As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2: 4-5

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The art of being poor

About 13 years ago, my life as I knew it fell apart. I was married, living in a country club neighborhood, shopping whenver I needed or wanted something, staying at home with my new baby girl. And then I wasn't. Wasn't married. Was living in government subsidized housing. Shopping at a local food pantry. And despite working three jobs, the children and I, we were poor. My parents did an amazingly generous job of making sure that we had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and that we never went hungry. I remember being so humbled, so embarrassed, so ashamed back then when it all happened. I never wanted the children to realize just how bad off we were, and so we made games out of it.

There was the "treasure hunt," where we all searched the couch cushions, the junk drawers, the discarded bags, under the car seats, and yes, even in the parking lot of our apartment complex for coins for gas. There were picnic dinners on the living room floor with pbj sandwiches....again. And coin counting parties where we would count all the coins that we made from our latest yard sale, while slowly but surely selling off our stuff. They were so proud taking our coin box to the bank to trade it in for cash, when I was dying inside.

And then, little by little, things started to get better. I got a better job and we slowly started getting back on our feet. Then I met Daryl, and from our first date, he made sure that the kids never needed anything. But the children still remember. We talk about it and we all agree it was a bittersweet time in our lives. We have some really good memories, and my children really appreciate what they have and know what is important in life. And just for that, I would gladly do it all over again.

Fastforward to now. We are blessed. So so so incredibly blessed. We have five healthy, happy, vibrant children. We both have both our parents with us still, and loving families. We have a great house (an everexpanding one at that!), four cars in our driveway, and the children attend a private school. We both have jobs, and Daryl actually has three (I do believe I married the hardest working man EVER!) We have an amazing church family, and most importantly, we have Jesus.

And still, we find ourselves as we do most January's: too much month left for our money. We both get paid in the middle of December and then not again until the end of January (the plight of any teacher). In those six weeks, we have Christmas and two birthdays. We always find ourselves a bit stretched, but this year for some reason, it was worse. And while it's been humbling and frustrating, it's been a good reminder. A reminder of the generosity of our parents. A reminder of God's provision. A reminder that everything we need, we already have.

I wish I could say that next January will be different. That we will save a little each month for this purpose. That we will manage our money better. But I know the chances of any of that happening are slim to none. But maybe, just maybe, it is a good thing. OK, so maybe that's stretching it. Necessary, maybe. For God knows just what we can handle, and just what we need. And just maybe, a good game or two of "treasure hunt" was just what we needed.

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