January Challenge: One Thousand Things

Last week I told you about my word for 2020 – Challenge

This week I’m sharing my January challenge with you. I call it ‘One Thousand Things’ and just like the name implies, I’m getting rid of one thousand things. When I told my son about it, he asked if I even own one thousand things. I assured him that I have that and more – LOTS more! We all have a lot more stuff than we think…

So here are the rules:

  • Regular garbage like packaging, used tissues, junk mail, and food waste don’t count. That’s just garbage. But things that need to (finally…) be sorted or which could be kept do count. So expired medications, leftover candy, or the frozen bananas I’m holding onto for the magical “someday” when I’m going to make banana bread – those things count.
  • Things which don’t get separated, like shoes, socks, or earrings, count as one item. Likewise, the pills in a bottle are not counted out – a bottle of expired ibuprofen is one item. Things that are separate items are counted individually, so five old magazines is five items.
  • Items are sold, tossed, or donated. The goal of decluttering is not to fill up the landfill, nor is it to inundate Goodwill with things that should be trash. The goal is a thoughtful sort, and that means that things with value are sold, things with life are donated, and things that are beyond help are recycled or tossed.

To be brutally honest, a thousand is a huge number. And here on day three, I’ve only gotten rid of three things. I don’t know if I’ll hit a thousand, but that’s what makes it a challenge! I’ll let you know on Facebook how it’s going.

My other goals for 2020 include:

  • I will purchase for myself ONLY clothing, shoes, and accessories which were produced using fair trade labor, or which were bought second-hand. I’ve done this before, and I made it deep into the year before I needed something I couldn’t find fair trade. The real key to this goal is remembering that I really don’t NEED more clothes, shoes, or accessories. But when I’d really LIKE to have something new, it’s fun to look for fair trade options or shop thrift bargains. As long as I don’t need undergarments, a swimming suit, or another pair of running shoes, I can do this!
  • I aim to read 100 books per year. I’ve never gotten there, but it’s my goal again in 2020.
  • I will make three microfinance loans through Kiva. My little lending profile is almost at the point where payments on outstanding loans are fronting the next loan (sometimes I have to supplement just a little to get there). I started doing this a few years ago by making two loans a year with my birthday and Christmas money. Last year I added a third loan in August because the returns allowed it. I plan to keep that up until managing my loans becomes a monthly thing. I really love looking at all the projects and supporting men and women around the world who just need a small loan at a low rate to increase their capabilities.

Don’t forget to follow @FoodShelfFriday on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. There’s lots to see and lots of ways to get inspired! Happy new year!

One Word 2020

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the one word resolution. It’s a trend that’s been around for a while now, and something I’ve even blogged about before. The basic idea is that instead of making a list of resolutions you’ll abandon, you just pick one word and make it your focus for the year. I’ve been doing this for a few years now – some more successfully than others. I start thinking about it in November or December. I pray for God to lead me to the right word. I’m still waiting for something nice like peace or joy, but God knows this Enneagram one too well. Past words I’ve focused on include honor, warrior, and in 2019, yes.

This year I find myself inspired by the word challenge. I might have preferred something like rest or relax, but I doubt those words would have inspired the kind of changes I need in my life. Don’t get me wrong, some of us need to learn to rest or to relax, but that’s just not where I’m at right now, and the God who directs my path knows that.

I’m getting a head start on this year’s word. I’ve started a Pinterest board on the topic, and I’m collecting challenges that other people have put out there. I have exercise/fitness challenges, eating challenges, reading challenges, housekeeping challenges, and much more. They range from week-long to month-long challenges. Some look like they’ll be fun, while others look like they’ll be more, well, challenging. I’ll link it to the Food Shelf Friday Pinterest board so you can see what is inspiring my year, and maybe find a challenge or two that motivates you.

The first challenge I’m taking on in 2020 is my month-long January challenge. I’m calling it “A Thousand Things,” and I’ll tell you more about that next week. Most of my challenges you’ll never hear about, but when I hit something like A Thousand Things which connect to Food Shelf Friday’s mission, I’ll share them here on the blog or the FSF Facebook page. Others I’ll just keep to myself or share with my accountability groups. I doubt you care how long I can hold a plank or if I’ve managed to hula hoop successfully (a skill I have never managed to master, no matter how hard I try!).

Whatever your resolutions, be they one-word, a whole list, or none at all, I hope you learn and grow in 2020. I pray that your families are blessed and healthy, and that this year is a good one for you. Thank you also for coming along on this journey with me. I love researching and writing, and I hope that I manage to say something that is meaningful and helpful to you this year.

Happy New Year!

You Are That Man, And So Am I

“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” (2 Samuel 12:1-9 – emphasis added)

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Recently my pastor has been preaching on the stories in the genealogy of Jesus, from Matthew chapter 1. Last week he was talking about King David and Bathsheba. The Israelites were at war with the Ammonites when King David (who probably should have been with his troops at the time…) wandered onto his rooftop and caught sight of a woman bathing on another roof. Lust, abuse of power, adultery, and an unplanned pregnancy followed. Then, to cover his tracks, David brought the woman’s husband home from war, hoping they could pass off the pregnancy as his own child. But the husband, Uriah, refused to sleep with his wife while he was home, so David arranged to have him killed in battle, and took Bathsheba as his own.

This is where the prophet Nathan comes into the story. The quoted text above is how Nathan approached David to confront him about his sins. The story got to David. He was ready to strike at the wealthy man who would steal a beloved lamb out of laziness and greed. Then Nathan dropped the bomb. “You are the man,” he told David. David had everything. He was the king. He had wealth, fame, and military success (does the name Goliath ring any bells?). He had at least two other wives, too.

So what does David and Bathsheba’s story have to do with hunger, poverty, and fair trade? The answer is in Nathan’s words. “You are that man!”

Do you have a place to live? According to a Yale study, 150 million people around the world are homeless, and as many as 1.8 billion lack adequate housing.
Do you have food to eat? According to the UN World Food Programme, 795 million people in the world, about 1 in 9, do not have enough to eat.
Do you have access to clean water? About 4 billion people, nearly two-thirds of the world population, experience severe water scarcity at least part of the year.
Do your children have a chance to grow and learn, or are they faced into (often unsafe) work as children? According to Compassion, 152 million children worldwide are victims of child labor, and nearly half of them are age 11 or younger. About half of employed children work in hazardous conditions. Most of them will never receive an education beyond primary school, and subsequently they will struggle with low-paying jobs all their lives.

Do you ever find yourself saying, “I really need (insert something you do not actually need)?
Do you ever throw things out just because you don’t like them anymore?

Do you ever throw away food or waste water?

Then you are that man. And so am I.

Feeling bad about being fortunate doesn’t help anyone. I’m not pointing this out to make you feel guilty. I’m saying this to remind us to think about your spending. Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. Buy fair trade when possible, or second-hand. Research companies that don’t use child labor. Put some effort into creating less waste. Think like the old World War Two era slogan: Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without.

You don’t have to be perfect, just strive to do the next right thing.

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!