When Justin and I were a brand new couple we kind of talked about what our “ten year plan” would look like. We wanted a few kids, a big house with a bit of land, a nice SUV, a 4 door truck that could pull our ski boat, and we would be living near at least 3 of the 4: mountains, oceans, rivers, and lakes. We’d certainly be going to church every Sunday, we’d be debt free, and we would be fun, happy, and basically be living the American Dream.
This November we enter into our tenth year of marriage.
We have 3 kids. We just downsized into a 1300 sq ft duplex. We have a 10 year old van. Justin still drives his 01 ranger with bench seat and stick shift that I still can’t drive. The only boat we have floats in the bath tub. We moved away from California and currently reside in Kansas. Kansas. The last place this Mizzou grad thought I’d live. Well…after Arkansas. Which has kansas in the name, so still. We go to church every Sunday but add a few more week days in there. We go to adoration, and I don’t even think I knew what that was 10 years ago. We are not yet debt free. We have fun and we are happy, but I wouldn’t say we are living the dream.
The crazy thing is we could have met our 10 year plan. We just slowly made some counter-cultural choices starting with utilizing NFP instead of artificial contraceptives. It led to a number of plan-derailing effects, the greatest of which was Justin attending Christ Renews His Parish and finally taking ownership of his faith through truly experiencing God. This really revealed to us how our 10 year plan was never truly Christian. It was totally of this world. Even if someone would have told us that our goals weren’t in line with our belief in Jesus, we would have found a way to justify it in our own minds. We would have been too blind and selfish to realize that wanting what ‘everyone’ wants does not make it right.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with comfort, I guess it’s just to which degree you desire it and the intensity with which you pursue worldly things above loving like Jesus. But the good news is there are saints who were financially comfortable. Not everyone in heaven was poor or starving (although, I do think it’s easier to get there if you are). The only thing we know about people in Heaven, aside from Jesus and Mary, is they were all sinners and all needed God’s mercy. So lucky for us, that mercy is extended to us if we open ourselves up to it!
Jesus literally says heaven is hard to get to. He says take up your cross and follow me. He says if you want eternal happiness, you are going to have to love your neighbor, forgive everyone, not store things up, and not get cozy on Earth.
Our family continues to evolve in the way we think about our future. We aren’t quite sure what God has in store for us and are open to whatever possibilities are put in our path. We just want to make sure we are aligning ourselves to Jesus’ way, truth, and life.
A few months ago, Justin and I took a little lunch date to a quaint Venezuelan restaurant. It came to light that we both, independently, arrived at feeling called to sell our house. Primarily, we wanted to pay off loans because we are really tied down financially with those looming over our head. You can cut personal expenses however you want, but when you owe institutions money, there’s no way around that.
A lot of people may think we want to pay them off so that we can save for the future, buy a bigger house, buy a boat, or go on fun trips. And sometimes it’s easier to discuss those as our reasons. I don’t think those things are wrong, and who knows, we may do all of them at some point! But the primary reason for wanting to pay off our loans is so that if we see a need, we can help! There’s a bigger picture, and basically, the debt just has to go. Downsizing has been beneficial for opening our eyes to worldly things we have attachments to. It’s cut my cleaning in half so I have more time for better things, so that’s a big blessing.
Please know that I am far from saint hood…but our family is working toward it, walking pace. I mean. You don’t see me sign up to wash dishes by hand, do laundry by hand, or get rid of the air conditioner. And while we don’t have cable, we sure do have a TV and amazon prime. ’bout to go watch some of that right now…while sipping my hipster fair trade tea and maybe grabbing some cashew-ice-dream. Walking pace, like I said.
Our duplex doesn’t have bed room ceiling fans (nor the ability to put them in) and there has not been a day in the past two weeks that I haven’t lamented this fact. I’m so attached to some air movement. Especially at night. I wake up sweating every night. It’s like me barely scratching the surface of what people with no AC feel like 100% of the time.
I searched, hunted actually, for a real gem of a duplex with adorably sweet landlords that take care of the place. On the one hand it has new counter tops, but then our fridge is like Euro size with no ice machine. It does have new carpet and new paint, but I no longer get to cook on a gas stove and I swear our dishwasher is 20 years old. Again, I am not signing up to cook over a fire or wash dishes in a bucket. At least not yet. Who knows what the future holds. First, I’ll get used to thinking the house is falling down every time the dishwasher runs. We get to share our love with a new neighborhood and parish. We get to discern about every decision we had made before and see if it still holds true now. It’s tiring and exciting at the same time.
All I know is we want to become saints, we want our kids to become saints, we want all of you to become saints. We do want to get to heaven without purgatory, because what kind of goal is aiming for purgatory. We want to love Jesus more than things. We want to witness Christian abandonment through caring more about each other, more about love, less about world woes.
Sin is a funny thing. The devil can tempt us into sins of omission through our own complacency. We get busy in our own little world. We check off boxes of good instead of great. We make each other feel ‘okay’ for worldly choices because it makes it easier to accept our own sinfulness. And the evil one does a super good job of letting us settle for less than the BEST we were made to live out. Our family has discerned the best way to fight for greatness is to never get cozy. Never stop seeking more Jesus. How can we be better? How can we love fiercer? How can we help more people?
And I’m not just talking about our friends or family. Strangers. Neighbors. People who we’d normally just rush past out of social awkwardness. The other day I let a stranger with special needs stroke Zelie’s cheek. It was super awkward and uncomfortable, but it made that lady’s day. I made my kids come outside when it should have been bath/bed time so they could meet the neighbors.
Now, the two introverts that live over here (what, you didn’t know I’m introverted?) are struggling daily to attempt small talk under the guise of wanting to make Christians out of anyone we talk to. It all starts with an encounter though. We have to smile. We have to say hi. We have to introduce ourselves. We have to have a conversation. We have to get to know people. We have to exude joy because we FEEL joy. We have to be welcoming. We have to love. We have to sacrifice. We have to die to self. We have to desire heaven for any and everyone. That’s how we’ve discerned God is calling us to get to heaven; wanting it so much for other people that we fight daily our own desires for comfort. And we fail daily, so we’ll keep on asking for His Mercy and keep praising Him that he uses broken things.