Women and Consumerism- Why It Matters

Whew! This marathon of posting has been intense. The nature of the subject, mixed with my own trepidations has made this an emotional kind of week.

My fear in relating some of this was that I would come across as sanctimonious, and as having figured it all out. This post is mine in which to ‘fess up.

I referenced in earlier posts my bad consumer habits and how it affected my lifestyle. Backing up a little will give it some context.

A couple of years ago, I got into couponing. Not the crazy kind, where I amassed hundreds of bottles of bleach, and ketchup, because who needs that much anyway? I provided for my household, for friends, and then donated lots of products to our soup kitchen and pregnancy center. It was fun; it was addictive. Getting stuff for free or for mere pennies gave me a sort of satisfaction. It still hurts to pay for toothpaste, when I’ve gotten it for free in the past years.

More recently, I also tried out my hand in online selling. I developed an amazon selling account, and would purchase products at stores, and then ship them to amazon where they would be sold at a higher price, thus making me money. The amount of time it required, plus the lack of physical space to store the products forced me to give it up. While it didn’t work out, I don’t consider it a loss, because I learned a new skill.

These two ventures took me into the active consumer marketplace and interestingly enough, took me out of it. Both ventures left me with accumulation, with the thrill of a bargain, and with disgust at what Americans spend their money on. Those cheap trinkets and gadgets that I bought at stores? They sold on Amazon! But in the meantime, they sat in my room and looked at me and I grew to disgust them. I didn’t want a life surrounded by cheaply made gadgets that would probably break in weeks.

This all influenced my love for shopping. That unknown next bargain, more free toothpaste, the thrill of the hunt, making a bit of money- it all took me to unhealthy places. It’s taking time to walk away from it, discipline to not stop at the good looking yard sale, and saying no to bargains that I don’t need. But it has brought a measure of freedom and contentment that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

The other and more significant part that changed the way I view things is the hefty dose of conviction that God administered when I was working on my last mission statement. I highly recommend that every lady has one, and I may do a post about what they do and how I write mine. Basically, I take an afternoon and go sit out in God’s green world, and think about my life and what it is that I want to do with it. I was attempting this a couple of months ago, in thinking about my new home, and God met me, and kinda cleaned house a bit with me. I came away shaken.

Here’s the deal. I am a Christ follower by claim and so I spent some time thinking about His life. And then I wondered:

How should the homelessness of Jesus affect how I see my earthly house and its care?

The singleness of Jesus- does it affect how I see marriage and family?

The people with whom Jesus associated and spent most of His time? Do my associates look like His?

The way He chose to rest and get away? Does my downtime look like His?

His life calling, and last instructions to carry it on- does mine reflect that?

See, I kinda wanted a Pinterest home that would look good on Instagram. I wanted marriage for selfish reasons. Friendships were easiest and most convenient with people who were similar to me. I chose shopping or some other easy, fun activity when I wanted to get away.

I was a Christian, but apart from my spoken beliefs, there wasn’t a lot of interaction with Jesus’ lifestyle. It felt like a kind of spiritual and intellectual lie I was living.

Popular Christian thought says that the impacts of Jesus’ life and teaching are like a glaze. They drip down into the expected areas of spoken belief and Sunday activities, but flavor little else. The nature of Jesus’ teachings and His impacts should work more like marinade- infusing the whole and leaving nothing untouched or non-impacted.

We know this in our heads, but struggle to connect it to daily life.

It is and will be a long journey. We didn’t choose to be born in a first world country and struggle with excess. And I still don’t understand it all. The answer to this is not minimalism (as the trend), or asceticism. Buying ugly curtains because they are ugly isn’t somehow going to impress God. Neither is self-loathing as opposed to self-exalting on social media. I don’t think its the right balance of God versus things, and as long as the God side is higher, than its okay. Unpacking pleasure and its purpose in Christians’ lives might need to be my next research project ūüôā

There is no formula to wholeness and healthy choices. God’s neighborhood doesn’t really have a lot of formulas. But it has life, and freedom.

I’ve been praying that these posts won’t send people on one-way guilt trips into Shame but into Freedom. If this has resonated with you, and if you have felt the same kind of convictions, I’d encourage you to sit in the conviction and allow it to change you. God needs us women, and His economy requires time and money. I’m praying that we women will rise up and embrace these challenges, and together embrace a Jesus-centered lifestyle- where His desires and words infuse every bit of our lives, in both the good and the hard spaces.

Bless you for following along with me!

 

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Women and Consumerism-Multilevelmarketing

I have anticipated both writing and publishing this post as one anticipates getting their shots. This post has been bathed in prayer and sweat, and there were moments when I thought about just scratching the whole thing. But, it was promised and it is a big part of our consumer world today, and so I carry on with resolution, and a fair amount of shaking in my boots.

We all come to the table with varied perspectives and experiences. We each live very different kinds of lives and the circumstances that make up our moments and days are as varied and complex as the hues in the sunset. I know this subject is explosive. I know that posts like this usually do not change minds and comments and attitudes can get ugly. I also don’t profess to completely understand this subject and so if I misspeak, or have some information wrong, I genuinely want to be corrected.

I sketched out the framework for this post in my previous posts on women’s consumer habits in shopping and social media. In a traditional home, the woman will typically spend most of the household’s consumable income because her role includes buying the groceries, clothes and diapers for the children, the household decor, and basic household needs. With modern conveniences, she has more time than ever before, and with social media, can interact with a plethora of people all over the world.

It doesn’t come as a surprise then, that mulitlevelmarketing is largely a ladies’ world,¬†with less than a quarter¬†of men making up the difference. The product lines are largely geared towards women’s interests and tastes- home decor, skincare, fashion, health, kitchen gadgets, makeup, and jewelry and the list goes on and on and on and on and on and well, I think you get it. A simple google search will bring up just how saturated our world is with these network marketing lines.

What’s the big deal or problem, you might ask. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. The products are typically nonessential. I’ve not seen a MLM company that sells trash bags, coffee filters and paper towels. Why? Probably because we wouldn’t spend our hard earned money on overpriced necessities.¬† Now I’m not against buying non-essentials. I’m a woman and its in our DNA to like candles. But if we have tendencies towards overspending, and if we have to work to say “no, I don’t need this,” in our shopping, then these MLM companies that encourage and pressure us to buy these extra things can really cause a problem. Saying no to the product at Walmart is a whole lot easier than saying no to a good friend.
  2. The products are typically expensive. So much so  that at times, people have to sell them to be able to afford them. Nearly any product sold in a MLM company has a box-store equivalent that costs a fraction of the price.  Each company claims to have superior quality, be the purest,and most natural products and for these reasons, they want you to spend the extra money. I can respect that. And I even choose Tupperware over Rubbermaid when I see them together at second hand stores. But I also choose unleaded gas for my car, along with most Americans, even though premium might work better. We have to make these decisions of quality versus cost daily, and the same is true of these products.
  3. The way the products are pushed. In MLM you aren’t just buying a product, you are buying a dream or possibility; the chance to make some money, to better your life, to create a new social circle. The marketing techniques are suggestive and persuasive. “If you care about your health, than you will buy _______.” Frankly, I find this one a bit insulting. Because if I don’t buy the product, than apparently I don’t care about my health? The guilt trips continue- “this is about sisterhood; supporting and empowering each other”. Hey, I’m all about encouragement and support. I really think we ladies could improve in this area, but not merely by financially supporting each other. Because we all know that I couldn’t buy a box of trash bags from Costco and turn around and sell them to my friends for three times the price, regardless how well they work. As it relates to buying and selling to each other, its not quite that simple. I think it can work as it has worked for centuries. Martha’s chickens lay extra eggs and so Martha sells them at a fair price. Her friends can stop by as they choose and purchase the eggs. Martha makes a bit of extra money, and her friends have good eggs as they need them. Buying Martha’s eggs and my trash bags are two totally different things.
  4. ¬†The likely lifespan of the products. While there are a couple companies that have been and will continue to be around for years (Avon, Tupperware, Amway, etc) many of these will not live to be 20 years old, and the next new thing will be out to excite the world. This is the part of the puzzle that I don’t understand. In a typical business, competition can be good, but it can also run you out of town. In the sandwich shop where I work, we don’t hand out the sandwiches saying, “here, if you enjoy this sandwich, please consider opening up a similar shop two doors down.” We would soon have more restaurants and business owners than people to actually buy the sandwiches. Apparently, this is what is needed for network marketing to succeed. Signing people up and creating a downline is as important as selling the product. And it’s not technically competition because you are still directly benefiting from the recruiting. So if recruitment is actually the big thing, the product is more or less secondary? Or am I missing something?

Basically, these products are probably only around temporarily, are rather expensive and are being marketed as things we really need or should at least, really want.

#consumerstruggleproblem

Please do not hear me saying that if you are involved with these companies, that you automatically somehow have a problem. You selling a product that I have a problem unhealthily desiring is my fault, not yours. We are each responsible for ourselves and our own weaknesses and struggles. I write as a consumer who struggles with consumer temptations.

I want to step back from the finer details to look at the bigger picture. Consumerism is a struggle for many of us. Like our mother Eve, we love new things, new ideas, new ways in which to make our lives better. We struggle with living in the space of enough, with attitudes of contentment and gratitude. Since we live in a world that promotes the American dream, we struggle with how to live with excess, not need. That gadget, that supplement, that earned vacation, that dream is so tempting. But is all that we ladies can do?

Just this week I heard of two situations in my area in which people are struggling to choose life. A mother is facing an unwanted pregnancy and is considering abortion. A discouraged man is losing his will to live. Two people, both somewhat local. My town isn’t very big, and your town has these people too.

Ladies, the spaces in us that are bent towards consumerism can be bent back to the Father’s heart. The selfish and hedonistic desires can be replaced with desiring Him.¬† Am I investing and giving my life to the things He values most? Does my heart ache for the things that make Him sad? Can I stand before Him, look Him in the eye and say, “Here’s my life. I hope you were pleased.”

I would love to see a network of ladies band together and encourage and support each other in ministry; empowering and supporting each other to better serve their communities and families, cheering on victories, and sympathizing in the hard places.

Network marketing- where we peddle hope and encouragement and everybody benefits. Anybody else in?

I plan in my next and final post, to share the parts of my journey in which God has jolted me. Where I was deeply convicted and had to take ownership for where my love for consuming had taken me. It might not be pretty, but it will be real, and if it can help somebody, it will make the posts worth it.

 

Women and Consumerism- Contentment

A beautiful gift the internet has given us is the place to exchange ideas and information. I have enjoyed watching ladies share their lives and experiences from Xanga days, all the way to now. And it seems in the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of blogs, books, podcasts, seminars, all by women and for women. Many of us could easily list four or five popular authors, bloggers and speakers. I love the input and interaction.

I have found, however, that two things have happened with this movement:

  1. We don’t look back as far or as often in history as we should. With the constancy and fluidity of new information and ideas, we have gotten stuck in the present. Its hard to keep up with the new, much less pay attention to history. Are we telling the stories of Gladys Aylward and Corrie Ten Boom to our daughters? Elisabeth Elliot and Mary Slessor? Going back even further, stories from the early church, stories of the marytred Christians? These ladies lived meaningful, useful lives and their stories could possibly speak into our struggles.
  2. ¬†The Bible has become more of a spiritual-part-of-our-lives book, while the other books inform our shopping-hobbies-extra part of our lives. This happens so subtly, one could hardly notice. We have gotten accustomed to the new style of pretty words and whimsical ideas presented so attractively and we build our life mission statements around them. For example: the new doctrine of beauty whose premise rests in the fact that God is the designer of beauty, and therefore we should display beauty in our lives is in fact, partially true. But truth lives in community with other truths. It’s also true that drinking a can of diet coke every day won’t kill me, but to use that truth as the premise for how I eat would be destructive. The problem with so many popular new ideas is not that they don’t have elements of truth, but that they aren’t presented with their balancing counterparts. The balancing counterparts aren’t all that whimsical or pretty. “Godliness, with contentment is great gain,” just doesn’t have the same appeal and won’t get the same response. I’ve been convicted of the amount of weight and priority I have given to this at the expense of the practical, straight-forward words of Jesus.

I used to think somewhat negatively of the concept of contentment. That it involved a lot of saying no to things we really enjoy but don’t need and that it included a good bit of self-denial. I’ve come to see it in a bit differently. The reason most of us like to shop after we’ve eaten is to keep us from wandering the Cheetos and ice cream aisles. We intentionally eat something good, to help us resist the temptation of the not-so-good. Contentment is the same idea. It’s the place of living in enough; in fullness. It’s the thought of filling our lives with meaningful things,¬† so that the lesser things don’t really tempt us. It’s not just saying no to the Cheetos, it’s not even wanting them.

I’m not going to sit here and act all sanctimonious and pretend that I never want the Cheetos. I’m a full-blooded woman, preparing to move into a house that will need new paint and furnishings. I love beauty and the expression of beauty. I think this room is gorgeous:

Gorgeous Scandinavian Interior Design Ideas You Should Know	---- Design Interior Food Poster Christmas Fashion Kitchen Bedroom Style Tattoo Women Farmhouse Cabin Architecture Decor Bathroom Furniture Home Living Room Art People Recipes Modern Wedding Cottage Folk Apartment Nursery Rustic Office House Exterior DIY Lighting Pattern Men Fireplace Rug Dining Table Hair Illustration Nature Industrial Wallpaper Chair Loft Entryway Winter Lounge Baby Outfit Floor Closet Kids Desk Small Decoration Cloth

picture from Pinterest

Frankly, it scares me a little. I’m single too, so I don’t even have a husband to act as my brakes.

Contentment will mean different things for each of us, and our calling is not to project our standards onto others, but to figure out what it means for us.

Maybe for me it means being content with the chipped counters in my new house. Not getting a new bedspread because I’m tired of the one I’ve had for years. Maybe it means choosing paint and curtains that match the things I already own, instead of creating a new style of what I really like.

I don’t know what it means for me yet, but I do know that God and I are going to have to have some really good talks in the next couple months.

What does contentment look like to you?

Women and Consumerism- Social Media

Image result for social media buttons

Who else remembers looking for the toothpick when the Taste of Home Magazine came in the mail? And who else thought those themed kitchens (apple-cow-chicken) were absolutely beautiful? And did anybody else argue with their siblings over whose birth month picture was prettiest in those calendars that came in the mail?

Before the internet was really a thing, peeks into the greater world were rare, coming in the mail or through the paper. Life, as you knew it, mainly happened in the geographical area around you. Influences were greatest from those with whom you shared life.

Some of my girlfriends from school were fortunate enough to live by a graveyard and got to decorate their rooms with discarded floral arrangements. To me, they were practically living by Target. Since there were no discarded flower piles near my house, I had to forage the trinket tables at yard sales to decorate my room, spending my change on doilies and candles.

In my childish eyes, I lived in a beautiful home. Country blue and rose were my mom’s favorite colors so she incorporated them in billowing, ruffly curtains in the living room and in hand-crafted wall decor and accessories.

Life was pretty simple. We lived in normal houses, ate normal food, did normal things.

And then the internet happened. And life, as we knew it, was forever changed. I was listening to a Ted talk the other day and the speaker said the following, ” the internet gave us access to everything, but it also gave everything access to us.” This written statement looks flat and cliche, but if you read it out loud with a British accent, it packs a bigger punch. I was really touched, but I digress.

See, when we got the internet, the Jones’ went global.¬† With a few clicks of your computer mouse, you can see the living room in a home in Washington, the wardrobe of someone in Texas, and what a housewife in Alaska purchased at the grocery store. Companies have taken notice and now partner with influential social media users on Instagram, Youtube, etc to promote their products, because they understand the power of suggestion and the appeal of popularity. So now, in the simple scrolling of Pinterest, or looking up something on Youtube, we are being hit with ads promoting products that we “need” or surely, at least want. That is the commercial side of consumerism on social media.

What hits closer to home for many of us is not the pushy, flashy ads, but the quiet, day to day posts about daily life from our friends or people with whom we share interests and tastes. Each platform has its circle of influential people, and we all know who it is in our feeds. The ones who get the most likes, who know how to style their content and get the best angles for their pictures. These people are often quite nice, lovely people, but because of a particular skill or talent, whatever they do or have is likely to become popular. This is how trends form, and these trends are quite likely to impact everyone.

Here’s a fun exercise: Stop reading and grab a pen and paper. Quickly list three things that are popular right now in home decor.

Now consider if you have ever seen the items on your list in real life. If you haven’t, then you have just witnessed the power of social media. Constantly being exposed to the ever changing trends can easily wear down our contentment. Comparison and resentment can easily set it, and our joy leaves.

We are responsible, as ladies, for our own actions. If we struggle with discontentment in our social media interactions, lets own in and take appropriate action. Maybe it means taking a break, or unfollowing the accounts that tempt us to covet. Maybe it means cancelling our subscription to the Magnolia Journal or Ikea’s catalog.

We are responsible, as well, for how we portray ourselves. There is a growing circle of creatives, those who are more naturally interested and talented in the arts- music, typography, painting, design, etc. I play around in some of these hobbies and understand that part of the joy of creating is in the expression. Mozart gifted us with music, and Longfellow with poetry, and today we too  give our offerings.

But as a creator, I struggle with knowing what is the appropriate sharing of these offerings, and what is showing off. Its tempting to cloak the offerings in Bible verses or inspirational thoughts to somehow validate them, but it doesn’t really work. The carefully styled photo of my living room captioned with a simple Bible verse? The comment section is more likely to blow¬† up with people wanting to know where I purchased my curtains, than exclaiming how good God is. My guess is if I really wanted to portray God’s greatness, an unedited sunset picture would work better.

I fear sometimes, that we creatives linger too long at the altar of beauty. Beauty has become the thing, the pursuit, the justification for how we spend our time and money. I wonder sometimes if it has become the object of worship instead of the means to it. I wonder, because I’ve struggled with it, and with my own heart.

It is somewhere in this tension that ladies struggle with contentment. I’ve talked to you, I’ve heard the despair. We struggle when it looks so perfect and so effortless, wishing we could be the same way, live the same life.

This piece has been incredibly difficult to write. I’ve written, erased, and rewritten more times than I’d like to count. I know we all want both our physical and virtual worlds to be places of growth, of encouragement and of building each other up. I found a few beautiful verses from Scripture that spoke this to me:

“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23

Ladies, the privilege of knowing and understanding a God who delights in steadfast love makes us some of the richest people in the world. Living in the extravagance and responsibility of that love is one of the best safeguards for the struggle with consumerism.

So, do I really need those new curtains?

Vicki

 

 

 

 

 

Women and Consumerism-Shopping

To understand the scope of this subject, we need to travel back in time 200 years. The pioneer woman, living with her husband and children on the western frontier, lived a very different life than that of ours today. Making breakfast included building the fire, preparing the food and then heating water to wash the dishes. Sewing the entire household’s clothing, plus preserving food for the upcoming winter left her with little free time. A fun day may have included butchering chickens and talking about the latest Sears-Roebuck catalog with the neighbor ladies. Her life was built around survival.

She would have purchased the necessary household items from the local dry goods store along with all the other ladies from her town. When the peddler came through, she and the other ladies would all gather to exclaim over the new fabrics from New York. If the bean crop was good, she might be able to afford glass windows for her house. If the crop failed, she would have to wait another year. The lines between needs and wants were as obvious as the patchwork design on her handmade quilt.

But times changed. The Industrial Revolution came, improving not only the lives of the men, but also the women. More goods were produced with less effort which translated into more money. In 1913, keeping up with the Jones’ became a thing and their never-dying family tree was established.

And here we are today. Throw some waffles into the toaster and we have breakfast. Throw the dishes into the dishwasher and we’ve cleaned up breakfast. A fun girls’ day out might include a shopping day at three clothing stores, a couple thrift stores and Panera for lunch. Conversations could include which white on the paint chip card would look best with Sue’s living room furniture, and should she get her curtains off of Amazon or Overstock.

The consumer landscape has changed and the lines between needs and wants have blurred. The price of goods has come down because the demand has gone up. We can afford to change our decor every couple years, thanks to second-hand stores and Craigslist. Women have less to do than ever before, but somehow we stay just as busy.

According to¬†this post, women are the world’s most powerful consumers, driving 70-80% of all consumer purchasing through a combination of¬† buying power and influence. While this number is staggering, the reality is that in nearly every culture, women are the primary caregivers of children and the elderly, and so they will buy for their needs.

So, if you are a traditional mother and assume responsibility for your household, you likely will be the one to purchase the groceries and products for the home. Which in turn means you will probably spend most of the consumable household income.

Do you see how the elements are coming together to create a potential problem? Less to do, more money, cheaper goods and conveniences like one-click ordering. Throw in social media yet and Hurricane Consumerism has become a real thing.

In my journey away from consumerism and towards contentment, shopping is something I cut out almost completely. Through the process, I realized the emotional part of the craving to shop. When I had a day off with nothing to do, I’d want to shop. When I was feeling depressed or overwhelmed, I wanted to shop. Shopping was a time-filler, a mood booster, and obviously a money drainer.

I’m that weird person who likes to watch Hoarders. This likely points to a psychological deficiency but there is something so satisfying about watching a life-times worth of filth and clutter get cleaned up in mere minutes.¬† The common denominator in nearly every episode centers around compulsive shopping to satisfy an emotional need.

Hoarding isn’t something with which most of us struggle, but I think many of us can identify with unhealthy appetites for shopping and the burden of accumulation. I think we would be wise to look inward, and see if there are unhealthy habits that contribute to this desire.

Separating this subject into parts cramps it a bit. The post on Contentment will deal more extensively with aspects of shopping. But I must say here, that if we struggle with contentment, the choice to spend a day shopping when we don’t really need anything is a setup to walk right into the temptation of coveting. Target and Goodwill become unnecessary battlegrounds and we aren’t prepared to do battle.

The answer is easy- stay away. Stay away from anything that tempts you to buy unnecessarily. We are all have different triggers. For me it meant unfollowing certain buying/selling groups on Facebook. It meant staying off of Pinterest unless I had a good reason for being there. It meant not going into a store unless I needed something, and it meant learning to stick with a list if I did indeed need things. And I have found that the longer I’m away from the frenzy, the weaker the desire becomes. I took myself shopping yesterday and was happy to discover that the passion is just not there anymore. Saying no has become easier. It is taking more for me to commit to a product.

Merchants and product lines have picked up on our unhealthy habits. They send us tempting coupons, colorful and beautiful ads and beautifully curated catalogs, all with one goal: to get us to buy. As trends become more powerful and persuasive, the line of goods remains fluid-constantly changing to keep up with the styles. The social media wheels grind on, and we get sucked into the trends, and continue to buy, and the cycle continues.

Overcoming bad shopping habits is possible, but we have to recondition our minds. In the post on Why It Matters, I will explain the implications of consumerism for a Christian, and the price we have paid for these misdirected appetites.

Because shopping is easy and is considered a social activity, it is often the activity of choice for women who want to spend time together. Ladies, we can do better than that. I’m not against shopping but to use it as a constant filler is to stifle creativity and space for deeper relationships to happen. Here are a few ideas to consider instead of shopping:

  1. Have each lady prepare a dish that she’s never made before and enjoy a meal of new foods together.
  2. Find a social issue that is relevant to your community and organize an evening of discussion and prayer.
  3. Host a show and tell. Each lady brings an object that depicts her life and is ready to explain the reason.

Any of these evenings will leave you much richer than an evening on the town. I’m not talking only of money but of a richer degree of relationship and friendship.

The first step to overcoming a problem is owning it. To own it we have to be gut-wrenchingly honest. We have to face up to the ugly parts of our lives, the parts nobody else sees. We have to call the problem for what it is. If we are a Christian, it means begging God to help us desire better things. To replace these misdirected loves with honorable and glorifying loves. The second step in overcoming a problem is action. Develop a goal with an achievable plan. Find somebody to become accountable to. Commit yourself to improvement and don’t give up.

And you now you have freed up two resources- time and money.  Use them for honorable things. Things important to God and His Kingdom. Invest in relationships. Seek out opportunities in your community in which you can plug in and help. Pregnancy Centers and soup kitchens are constantly needing volunteers and are beautiful ways to get to know other ladies in your community. Awareness of needs then becomes another set of brakes to frivolous spending.

My goal was to leave us all with hope as we thing of beating the Consumer Monster. That in saying no to one thing, we are saying yes to a better thing, and the trade-off is freeing and life changing.

~Vicki

 

Women and Consumerism- Prelude

The following series has been gestating for weeks. Swirling and forming in an embryo of thoughts, conviction, and lessons learned. As they developed and took on form, I knew I had to birth them. For me, more than for anybody. It’s scary though, this birthing process.

What I have learned over the past 10 months¬†¬†in my steps away from consumerism has been life-altering and hopefully life-changing. I am writing this to chronicle my journey and to bring awareness to a topic that gets too little attention. I’ve had conversations with a number of ladies over the past six months, and realized more strongly than ever, that it strikes a chord in all of us.

The following thoughts are birthed out of these conversations and out of lessons I’ve learned. I will write in sweeping generalizations at times, and what may be true for me, may not be true of your story, and I respect that.

I am nearing the end of a house buying journey, and so I write to keep myself accountable. A new house is a clean slate- a blank canvas, and I know myself and my tendencies toward misplaced loves and priorities.

I used to wonder if Eve was created with a flaw. You know, because she was targeted by the Serpent and sucked into a really dumb dream. I have also wondered if we, her daughters, were born with the same flaw. A flaw that takes us to Target. A flaw that dreams and wishes for things not good for us. A flaw that has us living with second best things when we could be tasting Eden.

But we know that God created her perfectly, and her leaving 101 Perfection Avenue was her choice, not God’s fault. Still, that leaves us with the question: What was it in her (and in us), that gravitates towards half-baked truths and the lust for more and more and more?

I have a theory, but dishing it is a life dream and still in embryo form. It’s scribbled in notebooks and in cobwebby spaces in my head. The following series deals with the problem and with practical solutions for overcoming.

I plan on breaking it up into five posts.

~Women and Shopping

~ Women and Social Media

~Women and Contentment

~ Women and Multilevelmarketing 

~Women and Why it Matters

Is it evident now why this birthing process is scary? These topics are explosive by themselves. Covering them back to back feels like dying a slow death. I’ve struggled with it, wrestled with it and with my insecurities in the parts in which I am still growing. But I have felt the call to share what I’ve learned and I will try to speak responsibly and graciously. Because at the end of the day, we all want the best of the abundant life promised to us by our Redeemer.

~Vicki

We are all Michelle

I’m a news junkie.If there is something big happening, I’ll likely know at least a little bit about it. I don’t know why that is, apart from the fact that this world I live in is just so interesting¬†and there is so much to be learned and understood.

I’m concerned about North Korea, excited about the solar eclipse, incredulous that this church is using booze as a way to reach people and indifferent about this debate on drones.

What really grabbed my attention last week, though, was the story of Michelle, ¬†the now-famous girlfriend who persuaded her 18 year old boyfriend, Conrad, to commit suicide. I don’t recall ever watching a case where the crime lay completely in written text. She didn’t kill him, she only encouraged it via text message. The prosecution asked for a prison sentence of ¬†7-12 years, but she was ¬†sentenced to just 2.5, of the which she will serve a mere 15 months.

The most compelling aspect of this story is that this is the story of humanity, starting back at the beginning when the famous question, “am I my brothers keeper?” was asked. We wrestle with the value of human life, and mourn when its so easily thrown away.

One could call out the hypocrisy of the Left, which would have allowed an abortion doctor to end Conrad’s death 18 years prior. You can drive a lady to an abortion clinic, encourage her to end her baby’s life, and then drive her home and it’s just another day on the job. No court case, no judge, no sentence. ¬†To encourage someone to end a life outside the womb is a crime, to encourage it in the womb is somehow acceptable.

The Right is morally no better, however technically pro-life they claim to be. It’s relatively easy to sign your name to a petition to save the unborn, to enjoy the feelings of self-righteousness and smugness for “being pro-life”, but not to lift a finger or attempt to understand what drives women to these choices. Being right is better and much more convenient than seeking to understand and getting involved.

In the Biblical Creation story, the Creator breathed into the man and the woman, and they became living souls bearing His image. The value of human life rests there today. To be pro-life is to be aware of Gods image in each person; the unborn and the aged, the ISIS fighter and Mother Theresa, Mark Zuckerburg and the Syrian refugee. God doesn’t pick and choose who gets value and in what amount; He infuses it in each person at conception and nothing can change it. To be pro-life is to understand and celebrate that value, to speak life-giving words, to be available for the undervalued and overlooked, to call out the best in your neighbor, and to ache for reconciliation and redemption. More than a theory and stated belief, it’s an action, a lifestyle, a calling.

The truth is, we are all Michelle, grappling with choices, with the power of our words, with the responsibility of our humanness, and with the effects of a world full of brokenness. How we see ourselves and the image of God in others is ultimately what makes up the headlines and what makes up our world. So yes, I would argue, I am my brother’s keeper.