Living Intentionally: Shopping with Intention

Again, being in the wilderness and reading “7”: Another musing, processing, thought-provoking application for me.
Chapter 6: Spending.

First, I survived in the wilderness without spending one dime. (Miracle!! – don’t laugh)

Second, I was reading while in the wilderness (funny, I had very little to distract me) and chapter 6: Spending, caught my attention.  There is something to being a consumer, and we just simply need to change the way we spend our money. We have money. We are NOT rich in the eyes of our friends and neighbors, but we ALWAYS talk to our kids about how we ARE, in fact, rich in this world.  We tell our kids often that we have SO much, and our house is bigger than the majority of the world.  Even the boys, who share a bedroom, are blessed, because most families have an entire HOME that is the size of their room.  “Yes, their homes are small, and these families layer themselves and live together- in Africa, in India, in South America…”   Questions come up such as: “Why us?” and “What are we supposed to do?”  That, my friends, is another blog post. We are working on it.

However there is also power in where we spend our money.  We can make choices to spend money in places that make a difference.
Page 169 of “7”, Jen Hatmaker addresses this:

“Pulling out of a lopsided market is one thing; redistributing wealth to the world’s vulnerable is a whole ‘nother level…..Your giving can effect extraordinary change. Pick a need, country, people group , an organization focused on empowerment and sustainable independence.  You could be an answer to countless prayers.  The poor don’t lack ambition, imagination, or intelligence; most simply lack resources. We have what they require and more than we need. We could share.” 

I have power in my purchases and I want to make sure we are spending less money (to put aside to give away), and  that I am spending money on things that can have a decent impact.  Right around the corner: Christmas.

So, I came home, revved up from reading and being without computer, phone, screens, music, meat….and I decided…

“Let’s just not do any gifts this year, let’s do something else! No gifts!!!”
Family response:  “Uhhhhhhhhhh……”

My response: “Jesus didn’t have wrapped presents…blah blah blah”

Internal alarm: “Rachel, put on the brakes….again…baby steps.  Let’s not shove this down everyone’s throats…you are #* years old and look how long it took you!”

So, after this little bit of crazy, I made a few decisions:

1. I want to research where I am spending and give something that has meaning.  For instance, an item that would ‘give back’ to a greater cause.  Like Tom’s shoes. You buy a pair, and then someone in need gets a pair.  There had to be companies like this.

2.  I am going to continue to refine ‘gift giving’ in our own family.  There will be family reduction and other intentional applications for nuclear “us”, but I am still processing on the most meaningful ways we could express love, worship and honor to the Lord and one another…we will get there….

So I have been on the trail of companies that I feel are ethical and:

  1. give back in some way (percentage of company profits, or re-investing in a community)
  2. offer an encouragement (scripture, hospitality, etc.)
  3. encourage the hand-made talent of an artisan who wants a sustainable life wage
  4. literally give to someone in need (buy a pair of boots, and they give a pair to a kid in Romania that wears flip-flops in the winter.

This is what I have found.  This is in NO WAY an exhaustive list. I have spend quite some time reading the “About us” and “Our Stories” and also looking these companies up individually.

RACHEL’s researched list of companies that give back in some way:

  • Noonday Collection:  Jewelry, Scarves, Bags, women’s accessories…see link.  This company has a beautiful story that I am learning more and more about.  In my research I have contacted a local ambassador and asked her about the company and her own personal interest, as well as the cool things that she knows that I would not.  I am going to invite others to join me in (at my home) and hope to raise money for an adoptive parent, as well as giving my dollars to women abroad who have a talent and can be paid a wage that can launch their own dream or support their own families.

  • Krochet Kids: A cool bunch of guys, crocheted some hats, went abroad, saw a need and created a company that gives back.  They have some cool guys stuff, snow boarding and skiing hats and scarves and I like the look too.

  • Stone + Cloth: Buy a backpack or an item and it supports education in third world countries.  Cool bags, and clean fresh look.

  • Amazima: Katie Davis launched this to support women in Uganda.  There is a beading circle of women and their beautiful projects are purchased fair-trade.  If you haven’t read “Kisses from Katie”  you SHOULD (Click on “Should” to see previous blog post).

  • Sevenly: For every tee-shirt $7 goes to the selected non-profit for the week. And the stuff is cool! Pretty much tee shirts and apparel

  • Raven and Lily: uses the Open Arms refugee, made in America mission to furnish their products, as well as local artisans and they re-invest their profit into the women’s businesses in the different countries.  I love this explanation of their name “Raven and Lily”:    “After contemplating the words for a company name, we knew we wanted something that would capture the beauty and dignity of the women in our partnerships. We were inspired by Luke 12, where God says that we shouldn’t worry about what we will eat or drink because He cares for the ravens and we are so much more valuable than birds. He also says to look at how beautiful the lilies are yet they are here today and gone tomorrow and how much more valuable we are than flowers. We feel that the value God sees in His creation, including ravens and lilies, reminds us how much more valuable we are as women.”  Some items are on the more expensive side, but they are very high quality and are items that are in my scope of personal “taste”.  I need to buy LESS.  This is good stuff.

  • Roma Boots:  Partnering with World Vision, just sweetens the deal! Roma boots and World Vision give back together…Every pair of rain boots gets boots to Romanians and others in need and give to education.  Cute boots (bye-bye wish list item: Trendy and cool Hunter Boots)…I love the YouTube on this.

  • Live fashionABLE: Mostly scarves, there are specific women that make these items.  I am particularly interested in the “game-day” scarf for some people in my life.

  • Come Together Trading: These guys started this company after a Compassion International Trip…I am working with Mary and Martha who also gives to Compassion International, so that is a draw.  This wouldn’t necessarily be my “go-to” as a lot of items look like an import store, HOWEVER, they have a wonderful variety, and it is a good one to have on the list for items that aren’t really represented anywhere else.

  • Red Earth Trading Company:  Mostly Jewelry and accessories…but this is a cool website, and they had a recent gig with “Madewell” which has a classic style I love….they also work with local artisans, give interest free loans and have accountable business practices.   Pretty stuff…I may need more jewelry boxes (LESS Rachel, LESS, haha)

Other companies that we will be giving from include companies that bring something positive and meaningful into the home of those we love.  A few examples are:  Mary and Martha (Loving God and Loving others), walk in love (Walk in love. is dedicated to selling well-designed, high quality products with a positive and inspiring message. That message is a reminder to imitate God by loving others every chance we get – no strings attached. We believe that Jesus came and showed us how to be that message), and anything else with an inspiring and positive reach.

So, that’s what I have been thinking about. 🙂

Christmas Cards: Going Extinct? Why I still love getting them & how I didn’t quite get there…yet

This year I piled all of my Christmas cards up and decided I really wanted to open them all at once.

Enjoy.
Reminisce.
See the creativity of friends and family in their photo collages, poems, newsletters and top tens.

Reflect on a year gone by.
Reflect on how I met or know the friends who took the time to send a card.
Appreciate each card as a token of friendship.

In the era of less mail, less notes and letters written and  more phone and email and texting (I am a culprit of all three), I enjoy each and every photo card, letter, and Christmas greeting we get.  I do care about the people who have left an imprint on my life, on our family’s life…and I truly enjoy hearing about each of them.

Thank you.  Thank you to those who take the time and spend the money.  Thank you to those of you who purchase stamps and address the envelopes.  I appreciate your updates, your greetings, your love sent.  I even appreciate hearing about who graduated from preschool, or high school or college.  Thank you for your vacation run downs, even if I am a tad jealous of your bronzed family pic.  I truly love hearing from each of you, even if I don’t see you for a year or two or a decade, I love hearing about your slice of life, your 2013.

I have considered ending our Christmas cards.  Save money and save time.  It is an effort.  And in the effort, I usually like to hand address, write a personal note to say “Hi” and it takes time.  But, I am not giving up.  I SO enjoyed the cards I received–I have to reciprocate.  So I am hoping “Happy New Years” cards will go out. I am hoping to get there sometime this month. Christmas is just the time of year that we do it, but I hope my little update and photos will be worth it to someone else 🙂  Okay, maybe it will be Valentine’s Day…

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The meaning of Christmas…St. Nicholas or Santa Claus?…and Jesus

As parents and believers, we all make different choices, some we live by and some we adjust.  This is just the way our story has been written:

As children growing up, we hung stockings on the mantle.  When we got married we hung stockings on the mantle.

In my family, Dad would read “‘Twas, the Night before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore;  ‘visions of sugar plums, on Comet, on Cupid, on Donder and Blitzen, shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly, right jolly old elf.’  The story was nostalgic, brought about memories of my childhood-  memories of Christmas’s past.  So, my sweet husband read Clement’s poem to our children on Christmas Eve.

As children, both of our families had pictures taken with Santa every year.  Some were funny with a screaming sibling.  Other photos were extremely awkward.  The collection of photos served as a photo album timeline.  It was tradition.  Honestly, a harmless tradition, which also served to provide us with laughter after we had grown.  So, as we started our own family, we followed tradition.

And we started some of our own.  In order to make sure Christmas wasn’t JUST about presents, and was not focused on Santa, we began a few traditions.  I love nativity scenes, so I focus on decorations with the we three kings, and the little drummer boy, the angels we have heard on high and the sweet child is this from that silent night.  Scripture is read before the presents are opened.  Santa always brought three gifts, to remind us of the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus.

It all began so innocently.

As the sweet, innocent children grew, they blossomed into contemplating little souls.  They were growing up into free thinkers and decision makers. Praise God! They were developing into thoughtful little people.  And then they became classmates, and fellow bus riders, and sneaky ‘mom and dad watchers’ and present finders.  This caused questions, questions about “Santa.” Questions asking, “Is Santa real?”

I would answer, “What do you think?” and would say “There was a man named St. Nicholas and he believed in Jesus, and gave to the poor.”  No lies.  And then…I became the perfect subject changer.  I just didn’t want to ruin it for the youngest, or I just didn’t know what to do.  Just one more Christmas.  How did I get here?  Why did I go along with this?

If Christmas really is all about Jesus, why isn’t it all about Jesus?

I knew we needed to have a conversation…eventually.

And then, when I went to kiss sweet, youngest boy’s sleeping cheek at 1:30 am on Christmas Eve, I found him wide awake.  “What are you still doing up, sweet boy?!”

“I have to prove to brother that Santa is real!”
Ugh.
Oh dear.  Sigh.

I knew it needed to end.

Leading up to this, I spent an entire evening researching “Santa”–  the history of Santa Claus. How did it become like this?  St. Nicholas was a good man of God.  He was blessed with a heart for the poor, and blessed with the riches his own family left him.  There were stockings that were just socks set by a fire to dry, and a poor man’s daughters secretly received dowry money in their stockings.  Generosity in the name of Jesus.  That is who St. Nicholas was.  But commercial companies, and likely some “Wormwood” or similar being twisted and turned that man’s good intentions over time.  The real “St. Nicholas” drifted away.  He became a coca-cola can holding, American white-bearded man in a jolly red suit.  Europeans tried to keep his ‘death date’ of December 6th separate from the Birth of Jesus, but time and again, something pushed out the real Savior of the world.

So I prayed and finally, this fall, sat the young, contemplating, question asking, answer seeking souls down.

“I want to tell you the story of St. Nicholas…”   (http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/)

“…and then, he died.”

Eldest echos for the youngest, “He died!

And we explain, he WAS a real man.  He loved Jesus.  He gave to the needy.  He died.  He is no more.

Did we disappoint? Did I ruin Christmas?

No!

They were almost relieved.  They knew in their hearts already, or at least suspected.

And we will still give presents, and we will still have joy!  But it will ALL be in the name of Jesus.

And we will start new traditions. Youngest says our Santa notes in stockings should now be prayer requests put in our stockings that we write to God.

At the start, the idea of including Santa– maybe it was not the right thing to do.  I am not sure…  But God showed up and the kids are happy and relieved.

“One request,” says the middle one.  “Can we please not get those stupid pictures with the fake Santas?”

We all laugh. We compromise. We will document our family when we cut down the tree.

Then I will have my photo album timeline.  And they can still have nostalgia.

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With Santa kneeling over a baby Jesus, he says:

Lord, You know that You’re the reason

I take pleasure in this season

I don’t want to take Your place

but just reflect Your wondrous grace.

I really believe that’s what the real St. Nicholas would say.