Some weeks ago a friend posted on Facebook asking if anyone was interested in a Bible study based on the book "7" by Jen Hatmaker.
I jumped. Not only have I been craving a little more time spent in and studying The Word, but this part-time journalist/full-time mama and homemaker could really use a regular date with a few other adult women.
Fast forward a few weeks to now. I dive into 7 and I am immediately convicted.
I'm laughing, because Jen Hatmaker is hysterical and I adore her girl-in-the-next-pew, nobody's-perfect style. I am devouring the book. But I am also stopping every few paragraphs, going back and re-reading, reflecting on my own life, my family's consumerist habits and the very basic things we take for granted like all the clean water we could want and a warm, secure place to sleep at night.
(Go ahead. If you haven't already, Google Jen Hatmaker. I'll wait.)
Reading this book now is perfect timing for me. Steve has been off work since the week of Thanksgiving, and probably won't be starting his next project until after the first of the year. This wasn't unexpected. We knew he would have some time off this winter, and I actually looked forward to having him here at home through the holidays.
Even when it's expected, though, is it ever really a good time to be unemployed (read: without a steady income)? And listen. I am the kind of girl who needs the threat of that looming deadline to get my butt in gear. I try to sock money away all year long for occasions such as this, but it seems like about the time we have a good chunk in the savings account the wheels fall off. Sometimes literally. Repairs on pickup trucks are expensive, and pickups are what we have. Household repairs aren't cheap, either. Home ownership is not for sissies ... or anyone who gets a little anxious when the numbers don't compute the way you want them to. *ahem* And don't even get me started on the expenses of raising children.
So when Steve came home we knew we'd have to go into survival mode, trimming the fat clean out of the budget and making every penny count. He did apply for unemployment benefits which equal about the same amount per week that he was earning in 1995 - when he was single and childless and still lived with his parents. It's at least a nice supplement to the last paycheck that will roll in this month, and all together it will be enough for us to make it to the next paycheck - whenever that is - well-fed and with our sanity (relatively) intact.
But what if it wasn't enough?
Seriously?! (Now I'm talking to myself.) How could we EVER not have enough?
I know there are folks living in poverty all around us. I know many go without food and shelter on a regular basis for reasons out of their control. I know that if I were in their shoes looking at me and my family I would think we were wealthy. Sadly, I often get stuck in the mindset that we are not.
As Jen H. explores in the book, I too often struggle with the "why" of my lot in life. Why am I so fortunate to have been born in the richest country in the world? Why have I had such a wonderful life, never knowing what it's like to go hungry or to not be able to see a doctor when I'm sick? It makes me a little bit ashamed of where we are right now, today: watching Monday Night Football on a large screen, kids tucked into their comfy beds, my bare feet not cold at all despite the chill outside, refrigerator packed with food, some of which will no doubt be tossed in the trash because half the members of this household don't like leftovers.
Yes. We occasionally throw food away because we can't eat it all before it goes bad or starts growing fuzz. This is not ok!!
And this is why I'm feeling convicted. We need to be better stewards of the resources we've been blessed with always, not just when we're feeling the squeeze. AND (and this comes from yours truly, Ms. Pare Down and Simplify herself) we need to stop filling every little empty space in our home and in our souls with stuff. If we busy ourselves filling those gaps where's the room for God to do His work in us?
It's definitely something to ponder, and I have been giving it much thought these last few days. Well ... our "more is more" lifestyle - and that's a collective "our" as in "Americans" - has been on my mind a lot lately, especially with Christmas coming up, but Jen's book is pushing me to examine my own family's habits a little more closely.
I'm halfway through the book. Who knows, I could end up hating the idea of her experimental mutiny against excess by the time I get to the end. I doubt it, though. I'll keep you posted.