My husband, Christian, was having lunch with a group of older faith-filled men in a cafeteria at work. He was the only one who brought his lunch (delicious leftover homemade pizza, I might add!) and the rest bought lunch. One of the guys teased him, “Here comes Christian with a stash of pizza!” Christian’s response is one we say often, “Young family on a budget!” It gets the guys smiling and saying, “Oh I remember those days.”
“Those days” are our family’s present. We’re a young family on a budget, and sometimes it’s hard to appreciate these days. It’s hard to appreciate our modge podge second-hand furniture that serves its function, but isn’t quite the style we like. Or only having internet and no cable. Or not getting that organic peanut butter because $2 more a jar seems like a lot (especially when my almost three year-old eats peanut butter & jelly for lunch almost every day). It’s hard to appreciate renting a two-bedroom, one bathroom apartment when we’re a family of four and have Grandma visit overnight. Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate these days because we can’t imagine them as our past.
Sometimes we want to jump ahead to when we’re not on such a tight budget and living in our own house, but that’s a dangerous place for one’s mind to be. God calls us to live in the present. He tells us that today’s worry is enough for today. Learning to appreciate these days is a daily task, and I am beginning to suspect that “these days” are part of God’s loving plan for young families.
First and foremost, they teach us to truly understand and live knowing that our blessings are our marriage and our children, not our things. Everything I listed above is material. Furniture, cable and peanut butter won’t matter in eternity. Yes, it would be wonderful and uplifting to be surrounded by beautiful (and matching) things and not have to worry what the grocery bill is. But when we focus too much on what we don’t have or want to have, we take away from what we do have. “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:37)
Second, they help us to depend on God. We recognize that we need His help, in everything, which then inspires us to pray constantly. We learn to trust Him and surrender to His will. We realize that He has a specific plan for our family and that it is one of hope. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Third, they make us creative. We learn to do more with less. We learn to make things instead of buying them. We learn new skills instead of bringing problems to skilled people. “Better the meagerness of the righteous one than the plenty of the wicked.” (Psalm 37:16)
Fourth, they teach us to be thankful. We learn that we truly have everything we need and more! “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Fifth, they teach us to live in the present. We learn that we cannot wait to live until we have more space, more yard, more money or more time. We are living now and need to live now. “But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)
There are beautiful blessings and graces in these days. It is up to us, young families, to discover them. When we do, we start to appreciate them. We start to be thankful for them. We start to understand why many parents of older children say that “those days” are the ones they would go back to if they could.