Friday, February 15, 2013

A little soul baring...

A few months ago, I picked up a copy of the book “A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor”.  The description on Amazon was moving and I was compelled to read it.  The description talked about living in a culture of consumption, a growing “gimme gimme” society.  I see so much waste in our world today and find myself on that soapbox often, so I was interested in reading the author’s take on it.

I must admit, however, I was feeling kind of snarky reading the title.  I wanted to see how closely this guy could identify with the poor.  I mean, after all, I am “the poor”.  I have a hard time reading my friends’ emails, facebook statuses and message board posts about their new techie gadget and vacations and new cars and high (to me!) grocery bills while in the same breath talking about how “poor” they are.  I don’t think most people really have a grasp on what it means to be broke.

At our house, we aren’t spend-happy.  We drive older used cars.  We don’t have smart phones, a flat-screen TV, a DVR.  Having a child in braces is killing us right now.  I cook 99% of the meals we eat and pack 5 lunches every day.  Our house is smaller than pretty much everyone we know.  The majority of the clothes in our closets are hand me downs, garage sale buys or from the Goodwill store.  We only have fast food or other restaurant food {maybe!!} once a month.  One unexpected doctor’s visit can throw off the entire month’s budget. A child who outgrows a pair of shoes and needs new ones can shake our world and make paying the electric bill difficult.  School field trips and programs that require $5 here and $10 there can mess up the whole system.

And I’ve realized is that it brings out the most covetous, jealous side of me, even when my dearest, closest, most precious friends have more.

Recognizing that in myself is vital.  And humbling.

I find myself playing some kind of reverse “one up” game in my head.  You know, kind of an “I’m poorer than you are.” thing in my head.  It’s completely ridiculous and embarrassing to admit.

At this point in my life, I have 1 regular part-time job that I do Monday through Friday.  I have an interview next week for another part time job that I can do 1-2 evenings a week for a little extra cash.  I sell Avon.  I do childcare at my church and 2 other local churches on a regular basis.  And I clean houses for people occasionally.  My husband has a full time job with good benefits.

And we still barely pay our bills.

Some days that sucks more than others.  Some days I want to shake my fists and scream.  Finances are the bane of my existence most of the time.  There are days when they are the last thing I think of at night and the very first thing to come to mind in the morning.  It sucks to have your life “run” by money (or a lack thereof.)

But then I started reading this book. 

I realized quickly that the book was intended to be a 40 day reading for Lent.  It is only a coincidence that I began reading it shortly before Lent. But really, it could’ve affected me the same way no matter what time of year I read it.

From the very beginning of the book, I learned things about myself that have made me see things in myself that I’m not really proud of.  I’ve emptied 1 highlighter and started a second one.  I keep sharing bits and pieces of it with friends and posting quotes from it on Facebook. 

It is rocking my world and reminding me to shift my perspective, shut my mouth, stop b*tching and complaining, recognize my blessings and quit worrying about what I don’t have in comparison with my friends.  Like I read years ago, comparison is a thief of joy.  It is also the root of discontentment.  If I can’t be content where I am with what I have, I will never overcome the battles with my bank account.  It will never feel like “enough”.  I will always wish there was more.  Even if I never open my mouth & say a word to anyone, comparison in my heart and mind can be killer.  Regardless of the balance in my account, regardless of how short we fall on paying the bills, it will always feel like we’re struggling against the current until I come to terms with being content in whatever circumstances, fully trusting God to supply all our needs.  It’s far less about the lack of money & more about my attitude regarding it!

To make matters even better, I am reading this book on the heels of having just finished one about a young mother who was burned over 85% of her body in a plane crash. “Heaven is Here” is her story of recovery, her own words of appreciation for every little thing in life—the ability to sit up alone, the ability to feed herself, the ability to stand and walk, the ability to breathe without a machine’s assistance, the ability to mother her children and hug her husband.  All the sudden, I am reminded that what I lack financially is still 1000 times better than what so many have!  If money is my only problem, I am doing pretty good.  What a hypocrite I am if I take 5 minutes to feel sorry for myself because of a lack of funds.

I am shattered and broken. What a loss I face every time I let my envy rise up.  What a waste to spend even 1 minute in jealousy.  I am healthy and strong enough to work 3 or 4 jobs.  I am honored to raise my children to understand the value of a dollar and to instill a strong work ethic in them.  What an amazing privilege to show them, over and over, that God is truly our provider – of jobs, money, “stuff”, relationships, family.

Rather than focusing on how hard life is, my goal shall now be to focus on contentment and peace with what I have…and gratefulness for the ability to work and provide!

1 Timothy 6:6  Godliness with contentment is great gain.

{Note:  Please forgive all the grammar mistakes & redundant words.  I was just trying to get it all out on paper.  This is the unedited version.  Straight from my fingertips.}

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