Saturday, December 19, 2009

Needs, wants, desire...what is what.

Psalm 37:4 (King James Version)
“Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

“You’re a survivor. Your like something out of the great depression.” My friend Lisa said to me as we drove down a busy road, back to my house after one of our many adventures together.
“I don’t know how to take that. LOL~”
So many of our conversations land us in doubled over with laughter that it would be natural to crack ourselves up over any statement made to each other. But Lisa wasn’t done making her point.
“No, I mean whatever comes at you, you are not going to curl up in a ball and wait for someone to rescue you. You are going to come at the problem head on and find a way to fix it. And you do it all with a smile on your face. Your more like my husband’s grandmother. You would dry out your paper towels and reuse them if you just used them for cleaning up water. Most people can’t do that anymore.”
“I guess I am kind of a scrapper. But in my ‘old age’ here, I am learning to rely on God for my needs not on my scrapper abilities.”
When we got back t my house, we kept chatting along the same lines until she saw our Christmas tree. We went back to our ROFLOL~ing as she described the tee as something created by little blind children. There is always an element of truth to her comments and this one was all true! LOL! It makes Charlie Brown’s tree look like the one in Rockefeller Center!

After she left I got to thinking that she was right. In the years I took care of Mom it became a huge part of who I am today. You see I was the princess who had no idea my parent’s ever had a money issue. They never mentioned it. Dad worked three jobs at the height of the ‘70’s recession. Mom wore the same outfits and kept the food budget down. We didn’t need wardrobes because we were in school uniforms. We honestly had no idea, or maybe just I didn’t.
So when the truth hit, when I was in college, I sort of didn’t understand. There had always been enough money for everything we wanted, I didn’t really believe that there was not enough money was the truth. By hook or by crook, there would always be enough. And often that enough for was what our priorities would call a need when in reality it was a want.
My parents had there own way of handling money. Dad would hand over his paycheck to Mom every week and she would put it into the bank and pay the bills, build up savings and buy groceries, gas, etc…. Oh and Dad got spending money as well. He never once looked at the accounts and had no idea how much money Mom had squirreled away.
What Dad didn’t hand over was the money he made on the side. And by on the side, I mean tips and whatever he made selling the merchandise that fell off the back of the moving truck or what he made on a bet at OTB. Some weeks he had more then others, but he pretty much spent whatever was in his pocket.
Dads pockets…I loved those pockets. They were like magic to me. His pants hung on the hook in the bathroom every night and his pocket ran deep. In the ‘80’s at the height of Dad’s money making I made a fortune. I had one of the best wardrobes in my teen years that you could imagine. I made so much out of those pockets I went to Hawaii at 17. I never believed in a money tree, I didn’t need to. I had something better: Money pant’s pockets. I lived quite the rich life.
Until I didn’t. When our insurance was capped on Mom, there was no money in those pockets anymore. It was all spent on bills. Unless Dad hit big on a horse or did good with the bookie. Now what?
Mom hid money, Dad spent his last dime. I was left somewhere in-between.
When Mom’s TV died, she gave me a deep sigh and said, “Now I will have nothing to keep me company in this room. We just can‘t afford a new TV right now.”
“Sorry Mom. I am sure we will work something out.” I said as I turned and looked for something in her jewelry box. “I can’t find my earrings. Did I leave them in here? Oh well. I will find them later. Look, I gotta go. See you later. I love you.”
I promptly left her room. Got into my (her) car, drove to Sears, used her Sears credit card and bought her a new TV. When I got home I told Dad to carry it in.
She looked at me and said “How did you get that?”
“I took your Sears card out of the jewelry box and slipped it into my pocket. Enjoy the TV. You sit alone in this room 24 hours a day. I am not leaving you with out something to watch. This one has a remote so you can change the channel yourself. Neat right?”
Mom took the tube off of her neck and said with total conviction, “You learned that move from YOUR FATHER! NOT FROM ME!”
“Yes. Yes, I did. Now shut up and enjoy the darn thing. I love you, I really do have to run now. By the way, it will run you about $25.00 per month. You can pay that. It is not going to put you into the poor house.”
Priorities vs. Providence. I think that is what our lives often boil down to. Mom was willing to play martyr and sit in the dark alone day after day. Okay, except that the rest of us would have paid very dearly for her martyrdom. It was not a price I was willing to pay and so made the decision for her. Maybe I did it more for me then for her. I am not sure.
What I do know is that broke is as broke does. It is not a priority to me to make sure I have paper towels in the house as all times. I know that I can use an old rag to clean a counter, wash it and use it again. I usually cook with a kitchen towel draped over my shoulder to dry my hands. And sometimes I remember to wear an apron to wipe my floured hands on but more often then not, my jeans have flour on them. I don’t need paper towels to have a clean kitchen~~~I could play that Sham Wow guy, minus the scandal! LOL!
I would rather buy chocolate chips then buy paper towels. I would rather buy an ornament then an expensive and disposable tree. I would rather buy breakfast food for the kids because I hate cooking in the mornings then loaves of bread for lunches because bread I can make. I make my choices based on what is a priority.
My parents did the same. I think it would be an argument Mom and I would have had, had she lived to today. She found it more important to have money for a rainy day…but her definition of rain and mine were very different. Dad would spend until there was nothing left to spend because tomorrow there may be nothing to spend it on anyway.
When I became the primary caregiver to them, one of the things I had to make decisions about was how the money was spent on them. Some of those decisions were spot on, some not so much. Sometimes I had to call them out on their decisions or be unpopular with mine.
So here I am, all these years later, both of my parent’s gone now. But not forgotten. Today I can look back and call sin, sin. Each buck I took out of Dad’s pants was stealing. Stealing always comes back to pride. Pride always says to God, “I don’t trust YOU to meet my needs and wants.“ How blessed I am to be convicted and forgiven by my Provider. I don’t say that lightly. I say it as one who has those “hot coals upon” my head like Paul describes in the book of Romans.
Each day as I trust Providence to provide for our families needs, He shows me something new. Sometimes He gives us our hearts desire because it truly is. Sometimes He says no, not now. Either way, I have learned to trust in Him in want and in need and in plenty. I began to learn those lessons in the years I cared for my parents. Today, I continue to learn them as a parent.

How about you?
Do you have to juggle the checkbook for your parents even as you try to juggle your own? How do you work out who talks to the insurance company, the doctors office, the hospital? How do you make those decisions: with your parents or alone? When do you bring them to your Abba?

Let’s pray:
Father in the name of Jesus, take it all. Show us how to balance not just our check book but our parent’s as well. Show us how to handle their money and when to abide by what they ask and when to say no. It can be so painful to make these choices when the money is not ours but the power is. Show us how to honor them in the choices we make, and the things we say. Help us to be good stewards of all they ask us to do.

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