Sometimes, when I take a moment to reflect, like I did at a small group meeting this past weekend, I look back on the last few years and ask, “How did we get here?”. When I begin to think back, I don’t think I would have ever predicted the details of my life the way that God has sorted them out. And I am thankful for that…very thankful. And I know that I would have messed things up bad if I had done things more my way in the past.
To give some background, we (Camille and I) left Sikeston in 1989, and swore never to return. We attended college in Mississippi, eloped in Kansas in 1992, worked and lived in Kansas, Texas, and Illinois, and in December of 1994 did the unthinkable…we moved back home to Sikeston. We quickly fell into the typical traps for young professionals. We lived around ‘the Joneses’ and did our best to keep up. Our house, our vehicles, our hobbies, and our social calendars all were bent around ‘the Joneses’ and the allure of the world. We proclaimed Jesus on Sunday mornings, but had one foot deep into the world on the other side of the fence.
At some point, and I can’t nail it down, God began to get a hold of us. I think it was through children. As our family grew, we began to realize we couldn’t keep up our pace with the world. A pace that is addictive and tricks you into thinking it is fulfilling. We still fight it! It was in that time frame around 1999 that we began our downward spiral in the eyes of the world. God started slowly removing us from the path that the world had us on. Over the course of several years, we went from living in a new house with our two children and with both me and Camille working to Camille staying home and us enjoying a more modest house filled with children on one income. In one year alone, our decisions resulted in a $40K/year cut in pay. Most people around us thought we had lost our mind.
While there are times now when I wish our cash flow had more margin, we do not regret our decisions for me to take a less stressful job and for Camille to come home. It was a HUGE struggle for me. Being the ‘nerd’ of the family, I knew that on-paper our budget did not work with Camille at home, but she has been home for a few years now, and by God’s grace we are still making ends meet. It has all been a God thing! It was nothing we did. I admit that I still get nervous when the bank account gets low, but then I am reminded, as I was this very morning, that God is in control, not me. This week we were having a tight week, and I told Camille yesterday on a walk that I was nervous, and then this morning, my business partner (from a side business I have) called me to tell me that we had received a check. I just smiled because God is so good!
We recently read a blog from a mom that seems to be on the same page as us. You can see it at: http://itsalmostnaptime.blogspot.com/2010/02/i-dont-want-my-children-to-be-happy.html. Like her, we regret that our decisions will probably result in not having money for kid’s college and not having a huge nest egg someday. I hope our kids understand. Instead, God led us to invest in our family...resulting with me being able to be home more, and be an active dad, and with Camille at home as a full-time mom. We traded our higher salaries for that, and it has been worth it. It has required a lot of faith that I have not had a lot of the time...most of the time. And we kind of put the nail in the coffin of Camille’s career this past December when we didn’t renew her license as a speech-language pathologist. It was tough…but it was the right decision and what God was leading us to do. We are convinced that God smiles when we quit trying and start relying on Him.
Now, if we already didn’t make enough sense, we hope to add another arrow to our quiver…a sweet 15 month old blessing known as Lori Faith to us and as Jiao Jiao (pronounced jow-jow) to her nannies at the Foster House in China. This will be our sixth child…our first by adoption. It’s difficult to explain but we just know that she will be a part of our family, but to get her here is going to cost about $23,000. And as I told the adoption agency person on the phone yesterday…”I have no idea how we’re going to pay for this.” We just know that it’s going to work out, and that God will provide.
A concept we have also tried to focus on so much over the years is to SIMPLIFY. We live in a busy world. And we could easiliy find ourselves needing to do things every moment of every day. Several years ago, God led us to start making efforts to simplify our life.
The biggest change happened after I went to Romania. Camille I sat down after I got back and took a yellow legal pad and began to list everything we were involved in…hobbies, school, work, church stuff, kids’ stuff….you name it. We ended up with three pages of commitments. No wonder we were stressed! Then we started doing something so un-American…we took a pen, and started marking through things on the list. It was a drastic change…but so necessary, and so beneficial. The result is that now we intentionally try to simplify our life. It doesn’t always work, but we strive. We say ‘no’ to a lot. People often ask how we do it with 5 kids, and all their activities. We just say, ‘what activities?’ Like I said, we say ‘no’ a lot. And what’s strange is our kids survive. They even thrive. They’re not exhausted from going from place to place.
One time my heart was broken by watching a mom drag her little girl from school to gymnastics to dance to t-ball…the little girl was exhausted, and I heard her say she just wanted to go home and see Daddy…and she was maybe 6 years old…why do we do that? Don’t misunderstand me in this point…I am not saying that activities are a bad thing…but placing too much importance on those activities or having a life that is too busy can easily become a bad thing. We must continually evaluate our priorities. It doesn't take long for us to get out of balance. God is constantly reminding us to be aware of our priorities.
Now I’m rambling...
Well, I guess my point is that the world is enticing. It tell us that we need to work more, make more money, keep up with the ‘right’ people, do the ‘right’ activities, have our kids involved in everything, and squeeze in a moment for God and family if/when it becomes available.
This is deceit. The devil no longer uses idle-hands…he uses busy ones.
So…We need to consider a simpler life. Work less. Be home more. Say ‘no’ more. Spend more time with our spouse. Spend more time with our kids. Make family devotionals a priority. Consider children a blessing. Consider educating our kids at home. Build the Kingdom of God. Go against the grain. Make a list of our commitments and start crossing things off.
Yeah, you’ll be a weirdo in the eyes of the world, but so what! If we sincerely hope to live lives that glorify God, then our lives should not make sense to the world. They should stand out.
My intent from this post was simply to encourage. If you are contemplating change in your home... maybe a job change, maybe simplifying your life some, maybe mom working part-time or coming home...we just want to encourage you to go for it. If God is leading you that way, then pray for faith and make the leap! You will survive. Your kids will survive. And chances are, you will come out on the other side a better, stronger family.
Thanks for reading, and for praying for our family. Please pray for the Lancasters, that we are willing to let God lead us in the days to come, and for me to stay out of His way. Finally, if this sounds like we have things figured out, we don’t. We are misfits…sinners that struggle with pride, selfishness, anger and ungodly thoughts and actions every day. God has been faithful and He has been slowly molding us, although we are all too often resisting. We have a LONG way to go, but we are truly thankful for the changes God has brought to our lives over the years.