One thing that is important to me to teach my children is making choices in today’s world. I have made my very abundant share of bad choices in my life (is that hard for you to imagine? I hope so!). Through my adolescence, I made bad choice, after bad choice, after bad choice. I made so many bad choices that I had no idea the difference from good choices and bad choices. These choices I was making weren’t any different than many people I had seen, either. All my friends and people around me had made very similar choices to these, so why was I feeling so lousy about my life? Why was I feeling so lost and in such a dark place? Then one day, just one single day in the mess that was in my life, I made a good choice.
Just one good choice.
I made the choice to go out with my sister’s neighbor’s brother, even though I didn’t really want to (until I saw my sister’s neighbor’s brother – wowza!). Later that night, I realized I had made the right choice and that felt so good to my weary soul (and I don’t say “weary soul” lightly). Throughout the next few months, I would go on to make more good choices, and each good choice lead to another good choice. Pretty soon, I had a testimony of making good choices. I learned in my short journey of good choice making, that there was a path laid out for us should we choose to accept it. When we make choices that go along with that path, we feel good and fulfilled and closer to our Creator. It’s a wonderful thing and something any person can start at any time. Any time! It’s never never too late. It’s almost like magic!
Once Brady and I married – another good choice on my part – hopefully he feels the same… we began making choices as a couple, and soon for our family. We have made choices that seemed like the right choice, even though they were very hard to make. We have learned that sometimes the right choices are hard to make, really hard to make.
When we had Harlo, even though we had planned on me going back to work full time because our computer business was still in it’s first two years, with a very unpredictable income, we felt the nagging urge for me to stay home. This was a choice that seemed and pretty much was, financially impossible – but we pressed on. The world was showing us that two incomes were necessary to have a family, that we needed to buy a house and have cars as a marker for our success. I heard all the time “oh I wish I could stay at home – you are so lucky!” and I never really understood that. It wasn’t luck that kept me home, it was a choice. It was something we prioritized above other things. We drove just one car for a time, an older, reliable car that had a low payment. We lived in a 700 sq foot condo that was very little rent. We made a lot (a loooooot) of sacrifices when that choice was made, but it has proven to be a good choice and one that I am probably the most proud of. I would go back and do it all again in a heartbeat if I had to. We stayed faithful to our priorities and were blessed abundantly because of it. Not in riches or money – we spent years of our marriage with little to no money left over from bills, but we learned so much about living within our means, what it meant to truly be happy, and what we were capable of doing ourselves. In that time I learned to cook, to paint, to thrift, to craft, to nest, and entertain with very little funds. Things I know I would have never pushed myself to learn unless I had to. What a blessing!
During those years, I started my at-home photography business. I had found something that I loved doing, that I was good at, and that took very little time away from my home. The small income I made helped my family tremendously, and soon turned into a real way to provide. I was recognized nation wide as a photographer, I traveled and did amazing things with my talent. Then, into my 5th year, I felt the urge to quiet down my business and focus on my home. Even working from my home office, I was spending many hours at my computer and distracted from my work as a mother. It was hard to step away from the financial comfort that was blessing my family, but I felt at the time that my family needed a different kind of comfort. Even when the world was telling us I would be crazy for stepping away while my business was on the rise, that we would never have that opportunity again… We took a major leap of faith as I referred away 50% of our family income so I could be at home more, be present more. It was a good choice, but my goodness, it was a hard one. Astoundingly, the next year’s taxes reflected almost no difference than the year before, even without my income. My family had been thriving, I was feeling more fulfilled and peaceful solely as a mother than ever before, my ever supportive husband was blessed as he worked hard to provide. It was the right choice.
Then finally came the time to buy a home. We were shocked that without my income that we would qualify for a house that year (getting a home loan is very strict and very hard for small business owners), but we did. We had very low debt to income and so we were given a healthy amount to purchase a house. Instead of building or buying a home that was nearing our max budget, we chose a quaint little home in our neighborhood we had been renting in. It was well under our budget and quite modest in size. Some people thought we were crazy, insisting we should buy something bigger for our growing family, something in a nicer neighborhood, but my heart was set. By choosing this house, we would never be slaves to our lifestyle. We could enjoy more of each other, we could travel more, we could fix things up and really make it our own. It was a choice that many others would have made differently, but it was the right choice for our family.
When we made the choice to have our family sealed in the LDS church (exactly 2 years ago today), to put our family before God and ask for his blessings, we were criticized more than any other choice we had made. We do things differently than a lot of other non-mormon families. We prioritize things differently than most families in today’s world, and choose to live our lives in a way that seems silly, odd and even annoying to other people. It has taken a long time for me to get used to making choices that don’t please the masses – even when I know the choices I’m making are the right ones for me. It is hard work going against the grain, but I have proven and I have such a deep testimony that it is worth it. Making good choices is possible, and it is worth it.
I hope to raise my children to know that, and to always be an example of making good choices in the way I live, the way I treat others, and in the ways I serve God.
(By the way, my sister’s neighbor’s brother is in fact, Mr. Miller. ;) Full Story HERE )