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Dana Byers | Minimalist & Church Online Thought Leader

Give Words as Gifts

Give Words as Gifts

Recently my son was given the opportunity to ask his teacher anything.  We moved over the summer so he’s at a new school and – though rather outgoing – I anticipated he’d write down that he was nervous or would ask his teacher for things like a longer lunch or recess.  To my surprise, he poured his little heart out on paper.  He acknowledged gifts in her she may not have known were on display to the children in her class.  Blake offered encouragement and thanks.

Words are some of the best gifts a minimalist can provide, and they’re often overlooked when our wealthy culture seeks to buy items to show gratitude. Whom do you know who loves his or her job but could use your kind words more than anything else?

(Pssst..if words aren’t quite what you have in mind, try any of these minimalist gift ideas.)

 

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

I Don’t Know: Running For More Than The Bus (guest post)

Jason Ewart

FORMER OBESE GUY RUNNING OUT OF HIS COMFORT ZONE

Hi! My name is Jason Ewart. I was fortunate to have my friend Dana contribute to my first book “Overcoming Obesity & Debt”.

This week I share with you the launch of my next book:

“I Don’t Know: Running For More Than The Bus”

(video trailer: http://animoto.com/play/GJrrliCR0Cj5FR1RqVyJuA )

This book is all about the unfamiliar, the uncertain, potential & possibility. I hope it stirs you for your next pursuit!

Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, USA and author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Circle Maker says this about my new book:

“Jason Ewart’s next book I DON’T KNOW takes us out on a run with him along an adventure trail of possibility and potential. He encourages the reader in their next steps. Read it, share it, run!”

Here is a sample for you:

“Running. That was only for taps or so I thought. Just over 5 years earlier I had overcome obesity with a daily diet of grind it out discipline, new thoughts and fresh fuel. My family helped me take on this unfamiliar journey and I was reluctant to add exercise to the mix. During weight loss, my bride encouraged me to do some exercise with her in the yard. I stumbled my way through what were generously called “sprints” to the fence and back. I decided there that exercise would not be in my obesity obliteration journey and I would save my attempts at running for times when I was late for the bus. Six months on, running for the bus with a new body was a pleasant surprise. I was actually moving and I didn’t feel like I would die. Granted it was a short distance yet it was a very different feel.

Never say never? I decided to embrace the uncertainty and lean in for the new adventure. This was not hard, it was unfamiliar so I looked for someone who was familiar with running, had proven results and the heart of a teacher. My friend, Jason Harper, ran 100 miles in 40 degree plus heat to raise funding of healthcare for inner city schoolkids in California. Added to that, he had trained approx 500 runners to complete their chosen races and they have a 100% finish rate. I joined the dots on that. I needed Jharp in my proximity so I joined his BeChange team! He emailed me a training program and we chatted by phone about all things running-mindset, nutrition, icing, shoes etc. If I would commit we would finish a race.

With a compelling WHY you can find the how.

I had visited the kids at the BeChange run club at Oak Ridge Elementary and was moved by the changes taking place. We discussed the idea of running for a cause and Jason Harper encouraged me to find my own down under.

I was sitting in a “social justice” session at Hillsong Conference listening to a panel which included A21 Campaign’s Christine Caine, a lawyer and a Salvation Army Officer.

I was hearing what could be in a movie yet is real. I was hearing what had ended a long time ago yet it didn’t.
Human trafficking. Slavery.
Stories representing real people, many of them young girls.
As a father, I was gripped with this reality: “that young girl is somebody’s daughter”.

A compelling WHY. Now there was only one option as Jason Harper reminded me: “Finish”.

My books are available from my Amazon Author page (http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Ewart/e/B0097WZ9SK )

Dealing hope

Jason Ewart
@jasonewart
bit.ly/JasonEwart
www.idontknowbook.com

Share What You Have For Huge Dividends

Last week I was reminded that my life counts. I had the special opportunity to meet a pastor into whom our non-profit and my local church have invested. He told me that our time, prayers, support, and financial aid are making a global impact among the Spanish-speaking population.  Wow.

My hope is to share this carefully so that no one thinks this is me patting myself on the back.  I’m not a millionaire, I’m not a model, and I sure as heck have room to improve as a leader. Living an amazing life of cutting back in areas that don’t count and investing all I have into what I value is what makes experiences like mine with Carlos more common (and yet always incredible!) than I can express. So no – this isn’t bragging. This is me sharing my story as a means of asking you to give it a try.

Asking myself one question over and over in life has afforded me opportunities and non-financial dividends (the kind that really count!) that I value more than almost anything.

ASK YOURSELF: WHAT DO I HAVE THAT I CAN SHARE?

Here are things that have passed through our family’s life (due to being in the place God asked us to go, or as a result of fostering relationships to expand causes we care about) which turned out to be intended for sharing:

* an extra room in our home

* a vehicle

* a spot in our family for adoption

* a financial gift (placed in our hands, meant for use by another)

* a platform

* free downloads

Look around you.  Abundance is everywhere in your life.  What do you have to share?

Everyone impacted by your generous lifestyle is paid huge dividends. Start sharing!

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

 

 

How I Climbed Out From Under A Busy Schedule

Busy Schedule?

Saturday is typically our family’s day of rest.  Chris and I take turns going for a run after our morning prayer time, and our kids get to stay in PJs as long as they want to.  Not so this past weekend…

We had no specific place to go upon waking and were able to sleep in until around 8am, but when I awoke I was greeted with a messy kitchen and a to-do list that I swear was being fed Miracle-Gro. Has this ever happened to you? (Dumb question.  Of course it has.)

The frustration I faced was that nothing on my list felt unnecessary. I’d not been guilted into serving on a boring committee.  There was no dread in my heart about any of the tasks ahead.  I have a simple laundry process but it still had to be done. We have a minimal amount of dishes but they still became dirty. I exercise to feel well. And spending time with my family is a no-brainer!

In my opinion, the minimalist approach to a schedule is to focus on a few key things and let the rest wait or say no to the opportunities. To determine what should stay or go, I created a mind map to get all my thoughts gathered in one place.  Then I attacked the list to get a good feeling for how and where I needed to act. Here are the specific solutions I came up with:

* My kids’ laundry needed to be done. I gave them the option to do it on their own or stink.  (They made the right choice and I discovered my kids can do laundry. WIN!)

* I identified the “must-haves” for my weekend and wrote down when they’d happen. (Family time would be dinner while watching a football game on TV together after church on Saturday night. Chris and I would have a dinner date Sunday evening.)

* One item on my task list that I’m eager to dive into is a magazine article I’m working on.  I had to admit, however, that the deadline on it isn’t pressing so I deferred it until I have time alone to write on an airplane next week.

* My daughter had a birthday party to attend and my son would be playing with neighbors, so that became the ideal time to get some time to myself. (I admit I feel guilty sometimes when I take time to be alone, and it tends to be the first thing to go when my schedule fills up.)

* I moved the non-emergency items to Sunday afternoon to get done before our date: sweep the floors, write next week’s menu, and place an order with Whole Foods shopping service for Chris to pick up next week.

* I let the dishes wait and got to work on writing 3 blog posts.  The dishes would have to wait until after the posts were out of my heart and scheduled on this blog.

* Exercise would be my reward after completing my 3 blog posts. Writing isn’t stressful per se, but going for a run after writing helped me make the transition from computing time to relational time at church and with my family.

Result: Though I’m an advocate for saying no regularly, I was amazed to learn I didn’t have to say no to any of these tasks and was able to still have time for myself and my family.

If you find your schedule is in dire straits, check this out: Choosing What to Axe from Your To-Do List

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Recipe: Gluten Free & Vegan Breakfast

Recipe: Sriracha Tofu Scramble

I don’t have a lot of recipes that are both gluten free and vegan to classify among my favorites.  But I think this one tastes excellent.

First, the behind-the-scenes story…

I like to do things according to plan, so I naturally married someone who doesn’t operate exactly the same way.  His creativity truly paid off last week in our kitchen!  I could hear Chris looking through the cabinets and opening and closing our fridge doors.  He was hungry and wanted something different, I think.  I’m so glad he made the effort because the outcome was my favorite new gluten free and vegan breakfast food!

Now, the delicious result!

Sriracha Tofu Scramble

1 package firm tofu, drained
1 Tbl oil
Sriracha Sauce (pictured)
5-8 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Salsa

Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. Slice the tofu into strips or cube it; toss it into the warm skillet. Squeeze Sriracha sauce over the tofu to taste. Stir up the tofu and Sriracha in the skillet until it begins to crumble.  Add the cherry tomatoes and salsa, simmer on low to medium heat for 10 minutes.  The longer you cook it, the more the tofu will take on the flavors.

Enjoy!

Here are some other resources for you:

Gluten Free Goodness (my board on Pinterest)

My Gluten Free Weight Gain (and Loss)

Striving’s Overrated: Health

Gluten Free Crock Pot BBQ Chicken

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

 

Jewelry: How to Create A Minimalist Collection

Didn't you just wear that necklace yesterday? Said no one to me. Ever.

Just the other day I alluded to my jewelry collection being out of control. This might sound crazy to you, but jewelry seems to multiply when I’m not looking.

I used to use a jewelry box to store my collection but failed to keep things in order since I could shut the lid and let the tangled items wait until I needed them (ie postponing stress for a later date.) When we lived a mobile lifestyle overseas (see which jewelry I take when I travel), I found it exhilarating to keep only my favorite jewelry pieces on hand in a small velvet pouch.  Now I have a jewelry tree to hang my necklaces and bracelets on and a ceramic dish for tossing earrings inside.

Just like with our clothing, the 80/20 rule applies to jewelry. We wear 20% of the jewelry we own 80% of the time. Take time to determine which of those pieces are in your top 20%.

—> Got your remaining 80% out and ready? Apply the following questions to this group of items so you know what to do with them. When you’re done, you’ll have a minimal jewelry collection to save you time each day.

Your Goal: Don’t keep the pieces in your 80% unless they meet one of the criteria below.

1) Are they Grandmother’s diamonds? No question! Keep it. (Grandma’s broken costume jewelry, on the other hand, can go.)

2) Save 1 or 2 special occasion sets from this 80% (earrings, necklaces, and/or bracelets) for formal events or funerals. You don’t need more than these. Really.

3) Set aside those pieces you estimate you’ve not used for 6 months or more. I encourage you to toss, donate, or sell them via local consignment or online. (If you aren’t ready to do so, store it out of sight and put a reminder on your phone to revisit the decision in 6 months.  If you’ve not worn it at that time, get rid of it. I don’t suggest this long-term approach for many items, but jewelry is small enough and can carry high emotional value, so it might help you in this case.)

4) Does the jewelry need repair? If you’re willing to invest money in it, get the repair done ASAP. Otherwise, it’s merely clutter you can toss.

5) Keep 1 or 2 nice (ie “won’t tarnish”) pairs of hoop earrings or small posts, like pearls. (Don’t have any? Add this to your minimalist gift list of things you will truly use. I didn’t have any and asked for some last Mother’s Day. Chris really wow’ed me! I wear my Coach hoops a lot and they are of great quality.)

6) Leave room in your collection for a handful of seasonal items. Keep a few of those you have or pass them along to be replaced. I typically use some of my monthly blow money to buy 1 or 2 bracelets or necklaces each season that are fun and add color to my existing minimalist closet’s wardrobe. They cost less than most clothing items which – when mixed and matched – look like a whole new outfit with a colorful piece of jewelry as its accent.

Your newfound tidy – and tiny! – jewelry collection will bring a sense of calm to your morning routine. Nice work!

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

 

Don’t Get Organized…Minimize!

Don't Get Organized...Minimize!

A lot of people tell me that I take a minimalist perspective on things because I found a way to get organized.  I disagree and will prove that I am not necessarily organized though I take a minimalist approach to much of my life.

Here are the facts about this so-called “organized” Dana:

I make messes.

I let items pile up and need to declutter them. (Ahem, jewelry collection on my closet shelf…)

My sink sometimes gets loaded up with dirty dishes.

Our coffee table begs me to leave my empty water glass on it when I go to bed at night.

The free and clear kitchen counter lures me to dump mail and school papers there to remain untouched for 24 hours or more.

In my opinion, I appear organized because I don’t own a lot of junk. And let’s be honest – the goal isn’t to appear to be anything.  My goal is simply to have less so there’s less to manage. If you’re always trying to get organized, you’ll always have a mess to clean up. If you minimize, you save hours of work and effort to enjoy what matters most in life.

The way I see it, you and I have two choices:

A) Organize a lot of stuff and spend time putting it away every day.

- OR -

B) Take care only of the items you most need or enjoy.

I’m a “B” girl.  Who’s with me?!?

 

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Break Free From Couponing! 8 Great Alternatives

Break Free from Couponing! 709789_thumbnail

Just a few days ago I shared why I quit couponing.  Many more people contacted me about and shared this post than I expected.  While some of you are pleased with your couponing experience, others of you acknowledge it can become a form of attempting to control things. You might fear not having enough money, so having 10 boxes of Mac & Cheese in the pantry provides false security. I can tell that a lot of you want to break free from the drudgery of clipping coupons, but you feel trapped.  When I used to coupon, I remember going so far as to feel anxious or frustrated when the items I wanted to buy weren’t in stock or arrive home from a shopping trip to realize I’d forgotten to take advantage of some limited time “savings”.  It truly can be a vicious cycle if you feel trapped trying to “save” money.

My heart goes out to you because your motive is to be a good steward of your income, yet couponing drives you crazy. This is not an attack on couponing or the people who do it, rather it’s an attack on the accumulation practices that can accompany couponing. To help, I’d like to answer some of the questions that came my way and give you some very specific alternatives (some of which I’ve personally done) to couponing.

Q) Dana, do you go so far as to keep only one of your everyday household items or food on hand?

A) Not at all.  I sincerely discourage the practice of buying 10 ketchup bottles for $10, but because my husband travels every other week and I’m committed to avoiding the need to shop during the work week, our family keeps 2-3 of our basic toiletries on hand at all times. If we run out of something, we get a replacement off the shelf and I add the item to my smart phone Notes app for next weekend’s grocery list.

Q) Is “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” a good option?

A) It is if you’ll use all three of the items up in less than a month.  I’ve discovered that cleaning items, toiletries, or pantry goods that sit around on my shelves longer than 3-4 weeks are rarely used.

Q) I understand your opinion on couponing but feel there’s no other way for me to make ends meet.

A) That could be true.  But isn’t it possible that your valuable time could be used in such a way that brings in as much as (or more!) money than you’re trying to scrimp and save out of clipping dozens of coupons for items or brands you truly don’t want?

Here are some specific ways you can stop the frustration of couponing and enjoy making ends meet for your family:

  1. If you’re crafty, enjoy the hours you spend on your craft (instead of clipping stacks of coupons and roaming the store looking for just the right brand your coupon demands while placating the cranky toddler in your cart). Sell the goods you create on Etsy or give them as gifts instead of buying new items.
  2. Do you love photography? I know people who schedule 1 event per month and make as much as I was able to save couponing every week of the month combined!
  3. If you’re a blogger, consider monetizing your blog. Michael Hyatt’s post can get you started on the right track.
  4. Self-publish a book. This is truly rewarding because what you write can help others! When I self-published my first book in 2011, I found the process so rewarding in itself that I have it away free for a year then began selling it on Amazon a few months ago. It’s now earning passive income for our family.
  5. Babysit 1 night each month to earn money. Or swap 1 night a month with friends to watch their kids and they can watch yours. This won’t affect your grocery budget directly, but it will save you a lot of money in babysitter costs.
  6. Schedule 2 garage sales each year: I suggest Summer and Fall. A well-planned yet simple preparation process will not take much time and can bring in a great amount of money.  (Read about our family’s most recent garage sale here.)
  7. Create a firm meal plan and use either grocery delivery or stick to the list when you shop.  This will truly keep you from going overboard on the grocery budget and can save you a surprising amount of money.
  8. Limit eating out. Just last week our family returned to eating out only once a week (which is a practice I’m sorry to say we’d failed to continue after our cross-country move in July). Chris and I were shocked to discover that we had $200 extra dollars when we were intentional about where our food money was going. We don’t spend that much money on eating out, but being more mindful of this habit helped us take notice of other “leaks” in our spending.
Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Why I Quit Couponing

My tiny London kitchen: no room for couponing here!

I used to be a legit couponer. At the time, I was at home full time with my oldest child and my husband’s income was about 50% of what it is today. I became so adept at the practice that I was that annoying person no one wants to be in line behind when she’s checking out at the market due to my possession of many coupons and a lot of items to scan and load. I began keeping track of how much money I was saving as an alternative to the $0 salary I was bringing in at the time. Highlighting our savings on receipts and showing them to my husband became a source of personal pride for me.

Then I moved overseas.

1) I couldn’t take all those items I’d been saving money on with me. One does not simply pack 12 tubes of toothpaste or 6 boxes of cereal, and she certainly wouldn’t be wise to pay to move or ship said items.

2) In Europe we ate less and ate simpler. Our family was no longer consuming the pre-packaged foods that are most often have coupons available in the Sunday papers. Coupons weren’t available for the fresh fruit and produce available in our local market. My new routine became picking up items at the store for the evening’s dinner on my way to walk and get the kids at school.

3) There was no room to accumulate. My kitchen was about 7′ in length x 4′ wide. We had one cabinet to store pantry items and a euro-sized fridge that was about 4′ tall including 3 shelves inside and a small freezer below. Our sink, stove, and washing machine were all in this tiny space. If I’d chosen to live out the American values of never running out of anything and having plenty on hand, I would’ve had to resort to using up the open space in our home for storage.

My fridge in London taught me not to accumulate items “just in case”.

4) For those of you who took college accounting courses, you’re familiar with the FIFO practice – First In, First Out. In America, I accumulated canned goods and freezer goods to the point that I could pass on using the ones that weren’t appealing. When practicing FIFO, we eat what we have before adding more to the mix. If I bring a dozen bananas home from the grocery today, it’d better be because I’m running low and our family will consume the new ones in the week to come.

5) No matter which countries I’ve lived and traveled in, I’ve realized I’m uncomfortable keeping extras of nearly anything around. Even though I’d saved us thousands of dollars on items we’d “eventually” use, they were often not used or of much value overall. The main thing I had to show for the “savings” were cabinets overflowing with “just in case” items.

6) We had no income and were living on our personal savings when we moved overseas. Adopting this lifestyle forced me to realize that, back when we’d had my husband’s salary I never felt it was enough and was trying to squeeze all I could out of it by couponing. When we had no true income in Europe but I stopped couponing, I began to see what we had as enough.

Now that we’re back in America, I’ve taken my couponing lessons and experience and applied them to my preferred method of grocery shopping. The images in this post are screenshots taken from a video our family filmed of a decluttering project we did in our London home.  If you’d like to see the video (and our results), click here.

If you’re an avid couponer, I encourage you to ask yourself whether the financial savings you’re gaining and the time you’re spending truly outweigh the resulting clutter and accumulation that this practice creates.

Ready to drop the scissors and stop clipping? No problem! Try these 8 Alternatives to Couponing.

 

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

How to Declutter Your Office: Before & After Pics

Would you like to know how to declutter your office? I can give you a very recent and personal example. Remember yesterday when I said the minimalist perspective isn’t for everyone, maybe even your spouse? Well, that’s still true.

But I had a cool opportunity to put my passion to good use when my husband texted me the other day to say he was feeling cramped in our home office.  I’ve posted pics on Facebook before about how the shelving in our rental home is a frustration to us because they look odd empty and we don’t want to fill them up.  Chris has always been supportive in approaching things with a minimalist mindset, and he’d had enough and invited me to minimize some clutter for a more peaceful work environment.  It was time to have a decluttered office!

Here’s a BEFORE pic:

As you can see, it wasn’t horrible.  I think the fact that much of the rest of our home is more peaceful feeling is what made the office feel even less so. The main issue was that, with unnecessary items hanging around, the environment wasn’t comfortable to work in.

My approach was simple and took about 45 minutes.

1) Clear off all the shelves.

2) Put the unnecessary shelves under our guest bed.

3) Remove the second chair (not shown), the second in/out box tray set, and the smaller framed photos (which felt too small for the scale of the wall unit).

4) Only add back what is needed. In this case it was a printer, monitor, laptop, phone, and a chair.  A few decorative items were left to add color.

Here’s the AFTER pic:

I believe our environments can positively or negatively affect our creativity.  Until this week I’ve avoided doing work in the office, and yet I happen to be typing in this very office right now due largely in part to the fact that the room is now much more peaceful.

 

 

 

 

 

What could you remove from your office today to make for a more enjoyable work experience?

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

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