Archive | inspiration

7 Stories that Helped Me Relate to the Poor

EP 7 Stories

I am a very privileged person. Growing up, we may not have had everything we could’ve wanted, but we were never hungry or in need. Poverty was just something I read about in my many, many books. I recently had a conversation with my eleven-year-old sister about why certain people act the way they do. We talked about how much we have to be thankful for and how “hurting people hurt people.” We wound up referencing “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes, a wonderful book about a little girl who wears the same dress to school every day, but claims quite brazenly that she has a hundred dresses at home. This gave me the idea for the post you’re reading. Which stories have helped me relate to and understand the poor? I’m sharing seven that come to mind.

1. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This winner of the 1945 Newberry Honor is a timeless short chapter book for kids. It is one of those stories which perhaps couldn’t be written for adults, but is easily taken in by children. The story revolves around Polish immigrant, Wanda Petronski, who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress to school every day. To avoid bullying, Wanda claims she has a hundred dresses at home. This story doesn’t not necessarily have a happy ending, but an important lesson is learned by the other girls in Wanda’s class and by generations of readers.

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

After falling in love with the 2005 BBC miniseries, I read this novel during a road trip. Several years later, I still think back on it often. I never expected to find such themes of generosity, fair trading practices and social justice in a book written in 1855. The book itself is fascinating, romantic and well written, but the plight of the factory workers during England’s industrial revolution will stick with me forever.

3. A Christmas Carol (or anything by Charles Dickens!)

While Austen was writing about ballrooms and bustles, Dickens was writing about the grim and grimy lives of those below the poverty line. You’ll see yourself reflecting in the amazing characters in his novels and your heart will go out to every orphan, widow, drifter and pickpocket he concocts.

4. The Rich Family in Church a true story by Eddie Ogan

This story has had a great impact on me personally, ever since I read Eddie’s real-life account online. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but this short tale will touch your heart. What happens when a widow and her teenage daughters try to raise money for a poor family in their church during The Great Depression? You’ll never forget it.

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Well, the reason this book taught me about poverty is probably that this book taught me about everything. I consider this to be my favorite fictional book of all time. The March family is struggling to make ends meet while Mr. March is serving in the Civil War, and yet they are remarkably and realistically generous. I just love it. It will make you want to give your butter away on Christmas. (The movie is also excellent.)

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Though I haven’t read the assumably wonderful book, I adore both the 1998 and 2012 film adaptations. In what I consider to be one of the most incredible stories ever written, you’ll follow the plights of the pure-hearted prostitute, the honest thief who has broken parole, the innocent daughter of swindlers, the once-rich rebel fighter who is willing to lose everything in the name of liberty and an orphan who, against all odds, becomes an heiress. Just. So. Good.

7. George Muller the true biography

A missionary to Bristol’s orphans, George Muller has taught me more about trusting God for financial provision than any other hero I’ve read about. I loved his biography by Janet and Geoff Benge, but I know his autobiography is said to be great as well. Don’t believe in miracles? Read this account.

What stories have impacted how you think about poverty?

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daily frights

Someone once said, “do something every day that scares you.” The first time I heard this, I thought it was an awful idea. I imagined myself putting my hand over a wasp nest or jumping in front of a bus on a daily basis. This not only seemed unwise, but I could not see the benefit. Since then, I’ve realized that the message was lost on me. The point isn’t to do dumb, disastrous things every day, but to do things that are worthwhile even if you are afraid, because that’s how we grow.

Well, I’ve never really applied this slogan to my life, but I do seem to have my own. “Do something ever semester that scares you.”

The fact that I am starting to think about life in semesters is scary in-and-of-itself, but life in a college town seems to have that kind of rhythm. Every semester there is the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to so many things and God continually pulls me toward new things. Bigger things. Scary things.

I have yet to submit my skin to wasp stings or make a flying leap in front of a moving vehicle, but I have allowed myself to be frightened. The amazing thing about this practice is not that I gain confidence, but that I continually have fewer and fewer fears. What scared me a year ago is commonplace now. What scares me about the fall will probably seem simple and not so intimidating by next summer.

I have learned to introduce myself to strangers, to make new friends without the fear of rejection, to voice my opinion in groups. I have been called “a natural leader”–something I never would’ve imagined about myself a few years ago when I was too shy to order my own meals. I have opened up about my goofy habits and confessed my best-hidden sins. I have gone without make-up and not thought about it all day. I have made jokes that nobody laughed at and it didn’t keep me up that night. 

Through the crisis pregnancy center, church small groups, service teams and outreach programs, I have done whatever it was that needed doing, setting my inadequacies aside. I’ve written (closed) letters to officials on issues I care about (having learned that open letters are usually more self-inflation than communication.) I have written notes of encouragement to people I thought might think I was weird for doing so. I have learned to drive without having to pull over for panic attacks, to drop off books on doorsteps where I think they may be welcome, to ask some hard questions I had avoided for a long time. I have learned to give my stuff away without feeling nauseated. I don’t need extra anything.

I wear what I like and don’t think too much about it and I have started to kick the habit of feeling like every acceptable thing I do must be recorded on social media. I get angry and do not sin (I mean, sometimes I do, but anything is progress in this area.) I leave my drawing pad open on my desk and don’t shred my sketches into tiny pieces. I find new recipes and actually try them and sometimes I cook without a recipe.

I work out sometimes, probably not quite enough. I don’t work out to look different, I work out to feel healthier. I eat things like mushrooms and beets and onions without plugging my nose. I actually enjoy these things. To enjoy as many things as possible-this is my goal! And to do this, I must fear fewer and fewer things all the time. I used to fear driving, now I enjoy it. I used to fear onions, now I adore them. I used to fear a busy schedule, but I’m learning to control it. I used to fear speaking in front of groups, but I’m getting over that.

I will never be an extrovert, a high-energy doer or a fearless superhuman. The greatest victory is perhaps that I’m okay with that now. I am not distraught over the fact that I’m a slow, hesitant, introverted, often lazy girl. I don’t feel guilty about being me, because I can tell that I’m trying really hard to be less fearful and more content every semester, every day. And, as strange as it feels to say it, I’m kind of proud of that. What use would I be to the people I love if I never improved or progressed? I don’t want to simply be loved and accepted, but also useful, also helpful.

There will always be pitfalls. I’m sure I’ll discover new fears. But how can you overcome a mountain if you don’t first stand at it’s base and appraise it’s awesomeness? And how can you have a victory, without a battle?

So wasps and buses aside, I’m doing the things that really scare me and becoming all the braver for it.

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on earth as it is in heaven

This is the final post in the Gather Up the Fragments series on ending waste. 

I doubt there is such a thing as recycling or “upcycling” in the kingdom of heaven, but I am sure there is no waste. As a final part of this series, now that Christmas has come and gone and epiphany is here and your Christmas tree is either being disassembled or sitting by the curb, I want to reflect a bit on what we’ve learned together and encourage you and I to spend the new year spending less, wasting less and being much more grateful.

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. You may not immediately think “go green!” when you hear that prayer, but I think that a healthy respect for God’s creation goes right along with it. God himself wastes nothing and in an attempt to reflect Him a little better, we should waste less…less than last year. Even though the green peas on your plate probably cannot be shipped to starving children in Africa, you eat them or share them because to throw them away would be to dishonor the hungry. Waste does hurt people. How to end it? Side with it’s archenemy: gratitude.

You’ve probably heard of the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve gathered some inspiration for us as we keep these three R’s in mind for 2014.

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  • The lovely Bethany  of Letters from Home writes often of “living with less” and mending and making do. I particularly love her post Where Nothing is Wasted (Or Why my Mother is Awesome) but anything under her tags of “living more with less” or “waste” is excellent. You’ll find lots of inspiration therein and probably a kindred spirit. “Banishing waste not only gives my parents the freedom to do the work to which they have been called, but also enables generosity. At its best, a home should teach its children about God, and I learned a lot about God’s providence from my mother’s watchful gathering and saving.”

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  • My dear old friend Tonia (our friendship is old, not you!) writes more and more these days about simplifying more and wasting less along with caring for the animal kingdom and being grateful. (Very applicable, yes?) I loved this post about new grocery shopping habits and plastic packaging alternatives. I also love any post with a picture of a little red-headed girl. She’s a pretty awesome friend of mine. :-)

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  • Have you heard of Sole Hope? I’m pretty excited about them ever since I heard their founder speak last October. I have attended a shoe-cutting party and hosted a shoe-cutting party and I am planning on hosting another at the end of this month or beginning of next. This is a wonderful way to recycle old jeans or other durable fabric, plastic bottles or folders. They explain it better than I do, but Sole Hope allows us to recycle instead of waste while creating jobs in both the U.S. and Uganda, giving relief and follow-up to people suffering from parasites and preventing them from being reinfected by giving them a pair of shoes.

What your ideas and suggestions for wasting less in 2014? How do you care for nature in your every day life? 

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the art of silliness

“Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.”

-Shel Silverstein

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I have recently come to the conclusion that people who don’t embrace silliness forfeit a huge percentage of the joy life has to offer. Silliness is essential to happy days upon happy days. The mundane becomes delightful when you understand the art of silliness.

All my life people have asked me how I get along so well with my siblings. Everyone knows we’re not perfect, and some of us have closer relationships than others, but in general, we’ve always worked well together and been friends. When I was seven and eight we lived on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere. During that time, we had few friends and were only able to see them sporadically. The four of us (there used to only be four, if you can imagine) were not only siblings, but great friends. We did our lessons, chores, adventuring and make belief together. It was lovely.

One of the greatest things we’re still nurturing from those earlier years is silliness. It is also, in my opinion, one of the keys to getting along with one’s family. Silliness isn’t just acting dumb (though a lot of times it is dumb) but intentionally finding humor and joy in small, ridiculous things. I’ll give you some examples.

  • Whenever one of my sisters is sick or has some sort of physical ailment, we always rebuke them for “not making plans like the rest of us.” (Which everyone knows is the reason Beth March had to die.)
  • Making up goofy songs about people or places we pass while driving.
  • Birdie going up the escalator like Buddy the Elf in Macy’s while strangers stared.
  • Looking for the piece of broken sidewalk that resembles a turtle.
  • Pretending to be on Iron Chef while baking cookies.
  • Doing random, annoying things like silently grabbing the elbow of the person sitting next to you at the dining table. Just hold it as you continue to eat.
  • Knocking on the bathroom door and using a fake voice and name when the occupier asks who it is.
  • Leaving funny pictures in surprising places (like that terrifying thumbnail of Dwight Shrute, or the hilarious-looking dog from the shelter ad.)
  • Always singing certain songs together no matter when or where they come on. Our main one is I’m Gonna Be Strong by Cyndi Lauper. You have to have a “microphone” for this (we’ve used kitchen utensils, hair brushes, and yes, tampons.)
  • That time we watched Tombstone and started quoting it for weeks, replacing one word in each quote with the word “stroganoff”=hilarious.
  • Patting a baby’s open mouth as they cry (this makes a funny sound, and usually makes them laugh instead!)
  • Singing background vocals to songs that don’t have background vocals.
  • “Collecting” purple cars (we always tell each other when we’ve seen one.)
  • Nicknames galore.

You get the idea! Any of these things could just be plain irritating if both parties are not using the art of silliness. The art of silliness, at it’s core, is a willingness to find humor or joy in any and every situation. It makes time pass quickly, strengthens relationships and makes you laugh, which is really, really good for you. Being silly turns an ordinary, boring, sad, frustrating day into a day that you’re sad is over. Sometimes I just lie in bed and smile, thinking of all the funny things that were said, the dumb games we played and the way my family made the best of each situation. I think if more people allowed themselves to be silly and allowed others to be truly silly in their presence, their world would be opened up to a million more opportunities for daily happiness and humor and our world, as a whole, would be a brighter place.

“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

4

new and pink

{written over a week ago…was waiting on photos!)

Well, it’s official. My room is pink.

So are my arms, my legs and feet for that matter. And I’m sure my hair got a few highlights as well. My favorite colors have always been pink and rainbow (after pink, I can’t decide what I like best) and it’s been a strange turn of events that have kept me from ever having a pink bedroom. Well, a year ago, my sister/roommate got married and moved out. I vowed during her engagement that I would redecorate the room once I had it to myself. Out would go her favorite color (green) and in would come some pink at last.

(No offense to said sister or the color green, I adore you both.)

Finally, inching up to the anniversary of my sister’s wedding, I have painted my room pink. I bought three samples of paint and put big squares up above my desk and bed. After a few days with those, I decided I didn’t want any of them and went a bought paint without ever having sampled the color. It was called “Tulip” and I’m rawther fond of it already.

As I lay in bed last night (in a half-pink room) I thought about why I love pink. What is it that attracts me to that color? Green is the color of life. Red is bold strength. Blue is other-worldly. Yellow is happy. Why pink?

And then it came to me. Pink is newness.

Pink is a sunrise.

Pink is a newborn baby.

Pink is a fresh rosebud.

Pink is a new lover’s cheek.

Newness.

I love it. I love the youthful, hopeful potential of it. I love that it is almost red but for now, just happy to be pink.

Maybe I’m reading into the color a bit, but isn’t color a perception? Isn’t everything we’re attracted to a matter of association? I am happy to have this new color all around. It tickles me pink.

 

Overly punny,

Everly

 

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