Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ketner's Mill 2012

Ketner's Mill 2012

Ketner's Mill 2012

Ketner's Mill 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Time to Stop Pretending

Let's face it.  I'm middle class, very middle-middle class, teetering at times on  the brink of lower-middle class.  There is no shame in one's station in life; it is what it is.  What concerns me is how we all, as Americans, pretend to have more than we do by purchasing things we cannot afford.  This trend has infiltrated all areas of consumerism: housing, clothing, cars, electronics, schools, vacations, and even WATER.  Part of this is due to our American Dream mentality and our perpetual desire to be on "equal" footing with our fellow man.  I could delve into how in a monarch based society people were born in to a station in life that was passed onto the next generation, etc. but I want to focus more on how we like to live above our means, our motives behind it, and what fuels it, at least where I'm concerned.

  • The average size of the American home has risen sharply from the 1950 typical 983 square foot bungalow to the palatial 2300+ square foot home today and not because we're having more children. 
  • The average American summer vacation in 2012 cost $1,180...per PERSON!
  • In 2011, cable TV bills averaged $86 per month or $1032 per year.
  • In 2010, Americans spent around $2,000 per household on clothing.
  • In 2011, the standard American utility bill was $104 per month with  groceries coming in at $944 per month.
  • The typical American carries credit card debt exceeding $15,500.  That's not counting mortgages, student loans, or car loans! get the idea.  What fuels our over spending is the old adage of "keeping up with the Jones'."  The trouble is that with cable TV, Internet, magazines, etc. that the Jones' are no longer our physical neighbors.  Imagine how much more content I would be with what I have if I never saw HGTV or joined Pinterest.  Now, everyone take a deep breath because I'm not suggesting anyone give those things up. (Good thing, huh?!)  What I am suggesting is that perhaps I need to think about being middle class and tailoring my spending according to that level and not basing it on House Hunters International or my favorite Pinterest boards.  I need to see those things more as grown up unfinished fairy tales that haven't revealed the moral of the story yet. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this, but for now, it's back to cleaning for me :)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Mask of My OCD

My mom used to tell me that when the going got tough, the tough got cleaning.  This wasn't just some clever ploy to get me to clean my room; she genuinely believed it.  I distinctly remember being very stressed out at one particular point in my childhood, and she told me to clean out my closet from top to bottom.  It did in fact greatly diffuse my frustrations and gave me a sense of control.  To this day, I prefer to have a very organized, color coordinated closet; though sometimes life gets in the way of that.  When someone I love is in the hospital or has died, I clean.....a lot.  Unfortunately, rather than doing an adequate job of cleaning the whole house, I focus completely on one area and over sterilize it. (Is that really possible??)  That focusing on just certain areas or tasks, while other areas are more relaxed or other tasks left undone for months, was why I never really believed that I did in fact have OCD.  I'm now discovering this is not the case.

I have certain areas that I feel I must have clean and/or organized.  The dishwasher HAS to be loaded a certain way (of course, it IS the only logical way), the dollar bills in my cash register at work MUST all face up and to the left 100% of the time, my spices and refrigerated items at home all have assigned places to the extent that I can tell you where any item is exactly while blindfolded. Socks, pants, shirts, and other clothing items are always put away according to color and pattern (another logical habit).  At work, if a customer's hand touches mine in any way during the exchange of money, I MUST use hand sanitizer.  I do NOT touch door handles.  I almost always have a purse sized can of Lysol and/or wet wipes with me.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  I have never seen these things as troublesome until lately.

For the past several months, I have had to work extra hours at work.  For most people, this would not present a problem but I am not a physically strong person and have a weak constitution.  I thrive on organization, cleanliness, and rhythms in  life.  Those extra hours and the faster pace of those hours, while trying to maintain my OCD habits, is exhausting, draining, and frustrating.  Feeling the need to maintain my happy level of order without enough time or energy to do so can make me a little (okay, a LOT) crazy.  I've been able to maintain the order at work, partly because the man I work with shares in my passion for order, but my home and my emotions left a lot to be desired.  It seemed the more tired and stressed that I was, the more I felt the need to have everything perfect and life just wasn't cooperating.

So, why do I have all these compulsions?  Fear and anxiety.  These are what my OCD masks.  Having things placed or cleaned just so gives me a huge since of control and calms my anxiety levels.  It's like a drug.  Let me explain, let's say Jane has just lost her job and has unpaid bills and hungry children.  Jane is understandably very stressed and feels emotionally out of control at times.  Jane goes to the doctor who writes her a prescription for Xanax to get her through this tough spot. (This is NOT an anit-Xanax rant)  Jane's emotions level out and she feels more in control again and is able to function for a while.  Shortly thereafter, Jane has a minor fender bender and begins to cry uncontrollably until she remembers her Xanax can calm her.  Gradually it takes less stressful situations to make her feel the need for her medication until she/her brain has lost the skills needed to deal with stress and she must rely on medication. The same is true for some with OCD.  OCD behaviors are calming and give us a sense of control, but those behaviors never really help us face and deal with what is sparking those behaviors.

For me the answer lies in verses like Psalm 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God.  The Hebrew word for still means to cease striving, which is the whole concept behind the Sabbath rest.  We need to cease from our efforts and striving and let God be God in our lives.  How does that play out moment by moment?  It is fine for me to keep my cash register till at work in order, but if I have five people in line waiting, then I need to let go of my compulsions and SERVE my customers.  If I have time later, I can go back and tidy up.  This is hard because having the bills out of order, even if I can't see them, makes me feel anxious.  It is at that point that I need to be still and understand that God is in control and it's okay that I'm not in charge.  I must look these feelings in the eye and tell them and myself that my God is an awesome God and that He is sovereign over every thing, no matter how small.  There is nothing that can come in to my life that He has not foreordained.

It is difficult and will take baby steps, but I need to face this and grow.  So this week, I let go of control of my dollar bills and I let a stranger use my personal pen, putting it back in my pocket without sanitizing it or making an "EWW!" face.  These seem so petty, but for me it's a big deal.  I'm still not touching the bathroom doors though! ;)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Your Privacy

Recently, I discovered that my Facebook timeline showed publicly some very private conversations that had been in my messages. I was able to hide those conversations from my timeline, but I discovered that when I went to my friends' timelines that some of those conversations were still there.  This was disconcerting because friends (and is self included) have shared some very private things as matters of prayer, and I felt violated.  I vaguely remember some long lost Facebook friend, who had long ago deactivated his account, prophesying that this would happen and that our photos and our words posted would no longer be our own but the property of Facebook.  Needless to say, I have been slowing working on deactivating my account (untagging and deleting photos, etc.). 

These events spurred a conversation with my mother about our privacy and the fact that it's almost non-existent today.  Do you have a credit card?  Your purchases are tracked.  Do you have a rewards card?  Those purchases are tracked as well.  Do you have cable or satellite TV?  The shows you watch are monitored and the capabilty exists for companies to show commercials targeted directly at you based on the shows you watch.  There are also in some, if not many, products that contain microchips that follow you home, tracking where you take your purchase.  For many years, our military has had the capability of flying over any home in America and listen in on your conversations....I'm not just talking phone conversations, but table conversations.....not that anyone is interested in what you or I have to say ;)    I am certain that there are countless ways we are being watched, marketed to and targeted, and we are mostly ignorant of it.  Some of us, sacrifice our privacy for the sake of saving money, but will we regret it in the long run?

Take Wal-Mart.  When they first arrived on the horizon, we were all excited and thrilled that they showed up to bring us so many things under one roof and at such cheap prices.  What was the final cost to us?  Loss of small, local businesses, loss of manufacturing jobs to cheaper overseas companies, etc.  What will happen if we don't start drawing the line with our privacy rights or are we already too far gone.  I fear it is too late, and I now have this gnawing twinge every time I scan a rewards card or use a credit card, but what's a girl to do?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Vulgarity is no substitute for wit

Today, I had a customer make several lewd comments in an attempt to be funny.  I was not amused.  Such comments do not deserve any response.  I'm sure my silence spoke my opinion clearer than any words I would have chosen.

Rules for Survival

I wrote this list many years ago with someone's specific situation in mind. While there are things I could easily add or take away and it seems somewhat silly at times. I thought this little list might help someone else's never know ;)

1. Nobody (apart from Christ) will care for you any more than you care for yourself. You must treat yourself the way you want others to treat you - respect, common courtesies, etc.
2. You are NOT anyone's savior; you can't fix other people's problems EVER. God is our only true savior - as well as other people's. We need to admit our own inadequacies to do it alone so that God's strength can be made perfect in our lives. We cannot bring others to this point - not even our own kids.
3. God is sovereign & has a plan for OUR good. He will withhold no good thing from us. God & we may have differing ideas about what is "good" just like we & our kids have opposing views oftentimes. God really does love us.
4. You MUST take a Sabbath every week; this includes work, diets, problems, etc. Make this time sacred even if you have to go away to do it.
5. Smart women keep it simple. Pare down your life. Say "no" to things you KNOW are too much to handle. Use paper plates & frozen dinners without guilt when you need to do so. Your time is worth money, so look for ways to save your time.
6. Accomplish one household task everyday to yourself a sense of achievement.
7. When people say negative things to you, ask yourself whether it was for your benefit or theirs. Was it something that made them look bigger, smarter, or more powerful in your eyes? This especially applies to family members.
8. If God is for you, who can stand against you? If you are doing what you believe to be right in the sight of God & you're being hassled, then emotionally "shake the dust from your feet" and move on.
9. Smile even when you don't feel like it & look for ways to help someone else. Behind all those masks, the world is hurting.
10. Do something positive for yourself often, even if it's external. Paint your nails, go for a walk, take 10 minutes a day to read for fun, have a coke with someone - even one of your kids & then savor that time without putting expectations on it.

All the Days of Her Life

She does him good, and not harm,all the days of her life. ~ Proverbs 31:12

For years we have taught her daughter that "all the days of her life" included the years before her marriage. Recently, I saw the other end of the spectrum played out for me. My mom recently joined a local church here and before joining, she had to give her testimony and tell a little bit about her family. Now that my dad is dead, she could've easily told about all the ills she suffered because of him, but she didn't. She didn't spill any of it (and believe me, there's plenty to tell). Not only was it not necessary, it would've been wrong.

Americans have the bad habit of "airing their dirty laundry" too often and in too much detail. Don't misunderstand, there are times and places when it is appropriate to share your burdens with fellow believers, but more often than not, we're just defending ourselves & making a case for our "side" rather than letting God take care of us. Every family has problems. Every parent messes up their kids in one way or another. Every married person hurts their spouse in one way or another. Guess what....if you come from a "dysfunctional" family, you're not special. Even the church itself is largely dysfunctional. We live in a fallen world and are still suffering from the effects of sin in our bodies and in our spirits.

I believe it's time to let go of a lot of anger and bitterness to which we have been clinging like a child with a favorite blanket. It's time to quit blaming the way that we are on someone else. Take ownership for our own problems and move on. If you need to complain to someone, complain to God and leave your problems there. God's strength is made perfect in weakness, but we can never realize that strength in our own lives if we don't accept our own weaknesses and someone from my younger days used to say "Every tub sits on its own bottom"....meaning we're responsible for our own lives and our reactions to others ;)

That the Word of God May Not Be Reviled~Titus 2:5

I'm going to tackle a tough topic that will not win friends and may make a few enemies. This is a subject that I've struggled and wrestled with for years, so I do not approach this lightly. The question is: should women work outside the home?

My answer is a a qualitative one. Of course, it is best and wise to turn to Scripture for our answers. Sometimes....many times....our own personal biases or upbringings cloud our thinking and conclusions. We must always use Scripture to interpret Scripture and remember who each passage of Scripture was adressed to and what culture was like at that time and what are the underlying principles. Titus 2 says the following:

3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive totheir own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Did you see the end of verse 5? Those words are pretty serious. Some translations use the word "blasphemed." Obviously, if a woman is married, her primary focus should be her family and home. But, does this mean that a woman cannot work outside the home? I don't think so; this is where my answer is a qualitative one. If a woman is able to keep her home and family in order and happy, then I see nothing contrary to Scripture in her holding a job outside the home, provided her husband is in favor of it. If you look at the Proverbs 31 woman, she is quite the businesswoman with employees under her, selling merchandise, buying land, and helping the needy. Some women are natural powerhouses of energy and creativity and can manage their home beautifully and still hold a job....I am not one of those women. I never have been one of those. I am a slow mover. I see no shame in being aware of my capabilities and/or limitations. I can eek by, but not manage beautifully.

What if you don't have a family? While it is the biblical normative for women to marry, I do believe that there are women who are called by God to be single and have a job. Honestly, I am very thankful for women ob/gyn's and mid-wives. I am also grateful that there are women counselors with biblical training for young girls struggling emotionally. In the case of singleness, I see nothing wrong with holding a job. Being called to singleness, does not mean second not let anyone make you feel that way!

* SIDE NOTE: All this being said, I am NOT a feminist and do NOT like pushing young girls into career-mindeness for self-fulfillment. I am not in favor of anything that promotes it for women or men. Education and work should never be about "finding" one's self or any other silly psychobabble. Education should be about equipping ourselves for services to God in whatsoever capacity He chooses for us. It's about fine tuning our God given talents and abilities for the furtherance of the Kingdom.*

Honestly, times are tough economically for just about everyone and those who are able to stay at home are very blessed indeed. I was blessed to stay home for eighteen years. I am so grateful that God allowed me to stay at home with our daughter until she was grown! What a blessing and a delight to have been able to homeschool her! If you can stay home, more power to you! If you are talented enough to have a home based business, that is awesome! I personally have not been able to succeed in that arena. If you are not one of those fortunate enough to be staying at home with your children, don't loose heart. God is sovereign over every area of our lives and He knows best. He can and will see you through these times if you trust Him. He has a purpose and a plan. Go to Him with your concerns, but leave them there and obey your husband.

So, how does my thinking tie in with Titus 2 if I believe that working outside the home is permissable? I believe the Word of God is blasphemed if a woman who has a husband and a family is so career oriented that her family/home suffers or is neglected OR if she is not busy at home if she is a stay at home mom. I think both of those are offensive to God. We are not to be self-absorbed in any way; we are to be living our lives in service to God. Going out to "find ourselves" or lying around eating bon bons are not included in man's chief end description.

I know this is opening a huge, smelly can of worms, and I welcome comments provided you are gracious and do not attack any one. I'm sure I've left lots out as usual. So comment away....go on....I know you're thinking it. lol