It is one thing to choose less for oneself. It is another thing entirely to make that same choice for your children.
We always want more for our children. More than we had. More than we are.
What kind of parent holds their child’s small hand and walks in the direction of less?
In some ways we have chosen less. We try (and fail, and try again) to choose less noise, less hurry, less stuff. We choose fewer activities, fewer commitments, fewer toys.
We limit sugar and entertainment (which, paradoxically, makes apple cider doughnuts sweeter and family movie night more fun).
But, mostly, and perhaps most significantly, less is chosen for us.
There is never enough money and there is never enough time for all that I want for my kids.
Yes, I want sewing lessons and music lessons and art lessons. Yes, I want a pool pass and movie tickets and restaurant meals. But I have four children and limited funds, and I say “no” a lot because “no” is the only thing I can say.
When I choose less for myself, I must trust in God’s provision. His protection. His presence. Yet I seem to believe that I am meant to be God for my children. As if I am the one who provides. As if I am the one who protects.
But my provision is faulty. My protection imperfect. Even when present I give myself with impatience rather than love.
Yet I would fill all those gaps with more. I would build a high wall – made of stuff and experiences and extra curricular activities – in order to launch my children into a future I cannot even begin to see.
It turns out that having less to give requires letting go.
Having let go, having placed my children in the hands of the only provider and protector, the one who has secured a future for each of them, I am freed of so much fear.
I am released to love them. Freed, even, to give good gifts without worrying that I must give every gift.
Living with less where our children are concerned might sound peaceful. It might sound idyllic. And, at times, it is.
Without the pool pass, there is the creek and the slip ‘n slide. Because of severe food allergies, there is more made-from-scratch food enjoyed together around our own table.
But often it feels as if we are jagged pebbles tossed together in one of those toy rock tumblers.
We cannot escape one another (because there are fewer camps and activities to take us in different directions).
We cannot stop hurting each other (perhaps because we are bored, or because we are not distracted by a screen, or because we are human).
This, then, is my prayer, this is my hope: that through constraints and tears and a thousand petty squabbles, we are becoming gems.
Comforting!!!!!!!!!! Thank You!
I’m so glad to hear it, Tracy! Thank you for being here.
Really good words here, Christie Thank you for this. Saying “no” to some of the usual things does help us enjoy the gift of togetherness and donuts. I was just talking about limited media access to my boys yesterday. They have friends who have free-range with media, and we do not. We keep a tighter leash on their access, and it’s hard for them to understand why sometimes, but this post, this is why. Thank you.
Oh, thank you, Kris. It’s so good to know we aren’t alone in trying to walk a different way.
This is a well written and wonderful concept. I raised my 3 children throughout the late 80’s and early 2000’s. Summers were my absolute favorite time of,the year because all the hectic scheduling of school, sports, music, etc. was over for 3 glorious months. Each summer I watched as each of my children slowly relaxed a little more each day, slowly regained their own truths without feeling the need and constraints to conform to someone else’s (ie. Teachers, peers) ideals or expectations of them. I was very fortunate to be able to stay home full time with my children. We did have central air in our home, but I only used it sparingly during damp, muggy days to keep mold out in eastern Pa. We, my children and I, spent our days and evenings outside! And because it was this way from their earliest memories, no one complained, or thought it should be otherwise. There was always so much to do and enjoy together. Travel to and exploration of the many local parks and playgrounds, creeks, streams, rivers. Visiting gardens and learning the names of the flowers and trees. Having lazy picnics and watching the clouds. Reading aloud to each other. Tossing a ball, playing jump rope, running through the sprinkler. Playing cards, and board games, painting and crafting at the picnic table in the shade. Many of these days were shared with a variety of friends. Each of my children have very fond memories of their carefree, tech free, TV free, schedule free childhood summers.
Thank you, Marti! This is so good to hear. You give me encouragement to keep on walking in this way.
Yes, sometimes we choose the limits, and sometimes they are chosen for us.
Having chosen less, the simple joys ARE treasured more.
Though I agree that it can cause/reveal the irritations. I think it happens even more for me on the limits I didn’t choose. It’s irritating to always be on top of one another because we are all squeezed into this little house, because money is tight and the plans aren’t working out.
Maybe if I could change my outlook and remind myself moving to this town was my choice, and that though the money is so much less and the costs so much more, that it was a choice, then I’ll be less irritated.
Good thoughts here. Thanks for sharing.
Oh, yes, I too struggle with that, Kimberly. Choosing to submit to the limits God has placed on my life is incredibly hard – and yet, when the season is right, he can turn even our limits and boundaries into spacious places.
We,too, raised our four with less. One not-big income on purpose because we wanted more of my presence for each of them. Now they’re raising their own families and choosing to live simply, authentically, and courageously with less. It’s never easy, but so richly rewarding. Thank you for your beautifully honest writing.
Thank you, Diane. How grateful I am for testimonies like yours!
This is spot on and beautifully written, Christie. Agree with every word.
Thank you, Tsh. That’s especially encouraging coming from you.
“This, then, is my prayer, this is my hope: that through constraints and tears and a thousand petty squabbles, we are becoming gems.”
Yes, I love this.
I’m quite up front with my kids. “We don’t have the money to do/buy that,” I tell them when it’s true. I want them to learn the limits of our resources and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Danielle, I agree! No shame at all. I’ve also learned to explain that sometimes we do have the money, but we choose to spend it in some other way. That one takes a little more explaining, but I agree with you – it’s a good lesson for our kids to learn.
I love the rock tumbler analogy – I had one as a child. We kept it in the basement, because the sound of all that grinding down is LOUD. I’ll be sure to remember this as someone seems to have turned up the dial these last few weeks of summer as we continue to grind together through the house and yard.
I too am grateful for our constraints and the way they make us more aware of windows of grace.
I had forgotten how loud they were! Yes, the volume is cranked up pretty high around here, too. 🙂
I love all the thoughts that make up this post. 🙂 I don’t know if I’ve ever noticed that the discomfort of the tumbler was an effect of a simplified space, but it rings very true. I’m beginning to notice that simplicity also seems to be giving us a wealth of smaller ways to convey love (a silly face, a touch on the shoulder, a sympathetic grimace), because we have the time to really see each other now.
A wonderful observation, Amy! Simplicity can be hard, but you are exactly right – it also makes it so much easier (simpler!) for us to show love or gratitude, to treat ourselves or someone else to something special. With simplicity, more of life becomes special, doesn’t it?
“I am released to love them. Freed, even, to give good gifts without worrying that I must give every gift.” Just this….. Such a good perspective and much needed by me at this moment. I *do* often worry that I am setting my children up for some sort of failure because I cannot finance elite sports teams or experiences or activities that so many around them receive. Thank you for reminding me of the One who already has their future planned out and that He is the provider, I am merely a facilitator. My job is important, may I not lose sight of that. And I am required to enjoy the simplicity in my own life and not covet what others have. Some days I am very good at this. Some days I am not.
To me Christie, the important thing is this. Regardless of what your children might or might not have, regardless of fights and squabbling, in their hearts do your children know you love them? It is the answer to this question that will sustain both them and you.
The best line: Freed, even, to give good gifts without worrying that I must give every gift.
Whew! Great, great thought!
“Jagged pebbles tossed together…” Words that describe how I feel as I try to homeschool my children and live on a limited wealth of resources, similar to you. I never thought of it that way and this really helps me to accept that doing the right thing isn’t always pretty and lovely; it’s messy and chaotic at times, but we are moving towards, hopefully, becoming gems.
Got it! Much much wisdom Christie. And I love the pic of your daughter sitting in the middle of the stream. Those create good memories!
This is so, so beautiful. I do think it’s easier, as one commenter said above, when it’s a choice. We’ve given up things but it would be pretty easy to live another way. We are thinking about having a third and my daddy said “I don’t know how anyone in America affords more than two. It took all our savings and half of your grandparents to put you guys through college”. My parents were very, very comfortably upper middle class. I told him “Daddy, we had everything we needed and almost everything we wanted”. My two kids share a room, we share a car now, we live in a much smaller house than many of our friends. And most days, though it hasn’t always, it feels so right but it does feel different and uncomfortable at times. I loved every word of this post. Thank you for it!
I’m emailing this right away to my daughter who is nine weeks pregnant! So wish I had this insight when I was a young mom. You are so right when you say that we are imperfect, but our merciful God, in whose hands we place our children is the very definition of perfect. Thank you so much for sharing!
This?! Thank you!
I love so much about this post. I’ve found this summer of days in the creek and squabbles galore from being home with my children most every single day, has been the most beautiful summer I can remember. You summed up why so well…”It turns out that having less to give requires letting go.” And in letting go of trying to keep up with the Jones’ and giving into what God’s given us on this farm and “animal and land poor” life we live…He’s shown me the greatest gift of all is time spent together enjoying what He HAS given us. I really appreciate your words and I really love our great God for every good and perfect gift He’s given that I’ve taken for granted for so long. <3
SO lovely. I feel I’ve met a kindred spirit. we, too, have 4 on a self-employed, very limited income. we say “no” all the time, & this post cracked me open. I have been trying to be God for my littles, filling in the gaps where money couldn’t, weighing down in guilt when I couldn’t fill the gaps.
your words are a deep, deep breath to me.