Wednesday, October 26, 2011

58: The Film

Started: Thursday, October 13

Can you do me a favor? Can you stop what you're doing for just a moment? Can you close that chat window, and turn off the music? Can you turn your cell phone's ringer off, and move it 10 feet away from you, or put it in a drawer at your desk? Can you give me 15 minutes of your time?

It's not that what I have to say is important - it isn't. However, what I have to share is important. Do me a favor - if you can't create a space to think right now, can you come back to this blog post later when you can give 15 minutes? And promise me you'll come back? Leave yourself a post-it note or leave yourself a voicemail or do something to remind yourself to come back here. I really need you to hear this.

I just got home from viewing "58: The Film." Many things have challenged me throughout my life to be a voice for the poor, to help the cause of justice, to share the resources I have; however, tonight I feel even more moved.

I struggle to put words to what I'm feeling. This is not common for me - usually I have words for everything. I struggle with how to convey to you what is in my heart now, and wanting you desperately - desperately - to feel this with me.

In this moment I feel awake again. I feel I have shaken off the grogginess of consumerism, materialism, greed, and comfort, and I can see the world clearly for what it is. The world needs my help - our help - to provide a decent standard of living to all of the people who inhabit it.

Jesus didn't preach to us to build up nice houses for ourselves, to stay in style with the latest fall trends, or to pack our retirement accounts. Jesus' message was continually to care for the poor, to love and serve others. How did we become so off the mark as a society? How did we believe that comfort and moving up in the world were what life was all about?

The movie "58" told the stories of people in countries around the world and the poverty struggles they face. I saw a woman in Ethiopia, the mother of 4 children with another on the way, who could not feed her family daily. Her children cried out in hunger, but she had nothing to give them. Each day she and her eldest daughter (age 11) would venture out of their rural village and search for dry wood to sell in town. Each day they had to walk farther away because they had collected the wood nearest the village. Their part of Ethiopia hadn't seen a good rain in 5 years. They sold the wood in town, which provided them with just enough money for a little food and water for that day. They had no security for the future.

I saw a family in India who had to move into the city after they could no longer support themselves in country. They came looking for work, and found employment in a quarry. I don't fully understand, but when a worker begins at the quarry, they must take out a loan. I suspect this may be for the tools. However, there is interest on the loan, and the worker makes only 30 or 40 CENTS a day. If the worker is sick, their family member must work for them, or there will be money added to their loan against them. Typically, the worker will not be able to pay off the loan in their lifetime, so their children will have to continue to work in the quarry to pay off the debt of their family. Those children also won't be able to work it off in their lifetime, so the bonded labor continues. In this particular case, about $600 would have paid off this man's loan. That's about what I spend in groceries and gas each month.

One of the most troubling scenes from the India segment was a casual interview with the children in this family. The camera was rolling and they were asked if they could have anything, what would it be. A young child quickly said "Sweets!" which got the rest of the siblings laughing. The eldest child thought for a while and said, "I wish everybody could be happy." He then thought some more and said, "I have dreams for the future, but I know those dreams will never come true. I wish that I couldn't dream."

It was then that I heard the sound of my own heart breaking.

It hurts me to think that a child would be in such a despairing state as to wish to not dream. Childhood should be full of play, learning, provision, security, and hope.

Toward the end of the movie, I noticed a woman in the theater a few rows in front of me. She had a small baby with her, maybe 6 months old. The baby was getting antsy, and the mother was holding her up in the air. The baby's silhouette was black against the screen where images of intense poverty flashed. I thought to myself that that little girl will never know the kind of life on the screen. Her life is markedly different than those of the people on the screen because she was born to a family in the U.S.

My mind is flooded with the silly things we spend our time and money on here in the U.S. Faced with the people and situations I saw tonight, what really matters? On the radio today I heard of a "Pumpkin Drive" where people could donate pumpkins to kids who wouldn't otherwise get one. Really? We're having a pumpkin drive? I can think of a lot more important things kids here in the U.S. and the world need than pumpkins.

As our culture prepares for Halloween, I walk through the store and see a plethora of Halloween decor. How much money do we as a nation spend each year just on Halloween costumes? It seems so silly in light of what I saw tonight.

And let's not forget about the big holiday coming right after Halloween - Christmas. One of the biggest reasons to shop all year. I feel cheap and shallow thinking about Christmas gifts. How can I make a Christmas list when I have a pantry full of food, a closet full of clothes, and a beautiful, warm home to call my own? What do I need? In light of this movie, what do I even really want that can be purchased at a store? What I really want this year is for every mother to be able to feed her children. I want every child to have the opportunity to dream. I want every person across the globe to have hope.

These are the top things on my Christmas list this year.

Update: 10/26 - I just found out that you can download 58: The Film for FREE. It will be a life-changing 1 hour, 14 minutes. I promise. Please download this video and watch it - and watch the whole thing. Cinematography is a form of art, and a work of art is meant to be viewed in its entirety. Spend time watching the whole movie; it comes together beautifully as a cohesive piece.

Go here to download the movie. Don't be surprised - it will ask you to make an account to download the movie, but I assure you, it is free. Choose the free option. If you have questions, call me or email me or Facebook me. I'd be happy to help you get access to this film.

Further resources:
Article about bonded labor in Indian quarries
Website for 58: The Film
Video on Christmas Consumerism

Monday, October 24, 2011

Baby Shower!

I have been a busy bee getting ready for my sister's baby shower, which we held this past Saturday. My mom, cousin, and I have been planning this thing for months and it was finally time to see it all come together!

Through the help of some friends, we had many great ideas for a Classic Winnie the Pooh shower. My talented friend Anne made the cakes and they were nearly too cute to eat. However, it's a good thing we did eat them because they were delicious!

My creative friend Kelly gave me some decorating ideas. We had party favors from Winnie the Pooh's friend Rabbit. They were carrot-shaped bags filled with a candy corn and peanut mixture. There were honey-jar shaped cookies to eat, and even a few stuffed Pooh bears around the room, one of whom had helium balloons attached to his arm in honor of the time Pooh tried to trick the bees into thinking he was a bee. I made table clothes that matched the Classic Pooh colors, and placed an old-school Pooh book as the centerpiece on each table. Outside my house I placed a sign that read "100 Acre Wood" so that guests would know they were at the right place!

For games, we modified a popular game to involve Pooh's friend Owl. My sister is having a girl, so each guest was given a sheet that read, "You never know whoooo she'll be - she could..." and then they had to fill in a story from their childhood of something funny, silly, or mischievous that they did! We exchanged papers and read them to my sister who had to guess which story belonged to which guest. My sister rocked at this game, by the way. I have no idea how she guessed so many!

The other game we did involved tiny baby bottles frozen in ice cubes. Each guest was given one, and the first person to get their bottle out of the ice won a prize. The gifts were jars of honey, from local bees raised by friends of mine and their children at Krosch Gardens. Side note - they have a blog about their bees and it is fascinating!

We had a great time, and I was blessed to have a VERY capable extended family to help everything come together. About 30 minutes before the shower, my house was flooded with family members finishing egg bakes, collecting pens for the games, decorating the food table - I even put my pregnant sister to work! I was amazed how all of these ladies came together and just knew what to do. The shower could not have happened without them. There were so many players from the beginning planning stages to the implementation and clean-up. So many times I think I can do things on my own (See #4 listed here), but I see how much more beautiful things can be when we work together.

And to baby Sylvia: we are excited you're coming into this world soon! You have a lot of people who care about you and your mom, and even more importantly, you have some really cute clothes for the first year of your life!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Me Time

Zac was gone for the last week on a business trip and I was all alone. One empty house, and one lonely girl...or so I thought that's how it would be.

While I did miss him, I did not pine for him each day and stare forlornly out the window awaiting his return. I had 7 action-packed days where I [re]learned a lot about myself.

Lesson 1 - Girlfriends are Important
I don't know how it worked out this way, but of the 14 lunches and suppers I ate while he was gone, only 3 of them were eaten in solitude. The rest were shared with friends, either eating one-on-one, in a small group of girls, or at parties. My calendar was flooded with activities, and I was able to see many dear friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in years.

Lesson 2 - Guitar is Fun
And, it turns out, I can still play it. I get kinda shy playing music in front of others, especially those who are better than me (read: the rest of the world). However, in the solitude and safety of my home, I kept the guitar out and my music book open. I played a little most days, and I especially enjoyed playing some of the Spanish songs I sang when I was on the Kindred ministry team "back in the day."

Lesson 3 - I Can Be Social
I ended up going to a surprise party where I only knew two people - the girl who was going to be surprised and the girl putting it on. When I went to the location of the party, I was greeted by a nice guy at the door and told that the host (the only girl I knew who would be there before the big reveal) was out running an errand. I spent the next 4 hours talking with people whom I never met before, and I was proud to say that I can still do it. Years of leaning on Zac's great conversational skills had me insecure about my own, but I made about 15 new friends that night. What a blessing!

Lesson 4 - I Can't Do Everything By Myself
Often when Zac is gone I have these lofty goals for myself. I wouldn't be surprised if I saw on one of my task lists that I had written "Solve World Hunger." I gotta tell you, taking care of a house by yourself is a big job, and I could not do it all on my own. I did stay on top of dishes and laundry, but cleaning the house didn't happen, nor did raking the leaves. As I looked around at all there was to do and the little time I had, I realized how deeply I needed Zac. Not only do I enjoy having him around for who he is and the relationship we have, but I need him around for the practical living. I'm so glad he's home so we can help each other do life.

Lesson 5 - Cooking For One Takes Time
A lot of time. See Lesson 4.

Lesson 6 - I Need Time Alone
Spending so much time by myself helped me remember who I am. In the noise of day-to-day life it's hard to make time to reflect, think, and enjoy what's going on around me. I feel like I had some great times to just be me. As an introvert, this is particularly beneficial. I loved the time away, but am also glad to have my best friend back.

Monday, October 17, 2011

God Came Near

To be honest with you, 2011 has been a place of spiritual dryness more often than not. I know God is there, I know it, but I don't always feel it. That wouldn't be such a problem if I were a more knowledge-based, theological person, but I'm a feeler.

Recently, however, I feel like God and I are walking in step. As I read my Bible, it is making sense to me. It seems clearer than it has in years. I feel in tune with God, and I feel like he is near.

The funny thing is, though, that God doesn't change. He is not one who moves close to his people, then farther away. We are the ones who move...I am the one who has moved.

To prove this point even further - in the recent weeks that I have felt him near, I have begun to do a weekly Bible study with a friend, read my Bible more mornings each week, and have also picked up my guitar again and started singing worship songs to God. Why am I surprised that he feels near? I'm clearly moving toward him again!

Oh, Amber.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Some Farming Highlights

Zac and I visited his parents' farm last week and had a wonderful time. The weather was more than perfect, the combine didn't break down once, and we were blessed to spend so much time with his parents.

A few highlights that I will remember from the week (in no particular order):

1. Canning tomato soup with Zac's mom one morning
2. Riding along in the combine with Zac while he harvested both soybeans and corn
3. Going for a walk around the lake underneath a canopy of yellow, red, and rust-colored leaves
4. Visiting the new coffee shop in town
5. Zucchini cake
6. Sitting on a park bench talking with Zac's grandma
7. Riding in the tractor with Zac's dad
8. Reading for FUN, and reading reading reading!
9. Watching a movie over lunch
10. Good conversations

Monday, October 10, 2011

Life Mission Statement, part 2

Following up from Friday's blog on a Life Mission Statement, I want to share with you a few things that I know for sure will make the cut for me.

Growing in my relationship with God
This one is a necessity for me. I don't want to be stagnant; I want to know Him more. This involves personal Bible study, prayer, church, and workshops or conferences.

Loving and caring for those who have been entrusted to me
This includes caring for my husband, children, and extend family, as well as the communities I find myself in such as church small group and Zac's band.

Caring for the environment and teaching others to do the same
This one got major passion points when I was dreaming up ideas for my mission statement. I got so excited to teach others about ways we can reuse. I have all sorts of ideas for gatherings at my house where we can do projects that reuse old things. Also, I enjoy farmers' markets, cooking from scratch, gardening, etc, etc, etc. This one is certainly a God-given passion and needs to stay on my list.

What made the cut for you? Which ones are you on the fence about? Which ones were easy for you to eliminate? I can't wait to hear from you as you go through this process.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Life Mission Statement

Do you ever look at your schedule and feel overwhelmed? Do you think that you are too busy? Do you ever wonder to yourself, "What's the purpose of any of this? Does anything I'm doing matter?"

I've been thinking that a lot lately. Our fall schedule is filling up, and either Zac or I have something going on every weeknight. Yuck! I feel tired just thinking about that! How did I get here (again) and what can I do about it?

Talking with a friend lately, we began to discuss this very topic. Our lives are moving forward so quickly, and what do we have to show for ourselves? We thought by this point in life we would have saved the world - well, at least made some progress toward that. :)

She and I are very similar in that we have many things that we are passionate about such as helping to solve world hunger, increasing global awareness, standing up for those who do not have a voice, caring for the environment, etc. We contribute casually with our time to each of these causes, but are not making a large impact in any of those areas.

We realized we get caught up a lot in doing the things that don't matter, the things that are just "fluff" in life. We lamented how we wished we had something to direct our choices, something that we could always go back to check and make sure we were on the right track to accomplish our life goals.

That morning our quest for a life mission statement was born.

I am excited about this opportunity to get to know myself more and figure out where my true passions are and what I can do with them. I am excited to have a few concrete things listed that I want my life to be about so that when fantastic opportunities arise, I can go back to the mission statement and decide if that particular opportunity fits in or not.

Yes, I will still participate in the fluff of life, but I will be able to see where its purpose is too. I am a person with too many passions and interests, and I need to identify a few so that I can make a greater impact.

I would love to share with you a few of my ideas, but I don't want to point you in any particular direction if you are going to make a mission statement for yourself! I'll outline the process I did for making my first draft, then share with you some of my keepers next week.

First I sat down and wrote down any passions or ideas came to mind. I even wrote down the ones I felt obligated to write down, the ones that I felt should be on someone's mission statement or list of life goals.

After I wrote down each one, I dreamed about how I could make that possible, or what activities in my life contribute to accomplishing that item. I made short paragraphs for each. I also monitored myself as I did this to see which ones I was excited about and which were the ones where creativity really seemed to flow. I put little stars beside those. I think those ones are where my passions really are.

I plan to limit mine to 3-5 things, but it's tough! There are so many wonderful things to do in life; however, it's important to narrow down the focus to make a better impact.

Good luck with your life mission statement! I can't wait to hear what's on your list!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lean, Mean, Zumba Machine

I started a Zumba class last night through our local Community Education program. In case you haven't experienced Zumba yet, it's a Latin-inspired exercise class which is very fast-paced. After our first song last night, a lady beside me looked over at me and said, "This is tough for a 65-year-old!" Through the sweat dripping down my face I looked over at her and said between breaths, "It's tough for a 30-year-old too!"

Prior to going last night, I was feeling nervous about the whole situation. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to do the moves and that I'd look silly in front of everyone else. I was feeling so insecure and self-conscious!

I know now that it's so fast-paced you don't have time to look at anyone else! My eyes were glued to the instructor the entire time, and I couldn't even tell you who was in my row!

I'm pretty sure I had a smile on my face the entire evening which meant different things at different times. Sometimes it meant, "This is so fun!" Sometimes it meant, "Oh my goodness! My body will never be able to move like that!" Other times it meant, "Whoops! I am not doing what the instructor is doing at all! Silly Amber!"

Most rewarding about the night were the times when my steps were on-beat and I felt the music.

When I walked out of the building, sweat was dripping down my face and my water bottle was drained empty, but I was already looking forward to next week's class!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Get Ready!

I'm very excited about my November blog post series! I can't tell you much about it right now, but I need you to start saving fabric scraps that you would otherwise throw away. If you already have some, gather them in from the corners of your house or apartment and put them in a place for safekeeping until November!