Thursday, March 21, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 10 - Poverty

parenting truths, poverty in America, God as provider

Today’s #parentingtruth is a touchy subject: poverty. Why do we struggle to admit that there are many, many families living in poverty? And - what kind of poverty are they living in?

Let us begin with the first question, and work our way through to the second, and see how they both relate to parenting our children.

Poverty in America in 2019 will be defined as a family of four making less than $25,750, or a family of 8 making less than $43,430. These are the guidelines the US Government has established to use for judging whether or not a family might apply for various forms of assistance. How do these numbers translate? In 2017, the last year with numbers I could find, about 12% of Americans lived in households below the poverty line, while about 20% of children lived in a family at or below the poverty level.

Now, here is where real life experience kicks in: when the girls were little there were several years when we lived with an income below the (then current) poverty level. Yet, we never went hungry. Some people would say that this was because we had a good support network, which was true, but I contend it was because God was providing what we needed. 

What we call the poverty level in America is still pretty lush compared to most of the rest of the world lives in. So if you are focusing on how God is providing for all your needs, even if He doesn’t always supply all your wants, your outlook on life is much brighter.

Here is the second question:
There is a bad kind of poverty here in America, it is the kind where alcohol or drugs rule the family. This is not a poverty of the cash variety, but a poverty of the soul. This is the kind of poverty that we as Christians pray for Jesus to overcome. These are the households where someone’s addiction is causing chaos, either directly through abuse, or indirectly through neglect. This is the kind of poverty where children go to bed hungry, where basic needs are unmet, and where education and solid relationships are not valued.

If your family is dealing with a poverty caused by addiction or abuse - please, PLEASE get help! Call one of the national drug abuse hotlines, visit a local church or trustee’s office to locate help, or contact your local police station.

In our family we chose to be cash poor in order to be family rich. I resigned a good paying job in order to raise our girls. It was not always easy, but it was worth it! We spent a lot of time together, at home, at the park, playing in the yard, going to the library or free days at local museums. I would always rather have rich family relationships than have a bank account full of money.

If your family is living at or below the poverty line, or you know someone who is, please allow me to share some #parentingtruth tips we have learned over the years.

Rely on God, not money. Your provision should come from God, not your bank account. Think back to when Jesus was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Jesus shared the Scripture “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus was not saying that we could live without eating, He was reminding Satan that what God says matters more than anything else. God has been a provider from the very beginning of time, trust Him to be able to provide for you today. Many, many times I would sit down at my desk to pay the bills and pray “Lord, please multiply what we have to be enough to pay all these bills this month.”

Learn the value of a dollar. Living in a cash poor family does not ruin childhood, in fact, I want to make the case that it can enhance it. When a family does not have a lot of money to spend on gadgets and toys, a child is encouraged to use their imagination. Creative play starts in a child’s mind, and leads then to explore and appreciate what they create. When we were little my brother was always making us little figures out of paper to play with…mostly ones from Star Wars. When our girls were little they would use whatever they could find to create forts, dress up as princesses or knights, or recreate a zoo with their stuffed animals or plastic figures. None of this cost extra money, and yet, it kept us (and them) entertained for hours! When our children learn what a dollar can and cannot purchase, they appreciate everything more.

Reuse, recycle, barter. Did you grow up wearing hand-me-downs? While the world will always be around telling you that you need to buy more stuff, smart parents recognize the value in reusing things. If your 4 year old daughter can wear what her 6 year old sister used to wear, I say go for it. It might be nice to purchase a new storage cabinet or bookshelf, but if you can find one at goodwill or a garage sale that you can use, or repaint and use, for $10 instead of $80, I call that bargain shopping, or smart recycling! Did you know that you can still barter for things? While traditional bartering for goods requires you to fill out tax paperwork, there is nothing wrong with trading with other parents for some free time. When the girls were little several of us from church would take turns watching each others’ kids so each couple could have an occasional date night. You didn’t need a lot of money to accomplish it, just some time, and some patience…and some PBJ’s and crackers.

Make it yourself. One of the main keys of spending your limited cash wisely is learning to make things yourself. For some families that means making your own laundry detergent, for others it means baking your own bread. For a lot of us the easiest thing is to make your own food at home and not eat fast food. This might extend to sewing your children’s clothes or knitting them a scarf. It might also lead to planting a garden and growing your own lettuce, tomatoes and green beans. Learning a skill so that you can make one or more things yourself saves your family money. 

A second part to this #parentintruth about poverty is realizing all the things you really don’t need. Do you want it or do you need it? I want to be able to read a new book, but I do not need a new book. I can choose from several options: borrow the new book from the library, or from a friend; look for the book at a bargain bookstore; read a book I already own; go outside on a hike and come home too tired to read. :)

All of this can be summed up like this: It is okay to be poor. The quality of our lives should not be determined by what we own, but rather by the experiences we have, the relationships we are a part of, and the people we serve in the communities around us. This is a life that is full, abundant, and impacts others for their good. This is a rich life!

parenting truths, poverty in America, God as provider

Thursday, March 14, 2019

#parentingtruth - Spring Break

This week I'm taking a Spring Break from the #parentingtruth series. Don't worry, I'll be back next week. This week our 20 year old has Spring Break from her college courses. While we will not be making a trip to Florida (bummer) this week, I think it is important to spend time this week with her and her younger sister, just having fun.

That in and of itself should give you a #parentingtruth to mull over this week. Life travels by quickly, and soon, those little kids will be adults, and you'll be wondering how many more times you can spend time with them before they move out. So today, this week, I'm choosing to hang out with my kids, instead of typing.

If you have the chance to spend time with your children this week - take it! Hug them now, and they'll still want to hang out with you when they're grown. :)