Being Conscientious During Christmas

Ever since a few years ago when we kind of cancelled Christmas due to a housing situation, we haven’t looked at Christmas the same way. That year, we had not one but 2 Secret Santa boxes show up at our door and bless our children with gifts. Neither that year or even last year did we actually buy our children gifts from us. They had plenty to open thanks to BlogHer toys and toys from their grandparents and other family. I can guarantee you that a (then) 1 and 3 year old never noticed the difference between 4 toys and 14 toys. And even this year at 2 and 4 years old, we will continue to share with them that Christmas is not about getting, but about giving. Last year we even had the opportunity to be a Secret Santa to another family in a situation similar to ours.

I shared on my blog Facebook page this graphic from my friend Stephanie:

The fact that stores are even open on Thanksgiving day this year, forcing already low income workers to go to work instead of spending time with their families, is a sign of our severe consumption addiction in this country. We are not even willing to let retailers rest. We are asking them to serve us rather than thinking about who we can serve in our own abundance. Something I want us all to stop and think about.

Operation Christmas Child

If you’re looking for a way to give back this season, one thing we have enjoyed doing as a family and with our community group is Operation Christmas Child. Run by the nonprofit ministry Samaritan’s Purse, this program distributes shoebox-sized boxes to needy children across the globe. The fun part is that you get to pick the age range and gender of a child and fill the box with suggested items for them. My kids have had so much fun participating in this each year! Our boxes just went out today, through our church — we save on shipping if we send them all together.

There are a lot of different ways that you can abstain from consumerism and instead opt to give back. Will you take your “down” time this holiday to think about how you can turn the tide in your own family?

All the Drama: on the Internets and IRL Episode #4

All The Drama On The Internets

I have not posted this week yet because there has been so much drama and sadness, and then a little anger thrown into the mix, both on the internets and in real life. As you know, I am typically a very peaceful person so it has all been inside my head. I’m going to give you a bulleted list of things that are currently bringing me down so that I can clear my head and focus on hope.

Petty Nutrition Mis-information

#KFCKidsMeals. I am going to start with the most petty drama on the Internets and I am going to make this one quick. KFC paid for a bunch of bloggers to come out and try their new kids meals and tweet about it. They decreased the overall calorie count of the kids meals to 210, and that was a main talking point. Nevermind that the meals are still nutritionally vacant, fried, and full of PHO’s, artificial colors, and nothing resembling a real chicken. Some people got mad that bloggers would even pretend these meals were good for people. Other people defended the bloggers. Arguments ensued.
Hope: Let’s all just agree that if you are convinced by the hashtag #KFCKidsMeals that fried meat-composite is a good nutritional choice for your kids, you are gathering your information from the wrong sources, my friend.

Blows to Feminism

Steubenville. Specifically, the reaction of the city and the media to the verdict. Instead of confirming that justice had been served in the conviction of two young football players who raped a 16 year old girl and posted photos of the rape on social media, or at the very least remaining neutral, I was horrified and depressed that the reaction seemed to be sympathy for the men. It was all, “Oh, they were such good football players and now their careers are ruined! What a shame!”. There was also a huge backlash on Twitter blaming the victim of the rape. What a shame?!! Shame on HER?! Are you kidding me? What a shame that our country has so little value for that 16 year old girl and such an apparently low value for women’s sexuality in general. What a shame that women are still seen to be at fault for sexual attacks. Shame on us for raising boys that still believe that women are objects to be used and tossed away. They had an awful lot of confidence to post those pictures and it not even occur to them that anyone would have a problem with it.
Hope: I was encouraged by this post from A Holy Experience about 25 Things Our Sons Need To Know About Manhood. Oh look, I have a son that I will be raising to fight against this kind of treatment of women.

Pycon. As a woman who worked in IT and programming throughout my corporate career, I was often the only woman in my department. I went to conferences in my early 20’s. I feel that, as a woman, I have the right to raise a complaint when I am sexually harassed (and I am…we all are, constantly). But the thing that depresses me is that Adria was fired from HER job for raising a complaint. Not just the man who made the remark, but the woman who was insulted was fired. What is this, 1960? The last time I worked in corporate America I had to sit through 2 days of sexual harassment training videos and exercises. Everyone did. Those videos told us that it was OK to report sexual harassment. I think we all know that we can be fired for what we blog, but Adria’s company knew she blogged at But You’re A Girl before they hired her. I feel like this case just exemplifies how women are really treated in the workplace. We want to think we are equals, but then something like this happens and I have to think that maybe we’re just wishfully thinking.
Hope: Sometimes when I get discouraged about women in the workplace, I read tweets from my friend Blessing @ThinkFeminist on Twitter. She is a huge encouragement! And there’s also the #workingmomchat at 7pm CST on Twitter.

My own perception of safety

In the last few weeks there have been 3 aggravated sexual assaults on women in our neighborhood. Not the kind that comes from domestic violence, but unexpected attacks from a single rapist (same perpetrator of all three, confirmed with DNA evidence) who had apparently been closely watching the women’s patterns and following them to find them alone. Two of these women also go to my church. One I knew personally. I am not full of fear because I still have a trust in God that whatever He allows for me is His plan. But I am discouraged because this seems to bear out the kind of feeling I got from the news stories regarding women. I know that in the Congo and in Uganda, rape is the #1 tool of violence. Are we heading in that direction here, even in Dallas?
Hope: Our pastor wrote a blog post addressing fear. Some of my friends organized a prayer walk in the neighborhood where all three rapes occurred.

Walmart is moving across the street

I know, it is petty of me to even write about Walmart in the context of rape and discrimination. Don’t worry, friends on Facebook have pointed out that they don’t agree with my outrage. But let me ‘splain. To me, this is a moral issue. Sure, I am concerned about our property values. Yes, I am concerned about the crime rate in our neighborhood. I am annoyed that Walmart didn’t have to ask anyone before deciding to build a 90,000 square foot store less than a 1,000 feet from my door. The traffic is going to be killer. But in the larger picture, to me Walmart is symbolic of things that corporate America is doing wrong which I refuse to support with my consumer dollars. I wish that no one supported Walmart for this reason. The culture of “cheap” that Walmart has created into a religion exploits workers in their U.S. stores and in the manufacturing plants that it supports overseas (since at least 60% of Walmart’s products are imported from China and other overseas locations). Child labor, injustice, discrimination, profitting from the poverty of the underprivileged and less educated… I could rant on and on about this, but instead I have created a Pinterest board on My Problems With Walmart. Check it out. Let me know if you have additional articles to Pin.
Bottom line, this is probably about my own weakness. I am afraid that if they build that giant store within walking distance of my house, I am going to be tired and hungry one day and I am going to cave in and go to Walmart. Then I will feel guilty for days for supporting Walmart. I don’t want that temptation.
Hope: If you do live near me, please sign our petition. We need the 2,000 signatures by April 4. Honestly, it might do nothing at all, but it’s our only shot.

Thanks for letting me get all this off my chest! Supportive and encouraging comments welcome. Flaming comments, probably going to be deleted.

7 Years

Today marks 7 years since Christian and I said “I do” in a tiny private ceremony at a Justice of the Peace that is now less than a mile from our house!

December 23, 2005

I’ve never seen the movie “The Seven Year Itch” but I understand that it’s based on the idea that this is about the time in a marriage where things can solidify into negative patterns. I can totally see what they mean by that. Marriage is hard work and I have a pattern in my life of giving up when things get difficult. When I made that promise, I meant it, and divorce is not even an option for either of us. But there are many ways a couple can live in a marriage that are “un-divorced” but not in unity of mind or heart. Where you can give up but not actually leave. That is where the 7 years becomes dangerous, and we have really seen that potential since having our kids. This year, I am thankful that we made the investment in our marriage to attend 20 weeks of ReEngage at Watermark. It was 20 weeks where I had to get my kids up to church by myself ¬†and put them in childcare for the second time in one day, and it was stressful sometimes but definitely worth it. We met 3 other couples who were such blessings to us as we all talked about the issues in our marriages and how we can each take responsibility for our own side. I can’t believe we won’t be seeing them every week going forward and I will miss them a lot as we move on to other commitments in 2013.

I hope that in this 8th year of marriage, we take the lessons we have learned and re-learned and continue to actively apply them with the help of God and our community of friends.

Here’s to many more years – I love you, Christian!

Living consciously: comparison

I’ve been thinking a lot about comparison lately. I was listening to a great podcast about mothering, when the speaker threw out this quote (I’ve heard it several times but can’t remember who said it originally):

Comparison is the thief of joy

Wow, that is so true, at least in my life.

I struggle with comparison every time I hear about the mommy wars, and the TIME magazine cover from a few weeks ago really brought this to the forefront for me. It kept bringing me back to a place of comparison with moms who are “greener” and more “natural”. I belong to a Yahoo group and a few closed Facebook groups of other “green” and “eco” ladies, who are wonderful resources when I have questions. I appreciate their knowledge and patience with my questions. I have learned so much from them.

But I also have to check my involvement with any group like this because I can easily start off on a mental trail, “Oh no, I’m not doing enough of this! I do too much of that!” Or “My kids eat this/use this/go to the potty/don’t go to the potty/sleep/don’t sleep…and that means I’m a bad mother”. I’m sure if you’re a career person, you can easily go there with your career or even your marriage.

If you will permit me to be a little spiritual here, this tendency I have to compare myself and then try to “perform” perfectly has only been calmed in the last 10 years by faith. When I was a teenager, I tried to be the perfect “Christian” and failed miserably. I had a few big wipe-outs, and there was no one around to show me grace. I compared myself to other “Christians” and found myself way, way behind. Sure, I wasn’t any Hitler, but I wasn’t as good as the people around me either. Looking back, I can see that’s where comparison gets you: a weird place where you can’t tell if what you’re doing is good or bad but you feel 100% responsible for the outcome.

I know a lot of parents feel completely lost in parenting that way. Here we are, responsible for the outcome of actual little peoples’ lives, and we have no instructions or directions except what we hear from “experts” who claim to have all the answers, even though they don’t know your child personally. In addition, you can find an “expert” who says one thing and simultaneously find another who says exactly the opposite. Who do you even believe? You will never please everyone.

I think what I was reminded of this past Sunday at church was that I am free from the power that comparison used to have over my life. It’s true that I don’t measure up, and I never will. I do not have the strength or ability to do all of these things right. Fortunately, I’m not going to be judged based on what I do. God loves me enough to have already provided perfectly for me. When He looks at my life, He sees what Jesus already did, not what I do. I told Him once that I accepted this provision, and that was it. I never have to strive for acceptance again, I never have to wonder if I am “good enough”. And because I don’t have to try so hard to measure up, I am free to pursue a relationship with Him where I simply listen to Him, ask for His help, and then react to what He tells me. Completely free of comparison or obligation. He even provides the strength and the ability when I don’t have it. This is the kind of faith that I have, and I am so thankful for it.

As I was reflecting on why I felt no need to read that TIME article, or why it is that sometimes I just click away from my Facebook and Yahoo groups for a while, I realized that it’s because I don’t need those articles or even my online friends to tell me what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. There is only one Person that I answer to, and I need to be listening to Him. He actually does use my online (and offline) friends to help guide me, and that is a blessing! But I don’t have to try to do what everyone else says. I am free from all that.

Now, someone please remind me of that the next time I freak out about how I should probably be making homemade goldfish crackers, because the ones in the store are full of artificial colors that are probably not so healthy….

Merry Christmas!

Our family is excited about celebrating Christmas here at home, hosting our various family members and celebrating the amazing Christmas miracles we’ve been blessed with. Since our original Secret Santas and Christmas miracle, a second Secret Santa has also visited us with more gifts for the kids. We are humbled and blessed. There are lots of gifts under the tree for our kids, despite the fact that we didn’t spend anything. We are thankful for the blessings that have been provided for us. It does make me wonder about why I don’t hear these Santas coming and going outside my house, though!

One thing I love about not traveling on Christmas Eve is that we get to attend services at Watermark (our church). Little Lady is currently running a fever from either teething or a cold, so we couldn’t put her in childcare. Rather than be discouraged, as I have in the past, we decided to just bring her in and sit way up high in the upper level. She enjoyed hanging onto the rail (very secure, don’t worry!) for a while and then took a nice little nap while Todd spoke.

Finn at Christmas Eve service
You might remember that our first Secret Santas gave us some cash to go see Santa Claus in the beautiful outfits they gave the children. We went to see Santa at A Real Bookstore in Allen a few weeks ago, and here’s the picture:

Santa 2011
Thank you to our Secret Santas, who are “the hands and feet” of the God that we are celebrating!
I feel like this has been the least hectic and the most meaningful Christmas that I can remember. I hope that we can continue to take this spirit of humility and peace into future Christmas seasons and teach it to our children.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Thank you for following along with our journey!