Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Being Happy With Less

I have an account on Formspring.  Basically, it is a place where people can ask you questions.  Recently someone asked me what kind of financial advice I would give to a young married couple.  Here is my reply:

 The best financial advice I could give a young married couple is "be happy with less." Oftentimes, young couples want to have or be where someone who has been married 15 or 20 years is. But those couples have worked for years to be where they are and to have what they have! 

I remember when I first got married, we had a fold-up card table as our kitchen dining table and we used my old hope chest as a coffee table. And we were happy. Completely happy because they were OUR things and it was OUR place. Even if our first home was an apartment. 

Be happy with less.

 With that being said, be wise. Look at where your money is going. Chances are there is something you have a hard time giving up. Is it clothes, eating out, movies??? In order to get ahead as a couple, you need to sacrifice.

 Ask advice from parents or older couples who seem to be managing their money wisely. It may seem humbling, but honestly, most couples start out struggling and looking back, those are very tender-building years. I'm willing to bet that most parents would be more than happy to share what they've learned along the way to help you avoid some pitfalls! Just because it seems like they couldn't understand your struggles based on where they are now, doesn't mean that they've never been there. 

There is so much more that can be said on this topic. But if you follow the general rule of "be happy with less" - I think it will help you focus on where you are, and where you need to be. Hard work truly pays off in the long run. But it takes commitment and time. Everything you earn or get along the way means so much more and is so much more rewarding if you've worked hard to get there - on your own two feet.

I think the biggest struggle for young couples isn’t to simply “meet their basic needs” but it’s this inner struggle of trying to meet the basics and “then some.”  It is very hard to truly “sacrifice.” Image is everything nowadays. So everyone wants that car, that house, that screen TV, those clothes, and to be able to do the things they’ve always done.

Unless both people in a marriage relationship are working hard to meet those demands, they will certainly catch up with you quickly!

I’ve seen many times how young couples don’t have enough discipline in their own lives but then continually ask those around them for help. And this can turn into the cry of “wolf” if couples aren’t careful. For most families are more than happy to help someone who is truly down on their luck. But if they notice they are being used or taken for granted (or even notice a lack of restraint on your part) you can bet the help will be withdrawn.

There is nothing wrong with struggle.  It teaches you a lot. What feels good is knowing that you are making it on your own – without help from others, if possible. Even if you are extremely tight – at least you’re doing it.  Don’t let the “beast” of life – the machine that tells you you’re nobody without certain things dictate how you live.

You always need to look at the bigger picture. Look down the road. If you want to have a child in a few years, start saving now. If you want to have a home in a few years, start saving now. Don’t wait until the time arrives and then realize you weren’t very wise with your money in the meantime. Always be saving a little extra for the future. But yes, enjoy life too! Just don’t be reckless.

Starting out in life with a spouse is a great adventure. Have fun – even if that means only getting pizza every two months and getting your movies at the library so you can watch them for free. Everything can be fun if you have the right attitude.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

God Has a Great Way of Keeping Me Humble

God has  a great way of keeping me humble. Of giving me compassion for others just when I might be on the edge of losing empathy.

I’m so thankful He does that in my life. Even if in the moment it’s often not the most fun. Because that’s the kind of person I want to be – the end result is that I want to be a humble, compassionate person. And to be honest, sometimes in life, I just lose those qualities. I grow a little harder. A little colder. A little less sympathetic. And God needs to remind me of a few things.

God needs to have me deal with health issues in order to feel compassion for those who constantly struggle with their health.

God shows me how it feels to be lonely so that I can empathize with the one who is all alone.

God allows some of my wishes and dreams to be dashed on the rocks in order for me to see that I am so blessed. It also shows me that I can’t simply tell someone “Just do it!” It can’t always be done.

God shows me in gentle ways, and in abrupt ways – how I need to watch my tongue, soften my heart, stop my judgement, slow my assumptions, and forgive more readily.

I am in need of grace. I have been in need of mercy. I have stuck my foot in my mouth. I have judged. I have had a hardened heart. I have failed to forgive at times. I have been proud. Yes, I have done and been all of these things. Some in moments, some lasting longer.

God doesn’t like to leave me there (for which I am SO thankful!) Just when I think I know something decisively, He shows me how little I really knew. Just when I stand my ground in firm decision; He shows me how much ground I have yet to walk.

For He loves me. That’s what a Father does. He does what is best for His child when He knows they have so much more potential to give.

This world can so easily chip away at our character. Without seeing or knowing it, bit by bit, we harden. We turn our back. We ignore. Bit by bit.

I’m so glad my Lord continues to readily soften me. Turn me back around and bend me.

I could always use more compassion, more empathy, and more humility in my heart and in my life.

*Originally published at EverydayChristian.com - August 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Soaking In the Moments

Those moments. You know those moments when they come. They are the moments when you stop what you are doing and take in your life and loved ones. You fully engage in the moment and you smile. You are happy. You are blessed. And you know it. You feel it.

Maybe it’s laying in bed and hearing your teen singing or playing a musical instrument from their room. Maybe it’s hearing your children giggle, laugh, and enjoy each other. Or maybe it’s when one of them is feeling hurt or wounded, and the other one reaches out to them in love.

Sometimes the moment comes amidst activity. You listen to the sounds in your house and they make you happy for you know one day it will be all too quiet.  Maybe it comes in the form of realizing how endearing an action or habit is of someone in your home. You wouldn’t have them any other way.

I love those moments. I love it when I can “still” myself long enough to realize how much I truly love those moments and things about the people I cherish. I often close my eyes and just soak them in.

Oh if we could engage in those moments more often! Those things we often overlook or ignore are often the very things we will one day miss. 

I love to walk by my youngest daughter’s room and see the mess on her desk. For it signals that she has been feverishly and creatively working on something. I love hearing my oldest daughter sing while she is in the shower. I love hearing my husband run up and wrestle with the girls and invite them in to a time of bonding through laughter.  I love hearing both of my girls rock out to their favorite tunes in the car or just “hearing” them around me at home. I’m so glad they are here.

These are the moments I treasure. And there are so many more. So many little things that I cling to. That I love.

I hate that life often lures me away from noticing. From relishing. From smiling and loving. And I’m so thankful that God often draws me back to what my heart craves the most. Those special and unique things that radiate from those who I love the most in this world.