For most of our married life, Bekah and I have been able to live off of my income alone. It hasn't been until the past couple of years that Bekah has truly put in effort to bring in some income.
Please don't misconstrue this as some swaggering boastful talk of how I've made so much money that my wife didn't need to work. It's nothing like that - quite the opposite. Bekah wasn't always able to work so the single income wasn't a scheme of our own design. It just worked out that way. And it wasn't easy.
There were times where we didn't know how we were going to pay all of our bills. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we made some foolish financial decisions and had to pay the price. And in one of those times where we paying for those consequences, we sought some help. As a part of the arrangement for assistance, we had to meet with a financial planner to review our spending habits and budget to see what we could do differently to avoid needing help in the future. After reviewing our income and our expenses, this adviser told us there wasn't much that we could trim from our budget. He told us the only option we had was to make more money.
Really? We're struggling to pay rent and the only advice he could come up with is "You need to increase your income."
The irony of his statement caught up with us a couple of months later when some changes in my employment cut my income by roughly 40%. Mr. Smart Money Man tells us to make more money and suddenly... we're making less.
Bekah and I learned a lot through that era of our lives. We learned to rely on God. We learned some better habits. We paid off some debts. We managed to turn things around. Again, it wasn't an easy task. It took a lot of hard work, more tears than I'd care to mention here, and an unhealthy amount of stress.
My wife compares our struggle to Joseph's interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams in reverse. These were the seven years of famine that we had to endure so that we could in turn be blessed with abundance. I see it as a lesson - we were learning the definition of enough.
The writer of Proverbs had a good understanding of what it meant to have enough. He pleaded with God, "give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread." In other words, give me enough to meet my needs.
We discovered this meeting of needs on our road back to financial stability. No matter how lean our budget, no matter the minimal balance in our checking account, our needs were met. It was during this time that Christian was diagnosed with aspergers, and we were able to get him early intervention and therapies. It was during this time that we finalized Zu's adoption. And it was during this time that JJ came into our lives. It was because of this time that Bekah started couponing and figured out how to shrink our grocery bill. It was because of this time that we paid off some nasty debts. And it's because of this time that we were able to get our finances in order and buy our first house.
I feel kind of anomalous talking about success as if I'm supposed to be a shining beacon of what it means to be successful. I'm not. I still don't make much money. I'm just a data analyst. I look at numbers all day and try to make sense of them and manipulate them into something useful. I know that I'm good at my job, but most days I wonder, 'in the name of all that is good and holy what am I doing?' It's easy for me to grumble about this house we just purchased because the toilet runs and there's a smoke alarm that I can't locate that keeps chirping a reminder to replace its dying batteries. I still get discouraged thinking I need to make more money. So whatever it means to be successful... I'm not it.
Yet, because I'm second, I know that I don't have to be the one to measure my success. I have enough. I have three awesome kids, a loving (if not patient) wife, a house that over my families head with an office space that is just for me, a job with a flexible schedule that allows me to take care of my family's hectic life, and a budget that mostly works. So I pray that I never become stupid rich. But neither do I wish to become destitute. I just want enough.
Note: This post was written in support of the Live Second book release. Live Second is a year long study from Doug Bender and the I Am Second team. Success is the eighth week and covers topics like giving and ownership.
For more info on the book, go HERE or HERE.
For more on I Am Second, check out their site.