Why I Gave Up Giving Up For Lent

keepmovingtowardyourcalling

2015 is getting away from me.  Not that I’m not enjoying the year – I am. But I had resolutions on my plate that got lost somewhere under a big helping of busy.  I’m left wondering how to keep my goals, not just my to-do list, at the forefront of my daily life. For example you may have wondered where my weekly blog went since it’s been about 8 weeks since I’ve written. You might also wonder what happened in the rest of my 7 project?  Oh I did it, and I learned a lot, but I got behind and didn’t tell you about it (I’m still planning to).

Now, I wasn’t just sitting around thinking about how not to share my thoughts with you.  I was busy. I’m sure you’ve been busy too. I went to New York, I went to Africa, worked with new cooperatives, designed new products, volunteered at the Denver Catholic Worker Soup Kitchen, visited with the Salvation Army Others fair trade program, ate nothing but porridge for a week, helped with my daughter Cali’s lacrosse team, made an unexpected stop in Puerto Rico, answered late night texts from my dear friend struggling through a divorce, started taking Dale Partridge’s Startup Camp online class, bought new products for Global Girlfriend, drove Ellie on countless trips to the horse barn, helped my son Dakota renew his passport for spring break in Cancun (pray for us), and worked on marketing Among Women Collection. But I didn’t write, which is what I vowed to do in 2015. Storytelling is where I’m feeling called, but not where I’m spending my time or energy.

Do you ever get behind and think, what’s the point?  I can’t keep up. Life is too busy. I can’t live up to my own expectations, let alone those of others, so I give up!  But can we really give up on a calling? The dictionary definition of a calling is “a strong urge toward a particular way of life or a career.” I believe that God is calling each of us at different times in our lives, and we won’t be satisfied (neither will he) unless we answer.  So for Lent this year while my husband Brad made a big sacrifice giving up chocolate chip cookies (huge for him really), I decided to give up giving up.

What do I mean when I say I gave up giving up for Lent? Before we get to that let’s talk about why people give things up for Lent in the first place.  When I mentioned Lenten sacrifices at work recently one of my co-workers asked “isn’t that just a Catholic thing?”  Maybe, but here’s why I think all believers should consider the practice.  In an article on the Busted Halo blog Neela Kale helps explain Lenten sacrifice as follows:

“Giving up something for Lent sometimes evokes head-scratching in non-Catholics, but what might seem like just another Catholic eccentricity can actually be a practice with deep spiritual significance. Lent, the period of 40 days that precedes the celebration of Easter, has its origin in the early days of the Church. Converts seeking to become Christian, who at that time were mostly adults, spent several years in study and preparation. Under the threat of Roman persecution, becoming a Christian was serious business, so their process of preparation was intensive! Then they went through a final period of “purification and enlightenment” for the 40 days before their baptism at Easter. The rest of the Church began to observe the season of Lent in solidarity with these newest Christians. It became an opportunity for all Christians to recall and renew the commitment of their baptism.

Today we know Lent as a season of conversion: we acknowledge the ways we have turned away from God in our lives and we focus on turning our hearts and minds back toward God. Giving up something for Lent is ultimately a form of fasting. We can deprive ourselves of some small pleasure and offer that sacrifice up to God. Or we might “give up” a bad habit such as smoking as a way of positively turning our life back towards what God wants for us.”

Lent is about getting back to God and back to what God wants for us. It is listening closely to that voice inside you, your calling. So isn’t turning away from my goals for myself, in a way, turning away from what God wants for me?  If you believe, like I do, that we are each called, then what happens when we aren’t listening? I know what happens when we do answer our call.  It can feel scary, we’ll have to take risks, we may have to endure hardships, but when we are moving in the direction God has in mind for us amazing things are in store.

On Ash Wednesday I was in Lesotho, a small country in southern Africa. I started the day surrounded by hundreds of school children at morning mass (a great story for another day) and ended at dinner with a couple named Edward and Alice. Just a few years ago Edward and Alice were barely getting by. Lesotho is a beautiful place where life is still hard for too many people.  In a country of just over two million people, 23% are infected with HIV/AIDS, the unemployment rate stands at 25%, and almost half of the population live below the poverty line. Edward, was struggling to find work and Alice was getting paid very low wages working in a Chinese owned factory when Edward felt the call to do something.  “I asked my wife will you be ashamed of me if I start driving a wheelbarrow in town,” Edward told me.  Driving a wheelbarrow to help people in the market haul loads was considered the lowliest job, just above a beggar, and it paid only a rand or two per load.  Edward knew that he needed to start somewhere, even if it was at the bottom, in order to help his wife and daughter.  Alice told him that she would not be ashamed, but proud and that she knew he would not drive a wheelbarrow forever. He didn’t.  He developed his English behind the wheelbarrow and made it a point to talk to everyone he met.  Soon he was hired as a gardener, then managed a team of grounds keepers, then was promoted to a driver, and now drives for an orphanage as well as helps run a small sewing business with his wife Alice.  They have a modest but nice home, and they are respected in their community.  Edward told me, “I knew there was something more in me.” That’s a calling.

EdwardandAlice

I learned a lot from Edward and Alice. Start small.  Make the effort to do each day’s work.  Pay attention to what is right in front of you. A calling isn’t something you achieve overnight, but something you are always moving toward. You have to listen. You have to answer. And you can’t quit.

So despite set backs, delays, or my own excuses; even if I feel over worked or over whelmed or under qualified; for this Lenten season I’ll be giving up on giving up.  No small sacrifices for me this year.  I’m going to keep eating cookies and drinking wine, but take on the projects weighing on my heart even when the business of life tries to get in the way. There’s still plenty of time in the season.  There are 30 days until Easter.  Will you join me and give up giving up? Wait, do you hear that? I think it’s your calling, calling…

Keep moving toward your calling | Among Women

 

 

 

Why I Gave Up Giving Up For Lent.

Joy and Pain, Sunshine and Rain

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If you tuned in last week you know I committed to a quest.  Seven weeks and seven areas of life to explore more deeply for the start of the new year.  I won’t gush every week (like a crazy fan girl) about the book that inspired this project, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker, but wanted to remind you that my project is based on my own spin-off of this book. If you’re thinking “that’s not very original,” you’re right, but I believe in continuing great ideas.  In my book Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made it Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide I invited budding social entrepreneurs to “copy left” or build on my ideas. The opposite of a copyright, copy left simply means “take my ideas, use them, improve on them, and share them with someone else.” During day one of my 7 project, I listened to hours of speakers from The Year In Ideas: TED Talks in 2014 while cleaning my kitchen.  My unexpected favorite was How Sampling Transformed Music by Mark Ronson.  It was very “copy left.” Ronson explained how sampling builds on the best of creativity in music. That does not mean sampling always makes a better song than the original (for example: Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby is not better than Under Pressure by Queen).  So here is what happened in my first week of sampling 7 — I purged.

For any of you truly organized souls I’m sure this does not sound earth shattering.  After all cleaning your house may be something that you just do.  I, on the other hand, am a surface cleaner but a closet hoarder.  I’m the sort of hoarder who hides beneath the facade of a tidy entryway. If you come to my house it’s probably socially acceptable in all the areas I’ll allow you into, but please don’t open a cupboard or step into my bedroom or ask to see my laundry room.  This is when you’ll learn that I’m only putting on a good show for company. My original idea was to spend 7 days on 7 rooms donating good items we no longer use, returning borrowed things, and getting rid of the rest of my life’s clutter.

I learned quickly, on day one, that 7 days wouldn’t cut it to clean out all the places I’d been hiding my junk.  In the kitchen I was astonished at what I was either wasting or holding on to. The expired food alone was incredibly disheartening. Am I so special that I have the right to buy food my family and I will never bother to eat while 870 million people in the world go hungry? Not to condemn myself completely, since I know I’ve tried not to be a waster.  For example I found an opened box of Cream of Wheat with a brown piece of packing tape stuck over the spout.  At some point I had made an effort not to waste the contents of this box.  But when I read the expiration date I found that the cereal had expired in May of 2005. I had moved to my “new” house over 7 years ago in 2007 and brought the box along. Even my tape up effort had been a waste.  Into the trash it went (nine years late). I vowed to try to eat what’s in my cupboard and to try not to buy more than we need.

Then to the vinegar — oh how I believe I should eat vinegar.  My great-grandma Mary Lakeman lived to be 106 years old.  The 4 secrets to her longevity, from what I could tell, were her devotion to God, her midwestern practicality, her love of family (and she had a big one with ten kids and their off spring), and her daily consumption of vinegar. My kitchen clean-up unearthed 12, mostly full, bottles of vinegar.  I was trying to add something “good for me” to my life, but clearly I was not consuming “the good stuff” at the rate of purchase. In fact, I had no idea I owned most of this vinegar because the bottles were hidden behind things like the old box of Cream of Wheat.

vinegar

And isn’t that true about our lives sometimes?  We fill up with the unnecessary.  We busy and burden ourselves with the clutter, while ignoring the “good stuff.”  We have abundant access to the things that will make our life better, fuller, and richer, but we lose it in plain sight.

My week of cleaning went on to yield 15 bags of items for Goodwill, a pile of possessions returned to their rightful owners, some extra bags for the garbage man, and a pitcher full of loose change. Dakota and Cali, my two oldest kids, cashed the change at a Coinstar machine and used the proceeds to buy groceries for our church food pantry.  Our once forgotten coins from the drawers of my house (almost 2,000 of them!), turned into $116 in groceries to help our less fortunate neighbors.  I was feeling lighter. It was good to let things go.

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Then I was asked to let go in ways that I hadn’t planned or wanted. I found myself at two funerals, one for a friend named Ann and the second for an acquaintance named Mike.  I knew Ann because she had been one of my teachers when I went through the RCIA program to become a Catholic.  I didn’t really know Mike, but he was the husband of the best teacher any of my kids ever had (and that’s saying a lot as they’ve had many great teachers), so I went in support of her. Their memorials were powerful testaments to their faith and to the impact they made on the lives of others.  These two people used their lives to let others know that they mattered, both to them and to God.

One unexpected song used in a video tribute to Mike stayed with me.  It was Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s catchy 1988 classic Joy and Pain.  In case you don’t remember this hit from my freshman year in college, the refrain is “joy and pain are like sunshine and rain.” Isn’t that our lives — joy and pain, sunshine and rain. Mike and Ann picked joy over pain and brought sunshine to others during rain. These two knew how to get to “the good stuff” because they’d made room for what’s really important.  I thought back to Mark Ronson’s TED Talk on sampling, but learned this week that sampling isn’t just for music.  We can sample from the lives of people we admire to become better ourselves. So even if my version of their song is more Ice Ice Baby than Under Pressure,  I’ll try my best to sample from these inspirational lives and, in the words of Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, to “pump it up, pump it up! keep it goin’ keep it goin’ now…” I hope you’ll sing along.

 

 

 

Joy and Pain, Sunshine and Rain.

2015: It’s all about me right?

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So here we go. 2015. A new year, day two, and the hope of endless possibilities that open up to us when the month of January rolls around. With that, the past week found my inbox and Facebook page filled with new years projects, programs, jump starts, and resolutions that I could choose from to get my year off to an amazing start. I had offers to jump start my career, my diet, my fitness, my spirit, my abundance, my love life, my parenting skills, and the list goes on and on. Yes 2015 wanted to remind me early and often that it’s all about me! 2015 is going to be my year! It IS all about ME right?

At least it was all about me back in my comfortable 2014. Back in the good ol’ days of December when I stood shopping for Christmas gifts at my local Barnes and Nobel using the “one for you, two for me” system of gift buying.  I had gone to the bookstore to pick up a copy NY Times Bestseller Jesus: A Pilgrimage by Father James Martin for my husband Brad.  We are both big fans of Fr. Martin’s writing (my favorite is My Life With the Saints and Brad’s favorite is This is Our Exile) so you could say my motives in buying this book were mixed to begin with.  A book for Brad would quickly become a book for me, I’d just let him read it first.

Scanning the shelves of the Christian section I found Fr. Martin’s book, but not before a substantial stack of Jen Hatmaker’s paperback 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess caught my wandering eye. If you haven’t met Jen Hatmaker, she’s the darling mom and pastor’s wife with Texas size wit and wisdom reality star of HGTV’s “My Big Family Renovation.” Was I there shopping for me? No, but this was the “good books” section so it was fine to grab myself a copy. My Catholic friends you might even call it “right and just”. And if it’s truly right and just, then getting the only copy of her other book Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity was doubly good.  One for Brad, two (plus his) for me.

My dear readers (all 25 of you at this early point in my blogging career – post 2 to be exact), I’d like to tell you this was the only time I used this method of shopping for myself during the season of giving, but I don’t want to start our relationship off on the wrong foot by outright lying.  No, when I bought my 16 year old Cali that red Roxy beach sweater, I bought my own in black.  And when my “oh-so-frat” 19 year old Dakota asked for all things Patagonia this year (or as my wise, mountain town dwelling sister-in-law Elizabeth calls it “Pata-gucci”), I bought three for him and one for me, easily rationalizing that my skirt was from the sale section. And yet, picking up Hatmaker’s book subtitled “An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess,” my own excess didn’t even cross my mind.

Then I read it. No I didn’t wrap it, I just read it. And it wrecked me. Why? Because I’m pretty good, or I thought I was (note to self 2015 – check that big ego at the door).  My work is in fair trade, helping bring the work of poor women in developing countries to market in the US to provide them with a sustainable living and a way to feed their families.  Good job, √. My kids are pretty decent human beings, who like me and talk to me, are generally good citizens of their schools and communities, and I provide them with a roof, food (though I’m not a stellar cook), medical care, American creature comforts, and a great education. Good mom, √. I love my husband. Good wife √. I would do anything to help my friends when in need. Good friend, √. I go to church (almost) every Sunday plus Holy days of obligation and I’m in bible study. Good Catholic, √. But after reading 7, good grief,  have I missed the whole point?  Am I digging deep for others and is it a daily practice, or am I only shiny on the surface?  I need to know.

Ironically, considering I bought myself enough gifts to be fully overindulged on Christmas morning, my mom gave me an atypical gift this Christmas. My parents are notoriously generous at Christmas. While they were conservative and of modest means when I was growing up, at Christmas time gifts for the kids was what they were all about.  Their Santa spirit was, and still is, enormous. So what did I get this year? Let’s start with the fact that I did get a generous check, but that was unlike my mom.  She is more of a gift giver than a money giver, especially if the gift is a gadget or technology or golf supplies or something with sparkle (her loves). I’d say “give ‘em something fun” is her motto. But this year I got a hammer.  A hammer.  It took me a while, but I remembered that when she was here for Thanksgiving I was hanging a Christmas decoration on my porch and couldn’t find a hammer anywhere and had to borrow one from my neighbor Jill.  I’m sure that’s why she bought me this thoughtful, practical, unexpected gift.  But, as he does so brilliantly, God used my mom + my excess + the book 7 + a hammer = changed heart. Tools. Amazing, practical, perfect tools.  It’s time to get to work. Thanks mom (and Jen and Jesus)!

So my New Years project this year is my own version of 7.  I’m calling it Project 7: Version P. Unlike Jen Hatmaker, I’ll be spending 7 weeks not 7 months on the project, still I’m working for long lasting personal change. Jen chose to focus a month each on clothes, spending, waste, food, possessions, media, and stress (if I forgot to mention it READ THIS BOOK!). I’ve decided to play off all these themes with my own project spending a week deeply focused on 7 P’s: Purging (plus repurposing & reappropriating), Porridge (food of the refugee), Poverty, People, Prayer, Practice, and Possibility.  I started yesterday and oh my, the lessons (did you know I was a vinegar hoarder? I didn’t until yesterday). I promise not to give you the daily details (if cleaning my kitchen is any indication this would be way too much information), but to bring you the big points.  Here’s hoping 2015 is not all about me.  Let’s hope this year has much bigger aspirations.  Check back. Wish us both luck.

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2015: It’s all about me right?.

The Start of Something New Brings the Hope of Something Great

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Dear Friends,
It is with deep gratitude and great excitement that I share with you my new social venture, Among Women Collection and Among Women Inspiration Blog, founded to help connect communities and bring economic opportunities to women artisans around the world. Please know that you built this new venture. Every one of you who bought a Global Girlfriends book, or 2, or 100 (thanks again for that Brenda!) helped purchase the handcrafted goods you will find at Among Women Collection. The money earned from the sales of my book went right back into the hands of talented women who need us to invest in their futures.

Among Women Collection does not replace Global Girlfriend; the first company I founded, love, and still help lead under the umbrella of its larger parent company GreaterGood. I am very proud of the market we’ve created for so many women through Global Girlfriend! Instead Among Women builds on what I’ve learned, focuses on small groups, slow crafts that take more time to bring to market, and gives me the freedom to share my vision with you. Among Women Collection will target underserved women artisans, support them in meeting the wider needs of their families, provide intensive artisan training, preserve heritage craft skills, and bring you high quality and unique handcrafted items. And, through our blog, we will give you opportunities to learn and connect.

It is only in community with each of you, and with God’s grace, that change, opportunity, employment, empowerment, and freedom for women has been made possible for the last 12 years of this journey. But there is more to do.

So yes, I am unabashedly asking you, my friends and supporters, to “do more” to help me to launch Among Women Collection! Here is what I need from you:

I keep a yellowing newspaper page from college (over 20 years old now) of a Macintosh computer ad titled Dream Big that continues to inspire me (pictured above). Here is the ad in its entirety:

If there were ever a time to dare,
to make a difference,
to embark on something worth doing,
it is now.
Not for any grand cause, necessarily
but for something that tugs at your heart,
something that’s your aspiration,
something that’s your dream.

You owe it to yourself
to make your days here count.
Have fun.
Dig deep.
Stretch.

Dream big.

Know, though that things worth doing
seldom come easy.
There will be good days.
And there will be bad days.
There will be times when you want to turn around,
pack it up,
and call it quits.
Those times tell you
that you are pushing yourself,
that you are not afraid to learn by trying.

Persist.

Because with an idea,
determination,
and the right tools,
you can do great things.
Let your instincts,
your intellect,
and your heart
guid you.

Trust.

Believe in the incredible power the human mind.
Of doing something that makes a difference.
Of working hard.
Of laughing and hoping.
Of lazy afternoons.
Of lasting friends.
Of all things that will cross your path this year.

The start of something new
brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible
There is only one you.
And you will pass this way only once.
Do it right.

So here we go again starting small, dreaming big, and hoping – with your help – to change lives. Thanks for helping me to do it right!

Peace & Blessings,
Stacey Edgar

 

 

 

The Start of Something New Brings the Hope of Something Great.

Miami University Ohio – Farmer School of Business

Join me on the Miami University campus to discuss Global Girlfriend and the impact of social business strategies on marginalized communities.

When: Monday, March 26, 2012
Time: TBA
Where: Farmer School of Business

Stacey Edgar’s book, Global Girlfriends, from St. Martin’s Press is available now in bookstores nationwide. Stacey is also available as keynote speaker for public and private events – see Stacey’s professional speaker page here:

www.macmillanspeakers.com/staceyedgar

Lexington Depot

Lexington Community Education Association Speaker Series

When: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Time: 7:00-8:30 Pm
Where: Lexington Depot, 13 Depot Square, Lexington, MA

Stacey Edgar’s book, Global Girlfriends, from St. Martin’s Press is available now in bookstores nationwide. Stacey is also available as keynote speaker for public and private events – see Stacey’s professional speaker page here:

www.macmillanspeakers.com/staceyedgar

Denver Press Club Book Beat Luncheon

Join me and members of The Denver Press Club for their Book Beat Luncheon where I’ll discuss my book Global Girlfriends and answer questions from Press Club member Pat Landaker.

When: Thursday July 28, 2011
Time: 11:30 am
Where: The Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place, Denver , CO
Cost: $16 per person for lunch (Roast chicken, veggies, potatoes, and salad)
Tickets On-Line: Buy Tickets Now

Stacey Edgar’s book, Global Girlfriends, from St. Martin’s Press is available now in bookstores nationwide. Stacey is also available as keynote speaker for public and private events – see Stacey’s professional speaker page here:

www.macmillanspeakers.com/staceyedgar

Book Signing Fundraiser for Friendship Bridge

Join me and volunteers for Friendship Bridge, a women’s micro-credit organization, in raising money for education and micro-loans for Guatemalan women. A portion of every book sold (mine & anything else in the store tonight) will go directly to Friendship Bridge!

When: Thursday May 19, 2011
Time: 7pm
Where: Barnes & Noble Denver West Village, 14347 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood, CO 80401, 303-215-9060

If you can’t make it you can still support Friendship Bridge by purchasing Global Girlfriends on-line at bn.com/bookfairs and entering ID # 10482768 http://tinyurl.com/253ok65

Mother The World

Take 10 minutes in honor of Mother’s Day to learn why we must mother all the children of the world living without their parents loving care. Watch Dan Balluff’s pre-trailer to his upcoming documentary Children of Zambia.