there are times when i think, know, that i must sound downright angry and negative. i like to say that culture shock has never worn off for me as a missions kid. i don't know if it's just that. i want to credit some of how i react to the culture around me to my family and mentors who modeled a life that is simple, focused and noble. mine is not necessarily any of those things, which may be why i get heartsick.
money is on my mind. the past ten years of my life, the ones that comprise my adult life, have been filled with mis-steps and misadventures... they've been full of good too... but many of the challenges i've had seem to be rooted at times in poorly thought out financial decisions. i've gotten good at getting out of jams, i've learned how to talk to collectors, i've found out ways to set up payment plans and defer loan payments, i've learned how to avoid and how to get by without things that really ought to come first.
and i'm discovering my story is not that rare. but it makes me sick.
i wasn't raised to be materialistic... however, even with the best of intentions to avoid "worldly" influence, i've been seduced by the "need" for a cell phone plan, the "wisdom" of building credit, and a slew of other things. i've chosen to get a new outfit over saving that same money toward the mounting student loan payments that are always in the back of my mind.
do you know what i mean?
eric and i are starting something big. we have no illusions that this will be easy. we want to be debt free in 3 to 5 years. i have more student loan debt than anyone with a mere BA should have, and various and sundry post college debts we've accrued that in the end were not necessary if we had just said no to ourselves. our recent trip to and from tennessee was encouraging. we budgeted. the envelope system. and the way there and back, i read dave ramsey out loud. i cried. we talked. and we got excited about tackling something that we have seen eat at people we love and respect all our lives.
today was not easy for my sweet husband. he had to argue his way through a payment plan with the cell phone company. we cancelled our plan but had termination fees and past due stuff they charged us for. before he got on the phone, he decided how much we could pay _right now_ to take care of this. he stuck to it, and that is what he did in the end. it took an hour of bouncing between four or so customer service reps before they got it through their heads that we weren't going to be guilted into rash and sudden commitments of money we don't have (ie. credit cards or, can't someone loan you the money right now?) i am so proud of him, but this experience made him feel 2 feet tall.
what is wrong with us?
someone tries to be honest and only use the means they have at their disposal to take responsibility for something - and that person is made to feel foolish, irresponsible and small. don't get me wrong, we haven't managed all our finances well, but we are taking action to fix that and instead of applause we get rotten tomatoes.
and then i visit with friends and family who are happily putting down plastic for new iphones or choosing to extend their direct tv package. their kids' favorite things to do are go shopping at target or eat at mcdonalds... they don't know what it's like to not have cable or to plan ahead enough so they can share a car anymore.
these are the choices we celebrate in america. why?
these are the choices we celebrate as people of faith - why? what happened to the lilies of the field, and the sparrows? where is my treasure supposed to be buried again? i am horrified when i see teenagers expect such luxuries like their own car, a cell phone, a computer of their own... i'm sure they thank their parents, but what did their parents have to do to pay for those things? do those kids have any idea of the value of the things they have? i know i've lost touch with the true value of these things, they won't even have the advantage of ever knowing.
specific pictures come to mind. of young men close to me who have been questioned and criticized for choosing a life of ministry instead of a life of accountancy, or some other "stable" career path. how can anyone criticize a person for choosing to serve others over serving self? if it's in a person's heart to serve the Creator in that way, shouldn't we praise him or her?!
and if i choose to live, for a time, in a humble low income apartment instead of breaking my back to buy a house way before i can afford it, shouldn't you praise me too? if i choose to save the money i could be using to eat out with friends now in order to later live without guilt, a hug and word of encouragement would be so much more welcome than the unspoken criticism that i have felt at times for making a wise choice...
and so, it makes me heartsick when i see our lives wrapped in consumerism to the point that it is difficult for any of us to see straight, but i am hopeful. today, i am hopeful that someday soon i will be able to breathe and not wonder if i can really afford to buy a second gallon of milk at the end of the month. i am hopeful that someday sooner than i know, i will be able to wake up with my child in the mornings and know that we can spend the whole day together without the strain of daycare, work schedules and credit card bills to pay.
and somehow, that makes my heart sigh at the little reliefs along the way, like my husband telling at&t what for.