I leave the numbers to Steven. He can read a tape measure without saying things like, "It's four and a half, plus two little tiny lines." He can subtract large numbers in his head. Correctly. And I know that when Jack is old enough to have Math homework he will have at least one parent capable of not bursting into tears from frustration. Seriously, folks, if history repeats itself, Fourth Grade math will not be kind to me the second time around, either.
So, you might think that with my lack of numeral love and Steven's more than proffecient mathematical brain, we would at least even out into a perfectly passable team when it came to finances. Basically, you'd think he'd carry my weight and make it work, right? I mean, not fair, but probably the reality. Well...not so much.
Money and numbers, though related, aren't the same. He's good at math, not necessarily at money. And I'm not good with numbers, but, well, yeah I still stink at money. So we needed help. And instead of just talking about it, like we had been doing for, you know, years, we decided to actually do something about it.
We signed up for Financial Peace University offered at our church. It is Dave Ramsey's 9-week course on how to stop letting your money control you and how to start using your money the way that God intended for you to use it. Best. Decision. Ever. I won't get into all the ins and outs right now. I do hope to do a post after we've finished to sum up our experience for you. However, last night, as we sat watching Week 5's video, surrounded by other couples and singles with struggles similar to our own, Dave said some words that I quickly scribbled down in our workbook.
"Stop chasing Happiness with stuff. You'll never catch him."
Deep breath. Take it in. Read it again. Stop chasing Happiness with stuff. You'll never catch him. I know you've probably heard this before, in some form or another at least. Shoot, there are movies and songs about it. Can't Buy Me Love, anyone? But when you're sitting in a class looking your debt square in the face, and finally being honest about how it got to be such an ugly, four-headed monster, you realize that that is exactly what you were doing.
If I only had...
If I only did...
If I only bought...
If I only drove...
...then I would be happy.
And every time you got that thing that was supposed to be "the thing" to make you happy, you realized that it didn't. Because the right clothes don't really make you happy. They can make you feel good, but they don't make you truly happy. They just make you want more clothes. The "dream house" in the "right neighborhood" or the "perfect car" are just things. And they aren't even the important things. And when you live outside your means to have them, they can be dangerous things.
We were no different than most people, trying to buy what we really couldn't afford while also convincing ourselves they were things we somehow deserved. There was always something else we "needed" (read: wanted), always one more item on the list that seemed to grow longer, no matter how quickly we marked things off of it. That's what happens, you know. The more you have, the more you want. So you chase Happiness with stuff until you've pushed it so far away you don't even know what it looks like anymore.
And that doesn't mean that we aren't supposed to do things and get out there and enjoy life. But maybe we could have enjoyed life at Chick-fil-a a little more instead of Chili's. At least we should have as long as we had credit cards staring at us, two car payments, and things like Christmas coming.
Hindsight is 20/20. So...
And now we're going to do better.
Because we understand that what will make us happy aren't the things, or even being completely free of debt. Yes, it will make life easier. It will take some stress away. We will be more prepared for life in general. But what we've learned is that we could be happy eating cereal for dinner and without cable and even if our cell phones didn't link us to every other human via socal media. We could be happy if we just had each other.
On the video Dave said that someone may think that finally being able to take a trip somewhere like Hawaii may make them happy. This person might say, "If I could just go there, I would be happy." And then he gets there and it's beautiful. But it ain't Heaven.
Nothing will ever be good enough, if the value of your life is directly related to the value of the things in it. This life is just a blip, just a swift in and out of God's breath. It is fleeting and it is beautiful. But it ain't Heaven. And all the things that you have will not get you there. Enjoy this life. Live it to the fullest. Make God happy with the way that you choose to use your time, your energy and your money. Then all the numbers will fall into place and will add up to some serious Happiness.