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Am I Poor?

alec vanderboom


(not to freak out anyone who knows us personally)

My family's only savings account right now has $80 and we have one IRA worth $300. Everything my husband makes walks right out the door each month.

We don't have one of those elaborate savings plans for saving for periodic expenses like dentist appointments or property taxes. We've got medical debt from having two babies--its not a lot from considering having a NICU stay and two c-sections (about $4,000) but enough.

So yes, we're poor.

We're also poor in comparison to our family's of origin. I was raised Upper Middle Class. My grandparents had four homes--two homes in Ohio, one vacation home in Michigan and one in Florida. I first. traveled to Europe when I was 15. My last trip to Paris happened at age 25. I graduated from a private women's college and I attended Law School Pretty much everyone I know as a kid, in college or in graduate school is either a) comfortably making 100,000 to 150,000 plus dollars a year, or b) has a low paying but super cool artsy job like doing lighting design on Broadway.

Looking forward to an Aldi's opening up in my neighborhood so that we can comfortably squeeze in diapers for baby number six into our grocery budget was sort of never, ever, ever on my radar screen as a college girl.

Do I really count as "poor" because I have a great education?

I have mixed results on that. I'm an artistic girl. I know that loving the Arts helps give my life enrichment and  confidence. But I've also got to say that College and Graduate School were

a) very expensive. I will pay off my student loans until I turn 65.

 b) because I was too paralyzed to go after my real dream of majoring in English--going to Law School helped make me feel even more anxious and neurotic. I was a good lawyer--but not at the Law Part, I was a good lawyer because I really enjoyed talking to people in trouble and translating their needs to a Judge. I went into Law with a Carmelite heart. Now that I'm a prayer warrior instead of "legal servant" I'm soooooo much happier.

c) my nerves about acing exams in Law School (and college) made me very preformance driven. To let off stress I engaged in unhealthy and sinful behavior (i.e. have pre-marital sex or "fornication" as we Catholics describe that sin).

So its not like 15 years later I say "Oh, I am who I am because of Smith College and University of Wisconsin Law School. Education is more of a mixed bag with me. There's good and there's bad. I'm glad I went to school--but since I did most of my education in mortal sin, its not like I attribute the joy I feel inside to what I learned in school.

Happy are you poor!

What I feel in my heart is such joy. Its not everyday. I still worry when a new, unexpected bill comes in the mail. I know through actual personal experience that GOD COMES THROUGH FOR ME.

It was a total act of trust that I quit working while having $103,600 dollars of student loan debt to become a stay-at-home Mother. I didn't make a "choice" like how I choose what to have for dinner. I just felt God tugging my heart firmly in one direction. God is so good, he even eased me into it. First I thought I was staying home for 6 months, then 'just a few years." When I finally really got that God was asking me to stay-home (and this is a very personal mission. My family has been out of the Catholic Church for 500 years--my maternal ancestor literally sign the pledge from Henry the VIII asking the Pope to annul his first marriage--God told me "I need your full focus because we've got to create a new Catholic Culture in one generation)--I was scared. I put up a little sign on my home-made alter "Jesus if you want me, I cost $103,600!

Am I poor?

I have HIM. He is my everything. God provides me everything. I never, ever thought we could buy a house. Last year--out of crazy circumstances--my husband qualified for a great, low interest rate, no down-payment mortgage. We have a darling 1,100 square foot brick Cape Cod house. I love it! We have two cars that work. We have a free dog and a free cat. We have 5 kids. We had a kid in the NICU with an insurance bill of $250,000 and God left us with only $2,000 out of pocket. Now I'm poor, so I'm still making steady payments on that bill--but its an honor. My girl Tess is out of this world precious to the whole world.

Am I poor?

I'm poor spiritually. I'm a really poor mother. I did not have any skills to raise children before I became a Catholic. I've got a tendency for anxiety and depression. Thankfully, they are objectively "light" according to my therapist. But it's still there and I in a situation where there's a lot of pressure. I'm pregnant often. I've got next to no extended family support. My husband works long hours. Most of my kids are highly sensitive and gifted--which means that they are a joy, but an extra challenge to parent.

I'm poor, but I'm rich.

In my weaknesses, He is my strength. Because I'm so little, I have great freedom of heart to lean on Him.

Jesus is real! He tells you what to make for supper. He helps you design yummy meals out of eggs, cream and pie crust. He makes my husband love to eat cheap potatoes every day for lunch.

 He told me in a dream to rent a cello--and I can't believe what a difference that has made to my life. It seems crazy to say, but my husband and I are working (slowly) on the adoption of a special needs child. I got nervous because I didn't think I was dealing well with a background question they asked about "do you ever discipline in anger". In regards to constant discipline, "I was a parent poor in spirit." I prayed about that. The answer was to "rent a cello." That seems so weird, but the cello is super, duper relaxing for me. I get my little cello lesson in during the day--it is no problem to have extra amounts of patience to discipline consistently and kindly my five feisty kids under age 10. With the cello, there is totally room in my heart to mother more babies in my life.

Am I Poor?

Because I gave God a small opening, I wasn't so grabby about material possessions (detachment the Carmelites call it). He knocks himself out to take care of me. The baby does not have baby socks (I've lost all but two pairs that I have to rewash all the time) and she only has one pair of hideously ugly silver shoes--but I have a fifth baby in my heart! I have a cello! I have a wonderful glowing Marriage that gets sweeter and more mushy every single year.

Blessed are the poor (or poor in spirit) for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

(right here on earth, not some future pay off after death)

(Just to clarify for the comments, I'm advocating a vow of poverty for God--that does not mean that it totally sucks to be "involuntarily poor" as in a case of an addiction, or oppressive situations like the old Coal Miners in my home state of West Virginia. Also, I think you can be 'poor in spirit" i.e. detached from your wealth like St. Louis--who was a King, very rich, but always Served God First in his heart).