Month: February 2015

As Against: Is it really your’s?

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It’s Mine

I’ve read numerous articles lately discussing the very important issues of sexual violence and sexual exploitation. Any act of sexual violence or exploitation is absolutely, 100%, totally, and entirely wrong, and, in my book, anyone who works to combat these serious evils is working towards a very noble cause. However, in several of these pieces I’ve seen a recurring theme: that is, that a woman’s body belongs to HER, and no one should do anything to infringe on her physical autonomy.

Now, there are several reasons the idea of physical autonomy is so central to this cause’s message, one reason among them is the historical and present reality around the globe that in many cases, legally, a woman’s body was and is not her own. There also remains the tragic idea in some people’s minds – especially victims of sexual and other abuse – that they have no physical or psychological autonomy. I certainly don’t want to undermine or belittle that reality, but I do want to merely address the intoxicating idea in our society that what we have – everything from our time to our bodies to our money – is our’s and our’s alone.

This theme of independence and autonomy is seen throughout our culture in various ways; we see it every time an advertiser tells you, “It’s your money, do what you want with it,” or “It’s your life, fill it as you wish.” These messages are everywhere, and while it is incredibly important to impart self-worth in vulnerable or victimized people, such autonomy can only go so far before it is harmful and just plain false.

As Against

In law we learn that rights are not absolutes: it’s not a simple case of “Do you have this right, or don’t you?” Rather, we speak of rights in terms of “as against,” as in, “As against whom would you win in a fight for this right?” To understand this, imagine when you were a kid, and would race your sibling to the car in order to get the front seat. If you get there first, or call “shot gun” at the right moment, you could win the right to that front seat as against your sibling. However, if you pick up Grandpa on the way, mom is going to insist you give the front seat to him, and you lose the right the seat as against Grandpa. Grandpa has a superior right than you to that front seat, and he wins.

A community

What does this all have to do with autonomy? First, when we take the idea of individual autonomy too far, and assume all our rights are absolute, we can lose the very real fact that we are a part of a community.  While we certainly do have certain rights over our bodies, our minds, our money, and our lives, sometimes those rights become subject to another individual’s similar rights. We cannot forget that our actions are not our own. Collectively, we have to give up this idea that everything is just for ourselves, that it doesn’t matter to anyone else, and that no one else has a right to even ask you to change your behavior or heart. Because they DO affect other people: your racism, your love of debt, your sexuality, your addictions, your hatred, your struggles, your gluttony, your self-indulgence. Your actions, even behind closed doors, have far-reaching consequences, beyond what we can even imagine.

A creator

The second reason we cannot take the idea of autonomy too far is that we are also subject to our Creator. Fair market value is defined by the IRS as the price paid by a willing buyer to a willing seller, under no compulsion to buy, with adequate knowledge of material facts. Your value is defined as what someone would pay for you. Jesus, with full knowledge and without any compulsion to buy, paid his life for me. I am worth his life, and therefore I owe him mine. (His purchase, by the way, comes with privileges and protection beyond your wildest dreams.) I don’t get to do whatever I want, I have been bought and paid for and therefore my rights are not absolute as against my Father: He wins, always.

As one final thought, I leave you with this scene from the TV show Parenthood. This is my favorite scene in the entire series, and illustrates both that our actions have a very real affect on those around us, and that we owe everything we have to someone else. In this scene, Amber, a recent high school graduate struggling with finding her direction as a young adult, has recently gotten into a serious car accident while driving recklessly under the influence. She is taken to see her car with her very loving grandfather, who gives her a speech a lot of people should hear.

In case that doesn’t work, you can watch the clip on Hulu here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/233852

debarbibee

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10 Moments Only People with a 20+ Year Old Car Understand

Someday I might have to say good-bye to my college Corolla, but until that sad day comes, we relish these precious moments together.

1. When people talk about their “sacrifice” of driving a 10-year old car.giphy

2. If someone has no idea what you drive, and then they see your sweet ride for the first time. *RESPECT*

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3. It’s so easy to figure out how old your car is, because it’s as old as you! (Or in my case, as old as my husband.)

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4. When you don’t have to get the emissions tested anymore, because your car has aged out!

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5. At the DMV, you get to choose between antique plates or regular.

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6. When people complain about their “clunker,” that simply needs a bath, but it still looks like it could beat your beast in a beauty contest any day.

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7. When you realize yet another hub cap is missing. *YOLO*

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8. If you ever see anything even remotely like your car anywhere.

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9. When someone tries to sell you satellite radio, and you’re like, “I’m still rocking cassettes.”

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10. When the Internet tries to tell you that it is so unnecessary to warm up your car anymore on cold days. Except you know that it totally is.

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No matter what, that car is your’s, it is probably one of your oldest friends, you love it like no one can understand, and you sincerely dread the day you’ll have to say good-bye to your vintage vehicle. 

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Love you always, Turk.

-debarbibee

Initial Thoughts on Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University”

Our life these days is more about counting quarters than bond dividends, but we have hope for the future.

Our life these days is more about counting quarters than bond dividends, but we have hope for the future.

Earlier this year, my husband and I started a class at our church based on Dave Ramsey’s popular curriculum called “Financial Peace University.” I wanted to document some of our initial reactions, and encourage others to take advantage of the new year as the perfect time to get your finances in order.

Why we signed up.

When first discussing the class, a lot of the introductory materials discussed credit card debt, mortgages, and saving for kids’ college – things that didn’t apply at all to us! So, I thought, why bother? But sitting through the first class, we liked Dave Ramsey’s logical, no-excuses approach to finances. Plus, we have some big financial dreams for our future, and so we both decided it couldn’t hurt (except the $99.00 it cost for the materials – an investment for us, to be sure) to make sure we were on the right track and armed with tools to help us achieve our goals.

Our goals.

This year, as I’ve discussed before, we have a lot of changes coming to our family, mostly revolving around my finally finishing school and starting my career (YAY four months till graduation!). That means paying for the Bar exam and application, taking three months off from work to study for the exam, trying to find a new place to live, saving up for a house, and starting our long-term goals of each of us being small-business owners. These may sound like tall orders, especially with tens of thousands in student debt weighing us down, but the beginning of a new year is the PERFECT time to start working towards those new goals.

Why?  Because of Uncle Sam, of course! We haven’t even filed our 2014 tax returns yet, but we already have to start thinking a year ahead. Combine the new ObamaCare issues with my husband now being an independent contractor and you have a potential for a tax nightmare! But the key is staying organized and staying focused: two things that we thought fit perfectly with Dave Ramsey’s class.

What we have learned about ourselves.

We are about half-way through the course, and we’ve already learned so much about ourselves in this class. The first big thing we learned is that we are very young to be doing all this finance-y, technical stuff – but that is GOOD! So many people said to us, “Oh, it’s so great you are doing this now, when you are young. If only I had done that.” We’ve heard about a million versions of this, and mostly it is said by people who ended up in a crisis before they learned how to handle their money. We have not – thankfully! – been in a financial crisis. But it can happen to anyone, at any time, and we are very glad we are taking the time make a plan to deal with whatever crisis is around the corner.

The second thing we’ve learned about ourselves is that we are freaks. Dave Ramsey quotes lots of statistics in the course – from the average household income, to the average credit card debt, to the average car payment – and none of it matches even closely to our life. Our income is below-average, our credit card debt is zero and we have no car payments or mortgage. On the other hand, we have tons of student debt (all from me). Not fitting into the mold of his target audience is a little frustrating, but it also makes us feel good that we are both less than 25 and already are ahead in so many ways. We are also really grateful that both of us grew up with parents that taught us the cores of finances: everything from giving, saving, spending, to buying used cars.

What we won’t do for financial peace.

The biggest thing we’ve learned, though is what we won’t do to be debt-free. Dave Ramsey’s approaches are pretty extreme, and are really intended to help people break bad habits and prevent them from getting sucked into a debt-glorifying culture. Let’s face it: this entire economy is built on debt, expects you to have debt, and does not encourage financial responsibility.

And these are principles we are totally on board with, especially since we believe that as stewards of God’s gifts, we have a responsibility and obligation – as trustees of a trust – to faithfully care for and grow these gifts. However, we also have an obligation to do with those gifts, not just store them up and watch them grow. We believe God has made specific calls on our lives, calls that can be expensive. We have passions that we believe must be fulfilled, and we have to care for ourselves and our bodies in the mean time.

For example, so many debt-free stories speak fondly of the days of “PB&J sandwiches and Ramen noodles,” in other words, eating the cheapest garbage you can in order to pay off your mortgage early. I’m really happy for people that can do that, and I’m inspired by their hard work. But we can’t, and shouldn’t, eat peanut butter and jelly and Ramen noodles every day. Our nutrition is something we take pretty seriously; we don’t go all-organic, but we do watch our sodium, empty carbs, and processed foods. Because we feel it is so important to spend a little extra on groceries, we can’t put that money towards paying off debt, but that is something we feel is very important and we won’t sacrifice it just to say we are debt-free.

In a more extreme example, we were discussing last week whether we should delay looking for a house so that we can pay off my student loans first. For us, buying a house is not just a choice between a house now or a house later, but a question of my husband’s dream job and our dream of a family sooner rather than later. In the end, we’ve reached a middle-ground on the question of “when,” but it posed a great philosophical issue for us: what should we sacrifice to be debt-free? Every family has to decide for themselves, as thoughtful trustees, what is over that line.

One thing is for sure, this class has gotten us thinking and talking and even making changes in our lives that we may not otherwise have. And for that, I’m grateful that we signed up.

-debarbibee

Have you taken Dave Ramsey’s class? When and why? What did you learn about yourself through the course?