April 12, 2010

Changing is Hard

I am frugal. I am frugal. I am so very frugal.

There is nothing wrong with being frugal. In fact, frugal in the Latin is actually "frugalis virtuous" (sounds good, doesn't it?) The actual definition is this:

Practicing or marked by economy, as in the expenditure of money or the use of material resources.

Yep, that is me. I am very frugal with my resources. I have learned how to be frugal over the years, mostly due to the fact that money and other resources were not prevalent. We often went without necessities, and we learned how to stretch every penny and every dollar. I don't mind it really, just sometimes my "frugalness" gets in the way of enjoying blessings and benefits. Sometimes, when I receive a monetary gift, I actually don't spend it on myself. I will buy groceries for the family or pay a bill. I simply will not use the gift as it was intended. Sometimes (ashamedly) I will return something given to me, just so I can get the money and purchase something more realistic at Target or Walmart.

The Lord has been working with me on this aspect of my personality. I was not born a frugal person; I was made into one through circumstance and life. Now, I have the opportunity to earn a decent income, and while I know I will not overspend or spend unwisely, the Lord has pressed on me the fact, that more than likely, I will not spend at all. In short, I will continue to be so frugal that I won't spend anything outside of what is required.

I think this is what is called being "miserly." The dictionary defines miserly as being: characteristic of a miser; avaricious or penurious. I had to go and look up both avaricious and penurious. The first word is synonymous with the type of miser portrayed in books (think Scrooge in Dicken's Christmas Carol). The second is really an accurate description of what I have become. I am stingy with the little money I do have. Penurious, from the Latin, simply means to be in want. People who are penurious often are poverty-stricken or destitute (homeless, for example). They can also be people who have little, and refuse to spend what they do have. They are hoarders, in some ways, choosing to be so frugal that they will not spend anything unless absolutely necessary.

I don't think I am this extreme yet, but it is something the Lord has been seriously working on my heart (for a long while). You see, in the Word of God, we are called to give cheerfully. To share what we have, whether it is little or a lot, with others in God's household. This cheerfulness is blessed over and over in Scripture, where as miserly, greedy, or even extremely frugal behavior is not. I did not realize that I had become this way until recently. In fact, just yesterday, I had another go-round with the Lord over, of all things, a McDonalds ice cream cone. I know, you are now saying "what?" Yes, it is true. I was meeting my Mom and cousin at the mall, and I saw Micky-Ds and thought to myself, "oh, what I wouldn't give for a vanilla cone right now." Instead of just getting in the drive through line and shelling out $.86 cents for one, I actually started to make excuses why I should have one: "my voice was sore (from recital); it is hot and an ice cream cone would make me feel good; it is only $1, I can spend that amount."

I have not had more than $1 in my purse for perhaps 20 years. Over that time, I simply learned not to want things such as an ice cream cone. I would tell myself, rationally, why I could not have one, and then accept it as fact. I learned to live within very tiny limitations. My "box" or comfort zone on spending was $20 max. The thought of ever spending more than $20 would drive me nuts. I would look at an item and simply say, "Nope, not worth $18.95." I would analyze and assess value to everything I needed or wanted. It if didn't come in as a good deal, then I told myself it was not worth the few dollars I had. I never expected more, because I never believed there would be more.

So here I am, at this so weird point in my life. I actually have a little cash to my name. I have been spending it unwisely (I think so). The Lord tells me no, that it is not true. I have spent this money, which was given to me to spend, as I saw fit. I have not spent unwisely. I have actually spent it on me -- and just for fun. I still agonize over the decision to spend the money; and I second guess myself again and again. I still worry I will run out, run out completely, and am so tempted to horde the little I do have. The Lord has said not to do this. He wants me to learn how to handle money well, to be responsible with it, but also to learn how to cheerfully give it away. I need to let it go, and remember where it came from to begin with -- it was not of my hand, therefore, it doesn't belong to me. It is of the Lord, His provision to me, and it is up to Him how I spend this money.

I know it seems really weird, and you may not even relate to me. All I can say is that I have been this way for so long, that to be out of my self-imposed box, is a frightening thing. I am afraid. I am worried. I am anxious. I recall the promises of God and I know that He is right here, right next to me, holding my hand, and keeping me safe. It is just so hard to change. It is hard to develop new habits (even good ones) and to let go of the bad ones. I want to change, don't get me wrong, I just struggle so much with it.

My prayer today is to receive the blessing of God's abundance on my life, and to let go of my miserly tendencies. I want to be a cheerful giver and to let the Lord flow His provision through my life and out to others. I don't want to stop the flow, I don't want to get in the way, in His way. Oh, Lord please help me to be a cheerful receiver and a cheerful giver. Everything belongs to you -- let me accept your gifts and blessings and then give them away to others who are in great need. Amen.

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