I’m sick of stuff

Posted February 15, 2014 by transfarmer
Categories: Uncategorized

Today my friend Judy linked to this post where a lady decided not to buy ANYTHING for her two year old son. No toys, no clothes, no activities, no playgroups, no pre-made kiddy food/snacks, no special baby shampoo or toothpaste.  She is six months in and it seems that neither she nor her two year old is regretting it. Fair play to her.

The question of consumerism is often in our house. I am married to a man who is wearing the same clothes since he was 15. Yes they do have holes. He’s just become stubborn about it at this stage but there’s something good in there about resisting pressure to own the latest trends.  Every purchase for our home comes with an hour long conversation not so much about whether or not we can afford it (which is now more real than ever) but whether or not it is a good use of our money, if we need it? We question everything.

But now we have a baby, and have realised that even when we make decisions about his life he still has friends and aunts and uncles and grannies that might not think likewise.

This troubled me at Christmas. He was 6 months old. He was oblivious so it was easy. I felt strongly that I want him to grow up associating Christmas with ‘God with us’ more than the newest toy fad. I made him a sock monkey and put it in his stocking. We went to church, listened to Kevin Hargaden preach, cried because his words cut and blessed our hearts, Eoin got kisses and hugs galore. These people are his family. And yet by the time Christmas was over we came home from visiting family and friends with more toys than he could visually digest. Whilst I was touched by others generousity I felt slightly sickened that even though we had purposely chosen not to buy him lots of toys at Christmas he still has a room full of them.

But its not just about trying to restore the meaning of Christmas… It’s about trying to help him be someone who grows up not numbed because he is surrounded by too much stuff. How do we protect him from the stuff?! How do we protect ourselves? I’m already numbed by a hundred and one things, facebook scoring highly.

I do not like negotiating these paths, all advice welcome.

I would like to do better at healthier living. I would like to be able to concentrate on a book again. I would like not to be addicted to screens.

Developing virtue and character in this world is hard.


Out of control

Posted January 15, 2014 by transfarmer
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m almost certain that Stanley Hauerwas wrote something about the need to live life out of control. I’m almost certain that he says that nothing makes us feel more out of control than having a child.  I cannot locate either of these thoughts but I’m sure Kevin hargaden will be able to if they exist. 

I have never been more bad tempered than in these last few months.  I dried and put away a saucepan so furiously that I broke the ‘soft close’ mechanism on the kitchen drawer.  I have scowled and cussed at my husband and child, (yes that cute baby).  Rage has surged up within me as unexpectedly as vomit.  I am more than a grump.

I’ve been reflecting on this a lot. Trying to understand and control my emotions. And what has recurrently come to mind is the thought of control, or lack of it.  In the past 4 months we have moved house and all our belongings twice, the first time we didn’t unpack because it was temporary and so we recycled 4 bowls and mugs for 2 months.  The second move was into a house that we have bought with a mortgage that will take us till our old age to repay. The house was a mess – we called it a “project”. The first move happened with a 3 month old, the second with a 5 month old. I am not in control.

Then there was weaning – I started back to my studies and discovered that our child preferred to starve himself for seven hours rather than drink from a bottle. For 3 months we tried daily and failed. On the days I was away from him I would be wracked with guilt and worry. I am not in control. And then there’s the fact that he feeds 3 times a night and people look at me horrified at such lack of discipline. Then he doesn’t always go for his naps when he’s supposed to and more often than not he will not ‘go to sleep on his own’. Then I make him some supposedly healthy recipe and he’d rather not eat it. …these moments when I can’t get my child to do what I want him to do make me feel more out of control than almost anything else. And it’s so daily. 

It all makes me mad.  So mad. I am not in control. I wouldn’t mind so much but the onlookers make me panic and feel like a failure. And I am my own greatest onlooker.

I am most angry when I am least in control.  And nothing has made me feel less in control of my life than loving my husband and child. I cannot control what they do and I cannot control what happens to them. 

I get cross when life acts independently of me. At least when a peer acts independently of me I can have a shot at manipulation, but that little 7 month old just doesn’t give a damn.

So maybe this confession is the beginning of my repentance. Something about not demanding it all be my way I suppose. Something about me not trying to be God in my life or anyone else’s.  I guess submitting to living life out of control is an act of humility (something I greatly lack these days).

Here’s to stopping fighting for the myth of control.

Here’s to submitting to living life ‘out of control’.

The gospel is true but we still need help

Posted January 9, 2014 by transfarmer
Categories: Uncategorized

I am very thankful for my experiences with other Christians, especially the ones who helped me understand the gospel a bit more. Stuff like I am loved by God, I’m forgiven, made new in Christ, a daughter not an orphan and so on. This all felt so alive, so eye opening that I became emersed in it. In some ways this was good, but in some ways it led me to a place where I’d sort of use these kind of aspects of the gospel to combat all of life’s problems, mine and yours.  I’d think that if I would just believe the gospel better, believe that I was precious and valued by God that this would set me free from my deep insecurities and self hatred.  If I could just believe the gospel then I’d live without fear of what others think of me.  If I could just believe how loved I am by God I would not feel the weight of depression lurking or so needy for the love of others. I’d tell you these things too over coffee. I’d say “you are so loved by God” and I’d so passionately mean it (and still do!) But I’m starting to think that I’d be less likely to say that to you today, less likely to say it to myself. Not because I believe it any less but because I’m starting to feel like maybe the truths of the gospel were not meant to be used to bat away all depression or whatever.  (But then there’s that bit about faith being a shield that extinguishes the flaming arrows of the devil or something but let me ignore that for a minute until I get to the end of my heretical thought).

I think I feel like when Christians respond to someone’s mental and psychological suffering with gospel phrases it sort of shortcuts a process of healing.  It’s not that I don’t believe these things and it’s not that these things have not transformed who I am and how I approach life, but knowing that God loves me and believing that and enjoying that does not negate my need to face the painful parts of my own story. Face the parts that have contributed to the fact that I feel like I’m stupid or not enough or too much to handle.  I think when we go on those journeys God goes with us but I don’t think he short cuts them. 

Why I quit blogging and why I may begin again…

Posted January 4, 2014 by transfarmer
Categories: Uncategorized

I used to post on this blog fairly regularly but for the past couple of years it has been mostly silent.  I’d love to make excuses of house moves, job changes, studies, baby arrival, marriage commitments blah, blah, blah… but the truth is I stopped blogging because I realised I’m a jerk when I blog.  Many of not most of my previous posts have been angry, sarcastic, mocking rants that do not invite approach from people who disagree with me.  In one such post my words and judgements had been crushing to another person.  And I couldn’t undo it.  I know that I’m not responsible for everyones response and it’s the internet and things can be misunderstood etc etc.  But I sort of got to a point where I didn’t want to be that critical and I didn’t know how to go on a blog rant without mocking so I just stopped.

But over the past few days Jayber has been beating the blog drum.  He’s going to think that he is responsible for my return but he’s not (ok he is a little bit) but mostly it’s because I found a blog I really love.  weefrizz. I love it.  Reading it has made me itchy to engage again, to write again, to think again, reflect.  Reading it made me miss Espero and Jaybercrow but rumour has it they may return again too.

Today Espero asked a question “how do we live lives of adventure again?” and I hate her for asking that question because it reminds me how afraid I am as a person.  And how comfortable I have become with being ‘safe’.  Maybe beginning this blog again is my move out of safety.  I have to risk the fact that sometimes I’m too much with my ranty gub and sometimes that gub hurts others and maybe I have to risk that rather than never speaking again.  (I will try to be more sensitive though!)

There is also that feeling that I have nothing to write about these days because my life is all about dreaming about how many more minutes my child might sleep before waking AGAIN and how the F* I get him to drink from something other than my boob and if I have broken him by letting him roll off the sofa TWICE under my watch and well, you get the idea.  But as a wise man said “don’t knock the trivial – life is a series of repetitive tasks” and that sentence has given me an unusual freedom to join the blogging world again.

So I’m in!

wear it out

Posted April 6, 2012 by transfarmer
Categories: Uncategorized

Wear it out‘ is a campaign directed at teenagers that I discovered a couple of days ago.  The idea is that instead of buying new clothes you put on the clothes you have and ‘wear them out’ (it says this nowhere in the literature but I assume the premis from the title).  The pledge is that you would abstain from buying any new clothes for 3 months.

It caught my eye (since i’m a youth worker and since I think I buy too much stuff too often) and so I clicked onto the link with the thought that probably I would post this link on the website for our youth group.

It’s a well laid out clear website with a lot of resources that seem helpful and challenging.

But a few things put me off a bit:

1) a website that is trying to get people to die to fashion has more pictures of fashionable, trendy hipster young people than a kays catalogue (does that still exist?).  It felt like I was being drawn into the campaign because it would be ‘fashionable’ to do so.

2) When I saw the ‘registration fee’ (£35 or £15) I thought huh? I wonder why encouraging people not to buy stuff would cost money or why it would require a registration at all?  And then I thought ‘ah well I guess printing flyers and advertising the campaign in the Presbyterian Herald costs money’ but then I kept reading and realised that actually my money is used to get me a ‘fashion fix’ at the end of the three months.

Now you can imagine my joy (aka disgust) when I discovered that the ‘fashion fix’ was either a T-shirt (£15 registration fee) OR wait for it… a pair of Tom’s (don’t get me started) shoes (£35 registration fee).

Suddenly I began to wonder if this was a holy campaign or an advertising campaign for Tom aka Blake.

The famous Tom’s shoes ‘barefoot walk’ takes place in Northern Ireland next week and they are hoping for over 3000 people to break the world record.  This is part of the ‘wear it out’ campaign.

Look, the bottom line is I think it would be a great thing for people and for the world if we didn’t buy new clothes that we don’t need.  I think it would be a great thing for those people and for the world if they gave the money that they would have spent on clothes away.  These are two great challenges from the ‘wear it out’ campaign.  But it just feels to me that in an attempt to help teenagers (and I don’t understand why not also adults) think more deeply and well about how we spend our money and what our addiction to fashion and our slavery to advertising and consumption does to us and people across the world they have sold out to exactly that.

We need to be people who radically change how we live and how we spend our money.  We need to be challenged on our felt need for a ‘fashion fix’ as if we somehow deserve it.  We do not need that desire to be fed, we need it to be obliterated.

Don’t throw a stone-y at Kony

Posted March 8, 2012 by transfarmer
Categories: Uncategorized

Last night I watched that Kony video.  Today husband man told me someone had written a great response to it and so instead of ranting here I could just link to it… turns out that response seems to have been taken off the net which I am sad about because I didn’t even get the chance to read it.

Now, here’s my problem… how does one be cynical about a film that seeks to help rescue child soldiers?  This is awkward but hear me out.

Soldiers exist. Some soldiers did not want to be soldiers.  Some soldiers are young. Some soldiers are old.  When I was a student the first time around I worked for a year with a wonderful professor whose life’s work was about conflict studies.  I distinctly remember reading psychology papers that told stories of children kidnapped into an army, and forced at gunpoint to shoot another human being.  I read other things in that paper which I don’t want to write about right now because the realities are simply horrific.  But all I am trying to say at this point is that yes horrible things are going on in this world and I do not doubt that.  I think we should care and I think we should act.  But I’m not sure the ‘kony 2012’ campaign is the answer.

I kind of hated the film.  I mean, it was a good film, well made, evocative, clear, but I haven’t seen such emotional manipulation and white (dare i say American) arrogance for a while.  20 mins into the film you read these words “…Kony now knows of the United States plan to stop the LRA and he is going to change tactics to avoid capture, NOW THAT THE GREAT POWER IS AFTER HIM.” (emphasis may be mine).  Oh America if only we’d known about you earlier you could have saved so many lives…oh wait…who owns that Army in Iraq again?…

Anyway, I didn’t much care for the ‘wire investigation room scene’ either, where cute blonde kid faces the reality of ‘the evil one’.  I’m so glad that we finally know the source of the problem.  This Kony guy in the picture. The source of all the great evils contained in this one guy.  Super, all we have to do is catch him and nothing bad will ever happen again (I used to think that when they caught Stringer Bell there’d be no more drugs in Baltimore – turns out there was more than one bad guy in the wire too.) Kony bad / Joseph good is a little too simplistic don’t you think?

I’m not trying to be flippent but is it not a serious problem when we project all the evil into just one man and make him the world’s enemy so that we can feel like the good guys and the hero’s who save the day?  I really do hope Kony stops being a man who kidnaps and tortures people.  But I also really do hope that we become a world who recognise that oppression and pain are caused by us not just Kony.  Also what ever happened to loving our enemy?

My final bone with this campaign is basically that yet again I’ve been offered the opportunity to change the world by buying stuff.

Also this whole idea of targeting the rich and the famous and the beautiful and the popular so as to get a huge following… well it sounds a bit familiar to me that is all.

A much more gracious person than me wrote “we need to find effective ways to help the poor and needy and to end moral horrors such as the use of child soldiers, people trafficking etc. but it might take a little bit more work than a RT.” go check out the full post here.

ps i’m in a bad mood tonight so forgive me for my complete negativity, i’ll work on it.  I’ll buy myself a t-shirt.

knowing and Knowing

Posted December 18, 2011 by transfarmer
Categories: Uncategorized

Growing up in a rural village in N.Ireland it was common that ministers who came to town as a guest preacher used a particular phrase (they obviously assumed we’d never heard before and they obviously thought would waow us). The phrase was this…”you may know much about someone but that’s not the same as knowing them” for example they’d say…”I could tell you many things about Ryan Gigs (evidence of cultural connection) but I don’t know him. And in the same way you may know much about God without knowing him. 

But I was thinking about this phrase the other day and it occurred to me that when you do know someone the opposite is true. In-other-words, the more I know about my husband the more I know him. My intellectual knowing of him feeds my (experiential?) knowing. In this case knowing about someone is inextricable from knowing them.

Knowing about God helps us to know him more.  We need to never stop knowing with our minds.  

Thinking about this has also now made me suspicious of the origional premise. If one kind of knowing leads to the other in one case then I’m pretty sure it must do so in all cases… 

Perhaps knowing about someone doesn’t make you any more likely to meet them but if you did meet them you’d certainly know them better than if you met them without knowing anything about them.  

…yes that’s right.