Redeeming Consumerism: An Introduction

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It sometimes takes me by surprise that I have now lived in small town southern America longer that I have lived outside of it. There is much I love about American and southern culture and small town life has some distinct benefits but I still often feel like a fish out of water. There are still things that I don’t understand and that feel very foreign to me. One of the challenges, and benefits, of being a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is that I never feel truly at home in any one place or culture.

One thing I have struggled with for years is the culture of consumerism that is such a part of the fabric of American life. I have swung the pendulum from participating fully without guilt (buying as much as I could for as little money as I could without regard for the human or environmental cost of my consumption) to being paralyzed with guilt over every purchase and every dollar that I spent. Over the years I have come to a more balanced view.

I have been given a life in a country of extreme wealth. Our family, with my husbands modest teachers income, is extravagantly wealthy compared to 80% of the world’s population who live on less than $10 a day. I am able to feed my children nourishing food, give them clean water, and bring them to a doctor when they are sick while every day 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. This life I have been given is not a mistake and it does not need to be a source of shame or guilt. But it is a gift. And I believe that with this gift comes responsibility.

I still remember the first time I stood in the aisle of the grocery store and chose not to buy chocolate chips or chocolate candy because that store did not have any fair trade options. It was a small decision but it felt monumental. It was the first time I decided I would not buy a non-essential item for my family if I knew that my money for that product was contributing to slave labor. As I walked away from the store without my favorite treat I felt joyful and empowered. I realized that every time I spent money I was making a choice. So I began to do research and my journey into Fair Trade began.

Americans are consumers. I am a consumer. I like to buy pretty things for myself, others, and my home. But I can choose to consume responsibly, thoughtfully and not at the price of others. That is the premise behind the global Fair Trade movement: a movement whose goal is to help producers in developing countries to get a fair price for their products so as to reduce poverty, provide for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promote environmentally sustainable practices.

As a Christian I believe that all God is making all things new and that I get to be a part of that. So why not take part in redeeming how we consume?

That is the purpose of the Fair Trade Friday club. Fair Trade Friday is a monthly subscription. A small cost gets a box of fair trade goodies sent to your door automatically every month. Of the money you spend 100% of the proceeds goes directly to the women who made the items in the box so they can provide for their families, feed and educate their children. When we buy Fair Trade we get to push back against the 22,000 children a day that die due to poverty. We get to be part of bringing redemption.

Original FTF Box

Fair Trade Friday has various subscriptions available (you can check them out here) as well as an Earring of the Month Club (which I will give more details about in another post). I encourage you to check out their website and look around.

If you have never considered the cost of consumption may I encourage you to begin to ask God to begin to work in your heart. Find some blogs, check some books out from the library (The Story of Stuff is a good place to start). Have courage to be educated about the cost of consumption, not in order to become guilty or ashamed but to become empowered. To begin to see your part in the exciting work of redeeming lives through redeeming the way we consume.

God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. -Ephesians 3:20 The Message. 

I will be posting more about this topic in the next week or so – sharing more of my journey, giving more information, answering questions, and showing you my lovely fair trade earrings.

Have you considered fair trade products? Do you have any questions you would like to see answered in a future post?

(The Fair Trade Friday Club is a ministry of Mercy House Kenya.)

one foot at a time

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These days life is flying by in a blur. Trips, family visits, work, responsibilities, projects. I have to grab my solitude in quick chunks and make the most of it when I can find it. It is a skill I am learning.

My morning time has been the most refreshing so far. I use an app called “She Reads Truth” and am using it to read through the Bible. This makes it easy to grab my coffee and my phone and read God’s Word either in solitude on the back porch or in the midst of the chaos of breakfast with a houseful of guests. A few days ago I read from about the birth of John who would prepare the way for the coming of Christ.

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.  Luke 1:78,79 (The Message)

How have I missed this?! I have read the Gospel of Luke many times in my life. In the past year I have been on the hunt for reminders of the Light. Here it was, right in front of my eyes. I love how just when I think I know so much about the Bible God humbles me by showing me something I have never seen before.

The steps ahead of me have felt shadowed lately. There are no dramatic changes on our horizon but more the constant changes of daily life. I often question myself. As night falls and I try to sleep my mind runs through the events of the day and wonders where I failed, where I could have been more. I struggle to believe that I did my best and am enough.

But here is the promise – the Light has come! God’s love prompted his rescue plan. When I see the Light in and around me my heart can be at peace. So I keep looking for the rays of sunlight around me. I catch a glimpse in a moment of my two boys playing a game together. I feel the warmth when I see the face of my little 4 year old friend light up when she sees me and her arms open wide for a hug.

The phrase that continues to return to my mind “Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.”  I am a planner. I want to know things ahead of time. I don’t like surprises or changes. And yet the promise is that God will show me, one foot at a time, what the path of peace is. Am I feeling anxious about our rental property? Peace will come with one decision at a time, one email at a time, one task at time. Am I overwhelmed with parenting? Peace will come one moment at a time, one challenge at a time, one interaction at a time. Does my calendar overflowing with tasks and commitments cause me to feel overwhelmed? Peace will come when I choose joy one responsibility at a time, one person at a time.

So I work to stay in each moment. Taking each day as it comes and finding rest in knowing that God will give me what I need for that day. And one moment at a time the peaceful gifts pile up.

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Evening swim. Our favorite.

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Evening light. Evening walk.

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Front porch living for a week. Cool breezes, lazy days, fat books, watching the world go by on the street, quiet evenings, good company coming and going. Refreshing and refilling.

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A day of sand and sun and sea.

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Evening bike rides….and rainbows….

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