Archive | Gratitude RSS feed for this section

When you get what you pray for

21 Nov

Ten days ago I posted this:

fbstatusThe idea of our toddler sleeping until the late hour of 7 in the morning was indeed laughable. I chuckled mid-prayer.

It was not unlike Sarah, who “laughed within herself” at the idea of giving birth in old age–she was all, yeah sure, like that’s gonna happen.

Then the thing she thought was a joke became reality. She was gently reminded, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

Of course I thought it would be nice if Lars slept a little later so I could sleep or–gasp–shower. But his average wake-up time of 6 (it’s 5 on the most punishing days, 6:30 on the most luxurious days), and asking for more seemed downright esurient.

So maybe God, along with me, laughed at Dave’s boldness. Maybe He wanted to reward Dave for dreaming big, or to humble me for lacking faith.

Whatever the divine thought process, this is what happened: Almost every day in the past week and a half, that baby has indeed slept in until 7. Once, even 7 freaking 30. And today he magically slept in ’till 10 (I checked a couple times to make sure he was still breathing), though that was because he came down with something from a kid at the park who was literally coughing in his face.

The thing I thought was a joke became reality.

I had sent many pleas heavenward in the first year of Lars’ life. Please help me know how to get him to stop crying. Please help me get through the next ten minutes of painful breastfeeding. Please, please, please, let him sleep.

In some moments prayers seemed to be answered, others not. But as far as I understand the whole faith thing, sometimes God answers your prayers the way you want, and sometimes He doesn’t, and the trick is to keep believing in His love and His plan whatever and whenever answers come.

These days, I am grateful that answer comes in the form of a 7 a.m. wake-up call with my sweet boy.


#DiaperNeed and the NATO phonetic alphabet

13 Sep

This post was not sponsored in any way by Huggies or any other organization–it’s just a cause I care about and wanted to share with you. 🙂

Dave and I live terribly exciting lives, so our date night yesterday featured watching Divergent from Redbox and consuming ice cream. But before we started, we did something a little different. You see, I’ve had a small collection of Huggies Rewards codes piling up on my desk:

huggiesenvelopeThis week is Diaper Need Awareness Week, and it was just the motivation I needed to finally enter the codes. They can be used toward things like gift cards or entering sweepstakes, but you can also donate them to Huggies’ Every Little Bottom program, which provides diapers to families in need. Huggies donates one diaper for every three points donated (you can usually get about 10 to 40 points for a large package of diapers).

Along the way I’ve collected the codes, figuring it was more efficient to enter them all at once in a batch, and last night, I enlisted Dave’s help. Since they’re long strings of letters, we decided to make use of the handy NATO phonetic alphabet as Dave read them off to me:




Got it!

That’s pretty much what we sounded like. And it was fun! Within half an hour, we were able to donate enough points for 159 diapers. We got to feel like retro radio operators and help a good cause with minimal effort, all at the same time. Of course I wish I had a ton of money to throw at this worthy cause, but since I don’t, it’s nice to have a small way to contribute.

There are so many worthy causes out there, but providing diapers to needy families is something close to my heart. I think of it often in the midst of my own seemingly endless cycle of diaper-changing. Dealing with dirty diapers every day–heck, being a parent–is harrowing enough without having to worry whether you’ll be able to buy food or diapers. And when families (most often, single mothers) struggle to provide clean diapers for their child, it can make it more difficult to go to work or school and lead to further problems, like depression.

If you’d like to help families in need of diapers, one wonderfully simple thing you can do is tweet about it. For every tweet using the hashtag #DiaperNeed (through this Sunday), Huggies will donate a day’s worth of diapers to babies in need. You can even just retweet this:

You could also organize a local diaper drive or volunteer at a local diaper bank (learn more here). You could donate to the National Diaper Bank Network; Help a Mother Out, another network supplying diapers and supporting mothers and children; or Giving Diapers, Giving Hope, which specializes in providing free cloth diapers to needy families. (Although many families need disposable diapers to have access to childcare and early education programs, cloth diapers are more financially and ecologically sustainable, so it’s a wonderful thing to support as well.)

I wish I had realized earlier in the week that it’s Diaper Need Awareness Week, but hey, it’s a cause we can support year-round. Let’s HOTEL-ECHO-LIMA-PAPA those little bottoms in need of diapers!

diaperneed{Image via National Diaper Bank Network}

#ShareGoodness (and cheesy puns)

25 Aug

“Follow the prophet!” It’s a chorus you’ll often hear sung by kids in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Now, several senior Church leaders–Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Elder M. Russell Ballard–are officially on Twitter. Folks, it’s never been easier to follow the prophets! (HAHAHAHA!)

Yes, I’m sure I am the first person to come up with that clever line. I’m sorry for putting you through that. (If you appreciated it, skip down to Very Important Note #2 at the end.)

I did make this graphic myself. For the record, the proper prophetic Twitter handle is @MonsonThomasS.

I did make this graphic myself. For the record, the proper prophetic Twitter handle is @MonsonThomasS.

This Sunday Dave and I were assigned to give talks at church, and my assigned topic was “uplifting thoughts and speech.”

Earlier this week I saw a lot of people tweeting about Elder David A. Bednar’s talk “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood” at BYU’s Education Week. It turned out to be the perfect resource for my talk, and I wanted to share about it here. I hope whether you’re Mormon or not you’ll find it interesting and helpful.

The title is drawn from Moses 7:62, where God says that in the last days, “righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood.” The tool that Elder Bednar recommended for causing this flood of truth is social media. He invited us all to use social media to share simple messages of goodness and truth. Or, in hashtag form: #ShareGoodness.

The Church has created a #ShareGoodness website with some great resources related to Elder Bednar’s talk, and it has a few questions to get you thinking about what you could post:

What simple truths are you grateful for?

What happy moments did you have during a hard day?

What did someone do for you today?

Elder Bednar also offered several guidelines for sharing goodness on social media:

1. Be authentic and consistent

“Our messages should be truthful, honest, and accurate. We should not exaggerate, embellish, or pretend to be someone or something we are not.”

This should make things easier for us. We’re supposed to share the gospel in natural and not forced ways. So we don’t need to start writing Facebook statuses that sound like a general authority, we just need to say things in our own way that have meaning to us that are uplifting. That’s what will resonate with our friends anyway.

2. Edify and uplift

“We and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle. … Share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others.”

Genuine love is essential. For example, I’ve had several experiences where a friend was struggling, and I shared a link to a Mormon general conference talk that related to their experience. Though we have different beliefs, they were able to find something useful from the talk, they appreciated that I thought of them, and we were able to learn from each other and become closer friends.

3. Respect the rights of others

“We and our messages should respect the property of other people and organizations. This simply means that you should not create your own content using someone else’s art, name, photos, music, video, or other content without permission.” (The LDS Media Library is a great starting place for uplifting, shareable content.)

Also, make sure others understand that you are expressing your personal thoughts and feelings, not speaking on behalf of the Church.

4. Be wise and vigilant

Wise words for any social media user: “Remember that the Internet never forgets. Anything you communicate through a social media channel indeed will live forever—even if the app or program may promise otherwise. Only say it or post it if you want the entire world to have access to your message or picture for all time.”

“… We should not allow even good applications of social media to overrule the better and best uses of our time, energy, and resources. … As Elder M. Russell Ballard recently taught, digital technologies should be our servants and not our masters.”

The final challenge from Elder Bednar was this: “Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.”

I highly recommend checking out Elder Bednar’s talk. This blog post is my attempt to #ShareGoodness. How will you #ShareGoodness?


1. Acceleration of technology. Elder Bednar discussed the amazing acceleration of technology–and highlighted several ways these advancements were foreseen by past prophets. I’ve been interested in this acceleration ever since my communications classes at BYU. For example, this graph shows how “innovations introduces more recently are being adopted more quickly.” And there are some fascinating (though largely over-my-head) theories and ideas out there, such as Moore’s Law, the work of Ray Kurzweil (as in his TED talk or this essay), and this examination of acceleration. It’s even more fascinating that this technological acceleration is happening in parallel with a spiritual acceleration, or what Mormon Church leaders have described as the hastening of the work of salvation–namely, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world, strengthening members of the church, and doing family history and temple work.

2. Of selfies and general authorities. As I mentioned in my talk at church today, it was quite amusing to hear matter-of-fact Elder Bednar use the word tweet. I also loved in the last general conference hearing President Uchtdorf say selfie. So if in the next conference we can just get President Packer to say hashtag, that would be awesome. At this point in my talk, yes, I totally attempted an impression of President Packer’s gravelly voice.

Dave and I had so much fun researching tech terms that have been used by general authorities that we made a quick video compilation of soundbites including the above-mentioned tweet and selfie, along with President Monson saying blogging and Elder Perry saying the Internet. Alas, I can’t post it without permission from the Church’s Intellectual Property Office–if I get the green light, I promise I will post it, because it is awesome.

I find the way our (older) leaders use these tech terms endearing and amusing. But lest anyone think all this somehow means that general authorities of the Church are out of touch, I affirm that the contrary is true. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland testified:

Not often but over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times.

As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth. I bear personal witness of how thoroughly good they are, of how hard they work, and how humbly they live. It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it. It is true light shining in a dark world, and it shines from these proceedings.

Dumpster diving

20 Aug

Taking out the recycling is a chore I procrastinate doing. OK, taking out the recycling is one of many chores I procrastinate doing. But seriously, it is such an ordeal to schlepp an avalanche of Amazon boxes and several bulging Trader Joe’s bags, all with a baby strapped to my chest.

But this week, the effort was worth it. One of our neighbors had dropped off a kid-sized Spiderman four-wheeler. (I initially called it a car, but both my dad and husband were adamant that it is properly a quad or a four-wheeler.) It was in good condition, and it was just sitting there awaiting its landfill destiny, and I thought, what the heck? So I brought it back to our apartment, gave it a quick Lysol wipedown, and introduced Lars to his new and fabulously free toy:


And here it is in action (forgive my blurry, vertical-orientation video; I’m a novice iPhone videographer):

It’s perfect for this just-learning-to-stand-and-walk-on-his-own boy. (Also, THAT SMILE.) I just may be a new fan of dumpster diving.

Have you found treasure in someone else’s trash? Anyone else furnish their home in “early American garage sale” style, as my family puts it?

Object Ode: The Laser Top

15 Aug

This is part of a series of occasional posts about objects I love and love using (totally unsponsored, just unabashed object obsession).

It was a gift from Grandma Reid, mostly as a joke.

“I don’t think you’ll be very happy with me,” she had warned. “If you throw it away after a week, I won’t be offended.”

It’s called a Laser Top. Made in Chinain Shantou, to be exact, by the Xin Quiang Sheng Plastic Toys Factory.


Several months later, and I have definitely not thrown it away.

You wind it up, drop it on the table, and it spins. It plays techno-esque music with a synthesized”bang bang” and “honk honk” thrown in for good measure. It flashes red, green, and blue lights.

And it fascinates Little Lars.

I think he’s fascinated by it because he’s afraid of it. As soon as I set it spinning, he starts to reach for it. As he does, he makes the funniest face. I’ve tried to capture it on camera but have only produced blurry shots. It’s the face that says, I know that once I touch this, it will freak me out, so I’m just going to make my jarred-reaction expression in anticipation. Eyes closed (as if to protect himself), nose slightly scrunched, mouth open, and a little shiver, not unlike when he bites into something cold or sour.

Then, when the spinning is done, he grabs the handle that’s used to wind it up, and examines it intently: Oh, mighty Laser Top! How do I gain your spinning and flashing powers?! his baby mind wonders.

Potential fear aside, I think he does enjoy it. He lights up (ha, ha) whenever I pull it out. Though that could be because I madly, eagerly grin at him as I pull it out of the toy box–“Ooh! Look, Lars, at the spinning top! Look at the liiights!!” I mean, who doesn’t love a combo of frenetic music, motion, and lights?

I’m grateful for it because it’s the sort of thing I can pull out when we’ve exhausted all of our living-room entertainment possibilities. It flashes, it pulses, and for a few minutes, it captures his attention. And for that I say, thank you, Laser Top.

On the (mostly) bright side on a sick day

11 Jul

A few nights ago, I woke up at 3 a.m. and puked my guts out.

Oddly, my first thought in my mostly-thoughtless state was Well, I’m kind of glad I had morning sickness back when I was pregnant.

Prior to being pregnant, on the few occasions when I had food poisoning or something like that, I managed to resist throwing up. Even though it tends to make you feel better, I just wouldn’t do it. Then when I was pregnant and felt nauseated* for a good portion of nine months, I lost the battle. Vomiting became routine.

So when I got sick the other night, my body shot back out that bad slice of pizza (or whatever it was?) like it ain’t no thang. And I actually felt a little better afterward.

Now that I’m feeling a bit better, my 3 a.m. optimism sounds a bit odd: I’m grateful that persistent puking made it possible for me to puke some more! Yay! But I’m sticking to it.

I’m also sticking to being grateful about other things, such as:

  • Even though baby got a fever (probably from a recent vaccine, as the doctor warned), it meant he didn’t have a big appetite and thus didn’t eat the evil pizza that made Dave and I sick, so he was spared the pukey variety of illness.
  • I didn’t get sick until baby had recovered, so I wasn’t a sick mama trying to take care of a sick baby.
  • As I curled up on the living room floor in the fetal position for most of the day, Lars kept himself entertained (in mostly not-playing-with-the-trashcan ways).

Also, I happened to be reading The Fault in Our Stars (I know, finally) so I became a bit of a hypochondriac (I could have cancer and not know it!), but also thought, you know, it could be worse. I’m really grateful I don’t have a chronic illness–the closest thing I’ve come to that was pregnancy, and it was pretty awful. Then again, I don’t think that thinking “could be worse” is the best form of gratitude, because sometimes your circumstance is the worst (see: cancer), but you still have to get through it as best you can (see: this talk). Which is hard. But that’s life.

You’re welcome for being so inspiring. If you want to cheer up, go read The Fault in Our Stars. (Kidding! But not kidding, because it is worth reading.)

Also, on the subject of TFiOS relating to our brief illness: If you can handle discussing your excrement with your significant other, you probably have a pretty solid relationship.


* Editor’s note: This is an actual editor’s note, because I wouldn’t note this if I weren’t an editor. Because I am an editor, the word nauseous is ruined for me. I learned in my English Usage class that when we say nauseous, what we technically mean nauseated. So every time I complained of morning sickness, I would painstakingly say “I feel nauseated.” Spreading the knowledge, from the “nauseous, nauseated” entry in Ebbitt & Ebbitt’s Index to English, 8th Edition:

Traditionally, nauseated means “sickened, disgusted” (I felt nauseated at the sight) and nauseous means “causing sickness or disgust” (The smell was nauseous). But the use of “feeling nauseous” and “getting nauseous” has become so common that dictionaries now record “nauseated” as a second meaning of nauseous. Those who grew up observing the distinction find this usage ambiguous. (Was he sick, or was he sickening?)

Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

25 May

This weekend, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Memorial Day than visiting Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery -

(The obelisk in the center is a headstone, not the Washington Monument. In the background is the Jefferson Memorial.)

I had tried to visit once before when my parents were in town, but we got there after it was closed. I only wish my mom could have joined us this time, because she would have taken much better pictures than I ever could, plus she loves cemeteries. (She sees them as spiritual places and likes the family history aspect, and thinks it’s interesting to wonder what the lives of the people buried there were like. She even did a cool photography project on cemeteries for a college class, and has taken other photos of them.)

Long before I moved to the D.C. area, I was drawn to the imagery of the Arlington National Cemetery. The impeccably aligned gravestones leading to various vanishing points on the horizon–something about it just looks surreal, like an optical illusion.
Arlington National Cemetery -
According to the cemetery’s website there are more than 400,000 active-duty service members, veterans, and their families buried at Arlington, but surveying those hills so densely planted with gravestones, it seems numberless, reflecting the vast sacrifice these people–as individuals and as a whole–have made for our country and the greater good. Arlington National Cemetery - spifftacular.wordpress.comA few things that wandered into my mind:

  • Reading All Quiet on the Western Front in high school and first encountering the idea of the senselessness of war.
  • Reading, more recently, The Book Thief and being struck by this quote, a “small but noteworthy note” by the narrator, Death: “I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.”
  • Hearing a snippet from Prairie Home Companion we heard on the drive home, with Garrison Keillor expressing gratitude for the young people who give of their time and their lives so that we folks back home can live “dreamy lives”–and we really do have mundanely luxurious and luxuriously mundane lives.
  • Watching Monuments Men this weekend, which asked an important question: Is a piece of art worth a life? The answer comes in the same pleasantly preachy style as Good Night and Good Luck (a personal favorite).

Arlington National Cemetery - spifftacular.wordpress.comWe chatted with a veteran and a serviceman and his family while we were there, and thanked them for their service, but a simple thank-you seems so paltry. But I know I at least need to be doing that, so it was a good reminder to write to our servicemen and women more often.

Arlington National Cemetery -

Memorial Amphitheater by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On the less contemplative side, Lars had a chance to test out his new walking skills (with Daddy’s help, of course). Mostly he was thrilled to have  break from the stroller. IMG_2346-edit IMG_2364-editI’m grateful we could live close enough to enjoy this fitting memorial, and grateful for the offering of those it honors.

Happy Memorial Day!

Enjoying, giving, and enjoying giving

14 May

As I explained in my previous post, I’ve been seeking a healthy approach to enjoying what I’ve been given while also doing what I can to help others with less.

As I often do with life’s difficult questions, I turned to the scriptures and modern-day prophets.

On the giving end

My first thought was of the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 18:18)? After the man confirmed he was already keeping the commandments, Jesus told him: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21).

The story takes a sad turn when the man “went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22). Jesus further taught his disciples with that oh-so-memorable analogy, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).

Jesus also taught in the Sermon on the Mount to “take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Matthew 6:31; 3 Nephi 13:31) and to “consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28).

In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin gives a powerful discourse on giving to the poor: “For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? … O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (Mosiah 4:19, 21)

In addition to these verses, countless prophets and Church leaders have made it clear that it is our firm obligation as Christians and as humans to help one another even and especially when it requires personal inconvenience or sacrifice.

But how literally do I need to take the advice to the rich young man? Do I really need to sell everything I have and give it to the poor? To not work toward and worry about providing for myself and my family?

On the enjoying end

Jesus may have told the rich young man to sell everything, but in another situation he praised spending money on something other than the poor. Mary, one of his disciples and friends, anointed Jesus’s feet with expensive ointment. Judas Iscariot balked, questioning why she didn’t sell it and give the proceeds to the poor (it is noted he didn’t ask because he cared for the poor). The Lord responded, “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always” (Mark 14:6-7).

Similarly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does a whole lot of humanitarian work around the world, but it still sets aside funds to pay for building and decorating super-fancy temples (because they are sacred and are dedicated as a house of God).

In Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage points out that Jesus “was neither a recluse nor an ascetic; He moved among men, eating and drinking, as a natural, normal Being. On the occasion of the feast He recognized and heeded the demands of the liberal hospitality of the times, and provided accordingly. He, who but a few days before had revolted at the tempter’s suggestion that He provide bread for His impoverished body, now used His power to supply a luxury for others” (Chapter 11).

President John Taylor taught:

“We like enjoyment here. That is right. God designs that we should enjoy ourselves. I do not believe in a religion that makes people gloomy, melancholy, miserable and ascetic. … I should not think there was anything great or good associated with that, while everything around, the trees, birds, flowers and green fields, were so pleasing, the insects and bees buzzing and fluttering, the lambs frolicking and playing” (Chapter 11).

Then there’s also this gem: “Men [and women] are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

So maybe I don’t need to shun all worldly possessions. I’m allowed to, supposed to, have joy–but does that mean I can snatch up the latest gadgets guilt-free?

The happy medium: Enjoying giving

As always, the answer is somewhere in between. The same discourse of King Benjamin mentioned above includes the ultimate scripture for moderation:

“And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).

No, I don’t feel obligated to sell everything I have. And no, I know I can’t find happiness in consumer goods. Instead, I’ve found five important ways I can give while still enjoying what I have:

1. Pay tithing. That’s 10 percent of our income. It’s a commandment, and it acknowledges that everything I have is from God, so the least I can do is give back a small part of it.

2. Fast and give a generous fast offering. There are so many physical and spiritual blessings of fasting, but one is that it teaches gratitude for what we have and empathy for those who have less.

In addition to tithing, we are also asked to fast once a month and give a fast offering that is equal to at least the amount we would have spent on the two meals we skipped. However, this quote from President Spencer W. Kimball suggests more than the bare minimum: “I think we should … give, instead of the amount saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more—ten times more when we are in a position to do it.”

3. Live within your means. I know I don’t need to sell all my possessions, because even prophets have said it’s OK to buy some things–including a “modest home” (like here and here). The First Presidency has counseled: “We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from this bondage. Save a little money regularly to gradually build a financial reserve.”

To work, to have income, to be able to provide for our family–these things are good. We just need to use our resources wisely so that we can bless our families and others.

4. Be willing to give freely and spontaneously. I know there have been times when I try to rationalize not giving money to someone on the street because “it’s OK, I already pay tithing.” And although responding to panhandling can be tricky, in general we need to be willing to give whenever the opportunity comes. I remember a girl from church in Philadelphia sharing an experience that provided a great example of this. She was on the subway home from her volunteer job where she assisted a special-needs child. There was a man at the subway station who was unkempt and distressed. He had some sort of minor injury (it’s been awhile, so I don’t remember the details) and seemed lost and wasn’t sure who to call or where to go. To most people–really, to everyone else at the station–this man was an untouchable: the kind of person we walk past, hurrying, and don’t feel bad about it. It’s for my own protection, we think. Who knows what they might do if I talk to them. But this girl didn’t hurry past. She stopped, and she talked to the man. She sat with him. She sat with him for several hours, helping him figure out someone to call and waiting with him for a ride. I admire this girl for being willing to observe and serve.

5. Give out of love, not guilt. I hope that this and the previous post don’t sound like an overly anxious first-world-guilt confession. Because although I do feel that tinge of guilt, it’s more from knowing how much better I can and should be doing.

When we give, it shouldn’t be out of guilt. That’s nearly as bad as giving resentfully.

Surprisingly, it is OK to give to benefit ourselves. One leader said, “Be liberal in your giving, that you yourselves may grow. Don’t give just for the benefit of the poor, but give for your own welfare. Give enough so that you can give yourself into the kingdom of God through consecrating of your means and your time.

It’s also OK to have money and things. After Jesus’s disciples were astonished at his teaching that “how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God,” he clarified, “Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God” (Luke 10:24, emphasis added)!

It’s not so much having money and things that’s a problem; it’s loving them more than God or our fellow man. When we love God and others, we give because we want to–want to show our gratitude for what we have, want to help someone in need–not because we have to or because we are supposed to.

I have plenty of room to improve in applying these points, but I am excited to get closer to finding a balance between enjoying and giving what I have: the key is enjoying giving.

Filthy rich

13 May

Baby vs. bountiful box of diapers.

You’ve probably seen this meme that’s been making the rounds for a few years: “If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank and your wallet, and some spare change, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.”

The numbers are specious and the tone is a bit glurgy (an excellent term I picked up from, but the attempted message rings true: Compared to many other people in the world, I am filthy rich. (And if you are similarly first-world middle-class, you are too.)

Recently Dave and I have been talking a lot about our finances, particularly as we work toward buying our first home. Our tastes are by no means extravagant, but it can be frustrating or discouraging when it looks like we won’t be able to afford, say, a decent place in a walkable, transit-accessible neighborhood. But every time I am tempted to bemoan where our finances fall short, I stop.

I always have plenty of food to eat. I have clothing and even a washer/dryer. I live in a nice, clean, furnished apartment in a safe neighborhood. I have access to heat, water, gas, Internet, and quality health care. I live in a country with a stable government and the rule of law.

I have stuff–and stuff to contain my stuff. I have Tupperware to hold my leftover food. I have shelves to organize my books, my food, my scrapbook supplies. I have a scarf organizer, for goodness’ sake.

I have everything I need to take care of my sweet baby boy. Most importantly, I have diapers. They arrive monthly in absurdly large boxes from Amazon. Just about every time I change Little L’s diaper, I feel grateful for the fact that I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll have enough to last through the day, or week, or month. (Read more here about how diapers pose problems for low-income families.)

Frankly, sometimes I can barely stand how comfortable my lifestyle is. I’m not complaining, of course–like Tevye said, money is the world’s curse, and if the Lord smites me with it, that’s fine. I’m just grasping for a healthy approach to enjoying what I’ve been given while also doing what I can to help others with less.

In my next post, I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned in trying to find a good approach

On this birthday, cake and dayenu

27 Apr

IMG_2206On this birthday:

Dave decorated the apartment with a birthday banner and streamers while I was getting ready for church. I was so focused as a bee-lined through the living room to pack the diaper bag for church that I didn’t notice. After he gave me a gentle hint, I noticed the decorations. Silly me. Nice husband.

I went to church, and baby miraculously took a nap in the carseat during Sunday School (usually morning naps don’t happen on Sundays because everything and everyone at church is far too interesting).

I baked myself a cake. This cake from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. The sides were a bit too crispy and the icing a bit too runny and the overall appearance was far from pinnable, but my was it delectable. The texture of the cake is unmatched by any other I’ve tasted in my life, and the icing is just right–sweet but not too sweet. Please do yourself a favor and welcome this cake into your life. Or come over to my house and help me eat the leftovers.

I got to Skype and talk on the phone with family. I also got a voicemail from my Dad that I will probably save forever/as long as my phone lets me.

I opened presents from dear family and friends. One gift from my parents was a neat coffee-table book about the Library of Congress. Dave cleverly used it as wrapping for his present. It was a paper that read:

In order to receive your birthday present, “you must come to the Library of Congress in person and present your valid form of identification at the Reader Registration Station located in the Madison Building, Room LM 140.”

Yes, he got me a Reader Card, which permits me into the Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress. This is the equivalent of the Beast offering Belle his fantastically huge library*:

beauty-and-the-beast_76352_3Which, of course, is every nerd-girl’s dream. Except this is real:

mainreadingroom_standardOn this birthday:

I’m thinking of dayenu.

Because said baby was taking said nap in church, I got to listen to most of the lesson. We’re studying the Old Testament, and the teacher talked about the concept of dayenu during Passover, a tradition Dave and I were honored to experience recently thanks to a dear friend. The children of Israel pray that if God had only given them one of the many gifts He gave them, “it would have sufficed.” I’ve been thinking of that a lot lately, particularly thanks to this talk, and looking back on my twentysomething years, I feel I can say dayenu. A loving family, an intellectually and spiritually enlarging education, a life full of health and physical comforts, a city and a career and friends that changed me, a sweet son who also changed me. Each of these things would have sufficed.

I’m grateful for what I’ve been blessed with so far and know I need to be so much better at blessing others’ lives. As a starting point, I think I need to find someone to share this cake with.


*Dave, by the way, finds the comparison hilarious and a bit unsettling. I insisted he was like the Beast in a good way! Ladies, please back me up on this comparison.