Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Less is Still A Lot

We're in our new house. And we love it.

My friend and MCC country representative in Nicaragua wrote a blog post last summer, as her and her husband had just started in their roles and were looking for a place to live. It has stuck with me. Here's part of what she wrote:

And so in our work we interact with people who lead lives very different from our own. For the vast majority of people in Nicaragua and other lesser developed countries around the world, opportunities for education, just housing, and even access to basic food staples is incredibly limited.  Because we personally have not and will not ever struggle in the same way, as we enter this context, it feels like every decision counts.  People we work alongside get by with so little.  Can I really claim to need space for my kids to play?  Conflicts like this are always present.  It is often difficult to differentiate between needs and desires.  I second guess myself all the time.
And so it has been a challenge – figuring out our needs, navigating these dissonances that are here as long as we are.  How do we have a fulfilling family life?  How do we find contentment and joy (outside of work) while still living out our values?  I continue to pray for wisdom and humility as we do our best to meet our children’s needs, love and care for ourselves, and work alongside our neighbors for a more just world in Nicaragua.
This got me thinking about what we need versus what we want. Do we truly "need" a back yard with grass for the girls to play in? Do we "need" a guest room? Do we "need" a kitchen with counters or cupboards? Sometimes referred to as first world problems, some of these are issues that I'm privileged as a North American to even have the opportunity to consider.

We had been looking for houses and apartments to rent for a few weeks. It just happens that this is the same month when yearly budgets are due, as well as several other program planning type reports. It's a busy month, and not ideal for moving.

But, because we were looking for housing while simultaneously working on our budget, we were extra conscious of how much money we were willing to spend on a place to live. We've lived in some awkward yet expensive apartment in the States. We were deciding between two houses to rent, right next door to each other. The floor plans are similar, though one had a couple added bedrooms and a second story patio for about $120 more per month. It was a little nicer, a little bigger, and a little more expensive.

For many Americans $120 doesn't make a huge difference, especially when the rent is almost half of anything we've ever paid for in the US, but it was more than we needed. We didn't need more space. So we chose the smaller, slightly more outdated house.

And actually, we like this house better. We have a back patio and a separate back grassy area for the girls to play, which the other house didn't have. We are five minutes (without traffic, 20+ with traffic) from our office and the girls' school. It was less than what we thought we might have to pay to stay in the same area. We pounced on it the same day it was advertised in the classified section of the newspaper.

Another benefit is that we have a very sweet neighbor who we share a driveway with. She's an American missionary who has been here for 29 years primarily working with terminally ill and cancer children and their families as they pass away (a hospice-type service). She's already been a blessing to us. Yesterday Michael went on his first trip out of town without me and the girls. In our old house that wouldn't have been an issue but he took the truck and we can no longer walk to school and the office. I was debating either staying home or calling a taxi. Then last night I came down with something and felt pretty awful, and our kind neighbor offered to take the girls to school (along with one of our workers staying with us this week) so I could stay home and get some much needed rest. I slept all morning.

She obviously has a generous heart and lives with a few Guatemalans, two of which are deaf. Last night Ellie was out in the driveway playing soccer with all of them, and I found myself so thankful that we found such a great home where we can host well, have great neighbors, and can live freely knowing we made a good choice for our family in our commitment to live simply.

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