This School Year’s Game Plan for Screen Time

parenting upstream in a go with the flow world

Guest Post by my friend Arlene Pellicane

{Scroll down for a great giveaway!}

When you walk into a cell phone store, you have a dizzying array of plans to choose from. In the same way you choose a cellular plan to suit your family’s needs, you need a digital plan for screen use in your home. How much time per day is allowed? Which shows, games, and social networks are approved? Without a working plan, your child’s time will erode into mindless screen time and entertainment that usually runs counter to everything you are trying to instill as a mother.

Maybe you are unhappy with how screen time went last year. Good news – the school year is around the corner and you have a new chance to put a plan in place.

Remember these are suggestions to get your brain in gear. Pick and choose what you need – remember you don’t have to replicate anyone’s plan including mine. You just need wisdom to devise the best plan for you and your kids (and stick with it). We’ll begin with the Pellicane game plan, otherwise known as “The Dinosaur Plan.”

None of our three kids have a gaming device, tablet, or phone. Now granted they are younger (ages 5, 8 and 10). But my 10-year-old son has never played Minecraft which puts him in an elite category!

The kids use our laptop for homework which ends up being about two hours a week. When James and I were first married sixteen years ago, he asked to do a “no-cable” trial period of one month. I agreed reluctantly and to make a long story short, we haven’t had cable since. We choose what the kids watch and use DVD time as a treat.

No video games exist in our home. Ethan’s in fifth grade and of course catches a lot of slack for not gaming. One night we talked it over at bedtime. “Mom, my friends say they feel sorry for me, but I feel sorry for them. They don’t read, or play the piano, or know martial arts. They just know how to play video games.”

I don’t include that to pat myself on the back.

I share it to give you courage: It’s okay to raise children who live differently than their peers.

This School Year's Game Plan for Screen Time

After all, the norm of kids who are addicted to screens is not helping our culture one bit. Here are some other ideas to consider for your plan:

The Priority List: Author Dannah Gresh realized when her kids transitioned to middle school, she would lose a lot of control over what they were watching. They needed to be able to self-moderate. She had her kids write down a list of their priorities. They wrote their list which included family, time with God, homework, soccer, piano, video games, and time with friends. They had them put them in order of importance which made them realize why they didn’t get to play video games until homework was done or chores were complete.

Dannah says, “Teaching consequential thinking skills was important so they could carry those limits into high school, college and beyond. Otherwise you’re just setting rules.”

Nighttime Round Up: Author and mom mentor Hannah Keeley collects all phones, tablets, and laptops at night around 10 pm – even with three college kids living at home. If any of her college kids need to work later on homework, they can ask her for that extra time. “We know what they are doing online because we keep the computers out where we can see them. Every night we have a time when we shut down and a place where all the electronics go.”

Track the Time: Our very own Kristen Welch observed that so many parents are unaware of how much their children are consuming on screens. She began by watching her children closely and then setting a time limit: thirty minutes on weekdays – kids pick the screen. They use a screen time chart to keep track. Sometimes they bend the rules to watch family movies, but generally during the week the house rule is 30 minutes a day. In the summers with more free time, the kids can earn screen time by reading.

Use a Timer: CWIVES founder Jennifer Degler employs a screen time manager – a handy BOB timer – to avoid screen time battles. She programs 30 minutes on each device and after that, the device just shuts off. If her children need more time on the computer, she can program that. Her teenage son said, “I just hate that TV timer; you are so controlling. You know I hope those are still around when I’m a parent because I’m going to use them on my kids.”

What are some screen smart guidelines you want to implement this year in your home?

Leave a comment with your answer and you’ll be entered to win Arlene’s brand new book: 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom.

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Bio: Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. She is also the co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (with Gary Chapman). She has been a featured guest on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah.

Arlene lives in the San Diego area with her husband James and their three children.

To learn more and for free family resources such as a monthly Happy Home podcast, visit www.ArlenePellicane.com

And Now, I’d Like to Talk About mmmmilk

We love milk at our house. I don’t know if it’s because we go to my in-law’s farm every chance we get… IMG_1148
I don’t know if it’s because we have a long history of naming baby calves…
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I don’t know if it’s because we eat grass-fed, fresh beef at least 3 times a week (thanks Nanny and Poppa)…
I don’t know if it’s because my kids like to dress like cows periodically…
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My kids have always loved milk.
And I’m always looking for natural, healthy choices that don’t compromise rich taste.
For a report at school last year, my youngest wrote a two page essay on her favorite snack (and how to make it): chocolate milk.
It was a riveting report and she actually got acknowledged for the most descriptive paper.
I have a deep affection for chocolate milk and writing, so I was obviously proud of this winning combo.

So, when we were asked to try Shamrock Farms on-the-go mmmmilk sold at Walmart, my kids sat at the dining room table like thirsty little people. I didn’t have to ask twice.

“Mom, this chocolate milk is delicious.”

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“The strawberry milk is so good.”

“Mom, show them how fast I can drink the whole thing and how loud I can burp.” (I will spare you the video).

“Mom, does this make me a milk model now?”

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You get the point. They loved it. And after dinner, they asked for more. (They also offered to pose for more pictures. Bless my shy children.)

These cute little 2% bottles of Shamrock Farms on-the-go mmmmilk come in 2% chocolate and strawberry and whole white milk and they are only $1 each at Walmart. Shamrock Farms mmmmilks are pure, fresh and nutritious with no added hormones.

And we think they are the perfect drink for lunch boxes or after school snacks.

(Plus, we love these healthy yummy summer snack recipes that go great with milk!)

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Shamrock Farms is having a great back to school giveaway where one lucky winner will receive nearly $5,000 ($4,999) in gift cards to stock up on back-­to-­school supplies, groceries and a new wardrobe. Enter online at www.shamrockfarms.net/walmart from now until August 20.

Win today! Answer this question: What do you like to pack in your child’s lunchbox? in the comment section. Each comment will automatically be entered to win a $100 Walmart gift card.  

Check out Shamrock Farms on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Entry Instructions:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher.com email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 7/27/15 – 9/4/15.

Be sure to visit the Shamrock Farms brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

When God Makes Us Uncomfortable (It’s Often To Bring Others Comfort )

My husband spent 11 years in a job he sometimes hated.

During those long years, we constantly reminded ourselves to choose joy! to be grateful! to love what we’d be given!

But working to live instead of living to work can be draining.

Especially when you dream of doing something that matters.

We had countless conversations about his sweet spot–that place where passions and skills collide (you know, once we crossed Nascar Driver off the list.) The same words surfaced again and again in our long talks–words like helping people, traveling, discipleship, serving others. We had a big picture dream without a map to get there.

But he kept on doing the last thing God told him to. . . which brings us back to that job.

I’ve always marveled at my husband’s patience. Because his faithful and often unfulfilling work all those years not only provided for our family, but created space for me to pursue life-giving work through writing that resulted in starting Mercy House.

Sometimes it’s hard to see where the road is leading. But God still leads us into the unknown.

God rarely does things the way we think he should.

God is doing something important in us

While we’re waiting to do something important, God is doing something important in us.

He is refining us. He is making us uncomfortable. Dependent. He is revealing His strength in our weakness.

It’s a truth that’s hard to grasp in the middle of the waiting. But it’s truth our heart needs to hear.

Most of Jesus’ life was spent doing what he wasn’t sent to do. He was preparing Himself. And if Jesus needed time to prepare, we do, too.

Story after story in the Bible reminds us how God impositioned his people, only to position them. He made Joseph uncomfortable in a prison to position him on a throne. He made Daniel lion’s food, only to proclaim His glory in the fire. He made Esther prepare her body and heart to be queen, only to position her to save an oppressed people.

And He will do the same with you.

Because it very well might be that the job you hate or the one you can’t find is part of His great plan for your life. He may just use your discomfort to comfort others.

God often impositions us in our work, our health, our lives because he is preparing us to position us to reveal His glory.

I will never forget the day, my husband and I said the words outloud, the dreaming kind that make your heart pound. “What if somehow God made a way for me to quit my job and lead Mercy House?” I cried at his audacity because the weight of the burden was crushing me. We asked it and then we waited a long time for the answer.

It came nearly a year ago, when my husband left his well-paying, tenured position to travel, disciple, and help people in our work to remind women around the world God has not forgotten them.

Don’t think for a minute He has forgotten you either.

We can see now that all those years of being uncomfortable were making a way for us to comfort women around the world.

That uncomfortable place you’re in today? Offer it to Him. Ask God to use it for the comfort of others, for His glory.

He doesn’t waste anything. Even our discomfort.

Why Service & Hard Work Are Two of the Best Things We Can Give Our Kids

My teens spent a week as counselors at our church’s kids camp earlier this summer.

They spent a week in the hot Texas sun singing crazy camp songs, cheering and high-fiving a cabin full of young campers.

They spent a week tying shoes, passing out bandaids, and encouraging homesick hearts.

They spent a week putting others’ needs before their own.

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More than once, I got a message from an adult at camp letting me know my kids were giving the week everything they had. They came home without a voice and a load of stinky laundry and fell in bed for a 5 hour nap.

That first night back at our dinner table, they begged to go on the youth missions trip a few weeks later to do construction projects for some marginalized people in a Texas community. We didn’t really have it budgeted or planned and my first response was to say no. I could tell my kids were disappointed.

Later, my husband said, “Honey, let’s rethink this. Our kids just spent a week serving others and instead of complaining about all the work, they are asking for more. They want to spend a week on an air mattress repairing homes for marginalized people in a segregated area. I know it will cost us, but this trip could be priceless.”

I thought long and hard about his wisdom. Because I know how physical, selfless work and serving others has turned my life upside down.

I’ve seen how working at the Mercy House warehouse a couple of days a week has got my kids thinking less of themselves and more about others.

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When we told our kids we were reconsidering, they offered to contribute some of their own money. I knew something good was going to come from this.

service and hard work are two of the best things we can give our kids

They left on a Sunday and the first update from my daughter read, “Mom! We just finished our first day of hard work. Today was so hot and we are so tired! We are giving this lady a new floor, so we had to rip out the old one, leaving a huge hole in her floor and then add new supports, more flooring and then tile. It was a lot of work, but it was fun!! This lady’s house needs a lot of work, but we are just doing what we can. I miss you. Tell everyone I said Hi! Love you!”

So. Yeah, my kids are working their tales off this week as construction workers for the disadvantaged and they are having fun! Who knew?! Most importantly, they are being changed from the inside out and probably don’t even realize it.

We live in a culture where kids are often encouraged to do nothing and avoid things that are hard. We often don’t find selfless serving kids headlining in the news. But not only can our kids do hard things, they should. Here’s why.

6 amazing things kids learn through hard work and service:

  1. It’s harder for them to think about themselves when they’re busy thinking about others.
  2. It’s easier to be thankful for things they normally take for granted. Hello, a floor.
  3. It’s something our kids can feel really good about. Can you hear the pride in my daughter’s text?
  4. It’s something that is contagious they want to keep doing. See above.
  5. It’s always more fun than they think it will be. I have the texts to prove it.
  6. It’s become clear that working hard and serving others matters. I’ll let you know if this carries over at home.

I only got one text from my son all week. It read, “Mom, I love you. The week has been amazing! We just washed each other’s feet and now we’re at Dairy Queen. Serving rocks!”

8 Ways To Help Kids Fall in Love with God’s Word

parenting upstream in a go with the flow world

As parents, anytime we step out of the mainstream and try to lead our homes against cultural norms, it’s hard. We need God’s help and encouragement from each other as we try to navigate upstream. I’m excited about some friends helping me write a new parenting series that will hopefully offer both.

Guest post by Janel Breitenstein

A few years back found me embedded in an intensive Bible study of Revelation, then Daniel. At the time, I was a young mom with preschoolers wrapped around my knees and the older ones around my thighs. I tended to think of things in (exhausted, yet concerned) Mommy Vision: What if this stuff happens to my kids?

That’s when I heard an interview with Voddie Baucham. And here’s what stuck with me: I may not know what lies in my kids’ future. But I do know what the Word says: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis added). With Scripture, they’re gonna be prepped for anything life throws at ‘em.

Basically, I think this: of all the things I equip my kids with (Band-Aids! In fact, First Aid training! Do you know how to change a tire? You need a new backpack! Have you read Homer in the original language? Did I teach you how to sew a button? Do you know how to apply a tourniquet?)—the Word is the ultimate toolkit for life.

Still, it’s not fear that makes me want the Word for my kids more than nearly anything in this world. It’s because that’s where I’ve found life. I want them to experience God in His fullness. And as much as the Word is also a scalpel to my heart, it’s a scalpel that’s cut out the stealthy, creeping cancer of my sin that robs me and everyone I interact with. I want to lead them to true Water, true Bread—rather than them binge-eating everywhere, on everything and…still starving, like so much of the world around them.

8 ideas to help our kids love God's word

So here’s what I’m thinking—

  1. First—start with the teacher. When you get heart-level honest, what’s your own perception? It’s a decent place to start: How do I, in my gut, respond to God’s Word? Do I see God and His Word like a policeman, constantly pulling me over, or standing with meaty arms crossed, just waiting for me to completely blow it? Or do my kids see more anxiety from me about obeying or knowing the Word (“gotta check off that box!”), rather than genuine delight? Do I use it as something that makes me the “teacher” to everyone else, like some overgrown hall monitor ensuring everyone’s in line?

My husband and I worked together in youth ministry for six years before we actually decided to procreate (was this a subliminal form of birth control, I wonder?). Our assortment of youth group kids was a bit of a grab bag, and from all three major education categories: public school, private school, homeschool. We were frequently quizzed about what we thought was the best method for schooling kids; more specifically, which led kids to a more intimate, genuine walk with the Lord; the kids to truly love Him and His Word.

Now, I’m no George Barna (though it seems he’d back me up on this)—but the common factor actually wasn’t where parents sent their kids to school. Their parents’ relationship with God was a much more common factor.

  1. Never use Scripture as a club. We all know people whose parents have been so insistent on their kids’ spirituality that somehow the kids take off, arms pinwheeling, in the opposite direction. (Tim Kimmel addresses this in his timely book, Why Christian Kids Rebel.) We’ve seen it in marriages too, right? Wives want their husbands to know the Lord so badly that somehow the husband would rather be found, perhaps, enjoying the pleasures of ingrown toenail surgery with Celine Dion on the loudspeaker, than in a pew.

But we all know the problem’s not with wanting our kids (or our husband’s) spiritual vitality too much. We’ve all seen moms use Scripture as a tool to shame their kids—I know I’ve done it. Reb Bradley argues in this excellent post that the issue is that we don’t have their hearts; instead, we rely on authority and control.

A few years back, a friend told me about a mutual housekeeper friend of ours here in Uganda, whose four-year-old had brought home a note from the teacher, requesting that she could beat (i.e. cane) him in front of the classroom for consistently failing to hold his pencil properly. Now, this rightfully seems extreme to our 21st-century American sensibilities. But to me, a key principle remained the same: What would motivate that child to love writing if that’s what he associated with the subject? Would he be self-driven to improve, to learn more, if he only remembered it lathered by shame and discipline?

Now, I firmly believe that Scripture does have a place in discipline, and I love some of Ginger Hubbard’s ideas of training our kids, using Scripture, behaviors to “put off” and “put on”. This concept does not mean that we soften God’s holiness one iota, neglect the use of Scripture in discipline, or gain our authority for discipline from the Word!

But if we wield the Bible like a medieval truncheon to keep our kids in line, we’re not helping them to love the Word’s correction, and God’s kindness that leads to repentance. We’re helping them…to hate it.

The question is how we’re using it. Ask yourself, what tone do I use when I speak God’s Word to my kids? What message are they getting about these invaluable words? Do they hear God’s judgment, or God’s mercy (which still honestly addresses sin)?

  1. Psych 101 says make it fun. Remember “positive association”? It’s when we associate something with being good (or with “negative association,” bad) because we experienced good things when we encountered it. Contrary to Greek thought, God’s firmly anchored our souls to our bodies (think how the lack of a good night’s sleep influences your patience and discipline with your kids). What do your kids associate with the Word? You can actually make the Word fun. A few practical ideas:
  • I had a blast in AWANA growing up, and with all its cool games, patches, jewels, and trophies, a lot of programs are still going strong.
  • My kids have gathered an amazing picture of the whole Bible from the What’s in the Bible? With Buck Denver series from the folks at VeggieTales. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • My parents rewarded us all for memorizing 1 Corinthians 13 by going out to dinner at Chili’s.
  • I don’t have an AWANA program here in Africa, so I am actually guilty of putting Lego Star Wars clipart around Scriptures in “Star Jedi font”, and then when my kids reach an age-appropriate goal, we go out for milkshakes.
  • I also love how they groove to Seeds Family Worship (cool enough to play in the front of the minivan, not just the back…) and Walking with the Wise (several Scriptures are taken in, but this one’s more Scriptural concepts from Proverbs).
  • I’ve gotten uber-excited about my kids’ ravenous fascination with our Action Bible—the Bible in graphic novel form, which is as awesome as it sounds!—whose cover has nearly been loved off, and in which my kids learned about all sorts of obscure kings and Bible books, as well as key teachings of Christ.
  • In a discussion during devotions, I’ve even handed out points to kids for bringing a verse into a discussion, because my boys never met a competition they didn’t like.
  • What’s your kids’ attitude toward their youth program, and what’s the quality of the teaching there? Entertainment is not But whether your kids have solid friends and an enjoyable, Word-loving atmosphere may have more of an influence on their quite-human souls than we realize.
  • Get kids caught up in God’s story! Author Jessica Thompson notes, “don’t make the Bible out to be a book of morality. That isn’t the message of Christianity. The Bible is the story of God’s unrelenting, redeeming love for sinners…I know I don’t want to read a list [of] rules. But give me an action-packed story about a good King fighting for his people and I’m hooked.” I will admit to totally playing on all the battle scenes for the sweaty, testosterone-charged, Nerf-weapon-packing boys in my house.
  • Pinterest is chock-full of ideas to help your kids memorize Scripture in colorful, creative, user-friendly ways that capture their attention.
  • Let kids act out or draw the stories and Scriptures they hear. When we’re discussing the Bible, I often haul out the markers and giant paper to let them make posters for their rooms.
  • Take them shopping for devotionals they find interesting. This site also has a printable worksheet to help kids into doing their own quiet times—to start learning directly from the Word on their own.
  • Canvass the web or your Christian bookstore for great kids’ devotionals—and get kid-approval before shoving anything in their hands.
  1. Let them get their hands in it. In my last conversation with Kristen, she raved about using the super-simple Discovery Bible Study method with her kids and even their dinner guests—where everyone gets a notebook, and everyone responds to the passage. Get them noodling on it, maybe even arguing about Scripture, and get them interested. If it helps, think of it as “sword training”: The Bible talks about the benefit of learning how Scripture applies to every situation through constant use.
  2. Let your kids know how it changes you—not as a project of yours (“I must tell my offspring what I learned in Bible Study!”) but as a genuine outpouring of your joy in Jesus. Let kids know about what you’re thinking about a Scripture, and open it up to discussion—as opposed to just telling all the time.
  3. Capitalize on the heart more than knowledge. Remember, knowledge puffs up; love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). It’s all well and good if your kid wins first-place at the Bible Bee. But unfortunately, I do think the Pharisees could have also qualified for a similar title. What’s the difference? In a word, the heart. Knowledge should lead to worship. Faith. Holiness. Love. Love for God is the first commandment—not knowing who Ahaziah’s parents were, or the methods for preparing a bovine offering.
  4. Say “I’m sorry.” Why do I think this is important? Well—because I think that parents who are more willing to admit their sin, and their need for a Savior, to their kids are more likely to have deep humility…and the Gospel played out in their homes. Click here for more ideas to make the Gospel real in your house.
  5. Pray. Ultimately, though we have the power to cultivate a fertile space for love of Scripture to blossom in our kids’ hearts—even if you’re the Apostle Paul, it is only God who grows every seed we nestle deep in our kids’ hearts. Diligently ask God to create a deep passion for His Word—not just the knowledge of it, but the knowledge of Him.

When We Can Call Our Pain A Gift

When I got my husband’s text, I was walking thru a store and I stopped right there in the middle of the aisle and gripped the shopping cart for balance.

His caption under the picture of a dear friend we love, read, “this makes me so sad.”

It took me a second to recognize our emaciated friend in the picture. Cancer had literally changed the way he looked in just a matter of weeks.

Oh, God.

I thought of the ongoing pain his family is enduring and the fresh pain my 13 year old son would experience when he saw the picture of his mentor and hero.

And then I thought of this dear man’s strong character, unshakable faith, and death-defying love of God and others that has shined Jesus even in the worst times.

Pain. Sorrow. Joy. Healing. All mingled and mixed in our lives. We know one because of the other.

My thoughts turned to the 25th miracle baby- born against all odds- this month in Kenya.

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Margaret’s story is like so many other impoverished girls in Africa. She’s just a little girl- a pastor’s daughter, living in a remote village, in a mud one-room home with a thatched roof with her siblings.  She suffered at the hands of an abuser and got pregnant against her will. She has known more physical and emotional pain in her short life than most of us can imagine.

When we started Mercy House in 2010, we wanted to help oppressed pregnant girls. We had no idea what that would mean or where it would take us. We had no idea how hard or how amazing the journey would be.

We had no idea that the world’s pain would become our own.

When Margaret delivered her son, conceived in heartache, to this brutiful world a few weeks ago, she named him Gift.

I had to read the email message from Kenya twice to grasp it. Because if anything shows us what God can do-it’s this: He turns our brokenness into joy and makes it possible for us to name our pain a gift.

That’s when we know that our sorrow, our grief, our unknown, even our pain, can glorify God.

That’s when we’re reminded that if anything good is seen in us or happens through us, it’s because of God.

That’s when we know that our lives–how we live, how we die, and how we love people in-between– is an act of worship to God.

Nothing is wasted, nothing is lost.

He redeems it all.

Even our pain.

He makes joy, even in our deepest sorrow, our strength. And His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Standing in the store, I whispered another prayer of miraculous healing for our friend. I blinked back tears and reminded myself that God can still do the impossible, the improbable.

And when I looked closer at the picture of a man our family loves withering away in a hospital bed, it wasn’t pain I saw etched in his thin face.

It was joy.

How to Wake Up From The American Dream

You don’t always know you’re asleep—until you wake up.

And then you see the world in a completely new way.

Two years after that first life-changing trip to Kenya, I brought Maureen, Compassion-sponsored-child-turned- fearless-Kenyan-leader who rescues girls from unthinkable situations to America for strategic planning and fundraising.

I will never forget the moment we pulled into the driveway of my nice two-story brick house and I saw my home from her perspective.

I will never forget the first question she asked as the garage door opened and she got a first look at my life in America.

“Oh, do you also sell bikes?” she asked innocently after seeing the five bikes hanging from my garage for my family of five.

Y’all.

Waking up from the American Dream

That one question has haunted me.

Because sometimes we don’t always see how much we have until someone who doesn’t have as much sees into our lives.

Do we sell bicycles? Because there isn’t another reason why we would HAVE SO MANY if not. Because in her country one bike is a luxury. One bike is shared by dozens. Five bikes is a bike store.

But I think we all know this isn’t really about bikes. It’s not even about wealth and the world’s poverty.

It’s about waking up from a dream that is never satisfied. About being grateful for what we have and about sharing some of it with others.

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Hey.

I know it’s not easy to talk about waking up from the American Dream. I know reading this might be uncomfortable. I understand it’s more fun to read new recipes or how to’s on rearranging furniture or encouraging mom words.

I get that. I know clicking here requires something of you. I know buying my book about trading in safe comfortable faith for something more authentic and dangerous will cost you more than the $12 price tag.

I know because waking up has been hard for me. I still struggle.

I like the idea of the . A·mer·i·can dream

-the idea that everyone in the United States has the chance to achieve success and prosperity

What could possibly be wrong with wanting success and prosperity? We all deserve it, right? We are entitled to it.

No.

It doesn’t take more than a long look at how 3/4 of the world lives to realize, we are not the norm and the only real difference between the poorest of the poor and the guy driving the $100,000 car is where they were born.

“I think with the way we have unprecedented material blessing, with the way we have a culture built on self, self-esteem, self-confidence. All of these things we begin to twist the gospel into something that it is not. We make it look like us and fit into our lifestyle instead of adjusting our lifestyle to the gospel. In the process we make following Jesus more American than it is biblical. As a result there seems to be a major disconnect between what it means to follow Christ in the first century and what it means to follow Christ in our definition in the 21st century,” David Platt.

To be honest, for every yes I’ve said, there have been at least a hundred reasons to say no.

It is too risky.

What will people think?

I like living this way.

I deserve nice things.

I’ll give to someone in need as soon as I finish building my dream home.

“Believing in the Jesus of the Bible makes life risky on a lot of levels because it is absolute surrender of every decision we make, every dollar we spend, our lives belong to another. And so that is relinquishing control in a culture that prioritizes control and doing what you need to do in order to advance yourself.  The call of Christ is to deny ourselves and to let go of our lives. To relinquish control of our lives, to surrender everything we are, everything that we do, our direction our safety our security is no longer found in the things of this world. It is found in Christ,” David Platt.

So, how do we wake up from the American Dream? I often feel myself being lulled back to sleep by it.

  • We stop comparing ourselves to other people. I often don’t know I want something until I see someone else enjoying it. If I’m going to compare myself to someone who has something I don’t, then I also must compare myself to someone who has less than I have.
  • We commit to doing what God tells us to–when He says it. That prompting to give isn’t from you. It goes against our nature to take care of someone else’s needs before meeting our wants.
  • We become wildly generous. Give your life away. It’s easy to give when we have a lot. But when we give and it costs us something–that is true generosity. I’ll say it again: There is nothing more gratifying than giving someone something they need instead of buying something we want.

A generous person is always ready to spontaneously give to those in need. It’s usually inconvenient and unplanned. It will probably cost us comfort, even pride. It won’t be easy or bring us fame.

This is Christianity.

It’s easier to keep sleeping. Living different than the world will cost us something.

But my life is proof that waking up is an open door to living wide awake. And that’s so much better than a dream.

 

edited repost

Maybe We Are Just Spoiled

We stood in the hair care aisle and her eyes were as big as the moon.

“Go ahead, choose one,” I urged her.

She stood still- looking half afraid, half helpless. I put my hand on her shoulder and urged her to choose a shampoo.

I had mistaken bewilderment for humility.

My friend visiting America for the first time whispered with tears in her eyes, “There are so many bottles…and so many choices.”

I was ashamed of my ignorance. She was overwhelmed by the opportunity to choose.

We were standing in the first Walmart she had ever visited. I brought her there to bless her, but in my haste, I didn’t prepare her.

“Americans have so many things,” she said. “But it’s the freedom to choose I would cherish the most.”

Her words felt like a stone around my neck. For the first time, I saw the rows and rows of conditioners, sprays and creams through the eyes of someone being exposed to our first world. There are 20 brands of toothpaste, toilet paper and tissues and the freedom to choose whichever we want.

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I’ve taken this experience with me into every country and culture I’ve visited. When I help an artisan group create a fair trade product or choose a color for a fabric, I think of this story. And I try to explain what they are up against. “You see, in America, women have so many choices of earrings and tablecloths and headbands and necklaces. They can choose from an entire room of throw pillows in a hundred different colors. We have a lot of choices and so we have to create something they will buy.” And every time I say these words, and watch minds try to comprehend what I’m saying, I’m embarrassed by all we have and all we take for granted.

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Maybe we are just spoiled, the words tumble around in my mind.

It’s hard to explain freedom of choice when you have no choice at all.

It’s hard to explain picky shoppers to someone who doesn’t have enough food for their family.

It’s hard to imagine someone crying because there are so many shampoos to choose from.

Maybe that’s why when I see an email complaining about the color of a product from The Mercy Shop, I am irritated. Maybe that’s why it bothers me when someone cancels their Fair Trade Friday membership because they can’t choose what goes into their box each month. Or they don’t have anyone else to give the product away they don’t want or like…

But as soon as these emotions hit me, I’m that ignorant mom back in that hair care aisle at Walmart discovering that North Americans have the first world privilege of choice. Impoverished and marginalized women don’t.

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When we purchase something fairly traded, we trade our choice to give them a chance. More than anything, these marginalized women want us to love what they create. They want us to wear their story or give it away (if we don’t like the color). They are desperate for us to keep buying, to give them a second and third chance. They work hard, against all odds, to create beauty from nothing. They want us to look past a color that might not be our favorite or a style we might regift, and they want us to choose them. Because that’s really the gift we buy: hope.

In our culture, perspective is fleeting, while comfort and excess are much easier to cling to.   That’s why we have to work so hard to remember how the rest of the world lives.

And that’s why we have to look past the money we donate or the products we buy and remember there is a mom or dad or child, much like us, who doesn’t have the freedom to choose anything–including life.

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Yeah, so maybe we are spoiled. But we can’t stop buying and supporting women around the globe. That necklace we really don’t need and that scarf that isn’t our favorite color might just be food for another day for a family with no choice at all.

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