"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

14 September 2010

A Thing I Don't Like to Admit to Myself About Myself

 Often, I've found that when there is something I'm struggling with on the inside (about myself), the best thing is to tell someone. Not that I'm advocating marching around and loudly trumpeting your faults on the street corners and then proclaiming how Jesus SAVED you from your sinful self. I don't like it when people do that. I think mean thoughts, and then I have to struggle with that, too.


One of the things that I have to wrestle with - probably at least once a week - is materialism. I don't like to admit to myself, much less anyone else, that while living in America these past almost-ten (!) years, I've incorporated a great deal of consumerist mentality into my line of thinking. I was chatting with my good friend Rachel-in-Chicago-who-grew-up-in-Africa (I have to distinguish between all my Rachel friends) this morning about this very thing. We agreed that while we don't really fight the urge to shop for clothing - I very often walk around the store with an item, try it on, walk around with it some more, and then put it back - we do have to be conscious of not confusing our "wants" with our "needs," a mistake that is at the crux of the consumerist society we live in.

Take home decor shows, for example. I have found that I must be very deliberate about which shows I watch (on Hulu - we still do not have television channels and probably won't ever decide to get them) and how much of them I watch, because eventually, I have found myself falling into the mindset of "everything has to match or compliment everything else." I begin forgetting that I am tremendously fortunate to live in a safe and warm home, a blessing that the majority of the world doesn't have. I have running (hot!) water, a nice mattress, heat for the winter, a fan for the summer, and access to electricity to work those luxuries.

When it comes to baby gear, I've been facing the Materialism Monster yet again. I see other young moms post pictures of their baby-ready nurseries and they're picture-perfect, down to the paint on their walls and trim. Even the stuffed animals that oh-so-casually sit on top of the dresser match the animals on the crib decor and night lamp. The baby gear stores feed right into that with their "gear collections" where you can buy/register for all your decor for the nursery as a set - and boy, do they make a whole lot of things to go in that set! Not only that, but the crib has to match the changing table, which has to match the dresser, which has to match the rocker. The crib decor has to match the other accessories in the room, from the night light to the rug to the laundry hamper to the diaper stacker to the pretty quilt that baby will never use.

So this is how it goes in my head.
Excited Mommy: "Ooooh, I want that! And that's SO cute!"
Pragmatic, Practical Mommy: "Parents have been doing a great job raising their kids - maybe even a better job that our generation - without all this stuff!"
Prideful Mommy: "I don't want anyone judging me as a 'bad mom' for not getting all the right stuff."
Prideful Mommy #2: "Well, I don't CARE what they think! it's just stuff!"

We also live in an area of America where most people are not familiar with the developing world. Most of them have never left the country, much less lived in a foreign one for an extended period of time. Therefore, when I say that I don't know if I'll get *blank*, people laugh and say, "Just wait until the baby comes along and THEN you'll be glad you got that." But the thing is, my mom never let me watch a movie seven times in a row, and I turned out perfectly fine. So then I have a hard time distinguishing between good advice from experienced parents and advice I don't really need to take because they are from a different world than I am, especially when I'm reminded of God's bigger world through people like this and this, and books like this.

And then there are all the consumer reports, the advice from books and magazines, that warn against recalled cribs and carseats that are not up to current safety standards.

You see why I'm having such a hard time? And MY MOMMY ISN'T HERE TO HELP ME!


Seriously, though, it's a little overwhelming. And expensive. There was a lot I could do without for my wedding. I honestly feel like a lot of the wedding hype that is created by the marketing industry is a bit ridiculous. But this is my baby, and I'm having a harder time blowing things off. More than all the decor nonsense, it's the safety issues that really get to me. I want to be a good mom, and I want to be a responsible one. I just need to figure out how to do that without spending hundreds of dollars.

Nich and I were also saying recently that we were thankful that the Lord has given us just what we need, with a little extra to help others. We don't want to raise children who think they can just buy frivolous things on a whim any time they want. Having a husband who is gentle with me when I admit my selfish, materialistic longings and tells me he is glad for a wife who desires to live simply is very encouraging to me in my fight to do just that - live simply, without all the clutter of stuff. Furthermore, I want to live gratefully, making the most out of that with which we have been blessed.

So I'll keep fighting my small inner battles and remind myself that, no matter what we do and don't get for the baby and his nursery, I - and this baby - are already so rich in the things that matter most.

Oh, and by the way, what I said at the beginning of this post? I usually tell Nich. And a good girl friend or two. People who KNOW  (connaitre not savoir) me. If I'm feeling unusually sheepish about whatever it is, I tell Jesus about it. This all is part of the process of being set straight.


  1. Go Hannah Go! Most of the stuff people told me I would be SO GLAD I had once the baby came I never used. Receiving blankets? Yes, you can have too many. Swing? That stupid thing took up soooo much space! Up to date car seat? Probably a good idea. (Speaking of which I can hook you up if you're interested, a friend is trying to get rid of hers.) Anyway, oops, I'm not trying to add yet another set of advice to sort through, just want to tell you that you're not alone!

  2. ahhh! i so feel you on the whole baby "stuff" issue! i have people telling me i need this and this and that... REALLY? i NEED those things? i'm fortunate to have a sister-in-law who is about to move their 4th child into a toddler bed so she is giving us their crib & changing table. i have no idea what they look like, but i know they're safe and warm and soft and they're going to work just fine for my baby (and his/her future siblings)! and i've also been fortunate to have a lot of friend loan me items like a swing and bouncy seat so i don't have to permanently have them taking up all the space in my house.

    i don't know if you have a lot of consignment sales near you, but there have been a couple of big ones here. i got a baby monitor for $5! and a whole crib set (bumper, quilt, sheets, etc) for $30! those sales have been a huge help for me to not feel "sucked in" like at babies 'r us or other stores that have so much STUFF!

    you're gonna be a great mom! God will give you the discernment you need to be a wonderful mom!