Saturday, November 30, 2013

7: Month 4: Life Without TV

I'm previewing Month 4 a day early because it is Media month.  That's right.  No tv, Facebook, internet (other than work), or gaming systems for an entire month for our whole family.  This is going to be rough!  I use media as a pacifier.  My tv is a companion while I work, a pacesetter in my day, and a mindless distraction at night to relax.  The internet is my primary source of news and silent thief of my time--one blog article here, a few Facebook statuses there.

I'm started a preemptive list of all things I already know that I'll miss next month.
  • Almost the ENTIRE college bowl season!  You need to understand that we will watch No Name School play No Skill School in Nowhere, USA because it's college football!  We will undoubtedly miss the Virginia Tech game because it is highly unlikely they'll make it to a January game.
  • SNL Christmas Special.  I know it is fairly inappropriate but it's almost completely hilarious.
  • My daily blog reading.  There is a list of awesome blogs that I read each day.  I hope they don't write anything awesomely inspiring in the next month because I won't read it until January.
  • The Christmas Story.  Every year Brandon and I sit on Christmas afternoon and watch this movie together.  It's just something we always do together.  He is already singing the Deck the Halls version from the end of the movie and it's November.
But what I might gain:
  • Undistracted time to read.
  • Getting caught up on my scrapbooks.  I'm only 3 years behind.
  • Time to do activities with my kids instead of zoning out.
  • Real peace and quiet.
I will still be writing here next month.  Maybe I'll have time to write some of these thoughts swirling through my head.

7: Nobody Cares What You Wear

After spending the last month rotating through the same 7 clothes, I've come to the conclusion that no one really notices or cares what I wear.  People might admire something I wear but they aren't keeping track.  As one of my coworkers said just the other day, he hadn't really noticed that I was wearing the same thing all month.  Partially because it wasn't worrying me nearly as much as Month 2: Food I'm sure.

What's been surprising is that I haven't really cared that much either.  That's not to say that I haven't missed some of my clothes this month.  There's a couple shirts I'd really like to wear (like the 2 new ones that I ordered on sale) and I miss my shoes.  I've learned that I can use my clothes more wisely if I'm forced to be creative and I need many less options.  As a bonus, I saved a lot of time this past month by not worrying about my outfits.  I didn't get laughed at by Brandon while standing in front of my closet just staring.

Final Thoughts about Clothes:
  • Dirty is relative.  I can wear items several times before I wash them.  
  • Given a few accessories, one shirt can be worn 3 times a week and nobody says anything.
  • Less choices make you more creative about how you wear your clothes.
  • Neither me nor my kids need clothes that we only wear 1 or 2 times.
  • I am blessed because even with only 7 clothes, I was able to wash them whenever I want.
  • Clothes don't make me.  They only provide an outward way for me to define myself. 
To end the month, I cleaned a few more items out of my closet.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bitterness During the Season of Thanksgiving

I realize this sounds ungrateful less than a week before Thanksgiving but why write if it isn't honest? 

Beyond Ordinary is one couple's story of redemption after years of deception, damage, and mistrust.  I happened upon the book and decided it seemed interesting enough to purchase.  I'm not really sure why I was drawn to this book because I am blessed with a great husband and wonderful marriage.  We're not perfect by any means but we truly enjoy spending our lives together.  A marriage improvement book wasn't exactly what I was searching for.

As the chapters progressed I realized that my truths from this book didn't involve my marriage.  My message affected other relationships in my life.  There are parts of my life where pain has burrowed so deeply that I have put on the armor of bitterness to shield myself from future attacks.

"Forgiveness is a word with a simple definition, yet the concept it represents is so hard to live out... I think that for most of us we associate forgiveness with a wound that has been inflicted on us."

Cuts, scrapes, those little bumps in life all heal quickly and disappear with little trace.  It's the deepest cuts that leave scars.  After time those scars can color our very souls.  You become hardened.  Or at least I did.  Rude comments or judgments from an acquaintance didn't cause the pain.  Honestly, I'm more likely to be annoyed or bad about those.  The damage was caused by those who attacked the core of my soul.  It wasn't a battle, it was a war.  Long, sustaining, staged on multiple fronts.  My beliefs, my integrity, my value as a wife or mother, my very being. 

For years I tried to prove myself worthy but the attacks continued.  Then I tried to confront the issues head on, still no results.  As the arrows continued to fly I finally donned the only armor that truly allowed me to feel safe.  Being on high alert at all times and trying to foresee potential attacks was the only way to feel prepared.  I didn't identify it as bitterness until recently.  It seems so justified.  I was hurt by people who were supposed to be close to me.  They were supposed to be our support.  The wounds are still there and some days they are raw. 

"my anger seemed to subside, but the reality is that my anger had become bitterness, a silent killer."

Bitterness is the slow murderer of my soul.  When confronted by that part of life I change into someone else.  My joy has been stripped by fear and pain.  Even now, I am anxious about the next few months--too many potential events.  What can my excuse be this time?  Can I conveniently be unavailable?  Avoidance seems like the best option.  Will I be able to conceal my hatred?

"Bitterness is like picking up a stone to throw and holding on to it so you'll have ammunition the next time you're wounded."

I know that I can't continue on this path.  The bitterness will slowly seep into the other parts of our lives.  I have to lay this down because it has become a sin in my life.  I am responsible for my response.  I may never receive an acknowledgment or apologies but I have to release that condition of forgiveness.  Trust and the relationships may never be restored but I can't be a hindrance to the process.  If I am harboring bitterness there will never be a chance for restoration.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why You Should Care About Starving Children in Africa

November 3rd was Orphan Sunday.  November is Adoption Month.  I can't decide if it's awesome or sad that we have a specific day and month to focus on these issues.  Are we intentionally acknowledging children, caregivers, birth families, and adoptive families?  Do we simply forget or ignore the needs of these families and children the 335 other days of the year?

Prompted by an e-mail in October, I asked if our church could take a few moments to pray for these children and adults around the world.  The numbers are staggering and it would be so easy to simply become overwhelmed and turn away.  There are an estimated 153 Million orphans worldwide.  Some of these children have lost one parent, some both.  Some of these children have families who are simply struggling to provide for them.  Each situation is different. 

Consider these 4 countries where members of our church have visited.

Democratic Republic of Congo:  5 Million Orphans, 20% will not live past age 5
Guatemala:  370,000 Orphans, 50% of children live in poverty
Uganda:  2.5 Million Orphans, Nearly 1/2 of these children are orphaned due to AIDS
India:  32 Million Orphans, Anemia affects 74% of children under age 3

We have a responsibility to care for these children and families.  It's not a choice.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  Matthew 25:40

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:27

These literally starving children in Africa, Asia, Central America, around the world and here in the US are beloved children of God.  They are the future of their villages and countries.  They are heirs to same kingdom of God that we wish to inherit.  They could be us given unforeseen circumstances.  If you were starving, alone, or struggling who would help you?

My only task that Sunday morning was to do a short intro to the video but I couldn't even manage to make it through that during the second service without losing my composure.  For anyone that really knows me, you know that I consider crying to be a sign of my own personal weakness and will avoid the acknowledgement of emotion at most any cost.  This issue is bigger than me or my self respect.  If me crying during the intro made you uncomfortable--Good!  (Be glad that you didn't see me bawling during the video.)  If the video made you feel convicted--Even Better! 

This issue is about children, each with a name who wants to be loved. 

For me, this is about Alejandra and Yire.  Our home is waiting for them.  They are part of the group that may never fulfill the dream of family.  Guatemala, along with other countries is not open to international adoptions.  With a relatively low domestic adoption rate, they might grow into adults at the orphanage.  Even if we are never able to adopt them, we will care for and provide for them.

This issue isn't just about adoption.  It's about the best interest of children, whether that means supporting the socioeconomic growth of families in underdeveloped areas, providing improved health and hygiene services, supporting legitimate orphan care ministries who are impacting the daily lives of children around the world, or opening our homes to children.

So I'll quit being embarassed and annoyed about crying in church this one time because we should all be moved by the needs of these children.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

7: Clean is Relative with Clothes This Month

Month 3 of the 7 Fast focuses on clothes.  Remember how many I had in September?  More than 300 in my neatly organized closet.  I managed to rid my closet of about a third of my clothing that month, the vast majority going with us to Guatemala.  Boy have I downsized again--7 articles of clothing and 7 accessories for the entire month of November.

I tried to go multi-purpose as to not have any "eggs" this month.  Clothes--black shirt, white shirt, dark blue dress, black printed tunic, skinny jeans, regular jeans, and black leggings.  Accessories--boots, sneakers, black flats, scarf, magazine bead necklace, and 2 pairs of earrings.  These are some hardworking clothes this month.  And for everyone that's wondering because it is a very common question--underwear and pajamas aren't counting this month.  Those just seem like essentials for modesty.  So if you feel like that's cheating, I'm not sorry.

As I walked into the kitchen on Thursday morning, Aubrey asked me why I was wearing those jeans with that type of shirt (really the blue dress).  Brandon asked her what month it was--"Oh yeah..."  I was proud of my outfit, no matter what the 8 year-old fashionista thought. 

A friend asked me at church on Wednesday if my clothes were clean, knowing which month we were on.  Really, it's all relative this month.  I can promise you that I'm not washing them after every wear, that's unrealistic for me right now.  I'd be in the same position I was on Friday morning more often.  Here's the situation:  Wednesday=tunic, Thursday=dress, and I have to choose my black shirt or my white shirt.  Keep in mind, they've both already been worn to work this week.  I have to go white because I need my black shirt to set up the store on Saturday to hide potential stains.  The problem, my white shirt is apparently in the laundry.  You can already tell where this is headed, can't you?  That's right, into the clothes hamper!  The shirt wasn't really dirty, just worn twice.  It was however wrinkly but that handy blue scarf worked well to distract from the wrinkles.  I guess I'm at the point of wearing a wrinkly shirt instead of repeating twice within 3 days.

The clothes thing hasn't been too bad, not nearly as bad so far as food.  I don't hate any of my choices yet.  I don't have the desire to cheat.  Maybe I'm just prone to be fashionably lazy when it's acceptable.  What I have been thinking, especially after picking a shirt out of the hamper is that it's just another way I'm so lucky.  Last night, I washed that shirt in a washing machine.  I didn't hand wash it in a pila.  I don't live in a home with a dirt floor where it is hard to be clean even when you try. 

I might go through my closet again because I think there's some more I could give away...

Monday, November 4, 2013

7: When Food is More than Nourishment

October was focused on Food.  Chicken, Wheat Bread, Potatoes, Eggs, Apples, Special K, and Chocolate Marshmallow Ice Cream are good foods, just not for a month. 

Other than eggs, which I quickly learned that I don't like as much as I thought, these are foods that taste good and I enjoy eating.  I wasn't hungry during the month because I could get as much of these foods as I wanted at any time.  The real problem was my desire to revert back to my comfy American diet. 

Being limited in my choices was the worst part of the month.  That may seem obvious but it starts to take over your thoughts in short order.  The idea of anyone eating anything made me think about what I couldn't eat.  My general demeanor was grouchy, I can admit it.  Cooking food for other people that I couldn't eat made me jealous.  I wanted what they were having.  I was longing for different foods.  As I cooked, I knew what I was missing because I had experienced it before.  Food is more than just nutrition to me.  Food is enjoyment and freedom.  I like eating different foods, my favorite foods.  Foods hold an emotional meaning in my life.  Pumpkin Cookies are a necessity for Fall but they weren't on my list.

Maybe some of this is what it is like for the children I met at the feeding center.  They watch the world outside and want just a little bit of what other people have.  Due to their circumstances, they don't even really know what they are longing for--something different and better.  Leftover food that isn't rice or beans, Candy, Second hand toys and clothes, it doesn't matter just something different from the norm.  How do we help them rise above the norm?  I don't know the answer to solve all of the problems, I just know my small part. 

One of the most important parts of this journey for me is to keep myself in check as I go through my days.  I am blessed beyond measure.  When I was feeling sorry for myself, I drifted back to the feeding center and thought of the kids.  My limitations ended last Friday, those children live that way every day.  They can't count down the days until they have an unlimited assortment of foods awaiting them. 

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday....Black Beans and Rice.  Until someone gives them something different...