Saturday, November 26, 2011

Money, debt and possesions....

"Keeping up with the Joneses" used to be a catchphrase I never identified with. That changed the year we moved to our first posting with the RCMP. While I was delighted to discover that that the majority of families were the same age as us, I was baffled at how well off they appeared. As I glanced around their homes I couldn't help but notice their fancy leather couches, huge flat screen TVs, their matching bedroom sets, and beautiful dining sets. All I could think about was the fact that I bought my 70's couches from Value Village for eighty dollars, that our kitchen table was a hand me down from Nathaniel's mother, that our vehicle was basically an antique and that I didn't even own serving dishes. I know that it may sound a little silly, but I got stressed at the very thought of having "those" people over, least they see my humble furnishings. I had never experienced such feelings before, never compared myself to others or assumed that I should have what others have. Why did that change? It is a question that I have been wrestling with for some time and have not yet resolved. In any case I often feel the need to explain myself - you know - the reasons why we don't have numerous flat screen TVs (or even one for that matter), two brand new vehicles, a hundred million toys for my children, expensive couches and so on.

Firstly, I don't think that all that stuff is necessary. Secondly I think there is tremendous value in living within ones means. I've realized that the majority of people who have all those nice new things don't actually own them - the bank does. I don't want unnecessary debt. I would rather accumulate things over a long period of time as my taste changes and as my bank account permits. Thirdly, we live in a culture of excess, and we are constantly made to feel as though we need "stuff" to feel happy and fulfilled. I admit, I buy into this lie frequently, but I am trying REALLY hard not to. That being said, I do WANT nice things. I have gigantic lists of all the things I want to buy. But, I shouldn't let that list consume me or take away from other priorities. Priorities such as tithing, giving, saving and being accountable.

For the first time in over eight years of marriage I have been able to start buying things for my home and wardrobe, and as a result I have become more selfish. It is true that the more you have the more you want. In our early years of marriage Nathaniel and I lived at my parents house to help them out with the mortgage and keep an eye on my two younger siblings (who were still in high school at the time) while my parents lived and worked at a retirement facility in Surrey. We stayed there for two years, and it was such a blessing since Nathaniel had just started a job working as a grader at a sawmill and I was attending University. Our rent was really inexpensive and after two years we had saved up enough to put a down payment for our first home. At that point we were dinks (double income, no kids) but we had a hefty mortgage and we were saving our remaining pennies for our trip around the world. We sold our home (when the housing market was at its peak) and invested our profit with the help of a financial advisor. It was a intelligent decision and the stood a good chance of earning more for us than it would simply sitting in a savings account. After we had sold our home, Nathaniel proposed that we tithe from our profit. I was not as enthusiastic about the idea as he was, but I knew it was the right thing to do. So needless to say we took an uncomfortable sum of money and put it into an account and labeled it the "God account". In the years since, the Lord has lead us to give money from that account to various ministries and people. I know that it would have been more fun to go on a shopping spree with that money, but instead we surrendered it to the Lord and have seen it used in powerful, life changing ways. Since then, Nathaniel put me in charge of paying tithes each month since it is something that I struggle with more than he does.

When we returned to Canada after nine glorious months of gallivanting, Nathaniel applied to the RCMP and returned to his job at the sawmill. I started working at a safe house for women and children leaving domestic abuse. Nathaniel and I started trying for a child shortly after that. My family were happy to have us stay with them again and I was thankful for their support when Nathaniel had to go to Regina for depo for six months. Our daughter was only four months at the time, but thankfully I had gotten enough hours to quality for maternity leave. In addition to that, I had saved the majority of my paychecks in case I needed extra money while Nathaniel was away. I never ended up needing to use any of it and we were able to reinvest it after Nathaniel graduated. I think that was the last time we put anything into savings. So that brings us to our current situation. We have ridiculous low rent and cheap living expenses but we haven't saved a dime and we have been spending like crazy. It's rather embarrassing.

It is really important to us that we make good financial decisions. We want to be a good stewards with the finances the Lord has blessed us with but over the past year I don't feel as though we have been . In fact I feel like I am struggling with money again. I have been really inconsistent with my tithing as well as giving. I have a long list of reasons why I haven't been tithing as much but really they are just excuses to cover my selfishness. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 it says "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." Dah! In Mathew 6:19 it says "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, But store up for yourself treasures in heaven..." I need to keep the eternal in perspective instead of constantly dwelling on my fleeting existence and the material comforts I think I need. Christmas is coming up and my greedy little mind has been composing lists of things I would like, but instead I should be thinking of how I can bless others. Isn't that was Christmas is all about? Celebrating the great gift that God gave us when he sent his son to earth for us and the reminder that it IS better to give than it is to receive.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas cards

It is usually about this time of year that I start thinking about our annual Christmas letter. Today I started playing around with photo shop and this is what I came up with so far......

I would love to have a picture of our family in the snow, but it is ridiculously cold here right now (easily -25 most days). We have been keeping the wood stove stocked around the clock and I pulled out our winter duvet yesterday. Our home is decked with pine boughs, lights, garlands and wreaths. I can hardly wait to set our tree up.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Do you ever wonder...

Do you ever have days where you question whether or not you are giving your child the best possible childhood? Whether or not you are spending enough time with them - teaching, instructing, playing, and disciplining. I do. On a regular basis. I spend a great deal of time feeling guilty actually. At the end of the day I ask myself - what did I do to enrich my daughters lives today? Most days I don't feel as though I have done anything particularly fun or interesting. I am no longer in survival mode, but I always find cleaning my home more appealing than playing with my children. I am embarrassed to admit that, but it is true. I truly want my children's days to be full of good things... imaginative play, nutritious snacks, laughter, adventures outside, and creative endeavours but I don't always have the energy or the time to make it happen.... or do I? It is said that you make time for the things that really matter to you. So what are my priorities? What REALLY matters to me? This is the question I find myself asking. Whether or not there are dishes in the sink, should not be of any consequence! There will ALWAYS be more dishes, but the time I have with my children is fleeting.

Instead of worrying about the mess and the noise I need to focus on enjoying my children. Lately I have started to try and focus on doing things that I genuinely enjoy so that my time with them is not half hearted. For me, that means making forts, baking cookies, building Lego towers, chasing them around the house giggling, playing tickle games on the carpet, racing cars down the hallway, going for walks in the woods, singing songs, and painting. I have to remember that soon this precious time will be over and my children will more concerned about spending time with their friends than with their momma. Right now I am their world - their sun and their moon and I need to cherish that fact.

I remember once hearing a mother say that at the end of the day she couldn't remember if she had even taken the time the look her children in the eye and tell them that she loved them. So often I find myself in autopilot just trying to get things done, make sure the children are fed, clean, rested and that dinner is on the table. It is often not until the children are bathed, dressed and in there beds that I have a moment to reflect on the day. So, recently Amelia and I have started thanking Jesus for all the good things that took place. She quints her eyes tight and smiles big and then bellows a huge Amen. Then I tell her I love her and give her a big smooch. It is the perfect way to end the day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A delightful stranger

I picked up a hitchhiker yesterday afternoon after driving by him and his dog numerous times. I saw him for the first time when I went to a friend's house for a play date around ten in the morning and then again when I went to an epicure party at a ranch down the road. I thought for sure someone would have picked him up by the time I headed home, but no, he was still sitting on the side of the road looking as miserable as ever. A quick calculation reminded me that he had been out in the cold (-8 degrees) for at least five hours. His dog was shivering beside him in a blanket and I couldn't help but feel empathy for two of them. Nathaniel had taken Amelia to a church potluck twenty minutes outside of town and I didn't know when he would be home, but I really felt the Lord prompting me to help this guy out. I was nervous when I did a U turn and headed back in his direction, but I had a peace in my heart that the Lord was in it. I asked him where he was going and he said he was trying to get to Kamloops. I found out that he had spent the past twenty six hours outside and had slept in the shack across from the general store. I was appalled. There are no hotels in our community and there is only one restaurant which is not open on weekends. When I realized that he would be spending the night outside again if I didn't invite him to come and spend the night at our house. The sudden relief in his eyes was instantaneous. I couldn't help but think "OH my goodness, I can only imagine what the other officers and their wives would think if they saw me letting a scraggly, bearded man and his pit bull into my car". But, I did it anyway.

After he had thawed out and had a hot shower he didn't waste any time tuning our neglected guitars and filling our home with the most delightful guitar music. It reminded me immensely out the sort of music that Loretta's husband Micheal plays. The sound was a combination of rag time with some punk style blue grass mixed in.

Thankfully my husband didn't seem to mind our rather bedraggled looking guest when he showed up two hours later. He simply told me that he trusts my judgement and trusts me. Oh how I LOVE that about him. Lex (our guest) turned out to be a fascinating young man from Virginia who has been traveling for about five years.He had been touring the states with a band called profane sass and that he had decided to travel to Canada when they decided to tour California. He recently hitched a ride on CN rail across Canada and has since been exploring B.C. He was only twenty two years old although I never would have guessed it with the amount of facial hair he had going on. I had assumed he was in his mid 30's. He was quiet, mature, soft spoken, intelligent and unafraid of adventure and hardship.

His presence was immensely refreshing and he reminded me of simpler times when Nathaniel and I were travelling around the world. In the morning we sent him off with a bag lunch, a sleeping bag we no longer needed and Nate drove him to the next town where he would have a better chance of catching a ride.

Friday, November 4, 2011


I just finished reading a book called "Skinny Bitch", and while it was intense, vulgar and disturbing it was also incredibly informative and straightforward. To put it lightly, it rocked my world. So much so, that I am seriously considering giving up store bought meat for the rest of my life. I really enjoy and appreciate the taste of meat. I have been eating it my entire life and have never really given much thought to where it came from or how to was processed. A couple of years ago I started buying free range chicken eggs after Nathaniel told me about the time he did some temp work for a chicken factory. Now that I am aware of the horrific, inhumane, torture that animals endure so that we can buy their flesh it at an affordable price,I am disgusted and hell bent on changing my ways. I think that the majority of people would become vegetarians if they knew what took place in most slaughterhouses.

I always had an idea about how cows, chickens and pigs met their demise, but I never knew exactly. Now that I KNOW my conscious will no longer allow me to buy supermarket meat again. I can't even begin to describe what happens in your typical large scale operation. I actually felt like throwing up after reading an explicit chapter on slaughterhouse practices. While I don't think that becoming vegetarian is the answer to my dilemma I do plan on changing my ways. My plan is to eat only animals that either my husband has hunted or from small companies that specialize in free range, ethical meat production. There is one such company down the road from us and I have heard nothing but excellent reviews about them. Last year we got 1/4 of a organic free range cow from them. Apparently (this may sound a little odd) but they play classical music to keep the animals calm, prevent animals from witnessing the death of other animals and only process a few animals a day.

When people hear that my husband hunts they think of "oh how awful" and "how can you kill such lovely creatures" but I can assure you, that the animals that fall to his bow or gun have lived good, healthy lives and die swiftly. The same cannot be said for the majority of animals who end up in tidy little packages in the store. You might feel good about the meat that no longer resembles an animal - all traces of fur, blood and feathers removed, but I can assure you that animal was miserable, lived in its filth, could hardly move for most of its life and died horribly. Are you still hungry? I hope not. I know I am ranting but I can't help it. Not everyone can hunt for their meat, that is not practical or sustainable in our modern day society, but we as a society can demand changes and force companies to change their ways.

Perhaps one day I will become a vegetarian, but for the time being I will be vigilant about where and how I purchase my meat and try and educate others so that they do the same. I hope this resonated with you in some way.