Fresh out of college with my license in Social Work (aka, golden ticket to change the world) and head-over-heels in love with my highschool sweetheart turned husband, money had no grip on my heart. I knew the second I chose Social Work as a major that I would never be rich. And I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was help people and make a difference, one soul at a time.
A couple kids into life and with my career placed in long-term storage, however, I found myself stuck at home, sowing seeds of resentment and jealousy. Now, I'm not good at gardening, so I really should've known better. As my eyes wandered the world around me, mostly via social media (because two babies), I realized everyone else’s lives seemed so much better than mine: the things they were doing, the houses they were buying, the places they were going, the clothes they were wearing. We had a tiny house, an average car, and we were trying to dig ourselves out of some debt on a tight budget. And I, Ginger Savior Barbie, found myself tired, overwhelmed, frugaled-out, and wanting MORE.
More than this monotonous existence of neediness, more than this little postage stamp of a yard, more than this starter home, more spending money, more clothes, more crafts, more of everything. It crept in right under my nose: the lie that more money, more things, more of the American Dream would make me content. Happy, even. And I believed it.
On the days I needed a momentary break from my life to preserve sanity, I would strap the littles into their carseats (if you find yourself with two crazy children and no straight jackets, this is a decent Plan B), swing by the Starbucks drive-thru, and head to the suburbs. The timbre of the highway and the gentle sway of the van quickly lulled them to sleep, and for the next couple hours I would drive around, dreaming of our future.
My favorite neighborhoods were ones of cobblestone and character, cedar planks and colored shutters, history and charm. Houses with pristinely manicured yards, wrought iron fences, and unique, ornate details that conveyed luxury. I could tell you exactly where to find the handful of Queen Anne Victorians in our area, who owned them, and what they would sell for if they went on the market today (because I’m not weird or anything).
“Maybe someday we’ll be lucky enough to own a home on one of these very side-streets,” my other mommy friends would say, echoing the desires of my own heart. Because from the front seat of my car most days, it seemed as though the future was full of possibility. The potential of what could be, even living on one income, encouraged big dreams to swell in my heart and mind of the life that was waiting for us in the distance. The life that, as Americans, we deserved. A life filled with all things bigger and better than what we had now.
What I couldn’t see at the time, however, was what all those material dreams were doing to my immaterial heart, how they were distorting my view of the beautiful things right in front of me, how they gladly flung open the door to feelings of ungratefulness, comparison, and discontentment.
Our hearts are hopelessly bound to that which we love, and we humans perpetually love and seek after all the wrong things. That’s why we so desperately need God to give us new hearts. We also don’t readily change, save for an act of God, and as fate would have it, the housing market crashed in December of 2008. Overnight, our house was worth less than half of what we’d paid for it merely two years before.
For the foreseeable future, we were stuck in Cleveland.