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.

5 comments:

Anderson Clan said...

A friend of mine, recently wrote an interesting couple of posts about Financial Health. Your post made me think of it:

http://www.almondplace.com/2011/10/31-days-to-getting-fit-day-10.html

Give kisses to those girls of yours! :)
Gina

Mrs. R said...

Thanks for being open and sharing all this. I completely agree with all your had to say. Alex and I are constantly reminding ourselves to see finances God's way instead of the loud voice of the rest of society. And when we do we are amazed how much easier everything is and how he lavishly blesses us anyhow!

The Stiffs said...

Love your post, it's great to hear your thoughts. Always reading, just too tired to comment and make any sense tonight!!
Love you.

Chris is a geek said...

Great post Jocelyn! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :0)

~Caroline

Våge Family Website said...

...for god loves a cheerful giver, dah!..:)....

i wish i had more to give :( i love giving... would buy you everything on your list if i could. that would make me so happy!

i am in miami now and am overwhelmed by wealth and consumerism. pray for me that i will not yearn for what i do not have...i'm so protected in esperanza from knowing what i don't have....

you are a great giver, by the way...not just with money, but with love, time, thoughtfulness, creativity, joy, beauty :)...you give lots!!

love you!