Ethical Gifts for Last-Minute Shoppers

I feel like a broken record repeating this over and over, but it’s simply the truth: the only meaningful and permanent solution to poverty and hunger is the opportunity for fair and meaningful work. If workers are paid a fair living wage, products will cost what they should (which is more than we’re used to paying for the kind of fast-fashion that uses child labor and unsafe conditions). If products cost what they should, we’ll do less impulse buying and be less wasteful, which is better for the environment. It would also make us more particular about quality, and more likely to maintain the things we have rather than throwing them out and replacing them.

So let’s say that you’ve committed to do your part and buy things that were created by workers in safe conditions who were paid a fair wage. *Taps microphone* Um, ladies and gentlemen? We’re down to just ten shopping days before Christmas…

A lot of ethical brands are online, and unless we’re talking about Amazon, which owns the American package delivery industry, you might not be able to get online orders in time for Christmas. So what is the last-minute ethical shopper to do?

  • Gift Cards – the obvious first idea is gift cards. They’re probably the most popular gift to give over the holiday season, and many retailers let you buy them online, some even offering e-delivery.
  • Chocolate and Coffee – Chocolate and coffee are products that make great gifts and which are widely available. Even your local grocery store probably has Endangered SpeciesEndangered Species chocolate and a number of fair trade coffee brands. Look for the fair trade logo on the packaging. Similarly, if your favorite local coffee shop uses fair trade beans (and Rainforest Alliance certification DOES include fair trade in their requirements!), a gift card to their location is another great option.
  • Search up a brick and mortar store near you – There are physical shops that specialize in fair trade merchandise. Search the internet, or check out this list.
  • Buy American – Items made in the United States have to adhere to American labor laws, so those products are made by employees who meet American safety, child labor, and minimum wage standards. Whether those things are enough is a different debate, but at least you know your American-made products weren’t created by children in a sweatshop.
  • Buy Homemade – Your friend who knits, the lady who sells jewelry at the craft fair, and your neighbor who makes her own soap are all retailers who set their own prices and pay themselves what they think is a fair wage for their materials and time. Supporting hand crafters and local small businesses keeps money in the community and helps them build their business. Don’t forget to leave reviews and comments on social media, too.
  • Don’t throw out the big box – There are fair trade options at big box retailers. Amazon can ship Prime products up to the last minute, and they do carry fair trade items. Just search the site for “fair trade” and be sure you check estimated delivery dates.

Wishing you the best of luck on your last-minute shopping. Merry Christmas!

It’s a Small World, After All

Happy Food Shelf Friday morning! It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since I wrote a blog post. As you can imagine, a lot has happened since I last wrote. My son turned eighteen, and we went through his senior year of high school with all that entails – ski season, orchestra concerts, and college decisions. I took on a second job in the spring managing the social media accounts for a small business. We did some traveling over the winter. Next came Jacob’s graduation and the big grad party. After a busy summer, we moved him across the country, to the Seattle area, for college.

I could not be more proud of the man Jacob is becoming. My son is studying to be a pastor. He has a tremendous heart for God and a desire to love and serve people. It’s exciting to watch him step into his adult life. He’s having adventures out on the west coast, making new friends, and doing great in school.

It’s also the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced. My barely-adult man child and his twenty year-old car are over 1,600 miles away, on the other side of two mountain ranges, and I know exactly zero people there. Or I should say I did know zero people out there. Every single step of the way, God has shown me that although my husband and I may be far from our son, He is right there with him.

  • Over the summer we got information about Jacob’s roommate, and the roommate’s mom works right there on campus. They also have other kids who live far from home, so they know how we’re feeling.
  • Modern technology makes instant communication free and easy.
  • One of Jacob’s high school friends moved to the exact halfway point of the long drive he’ll be making to get home in the spring.
  • The university helps connect students with jobs, and Jacob got hired at a local church within a week or two of arriving. That gave him a job, but also a church home.
  • His professors and advisor have been amazing. So have his RA’s and his new friends.

The icing on the “small world” cake came a few weeks ago. I was on Facebook, and I saw that a young family from our church had an incredible job offer and were moving to Seattle. I thought that was interesting, so I clicked on the comments, where I saw that they’re not just moving to Seattle, they’re moving to the same suburb where Jacob lives – within walking distance of him. We’ve chatted, exchanged phone numbers, and talked about churches and things. When we visited Jacob over Thanksgiving and attended his church, it was absolutely surreal to greet another member of our church family. It made the world feel a lot smaller!

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

As a mom, I’m used to feeling like I’m the one in charge. I’m used to doing the research, and making the decisions and purchases. I always knew that God was in control of my family and our futures, but I also felt responsible. When your child gets on the school bus, you lose some of that control. When your child drives, you lose even more. When your child moves across the country, you have a whole new awareness of how powerless you are.

Thank God He’s not powerless.

When I am weak, he is strong (2 Corinthians) – but even when I am strong, He is stronger! God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. In this season of my life, I am grateful for the many ways he has reminded me of that and showed Himself to our family.

 

I’m glad to be here again, blogging and sharing life with you. I’ll be back every Friday with inspiration, information, and resources. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram (@foodshelffriday), Twitter (@foodshelffriday), and Pinterest. Thank you for caring about the world’s hungry and going on this journey with me!

What I’ve Been Reading

What kind of reader are you? Do you pick up one book at a time and read it cover-to-cover, or are you eternally picking at a few books at the same time? I used to be the first type. I read one book at a time, and almost entirely fiction. Then I got further into my education and just didn’t have time for much leisure reading. At the same time I discovered audiobooks and got an e-reader, so my reading style evolved. For example, I am currently reading 3 books: I’m listening to a non-fiction book about the Great Depression while I commute, picking at a psychology/self-help book about my son’s Myers-Briggs type, and just starting an e-book about Vietnam. On top of that, I’m half done with a children’s book in French that I have picked at for a couple years, and I read half of a book on pioneers before I had to return it to the library. I’ve also been reading some (clean) fanfiction when I just need something fluffy in my downtime. I’ve completed 42 books so far in 2018. It’s a far cry from the 100 I was hoping to read this year, but there’s still time to squeeze in a few more. Here are a few of the highlights.

 

Fiction:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – I like classic novels. I have a big list of classic novels everyone should read, and I’ve been picking at it for years. I dreaded this one because I’ve seen at least parts of the movie, and I was afraid it would be creepy. It’s not, and Kesey’s use of language is evocative. I ended up really enjoying the book.

Dune by Frank Herbert – Another off the classic list. It reminded me a lot of Star Wars (or should I say Star Wars is reminiscent of this book, since it was published first). It’s sci-fi, but not in an over-the-top nerdy way. I plan on working my way through the rest of the series and watching the movie some time.

I also read/listen to a lot of John Grisham legal thrillers and Debbie Macomber romances (again, clean), and this year I had my first taste of the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming.

Non-fiction:

As an historian, naturally I read a lot of history and biography/memoirs. This year I’ve read about the Romanov family, the modern first ladies, and the power of creativity. There have been a number of psychology/self-help books on my list this year, too.

You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero – This was a fun one. Sincero spent years digging through self-help books and attending seminars, and this book is the concentrated knowledge of her experiences. It’s snarky and funny, and not at all pretentious. My one disappointment with this book is Sincero’s take on spirituality. Early in the book she says that the sooner we accept spirituality’s role in our lives, the sooner we can get past ourselves and start living the life we want. I thought, “yay! A funny, sarcastic self-help book that will also encourage my faith!” But alas, I was wrong. Sincero’s version of spirituality basically has God in the role of cosmic bartender, just waiting to open the tap for you once you have the right way of asking. It totally strips God of his power and all-knowing nature and makes us the authority in the universe. I just can’t devalue the creator of the universe like that.

But there was still so much good in this book. The most powerful part for me was the chapter on the things we say about ourselves. I came to realize that there were a number of things I said about who I was (I will never be a runner, I have bad knees, etc.) that once served a purpose. I started saying that I have bad knees to protect myself physically. But it also became an excuse in my life when it became part of my identity. I have been practicing a new identity. Now I tell myself, “I am a fit chick, and I’m getting stronger every day.” This reminds me that although I’m not where I want to be, I am making progress. It also helps me make good choices, because I identify as a fit chick, so I eat like a fit chick, read like a fit chick, and am committed to my workouts like a fit chick. It has been a very helpful part of my fitness transformation this year.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg – After reading You are a Badass, this book came up as a recommendation. I listened to it on my library’s audio and ebook app, and I loved it so much that I bought a paper copy as well. If you’ve ever watched shows like Brain Games, where they explore the ways the human mind works, you will enjoy this book. Duhigg explores the physical/psychological workings of the human mind, specifically how we develop habits, and what we can do to alter our habits into practices that will be more beneficial.

There are fascinating stories in this book about advertising, retailers tracking spending habits, and what happens to people who lose their memories (spoiler alert: even when conscious memories are gone, habits and personality traits hold on and can be used to benefit the patients).

As far as practical application is concerned, this book taught me to look at my habits differently. When I feel stuck in a rut, I no longer just look at the behavior I want to change, but at what happens to trigger the behavior. Then I make a conscious decision to use that trigger to spark something different. It hasn’t revolutionized my world yet, but it certainly has created new awareness.

So that’s what I’ve been reading this year. How about you? Have you read anything great lately? Leave a comment with your recommendations!

The Lost Wallet: Pursuing God

43157226_10215898189221025_4163176722738446336_o.jpgNo offense to my dad or my pastor, but I have a new favorite preacher. This Wednesday I had the privilege of listening to my son preach at his youth group. As a parent there is nothing better than watching your child live for God and hunger to share his faith with others. This wasn’t J’s first sermon, but it was our first time hearing him. With a few under his belt he didn’t think we would make him nervous any more.

With his permission I want to share with you what he taught on Wednesday.

One day last year, while at school, Jacob reached into his pocket at lunch and realized that he didn’t have his wallet. Logically, he began retracing his steps. He asked his teacher if it was found in the classroom. He dug through every nook and cranny of his car. When he got home he looked all over the house. No wallet. We all know this feeling, don’t we? The only thing Jacob could think about all day is where his wallet was.

On the second day, J filed a report at school. In the report he had to list the contents of the missing wallet. It held his driver’s license, school IDs, a (frozen) debit card, his library card, and a whopping $12 in cash. As he put it, “twelve dollars is just twelve dollars, and a couple pieces of replaceable plastic,” yet the perceived value of IDs, bank access, and a little cash stayed on his mind. Like a pebble in his shoe, he just couldn’t think about anything else.

Jacob challenged his youth group to think about God the way we think about a lost wallet. If our faith was on the forefront of our thoughts every day, how amazing would our relationship with God be!?! And God is so much infinitely more valuable than a couple pieces of plastic and some cash. He is worth our pursuit!

  • God commands us to seek after Him – See Deuteronomy 6:5-9
  • Pursuing God will help you overcome temptation. – See Matthew 4:1-11
  • Staying close to God makes it easier to see the things he wants to show us. – See Proverbs 3:5-6

Jacob eventually found his wallet. It was in his backpack, crammed into the pages of his calculus book. When he found it, he rejoiced; he cheered and ran around the room! Finding his missing wallet brought so much joy and a sense that all was restored in his world. Imagine how much greater we’ll feel when we find closeness with God!

God is not a Sunday only God. He’s not an Easter and Christmas God. He’s not a Wednesday night youth service or bible camp God. He is an every day, every hour, every minute, there for you God who wants to have that kind of intimate relationship with you!

The pursuit of God is never in vain. Consider Jeremiah 29:13. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Go after Him, He’s waiting for you!

 

Documentary Film Review: Hunger in America

Hunger in America is a 2014 Emmy award-winning documentary written and directed by Zac Adams. As the title clearly explains, the 51-minute long film talks specifically about hunger issues here in the United States.

A common misconception that many Americans have is that hunger and poverty are problems that occur only in developing nations and in small pockets in inner cities. Hunger in America seeks to correct that misconception and reveal the true facts of food insecurity across the country.

Hunger and poverty often affect senior citizens, the disabled, and children. These people groups can’t do much to change their financial situations – seniors are often too old to work and are dependent on the fixed income provided by social security and/or their retirement savings, the disabled are physically or mentally unable to take on additional work and are dependent on their social security disability income, and kids are too young to legally work. Subsequently, when the cost of food goes up or systems around them break down, the old, disabled, and young are particularly vulnerable.

But it isn’t just these groups that experience hunger. As one interview subject stated in the film, “Someone you know is hungry today.” Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and are just one small disaster (minor illness, car repairs, etc.) away from financial setback, or one big disaster (major illness, house fire, natural disaster, etc.) away from going hungry.

And it’s not just resources and access to food. Lack of skills for preparing or storing fresh ingredients often leads to waste as fresh ingredients go uneaten until they rot. Without the skills to store and prepare fresh food, many people rely on prepackaged and processed junk to get their calories. People end up filling up on empty calories because they’re easier to store and prepare.

The upside of a documentary – quick overview – is also the downside. Documentaries don’t go deep, and they don’t cite their sources. Hunger in America doesn’t dig deep. It provides basic information to clear up misconceptions and encourage donating and volunteering. If that’s what you’re looking for, check it out. It’s well made and short enough to show in a classroom or small group.