But it never fails: when people come to our house people assume, imply or come right out and say that we must be rich. Nothing could be further from the truth. At least, as far as American standard of living goes. We are richly blessed. We have more than the vast majority of humanity throughout history. But this is not the sense in which people mean it.
Let me explain how and why this is:
We are both college graduates that waited to have kids
For our first eight years of marriage, we both had very good jobs. The pay was decent and our expenses were reasonably low. We lived within our means and paid off all our outstanding debts (with the help and advice of Dave Ramsey and my SIL Kara) in 2004. From there we had enough financial stability to survive cancer and an adoption. Incidentally, these circumstances made us wait to have kids, which helped us financially. It wasn't how we planned it.
We've been given a lot
And I mean a LOT. Much of the money that paid all those cancer and adoption expenses was provided through miraculous means. We intended to earn every penny, but the kindness of God and good people provided in what could've been a time of financial devastation.
We've been given a lot
Wasn't this the last point? Yes, but I mean it in a different sense now. A lot of people see the nice things in our house and wonder how we got the money for THAT?!? Most of it was given to us or inherited. Really.
Planning ahead...way ahead
Along with this, Anne-Marie was preparing for her future home ten years before we were married. What did you want for your 13th birthday? A Nintendo? Anne-Marie was collecting formal dishes and envisioning Victorian-era paintings in a place she would someday call home. Is that crazy? Maybe. But it sure got us a head start when we got married.
Anne-Marie knows how to decorate
OK. This one might sound arrogant or tactless (I did warn you that it was time for strong opinions). The fact of the matter is, a lot of people may have nice things or at least the means to buy them. They may even have some of Grandma's stuff in the attic just waiting to come out into the open. The missing factor is the ability to take what you have and place it in the proper setting. Anne-Marie is very good at that.
Along with this, both of us are pretty skilled at looking at a free or near-free item on Craigslist and envisioning how we can make it into something that will look natural and complimentary in our home. My background in the design industry--which required a lot of creative thinking--combined with Anne-Marie's extraordinary talent to make something beautiful out of next to nothing has allowed us to do this. It's something that's unique to us and can be a blessing or cursed obsession.
If you ever come by our house, look around. Look a little closer. You'll see a slipcovered couch that we got for free, an ugly picture frame that was spray-painted to make it look nice and maybe some of those old books from the garage sale down the road.
Really, how our house looks may somewhat reflect who we are (which I guess means kinda comfy, kinda salvage and just plain old worn out), but that's really not the most important thing. Even if IKEA came and vandalized our house, we would still want to maintain the same atmosphere. We want people to be comfortable. We want them to feel loved. We want there to be peace.
And if we have that, we really are rich.