Sometimes I need a reality check. Or two. Or three.
I am a stay-at-home mom. I realize that this is not for everyone. Every family needs to decide what works for them. This was the desire of my heart, and my husband’s heart, and we were committed to making this work. We also knew, God willing, that we desired to have a large family.
Having a large family and one income would require sacrifice, but this was a sacrifice that we were willing to make. We knew that we may not have the finest things, and we were Ok with that.
In October, 2009, my husband and my very pregnant self, along with our three-year old and 20-month old daughters, moved from an area that is located about ten minutes east of downtown Indianapolis called Irvington to the suburbs of Westfield.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about being in the suburbs at first. My husband and I had a lot of conversations prior to moving. We liked the idea of being close to downtown. It seemed so much cooler. I still think it is cooler.
But, coolness aside, it wasn’t a great fit for us anymore. For many reasons, including the location of his job, it made sense for us to move to the north side.
So, that’s what we did.
We found a foreclosure that was a wonderful fit for our expanding family. I felt very blessed that we were able to move into a house that we otherwise would not have been able to afford. Along with the feeling of gratitude came the reality that our blessing was another family’s misfortune. I would think of the family often, especially in the first year. I would wonder about them. And pray.
About three weeks after we moved into our home, our third daughter was born. We began to settle into our new location. At first, I did not think much about moving to such an affluent area.
When we lived close to downtown, we were surrounded by the rich and the poor. Very nice homes were located just blocks away from poverty-stricken homes. Our cozy little yellow bungalow sat across from the golf course. Just a few blocks from our home was a street known to be a hangout for prostitutes and drug dealers.
We went from living in this melting pot to living where we live now. We live in Hamilton County. According to a recent article posted in WTHR, Hamilton County is now ranked as the seventh wealthiest county in the nation.
The longer we have lived here, the more I find myself comparing our lifestyle to others and feeling like I am not living up to some type of standard. The longer that I have been surrounded by wealth, the more my perception on how people live has erroneously changed. My idea of what is normal is becoming skewed. I am comparing my lifestyle to the lifestyles of some of the wealthiest people in the world. This is one of the challenges people face when they are living in the land of plenty. I am beginning to understand why the term “keeping up with the Joneses” exists. This struggle is not unique to me. One of my favorite movies is about this struggle that many Americans face, fittingly called The Joneses. It is a thought-provoking movie that I highly recommend.
Now this is not a knock on the suburbs, or the people who live in the suburbs. This is not a knock on being wealthy, or having nice things. Those are wonderful blessings that God has bestowed on people. I really enjoy living here, and feel very blessed to be where we are. This is just commentary on my ridiculous, absurd, insane thoughts.
I find myself forgetting about the early years in our marriage when we talked about having less and being Ok with that. I find myself feeling like what I have is not enough, but here is reality:
I have an ample amount of everything that I need.
I am not hungry. I actually have the ability to choose, daily, what I will eat. I am able to make food at home. I can go out to eat. I can eat fast food. I can sit down at a restaurant. I can search Yelp and see what sounds good to me, and go there, and eat. Everyday, I have an overabundance of dining options.
I have water. Clean water. I have options of what kind of water I want. Tap water. Filtered water from the fridge. Bottled water. Flavored water. Water from the hose. I can drink water. Shower in water. Bathe in water. And when I drink the water, I don’t need to worry about if it is going to make me, or my family members, sick.
I do not worry that my children will die from starvation, or dehydration. Thank you, Father.
I have a roof over my head. I am warm in the winter. I am cool in the summer.
I have clothes on my body. I have a pillow to lay my head on at night and blankets to cover myself with.
If my children are sick, I can take them to a multitude of doctors and grab them medicine from a plethora of pharmacies.
To many people around the world, living in our home would be like living in a mansion. It is all about perspective.
That is reality. We are blessed beyond measure.
But, here is a secret of mine. I am sometimes embarrassed by the cars we drive. Yep. True.
We have a 1997 Toyota Avalon that we have had for years. It is paid off and runs fine. We have a Toyota Sienna that is also paid off and runs fine. We own two working vehicles. True, one of them is more like the car you get when you turn 16, but who cares? It works and it is paid off.
When we first moved here and had our third daughter, we did not have the minivan yet. I would load all three kids into the back of the Avalon. That was my car. I thought nothing of it. Now, I have become increasingly embarrassed to drive that car. I actually will go out of my way to be sure I will have the minivan when I need to go somewhere because I don’t want to be seen in the Avalon.
Do you know how crazy that is?! There are people who don’t have food, and I am caring about being seen in our paid-off second vehicle. Something isn’t right here.
Thankfully, God has been showing me the ridiculousness of my thinking. He is teaching me gratitude. He is giving me reality checks.
This year, at our Christmas dinner, I looked at the overabundance of food on the table and in that moment God did something to my heart. I felt like He said to me, “Look. Look at this blessing before you and be grateful.” I was struck in that moment by the fact that I was able to feed my children. I could feed them without any fear of where the food would come from. There was so much food on our table that some would go to waste. My heart was grateful, and it was also very convicted.
I have carried that conviction with me into the new year. When I find myself thinking about the things that I want, I quickly remind myself of all that I have. When I find myself thinking about wanting a new car, I remind myself that we have all that we need right now. When I find myself feeling embarrassed, I remind myself to be grateful. I do not need to impress anyone. And, really, nobody cares what kind of car we drive. Our friends care about us, not about what we have. The way that I feel has nothing to do with people saying, or doing things, to make me feel this way. It is just my own stinking thinking. The thought that we need to have more, or be more, to prove something is just a lie. It is a lie that I am not buying into anymore.
I am on week four of my 52 weeks of donations and it has been a wonderful experience thus far. I do not think that it is a coincidence that I am embarking on this at the same time as I have been struggling with these thoughts. As I clean out our home, God is cleaning out my heart and my mind.
I am thankful for the work that God is doing on my heart. I am thankful that He is patient with me. I am extremely thankful that I do not need to worry about how I will feed my children tonight, and I pray for those who find themselves in that situation.
I am thankful for abundant blessings.
I am thankful for reality checks.