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Happy With or Without

     The older I get the more I realize that life can be like the ocean. The waves come in and the waves go out. The same can be true when it comes to money and cash-flow. I remember believing that everything should just get better and better and that we would have more and more. Now, I know differently—and I’m okay with it.

     When my husband and I both started our journey in life together, we both had aspirations in our careers of having plenty, and for many years we did. We were able to give abundantly to different causes and had all that we needed. During that time we were able to give away two of our cars at different points along the way to others who were in need, and gave a significant amount toward a vehicle for a missionary family. We had plenty of resources for all four of our children at the time to attend private school and have all the activities they desired. They were enrolled in piano, theatre, dance, violin, voice lessons, sports and more. It just seemed to be the thing all parents were doing. The negative side to the benefits is that I remember being so strapped for time, that we could barely breathe, running back and forth everywhere. It was exhausting.

     With both my husband and I working, we had a housekeeper, Balvena, who came regularly to clean our home and Charlie who maintained our yard each week. We paid people to wash, wax and detail our cars, dry-clean and alter our clothes, cut and style our hair, deliver our groceries, paint the exterior of our home, repair our appliances and vehicles, care for our children and make our meals. We spent money on name brand clothing, jewelry, travel, entertaining, electronics, gifts, manicures and pedicures and eating out. The children had and did whatever they requested. It was a lifestyle that we grew accustomed to and it was difficult to change.

     But the winds did change and the tide did turn. Slowly we began to adjust to the economic changes that affected our family. We stopped spending on things that weren’t necessary. We gave up cable and trimmed other household expenses. We turned off our home phone and just used our cell phones. We began to do things for ourselves without paying anyone to do it for us. We cut the spending on everything. We cut the children’s activities except what they could earn and pay for themselves.

     We’ve seen many ways to save money these past two years out of necessity that we have not always employed in the past. I suppose it was because we didn’t have a need to then and we do now. We have used coupons, had a garden, cut our own hair, made our own home repairs, stopped eating out, carpooled, rode the bike and the bus, got rid of one of our cars, shopped at thrift stores, re-purposed items, stopped spending on anything that wasn’t our tithe or a bill.

     We have had to make choices on what to purchase this year like never before. We have had to choose some weeks whether to buy peanut butter or toilet paper, sandwich meat or laundry detergent. I never considered tall kitchen bags or Cascade to be a luxury, but this year it has been. When we have run out of trash bags, we have used the small plastic grocery bags instead. When we didn’t have detergent for the dishwasher, we washed the dishes by hand. We used to have milk and meat every day, now we have them about once a week. But it’s okay.

     We have seen the dollar stretch further than ever. One of the greatest things about our current circumstances is that our children have truly learned the value of a dollar. We also have learned to be much more creative and resourceful. We have seen a great level of gratitude among our children that we are thankful for. They share, make sacrifices, contribute to the well-being of each other, take turns, think ahead, conserve, eat whatever they are served, and enjoy each others' company, in spite of it.

     We are less rushed and stressed than before and we truly have all the treasures in this temporary life that we need. We have an abundance of faith, hope and love and these are things no one can take away and that the poor economy can’t diminish. We also have more time and opportunity to know and love each of our seven children, who are in themselves some of God’s greatest riches given to us, and our best investment for the future.  

     We have learned to identify with Paul, “Not that I speak in regard to need for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:12 (NKJV).

     So if you find yourself without, instead of with, just be encouraged that you can have joy and plenty of what truly matters-- no matter what!

Copyright © 2008-2015 Debbie Reynolds Harper

Reader Comments...
2010-11-14 19:58:32

I had no idea how much your family had to change your/their lifestyle. This article was so well-written. There is so much that you could have said because I know all of you sacrificed even more than what you shared. But you kept to the main point about being happy with or without and it really hit home. This was brief considering what you have all went through but very POWERFUL. I know readers will be so blessed by this. What an example of a lady that has it altogether and yet is so transparent.

You are a blessing,"
        - Dorena

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