive negativity thing going?

          • Cindy   •  

            It would help if I picked a song in the morning and focused on it when I’m struggling with negativity throughout the day, so far the songs have been more reflective than proactive….I’ll try to be better…this actually may be next year’s lent: make time with God first thing instead of lamenting my failures at the end of the day.

            How’s Target avoidance?

          • Kelley   •     Author

            Oh, that’s a good plan! And Target avoidance is going fine so far! I’ve become very aware of how often I want to stop at QT for a soda . . .

  2. Dru   •  

    Funny that you are giving up shopping. Last week I was trying to figure out what I should give up also. Really couldn’t come up with anything until Monday when I bought 4 lovely tops brought them home and realized why in the heck did I think I needed these. Yep that is a must for me, no shopping for myself for lent. I’m not going as far as you though. As we go out to dinner with friends at leat twice a week while we are in Florida. It will be hard not buying something thought as us ladies always make a weekly trip somewhere with plenty of thins to buy. Best of luck and Goda grace to you during Lent!!

  3. Dru   •  

    Lol, I need to proof read before posting. Spellcheck thinks it knows what I want to say!!!

    • Kelley   •     Author

      Ha! I knew what you were saying. And believe me, not eating out is going to be BRUTAL. I like the way you phrased it better – it’s simpler, and certainly gets to the heart of what I’m trying to do: “No shopping for myself.”

  4. Teresa   •  

    Have you read, Seven, by Jen Hatmaker? If not, it will totally blend beautifully with your Lenten fast. I’d highly recommend!

    • Kelley   •     Author

      Yep – a couple of years ago. I remember thinking she was out of her mind. 🙂

  5. Deb   •  

    My give up is television. It is taking up my entire life lately. Every time I want to turn it on, I remember to focus on God and spending more time in his word. Its REALLY hard! I’m off work at 10 in the evening and to wind down before bed I usually turn on the tube, fall asleep on the couch then wake up several hours later thinking, why didn’t I spend a little time with my bible.
    So thats my give up. The first week in march will be especially difficult as thats when the new season starts on several of my shows.

    • Kelley   •     Author

      How’s it going so far, Deb?

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