Thank you so much to everyone who left a comment here or via facebook to enter the book draw! I read and enjoyed each and every word you left for me. The randomly chosen book give-a-way winners are:
1) Elizabeth with the comment: "Yay! I'd love to win one of these books! It sounds a lot like what I need right now. :-)"
2) Lisa Myrick with the comment: "A lesson I often fail. Would love to read this."
3) Kate Tigchelaar with the comment: "Really would love to read this book...I love that you mentioned Jeff doesn't make you feel like a failure for not "getting it"... I always feel like I just didn't get the memo or something!"
Congratulations winners! Please message me via facebook with your address so I can ship your copy! Thank you all for entering!
I can remembering sitting in a college sociology class and hearing my professor deliver the suspicious news that the majority of Americans live below the poverty line at some point in their lives. Really? I thought. I looked around the classroom questioning if that could really be true and wondering who of us that reality might hit: the studious woman behind me? The second-career man in the back row? The friend beside me? I come from a middle class home and while we did not live extravagant lives, I never wanted for anything significant in my childhood. I didn't really question whether it would be me- whether I ever would be the one living below the poverty line. Of course it wouldn't be me.
A few years later, though, it was.
When John and I were first married and both students in seminary, we lived below the poverty line. It was something of a paradoxical time in our lives as we filled an old, crappy, falling-apart apartment with our sparkly new wedding gifts. We cooked with brand new pots and pans on a rusty 50 year old gas stove whose pilot light constantly (and scarily) went out. We ate free and discounted food from a food pantry on band new white dishes with shiny silverware. We went to sleep on our new bed listening to bats and squirrels scurry about overhead in the ancient attic, hoping they wouldn't chew on any electrical wires and cause a fire in our sleep.
We had lots of new gifts to fill our apartment, yet we wore out our clothes and we worried from pay-check to pay-check about affording tuition, books, rent, utilities, and gas. We had no savings and we constantly held our breath, hoping no major unexpected expense would arise.
With great relief and humble gratitude to our LORD's faithful provision, we made it through those slim years. When John graduated and secured a full time job we were able to buy a modest house thanks to a low-downpayment provision from the government. Soon I also graduated with my degree and started working. We felt like we finally had our heads just above water... and then God called us to adopt.
You can probably imagine how we felt looking at that $35,000 adoption price tag. Overwhelmed is something of an understatement. We set to fundraising for a big chunk of that money, but we wanted to pay for as much of the cost ourselves as we could. We quickly recognized that God had been preparing us for something we did not anticipate: he was showing us how to trust in his provision and how to live frugally in order that we might be free to follow his divine leading.
Now that Arie is home and our adoption costs have been paid, John and I have certainly loosened the tight restrictions we had on our budget, but we still hold some of those lessons close in our hearts in our home. Today we do our best to live minimally because we've tasted the kind of freedom it brings when we look to our faith and God's purposes in our lives instead of our things to be satisfied.
Last week I had the pleasure of reading and being both convicted and inspired by a new book called Satisfied by Jeff Manion. Jeff pastors a large and growing church in our area and has served my husband John as a preaching mentor over the last few years; when Jeff sent a copy of his new book to John I read the subtitle (Discovering Contentment in a World of Consumption) and was immediately interested since this task (finding contentment in God rather then the fulfillment of my desires) has been something I've been working on.
Sometimes when I hear people talking about this topic I get frustrated because I feel down on myself and focus on how I'm failing. This book was different. I felt my heart glow at one point where Jeff wrote about the freedom we find in living the satisfied life. He writes:
The virtue of contentment is utterly liberating. It frees us from the illusion that a purchase can take away our loneliness, fill our emptiness, or heal our brokenness. .... We have become enslaved to our stuff, and the road to freedom will require a new language. The language of the contented, satisfied life (pg. 29-30).
Jeff remains true to this declaration: throughout the book I found not even one hint of condemnation for those of us (me!) who often get it wrong. In the place of condemnation are stories of people and couples who have indeed found freedom in a contented, satisfied life. Jeff also writes simply and sincerely about his own on-going journey to satisfaction in a way that truly inspired me.
Some of his words convicted me, particularly a chapter on the subject of comparison. He concluded the chapter by exploring Jesus' Parable of the Worker's in the Vineyard. In (very) short, the parable is about a landowner who hires men to work in his vineyard for a day's wage. He hires more and more men to work as the day progresses and at the end of the day, pays them all the same full day's wage regardless of how long (or short) they worked. The ones who started working at the beginning of the day are very upset, even though they had agreed to their wage. The part that convicted me is at the very end where the landowner asks those angry workers, "...are you envious because I'm generous?" Jeff writes:
As I reflect on Jesus' story, I realize that the wounded rage wasn't generated because the twelve-hour workers received too little. The rancor erupted because they thought the one-hour workers were given too much. We are prone to lose our balance, not because we have received less than we deserve but because someone near us has received more than we think they deserve. The wounded voice of comparison demands, "Why them and not me?" (Pg. 67)
Um. Yea. In my journey of infertility I have had to fight against so much bitterness. When my friends get pregnant, yes, but especially when I hear about teenagers or women getting pregnant when they didn't want to or when they didn't "deserve it." I've witnessed with heartache some women who neglected or abused their children or even had them removed continue to be blessed with more children. It grates hard and painfully against me and I ask exactly the question Jeff posed, "Why them and not me?"
I have no answers, but I know that the comparison does no good; it only robs me of joy. Jeff writes, "Comparison is a thief and a killer. Comparison robs you of gratitude and contentment. Comparison massacres joy" (pg. 63).
Since reflecting on that chapter I am finding myself working hard to repent of my comparison and ingratitude and move forward to joy in Christ. It has been convicting but also freeing. There is great freedom and joy in surrender to Christ!
It's not easy. It certainly wasn't easy for me or for John those years when we were living below the poverty line, but I would do them over again because it prepared our hearts and freed us to trust in God and live simply to save for our adoption. It isn't always easy today to commit to living minimally, passing up on excess, but it is incredibly freeing to live this way. I am able to stay home with Arie and write this blog, we are currently free from debt except our mortgage, and we are able to give more generously than we've ever been able.
Make no mistake about it: if you determine to seek the satisfied, contented life, you will be swimming against the current (pg. 10).
Swimming against the current isn't easy, but I like to think of it as fighting for your freedom: freedom from the enslavement to stuff, to discontent, and in my case- to jealously and bitterness. It's a worthy journey.
I will announce the winners on Friday morning! Check back to this post.
If this idea of journeying toward a satisfied life is something that has pricked at your heart and mind, here's the amazon link where you can purchase the book yourself.