Things We Gained in the Recession

There is a movie that runs the HBO circuit occasionally, entitled “Things We Lost in the Fire.”    Though I’ve never watched the movie, my take from the previews is that the plot details the intangibles that people lose when tragedy occurs.   Sometimes it’s not the material things that matter so much as those items that money can’t buy.   In any case, as I was thinking through this blog post, the movie’s author should consider his/her title revamped and stolen.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately praying for friends to gain employment, to come into finances that help keep cars from being repossessed, and for supernatural turn-arounds that keep water and lights turned on.    Those in power call this extended downturn a recession, but I think that depends upon who you talk to.   I know that, for the few months in 2009 that my husband was laid off, I don’t care what anyone says–it was a depression around here.   Truth be told, until a couple of months ago, we still felt the stress of current events even though we’ve both been gainfully employed minus that brief stint.   When you work in a sales job and drive ~100 miles a day, with gas at almost $4, the nearby gas station owners know you by your first name.   The salt in the open wound of the whole gas increase predicament is that it’s not just your personal gas; every utility company has trucks that need your help, too.   

The other factor that has nearly killed us locally is the extended drought.    The weatherman says that, with the exception of 1-2 days, we have now been almost 200 days with less than 1/2 inch of rain.   Translation: we’re trying to keep our plants somewhere close to green with no help whatsoever from the Lord.    The grass is on its own.   The ground has been too hard to try our luck at another vegetable garden.   I just throw up my hands and think, oh well, next year.     

As my mind often travels to books, I reflect upon the double whammy of the Great Depression and the plight of the mid-western farmers during the Dust Bowl years.  Stories like Dust for Dinner and Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp come to mind.    The Lord was doing something back then, and trying to get peoples’ attention.   I believe He is also doing something now, and calling us back.   Back to what?   I believe, in part, back to our mother wit and the ingenuity of our ancestors, and away from the materialistic, wasteful lives that many of us in this generation have engaged in for far too long.   Our parents and grandparents knew how to take a little and make a lot of it.    Somehow, in all of our education and corporate jobs and suburban lifestyles, we’ve lost that same resourcefulness.    This season under God is teaching us to go after it and get it back.     I know personally I’ve had to make adjustments, and as hard as the transitions have been for those around me, I can’t help but believe that we will come out better for them if we hang in there and faint not, as Paul says in Galatians 6:9.

One of the adjustments I’ve made is to begin sewing again.    Unfortunately, I have no pictures immediately available, but that’s a post for another time.    My task right now is to finish a shirt for our son before he grows out of it!   

Though it wasn’t a necessary adjustment, homemade laundry detergent has been a tremendous savings.

 

I love to do things like this, and I’d seen several homeschooling moms brag about the increased effectiveness, and the ridiculous savings, of making their own detergent.   But I had no idea where to buy products, and terms like “fels naptha” intimidated me, so I originally blew it off.   Yet, when I ran across a site that gave a recipe and told where to buy the products, I decided to give it a go, and I even got a bit of help.  

This recipe is popular across the Internet and among a few of my homeschooling friends, so with some encouragement and inspiration, I’ve finally begun to like my egg drop soup-like laundry detergent, and I LOVE the fact that I’ve been able to take that ~$10 Tide off my grocery list for a couple of months now.

Another of the adjustments I’ve had to make is in food preparation, and learning to think more about foods that give more bank-for-the-buck, so to speak.   Pastas stretch.   Potatoes stretch.   Beans are also quite versatile.

 

Last year when we had our garden, I quickly saw the value of raw foods, both in our pocketbooks and in our health.   This year, as I stated earlier, we couldn’t get the garden going, but I’ve stuck  with my passion for raw foods, learning new ways to prepare familiar vegetables, and trying some varieties with which I’m not as familiar.   As a purposeful digression, I was reading a devotional in the last couple of days from Sheila Gregoire on marriage, and being made for each other.  You can find it here.     By the way, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Sheila’s blog, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, she is well worth a “follow,” or at least a frequent visit.   She blogs candidly, yet graciously, about marital issues that most won’t touch: the impact of porn addictions, what happens when there is unresolved conflict, and of course, keeping the romance in relationships.    Anyhow, as I read this devotional, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own marriage, and how my life has changed–for the better–in our almost 20 years of marriage.   One of those changes has been in my eating habits.   As a southern girl, I came to the marriage not knowing much about cooking anything that wasn’t fried, buttered, or dipped in gravy.   My husband was health-conscious long before it was stylish; his family simply thought of him as picky and strange.   Though I’d never be called petite, I know for sure that without him role modeling a healthier diet, I would probably be twice the size that I am and tumbling down a vegetable oil slick to an early grave.   I should also mention that somehow we managed to produce a vegetarian in our son; between the two of them, I now have a repertoire of dishes that take me from tilapia to tofu,  and from honeydews to jicama (pronounced HIC-uh-muh, so that you don’t miss the alliteration–smile).

I see God honoring my faithfulness in small things, and it makes me smile.    Last night, I was preparing dinner and thinking about my husband’s impact on our diet (and admittedly thinking about this blog post).   I was preparing oven-fried chicken and sweet potatoes, and I didn’t want my usual sweet potato casserole, made southern-girl style.   I decided upon a low-fat, orange-juice based glaze that I once used years ago.   All of that role-modeling sounded really good until I realized that I didn’t have enough flour to coat the chicken, nor enough orange juice to spread across all of my sweet potato slices.  (Had plenty of butter, though–tee hee!)  Rather than make an unplanned dash to the store while everyone’s stomachs were rumbling,  I prayed for the Lord to stretch what I had, and I witnessed a widow of Zarapheth-like blessing with the flour and orange juice.   Plenty to cook dinner, with some to spare.    I even found an avocado to add to our dinner salads.   It was a great meal, made tastier by the fact that I knew of its humble beginnings.

  

If we will not grow bitter or weary, there is such a testimony awaiting each of us on the other side of this recession.   I invite you to embrace your hardships for what they are–love from up above, and lessons from way back.   God bless you, friends.

How (Not) to Do It All

It feels as if so much has gone on in the past few weeks until it’s difficult to get my head around it, much less articulate all of it on paper.   Somewhere in the last month,

1)      My husband changed jobs

2)      My job changed, forcing me out of my comfort zone and into new uncertainties

3)      Dance season began, with unexpected investments in time and money

4)       We brought home a puppy (in many ways like having a new baby, I now realize)

Another change that occurred, and I now realize that it was far more significant than I thought initially (since it had become a relatively new habit), was that my MP4 player broke.   The little electronic tool that had become the center of my morning devotional crashed and burned, just about the time that my devotional had become routine, and I had no back-up plan.

 

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, life has happened—school still happens, the house still has to be cleaned and maintained (enhancements are beyond me right now), kids still have to be fed, taken care of, and loved, and a business needs running.    I’m not complaining, just stating that I’m overwhelmed.       Even in the midst of realizing that it is all for my good (speaking primarily about #2 listed above), I’m just plain whipped out.   Seriously.

This week is our fall break after nine weeks of school.   Monday was a field trip for the kids and me that somehow wound up being a homeschool trip for 25 people.   Tuesday, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone during a grocery store visit that lasted 2 hours.   They rearranged the store, so now I’m relearning shelves, plus I took my girls with me, which didn’t help me focus any on the task at hand.    (I wrote that elaborate description of my errand because it is a microcosm of what is happening with my life these days).   Wednesday, I sat down to get a better handle on all the changes, and to figure out what all of this means for me.   Thankfully, the word that has continuously come my way—from a number of angles– is to prioritize.    Thank you, Lord.    So I looked at my schedule in blocks of time and embraced the ebb and flow of work that I’ve often taught to my adult students.    Here’s what I discovered:

The “non-movables” are here to stay: ministry to my family through school time, non-school family time, couple time, and home management.   Since the “non-movables” are a given (thank God), I must submit each day to the Lord’s priorities.  And guess what?   Some days the non-movables aren’t the priority! That doesn’t mean that they won’t be taken care of, but it means that if I believe the Lord has gifted my mind and hands in this way, then I must make the most of His gift.   So, with that in mind,

In the earliest portion of the week (Mondays and Tuesdays), I have time to write, and need to make good, effective use of it.

I have blocks of time later in the week to exercise—a rarity in the house now-a-days.   The running joke of the house is whose Mii is sleeping the hardest—we’ve all been really tired.

I set goals on a number of sewing projects that have hung around for far too long.    The date written down, even in pencil, gives me hope (LOL)

The time between waking up with my husband and actually getting out of bed is my quiet time with the Lord.    However, tuning every other care out in order to focus in is a task for me, and that’s where my player came in handy.    I really need another player.    My devotional time was priceless, and because of the demands of my family, I was ministered to while operating with free hands to minister to my family through breakfast preparation, last-minute school plan adjustments, etc.

 Each day, what God wants, not what I want.    Too often, I want to be Superwoman, or at least some version of it based on the images of a woman who does it all, but looks like she does nothing, that suffocate my sense of self.   I may not get done all that I want, but there is peace and prosperity in accomplishing His purposes.

Finally, I’m not a slave to social media, but as a business owner, I recognize its power to quick spread the word and disseminate information.   I just have to exercise wisdom in being a good steward of when I use these tools and what I use them for.    An angel mentioned HootSuite to me, and it’s been a life saver.   I can quickly access Twitter and Facebook (and three other networks if I had them) at once and do what I need to do without the 4-hours of time on average that I’ve read as being common to most Facebook users.   YIKES!

Okay, this simply scratches the surface of all the places that my mind has been, but just writing it down is energizing.   I promised myself that today I’d catch up on my mending (husband has buttons missing on about 4 shirts), and sure enough, I’ve let the weather change catch me regarding finishing my youngest’s bathrobe.   We had our first day of 60-degree mornings this week, and she had to stroll around in an unfinished robe.  Oh, well!   I’m off to complete it now as I listed my deadline as Sunday!   God bless!