I don’t know if it’s because I’m turning 30 this year, or because my son is getting older and I’m getting some time back in my life, but I have been looking deeply at a lot of areas of my life. While I may not have a “before I turn 30” bucket list like I’ve seen from a number of people, I do want to begin this new decade of my life with intention.
I’ve identified as Christian my entire life, attending church with friends in high school when my family stopped going regularly, but I’ve struggled with the church and a lot of what is done in the name of Christianity. I went to a liberal elementary school, a more liberal high school, and a very crunchy liberal arts university in Oregon, and I voted for both Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton, though I may not ageee with all of their policies. And I uncomfortably identify myself as Christian around very liberal friends, usually with a caveat that I’m very much nondenominational and I believe in Jesus and doing good. As an adult, I find myself drifting in and out of regular church attendance and generally frustrated overall with how most Christians act these days. I’m now back to semi-regular church attendance right now, meaning I may go for two or three weeks in a row and then take a month off.
For the first time though, I’m reading more to do with Christianity than I have in my entire life. Thanks to the college friends I still connect with occasionally on Facebook, I stumbled upon Rachel Held Evans and her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master’ where she dissects the Bible’s commands and tries to “live Biblically” to the letter while running commentary through her more progressive worldview. She speaks out publically for “the least of those,” and honestly tells of her struggles with faith. She’s also hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud while I read her book. I’ve since read all of her other books and haven’t been disappointed. Reading her thoughts made me realize that maybe there are more awesome Christians out there than those I know personally that seemed to be anomalies.
From Rachel Held Evans, I continued on and found Jen Hatmaker. I finished reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and it was exactly what I’ve been searching for. She writes about reducing consumption, caring for the earth, and loving people in the best way possible. In seven consecutive months, she takles food, clothes, things, media, environment and waste, spending, and busyness by severely limiting each. In month one, she eats just seven foods in order to clear space and to acknowledge how much of the world consumes so much less than what we’re used to.
In her book, she also writes about Kiva*, a microlending nonprofit agency.
From their website:
“Kiva is an international nonprofit, founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. We celebrate and support people looking to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.”
I’ve heard bits and pieces about microlending for at least a decade, but I never pursued it. Giving is something I’ve never put down in writing as a goal, and because of that, it doesn’t happen near as often as I think it should. Between reading Jen Hatmaker and a Rachel Held Evans in between financial independence blogs and forums, taking care of others seemed to be glaringly absent from most discussions about personal finance. Those of us fortunate enough to be chasing financial independence are so far ahead of most of the world, and most even in our own country. While there is certainly choice involved, here are many, many people whose circumstances aren’t anywhere near enviable. There is a definite privilege in chasing the idea of early retirement and financial independence that tends to get ignored. The more I spend and save with intention, the more I am drawn to also making sure that we don’t forget “the least of these.” Year end goal #6: be intentional about charitable giving is about being cognizant of how good our situation in life is and how even a little can make a huge difference in the lives of others.
The sermon at church last week was about the intention – action gap in our lives. I’m definitely guilty of this as the next person. My life and time is so filled up with things and busyness that I have a whole laundry list of good things I’ll look into someday. The difference between hearing about a food pantry that needs supplies to actually dropping off a trunkload of food. Going forward with intention means making the space in my life, and my pocketbook, for important things outside of the scope of my little world.
I made my first micro loan today through http://www.Kiva.org to a farmer in Central America. $75 might not make a huge dent in my personal finance goals, but it will make a real difference in his and his family’s lives. Being intentional with my money means I can make sure that $75 goes toward a positive cause instead of in $5 and $10 coffee shop visits.
*Kiva loans do not pay out interest to individuals, so this is really a “donation,” not a money making opportunity.