Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Media Addiction

We're normal, media-consuming Americans at this house.  We love our iPhones, our Internet browsing, some texting, some TV.  And, randomly enough, we love to listen to audio books.  We don't read much fiction around here, but man can we listen to it.

Obviously, a good portion of this media time is pretty much unavoidable.  We have jobs where answering emails is a non-negotiable task.  I text my friends about meeting up at the zoo.  We coordinate churchy things via our personal email, and look up fairly important info online about the day's weather (AKA how do I dress my toddler today?) and the new Infant Tylenol dosing.

But honestly, both Josh and I feel a another fast coming on in our house - one that's media related.

Because we waste a lot of time with TV, blogs, sports-following, iPhone games, etc.

What activities might we be missing out on because we watch so much TV?  
What might we learn about where our priorities are if we cut way back on mindless media?
How might my personal times in the Bible and in prayer change if I wasn't spending so much darned time surfing the Internet?
How much more would I experience God's presence in my life if I didn't always have to have something "on" in the background?  Or if my mind wasn't ping-ponging between Facebook and TV and Pinterest in the evenings?

Also, now that we're responsible for a small developing mind here at our house, I want to set a good example.  What am I teaching my curly-headed toddler when I check my iPhone while feeding her lunch?  A bad habit, yes, and probably something about the importance I place on spending time together.

I discovered others didn’t need me to be as wired as I thought. Most of my media involvement is simply about me (blah).” Pg 116

Yes, I definitely resonate with this.  A lot of my media-related time spent is about me, and not even about my spiritual growth or encouragement or anything meaningful.  It's mostly about my entertainment.  More important areas of my life suffer as a result.  I know it. 

We're going to think and pray about what a media fast might look like.  A week?  A month?  Where do we draw which lines?  And how do we keep Jesus at the center of it, reminding ourselves that less for the sake of less isn't the point?

We've got 4 more days of our spending fast to complete first, before we embark on something new.  And let me just tell you, I'm dying to buy my baby some new shoes.  Just ask my friends.

More on 7:Read-a-long? Check here.

Monday, March 26, 2012


It's been on our hearts since Christmas.

Another nudge, if you will.

We want to serve Jesus in Africa this summer.

Our church, Vista Community Church, has slowly been building a relationship with a small group of new churches in Kenya.  We've been able to give them funds to purchase sugar cane fields, in addition to some other crops.  Those fields will provide the churches and pastors with a renewable source of income.  Fantastic.  Over the past while, we've also supplied them with funding to build/finish three separate buildings.  More info here.

If you've ever been around Vista, you may have noticed that we don't have a church building.  We meet in a high school and a movie theater.  But in truth, we've got 3 buildings.  They're just in Africa.  (Actually, we have one more building - an orphanage in Cambodia.)

These Kenyan churches are growing.  God is moving there.  To borrow a metaphor from Jesus, seeds have been planted in Kenya over the years.  Spiritual seeds.  I want to know more about God seeds.  People are coming to know Jesus personally.  He is at work.  And, if it's His will, we'll get to be a teeny tiny part of that this summer.

Lord willing, we're going to be a part of a 14-person team, traveling to Bungoma, Kenya, in mid-August of this year.  Our small part will be helping to grow these new churches.  We're planning to run a vacation Bible school for local kids, which will serve as an additional bridge between the pastors and the community. 

I'm thrilled for the opportunity to do this together.  Josh and me.  Josh hasn't even been on a mission trip, and I haven't since college.  And this is an experience we'll get to share.  So exciting.

Caroline will be staying behind, with our very eager parents.

It brings tears to my eyes just to think of leaving her for TEN WHOLE DAYS.  And yet, I know it's the right thing to do, and that she'll be in excellent hands while we're gone.

We would love your prayers.  For the work we'll be doing there.  For people's hearts.  For that seeds that have been planted and will be planted. 

Thanks much. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On clothing.

I'm a few days late in posting this.  I'd like to say that it's because I've been wrestling with what to write, thinking things through for days.  But it's because I forgot.  Forgot about it, yes.  And developed a serious Scramble With Friends habit at the same time.

Just keepin' it real.

So chapter 2 of 7 is about clothes.  The fast of the month for the author was to choose just 7 things (not including underwear) and wear only those 7 things for an entire month.

I'm not feeling a nudge to that.

In fact, for a while there I didn't think I had any issues with clothes.

I mean, I wear jeans and sweatshirts most days.  The same ones over and over.  Heck, I could probably embark on a 7-clothing-item fast of my own and not notice a difference.  The purple sweatshirt doesn't even get folded... it just gets pulled right from the dryer and plopped onto my body.

But then I got to thinking...

Sometimes I choose jeans and sweatshirts some days because I'm nervous about making the wrong fashion choice.  So it's better to look frumpy (ahem -- CASUAL) on purpose because at least it doesn't look like I tried too hard, and failed.

And then there was that family picture thing.  I wanted all three of us to coordinate for the picture we'd use on our Christmas card.  I thought WAY too much about which color scheme to go for.  I had birthday money to burn and went shopping, but then felt terribly overwhelmed because I didn't know what to choose.  I didn't (and don't) know what's in fashion.  And what looks good on me.  And I was totally self conscious/agonized about that.  Why?  Because I wanted us to look good.  Up to date.  Cute.  Not too matchy-matchy but coordinating.  You know, in the hopes someone would open our Christmas card and remark, "holy cow, look at that attractive, put-together Brown family."

Happy Birthday, Jesus!  God put his own Son on the planet so that we could have a relationship with Him, and what do I care about?  Someone thinking my family looks good.

In the end I didn't like the colors/clothing choices I'd agonized over, and made the darned thing black and white.

And then there's my own dissatisfaction with my body.  You know, the one God gave me.  The one that successfully grew a perfectly formed child.  The one that allows me to drive and work and cook and laugh and travel and hug my baby.  And the same body one that I get frustrated with because it doesn't look like I think it should.  All that to say, I hide behind certain clothes because I feel better about myself that way. 

Maybe I do have some issues.  With approval.  With how people view me, and how much I care about that.  With where my heart is.  Finding significance in things, instead of Jesus.

Why, yes I do have issues with clothing.

First world problems.  Right here.  Right now. 

I have a closet - and dresser - full of clothes, most of which I don't wear.  That represents a whole lot of spending.  And I regularly buy more.  This quote from the author was convicting to me (she was talking about how spending is widening the gap between rich and poor):

I am a part of the problem, a contributing member of inequality.  Every time I buy another shirt I don't need or a seventh pair of shoes for my daughter, I redirect my powerful dollar to the pockets of consumerism, fueling my own greed and widening the gap.  Why?  Because I like it.  Because those are cute.  Because I want that. (pg 65)

Another problem I have?  Not my clothes, but Caroline's.  I want her to look cute.  I can be super picky about her outfits.  I spend way too much time online, browsing overpriced toddler shoes.  And although I shop clearance and Once Upon a Child and Target often times, I know there's a part of me that just cares way. too. much.

There is this blog I followed.  And the kids are dressed so darned cute every single day.  Not in a coordinating Baby Gap way.  But in an adorable bohemian way I would never think to dream up.  I would look at those kids, and be truly envious.  ENVIOUS.  OVER KIDS CLOTHES.  When my daughter has more than enough to wear.  And most of it looks really sweet anyway. I had to stop reading that blog - and following her on instagram. I knew it wasn't good for my level of gratefulness and contentedness.

Issues, I tell you.

Where does this leave me?

I'm not sure.

I really need some clothes for summer.  I have zero summer bottoms (capris, shorts, skirts) that fit well.  And about that same about of shirts.  And I know from experience that when clothes don't fit well I spend the entire day thinking about how it.  Pick Caroline up.  Uh-oh, I have to adjust my pants.  Do dishes.  There I am fussing with my shirt.  Pull, adjust, twist, adjust some more.  I just end up thinking about my clothes, and my distaste for certain areas of my body, all the more when my clothes don't fit.  I don't think that's what God has in mind by simplifying.

I don't want to obsess.  I want to be more mindful of where I'm purchasing these things.  Fair trade?  Thrifted?  Homemade?  And probably some "normal" shopping too.  Gratefully I have a sweet husband who likes to shop with me as well as a couple of girlfriends that are willing to help me out, so I don't get so darned overwhelmed.  I want to purchase things that are appropriate, well fitting, comfortable, and at least marginally in-style.  But I hope to do it in such a way as to not place my feeling of self-worth into those items, or buy more than I need just because I want to and I can.

I also want to start running regularly so that more of my pre-baby clothes fit well again.  

Jesus, help me.

In the end...
“What I’m wearing and what you think of it pales next to loosening the chains of injustice and setting the prisoner free.” (pg 56)


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On fasting, finances, and food. 7, week two.

I'm still feeling those nudges.  Nudges away from self-indulgence.  Nudges toward generosity of spirit, time, and money.  I've felt that smallest bit of twinge in my heart when I pass up something I want.  And we're not talking big things here.

Like on Sunday after church.  All I wanted was a Wendy's burger and fries.  With a fountain Diet Coke.

But we drove home. And made something from our cupboards.  Something that didn't at all sound good.  It wasn't much of a sacrifice.  I get that.  But it did make me stop and ask Jesus for a content, thankful heart for the cupboards at our house that are overflowing with edible goodness.

I know my soul needs more moments like that. 

Here at the Brown Home we're on a fast, of sorts.  It's a financial fast for the month of March.  We're buying groceries (and staying within budget), paying bills, and covering emergencies.  And, of course, giving.  The idea hatched after Christmas when we were paying some bills and realized again that we overspend.  Often.  What doesn't feel like that big of a deal at the time (a lunch out with friends, a new pair of shoes for Caroline, lunch out after church, etc.) really does add up.  For the sake of financial responsibility, we need this step.

Gratefully Jesus opened up our eyes to the fact that this can, and should be, a spiritual exercise as well.  It breaks up the mindless rhythm of go where we want, get what we want, eat what we want. 

Here are the honest facts:
  • We've already cheated once, and ate out.  It was a pre-planned thing with some friends and we didn't think it was right to back out at the last minute.  
  • I scrounged in my car for $1.50 in change so that I could buy a Diet Coke at a restaurant.  I meet some girls there every week for lunch after a Bible Study, and still wanted "in" on the hanging-out-with-friends aspect of the lunch date.  Other than the D.C., I packed a lunch for me and Caroline.
  • I ordered a birthday gift for my nephew today on Amazon.  
Perhaps these things are A-ok?  Or else justifications?  Call 'em what you will.  After all, we're not doing this to earn favor with God.  Because we know Jesus personally, our sins are wiped clean.  So the favor is already there, and there's nothing I could do to earn it anyway.  We're praying this fast just opens up a little more space for us to experience the true joy that relationship.

So far, the fast hasn't started out to be that difficult.  Except for that little Wendy's moment.  And really, on the scale of easy (1) to painful (10) I would put Sunday afternoon at a 1.25.  But little changes are taking place.  I feel more peaceful - and quick - about giving a little money here or there, because I know that there's a a little financial breathing room to do so.  I like that.  These days I immediately delete sales offers from Lands End, Piperlime, and Tea Collection from my inbox, and I've found it saves me from both wasting time online browsing and spending those moments in the valley of discontent with my own clothes or Caroline's.  I'm not saying that online browsing or shopping is always bad, but for me, right now, it's not always the best.   

Somewhat unrelated, I also started baking my own bread, and GASP it actually turns out okay.

Just typing those things out makes this fast sound so paltry.  And it totally is, as compared to what others have done.  And yet it's a baby step.  And I want to start somewhere.

In her book 7, the author limited herself to 7 foods for a month.  Although I don't currently feel compelled to mimic that particular fast, I do appreciate some of the wisdom she gained from the experience.

As I reduce, He is enough.  As I simplify, He is enough.  He is my portion where food and clothes and comfort fall woefully short.  He can heal me from greed and excess, materialism and pride, selfishness and envy.  While my earthly treasures and creature comforts will fail me, Jesus is more than enough.  (pg 19)

Part of why I desire a reduction of sorts is because it helps me remember this simple truth: Jesus is enough.  Somehow His enough-ness becomes clearer to me when I strip down some other areas of my life.  Jesus,

The careful study of the Word has a goal, which is not the careful study of the Word.  The objective is to discover Jesus and allow Him to change our trajectory. (pg 24)

I do like me some Bible study sometimes, but studying the Bible for the sake of studying the Bible is pointless.  Like it says in James, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22).  I desire to be a do-er of the Word.  And, let's face it, I'm a little nervous for what that might actually look like in my life. 

When accumulation is not our bottom line, we are liberated to disperse our time and resources differently. (28)

I'm starting to see this change in a really, really small way.  And I'm thankful for it.  Lord, keep this up.  Goodness knows I'm apt to fall back into the American dream over and over again.

Looking for more about 7 and this week's read-along?  See here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Just for you, Mom.

Maybe you noticed that I haven't changed this blog's header since Caroline was, oh, EIGHT WEEKS OLD?

Maybe you noticed that it still said 2011?  And yet here we are in March of 2012?


My mom called me a couple weeks back, wondering if I'd EVER change the old, tired header.  Well, here you go!

And apparently I felt all rainbow-brighty-springy today.  Because POW this header is colorful.  But hey, there are blue skies today and the bright colors match my baby's rainbow dress.

I apologize in advance to my sweet husband who always chooses dark colors.  This header will probably be up until the snow melts in 2013.

As I was putting this one up, I briefly scrolled through blog headers of old.  They could DEFINITELY be used as examples of why Jessica L. Brown should never come close to Adobe products.  She's clueless. 

But they make me smile...

Back from February of 2009.  Back when A) I managed to get the entire Adobe Suite for free due to Josh being a full time student at IU (AH-MAZING) and actually started to design headers and B) Riley was only baby.
2009.02 Blog Header copy 2

Then this one, done in the late summer of that same year.  I always liked that picture of us. 2009.07 Blog Header COPY3

I got sort of into this blog header design thing, and pumped this one out 3 months later. 2009.10 Blog Header

And its close cousin, two months after that. 2009.12 Blog Header

Then it appears that I cooled on the whole idea of designing regular headers, because this one is from a full year later.
 2010.01 Blog Header

This one's a favorite. Year around. Always cute. Poor Riley. He doesn't get much blog love these days.
 2010.02 Blog Header

Can't lie. Never liked this one. Summer 2010 2010.06 Blog Header

This one reminds me of our Christmas Card from 2010. Because I designed the two at the same time. 2010.11 Blog Header

And here's the one you saw for WAY too long, and the first one that was graced with a Caroline head in addition to a Riley head. 2011.01 Blog Header

Since I have taken almost zero pictures of Riley over the past year, he's going to have to deal with not being a part of this header. Sorry buddy. 2012.03 Blog Header