Book Review: Loaded: Money and the Spirituality of Enough

When I volunteered to read and review Heather King’s Loaded: Money and the Spirituality of Enough, I did not quite know what the book would be about. Money, obviously. And perhaps something about a Catholic approach to living simply, the beatitudes, or Jesus’ teachings on not worrying about shoring up material possessions.

Loaded. Book Review from Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.comAnd yes, all these things were mentioned in the book. However, King’s work is about so much more than that. It is about our relationship with money and how, for many people, that relationship can be somewhat to severely unhealthy and even debilitating. King explores her own rocky relationship with money throughout the book, sharing stories from her life as well as those of others, and experiences of severe underearning, unrealistic expectations and an unhealthy fixation with income. At the start of the book, she describes herself and her situation this way:

My bottom came in the acknowledgement that the way I lived invited me to be “brave” in some ways that were foolhardy, and in other ways not to be brave at all. My primary goal had become not to give all of my gifts but rather to conserve all of my money” (23).

King walks through her steps to recovery in a straightforward, sit-you-down-and-stare-you-in-the-eyes kind of way. You can feel her talking to you, even if you don’t share her same exact struggles. At the end of each section she offers actions and tools to help you work through that portion of the book and the recovery process.

My biggest takeaway by far doesn’t necessarily have to do with money, though that is one of the overarching themes. Rather, I was moved by King’s honesty regarding how we can hoard our gifts the same way we can hoard money, sweaters or collectables. We all have been put in this world with something(s) to give. King observes: “I might not have owed anyone a penny. But I was taking more out of the world than I was putting in. That’s a form of debt: not only to others, but to ourselves” (27).

Loaded is about far more than money, though many lessons can and should be gleaned from it regarding a healthy relationship with both earning and spending money. Loaded is a passionate text which implores the reader to look deeply into their life to discover their inherent self-worth, their capacity for generosity and their God-given dignity as a human person.Daily Graces.

The Weed-Wacker Teaches Me to be a Steward

The yard is Ben’s job. He’s the lawnmower guy, weed wacker expert, and general yard king. He was able to take our yard which was mainly weeds, rocks, and dirt – basically low on grass and high on skinned knees. He tore it up and loved it back to life. We have a great backyard now where our kids can play safely and our dog can run around, free to bark at any shadows that may threaten the realm (he is an 18 pound dog that believes he is capable of taking down a German Shepherd).

But, when Ben is gone, the yard falls to me. I’ll freely admit, and Ben knows this, I am not as attentive as he is to the yard. I always mean well when he is away. I promise to keep up with the watering. I swear that this time I really will mow more than once while he is gone for a long trip or deployment. This time, this time I will gather enough courage to use the weed wacker.

I don’t know what it is about the weed wacker that scares me. Probably the noise. It’s not a tool I spent any time with growing up. The yard was not on my list of chores. I can garden and weed by hand quite well. But hand me the power tool and I freeze up a bit. Ben has shown me how to use it and he is so patient with me. But I still avoid it.

How do I mow the lawn then, you may ask, if I am hesitant around a weed wacker? We have a push mower. No noise, no gasoline, no tugging or revving. You just push it from one place to another and the grass is mowed. Easy peasy. Why can’t they make weed wacker’s like that?

Ben was about about to come home, just a couple days away. After all my promises, you would think that the yard would be in great shape. Of course, it wasn’t. Actually, it was terrible. I should have taken a picture to show you just how bad it was. The weeds were high, to the point that when I tried to mow with the push mower they just would lay down and then pop back up. I knew that the only way to beat them back was with the weed wacker (and hind sight telling me that if I had actually kept my promises they never would have gotten out of hand in the first place.)

But I am a procrastinator. It’s one of my fault that I’ll own. I can find an excuse to get around anything I don’t want to do. Some people choose to do the unpleasant or difficult task first to get it done and out of the way when they are energized and motivated. More often than not (I am working on this and am getting better….slowly), i channel all that energy into many other productive things, convincing myself that these are just as important and should be taken care of first. Then, by the time all the other projects are done, I have no time, energy or opportunity to do what I really had to do.

And so there I was, just me and the weed wacker and a window of opportunity. Clare had just fallen asleep and since she usually only sleeps for 20-30 minutes during the day – she’s a terrible napper – I knew it was a small window.  I managed to convince John and Rosie to play in the backyard. I was so focused on those tall weeds that I actually did a lot of things out of order. I didn’t pick up after Max (another one of those neglected tasks since the kids had been playing mainly out front with some new neighbor friends). And crime above all, I didn’t actually mow before starting to use the weed wacker! I know, for all you lawn people, this is a rather ridiculous proposition. But like I said, I was so driven to conquer my task that logic was kind of on the back burner.

I got the weed wacker started. I even remembered which way all the stuff was going to shoot out and tried to stay going in the right direction. Of course, this couldn’t be simple and easy. Less than five minutes in a 5 inch length of wire shot out of the bottom – the weed wacker had reached the end of its cord. Excellent. If I was uncomfortable with a weed wacker to the point of avoiding it at most costs, I certainly had no idea how to change out the cord. I am almost thankful that I knew I had such a short window to get this task done. It meant I didn’t have time to stamp my feet and come up with reasons to not figure out this hiccup. Instead, I flipped it over and figured it out. Thankfully, my ever thoughtful and prepared husband had a new cord waiting in the yard closet.

The task did get done and what a wonderful feeling to look out over the yard and see that it wasn’t a forest of weeds anymore. I always have a feeling of accomplishment and pride when I manage to finish a task that I was not looking forward to doing, especially when it is something around the house.

So, you may be wondering why I’m telling you about my trials with the weed wacker. As I was wacking those weeds, I was thinking about my husband’s love of the yard. It made me think about how God charged Adam to cultivate, till and care for the earth. We were designed with the care of the earth in mind. I was somewhat ashamed at my lack of drive to take care of our yard. I know that God isn’t calling me to forsake my kids dinner so that I can individually pick each weed out of our lawn, there are priorities in our lives. But, maybe the yard – and by extension our home (cleaning is another cause for procrastination for me. I’m probably procrastinating cleaning something as I write this and am doing it again as you read it), should occupy more space in my priority list.

Everything given to us is a gift from God and we are supposed to take care of it. We are stewards, we are not owners. A steward manages the owners property or goods. She is accountable for how she uses them and is rewarded for a job well done. I have been given this beautiful family, a beautiful home with a fantastic backyard and a loving husband. I am responsible for helping each flourish and will be held accountable for how well I serve them. My reward is the smile on my kids faces when I was done with the weed wacker. They weren’t necessarily smiles because I had conquered the weed wacker (John had his hands over his ears the whole time because of the noise), but I’ll choose to think they were anyway.