Saturday, 30 March 2013

Home Sweet Home

God's timing is impeccable. I've had a lot of thoughts and processes swimming around my head and heart recently. One major thought occupying my mind was this; 'When am I going to get my own house?' I do love my parents and they are so good to me and we've got into a good routine of how we live together now that I'm an adult and back from uni. However, there is an inner frustration that I'm not totally independent and I would like to have a space that I can really put my own stamp on and settle in and welcome others into. Also, as I commute to Swansea every day, it can feel like my life is split in two and I would really like to live, work and worship locally. 

These desires seem fair and harmless enough, however they were getting to the point where I was picking out the specific house and calculating what I'd need for a deposit, and how much all the fees associated would come to and how much it would cost to furnish a house and considering whether a bank would even give me a mortgage, despite these things still being well out of my financial reach. And then, feeling that it's unjust that a young person on a decent, stable income and paying a fair share of tax should not be able to afford even a small house in a relatively inexpensive area, I became fixated on the idea and daydreamed incessantly about it.

This is where God's timing comes in. Quite a while ago, I'd managed to get myself roped into helping at a youth weekend in Llantwit Fadre via my friend's auntie. The aim of the weekend was to educate young people about the realities of homelessness, both intellectually and practically. So there were talks about factors that might cause a person to be homeless, what it's like to be homeless, how we can have a positive impact on the lives of homeless people etc. But also, we'd be sleeping outside in shelters made from cardboard boxes, eating very primitively and scarcely, away from all home comforts and mainly outside. As the weekend grew closer (and even during), I did consider finding an excuse not to do it; the weather was pretty horrendous, I was already pretty shattered from working all week and I just plain didn't want to.

However, this just revealed the selfishness of my heart and God taught me lessons that I really needed teaching. Homeless people don't have a choice about where they're going to sleep that night, or what they might eat, if anything. My little strop about getting on the property ladder seemed pretty ridiculous really. As it's Lent, I'm currently not eating chocolate or cake, and halfway through the weekend, all the young people and leaders were rewarded for how we'd done so far with goodies of chocolate cakes and brownies. A couple of people said, 'Poor you', because I chose not to eat them, but actually it made me recognise how rich I am, both in the possessions and the choices I have. 

So, while I am still human, and struggle on a daily basis with how selfish I am and my worldly desires, I think Jesus did something in me to put things in perspective; to help me grip a little less tightly to what I own and trust that all good gifts come from him anyway and in his timing. I've also made few resolutions about what I might personally do to support work with the homeless, one of which I mentioned in my last post. The whole experience makes me think of this encounter of a rich young man and Jesus:

' Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’
‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’
‘Which ones?’ he enquired.
Jesus replied, ‘“You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother,” and “love your neighbour as yourself.”
 ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’
Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.'      Matthew 19:16-22
Jesus was so right, I am a rich young woman and it wasn't until I gave up my phone and nice clothes and my car and central heating and tasty food and a comfy bed and BBC news and all my other home comforts, that I could recognise how much I have in him, and truly be thankful, and desire to show his love to others who have so much less. It's probably a lesson I need to learn over and over.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Money Money Money

I know I've had a bit of a 'season off' blogging, I'd completely lost motivation and inspiration to write. But like any season, it passes and a new one comes along (yes, that does mean that someday soon, this cold 'snap' in the UK might end). Lots of ideas are swimming around my head to write about, so hopefully I'll be able to keep it up and ramble on regularly to you remarkable readers (alliteration alert)!

So at some point there will be a post about what I got up to last weekend, maybe something about this weekend - EASTER HOORAY- but for now I am going to mention a couple of things I did yesterday.

You may remember from this post that I am a bit of a finance nerd. However, this can bring about a sort of a battle within my soul. I really like researching the ins and outs and rates and returns and scribbling down crazy sums, but this can get my eyes too fixed on building up those numbers in my accounts and getting stingey and selfish with money. All too often, I become in love with ideas of what money can buy, rather than having an attitude of love and thankfulness for the money I have and desiring to steward it generously and wisely.

Then yesterday I signed up to two things. Both satisfy my inner geek, but they hopefully can also be used to benefit others as well. Firstly, my Dad has been telling me for ages that I really should sign up for a credit card. It's security if you're abroad and closer to home, it's a chance to build up that all important credit rating. Now I do get where he's coming from, but I really didn't want to get one; I hate debt and with such a piece of plastic in your hand, you could get into a real pickle. But I did some research and I found that my lovely bank offer charity credit cards where your chosen charity receive £20 the first time you use your credit card and 25p for every £100 you spend using the card and 25p for every £100 you transfer to the card. The only difference between the T&Cs for such a card with their regular credit card (and remember, I'm a geek, so I read both) is that you will get charged for withdrawing cash, but seeing as I have a debit card that I can withdraw cash for free with, that didn't seem a problem to me. So Dad's happy, and so are the lovely people at Shelter - whose significance I will explain when I post about last weekend.

I also signed up to do four modules of online learning and Bookkeeping and Accounts with Learn Direct via Groupon. I don't know yet how I will use this but I'm excited at the possibilities; maybe at some point I will work in this field and support valuable small businesses and their customers, maybe I'll become treasurer of some group or church or small charity, maybe I'll just be able to more practically help out friends or someone who's got into a bit of a pickle, or maybe it'll just be something I enjoy doing personally and I'll be more aware of how to wisely spend and track my own spending in order to use it better. 

So for now, it seems the side of wisdom and generosity has a chance of winning that inner battle. Watch this space!