Wednesday, October 27, 2010

America, Part One

Last weekend the kids had a long break. We headed into the big city to see my family. Mike, Grant and a friend went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Science Museum. We went to a water park. They have a water slide and you can pick the song you want to hear as you slide down.

We went to the Mall of America. Let me just say that I love shopping. So it stands to reason that I love the Mall of American and really any other mall out there. I worked at Nordstrom in the Mall of America when I was a senior in high school. I feel like I kind of own the place. You know, in the “I worked in the stockroom here 20 years ago” kind of way.

So imagine my shock when I hated it. I love it, but I hated it. Partly because it is obviously not my world anymore. I realized that there is no way I could ever shop at my former workplace. We saw an adorable pair of pink sparkly high tops for babies for a mere $75. There were people walking around with huge shopping bags full of stuff. I saw purses that cost more than my first car. And make up as much as my monthly grocery bill (and that’s a lot of cash!)

A saleslady asked me if I used a flat iron on my hair. I said I did. She asked me what kind. What do you mean what kind? In my eyes, there’s the kind from Wal-Mart and the kind from thrift stores. What’s the problem? I love my flat iron. A friend bought it for me at a garage sale for 25 cents. She could not have looked more shocked or disheartened had I delivered the news that her puppy had died. I don’t even want to know the cost of the ones she was selling.

Then we went on to our purpose there that day: the American Girl Store. Are you familiar with these dolls? They are so cute and come with all sorts of adorable accessories. I actually tried to talk Jenna into wanting one when we were in Chicago when she was five. She had no interest. Her main concern in life is that she has enough black wind pants in her drawer. This summer she decided that she was going to save all her birthday money to buy one. Lo and behold, she had enough.

My husband was not convinced she should get one. I think playing with dolls is a great thing for girls. It builds nurturing and prepares them for life as a mom. These dolls also come with books and a history lesson. There are good things to learn from that. I tried to explain to Mike how it feels in terms he could understand; like Grant’s sudden interest in hunting and football. That’s a big deal to Mike as a dad and the doll is the same to me, especially with Jenna, who used to freak out when Barbie hair even touched her.

We were also celebrating a friend’s birthday that day so we ate at the American Girl Bistro. You need to make a reservation to eat there. They have high chairs for the dolls and serve them “tea” in little tea cups. The chef came out to talk to us and brought his little chef doll. There is a hair studio for the dolls. It’s all pink and cute and wonderful and whimsical.

And it made me want to throw up. Seriously. There are people in this world that have no food and no money and no house to live in and we are buying $100 dolls for our daughters. And paying for them to get their hair done and their ears pierced. That’s right, you can have your dolls ears pierced. Even in the midst of this horrible financial recession, that place was packed. People buying stuff. No open reservations for the restaurant (which serves only Diet Pepsi by the way! Boo!)

Then we went to the theme park and rode on a ride. And there were gobs of people there spending gobs of money on a three minute thrill. It’s fun. I love roller coasters. But it’s also crazy.

So I find myself teetering on the edge of lunatic-like zeal. Perhaps I might finally crack and go live on the prairie in a sod house Ingalls style. Or wear only denim jumpers. And put my hair that I don’t intend to color to cover the gray up in a bun. And not buying Christmas presents. Who needs cell phones, internet, refrigerators and washing machines? Quite frankly I do, that’s who. Plus it never seems to work. When I try to bust out of the “American” trap it seems impossible.

But I can’t help but wonder, is this how God would have us spending our time and money? Is chasing after pieces of plastic really what he put us on earth to do? When do we cross the line from fun to self absorption and start breeding spoiled, coddled kids? Am I allowing my faith to be americanized? Full of health, wealth, roller coasters and falt irons?

When is enough enough?

I don’t have answers to that question. We live in a fallen, material world. So having fun and fun things isn’t wrong. Maybe it’s in our heart’s desire. Is one ride enough or one day of rides? Are we never satisfied? If we get one doll, then do we need two? Will we finally be somebody when we have a $1200 purse or our babies wear expensive shoes? Do we live only for those things or risk everything we have to get them? Those seem to be important questions when deciding on our course of fun.

I know one thing: God is the most important thing ever. Period. I want my life to reflect his love and purpose. I pray that my kids will love Jesus so much that all material things will fade to nothing. We can’t let our stuff own us or our worldly desires drive us. I never want to lose sight of that. But we live in this world and God has given us freedom. You might find the fact that my daughter has an American Girl doll disgusting. And in some ways I do too. But I might find your big cable bill or fancy vacation just as offensive. It seems there must be some room for grace there.

I want to do special things and have fun with my kids but not at the cost of our relationship with Jesus. Not at the cost of having kids whose hearts are in the right place. So where do you draw the line? When do you think enough is enough?