Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Standard of Living

An Old Barn on the property at Mrs. White's Vermont Estate

In a 1970's sermon by Billy Graham, he talked about the way he lived as a child.  His family lived on a large farm in the country.  There was no running water.  There was no electricity.  They had no radio or television.  I believe he said they did not even have a car.  But they had food and warmth and were loved at home.  He talked about how nearly every family lived the same way.  He mentioned that our current standard of living was getting much higher.

My own father lived on a farm. His family were sharecroppers in the rural south.  They had a simple home that his mother took care of.  Each day, she would pray with her husband and help him get up, early each morning, so he could go to work. He held down a regular job, helped the family with the farming, and was a revival preacher.  His time was focused on eternal matters, practical survival, and the love and care of his family.  They did family altar each evening before bed.  They went to church every single time the doors were open.  It was a traditional old- time family life, much like the home where Billy Graham grew up in.  This was a common type of life, at one point, in our nation's history.

In the Massachusetts neighborhood where I grew up, we had cozy homes in our suburban town.  Many of them were cottages that were built by our grandfathers.  We lived old time, traditional lives.  We were thrifty, careful in our saving and spending, and did not require much.  Now, all these years later, the wealthy crowd has come in and is buying up all the old cottages. These are mainly two-income couples with careers in the city of Boston. They want to commute out to the beautiful suburban town.  They are tearing down our grandfather's cottages and building (literally) million dollar houses in their place.  It raises the standard of living, the property taxes for all, and makes it impossible for common families to afford to purchase a home.  I am grateful we moved, some years ago, out in the country of Vermont where it is more affordable.

I often cringe when I hear someone has bought an old house and is remodeling.  I understand that homes need paint and repairs. I realize they need modern appliances and new windows and doors. But why add all the upgrades, such as marble and granite, raising the standard of living to levels that are out of reach for regular families?

There are other ways we can spend far more than we should.  At certain holidays like Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, flowers are given to the sweet lady of the house.  The stores carry roses for as much as $60 or more.  Our local floral department also carries lovely bouquets of carnations for less than $5.  I have to ask. . . which flowers would you want?  I made a mistake one year.  I was offered any flowers I wanted.  I could not help craving the large $50 display of pink roses.  They were beyond my means and something I have never been able to have.  There were many alternatives, which were just as lovely - including $5 or $10 options.  But I kept looking at the pink roses. Just once, I thought, I would love to have the rich ones.  They were happily purchased for me and I took them home.  I loved them, but I would have been happier with the less expensive ones.  After the initial shock of having them on the parlour table, I started to dislike them.  What an extravagance!  The waste of money (that we could not afford to spend) is what bothered me more than anything else.  I would be just as happy with pretty daisies, lilacs from the garden, or simple carnations.  I learned my lesson.   

I know of a family, with a modest income.  They recently spent hundreds of dollars in birthday gifts for the wife.  Not long after that, they struggled financially.  They did not expect car repair bills or an extra high heating bill.  They got into trouble because they lived above their standard of living.  I suggested they set a yearly limit on gifts, to perhaps $20 to $50 for each person as a maximum.  Those gifts, carefully selected, will bring just as much happiness, while keeping funds available, at a steady pace, for the common needs that come up in life. When we figure out our means on a yearly basis, we can set our personal standards and stick with them.

In the old days, of the 1800's and early 1900's, they would define "extravagances" as trying to live in society. It was attempting to live outside of your financial means - to be something you were not.  The very wealthy were said to be the most important people. To live among them, to be invited to their social events, meant that you were moving up in life.  You had to have money to dress a certain way, to live in a fashionable house, and to eat dainty and abundantly rich food.  This cost a great deal of money.  Yet, even then, there were happy families who lived quiet lives in common villages. They did not have social ambitions. They were happiest in their humble homes and with a dedication to character, virtue, family, and a life dedicated to trust and faith in the Lord.

Our standard of living dictates what we are comfortable with in life.  For the very wealthy, who know no other way, it can be living the high life, or one of charitable service.  For the middle and lower financial classes, we live more simply.  We would not dream of spending over our means. This only brings debt, trouble, and unhappiness.  There are so many choices in our way of life, in the homes we choose, the food we buy, and the presents we give, that we can choose a simple standard of living that brings just as much happiness as those living in riches.  I will venture to say, that many who have a simple standard of living are more content in life. They are less spoiled, less selfish. 

A simple life can be such a beautiful thing.  There is a quiet grace and gentleness to a basic standard of living. There is no want. There is little need.  It is contentment beyond measure.  We have to remember that this world is not our home.  There are mansions waiting in Heaven.  We are pilgrims passing through this way, but once. Living with eternity in mind will bring the greatest happiness of all.

"Our fair morning is at hand;
the day star is near the rising,
and we are not many miles from home.

What matter, then, of ill-entertainment
 in the smoky inns of this worthless world?

We are not to stay here,
 and we shall be dearly welcome
 to Him to whom we are going."

- Samuel Rutherford, 1600's -

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

Mother's Life Dedicated to God - The Mission House.

Are You a Member? - Mother's Benevolent Society.

You Can Do It! - Housekeeping with a Will

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Find Home-keeping Inspiration, in Mrs.White's book - For The Love of Christian Homemaking.  Paperback, 274 pages.


ladypinktulip said...

Thank you for this inspiring post. Such excellent reminders to be content at all times. Many blessings to you....Kelly T.

Laura Jeanne said...

I don't often comment on your posts, Mrs. White, but I am commenting this time because I really enjoyed this post.

I agree wholeheartedly that what is considered an acceptable standard of living today is getting out of hand. It is impossible for us, as a single income family, to keep up, and I have never really even tried. We live the lifestyle of a family in the 50s or 60s; a father working in an industrial job and a mother at home cooking and caring for the children. So, I try to picture what was acceptable back then, and I realize we are doing just fine, even though by most people's standards today we must appear rather poor. All of our furniture is second hand, our curtains are made from old sheets, etc.

I like looking at photos of houses in the past, or seeing them portrayed in movies, because I see that "back then" people were satisfied with having older furniture, homemade curtains, and simple decorations like calendars. There were no crystal chandeliers and granite countertops!

One example I can think of is the movie A Christmas Story - this is the one with the boy who wants the BB gun. This movie was set in the 1950s, and I remember that when they showed the children outside in the neighbourhood, there were broken down fences, shabby looking wooden porches, and that sort of thing. These days if your fence is broken down neighbours will call the authorities and you'll be forced to buy a new one! And in that same movie the inside of the family's home was comfortable, but would be considered quite drab by today's standards. Yet I like a home like that, where the focus is on the people and not the pristine, luxurious surroundings.

Mama Said No said...

This was quite lovely, and so true. Even when I was a teenager, I often saw the ambition to 'improve' one's life. I had friends in school who chose to marry and live humble lives as the wives of ranch workers or farm laborers. My favorite song was Charlie Pride's All I Have To Offer You Is Me, where a man tells a woman that he can offer her love, but not fancy homes and possessions. Yet my mother saw such things as foolish, and the only marriage advice she ever truly gave me was, "It's just as easy to love a rich man as a poor one." She passed away over 40 years ago, and I am quite happy with my 'blue collar Redneck'. He isn't wealthy, but he works hard, provides for our family, and sees to it that we get to church each Sunday. We don't even 'do' Valentines Day, because I feel that all we do for each other is greater proof of love than flowers of candy one day a year.

Amelia said...

This is beautiful, thank you for sharing! Oh my goodness, these are my sentiments exactly. I could go on, on what I see but you have already shared beautifully.

I wish more churches would teach the spirit of this to young couples before they marry. I'm very surprised sometimes at the lack of teaching couples receive not only from church but from Christian homes, perhaps some just didn't let it sink in. : )

Oh that we would get back to simple times, and enjoy true life in all of it's beauty that is right around us. It will never be in the synthetic but in the Eternal. <3

Wonderful, wonderful thoughts here. It's so nice to come here and read...

Blessings! Love, Amelia

Patty B said...

This is such a great article, and so true! I do think folks were happier "back in the days". I know that as I was growing up in a poor neighborhood in northern Indiana in the 50's and 60's, everyone seemed to be more content with life and just generally happier. Today people just seem so stressed out and it seems like nothing brings happiness anymore. My husband and I live a very simple life here on our farm. We grow our own food, our furniture is mismatched, our car is 17 years old, and most of our clothing comes from thrift stores. We don't take expensive vacations and don't keep up with all the latest gadgets or home decor. But we are happy and we feel rich. God has blessed us greatly with health and happiness, and we still have more things than we need! By the way, we grow our own flowers and their beauty is found in vases and containers all over the house and farm. In many ways we have unplugged from the world. Hearing the news these days and all the craziness and hatred, makes it easy to say "enough of this"! I don't think the Lord wants us to live the way the world is going.

Tammy said...

Growing up, my mom decorated with things that meant a lot to her, but were not "trendy". I remember a beautiful calendar, a painting of Jesus, scenic paintings by my brother-an aspiring artist, a man praying. I was proud of our home b/c she took great care of it, but more b/c I was proud of my parents and siblings who loved each other and other people.

Anonymous said...

My heart was deeply blessed and encouraged reading this today

Thank you


Christine said...

WISE.. wise words!
We downsized and simplified a few years ago and I think it add more value and length to our lives.

shelleyp from over the pond said...

Dear Mrs White,

A lovely post again, reminding us to keep it simple, live within our means and by looking after what we do have to keep it beautiful. I love cooking, cleaning and caring for my family. I've tried to teach my adult children these things and with a few hiccups they are getting there. It makes me smile when they tell me what they have done or cooked or made instead of spending. Thank you for writing your blog, it so lovely to read your books and keep myself focused on the good things in life.
blessings and hope Mr White is doing alright,
shelley p
from over the pond

Sandi@ Rose Chintz Cottage said...

Good afternoon dear Mrs. White! Yours is a timely message to all in this extravagant society in which we all live. I am going out on a limb here because I know many would disagree with me but I honestly feel that the breakdown of marriages today is mainly because the ladies of the house are no longer at home raising their families. I believe that it is because of double income families, that everything is so costly today and every young couple who gets married today wants to start off in a brand new house instead of a simple apartment until they can afford a house of their own. No one wants to wait. They have to have what their parents have NOW. They are all so stressed out over it all too. I worked when I was first married but when I was expecting our first baby, I left the working world and stayed home to raise my little ones. I have never regretted that or looked back. It truly meant everything to me when my children came home from school to find fresh baked goodies from the oven and every night there was a hot meal on the table when Hubby got home. That was my first ministry; looking after my family. It would break my heart to have to go to work and leave my babies at a Day Care Centre. I can't imagine having to do that. The only ladies at home here in our neighbourhood are those who are retired from the work force. It is so sad. But that is life in the twenty-first century. I miss those days when most of us were at home managing our households. I feel badly for the working moms today because they miss out on so much. God bless them! I enjoyed your blog post and even though I don't leave a comment very often, it was a pleasure to visit. Have a beautiful day and thank you for sharing.


Alison said...

I am just re-reading your posts and enjoying them
Thank you and blessings to you and yours.

Suzette said...

I love this and also the comments are so uplifting. Believing in the wife as the heart of the home is so removed in my millennial generation and it is so happy to know there are women praying and believing in those of us choosing the traditional wise ways.

Cheyenne said...

This is so beautiful. Thank you.