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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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  • Amen. This is something I struggle with as many do. But I often remind myself that if you live in America you are among the richest 5% in the world (or something like that).

  • Tara H says:

    I love this post! Thank you!

  • Jennifer says:

    So true, we have no idea what an embarrassment of riches most of us have in the U.S. Get more rest 🙂
    Great photos!

  • MaryBeth says:

    Wonderful post. We all do have so much to be thankful for. My son was complaining this morning about going to school and I reminded him to be thankful he has the opportunity to go to school and learn. Some children don’t have that. Beyond being thankful for all that we physically have — let’s too be thankful for the rights we have in this country…freedom of speech, religion, etc.

  • Lisa C says:

    We call our issues First World Problems. It puts it all into perspective. We load ourselves down with the ‘I needs’. I really NEED another top, etc. I would guess that the majority of our NEEDS are things we could surely do without. Needs vs. Wants

  • heidi says:

    Amen Sister! When we moved to an Alabama farm 15 yrs ago, we were realizing our dream of raising our kids in the country. But that dream included a year of using an outhouse, hauling water and carrying laundry to my mom’s house 1/3 mile away to use her washing machine, then hanging it outside to dry. We chose not to go into debt for those things and the Lord provided. And we still had cars to drive, electricity and heat. Our selfish, unthankful hearts often forget how good God has been to us! Thank you for the reminder. BTW, have you read Kisses from Katie, about the young, single missionary to Africa? You would LOVE it . Blessings.

    • I was just thinking that I need to read Kisses from Katie again. I heard that she recently got married!

      • guest says:

        Did she really?? I started reading her blog pretty much the year it started. I haven’t read in a long time because she stopped posting as often but I used to pray that God would provide her a partner and a companion. I’m thrilled to hear that He did!

  • Amen! Love this! Too often I get caught up in “my” struggles but watched an awesome documentary on Netflix called “Living on One Dollar” I highly recommend it. I opens your eyes and I watched it with my daughter to give her perspective on how easy she has it.

  • Kelly says:

    I try to always remember something a wonderful guest pastor said during a sermon a few years ago, “Choices. If your life allows you to have choices in your day (what to eat, wear, etc.), you are among the wealthiest people in the world.” Wow. It’s easy to feel like we “have no money” living on one teacher’s salary with two growing boys… But we are truly so blessed with riches and so many choices that it can even be overwhelming! We actually began sponsoring a boy in Haiti last year through Compassion after feeling a tug on our hearts, and we were completely able to find $38/month for him in our tight budget! May God give all of us a true perspective of how blessed we are and open hearts to help those who really do “have no money”!

    • Your words on choices are SO true. That was something I noticed over and over again last week.

      And I pray you are richly blessed for sponsoring a child through Compassion. Honestly, that step of faith — to start sponsoring children when we didn’t have a lot of excess in our budget — was the catalyst for us when it came to finances, giving, and life purpose.

      • Kelly says:

        Thanks, Crystal! We have already been so blessed by sponsoring. God is so good to us, and has shown us time and again that He will provide for us. We were planning on my going back to teaching full time next year when our oldest goes to K (because we thought I “had to”) but over the past months we have realized how abundant our lives are and that we will be just fine if I continue to stay home a few more years with our little one. Stepping out to give money “we don’t have ” and seeing that our needs (and many wants) were still met really opened our eyes!

        • Lana says:

          So true! About twenty years ago when we were a family of seven and barely making it I decided to give $10 of our hardly enough grocery budget to missions. Suddenly I had grocery money leftover every month. You cannot out give God!

  • Terry Bee says:

    What a beautiful post! I woke up envious, grumpy and complaining. Another cold, gloomy day praying that my rickety furnace will last us until spring. Just yesterday–my co-workers were deciding where to spend their spring break–Cabo, Cancun or Vegas? This post was a kick in the pants. I’m healthy, have a job and a great family. I guess life doesn’t get any better than that! Praise God!

  • Karla says:

    Wow this really puts things into perspective. We take so much for granted and get used to all the ways we are blessed. This a good reminder for the next time I feel inclined to complain about something mundane.

  • That’s a lot of sleep! Sounds like the perfect way to get rid of jet lag really fast 😀

    I love your posts & photos. So glad you had an amazing trip.

  • Lana says:

    My husband was the green card sponsor for a woman who moved here from Muldova several years ago and our friendship with her taught us to see things differently. It has been a real blessing to see how wealthy we are in her eyes.

    PS-The bugs in your house are not your house but the South. I remember our family’s horror of them when we moved from Iowa to Florida when I was 9. 🙂

    • We’re learning that there are just a lot more bugs in the South! I think I saw more spiders in the first two weeks living here that I did the entire time we were in our house in Kansas!

      The earwigs, on the other hand, are not normal we’re told — at least not the dozens and dozens of them we’ve been killing each week. The exterminators finally figured out that it had to do with the drainage system in our backyard. It needs to be re-done in order to fix the issue. But when the guy came out to check on that, he found more issues that were more pressing. So for now, we’re just catching lots and lots of ear wigs on sticky tabs all over our house each week to help cut down on how many are actually crawling around our home. {And yes, I probably just grossed some people out and they will never want to come visit us!! :)}

      • Lana says:

        No, that is not normal but they are so hard to get rid of. We have had problems with them since we picked them up in a rental over 20 years ago. Oh, no! That was not a good thing to tell you. (They are mostly in our attic which we are working hard on cleaning out right now.)

      • amy says:

        One summer we had an infestation of earwigs. I put little homemade traps around the house of boric acid and oats, and sprinkled boric acid on the outer sill of our windows (if you have them open ever). I had found these organic solutions online. Within a week or so they seemed to be almost gone and by winter gone. We haven’t had a problem since. Boric acid is a wound care product I was able to find at the drugstore. Hope you get rid of them.

  • Lynn O. says:

    Very awesome post Crystal! Thanks so much for sharing. Yes, we do take for granted what we have. Have a wonderful, blessed day.

  • cwaltz says:

    I disagree with the viewpoint. I actually lived in a third world country for a year and a half and I can honestly say that there are places here that greatly resemble there. While my daughter does not have to prostitute herself I am mindful that 1 in 5 children in one of the richest countries of the world face food insecurity. It’s gotten to the point where we have people packing backpacks for kids for the weekend so they can have food. While it is true that there is wealth in this country, six people own more than 1/3 of the population. They do so not because they did anything particularly awesome but because they inherited it. In one of the richest countries in the world, with supposedly one of the best medical systems in the world we’re essentially holding bake sales for people to afford adequate medical care. In 2012 (after we’d already “reformed” health care) we had the equivalent of 72 people a day dying from inability to access health insurance to get the care they needed. While your children do have what is probably a beautiful home, over 2 million children were homeless in 2013. That’s one out of every 30 children and an increase of 8% from the previous year.

    I’m very happy you had a nice trip to an area of the world that has it hard and that you felt like you made a difference. When I lived overseas, I too, tried my best to present, who I was and the country I came from, in the best light. However, that doesn’t really change that one of the wealthiest countries of the world is failing it’s own inhabitants. While you personally are not struggling, I think that it is erroneous to suggest that MOST people in this country don’t know what it’s like to struggle. The numbers say something entirely different(and yes I’m probably sure that you weren’t aware how hard some of the people in THIS country are struggling.)

    • Yes, I SO agree that there are MANY people in the U.S. are struggling, too. And that’s one of the reasons I have this site — to help families in the U.S. who are struggling to be able to stretch the small amount of money they have as far as possible and to encourage those who do have extra to be givers.

      My husband and I often have the opportunity to help those who are very poor here and it breaks my heart that some people right here in our backyard don’t have food, or shelter, or warm clothes. We are seeking to do what we can to help out here — as well as around the world. The needs are so great. It’s been SUCH a blessing to be able to help families here in practical ways so that they can stop barely, barely surviving and get back up on their feet and start taking baby steps to be in a better place financially and have food on the table and a roof over their heads.

      I also realized that I needed to edit the post to say “many Americans” — because it’s certainly not the case for all Americans. And I’m so glad you brought this up so I could make that distinction in my post. Thank you.

      Also, thank you for everything you are doing to make a difference to those who are very needy here. Collectively, if we all do what we can, it can make SUCH a major difference!

      • Kristine says:

        I have read your blog for the last 8 years! Wow! One thing I will say is that you have continually posted the many charitable things you do ( USA, DR, and now Africa), as well as how your children are following in your footsteps. There are people who struggle all over the world. Unfortunately you have to pick and choose what you are able to do, but at least you do SOMETHING. I understood where you were coming from in this post. Poverty here is a much different picture than poverty elsewhere. I teach at a school who fills backpacks with food for the weekends. I have done home visits to their homes. While they are not ideal conditions, they are better than some places in the world. Just continue to be the best person you can. You inspire a lot of people.

      • cwaltz says:

        I hesitated on posting it because I did not want to come across as someone who doesn’t admire that you live as you believe and that you are teaching your children that actions matter. I, like you, am very passionate about helping those in need. My intentions were not to be critical and I definitely agree with your viewpoint that there are many reasons for those of us who have a home, health and enough to eat to be incredibly grateful for those things. I just felt it was important for people to know that the problems facing people in Africa also exist here and that our safety nets are not as good as they once were.

        Anyway God bless you for acting instead of sitting on the sidelines.

    • Vanessa says:

      I too disagree with your post – but for different reasons. These pictures do NOT represent South Africa at all. As a S African, I am disappointed that Lisa Jo took you to a township & made this your impression of the country, as a whole. I know that your heart is in the right place and I’m thankful that you want to do more for those in need. I totally understand that, because I’m all about blessing others too. However, by mainly making you see poor people and a township, Lisa Jo is giving you and readers a misconception of what the country & it’s people are really about (kinda like the media).

      SA is not just black & white and there aren’t just poor people. In many instances black people choose to live in the townships, to avoid paying a mortgage and utilities. It’s not that they cannot afford it. SA is considered the USA of Africa. With open borders, many other Africans will flee their native countries to live in SA, thus taking over jobs and moving to townships.

      As for proper nutrition – South Africans eat far healthier/better than Americans. We don’t eat as much processed food or junk. We cook from scratch and use lots of herbs & spices.

      I’m a college educated S African, who worked for one of the world’s leading accounting firms (in SA). I earned more money,than many of my current neighbours (here in the US) do. And we live in a relatively higher income suburban area. There aren’t many fast food chains in SA. The majority of restaurants are privately owned & many are upscale.

      I’m sure that every single country has it’s share of poor areas,where people need help. I’m just disappointed to see that this is the view they get of the country & will end up thinking that all South Africans live this way. It’s so easy to google South Africa to learn more about the country and it’s people. Here’s a link to the beautiful city (Cape Town) that I was born and raised in. It’s nothing like in the pics you have.

      • I’m so sorry that I upset you with this post — please know that was not at all my intention. I SO agree with you that there is a lot of diversity in South Africa and that there are many very nice areas, too! This post was not written to give people an impression of South Africa as a whole, but just one of my many takeaways from the trip. It’s so important to realize the many blessings we have and to live our lives with gratitude. That was so impressed upon me on this trip.

        As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I fell in love with the beauty, the people, the amazing food, and the diversity there and have posts coming later next week where I’ll share more of some of the fun things we ate, our visit to the grocery store there, our experience at a Game Lodge, and some amazing things I learned from the South Africans I was with.

        {As Lisa-Jo and her family are South African, they gave us a wide variety of experiences to help as pack in as much South African culture and cuisine in our short visit! I’m already planning a return visit with my family because I loved my time there so much!}

        This post was actually supposed to be about our time at the Game Lodge, but I started writing and all this just came tumbling out instead as it was what was fresh on my heart. 🙂 So I just kept writing and felt it was what I was supposed to share. But know that it’s just one piece of my experience there and there were many more pieces that I’ll be sharing in the days to come.

        That said, we went primarily to assess the needs in the poorest areas in order to know how we can best make a difference. So that is why we went to some of the very poor areas. I wanted to see the needs first-hand and meet the locals who are doing all they can to meet those needs. We’re excited about the many opportunities to help and make a difference in the lives of those who are struggling there. I think you’ll love what we’re working on and will be introducing in February. Stay tuned!

        Keep reading in the days to come because I will be sharing many other takeaways from my time in South Africa! While I was only there for a short time, I want to share as much as possible from what I learned, saw, and experienced so that it’s like taking a virtual trip there along with me. 🙂

        Thanks so much for being a reader here — I love the diversity we have amongst our midst!

        • Vanessa says:

          Hi Crystal

          I apologise. I completely understand what your post is about. I also know that the important part of the trip was to go into poorer areas to help those in need. I also know that a week is not nearly enough time to learn all about an entire country and it’s people. I love your blog & the giving spirit God has placed in your heart.

          I was mainly disappointed by just seeing the poverty, because people (who have never been to other parts of the world) tend to form an opinion of a country by just the little bit of information that they read/see/hear. Many fail to realise that it’s not how the country is as a whole. But I’m excited to read more about your trip 🙂

          Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Stay blessed!

  • Claire says:

    It is so easy to get caught up in our first-world problems. While some of these problems are legitimate, gratitude and perspective is key. Thank you for an important reminder, and God bless you for your ministry in Africa.

  • Ana says:

    Thanks for sharing. I know what is live in extreme poverty because I born and lived in extreme poverty, until the government put us, my brother and I, in an orphanage house, where we had the opportunity to study. Yes, Life wasn’t easy but my faith in God helped me to reach my goals. With my own experience is how I teach my girl to believe and work hard to reach her goals, to be happy with what she has, and to be thankful to our Lord.
    We are planning to go in a mission the next year, to my country and work in the same orphanage house where I grew up.
    Thanks again

  • Kellie says:

    I had this same thought this past Saturday. I was invited to my brothers and girlfriends new apartment and went and had dinner and a movie there. After the movie my brothers girlfriend wanted to play a game of UNO and while we were playing we talked about her home country. She’s from Bolivia and has been in the US for 6 years leaving her entire family in Bolivia. By the end of the conversation I felt so embarrassed for not knowing Bolivia was a third world country. She described their toliets as a hole in the ground, they save Sundays for washing all their laundry by hand because they don’t have washer and dryers. There are no malls or stores, they have people selling items on streets and their cars there are our wrecked cars brought in from the US. It was a total shocker to me and a wake up call especially with Bolivia being Brazil’s neighbor I just assumed they were more up to date. I felt embarrassed. She told me we have to much stuff here it’s just to much, even though she does love the washing machines lol. But talking to her truely opened my eyes. Since that conversation I’ve been thankful for what we have and try not to complain about things that other people would love to have. My problems are by far not problems they are silly thoughts that should be stomped with appreciation for what I have. I’ve learned so much in one night.

    • denise says:

      There are areas of Bolivia that are more up to date but what you described is also common. I am the child sponsorship coordinator for a group of children’s homes in Cochabamba, Bolivia and while the homes we run are quite comparable to US homes you don’t have to travel note than a few minutes down the road to see much different conditions. But it is a beautiful country 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    Thanks for the reminder Crystal! I’ve never been to Africa, but one book I read helped me with perspective as well. “The Hole in our Gospel” is a great eye-opening book to the reality of how most of the world lives. I’m so glad you were able to take such a wonderful trip!

  • Suzanne H says:

    My husband and I grew up with meager existences (but rich in comparison I know) and have worked hard all of our lives. Now we live in a large house in an affluent area with great schools, etc. Our children live such different lives than we did. We constantly tell them that they need to understand how sheltered their lives are, that most people do not live as we do, that they must be grateful, that they need to give back, that they are among the wealthiest 2% of the world, that less than 5% of people in the world earn bachelor’s degrees (and we plan to pay for college if they go – another amazing gift). They truly don’t get it but I hope that all of the talks and lessons sink in over time and they will become grateful, humble adults that thrive and give back.

    Thank you for the photos – I wish I could steal hugs from everyone of those adorable little boys!

  • Diane says:

    Perspective helps so much with contentment! Sometimes I get worn out with our frugal choices, but we are very blessed and not just materially. The other day my 5 yr old saw a photo my dear friend had sent in a Christmas card and she asked if it was she and I said yes it was my dear friend . She said she thought (another friend ) was my dear friend. I told her God blessed me so much to give me several dear friends.

  • Terri says:

    This is a lovely post. And, so true!

  • Vanessa says:

    There’s so much truth to what you say. I often dismiss the blessings that are right in front & around me because too often, I wish for something ‘better’. But I am reminded; in light of eternity, does this really matter? When my daughter went to South Africa for a mission trip, she saw & felt what it means to NEED. The word gratitude took on a different meaning for her. It wasn’t just an expression but also a full-out impression on her heart. Thank you for the reminder to count my blessings every day!! Hugs to you!!

  • Glenda says:

    many years ago I read “The Poisonwood Bible” it was my first realization of how much I take for granted. Great reminder!

  • It’s hard to believe that it was only six months ago that I arrived home from Africa with those same feelings. Beautifully worded and thank you for the reminder!!!

  • Kristine says:

    I love this post! I was reading how the square footage of homes has DOUBLED since the 50’s! Back then it was perfectly acceptable for kids to share bedrooms and everyone share a bathroom. Now everyone needs their own bedroom, bathroom, TV, etc. It has created a family dynamic of isolation rather than closeness. Children’s expectations of what they are entitled to is that they expect to have what their parents have. I’m glad that my husband and I live below our means and have a cozy little home we share. Granted our children have their own bedrooms and our master has its own bathroom, but compared to our friends houses, ours is small. But we exist as a family by eating dinner together, watching a show together, doing fun activities, etc. I feel sorry for the families I know who are so worried about how they look on the outside that they sacrifice their well-being for it. The financial and emotional stress is not worth it. Why have a family if you can’t act and be like a family?

  • Megan says:

    You’re so right, Crystal, that most US citizens live an incredibly wealthy lifestyle compared with many in the Global South. Yet there are many kinds of poverty – there is spiritual and emotional poverty, as well as financial poverty. One of the things I’m often reminded of when I’m doing research or leading study abroad trips in East Africa is that the communal nature of most African societies generates emotional and spiritual wealth. My Kenyan and Tanzanian friends tend to be far more content, willing to take time out of their days to help a friend, and relationship-focused, than my American friends (whether Christians or not). Individualism, which is especially prominent in the US, can lead to emotional and spiritual poverty. You’ve hinted at this in your earlier posts, so I’m looking forward to hearing more about your experiences of wealth in South Africa 🙂

    • This is SUCH a great observation! I learned so much from the South Africans and fell in love with their warmth, genuineness, and hospitality. I have a post I’m working on right now (it will probably go up the middle of next week or so) that shares about this and some of the key takeaways I learned from my time with South Africans. They taught me a lot during my time with them and I can’t wait to go back. In the mean time, I want to start living out the lessons I learned from them in my own community.

    • Marie says:

      Thank you for sharing this, Megan! We moved to a new state this past year, and we just met a family through my daughter’s class. The parents are from South Africa. I don’t think they are Christians, but they are the friendliest, warmest, most hospitable people we’ve met in the last year. I’ve been pondering this all week. This makes a lot of sense now. 🙂

      • Megan says:

        I love this, Marie! Making new friends from another part of the world is one of the absolute best ways to learn about a new place 🙂

  • Ellie says:

    YES! I realized this last night. I hadn’t done laundry for over 21 days, and I could hardly tell by looking at my closet (although I do re wear some pieces if they didn’t get soiled). It would take me roughly 30 days before I need clean clothes. How lucky am I?!!! Thank you for also reminding us this treasured fact.

  • Casey says:

    I get what you’re saying, but I read this article recently on why we need to stop equating God’s blessings with material things. It’s great food for thought.

    • I SO agree that God’s blessing is not at all necessarily material things. I think we can see His hand and His blessing in our life in so many ways — and many times, that’s in learning to trust Him and seeing Him be faithful during very lean and hard times!

      I think that an attitude of gratitude in our daily lives can completely transform our lives. “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Chelsea says:

    I wish I could keep these words in my heart at all times, but the further removed you become from something like this, the easier it is to give in to the temptation of moaning and groaning and keeping up with the latest wants. Much like you described, I find myself ashamed at how selfish and ungrateful I can be. I love your posts from your trip. Thank you so much for the glimpse into what feels like a completely different world!

    I also want to let you know that my MIL *loves* your gratitude journal. She told me it was her favorite Christmas gift.

  • Joy says:

    It’s not that people here in the US aren’t struggling. It’s just that the vast majority of us (especially those of us with wifi and smart phones reading this blog) have so much more than we realize. For me, the biggest thing I’m grateful for now that we’re home from SA is my laundry room. I don’t have to do laundry for a family of six in two small wash basins outside in a dusty yard. I have an entire room (albeit small) in my house dedicated to laundry – with a washer and dryer, a hanging rack and four bins for clothes.

    It’s all about perspective. Since visiting SA, mine has changed significantly. Instead of focusing on how much I hate doing laundry – I’m now focusing on the GREAT JOY that can be found in having the ability to do laundry with very little effort.

  • Vickie says:

    There is nothing like coming home after you have been to somewhere where it’s hard. You feel like you house is a palace!
    I felt like that often when we would come back from our trips to Appalachia and realize just how good we had it here as to what some of them have there. It makes you think about what you think has been necessary in your life and home.
    I love this post- treasure what you have and help others when you can.

  • Kim says:

    Thank you for this post! It reminds us of how thankful we should be for every little detail in life. It reminds me of when my parents took me to the Philippines, and we visited where my dad grew up. We pumped our own water and took cold baths outside. That was so foreign to me, but as a child I thought it was fun because it was something different. It’s hard! I am hoping I will have an opportunity to one day take my kids to a place less fortunate so they can be more thankful.

  • Tricia says:

    Life is all about perspective. I thought having new carpet was important until my husband had to have surgery and was off work for 5 weeks. Suddenly all that mattered was having a warm house, water, and food. I’m thankful for the lessons learned while he was off work. We are a one-income family and it wasn’t an easy time. But I’m glad we learned what is really important. Netflix, new clothes, and chocolate chips just aren’t important when your income is cut in half. And I really love chocolate chips 🙂

  • Cari says:

    Welcome back! Thank you for sharing your trip with us and for the great reminder. It’s so easy to forget. I know there are a lot of true problems for many in the U.S. also, but it still seems the U.S. offers better living conditions(bathrooms, running water). Looking forward to hearing more.

  • Ashley P says:

    Amen. I get a reality check every so often. Some dear friends of ours are missionaries to Haiti. They post a lot of pictures online. Sometimes when I feel dissatisfied with what I have, I look at pictures from Chris and Bonnie and count my blessings. Then I make sure their mission is included in my monthly giving.

  • cheryl says:

    Nice post! That is exactly what a mission trip does for you. I highly recommend anyone going on a trip if it is at all possible. You will get to serve the Lord and meet other believers which is an awesome experience, share your faith and then you will get a perspective change like no other. We all are truly much wealthier than we think. Thanks for the reminder.

  • It is so easy to forget that people DO live like this around the world. Sometimes out of sight out of mind and we worried more about things that are not important. Thank you for writing this and reminding us what is important.

  • Tracey says:

    This is something I have been relearning lately. A couple of months ago, I was bogged down with living with my very used washer and my very used oven, both of which happened to be given to me. I “celebrated” turning 40 during this time and let myself think that at that age I deserved new and pretty appliances. While in the pit of this discouragement, I decided to look up verses that could help me out with my discontent. I came across II Timothy 2:3-4 which encourages us to be a good soldier and to not be entangled with the affairs of this world. I immediately became ashamed of my self-centeredness and grew to be genuinely grateful for my hand-me-downs. After all, somebody GAVE me a washer! Somebody GAVE me an oven! It has definitely changed my outlook. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  • Pastor Jamie says:

    Crystal, you are so right!!!! We need to remind ourselves how “blessed” we are; or rather, how fortunate we are to live in a society that allows for such a high standard and comfort in living.

    We all have far more than we need, and yet we buy more more and more.

    When we actually STOP and THINK about it, the amount of time, energy and money we spend on accumulating stuff borders on insane.

    Thank you for the reminder of how fortunate we are.

  • Amanda says:

    I realize that this may come across as an attack, but it’s not meant to be… I’m genuinely curious. Your photos are filled with small children, and it makes me wonder: why are they birthing so many children when they can’t feed them, clothe them, etc.?

    • That’s a good question and one that probably the South Africans could answer best. In the poor areas, there seemed to be a great lack of education — not just school-wise, but basic education on things like hygiene, why sleeping around is not a smart idea (especially with AIDs being such an issue), etc.

      From what I saw and was told, many of these children do not have parents who are alive or living with them — their parents may have died young from AIDS, may be working in the city, or may just have disappeared. A number of them live with a relative — such as an aunt or grandma — or they are part of the many child-headed households.

      • If the situation was anything similar to the AIDS orphanage I worked at in Kenya, one of the reasons AIDS was so prevalent was not due to people simply “sleeping around,” but as a result of the overall cycle of poverty. AIDS was seen as an indicative social result of a lack of social mobility, governmental stability, the idea that tribes or racial minorities will not foster children from outside areas, drug abuse, twice the average statistics of international rape, militaristic ideas that sexual victimization was normal, and that universal health care, including sexual education, medical cocktails, and the need for contraceptives, was a privilege that only the higher echelons of society should be able to partake of; these ideas prevalent for over two decades and without access to governmental organizations to assist the masses, a disease became a ravaging pandemic. Think of how many simply did not know that transmission of the virus came from breast milk, the passage from parent to child, iv drug use, not just through sexual contact. In many parts of Africa, in post-colonization, when countries are left neglected, stripped of their natural resources, and people deprived of all safety, infrastructure, social mobility, AIDS and other social diseases, were a likely result.

  • Julie says:

    We are a very rich country. Our first trip to Central America opened my eyes to the devastation around our world. This led our family to pursue international missionary service, but God had other plans. He used this trip and others to lead us to adopt internationally twice. I think if anyone ever gets the chance they should go overseas, it will definitely change your perspective on things.

  • I was just complaining about slow internet and I know first hand what you are talking about because I was an MK. Wow. So now that I am in tears I will go get a shower and head to a Compassion event tonight. Talk about irony. Thank you for humbling me today Crystal. God Bless!

  • Laurika says:

    Hi crystal I am so happy that you enjoyed your time here in our beautiful country as a South African I know that many kiddos are suffering including all races it’s sad to see the kids walking past my house I stay on a farm without shoes in the winter and their mommas with the look of desperation in their eyes when they come to ask for old clothes and shoes because I am a mom of six and often times give what I have when I walk inside my house and see all I have I say thank you god you are good to me thank you for all the inspiring post May god bless you and your family

  • It looks like it was an amazing trip. Crystal. Someday I hope to do something similar with my daughters. It’s amazing the perspective we gain when we travel and experience other parts of the world. Gratitude has always played a big role in my daily life but I am human too. And there are moments where I only see what I lack. This was a powerful reminder of all my many blessings – some that get taken for granted, like hot water, because I have never lived without it. Thank you for sharing your inspiring trip with us!

  • First, let me say that I am glad you arrived home. Now, in regards to this post, I had a somewhat different experience with the work I have done with AI USA and my six international missions trips I have been on. I have seen great depravity. I have also seen this great depravity here, too! I think the great experience that can be learned from your trip, is how will this spurn your spirit of volunteerism domestically. I read several better living blogs daily, and often you will hear about the need to spend less, to do without, to only see to your needs, based upon the perception of what others feel you should be able to do without. While I love the post, the opportunity to travel abroad is a luxury some may not be able to lavish in as well. Mind you, as a fellow blogger, I know too well that creating blog posts on the internet is an egalitarian act unto itself, too! On my first mission trip abroad to Kenya, my mother included a note in my luggage that said, “Give more than you thought you could, learn more than you thought you can, and come home and aid the world around you. Anything less is simply people-watching.” I think my mother, as usual, was pretty spot on. Though I love your blog, speaking tours, etc., many of these activities are niche-oriented. I’d love to see how much you could influence others by giving to your new town such as at a shelter, food pantry, or the like in an affordable, easy-to-achieve manner. That’s a post I great look forward to reading.

    • Be sure to check out the 31 Days of Giving series I ran awhile back as most of them are things that don’t cost much money and impact those right in your home town. I’m a BIG advocate of making a difference domestically. For a variety of reasons, we have chosen not to publicly share about the majority of our giving — especially domestic giving — as it’s things we mostly give anonymously so if I shared here it would ruin that spirit of anonymity. But just know that there is much of that going on behind the scenes as it’s a big part of our passion and the main part of our giving budget right now. 🙂

      Here’s the series:

      Also, the reason we went to South Africa was to establish relationships for a long-term initiative we’re planning. We felt that we needed to go personally in order to better understand the needs and be able to do all we can to meet them through our business, personal lives, and in initiatives where we’re going to ask you all to join in, too. We plan to regularly go to visit in order to be able to update you all on the progress of projects (we’ve got some BIG things planned!), to encourage those who are giving of their lives to help the poor there (so many, many times they told us how much it meant to have us actually come and visit in person and how it encouraged them to keep on laboring so hard!) and to continue to have an understanding of how we can best come alongside them and partner with the great work they are doing there. Because we stayed with locals, our plane tickets were one of our only expenses, but you’re very right, those were more than a domestic ticket would be. However, we felt it was very, very worth the expense and are already planning our second trip with my husband and kids later this year!

  • Thank you for the great post, Crystal. My husband and I were born in the former USSR. My mom and her four sisters had maybe twenty outfits among all of them (that is a very high estimate). For the winter, they stocked up on onions, potatoes, and carrots to eat in different ways (mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, boiled potatoes, potato soup). They did not have cars but walked everywhere or rode the bus. The waiting line to buy a car was several years, but a person obtain one sooner than that with a bribe. In America, live is not easy. Everyone must work hard, and there are bills that people in other countries do not have. However, we are very blessed to live in such a country. In the USSR, my parents were publicly made fun of for being Christians, but here in America, I could attend a Christian school. In the USSR, my grandma could have been put into prison for taking my mom to church; here in America, we have the freedom to worship.

  • Etta says:

    I have always tried to make it through each day by trying to accept the things that have gone wrong in my life, by looking around me and seeing that others are a lot worse off than me.

  • Jessica says:

    I have to tell you I love your posts but lately I have been having trouble actually getting to read them. Everytime I try to access your site from my mobile it redirects me to other pages and just barely when I pulled this up on my computer it redirected me to a java download page. I’m not sure if I am the only person having this issue but I’m about to give up reading.

    • Hmm, we had this problem a few weeks ago due to sidebar code that was funky but we thought we had fixed it and no one has mentioned the problem for a few weeks. Can you email me about this issue and I’ll forward it onto me tech guy and see if he can investigate again? I’m so sorry about that! My email is crystal @

  • So encouraged to read about how God used this trip in your life and that it can have multiplying effects as others are affected through your testimonies. I’ve been on missions trips in the past, visiting some of the “poorest” parts of the world. But only poor by material standards. Because those I witnessed, who possessed the joy of Christ, were far richer than the wealthiest in the world. I know this must be true for you that after a trip like this, not only do you realize how much more we need to be thankful for what we have, but also how much more we need to lay up our treasures in heaven.

  • reyna says:

    I love your post, we definitely spend too much time complaining about what we don’t have. Seeing others live with so little yet be so happy helps us to put things into perspective. Thank you for your website.

  • 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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!

    • Thanks so much for your kind encouragement! I’m grateful that this post blessed you!

      • Laura says:

        It is blessing me again Crystal. A lot has happened since 2015…my husband decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and after a 3 year separation, our 32 year marriage has come to an end. But God is so good!! I’ve been able to keep the house that 2 of my grandchildren were born in on his VA loan, I still have my car in good working order, I’ve been able to start doing private childcare (which is my God given gift and love) and charge enough to have a little spending money above the alimony I was blessed to recieve. So I wanted to thank you again!!!! I have been able to give more as a single than we ever did married because that’s MY priority. Thanks for your blog, and your reminders. Blessings on all the changes in your life now too!! 😉

  • Matt Ham says:

    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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