Years ago on a road trip south, my family and I enjoyed listening to The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. If you didn’t read this beautiful book as a child, I recommend it as a great read aloud (or listen together) for you and your family.
The Pepper family, of whom the book examines, has many hard times and difficulties in life but lives out a beautiful life centered around the home with home as the means of supplying their monetary needs. It is a work of fiction which will inspire lovely practical application.
Home is where my thoughts are falling these days, and the necessity of home in hard times in the economy. My family has been riding the rollercoaster of self-employment for almost a decade, and so we are perhaps more used to the fluctuation and changes of economy and I don’t shudder at them anymore. At times it was so tempting to linger over my nursing license tucked away in the drawer and think of what it *might* mean to put it to use again. At times it could have meant healthcare coverage, at times a thicker grocery budget, less oatmeal and pasta and potatoes… But always I ended up leaving my license in the drawer because my husband and I agreed that the need of a mama in the home was more than the need of her coming home exhausted with a paycheck in hand.
Now, some mothers *must* work outside the home, I understand, as my own mother did. With my husband’s support I scrounged up and pinched and squeezed the smallest drop from each penny that went through our hands.
At nap time, I listed items on ebay, learning to pick out at the thrift store items that I could turn at a profit. I did this for many years. I altered prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses in the evenings and watched children in my home for moms who had to work outside their homes. We made payment plans on medical bills in the seasons we were without coverage, asked our physicians to adjust our bills to what the insurance companies would pay, and saw God miraculously provide for all of our needs. We brought all our needs before the Lord, not viewing Him as a santa clause, but as a good Father who cares about His children. Our children have grown up praying alongside us.
We made it a game to see how cheaply and well we could feed our growing family and involved our children, seeking out recipes from housewives of the Great Depression era, volunteering time at a food warehouse in exchange for product, and planned our weekly menu around the least expensive and healthiest foods I could find. We were happy and well fed, even if it was a simple potato dish or fresh green beans bought at a steal and served for the third night in a row over a pretty tablecloth with a flickering candle to give semblance of warmth.
When the kids needed clothing, I learned that the quickest way to see that need met was to give away what we had. It was inevitable that as soon as I packed up a bag of nice clothing and passed it on, another would come our way and somehow contain just what was needed. This rang true for each need we had. The more we opened our home and shared the little we had, the more we were blessed with … well, more! I can’t explain it any other way then to say God receives the glory and provided for many needs this way.
This was the years before blogging came about and the internet was a source of marketplace and income for mothers.
A few years ago, at the drop of the housing market, our income also dropped by a drastic and devastating three quarters. We were back off of comfortable living and into the land of penny pinching. I soon realized I didn’t mind it much and that our lifestyle wasn’t changed or altered significantly. What I realized was that by always choosing to live content with little and tuck the extra away into savings or pay off a vehicle, that when lean times struck we weren’t thrown into a panic. There wasn’t a huge credit card bill to fret over, the van and truck were paid off and we could sell the truck at a good price to keep our mortgage paid, or buy the tractor that was needed for enlarging our little homestead. By investing in relationships and family and building up those things which cannot be bought, though our income was laughable (or cryable), all the things that really mattered remained stable.
When I remember The Five Little Peppers and wonder if I am teaching my daughters and sons about contentment in little, or wisdom in finances, I again see that these lessons are more caught than taught. When I see them count their quarters several times and weigh a purchase in their minds, or ask for a “job” to earn some extra money, or give from their little, I am reassured that we are on the right path. It was not always so, a job loss brought me a panic, heat turned low in winter made me grumpy and miserable, humbling myself to ask for a reduction in a bill was embarrassing…. and so I share this to encourage. It may take time; it may be a road to begin traveling on. Life can be beautifully lived around the centrality of home in even the hardest of times.