Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Worthwhile Wednesday- Being a good stewart, giving away our excess

I've been wanting write this post for awhile, but I've been afraid I'll offend someone.

So please note this post is about my family's choices, if it's not right for you that's ok. It is not my intent to change everyone with one blog post.  This is my opinion and my suggestions that are not meant to offend anyone.

That said, in my opinion our culture and the current interpretation of the American dream is very much centered around getting more...buying more...having more stuff....a bigger house...more and more focus on money,

...and as much as I love my country, I'm afraid our focus is in the wrong place.

The bible tells us in 1 John 2:15-17,

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 

And recently, my own church family has placed a focus on responsible stewardship.  In several sermons, our Reverend has reminded how privileged we are to live in such a wonderful country of abundance.  But as she reminded us, it is our call from God to give our excess to those who need and to take care of what bounty God has given us.

In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds the Corinthian church that while it is important for the Christian worker to earn and keep their wages, it is also extremely important to give to others from our abundance.  He further reminds them of the church in Macedonia that while extremely poor, freely gave to the Christians in Jerusalem that were being persecuted. 

The Macedonia church truly embodies the spirit of the Lord.  Freely giving, even begging to help others...always a spirit of love and compassion.

That's the kind of person I would like to be...

It's also the kind of people that I hope my girls grow up to be...

But it means focusing on responsible management of our money and shifting our love of money to a love of all people.   In this culture, that can be difficult because our society says, you need more stuff...you must have more to be happy...you have to have it all.

It is something I struggle with to this day...but all it takes is one look at the children in Africa that need a simple mosquito net to save their lives.

Or seeing a village that could use a goat, chicken, or even just clean water to survive.

In our own neighborhood, we drive by the homeless or hungry that struggle everyday.

Or knowing that we need to care for our world, so that we leave future generations with a sustainable landscape.

It doesn't matter what choices or mistakes they or we have made, it is up to us to help them and our world.  It is what God calls us to do.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18 

So with a need pressed to my heart to help, we've been making changes at our home for the past year.  Here are some I'm sharing, and if you are of the same mind, I hope it helps you too.

1. We're eliminating a lot of our going out to eat. At the end of the month, the money we save from eating at home we're going to donate to two different charities. This benefits our health too as we eat better at home with homemade whole foods. Taking care of ourselves and others with a simple change.

One of our favorites, Quiche.
2. We are living more frugally and with less environmental impact. So far we've eliminated a lot of processed food and commercial soaps & cleaners. Less toxins = better for the whole world. Plus saving money = better for our budget, which means more to share. My next goal is to eliminate more of our paper and plastic consumption.  That means the sewing machine and I will be spending more time together. ;)

3. We try to keep our money local to help those around us. That means buying from local stores, farmer's markets, and from our local farmers directly.  A healthier community means a better area for us all.
Tomatoes from our farmer's market last year

4. Our oldest, who is only four, has two jars on her shelf.  One with a picture of a bed with a net and another of clean water. We allowed her to pick two things she wanted to support and those were the two she picked.  We give her change from time to time for chores etc.  She is now saving all her change for little children.  As she says, "we'll get them new beds with no mosquitoes, and lots of good water and food."  She is so excited that there will be "no more malaria" for the kids she helps.

So happy with her jars

5. This Christmas, we are going to limit our "stuff". Each year my hubby and I go overboard with "stuff" for our girls, stuff they don't even use. So this year we are practicing a new idea. The girls will get three gifts just like the gifts the wise men brought Jesus. These will consist of a need (like new pjs), a want (a toy), and something to focus on Christ (last year Elizabeth got her own bible).

6. We don't over extend ourselves. That means a reasonable house payment, and no major purchases without cash. Debt is something of a dirty word in our house, and we're trying to eliminate all of ours with extra payments to our mortgage etc.  For us this also includes saving as much money as we can for our girls education funds.  Since Elizabeth has been born she's had a 529 plan.  We'll be switching both girls to IRA's soon, as the 529 plan doesn't give the tax benefits that it once did (the state we now live in has no income tax).

7. As I mentioned above we are trying to be frugal. That means that we also grow a lot of our own food, reuse items rather than buy new, make our own when possible, and fix what we have. I sew, Mark made our chicken coup from items we already had, I crochet hats and scarfs, we buy clothes at consignment, and we have a huge garden.

Peas from our garden

8. Give away our abundance- literally. The girls and I have been setting aside extra toys etc they don't play with. They'll be going with a friend of ours who has a charity helping orphanages in Africa. Elizabeth is all for it, she seems to have a soft spot for helping other little kids, and I'm super proud of her for that.

9. Every year at Christmas, we put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Elizabeth loves shopping for the kids and personally picks out the toys.

10. This year at Christmas, Mark and I agreed that we'd let the girls pick out something extra to support.  I'm guessing they'll pick a goat, chickens, or a well for a village in need.

These are simple and even obvious ideas, and I realize that the amount of need in this world is overwhelming...but small simple changes from a lot of people can make a huge difference. So pick your favorite charity because together we can change what we see as important, and it's not money or the stuff we can buy with it...

One look at these cuties will tell you that.

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #33.


Cerise said...

I think these are all amazing plans. I love that your daughter is putting money aside for such wonderful causes. We have been trying to give away more things lately. And we started a veggie garden. We don't have very much space at all, but there is something so rewarding about growing your own food.
If everyone would take the little steps it would make such a huge difference.

Beth said...

Those are all excellent goals and ideas (regardless of faith, age, family, or location). You might also look into a Freecycle program in your community, or any barter system (so you can trade excess veggies from your garden for, say, local eggs). I think it's wonderful that you're teaching your daughters stewardship and sustainability!

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