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You’re a Lot Wealthier Than You Realize

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Good morning!

I have to tell you, that jet lag thing is quite the beast! I’ve slept almost 25 of the last 36 hours! And I finally feel like my usual rested and energetic self again.

Gratefully, I only really experienced jet lag after coming home — not so much when I was actually in South Africa. Thanks to your prayers and the grace of God, I had so much energy and stamina while there, despite the 8-hour time difference, the very full days, and the short nights.

But after a full day in South Africa on Monday, then getting on a plane on Monday evening for an 18-hour flight to DC, then meeting my family in DC and having another 12-hour drive home, I was exhausted and finished (as they say in South Africa) by the time I got home.

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In fact, when we pulled up in our driveway, I could barely keep my eyes open enough to make it to my bed. However, I have to tell you, the thought that consumed me as I was trying to keep my eyes open enough to make it upstairs to our bedroom was this, “We have such a nice house. It feels too big, too new, and too clean.”

Here’s the funny thing: ever since we moved to TN, I’ve missed our house in Kansas. It was bigger, roomier, laid out better, and newer. This TN house — while it has wonderful features like an amazing kitchen — has had a lot of issues.

We’ve had a major earwig infestation that’s the result of a big drainage issue in our backward. We’ve had more spiders and bugs than I ever saw in Kansas. We’ve had many problems with leaks and plumbing. We have very, very limited hot water (which means we often take cold or lukewarm showers). We’ve had A/C and heating problems.

We sorely miss our big and roomy basement we had in Kansas. We miss the ample storage our other house had. We miss the beautiful backyard we had. And we miss the two extra bedrooms we had in Kansas.

In the midst of all of these things we’ve dealt with this TN house, I’ve chosen to focus on the blessings and what we do have (which is so, so much!), so I’ve not allowed myself to be discouraged or beaten down about it. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many moments when I’ve missed what we used to have, wished I could enjoy a hot shower, or wistfully longed for an extra bedroom.

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But when I walked into our house on Tuesday evening, I saw it with brand-new eyes. I almost felt a sense of embarrassment over how nice it is. I also found myself realizing how much many of us take for granted.

Most of us don’t know what it’s like to go hungry for days on end.

Most of us don’t know what it’s like to not have more than one food option.

Most of us don’t know what it’s like to have to walk everywhere we need to go.

Most of us were raised with at least one parent in our lives.

Most of us have more than one outfit, food in our fridge, a roof over our heads, clean laundry, shoes with soles, running water…

We complain about the internet being slow or down. We fuss over the fact that we can’t afford a bigger house. We grumble that we can’t buy more organic foods in our grocery budget. We wish we didn’t have to shop at thrift stores. We envy others who have an SUV or mini-van while we’re trying to fit three car seats in the back of our very used car.

I’m not saying this to lay a guilt-trip. I get that many of you have hard, hard burdens you’re bearing. I get we have other struggles here in the states that they might not have in other countries.

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But I want to encourage you to go throughout your day today with fresh perspective. Instead of seeing what you don’t have or wishing for something you want to have, focus on what you already have.

If you are washing dishes, be grateful for running water, soap, and pots and pans to wash.

If you are driving to work, be grateful for a vehicle to drive, money to buy gas, and the ability to have a job.

If you are cleaning your toilets, be grateful for indoor plumbing.

If you are folding laundry, be grateful for the ability to wash your clothes & for outfits for your family.

If you are cooking dinner, be grateful for access to food and money to buy food to feed your family.

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We have so much more than we often realize. We have much to be grateful for. Don’t miss out on the many, many blessings around you because you’re so focused on wanting something you don’t have. Start noticing those blessings and you’ll begin to realize just how rich your life really is.

P.S. You must read Lisa-Jo’s post on how you all helped make a major difference in the Maubane community. It’s pretty much a goose-bump-inducing post!

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119 Comments

  • This is the best post I have read in a long time. It is so true, and I’m so glad you were able to bring South Africa back to us. What a life-changing trip!

    I was just telling my husband how annoyed I was with all the “little” things in life. Things like not enough hot water, an internet that sometimes doesn’t work, the dryer that needs replacing…and I totally miss the fact that we have clean water, power, and enough clothes to warrant having a dryer! We are so blessed, all of us. Even if we’re barely scraping by, if we can put food on the table everyday, we’re wealthier than 90+% of the world.

  • Christine says:

    Thank you for the reminder to count our blessings! I agree!

    I’ve always wondered, and this is none of my business, if you sold your Kansas house or if you are renting it out. It must have been hard to leave it after working so hard to pay cash for it.

    • We’re renting it out for now. We got renters almost as soon as we moved out and they’ve been great! I really have such a peace about where we’re at and we truly love TN and it’s been SUCH a great move for our family in so many, many ways, but as with everything in life, there are always pros and cons. 🙂

      • Christine says:

        I understand–we had to do the same thing and feel the same way about our move from Alabama to Arizona! We spent 5 years in Manhattan, Kansas back when my husband was in graduate school and we really liked it there. I’m happy for you and your family, and grateful for your blog and the wonderful example you are to women everywhere!

  • Kate SDDS says:

    This is such a good reminder for every single one of us! Thank you for giving us a peek into your trip!

  • Wow really amazing adventure and the pictures show so much, very blessed. Sometimes you have to put yourself into someone else shoes to really understand what they are going through. Many people help others to satisfy their own vanity, I am glad you guys did not. I really enjoyed this article.

  • Kristie says:

    Whenever I need to remind myself of just how lucky I am I stop and think about the fact that my babies will probably live to adulthood. In a peaceful country with clean water, proper medical care, a stable food system this is the norm, but isn’t necessarily normal for many parts of the world.

  • Samantha says:

    This is the first article I read since I got out of bed and it is such a good reminder that we have to be thankful and grateful for what we have… We really do take things for granted.

    Thank you!

  • Sarah says:

    I had the amazing privilege to go to South Africa in 2004 and I feel like I could have written this entry myself. It is an amazing country, with beautiful people who taught me more about life in 14 days than I could have learned in years here in the States. Thank you for letting us join you in your amazing journey!

  • Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful experience. It just made me understand how lucky we are to be blessed with so many wonderful things. I’m humbled by your experience. You really rock!

  • Adele says:

    I am a South African who moved to TN with our family 2 years ago…

    When I saw your first picture I knew you were “home”.
    Would love to connect… If you want to.
    Adele

  • Susan in St. Louis says:

    Such good reminders…I think we all need to take a trip to a needy country every few years to regain perspective!

    And I just want to scrunch that littlest guy from the pictures up! 🙂 He is ADORABLE!

  • Melissa Holgate says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It really puts things in perspective.

    Also, I happened to watch your MOPS interview at our MOPS meeting today. It was really good. I am a mentor mom and the discussion at our table after the video was really heart felt. Thanks for sharing your life in so many ways.

    Melissa

  • April says:

    Very well put. Amen.

  • Aseel says:

    I am from Iraq Baghdad , living in the United States now . We are so blessed beyond , it’s so hard to struggle with basics life need . We didn’t only struggle with these issues but continues war since I was born in 1980 . Fear was a major issue , fear you mite not survive the next day by a rocket falling by mistake on your head. We had The Lord as our protector and comfort . So thankful for what we have now.
    You inspire me in all the way , I am reading chasing Francis now 🙂 , inspired by your book choices.
    Blessings

  • nurix2010 says:

    Sometimes it takes a look to the rest of the world to realize how lucky we really are. Thank you for the reminder =)

  • Amanda says:

    This was the hardest part about returning to the states after spending 2 years on the mission field. I could not look at rental houses. I could not buy clothing (even though we all needed seasonally appropriate clothing). I could not stomach the grocery store. The overwelming wealth was just too much. Public bathrooms with soap, paper towels, and proper toilet seats would make me cry. I know it sounds weird, but the wealth of the United States was hard for me to accept.

  • Ronni says:

    Great post and so true! Even during the roughest times, I’ve always reminded myself of how much I really did have.

  • Kemi says:

    We lived in Nigeria for several years and food was always an issue as was steering clear of certain wild life. Yes we are truly overblessed here.

  • Kristen Golson says:

    I have been thinking about your post and about some of the comments. We live in South Africa – the other end of the country from where you were. We are on the southern most tip in a “resort” town, and see extreme poverty and extreme wealth in the same town. It is so much easier to “do” for the extremely poor, and to feel like we are helping in some way. And we are helping. But I know that not only the poor need our love and the love of Christ – the rich need it too. God puts us in our corner of the world – wherever that may be – and calls us to reach those that He brings across our path. Some can help on a large scale. Others have a very quiet ministry to those around them. I myself want to have a large influence and help in big ways, but God is teaching me that one is not more important than the other – all are good if done with the right heart attitude. So glad you got to experience this lovely country, Crystal! Hope you get to return soon!

  • Julia says:

    Thank you for this! We currently live on very little for our family of five. We are working very hard to move forward and it is so easy to get lost and not remember ALL of the blessings and advantages we have.

  • Sandie says:

    I am so glad you shared these thoughts you had when you returned. A great way for all of us to see our lives. I am also very glad that you returned to your family safe and sound.

  • Heather c says:

    Crystal your posts always come at just “the right time” . After feeling a bit sorry for myself this past year as my family has dealt with some tragedy, this post still makes me stop and think it could be so so so much worse. We are blessed to live in a country where you can do anything you set your mind to, the freedom to speak our minds, most of us have a roof over our head and food in our bellies. We have so very much. We are so lucky and yet it so easy it take it all for granted and I thank you for reminding me and humbling me once again. :0) love this post!

  • Charlene E says:

    Such a wonderful article, Crystal. I am 58. When I was a teenager my father drove our family through the rural south of the United States and we saw people living in major poverty way back then. It was eye opening. Maybe their homes were a bit bigger than those in South Africa but not by much. They had cars but looked like very beaten down models. Every bit poverty. When I was 18 I traveled by car through Mexico. Watching women beat their clothes on rocks as a means of doing laundry has always stuck with me. Also, I saw horrible plumbing facilities and children working in the streets selling combs and newspapers and sugarcane. When my husband and I moved into our 1st home, a not new mobile home in 1979, I was thrilled to have a shower that looked like marble, a washer and dryer and warmth coming from the heater vents. My father had become quite well off by the middle of the 70’s but I married an ordinary working guy and have never failed to appreciate all that we have. We, in the USA are so very blessed.

  • Laura says:

    For the first year of our marriage I washed our clothes by hand in our kitchen sink – I suppose I could have waited for the weekend when I could have had the car and taken them to the laundrymat, but I didn’t want to waste precious time with my very busy husband. Though I don’t think I could go back, especially with children and cloth diapers to do now, I don’t ever regret that, as I am still amazed by the ease with which my clothes are now washed. You just dump them in, press a few buttons, and wah-lah! Clean clothes – even wrung out already for you! And a dryer if the weather is nasty! What a wonder! Thanks for reminding me that this wonder is true of so many inventions we take for granted, and to live in gratitude and with open hands. 🙂

  • I’ve been really looking forward to the insight you would gain overseas. It is really amazing when you go into another country and see what others deal with. Thank you for the posts and I look forward to the new perspective you bring to us in future posts.

  • Karen Rock says:

    I went to Haiti on a mission trip only for one week back in the early 1980s. I have never forgotten. I have always said that when I had a child I would want them to spend at least a week in a Third World country so they would appreciate everything we had. I have a special needs daughter now that would not understand. But I remember Haiti every day because I drink fresh clean water. And I know that they don’t because I have seen what some of them are forced to drink because it is the only choice. Thanks for going on this trip and for posting your experience so other people may learn from it.

  • Alex says:

    Thank you for the reminder of how blessed we are! My husband just talked to me about how I seem discontent a lot, and this post came at a wonderful time when my heart was softened to see how truly blessed my life is when given a little perspective about how the things I consider necessities are really luxuries to others.

    Thank you for sharing, sister!

  • Laura says:

    Crystal, you are such an encouragement. I don’t even know how you got the nerve to go to Africa, or how you have overcome the jet lag and exhaustion enough to write this, but I’m so glad you did. Thank you! I know I need a gentle reminder quite frequently to be grateful for the abundance we have.
    God Bless you and your loving family!

  • Matt Ham says:

    Crystal,
    This reminds me of our conversation on my podcast. I’ll always remember, “Poor is an attitude.”
    Thanks for sharing and echoing the truth that being rich has far more to do with our hearts than our wallets.

  • Zechariah says:

    Great post! I often struggle focusing on the future and preparing for it in a way that takes the focus off what I do have today. Thanks for a great reminder!

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