Sunday, March 30, 2008
Mike and I are in the midst of the twelve week Financial Peace University class that is taught by Dave Ramsey. This past week we talked about "buyer beware!" in regards to the sophistication of marketing today and the ploys to get us to spend, spend, spend. It is amazing the amount of money, creativity, and repetition that goes into the subliminal (and not so subliminal!) messages of our consumer-driven culture. We think that if we buy something new, that we are new! That we need that new item for our wardrobe, our kitchen, our children. That life will be easier if we just have that new gadget. I have even stopped receiving the Sunday newspaper because I would spend my day pouring over the ads to find all the "great deals" of stuff we didn't need...and it created a tremendous amount of discontent with the current status of my home and wardrobe. So my "buyer beware" antenna is up right now...not in a paranoid way, but in a eyes-wide-open wisdom sort of way.
So this led me to notice Walmart's catch phrase "More for Less". It just totally bugged me when I began to think about that simple phrase. Do I really NEED more for less? Do I really need to spend the "less" that Walmart offers me only so that I can accumulate MORE? And more of what? Most of the stuff in Walmart is poorly made, lacks true beauty and creativity, and will not last very long. I read something recently that talked about how companies actually make products to break quickly so that we will have to buy another one more quickly! And Walmart doesn't seem to sell many products from companies that actually value quality, sustainability, and longevity. We get so trapped into thinking that we have to spend less so that we can have more. I am seeing that there is nothing wrong with spending MORE on a few quality items and being content with LESS stuff.
And I then saw a Walmart commercial using their new phrase "Save Money. Live Better." So if I save money by going to shop there I will be living better? Equating shopping at Walmart with a better life? Wow. My worst ever shopping experiences have all happened there. The parking lot is a zoo. The bright glaring lights give me headaches. The stuff is overwhelming and mostly tacky and cheap. The clientele leave much to be desired in the respect for children category. Some of my hardest emotionally stressful days have been spent feeling like I have to shop there to save a few pennies in order to have a better life? If that is the better life, no thanks.
One of the best decisions I have made in recent years is to say no to Walmart and to "live better" by shopping at our local Publix grocery store. Kind and extremely helpful managers, cashiers, deli workers, and baggers. Beautiful quality produce and meats. Great food choices, clean store, environmentally conscious, and they load up my groceries in my van for me! Does it cost more? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes! Do I spend less on "stuff" now? Yes! I'd rather spend money on quality foods and have a great shopping experience than acquiring more trinkets for $3.96.
Certainly where we shop is a matter of personal preference. But I will say that more and more I hear fellow mamas thinking they HAVE to shop at Walmart for the well-being of their family's purse and they absolutely hate it and feel trapped to it. I just want to offer the freedom to STOP shopping there and that you can still save money shopping elsewhere and you will actually buy less random stuff that was "a good deal". Realize the power of marketing these days and that everyone is competing for your dollar and your loyalty.
Less is more.
Buy quality and live better.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
have you listed all the times you've tried
do you call on all your alibis
when somebody asks the question why are you hiding
did you feel the pull, did you hear the call
did you take a chance and lose it all
do you fear there's no collateral left for trying
friend i know your heart is raw
but love is still a worthy cause
picking up and pressing on
oh love is still a worthy cause
like the touch that starts the thaw
oh, love is such a worthy cause
or the word that breaks the pause
in the midst of passing bravery
in the face of our own injuries
is the constant generosity of grace
it's the beauty in the tales we tell
it's the pressing on and ending well
it's the joy that comes when we give our self away
i love because he loved me when i had nothing
i love because you loved me when i had nothing
i love because he loved me when i had nothing
i had nothing
when you count the cost and all seems lost
love is still a worthy cause
when you're pressing on though your strength is gone
love is still a worthy cause
oh, love is still a worthy cause
oh, love is still a worthy cause
lyrics by Sara Groves
photo by Madolina
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
There is a lot of talk about the 3 R's...reduce, reuse, recycle. But over the past few months I have also been introduced to the term "precycling" which focuses more on reducing and reusing. Precycling means that you are pre-thinking about your purchases in order to leave a lighter ecological footprint. It means that I am more mindful to buy in bulk, buy less packaged goods, use cloth shopping bags so that I don't have to recycle. Recycling costs a lot of money, does cause pollution, and not everything is easily recycled. Recycling is important and is a great green baby step, but in the long run it's better to not have created the waste to begin with. For example...when I use those cloth bags, I am not supporting the making of plastic bags, the possible toxic incineration of them, or the costly recycling after I have used them.
I am a manic declutterer. I can't stand a bunch of "stuff" so I am quick to send things to Goodwill or to the trash. I became convicted about the sheer amount of junk I throw away....those dreadful Happy Meal toys, Dollar Tree toys, disposable items, cartons, toiletries, etc. Many of these things could have avoided the landfill if I had not allowed them in the first place! It's caused me to think more about the kinds of things I buy for my children....to opt for quality classic items that will last vs. cheapy stuff that breaks or gets boring within a few months. I try to encourage the children to buy quality purchases instead of junk...example: Sam went to the thrift store and wanted to buy several dated Happy Meals toys that I knew he would tire of in a few days...I encouraged him to keep looking and not to settle and we found an awesome Electricity science kit that he will use for years to come and actually learn something too!
Here are a few tips for starting a mindset of precycling:
- Buy in bulk. I buy a large box of Arm and Hammer powdered detergent that is cardboard packaging. Target has it for about $11 and it washes 145 loads.
- Reduce the packaging. I buy frozen orange juice concentrate now instead of the big carton. I try to buy big bags of items instead of individually wrapped items. Big cartons of yogurt instead of individual sizes. Glass jars of applesauce instead of individual plastic ones. Hand soap refills instead of always buying new bottles.
- Carry your own water bottle instead of buying disposable bottles of water. Have one for each of your kids instead of buying juice boxes.
- Reuse packaging for home organization. Check out this post on how to turn cardboard packaging into drawer organizers. I also save glass peanut butter jars, salsa jars, and applesauce jars for organization of buttons, pencils, paintbrushes, Q-tips, left-overs, to drink out of, insect collecting, smoothie storage, and on and on.
- Use cloth bags for shopping.
- Reuse gift bags or make your own.
- Stop buying your kids quick fix toys that are junky. Give them a hug or time with you playing a game or a trip to the park. So often it's easy to buy off our kids instead of what they really need...quality time and relationship. Teach them to buy aesthetically pleasing, quality toys that will last.
- Avoid the $1 section at Target :) Most of it will break and is only appealing to our desire to have something new and cute to make us feel better temporarily. I get major sucked into this stuff and most of it ends up at Goodwill very quickly.
- Buy used when possible. It keeps stuff out of landfills and slows all the production of all that stuff. And it feels good to give something new life. I just bought a groovy vintage pillowcase at a local thrift shop for 50 cents that I am going to re-purpose into an apron!
- Simply think before you buy. Do I really need this? Do my kids? Am I just shopping because I am tired or lonely or sad? Would a hug or a phone call meet the need instead? Is this a need or a want? Could it wait? Can I be content with what I have? These heart issues are interesting to think about and pray about. There certainly is much beautiful freedom to enjoy and not black and white answers. But it's good to think about.
I am not perfect at any of this or even do all of these things, but I do desire to make better purchasing choices and stewardship choices. We are in the midst of a 13-week financial class by Dave Ramsey and it's great to be able to put a name on every dollar and see where the waste is. As we make better choices and stop buying "stuff", we are able to spend our money on where we really want to spend it...generosity, gifts, vacations, and hospitality. These are things that foster relationships and community....the real things of life that we all really desire.
Here's to reducing, reusing, and PREcycling!
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Sometimes the information age that we are in can be so draining. Don't get me wrong, I love the Internet and have been positively impacted in immeasurable ways through all that I can learn with just a few keystrokes. It's empowered me in many ways to research, to question, to learn, to listen, and then make the decisions myself. BUT, there are so many people out there spouting off opinions and ideals and thoughts who claim to be experts and so many of these so-called experts contradict each other!! I have termed all of these people...the food gurus, the education gurus, the sustainable gurus, the spiritual gurus...the "voices".
There are so many "voices" competing for our minds, for our agreement, for our submission. I am getting so drained by all these "voices" who tell me the best way to educate, the best way to live, the best way to worship, the best way to eat, the best way to parent, and on and on and on. Most of these "voices" are well-meaning and passionate and convincing which makes silencing them even more difficult. And I don't doubt that they have seen "fruit" in their lives, in their children, in their health. But that doesn't mean it's the BEST or God's plan or the thing that will make the Fall actually go away! I love that John Eldredge says "it can't be done". No amount of good choices can redeem us, make us happy, gives us guarantees, or fulfill promises. We live in a painful world and are promised suffering. That's a hard, disillusioning pill to swallow.
I spent years in a controlling spiritual environment that taught me that I have a vast amount of control through choice. So I obsessed about the best schooling, the best eating, the best way of living, the best way to hear/obey God. I thought that I would then have the guarantee of perfect kids, perfect health, perfect peace, perfect connection with God. My goal was not so much to honor Christ but to be perfect. But you know what? The Lord has been bringing me to the place of brokenness and humility (and I continually wander in and out of that hard place as I see more icky junk in my heart!) that says that God is sovereign and good and loving and I am not justified by my choices or guaranteed anything in this life. I could eat Big Macs, use plastic daily, send my kids to public school, throw everything away, and God still loves me, accepts me and call me His own. What grace! What freedom!
I am what Bebo Norman calls himself...a "clumsy Christian". I am going to stumble, bumble, doubt, and fall and I want to seek to continually hold on to Jesus instead of the illusion of control through lifestyle choices. Jesus is who I need. Jesus is who saves, who sustains, who upholds....when all of my plans come to naught, He is still loving me, caring for me and my children, and guarantees me a spot reserved in heaven with Him.
We all need to rest more. We take ourselves way too seriously. We need to take the FINISHED work on the Cross more seriously. It is finished. We are completed. We are WHOLE! If I don't eat organic, Jesus loves me and is pleased with me. If I don't homeschool, Jesus loves me and is pleased with me. If I don't recycle, Jesus loves me and is pleased with me. He settled all of that before I even came to be! Do you truly believe that if you stopped doing every "good thing" in your life right now that He would still be completely accepting of you and loving you fully?
Lest you think I now promote a complete hedonistic lifestyle, no worries :) I still feel that the choices I am making right now are important ones for me and my family, but I am seeking not to put my faith in those choices. I place my faith daily in Him and in His sufficiency and in His wonderful grace. And as I do this, I am actually liking myself more and other people more. I am becoming kinder, more loving, more accepting, more gracious, more hospitable, more willing to learn from others who are different, more inviting....hmmmm, more like Jesus :) The more I place my faith in MY choices, MY lifestyle, and MY ways, I am more judgmental, alienated, isolated, elitist, self-righteous, perfectionistic....full of Self with lack of love and tolerance and graciousness towards others. It's a sad place to be. Jesus, deliver me!
Without love we are nothing. I can eat great, school well, memorize Scripture, balance the checkbook, and sew beautiful goods, but without love, it just doesn't matter. It just doesn't.
So my top priority right now is not to investigate more informed choices....I need a break from all the information overload and to just sit, just be, just rest in Jesus. And to spend more time focused on others and loving them through asking better questions, inviting people in, really listening, bringing a meal over, offering to help, etc. Sometimes consuming ourselves with our own lives and choices makes for a very self-consumed person unable to see the needs of those around and taking baby steps to serve. I simply want my daily goal to be to love Jesus and love others.
So I will continue to share about my thoughts on lots of different topics...but I want my life to also not become bogged down by these ultimately non-essential issues. I want to spend more time reflecting on Jesus and His call to love than I do other things. I don't want my view of Him and His call to be so small that all I can talk about or get passionate about is recycling, sewing, organic eating, good books, or whatever. I want to listen more to Him right now than I do all the "voices"...to tune into what the Ultimate Expert is wanting to say to me right now. And I think I already know what He is saying....just love people, Aimee, just love.