Smile, it’s amazon

Confession: One of the things I have shifted toward a lot in the last two years is buying online. My husband makes so many purchases for his business that it’s decidedly worth it for us to pay for Amazon Prime – which includes free two-day shipping on countless items.

I have many friends who shop this way too.

Our family recently had a complex argument about whether it was more fuel-and-energy efficient to buy online or in stores. (This was after I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Kingsolver, and was thinking more about the energy costs associated with getting things to my house.) Our argument went something like this:

  1. You save gas if you stay home.
  2. But someone has to deliver the items to your house. Same diff, right?
  3. But if he didn’t deliver them to your house, he would deliver them to the stores, right? And then you would go get them – twice the gas.
  4. But he is bringing them to you in small sets, as often as once a day, not with boxes and boxes at a time like an efficient shopping run (you) or a big store delivery (them).
  5. But he is making his round of deliveries around town anyway, and you are on the way.
  6. But seriously – stopping at every house to make individual deliveries?

Okay, I’m convinced. I think it is less energy efficient to have everyone stay home while several trucks run around town delivering things. No wait. That sounds like a GOOD plan. Gaaahhhhh! Meanwhile my husband and my oldest son, who are both smarter than I, are convinced that the difference is either negligible or in favor of home delivery. I hate when they do that.

What do you think?

Alternately, we could do both – run around town making errands and sit at home shopping online.

Yeah, that would work. Efficiency shmiciency.

Okay, I am sorry to disappoint you but that is not the point of this post. That whole discussion was a bunny trail from my real point, which was this:

What I’m about to say may be old hat to you, but I must be sure. Did you know that when you make purchases on, you can make them via Amazon Smile, which donates money to a nonprofit of your choice? The nonprofit must be registered with Amazon Smile, but you can then choose it from a list of charities, schools, and other organizations. My choice is Faith Builders Educational Programs, which runs the Christian day school my children attend. That means every time I make a purchase, a small percentage of my total is earmarked as a donation and given to them. It’s not a lot, about half a percent, but it adds up when many people do it.


The nice thing is that it’s not a different store, or a different way of shopping. It’s just a different way of accessing the Amazon site. I have Amazon Smile pinned to the taskbar of my computer, so each time I open Amazon I’m already set to go, and all my purchases count. I don’t have to do anything extra.

And no, I do not make ADDITIONAL purchases just to donate. I’m not that stupid, er, devoted, or whatever you want to call it.

In a nutshell, if you’re an Amazon shopper, please check into it. There are many good places registered there, such as Fair Play Camp School, Bald Eagle Boys Camp, Christian Aid Ministries, Amish Mennonite Aid, Samaritan’s Purse, Open Hands, crisis pregnancy centers, and many more. If you don’t already have a non-profit of choice, you are cordially invited to pick Faith Builders as well. We would not mind.

Good hunting,


PS – Unfortunately, no one is paying me for this pitch.

The Time Keeper PMM

Or, “The Time Keeper: Post-Market Modifications and Other Digressions.”


I really love my Time Keeper.

There are two things I do to make it even more user-friendly for me. I suppose I could suggest these to its creator, but they seem like the kind of thing not everyone would like.

1. I snip the corners as I go, so I can easily find my place.

time keeper 4

time keeper 3

2. And I create a little envelope for my Aldi quarter, and glue it inside the front flyleaf.

time keeper

time keeper  2

You have no idea how hard it is for me to keep an Aldi quarter on hand.

Those of you who shop at Aldi know this: you have to put a quarter in the cart before you take it, your little pledge to return the cart (and reclaim your quarter) so as not leave it out in the parking lot. They are uber-smart, these German grocers. I’ve been watching and researching their business policies, and I have to say I’m impressed. But I digress.

You would think it would be easy to keep a quarter tucked in the van for such a time as this. You would think.

But you would be wrong.

In fact a quarter is often in demand, for parking meters in town or for slot machines that dispense candy to children who have been good while shopping. (Did I say that out loud?) The quarter grows wings.

For a long time, God and I had a little game going in which I forgot my Aldi quarter and He came up with creative ways to supply it. This amused and inspired me for a long time, until I thought how irresponsible I was being and started carrying one with me.

Often, a stranger would offer me a cart and then say “Just take it! I don’t want your quarter.” (Not that I had one.) Or I’d find a cart outside the store without an owner, just sitting there waiting. Once I had a dollar bill with me, and changed it at the cash register. (If you knew how seldom I carry cash you would appreciate this more.)

Once I was driving to town and God nudged me in the middle of me thinkingaboutsomethingelse.

How about that Aldi quarter?

Oh NOO, I’d forgotten again!

This one’s going to be good, He said.

And it was. When I pulled into the lot, a lady was up fumbling with her cart near the other carts. By the time I got out of my van and approached her, she was ramming her cart into the other carts, shoving and shoving. She said, “I can’t get it to go in. Do you want to take it? I don’t want your quarter.”

I said “Yes! Thank you!”

And then I looked underneath. There was a large cardboard box getting smooshed between her cart and the next one.

Yes, I laughed out loud.

But it also made me feel kind of like a taker, especially after I witnessed The String Cheese Incident, which has nothing to do with the Time Keeper and does not belong in this post. I will tell it to you next time, I think… Should I do it before or after I host a giveaway for the prettiest object this blog has ever seen??

Now I tuck my quarter in that little envelope and do not pull it out except in the parking lot of Aldi. I always have my planner along in town, because that is where my shopping list lives. So. Am I quenching the Spirit in creating a little pocket of security, or am I presuming on His grace to be careless about carrying what I know I will need?

How do you modify your planner?
I just asked you three questions. They are important, and you may answer them all.
Or not…


Confession: I was up so late last night, three hundred and forty-two miles from home, that my brain is buzzing and my husband said to me “Are our phones goofing up? You sent me a text that apparently came in at x:xx. Were you really texting at that hour?”

And I said “Yes.”

In the strictest sense of the word it was no longer “last night” but we are not discussing that in this forum.

scarves on us

I want to stand up and say what the Lord Jesus did for me in the last week. It is so complex a sequence I can only get a hold of it in bullet points.

  • Several weeks ago, my mom asked if I would like to join in a surprise visit to my sister in Virginia for her 30th birthday. Joy! We got it all planned… how long we’d be gone, when we’d leave, who would go along.
  • Three days before departure, Jesus gave us an answer to prayer: a foster son. Yes, yes, absolutely yes!!
  • Could I still swing the weekend plans? Should I give them up? We decided to hold them with an open hand and see what turned out.
  • As K (our foster son) adjusted and adapted, Ryan said “I really think I can do this. Go ahead and plan to go. You’ll have Kelly; I’ll have the boys.”
  • Then we found out that K’s court date was set for half an hour after our estimated time of departure. I told my mom I wanted to stay for it if she was game—could we leave an hour later than planned? She was more than gracious, and we went to court.
  • In the hallway outside the courtroom, we found out that a kinship option had suddenly materialized and K was going to leave us. That day.
  • And then I said, “Oh thank you Jesus thank you.” That I got to meet this small person and love on him for three days. That I didn’t cancel my weekend plans and miss the trip to Virginia by one hour. Most of all, that I didn’t leave before the court date, and miss the chance to say goodbye to a child I thought we’d have for weeks and weeks.

When I release a foster child I think how lucky I was to meet him. All the training and waiting seems so worth it because in this short slice of time I became part of an amazing person’s life—I got to hold him and love him and find out his favorite things and give him one toy to keep and kiss him and make him giggle and pray over his sleeping head.

And the trip?

To die for.

My mom, my sister, my daughter. I am most blessed.

the four of us

kelly and jean

kelly and i

There are several things I will never understand:

  • How three people can laugh so much alike, over and over again: our forms bent double and no sound except desperate gasps for air.
  • How you can talk and talk and talk all weekend and still have to stay up till the wee hours of the last night, to get it all said.
  • How there can be so much beauty and color in the world.


  • How Jesus can answer my child’s earnest wish for “a balloon that goes up without me running.” She clutched her dollar and begged, as we drove the six hours and as we walked the pedestrian mall. “Honey, I’m sure we will find one!” I said over and over. We did, in Hallmark—and the white-haired shop owner made her laugh and played pranks with her and taught her math facts and then—gave her the gift of helium, for free.

kelly with balloon

This right here was the low point:

kelly with hydrant

Hot, tired, waiting, missing Daddy. We sat on the street because in Kelly’s emotional condition I could not bring myself to navigate the toy store where my mom and sis were shopping.

lying in the street

We sat there like the homeless and the poor, wishing and fearing that someone would come drop money in our bag. To cheer ourselves up we passed the time acting.



sad – (she can do the suffering sheep look better than anyone I know)




There is a final thing I do not understand:

  • How we could have agonized in this city, a year and a half ago, with my sister so weak we thought we might lose her. Stem cell transplant; and a woman so drained she had to start all over again. Learn to eat, to laugh, to run, to care for herself. Now she stays up late with us and she eats what she wants. She sasses me back and she runs a lap around the hotel and she dresses cute and she finalizes plans to move to Israel in January. And when we visit the hospital room where she lay, so that we can draw that painful circle closed, she is strong–

jean in UVA

and she walks out on her own two feet.

walking out of uva

I want to stand up and say what the Lord Jesus did for me in the last week.

Cheap shrimp

Confession: I watched a startling video today and I’m not sure what to think about it.

After a six-month study by The Guardian, the video was released to reveal the fact that cheap prawns (shrimp to Americans) come at a high price: human trafficking and slavery. Burmese immigrants pay brokers to bring them into Thailand to find jobs. Instead, some are betrayed and sold as slaves to ship captains, forced to work up to 20-hour days under alleged cruelty, neglect, and violence. These slave ships supply “trash fish” which is sent to feed the prawns grown and harvested by CP Foods, the biggest shrimp farmer in the world. In turn, Walmart, Aldi, Costco, and many other large international grocers buy their prawns (cheap) from CP.

One of the things I miss the most about being younger is knowing so clearly what to do in moral dilemmas. When I was in my twenties, the actions were tough but the answers were simple. I must surrender this situation to the Lord. I must give up my dream for the sake of someone else. I can no longer buy and eat shrimp. Now the answers are complex to me, and muddied by many surrounding issues.

On the one hand, I have a horror of being Shelob: a brooding and selfish monster growing fat on the blood of her victims. We call it exploitation of the poor, and I cringe away from the thought of it—even secondhand exploitation of the poor, which may or may not be different. I refused to shop at Walmart for a whole year because of this {previous posts here and here}. Walmart makes its money through pinching the necks of the Chinese poor and the American poor, and all of us pay for it. I thought I’d never shop at Walmart again… but I do.

Because on the other hand, I am beginning to realize that every day of my life, I benefit from the suffering of other people. I see my husband working hard to provide me with the means to live. I see my mother in childbirth, bringing me into the world. I see Jesus struggling for breath on the cross, my sins forgiven because of bloodshed. I buy coffee and pineapple and T-shirts gathered for me from the ends of the earth, sold too cheaply by people too far away who worked too hard for people who couldn’t care less. This fact is altered very little by whether I buy the T-shirt at Walmart or Dollar General or the Salvation Army or my neighbor’s garage sale.

Sometimes we call services “tainted” because they come at a cost: the lives of the innocent. I care about this. And God cares—His Book flames with passion against the shedding of innocent blood.

But then He offered His own blood, the ultimate innocent blood, in the place of others. We call it a sacrifice (Him for us) and we receive it with tears and humility. Now, like Him, the Jesus people are called and enabled to offer our love as a sacrifice for others (us for them) every day of our lives, to break the cycle of hurt people hurting people, to walk through death into life and turn the world on its head.

How then to think about the sacrifices of others? particularly when they are forced sacrifices? Should I reject the “tainted” vaccine from the tissues of a sacrificial child, the “tainted” prawns from the slave ships of Thailand, the “tainted” land stolen from Native Americans?

Or does my gratitude give meaning to the sacrifice?

Or does my use condone the sacrifice?

Does it help if I do not eat shrimp?

Big Lots on Black Friday

Confession: I am not much of a Black Friday shopper.

My purchases of the day totaled one large plastic sled, two gas candle lighters, one sympathy card, and one bottle of dish soap. My friend bought a couch. She is a sweet old lady, this friend, and I am starting to forget that the first time I walked into her trailer I almost passed out from the stench. I have gotten used to it by now, a little, and also it’s not every day she has chicken dying in a pot on her stove, though I didn’t know it then.

She bought a couch today and I worry about her, worry that she doesn’t have the money for it and worry that she’ll lose the receipt as she loses everything else, and then how will Big Lots know she bought it when she and her son go to pick it up? or when she changes her mind and decides to get a refund?

I worry. How will she tell the good food we just bought from the bad food spilling from her fridge? What if her itch is from bugs in her bed? Does she have someone to spend her holiday with? Is she going to remember where she put the medicine, and that I took her blankets away only to wash them and will bring them back on Sunday?

She’s a sweet old lady, this friend, and she insists on buying me coffee. She wants me to get a burger too, like she does, but it’s freeing for me to tell her very firmly that I’m not eating. I always want to make people happy, but I cannot make her happy because she doesn’t know what makes her happy, so this is a good relationship for me and I am growing.

She is terrified that I will not take any money for running her around on errands (and so turn her into a charity case) and terrified that I will take too much money (and turn her into a pauper and a fool, both). She panics when she cannot find her cash. She tells me if I find any one hundred dollar bills in her house to let her know; I think she is teasing but there is fear underneath it. One minute she worries that she’s paid me twice and the next she presses me to take a few more dollars, but I say no. Very firmly. We are settled up, Miss Bertie*, and I am not taking any more money.

I don’t want her money. I have what I need to buy the sled and the dish soap, and I don’t want a couch even if it is Black Friday. I want a few things I cannot find at Big Lots by the sleds, nor on the bargain racks, nor in the sentiments on the sympathy cards. I cannot buy them, spy them, DIY them. I want the world to be whole, and all the old ladies to have a friend to take them shopping.


* You already know what I’m going to say here. That’s not her real name.