Literal price tags on our Heads

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils”.  This infamous bible verse from the book of Timothy (1Timothy 6:10, New International Version) has been quoted many times over. Often to explain the current economic climate, a particular government regime or even to explain certain persons bizarre behavior after experiencing riches most of us mortals could only dream of.  I think of this verse when I need consolation; that my financial woes are actually for my benefit. But than reality kicks in and it’s hard to think that way when there is “more month than money” at times.

We live in a very consumeristic society. That statement has been on repeat for decades it seems but the truth of it becomes more and more solidified as the years go up on our calendars.

According to this article from foxnews.com:

“The Department of Agriculture says the estimated cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610, or as much as almost $14,000 annually. That’s the average for a middle-income couple with two children. It’s a bit more expensive in urban parts of the country, and less so in rural areas.”

(http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/01/10/cost-raising-child-is-more-than-233k-in-us.html)

I read that and I want to laugh, cry, and then ask my husband which one of us should sell a kidney first.  I have four kids so according to this information I’m looking at spending $934,440 to raise my kids until the age of 17.  I might as well file for bankruptcy now.

I did my life backwards according to most people’s life plans. My husband and I got married young, had our first kid right away and kept on having  kids every time we experienced some life changing financial stability. We don’t own a house yet and without God’s great mercy I couldn’t even tell you when that will become a possibility.  This isn’t a pity party nor do I ask for sympathy (unless you want to donate money to us foolishly smitten people, I would be okay with that) it’s just the facts of my life right now.  So should we take these numbers seriously? Should we live in fear of the financial unknown of our adult lives? Honestly, I think it depends on your personal situation. Some people will see these numbers and start saving like fiends and bulking up their investments, some will never have kids and others like me will laugh and say “I’m screwed.” Though in reality stronger words came out of my mouth.

I never wanted to wait till I was older to have kids it just seemed to me to be a more exhausting thing to do after establishing a career and having the “dream house.” My dad would always say “it’s never a good time to have kids, so just do it when you want to.” Words have never been more prophetic in my life. We would have our proverbial “ish” together and then discuss if we could/should/wanted to have another child and here we are! I don’t write any of this on a judgement towards anyone or to call myself or my husband idiots I’m just telling you my story. Everyone plans their lives differently and that’s just it.

The most disturbing thing about these statistics is we are literally putting price tags on our children’s lives. That just has to feel a little wrong, doesn’t it? When we have to start crunching numbers and setting up IRA accounts it feels more like we treat our future families as monetary investments instead of spiritual investments.  I am well aware that kids are a terrible investment financially, but we suck it up and move on. That’s not the real reason we keep having them.

So who do you think suffers most from this price tag game? Children do. More specifically the unborn.

The following are just a few statistics found on the Guttmacher Institute website for the year 2011.
“The unintended birthrate in 2011 was 22 per 1,000 women aged 15–44.[8] The abortion rate was 17 per 1,000 women.[13]”

“In 2011, lower proportions of poor and low-income women than of higher-income women chose to end an unintended pregnancy by abortion. Consequently, poor women had a relatively high unintended birth rate.[8]”
(https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/unintended-pregnancy-united-states)

These statistics should be staggering to us. We live in a culture where babies are often not wanted or cannot even be supported by their mothers or families.  There are pregnancies that are occurring that most woman did not want or plan and abortion is their ultimate choice. I suspect that this is often due to financial reasons. It breaks my heart that any woman would have to make such an irreversible and heart wrenching decision but it disturbs me more that as a society we view this as acceptable. We see the termination of life as a viable option instead of offering women and families support. We don’t see children as a natural outcome of sex but as an inconvenience and an expensive one at that. I’m not writing this to condemn any woman for her decision I’m just trying to correlate our obsession with “having all the things” and all the “money we need” as maybe not being the healthiest mind set. We often suggest that the families who don’t have the big houses and the fancy cars and the bulky savings accounts are maybe not providing the best for their kids. We see teenagers and girls in the midst of their college careers as careless and weak for having the natural course of sexual relations befall them. All this for the “almighty dollar”.  The message is clear that babies cost money and babies need all the right things to turn out to be functional human beings who can contribute to society.  If it’s anything less than that you shouldn’t even try.

I don’t have any explanations on how to fix our money problems I’m just offering the outlook that when you start treating life as a commodity and putting price tags on your future children, the whole thing starts feeling like endless business deals and negotiations. When you cling to the concept that we are in control at some point,  life will feel like it’s falling apart. Plans rarely go as intended and “curve balls” come our way. We don’t always have the money we want or the resources we despatetely need. But the human race has been resilient. Some how in some way certain situations turn out just fine or even better than could be expected. Maybe this whole article just comes down to not counting or pennies constantly and hoping for the better. Maybe we should expect more miracles in our lives.

I personally believe in God and I believe he gave me my children for a reason so maybe it’s easier for me to make sense of life and it’s struggles; or maybe I’m still the fool who laughs at having to spend nearly a million dollars to raise my children and will never have that kind of money at my disposal. But what is a million dollars compared to four priceless souls that cannot be repeated again in human history? You can keep your price tags and your statistics while I enjoy whatever this life has to offer for richer or poorer. Life, love and experiences can never have a price tag.

 

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The God of Relationships 

God wants to be included in everything that we do. He especially wants to be apart of our relationships. We need God to be in our marriages and our families. Marriage is sacred and holy if we include God in it. I’m finally learning how necessary that reallly is. It’s been said that your relationship with God, or lack there of, is oftentimes reflected in your most personal relationships.

It’s easy to take people for granted and it’s even easier to do that with those closest to you. Consider it a gift when you wake up one morning and you realize how blessed you really are. Consider it God trying to send you a message when He let’s you feel that way for weeks at a time. That’s been the case with me. I know God has allowed me to see my blessings not just for my benefit but for the benefit of my family. God gives you the spouse you have and the kids you made for a reason and it has to be more than just to make yourself happy. God gives you your unique marriage and children to have a purpose as a family on this earth. I’m not going to lie I feel pretty bored and burnt out with my family life sometimes. It can be difficult to take care of people on a constant basis. But I’ve come to the realization that those low points shouldn’t be the norm for me or my husband. Married life and family life are about renewal and finding joy even when the universe feels like it’s out to get you. I’m learning that my family is my sanctuary and my spouse is the one person I can count on. However, it has to be mutual. I have to be there for him every day even when I don’t have it in me. That’s where faith and trust in God comes in. I couldn’t give my family what they need and what my husband needs without having a relationship with a God who cares so much about relationships. God is a god in three persons because relationship is the basis of life. We are meant to be in communion and not alone. God chose Mary and Joseph to see His only Son into this world and raise Him in a family because that is what life is about. The purpose of our lives is to be with other people and to be a source of unconditional love for those placed in our care.

God doesn’t want me to walk this earth alone. He’s proved that by giving me a wonderful husband and four beautiful kids. I often doubt my ability to do what he’s asked me to do. It’s terrifying having that much responsibility. God won’t let me fall flat on my face. He knows my struggles and he knows my dreams. He knows what my family needs before I even ask for the help to care for them. God is a god who cherishes family life. He cherishes those quiet moments with your spouse. He loves the joyful noise your children make. He rejoices in your accomplishments and shares in your misery.

I often reflect back on the times when my children were just born. I really understood God’s love for me in those moments of watching my husband hold our just born child for the first time. My husband would sit in the rocking chair in our hospital room and look at that baby like it was the only human in the world. I could sense the love and devotion he had towards that child just by that one look. I will never forget that moment he had with each one of our children. It hit me that that’s how God loves each one of us. He loves us as if we were the only person in the entire world. When you have that knowledge, not just in your head but in your heart, it changes your whole outlook on your relationships and what they really mean. Your love for someone can only take you so far but once you invite the God of Love into your live you can accomplish anything and your family will not only survive but will thrive in this world.

God is the god of relationships and may he bless each of us and our beautiful families.

Parenting is the Ultimate Extreme Sport

I have never made a regular hobby out of my thrill seeking tendacies. But I was never one to shy away from any oppurtunity either. I’ve enjoyed  white water rafting, rock climbing, riding motorcycles and four wheelers. I love that kind of stuff. I even looked into sky diving a few years ago but thought better of it since I didn’t want to risk potentially leaving my children orphans.

I love doing those kind of thrill seeking activities because they challenge me to get out of my comfort zone.  Those experiences made me feel alive in ways everyday life just didn’t. That was until I had children.

I have come to realize that the most extreme experience I have ever embarked on was deciding to have kids. I started young too. My first was born when I was only 22 years old, practically a baby myself.  My husband and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into but honestly no parent does.  We were in love and wanted a family so badly we didn’t even wait a hot minute. Grace was born just three weeks after our one year wedding anniversary.  I’ll never forget that day and the first year or barely sleeping, lots of walks, and lots of grocery store runs with my little bundle in tow. We made some trips with her, applauding ourselves for going any place more than 30 minutes away from home with a  newborn.

Grace wasn’t even a year old when we moved into a tiny two bedroom house near my in-laws. We were already outgrowing the place before Gracie became a big sister one month after her second birthday. I will never forget the moment our two girls met for the first time.  Now our adventure was really in full swing. We’ve moved a lot and added two more monkeys to our bunch and to make it more interesting our youngest two are only sixteen months apart. You could say I have my hands full especially during these long summer days.

I came to the realization that parenting really is the ultimate extreme sport. It’s messy with the constant diaper changes, potty training and attempting to keep the house in order every day.  It’s scary because you have to literally keep yourself and other tiny humans alive. Not to mention the terrifying moments you may experience with them. Our second born has had a few medical scares that my heart still hasn’t recovered from. I held her in my arms as she had a seizure while screaming and crying at my husband to call 911.  That memory won’t ever fade.  After that I think bungee jumping would feel like a damn picnic. Trying to take them to the park is like running a damn tough mudder. You’re racing around and often have to climb the various playground attractions to help somebody get down a slide without catapulting themselves head first into the ground.  It’s a hot mess at best.

The real reason parenting is the ultimate extreme sport though is that it challenges you every single day to be better than you were the day before. You have to give your kids you’re best everyday even when you just don’t have it in you. You have to read that story again for the 500th time or let them watch their favorite movie over and over because they just love it. You have to listen to their non stop repetitive questions that will almost make your ears bleed.  Oftentimes getting them to sit and eat their dinner feels like your herding kittens.  You’ve got to make sure they follow the rules, play nice and are happy. You have to work hard to teach them the faith and be kind to every person they meet. Longterm you don’t want them ending up in jail.

You’ve got to fight everyday to make sure you can do this with a smile on your face.  The days are long but the years are short. Before you know it they’ll be all grown up. Meanwhile you have the thrill of watching them take their first steps, say their first word, ride their bike, tie their shoes and write their name. Their excitement is your excitement and their accomplishment is your joy.

Personally, I struggle with the mundane details of the everyday.  I long for more exciting and thrilling adventures.  But those moments aren’t what I really live for. I’m learning to live for the moments where my kids are playing nicely together and I can get a glimpse of the persons I hope they will become.

I pray that I can do my best everyday for these tiny humans and that they realize I love them more than life itself. I may not ever catapult myself out of a helicopter or run a marathon but I still am wearing my yoga pants most days because I have a race to run where at the finish line the reward is more love and joy than I could ever imagine or deserve.

 

 

 

A Call to Joy

Life can be painfully unpredictable. You can spend most of your life trying to find happiness you will never attain. Let me rephrase that, you can spend your life looking for the kind of happiness you think you need in places you think you need to look. So often what we need and what we want is right in front of us. We live in a time that forgets the simple joys of “settling down” and having a family. Nowadays we think we have to have a life first than have a spouse and child(ren). We forgot that “having it all” means having other people in our lives.

I’m going to be honest with you, I wasn’t ever sure I’d get married and have a family. My outlook on the matter was just plain and simple; “if I do great, and if I don’t that’s okay too.” As I look at my life now and see the people that our in it, I can’t imagine it any other way. I know how cliche that sounds but it’s a 100% true. I’m blessed with a husband who has put up with me for 10 years now and four kids who make me a better person (at least I try to be). In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have foreseen any of this greatness. Thankfully it’s not my dreams that come true but God’s.

I’ve spent a lot of my life missing out.  I’d like to think of myself as a “recovering perfectionist”. I wouldn’t allow myself the chance to try new things or meet new people because if it didn’t work out exactly like I thought it should operate than it wasn’t worth my time. Life has literally passed me by for most of my years on this earth.  I’ve been denying myself a lot of joys and experiences. I won’t be able to tell you what promoted this change in my life; why I suddenly decided to start writing and doing things I have only thought about doing for years.  I know it has to come down to God’s grace. It feels like I’ve been seeing the world in black and white and now all the color is flooding into my senses. Not only am I seeing but I’m feeling the landscape before me.

I’d like to think a lot of this has to do with the birth of my son last winter.  It was not easy at first.  He wasn’t “planned”.  I was in shock for two weeks following the discovery that I was expecting again. But as time went on I learned to look at this as such an amazing opportunity. We got another baby that we most certainly didn’t deserve.  Our girls got a new sibling to add so much joy and love into their lives.  We got another life for my husband and I to nurture and strengthen our marriage. That being said, the first few months of his existence  earthside we’re incredibly tough. The details are for another day and another story but I will just sum it up as I was broken.  Physically, mentally and emotionally I was drained.  It wasn’t my little man’s fault it was just a perfect storm that was waiting to hit me.  And hit me it did.  It’s taken awhile but I am getting there my family is settling into a better routine and our hearts are full of so much love. More love than I could have imagined. God broke my heart open so he could fix it back up again. He added more space, more will, more fire, more drive, more joy, more love, more hope, more peace than I could have ever imagined.  My Damian, you are not the first amazing thing that’s happened to me and I surely hope you aren’t the last. But in the short 6 months following your birth you have made me the woman I have always prayed I could be.

My son you are part of a legacy of love your father and I hope change the world even after he and I are gone.  My children are my miracles that I believe in more and more everyday.