I had my kids at the end of the 1980s. Does anyone remember the term "Big 80s?" Everything was bigger, richer and more luxurious. The Regan era, the Coffee Achievers, Dynasty. I am glad that I came of age during the Big 80s. There was a feeling of presumed success in the air. The clothes were great because dressing up still mattered. Then again, this was also when we started enrolling our children in 6 different sports and activities and dragged them straight from school to the soccer field eating carrot sticks in the car. We went from high expectations and willing to work for it (a good thing) to driven. We were driven to look successful and successful meant prosperous.
It seemed like all of us of the same age who started the race at the same line, separated very quickly into the achievers and the losers. Do you want to guess where the Smiths were in the first lap? Yup, the second category. New construction starting booming in the 1990s and suddenly everyone (or so it seemed) was living under vaulted ceilings and floating their sofas in their great rooms. Floating means your furniture is not pushed flush against the wall. If we had floated our sofa, we would have had to climb over the back of it to sit on it. Our living room was literally the same size as some people's pantries.
Whether by wisdom or dumb luck (definitely by the grace of God), we lacked the ambition to achieve life with a two story entry. We couldn't wrap our brains around daycare and as a bride straight out of high school, I certainly hadn't been trained for a career. I had babies and stayed home with them. A friend of my parents from church told the Mr., "You better watch it or Sara will end up just like Pat. She'll think she should stay home and not get a job and you'll be the one supporting her." Dean thought this a nasty thing to say. I agreed. But it summed up the climate around us. The Big 80s dictated the bigger 90s to our generation. Go, go, go! All things good must be pursued outside of the four walls of your home. Four walls? I think we were the only ones actually with only four walls!
The peers of my little ones had scheduled play dates at Chuck E. Cheese. My little ones climbed in the red wagon my Grampa gave them and I pulled them three blocks to visit my mom and dad.
The peers of my little ones were enrolled in karate, soccer, pee wee this and little league that. My little ones played T-ball for 2 years, enjoyed it and then lost interest. We didn't make them continue.
The peers of my little ones were growing up in their own bedrooms and Disney World during Spring break. My little ones shared a bedroom and half the time, ended up in the same bed. As of this writing, they have not been to Disney World. Their vacations were spent Up North and when my parents sold the camper and bought a cottage; we considered ourselves on the luxury plan!
On and on I could go but you get the idea. Sunday School and Sunday dinner in a restaurant after church were the highlights of our week. I wish I could say I was an empowered mama who made my decisions and honored my convictions but really, I was just going by instinct and often feeling that our lives were slipping quickly from second class to third class.
Today we make a comfortable living between the two of us, daboyz are damenz and we could buy a newer construction house. We could have a two story entry, or any entry at all for that matter. We could float our sofas in the middle of our great room. We could go to Disney! And yet, here we are. Living in a small bungalow and going Up North every summer for vacation. You might say we've not made much progress.
I used to watch HGTV and drool over the houses. I still like to drool over houses. But now, when I see these young couples looking so distraught over their lack of an en suite bathroom, I feel a little sad for them. When they decide not to buy their first home and move our of their apartment because they cannot yet afford everything they want, I'm very sad for them. They want it all and society applauds this. Don't settle! Well guess what? I settled, and not all that graciously at times. I looked at the McMansions, crunched the numbers, had several conversations with Realtors when we could finally afford the good life. For years we did this, always almost embracing what we thought was a dream but never signing the dotted line. I was frustrated.
Sometimes I'm still frustrated. This house has very small closets and only two bedrooms. It's an old house so there's no home office space and today, computers are as much a home appliance as a refrigerator. Sometimes I still dream of a big new house that was built to accommodate 2012. What I am not, is discontented. I'm learning that there are the must-have, the wouldn't-it-be-nices and the so-whats. Lots and lots of things are so-whats and I think of them as wouldn't-it-be-nices. My desk top is in my living room and my dining alcove is small. Wouldn't-it-be-nice to have a home office and a large dining space? Or, are those items actually so-what?
Here's my litmus test, did my family during my childhood have lovely holidays and happy times in houses with the same limitations as my house? We all know the answer to that, we had those things in my house! That makes it hard to convince myself that I need more and bigger to live well. Like the forsythias I wrote about a few weeks ago, it's good to look and admire and enjoy without needing to own. Needing to own can be a hint of a competitive heart. Coveting your neighbor's ________. There must be a reason the Lord felt this important enough to command Israel, do not covet. Coveting cancels contentment. It's the C3 rule, I just made that up!
With quietness, the Holy Spirit guides through thoughts and instincts. No one else can give you the advice that the voice of the Lord wants to give you. Seek contentment and be sure that when you do, the enemy will tell you that you lack ambition. Learn that ambition is determination for God's plan and there is a plan precisely and perfectly created for you.
In a few days, we will host Easter Dinner. And I will look around and say, wouldn't-it-be-nice to have a large dining room and a bigger kitchen and more seating in my living room where my desk top computer now sits. I will be right.
But on Monday, I will say, we were crammed on top of one another and cooking dinner was challenging. I will say, so-what?
Is there anything that you can move into the so-what box?
Image: July 2011. Vacation highlight, picnic on a lake Up North.