Being frugal is full of traps. Traps that are most effective on proud and ungrateful hearts: in essence mine.
To chose frugality over spending to my heart’s content means that I must refrain in ways that no one else seems to be doing. And that chasm between my imagined reality and the truth gives opportunity for a certain someone to stick an IV in my arm and start the flow of poisonous lies. The poison takes effect immediately.
"I alone in this hedonistic America am practicing such virtues as temperance and self-discipline (Well, the nuns and monks are too but no one else). Everyone else is blind to their consumeristic waste and gluttony. Every middle-class person has NO appreciation for such simple luxuries like having their cars washed and shopping at Ralphs and buying a new shirt and and having meat at every meal and running their heaters and air conditioning at whim. If I were to have these things I would be grateful!
"But I am grateful even without those luxuries, even though my children only wear hand-me-downs, and the blue fraying couch won’t see new upholstery for another decade, and the only vacations we take are to places where we stay in other people’s homes. Yes, indeed. I am grateful. And for shame that you don’t understand my plight, that you converse with me mindlessly referencing your dinners I can’t make and the clothes I can’t buy and the restaurants I’ll never frequent and the home improvements I shall have to wait years to do."
It’s what happens when I start to think these luxuries are my rights. Then, when those luxuries go, I feel wronged and angry. It’s a sure test of where my treasures lie. And both the wealthy and the frugal can put their treasures in matter instead of eternity.
That’s not to say that a sudden lost luxury won’t smart on the heart like the loss of a friend who moves away or the loss of the autumn leaves from the trees or the loss of an athletic ability due to an aging body. Certainly, change can be quite uncomfortable, but it needn’t lead to bitterness or self-righteousness. Rather, it can give me new eyes to see the goodness in things I would otherwise see as sub-par.
The children love to hand-wash my car. It’s a welcome activity on a warm afternoon. Out go the sponges and mitts and soap. They get wet and laugh as if there were no better thing to do in all the world.
And that blue couch, a hand-me-down from my family, has seen so many years come and go. Its frayed seams are testament to the generations that have sit upon it. My grandmother, my mom, me, and now my children. People don’t own furniture like this anymore. Yes, I can feel the springs through the cushions, but it has good bones, just like Aunt Luanne’s old chair that we did reupholster a year or so ago. And that chair is so soft and clean and comfortable. We covered it in a dark gray-brown so as to hide the dirt.
And can you believe the generosity of people? I haven’t had to buy anything but underwear for my children in all their few years of life. Well, underwear and some garage-sale clothes. But the bulk of my children’s clothes have come from other generous people. Thank God, I don’t have to fret over keeping designer clothes clean. My children go through clothes like toilet paper. And yet we treasure and keep a few sweet things tidy for Sundays, new clothes bought for us by aunts and grandmothers and great-grandmothers.
And restaurants, any restaurant is decadent. The food needn’t be exactly what I asked for and the service needn’t check up on me every 15 minutes. I don’t mind the noise or the doneness of my steak or the missing side of sweet potato fries. I didn’t have to make the food. I don’t have to clean up. And most likely, I am not paying for the meal. I am a queen. I am being waited upon by servers. This indeed is luxurious.
And my home, that sweet space where a heap o’ living takes place, and where my soul is sort ‘o wrapped ‘round everything: the white peeling paint, the windows facing every which way, the beetle eaten flooring, the kitchen as new as they come. And here those children’s laughter is saturating the walls. Their hands are smearing dirty prints into the paint, and their mouths are eating the landscape—the nasturtiums and sour grass, that is. Here they’re forming their greatest friendship. Upon this stage they act it out, and I as the audience watch it grow.
The pink and yellow trees are blooming across the Uptown grid. Our lemon, though still laden with ripe lemons, has pushed out a confetti of new blooms interspersed among the new leaves. The avocado supplies us at least two meals a week. The renters pay their rent. The faucets run with clean water. The bread maker kneads bread dough.
Nothing has changed. But when I find and name the little sweets throughout my home, I am rich indeed. The key is in the giving thanks, not vaguely or occasionally but daily, three times a day, specifically, again and again.
Lee, “I like this food.”
Rose, “Tank ‘oo for dinner, Mommy.” Blessed.
Lee while petting my face and hair, “I like this hair here.” Blessed
Rose after Lee reported that we crashed our car and died. “Ummm, need a pweese (police) and Jesus.” Blessed
Rose about the neighbor girl, “Cute gal there.” Blessed
The children randomly giving each other hugs. Blessed
Lee holding the lent candle for Rose to blow out, even though it was his turn today. Blessed
Finding humor in the yelling fit the children had after Lee smashed his fingers, started to cry, and didn’t like Rose coming to see what was the matter. He yelled in her face and she started crying too, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Blessed
Lee inviting Rose to sit in the sunlight on the sidewalk with him and then exclaiming about the sunset, “It’s so boo-iful.” Blessed
Phil complimenting my oat/seed crumble that I made for dessert. Blessed
Completing my bible study lesson and feeling nourished in the process. Blessed