Category Archives: EFFECTS OF POVERTY

Expectations . . . Blessing or Affliction? Part 2 of 2

The sadness I so often felt at Christmas I knew was in large part because of unrealistic expectations.  It had been that way since my childhood.  It was time to stop that habit of mind!

I now understand and deeply appreciate all that both my parents did for their three children.  They both sacrificed and gave selflessly of their time, energy, and resources so that their children could have advantages they did not.  Through just plain hard work and common sense and thrift, they raised our family’s standard of living year by year.

When I was two years old, we moved to the lovely little antebellum town I grew up in.  My parents had to really pinch pennies at first but by the time I was in elementary school (back then that was fourth through sixth grades), our family was well established and respected in our little community.

However, about that same time I began to notice differences – in cars, clothes, houses – all the trappings of wealth or lack thereof.  My family was working class, and I always wanted more and better toys then clothes, radio or whatever at Christmas than I got.

I never knew, until late in high school, that the parents of some of my classmates – the very ones who wore the “groovy” Villager skirts and penny loafers and flaunted Gucci purses and every other gadget and gizmo that was advertised – did not pay their bills.  Some of them also had other, more serious financial problems created by excessive spending.

My family was working class but our bills were always paid, we always had an abundance of good, healthy food to eat and all the clothes we needed and then some.  I learned even later that some of the small business owners in town had been forced to close their shops because the folks who appeared in the society page owed thousands to the plumber, the contractor, etc.

Once I became a parent, then a single parent, I understood the sacrifices my parents had made.  However, for all these years, even with all the writing about gratitude, this little poison of jealousy at Christmas time has been hiding in the dark corners of my heart.

Dear Father in heaven,  I can only ask for Your forgiveness.  Forgive me for this sin of coveting, or desiring, what other people have.  Forgive me of being ungrateful – after You have been so very gracious and faithful each day of my life to provide so generously for my every need and those of my family.  Thank You, for shining the light of truth into my heart and freeing me from the bondage of jealousy. During this season, when we celebrate the greatest gift ever given – Jesus, Your very own Son, help me keep my mind on You.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14, New International Version)

Below is a link to a video by Christy Nockels and Janna Long  that embedded this attitude even deeper in my heart.  May it do the same for you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKfhlHoemPI

 

 

Expectations . . . Blessing or Affliction? Part 1 of 2

christmas wreath and star 2015

I looked at the glittering star and wreath my four-year-old grandson Ben had delightedly helped me hang on the wall.  I felt a twinge of sadness and knew I had to get to the root of it.  Ben and I had had a delightful time decorating a few days ago.  Why was remembering it now making me sad?

My first thought was that all the decorations were from the Dollar Store.   Such a contrast with the pricey items lining the aisles in every store!  Next, I realized I had subconsciously envisioned covering every available surface of my tiny apartment with glittering tinsel and garland and bells and wreaths.   Ben and I had made two trips to the Dollar Store and had quickly spent the ten dollars I had allocated, which was all my budget allowed.   However, the ten decorations looked few and far between to my adult eye.

Then, thankfully, common sense and a grateful attitude prevailed.   Ben could not yet perceive the difference between our decorations and those in the mall windows.

Not only that, for a solid hour last Tuesday, Ben had been in charge of the decorating project, which satisfied his emerging leadership qualities..  As we opened the packaging, we discussed the best placement for the wreath, the star, the bell door knocker, the huge red bow, the two soldiers, the two red skates and the  “candy sticks”, to which we tied the jingle bells.  But Ben made the decisions, with confidence and big smiles each time.

As I had done with his Mom, I had taken the little I had and make it seem much to his innocent eyes.  As we celebrated our decorating with some shared crackers, Ben’s eyes sparkled as he looked around.  He said things like, “I really like the shiney star, Nana” and  “I have a soldier and stocking and Allen has a soldier and a stocking.  Thank you, Nana.”

If you look at the picture again, you will see the star hangs next to the plague that says “Enjoy the little things in life. . . for one day you will realize that they were the BIG THINGS.”  Truth was literally, written on the wall.

I had to face the fact that I had had unrealistic – and materialistic – expectations.   Aye, there was the rub!  And, I reflected, it had been a problem ever since childhood.   How had I let it go on this long?  And how much joy had been stolen each year?  I knew I had more mental cleaning house to do.

 

 

 

Unjealous Heart, Chap 2, Post 11

Operating in that small kitchen proved excellent training for not only Sharon but for me as well — even before my current emphasis on not complaining.  I found the experience fertile ground in which to grow the good fruit of patience, especially when preparing a meal.

We both liked simple foods, a fact which should have prevented having to spread ingredients all over the counter.  Like so many single parents, though, I leaned toward short-order cooking of two separate meals, one of traditional children’s foods and another with foods more appealing to my adult taste and adult need for lower calorie intake.  So the end result,  preparation-wise, was identical.  I may as well have been preparing an involved, complex meal.

Cooking a typical evening meal might begin with hauling out a bag of carrots, cutting board, knife, and scraper.  The carrots had to be done first, because their preparation took up the sink and two-thirds of the counter space.  With the carrots scraped and chopped and back in the refrigerator to chill in their yellow plastic container (a former economy-size margarine container), I cleaned the counter, cutting board, and sink. Next, I hauled out ground beef, salt and pepper, eggs, milk, and bread to mix up hamburger patties.  There was not one inch to spare, and quite a few inches too few, by the time all that was sitting on the  miniature counter.

I used the ever-faithful, ever-useful large mixing bowl to mix the patties.  With two hamburgers sizzling in the frying pan, I packaged up the rest of the patties in aluminum foil, put them in the freezer, cleaned the counter, and started a can of green beans heating on the back burner.  Next, I took the cookie sheets and broiling rack out of the oven, put them on the floor by the card table, a further impingement on floor space, then arranged tater tots on a small pan and put them into the oven to heat.

I tried hard to see the humor in all the necessarily careful planning and timing and patient rearranging of bowls, food, pots, and pans.  At times, though, like tonight, the best I could manage was a caricature of a grin, a resigned slow shaking of my head, and a tight-lipped silence as I fought hard not to complain out loud.

“It’s so unfair,” I thought as I turned the burgers over and put the ketchup squirter and mustard bottle on the table.

“The Wexels and people like them have so much and we have so little and…”

As I closed the refrigerator door I saw the words, written in red, I had taped above Sharon’s first grade picture and her latest example of penmanship.  “Be patient with difficult circumstances.”

I smiled, not much, but a little, and with that, the tension began to ease.  I shook my head and laughed, this time a real laugh, as I turned down the heat under the burgers.

“If I hurry,” I thought, “I can get one of our special cheesecakes in the refrigerator before Sharon finishes her shower.”

Bargains. . . A Double Blessing!

 

 

sketch lotion

In the cabinet under my bathroom sink stand five bottles of cream oil body lotion, with shea butter,  for extra dry skin.  (Thanks to Texas weather, that definitely describes my skin!)  The lotion was on sale in my favorite department store – clearance priced with a $5 card for buying four bottles, which made it an even greater bargain. Bottles of this lotion now stand next to my bed, my rocking chair, and the bathroom.  No more chasing one bottle of lotion all over the place  – luxury!

I rubbed some on my hands, arms and neck before sitting down to type this post.  The fragrance envelopes me like the finest perfume – at least for several minutes before it fades.  Scent is calming to me, and I have not purchased perfume for more than five years. But my loving heavenly Father gave me a six month supply of a most comforting scent for a miniscule fraction of the regular cost.

God consistently, faithfully leads me to bargains like the lotion.  It is always like a loving pat on my head.  “See Freda.  I am taking care of your every need, and I know every detail of your life.”  I bought five boxes of stuffing mix (which I love) for 81 cents, instead of the regular $1.15 in the same department store in January.  And the list could go on, with innumerable examples from the 34 years I’ve known Jesus.

Do I ever tire of having to be frugal?  After all, I’ve had no choice for most of my adult life and that’s getting to be a lot of years now.  Do I ever get sick of having not so much that the haves do?  Of course!  I am fully human, believe me.  But to keep the bitter roots of envy, resentment and jealousy from taking root, I do several things.

  • Keep a heart of true gratitude and express that to God continually.
  • Avoid malls, catalogs, television, and anything else that revolves around materialism
  • When I do succumb to wistful longing (usually about something I wish I could get for my family), I talk to God about it, add 10 things to my gratitude list, and take extra care to guard my heart.

I am far from perfection, but like the song by the group Selah says,

“In Jesus’ name, we press on. 

Dear Lord with the prize, clear before our eyes,

we find the strength to press on.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Bg2cJ5bw2k

Why set my heart on earthly things, more fleeting than morning mist, when I can store up treasures in heaven?   Unseen treasures – like love, joy, peace, and gratitude – are eternal.  (II Corinthians 4:18)

P.S.:  Yes, I know the sketches are by no means professional but I am enjoying doing them.  And who knows, if God helps me improve, we can watch the  progress together!!

 

What is real hardship?

When the fatigue is so intense that you feel ill, you know you are tired.  I was.

I shifted my grandson from one hip to the other as I tried, in vain, to mail the package at the automated machine outside the post office lobby.   The machine would not read my card.  I looked at the line inside.

“Has to be at least 10 to 12 people, Lord.  I don’t think I can stand up that much longer.  But I need to get this package mailed for Sharon.  Oh, Lord, help me!”

As soon as Allen and I got in line, two more people lined up behind.

“Thank You, Lord.  That’s two behind, rather than in front.”

Allen is a precious two year old, with only occasional (for the moment) flare-ups of  “No!”.  He is my errand buddy three mornings each week while my daughter has much-needed time alone with my other grandson, who is four going on fourteen.

Allen was content to sit quietly on my left hip and check out the details of the unfamiliar place and the new faces, many of course, with smiles for him.  After ten minutes of not moving an inch, my hip, however, demanded relief and I set Allen down on the floor.  He circled around me, looking up at the smiling faces while I just tried to brace myself to avoid swaying.   After ten more minutes, still not moving one inch, I began praying in earnest.  I felt dizzy and, unusual for me, had no snack in my purse.

Finally, the line moved forward enough so that I could sit on the edge of the low counter loaded with mailing supplies, certain that if a postal worker saw me my face would tell the story and they would just let me sit.

And I sat.  For ten more minutes, trying but not managing to avoid complaining.    At first there had been ten people in front of us.  By the time I sat down, that number was down to five, four of whom were women, each of whom was old enough to be either a mom or grandmother, old enough to hear the sounds of a happy toddler wondering around behind them.

As each minute ticked by, I grew more and more resentful.  And my face showed it.  As Allen meandered around, charming everyone in line, one woman – ahead of me in the line – turned back to ask me, as she moved sideways “Can you see him now?”

All I could manage was a nod of the head. The words “thank you” just would not come out.

“How,” I screamed inside my head, “can you see me sitting here, obviously dead on my feet! How can you see the toddler I have with me! and my age! and not offer to trade places with me in line?  If you were ten people ahead, I could understand but surely no one would object since it would not make any difference to anyone behind us. How?!!!!”

And I felt that way until we got home, to our comfortable air-conditioned home.

“Forgive me, Lord, for my attitude.  How many people in some countries stand in line for days, just to get water or a tiny bit of food for their starving families?  Thank You for reminding me of the untold blessings You have showered on me. Forgive me for not praying more for those who are in real hardship.  Help me live unselfishly, as You did Lord Jesus.”

Unjealous Living

I have been living, UNjealously, since my late 20s.  Before, envy and resentment twisted my thinking.   Though afraid of failing with this blog, I have important information to share with you. If you are poor, I can show you how to keep yourself and your child from feeling poor, even if you are.

For most of my adult life, I have lived in functional poverty. I define that term as being so poor you could not feed, shelter, and clothe yourself and your family without constant and extreme deprivations. Your clothes, and nearly every thing you own, are from thrift shops; you never ever eat out—ever; you wash and reuse plastic water bottles and carry them so you never buy anything while you are out to drink; you look first at the clearance shelf at the grocery; you treat your kids at the Dollar Store; you cook as healthy as you can, but never prepare expensive food; you often eat saltines as a snack; you rent the smallest apartment you can squeeze everyone into; your family has not been to a movie theater in ten years; you cover cardboard boxes with pillowcases from the thriftstore to make end tables; you don’t make your kids eat them but you eat a lot of sardines and liver.

I will share photos of my 375 foot square apartment as we go along so you can see God in action as things tidy up. I’ve been here three months, exerting genuine effort (in spare moments) to make space for everything so I could work on the real writing. As you can see, it is cluttered and seems totally disorganized. Well, it is and it isn’t.

I can find most things I need, but could not find my completed manuscript of “Unjealous Heart.” You see, today I had determined to take a step of faith and just start taking daily time to write, for God, and trust Him for enough time to do the writing job, and other things in my life. Funny thing, though. I found out my home is nowhere near organized enough to start. Clutter is stressful and causes confusion of the mind, heart, and spirit – and I cannot do creative writing in the midst of clutter.

So, I begin today to get organized so I can do the real writing, which is this blog entitled My Unjealous Life. This blog will be about how I am still, after many years, living in functional poverty, as I defined that yesterday (link). AND I AM JOYOUSLY HAPPY!!!!!! I am so excited about both my part-time jobs and the real writing that I often wake at 4 a.m. and write before going to work. I love my life with God, in the midst of being poor – because I do not feel poor. I feel so very rich, spiritually as well as materially.

I got the idea to write a blog about my personal life as a writer/blogger while I am learning to blog my book Unjealous Heart and creating my writing website Words of Hope and Healing.com. I mean it to be encouraging to you that I can truthfully say I have never had much money my entire adult life and still do not and that I am happy – and you can be, too, regardless of circumstances.
I learned that about 30 years ago when my daughter and I were immersed in single parent poverty. The same principles I learned then I have used for all these 30 years and am using them now, to dig myself out of this situation, and make it better and turn it into a blessing for God and His people.

So, my dear new friend, come along for the ride! It is going to be exciting, I promise, for two reasons:

(1) I have seen our God do miracle after miracle in my one ordinary life for 34 years now. And He is the same yesterday, today, and forever,and
(2) there are no favorites with God. I am nothing special, and what He did for me, He will do for you if you follow Him with all your might.