Not that I am speaking of being in need, 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.
My family and I have walked through what could have been a daunting time the last 8 months. My husband didn’t have a real job, we have 3 kids (1 is a new baby), my husband was finishing school, and we had many other unknowns in our life. To see why and how, read THIS post. As we have gone through this time and are now standing on the cliff of the other side, I have been realizing how much my thinking has changed in many areas. Trials (whether big or small) change us and they are (and should be viewed as) an exciting time as God molds us into who He wants us to be. (Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.)
I grew up the daughter of a pharmacist. I commend my parents in many ways for being careful with money and not spending foolishly, so this experience the last several months has been a first for me. Maybe some of what I’m going to write will sound naïve that I’m just realizing these things, or maybe it will sound foreign to you, but whatever your circumstance, I hope it encourages you to view possessions and circumstances differently. To view them as gifts from God and to view each decision as an opportunity lovingly bestowed upon you from a faithful and good God who is gently teaching you and molding you into who He wants you to be. If you have the opportunity to buy something new—praise Him. If you have the opportunity to go without—praise Him.
A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?Psalm 121:1-8
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
So today, I’m going to share with you some of the ways my thinking has changed over these months with the goal of simply encouraging you.
1. I am LEARNING to be content with what I have rather than looking for new things to need or buy. Even though there are things I would still like, the fashion game (both in clothing and décor) is endless. At some point, we must choose to be content. I’m not out of it yet, but the concept is very freeing.
2. I view all household projects, craft projects, and cooking activities differently. Rather than seeing the “need” to go and buy something to make the project work, I look first at whether or not I need to do the project at all. If I don’t, I view it as a freeing opportunity to do something else. If I do need to do it, I first look for ways to do it for free. If I don’t have all the ingredients for example, can I substitute? Or can I skip that ingredient altogether? Or is there a similar recipe I could use instead? If it’s a decorating or craft project I try to think of materials to substitute. Can I cut up an old skirt or bed sheet I don’t use any more? Can I use a different tool or decorative piece than the example? What do I have in my own home that could possibly work or be changed in some way to work? To whet your palette for this topic, I recently re-decorated our living room for FREE. A post will be coming soon!
3. I LOVE couponing! However, I’ve started to realize it’s okay if I don’t even look through the Sunday paper for an entire week. It’s okay if some of my coupons get behind on being filed, or if I miss a blog post from some of my favorite couponing sites. Those deals WILL come back. Thankfully, they seem to operate on this wonderful cycle. I am learning to trust that GOD will supply all of our needs even if I don’t MAKE it happen through a particularly amazing coupon deal. Time and time again, over these months, I have missed a deal only to be handed the exact thing we needed at the exact time or for someone to hand us money to cover those needs when we least expected it. God is bigger than couponing.
4. I have learned to look around my home and realize it’s okay if things aren’t perfect. It’s okay if I want something to make it better and I have to wait to have it. Maybe my desire will change or maybe the item I need will change. I can be content with what I have. I still have my desires. I still want to have nice things, but I don’t have to be driven by finding a way to get them. I can rest and know there is no rush. Maybe someday I’ll reach the non-desiring stage!
5. I’m learning to be creative—quite a feat for me!! Not creative in craft projects, (necessarily) but in how I provide the things we need. For example, I have started to keep almost all receipts. Right now, my 2 year old almost always stays dry when she sleeps, so we are going through less than half the diapers I had anticipated. My 3 year old son still goes when he sleeps, but soaks through often too. He must need a bigger size. My 7 month old, simply needs new diapers. I have an abundance of size 4 diapers for our current needs for the week. What can I do to provide for my family?
I bagged up an extra package of size 4 and a package of size 5 diapers, with the receipt, and I’m taking them to CVS to exchange them for size 3 and size 6 of the same brand. This will get us comfortably through another week or so and I am going to spend ZERO dollars!
Just to add to the fun of this: Next week, Walgreens will have their diapers on sale 2/$11 and there is a $1.50 off coupon available with 2 prints per printer. I happen to have an old gift card left from an exchange several weeks ago. That will nearly cover the diaper cost which will get us through another 2 weeks of diapers with less than $2 output total! Bottom line: Over a month of diapers for THREE kids for less than $2. I could have gone to Target and picked up diapers, but instead I get to learn creativity. God is so good!
This general concept has happened multiple times over the last several months. Fun side note: If you forget to use a coupon when you checkout at CVS, you can take it back with your receipt and they will give you cash! J
6. My husband and I have begun to view work as a good and exciting thing. There are no more Moan and Groan Mondays for us! We even look for opportunities to work and we tell others when we can work rather than it being a laborious and disappointing task. Our children have been learning about communism and socialism vs. capitalism this week. It has been exciting to share with them the importance of working for our money. They too have been enjoying the fact that Daddy can work to provide for us.
7. My family and I are becoming increasingly familiar with the free lists of things to do online. Not just in our own city, but in others where we have traveled as well. Because we are intentionally trying to find a free activity to do or free event to attend, we are spending more time together than when we just did whatever and the financial side didn’t matter as much. I think it’s because we are becoming more intentional with everything we do. I challenge you to look up “free things to do in________ (your city).” You WILL be amazed at all the options! And it’s not just like a picnic in your backyard—there are free museums, tours, outdoor movies, swimming pools, kids’ craft projects, concerts, zoos, and even dining locations! It’s amazing!
8. Kids love to get STUFF. Who doesn’t, I guess. I am realizing that I COULD take my kids to Target, browse the aisles and let them each pick out a toy, OR I could take them to a FREE event in my community and let them go to the different “freebie tables” as we call them. Just in the last several weeks, we attended National Night Out, Battle of the Badges Barbecue, the Fire Department’s Open House, and the State Fair all for free. At EACH of these events my children not only participated in TONS of fun activities, but they also came home with bags of stuff—and I did too. We’re talking: bouncy balls, frisbees, pencils, sunglasses, back packs, multiple food items, stickers, books, dollar store toys of their choice, washable tattoos, stuffed animals, fireman hats, police badges, coloring books, hula hoops, and TONS more. Everything I have listed, was 100% free (and I barely scratched the surface, but I think you get the idea!)
9. I have discovered that I don’t have to purchase expensive materials for my children’s schooling. Pretty much everything they need can be found on Pinterest these days. How did we ever survive before Pinterest??? (like 3 years ago! Ha!) Admittedly, this may not work for everyone, but there is A LOT on there and it has been beneficial for me to check Pinterest before Amazon.
10. I am attempting to be creative when it comes to ways to help others. Do I have to provide food or a tangible gift, or can I provide time or a service? Some people don’t have time to clean or complete a project, but if you do, that may be the biggest blessing of all. If you do provide a meal, there are so many you can make from your pantry without spending much (if any money). I actually have an article coming soon on that topic.
I share all of this, not so you’ll look at me or my family’s situation, but to encourage you. To encourage you to be excited about whatever trial God has presented you with and to know that He is lovingly shaping you to be who He wants you to be. To encourage you to praise Him in whatever storm you are in. To encourage you to step outside of a financial box and to find creative ways to do things. To encourage you to praise God for the situation he’s given you!