Life is expensive. I can remember being a child and learning my grandfather kept a stash of money in his sock drawer. He was in the cattle business and kept some ‘folding money’ on hand in case he needed it. Being a child of the Depression, he always had a distrust of banks. Once, when I was roughly six, I decided that he had so much money, that he would never notice one of those hundred dollar bills was missing. Unfortunately for me, my grandfather was an astute accountant. That night, when counting his folding money, he came up with a discrepancy. It didn’t take long for him to figure out who had taken it, nor for my father to be notified. My hind parts hurt for several days, but having to apologize to my grandfather hurt far worse. His love for me and his want for me to be raised as a righteous man was far more important than money.
He’s been gone more than 20 years now. However, the lessons he taught me still guide my life to this day. He was a hard worker, he was a generous man, and he loved his family. Simple, but hugely important. I didn’t know how important until I became a husband and father myself.
My wife and I have had a busy life since we married. In our five years of marriage, we’ve bought a home, had our first child, and my wife has left a very lucrative job to begin seminary. I too, left the secular and more lucrative world of IT to work at AFA. There has been much change to our income.
Not asking you to set up a GoFundMe page just yet. I made the conscientious choice to leave behind the more lucrative secular world for the chance to spend more time with my family. My favorite Gospel is Matthew, so I will call on the words of Jesus for the best explanation: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).For a majority of my twenties, I chased the money. There was never enough. I could never make enough or get my fill. As soon as I made it, I spent it to prove I had it. A smart one I was. I got married late in my twenties, and even though we had larger financial responsibilities, chasing money began to lose its interest. Time with my wife became more important than time at work. Sure the bills have to be paid. I’m no deadbeat, but I also had to reanalyze where my treasure was.
And then, she came along. I love my wife. She’s way out of my league any day of the week. I’ll never forget the day she came to me in the kitchen where I was loading the dishwasher. She said, “Are you ready to be a daddy?” Time stopped. It’s as if the whole earth stopped spinning. Having always loved children, there is nothing I wanted more than children of my own. Now I was finally going to get that opportunity. From the moment the doctor handed her to me until the very moment that I am now typing that little girl has had my heart.
She has no concept of money yet. She doesn’t know that mom and dad balance the month on a pretty close budget. There will come a day when she needs to understand budgeting and the ability to say no. Now, though, her biggest desire is to spend time with her dad. Since I have so few years before she asks for the car keys and is off to college, I’ve made sure to make time with her paramount to anything else in my life.
Spending time with her, though, doesn’t mean having to take out a second mortgage. One of the best lessons you can teach your child is how to balance the bills with fun. One of her most favorite activities right now is going to a local park to swing and slide. Subdivisions exist for people to live in, but they don’t offer a lot of room to run and play. I would say, on an average 7-day week, we go to our local park at least 3 days. It allows her to run and play, get some exercise and usually affords an early bedtime. Which is a win-win?
Another great way to invest your time in children is bubbles. I never knew the magical power that bubbles have. I can spend five bucks on a gallon jug of bubbles and occupy several afternoons with my princess.
Ice cream dates are also a relatively inexpensive activity. She thinks we are just getting ice cream. When she is older, she will realize that it was those moments that we really bonded the most.
Since we are breathing on the dog days summer, one of the best things you can buy is a sprinkler. Sure it will drive up the water bill a little, but it will also provide much cackling laughter in the yard. The few extra dollars will be worth it in light of eternity.
I keep a little closer watch on my bank account nowadays. I make sure that I am a good steward of the money I do have. I also make sure that I am investing in what is most important. It is far too easy in this world to get caught up in wanting something more.
What’s most important to me now, is thanking God for what He has given me. I am far more fortunate than I deserve. The way I can honor Him is to teach my daughter to be thankful for all the blessings we do have. To take her for a play day at the park and then swing by for some ice cream on the way home are the moments she will tell her grandkids about when I am long gone.
Though she may not be able to articulate it, those are the moments I valued her more than the money in my account, the great job I could have, or the big house that I could live in. She and my wife are far more precious to me than those things. If I am to truly honor God with my life, I can only do so by showering my family with love, time, and service.
What will your legacy be to those you leave behind? Will they say that you made them feel worthwhile? Will they know they were worth it?