We grew up on a farm. We didn’t have a lot of money or material things, but we were definitely not poor. In fact, in the important things in life, I’d say we were rich. We had the blessing of growing up with nearly our entire family close by. We spent every Friday night with my dad’s Mother, Mammaw Esther. She let us do things our Mother would never let us do…like toast marshmallows on the stove, eat in the living room and every Saturday morning we had Dr. Pepper and fresh biscuits while we watched cartoons in our pajamas.
Our Mother and Daddy didn’t have a college education, but they were brilliant in the things that mattered. We certainly didn’t get everything we wanted, but we always had everything we needed. My Dad was one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known. (But every farmer worked their fingers to the bone and pushed themselves beyond exhaustion and when something came up, they pushed themselves further still.) For example, they had worked sun up to sun down, and a cow had a breach calf…the worked til dawn the next day to bring that calf into the world….Momma and baby alive.
And, my sister and I didn’t “act a fool” in public places…we didn’t dare. Don’t get me wrong, our parents NEVER beat us, but we knew we faced a fate worse than that if we acted up. Momma would snap her fingers, or spank our hands if we reached for something we had no business handling. Or even worse, fate of all fates, was to get our first and middle names used in a voice louder than “inside voice.”
But that’s what I mean…our parents loved us enough to teach us respect, what was right and what was wrong. We (or at least I) were convinced of the fate that awaited us if we didn’t “act right.” That’s what’s wrong with multiple generations today…no one ever says “No.” One time I wouldn’t stop giggling in church. Momma told me to stop, but I kept on. For whatever reason she pinched me on the inside of my thigh and I screamed….”Stop pinching me!!!!” Immediately I regretted that as she jerked me so hard I thought my shoulder came out of the socket as she marched me outside to yank my shorts down and blister my backside on the back seat of the car. Today it would be called child abuse…back then it was called discipline. Can we please go back to then??
One thing I didn’t learn growing up (and it was absolutely no one’s fault) was how to respect myself. I didn’t learn a lot about self-control and subsequently rewarding myself. For every way I stayed “in line” as a kid, I strayed away from when I moved away to college…I didn’t know how to tell myself “No,” and I didn’t know how to wait on things. If I wanted it, I grabbed it, or bought it, or charged it.
I didn’t learn those lessons until much later in life. In 2001 I basically gave everything up to become a volunteer with Mercy Ships. It’s the greatest thing I could have ever done for myself at the time. Back then, I was killing myself day by day by drinking and anything else I could get my hands on. I didn’t become a volunteer with a missions organization because I was such a great humanitarian…on the contrary: I knew if I didn’t do something that drastic I would eventually kill myself. I thought nothing of drinking until I couldn’t see, or talk, or walk for that matter and drive home. At that time, I secretly hoped that’s what would happen. My only concern is that I didn’t want to take anyone else with me.
It was more act of desperation rather than honor that I moved to a teeny little town in East Texas. But in giving everything up, I got my life back. I became a “missionary” so I could go somewhere and help people, and just like in the movie, “Dances With Wolves,” in doing that, the people I went to help saved me, and I got my life back.
I had been to hell. I had survived the “Dark Night of the Soul.” And, bit by bit, step by step, I regained….ME. I had to do without for a long, long time because I had so many debts to repay. I had so many wrongs to try to make right. Eventually, though, the scale began to tip in the other direction
I had a student loan I hadn’t tried to pay back for a number of years–to the point the government was going to garnish my pay…but I became a volunteer. While I was in Guatemala I said out loud, “God, if you’ll give me another chance, I’ll start to repay that loan.” The day after I got back to the U.S., I got a letter from the student loan people saying “contact us…we’ll work something out.” I did. Because I was a volunteer, it was a tiny amount, but I made the payments. They were satisfied, and I was out of default. That was in March, 2000. By the grace of God, I have never been late on a payment since then. My credit rating at the time was “don’t even think about it,” and today, it is “Excellent.”
I bought a house with a rent house next door, hoping my Mother would move to East Texas with me, but she remarried…this time she had met her soul mate. I had someone renting the guest house at the time and they moved out. When I went next door, I was dumbfounded….it was destroyed. I literally tore out everything leaving only the floor studs and the wall joists and I rebuilt it by hand by myself…except the plumbing and electrical….don’t do those!!! (I can, just don’t like to!!) I took out a loan for $10K to remodel 600 square feet. In the meantime, the engine on my beloved boat blew up (literally!!) I wanted a new one so badly. But, I told myself, I wouldn’t allow it until I paid that loan off. The day I paid it off, I began to look for a boat (pictured above). I got the boat of my dreams for a song and dance…the engine alone was worth $16K, the boat, about $10K, and I got boat, motor and trailer for $7K!!!!!!!!!!!
I wanted a garden badly. All I had was a shovel and a pair of gloves to bust up the East Texas clay that had baked in 100+ days for months, but I carved out a garden. I wanted a tiller, and I could have used a credit card to charge it…but I wouldn’t. One day I saw an ad in a local Ad column for a brand new tiller for $100….retail $799. I waited months for that ad, but I got it.
And yesterday, I bought another lawn mower. I live on 1 acre. My 20-year-old Snapper mower blew out last September. I finished the mowing season (October-November) by using a push mower. I wanted a new one so badly, but I kept telling myself, “No!” Yesterday, I got another one. Not brand new…better…I got a 2000 year mower that had been rebuilt from stem to stern…every bolt, belt, pulley, light bulb and filter..rebuilt by a small engine mechanic. I got a brand new mower in an older shell….I can relate to that.!! Instead of $1800, I paid $775.
The point of all this is I had to go a long time without allowing myself a lot of “rewards.” I set guidelines for what had to take place before I would let myself purchase those “things.” It’s been hard. It’s been rewarding. It has shaped who I am today as opposed to the irresponsible person I was back in Sept. 2000… And, I can say….”It is good.”
The lessons I learned were hard…but I learned them. I ticked off bill by bill, one at a time to put myself in a position to get some things that years before I could only dream of. Reward yourself!! But, before that, do the work. Do whatever it is that you already know you need to do, in order to get from Point A to Point B. Then allow yourself…you’ve deserved it.
Really, what has happened to enable you to get to that point, is you have learned, no matter how difficult…what it means to be a person of integrity. Become that…then reward yourself…you’ve earned it…and the Universe celebrates with you.
God Bless You!!! Please reward yourself…please.