Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Secret

Last Saturday seemed as if it were going to be kind of working extra hard to get everything done before the new work week. I came into the office for a brief moment to make some calls, and received an unexpected but very welcome call from one of my best friends. When she started talking I could tell immediately that something wasn't right. After quick hello's, she told me that she had something to tell me. Her husband of over ten years had passed away unexpectedly. Only 36 years old and with a new lease on life, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I listened to the first couple of sentences and then my mind went completely blank. It felt completely surreal as I listened to her, my mind immediately went back to the last time that I saw him (they threw a sleepover together for all their friends a couple of months back), and my heart ached.

I was there, I watched them grow. Watched them go through the ups and downs that couples do, but more importantly watched them decide as a couple to work things out and make it happen. I always told her that they were the perfect example of a young couple. She was patient with him while he got himself together, he was consistent with how much he loved her through the years. All of her friends knew that they would be together forever. It made no sense at all to me that he was gone, I thought God had made a mistake.

As I sat in the funeral on Thursday morning, I have to be honest, I was a little angry with God. I couldn't understand why my friend was going through this. She had already been so strong through so much, and here was a woman who had been determined to do the right thing. Someone who had been positive and persistent, I knew that Christel didn't deserve this. As I listened to Pastor Wilson tell everyone that Andre' had recently rededicated his life this past Easter my heart was lifted, because I knew he was in a better place but it did nothing really to ease what I was feeling for my friend. I watched her be strong for her family and even her friends, she pushed through even though I knew what she was feeling inside. I couldn't believe that God would allow someone so young to be taken. It made me feel hopeless and helpless and like building love or a life for that matter held no value.

After I woke up when I left the funeral, I sat on the side of my bed for a moment trying to get my emotions together. I bowed my head to say a prayer for Christel and her family and to ask for strength for myself, it seemed that I had lost my zest for a moment. And I knew that if I felt this drained that Christel's emotion was probably a thousand times more intense. I left my head bowed and thanked God for the gift of life, I thanked him for what Andre' had brought to Christel's life. I prayed that she would get to a point where cherishing those memories would not be painful for her. I remembered what my grandmother told me when I called to give her the news, she listened to me cry and then said, "We don't know what God has in store for Christel, it may not feel like it but God is still in control..." And although I didn't really process it when she said it, I knew sitting on the side of my bed on Thursday that it was so true.

It didn't feel right to me that Christel be a widow so young. It wasn't fair that Andre' didn't have a chance to live until a ripe old age of 90 or 100. It was bad timing when it seemed that everyone seemed to already be going through so much. I didn't understand God's judgement or timing or sensitivity. But I remembered that he doesn't give us more than we can bear. And it made me know that all of the struggles that I've had recently and the hardships that some of us have faced, they are only for a time. God is teaching me something and Christel something. We are learning first hand that it may not seem like it, but he is always in control, he and only he will see us through.

I was reading a book last week called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I saw it on Oprah (of course), and the book is basically a teaching that we are the masters of our own destinies. That we can think things into existence, we can literally will ourselves into a destiny of wealth and constant comfort. Although the book sounded good and it was easy and wonderful to believe, something was amiss. I wanted to believe that I could do it all on my own. Provide for myself like the book says, attract positive things into my life by thinking positve thoughts. It seemed to me that the author and all the doctors who had come together to write this book had simply attempted to rewrite the Bible leaving God out. They attempted to teach us that we were self-sufficient, a race who needed only be good to ourselves and the universe in order to prosper.

I know all too well however, not just from what I've read but from experience that I am not able to take care of myself. Even with job security and ambition, all of those things crumble to dust, if he simply speaks the words. We are nothing without God. He takes care of us better than we take care of ourselves. We need to worship him and be good to each other, not ourselves, in order to see him move in our lives. Self-sufficiency is important to teach but only really understood when we believe and acknowledge that it is only God who cares for us. Believe me I know that there is a God who provides for me, who looks after me and picks me up when I fall on my face. There is a God who breathes the breath of life into me every morning and gives me the opportunity of another day. A God who chooses when to give life and when to take it away. I am in control of nothing, I can only trust that God will see me through. And we can only trust that God had his reason for bringing Andre' home.

So you see, I know the secret already. It was written long before this book ever surfaced. I don't need philosophers and free thinkers to tell me what I know from experiece to be true. The real secret is that God is in control.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Living Space

I know its gonna sound like I'm talking about work and in a way I am, but I'm really not. I promise I have a bigger point. I was watching Oprah the other day and she had guests on the show who live in what most would consider extremely small spaces. She had her main man Nathan on the show helping people open up their tiny spaces. There were of course your Manhattan renters who pay lots of dough to stay in studios and those who have chosen the life of the village to raise a family. Even those who moved to smaller spaces so that they weren't living "house poor". But the man that caught my attention was a man who lived in a house that was literally no bigger than a room. He paid no mortgage and had very few other expenses. He said that he chose to live in that small house so that he could have fewer bills and really use the money that he did make to ENJOY LIFE. That statement really got me thinking, since when did the number of square feet you owned determine your quality of life?

Oprah as well as the others seemed extremely captivated with those who were much more concerned with living than how big their living spaces were. It seems today people are more impressed with how large your house is, what seems to be forgotten is that in most cases with a large house comes a large mortgage. I am not saying that is wrong to live in a big open space with lavish furniture, remarkably high cathedral ceilings and tubs and closets the size of rooms. But do we really need these things? And can we really afford them? I realized that while there are a vast majority who determine wealth with how much stuff you can accumulate there are the wiser few who remember that the more you concentrate on what you have it only leaves little time for you to develop and enjoy who you are.

As you look at these large houses with grand pianos that collect dust, and furniture that people arent allowed to sit on it makes you think are people really ENJOYING these homes. I work in an industry that is supposed to help people purchase homes. But often I come across single parents who have worked on a job for 10 years with steady incomes and decent savings and are still unfortunately not able to afford to purchase a house on their own. Houses appreciated at almost 17-25% a couple of years ago. Someone could buy a house for 150,000 and in six months when they were ready to refi the house would appraise for 225,000. That is insane!! I thought to myself when is this going to backfire. When are we going to pay for all this rapid growth? And now, now the subprime market has practically deteriorated. The guidelines that lenders are changing are becoming more strict by the day and programs are being cut so that only those with healthy incomes and strong credit scores have the luxury of home ownership.

All things ebb and flow. While we enjoyed an extreme growth in the mortgage industry over the last 4 years it is now time for the market to slow down and catch up with itself (if you will). Its time for a house to be worth pretty close to what you bought it for six months earlier. Time for those who have only been on a job for 6 months to get a little more stability before they are eligible for homeownership. Unfortunately, we have experienced more foreclosure recently than in years previous put together. And the real estate market directly affects our job market and economy as a whole. While I know things are looking bleak, I know that it will clear itself up. I know that things will turn around.

It is extremely important to have a home for your family. But isnt it more important to have one that we can afford? The biggest doesnt always mean the best. When we go to the market do we look for the food that is in our budget. HMMM I know I can get those crackers for 1.50 but my income says I can afford 3.00 so I'm gonna pay double. Thats absurd, most of us look for the lowest price. Its the same thing with a house. Get the most for your dollar. Really research the amount of space that you'll need and dont pay for extra space. Trust me I had to learn that the hardway. I was in a house where I was only using two of the rooms, never went in the basement and was hardly ever downstairs. And finally I thought, why am I paying for all this extra space...for who, Jinxi. My cat has the biggest playground ever. And I could be saving myself so much money. So Welcome Granny, Darren and Dakota. Nice to have you share my space.

Get a house that suits your needs. One that fits your family and your lifestyle comfortably. And make it yours. Decorate it so that it says so much about your family unit and about who you are. And use your extra money to really live. Not in the house. Go places. Outside. Do things, things that cost money. Enjoy your life. Wordly possessions are just that, wordly possessions, yes even the house.