I think I have finally figured out what has been eating at me this last year or so, why I have been feeling so discontent. I have been afraid of others thinking our family is poor. Because of the choices our family makes each day, from the outside we do probably appear poor by the standards of the American Culture.
Just after reading the first few pages of Saved - How I Quite Worrying About Money and Became the Richest Guy in the World, by Ben Hewitt, I could relate so well to a man in his book, Erik.
In 2007, when our family ended up settling on 3 leased acres of land and buying a 1984 mobile home to put on the leased land and then living in that mobile home with no electricity or running water for over two years with five and then six children, I never felt poor but oh my goodness, did neighbors and church members assume we were. It was very disconcerting when the day before Thanksgiving a church couple shows up at our door with a Thanksgiving dinner box - you know the frozen mega-farm turkey with the boxed side dishes and canned veggies. (Now, there are truly people in need and what a blessing this would be, but we were not.) It is so true how our culture relates your status to appearances - how nice your house, clothes, car are.... and if you don't meet these expectations then you are surely poor and down trodden, just like Ben Hewitt mentions in Saved.
Our family would be enjoying a pasture raised fresh turkey that Thanksgiving that probably cost nearly 10 times that of the frozen one because we choose to use our money differently than many. We would rather have one local, pasture raised turkey per year than a weekly chicken raised with antibiotics and fed who knows what at a commercial farm. We politely declined the food box and told them that there were surely more needy families than ours.
When Mike and I decided to embark on a journey of not relying on a high income to support our family and instead work, play and learn together as a family, we also decided that we would commit ourselves to not supporting corporate America and do our small part by making and growing as much as we can ourselves, keep our bodies healthy through working the land and daily chores, and find joy in the simple pleasures of life. We committed ourselves to not going in debt except for our rustic cottage (in which our loan is now just $55,000 and will be paid off in 9 years). Sometimes it can be hard having a very old car and worrying about it being reliable but to have a car payment and then the extra insurance that is required and then really, why not drive a car until it is completely used up - that seems better for our earth anyway.
When we first bought our home almost four years ago, it was such a feeling of euphoria - to have more space and land of our own. It has been so easy to let the feelings of inadequacy creep in - the house needs new siding, paint, a new roof - what are people going to think?
What is with that - what are people going to think??? Boy do I need to get over that and realize how blessed I am that we live on little, have no debt except our home, and eat healthy food and live in a community where so much local food is available.
I feel myself being revived, rejuvenated, and refreshed as our family discusses our goals and values and reassesses where we are at and where we would like to go.
(Full Disclosure: I was mailed a copy of Saved from the publisher and will be reviewing it some more when I finish reading it.)