Priorities and Contentment: A Reminder About What Really Matters

Last Friday, Laynie, my 9 year-old, broke my tablet.

It was a gift.  I have wanted a tablet or a smartphone or ANYTHING other than my Kindle for years.  When I was given this tablet as an unexpected gift back in May, I was ecstatic.  It was a special luxury that made me feel like I was finally able to fit in with the online world – able to download cool apps like Ibotta and Instagram (but it was incompatible with this new thing called scoping, but I didn’t care, it was still cool).  I could finally use the latest educational apps.  Yes, it was really nice while it lasted.
Friday was a tough day.  I won’t go into details, but it was just evident that we were struggling a bit financially, …again… we’ve been fine for a while, but just hit some bumps this month.
As a family of 5 currently living on less than I used to make as a teacher (that gives you an idea), it’s been really hard living without using debt, and as a result of choosing that lifestyle, we’ve gone without a lot.  I am so proud of that, don’t get me wrong.  But I was longing for just a little luxury.  I wanted Olive Garden, but we were eating beans and rice.  I was imagining a freshly repainted living room and kitchen, but I was looking at scraped and stained walls and unfinished baseboards.  I was envisioning a reunion with college friends on a girls’ spa retreat, but had to speak up and say “I can’t afford it, guys.  We’ve got two kids’ birthdays and Christmas coming up.  Doesn’t a stay-cation sound fun?” (Um, no… lame.)
And then I told my husband that I loved him and he’s a wonderful provider and father to our children.  And I focused on contentment and my purpose as a stay-at-home, homeschool mom who truly loves what I do, day in and day out.
But on Friday I was pretty depressed.  I had been running errands all morning while my husband watched the kids so I could get it all done a little faster and easier without three children in tow.  Some of those errands were related to financial chores that needed to be taken care of.  In the past month we’ve had a few unexpected expenses totaling about $700, and things have gotten very tight.  Over that month, I’ve been happy for friends who have paid off their college loans, booked cruises, posted Instagram pics of their all organic and “clean” dinners they served up sans coupons, bought a new minivan, lost weight on the expensive diet and exercise plan, and signed a book deal.  I was happy for them, I truly was.  But inside I began to doubt my own contentment.  I wondered if there would ever be an end to our tight financial budget.
I even began to doubt homeschooling.  “Man,” I thought to myself, “if I sold all our Classical Conversations curriculum, and some of our other school books and supplies, and signed on with the state’s ‘public-school-at-home’ program, I could use the money for Christmas, I could get free internet, and all the books I’d need, and maybe even qualify for food stamps for our family.”  Those thoughts led further to: “Gee, if I just sent the kids to public school and preschool, I’d probably get government assistance or else financial aid at the preschools and probably my oldest would get free breakfast, lunch and after-school care.”  I imagined it being wise and aspiring to do those things, and spend a couple of years going back to school for web design and working as a substitute teacher, and get us out of this tight financial state that we had seemed to be falling back into.
I had just finished my last task when my sweet, yet overworked and chronically ill husband texted me: “I wanted to let you know ahead of time so you’d have a heads up, Laynie broke your tablet.  It was an accident.”  Oh no… all those photos and videos… I didn’t download them yet…
I cried.  I pulled the car over to a parking lot and just cried.  At first it was about the tablet. 
But then… amazingly, I found myself crying less about the tablet.  But more so about the fact that I realized I was focused on the things that didn’t really matter:
photos
the tablet
Instagram
apps
minivan
vacation
career
internet
that lingering college loan
food
I pulled myself together, and I texted my hubby that I would be home soon.
When I walked in the door, my face was no longer red, but I could tell my daughter had been crying for some time.  As she walked down the steps to me, I noticed her splotchy cheeks and puffy eyes while she shook, admitting what she had done.  Her eyes sought out forgiveness in mine.
Praise God I remembered in that moment that in the grand scheme of things, this little bump in the road is only temporary.  The sacrifices we make are SO. WORTH. IT.  Thank God He helped me to remember what’s truly important:
memories
face-to-face conversations
transportation
home
purpose
joy
living within our means
nutrition
Memories.  She would remember this day.  She would remember my reaction.  She wouldn’t know that Mom had a really bad day and this was just one straw that broke the camel’s back.  But she would most likely, always remember my reaction and my words to her in that moment.
Praise God He helped me.  I am so weak and make so many mistakes.  Thank God that He gave me the peace I needed in that moment to offer unconditional grace and forgiveness to my child.
I grabbed my little girl who’s not so little anymore, hugged her tightly, and told her it was ok.  I also told her that nothing she could ever do, and no mistake she could ever make, would cause me to love her less or be unable to forgive her.  I told her that a tablet is just a thing, and not important enough to be mad over.
And in the past few days without it, and as the stress of Friday has passed and life goes on in abundance, grace, and mercy, I’ve been able to see a little more clearly.  I hope that this little glimpse of my life inspires you to keep on, even when money’s tight.  Even when it’s hard.  Stay focused on your purpose for homeschooling your children, and know that one day, you’ll be able to look back at these bumps in the road and see that it was all worth it – and that you’ll have no regrets.
I made this little graphic on Thursday and posted it to my Facebook page.  God was already working on my heart then.  I knew even then that I was struggling with contentment, and wrote this to encourage myself as much as anyone else who happened upon my Facebook page that night. God used the events of the past few days to teach me peace, contentment, and joy again in the midst of momentary struggles.  If you don’t know that peace, I’d love to talk with you about it.  Hugs.

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