Friday, October 25, 2013

On Leaving A Legacy




Of all the ways we've slid backwards in recent years, the finances thing may hurt most.

It's not just that it's humbling beyond belief, it's that it's always in our faces. We're reminded every month on payday, every trip to the grocery store, every week, every day, all the time that things are quite different than they used to be.

We've set up camp in a land where there is always more month left at the end of the money. It's unsettling territory. Sometimes it feels a little crazy. And if we dare listen to all the moving mouths around us, we might even be convinced it's wrong.

We come from the school of Dave Ramsey, remember. We grew stout and sturdy, stable and so very able, in a reality where the goal was to have investments and many accounts, to balloon our savings, to "retire a millionaire". We profited from careers that paid Cory's student loans and financed three adoptions. We gave generously, if not sacrificially.

Since that time, our income has been cut by 80%. Our kids are on government health insurance and qualify for free lunch and reduced book fees at school. We avoid Target like the plague. Eating out means fast-food with coupons. And our smaller giving thrills us and leaves us feeling a bit bruised.

I share not as a martyr, and not from a place of pride. While we willingly walked in this direction, you'd better believe I would grab a raise with both hands if it came our way.

I don't believe living below the median is holier than living above it. I simply believe it's what was asked of us.

A new friend recently asked, confusion knitting her brows, "Did you choose to live in intentional poverty?" My response, "No, we're just lucky."

I said it as a joke, because the question took me off guard, but the more I thought about it, the truer it rang. Because while I don't claim to understand any of it, living with less can be strangely exhilarating in the right light.

The good news is, moving in the direction of less freed us to accept Cory's position as jail chaplain. Four years ago, his salary would have been laughable. Even two years ago, we couldn't possibly have made it work. But when it found us, though we knew it would require a little more leaping, we also knew it would be doable. So we stretched to reach it.

The truth is, I get whiny about money all the time. Sometimes I get judgmental. Often I feel sorry for myself. I want to fly around and visit friends, I want to buy shoes at Target on the spot instead of saving $30 over a couple of months or robbing our dwindling savings. I miss outfitting my kiddos in brand new clothes. I miss putting cash in the bank. A while back we heard exciting news from a friend about his new job opportunity and I broke out sobbing, because that used to be us. We used to move up the ladder. We used to know that feeling. 

I can't say for sure why we're here, but the truth stills my knocking knees and racing heart if I let it: God is made bigger in our brand-new smallness.

And so we keep paring down, knowing it's never really enough and even more, it's not even about what is or isn't "enough". God owns the bank. He trusts each of us in ways He ought to know better. He has things to teach us about extravagance, provision, and freedom. We steward what we have with as much wisdom as possible. We accept our inevitable failures. Even now, we have much more than we need, and we continue to wrestle.

What about leaving a legacy for our children?

We haven't forgotten. Our legacy to them is the Gospel, one where grace fills all the cracks and family is global. Our legacy is a front-row seat to our budgeting talks and all associated traumas. Our legacy is telling them no, it's hand-me-downs and the Goodwill, it's stretching the soup for one more at the table.

Our legacy is casting light on all the ways our daily bread finds us and reminding them who sent it.  It's the humility to receive. It's the slow-learning that "average" and "typical" are overrated and "low" is often the sweet-spot.

It's a foolish economy, where nothing makes sense until you stand on your head.


To read more about this journey:
How Much is Too Much?
How Much is Enough?



46 comments:

  1. Powerful words. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  2. I'm not sure if any response is needed. You wrote of your journey and you seem to have adjusted well in your new life. If you choose (or not) with the children being in school you could find a flexible part time job (or not) because you are smart, sincere and attractive. For now you seem content even if you are restless but that is a good place to be.

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  3. OK, FPFG....In my opinion, this may be your most profound post yet!

    And ........ the legacy you are leaving will last way longer than any shoes purchased at Target! :-)

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  4. Yep.

    We went from two very well paying jobs to one small little preacher man salary. Our income is public knowledge (posted on the bulletin board at church since it's a part of the yearly budget) and people literally gasp when they see what it is. Ha! God's provision continues to amaze and inspire us. We lack nothing.

    Except for the darn swooniest boots I was eyeing up the other day. :)

    I started a strange thing years ago where I stroll through Target putting pretty things in the cart - shoes and shirts and lamps and candles. And then I walked around putting it all back in it's place since food and heat are more important than looking cute. Apparently? Somehow, though, just acknowledging that I like something is *almost* just as exciting as actually buying it. Kind of.

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    1. This is SO something I would do. :) I get it!

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    2. I keep looking at my pinterest wardrobe...over and over. I think some part of me imagines those clothes are actually in my closet and I'm just choosing to not wear them today. Kind of.

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  5. It takes $30 to support a national missionary, and thousands to support an American missionary. They understand trusting the Lord,not trusting in worldly wealth. You are teaching your children what Jesus taught. After all he had to borrow a crib and a tomb. This life is the journey not our destination. It may hurt at times, but we are blessed when He takes the time to teach us what really matters.

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  6. My family and I are right where you are at and we went the route of Dave Ramsey...I was called to stay home and my husband is a teacher (insert terrible pay here) and yet, I so agree that seeing less in the right light is the key. I WOULDN'T CHANGE IT, really because I am learning what matters-Jesus and my children growing up in the gospel. Amen to where you are at! My children are getting government help and we are on WIC and I can't pay my MOPS fees...but I truly am okay with all of it. So I am standing in the trenches with you as we look inside out at the world in our intentional poverty and we praise God anyways! Hugs to you! Thank you for helping not feel alone.

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  7. Our family is in a similar spot, and yet -- I feel so blessed. We know this side of the coin well. We also know what it is like to have luxuries. If and when we return to a life that isn't paycheck to paycheck, we will take those luxuries far more seriously. God is so gracious in His lessons!
    Praying for you all. For peace of mind. For calm. For understanding. And thank you for adopting those sweet babes. You are doing the world so much good!

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  8. I know this isn't what you want to hear but I am rereading "Crazy Love" and as I read, "I needed to go and intentionally meet people who don't live like I do or think like I do" and "people who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another" (pages 134, 135) I wrote Flower Patch Farmgirl beside it.

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    1. All I can say to this is: I LOVED that book! :)
      xo

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  9. I know of what you speak. We're on the retirement income now after a few years of relatively comfortable living. We decided I would stay home once the children arrived. So scrabbling around on one income now means scrabbling around on one pension. Fun and Games!
    xo

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  10. I ask this with all due respect, could you do this without the government help you mention? Because so many in our nation now feel that government help is totally inappropriate.

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    1. If we could, we would!
      If we didn't have a child with a chronic illness requiring multiple hospitalizations a year, we could.

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    2. Nancy, why? Why is government help inappropriate? Jesus was the original democrat. He's the one who told us we should all pitch in and help the poor. Why do so many Christians think that doing so through our taxes is evil??

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    3. I think I know why Nancy asked (if I'm wrong I apologize Nancy) it's because many of the conservative evangelicals I know tend to listen to rant radio and vote for people that want to cut programs for the poor and I'm talking about people that don't make a conscious decision to live very close to the poverty line it is people that have lost everything or the people that are caught in the cycle of poverty. So when I hear of people that do that and then find that they are benefiting from the very programs that someone that they voted for wanted to cut these social programs I find it a mystery.

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    4. Andrea - I don't listen to rant radio and we didn't "choose" to live close to the poverty line, we chose to follow God's direction to the tune of a salary that puts us below the line. I read from your comment that you see a double-standard here. Calvin needs insurance. Nothing mysterious about it! And THIS sort of conversation is what makes it all so humbling. :)

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    5. Shannon- I don't know you personally although I think it would be great :) so I wasn't making a judgment call about you only the people I know and that is not all the evangelicals I know but it is a portion. There are as many types of Republicans as there are Democrats some awful and some wonderful. I am talking about those I know that vote a certain way even though they benefit from the very programs that make their lives significantly better so of course there is a double standard there. I know many people that are really suffering from poverty even though they have both parents working and have made good choices other than furthering their education when they were younger again because they financially couldn't. My in-laws listen to rant radio and would love to see most social programs cut to the bone even for people with children. This disheartens me because they have been blessed in life and have not wanted for much because when their parents died they were left a nice inheritance on both sides and had good paying jobs that didn't need advanced educations. They don't know anyone that is truly poor. Seriously so they see most poor people as lazy and happy with their lot in life which is so sad.

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  11. We have absolutely walked this road! My husband left a fantastic job to work half time at a church where we had to raise support for even half of that pay cheque!
    Those years taught us to rely on Christ in new and HUGE ways. I had never before prayed so much in the grocery store that what I would need would be on sale. Cheese was a luxury, if you know what I'm sayin'.
    But God has led us again in another path and while we currently have a bigger pay cheque, not a lot else has changed. We realize that God is still providing everything we have and the tension now is how we steward well what we've been given, no matter what the income level.
    We've really come to understand the scripture passage, "... for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

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  12. YOU ARE PREACHING TO MY HEART. you know i needed this. and i will have to remember you're "no, we're just lucky" answer.

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  13. Thank you for this post! Your honesty about how hard it is to not be able to buy those shoes or that dinner and your reminder about what is really important was very much needed by me. I've come to realize you are my favorite blogger!

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  14. We've been married 34 years. Seminary. Army Chaplain. Pastor. Preemie twins with CP. Wheelchairs and more. .....finances are always tricky. But there is a joy that comes with challenges. Little things become gifts from God. The perfect size 4 winter coat in baby blue that my eldest needed 20 years ago. Found it at a yard sale for 50 cents just as the weather was turning. An answered prayer then and a memory I love. One of so many that I might have missed.

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    1. Yes! I found Calvin a winter coat with the tags still on last year at Goodwill...on 1/2 off day! Steal of the Century!!

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  15. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Because it feels very lonely sometimes on this upside down ladder. I've shaken my fist. I've cried to see bright and shiny things pass us by. I've gotten uppity about how we get the things with a little bit of love on them.

    But there is something woven in my heart that won't go away; a deep down tug that will forever change me. Things are good enough. But He is better. Harder but better.

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  16. You will raise children with grateful hearts where things are earned, treasures are never ordinary and God is good. Sometimes those things are very difficult to come by when you are raised with too much...earning seems punishment, treasure is never enough, and God seems distant. You are blessed and I loved hearing about your journey.

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  17. Open an etsy store. You have fun style! sell it and buy some 30 dollar shoes!!

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  18. Thank you so much for sharing. We are also in a Topsy-turvy time of life. If you asked me last October if we could live on 1/4 of our income I would have thought you were mad. Hello layoff. I would have never guessed I would end up working for a non-profit...loving what I'm doing....with people who rock...and be making less than unemployment. Yep, you read that right. I lost money taking the job. I would like to buy new insoles, but hey, I guess new insoles will work. Sigh. And, now it looks like we need to cut back a bit more. It's uncomfortable. The ends aren't exactly meeting. But, there's still more to cut so we can at least get those ends a bit closer together. And, that's how I'm keeping things in perspective. We still have so much more than so many others. (I won't say there aren't days I fully realize there are a bunch with more and the green eyed monster comes rearing out.) It's not what I would have chosen. It would be nice to say it's all rosy and we're happy to be sacrificial. For me, it's happy that I know God will take care of us. And, I'll try to do what I can to keep my ears open and see the surprising blessings that come our way. And, there are a lot of those - mainly an understanding of poverty that I could have never understood from reading a book. He's still teaching. So, I'll keep learning.

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  19. I meant "new shoes, but I guess new insoles will work." ;)

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  20. You are a supreme example of doing what the Lord wants you to do. I have learned in the past 5 months since being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer to not ask why, because I've learned the Lord has a hand in our lives, that if we let him, he will direct us and put us where he needs us. Obviously you have let him direct you and your family and for that I think you are a great example. You are such an insightful women. I look forward to your posts. They always give me something to think about. I've always said if I had all the money in the world, I'd still be a bargain shopper. When you need a shopping spree, go find a good bargain at a goodwill, what is one person's junk is another's treasure! I've found some of my favorite clothes at goodwills! Happy Weekend!

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    1. I found the BEST jacket at Goodwill tonight. $4.99! Every so slightly on the snug side... but thought I could make it work. I tried it on, Calvin gave it thumb's down. haha. But I trumped his vote and walked it up to the cash register with the rest of our stuff (for Halloween costumes!) and at the very last second, I lost my nerve and told her I didn't want it! Story of my LIFE! :)

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  21. Our income was cut by around 70% a few years ago due to my husband's company going bankrupt. (Enron) Also with that went his retirement. Our kids were all through college, me included. Also the oldest three all got married in a two year period. We have managed but with only one at home. I am glad that you have the insurance for the kids. I know having a special needs child.....you need it. It is harder with children to be thrifty. I know my own kids trade clothes like crazy for their kids. But sometimes when you have cut back as much as you can and then something else comes up, it hurts. Some how this will work out. Maybe some of the comments will help. Being a stay at home mom is where you need to be. Those little children need you. You have to be flexible with Calvin especially. Praying and thinking. xo

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  22. 'What about leaving a legacy for our children?

    'We haven't forgotten. Our legacy to them is the Gospel, one where grace fills all the cracks and family is global.'

    so much yes.

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  23. I'm sure you've read this but I wanted to post it in case you haven't:

    "But where are those people called by God to step down, leave behind, earn less, influence fewer, to follow? Does God only call His Son to downward mobility? Or does God call me download too and I fail to recognize His voice because it sounds too backward?

    Forward or backward. Up or down. More or less. Follow."
    Shaun Groves
    "Downward Mobility"

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    1. Oooooh...this is GOOD! Thanks for sending it over.

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  24. Wow. Amazing. I can't tell you what an encouragement this post is to me :)) I think you used to read my blog back when I had time to write it at Good to Be Crazy. Since then, my husband has left his corporate job and we jumped into full-time ministry for SixtyFeet (so we're also doing the prison thing). We used to climb the ladder too. My husband drove an Audi, my kids attended private school, the only vacation question was "where??" Life is so different these days -- but I know we're leaving a legacy too. Though that doesn't make it easy. Thankful for this post.

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  25. I so understand this post. While we were never actually above the median, living below it b/c my husband is a church planter has brought times of immense frustration which are then overwhelmed by feeling we are enormously blessed. And we are, but it sometimes feels like we are doing something "wrong" because we aren't leaving our kids a monetary legacy. We probably won't even be able to help them pay for college. But we can live out the Gospel with them and reassure them that the God who loves us owns it all.

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  26. Are you reading my mind? I'm kicking myself because we are about to go to Target to buy candy for Halloween (which I'm dreading and need to pray about a better attitude) and I spent thirty minutes writing down what coupons are best and how to save the most money because, geez, it's Target. I have a love/hate relationship with it.

    Thank you for these words and the reminder of what our true legacy is. Can I put a link to this on my blog today?

    Thanks...
    ~Amber

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    1. Sure can, Sister!
      (Sorry I'm just now seeing this.) :/
      Hope Target was kind to you. :)

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