What an amazing September! Little did we know about the boulder that would actually drop into our path a short 6 weeks ago. As with anything in life that happens to knock you off your feet, choices and decisions are begged to be made as you begin to stand again. The way I see it, it can go one of two ways. It can lead you to a dark destruction, or it can lead you to unspeakable growth in the light.
It’s not necessarily even what you choose, but how you choose.
Am I choosing based from a heart-foundation settled in myself and my entitlements, or am I choosing supported by a heart thankful for all that I have been given?
The truth of the matter is that we, the Conrad family, have been blessed. Both Aaron and I hold a college degree. We own a home. We own, not one, but two vehicles. We have a pantry with food. We have closets with clothes. We have a bank account with money in it. By the world’s standards, we are rich.
And yet, is there room for improvement?
I say absolutely.
Aaron and I have had many “conversations” since his start date of unemployment. They’re good conversations. We’re taking a look at all the resources He has provided and we’re asking, what now Lord? Will we enter into a time where our income will be as it was before? I don’t know. Most likely the answer is no. Once again, I can choose to pout, or I can choose to be thankful. I’ve honestly done a little of both. I’ve found myself extremely grateful for the ways in which He gave us a season of “plenty”, and perhaps He’s divinely chosen for us a new season of being in “want” (Philippians 4:12). And as Paul, I’m learning to be content in all situations.
In fact, I’ve somehow taken the view of seeing this time as a new adventure! Honestly, He is continuing to provide as before, but we are choosing to spend and save differently, slowly, being more intentional and thoughtful. We’ve scaled back on some utilities that we had always intended to look at, we’re pausing before spending – Can we “get by” without this? Amazingly, there are tons of things we don’t really need, that are just “nice to have” (i.e. fall decorations). The adventure for me has been using, or re-purposing, what we already have, perhaps in a new way. Side note – Sam’s Club has HUGE, and I mean HUGE pumpkins right now for 8 bucks. So go to your patches, and save on the pumpkins!
One big undertaking for us Conrads has been to withstand an entire month without going out to eat! Honestly, this dinner table idea was met with a few skeptical looks, but now that it is Oct. 2nd, I’m so very proud to announce that we made it! An entire month. No restaurants. (Except for one lunch date at Chipotle that Aaron promised me didn’t count
Can I just tell you how much money we saved? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. And even more than the money, time together around our island (making apple pies and apple crisp), time around the dinner table to just linger, and time spent cleaning up together afterwards have been a huge surprise joy. At first it was a bit of an adjustment for the kiddos, answers of “yes” didn’t accompany their usual requests, but I found that over time, they didn’t even ask anymore. Is it wrong to go out to eat? No. But our desire, as a family, to readjust our spending has helped us to model contentment and thankfulness in provision. Now, when we do go and celebrate an occasion at a restaurant (Austin’s birthday on Saturday), we hear words of gratitude and they even treat the servers with heart-felt respect. It’s been beautiful.
As usual, God also brought me some reading material to guide me. And when I say bring, I don’t mean like bringing chocolate, this one was met with a bit of resistance, (and when I say resistance, I mean I said “no” several times). I knew this would mess with me, and in fact it did… in a good way. Words cannot describe the windows of my heart that have been cracked wide open to allow fresh air to blow in and around.
I’ve discovered reduced consumption doesn’t equal reduced community or reduced contentment. There is something liberating about unplugging the machine to discover the heartbeat of life still thumping. Maybe we don’t need all those wires after all. Maybe we’re healthier unhooked from the life-support of consumerism than we imagined. Is there a less-traveled path through our me-first culture that is more adventurous and fulfilling than the one so heavily trod? One that sacrifices none of the good parts of the story but inspires us to reimagine the sections that are bleeding us all dry?
I think maybe there is.
In my humble attempt to sum up this up in a word – freedom. Freedom in showing constraint, freedom in sharing of what we have, not mindless taking, freedom in saving money to be used for MORE giving in ways that bless beyond a price. It’s our new way of life. And I have a feeling that more is yet to come…