Origin of the Lily Fields Challenge

The Lily Fields Challenge really started in 2004, although I didn’t start taking it seriously until 2020. In 2004, it was a quiet little idea. A question. A thought that flitted through my mind. In 2004 it was my first handknit project.

My mother-in-law worked most of her life as a supervisor at a sheltered workshop in a tiny village in Southeastern France. At the heart of the village was a monastery. At this monastery they raised goats. At this monastery they spun and dyed the fibers. In 2004 I was a novice knitter. My mother-in-law, knowing this, bought some of this amazing blue mohair yarn and gave it to me as a birthday gift.

I learned how to knit cables with that yarn. That gossamer dream up top was my first knitted garment. Perhaps not the easiest first wearable project, but I often bite off more than I can chew the first time out!

I remember the first time I put it on after I cast it off the needles. I looked at myself wearing it, and thought, “I wish I only had beautiful things like this to wear.”

To be fair, I had a lot of beautiful things to wear. I liked clothes and always have. But this was special because the yarn had an amazing story and because I made it with my own two hands.

In the nanosecond that I had that first thought and the time I was able to look myself in the eye, there was a new thought: “Consider the lilies of the field.”

Huh? What an oddball thought to arrive fully formed in my mind like that. I knew it was from some Bible verse. Still wearing my blue mohair sleeveless cable knit sweater, I got out my Bible and looked it up:

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Matthew 6: 28-29

Interesting thought. But the truth was, I wasn’t worried about clothes. I just liked clothes. It so happened that everything about this little blue number hit all the right notes for me.

However, I got a thought lodged in my imagination: What would it look like if I let God dress me?

Skills

In 2007 we moved back to France. I continued to knit. I knit a lot. As a matter of fact, I continued to knit with a white goat hair yarn that the monks at the tiny village monastery spun until they stopped raising goats altogether. I bought up the last of their yarn.

Goat hair skirt in a daunting Nora Gaughn pattern called Aune. I made two of these skirts…they are exquisite

I became quite an accomplished knitter. I was always proud to wear what I had made. One of my favorite things was to say, “Oh, you like it? Why thank you! I made it!”

Having babies put an end to my knitting days, for now at least.

Bounty

Decluttering is one of my favorite activities. I love helping people go through their stuff and declutter. Moving, spring cleaning. I love to do that. People also tend to hear me get excited about their stuff and when it’s stuff they want to get rid of, well, it makes them happy to give it to someone who would be happy to have it. Win-win-win-win-win.

Any number of times in my life, I have been the ecstatic beneficiary of beautiful clothes. One thing that I have noticed about myself is that I tend to have in heavy rotation only clothes that other people have given me: my sister-in-law, Genevieve, my sister, my husband’s aunt, my mother-in-law, my friend Iza, my friend Rebecca, my friend Sonia.

I have never been stingy about letting go of things I don’t love either, passing them on to people I love if I think they might love them. I’ve got a sense about these things and it makes me so happy when my inkling is proved true.

Less frequently, however do I actually wear the clothes that I myself bought with my own hard-won money.

And yet I would shop! Thrift stores, cheap stores, expensive stores (on the sales rack, though…I am quite frugal.) I would shop as if my self-worth depended on it. I love a good deal. I love thinking I got away with a bargain. Twelve euro Prada boots? Don’t mind if I do!

In summer 2020 came the crowning glory of those closet declutterings: My musician friend and soul sister gave me her petticoats.

That is an orange tulle petticoat. I guarantee you Solomon did not have one of those.

That night, when I brought them home, my bed covered with tulle and silky fabrics and colors, I had this deep, deep sense that God was saying, “How much more did I clothe you, oh you of little faith?” (Emphasis, in a kind of gentle needlingly mocking way on “oh you of little faith.”)

Conviction

I do not take well to being told I have little faith. I’m guessing that I might have a quarter of a mustard seed (ah yes, that ever precise universal measurement.) I consider that living by faith has been my modus operandi and the impetus for most of my great accomplishments in life.

But I knew right then and there that something was afoot. Jesus was challenging me again.

He had just provided the most exquisite, most tasteful, most outrageously beautiful items for me through the generosity of a friend (a friend he had provided for me, by the way.)

A vibration in the bottom of my soul was saying, “You have enough. You have what you need. You are enough. I am all you need.”

The Challenge

All this was why, when I heard that voice say to me in December, “You need to stop throwing money at your self-worth problems,” I knew what the solution was going to be. I needed to stop spending money on clothes.

But stopping shopping, stopping trying to fill up the hole in my soul with new stuff was going to be painful. I am a coveter. I love clothes.

I had so many beautiful clothes that I never wore because they fit funny, or were cut wrong, or made me look pregnant. With a few skills and some crowdsourcing for sewing advice, I could have the perfect, tailored-for-me wardrobe that God actually hand-picked for me. I had everything I needed. At least for this year.

The agony

But let’s be honest. It has been painful. On the day I celebrated one month of my challenge, I nearly bought a kelly green scarf to celebrate.

I have had the unwavering support of my sister. She lives in Seattle, I live in France. But she knows just how important it is to me to stop shopping, and while she doesn’t want to stop shopping, she is my cheerleader towards my goal.

They say a happy woman is a beautiful woman, so it’s safe to assume that she is very very happy to be photographed here with her scalawag nephews in 2019

My sister has listened to me whine, has read my complaints. She has spurred me on. She has also done some of her own decluttering work, by the way, less on clothes and more on stuff that she has been carrying around for twenty years. I am soooo proud of her for it!

The Unthinkable Reward

It has now been three months since I started my Lily Fields Challenge. I haven’t bought any new clothes since December. However, I have never been happier with my wardrobe. I have reached into my closet and known that everything I touch is a gift, handpicked for me by Jesus.

I have felt visceral, painful longings for things: a kelly green pashmina. A non-stinky pair of white Adidas. A mustard hand-knit cardigan. Black socks.

But every single week, the sheer quantity of aches has been reduced.

As I write this, it is March 31, 2021. You will never guess what I got in my mailbox this afternoon:

Yes, my friends: that is a kelly green pashmina. My sister sent it to me, because she apparently has heard a few hundred times how much I wanted one.

I’m not sure if you understand the significance of the timing on this: I am receiving this kelly green pashmina, over which I have agonized and been convincing myself not to buy for three months, as a gift. From my sister who loves me. On this, the last day of the first quarter of my challenge.

Forget about the Lilies of the Field:

Solomon in all his splendor was never dressed like me!

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

10 thoughts on “Origin of the Lily Fields Challenge

  1. Such a beautiful gift. Plus it now has more meaning than if you bought it. Instead of a thing in your closet it is a treasure. So I think in the three months that I am not shopping these petticoats of yours are what will haunt me and continue. I will now will be always on the hunt. I have a few things around here to give me the idea of this. I will bring them out and show you. Now I am on the hunt for these.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This whole story is so beautiful!! Dressed by Jesus!! Yes, please!! I’ve always, since I went over 250 lbs, just bought what fit. Not always happy with. Now that I’m over 330, it’s even harder. But, after my dad died, in May, I bought a new wardrobe, about 10 things. And I found a new style that I love! Leggings under dresses. I had been wearing jeans to church for a long time, but always felt awful. I was raised Dresses!! And panty hose! and heels!! Heels had gone the way of the dinosaur decades ago!! Panty hose too!, I think I never wore them again after college grad in 1983. But now dresses are back! And I couldn’t be happier! I one had a petticoat. Now just like your first commenter, I think I want some again! Every time I’ve seen yours, I’ve felt a tug!! God is so good!! He knows just when we need things!! Thank you so much for your encouraging way of writing! And relating every thing to God. He is important in every area of our lives!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always come back to the thought that *who* we are today and who we were in the past…well, there is a through line. And even if our tastes change a little, or our size changes, there is something that makes us “us” that we can’t ever grow out of. Finding “that style” (leggings and dresses, for example!) can bring us a sense of peace and pleasure in something that could be otherwise frustrating. Although pantyhose are and will always be a chore!

      Liked by 1 person

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