Monday, December 7, 2009

The Modern-Day Chatelaine

Growing up in Colorado, you're inundated with environmentalist rhetoric. Save the mountains. Save the trees. Eat more granola. Yada, yada, yada.  Even the outdoor enthusiasts - the hunters and anglers and campers and mountain bikers, etc. - are on the "green" train... Oops, that wouldn't be a train, would it? I mean, the green TRAIL.

Do I sound a bit jaded when it comes to recycling, conservation, and bunny hugging? (Bunnies harbor plague-infected fleas, by the way. Don't hug them.) Did I laugh when someone told me that PETA really stands for People Eating Tasty Animals? (Yes, I did.)

Camping, in my opinion, is nothing more than subjecting oneself to voluntary homelessness. I question the validity of global warming, and even if the theory is true, I doubt driving a hybrid would make any difference in the grand scheme of things. So why am I writing a post about "green living"? Because I believe there's more to going green than saving the whales and paying triple price for organic apples and free range eggs.

Green living is practicing the Biblical principle of responsible, effective stewardship in every aspect of life. It's about living "in the green" instead of "in the red" in our finances, in our physical health, in our relationships, and with our time.

The Greek word for steward is oikonomos. The word oikos means "house" and the root word nemo means "to arrange." A steward was the manager of a household or an estate. He or she was responsible for the servants, the bookkeeping, the supplies, hosting guests, and general supervision of the manor. A female steward was called a chatelaine, and every good chatelaine carried a... chatelaine. (For an excellent article about the history of chatelaines, visit Dazzling Ornaments.) Think of it as a Blackberry or Day-Timer for the well-dressed pre-20th century woman. If I could send one to each of you, I would, but you'll have to make do with a picture.

The pieces are now sold as vintage jewelry, but for a chatelaine, it was an invaluable tool. Dangling from her waist, wrist, neck, or hand, this bejeweled ornament held the keys to the castle, a tiny notebook and pencil (for jotting down that item to pick up at market), and other items specific to the lady or the manor. If you are a seamstress, you might be familiar with the term, as modern-day chatelaines are used to keep sewing tools within easy reach.

All this week at Inkwell Inspirations we'll be posting various thoughts and insights on "living green." I want to inspire you to read each post this week with the notion that you are the chatelaine of your own estate. You answer to the Jesus, Lord of Lords.

Is your household running in the red financially? What about relationally? Are supplies (natural or spiritual) being wasted and squandered through carelessness? Are your accounts - whether checking or emotional - balanced? Are you ready to receive guests and minister grace to them, or is everything so depleted you're barely able to take care of yourself? Are you delegating authority to others, or trying and failing to do it all yourself?

Living green isn't just about taking care of the planet we're planted on, although if we all practiced good stewardship the planet-and the people on it-would be much better off! Living green is about creating a lifestyle that is efficient, economical, and well-managed. God has given us the keys to the castle... (read Matthew 16:19 and 2 Peter 1:3). What are we doing with them?

Serious question: When you look at your life, where do you want to start "living green" instead of living in the red?

Amusing question: If you were to create a chatelaine to carry that represented the stewardship of your personal household, what would be on it? 

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  1. Good reminder today, Niki. I've been feeling lately like my life has gotten a little out of balance. After three years of thinking of myself as a "part-time" writer, this fall I tried being a "full-time" writer.

    I don't think I've done a very good job of maintaining my home, though. And I've become a horrible shopper. I only shop at the most convenient and least crowded stores, although I still have some good discount stores on the list. I've done okay on the family end, but not as well as usual. I think I need to take a step back for a while.

    Maybe someday I'll be dealing with deadlines and publishers, but for now there's no point in pushing myself so hard that other aspects of my life get neglected.

    So at the moment, my chatelaine would probably just have a notebook and pen for writing ideas and a novel attached to it. Maybe a toy or two to keep the kids entertained. Add my keys, drivers license and credit card, and that's pretty much what's in my purse.


  2. "responsible, effective, stewardship"...amen!

    Blessings, andrea

  3. Great post, Niki. I was wondering how everyone would tackle a topic that has become so overwrought in our society.

    I love the concept of overseeing our estate as you described it. I know principles of stewardship, but this erally resonated with me. Thanks!

    Can a laptop fit on a chatelaine? Maybe I need to get one of those really little ones...

  4. Back in my day, we called it 'making do'. Nothing got thrown out, it got fixed. You washed it and reused it. Okay, I'll get off the 'back in my day' rant and say I appreciate your post, Niki. We are called to be stewards of everything we've been given, including grace.

    Somewhere, my generation went off the environmental path and bought into bigger, more, better and super size it and our children, now young adults are trying to figure out how to stop the avalanche. I love your phrase living in the green rather than 'in the red'. Let's all stop buying what we want and get only what we need. Maybe we'll start having more to give to others.

  5. Hi Niki,
    Alas, I still search for balance in many areas of my life. It's that elusive butterfly that I cannot get to gently settle on me. But I've managed to stay employed while encouraging my family through the tough times.

    I think my chatelaine would have the transaction section of the checkbook, a piece of chocolate, and my favorite scriptures attached. :) I'm still looking for my castle, but I do have my knight in shining armor.

  6. Great post, Niki. I want to be a good steward of it all--but I don't always do that well! Right now I think the one area I'd like to do better in is communicating with my family. So much conflict could be avoided if I didn't assume they could read my mind!

  7. I love everyone's ideas for their chatelaines! Esp. the piece of emergency chocolate and the miniature laptop.
    What was it they said during WW2 rationing? Make it work, make it do, or do without? That's green living right there, isn't it?

  8. Make it work, make it do, or do without? That's green living right there, isn't it?

    You bet, Niki. Great post.

  9. Niki, what a beautiful thought-provoking post. When you're not feeling well and waiting for a diagnosis from the doc, it's amazing the different spin every day things take. All the treasures I went into the 'red' for I look at and wonder who on earth will end up with it? It's seriously comical. I've become a better steward as I matured (which hasn't fully happened yet) and still have a long way to go. Old habits . . .

    On my chatelaine would be my hubby, my dog, my cat, pen and paper and my bible.

    Have a great day.

  10. Uggh. I got half-way through your post, saw the picture of the chantelaine, and thought, "I want one!"

    Mine would include a mute button for my children. :-)

    A few months ago I read an article in Good Housekeeping about a family who went a year without spending on anythign they didn't need. Prior to beginnign, they made a list of needs, wants, and luxuries. That way they knew ahead of time.

    Now I've reused zippy bags, but I've also thrown away more than I've reused. So I decided I'd enlist my mom into helping me make reusable sandwich baggies and wraps. I'll have to share our results after Christmas break.

    Anyhoo, my New Year's resolution is to do a year without spending. My list of "rules" will include:

    No buying clothes or shoes until the kids need a new pair.

    Pay off all credit card debts (not that mine are high), and don't use them in the meantime.

    Utilize Craig's List and e-bay to make extra money.

    Anyone have any other suggestions?

  11. Make it work, make it do, or do without.

    Excellent advice. Worthy of a sticky note. :-)

  12. I also like the advice of "make it work, make it do, or do without".

    I try to be "green", I really do, I just get tired of it being so politicized. To me living "green" means not wasting, but I don't worry about my carbon footprint. I'm more concerned about the number of babies killed through abortion than I am about saving a polar bear. Apologies to Al Gore.

  13. Niki,
    Since my best friends live in a house made out of recycled steel, have their own water, which heats their home, a thousand acres of hardwoods, which heat the water that heats their house, grow their own nearly everything, including persimmons and pumpkins, even sheep for milk and wool, ecomeasures have been grafted onto me.

    I love buying organic and even dabbling with gardening last year. Recycle is our middle name, and we recently decided to use filtered tap water to cut down on bottled H2O expenses and logic.

    As far as the chatelaine? Perhaps an E as the symbol for ecology, a tree, for the greenness of God's earth, a key to represent our role as steward of the earth, and of course the requisite writer's pen!!!

    Maybe a Celtic cross, just because--I love them!!!

  14. Thanks for the insightful and well-written post, Niki. Great job and fun discussion. Like Gina, I want one of those chatelaines. Those are so beautiful.

    Cindy, I agree: I wish this subject wasn't so politicized (at least in my town). To me, it's not a liberal or conservative issue. It's a stewardship issue. Am I really doing the best I can with the resources God has given me? The answer will always be no, probably not, but living more simply is something I can strive for on a daily basis.

  15. Connie, I'm feeling much the same way as I get older about realizing what's important and what's not. Time is our MOST precious resource, isn't it?
    And I'd want my Bible and my doggie on my chatelaine, too. But I think my husband would protest vehemently!
    Gina, we're in the same mode as we are working through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. And I'm ALWAYS digging around for ideas to save, to reuse, etc. We'll have to compare notes!
    As for the political factors, yes, it's annoying, because the world has taken a Biblical principle, twisted it, and turned it into a giant moneymaker. I'd like to see believers rise up as good stewards and show the world how it's supposed to be done!
    Patti, I would LOVE to have friends like that! All the new ideas for houses that are recycled from shipping containers, or earth-homes, or straw-built... too much fun. Hmmm, I think a new character is peeking into my head... who is she???

  16. Great post, Niki.

    I like to think we're good land stewards. When we bought our 160 acres 10 yrs ago we decided to go organic. It took lots of money and four years before being certified organic but it is. I like that we live on a 'green' patch of land even though we're surrounded by chemical driven farmers. I like that our trees are filled with birds all year long. I'm just not so crazy about the deer living in my garden over the winter. :)

  17. As an 18 year Colorado veteran I have to tell you, the first few years were a culture shock after living in Western New York.

    All I need is legal pads and pencils and I am fine. Throw in a daily dose of dark chocolate. My needs are few.

    Very nice post

  18. I'm going to ask for a chatelaine for christmas and totally confuse my poor husband. Thank you for the great post. I want one with a cross!

  19. A wonderful post Niki...I grew up learning to appreciate what you have. I follow Dave Ramsey's principles...a smart man.

    I love the chatelaine...mine would have a cross, a book, eyeglasses, and a mug (for coffee or tea).


  20. Ha! Anita, I feel your pain. Deer devoured my entire garden this year. And now they stand in my yard and look in the windows like they're considering becoming omnivorous.
    Tina, thanks for commenting! I love to find other Coloradans on the web. If you ever head west, give me a buzz.
    Thanks, everyone for a fun day! I'm going to research some chatelaine crafts. I think we all need one! Blessings!


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