For years I've believed that a successful life has to be over-full.
I probably learned the lie the same way you did - little by little. One brick at a time, we lay a foundation of over scheduled days, sleepless nights, and an eye trained on what we want to stockpile.
It's the root of my own anxiety. What about yours?
And when I've tried to free myself from this pattern of thinking - this desire for more - I find myself stuck trying to climb over the fence . . . caught on the barbed wire, wrapped up in a culture that didn't choose me . . . I chose it.
So about 8 months ago we got pregnant and have been expecting our first child this whole time. And we knew I'd have to quit my church job. We knew we'd lose that income. We knew our house had things that would break. We knew we'd have to pay our taxes. We knew nothing was guaranteed to us. We can still remember being first married and how we really did live paycheck to paycheck for several years - barely getting by, but so happy. And still . . . knowing all of that . . . . the desire for the over-full life is buried in my heart.
Blessing is not a huge savings account or even the ability to get the nice things we want right now. Blessing is having just enough to cover what must be done to live.
And today, after a long work day, very tired and very pregnant, I had to be happy with my husband as we realized that we will have just enough to cover what must be done right now . . . we will have no extra . . . and that is a blessing . . . because it is enough.
You can take that one word and make it anything.
Enough to eat.
Enough work to do.
I wrote a song the other day and in it is a line that says, "The starter home is enough!" It's not my dream lyric. But I had to say it. In a world of young professionals and young parents, I hear this story over and over again. We live beyond our means because we have this cultural disease that changes our definition of "enough."
Little by little we lay that foundation that tells us to over-fill everything - our schedules, our pockets, and our expectations. Even our parents whisper things to us that are unhealthy. We call smaller houses "starter homes" because we have a cultural assumption that a successful life will buy us a large home and that we will fill the larger home with beautiful things. We've been told more than once that in a few years this house, our first house, will be useless to us because it's small . . . . but friends, the small house is the house that our particular living affords. And who ever said that wasn't a worthy thing?
Really - who is it that told a whole culture that living within one's means is somehow less beautiful?
When I became a school teacher and a songwriter I knew I wasn't destined for Nashville . . . or even a career in school administration. I never expected to be rich - or did I?
Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, "Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This, too, is meaningless."
Last week my husband and I sat down and hashed out our little budget. We discovered a few things about ourselves.
#1 We don't always make the best choices.
#2 We don't always make the worst choices.
#3 Our budget is small, but our household is growing by a whole human being - that means we have to change most of our habits.
#4 If we are modest in our living, we have enough to live, enough to save, and enough to give away.
#5 Our "starter home" is enough because it has to be.
#6 When the air conditioner breaks down, the taxes are due, and other unexpected obstacles arise, we should be thankful to have just enough to cover ourselves instead of being upset that we are giving away most of what we have to fix what's wrong.
#7 All of this will happen again and again. We had better get used to it and live simply.
This is a heavy topic. And those of you who have felt the weight of responsibility for yourself and your family understand the darkness of the anxiety we experience when we fear that we won't be able to provide enough for a "full" life.
So we need this heartening reminder: A full life and a full bank account are not synonymous. A big heart and a big house are not the same thing. We can live on little and love much if we are willing to build on something other than the cultural foundation most of us have been catering to our whole lives.
Don't be scared, friends. Simplicity seems like "giving up" only when we give up on believing otherwise.