Sunday, June 22, 2008

The American Dream......I mean Nightmare

3 years ago, we purchased our first home. Oh the bliss. Oh the joy. Cute little house (not so little actually). 2500 finished square feet. 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom. Ranch style plan. HOA dues (and stupid letters telling us to put our trash can back in the garage withing 24 hours after trash pick up). Even came with a pool table. Of course, it was in the "Burbs". Not just the burbs....but really more of a "bedroom community", 20-25 minutes away from everything we do on a regular basis.

3 years later, and a mortgage rate increase..... we have decided to "unload" this American Dream. What is this American Dream anyway... and why exactly am I dreaming about a house, or even a lifestyle that is supposed to constantly grow to fit this dream? This dream that if I'm not careful - will begin to rule my life. Hmmmm..... Beside the point I suppose. It's not just the house though. Like the rest of the American population right now, we are feeling the pinch in every area of life. Gas is almost at $4.00 a gallon (of which we fill up 20 gallons almost weekly - and that is just on the van). Feeding a family of 5 (okay, I'm not gonna really tell what I spend on food, because we have weird food issues in our family that makes us spend more than the average family perhaps). Let me just say - OUCH! A car payment on a van that isn't worth squat. All this adds up. Something has got to give. We feel we have pursued everything we can to make this all work... it isn't working.

There are some things you need to know for this to make any sort of sense. 1) We are truly blessed to be on staff at a church that prides themselves on caring for their pastors. It is not the churches fault by ANY means that we find ourselves in the place we are. 2) We made the decisions we did with the house and the cars and the adoption and dinner, fully believing they were the right choices. And while they probably all were at the time we made them, one of them is no longer the right decision. Yup, you guessed it, dinner. No -- the house. 3) We aren't "in trouble". We are better off than most people in this country, and certainly most people in the world. We have a roof over our head (that isn't in danger at all of being taken back by the bank). We have excellent health. We have full bellies (have you seen my belly??? certainly not starving). We have very minimal debt. 4) It is not, we've decided, an option for me to go to work to help out with the $$. Why??? I have no college education (leave me alone - I still haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up). So for me to take a job at Starbucks (which pays pretty decent I might add) doesn't make much sense. $15/hour is the going rate for childcare for 3 children. Um, let me think, $10/hour salary - $15/hour child care = us paying $5/hour for me to go to work. I'm not good at math -- so you tell me.

Okay, so why then are we choosing to unload the house??? Well, since you asked... Something you need to know about me (and really all mankind, but I'm going to talk about me here) is that I have this "misplaced longing for heaven". Meaning I think I can create heaven on earth somehow. Sad thought, but true. While I should be putting my time, energy, and money into eternal things... I'm the girl who thinks it's a quicker fix to go buy something to feel good. I try to change my surrounding through "stuff" mostly to have this cozy sense of, well, heaven. We all have our "fix". This is just one of mine. Sadly, I don't think it's just me. It falls into that "American Dream". Bigger means better. More means merrier. Doesn't take long for someone with my wiring to buy right into that lie. Somehow, I still am never fully satisfied. Never finding heaven. (This is very much my issue with the house, not Aaron's.) Anyway, we decided to stop letting the house rule our spending. For Aaron it's just an issue of the house payment. For me, it's the house payment mixed with how I try to make it mine. It's why I always hated renting.... I couldn't make it mine. But God has been convicting me that it isn't mine regardless of who I write that monthly check to. And while we will go back to renting - I recognize that I might still try to buy my way into heaven on earth. I hope not. I hope I'm learning me lesson.

What lesson??? Again, glad you asked. I am to own my stuff, not my stuff owning me. I cannot attach myself to the things of this world that are going to all turn to ash one day. The things of eternity are what are worth pursuing, not the newest and greatest trend. Maybe this will explain better what I'm finally grasping in my life - "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Mathew 6:19-21) While pursuing the "American Dream" is not sinful in and of itself, and many God fearing people can do it with no problem of "laying up earthy treasures"... I am not one of those people. Bummer. I have allowed my "stuff" to be the source of my joy, to determine my worth, to dictate my happiness. So for me to give up the house - it's more than just a cheaper mortgage. I told God about 5 months ago (in an adoption related event), that I was willing to give up everything for Him and the things He was calling us to.....even the house. (Yes, I actually specifically mentioned the house.) Now we are sensing He's actually asking us to do so. He's asking if I meant it. (Of course I meant it when I didn't have to mean it!!!)

Why is He asking us to give it up??? (Stop asking so many questions!) For lots of reasons probably. But the ones I know of now (I think I know anyway).... to give more. Our giving was the first thing I let slide when the pocket book got tight (as most do I'm sure). Aaron and I have hearts that desire to give to those less fortunate. So all of a sudden, when I think I've become less fortunate - I stop giving. Bad, bad Jody. Taking a friend out to dinner (or drinks in my case) and paying the bill. Making memories with our kids through travel, a fun night out, pretty much anything that costs money (which is just about everything). Helping a friend in need. Future adoptions (be it ours or someone else). Saving. And yes, having the money for the insurance deductible to fix my van. (Okay, so that last one has nothing to do with eternity...but it would sure be nice to have the money to fix the van.) It just makes sense to us to get out of the nightmare while we can.

Hopefully we will sell the house for what we need to be able to unload some of that debt, build some savings, and maybe fix the van. (Enough about the stupid van already!) Hopefully our kids will learn from this that memories are not what we have, but what we do. Hopefully our hearts will be filled with this eternal satisfaction from moving backwards. By this I mean that we are so used to upping our standard of living based on our paycheck. Paycheck goes up, so do the bills. This change goes against the grain. We are going to try the exact opposite. Downsize (even though the family is upsizing (that should totally be a word)).

Again, I'm not harping on anyone who lives a certain kind of lifestyle when it comes to stuff, money and housing. These are my convictions for my life. However, if you find as your read this, that you too are being overcome by the things of this world, and neglecting the things of the kingdom all because you can't "afford" them....well, then I challenge you to look a little deeper. Just a suggestion.

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