$25/7 Week Challenge

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If we are honest with ourselves, we can all admit that we each have areas of personal indulgence.  For those of you who know me, you know that this girl LOVES her wine!  Working mostly nights and weekends, going out is not where I usually indulge, but rather in the quiet of my own home.  At home with wine is where I can enjoy sweet silence, the comfort of my couch or back porch, and sometimes the company of family and friends!   Several weekly trips to the grocery store usually includes a bottle of wine with each purchase.  I do not have an expensive palate (especially when it’s my money), so usually a $9 bottle will more than satisfy.

After our discussion of Chapter Six: Spending, from Jen Hatmaker’s book, Seven:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I was challenged to take a look at my spending habits.  I have combed through my bank statements and examined what vendors are getting my money on a weekly, monthly, or even daily basis?  I have taken note of how much of my money is being spent on necessary expenses (i.e. mortgage, electric, insurance, etc.), how much money is being spent on myself, and how much money is being spent on others.  Whoa!  This was an uncomfortable exercise!

What I discovered is that while I tout loving my neighbor as myself, my money would suggest something different.  Yikes!  Matthew 6:21 tells us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  If I say my heart is for my community or those in need, then why does my checkbook suggest otherwise?  Our money shouts volumes to our priorities, our passions, and yes, our indulgences!

For the next 7 weeks, I have decided to put my money where my mouth is, literally!  I am committing to reallocating $25 of my weekly “wine money” to meeting needs in my own community.  It’s not that I will be spending more money, it’s that I will be sacrificing a want in my own life to meet a real need in the life of someone else.  Perhaps that money will fill up someone’s gas tank, put a hot meal on a family’s table, assist with an electric bill, or make Christmas a little more special for someone?  I don’t know what the next 7 weeks will hold, but I can hardly contain my excitement!

I am inviting YOU, YOUR friends, and YOUR family to take the challenge with me.  If only even 5 of you commit to $25 a week, that means $875 in met needs!  10 participants would equal $1750!  Can you begin to imagine the impact exponentially if we decided collectively to scale back on our wants to increase our giving out?  A 7 week sacrifice of Starbucks, drinks with friends, lunch on the go, yet another pair of shoes, or dinner out could be relief, assistance, or the needed encouragement that pushes someone forward to the next day!  The potential for blessing only grows with each commitment!

If you want to participate, please respond via the website, Facebook, email ashley.vass@gmail.com, or call/text 301.848.3209.

This time of year is classically known as the “season of giving”.  What a beautiful way to celebrate the season by saying no to yourself, so that you can say yes to someone else!  Together we can make a HUGE impact!

$25/7 Week Challenge.  What story will you write with your sacrifice?

Chapter 1 Challenge & Chapter 2 Invitation

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Jen Hatmaker, in her book, Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, identifies seven areas of over indulgence in her own life and over a seven month period, takes a challenging look at each one.  Each chapter represents another area of excess she chooses to address with a fast.  A fast is simply defined as an intentional reduction or a deliberate abstinence.  Fasting assists us in offering ourselves by taking our comforts, our routines, our selfish indulgences, in short, ourselves, off of high center.  As a result, fasting heightens our sensitivity, our awareness, and creates margins in our life, margins of time, resources, and emotional/spiritual thoughts and energy.

Hatmaker begins her mutiny against excess with food!  Month one, she allows herself only the option of eating 7 foods!  Uhhhh, talk about major reduction here!  Her candid and very honest writing style bring you face to face with her daily struggles, her intimate moments of conviction, her sweet victories, and her life changing realizations.

Over the next few months, we will be identifying our own areas of excess and along with our reading, we will be creating our own individual seven-day fasts that correspond with Hatmaker’s targeted areas.  During our first meeting, we discussed food, asked ourselves some challenging questions, and explored alternative fasting options in this category.  Much discussion centered around food and lifestyle and which influences the other.  For most of us, we realized that our lifestyle influences our food choice.  YIKES!

Some creative fasts we discussed included:

  • Cutting out seven ingredients (i.e. Caffeine, Sugar, White Flour, etc.)
  • Eating no fast food or processed food
  • Eating the same simple breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day
  • Eliminating seven go-to foods
  • Eating only what is currently in our pantry, fridge, and freezer
  • Fasting from one meal every day

For each 7 day challenge, we will ask ourselves the following questions:

  •  Overall, how do you feel about the fast?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • What did you notice about your habits?
  • What was difficult?
  • What was surprising?
  • Were there any breakthroughs?
  • Were there any disappointments?
  • What will you take away?

If you were not able to join us last time, or even if you will only be able to attend a few meetings, please mark your calendars to join us when you can!  In preparation for our next meeting, you will need to read Chapter 2, Month 2: Clothes.  If you are a note taker, take notes.  If you are a journalist, journal.  If you are an internal processor, process away.  If you are an artist, create.  And bring it all to share with the group next Monday!  We will discuss our first 7 day fast, what we have learned, what has challenged us, and what has inspired us.

Our next meeting will be Monday, September 23rd, at 6pm. We will be meeting at 6pm at 16300 Alba Street (Township Community Center just past the dog park).  Drinks and snacks will be provided!  Anyone is welcome!  Please feel free to invite family, friends, and neighbors!  If you have any questions or need any additional information, please contact Ashley via Facebook, email or phone, 301.848.3209.

Can’t wait for next time!

Seven Club…Sept 9th!

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Ever thought about joining a Book Club?  Here’s your chance!  Beginning next Monday, September 9th, i Grow Lemont will start their first Book Club!  Unlike traditional book clubs, we will not be reading a whole book and then meeting to discuss.  Let’s be honest, most of us don’t have that kind of time these days!?  Instead, we will meet once every other week and discuss only ONE chapter at a time!  That means we all have 2 weeks in between to read just ONE chapter.  So if you were thinking, “I won’t have time,” rethink it!  This is very manageable!  This format will also afford us the opportunity to really get to know one another and give us all time to process and apply what we have just read.

In preparation for next week you will need to read the Introduction along with Chapter 1.  If you are a note taker, take notes.  If you are a journalist, journal.  If you are an internal processor, process away.  If you are an artist, create.  And bring it all to share with the group next Monday!  When we meet, we will discuss what we have learned, what has challenged us, and what has inspired us.

We will be meeting at 6pm at 16300 Alba Street (Township Community Center just past the dog park).  Drinks and snacks will be provided!  Our group is 15 people and still growing!  Anyone is welcome!  Please feel free to invite family, friends, and neighbors!  If you have any questions or need any additional information, please contact Ashley via Facebook, email or phone, 301.848.3209.

Excited for the journey before us!  See you next Monday!

Letting the Seeds Surprise You…

I have always been fascinated by seeds and the knowledge that something so small can later yield something so big!  This year, I planted new seeds to include gourds, watermelon, winter squash, cantaloupe, cucumbers, corn, and pumpkins!  We planted late, in a field that doesn’t have the best soil, and also has no means of irrigation except for the good Lord.  It truly was a role of the dice!  I was prepared for the worst, the possibility of no yield.  I was hopeful for a miracle, that the field would produce a great harvest.  If nothing grew, the only thing wasted would have been a little (okay a lot) of sweat, an abundance of seeds, and time.  Truth be told, the only waste would have been the seeds.  The investment of sweat and time afforded me free “garden therapy” and a new outlet to meet new  people and cultivate new relationships.  Definitely not a waste!  AND to my sheer delight, the seeds have surprised me!

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That is the funny thing about seeds, one way or another, they will surprise you!  The outcome is unpredictable, your ability to control what happens is minimal at best, and the yield might be great and it might be small.  Sowing is a risk.  There are no guarantees.  The variables of sunshine, water, strong seed, and perfect soil are simply out of our control.  It takes the investment of time, hardwork, and most often our resources (seed money).  It requires a lot of patience.  You plant and then you wait.  In the end, if nothing happens, what is really lost?

The answer is simple…not much.  So what seeds are you sowing?  Not literal seeds you plant in the ground, but seeds you plant in the lives of others?  What small investments are you making in your marriage, your family, your workplace, your neighborhood, your school, your church, and your community, that one day, might yield a field of splendor?  Maybe you will reap a stronger marriage, children who grow up to admire and respect your character, a neighborhood that watches out for one another, a church that speaks louder with it’s action than it’s words, a community that sets the example for others to follow?  Maybe you will just make a new friend?  It all starts with sowing a seed.

i Grow Lemont is about sowing seeds of change.  It is our vision, that as we cultivate seeds, both literal and figurative, we will yield a harvest greater than we could ever imagine!

Experience the wonderment with us!  And let the seeds surprise you…

Book Club beginning Sept 9th

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Last fall I read a book that I now refer to as a “game changer”.  Page by page, chapter by chapter, I was inspired, challenged, convicted, and ultimately convinced that I needed and wanted to make a few changes in my life.

Author Jen Hatmaker, in her book, Seven:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, identifies 7 areas of excess in her life and develops a plan to address each one, one each month, for seven months.  Hatmaker’s book is a combination of her daily journals written in real-time and her reflections written at the end of each month looking back at lessons learned.  I laughed out loud.  I cried.  I took an honest look at my own life, asked myself tough questions, and identified my own areas of excess.  I started making changes.

Beginning Monday, September 9th, i Grow Lemont will be starting their first Book Club with Hatmaker’s book!!

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We will meet every other Monday night September thru December.  Location will be determined by the size of our group.  Each week we will discuss one chapter and the area of excess that was highlighted.  We will share our own convictions, our own stories, our own areas of excess, and our plans to change.  I can’t even imagine what the resulting impact will be reading this a group!

If you are interested in joining please let us know via our website, Facebook, Twitter, email (igrowlemontinfo@gmail.com), or call Ashley at 301.848.3209.  The book can be purchased at Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and is available for the Nook, Kindle, and other e-readers.

See you September 9th…

5k Electric Run Chicago Sept 6th

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It’s time to couple our healthy eating with a little activity!  If you’re like me, doing something with a group is always more fun than doing it by yourself, especially when it comes to EXERCISE!  So mark your calendar to join i Grow Lemont as we light up the night on September 6th at McCormick Place!  The Electric Run is a 5k electric wonderland experience where participants walk, run, and dance to the music, through tunnels of lights, neon colors, lighted fountains, trees, and buildings.  This race is not about a timed finish, it’s about the experience!  Proceeds from the race go to benefit Special Olympics Chicago.

So pull out your 80’s neon gear, get some glow-in-the-dark hairspray, and prepare yourself for an experience you won’t forget!  The cost for registration, taxes, and fees when you join our team, “Active Lightstyle”, is $60.  This event is for ALL ages and financial sponsorships are available through i Grow Lemont for those needing assistance.  Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!  We have walkers, runners, and dancers!  No excuses for anyone!  There is a place for you!

To register visit http://electricrun.com/chicago/

Light it up, light it up!

New Choices…

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i Grow Lemont is more than a community garden, it’s an initiative to cultivate community based in healthy living.  Healthy living encompasses many arenas including physical, mental, relational, emotional, and spiritual health.  If you were to do a quick assessment of your health, how would you rate yourself in these categories?  Are you taking care of your own needs and encouraging/challenging those around you to live a healthier lifestyle?  If you’re like most people, including myself, certain areas are getting needed attention while others are being seriously neglected!

I am certainly not the model picture of perfect health, but I am working to take small steps daily to move in a better direction.  I decided that I would do a little experiment with my food consumption.  6 weeks ago, I cut out gluten, dairy, caffeine, fried foods, and fast foods.  After a week of headaches brought on by caffeine withdrawal (oh how I love you coffee!), my body finally stopped screaming!

Now let me be clear, I’m not obsessively reading labels and refusing to eat anything that was made in a plant that processes wheat.  To be totally honest, there have been instances of half-cut tea at McDonald’s, 2 weeks ago I had a midnight indulgence straight from the ice cream carton, and last night I ate pizza, but I’m okay with that.  That’s really about it in 6 weeks!  As a general rule, I have chosen to eliminate the daily and even weekly consumption of these things.  I’ve chosen to eat mostly protein, fruits and vegetables with at least 25% of my daily diet being raw.

WHY???  I am not aware of any food allergy or intolerance, but for me, one way of focusing on my physical health is being mindful of everything I put in my mouth and holding myself accountable.  Oh Food Journal, you tell the truth every time!  We live in a time and a culture that allows and even encourages us to overindulge in just about everything!  “We DESERVE it!  We EARNED it!  It’s the WEEKEND!  The Hawks WON!”  We justify our addictions and our lavish indulgences with just about any excuse!  Keeping ourselves in check with small changes in our lifestyle can only produce positive results!  So what if you chose to refrain instead of indulge, not because you have to, but simply because you choose to?  What might be the results?

My results so far…

I feel good!  I feel less bloated.  I feel satisfied with less food.  I don’t feel tired after eating.  I have more energy, I sleep soundly, AND I have lost 12 pounds!  These are all very good things!  I feel encouraged by my consistency and the new patterns of healthy living that are day by day, becoming routine.  Next step for me…couch to 5k!  I’ve been saying that for a couple weeks now and I’m still sitting on the couch!  Help me people!  I’ll keep you posted!

So what area in your life is being neglected?  What are you doing this summer to move in a direction of a healthier you?  Share it with us!  We would love to encourage you along your journey and be challenged by your choices!  If you haven’t started, choose today to begin!  Sometimes it just takes putting one foot in front of the other!

Creating a healthier life…

Let’s do this!

Commit to Community! We need you!

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I love being part of a community!  I love sharing ideas, dreaming, growing, being challenged, expanding my worldview, helping others, receiving support, building strong relationships, and changing the little corner of the world I live in!  i Grow Lemont was started with a vision to do just that, to be a catalyst for cultivating community in Lemont.  I believe everyone needs community.  I believe personal growth, social impact, health of relationships, realization of dreams, and courage to take risks all grow exponentially within healthy community!

i Grow Lemont is a new initiative.  Our first project has been the development of a community garden purposed to provide food and funds to support the Open Pantries in Lemont.  Volunteers have donated their time, talents and resources to see this dream become a reality!  The raised beds were built and installed, the field was plowed, the seeds were sown, the land was watered, and now, the harvest is coming!  In time, i Grow Lemont will take on many different faces reflective of the passions, desires, talents, and gifts of those in our community.  That thrills me to the core to envision a community of people who realize their individual potential and the power of the collective whole!  What we will accomplish will truly be limitless!

The success of i Grow Lemont is not just the tangible results of providing assistance to the Open Pantries, it’s the continual participation and ownership of these initiatives by individuals and families in Lemont!  It is people coming together saying, “I need community!  I want to be a part!  I want to contribute!  I want to make a difference!”  Our community will not be complete without you!  Please consider how you would like to participate and let us know!

Volunteer Teams Needed:

1.    Weed Team:  We need weeders!  The field location (behind the police department) needs the most attention.  Those interested can work in times that are most convenient to them.  There is no shortage of weeds attempting to take over our fruits and veggies!  The raised bed location needs weed attention mostly between the beds in the prairie that is growing up everywhere!  A weed wacker would probably be the most effective tool but hedge trimmers get the job done too!
2.    Harvest Team:  We will be setting up shop at the Lemont Farmer’s Market every Tuesday morning!  The best days to harvest in preparation for Tuesdays will be Sunday and Monday.  We need someone in charge to open/close the gate and a team to assess and harvest the vegetables and herbs that are ready for the picking!  Additionally, we need people interested in getting the vegetables and herbs washed, trimmed, packaged and ready to be sold.
3.    Farmer’s Market Liaisons:  We need people who would be willing to set up shop on Tuesdays, be willing to talk about the initiative with the market attendants, and sell our goods.  The market is from 8am-1pm, so set up needs to happen at 7:15am and tear down will be finished by 1:30pm.
4.    Event Planning:  Fundraisers, Dinners, Activities!  You name it, we want to do it!  We need a team of people to brainstorm/develop ideas, coordinate schedules with the Village, Chamber, Park District, etc., to ensure there is no conflict, and then organize and execute events!  We have selected a date for a chili cook-off in the fall and our first book club is set to begin in September!
5.    Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle Development:  We need a team of people willing to lead family fitness nights, fitness challenges, nutrition classes, cooking classes, canning and jamming demonstrations, etc.  If you’ve got a passion for healthy living, we want you to teach us!
6.    Dream Team:  What is your passion?  Art?  Music?  Spiritual development?  Traveling?  Share it with us!  We want you to start your own team and we are here to support you and help make that happen!