How far away is your mission field?

I don’t read a lot of magazines.  Not because I don’t like reading them, it’s more about buying a pricey publication that I’m supposed to throw away (recycle) once I’ve finished reading it.  I’m not sure if it’s my hoarder tendencies or my desire to not be wasteful that keeps me from discarding these disposable print pieces, but I find myself keeping them.  Recently, I received a free copy of Reject Apathy while attending a conference.

The cover stories quickly grabbed my attention.  I decided to make a little time to leaf through it, looking for anything that might interest me.  As it turns out, the whole magazine was intriguing. I couldn’t put it down.  These people know how to write articles for ADHD people!  I have the attention span of a gnat, but I was completely sucked into this publication.  One article in particular rocked my world: Post-Missions Cynicism by Curt Devine (read the full article).  He put into words everything I thought and felt after my first mission trip, but never myself tried to identify.

“The conflict between excess at home and scarcity abroad is a lot to handle. The temptation can be to hate America’s abundance, or forget the poverty overseas and go back to life the way it was before. The key is living within the tension.” — Curt Devine

The article is about living in the tension between the excess of our American culture and the scarcity experienced in our mission fields.  His abroad covers a good portion of the planet.  My abroad doesn’t span as far, but does it need to?  I feel the same way he does when I return from an orphanage in Mexico.  I also feel this way when I get home from volunteering at the homeless shelter that’s 15 miles away.

How can I come back from seeing a world in need and be okay with my big air-conditioned house filled mostly with things I don’t need?  How can I go to sleep at night lying on my safe, cozy bed, set with my perfect sleep number and not think about people that don’t even have a bed?  I heard Kay Warren speak several years ago about how she’s been ruined.  As Kay says, she used to be fun at parties, but now all she can talk about is the AIDS crisis.  She witnessed this horrible epidemic first hand, but upon going home, she couldn’t forget it.  I guess I’ve been ruined, but ruined by the epidemic of poverty and homelessness.  Continue reading

no retail shopping challenge: 1 year later

It’s the one year anniversary since I finished the no retail shopping challenge.  Why did I do the challenge?  Straight from my original blog post:

I wanted to live differently, meaning finding creative ways to not buy stuff I really don’t need, to share stuff with others, to not be wasteful and to be more environmentally friendly.

So what did this accomplish?  Looking at it one year later, it accomplished a lot more than I could have ever imagined.  Since I blogged it every day for the entire year, I have a great record of how the year progressed and all of the lessons I learned through the challenge that many called crazy.  Let me share a few of the posts with you.

Top 3 blog posts, as chosen by readers:

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tired of trying to NOT keep up with the Jones’

I decided to participate in the project on May 15th.  Here’s the project description off the website:

On this one single day we ask you to pick up your camera and help us photograph daily life. What is close to you? What matters to you? We will connect your images to images from all around the world, creating a unique online experience where photographs will be shared, compared and explored. Your view on life will be preserved to inspire generations to come. 

Admittedly, my life has been too busy lately and I really don’t have the bandwidth needed to participate in anything like this.  In a very apathetic mood, I set out to photograph a few things from my day.  Of the ten photos I was allowed to submit, I submitted 9.  Photos that anyone would look at and say, “There’s nothing really great about these photos.  They’re just normal people doing everyday things.  Bor-ing.”

There’s nothing really great about these photos.  They’re just normal people doing everyday things.

Initially, that’s what I saw too.  I almost didn’t submit anything.  I guess that’s the good thing about social media.  It’s an accountability group, whether you want it to be or not.  I publicly said, “I’m going to do this!  You should too!”  It would be awkward to not do it and have to say that I’m trying to achieve some sort of greatness with this that I couldn’t even remotely come close to.

You can view all of my submissions here.  My pictures might suck, for lack of a better word, but my life doesn’t.  I totally can relate to Donald Miller right now with Blue Like Jazz.  Take a look.

School Project

What I see:  A messy coffee table with a kids’ school project that is finally done.  You should see the rest of the house!

What this means in my life:  There are so many things this means in my life.  Boring photo?  Yes.  What does it say about my life?

  • I have a house.  Not just a shelter, but a really nice shelter.
  • I have 2 kids that have the opportunity to go to a great school.
  • My kids are creative and have a place to use those skills.
  • My wallet… I have money to feed myself and my kids without having to struggle day to day.
  • I have a great job that allows me some flexibility to work from home sometimes so I can be with my kids.
  • I get to spend time with my kids.
  • I have great friends.

I could go much deeper than this, but I’ll spare you some of the details.  My point is that there are so many things I take for granted.  I think I probably speak for all of us when I say that.  I posted this quote on my Facebook page a couple of days ago:

“Sometimes I just get worn out being a square peg in a world of round holes.”

When I wrote this, I just felt tired.  Tired of trying to not keep up with the Jones’.  Tired of trying to just keep my head above water in getting everything done that I feel I need to do.  Tired of the responsibility of being the head of my household.

If I made a list from each of the photos of everything good that’s represented, this would be a really long blog post.  My point?  I need to take the time to look at my life through a different lens sometimes and appreciate all of the goodness in it.

If it’s the thought that counts, think about it.

I wasn’t going to do much blogging on holiday shopping, but people keep asking me what kind of stuff I’m buying for Christmas gifts or what are good gifts to give that give back to people in need?  So here it is… my brain dump on Christmas shopping.  Yes, I call it Christmas shopping, not holiday shopping.  I suppose we could also call it Black Friday shopping.  It seems as though that’s become a bigger holiday than the actual Christmas holiday we’re shopping for.

Now that I think about it, these principals could apply all year long and to any holiday where it is customary to give a gift.  Birthdays and Christmas are the two big ones.

So what gift shopping is considered good?  Shopping in and of itself is not bad, it’s some of the things associated with it that are bad.  Debt is bad.  Buying gifts for people you don’t want to buy gifts for because you’ve succumbed to the cultural purchasing pressure is bad.  Buying people stuff they don’t want or need is bad.  Spoiling kids with a bunch of stuff they don’t need is bad.  If it’s the thought that counts, then let’s think about it.  There are many positive ways to shop, supporting good for humanity, the environment and for your pocketbook.

Service, not stuff.

You might believe our country is using up most of our planets’ resources and you might be trying to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible, or you might even think that’s all an bunch of hype.  No matter which end of the spectrum you’re on, buying services versus physical goods is, well, all around good.  Why?

  • You’re supporting a skill or a trade.
  • You’re helping the economy without physical stuff.
  • You don’t have to worry if the recipient likes your gift, and the best part? No looking around their house to make sure they’re using the item you gave them and no getting your feelings hurt when they tell you the dog broke it.
  • Maybe the gift recipients will get this concept too, then they won’t give you anymore giant golf ball candles, Chia pets or Santa figures that poop candy.
  • Most service places have gift cards or gift certificates.
  • It takes less time to shop because you can shop at places you do business while everyone else is in line at W*%#@!t.
  • There’s a better chance they’ll have a need for a service than a need for more stuff.  If you need something, or even want something, you go buy it, right?  Why would your giftees be any different?  Well, they could be unemployed.  If that’s the case, they have needs, not wants.

So what are good services to buy?  There are many choices here, some more practical than others.  Some of these services could be provided by you, which means no cost to you other than your time.   Continue reading

it’s hotter than… [daily good photo]

116°?!!??  I really have no idea how hot hell is, but I’m pretty sure we have to be close.  So how is this good?  I find a lot of good in this crazy hot weather.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m tired of it since it’s been over 100° for over a month now.  Okay, here’s my ‘good’ in it:

My mobile thermometer.  I’m glad my car has this temperature feature.  That might not seem like a big deal to anyone reading this, but my car is 15 years old.  I like simple ‘old-fashioned’ gadgets like this, not the complicated computers they have in all of the new cars now.  You can say I’m getting old and I like old stuff, but I love technology, so I don’t think that’s the case.  I just don’t need technology everywhere and on everything in my life.

Southern living.  I lived in Wisconsin and in Chicago, Illinois long enough to know I love living in the south.  I’d rather deal with this heat for a couple of months rather than the snow and cold.  Last time I was in Wisconsin, that little gadget said -17°.

Cool off!  Although the A/C in my car works, it’s not the coldest air ever.  And let’s not even talk about my electric bill even though I keep my thermostat set on 80°.  But we do have air conditioning.  Down in Mexico, only 8 hours away in drive time, there’s many people without this luxury.  They have hotter temperatures than we do… without anything to cool them off.  Sure, you can say, “They’re used to it…”, but really?  It’s good that I can afford, and have… air conditioning.

rethinking good in frisco style magazine

Thanks so much to Frisco Style Magazine for rethinking good in their August 2011 arts issue.  No retail shopping for one year has proven to be a great way to rethink no only shopping, but the way we live life.  Here’s a few of the blog posts related to the article if you would like more details.  Thanks again for rethinking good!

What is the no retail shopping challenge? [info]

Back to school [day 58]

School supply update [day 83] 

To Infiniti and beyond! [day 175]

Airing my dirty laundry… and clean laundry [day 235]

My new minimalist challenge [day 266]

Cost analysis, kid style [day 309]

Do you share your household budget with your kids? [day 337]

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gracie rockin’ the guitar [daily good photo]

[like… a lot]  Once a month on Thursdays, we go to the nursing home across the street to hang out and sing with the residents.  I love to hear their stories, like Flo who was an incredible artist and painter or Ethel, 99 years old that was a biker chick in her younger days.  Gracie, whom we’ve never met before, joined us last night to sing.  She kept looking behind us because she saw an extra guitar and she kept asking for it.  Finally Steve got up, gave her the guitar and Gracie rocked the house!  She was harmonizing, belting out the hymns with her beautiful voice and playing the guitar like she had been in a band all her life.  Her happiness quickly spread to all of us around her.  I can’t wait until next month to see Gracie again.  I’m thinking we need to find her a guitar, as it’s unusual that we have an extra one.

road trip adventure

18 hours in a car?  Not a problem for us!  Yeah, I would love to fly and get to my destination quickly, but I’m good with a road trip.  There’s more adventure in driving.  (Texas to northern Colorado)  I don’t have photos of all the beautiful sights along the way, but I have some.  God was showing off His beautiful art yesterday… lightning, rainbows, rain, sunshine, deserts, mountains, clouds, storms, trees, rocks, sand…

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peacock feather [daily good photo]

[like]  I like, okay, love peacock feathers.  The colors are bold and beautiful, but more than that, they are a sign of protection.  I’ve studied Persian rug art and the peacock feather is a sign of protection.  This particular feather is wrapped around my happy tree.  The happy tree is a dead tree that is stained bright blue and stands tall by my front door.  It’s an art piece that I love to look at every time I enter or exit my house.  Luckily I don’t have an HOA and I have really awesome neighbors.

bird singing on the roof [daily good photo]

[appreciate]  A cardinal sitting on my roof, singing for over 10 minutes.  I got my phone out and opened an app that plays bird sounds and I talked to him.