To Fear

AM Fear Edited

It’s not you. It’s me.

I know how shocking this must be. We’ve been together such a long time. In fact, it’s been so long that I can’t even remember what life was like without you. Ever since the day we met, when I felt so abandoned and alone after coming out from under the long draping dresses of the clearance rack at TJ Maxx to find my mom had moved on, I knew something wasn’t right about you. But still, you somehow drew me in, wrapping me up like a warm blanket bound up with a thousand impossible buttons.

Secure and suffocating.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming you, Fear. You’re only being who you are. You are a magnet for emotion and I am addicted. Whenever I’m feeling complacent, you are the one who comes in and fills each crevice with fire. So raw and uncensored. Every moment with you is spent perched on the edge of the cliff with my toes hanging over a cavernous abyss. It’s frightening. And invigorating. And enticing.

And maybe that’s why it has taken me so long to see.

My toes aren’t really hanging.

The abyss isn’t real.

Because now I’m learning that’s what you do, Fear. You carve canyons where none exist. You dig holes to bury hope. I have tried and tried to recall a time when you built something of substance. Something that sustains and uplifts and inspires. But I can’t name a single one. I’ve even asked my wisest friends. The ones who know both of us well. And they all say the same thing.

“Fear never built anything.”

As I look around me, I see so much need.

Sinking ships.

Burning buildings.

Broken souls.

And I want to help. I want to dive in to the frigid waters. I want to rush in to the flames. I want to hold tight to my brothers and sisters and say with certainty, “It’s going to be OK.”

But I can’t. Something is holding me back. But let us make no mistake.

It’s not you. It’s me.

I can no longer cling to you. I can no longer choose you. It’s time to let go. Because I look around and see that the darkness that surrounds me is entirely of your making. It’s a void. Empty and lifeless. Paralyzing.

Until now.

Right now.

In this very moment.

I see it clearly.

Fear is just a character in a story written by Love.

When all seems lost, it’s Love who rushes into the fire. It’s Love who binds up wounds. And it’s Love who sings the songs of hope and peace that drift heavenward from the rubble of buildings destroyed by hatred.

So today, I choose Love.

I know it will be hard to say goodbye. But not to worry. I’m sure we’ll see each other from time to time, anytime crisis comes screaming across my calendar or my television. But let’s not linger long, shall we?

I have a lot of work to do.

* Enjoy this post?  For more, check out Scott’s book about the family’s Year Without A Purchase on Barnes & Noble or Amazon  (We know… dripping with irony…but there’s always the library!). And, to see more posts like this, submit your email at the upper right of this page to receive new blogs hot n fresh to your inbox.  Or, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @sdannemiller.  Cheers!


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Of God, and Books, and Supermodels

When a supermodel calls you and asks you to talk to her about your book, it’s kinda’ hard to say no.  Even if you’re married.

Needless to say, my 90’s self was very excited when our family got invited for an interview on Tyra Banks’ new talk show, FABLife.  I think she was just trying to make up for the fact that she turned down every single one of my invitations to come with me to my senior prom.  Tyra’s got a heart o’ gold like that, ya’ know.

Anyhow, since our Good Morning America interview had all the God chopped right out of it (our entire reason for doing this crazy thing), we decided we’d mention the Big Guy on the Catwalk in the Sky as much as possible.  We weren’t sure if they would keep any of it, since the day our segment was taping, the show topics included “how nipples are now ‘in'”, “naked grilling,” and “foods to get you laid.”

In case you missed it, check it out here.  And feel free to contrast it with the edited piece on Good Morning America, and the live interview on MSNBC.

In the end, I think they kept the heart of the experiment, and we are grateful to the show for the opportunity.  And no, I haven’t washed my shirt since the taping of this show. (see below)  A special thanks to all of you regular readers for you shares and support.  The message (and the book about not buying stuff) wouldn’t be reaching a broader audience if it weren’t for you.  Peace to you and yours!


* Enjoy this post?  For more, check out Scott’s book about the family’s Year Without A Purchase on Barnes & Noble or Amazon  (We know… dripping with irony…but there’s always the library!). And, to see more posts like this, submit your email at the upper right of this page to receive new blogs hot n fresh to your inbox.  Or, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @sdannemiller.  Cheers!


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What Really Happened That One Time We Were On Good Morning America

AM GMA Thumbnail

I got an interesting call last Friday morning.

“Scott. It’s Stacie.”

Stacie is the marketing guru at WJK Press, the company that published our book. And she sounded very serious. Like, “Your-Mom_Is-Not-Really-Your-Mom-But-Is-Instead-Is-A-Poorly-Trained-Russian-Spy” kind of serious.

“Hi Stacie! What’s up?”

Then there was this awkward silence.

“I’m trying not to flip out… but we just got a call that Good Morning America wants to do an interview about the book.”

I laughed out loud. In a high-pitched squeal. Like I do.

“You have GOT to be kidding!” I was at once thrilled and skeptical, wondering if she was actually talking about some cable access knock-off of the original, only with a different spelling. Perhaps Good Mornin’ Uh-Merika with Harold, Joanne and some guy they call “The Cap’n”

“No, I’m not.” She answered. “Please tell me you aren’t out of town this weekend. They want an exclusive. With the whole family.”

As she was asking that question, I was busily packing a bag for our weekend church retreat. The one the kids talk about all year long. Our family camp. With bunk beds. And bugs. In the middle of nowhere.

Sadly, my first thought was, OMG, this is huge! We have to ditch family camp!” But then, my conscience spoke to me, (in my wife’s voice) and said, What would that say about you if you write a book about growing in faith as a family, and then crush your children’s family camp dreams by cancelling so you can go on national TV and sell a book about not buying stuff?!

I addressed Stacie’s request.

“Well, actually, we leave for family camp this afternoon and it runs all weekend. I can’t cancel. We might be able to do Sunday afternoon.”

Stacie started problem solving. “I’ll contact them and see if they can push it, but they really wanted to run the piece Monday morning. I hope it won’t be a problem.”

The rest of the morning was a back-n-forth blur, with schedules and questions and locations. Finally, we settled on a 3:00 interview Sunday, at our house. The “fixer upper.” The one that is completely torn up, save for the 800 square foot basement where we now reside. All four of us. With the kid’s mattresses on the floor. And bare wall outlets with no covers. It’s a lot like a movie set. If your movie is about the Apocalypse.

So we swept the floors in hopes that the gleaming tile might somehow distract from the live electrical wires protruding from the holes in the sheetrock.

We went to our kids’ school that afternoon, intent on leaving for church camp right after Jake’s “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition on the playground. As we waited, Audrey played on the monkey bars with the other children who were watching for their siblings compete. No sooner had I struck up a conversation with another parent when she comes running up to me, slightly whimpering.

“What’s wrong, honey?”

“I hit my face on the steps of the playscape.”

She was tired from a long day, and the tears came easily. I glanced down and didn’t see anything major, so I said, “You’ll be OK” and rubbed her head.

Two minutes later, Gabby walks up and asks,

“My goodness, Audrey! What happened to you?!”

Gabby turned my daughter’s face toward me to show me the red gash on her right cheek, surrounded by an ever-growing field of purple.

“Wow! It didn’t look like that a minute ago.” I said, guiltily.

We improvised, with Gabby shoving some ice cubes into an empty snack size bag of Cheetos to create a cold pack. Audrey held it to her face while the freezing orange-ish liquid mixed with powdered cheese dribbled all over her shorts. This only added some healthy anger to her already painful face wound. Poor kid. We prayed that the black eye would fade by the time the cameras and/or child protective services arrived on Sunday.

When we got to camp, we agreed not to tell anyone about the interview. For starters, the weekend was about community and togetherness, and we didn’t need to distract people from that. And secondly, the news cycle is very fickle, and we knew we could easily be bumped to the cutting room floor should Kanye West decide to enter the 2016 presidential race.

The weekend’s activities proved to be a welcome distraction, helping us focus on what was important. The workshop went well. Audrey played in the creek. Jake got to go fishing. We had a sing along on the porch. But the highlight was the big “Tailgate Party” celebration on Saturday night.

Dance music played while people chatted. The planners of the event even created a makeshift room out of tarps and bought in a bunch of black lights to create a “Glow Zone” for the kids. I dove right in, inviting a little girl named Maddie to paint me up with neon so I could enjoy it, too.

The adorable ten-year-old made designs on my arms. She decorated my forehead. She painted on hot pink lipstick.   I looked so good that I invited Gabby to participate.

“You need to go get your face painted so we can go in the “Glow Zone” together!” I prodded.

Gabby came up to me ten minutes later to show me her decorated face, adorned with polka dots, hearts and zig-zags.

She winced. “Mine burns a little,” she said.

“Really?” I countered. “Mine just feels kinda’ itchy.”

We both shrugged and went into the black lights so we could snap a picture.

As the night drew to a close, I went outside to the campfire to enjoy some quiet solitude and chat with friends and family. It was a beautiful, peaceful night. Then Gabby gingerly walked up and leaned in close.

“Ummm, Scott?”

“What’s up, babe?”

“This…” she said, looking very serious as she pointed to her arms and circled her face, “It doesn’t come off.”


She was matter of fact.

“The paint. I washed. And scrubbed. With soap. And it DOESN’T.   COME.   OFF.”

My jaw dropped. I stared at her. Mystified. Like some mouth breather at a monster truck rally who has just seen his beloved Big Foot toppled by Truckzilla. Because there in the glow of the firelight, just a few short hours before we were supposed to be on camera in front of over 5 million viewers, my wife and I looked like this:

AM Glow Paint Before

Perhaps the burning and itching should have been our first clue that it was a bad idea to let a grade-schooler decorate our faces with unknown glowing chemicals the night before we were to appear on national television. There are reasons why they don’t usually put people like us on camera.

We both burst out laughing. I could hardly breathe. Snorting. Wheezing. Tears and snot were streaming down my face, yet failing to smudge the paint. Our daughter was covered in the same decor, too. Yet hardly drawing the eye away from that purple-pink gash on the side of her face.

I immediately went to the bathroom and did my best to clean up. Apparently, the itchy paint was more washable than the burn-ey kind, so my skin was relatively clean. Gabby? Not so much. This is her face after giving herself a Silkwood shower and sandpapering her cheeks with a makeup remover cloth. We’re not sure of the red spots are paint residue or simply raw flesh.

AM Glow Paint Gabby

The next day, we drove home to meet the camera crew. They arrived in a van that resembled an FBI stakeout team. The neighbors were probably suspicious, but we took comfort in the fact that they were probably happy that the law enforcement surveillance was distracting people’s attention away from the giant construction dumpster in our driveway.

Jordan and Steve introduced themselves. The sound guy and the camera man. They set up lights and microphones and who-knows-what in our basement while we did our best to distract the kids.

“Today’s interview will be by speakerphone,” Steve said. “Have you ever done a speakerphone interview before?”

“Ummmm. No. We’re kinda’ new at this.”

Jordan showed Gabby how to run a microphone cable up her shirt while Steve continued.

“Matt, our producer, will be doing the interview in New York. We’ll call him on my cell phone and put it on speaker. Then we’ll just set it on the couch between the two of you.”

Jordan chimed in.

“I’ll be sitting here,” he said, settling into a chair just a few inches from the camera lens. “You guys can look at me as if I’m interviewing you, but listen to the speakerphone. You’re going to want to look at the phone, but don’t do it. Just look at me and I’ll try and do some facial expressions and gestures to make it seem more natural.”

“Oh,” Gabby responded, with a laugh. “That won’t be awkward at all.”

“And make sure to wait two seconds after the question is asked before you answer.” He added.


“And don’t just give a one word answer. Speak in complete sentences.”

Just nodding now.

He went on, “And try to rephrase the question. But don’t just repeat the words verbatim. Mix it up a little.“

Sure. Both of us just looked at each other, awaiting the inevitable suckitude to come. Excited and mortified.

“You ready?” Steve asked.

He dialed the phone, set it down between us on the couch, and the interview began. Matt’s tinny voice burst firth from our laps. Asking us a full thirty minutes worth of questions. We did our best to answer as naturally as possible. Meanwhile, Jordan’s wacky facial expressions and gestures were strangely reassuring. Anytime I would see Gabby doing her “crazy eyes” (her term, not mine) I would signal her by squeezing her shoulder, which was our previously agreed upon secret code. And if I started hogging the questions (her term, entirely accurate) she would signal me by punching me in the solar plexus while the cameras rolled.

Luckily, only one of these things happened.

After the interview, we were instructed to “just do some regular family things” so the cameras could get some additional footage.

“What sort of things?” I asked.

Steve consulted his list, which included items like playing board games, baking together, and standing together on the porch and waving to the camera.

You know. Like we do naturally. All the time.

Out of desperation, I pulled the Spirograph out the closet, which we have played exacty zero times in the past six months. We also made a snack, forbidding the kids to eat anything unhealthy on camera lest we feel the wrath of America and Michelle Obama for years to come. And we played in the cul-du-sac, finishing off with our usual “hudlled-standing-group-goodbye-wave” which we have done at our house exactly zero times in the history of porches. The entire thing was captured on camera.

In the end, they chopped out all of the beautiful stuff Gabby said about faith and God and Jesus, and left in the stuff about shopping and saving. Still, they did a really nice job on the story and we are grateful for the experience. The best part was being able to share it all with family and friends. The one who have supported us through thick and thin. Our year in Guatemala. Getting back on our feet. Moving to Nashville. Not buying stuff. And now a book.

As our fifteen minutes of fame comes to a close (which was actually only two minutes and twelve seconds), we simply want to express our gratitude for you. And we hope we did you proud.

Peace to you and yours,

Scott & Gabby

* Enjoy this post?  For more, check out Scott’s book about the family’s Year Without A Purchase on Barnes & Noble or Amazon  (We know… dripping with irony…but there’s always the library!). And, to see more posts like this, submit your email at the upper right to receive new blogs hot n fresh to your inbox.  Or, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @sdannemiller.  Cheers!


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The One Thing Every Mom Needs

AM One Thing Mom Needs

I got my first official email from a literary agent a few weeks back, which shocked the eyebrow hair right offa’ my face. I mean, the idea that my writing could be called “literary” is as absurd as saying Velveeta is made of “cheese.”

I just had to schedule a phone call.

On the day of our meeting, our two loud kids were at home, so I went to my remote office (A.K.A. the senior citizens lounge at my local YMCA) and found a quiet place away from all distractions. Filled with anxiety and doubt, I took a deep breath, dialed the number, and prepared to sell myself as a writer.

Only I didn’t sell myself at all.

Instead, the agent spent a thirty solid minutes saying things like:

“Your writing is so… accessible!”

“You voice is one-of-a-kind, it just has to reach a broader audience.”

“You have an unmatched quality of blending humor and spirituality. So talented.”

By the time I got off the phone, I felt like my ego had been kneaded by angel wings and polished with the tears of Rainbow Brite. As I sauntered through the YMCA, I gazed at the faces of the senior citizens gathered for coffee and saw awe and wonder in their eyes.

It was a really good phone call

When I arrived home, my wife was on the couch. There was no awe or wonder in her eyes. There was, however, a pile of unfolded laundry in her lap.

She asked, “How was your meeting?”

I burst forth like a raging river, sharing every last word with her.





As the story came out of my mouth, I realized something. Agents are paid to say stuff like that. Their whole job is to make me think I’m awesome so they can negotiate for me and make me sound even more awesome to other people who don’t even know me. But somehow – miraculously – that fact didn’t make me feel any less awesome about myself. I know this because I still had a giant grin plastered on my face.

Meanwhile, Gabby just stared at me.

Without a grin.

“That’s nice. While you were getting showered with compliments, your son told me I was the worst mom ever. And your daughter didn’t eat the breakfast she specifically requested. Because I didn’t prepare her waffle the right way. A $#%#& waffle! Apparently, I am too incompetent to toast an Eggo and pour syrup on it.”

I was rendered mute. But she continued.

“Agent.” She scoffed. “You know what I need? I need a MOM AGENT.”

And then it hit me. My wife is a genius. Her off-handed comment could likely be the genesis of most amazing job idea in the history of the Universe. The one thing every mom needs when she’s trapped in the whirlwind of chaos, stress and doubt.


Just imagine…

Mealtime/Bedtime/Pottytime Negotiations

Those without children may be asking themselves, “Who the heck needs to be coaxed into doing something that comes naturally to every living soul on the planet?!”

Tiny people, that’s who.

Never again will you pull your hair out trying to cajole your children to eat, sleep, or poop. Now, the MOM AGENT will handle all proceedings, using whatever tactics are currently admissible by common parenting literature. Including, but not limited to: corporal punishment, bribing with tiny pieces of candy, guilt, locking doors from the outside, or outright manipulation.

Daily Affirmations

Motherhood is known as the most thankless job on the planet. For that reason, our MOM AGENT will be present during the routine parts of your day, uttering those words of appreciation that kids rarely share until you are on your death bed. Things like, “I love how you are always there for me. So accessible.” Or “Boy Mom, your ass-wiping is one-of-a-kind!” And “This frozen waffle has an unmatched quality of both toastiness and sweetness.” And let’s not forget, “How in the world did you catch my puke in your bare hands without puking yourself! So talented!”

Mom-to-Mom Public Relations

All moms know that worst part about being the maternal unit is standing up to the barrage of silent judgment from other moms. The good news is, the MOM AGENT comes with a built-in “Side-Eye Alarm” that activates anytime someone looks at you in a scrutinizing fashion. For example, when your kid has a complete meltdown in the housewares section at Target, the MOM AGENT will be dispensed to the troubled area to distract the other moms by placing a “Clearance” sign atop a rack filled with new arrivals so you can discipline your child without being watched like an episode of SuperNanny.

Damage Control/ A.K.A. “Fetal Position Rescue”

All moms have been there. That moment when all hell is breaking loose at home and you have three choices: 1) line up every small person in your house and “slap ‘em into next week”, 2) pack a bag and buy a one-way ticket to Who-The-#%$^-Cares, USA, or 3) lock yourself in the bathroom, curl up in a ball on the floor, and scream and cry like you’ve just had your entire body scrubbed with a cheese grater.

Lucky for us, you crazy moms choose #3. Every. Time.

When this happens, the MOM AGENT will be on hand to usher your children into a room on the other side of the house, give them a pre-approved snack, and put on a wholesome TV show. Once the kids are extracted, the MOM AGENT will hug you, tell you how awesome you are, feed you unlimited pints of ice cream, and babysit that night so you can go to book club where you can drink wine, laugh ‘til you snort, and tell your stories to a bunch of girlfriends who really get you.

Moms, as you’ve been reading this, you may have heard yourself saying, “Yes!” Or maybe even an “Amen!” Out loud. In front of a computer. Which makes me feel both satisfied and sad.

My satisfaction stems from the fact that these words might give some of you some comfort. Some realization that you are noticed. And even, perhaps, understood.

But sadness comes from the fact that lots of moms struggle. And dad’s, too. (I’ll lump myself into this category. ) Constantly wondering if you’re doing a good job. Or simply an adequate job. And the inner doubt is so strong that it sometimes takes external validation for us to realize that we really are serving our families in a meaningful way.

But the doubt is real.

So today, my prayer is that we might be MOM AGENTS for each other. By ditching the Facebook stories of perfection and sharing our struggles and “fetal position moments.” Loud and proud. And offering a listening ear. Or words of encouragement.

Because there is a God voice inside each one of us saying “You are enough”. But sadly, that voice often speaks in tones that are far too quiet for our bustling households. Drowned out by the crying and the whining and the worry.

It’s in these moments that we must be His hands and heart. His AGENTS. Encouraging, supporting, and speaking this truth.

That there is honor in the struggle.

Excellence in the effort.

And forgiveness for mistakes made along the way.

* Enjoy this post?  For more, just preorder Scott’s book about his family’s Year Without A Purchase on Barnes & Noble or Amazon launching August 4th from WJK Press (We know… dripping with irony…but there’s always the library!). And, to see more posts like this, submit your email at the upper right to receive new blogs hot n fresh to your inbox.  Or, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @sdannemiller.  Cheers!


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We’re Moving!

Hello Accidental Missionaries!

Thank you so much for all of your support!  When we started this blog, we thought it might just be a fun way to bore our family and friends with stories, photos, and an occasional metaphor on life.  Five years later, we are surprised and grateful that people from all walks of life have found some inspiration here.

With that in mind, we will be expanding our ministry to offer newsletters, videos, and food for the soul.  We are also looking to create an online community of Accidental Missionaries that are committed to seizing the everyday opportunity to be Christ for their neighbor.

AM New Website

  • A sneak peek at the new site

With this transition, we’ll soon be launching our new website on Squarespace.  For those of you who subscribe via your email address, there will be no changes.  If you subscribed via your WordPress login, we will be double-posting for three months to ease the transition.  During that time, you may wish to opt in to the Squarespace platform to continue receiving our updates.  We’ll have more specific instructions in the coming weeks.  Until then, enjoy the blog!

Peace and blessings to you all,

Scott and Gabby


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Broken and Beautiful

Last week, our family embarked on a summer vacation to celebrate my brother-in-law’s 50th birthday. Since Owen is a big fan of surfing, we booked a week at a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, known for their tasty waves, abundant sunshine, and an unprecedented number of shark attacks this summer.

In preparation for spending hours floating on a board and looking like a wounded seal, Owen studied up on the best way to minimize the risk of an attack. Apparently, experts say that those not interested in becoming Jaws’ next meal should stay away from warm water, piers, and common fishing grounds. We were also advised to keep an eye out for warning signs, such as bait fish jumping out of the water as if they are being chased by something large and toothy.

A few days into our vacation, we were following the protocols to the letter when someone noticed a tiny triangle pop out of the surf about a hundred yards away from us. Was it a porpoise? A small whale? The fin surfaced a few more times as we feverishly searched Google for how to tell the difference between a shark fin and a dolphin fin. Finally, someone made a suggestion:

“Maybe it’s time for a sand castle building contest?”

Thank you, Charles Darwin.

The kids got to work on the sandcastle of the century while Gabby and I went searching for shells to decorate their creations. I walked to the edge of the water with a bucket in hand. Due to the pounding of the waves, most of the shells had been reduced to random shards, so I moved clumsily as my weak little baby feet grimaced with each step.

I picked through the rubble looking for perfectly formed specimens that had survived the violence unscathed. I found crazy-shaped oyster shells, perfect pink fans, and even some black clams that looked like they had been plucked right out of an aquarium. I put each one in the bucket and carried them back to my nephew, Jack.

Meanwhile, my daughter joined Gabby in the surf to pick just the right shell to decorate her own masterpiece. I turned and noticed her bend over to pick up a tiny, jagged triangle.

She held it out toward my wife.

“Look at this one, Mom!”

Gabby looked down at the fragment,

“That’s great, Audrey. But I’m trying to find a whole shell. One that’s just perfect.”

My daughter glanced up from her hand, caught my wife’s gaze and said,

“Mom… Just because they’re broken doesn’t mean they’re not beautiful.”

AM Broken and Beautiful

Gabby’s face instantly registered that rare emotion. It has no name. But if you are a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that glorious overlay of surprise, shame, joy, peace, and utter fulfillment that comes when you realize one of your own has just caught you being “of the world” and then teaches you a sublime truth about the nature of God.

After a moment, Gabby responded,

“You’re right, Audrey,” placing a hand on her tiny shoulder. “They’re all beautiful, aren’t they?”

And Audrey smiled.

As you might expect, our shell hunt changed that day. Sure, we still rejoiced in finding the perfect, unblemished shell. But we also took time to appreciate the mosaic of fragments. The way that one color blended into the next. The interesting shapes. The contour of the edges. Arbitrary. Erratic. Smoothed by time and tides, scraping across rough sand. And Audrey gathered them up, one by one, and placed them lovingly into her green bucket.

AM Audrey Shells
* Audrey and her shells

I’ve thought about my daughter’s words a lot over the past few days. I would like to say they are planted firmly at the top of my mind, ready for action the instant I start to question my worth. But sadly, that’s not true.

Instead, her message has been buried, curling around the back wall of my brain. Deep in the dark recesses. Obscured by my own expectations and an overwhelming desire to please others. So when the moments of doubt come, my emotions quickly follow. Wondering turns into worrying. Hesitation becomes hopelessness.

Maybe it’s the same way for you.

Your head gets spun up in “should have’s” and “ought to’s.” You start to focus on all you’ve lost instead of all you have. Failed relationships. Words you can’t take back. Stupid mistakes. The setbacks and storms.

It’s a pastime for us, isn’t it? Lamenting what might have been and wallowing in weakness. In a perfect world these thoughts would never touch our minds. But that perfect world is an impossible mirage, as unrealistic as a soft sand beach brimming with only flawless shells.

But I can take comfort in this: though these thoughts will always come, there will be times when they retreat, if only for an instant. And it’s in these quiet moments that I just need to listen for my daughter’s words, returning to rescue me from myself. Reminding me that all my worry is for nothing. That power is made perfect in weakness. That grace calls us “enough.”

Every. One.

Shattered fragments of the whole.

Seen as God sees us.

Broken and beautiful.

(The Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.(2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)


* Enjoy this post?  And, to see more posts like this, submit your email at the upper right to receive new blogs hot n fresh to your inbox.  Or, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @sdannemiller. An for even more good stuff, just order Scott’s recently released book about his family’s Year Without A Purchase on Barnes & Noble or Amazon from WJK Press (We know… dripping with irony…but there’s always the library!).  Cheers!


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Five Things You Think You Need, But You Don’t

AM Five Things

Not long ago, my wife and I felt like our family was on The Great Hamster Wheel to nowhere. Maybe you feel that way, too. You’re spending a ton of time and effort to earn a paycheck so you can give your family “the good life.” And now you have a lovely home and some neat toys, but you’re often too tired, too stressed, or too busy to truly enjoy it all.

That was us.

So we decided to try a little experiment. We challenged ourselves to check out of the consumer culture for twelve months to see how it might impact our family. Before you think we’re complete whackos, realize that our challenge did not require us generate our own electricity, make underwear out of old burlap sacks, or only eat things we could kill with our bare hands. For us, it was less about saving money and more about focusing on people and shared experiences to see if it might have a positive impact on our relationships. So we lived by a simple set of rules that were restrictive, but not too crazy.

Rule #1: We wouldn’t shop for “stuff.” Sure, we could buy consumable items (think food, cleaners, hygiene products, etc.), but if it couldn’t be used up within the year, we put in the “non-essential” category.

Rule #2: If something broke, we could fix it unless we already had a suitable replacement lying around.

Rule #3: Gifts had to be in the form of charitable donations or “experiences” to be shared.

Entering this challenge, we recognized two things. First, the majority of humans on the planet live by these rules (or even more restrictive ones) out of necessity. In fact, my wife and I had spent a year serving as missionaries in Guatemala, and experienced first-hand how anything beyond food and shelter is a luxury for those living in poverty. So our experiment wasn’t really a sacrifice.

Second, there are far too many people like us in the United States who live under manufactured stress, never realizing that our never-ending quest for more is what is ultimately giving us the feeling of dissatisfaction.

While you can read about entire 12-month journey in our book, The Year without a Purchase, here are a few nuggets we have personally found helpful to review now that we’re finally allowed to shop again.



My wife often asks me, “Are you naked from the waist down?”

As you might imagine, this question always captures my full attention. That is, until I realize that she is simply responding to my comment that, “I need a new pair of pants.”

Clothing is one of the big areas where we often confuse “need” with “want.” And I’m not the only one. The EPA estimates that each American throws away nearly seventy pounds of clothing per year.

Seventy pounds!

So, I only need those new pants if I am, as my wife says, in danger of getting arrested for public indecency. Otherwise, it’s an option. And our family was able to survive an entire year without buying a single stitch of clothing. And no one made fun of us.

At least not to our faces.


It is estimated that the average American home contains over 300,000 items, and America itself is home to 50,000 self-storage facilities. That’s over twice the number of Starbucks locations worldwide! Our problem isn’t that we don’t have enough storage, it’s that we have too much stuff.

Often times we hold onto items because we can easily rationalize their value to us, whether it’s sentimental, or tangible. We can think of millions of situations where we might need an item. Yet, miraculously, we haven’t needed the item but one time in the past four years.

If you’re holding onto something, take the “Not Much, Not Me” challenge by asking yourself these two questions. 1) “What horrible thing would happen if I didn’t have this thing in the future?” and 2) “Who would get the most use out of this thing?” If the answers are “Not much” and “Not me,” get rid of it and get a small piece of your life back.


There used to be a time when auto makers touted a three-year cycle for purchasing new vehicles. Whether that was ever true is subject to debate, but the latest research shows the average age of vehicles on the road is 11.4 years.

Today, cars last far longer than they used to, and are far cheaper to maintain. Whenever you get that urge to upgrade and take on another car payment, remember this statistic: it only costs $151 more per year to maintain a car between 6-15 years old than it does to maintain a newer auto. That’s far less than a single month of payments, and the old wheels still get you from point A to point B.


Hypocrisy alert! It’s hard for me to write this, as my family is in the process of moving to a different home. But any time we say, “our little 1700 square foot house is too small,” we know it’s all in our heads. Even though our two extremely loud kids make the place feel like an echo chamber.

But statistics show the average American home size has nearly tripled since the 1950’s. Back then, a single family home averaged just 983 square feet. Today, it’s 2624. At the same time, the average size family has shrunk from 3.5 people to 2.5. Granted, people are bigger these days, but I’m guessing we don’t need an extra 1641 square feet for our girth alone.

Bottom line: rather than asking, “What are we missing by not having more space?” I need to remind myself to ask, “What do we gain by being closer together as a family?”


Ah yes! This was one of the biggest things I learned from our experiment. When I found myself wanting to buy something, whether it was different clothes or a different car, I would have to ask, “Why do you want it?” At best, I simply wanted the item because it would make my life simpler or better. Like a four slice toaster or an ultra-thin laptop for traveling.

But often, when I dug beneath the surface, there were many things I wanted because I thought they would make me better.

I am a professional, so I should get some better clothes!

How can my clients take me seriously if I show up to our meeting in my 15-year-old, compact car?

Our kitchen table looks like it’s been bouncing down a rocky cliff since the late 1980’s and just now landed in our house. What does that say about us?!

You see, “stuff” isn’t inherently bad. What is bad is the meaning we derive from it. The instant we begin to let our stuff define who we are, that’s when we start to tell Our Maker that the way he designed us just isn’t good enough. When we start to compare the cutting room floor of our own lives with the highlight reel on Facebook or TV commercials, we start to believe that perfect is normal. We start to believe that we are “less than.” We start to believe our worth is tied up in how others perceive us.

Here’s a news flash for you. There is no bigger lie.

The truth is, whatever your life situation, your stuff does not define you. In the end, the only thing we truly need is to fill ourselves to overflowing with the knowledge that we are all beautifully flawed and wonderfully made. To see ourselves as God sees us, and then give that same unconditional love to others.

I’ll buy that.

And I hope you will, too.

* Enjoy this post?  For more, just preorder Scott’s book about his family’s Year Without A Purchase on Barnes & Noble or Amazon launching August 4th from WJK Press (We know… dripping with irony…but there’s always the library!). And, to see more posts like this, submit your email at the upper right to receive new blogs hot n fresh to your inbox.  Or, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @sdannemiller.  Cheers!


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