Guest post by Katie of Embracing a Simpler Life
Early in our marriage, my husband and I used the cash-envelope system to carefully track each dollar we spent.
I was in grad school, and we were saving to buy a house.
When I quit my job two years later to become a stay-at-home mom we also quit shopping (except for Aldi and clearance at the thrift store), so a simple spreadsheet was an easy budgeting solution.
As one child became two, and as two children became three, we continued working hard to budget, save, earn extra income, and plan. We were thrifty, and yes, it was a strain.
Last year, we moved to a new place, became debt-free, started homeschooling, and my husband gave up the predictability of a salary in favor of pursuing his own businesses. There is less security and much more potential for him now. All our past diligence has opened the door for this move, but it has also put us right back where we’ve always been — on a careful budget.
Currently, we use a budgeting app to track all our spending. We are thrifty, and, if I’m honest, it’s still a strain.
The truth is, I did not expect to be on the exact same budget 9 years into our marriage.
- I thought that all our hard work and diligence would have lead to some sort of breakthrough in our monthly spending.
- I thought I would be picking out cute clothes for my kids at Target instead of relying on consignment trade-ins.
- I thought I would have my house all set up with decorations, organizers, and furnishings, not balancing on the edge of the bathtub to get a near-full-length view of my outfit and shoving kids’ shoes into broken plastic drawers.
However, as I’ve grappled with contentment again (for the umpteenth time) in recent months, I see that my concept of contentment has been rooted in the belief that it would be temporary. I wasn’t prepared to be grateful and happy tracking every dollar for the long haul, I was just sort-of holding my breath until things would be different.
That day hasn’t come.
And so I’ve been thinking. What does it mean to be content, really content, in a socially-connected world filled with beautiful farmhouse kitchens, backyard patios draped with string lights, and beautiful beach vacation photos?
What does it look like to be grateful when life doesn’t meet the perceived status quo?
And actually, I think I’ve figured something out.
For me, I’ve realized that true contentment flows from believing in God for His unseen, eternal promises. You see, when I set my heart on heaven, I am trusting that God has prepared something unspeakably better than anything I could have on this earth.
Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” (NIV)
In this life, I run the risk of becoming consumed with the accumulation of more, bigger, and better.
If I’m not careful, the desire for possessions can pull me in like an ocean current, and which could cause me to unintentionally devote my life to acquiring things that could never replace the peace, hope, and joy I’ve found through my contentment in Christ.
I feel the undertow every day.
But here’s the truth:
“More” focused living leads us to encumber ourselves with debt, which in turn prevents us from giving generously to the needs of others. We work extra jobs to afford that mortgage and those upgrades on that new vehicle. We feel we must have two handfuls because they look oh-so appealing, so we toil and chase the wind to have them.
“More” focused living leads us to consume our minds with what we want and how we are going to get it. We devote hours upon hours to dreaming and shopping, either browsing in stores or online. What do we really gain from all our striving after so many wants and desires?
They might make us happy for the moment (they’re not bad in and of themselves at all), but all the pleasure we take in our possessions and experiences is as fleeting as the wind. That new car will soon be stained and scratched; that new furniture will be nicked; that new outfit will cease to delight us, and that vacation, a distant memory.
So, I’m learning what it means to find tranquility in what I do have, and to thank God for it! And I’m learning to allow God to be the guardian of my desires and to trust Him as He guides us down a path of simplicity and trust right now.
Katie Bennett is a blogger and podcaster at Embracing a Simpler Life, and author. Her newly released devotional, Heavenly Minded Mom: 90 Days to Embrace what Matters Most, calls mothers to a new way of seeing life, by seeing it in light of eternity. Get Katie’s free scripture writing plan here: 30 Days to a Heart Set on Heaven.