We have this running joke about our frugal practices in the early days of our marriage. I married a man who saved a percentage of every single dollar he’d ever received from childhood gifts, household chores, and grocery store paychecks. I wasn’t nearly as disciplined, but still, pretty cautious with spending. For 10 years in fact, we never even bought a headboard for our bed — we just let those mattresses sit on the floor in our master bedroom like college kids.
And it didn’t bother me for a very long while — until, it did.
Perhaps it was having children and wanting more for them — perhaps it was years of practicing frugality that enticed us to believe we deserved more. I know for certain we envied our friends’ new homes and upgraded kitchens (and isn’t envy one of those deadly sins?). A friend tells me it’s human to want, and in 2006, with the birth of a third child on the horizon, well, we really wanted a more spacious home. And at the time, we thought it was a prudent risk to jump on the real estate bandwagon and score our dream home, while investing in several others.
I probably don’t have to tell you the rest of our cautionary tale. The housing market plummeted, and, we lost all but one of those properties — the 1,900-square-foot home we bought 14 years ago. The one in which we came to feel crowded and discontented. So with humbled hearts, we moved back into our “starter” home and started over. And given the struggles of so many across Arizona — and the globe — I felt enormously grateful to have it.
It took time and perspective for me to see God’s hand in all of it. He had allowed us to suffer the consequence of our over-reach to teach us an important lesson. But in tandem, His comfort sustained me as we coped with the loss of our dream — not to mention our pride (another deadly sin. I see a pattern here!). His love encouraged the opening of our hearts to share the truth with neighbors and friends — because when we admit our struggles, we become more transparent and relatable. And there is healing in it.
Each day I learn more about living abundantly, with less. I work hard to follow the call in Matthew 6:20: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” When I focus more on what I have and less on what I want, I feel more contented, more at peace, more aligned with God’s will and more connected with His presence. When I’m steeped in gratitude, I focus more on giving as opposed to collecting.
Life’s challenges, setbacks, disappointments and failures, when faced with humility, are transformative. God used that experience to mature me, and to train my heart to focus on my richest blessings — my family, friends and community. And in them, I’m a rich woman, indeed.
Freelance writer Diane Meehl lives abundantly in Ahwatukee with her husband and three children. They worship at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.