Money · Wisdom

A Matter of Money

For fourteen years, I looked away when I saw something I wanted, but didn’t need.

This wasn’t some extreme, religious practice to deny myself. Rather, it was something I have learned to practice early on in my adult life; something I realized very quickly would be the key to having enough: Contentment.

This morning I scrolled through google news (I really need to stop, ya know!) only to find that half of the articles were about – you guessed it – MONEY.

Our Government extending the CERB benefit.

Capitalism – should it be demolished?

The Current Debt of our Country.

Superstore Ending the $2/hr pay increase as COVID-19 risk subsides.

Home owners forced to sell their homes because they couldn’t pay their mortgages.

And you know what I find extremely funny? The comments! You would think from the statements that were made that the Canada we live in is a 3rd world country where people are starving and have no opportunity to work! And that homelessness is just a step away for the average person.

“Debt or not, people NEED this money! Just increase taxes on the rich!” was one comment I read.

“Have you ever tried to live off of a minimum wage income? IMPOSSIBLE!” another commenter stated.

“Company owners should NEVER make more than their employees, they’re the ones who actually do the WORK!” said another.

Now before I say another word about these comments, let me tell you my story.

I grew up in a sheltered, “bible belt” area in Manitoba, Canada. I was raised in a middle class, mennonite family who worked hard and spent wisely. But I made my own choices, and around the age of 17, I found myself pregnant, working at a minimum wage job (Dairy Queen) at the beginning of my grade 12 year. 

In my opinion, when one finds themselves a pregnant teen with no husband, she has two options: Selfishness or Selflessness. Basically I needed to decide: am I going to continue to make choices for myself and what’s best for me? Or will I think of my child and what’s best for him?

Long story short, I chose to think of the baby.

I married my boyfriend (A wise decision in my particular case because he is a GOOD, hardworking man… I’m aware that often this wouldn’t be the best route!) I quit high school one credit short so that I could work full time and get mat-leave. I chose to surround myself with wise people, leaving my party friends behind. And I looked the other way when I saw things that I couldn’t afford.

This became my path:

A 70s trailer with mice (and rats), instead of a brand new condo or home.

Hand-me down outfits and self-help wardrobes.

Second hand furniture. If it was free, even better. 

My “beauty” care was called soap and deodorant.

No cell phone. One vehicle (a used, $3,000 jeep… not a brand new lease!!)

No internet. And definitely no daily “Timmies”.

None of what my “millennial” generation deems essential.

And yet, these same people, who deem minimum wages “impossible”, don’t realize that it’s VERY possible.

START LOW. Period.

DON’T SPEND WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE.

You can not start off life like your “rich” or “middle-class” parents ended theirs!

Really!

They took their whole lives to get to the place where you ended off. Don’t assume that’s where you can start.

Slowly, as my husbands work experience grew, our one wage grew. My mat-leave ran out. His raise almost covered it. I took a correspondence course and graduated with no celebrations. No parties. Just a mailed in diploma. Very anti-climatic. But SO worth it!

I then stayed home and realized how much I could “earn” by NOT working: I shopped for deals, made meals from scratch, started a garden, made cakes to sell and babysat for a bit of extra cash. There were no daycare costs, no “take-out” bill because I was too busy to cook, no second cell phone bill, no high gas bill because I drove almost nowhere. And I calculated that our savings in doing this was almost as much we would’ve made if I went back to work.

I guess the point of my story – the point of me sharing, is to say that the Western Entitlement attitude HAS to stop, or our country will bankrupt itself.

Down the road, my husband got to go to a nine month college course. He got a much better paying job and later, had an incredible opportunity to buy into a small rural internet company. For a year, he was the only employee and worked day and night to keep the company growing. In time, he hired two more employees. They DID make less money than him, but they also never had to deal with angry customers, late night service support, or canceled events or outings because of emergency outages.

And speaking as a previous business owner, I have to say that many, many of them deserve ten times the pay their employees make.

You. Have. No. IDEA!

It sucks to own a company. I can’t speak for huge companies, but I watched my husband’s life basically drain out of him for the three years he worked to build up his small business. And when he got the chance to sell and become an employee again – you bet – he ran at the chance! Even when it meant losing some of the “benefits”.

So please, please people. Do not think that business owners are undeserving of a bigger check.

They’ve earned it. 

And to top it off, far too many Canadians, don’t even want to go back to work! They simply want to have a share in what they have not rightfully earned. Our government is paying able-bodied people money to stay home and watch Netflix! Why ever would they want to look for a job?

As the debates continue, I just cling to the hope that wisdom will prevail. Someone has to pay for the government handouts. Either our generation or the many future ones to come. Equality doesn’t mean everyone gets the same amount of cash. Equality means equal opportunities for everyone to get it.

This means that if you are unwilling to start low, your bank account will never grow. If you don’t put in the work to get an education, you will never be able to get a higher paying job. If you are a lazy employee, you don’t deserve the promotion that your colleague got. If you think you deserve a $90,000 a year salary, benefits, and the ability to choose your own hours, you better get your head checked, because it AIN’T gonna be handed to you! Those who are there, either worked hard to get there or their parents did.

Equal opportunities. Not equal “stuff.” And we do have equal opportunities for education, healthcare, jobs and life in Canada. But it does come at a cost: Hard work.

It was the hard work of previous generations who made our country what it was. Let’s not throw that away.

Faith · Purpose · Wisdom

A Forgotten Grave

I sit at my desk, once again, tapping the keys on my laptop. Trying to form another post. I must’ve started fifty in the past months. Fifty posts unseen to the world. 

There is a largely unseen aspect to my life right now, and for the first time, I’m okay with it. I mean truly okay.

I wake up. Journal. Read. Pray.

Connect with my family. Send them to school.

Clean. Bake. Cook. Shop. Volunteer.

Kids come home. I make supper. Connect with my family some more. And then go to bed so I can repeat it all over again in the morning.

And I feel full.

I think it’s because I’ve finally come to the point where I’m no longer trying to move to the next stage and the next. I’ve become content with the journey itself.

We do that a lot in life, don’t we?

Wake up Monday and just try to make it till the weekend.

 

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Start a job and go through the motions… just surviving until the next holiday.

Start parenthood, just waiting until the baby is sleeping through the night… then till they’re potty trained… then just till they’re in school…. finally until they’re out of the house.

And then we still wait! Until retirement. And even then. Fill the schedule so full of social outings and volunteering that we just long until we can go south for the winter.

Is this really what life is about? Waiting for the next good moment?

Now just a caveat: I’ve seen many take this idea to unhealthy places, where people start feeling guilty for even enjoying anything in life. Breaks are fine. Holiday’s are good. Rest is good.

Let’s not get weird.

Yet what I’m saying is this: What if, we actually saw the journey as the purpose; the moment we live in, as the joy of life? And the breaks as just that: A short pause; a rest before the next stanza in the symphony.

Not the only thing to look forward to.

And most certainly not the meaning of it all! For what would a symphony be with no sound?

I’ve decided to homeschool my younger two boys again next year. To finish what I’ve started. Why? Because I’m happy with the results of the older three kids, with the time I’ve put into their lives, with the good relationship we have and I want to provide my younger two children with the same opportunities.

I think, our culture at large has no idea how much time it takes to raise children. To create loving and close bonds with the next generation. That’s why I often chuckle at younger moms or others who are just waiting until the next stage.

Guess what? A teenager needs the same amount of time as a toddler.

HA! I bet you didn’t know THAT! (As most people reading this gasp and shake their heads. Now they know I’m off my rocker!)

How can I make this bold claim? A teenager can do almost everything for themselves!! Yet… Most teens feel so unconnected to their families that they are known to cause trouble, run off, steal, do drugs, engage in risky sexual behaviour. It’s why people dread those teenage years.

My older two are just entering these years now. And I am LOVING it. I love my teens. They are SO much fun! They understand so much. They have a spark that I’ve lost. They are losing that lame elementary school humour and becoming hilarious to be around (sorry to my younger kiddos, it’s just true!!). We spend most evenings together. Chatting. Eating supper. Cleaning up together. Laughing. Playing games.

And my question is this? Where are the other parents of this generation?

At work. Rushing to unimportant outings. And hiding behind screens.

I get asked a lot about my relationship with my children. Why they like church? Why they like our family cell group? How I get them to share their struggles openly with me? How do I manage to have our teens enjoy family times together?

The answer is quite simple, but it isn’t easy: It is quite literally laying down my life daily for my family.

I have no career.

I do not travel.

I have no outside hobbies: my hobbies happen at home. I run at home. I read at home. I bake at home. I write at home.

I have no fame.

I have no degree.

I am nothing, No one to the world.

HA! Feminists HATE this kind of talk. Why am I not doing something for me??

Oh, but I am.

I have no importance to the world, yet I am filled with a profound sense of purpose: I am raising the next generation.

Do you understand the importance of that statement??

I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION!

Unseen. Unheard. Probably will never be known or famous. One day, a century or two from now, my graveside will be long forgotten.

But there will be five kids who will live on… and build five more legacies, and their legacies will multiply and their children will have children. And on and on. And perhaps the most profound thing will be this: they will have a legacy of love.

They belonged and they were loved. So they too will love and invite others to belong.

If I could have one wish, it’s that every single person, every single parent, every single mother could see this.

Our purpose isn’t to provide a fancy house, car and clothes for our children. It’s not to give them that dream vacation. It’s not to give them every opportunity with career or extra curricular event. These are usually just our dreams for them anyway.

Our purpose is to be there and listen. To love and connect.

To build a strong legacy, which may never be recorded in the Guinness World Records or history books, but will be written on the hearts of our children and grandchildren.

Our purpose is to let this love overflow to the world. Because the more I love and take time for my family, the more I find myself caring about those around me. Instead of judging, wondering, do they have a place of belonging? Do they have someone to care?Often, the answer is no. So we invite them in: Come, join our family.

No, maybe I won’t end up in the Hall of Fame, and there’s a good chance that my grave will one day be forgotten, like the millions of heroes and saints that have gone before me. People pass away. Memories are forgotten.

But you know what doesn’t pass away? The fruit that comes from a labour of love.

Authenticity · Faith · Wisdom

My Wise Friend

It occurred to me recently that I’m really not that wise.

Profound. I know. But really, this isn’t just another grab at false humility. This is me fully admitting that I often can be quite foolish, as hasty people quite often are.

I like to speak my mind. Act quickly. Think later.

In fact, as I was pondering this this morning I realized that I don’t remember a single time I have had a wise thought on my own. Not once! Isn’t that incredible? I’m full of quick solutions, snap judgements and replies.

But you know what? I spend a lot of time with a very wise person. Why anyone so wise would hang around so constantly with one so foolish, I don’t know. All I know is that He sits patiently with me every morning. He listens carefully as I pour out all my complaints and judgements.

He nods.

He has compassion.

He understands.

And then he speaks. And oh! When he speaks, how he makes me see it all so differently. How he shows me true wisdom. HIS wisdom. And amazingly enough, even though my perception is more often than not wrong, he gently loves me through it all.

Never making me feel stupid.

Never discounting my feelings.

I have so much to learn from this friend of mine, this true friend, who cares AND speaks truth.

Sometimes, I spend enough time with him that I begin to hear his words coming out of my mouth. And I think to myself. “Wow. That sounded really wise!” But that’s the thing about having a wise friend.

The more you hang around with wisdom, the more wise you seem.

And then – of course, being the fool that I am, I begin to kid myself into thinking this wisdom is all actually mine, only to realize all to soon that I’m still just that silly, little presumptuous girl without him.

That happened this last weekend. A few times. I became overconfident in my own ability to read people and situations and I make many wrong assumptions. We so often do that don’t we?

We think: Oh, I know, this is why that person acts that way.

And we assume, mostly wrong things. Then we pass on our false ideas to others, who in turn slander and assume. It’s such a vicious cycle and once started, there’s only one way to stop it.

Spending time with my wise friend.

I dig myself into such enormous pits that you’d think by now, either I would have already learned how to stop digging them, or that my wise friend would’ve LONG given up on pulling me out of them by now.

But, alas, he comes. He stares down at me with a sweet smile on his face.

“Oh Heather. Are you stuck again?”

“Yes, Jesus.”

He chuckles, “This is quite the hole you’ve dug.”

Tears streak my face, my head hangs in shame, “I know Jesus. I’m so very sorry.” The tears spill over into the dust below.

He reaches out his hand. I take it immediately. I’ve been here before, and I know it’s the only way out. No use trying to beat myself up by trying to get out of this on my own. That just prolongs the shame and agony. Still, as I grab his hand, I can’t quite get myself to meet his eyes.

“Can we talk about it Heather?”

“Jesus. I was doing so well! Where did I go wrong?”

He gently lifts my chin with his hand, turning my face towards his. His eyes hold no judgement, only gentle love. “You stopped abiding, dear girl. You thought you knew, but you forgot to ask me.”

“You’re right! I’m so sorry.” I let myself fall into his forgiving arms.

“I know.”

Of course he does.