The Secondhand Life

I want to talk about this book a bit, especially in light of my last post and before I post some actual practical advice to help us conquer the consumerism mindset. 

This book was eye opening and not in the ways that I expected! 

I expected gloom and doom. I expected guilt trips and wake up calls. I expected to be convicted to stop buying anything of any sort at anytime. 

Instead I was assured that buying new now and then is key to keeping up the economy, and I was very encouraged by the life that second hand goods take on if they don't sell in stores like Goodwill or Savers. 

After a certain amount of time, things that don't sell in second hand stores head to second hand outlet stores where product is sold by the bag or by the pound. This was totally new information for me, and coincidentally not a week after I finished the book, one of my favorite bloggers posted on this very thing! Take a look at Dina's blog, or for some video footage, check out her Instagram story highlight titled Goodwill Bins. 

If goods aren't sold from the outlets, much of it is put into giant shipping bins which are sold world wide. It turns out that people from all over the world make their living by selling our second hand stuff. People around the world appreciate being able to get these goods at affordable prices. 

People across the globe repair and recycle second hand goods until they can't be used any more. Appliances are repaired or disassembled to use parts in other appliances, or those parts are recycled. Clothing is reused and recycled until it gets made into rags. Literally, there was an entire chapter on the rag industry! 

Unfortunately, there is something that is hindering the life of second hand goods and causing massive amounts of waste on our planet. 

Consumers today, want the newest and latest of everything. Manufacturers are meeting that demand with fast made, low quality product. The saying, "they don't make 'em like they used to" is truth. The quality of goods has diminished so much that appliances often are actually unrepairable if they break, and clothing is such poor quality that even rag makers won't use it for rags! 

These poor quality goods are now piling up with nowhere to go. 

Our acceptance of cheap, low quality goods to meet our "need" for the latest and greatest is affecting the livelihood of others, and it's ruining the earth. 

Believe me readers, I have gone through every excuse to justify MY acceptance of cheap goods. But, if I actually examine my heart and mindset, it isn't justifiable. It comes down to me being discontent with what I have and impatient, either to save up for something of higher quality or to wait/search for that perfect second hand quality item. 

I am discontent and impatient. These are hard truths to face. 

Okay. I PROMISE my next post will be practical applications to help conquer the consumerism mindset. Every blogger needs some soapbox posts, right? 

Stay tuned...

Consumerism and Climate Change

I have to get a few things off my chest, readers. Some of this might be unpopular opinion, but I need to talk about the Golden Globes. Not quite what you thought I was gonna say I bet.

Please understand, I am a fan of celebrating art. Quality film and television are two of my favorite things. I love acting. I love cinematography. I love story telling. I love costuming and make up. People using their God given talents to create beautiful things is itself a beautiful thing.

I am also the first on Instagram to see all the fashion on the red carpet, because fashion is just as much art as the movies and television.

The desire to express. The desire to make things beautiful. It's all good and even comes from God. He is a creative God after all.

The red carpet and awards shows have also become a platform for politics. It's understandable. Hollywood stars have influence. It's the perfect place to be seen and heard. Time's up, equal pay, race representation, you name it, the stars have stood for it.

This year, there were plenty of stars addressing climate change especially because of the devastation happening in Australia right now. (If you don't know, it's literal Hell there right now. Like, the images are what I envision Hell to look like, and it's utterly terrifying).


All these stars, who are mega consumers, and who then influence all of us to consume the stuff they are consuming, are taking a "stand" on climate change?

I wonder if any of them car pooled to and from the event and after parties in their fuel efficient cars rather than pulling up each in their own vehicles that idle in line until it's their turn to take the carpet.

Though I love looking at the dresses, I need to address the fact that these dresses are worn ONCE for a few hours and then, most of the ladies change into an after party dress that most likely will never be worn again either.

The red carpet is a perpetual example of living a "once and done" lifestyle.

Even though the clothes of the red carpet aren't considered fast fashion, it certainly promotes the mentality that every event needs a new outfit and that once it's out of style, or I'm simply over it, I'll just buy something else.

Fast fashion/textile production is one of the worst contributors to climate change there is!

Well, "I donate my clothes when I am done." Yes, it's a better way, but please educate yourself on what actually happens to donated clothing. Most of it ends up in landfills or gets shipped to other countries where it does more harm than good.

Second hand/thrifting is a better way. But it is just as easy to get stuck in a consumerism mindset, sometimes even more so, because we can afford MORE STUFF if it's second hand! Until I learned about the amount of used stuff creating havoc on our environment, I was in the cycle of buying and re-donating all the time. I naively thought it was just all getting recycled buyer to buyer! Not so, my friends, not so.

And let's talk about all the free stuff that the stars get from these awards shows and after parties.

Did any of them say "no thanks" to the extravagant gift baskets full of the newest and greatest stuff? The amount of stuff given to these people is insane and, of course, WE ALL can find out what was in the gift bags so that WE CAN HAVE ALL THAT SAME STUFF!

Not to mention all that stuff comes in tons of packaging. Mostly packaging that NEVER breaks down. "Recycle," you say. Mmm...hmmm... don't get me started on that.

I get it. I'm an artist. I make stuff to sell, and I love when people buy it. I have to market it. I have to share what I do. We gotta make a living after all. But, at some point, it all got OUT OF CONTROL!

To quote one of my favorite books, Agate, by Joy Morgan Dey: (Sigh, yes, that's an affiliate link. I'm definitely a hypocrite, because I will influence you to buy all the books! See also, sidebar).

We are a malcontented bunch --
Give us breakfast, we want lunch.
Give us flippers, we want paws.
Show us talents, we see flaws.
Make us tall, we'd rather be small.
Give us some, we want it all.

The want of stuff comes from a place being discontent. We buy in hopes that the new thing will make us feel content.

Now, discontent can be good, healthy even. If we get too content in some circumstances, challenging and changing those circumstances is good.

What I am frustrated with is the message that what we have is not good enough. I'm frustrated that we are being influenced to be discontent. I'm frustrated that so many people are listening!

AND our discontentment is ruining the earth that we were created to take care of. It's one of the first things that God tells humans to do. Take care of the earth.

If we are seeking contentment in things, we will never be content. Ever. Period.

I don't want more stuff. I want more of God.

Finding contentment is hard. I get caught up in consumerism too. I even find ways to justify it in the name of creativity and beauty, which again are definitely Godly things. This is a subject I am very passionate about. I'm not perfect at it, for sure, but very passionate about. I will share in future posts  some practical ways that we can avoid consumerism and be more content with what we already have.

Throw a Low Fuss Sugar Cookie Decorating Party

I like to bake. I really LOVE to decorate baked goods. This past Christmas season, I desperately wanted to decorate sugar cookies, but I didn't want all those cookies to remain in my house (because I will eat them... ALL).

I also wanted to create an opportunity for my kids to get together with our neighborhood friends.

On the flip side, I did NOT want to spend HOURS baking cookies and mixing frosting. I didn't want to wash a crap ton of dishes and bottles after all was said and done. Many times in my life, I am convicted of my contribution to the plastic waste problem in our world, but to be honest, this was not one of those times for me.

Here is what I did to create a fun, low fuss (notice not necessarily low mess, because kids + frosting = automatic mess) cookie decorating party.

1. Make and bake cookies the day before. I kept it to one batch. There would be 8 kids total and each kid got to decorate 4 cookies. They could have done more, but a main reason for this was for ME to get my decorating fix so, I did the rest ; ) PLUS... everyone and their mother is baking Christmas treats so, do they really need another dozen cookies to bring home? No.

I used this recipe which creates delicious, soft cookies that keep a wonderful shape and don't require any chilling! For even LESS FUSS... go ahead and buy some pre-made cookie dough!

Cream 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup butter together until smooth and fluffy
Add in 1 egg and 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, almond extract, or a combo of both
Add 2 teaspoons of baking powder
Slowly add 3 cups of all purpose flour and mix until dough consistency
Turn dough out onto counter and knead for about 30 seconds
(I didn't find any need for dusting the work surface with anything)
Roll out to a thickness of about 1/4 inch and cut out shapes
Bake on parchment lined cookie sheet in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 6-8 minutes.
Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before putting them on a cooling rack

2. Prep frosting/piping bags. I know that royal icing is the norm for sugar cookie decorating. It creates perfect designs and hardens so that those designs don't get ruined, but truth be told, I really don't like the way royal icing tastes! I hate the hardened texture. Store bought cake frosting is perfect piping consistency and tastes delicious. I actually bought way too much. I could have gotten away with half the amount for sure, but here is what I did:

I opened two containers of white vanilla frosting and emptied 1/3 of a container at a time into a bowl, added desired food coloring and mixed well. I Put the colored frosting into a piping bag, washed the container and spoon and repeated the process until I had six piping bags of color. Before decorating, cut a tiny hole at the end of each piping bag. Next time, I will just use one container of frosting and color 1/6 of it at a time. I had SO much left over. It could have covered probably three parties.

* Kids will need instruction on how to dip cookies and how to use a piping bag. Teach them to twist the top of the bag and hold the twist with one hand then, squeeze with the other hand. What would be ideal is to use a clip to keep the frosting from going out the top of the bag!
Here are some ideas for clipping off bags.

The other container of frosting I divided among three containers with flat bottoms big enough to dip the cookies into. I left one white, colored one green and the other red. These were the base colors. RIGHT BEFORE you are ready to decorate, warm these containers of frosting in the microwave 15 seconds at a time until they are a nice runny consistency.

Base color applied. I even piped the outline of the sweater and then "flooded" it by adding spoonfuls of the runny base color.

3. Decorate! Dip a cookie face down into one of the runny bases. Lift it and let it drip excess for a few seconds. Carefully flip it onto the table and add piping, sprinkles etc. Have fun! I gave each kid a paper plate to put finished cookies on and covered them with plastic wrap for transport.

After just a few minutes the frosting stiffens up. It never hardens completely, like royal icing, but I was able to stack the cookies for storage without the designs being ruined.

4. Send kids home and decorate your own cookies ; ) Got my decorating fix in a peaceful atmosphere.

5. Clean up. Like I mentioned above, it's still messy. But, after you throw out the piping bags and wash the three base color frosting containers, all that's left is to wipe down the table!

6. Eat cookies! Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or milk and enjoy a cookie (or three) by the tree.

I never did any Christmas baking before, because we have so many loving people in our life that share theirs with us! But, the kids and I enjoyed this experience so much that we plan to make it an annual tradition.

Do you bake and decorate treats every Christmas season? What is your favorite thing to make?

Make a Felt Box Cake

I asked my daughter one night what she wanted for her birthday. She mentioned that she had a cake that she could cut apart and serve as part of her kitchen arsenal, but thought it would be fun to have a cake that she could decorate. 

"Because I really like to organize and arrange things, Mom." 

Gosh I love that kid.

So, here is what I came up with:

I bought two paper mache boxes like these. Then, I measured the top and sides and added a half inch seam allowance for all sides. The top is just slightly different in size. Labels and arrows help very much!

Sew right sides together first to the top piece of the box. Then, down the sides. 
Trim the seam allowances as needed.

 Turn it right side out, place it over the box, and trim the bottom as needed.

Now, it's time to make and collect decorations! There are so many great tutorials out there for felt flowers and felt food. Just take a look here and here and here.

Also collect ribbons and rick rack and just cut out shapes from felt to use as decorations.

The BEST part... all those decorations can be stored right in the boxes!

Both of my kiddos love to decorate.

He is My Future AND My Past

Sometimes, when I worship at church, I just sing without really paying much attention to the words.

Then there are times when the words (usually a single phrase) hit me over the head like a ton of bricks. Sometimes those words have a life changing affect.

This song has a phrase that has gripped me for the last few weeks:

You are my first
You are my last
You are my future AND MY PAST

(Lyrics by John Mark McMillan)

We have all heard the advice. You know... Don't dwell in the past; live in the now. Be present.

I think it's good advice, but I feel like today's American culture pretty much interprets that as FORGET about the past; disregard it.

We certainly need to be present. We certainly should not DWELL in the past, but we most definitely should not forget/disregard it!

I have noticed that this disregard is often accepted regarding the Old Testament of the Bible. "Why read the Old Testament? Jesus cancels all that out. The Old Testament God was hard to palette. I prefer the loving (less angry) God of the New Testament." 

Honestly, I was among those people. 

Then few months ago, I attended a life changing conference and heard THIS talk by Brad Gray. 

Seriously, friends, this information is LIFE CHANGING. And if you were ever unsure of the relevancy of the Bible, this will surely convince you. 

It turns out that the entire Old Testament actually points to Jesus in very direct ways. When we study the life of Jesus, it is completely apparent that his actions are directly reflective of happenings in the Old Testament. 

I'm not just talking about the over arcing fact that in the Old Testament, people sinned and God was mad so, He sent Jesus. That does definitely explain the actions of Jesus, but it's so much MORE than that. Jesus' actions make WAY more sense to me now that someone has pointed out the direct connection between the Old and New Testaments. 

The point is: The whole Bible is relevant. All the books are part of the whole story (that God hasn't even finished yet!). God knew what He was doing in the Old Testament. He knew what He was doing in the New, and He knows what he is doing now and in the future. 

I am grateful for that... because, I have been remembering my past. Recalling a lifetime of health issues. I have written about some of them already, but this last year, I have discovered there is something other than mental illness that has been causing these issues. There is a root to it all. 

I'm going on one year of treatment for Lyme, and it's been hard. REALLY hard. It's easy for me to feel sorry for myself and wonder how different (better) my life could have been had I found out sooner what was causing my issues. I can easily dwell in that. 

When I, instead, dwell in the Lord, I understand that He is the God of my future AND my past. My past is part of a whole story. Since He's got the whole story under control, I don't need to dwell in the past, but I will not disregard it or try to forget it. 

I am confident that the connection between my past and future will be used for good! 

How about you? 
Do you have a tendency to dwell in the past or are you quick to try to forget/disregard it?

Fifteen Year Anniversary Photo Session -- Eau Claire, WI Couples Photographer

When you've been married for 15 years, and you are more in love than ever: 

How to Run When I Have No Perseverance

I have a deep core memory in my head from grade school:
It was a beautiful, warm and sunny spring day. We were outside on the open field for P.E. class. Our teacher made us stand in two single file lines, basically pairing us off. My teacher said, "go!" The first two kids in each line sprinted away to the big telephone pole which was the finish. 

The first kid to get to the pole won, obviously. That kid got to go on and race again. The races continued until the four fastest kids were determined; they would ultimately run the four by four relay during or "track and field" day. 

I was excited and eagerly anticipating my turn to race. I was super fast. I ran all over the place. Plus, the previous year, I placed THIRD in the long jump, and you have to be fast to jump that far, right?

Then, I looked to my right and realized I was racing Debbie Nelson. Tall, long legged, totally athletic Debbie Nelson. 


There went my dreams of running the four by four relay.

I can so very clearly picture Debbie steadily pulling farther and farther and farther away from me. I can so very clearly remember the tension in my body from trying my hardest, but feeling like I was moving in slow motion. She beat my by a landslide. Like a major, embarrassingly huge amount. Like she was done and recovered as I just crossed the finish line. 

Two weeks ago, my husband asked me how I was feeling.

What came to mind was the vision above, except it wasn't just Debbie so far ahead of me but EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD. I was feeling like everyone was racing ahead. Everyone had energy. Everyone was happy. Everyone had the endurance to finish strong while I felt tense, tired, slow, and alone. I was losing any perseverance to finish the race. I wanted to face plant and quit.

My husband wrote a song based on the scripture Phillipians 1:6

"Throw off everything that hinders and entangles us
Run with perseverance the race marked out for us
He is the author and finisher of our faith


Even when I face plant, if I can just lift up my eyes a tiny bit, I see the feet of Jesus right in front of me. If I lift them a bit more, I can see his hand reaching down to help me up. In that vision, I know I am NOT alone. Knowing I am not alone gives me a little more energy to get up. Then, Jesus says, "You can do it, and I will be right here with you." I might have to lean on Him, but He will hold me up. In faith, I will gain strength to finish strong, but no matter what, he is in it to finish it with me!

How easily I forgot that He is with me. How on earth do I always end up thinking I can do it on my own? And knowing myself, I will gain energy and shove Jesus aside and inevitably, face plant again. 

Praise the Lord! He is always there when I lift up my eyes. 

God's grace is sufficient.