Consumerism Overload

Lately, I’ve felt the pull of consumerism in a way that I’m not sure I ever have. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it.

But, it’s not just consumerism, it’s appearances, it’s the allure of the new and shiny, it’s American culture. Of course these things aren’t just American, it’s human nature to compare, to desire, to be impatient and opportunistic. All humans struggle with these things. But, somehow I can feel these things more here, they press on my heart more. They reach in and try to rearrange my values and steal my contentment. More than they did in Prague, more than they did before Prague (or perhaps I was just less aware and more numb to them then).

Part of me feels a little like I did on our first trip back to the states after moving to Prague. We got in the airport in New York and suddenly realized everyone around us was speaking English. We walked around unable NOT to eavesdrop on everyone. In Prague, surrounded by Czech speakers we had gotten out of practice at tuning out the background distraction noise of English. We hadn’t been able to understand people around us so we hadn’t needed to tune them out. Back in America we did need to tune them out and our brains were out of practice. That’s a little how I’ve felt lately. I don’t know how to tune out and ignore the commercialism around me anymore.

Bryan and I tend to be very intentional about how we spend our money, we spend money on things we value (people, food, devices that connect us with people, etc). And we have never valued appearances all that much so we don’t spend a lot of money on things like clothes, cars, or our home. And here’s the thing, when we were in Prague I didn’t feel like anyone cared if all of my clothes were hand-me-downs or I didn’t have a car, or my house wasn’t perfectly put together. Here, back in the states I do feel like people care. It’s not necessarily that I feel judgement, but others around me do care a lot about their own appearances, they spend their own money on appearances so they must care about it. There is a cultural value on appearances. And since I don’t always share that value I feel a conflict, and I feel at odds with my culture. Perhaps this is what they mean by culture shock?

Lately I find myself wanting more and more to spend money on appearances and convenience.

I feel it when I go to pick up my son at school and wait in a line of Prius’s and Mercedes.

I feel it when I clean the crumbs off my hand-me-down couch before going over to my mother-in-laws perfectly coordinated and immaculately decorated home.

I loose the struggle when I don’t invite people over for dinner because my house isn’t big enough, clean enough, decorated enough, or just enough.

I feel it when I go to target to get a wedding gift for a friend and leave feeling depressed about the 20+ things I saw that I want (but of course don’t need).

I give into it when I buy my son yet another cheap toy, even though he has plenty of toys strewn all across the family room.

These are mostly things that didn’t weigh on me in Prague, they didn’t tempt me. I didn’t feel these comparisons (or at least not as constantly). My values didn’t conflict with the culture, or at least with the sub-culture I was a part of. And honestly I also just didn’t spend as much time out at restaurants, stores and shopping centers as I do now. And  now I’m struggling.

Part of me is questioning. Perhaps there is more value in appearances then I have previously thought? I value beauty and spending money on appearances is just spending money on beauty… right? Sometimes, I guess.

Part of me is frustrated. I don’t want to change my values just because of my culture having slightly different values. I don’t want to give in to discontent and comparison.

And when it comes down to it our money is very limited and if I choose to start spending more of it on things like clothes and my home what other things will I have to choose not to spend money on?

And that’s really what it comes down to. As much as I may want myself and my house and my family to look like one of the pictures from my pinterest boards when it really comes down to it I’d rather spend my limited money on other things.

But, sometimes I waver. Sometimes I find myself lost in what can only be called coveting. I look around and feel like I don’t have enough, like my appearance isn’t enough, and soon I begin to feel like I, myself, am not enough. I look around and realize that I’m so far behind the rat race that there’s no catching up.

Ugh!

Can I get off? I don’t want to be comparing myself. I don’t want to be constantly reminded of things I don’t have or to hear the implied “should have” that follows. But, I feel like I’m out of practice at ignoring it.

So, does anyone have any suggestions?

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Nursing in Public: A Little Story

It was November, just before Thanksgiving. As we walked down the aisle of the plane I felt nervous. This was my first time traveling with a baby. My 7 week old son, Thaddeus, was in my arms, content for the time being. About midway through the plane I saw an older women sitting by the window. The family in front of us took the aisle across from her. They looked nice. They had a baby girl who looked to be about 10 months old and a son who I guessed was 3 or 4. We had smiled at each other as we waited in line to board. I quickly decided that this would be a good place to nurse and we took the two empty seats next to the grandmother.

I was worried that my son’s ears would hurt and that he would end up being that baby on the plane that cries the whole time and bothers everyone. I had done my research before hand and talked to my mommy friends. Everyone said that as long as the baby sucked and nursed during takeoff and landing he would be fine. The plane started to taxi out of the gate and I started to nurse. Thaddeus was having some trouble latching on. He seemed tired and uncomfortable already. Maybe his tummy was hurting. I finally got him situated and a stewardess came by. She leaned in towards me:

“Do you have something you can use to cover up?” she asked.

I was startled and a little disappointed. I thought that I was being fairly discreet already. I hated covering up – it made it so much harder. He usually didn’t get as good of a latch when I covered up and then my nipples would be sore. I stammered out a “yes” and asked my husband to grab a blanket from the diaper bag. A stressful situation just got more stressful.

I struggled to cover myself. Thaddeus came off the breast and cried. He wiggled around. He was so strong. I wrestled with him a bit while trying to hold the blanket and also get him latched back on. It wasn’t working. My husband held the blanket up for me and together we got Thaddeus nursing again. Soon he was asleep and we were able to relax a little.

On landing, I didn’t really even try to nurse him. It was too much trouble. I glanced at the 10 month old sitting across from us enjoying a bottle on her mommy’s lap. For a second I wished that I had pumped a bottle, but the one time I tried pumping I was miserable and it wasn’t worth the effort. We had Thaddeus suck on my husband’s finger during the landing, since he refused a pacifier. He cried the whole way down.

Once we landed Thaddeus was hungry. We went to baggage claim and I found a relatively quiet place where I thought I could sit and nurse. My husband left our bags with me and went to get the car seat and stroller which we had to check. I struggled with my screaming son. With the memory of the flight attendant fresh in my mind I tried to cover up a little, but that just made Thaddeus more upset.

A woman with a badge came and sat down in a chair not too far from me. After a few moments she leaned towards me:

“There’s a family restroom where you can nurse by the escalators.” She said as she pointed in the direction I had just come from not long before.

I am sure that she meant well. I am sure that she saw me struggling and thought it might be easier and more comfortable for me to nurse in a quiet place – maybe she was right. But, at that moment I didn’t want to struggle with my baby and my bags and wrestle my way back down the hall alone so that I could sit on a toilet in a public restroom and nurse my son. I wanted to calm and sooth him right then and there. Really I just wanted to cry.

Instead I stuttered out “thank you.” Picked up my bags, held my screaming baby close to my chest, whipped away a tear, and walked away. I got half way down the hall when I realize I really didn’t want to go to a family bathroom and nurse, plus my husband would have no idea where I went. But, I didn’t want to go back and sit by that woman either. So, I went to the carousel where my husband was getting the bags. Thankfully there were a few seats right by the carousel and I sat down there and tried to nurse for a second while my husband got the last bag.

This story isn’t really that bad. I have since this time heard stories about nursing in public that are truly outrageous.  This little story is really nothing to tell. I mean no one asked me to stop nursing or told me I couldn’t nurse someplace. In fact no one in my story is really negative towards nursing at all, but I can’t really say that they are supportive.

Now I am more informed. Now I am more comfortable with my right to nurse anywhere. Now I am more experienced with breastfeeding. I can nurse truly discreetly without a cover and I can use a cover much more easily now if I want to. My son is older and more experienced as well now. He can latch on without my help. Now I could handle a situation like the one I just shared with much more ease and grace, but then I couldn’t and it ended up being a very stressful experience for me. Then I wasn’t experienced at being discreet. Then I needed to be uncovered and able to see and help my son in order to get a good latch. Then I didn’t know my rights when it came to nursing in public.

I need the me of now to defend the rights of the me of then. My story isn’t that bad, but there are others that are. And I can totally see how even little experiences like mine could really start to get under your skin and cause you to give up all together. Before I became a breastfeeding momma I wouldn’t have thought twice about a story like mine, I would have thought no one did anything wrong. And it’s true, there isn’t really anything wrong about the flight attendant asking me to cover up or about the woman directing me to the family bathroom to nurse, but it also is something wrong about it. Personally I think it does feel like there is something wrong in our society when a momma feels uncomfortable and ashamed for naturally, freely and openly feeding her baby. I can see how if you had enough experiences like my little story and you didn’t have support from family and friends around you it would be easy to choose not to breastfeed at all or to stop earlier then you had originally planned. I can understand why “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 70 percent of mothers start breastfeeding immediately after birth, but less than 20 percent of those moms are breastfeeding exclusively six months later.”

The choice to nurse or not to nurse is each mother’s personal decision, but wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a society where women really could freely make that decision. Where if they wanted to nurse they wouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable for openly feeding their baby whenever they needed to and where ever was most comfortable for them.

Here is a GREAT article with 50 Reasons for Breastfeeding Anytime, Anywhere.

What nursing stories do you have? What has been your experience with nursing in public? If you’re not a momma, or you didn’t choose to nurse your baby, how do you feel about nursing in public? What do you feel is appropriate and not appropriate?

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Sin: More about Social harm than Moral imperfection??

Last night I had a dream. It was basically like a Tuesday at David and Tara’s but with some new faces. We were talking about sin and I made a comment in my dream about how maybe sin is more social then moral. Then I woke up. I started thinking about my dream… sin being more social then moral…

I’ve always thought that God hated sin because it was morally evil – that it was sort of this something other than God. God was perfect, sin was that which “fell short” of God’s perfection. Sin was something God couldn’t in his perfect nature do Himself – or allow or tolerate. Sin was evil and evil was this something outside of or other than God.

But this morning I started thinking maybe God doesn’t hate sin because it is just some moral evil in and of itself and can’t be done or tolerated by a perfect God… Maybe He hates sin because sin is something that hurts people, that damages relationships, that harms community, that injures society. As I started to think about it I couldn’t think of a single sin that didn’t damage relationships and hurt people (if you can I’d be curious to hear it).

The 10 Commandments are a good place to start – each of them could be argued to be about relationship – relationship with God, with family, with neighbor and with society at large. It’s like God is saying these things hurt you, they hurt others, they hurt society and they hurt your relationship with me – so why do I dislike them? I dislike them because they hurt my beloved creation. And that’s why you should dislike them too.

I think in some ways we have disconnected sin from its social consequences, from its relational focus and have instead made sin a very personal, very internal thing. We have made sin about ME falling short of God’s perfection, instead of about me harming and hurting God and others.

Maybe it’s just me, but I found this to be a really interesting train of thought and it made me look at sin in a really different way.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.