My husband and I built a Good Cents certified home last year, and we have been over the moon with the new space for our family and friends who come to visit. The house seemed so spacious when we first moved in. In fact, after the frame was up, I looked to my husband and said “this is way too much!” But our family has quickly filled it, and of course a year and a half later, we inhabit every dearly loved nook and cranny.
But what a journey it has been. Over 4 years ago, my husband lost his government job, the one you’re never supposed to lose. It rocked our world. We didn’t want to leave our life in College Station, so he began the job hunt. There were great opportunities elsewhere, but we were not ready to move. Savings dwindled, and he began to consider starting his own business. I was fearful and untrusting, and my faith in him and in God’s ability to provide was tested. I wondered if I should get a full time job to help. But slowly, his business grew. There were exciting highs, and some scary lows, and good and bad surprises. We learned exactly what we “needed” to live and watched something beautiful happen to our family that we never expected. A Father who could work from home, and a Mother who learned how to “let Go and let God.” 🙂 As I had told a friend, it had always been easy for me to sing God’s praises in my life up to that point for nothing had ever, ever gone wrong. But to praise and thank God in the scary times? It was time for me to “walk the walk” in my faith life.
Building our house was a dream for us. But I still look around and wonder how I got here, from ten years ago when I was engaged and earning a part-time salary. I lived contentedly in a little apartment with a particle board computer desk from college and a twin bed, with a broken frame that I never bothered to fix. All I had to my name was one box of perogies in the freezer. And I felt blessed.
Today there are couches, tables, lamps, silverware, bikes, shoes, a china cabinet filled with dishes, a pantry stocked with dry goods, closets filled with coats, shelves filled by books. When I shop on grocery day and fill our refrigerator with bright red strawberries, crisp carrots, green salad and fresh meats and I usually pause in a moment of awe and utter a silent prayer of gratitude that we can feed our family so healthfully each week.
Where did all this stuff come from, and where did that waif of a girl go who could wrote in her journal at the park in her treasured thrift store skirts?
While we strive to live modestly, I still often imagine a much simpler life in a parallel universe. No house payments, no car payments, no technology. Just a sack filled with apples and good books and family pictures. Like my favorite final scene in the movie the Sound of Music, as the Von Trapp family ascends a mountain with everything they own upon their backs and climb steadily across the majestic Alps. Is it strange to look upon the most uncertain times of my life with fondness?
Then like a hamster in a wheel who has taken a pause for a snack, I relocate to the present moment and run our kids to piano and tennis and try to remember what it was I was going to make for dinner, which bill is outstanding and who I was supposed to call back the next morning.
We are blessed with so much abundance in our nation, it can be easy to forget that we have a choice to refuse some of it. Maybe not all of us are called to be missionaries overseas. Not all of us are able to own a tract of land and raise cattle, or sew our own clothing. But we can encourage and support those who do. We can make small differences in our every day purchasing that contribute to a cleaner, kinder world. We can shop for fair trade coffees, teas and chocolates in our local grocery store. We can recycle and start a compost pile. We can buy almost-new clothing and other items, or even barter. We can drive that old faithful car and use that old cell phone and be glad. We can involve our families in the ministries which reach out to those in need in our communities. We can practice the gratitude which reminds us that yes, we have enough, and still plenty to share with someone who does not. A simpler, more grateful, generous life is within our reach, and the choices we make create the world in which we live and how our children will live as well.
We give thanks in words, but we also give thanks in actions, too.
I look around our home that still feels so grand to me, squeeze the hand of my love, and peek on my healthy, slumbering children. I’ll never understand how I was given this beautiful life, certainly by no merit of mine. But I thank God for what he taught me about praising, thanking and trusting Him in the uncertainties.
As we gather as friends, families and communities for Thanksgiving, let us not pressure ourselves to make a perfect meal and forget to love and listen to one another in the process. Let us feel thankful for our lives, and not forget about those less fortunate, and our duty to them in service and prayer. Let us hunger for grateful hearts, and in all things, let us give thanks to God!