Thursday, June 28, 2012

Got Affluence?

Sometimes I am able to ignore it.

And sometimes my affluence and privilege smacks right in the face.

It started when I was in college and read "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" by Ron Sider. And I righteously raged about the fact that the middle schoolers I taught in middle school each had more than one pair of $100 shoes. But now, I know how quickly $100 slips through my fingers. Honestly, it feels like it is gone before I can blink.

Although I try to ignore it, the fact of my (and my family's) affluence has lately been smacking me in the face, forcing me to take notice. And it's really uncomfortable.

A few weeks ago, we had a 7th birthday party. It was a doll tea party. 5 out of the 7 girls had American Girls Dolls--some were hand me downs, some were saved for over a long period of time, some were gifts, but the fact remains that in my circles, people have enough resources to have $100 dolls. I can admit that we have 3 of these dolls.

Yesterday, I spent 2 hours putting stuff away to get my house ready to have someone clean it. Problem one--I have so much stuff that I had to spend 2 hours to put it all away (and I still didn't get it all put away). While I can try to justify the about of stuff in our house, it is simply true that we have a lot, more than we need. And then (problem two), I was cleaning up so someone could come in a clean for me. I have the luxury of "not cleaning" and allowing someone else to do it.

Finally, when we accepted a new job for Eric, we made a huge financial trade-off. We took a significant pay cut for the health of our family (more family time, better hours). And it has been wonderful. Except that we are now trying to live within this new financial reality. It's been tough. We've made cuts--no more cable, tightened down on spending, trying to sell a car. But really, we haven't had to choose between feeding our family and paying our mortgage. We have plenty. We're tremendously blessed, yet we 'struggle.'

However, I am painfully aware that there is a mom somewhere in the Sahel region of Africa (google it) who will tonight go to bed with children whose stomachs are distended with hunger. That she will only be able to give them a scant cup of food rations tomorrow. That the chances that her children will die from this hunger are painfully real. I know there are families who are so destitute that they have sold children to slavery or prostitution.

Now, I can already hear some well-meaning responses "not to feel guilty." I agree, I shouldn't feel guilty, God has given our family these gifts. However, it is good to be bothered. And I am bothered in my soul. And I am bothered about a number of things.

And it matters.

It matters because money was something Christ talked a lot about. He said it is hard for the rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven (and I'm beginning to understand why). He praised the widow who gave away everything she had. God's economy favored the poor, the needy, the downtrodden.

If I care about Christ, I care about what he cared about--I pay attention to his economy. It affects how I spend money, how I think about money, how I live.

I don't have any answers. I don't know how to live Christ's economy in a place where money slips through fingers like water. I don't know how to help that mother in Africa and I often feel that what I can offer isn't nearly enough to affect real change in our world.

I have come to the conclusion that my being bothered is right and good and true. And God can use this bothering to further his kingdom.

What is it that bothers you? How do you come to terms with it?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Accepting a Challenge

Last week, my writing partner-in-crime went on vacation. And she forwarded on to me a number of "blog assignments." Even though I love her dearly, I am only taking up one of the many challenges. But it's the scariest one, by far. 

She gave me the:

Lucky Me. 

So, this is a writing challenge: to look into my current manuscript and put a very random part of it out there. Here are the rules:

Here’s what’s required:
  • Go to the 7th or 77th page of your work in progress.
  • Go to the 7th line of the page.
  • Copy the next 7 sentences or paragraphs. Remember, they must be as they are typed.
  • Tag 7 authors.
  • Let them know they’re it.
So this is one of those challenges that I am going to try--and it's super scary. The writing you are about to see is unedited. It has never seen the end of my red pen. I wrote it about a couple weeks ago. I write with a 'closed book' meaning that I am not apt to show anyone what I write until it's all the way done. Except for this little bit. 

You are about to see what's on page 77. Starting at the 7th line. And you're getting 7 paragraphs, because it's dialogue. If it wasn't dialogue, you wouldn't be getting so lucky! 

Easy? Well, for you it is. You just have to read it. And it's not going to make sense at all

So let me set the scene. It's early fall in 1946 in a living room at a farm in Wisconsin. Len & Antoinette are fighting about their daughter, Del, who is about to come down the stairs and make a life-changing announcement. 

  "She has to get up soon, Len. She can't keep moping around.
I don't want to keep doing her chores."
     "Patience, dear. She's suffering a great grief. Give her a
bit of time."
     "Time! I've given her four days. How much time does she
need?" Antoinette voiced bitterly. "I'm not surprised, you know.
I don't know how she convinced him to go out with her in the
first place. He's much better than she deserves."
     "Antoinette, she just found out from her father that her
boyfriend proposed to her rival. She's dealing with enough hurt
without your critical words."
     "Is it really true?" she asked in the grocery store gossip
voice, "did he really propose to Susie Hudson?"
     "Yes, and he even had her father's blessing. The Hudson's
couldn't be more pleased with the match." Len leaned forward in
his rocking chair. "That boy toyed with and broke my daughter's
heart. I could kill him for that. Wring his neck like a little
snake. . ."
     "Come now, Len, there's no need for such angry words. I'm
sure it isn't his fault. I'm sure Del did something to deserve

I would tag other authors, but I don't know any others with a blog (that they admit to!). So you get the privilege of reading and savoring. 

Lucky you!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A quick update

Currently, I have about 5 wonderful blog posts rolling around in my head. However, they aren't as wonderful when I sit down and try to actually transmit those words to print, so instead of those 5 fabulously wonderful posts, I'm gonna give you the brief account on this very unexpected life.

     Eric's new job is going very well. Our entire family is benefiting from regular hours and the routine that comes with it. He likes his work and is beginning to understand the enormity of what he has been hired to do.

My Job
     Finally, I've adjusted to this new life. And I think it's good. I'm still not very good at keeping a clean house, but it's getting less horrible as time goes on. As a household manager, however, I am proud to state that I came up with a system for the kids to keep their rooms neater. . .and it's working!

     I quit the school year a couple weeks ago. Really, I just quit. And our house has been much happier. With all the changes I think we all just needed a break--to be able to hang out without pressure, to learn new things (like how to clean and be part of the family responsibility). It's been lovely. We finished the year with all our programs and recitals. So now, I am already looking ahead--to the fun of next year. I've already been curriculum shopping (our learning is based on the 1800s next year!), starting planning monthly field trips with a friend, and just enjoyed the ability to learn and plan without the pressure of putting it into practice immediately.

     Wish I had something to tell you, but I don't. To be honest, it was emotionally difficult after the failed matching meeting, so I am not eager to repeat that. In fact, all has been silent out of Lesotho. We have learned nothing new. I am hoping that a summer full of fun will keep all of us distracted from dwelling too much on things we cannot influence or change. However, the kids are going to be doing some fundraising for our trip, so stay tuned on how you can bless their hearts!

     You may know that I am an aspiring writer. That's not always something I proclaim from the mountaintops. However, I have been diligently working on a manuscript that has a great story behind it. I write a couple times a week, shooting out about 1,000 words a session. I'm proud of my progress, even though sometimes it's like wringing water from dry towel. As of last night, I have 28,000 words. I had initially set my goal at 60,000 words (about a 150 page novel), but I think that's way short. So, I'm thinking I'll write about 100,000 words. That's a huge number of words, but it's a lot of fun. I like my characters even if I haven't written them well yet. I think that writing this first draft is more fun than that first edit is going to be, oh well.

Did I miss anything? Something you wanted to know but I forgot to tell you? Just ask!