Once upon a time I remember crying to my mother over the phone, ‘We are so poor that I can’t even buy a tea cosy.’
This was back in the time when Moz and I were both at university, and we had two small children to clothe and feed and put through school. Moz would work on the weekends to bring in extra cash, and we were supported through the whole journey by generous souls and by the delivery of bread. (For those of you who don’t know, the small bakers down this way get rid of their leftover bread at the end of the day by giving it to charities who then distribute to those in need, which at the time was us.)
But we didn’t have a lot of extra cash. There was no going out to dinner, or buying new clothes, or finding a nice nicknack that I wanted and just buying it. We could do all those things, sure, but we had to plan and save to do them and I would get so sick of having to keep a close eye on the money all the time.
We weren’t poor.
There are literally billions of people in the world who would have thought our house was a mansion, and we had cars to drive, and we were never hungry.
But we weren’t wealthy either. At least not in first-world terms.
Now things have changed. We have had a few years on two full-time incomes. We have a house that I actually enjoy living in, and if I ever wanted to buy a tea cosy I could just get into my car and head into town and find one. Though I find that now I can buy a tea cosy, I don’t want one anymore. Isn’t that just life?
We are not rich, at least not by some standards, but we have reached our version of ‘enough’ and we are incredibly comfortable.
But I don’t want to forget what it was like to be living on government benefits, drawing up budgets that had to pass muster with both the government and the school so we could get a bursary. I don’t want to forget what it was like to always be dressed in second-hand clothes that didn’t quite fit and so to feel a little below par every time I stepped out the door. I don’t want to forget that it was cheaper to buy processed food and to eat bread and that eating healthy meals was difficult to afford.
I also don’t want to forget what it was like to be time-poor.
I can have a cup of coffee whenever I feel like it now. I usually drink them while they are still hot. If I don’t, it is because I have got totally wrapped up in whatever project I am focusing on.
Back when the kids were small, hot cups of coffee were not standard fare. Luke-warm, I-had-to-put-this-down-to-tend-to-the-kids-and-then-forgot-about-it cups of tea or coffee were more the norm.
I didn’t get to sleep through the night. I would nap on the couch while the kids were watching TV. If napping with one eye open is really napping.
It was nothing special, just life with two preschool kids. A lot of people have a much harder time if they have more kids, or kids with disabilities or their own health issues they are trying to manage while looking after kids.
But I don’t want to forget how hard it was for me with my children and lose touch with that time in my life now that I can have a hot coffee whenever I want to.
I read a lot of blogs and they are often full of advice:
Ten things you should do each morning that will rejuvenate your life! (How about if your mornings are spent flat-out looking after children and making lunches and there is no way you could have a chance to drink a full glass of water and stretch for twenty minutes?)
Rejuvenate your health by eating fresh fish and wonderful exotic vegetables! (How about if dinner tonight is eggs on toast with plenty of toast to fill up hungry bellies and let’s not go overboard on the eggs because we can’t afford it?)
How to accomplish more in thirty days than most people do in 365! (But what if you’re so unwell that even taking a shower is too much effort for today?)
I know these blogs mean well, but sometimes it can feel overwhelming. There are so many tricks and tips for success, and in some seasons of our lives we just can’t put them into practice. Sometimes I feel like the people who have reached ‘success’ have forgotten exactly what the journey was like as they were trying to climb that mountain.
So if you’re the kind of person who gets stressed reading these things as you try to put them all into practice, today I want to say, relax.
You are doing the best you can at the moment you are in with the struggles you are dealing with. God sees it. You don’t have to be more than you are. And even if you’re taking incrementally small steps towards your individual goal, those tiny little steps are worth a whole heap. And I hope and pray that someday you’ll be in a position to remember what life is like now, and remembering, help others out who will be in that very same place.
I hope I do that for you.