Thursday, August 9, 2012

Week 5:7: Waste

Hey peeps. Tomorrow is my birthday and I'm spending time with my family, so the blog is up a day early. Apparently I'm way behind, or way ahead.

This week we'll be discussing the "green" chapter. I've got to be honest, this chapter had little to no effect on me. We are not really a green family and I don't feel any inkling to change any of our habits. I know that several of my friends are pretty green (I'm talking to you Vikki and Shannon), so I'm really interested in getting your thoughts on this chapter. Jen listed 7 habits for a greener life:

  • Gardening
  • Composting
  • Conserving Energy and Water
  • Recycling
  • Driving only one car
  • Shopping thrift and second hand
  • Buying only local.
Which of these do you do already? Do you feel like you should change your habits to start any of them? Just for fun, here are my thoughts on the 7 habits.

Gardening - We don't eat much produce in our house. The $15 worth of fruits and veggies that I get at the farmer's market each week sometimes rots before it is eaten. It seems that a garden would be a waste, as I would be the only person eating what was grown. Also, I am terrible at keeping plants alive. Have you seen my tomatoes this year? Shameful. I loved the idea of having someone come over and farm on my land. My yard is huge and I would gladly offer it up. However, this idea got a huge thumbs down from the hubs. He told me in no uncertain terms that he is not comfortable with strangers on our property. Ever. I'm pretty sure he would build a moat if he could. 

Composting - We have a skunk problem already, so I am not about to through rotting food in the yard so the skunks, raccoons, and opossums can fight over it at 11pm. (Although it is fun to watch, it smells terrible and then we have to shut the windows and turn on the a/c. I'd rather just use my window fan.)

Conserving Energy and Water - I'm pretty sure we already do this. We don't turn on the lights unless we have to, we have no central air, and we keep it warm in the summer (the a/c doesn't come on unless it reaches 85 or above in the living room) and cooler in the winter (67ish). This has little to do with the earth and much to do with the fact that we are cheap. The lower our electric and gas bill, the happier we are.

Recycling - I put pizza boxes, diaper boxes, milk jugs and juice containers in the bin. I'm not sure that we have many more things that are recyclable. We're pretty much a filtered tap water and coffee drinking house so we don't have soda cans.

Driving only one car - Not unless I move to the city. Lou has to go to work, and I have to grocery shop and get the kids to school. This just seems completely unrealistic to me.

Shopping thrift and second hand - Most of the kids clothing and some other major purchases (i.e. my Kindle, our newest tv, all of our cars) were purchased used from consignment sites or Craigslist. Again, this has nothing to do with the earth and everything to do with cost effectiveness.

Buying only local - I don't mind buying local, but I haven't ever gone out of my way to do so. If buying local means spending a lot more money on something, it's probably not going to happen.

Here's another thought that keeps me from caring a ton about the state of the earth - Isn't God going to just destroy it anyway? It talks about Him creating a new heaven and a new earth, so should we really be spending a lot of time, effort, and money making sure that we're green? Wouldn't all of that energy/expense/excitement be put to better use by feeding the hungry, loving our neighbor, and seeking a deeper relationship with Him? Don't get me wrong, I am against outright waste but it seems that the time and effort that Jen put into this month's experiment was misplaced. 

What do you think? I know that some of you (maybe all of you) may disagree with me, which is fine! Please let me know if I'm totally missing the point here. :-)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Week 4:7:Media

Seriously, has another week gone by already?!? What the what? Again, I am going to admit to being the worst blog read-along moderator ever. I've been preparing for the blood drive this week and dealing with an unexpected personal issue, so this entry is going to be quick. I'll try to be better next week - I promise! I was going to promise, but I'm working on letting my "yes" be yes and my "no" be no. So, no promises.

What I've gleaned from both this chapter and from this week's "issue" is that I need to be more present. I need to look at my children when they talk to me and I need to interact more and be in the moment. For me, that means keeping the time on the laptop to a minimum and not being engrossed in things that are less precious that my children. (I'm talking to you, facebook.) I feel that, for me, this needs to be a step beyond media. Yes, I do need to make sure that I am untethered from my smart phone, but I am also prone to sit and read (not the Internet; an actual book) while I could be interacting with my husband and my children. If I "unplugged" and went on a computer/phone/TV media fast, I would probably just replace the time I spent doing those things with reading books. The media itself is not the problem, but my selfishness is. That's the main thing I've taken away from this chapter. Here are your questions for the week:

1. What is your reaction to this chapter? Do you feel that God is telling you to cool it with some of the media in your house? If you took away the media, what would you hope to replace it with?

2. (Stolen from Marla)  Jen says she doesn’t want her kids to be more comfortable interacting with a computer screen than a human being. If you have kids, is this a concern for you? What kinds of boundaries have you put in place to keep it from happening? (if you don’t have kids, you can answer it for yourself.)

Just a side note - I am way more comfortable interacting with a computer screen as opposed to a human being. Not necessarily face to face, but definitely on the phone. I would way, way rather send a text or an e-mail then have a phone conversation. I am not a phone talker. Also, I am easily distracted, so if you are talking to me on the phone and I have just said "yeah, uh- huh, mmm-hmmm" for awhile, chances are I have no idea what you're saying. Sorry. Please send me a  e-mail or talk to me face to face. This does NOT apply if you are a friend that I haven't spoken to in awhile that lives in a far away place - let's just say Charlotte or Uruguay. PLEASE call me and I will gladly put the kids in front of the TV (oh the irony!) and catch up with you!

3. Any other thoughts? Any questions you want to ask and get some reactions to?

The floor is yours. :-)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Week 3:7: Possessions

Welcome to week 3. I'm gonna be honest with you - this week flew by. Instead of chewing on the chapter all week and putting together a thoughtful blog post, I am cramming some sentences together in the 30 minutes I have while everyone is "resting". This was a great chapter, and I know that y'all have probably have some great thoughts about it, so please share them!

Here are a few of my own thoughts:
We have so much stuff. SO.MUCH. Sometimes I think that it would be a blessing for our whole house to burn down and then we could just start over. Gone would be my awful popcorn ceilings and the myriad of toys and all of the stuff that I am too lazy to just get rid of. In reality though, I would like to purge a great number of things but I'm overwhelmed by two thoughts:
1. How am I going to get this stuff out of here?
2. Where will it go?
I would love to be able to meet needs, I just don't know what or where those needs are. I do pass things along to Cedar Lane and Choices, but sometimes I wonder if my unloading is more of a burden than a blessing. Does anyone have any ideas how to organize something like Jen and her friends did in the book? Should we start a "You Need It, We Have It" facebook page where people could list what they have and/or what they need?

I'm stealing the discussion questions from Marla's blog, feel free to answer them in the comments, or just to think on them.

1. Jen says she used to pardon her excess from the tension of the gospel by saying, “It doesn’t matter how much you have; it’s what you do with it.” But then she forced herself to answer this question honestly: Are we really doing something honorable with our stuff other than consuming it?”
a. Have you used this line? 
b. What are some honorable things you’re doing with your stuff?

 2.“We’ve invented a thousand shades of gray, devising a comfortable Christian existence we can all live with–super awesome, except the Bible doesn’t support it. According to Scripture, no real disciple serves God while addicted to the dollar. There is no sheep/goat hybrid.” What do you think of this? What shades of gray do you think we’ve invented?

Finally, here are two quotes that really stuck out for me in this chapter:
Quote 1:
"I wondered if the American church was like well-mannered nice-talkers, sitting in a living room sipping coffee, talking about choir practice, while the world burns down outside our windows. While the richest people on earth pray to get richer, the rest of the world begs for intervention with their faces pressed to the window, watching us drink our coffee, unruffled by their suffering."

What do you think about this? On a personal level, I have been really struggling lately with this thought and with the institution of "church" and what roll I should have (if any) in it. 

Quote 2:
"Obedience isn't a lack of fear. It's just doing it scared."
Oh good. I think. 

Okay, it's comment time. I'll try to be less of a slacker next week. :-)
White highlighting!!! (Shakes fist at blog post!!)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Week 2: 7: Clothing

Welcome back. This week we’re going to be discussing the chapter about clothes. To be honest, this is not an area I feel like I struggle with. I tend to have an affinity for tank tops, hoodies and flip flops, but I’ll wear them to death. If I have clothing that I haven't worn in a while it's probably due to the vicious cycle of being normal sized, getting pregnant, post pregnancy chubbiness, working my way back to being normal sized, and then getting pregnant again. And repeat. Once I’m sure that the baby making is all done, and that I can hopefully stay in the same size shirt and pants for more than 6 months, I plan on whittling down the wardrobe further. I do tend to overbuy clothes for my children, but 90% of what they own is from yard sales or consignments. Also, I know that most of their clothes will be passed on to my friends (with Gabbi’s old stuff then coming back to me so Evie can wear it). By the time all is said and done, whatever I buy for Gabbi or Micah goes through at least 2 other children. Not too bad, especially when I try not to go over $5 per piece of clothing.

But that’s just me. I am blessed to be able to stay home and dress comfortably all the time. I’m also blessed with little to no fashion sense, so I don’t really have the desire to look current and cute.

What interested me most about this chapter (and about the discussion on Marla’s Blog, which you can find here) was her thoughts on how we should dress at church.  Here are two passages that really stood out to me.

                “As we worshipped and studies the Word and enjoyed good weather and even better company, God reminded me that gathering the saints is powerful not because we look our finest or make a big production of the details but because we unite to seek Jesus. That’s the magic. I suspect God is more glorified in a humble room of earnest worshippers than a massive production designed to sound “relevant” to the listeners but no longer relevant to God. When the worship of God turns into a “worship experience,” we have derailed as the body of Christ.”

“Finery and opulence never impressed Jesus; quite the opposite. He lambasted religious leaders for their fancy robes, strutting around as if their ceremonial dress had any bearing on the condition of their hearts. There is something noble about an assembly of believers in simple clothes, where the lobby isn’t filled with people saying “You look pretty” to one another. Maybe looking pretty isn’t the catalyst for the Spirit’s movement. Perhaps an obsessive occupation with dresses and hair and shoes detracts us from the point of the gathering: a fixation on Jesus. When the jars of clay remember they are jars of clay, the treasure within gets all the glory, which somehow seems more fitting.”

Here are your discussion questions for the week:

1. Where do you fall of the clothing continuum?
  • Don’t really care about clothes.
  • Love clothes but consider yourself more creative than excessive.
  • Sense you might have a clothing addiction.
  • Other.

2. Another quote that really hit me was this:
“We cannot carry the gospel to the poor and lowly while emulating the practices of the rich and powerful.” What do you think about this?

3. And now for the more controversial question: What do you feel is appropriate church attire? Why? I may play “devil’s advocate” in the comments section, so please don’t be offended if I question your position. I’m just trying to get some good discussion going. 

Seriously, this random white highlighting might just make me nuts. Oh well. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

7: Week 1: Food

Welcome to week 1 of our online read-along adventure. Thanks for stopping by. Before we start our discussion on the chapter, I want to share something God showed me before I delved too far into this book. If you know me, you know that I get very excited about new things. Not new material things necessarily, but new projects, new books, new ways to look at the world and grow closer to God and get myself on track. Then, after about two weeks reality sets in, my excitement wanes, and I’m already attracted to something else new and shiny. I decided that I didn’t want this to happen with 7. It was going to stick. I would read the words of Jen Hatmaker and the Sierra household would be forever changed. Then I read my “verse of the day” that conveniently pops up on my phone and I’m pretty sure it was the Holy Spirit smacking me side the head.

                This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.   Isaiah 48:17

I am the Lord your God, who teaches you..who directs you… God needs to be the one that directs me in this journey, and I really need to make sure that I am not directing myself. (‘Cause the good Lord knows how that usually turns out.) Can he use 7 and Jen Hatmaker to speak to me and to draw me closer to Him and teach me what He wants from me? I hope so. Do I need to copy anyone else for that to happen? Nope. So I need to remind myself that how God works in my life and convicts me will probably look different than how He is working in and convicting you. Praise God that He is so interested in us on an individual level that there we can all read the same book and come away with completely different thoughts and applications, yet still all be exactly where God wants us!

Now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, let the discussion begin. J  While her experiment with food is not something that I’m interested in replicating, I LOVED what her friends did – choosing seven of the most impoverished countries, learning about them and praying for them, and eating like the nation’s poorest. The plan in my household ties into something Jen said about her children:

“How can we extract our children from this filthy engine where indulgence and ignorance and ungratefulness and waste are standard protocol? Where they know they can throw perfectly good food away because there is always more in the pantry?”

Yes. Yes. Yes. We talk about how blessed we are all the time and how there are kids in other countries that are hungry, but I’m not sure that my five year old and three year old have any concept of real, actual hunger. No snack cabinet. No juice boxes. No dessert – ever. I want them to have an appreciation, a genuine thankfulness, and an awareness of how incredibly blessed and rich we are. So I’ve decided to embark upon Sundays Around the World. One Sunday a month we’ll pick a country – Haiti, Jamaica, Ethiopia – learn about it, pray for its people, and only eat what the poor eat. I’m pretty sure rice and beans are not going to go over too well with my five year old, but that’s kind of what I’m counting on. I want her to gain empathy for children whose only choice is to eat it daily or not to eat at all. I want to nurture in her a spirit of giving and sacrifice instead of one of entitlement and selfishness that seems to be so prevalent in today’s culture.

I had more in the chapter highlighted, but I don’t want this post to go on forever, and I’d like to hear what you have to say. So, without further ado, here are some discussion questions for you.

  • Just for fun, what 7 foods would you have chosen? (Water doesn’t count. Also, you don’t have to count coffee with cream and sugar. You’re welcome.)

  • What passages do you have highlighted? What did you agree with? What did you disagree with? I have a few quotes that really resonated with me, but I’ll save them for the comments section.

  • What is God teaching YOU through this chapter? Are there any foods He wants you to give up? Is He telling you that your family needs to make some changes in the food department or did He use this chapter to convict you about something else?

That’s it for chapter one. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say! And…. GO! 

P.S. I have no idea why the questions are annoyingly highlighted in white. I spent 20 minutes trying to fix it, but I have other things to do with my day. :-) 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

7: An Online Read-Along Adventure

I recently began reading Jen Hatmaker's 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It's good stuff people. Good. Stuff. Turns out some lovely ladies in my Bible study are reading it as well and a few others have decided to include it on their summer reading list. As much as I would love to host a book club every week to discuss the chapters, it's not gonna happen. So, I decided to do the next best thing and host an online read-along. Lest you think I'm a genius, I want to make it clear that I am borrowing heavily from the read along that Marla Taviano did back in February. I'm going to use her format and borrow some of her discussion questions, because she rocks. I may also steal a sentence or two, like her description of 7:

The book in a nutshell: Jen picked 7 areas of excess in her life (food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, stress) and took some simple, but drastic, actions to fight back against the greed, materialism, and over-indulgence that was taking over her family’s life.

Intrigued? Cynical? Looking for something to read with a little more substance than Fifty Shades of Gray? I'd love to have you join us! Here's what to do:

1. Get the book. 

2. Read a chapter a week.

3. Come back on Friday for our discussions - We'll discuss the first chapter on Friday, July 13th. Your options for involvement include, but are not limited to:
  •  Write your own blog post with your thoughts from the chapter and link to it.
  •  Answer one or more of the discussion questions (that I provide) in the comments section.
  •  Reply (kindly) to one or more comments.
  •  Read and reflect at your own leisure with or without commenting.
4. THE IMPORTANT PART: (Again, borrowed from Marla.)
Please take a minute or two to introduce yourself by answering the following question in the comments section of this post. YOU ARE NOT COMMITTING TO ANYTHING. Just saying hi.
  •  Your Name & Location (be as vague or specific as you’d like)
  •  Which chapter (area of excess) do you feel most smug about (because it’s not really a problem for you)?
  •  Which chapter scares you the most?
  •  (Optional) What do you hope to get out of this Read-a-Long?
Here's my answers to help you get started:
1. I'm Alicia and I live in South Jersey.
2. I think I'll have the least problem with stress.
3. The media chapter scares me. I love the Internet. And TV. And my smartphone. 
4. I love having discussion and how hearing how God is moving in others' lives. I want to be more focused on what really matters. 

That's pretty much it. I look forward to hearing from you! :-)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

So Clever...

This morning, as the kids were getting their shoes on for school, I asked Gabbi if she needed to go potty before we left. "No," she said. "I already went upstairs after I woke up. And guess what, mom - we were out of toilet paper up there, so I just pulled some out of the garbage can and wiped myself with that. Wasn't that clever?!?" 

Sigh. It looks like I need  to teach a little less about resourcefulness and a little more about hygiene.