The Jones

It’s the end of January.  By now, you probably have the bills from Christmas.  What is your reaction when you saw the statements?  It could be everything from “worth every penny!!” to “what was I thinking??”

Most of us struggle with finances, and January brings this tension to the next level.  I am not a financial advisor and quite honestly I continually struggle with family accounting!  I often wonder where our household money goes.  But thanks to this New Year’s resolution and dogged perseverance I am going to keep that budget updated this year… I hope.

Money is an issue in each household.  It may have different looks and stress points in each family but we all live with trying to find the balance between living within our means and dreams. 

Have you ever heard the saying “keeping up with the Jones”? I think this is partly the reason finances can be such a point of contention in our lives.  We feel like we need to keep up with the materialistic standard that is set around us.  The neighbor has a new car or bought a flat screen high-def TV and we feel we need to have the same. Friends booked a trip to the Caribbean and now we need to travel. 

You know this is nothing new, right? King Solomon (the wisest man who ever lived) pointed it out a long time ago:

Ecclesiastes 4:4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

The pressure to keep up with the Jones has been since the beginning of time.  And often marriages and family relationships are sacrificed to neighborhood comparisons.  The need to make money and pay the bills incurred by living outside our means, causes financial pressure and the need for longer works hours.

This is not what most of us want.  I’m taking a clip out of our FamilyLife Real Marriage Magazine:

For most women, the emotional security of a close relationship with their husband is far more important than financial security.  One survey showed that, if they were forced to choose between experiencing financial struggles or a lack of closeness in their relationship, 70% of married women would take the money problems. 

Translation: Guys, your wife would rather have you at home whenever possible than have you work long hours to “provide better”. (for Men only by Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn p.77)

I have found this true in many relationships that I have seen.  The husband thinks that he is ‘taking care of the family’ by working longer hours, trying to make more money but in reality the family would much rather have his time than the new toy. And often we get caught up in the lie that we are taking care of the family when in reality… we are just keeping up with the Jones.  Success driven by envy – we want what the neighbor has.

So instead of a getting a second job or booking more hours to up the paycheck, take stock of what is important.  What do you really want out of life?  Good relationships within the family or a family that just looks good compared to the Jones.  I’m thinking that close family ties and each other’s presence far outweigh any presents.

And really… who are the Jones? Good luck trying to catch the wind.

Copywrite © Doris Born 2010 – Permission granted to use and reproduce with proper citation

Advertisements

The Big Dipper

I love the crisp clear nights that the cold weather brings.  Sitting outside I am lost in the wonder of the stars as they sparkle like diamonds in the dark winter sky.  The icy air and the beauty of the star-studded sky is literally breath-taking. 

Immediately I search out the Big Dipper.  I am obviously just a novice star-gazer as this common constellation is always the first one I look for.  Finding familiar grouping of stars I am transported in memory to my childhood. 

I first met the Big Dipper while living under the vast prairie sky.  Four stars outlining the cup and the three-star handle was easy to spot and it was my habit to search it out. It is part of my childhood.  If I ever felt fear from the dark night, I would look up in the sky and find the familiar formation of stars and feel secure. It was a familiarity of recognition.

Then I moved to Africa, and I was surprised to see that this familiar constellation upside-down in the night sky.  This would aptly describe how I felt with the transition of moving to the other side of the world at 16 years of age. My world tipped over.  The contents that were so securely contained in the Big Dipper of the prairie sky now tumbled out of the inverted cup. 

Transitions and up-side down life is often the tale of most of our lives.  One thing that won’t change in this world is the fact that things change.

When I searched out the night sky I felt the keen sense of time passing.  I’ve seen that Dipper in many night skies and in so many formations over the years that the childhood memory of first falling in love with the constellation  seemed very long ago.  In fact, I felt old!  And in that moment I felt the fear of the unknown.  What will it feel like to age? Will I have regrets? Will I look back on my life and wish I had done it differently?

Immediately my heart turned towards dialogue with God. Even more familiar than the beauty of the Big Dipper is the conversation that my heart has with the Maker of the stars. In Africa, when the Dipper turned upside down, I turned to God.  I was crazy enough to believe that the Creator of the magnificent night sky also created and cared about me.  I promised to seek him with all my heart and he rearranged my life.  He still is.

“You’ll face the changes through out your life because you know Me” was His answer to my questions. 

Psalm 147:4 “He counts the stars and calls them all by name.”

Try to wrap you head around the fact that God has named each star.  I ‘googled’ the question “how many stars are there” and hit some amazing articles.  It is impossible to know how many stars there are.  Yet each night, we can identify a good number of familiar constellations.  Doesn’t this say something about our Creator?  His being is beyond our measurement, yet he is faithful.   We can live in the familiarity of relationship with him, yet we will never begin to truly understand him.

Psalm 147:11 “The Lord’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

 This is how I want to enter the New Year.  I want the majesty of God to overwhelm me and I want to be confident in His faithfulness.  I can face the changes that each year brings.  I can face the future and live life without regret because I am living a life that is surrendered to a faithful and loving God.  I know God and believe Him.  To try to run my own life would be as ridiculous as trying to control the constellations.

Copywrite © Doris Born 2010 – Permission granted to use and reproduce with proper citation