Embracing Cloth: Living a Less Disposable Life

We have recently made the decision to switch to cloth napkins. This is following a more conscious effort to create less waste in our home. Instead of reaching for paper towels, we reach for dish towels, Swedish dishcloths or cloth napkins. There are many reasons why people make this kind of choice. Environmental awareness, scientific knowledge, smaller footprint, cost savings, etc. These are important factors, to be sure. However, they aren’t our primary motivator.

Linguists know, and so do we all deep down, that the words we use shape the way we think about the world. Something as simple and basic as changing a single word or phrase in a sentence can give us a fresh perspective on any number of perceived divisions, attitudes and injustices. For example: “These people are different than I am” or “These people are similar to me.” Or the classic Catholic example, “We have to go to Mass” versus “We get to go to Mass.”

The little things can make all the difference. After watching the Netflix show Cooked Ben and I have been talking a lot about how “disposabley” minded our American culture has become. Worldwide, roughly 140,000 disposable plates and cups are thrown away every second! In one year, approximately 73 billion Styrofoam plates and cups were disposed of in the US alone. Combine this conversation with our subscription to a website called MightyNest which offers sustainable products designed to encourage people to create less harmful (primarily plastic) waste and we landed at our dinner table. Specifically our napkin holder with its ever-emptying supply of paper napkins.

Now that Eliza is capable of getting up on the table unassisted (not at the table, on the table – literally), our napkin usage has skyrocketed. John, Rosie and Clare also tend to revile dirty fingers so you can quickly see that in a single day we could easily burn through 15 or more paper napkins. Most meals included at least one if not multiple napkins per kid, and not because the napkin was unusable. It was just more convenient to grab a new one. Ridiculous! We had created napkin monsters!

Maybe this isn’t a big deal in your house, and that’s awesome! But for us, we have chosen to see this tendency as a foundational building block for a less disposabley-minded life (I know, I totally made that word up but I like it).

IMG-2135

Just like we are taught from the earliest ages that it is polite to say “Yes, please” and “No, thank you,” shouldn’t we be taught to be mindful of the things we use? Humans were placed on the earth not to use it or abuse it, but to be good stewards of it (see Genesis 1-2). In this way, we are helping our children (and ourselves) to be good stewards of something small, a simple napkin. But, hopefully, it will help to form their conscience in a way so that when they are called upon to be stewards of something larger, they already have a good habit pattern to follow.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

What We Leave Behind

There is a brief story in the Acts of the Apostles about a woman named Tabitha (which is translated as Dorcas within the text). Luke, the author of Acts, recounts how Peter was visiting a community at Joppa and on that occasion one of their number, Tabitha, fell ill and died. When Luke introduces Tabitha, he paints a vivid picture of who she was with just a few words.

She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving.

Completely occupied. I am so challenged by this phrase, especially given my penchant for bouncing from one thing to the next. Right now I’m re-reading the Harry Potter series, because in a few months Ben and I are going on a belated honeymoon (yay!) to London, among other places. The books have, if I may borrow the phrase, completely occupied my brain! I have the books open on the counter, I even made a little book weight out of duct tape and pennies so that I wouldn’t have to hassle with opening the book when I have a spare moment to read a few lines. The problem, of course, is self control. Reading beats dusting and dishes any day.

After Tabitha died, the other widows and members of the community bring to Peter the tunics and cloaks she had made for them while she was alive. This is even more indicative of the kind of person Tabitha was. She didn’t just think about good works, she did them. She poured her labors and efforts into those cloaks so much so that they became treasured possessions of those who remained.

Reflecting on Tabitha has been slowly unhooking my mind from those things that keep it from being fully occupied with Christ. Is reading for myself a good thing? Yes, of course! Is it a good thing if it becomes my excuse to neglect my chores or to be short tempered with my children because I didn’t get to finish my chapter.

It comes down to living more purposefully in the present moment. God has gifted me with this day, this moment. How am I going to best use it to bring Him praise and love? Unintentionally, the spot in the kitchen I chose to keep my book happens to be right below an icon of the Blessed Mother I have. I didn’t notice when I started keeping my books there, it was just a convenient spot. Looking back, I can hear God chuckling at me, knowing this process of growth I would be going through under the watchful eye of my little Mother, not realizing until later she was guiding me all along.

IMG-2099

Just as Tabitha gave all of herself to her community, Mary too was “completely occupied” with doing the will of God. Mary teaches us to “ponder these things in our hearts.” The day to day, the big and the small, the joy and the sorrow.

Now, when I go to read and find myself quickly pulled away by the needs of another, I look up at the icon and do my best to thank Mary for the opportunity to read, and the opportunity to serve. I hope that this model of a mother who strives to care for herself as well as others is one that sticks with my children. I want them to grow up recognizing that a life lived in service is a life well lived.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Only For Today

Happy New Year! I know it’s a common thing to say, but wow did 2017 go by fast! We had a busy year, new assignment, new house, new baby, new friends and so many memories. While 2017 seemed to be a year of newness for our family, I’m hoping 2018 is more of a year of settling. We are settling into Ben’s job, being a family of 6, homeschooling 3 kids, and finding our favorite spots around Del Rio.

A big part of New Years time is always the topic of resolutions and goal setting. For the past year I’ve been trying hard to stay on top of my planner. Using a paper planner has been a game changer for me as many of you know. It has changed the way I clean, the way we are organized and lowered my stress level (most days at least). It has made me realize just how much I was trying keep track of in my brain and how unrealistic my expectations were. It has also made me more accountable, both to myself and my own goals and to my family. I have found so much freedom within the structure of organization.

I’ve noticed how the planner has helped me break down tasks so they aren’t so overwhelming. This is especially true when it comes to cleaning. By creating a routine of cleaning different areas of our home each day I can happily look around a relatively clean home. I am also less stressed about the areas that are less than clean because I know that I will be working on them in the near future. It’s written down, so I know I won’t forget. And it’s written down so that I can cross if off when it’s accomplished. The work isn’t as intimidating since it is broken up into smaller, realistic pieces.

A few months ago I introduced you to The Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII when I offered my Advent Lectio Divina Journal. I mentioned how I hoped to look at each of the points in the Decalogue and decided to kick off the new year with another excellent point.

Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.

Friends, I don’t think there could be a better New Years resolution for me. My planner has opened my eyes to how much time I truly have and is slowly helping me to use that time well. Before a daily plan for myself, I floundered. Things got done of course, but hastiness and indecision ruled. Now, most days at least have a plan, an order, a structure. I don’t always get everything done, but I have a clearer vision of what actually needs doing.

A recent addition to my planning is a simple sheet of paper which I laminated so I can use dry erase markers on it. It says “Only for Today” at the top and is inspired by the Decalogue point above. It has space for 3 kinds of tasks: “must do”, “want to do” and “like to do”. I only allowed myself space for 2 “must do-s”. 3 for “want to do” and 5 “like to do.”

It was so hard to limit myself to only 2 “must do-s” but as I was building the worksheet I kept the words of Pope John XXIII in the forefront. In order to guard against hastiness and indecision I had to be methodical and decisive. Those “must do-s” really need to be concrete and achievable. They must happen today. The “want to do-s” are things that I want to happen soon, meaning if they don’t get done in 2-3 days they get bumped up to a “must-do.” The “like to do-s” are the most broad and are usually where I put bigger goals that may need to be chunked into smaller pieces. I also will put a craft goal here as a motivator to get those “must do-s” done. Remember, priorities.

I love this simple exercise. It is training me to prioritize my time and helps me hone in on the essentials of the day. It’s so awesome to see how a small change can yield some pretty incredible fruit.

If this kind of small change sounds like one you would like to try, here is the FREE pdf printable!

I hope you each have joy and peace awaiting you in this new year. Happy 2018!