Thursday, May 7, 2015

to the woman who bought my stuff

Our shopping fast prohibits buying gifts for our kids, so with Chelise's birthday coming up, I've had to think creatively as far as what we can do. She is such a girl and loves anything pretty, and I have a huge stash of beading supplies, so I decided to make her some bracelets. I realized this was a good decision when she had a major meltdown because I took off the bracelet she was wearing to measure its length.

Unfortunately, I lacked 2 items I really needed to actually make the bracelets (clasps and wire). What to do? I dug through my supplies and found 3 recently-purchased items that I hadn't opened, so decided to return/exchange them in order to get what I needed. I ran this by Morgan to make sure he was on board with the sort-of-compromise. He was, so I went to do my shopping.

Even though I wasn't spending more money, and even though it wasn't technically breaking our fast, I still felt not-quite-right going through the aisles of Hobby Lobby. I was determined to stick to my budget of returned-merchandise money ($3). But still... I was buying something I didn't technically need.

With my 2 items in hand, I went to stand in line. The lady in front of me saw I only had 2 items and apologized for not letting me go first since she had a cart full (people frequently feel sorry for pregnant women of my size, I've noticed). Then she told me to toss my items on the counter, she would pay for them. I graciously thanked her but said no, that's ok, I didn't want her to have to do that. She insisted. I protested again. She insisted again. So I did and offered her the cash I'd just gotten for my return. She refused. And so she paid for my items.

It was so little, but I was so overwhelmed. It was a gift, not just from this total stranger, but from God who put it in her heart to do. I was SO blessed. After a little chat, and a huge thank you, I went to the car and thanked the Lord with tears. I felt so loved! The $3 from the return I used for groceries, and even though it was only $3, it was still a reminder that He is the One who provides for our needs, and sometimes even provides for something we don't really need.

She had no idea what buying my 2 little items meant. There weren't really words to tell her in the 5 minutes of interaction we shared. But she showed me Jesus, and that blessed me more than words could say.

On a side note, I love the bracelets I was able to make with the items she purchased. I think Chelise is going to love them too!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What I Want to Shop For

I've hit my first obstacle in our shopping fast. 1 month down and I haven't really struggled with overwhelming shopping desires so far. I have, however, come across a stumbling block.

I the past I've had a hobby of making/selling pens out of wood and other materials. I had someone approach me with a request for a pen to give as a gift, so last week i got to make the first pen I've made in about 7 years.

One of the decisions pen turners have to decide is how to finish the pen. One of the most beautiful and likely the most durable finish you can use is a super glue finish. Sparing you a more detailed explanation, using a super glue finish gives you a thin, high gloss, extremely durable layer of plastic over your wood. I never have figured out how to do this finish properly - until last week. Having finally figured it out, I was super-excited to make myself a pen, the 2nd pen I've made in the past 7 years. That's the pen in the picture above.

The problem now is this - I'm out of super glue! No more super-shiny beautiful finishes for my projects! I do have a Lowes giftcard leftover from Christmas which falls under the birthday/Christmas gifts from other exemption, but I'm definitely feeling the need not to blow it, since it's all I have for the next 11 months.

I guess I won't have any true need for more super glue until I have another reason (other than just wanting to) to turn any more pens, but having picked up the hobby again, I'm itching to do more! One thing I've realized about creative hobbies is that unless you have people wanting to buy or take whatever it is you make, you end up accumulating stuff. So even if I had all the super glue my heart could desire, there would be no point in amassing a huge stockpile of pens around our house - it'd just be one more thing to minimalize.

Sigh... Time to focus on the things around the house that actually need to be accomplished...

Friday, May 1, 2015

something to fill the void

1 month down, 11 more to go on our shopping fast. It's been an interesting journey so far, and I've noticed several things about myself:

1) Consumerism is an addiction. Or at least it has been for me. I have to avoid looking at the ads, avoid looking at the fabric (new projects are my weakness), avoid looking at the style boards showing me all the outfits I could put together if I just had ___. I know that if I look, I will want, and if I want, I will have to go through the whole internal struggle, the desire to justify a purchase, the ultimate pain of saying no... It sounds so serious, when it's really quite ridiculous. So I can't buy myself fabric to make a new scarf! Why should that be hard?!?

2) I was spending money like a fiend and never even realized it. Since we've gone on our fast, our spending (obviously) has come to a screeching halt. It's amazing how little I'm spending if all I'm shopping for are groceries and diapers! I had no idea I was spending so much, and now looking back, I'm not even sure what in the world I was buying! It was simply the attitude of consuming, of buying more, of allowing myself to be attracted by something and taking part because I could.

3) I'm bored. Shopping, consuming, new things... it was something to keep me occupied, something about which to be excited. Even if it was simply a pen, it was something new, something to go out and buy to fill my otherwise boring life with an interesting tidbit. Yesterday I went to Target to exchange a box of diapers for a bigger size. I decided to quickly peruse the sale section for kids clothes. Morgan and I decided that yes, clothes for the kids are actually a need, but I also tend to go a bit crazy with clothes, so I made myself an extremely specific list so that I don't buy more than they need (like: 2T gold tights, 1. 3T winter top matching black pants, 1. 5T khaki play-pants, 1. etc). I actually found 2 items on my need-list for the kids on the sale racks for awesome prices so I bought them. The purchase was so not exciting (I found the pair of khaki play-pants for Emerson and a pair of jeans for Chelise), but I felt like an addict getting a fix. I'm embarrassed even to admit how extreme my dependence on stuff has become!

But then I started thinking about it... My life really is pretty boring. My conversations are almost exclusively with a 4-year-old and 22-month-old, and my activities consist mostly of washing dishes, breaking up tussles, disciplining backtalk, wiping butts, occasionally doing something as exciting as getting groceries. Up till 1 month ago, I dealt with my boredom by shopping. Looking at how high our credit card bills were getting every month, I must have been really bored! I know I'm doing the most important thing I could ever do - raise my children and spend these precious and short years with them. I know it, believe it, and wouldn't trade it for anything!! This is what I want to be doing!! But... yeah, it can be pretty boring.

4) I need something better than shopping to fill my heart. I used to look forward to Morgan coming home just so I could run out and do... something! By myself, of course, alone in the van, without listening to Veggie Tales. But this week we haven't needed groceries, and until I needed to get diapers, I had nothing to go out and do. The boredom settled on me. It weighed on me as heavily as the persistent clouds. I needed the sunshine of something to fill that void. Harry Potter got pulled back out to play in the background as I do my daily chores. But even Harry Potter can't quite fill the void of needing something to enjoy in a day of humdrum. I need to learn how to turn to God and let Him fill this void. Jesus wants my heart completely, and so as I rid myself of the idols, I want Him to replace them.

Practically speaking, what does that mean??? I don't know. But I want to know. I want to be excited about Him, about the mysteries of His ways, about the incredible truths of His Word! This week, I have asked myself what I need to do in order to turn this idol into devotion. I don't want simply not to shop for a year; I want to be changed. And so I ask the Lord to show me what this means. Show me, Lord, what You want for my days, so that You are the joy that fills them and You are my excitement in them.

Jeremiah 33:3 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.' I believe You, Lord, and I am excited. I am waiting. I am wanting You instead of stuff. And I know You will do far beyond anything I can ask or imagine.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What's Making Us Discontent?

I heard a story that I can't verify is actually true (despite numerous searches on Google), but I thought I'd pass it on. The story goes like this:

A large american corporation opened a factory in a remote part of the world where the local people had little in the way of local commerce - no local shopping at all. The company was pleased that they were able to employ plenty of people to work and things got started well. The factory was running nicely for the first one or two pay periods, then people simply stopped showing up for work. The plant managers were confused until they learned that their employees, who'd never had much income at all, suddenly had all the money they could need, as they were living just as they had been before the company came but now had several good paychecks to provide plenty of security/comfort. The managers were baffled about how they could get the employees to return to their jobs, until one of them had an idea. They had a Sears catalog delivered to everyone in the village. The villagers, having never seen all the things that their money could buy, suddenly realized that they didn't have nearly enough money for everything they could want. They returned to work and the plan no longer had any difficulty getting the workers to show up. 

Whether it's a fact or a parable, the lesson is poignant. The villagers were perfectly content with the lives they were leading and the comforts they possessed until they let someone else, whose goal was to get them to buy more, start showing all the things that could make their lives "better". Once they'd been convinced that they "needed" those things, they were willing to trade large portions of their lives (M-F, 9AM-5PM) for the things they had just recently been content without.

The question I have is who am I allowing to make me discontent? There's a multi-billion dollar marketing industry who's whole purpose is to make me believe that what I have isn't sufficient and that what they offer is. The fact that this industry is kept in business speaks to the fact that they're successful at their mission. The mailers that come to my mailbox every day, the emails from the various stores/websites where we've spent money in the past, and the banner in my web browser - all of these are tailored specifically to convince me that I should purchase what they have.

One of the things I've really appreciated about being on our shopping fast so far is that I've come to see these things differently. I used to take the monthly mailer from my favorite woodworking store and keep it as my bathroom reader for a while. Though I don't buy new clothes too often, I keep allowing one of my favorite clothing stores to send me emails EVERY DAY - in case something comes across that I do actually "need." Since buying any of this stuff is not an option right now, it's been really easy to realize what these things are trying to do - they're trying to make me break our fast! Ok, that might not exactly be what they had in mind, but it comes down to the same thing.

So, if I know that these things I've invited into my life are trying to get me to do something I don't want to do, why keep them around? I've been unsubscribing from every advertising email that comes through my inbox, and it's amazing how quickly the spam mail goes down :) We set up a recycle bin right by the garage door so all those mailers can go directly in the bin without them having the chance to try to make us discontent with the wonderful things we already own.

Stopping the mailers is a bit more difficult than stopping the emails - it turns out that signing up for the mailers is very easy, but unsubscribing takes at least a direct email, more likely a phone call. Another option is to mute advertisements while you're watching TV. Better yet, turn the TV off and put your time into a pass-time that's more personal gratifying - family time, playing games, reading, crafts, hobbies.

We can't stop the billboards on the side of the road, but we can definitely choose what messages we grant a forum in our minds at home.
- Morgan

P.S. If you really want to mess with the website banners, spend a little time "shopping" online for things you don't care about in the slightest. The results will be amusing and not at all tempting :)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Deer Tallow Soap Recipe

One of the areas we've been able to go green is in our body soap. Each fall I hunt deer and in the process of butchering them, harvest a good amount of deer fat. We decided to render the tallow, first thinking we'd use it for cooking. The cooking thing never really happened, despite it being good, grass-fed tallow, so we decided to shift the tallow into soap.

This is where things got a bit harder. We had a hard time finding a recipe we liked for a deer tallow soap. You don't want to use 100% tallow, because though it will give you a hard soap, it won't the other ideal cleansing properties. We eventually settled on the recipe we have here. It uses 50% deer tallow and 25% each canola and coconut oils.

This is our 3rd year using this recipe and we're really pleased with it. It suds nicely, is appropriately hard, and feels good on the skin. Here's the basic recipe.

16oz (454gm) Deer Tallow (can substitute beef tallow and it will actually improve the qualities of the soap)
8oz (227gm) Canola Oil
8oz (227gm) Coconut Oil
12.16oz (345gm) Water
4.59oz (127gm) Lye - NaOH
Optional Fragrance - varies on the variety, but 1 - 1.5oz fragrance oil seems to be correct.
Colorant as desired

I'll let others describe cold process making. This recipe is perfect for filling a parchment paper-lined standard bread pan. We divided this batch into two different pans because we wanted to try adding colors and fragrance oils. This is the first year we've used fragrance oil and colorants. The soap is perfectly fine without scent or color, but I'll admit it looks cooler this way :)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Being Realistic

In my dream-life, my dream-self makes all the consumable products we use (toothpaste, makeup, baby wipes, laundry detergent, etc. etc. etc. etc.). My dream-self also makes all the food we eat from scratch using organic ingredients, mostly raised by ourselves or bought locally, and never buys convenience food full of chemicals and additives. My dream-self also is never stressed out, and can somehow do all of this while raising children (who obviously are helpful, whine-free, tantrum-free, obedient and respectful dream-children), teaching them everything they need to know, and enjoying life in our perfectly spotless home where the dishes are done, laundry is washed/folded/put away, and everything is, in general, organized, simple and restful.

In reality, I spent several hours today researching homemade makeup, homemade toothpaste (because we need some), homemade deodorant (I used to make it; where did that perfect recipe we both loved go anyway?), printing recipes, figuring costs, and wondering if it's all really worth it. Is it worth trying to live a different way?

When I thought through our shopping fast, I made a choice to do my best to eliminate all the necessary-but-convenience items that drive up our bills: organic baby wipes (I can make them myself with paper towels plus a little extra time!), laundry detergent, etc. It takes being deliberate, a little extra foresight (making the wipes before I'm halfway through a dirty diaper change and realize there is not a single wipe in the house), and a few extra ingredients. Because I've been working on becoming my dream-self for awhile now, I've stocked up quite a few of these extra ingredients already (score! No need to buy more stuff!). I suppose it also takes faith too. Faith that what I'm doing is worth doing even when I feel like everything is chaos and I can't even do things as basic as feeding my children something other than peanut butter and jelly for the 3rd time in a row.

At our BSF lecture a couple weeks ago, our discussion leader mentioned how when she as a young mother she complained to God about not having time to seek Him with all the constant demands on her life, and He reminded her of Matthew 6:33 - "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well". I've thought of that frequently since then. I'm trying to accomplish as much as I can between now and Baby #3's arrival (make the products, sew the baby-stuff, make all the gifts we'll want to give over the next year when we're not buying stuff, etc), but there's only so much a tired pregnant mom can do in a day. And I know it will only be harder once she's here, and I'm sleeping even less with an adjusting 2-year-old and always-challenging 4-year-old, not to mention a husband who is away more than ever. I think, being realistic, how in the world can I do basic homemaking tasks (laundry, food, etc), let alone shoot for some of my goals (like a year's supply of home-canned goods and a homemade products)??

What really matters here? That I seek Him first, His kingdom, and His righteousness. He gets it. He understands. He doesn't condemn me when I cannot be my dream self (or even half of my dream-self). What's more important is that He Himself promises that, as I seek Him first, everything else will be added to my life - food, clothing, etc. I don't need to worry. Yes, I can be realistic, and know I may need to buy toothpaste and deoderant down the road. But can I not also trust Him that He will provide the best? Like peace. Strength. Rest. Maybe I will need to buy something, but maybe not! He can provide in unlimited ways, for extra time, extra help, extra energy, etc!

Trust Him first, Kyra. Seek Him first. Everything else will fall into place when I do. Realistically, my dream-self is the mother who trusts Him like that and is at rest in my soul when my children throw a tantrum again about their food or can't leave me alone long enough to do 1 load of laundry! In the bigger picture of life, that's more important. That's an eternal dream-self with eternal value. I suppose, realistically speaking, that's going to add greater value to my children's lives than an all-organic, from-scratch diet and home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I was thinking about being content this morning, so I looked up 1st Timothy 6:6:-11:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness,faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (NIV)
Reading this passage, even though I've read it many times before, amazed me. So many verses and passages in the Bible seem to come to life in whole new ways when they're viewed with through the lense of simplicity, non-consumerism, and minimalism. The thing is, this passage shouldn't require any of those lenses to hit us, because it's so straightforward. It's so easy for us to think about the gain we want to have in life - possessions, money, status, promotions, status symbols. We spend so much of our lives and attention thinking about and pursuing these things, and the thing is that when our focus is on what we need to obtain next, we're by definition rejecting contentment because we're focused on and pursuing what we don't already have. 

I love that Paul didn't just say contentment is great gain, but that godliness with contentment is great gain. Basically, if we want to pursue advancement and gain, let's pursue it on the path of sanctification. In fact, this is one area in our life where we're not supposed to be satisfied, but to constantly quest for purer, more complete godliness and sanctification. 

Aside from that, Paul tells us, so long as we have food a clothing we ought to be content. Why should we be content with such basic supply? I think the answer is in the sentence before that - we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. Our focus is life is not to be on the temporal, physical life we lead, but on our walking with God and journeying toward heaven. All the status symbols and possessions in the world will mean nothing as soon as we pass into the hereafter. What will matter? In Matthew 25 we're told what is going to matter - I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. All these things that the righteous did out of the outpouring of their love for Christ are the things that will last for eternity, long after every possession, title, and accomplishment have been completely forgotten. 

To pursue anything else sets us up for  temptation, traps, and foolish and harmful desires that plunge us into ruin and destruction. Given the benefits and the alternative, accepting God's invitation to the joys of contentment sounds pretty awesome.
-   Morgan