“More” is not always “Better”

In a culture where everything is disposable, the latest is a necessity, and bigger is better, it can be difficult to explain why you may find your self valuing “less” over “more.” It is counter-intuitive, but the effort of consciously rejecting the “more” mentality has advantages.

This exact challenge has presented itself in at least four different circumstances in the last week alone. Each time, it was absolutely true that “more” was not “better,” but this seeming contradiction had to be explained nonetheless. As much as we like to think we are logical beings, the most certain truths can seem upside-down at first. It is worth the fight to flip our heads over again.

When requesting additional time to file a court brief.

I am involved in a proceeding at the moment in which we find ourselves in the briefing phase. We submitted our brief, and the other side submitted their’s, and now our brief in response thereto is coming due soon.

Under ordinary rules, our brief is due twenty days after the other side filed its brief. However, because it was filed on a Thursday, we did not receive our copy until the following Monday, essentially robbing us of four days of precious time. We requested an additional ten days from the Court in which to file our reply brief, and after notifying the client, he asked (justifiably), “Why so little time? I want more. We gave them two extensions!”

He was correct: when the other side was filing its brief, we consented to two extensions of time for them to finish. We consented for two reasons: first, not consenting was pointless because they would probably get the time anyway, and it is not the sort of thing to make an argument over because we will want them to return the favor some day (like right now, for example). Second, we were in no rush: they needed the time to get it done and we had no deadlines in which to get this case resolved. Why press them if there is no reason? Save the fight for a day that matters.

But my client was not correct that more time is better. Just because they had more time, does not mean we needed it. Sometimes, especially when assembling a reply brief, you can end up damaging your argument by re-writing and pouring over the document too many times. The longer you have to wrestle with it, the further you stray from the key points. The judge can get lost in your rabbit trail, and you become less effective. Plus, more time puts the pressure on us to finish it. If we have two months to finish, other pressing matters will probably require us to let it sit for six weeks before we start work. By closing the window of working time, we make this a priority and we are forced to get it done.

When looking at houses to buy.

We are in the early/potential house-buying phase, and are having trouble finding a house that is the right size for us. While we have a baby on the way, and plan to have ??? more baby/ies, under no circumstances are we interested in a 2,000 square foot plus house.

We saw one house that had 2,500 square feet of living space, and we would still have to add on to build Massimo’s workshop. Although the house was brand new and well-made, we could not get over how huge it was. We simply could not justify it.

People kept telling us, “Well, you will have more kids, and they will grow and need more space,” or, “You will be shocked how quickly the space fills up! You will need it!” And while that could very well be the case some day, for now, the cost was too great and we could not justify the expense of all that space: buying all that square footage, heating/cooling all that square footage, paying taxes on all that square footage, cleaning all that square footage.

Then there is the mentality of having a large home. I tend to think that stuff is like goldfish: that is, it will fill the space of the home in which it lives. When I was younger, I could fit everything I needed in my Corolla and brought it back and forth to college twice a year. Of course, marriage, parenting, and home ownership will bring additional necessities, but I believe there is still virtue in limiting the accumulation of things. And the more space you have for things, the more things you will have, in my experience.

When my sister is making her wedding registry.

My beautiful, brave sister is getting married in August, and will promptly be moving to Germany to join her new husband at his Air Force Base. This makes the concept of a wedding registry particularly challenging. The big and little things one would typically request seem silly. “Why would I pay to ship that over to Germany?” she rightfully asks. She is one hundred percent correct: shipping a bath mat and soap dishes would be ridiculous. So she had to get creative.

First, she had to decide whether or not she even wanted a registry. What she really needs is money, to buy the things a registry would ordinarily supply once she lands in Europe. But people don’t really like wrapping cash, so there is something to be said for providing at least options to those inclined to shop, so she does not end up with a dozen crystal bowls for which she has no purpose.

Second, she had to decide what was worth it enough for her to request. While dozens of hand towels may not be worth it, this might be her only chance to ask for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which she will have to patiently wait to use when she comes back state-side.

Ultimately, she started to get creative with it: she will have a different life in Germany, hopefully filled with once-in-a lifetime opportunities to travel and experience unique places. She decided to include AirBnB vouchers and travel gear on her registry: items she would actually get use out of. Sure, she can also include dish sets and sheets, some of which will stay here for her when she returns, but there is virtue in curating a wishlist that – though not traditional – will provide her much more joy than ordinary “stuff” might.

When collecting baby gear.

Babies are small, but grow fast. Nothing grows faster, however, than baby stuff. At the moment, I have not an atom of baby gear in my home (it is all at my parents’ and in-laws), but this little person will make an appearance in just four short months, and so will its gear.

I have gotten in more than one debate with other parents over what gear is “absolutely essential.” For some reason, like all baby advice, opinions and facts often confuse each other. (We often laugh about how similar pregnancy is to engagement, when marriage advice was dealt with the same resolution. But that is for another post.) The facts are that everyone is different, every baby is different, and what you loved or hated, our family could have the opposite reaction to. But thank you for the input, we will take it under advisement.

As of this moment, I have no idea where we will be living when we have this baby, but I have come around to the reality that we could be living in our one-bedroom apartment for at least some time. With that reality, I have attempted to whittle down our “necessities” list, which has been met with criticism. But we are trying to stand our ground, because our reasons for not wanting to live in a crowded Babies “R” Us store are many fold.

First, we value space and time over comfort. While many items are cute, clever, and maybe even extremely helpful, we have to balance those virtues against the space and time they will consume. Space is easily determined, but time is more abstract. Time is consumed when selecting or collecting the item, setting it up, cleaning it, repairing it, moving and storing it when it gets in the way, and eventually determining where it will go once the baby (inevitably and quickly) grows out of it. With both parents working full-time, there are some things that are just not worth that time.

[As a note on this, the “cleaning” part deserves a moment of attention. Many of us don’t think about the time spent maintaining our stuff. This is a consideration I came across in reading about minimalism that resonated with me, and is especially true since we have no dishwasher or washing machine. Everything we clean is cleaned by hand, which takes a lot longer. Appliances and gear which pride themselves on being “dishwasher safe” are not in the slightest attractive, especially when I see its odd nooks and crannies I will have to clean by hand! Laundry takes three times as long as someone with a washer in her house, because we have to sort it, pack it in the car, drive it to my parents’ house, binge through as many loads as possible in an afternoon, load it up, drive it back, fold it, and put it away. And all that while not being able to simultaneously sleep or do other chores, as those who do laundry in their own home can. The less high chair covers, changing table pads, and play mats are in that laundry, the better!]

Second, babies grow so fast. Like seriously, so fast. Some “essential” items are literally only in use for a month or so before they are useless! This pregnancy has already gone by so fast, I cannot imagine how quickly that first year will fly. I would so rather spend my time with my baby playing and learning, than constantly switching out baby gear he or she has outgrown. Since we don’t have space for all the first year stuff, our home will feel like a rotating storehouse of equipment if we collect items for every stage. Instead, we try to focus on things the baby will need for several months, and which can grow with the baby for years!

Third, a lot of “stuff” comes with other “stuff,” and so the cycle continues. Some baby gear is not just the gear itself, but the covers, mattresses, sheets, decorations, extensions, extra parts, etc. etc. etc. All that stuff really adds up! And again, all that stuff will also need to consume time and space, and need to be cleaned. We are not interested. Instead, we like to focus on items that are already complete, and don’t require add-ons to be truly useful. By eliminating one item that comes with add-ons, you actually eliminate a dozen items!

Sometimes, more is just more.


Here’s Why We Talk About Homosexuality So Much

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Why are we so much more critical of homosexuality than other sins in the Bible, like gluttony? Don’t be a hypocrite and don’t judge when you are a sinner, too!”

I used to hear that and think, “Yeah, that makes sense. Splinter, log; pot, kettle: I got ya. I’ll be quiet now.”

But then I did some more thinking, and you know what, there are some pretty MAJOR flaws with that argument. And this argument is getting a new outfit, at least in my Facebook feed, in light of Gordon College President D. Michael Lindsay signing a letter asking President Obama to include a religious exception in his expected Executive Order preventing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

First of all, what you’re talking about is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is “the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do : behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.” Like saying, “Don’t drink and drive,” then chugging some vodka and starting the engine. (Do people chug vodka? I don’t even know.) It would be hypocrisy to say, “Acts of homosexuality are a sin; don’t do that,” and then committing acts of homosexuality and being totally cool with it.

What you’re talking about is having standards, declaring what you think is right and wrong. Talking.

Also, there is a difference between hypocrisy and inconsistency. I stopped boycotting Ellen because I could not boycott her show because of her sexual behavior without also boycotting 30 Rock, when Tracy Morgan had a baby with his girlfriend before they were married, or any other person on any show because of their sexual behaviors. And those shows are both funny. It would be inconsistent to refuse to watch one for that reason and no other show.

Second, we do talk about other sins. Definitely not as much as we should, but I can distinctly recall having good conversations about coveting, lust, adultery, and pride. Granted, no one is voting on whether to outlaw coveting your neighbor’s donkey in the next election, and but the less politically relevant topics are getting some airtime. And often, the church avoids talking about sexuality at all because it’s not super good at having that conversation.

Third, we talk about homosexuality so much because it’s the hottest issue out there right now. At one time, it might have been skirts v. pants, racial integration, or lowering the drinking age, but today, and in this decade, it’s homosexuality and birth control that are stealing the spotlight. States are changing their laws, judges are handing down decisions, news crews are photographing same-sex marriages, Disney Channel shows are being boycotted, and Facebook profile pictures are changing to red equal-signs.

THIS is the issue of our time. THIS is the one that is changing, dramatically. Rainbows are popping up everywhere, and people are making up their minds: either subtly, with a vote, or loud, by leaving jobs. Homosexuals are well on their way to becoming a legally protected class (which is hugely significant). Gay is in. That is why we are talking about it so much.

And finally, this argument is essentially like saying, “You threw out the bathwater, might as well throw out the baby, too.” It’s saying that because we all make mistakes, we can’t point out mistakes made by others.

This is absolutely ridiculous. Can you imagine if an editor saw her typo in a story that she let get published, and – to avoid being judgmental – she let another writer’s story go to print with the picture upside-down? No. Just because you make a mistake doesn’t mean you lose all right to point out any mistake made by someone else.

Big point here, don’t miss it: WITH GRACE. The Bible says to “speak the truth in love,” under Christ, and let’s not forget about that. The truth is, homosexuality is a really big hot-button issue right now. But we also do need to remember to be loving, consistent, and full of grace. But that doesn’t mean we can’t participate in this on-going, growing national debate over homosexuality (which, by the way, is going to go down in the history books as a BIG ONE). And that doesn’t mean we can be hateful or disrespectful towards people with different ideas from our own, and that doesn’t mean we need to accept and encourage behaviors that we think are immoral. (Ever heard of “Love the sinner, hate the sin”? This is just an expanded version of that.)

[By the way, the issue of whether or not same-sex marriages should be legally banned in this country is really a question of legal standards of review and separation of powers for me, not the old separation of church and state thing. FYI.]