Ethical, Eco and Effort Series – Part 1.

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It has been hard to miss the conversations about Ecology and the Ethics of our spending.
From single-use plastic, waste production and food waste, to the anti-health and anti-environmental chemicals in many of our household cleaning products and cosmetics, to sugar and obesity, and the impact of unethical food and clothing production. These conversations are everywhere, frequently generating heated and emotional reactions.
They can feel shaming, insurmountable. too expensive and frankly too hard to do much about.

I understand.
We are a family of five on a single income. We live in an affluent area, but where there are a good percentage of people who are nothing like as affluent as the area suggests, and the cost of living is expensive.
We rent our home, are grateful for the child benefit and tax credits that the state supplies, and whilst we are solvent – praise God! – we have very little margin.
Holidays are rare and always done on the cheap/free, and going out for a meal or even to the pub is a treat rather than something we can do on a regular basis. If we are able to treat ourselves, we will be far more likely to have a takeaway, or a ‘Dine In For Two for £10’ from a supermarket – it is far cheaper than going out.
We are very happy and richly blessed, but we have to be frugal.
I know that many of us are in the same situation.

From this perspective, the idea of paying more for our food and clothes in order to be ethical and ecologically responsible, can seem like a waste of precious resources and a case of putting other faceless people before our own children.
The financial, qualitative and convenience implications of choosing this approach can be very off putting – however I would argue that starting with a little at a time, it is not that hard or expensive to do.

Before Husbandman and I were married, he announced that as a matter of principle, all the tea and coffee in our house would have to be fairly traded.

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I responded that I was happy to do that, but that he would have to find me a very tasty loose-leaf tea. I like a properly brewed cuppa and many of the Fairtrade teabags I had tried were pretty disgusting. I didn’t (and still don’t) see the point of buying substandard products, just to support people, without the option of feedback, but I would have been reluctant to give up tea altogether.
Thankfully he succeeded and we found a few, and 9 years later, I am still drinking my favourite.

THEN CAME CHOCOLATE.
I really miss Snickers bars and many other types, but I cannot justify buying and eating chocolate that is both directly and indirectly involved in slavery – and to be clear, when a company has committed to good practice and transparency  – they really shout about it. It has been a bit of a sacrifice over the past 10 years, but not that hard, and as the awareness has grown, so have the ranges of things I can buy.

Fairtrade, Tradecraft, Rainforrest Alliance, Cocoa Life, Ubuntu, UTZ  – are all massive clues. They are regulated and follow certain standards which are open to scrutiny. They are not perfect. But they are transparent, and they are a crucial step in the right direction.

If there is no symbol, then it is UP TO US to research the company before buying from them, not to turn a blind eye, telling ourselves that it is probably ok.

 

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Because as much as I might like them, how can I possibly justify the expense of human indignity in order to enjoy a treat?

We are all selfish, this is one of the factors of being human. One of the most selfish comments I ever heard about this issue, was from a woman who would argue that she definitely supported social justice, but who when faced with the evidence said,
“Well I like Mars bars, so I am going to continue eating them”.
It was an honest response. There was no BS about it. But it wasn’t good enough.

Our pleasure is never of more value than someone else’s dignity, or their fundamental human rights. We may be selfish, but we are all capable of change, and the first step is to start with ourselves.

This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
Zechariah 7:9-10

For us, this past decade has been a journey of committment and awareness. With Husbandman and I growing in our understanding of Human Trafficking, where our food comes from, what we are using and consuming and why we buy what we buy.
So over this series, I will share some of our discoveries, the way God has broken our hearts for justice, challenging us to see where our treasure and hearts really are.

As far as food shopping has gone, we started with tea, coffee and chocolate, and as our budgeting adjusted,  it became easier to add things like bananas, avocados, pepper corns and spices, cotton wool and wine (from some South American and African countries, where there is less worker protection) to our Fairtrade groceries list.

We haven’t finished, are definitely not perfect, but we are committed to putting one foot in front of the other.
It has taken sacrifice, but has also grown a deeper heart of compassion for our brothers and sisters around the world, a desire to uncompromisingly do what’s right and to more fully become who God has called us to be.

I know that you too can do the same, so I encourage you to begin where you are, and move forward from there.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

 

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In the crucible

My frustration reaches fever pitch,
I’m stuck in a rut, nowhere to turn
doors shut in my face,
I’m out of the race
can’t chase my way back in.

Nothing gets started.
Like and engine in the cold
that gave up the ghost
when the spark didn’t catch.

Yet there is plenty inside me,
bubbling away.

The lid is on the pot, but I’m still hot,
gathering heat,
as my core is refined, purity revealed,
I simmer until the time is right, the secret place unsealed.

There is more. SO MUCH MORE –
as my heart lets out the roar of vision and excitement –
THERE IS MORE!

Like a Tardis on the inside,
are my dreams, and deepest longings –
bigger than could be guessed at from without,

Yet my heart is being challenged
to remain, to be at peace,
to trust that things are happening –
that the cogs are being greased

So that when the moment comes
and this lid is lifted free,
what explodes out from my inner world
will be smooth and clear to see.

In this process of refining
He is burning off the dross,
and His faithfulness is evident,
this time is not my loss,

My path will have been levelled,
from the treacherous terrain,
and my progress won’t be hampered by
my brokenness and pain,

And He’ll use me for His glory,
so that many will acclaim
the tenderness of His love,
The greatness of His name.

As we walk this great adventure
and my dreams become reality,
the TRUTH of Him shall set men free
as His love resounds in me.

But, until I can be trusted
not to claim His glory as my own,
I’ll walk out my daily tasks
allowing grace to fill my home,
and these passions held within my heart
continue gaining strength –

for the One who made them
LOVES ME,
made me,
And at the right time –

will release me.

When you have no idea where you are…

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Grief is such a strange beast.
Regardless of how I seem to be doing, it lingers.

Things which are usually enjoyable, seem like an uphill struggle, and disproportionately drain me. Getting out of the house for a walk on my own, feels impossible and I find myself afraid I’ll miss my family too much, to take an hour to myself.

I have been reading though, lots – blogs, novels, poetry.
Over Christmas, I re-read my way through the entire Harry Potter series, in about two weeks, including The Cursed Child. I also read several biographies, and then made my way through Sense and Sensibility (which I had never actually read), and Persuasion (which I had). I have just finished The Penguin Lessons – a memoir by Tom Michell.
It has provided a welcome escape.

I am feeling pretty low and lost at the moment.
I love my family, but for the first time in years, I have no idea what my purpose is. I have nothing to work towards, nothing to look forward to – although in the day to day, I do have a million little things in which to delight.
But I am struggling.

Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
Proverbs 29:18

I have moved churches, and whilst this was a good decision for me, and well supported by Husbandman, whilst he and I go to the evening service at my church together, we are no longer worshipping in the same church community.
Because he is responsible for music at his church, he is not free to really be engaged with watching our children if we go there, although he occasionally takes Eldest on her own. I find it too hard with the particular children we have, to manage at church on my own, wherever we go, as the Boy and Mini One want to run around and climb. It really needs two of us, therefore the kids don’t very often attend, meaning our family church experience is dissipated – disconnected.
And I want more. I know there is more.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

I am not working as an actress, either.
I have said before, and I absolutely mean it, that I have never missed acting more than I have cherished and delighted in raising my children and committing to educate them – yet I still miss it dreadfully. I have no project to work towards, nothing that needs my skills, creativity and focus, and I am floundering.

Encouraged by my best friend, I had begun recording my own poems and those that I have previously performed, but, like with my walks, I struggle to take the time – despite it being available to me.
I signed up to a casting website, with a view to taking a few bits of work as they would fit with our family, but didn’t even complete my profile before the 30 day trial expired! They have since offered me a further 30 days free of charge, but I can’t seem to make the effort.

I am lost.

I have always been full of ideas and dreams, of what next and where I want to go. These are still in my heart, but for the first time in years I have no idea what I need to be doing.

I am not currently needed in rehearsals. There is no role for me to have to get my mind and body around.
No one needs me to record my poems, or work on speeches. I have been out of the loop for ages and I have lost my confidence, and the drive required to generate sufficient energy to push through to completion is painfully absent. I find that unless there is a genuine need for my efforts, or the inspiration to pursue something, it is an enormous struggle to motivate myself.

IMG_20170409_144630We are unschooling our three children, so whilst I am needed for a huge variety of things in the day to day of life – to be part of games, to make food, to help them with their ideas – whilst I am needed to drive us places, to encourage them, to answer their many questions, and I am definitely needed for many cuddles and kisses – which I thoroughly enjoy – I don’t have to work towards anything.
My kids are developing beautifully in their individual ways.  I love and delight in their company. They are not my project, they simply share my life and I theirs, and whilst mothering is definitely the hardest job I have ever done, it doesn’t feel like a job  – it just is the privilege of my life and I enjoy its flow.

The only thing that I was looking forward to last year was the arrival of another child into our family.
We were both delighted to welcome another gorgeous blessing into our hearts and lives, regardless of any natural sense of uncertainty and trepidation that comes with expansion, we couldn’t wait. This baby gave us a sense of moving forward, moving towards something.
But sadly she didn’t join us, instead bypassing earth and going straight to heaven.

She is safe, happy, fulfilled.
I am happy for her, and know that I will see her again. Truly.

But I miss her. A lot.IMG_20170406_122702

I feel empty and cheated, especially since I had a good four months of vomiting and exhaustion and general pregnancy woes, all for nothing. And now this week when we should have been in the chaos of birthing another family member, we instead had the ultimate anti-climax of no baby, just grief.
And we are not currently pregnant.
And I want to be. We both do.
Our family is incomplete, and whilst a new baby will not be Hope, I really want another little person to cherish, and to have that focus.
But here is the rub. My kids, my husband and my life are not projects.
I know this, and wouldn’t want to compromise the dignity of any of us by seeing us so.

Yet I am left feeling empty. WHICH HURTS.

A deep emptiness that only God can fill.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

I think that God has brought me to this place, gradually having stripped away all the things I feel that I flourish at.  Bringing me to where I have nothing to rely on but Him.
Don’t misunderstand me, he hasn’t sent bad circumstances my way. He is love. He loves me, but he will use them to bring about my transformation.

Not that I’m enjoying the process.
Actually I feel frustrated, confused and angry with him. But He can handle my anger.
He can actually see the whole of everything, whereas I can only see the equivalent to two feet in front of me.
The problem is my heart. My discontentment, my fear that I am too big for God to ever completely satisfy.  In which case He couldn’t really be God.
Which isn’t true.
But it still hurts badly.

Yet he is here with me.
I know His presence, His voice, and I have learnt to recognise the God whispers that drop into my heart  – He hasn’t abandoned me – I know he is close.

The man that has friends must show himself to be a friend, and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

This is what dying to yourself must feel like  – anxiety, and the terrifying lack of understanding of how to keep breathing, how to make it right, how to get things back to normal. Knowing that I cannot do it.

Praising Him helps – Husbandman and I have enjoyed some marvellous praise sessions in the kitchen, which has lifted our spirits and brought us moments of peace.

If God has given me my talents and gifts, blessed me with the opportunity to learn and to hone my skills, if He has gifted me with any insight or wisdom – then he will use them for His purposes, not mine.
Crucifying all my hopes and dreams with Him is the only way forward. That and being honest with God about the disappointment and frustration. He will return to me what I have given up for Him.  But if not, I am better off without them.

“Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten, The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you.
“You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; Then My people will never be put to shame.…

Joel 2:25-26

Meanwhile, He carries me.

I have no idea what is coming next.
When or if I will have an acting project to dive into, when we will be blessed with another longed-for child. When this sadness and discontentment will shift.
I don’t know what I need to do. If anything.

My hope is in Jesus. And He will not change.

I still feel lost.
But God hasn’t lost me – and this makes all the difference.