Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tis a gift to be simple... really

'Tis a gift to be simple
'Tis a gift to be free
' Tis a gift to come down Where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves In that place just right
We will be in the valley Of Love and delight.

I used to want to live a simpler life but I just didn't know how without moving to the country and growing my own food. Although that isn't exactly simple, it is hard work... good eating but hard work. I live a very simple life now, most of the time. Not always... not the few times a year I work full time to bring in extra money we need. Most of the time.

As I've mentioned, it took God doing some really, really big changes in my life to answer my prayers for simplicity. What were some of the lessons learned? Well, God really is in the miracle business. People often comment at the miracles we have received in our life and I tell them we received miracles for two reasons. We are in desperate need of them... and ...we look for them. It's that old Biblical "Faith, Patience, Experience, Hope" way of looking at life.

The more you have seen God at work in both the big and the little things, the more hope (expectation) you have that it will happen again... and it does... it always happens. Perhaps not in the way you expect but if you keep looking, you will know when it is a God Experience.

I hope to make certain you understand something it took me a looong time to realize. Just because you are in need of a financial miracle because of bad decisions you made, does not mean you can't ask God for a miracle. We all make dumb financial decisions from time to time and... my friends... it's not the unpardonable sin. He wants us to learn from them and to change our ways, He will let us squirm and get quite uncomfortable so we remember the consequences of bad decisions... but He does still answer prayer.

I've been there when the accuser of the brethren (and sister-in) interrupted my prayer time with thoughts that I can't ask God for help because I "should have", "could have", "didn't", "did", etc.

I was brought up to work hard and get an education so I could... consume. Okay, the word I was usually told was so I could succeed in life. But what it really means is consume... bigger house, bigger car(s), nice clothes, private schools, big vacations, perhaps a boat or an RV. The good life ya' know. But then even if we get what we wanted, the necessary lifestyle to keep it isn't always what it was made out to be.

When you get to a point that you have no money coming in at all, things get pretty simple and straightforward. It takes learning an entire new way of looking at life, as well as living. You have to learn to stay home more often, gas is expensive and you haven't realized before how much of where you go requires spending. You learn that you can't just get in the car and eat out when you are bored, tired, the kids are cranky, you don't feel well, or you have cabin fever. It just is not an option unless you decide to use the credit card (which is a mistake we made during one period of unemployment... not now!).

You begin to take very good care of your clothing as you can't run to the mall and replace what gets torn or stained. You learn to cook (even more) from scratch because that is the very best way to extend food money. You learn to fix things yourself. You quickly realize who your real friends are.

On the other hand, you also come to realize that it can be quite amazing to see how God is going to provide and you learn a lot about Him. He has a sense of humor. He understands how much you really something in particular and (I'm sure) takes great delight when He leads you to find it for $1.00. He shows you there are a lot of people in this society who have learned how to live well and look good on a fraction of pre-tax income. You may be surprised how many expensive cars are parked at our local Goodwill and thrift stores (not to mention garage sales). :)

He teaches... a lot. Oh, how He teaches. He teaches that it brings much more joy to live simply than it does to consume a lot. How wonderful it is when our children can have fun spending an evening reading The Long Winter, or watching Narnia on a DVD, or playing a board game with the family while enjoying popcorn and juice... instead of having to go somewhere, do something, buy something, etc.

What a gift we give them if only we can teach the next generation that success is not found in how much we are able to consume but in carefully consuming what we can afford, No... not even what we can afford. True success comes when we choose to live a life at a level where we do not have to consume to be happy. Unlike what I was taught growing up (by frugal parents, by the way)... when I receive more income, I don't have to move into a bigger house or buy a fancier car. There has to come a time when we say.... enough... we have enough. Okay, I'm still learning that it is possible to have enough books, perhaps there are never enough books.

That doesn't mean He won't take delight in... delighting us. Just this week a couple of things have happened that shows our family the Father heart of God (again). First, my guys have really (I mean REALLY) wanted to attend a basketball game at the University this season. However, the tickets tend to be more than we can afford to begin with and since they are having a "boola-boola" year (as my husband would call it), they are often sold out and unused season tickets are being sold for outrageous prices.

Imagine Christopher's surprise when he was handed an envelope at work and his eyes could hardly believe what he was seeing... two tickets! He had to call his dad immediately and there was great rejoicing... and I'm sure our infinite and personal God was one of them rejoicing for them. He later learned one of the managers at the bookstore had been given the tickets and decided to make a gift of them to Christopher.

As for me... well, this week I had one of those set of coincidences happen that makes me know God cares for the little things. When I was at the antique shop on Saturday, I saw a teacup I would have loved to purchase and the price was very reasonable. It was the same pattern that I own (but it is missing the saucer). However, even with the good price I decided not to get it. I had found enough bargains (as I'd written before, totaling about $10.00 for an entire bag) and that extra amount would be better used at the grocery store.

So... imagine my delight when I went to Goodwill on Monday and found TWO of those teacups with matching saucers for $1.98 each. Wait... it gets better. I stopped by the Goodwill in the town closest to the community college when I dropped Christopher off this morning (my husband had a doctor's appointment so we needed the car). There... on the shelf with dozens and dozens of dishes... was a lone saucer matching that teacup... for the one I already owned. They are the perfect size for visiting little girls to use while having a tea party.

My life is much simpler now due to circumstances I would rather not have gone through. But it is not unpleasant. Tis truly a gift... a real gift... to learn how to appreciate a lifestyle that is simple. Especially when one used to believe "to live is to consume... the best".

More ponderings later...


Anonymous said...

Such good reminders, Brenda. My husband was in college for the first 7 years of our marriage and we really needed to be frugal. Boy, were we ever frugal and continued to be so for several years after he was out and we were living (still are) on one income. However, over the past few years things haven't been quite so tight and I see how often and easy it is to fall into the consumer mentality. Thank you for reminding me once again of the truth that true happiness and joy simply can't be purchased and there is usually "more" with less.


4kids&luvit said...

What a wonderful post, and a wonderful reminder! My husband and I are slowly trying to make things "simpler" as you put it. We have four little ones and are really enjoying our family movie and game nights. We save SO much by staying at home. We all go out once a month to a restaurant or daytime showing of a decent movie so no one feels deprived at all! I've started buying almost all our clothing secondhand and never pay full price for anything. I even managed to get our grocery bill down to $400 a month. With six people and three in diapers- that was quite a feat! Sometimes God gives you something (in our case a special needs child) to show you what you REALLY need (money to pay the bills)and to teach you to lean on Him more than ever! He always comes through!!! God is good- ALL THE TIME!

Cathy said...

That is a nice post, Brenda. Thank God that He provides for all our needs and more. And the little and big surprises, just in time, from Him are blessings.

Kelly said...

Great Great post!

keep them coming~


Mishel said...

Stopping by your blog for the first! What an excellent post! Lots of nuggets of wisdom that I'll be keeping tucked away...

Blessings to you!