Thursday, May 16, 2013

Self-Imposed Expectations

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.)  


  1. This is a neat post Tonya, and I look forward to reading your book review.

    I can relate in a way- I am self conscious at times of our large family size and "appearing poor". What I mean is I am insecure sometimes about people assuming we are poor and then judging us for our family size. Like, they just might be thinking "why did you have so many kids if you can't afford them?" And yet we can "afford them" just fine- my husband makes a very good income, but we choose to live as we do. We buy used and live simply and surely don't look fancy on the outside. ;) So, I can understand what you are saying. Why do we allow ourselves to be so concerned about what other people think!

  2. What a great post. I completely understand where you're coming from. In 2006 we decided to change the way we live - homesteading and voluntary simplicity. I think, at times, people coming to our home for the first time expect something other than what they get. We absolutely adore our home and our life and love not having to work just to pay a ridiculously high monthly mortgage payment. I'll have to check out that book too since I love Ben's writing. :)

  3. It is wonderful that God brought this book into you life right now...just when you needed it:)

    I really don't care what people think and that includes some of our family. We went out to eat with my husbands mother..she was leaving for a trip to Russia and we were telling her of all the finds we found at Goodwill you could see how sorry she felt for us...we could buy brand new clothes and items we just choose not too:)

    We try to spend our money wisely...I think we are Very rich and that is not in money standards but for having a very happy life.

    I don't think many people understand how bad debt holds us back from not being able to live freely without worry...

    Thank you for sharing your wise words!!!!


  4. I can so deeply relate to self-imposed expectations! (in fact, I have been coming up against them again lately and mentioned that in a post I wrote last night) For me it is the appearance of our house - it sits right close to the road and is the previous owners kept it up so nicely (with sprays and landscaping service), and we just don't value running the lawn mower a few times a week and spraying (or pulling...) all the weeds, etc. And so it does look unkempt (and our paint is peeling, too). And I get stressed about that. But you're right, it's like that because we are making choices to prioritize other things like trying to grow food and herbs, spending time with our kids, etc.
    Where those self-imposed expectations are the hardest for me are in terms of how I spend my days, and if I am being productive enough, or making the right choices, doing things that are "really" "important" (and how do you determine what is important - it's hard to define that for yourself and stick to it when the world all around is constantly pushing the opposite as reality and truth.).
    I think it's so important, and I'm so happy for you, that you are able to talk about goals and values with your family, and support each other in that. That makes such a huge difference!
    (And that book sounds great...looking forward to hearing more about it.) ~Annie

  5. While I find your commitment to living the way you do a lovely idea, I wonder if your family relies on government assistance and your not mentioning it gives an inaccurate picture. Even medical assistance (I would give anything for free medical insurance as my husband's small company does not provide it and we have to pay a fortune for it). I do not begrudge people who need government assistance but if you and/or your husband are purposely choosing to not earn more income, yet relying on government assistance to help fill in the gaps, I don't think that your use is what it's intended for. These are just my honest (not mean) thoughts. God bless you and I wish you luck in every endeavor.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. When we moved here a few years ago there were 5 of us in about 1000 square feet.We had committed to paying off debt and saving for a home. So we lived in that tiny space for 18 months, and I know I always worried when folks stopped by what they thought. My family came for a visit and was worried about us. The good news is that we paid off a large amount of debt and were able to buy the home that was right for us last year. We are committed now to paying off the remainder of our debt in the next 6 months so that we can do with one income and be more self sufficient. I am so encouraged by blogs like yours that show it is possible to live simply within our means. Bless you!

  7. I struggle with this too, not because we are poor, but because we live in an atmosphere of upper middle class materialistic expectations. Sometimes it feels as if it is the air we breathe as modern Americans. It is hard to answer the call to a counter-cultural, faithful Christian life, not because we're unhappy at all, but because even small efforts at simple living (and I feel ours are small) are met with blank incomprehension. And I do get discontented, even though I've made the choices--so silly, but totally human. The desire to "fit in" is a powerful one, even though we are intellectually rejecting that idea. It is helpful to me to read your blog and a couple of others that share a desire for simple living with integrity. So thank you for sharing your struggles and joys, and God bless.

  8. Loved this - well said!

  9. Loved this - well said!

  10. Not to worry about what others think of your situation... You are rich beyond measure!

  11. Sweetie, you are NOT poor! You have more than most of the wealthiest people in the world have. You have a loving family, a home you love, and a lifestyle that many of us envy. You live your life with love. Financial wealth can not bring that kind of contentment.

    As a child I did not know we were "dirt poor" or "white trash" I learned that after a few years in school. But I also learned that I was a very lucky and a very wealthy person in the things that matter - love and family.

    We never had much, still don't, but we have love. And I would not trade that for all the money in the world!

    Anyone who looks down on you for your lifestyle is a very unhappy, discontented person, and they are jealous of your life. Ignore them, or pity them, but do not let them make you feel less for the way you chose to live.

    In my book, you chose wisely and well. hugs to you and your family~

  12. Amen! We have no debt but our house as well (only 18,000 left to pay on it and then we are completely out of debt!). We have a small income and I stay home and educate our children. We do okay and all...but our van is 12 years old and is continually having problems. It served us well since we bought it in 05...but now, we are just putting money into it all the time. We can't seem to put our minds around going into debt to buy another...but oh, it is so difficult for me to feel like we are putting money into a bottomless pit. I must admit,though, that it is hard for me to have the outside rusting and such as well. I suppose if I come clean, the truth is that I don't want people to think negatively of me either. I try to tell myself that I am not discontent...just need a trustworthy vehicle (which is partly true...I have appointments to get to and responsibilities to attend to as well) however, instead of trusting the Lord to provide, I am sowing the seeds of discontent. Thank you for your honesty and sharing this with helps me take the time to truly sit back and see myself!

  13. Dear Tonya, There is so much I have been wanting to say, but have just not had enough time yet. Please know you are in my thoughts. It was just a week or two ago that I was telling Jason how grateful I am that, well, we just never seemed to care what other people think. Which is a very good thing cause apparently we are very different. Tonya, you are a good family, living a beautiful life, on your own terms, and together! Together. If Jason went out and got a full time "regular job" then we would be pretty much just as poor as we are now (quite poor you know) and we would not be together. Despite all of our financial struggles I would never trade the family life that we have just a a paycheck every other friday.
    I think there is a difference between questioning and doubting. And I'm guessing that you have not at all been doubting your choices, just questioning and re-evaluating, which is good, helps us grow, helps us make sure we are still on the right path.
    Oh, Elsa waking, always much more to say, sending love... Renee <3

  14. Tonya, I can completely relate to your feelings of inadequacy. We had a similar situation last Christmas. Mike and I were shopping at Goodwill with the boys. We were all tired from a long day of running errands and we must have looked ragged, because a woman approached us and asked if she could give each of the boys $20 to buy themselves something nice for Christmas. I could tell she really wanted to give them the gift so we graciously accepted. On the way home, we stopped at a local store and the boys donated all their money to the children's charity! We are still laughing at that situation and how the world views those of us that stray from the norm. Bravo for being able to admit your fears. Sometimes I am terrified for the choices we've made to be "poor", but then to remember all that I would have to sacrifice to be rich, just isn't worth it.

  15. Wonderful to hear! Such wisdom! Thank you Tonya!

  16. Thanks for putting words to what I also have been feeling.
    It's great to see that there are others out there that see the wisdom in quality not quantity.


  17. Oh I hear you! We got the food box with turkey from someone last year, it was embarrassing and unneeded. According to statistics we're poor, but we've never really *felt* poor. I think how I look at it is a big deal. I find when I spend too much time with "normal" society, especially the consumer variety (tv ads, magazines, etc.), I tend to look down on how we live. When I'm just at home, happy, I don't even think about it. I think creating dialogue, like you're doing, is important. Very well written.

  18. Hi Tonya, I relate very much to what you are saying. As each of my kids reach their teenage years, I find myself getting sucked into wondering what others think of us. I guess it is because they are starting to voice their discomfort with being different than their peers. I just want you to know that although it can be difficult to swim against the current, you are an inspiration to me and I am sure to many others. You, your blog, and your chosen lifestyle are never far from my mind when I wonder how we can with more intention and simplicity. If you do find yourself worrying about what others think, please remember that there are also others out there thinking of you with admiration.

  19. One of my favorite quotes by our pastor is, "It is none of our business what others think of us."

    1. I LOVE THIS! lol It's great.

    2. This is going on my fridge, I love it!

  20. I think your life is simply beautiful, and your family's values, inspiring :)
    To be able to live a life we truly beleive in, even if that is not always and "easy" in the conventional sense is a true blessing indeed.
    Blessings to you all :)

  21. Tonya, I understand and totally agree with your thoughts and decisions, and our family chose to teach our children at home and I have never worked outside the home. Of course one income can be difficult, and making proper choices in order to make ends meet was always top priority. I appreciate the above comments on this particular topic, I am curious though if anyone would like to do you handle health care issues, insurance etc. We have found this to be a huge issue for our family and although having dad home and the family together is a admiral and wonderful choice, I often wonder how do families pay for the huge medical expenses etc. for a large family without insurance and all that is connected to full time employment....I also agree about not being overly concerned about the opinions of others, but I will also have to add that....even though my husband has an excellent job, we have always felt the importance of tithing, not getting caught up in all the newest and latest technology etc., "keeping up with the Jones's if you will" , so the concept of not worrying about what others think applies to all levels of income, and it is truly a heart issue that knows no monetary status to me.

  22. I can relate to your post. We chose to live in a townhouse that cost us very little to purchase (rates and housing costs were low when we bought this place)It is in a lovely location--woods behind us that go on and on. Peaceful place, near shopping, parks etc. I have been able to stay home for the past almost 11 years because of this choice and most of the time I am fine. Over the years, my kids have been invited to parties at houses that I didn't even believe people lived in. In ground pools with waterfalls, landscaped yards that look like parks, designer interiors. The truth is, I don't want any of it but I always worry my kids are going to be like wow--we live in a slum lol. I hope I can teach them that life has choices and those choices have consequences. If I hadn't quit my job I could have had all that stuff plus vacations--haven't had one of those in years!! I really wanted to stay home though and I am ok with looking "poor" most of the time which I am sure people probably think I am as well LOL

  23. Oh Tonya. This is so good!! I am seeing some "light" here for you and hearing it in your voice and attitude. The re-shifting of perspective is powerful. Oh Love, we all need to shake off the "what will the neighbors think?" fear.

    I did a google search this morning to see what the average income was for a family in Canada (doing research for a post I'm writing) and I was a little shocked at how much less we earn. And yet Damien and I have been talking so much lately about how wonderful our lives are right now. How much we enjoy our days.

    ANd yet, in the midst of this enjoyment, I will wonder, "hum, are we "allowed" to live like this?" Are we allowed this freedom to determine the course of our days and our future by saying no to many, many things we don't value or agree with in order to say a whole-hearted yes to the things we do believe in.

    I laugh at myself. Loving my life on one hand (and it has its challenges!) and in the same breath sometimes questioning my family's "right" to actually live in the freedom we do.

    Tonya, your heartfelt ponderings and questioning have encouraged me and been a refreshing source of honesty in a fake online world. I believe your family is on an amazing path and each decision you make to do what's best for your family, regardless of how that appears to the outside world, will take your further on the right track.
    lots of love,

  24. Tonya...I stop by to read about a family that lives purposely and loves deeply. A family that embraces God fully without the fear of pushing anyone away. Like you, I live in a small house, that others have named a shackle :) Perhaps it is to them, when it is compared to a newer home. But it is our cottage and it is here that we are raising your children and growing old together.

    I have to say, that I have never been content in any other home that we have owned. I have lived with much...and now, I am living with little. But now, there is a difference, it is by choice that we live this way.

    Yes, we are poor. We do not own too many material things, but yet, the blessings that come to us from Our Lord, are abundant and I get to share them with others.

    There is such a joy to choose and live this way of life Tonya. There is a freedom that comes from knowing that our debt is non-existent and that we are able to do so much with so little. This to me is what it truly means to live simply!

    Thank you for your honesty, for your ability to share yourself so beautifully. Grace and Peace to you Tonya... m.

  25. Another great book is “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist — really wonderful.

  26. Thank you for this post. I feel this everyday. It can be quite a mountain to climb. It is a wonder how things look when you shift the prism and look differently at it!