Saturday, July 29, 2006

Poor me???

This week I found myself smack dab between two disparate worlds: the me that I was, and the me that I’m going to be. Apparently the me that I’m going to be has more money. This is disturbing to the me I was.

It’s not that old me doesn’t like money. It’s just that she never had it. She doesn’t know what to do with it. So middle me sat in my spiritual direction appointment this week, crying my eyes out because I had some money. Not as much as the future me will probably have, but certainly more than the past me had. I’d read Shane Clairborn “Irresistable Revolution” and I wanted to give it all away. I wanted to go live in an “intentional community” that Ken called a “cult.” He asked me if I would leave him.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to say.

I asked myself some hard questions. Was I ever “meant” to be a wife and mother? The fact that I suck at both makes this question compelling. Did my lack of trust when I believed God didn’t want to share me, and wouldn’t allow me to have a husband and kids drive me to the sexual sin that I found myself entangled in? Did I miss what God had for me? The freedom to live as an ascetic, in whatever kind of community I chose? Or was this a mind game of a spoiled brat who didn’t want to deal with reality? I had a husband and kids, who are not like me. They don’t want what I want spiritually. They don’t want to sell all they have and give it to the poor. They like a single family home, even though we rent. They like that they finally have nice clothes, and an X Box 360.

Ken brought up Bono. Not fair, because he knows I love Bono and want to have his children. He said, “Bono is rich. He hasn’t left his family, and he helps the poor. Maybe God wants you to open the house for prostitutes you want to help with the resources you’ll get from being a successful writer. Why don’t you see what God will do with you having something for a change?”

It occurred to me that God probably wouldn’t want me to leave my husband. The kids would hate “intentional community” and I’d make a big ol’ stinking mess of things if I went running after Shane Clairborn. But I was struck by how strong my desire was, and so my director and I examined it. She asked me a simple question: “Have you talked to God about this.”

No. Not really. I’d thrown a few thoughts in God’s general direction, but we hadn’t had a real pow-wow about it. So I finally said, “Jesus, will you please help me? Because I don’t know what to do with money. And I’m scared. I don’t want to be anything but what you want me to be.”

And then I cried some more. Amy said, “What did He say?” I heard Jesus as clear as an audible voice say His simple, one word answer.

“He said, ‘Yes,’” I told Amy. “Just one word.”

She cried, too. “I know,” she said. “I heard Him.”

Wasn’t that cool? We both really heard Jesus.

That night when I got home my sister asked me about my new big screen television. I don’t have a big screen television! Or an entire house full of new furniture that she heard I had. The family gossip had gone wild! I got very defensive. I had just purchased a sofa and a “Bedroom in a Box” from Walmart because my bedroom furniture has fallen apart, and there is a homicidal spring on my mattress intent on killing me and ripping all of my sleepwear to shreds. The Bedroom in a Box has a dresser, night table, headboard and mirror, all in one fun-filled box, but I felt guilty because I bought $200 bucks worth of furniture AND a sofa. I felt like I’d let the world and the poor down. Carlean told me that God wouldn’t begrudge me a bed when I’d spent years going without so much, but it was hard for me to accept that kind of grace.

I had to look at these feelings. It felt like my future was a bright shiny light, and my past a black hand from hell, holding onto my ankle. And there I was in the middle trying to decide what to do. I’ve given money away. I’ve helped people less fortunate. I’ve gotten my family clothes, and a few things they want. I’ve paid all my bills. Why is it so hard for me to be okay with that?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus said. That’s my life’s scripture. But what does it mean? Just when I think I know it seems to elude me, and I chase it’s truth again. I want to be blessed. I really do.

Meanwhile, I watch the joy a little money has brought us. The blessing of having the bills paid, and something in the savings account. The blessing of having paint for the walls. I’ve never been able to paint, but I’ve got a really cool landlord who is letting me fly my freak flag. Okay, so Ken vetoed the fuchsia, but he did let me go with real color! The hall is going to be “fragrant cloves”. It’s as pretty as it sounds. For the bathroom we got a serene pale green. Very Martha Steward. The kitchen will be a vibrant mustard color, and my bedroom a rich rosy, cinnamon. These warm, earthy hues will go so well with my African accents. And my icons! I’m guess I’m nesting—building a home for my soul to stave off the dark death in winter I experience every year. I’m grateful for the gift of color, and God’s grace that I earned the money to buy the paint.

Enough for now. Ken just pulled out the paintbrushes and we have to paint the hallway! I will be praising God with every stroke. Despite my confusion, His grace abounds. His love, like fragrant cloves paint, covers a multitude of sins.

Much love,



bobbie said...

oh raga - i hear you. please know that i am going through the same 'how do i have a life and parent and wife too?' - and i have NO MONEY!

once my spiritual director and i talked about how hard it is for me not to find safety in the extremes - the nun and the whore - living in the middle is the place i need to dwell. neither the nun, or the whore live in community. i find myself drawn to the edges where it's easier to define things. not this blurry middle.

balance is something i am finding in my recovery. remember god set up a plan for his old testament people - 1/10th was the sum of what he wanted them to share. if you can choose a percentage that feels comfortable for both you and ken you just have to do some simple math when income happens. instead of being controlled by guilt for spending any on yourself.

you will be in my prayers dear one! blessings upon you!

shanna said...

Celebrate. God has made you rich in many ways. Now celebrate a new way.

I know all about the temptation to 'run away'. This winter I kept fantasizing about running off to a Bruderhof community, and when they took their website down I literally cried. But the Bruderhof is not for us.

I also once told a friend of mine that I'd like a box full of tchotkies for every season, so that when each come around I could make my home pretty. At the time, we just laughed ourselves silly thinking it sounded like a superficial, girly dream.

But you know, Hobby Lobby and cheap Chinese junk aside, it's not so stupid. It's a heart's yearning to celebrate the seasons and the sacraments all around us.

So celebrate...magnify the Lord with your paintbrush!


Heather Diane Tipton said...

Well you already know what I had to say about all this so I'll just say I love you, my beautiful friend!!

And yay on the paint choices!! I wanna see!

Cathy West said...

Do you accept that all things come from God? Do you accept that God has given you the gift of writing?
Then you must also accept the financial blessing that you are receiving. I think that having money is a blessing, but if you do not use it wisely, for His glory, then you are not using your gift well.
We're building a house. Not with what I have earned, because i haven't earned anything...hahaha...haven't sold a thing yet!! But my hubby went to med school for many years and we endured a lot for us to be where we are today - the money is nice, but if we were not using it for God's glory, I wouldn't want it. This house, no matter how nice it will be, will always be open for God to use however He pleases. I know that when I stop thinking like this, I will be in trouble. It's a balance, and it's hard to be wise sometimes, especially in a world where having money seems to be the necessary evil, but we try to allow God to guide us in all decsions. So far so good. You'll do great. Enjoy and praise Him!!

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

Oh girlfriend. Accept the blessing and revel in the knowledge that God can now use you in different ways than before. He's used your writing on this blog to bring insight and beauty and sweet heartbreak to so many people, and without a life poor in the pockets you wouldn't have written the things you wrote that bless us all so. And now you're on the cusp of blessing in new ways, and what an adventure that will be!

R.G. said...

Oh, I love your post... I SO relate. Sometimes I've wondered if God has withheld financial blessing from us because he doesn't trust us with it. Sounds to me like God trusts YOU with it, but you might not trust your SELF.

That in-between place is strange. I left my job a year ago... went from being the sole breadwinner in the family to earning nothing... hubby finally got a job in his new career but he does it for love more than money. So now I've been building my business almost a year and it's going well. I'm working my tail off! But the checks take so long to get here... last month we couldn't pay our bills. Yet the amount on my "receivables" list (the amount I've invoiced for) will pay our bills for several months! Our internet service got cut off, the utilities and the credit card companies are calling... and I am RUNNING to the mailbox everyday looking for those checks!

When the checks finally start arriving, we will be a two income family for the first time since we had kids (nine years). Yes, we're entering a new phase, and all those questions of how to use the money... how to help those poorer than us... how to be a good steward... they weigh on me!

Hang in there and keep sharing this journey... how wonderful it is to have friends to travel with!

Anonymous said...

this is my first time to post on your blog, my new friend.

your words cut me to the heart. i have little $$, but still seem to be stingy in heart. "what if we need that money for some emergency?" yet the words from our Sunday readings were so powerful: Jesus multiplies what we have to take care of our needs, and even more than what we need. we may not always see it when WE want it, but He does always provide.

God gave you the gift to write. He is using it to bless you financially. So...He will show you how to use it wisely.

And in the end, you, your family, all your reading audience, and those who benefit from your generosity..will be so, so blessed!

Keep us updated on your journey!


l. said...

i'm so happy for you!!!

Candy said...

I know exactly what you mean. I never ever dreamed I would be so blessed. Sometimes I look around and wonder how in the world all this happened and what am I doing with it to bless others. I continually thank Him profusely for trusting us with all this and constantly talk about how to use it for His glory alone. You deserve everything God is giving you - think of it as repayment of the years the locusts have eaten - in fact, go read Joel 2. He loves you so very very much, Mair. As He adds all that color to your life, let Him.

Anonymous said...

This was such a good post-so interesting for me because this balance between giving and living with money is a HUGE, HUGE issue for me (which i also spend time with my spiritual director talking about!) I think you know, Mair, that this has probably affected our friendship because of my guilt and weirdness over the whole thing. I am so glad that you are able to enjoy a few things that you have worked hard for and I pray that we will be able to get together soon so that i can see your new paint! I'm out of town now, but I'll be at your book signing, and I love you.
love, lori

Anonymous said...

the more i read your blog, the more i can not wait to see the book!!!

thanks for being YOU


Vicki said...

Your heart is so sweet. Enjoy His blessings--every one.

Bek said...

i think money is a good thing to wrestle with God about. its a big 'ol subject. and Jesus says the love it is the root of evil, so it seems so wise of you to really consider its uses. i think He is blessed by your humble honest heart in it all!

AMH said...

It occurs to me how blessed I am to be along for the ride...