I was vacuuming this morning (a rare occurrence around here, brought on by the final results of Amaryah’s science experiment this morning. She decided to see what would happen if you take two light bulbs and hit them together to make a neat noise…) when it occurred to me that a lot of the times I look back to most fondly are the times when we were basically broke. Like we are now. And I really don’t know why that is, so I thought I’d ramble a bit and see if something comes together.
Basically, my first hunch is that it has something to do with contentment. Somehow it’s easier for me to be content when my resources are low. I enjoy the challenge of working within limits. I actually have fun figuring out how to make dinner with the few things I happen to have around the house (not currently a problem, as we have a house full of food), or to make a trip to Stuffmart work with a limited budget. I love making stuff out of what I already have over just going out and buying it. Using what I already have takes creativity, whereas going to the mall just takes cash. The other thing that makes times like these fun is that the focus changes. Instead of figuring how I’m going to manage what we have coming in and going out, I have the time to manage what we already have and enjoy it. The focus changes –it’s easier to take the time to be grateful for what we’ve already been given …even if we are wondering from where and when the things we still need will come.
So, this morning instead of going out for coffee, I stayed home and did Mt. Laundry, which I needed to do anyway, and marveled at how well-clothed we are. I can go a whole week without doing laundry, excepting the two or three loads of cloth diapers I do weekly. Yes, I still do cloth diapers, and I actually enjoy it, in my typical nonconformist way. I enjoy the fact that I can go about three weeks on one package of disposable diapers (we use them at night, when we go out, nursery and babysitters, and when I’m too worn out to keep up with what’s already in the diaper bin), and that I’m keeping an extra $12 in my budget and an extra bag of trash or two out of the landfill.
Even with all that, I’m still happy with our lifestyle. I don’t enjoy the stress brought on by a paycheck much smaller than expected due to lack of hours (our dilemma this time around), but I can know that it’s temporary (there’s another, better paycheck coming in two weeks), my kids can still eat and live in a warm house, and we have all our needs met, even if it means we’ll have to cut out the luxuries for a week or two. …And if we should really want to still do something, we could probably find enough change in the couch and the car to pull off a trip for coffee or ice cream. So, it’s really not that bad, in the eternal scheme of things. I tend sometimes to get caught up in a trap of comparing our family’s lifestyle with that of most of the other middle-class responsible home-owning types that live around here (what are we doing wrong… that type of thinking), but really, this works for us, even if we know what it means to work hard and still have to gratefully accept help when it’s given. Most of the time, we are the ones able to offer that help ourselves and we forget the joy in doing it more times than I would like to admit. Just like there’s always someone better off than ourselves, we can always find someone who is struggling more than we are to live a comfortable life, or in some cultures, just live at all. So, I guess it’s really about being content, and being content when things are short takes more of a concerted conscious effort. You know, I really think that’s what I remember positively from all those times in our past where the ends didn’t quite meet. I really like being content.
And that contentment, I’m also realizing, has to do with not just our finances, but where we are as well. We have been working so hard to make this goal we’ve had before we got married to go overseas and do ministry/missions work, and we’re still in the middle of Dutchdom, where all things are happy and neat and there are no obvious needs. So why are we here, anyway? At least in Arizona, we were plopped in the middle of an area crawling with needy people. We could write a small book on just the people we met in our apartment complex. Around here, the problems are hidden neatly in closets among the dusty lawn ornaments and last year’s Christmas decorations. There isn’t as much crying out to be fixed around here. It’s really kind of boring, compared to last year. I keep thinking about Tolkien’s way of alternating really intense chapters in the Lord of the Rings with periods of rest (like Rivendell) and wondering if that’s what this chapter of our life is supposed to be about. We do need some healing and rest after last year. I would be lying to say we came here without wounds –me not so much, but holding things up has really worn me out more than I realized until I stopped and let out the breath I’d been holding for months. I really didn’t want to move back here, I think, for that reason –there’s just not much to do here. It’s hard to be content about that, but I have to learn to be, I guess, until I am given some clear idea of what I’m supposed to do around here. So, that’s where I am right now. It’s slowly feeling more like home here (at least beyond just familiarity), but it’s not where I would have chosen, and I’m having a hard time accepting that. I’d like to end this with a nice profound closing thought, but there aren’t any right now. Just hanging in there and waiting to know what to do not even next, but right now. And the only directions I’m hearing are “wait.” I don’t wait well.