It is not difficult to be thinking about becoming more frugal these days. Everywhere in Blog Land, someone is talking about the subject. Let's ponder together what good can come from becoming more having less to spend... even if it hurts gong through the process (oh, definitely been there with the scars to prove it!).
So, make yourself comfortable and I'll pour a cup of tea. I'm sipping Vanilla Caramel Truffle tea as I type... yum. I am SO thankful that Target has good teas at a very reasonable price. :)
Come back with me to when we were having to leave Detroit but hadn't a clue where to go next. We didn't feel we were to go back home (although we did end up back here eventually) and the only open door was to rent a house in Western Michigan. So, we moved all of our stuff (that was our first huge downsizing!) into a rented modular home which sat by a pond a couple of miles from Lake Michigan.
At first we thought perhaps God was leading us back to this area for good, having lived in Holland for nine years (this time we were near Muskegon). Instead this became one of the most difficult and blessed years of my life. It was the second time in my life that we would endure a year with no income. No, this year didn't turn out like I expected it and it was quite painful at times... but lessons learned there went deep and resulted in much faith and "peace that passes all understanding".
There is something that happens when one has less money to spend (or no money!). Our options become fewer, that which is the most important in our life rises to the top... we enter true simplicity. That year we had few friends (and no one we would call a close friend), no family around us... we were a people with no past to this community. We had to go on welfare, which is the only way I could continue to get insulin. We had gone from being the family whose Dad was a Corporate Quality Manager... to "that family on welfare" at the church we attended in Muskegon. Most people there were not very nice to us (only the women's Sunday school class, for whom I will be forever grateful). The pastors looked down their nose at us, suspicious of anyone on government assistance. They didn't take the time to get to know who we really were.
We had lost it all for the third time... first in Iowa, second "back home", again at the edge of a pond in the country. Ever label that counted, every relationship that meant anything (except my immediate family), all things of this world that gave any indication of success were taken away and we were left with... what mattered. This time it was not due to my husband's health although it would be the last time he worked as an engineer as his health became much worse soon thereafter (even though he was constantly looking for work that year, there were no jobs at all... even in a factory).
I spent hour upon hour either sitting by the pond near our house with my Bible open or (in good weather) at the shore of Lake Michigan. Somehow I sensed I was at a crossroads, either turning one direction and drawing nearer to the Lord or taking the other road which led to bitterness and defeat. I wish I could say the decision was easy but it took that entire year of reading, praying, pondering, sitting with the wonders of nature all around me, doing the best homeschooling Christopher as I could, being dreadfully and painfully lonely.
I had few options. When there is no money one doesn't sign up for all the extras, one doesn't hop in the car just to "get away awhile", one learns what can be done for nothing, meals become simple and made from scratch, books are pulled off of shelves and reread, and mail becomes the big event of the day. We knew we could be asked to move during any month (since this house was going to be put up for sale) so no garden could be started and no roots put down. It was truly a spiritual desert in the midst of a naturally beautiful land.
What were the results of this year? It was truly as if we were seed buried in the ground that year for at the time, it looked like all was lost. Instead, that is where the greatest lessons were learned. Learning to live on less is something I thought I had already mastered but living on nothing... now that was truly a worthy school to attend, even if it is kicking and screaming. :)
For my friend, I learned that becoming frugal and living on much less brings to us great reward. When we are forced off the wild merry-go-round of life, we find ourselves looking at those continuing to live their lives in such a crazy busy pattern and we come to realize... why? What becomes of us as we reap a whirlwind from such activity?
It becomes easy to say "no" when our options are forced to become narrowed... when gasoline costs so much that a trip into town again is not wise, when getting involved will include more dues, or equipment, or costumes, or any costs. It becomes wise to give a simple birthday party, one or two presents, a homemade cake, a book to read... the gift of ourselves and our time.
Forced frugality gives us excuses to get off the wild ride that is life in the 21st century. As for me, I am still learning and I can't say it is always easy. I crave a good Starbucks. I wish I could buy the new book when it is first published. I would love to see the latest movie. This month finds me with an almost zero bank account... with three weeks to go in the month... skyrocketing prices bring with them forced frugality, again.
This time it is different. This time there are memories of wells in the desert and manna in the wilderness. Sometimes He allows us to be forcibly brought to simplicity. But He never leaves us forsaken. The world may seem to be going crazy but as we sit by our own pond (perhaps a front porch with a rocking chair these days), open the Good Book that is full of Truth, listen for the still small Voice that brings with it the Faith to continue and Wisdom to live a much more frugal and simple existence... we come to welcome this forced frugality.
I am not saying it is easy. However, my friends, once again many are coming to that place... that fork in the road... the place of choice where we can go in one direction and trust God or go in another and make decisions which lead us away from Him.
As I have written on the side bar (and in my kitchen)...