"...but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." 3 Nephi 22:8







Monday, December 31, 2012

The Redeemer

Christmas has passed with its shopping, eating, decorations, lights and stress.  There is perhaps remaining the  multitude of leftovers to eat, the bills to pay, the decorations to put away, and the attempt at returning to whatever in our lives is considered to be normal.  There may be sorrow that the season is over. There may be joy and rejoicing in the time we had to spend with our families.  There may be a sense of loss for the family members too far away to spend time with. For some there may even be a huge sense of relief that the Holidays are over and we have survived. Or we may feel  the loss of friends and family who have returned home to their Creator who embraced them with open arms.

I recently visited with a friend, who for a moment, recounted what a hard year it had been for her.  She was missing all who had passed on during 2012, including her sister and a son-in-law.  Her list seemed long as she named each one of them.  Tears moistened her eyes in memory of each one.

Quickly she turned the conversation to the may who were still here to bless her life.  Again, with tear filled eyes, she talked of those who had strengthened her and comforted her and stood by her side during the year.  She is a happy, lively woman with more energy than almost anyone I know, so dwelling on the dark side of things is only temporary for her.  But she still misses her husband who died of leukemia 18 months ago.  She still misses her good friend who helped fill the void that her husband left, who also returned home. For her, Christmas is a time to remember all who have influenced her life in so many ways.

I often wonder how people who do not believe in a life after this one manage to get through the long, dark, days that come to us because we are mortal.  Those who have no faith in the Atonement or the Resurrection of Jesus Christ must be made of stronger stuff than I am.  How could you lose a loved one and ever find peace or comfort if you believed that you would never see them again?  How could you let them go - ever?

I do not mean to criticize the beliefs of others in any way. It is just that my friends beliefs are what sustained her as she cared for her husband for thirteen years and then said goodbye to him. Her beliefs helped her get up every morning to face the loss and loneliness that was now her constant companion. It is her beliefs that comfort her in the loss of her sister, just a few short months ago. "When it rains on that hill where she is buried, I want to go stand over her with an umbrella,"  she said. She loves her sister.  She misses her sister.  But she believes!

My beliefs have sustained me through my own trials and challenges.  Some of them have been plenty hard to carry.  Some have broken me.  But because of hope in the Savior, I too rise to face the loss, grief, loneliness, and heartache that may accompany me for a season.

During the rush of the holiday season, it is so easy to become caught up in the commercialism of Christmas.  The list of things to be done is so long and overwhelming.  There are gifts to be purchased, wrapped, and delivered which may also include long lines at a post office or other shipping facility.  Decorations don't just hang themselves around the house.  Parties and travel may be involved, eating away our precious time. Cooking, cleaning, and eating all the holiday fare can be almost exhausting on its own.  And we may find our lives a little hollow, as if something may be missing.

And it is!  It is The Son of God, The Messiah, The Redeemer, Jesus The Christ.  That is really what Christmas is all about.  Yet sometimes, He is so quickly and easily forgotten in our celebration and in our every day lives.

May we remember Him every day of the coming year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Favorite Christmas Story


On a cold winter’s night in 1951, there was a knock at my door. A German brother from Ogden, Utah, announced himself and said, “Are you Bishop Monson?” I answered in the affirmative. He began to weep and said, “My brother, his wife, and family are coming here from Germany. They are going to live in your ward. Will you come with us to see the apartment we have rented for them?”

On the way to the apartment, he told me he had not seen his brother for many years. Through the holocaust of World War II, his brother had been faithful to the Church, once serving as a branch president before the war took him to the Russian front.

I observed the apartment. It was cold and dreary. The paint was peeling, the wallpaper soiled, the cupboards empty. A forty-watt bulb, suspended from the living room ceiling, revealed a linoleum floor covering with a large hole in the center. I was heartsick. I thought, “What a dismal welcome for a family which has endured so much.”
    
My thoughts were interrupted by the brother’s statement, “It isn’t much, but it’s better than they have in Germany.” With that, the key to the apartment was left with me, along with the information that the family would arrive in Salt Lake City in three weeks—just two days before Christmas.
   
Sleep was slow in coming to me that night. The next morning was Sunday. In our ward welfare committee meeting, one of my counselors said, “Bishop, you look worried. Is something wrong?”
   
 I recounted to those present my experience of the night before, revealing the details of the uninviting apartment. There were a few moments of silence. Then Brother Eardley, the group leader of the high priests, said, “Bishop, did you say that apartment was inadequately lighted and that the kitchen appliances were in need of replacement?” I answered in the affirmative. He continued, “I am an electrical contractor. Would you permit the high priests of this ward to rewire that apartment? I would also like to invite my suppliers to contribute a new stove and a new refrigerator. Do I have your permission?”

I answered with a glad “Certainly.”

Then Brother Balmforth, the seventies president, responded, “Bishop, as you know, I’m in the carpet business. I would like to invite my suppliers to contribute some carpet, and the seventies can easily lay it and eliminate that worn linoleum.”

Then Brother Bowden, the president of the elders quorum, spoke up. He was a painting contractor. He said, “I’ll furnish the paint. May the elders paint and wallpaper that apartment?”

Sister Miller, the Relief Society president, was next to speak. “We in the Relief Society cannot stand the thought of empty cupboards. May we fill them?”

The three weeks which followed are ever to be remembered. It seemed that the entire ward joined in the project. The days passed, and at the appointed time, the family arrived from Germany. Again at my door stood the brother from Ogden. With an emotion-filled voice, he introduced to me his brother, his brother’s wife, and their family. Then he asked, “Could we go visit the apartment?” As we walked up the staircase leading to the apartment, he repeated, “It isn’t much, but it’s more than they have had in Germany.” Little did he know what a transformation had taken place and that many who had participated were inside waiting for our arrival.

The door opened to reveal a newness of life. We were greeted by the aroma of freshly painted woodwork and newly papered walls. Gone was the forty-watt bulb, along with the worn linoleum it had illuminated. We stepped on carpet deep and beautiful. A walk to the kitchen presented to our view a new stove and new refrigerator. The cupboard doors were still open; however, they now revealed every shelf filled with food. As usual, the Relief Society had done its work.

In the living room, we began to sing Christmas hymns. We sang “Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright.” We sang in English; they sang in German. At the conclusion, the father, realizing that all of this was his, took me by the hand to express his thanks. His emotion was too great. He buried his head in my shoulder and repeated the words, “Mein Bruder, mein Bruder, mein Bruder.”

It was time to leave. As we walked down the stairs and out into the night air, snow was falling. Not a word was spoken. Finally, a young girl asked, “Bishop, I feel better than I have ever felt before. Can you tell me why?”
                                                            President Thomas S. Monson April 1986

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Memory

The year I was in the third grade we had an exchange student from Venezuela living with us.  It was a great experience and I have many fond memories of him and that year.

Luciano was very good to me and treated me with kindness.  I had broken my leg during the summer and had the privilege of attending school for a time in a wheelchair.  Luciano pushed me and my wheelchair to the school and up the stairs, and into my classroom every morning.  He returned to push me home at the end of my day.  On primary day, he took me to the church and then returned to take me home. We became good friends.

Luciano's family had more wealth than mine did.  He was raised in a culture where domestic help was inexpensive and readily available.  This was what he was used to. We, of course were not!  But Luciano adapted to our lifestyle, learning to do things for himself.  I remember that he learned to iron his own shirts along with my brother Leslie at my mother's insistence.  Mom was trying to prepare my brother to take care of himself when he went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Our culture and our language were unfamiliar to him, even though he had long studied English. Our food was unusual to him.  I remember being surprised that he was not familiar with good ole Idaho mashed potatoes.  Our family gathered to eat in whatever we were wearing, but in his culture, taking a shower before eating was common.  I can still hear him say, "I go take a shower" just as we were sitting down to eat.

Luciano was a Catholic.  Our religion was strange to him, but he came to our church willingly.  I am not sure how he felt about it at all, but I don't remember hearing any complaints or criticism. He also attended his own church.  My parents were supportive of his beliefs and studied Catholicism a bit as well.  I don't remember anything but support and acceptance of our differing religions.

On Christmas Eve, our family attended Midnight Mass with Luciano.  I believe it was my first exposure to a Catholic service.  I found it somewhat fascinating, different from the church meetings I was so used to.  I also found that I understood almost nothing as it was not in English.  Things were so unfamiliar to me, including the robes of the Priest and the decor of the Church.  But I was not offended.  The service seemed long and because it was late, I became quite tired.                  

I think that I expected Santa to come while we were at the Catholic Mass.  I remember being surprised that he had not.  I was at an age where I was unsure about the legend of Santa and wondered what was true.  But he did not come.

Christmas morning we arose to find that Santa had not yet arrived.  I was puzzled by this, but in obedience dressed and attended church in our own familiar building.  Upon returning from church, we found our home had been invaded by the jolly man, Santa. Presents surrounded our Christmas tree. I was shocked! How could this be?  I knew that my family had all been in church.  This had to mean that Santa was real!

Today, that Christmas is just a memory, and perhaps a flawed one at best.  My siblings might remember it differently but it is a treasured memory of a season with my family and my good friend Luciano. It was a happy time, which for another year cemented my belief in Santa.  It was an opportunity to learn from my parents by example to respect and learn about the faiths and beliefs of others.

Some years later, my parents traveled to Venezuela and visited Luciano and his family.  He remembered us all, as we have remembered him. As Christmas nears, I am thinking of him and our Christmas together.  Though he may not hear it, I will say it anyway.  Merry Christmas to all.  Merry Christmas to you Luciano.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sacrifice

I attended a Sacrament Meeting in a Student Ward the first Sunday of December.  I love this ward a great deal as they have embraced and included my son. It is a different experience as there are no small children in the ward and so meetings are not peppered with the sounds of children crying,  or the sights of little bodies escaping under the benches, or the goldfish crackers that decorate the floor. But the Spirit is strong and the teaching is sound. I always learn something when I am in this ward.

I am impressed by the participation of the ward members in Sunday School class and in Relief Society.  These college students are willing to risk sharing their thoughts and experiences with each other.  They appear to be very comfortable with each other, as a family.  Yet many of them have only known each other for a brief time.

The ward choir is wonderful!  I have heard them twice in the last few months.  They are well prepared and appear to be enjoying their opportunity to sing.  They smile and radiate joy.  It is obvious that they are singing what they feel and they sound like angels.

A member of the bishopric gave a talk about Jesus Christ and all He has done and continues to do for us.  The Savior gave willingly the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us.  He took upon Himself all the sins of the world, including mine. He did not have to do that.  Our Heavenly Father's plan revolves around agency. Christ could have walked away.  He told His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane that this was hard for Him to do.  But He did it anyway!

He did it for me!

The Atonement is truly beyond my comprehension.  I don't understand much of anything about it.  But I believe in its reality.

This bishopric member talked about the sacrifices that we are willing to make for the Savior.  He suggested that maybe we needed to make more sacrifices, being willing to do a little bit in comparison for Him in return for all He has done. What big sacrifice could we make this Christmas season as a gift of love and appreciation to Jesus Christ.

This talk really made me think!  (amazing I know!)

Within a short time, I made a mistake.  I did not realize at the time I did this foolish thing, that it would affect me as it did.  I was not bothered by it until the next morning.  I think I was too busy practicing my skills of rationalization and justification to think about what I had done. But reality hit me that I needed to take a new look at what I had done as the Holy Ghost pricked my heart.

What I had done was unknown to anyone but me - but it had occurred in a group setting and so I had to fess up and apologize.  This was hard. It was incredibly hard for me.  And I wept!

Later that day as my own grief and sorrow over my own failing washed over me, I was reminded of this wise man's words regarding sacrifice.  As I pondered, the whispering of the Spirit taught me about pride and how hard it can be for me to sacrifice my pride.

Ouch!  A hard lesson to be reminded by the Holy Ghost of my own pride and the need I have to be less prideful.  But it was a lesson I am grateful to be learning.  I fear it is not a one time lesson but will be a more continual one.  I am still a work in progress, with a long, long way to go.

I am grateful that both the Savior and Heavenly Father are infinitely patient!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sounds of Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas experiences has come and gone. While I am sad that it is over, the memories linger and I am grateful for a wonderful evening of music and inspiration provided for me by the two choirs sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Institute at Utah State University.  These dedicated college students gave their time freely to sing their testimonies to a packed house for two evenings just before finals week.  People lined up outside the doors, anxious to get a good seat so they didn't miss a minute of the evening.

The preshow was a great audience instant involver.  Some of the music was inspirational  but some was humorous and just plain entertaining. Grown up people decked out in not so grown up jammies, delighted the audience with their singing. An experienced juggler kept brightly colored balls dancing to a lively Christmas tune.  I was hooked!

The evening was a wonderful mix of familiar Christmas carols and music that was new to me. The hall was also filled with delightfully fun songs as well as hymns of testimony, teaching of the birth of the Son of God.  My grandson sat spellbound on my lap for almost all of the this wonderful program.

"Sleigh Ride" has always been a favorite of mine and the Institute Choir created a beautiful sound, throwing in fun and surprise. Everyone seemed to be having such a good time!  Latter-day voices added to the fun with their "Variations of Jingle Bells."

Dancers added variety to the evening as well as the three angels who told about the Savior's birth. Two of the angels were part of the heavenly choir, singing in the field announcing His Holy birth to the shepherds.  One angel, though immensely talented, had not been invited to sing.  Bitterness filled her heart until she realized that her heart was not dedicated to the Savior but only to herself  

Since sometimes that is me, I totally understand that it is a hard lesson to learn, to give up our pride!

Of course the story has a happy ending as the truth of who the Savior Jesus Christ is and what He has done and continues to do every single day of our lives penetrates into her heart.  Joy fills her heart and her voice as she joins with the earthly choirs of angels to sing of Christ, His mercy, and His mission.

Christ is the only hope I have for eternal life.  I make mistakes every single day.  I try so hard and work at being a better person all the time. I can honestly say I don't think I have ever woken up in the morning with the thought on my mind of how rotten I can make this day or whose life I can mess up.  But because I am human, those things just happen.  My hope comes through Christ and his Atonement.  

"Hosanna! Hosanna! Thy Savior hath come. O, Israel, And blessed He'll ever be called!
 Hosanna! Hosanna! Sing praises to God. For our Hope, our Deliv'er, our All!
 Hosanna! Hosanna! Thy Savior hath come, Our Hope, our Salvation, our all!"
                                                                      from "Hosanna" by Gardner
   

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Money - part four

Years ago a woman found herself completely responsible to stretch a small amount of money each month to cover a large amount of family expense.  She never volunteered for this chore.  She never even agreed.  It became her job.  It reminds me of something my sweet mother-in-law said she had learned early in her marriage.  "Don't do anything once that you don't want to become your lifetime responsibility."

My friend found the burden heavy and difficult to carry alone, especially when her husband was unwilling to curb his personal spending.  Difficult discussions ensued and nothing seemed to change.  Not only was he unwilling to help fix the problem, the husband became critical.  He was the bread winner and she should be able to make what she had to work with do.  It seemed it was her fault that there was never enough money.  Now keep in mind that this man's salary wasn't all that great to begin with. And he knew it!

When the burden and the criticism became to much, my friend abdicated her role of being responsible to pay the bills and trying to please her husband and gave him the throne.  She hasn't paid the bills since. She doesn't miss it!

A friend took on the burden of financial money management for her family when her husband was in school.  It was necessary, since he was rarely home.  When he graduated, she mentioned that she longed for him to pick up the burden and help her carry it and hoped he would be willing.  That was several years ago.  I am not sure, but I think she still must carry the load, as his work schedule isn't much better.

Another friend recently talked about the way finances were managed in her home.  Even though she had her opinions of things that her family needed, her husband expressed that there wasn't enough money to purchase  any of those things.  Then he came home with expensive items without even discussing their purchase with her.  Seriously?  What is wrong with this picture?

Money, or lack there of, destroys relationships.  Ideas and attitudes about the use of money vary and if we are not careful they can be come toxic.  The inability to listen, compromise, sacrifice, and learn to work together as equal partners can poison loving relationships.

Equal is just what it says.  No one is better than another.  Neither opinion is more valid than another.  No one's knowledge is superior to another.  Each partner has an equal say.  If one spouse eats out for lunch every day, why shouldn't the other?  If one has discretionary money for toys or entertainment, both should have the same. No one has the right to decide how to spend all the money.

Neither partner should make all the money decisions!  

That requires effort!  That requires respect and cooperation.  It requires unselfishness, And it isn't easy!

Many in relationships simply take over and take care of all financial decisions, excluding their companion from even expressing their feelings or needs.  They want to be in charge and they will be! They may express irritation or negativity every time their spouse goes shopping, belittling purchases. Others may even do all the shopping themselves, so that their spouse can't make purchases that they don't approve of.  This is so demeaning to the spouse who may feel they must beg and plead for enough money for ordinary expenses.

Others have the glory of financial responsibility thrust upon them. Their partner has abdicated and is unwilling to discuss or participate in anyway in paying the expenses.  They may add to the burden by "spending what they want, when they want" leaving their burdened partner in the dark. They may also criticize how the job is done.  How unfair to be unwilling to be part of the solution, yet stand back and continually find fault.

Neither of these is a partnership in any sense of the word! Both are toxic!

President Spencer W. Kimball who was a prophet of God taught that when a marriage occurs, all decisions within a family now require being made, giving consideration to the entire family.  Decisions no longer affect only one person, but all family members. Any decision that affects more than one person is to be made unitedly by the husband and the wife. Until there is agreement and unity, nothing should be done.  This counsel applies to financial matters as well.

Managing the finances for a family can be a daunting challenge and a heavy burden and should be carried equally by both partners in a marriage.  There is no one right way to do this.  Even when we agree as a couple on a specific way to handle monetary decisions, if we find it doesn't work out well, we need to be wise enough to realize a change needs to be made. It may be that only a little adjustment here and there is necessary.

The only way to determine if the way we handle financial decisions in any marriage is successful, is that it works.  That means it works equally well for both companions.  That doesn't mean that one companion just thinks it is working.  Sometimes we have to be willing to take off the blinders and take a long, hard, honest look followed by some long hard discussions.

Because if it really isn't working for one partner, then it really just isn't working at all!



Monday, December 10, 2012

Money - part three

Many years ago a friend purchased some expensive glass tables for her living room.  She mentioned that they didn't currently have the money to pay for them.  So I bravely asked how they would cover this large cost.  Her response surprised me. "I spend whatever I want.  My husband will just have to work more hours to cover whatever I spend."  I must admit that I have no idea what her husband did for a living now and perhaps not even then, but I could not wrap my head around that philosophy.

I still can't!  When we marry, we are supposed to form a partnership of equals.  That didn't sound like a very good partnership to me. I don't mean to criticize them either.  If that is how their system of money management works for them, more power to them.  I must admit that it sounds pretty good to be free to spend whatever I want, knowing that someone else is then responsible to pay the debt incurred. Sign me up!

One friend mentioned that her husband always took a large chunk of cash for himself from each paycheck. It lingered in his wallet so well that when the household money was gone, he wouldn't even fork over enough for a gallon of milk.  This money was his!  For some reason I got the feeling that she really resented that!

A couple I know has an agreement to pay each other $50.00 from each pay check. This is their money to do with what they want.  They choose to spend their own money knowing that they are not accountable to each other for their choices. This system fits them perfectly!

For another couple, the agreement is that either one can spend up to $25.00 without consulting with each other.  But, neither one can spend one penny more without coming to agreement. They also agree to total accountability for all expenses.

A neighbor went to work some years ago, leaving her children in daycare.  The money she made was hers, she said.  Her husband's money was for the whole family.  I don't know what she did with her money.  It was foreign to me to think of it that way.  But not to her.

I know one man who keeps a detailed ledger of all expenses. Every single penny is accounted for, by category.  I watched his wife cower when she was unable to account for a small some.  She couldn't remember.  It was a pittance and I really felt sorry for her.

In some situations, the husband has plenty of money to purchase his toys or to participate in his brand of entertainment.  But the wife is not granted the same privilege.  This scenario is also reversed. The wife spends on herself and her own pleasure while her husband has none.  If that really works to create equality or happiness, I would truly be surprised.

In one struggling family, the husband eats lunch out every workday with his co-workers.  His wife is left at home to eat leftovers or peanut butter sandwiches.  Money is a huge issue for this family of tots to teens.  From time to time their phone service is disconnected or they get behind on their bill payments.  That would be so hard for me.  It isn't even just the money. He gets to be out and socialize for lunch five days a week while she sits at home tending the tots, feeling lonely and left out. She would love to go out to lunch!

A woman I know felt inspired by the Holy Ghost to give a rather large sum of money to a family in dire need.  She called her husband at work, explained her impression, and waited for his response.  He reverently honored her spiritual impression and she delivered the sum the same day.  Another felt impressed to deliver a quick meal to a sick friend, to find herself criticized by her spouse.

In some marriages the wife is responsible to make certain that all the bills are paid each month.  In others it is the husband.  Many couples work the process together.  For some relationships it is a deliberate choice who actually does the mechanics of bill pay. But default, willingness to accept the responsibility, or time availability may be the determining factor.

One thing I think that should be remembered here is that being responsible for all the family expenses is a burden for those who never have quite enough. It is not fun.  It is not pretty.  It can be consuming, discouraging, and downright depressing.

Another point to remember is that marriage is intended to be a partnership of equals.  No one should have to bear the burden alone!

To Be Continued. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Money - part two

For many of us, there never seems to be enough money.  The expense of our needs and our wants always surpasses the amount of money that comes into our lives.  That means there could be some competition for the use of this resource.  There may be some need to make a list of all the things that are really needed and purchase them in order of priority.  When the money is gone, so are the needs.

Everyone doesn't deal with the long list of needs versus the income in the same way.  A friend pays all she can until the checking account has $5.00 left, then puts the checkbook in the cupboard until pay day rolls around.  Another has a grocery budget which she has in cash every month. When her cash is gone, she is through buying food for her family.  If she has money left at the end of the month, she uses what remains to purchase food storage items.  Some use credit cards to pay their bills.  Some use only cash.  Everyone doesn't own a checking account, though many do. Some use internet bill pay and others pay all their bills in person. Some hire accountants to handle nearly all aspects of financial management.

Paying interest to me has always felt like a total waste of money. It seems to me that you just as well throw the money in the garbage or flush it down the toilet.  I avoid interest like the plague!  But there are reasons why paying interest may be a necessary evil.  We simply could not save the amount of money to purchase a home in cash. Sometimes the same has applied to the purchase of a car.  We have had plenty of emergencies crop up in our lives and have found ourselves willing, when pushed into a corner, to pay interest.  Yet, for many interest payments are not a huge concern.  They are just considered an ongoing component of being able to purchase what they want, when they want it.

Some people endlessly strive to live within a budget.  Others are simply uninterested in even creating a budget. Credit card expense is perfectly normal to many while others refuse to own or use a credit card.  There are those who only charge what they can pay immediately on receipt of a bill.  Others charge endlessly, racking up ever increasing amounts that they simply cannot pay.

For some, shopping is a hobby or even therapy. This can create the attitude of spend now, pay later.  Others shop the bargains, waiting endlessly for the right price.  Some choose to live without air conditioning or adequate heat, to lower living expenses.  Some could care less what utilities cost.  When it is cold - I want to be warm.  When it is hot - I want to be cool.  Money doesn't matter!

I don't think it is the process that really matters.  I think that what is really the most important, is that how we manage our finances works for the current situation and that we have the wisdom to recognize that if our circumstances change so may our need to manage money. What worked once, may not work so well now.  Or maybe we have some new ideas that could work better.

When one is single, how money is spent is a one person job. There is little to no need to discuss your finances with anyone else.  How one spends their finances is no ones business.  If it goes well, three cheers for you.  If there are failures, no one else is to blame.

Adding a companion changes the situation.  Marriage adds a totally new dimension to money management.  Now two people must learn to work together to create a financial plan that works for both.

At least that is the ideal!

To Be Continued!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Money - part one

My aunt used to come and visit when I was a little girl.  She would give me a nickle or a dime and once in a while a quarter to spend at the little store in the village.  What a treat to walk to the store, carrying my coin, anticipating what I might choose to buy.  It was very, very rare for me to have any money except on those occasions.  But it didn't matter because I don't remember thinking that I 'needed' any money.

Money now plays such a huge role in our lives.  It determines so many things in our lives including where we live, what we eat, what we do for entertainment, what we wear, what we drive, how much we pay in taxes, and the list goes on.

How we decorate our homes may be influenced by not only our creativity but our financial resources.  I don't think I personally know anyone with million dollar paintings hanging on their walls.  I have been in homes where homemade art is always in style. Some people I know have hand me down furniture and worn carpeting.  Others shop only at the thrift store. It is not uncommon to see slipcovers or throws hiding threadbare furniture.We had no living room furniture for many a month after we were first married.  Eventually a worn out, footless sofa arrived for us to sit on.

Sometimes money determines things that maybe it shouldn't.  It plays a huge role in who wins elected offices in our country.  Name recognition is often what wins a vote and getting that comes with a price tag attached. Money may be a determining factor in who we associate with.  If all your friends can afford to eat lunch out every day, but you cannot, you may find yourself drifting away from each other.  If you want to go to a Friday night movie but your friends can't afford to go, you may find yourself going alone or choosing an alternative activity.  If belonging to a book club requires you to purchase a new book each month, you may not be able to belong for financial reasons.

A man once told his brother that he believed he was more valiant than his brother because of his wealth. I can only imagine how truly 'poor' that comment must have made the brother feel.  I have known of some who have actually broken off friendships with others, because of money.  It can go either way.  The friend who has no longer wants to associate with one who doesn't.  Or, the friend who doesn't have may feel too inferior to the one who has and choose not to be friends an more.

If money is not lacking, there are classes by the dozens to take to learn new skills and hobbies. Money may make it difficult to do ceramics, photography, beading, quilting, and more.  Children may not be able to take swimming lessons, dance, or gymnastics.  Eating and electrical power may be more important.  A friend sacrificed much to provide dance lessons for her daughters.  Her gardening labors provided food to free up money for classes and costumes.  She worked hard all summer and fall, filling her shelves so that her girls could dance. I don't think she ever regretted it!

Everyone does not see money the same way.  For some, money is for saving.  For others, it burns a hole in their pockets until it is spent.  Some are able to find a good balance between the saving and the spending. Some spend every waking moment acquiring just enough to get by for one more day.  For them, money is truly just a means of survival.

To Be Continued.