Sometimes I'm ungrateful. There, I said it. It so easy to focus on what I don't have that I forget to pay attention to what I do have. As is the case with 90% of single income families, we live on a budget out of necessity. I can't just go out and buy a new outfit because "I feel like it." Each purchase is planned out in advance and written into a budget. If I make an impulse purchase the money has to come from somewhere whether that be from the grocery fund or a surplus in another area. Every dollar has a name, a purpose.
Sometimes living such a financially disciplined life can be tiring and I can begin to take on the mentality of my two-year-old. When I catch myself slipping into the "BUT I WANT IT NOW!" mental tantrums, I have to take some time to practice gratitude. It is a mental and spiritual exercise that has the power to bring me back to reality and free me from the worry trap.
Here's what I was whining to my Heavenly Father about this morning:
A bill hit a bank account that we had closed the previous week. I had made arrangements for the amount to be drafted from our new account, but for some reason it still went to the old account (This means we were hit with a $35 fee for going $5 over on our closed account - technically it was still open as we were waiting for an outstanding check to clear). Yes, it was technically my fault, but I was still so frustrated that I hadn't let a little extra buffer in the old account to cover something like this. When money is tight, silly little mistakes are costly and I was frustrated with myself for making the error.
I sometimes get discouraged because I don't contribute to the family income. My husband has a great job with a good salary and benefits, but sometimes I daydream about what it would be like to be a two-income family. If we could live on my husband's salary and save mine we could pay off our home early, save for the future, fix up the house, and buy what we want when we wanted it.
Transforming my mind
Today, I thank God that even though the bank fee occurred, I can find a way to cover the expense. My family will still be able to eat and all of our bills are able to be paid. I'm thankful that my husband has a job and is able to provide for our family above and beyond our basic needs. I have never gone hungry or without food or shelter. I may have to say "no" to some wants, but I've never had to say no to a need. God has always been faithful to our family.
I'm thankful that I've been given the opportunity to be a full-time stay-at-home parent. I have the privilege of shaping the hearts and minds of two little boys. I taught my son the alphabet and that Jesus loves him. I never have to worry about the quality of their care or what lessons they are being taught by others who may not share our value system. So many mothers would love the opportunity to be a stay-at-home parent. It is a privilege and a blessing to spend my days building blocks and racing cars. I can take them to the zoo in the middle of the morning or head to Sonic for a happy hour slush. I'm the first face they see when they wake up in the morning and the last voice they hear when they lay down to sleep.
Ultimately life is not about how much money is in your bank account, what designer clothing you wear, or if your house looks like a picture from Better Homes and Gardens. Life is about relationships - relationships with God and relationships with those He's placed in our lives. I can choose to be ungrateful for what I don't have or I can choose to be thankful for what I have been given.
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13
I can be content with what I have because ultimately it is God who has given it to me. I think I have what I have because I need to learn dependence on Him instead of on my own clever planning. He's fully aware of what my needs are.
"Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:22-34
By focusing not on my earthly needs, but on who God is and what he wants to accomplish I am doubly blessed - I am free from the worry trap and I am promised that God will take care of my basic needs. The thing that consumes your thoughts and energy is often your treasure. I'll be the first one to confess that my heart is not always focused on the things it needs to be, but I'll also be the first to admit that when my focus is on the goodness of God I am less stressed, less anxious, and 100% more content in my circumstances.
This is my prayer:
Lord, you are good, and your mercies are new every morning. Thank you for being the God who provides for my family. When I'm tempted to dwell on what I don't have, remind me of the many things that I do have. I thank you for my family, a home to live in, and food to eat. Help me to remember that it is You who gives and You who takes away. Whether I have plenty or little, you are still Good and I will give you praise. You give me the strength to make it through any circumstance. You turn my mourning into dancing - my weeping into songs of praise. Your love endures forever.