Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This 7 thing is messing me up

This 7 Experiment is seriously messing me up.  And it's going to make people want to stop being my friends.

Here is a brief review: each week of 7 is a different "fast" experience.  Not a literal fast, but some type of self-chosen challenge out of one of seven categories: Food, Clothes, Possessions, Media, Waste, Spending, Stress.  I am at the end of the "Spending" week.  I am not exactly sure how next week's emphasis on stress will go, as I cannot very well eliminate my main cause of stress - two year old tantrums - from my life without eliminating one of my favorite people...  although I did come close to threatening to eliminate her the other day.  But that's a story for a different post.

I could list all the things I dislike about what I've learned.  That would take too long.

What I love most about what I have learned is that there have been scriptural applications to answer questions that have plagued the bleeding-heart section of my soul for some time.  On more than one topic, Jesus is asking me to take Him at His word and address some heart issues.  Issues that I didn't even realize I had.  Issues that I did not even realize I had, people.  I have a love/hate relationship about when that happens.

Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy... for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)

Newsflash to me: perhaps "treasures on earth" also include good things like the savings account, and modest house, and home improvements, and stuff for my kiddos, and... and... you get the picture.  Maybe it's not just what we have, but the value we place on spending our way.  The way we spend our money may actually change our hearts towards the heart of God.  Isn't that the whole point anyways-to become more like Christ?

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.  (Ps 24:1-2)

Newsflash to me: perhaps caring for God's creation really is an act of worship.  What would happen if I acted on the awe I feel about the world around me... i.e. stop using so many paper products (especially since so many of these, like napkins and paper towels, are non-recyclables)?  Recycle with purpose (and make Brad do it too)?  Use less in general?  It may be that my personal boycott does very little to make any difference, but if God spent five days on this magnificent creation, the least I can do is spend five minutes to work on taking care of it.  Could I become a steward of creation instead of a consumer of it?  Creation care as worship...  Hmmm...

The earth is defiled by its people... (Isaiah 24:1-13)

Newsflash to me: this is not just a political issue.  It's not about the left or right version of climate change. Creation is / can be a spiritual mirror for how at odds we as the Church are with God's commandments.  (That's a heavy sentence.  Go back and read it again.)  When I think about it like that, I get nervous that we are desperately at odds with how God desires us to treat the earth.  How He desires we treat other people.  How He desires we treat His bride, the church.  (I just typed that, then went and changed another disposable diaper, which I am pretty sure will end up in the ocean one day.  I still have a long way to go.)

...Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You foolish people!  Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?  But now as for what is inside you - be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.  Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth... but you neglect justice and the love of God.  You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.  (Luke 11:37-42)

Newsflash to me (and basically everyone): just because we tithe faithfully, or even more than tithe, doesn't mean the rest is ours to dole out as we please.  What burdens your heart?  Is it the Holy Spirit nudging you towards a change?  Right now I am seriously disturbed by the whole my-children's-jammies-are-made-by-child-laborers thing.  This has caused more than a hiccup in my buying.  I went to buy new shoes for AG the other day, and stopped short because I had no way of knowing if that company used suppliers who allowed child and/or slave labor.  No joke.  No new sandals for my gals.  (We do live in the south; they can go barefoot to church without being called redneck till they're at least 10.)  Then I went back to that app I mentioned (from Free2Work.org), and looked up toys.  The present I just bought our niece was made by one of the many companies who scored a D-.  Happy birthday Kate!  Your new picnic basket was made by children in sweatshops.  Hope you enjoy!  Ugh.

What if how I buy is an act of worship?  Not just as in "I'm spending our money wisely, pat me on the back," but as in "I refuse to buy into the system that encourages companies to make stuff cheaper at any cost."  Is everything I do a potential act of worship?  Oh my.  Everything I do is a potential act of worship.

Every thing I do is a potential act of worship.  That seems so obvious now.  Even grocery shopping.  Even how I sort my garbage.  Even gardening (laugh, all you who know that I have kept exactly one plant alive for any length of time - I plan to start a vegetable garden if we ever see the sun again.)  Even how/why I save my money.  This one may have hit home the most with me, even more than the purchasing thing.  If I am taking Jesus at His word, and we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, what about the almighty dollar?  What if we started living on less and giving away more?  (Jen Hatmaker, you are ruining my life.  Okay, well, it could have been the Holy Spirit.  Either way.)  If I believe Luke 11, then generosity in spirit and in giving is what will heal my broken heart.  What will draw me close to the heart of God.  Or, "Perhaps we don't need another sermon or a deeper Bible study or a different mentor or a better church to heal what is broken inside us.  It seems an endless focus on ourselves hasn't transformed us in the slightest anyway..."  Thanks Jen.  (inward groan.)

This "experiment" has gone completely different than I thought it would.  If you are reading the book, or are doing the study, or about to do either, I would encourage you to not quit.  I almost did because... well, just because.  Who thinks they need to re-think how they feed their families?  Who puts their foot down and stops buying items just because?  Or, as Jen Hatmaker put it, "Who says 'No' when they can say 'Yes'?"  Good question.  I think the answer needs to be me.

Not to distract from the seriousness of this post, but I cannot help myself:

that is some awesome carrot baby food in her nose.
Mom of the year.

Addison loves Rosco a lot more than he loves her.
Oh well.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Baby Barf

Nothing says "Good Morning!"  like baby barf.  Actually, it screams "GETUPGETUPGETUP! NOWNOWNOW!"  Every day.  For ten days.  Sometimes twice.

I have done more laundry in the last ten days than I did when Addison was a newborn and spit up every hour.  It's really ridiculous.  More on laundry later.

Poor Audrey has been battling the cold Addison gave her, the worst prolonged cough ever, a double ear infection, and she cut her first tooth this week.  It has been a perfect storm to lose sleep.  And to barf every time she has a coughing fit.  Now the big gal has re-caught the cold, and Brad and I both have the scratchy throats that come with too-little sleep.  It's tempting to go back to Why Are We Always Sick land, but with two kids in flu season I am pretty sure this is okay.  Or I think of my sister's sweet baby boy in the hospital for three days with RSV, pneumonia, a stomach bug, and dehydration, and I think we are pretty lucky indeed.  We are just cooped up.  And Addison is tired of having only her mama to talk to and asks "Can we go somewhere today?" every morning.  This virus has overtaken our house, our schedule, my washing machine, and my 7 experiment.

Last Saturday at a baby shower for my sweet friend Leslie, some friends asked if I felt like this "fast" I am doing was drawing me closer to God.  They were specifically talking about the literal fast from food, so I somewhat-honestly (and jokingly) answered no.  But that's not really true.  Check out the last three posts.  And, for me at least, each week of "fasting" becomes more and more personal.

My 7 Experiment last week was to participate in some sort of fast from clothes.  Because it was only a week, I felt like choosing seven items of clothes to wear would be a snap.  And it sort of was.  The only struggle came when all seven items had baby barf on them because I simply could not do laundry fast enough, haha.  The major issue for me came in thinking about how much crap I have accumulated in the clothes department.  Maybe not right now.  We have moved twice in the last year, and I did a decent purge/give-away each time.  But I had so much crap before that.  All stuff that I had a plan for.  Just in case I go back to work full time.  Just in case I lose all the baby weight.  Just in case I don't.  Just in case I have a party to go to where I need to wear a sparkly shirt.  My "just in case" plans are a little ridiculous.  Especially in light of the fact that there are women in our city who desperately need clothes.  And why do I have all this stuff anyway?  The Gap, Loft, Banana Republic and other stores totally have my number: "Let's send her an email every day telling her our stuff is on sale and she will come buy stuff she doesn't really need just because it looks cute and is $10."  I have a serious problem folks.  An I-buy-things-I-don't-need-and-wind-up-wasting-stuff-and-supporting-the-consumer-machine problem.  So I'm taking Jen Hatmaker's dare to extend my "fast" and not buy any clothing items for two months.  Hold me to it.  Let's see what happens.

Now, here is where it gets dicey: I downloaded this app from Free2Work that grades a lot of different brands/companies based on their efforts to eliminate child and forced labor in their supply chains.  This website and app have completely rocked my world.  Of the over 300 apparel brands graded, I was only familiar with some.  But I was complete disheartened by most of those.  Probably 80% of my children's clothes came from companies who scored a D-.  WHAT?!?!?  Seriously sickened.  The image of children without parents forced to work their little fingers to the bone so that my girls can have cute jammies with a dancing monkey on them makes me want to throw up.  Or worse, children sold to some big guy with a club by their parents for the same reason.  Ugh.  I am thrown into the prayer I should be praying all the time: Jesus!  Come back!  End this!  I actually find myself tearing up a little when Addison puts on said jammies.

I took a political science class in college that focused on slavery in the 21st century.  It completely tore me up.  My 20 year old self could not figure out what little old me could do about it.  Now my 31 year old self has one tiny option: don't buy their stuff.  There are plenty of brands I can buy that are not on Free2Work's website for various reasons, so in the meantime I will not purchase the ones that are graded below a B.  Decision made.

Where the rubber meets the road: Costco.  Fifteen different Carters spring dresses in matching designs for the girls at great prices.  I put two in my buggy and walked away.  Wait just one little second.  Sad, frowny faced Maile put them back.  Ten minutes later, I find a box of Hershey brand peanut butter cookie mix with the kisses included. We had these at Brad's parents' house recently.  Delicious.  Into the buggy.  Wait just one little second.  You've got it: Hershey was also graded poorly.  And M&Ms.  How will I live???  (www.Free2Work.org  Check it out.  Prepared to be disappointed.  It seems like such a little tiny thing for me to fight it alone.  But maybe we can do something with this little-by-little.)

This week the fast is dealing with possessions.  In the spirit of 7, I have picked seven categories of junk in our house to give away.  (And not just to dump at the steps of Goodwill.)  Because of the aforementioned purge of our stuff last year, I don't know how much we will be donating.  Perhaps my collection of well-worn mysteries needs to be given to a local library?  What about my huge box of "What if I go back to teaching and need these books as a resource" can go to a school or something.  And I know I have some kitchen stuff that could still go.  So go it will.  And clothes.  Maybe to a women's shelter?  I have started this week a little late due to the barf, but I am playing catch up this weekend.

The point of all this is that I am discovering more and more of who I am.  And I just don't love it.  I want to keep thinking that filling my house with stuff I want but don't need has nothing to do with the poor.  But I am like the folks Isaiah railed against, who he said were "crushing the poor."  In fact, I see myself too clearly in this quote from Jen Hatmaker:
       You care about all the wrong things: religion, not justice for the poor (see Isa. 1:11-17); self-  
       advancement, not orphans and widows (see 1:21-23); wealth, not worship (see 2:7-10); pride,
       not humility (see 2:11-18); shameless sin, not repentance (see 3:8-9).

If I sincerely desire to see God's Kingdom come sooner rather than later, what am I doing about it?  If I am buying what I want, when I want, without concern for who or what it might affect (other than my sometimes miserly husband, haha), am I not in fact crushing the poor?

If you know me, you know I am obsessive enough to turn this into a full time job and all I talk about.  My prayer now is not just for a heart-change regarding my excesses, but also a realistic desire about what I can do.  And the consistency to do it.

If you haven't read David Platt's Radical, or Francic Chan's Crazy Love, or Jen Hatmaker's 7, pick them up in your church's library.  Or my church's library.  To me, they all go together.  And point to where God is leading His church.  I want to be a part of His movement.