Choosing to be Thankful when Life is Hard

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By Crystal Paine

My husband was rummaging through old financial statements not too long ago, and we were aghast to read some of the numbers. During the first year he was in law school, there were six months when we made less than $900 — and some months it was as low as $650.

I recall that season of our lives fairly vividly, but seeing those numbers on paper again after a number of years was a shock to our systems. I’m still not sure how we made it on so little!

During those years, we lived in a little basement apartment that only had four windows on one side. I could plug the vacuum cleaner into one outlet and vacuum the entire apartment without ever switching outlets.

We only had one old vehicle almost the entire time my husband was in law school, which he usually used for transportation from work and school. We hardly knew anyone in the town that we lived in, and there were not many safe places that I could walk to from our apartment.

Realize things will get better.

It would’ve been easy to swallow up in despair, and I won’t pretend there weren’t moments when I felt sorry for myself or wished we lived in better circumstances. But I decided, with God’s help, to try and make the most of what might seem like a less than ideal situation.

Be creative.

Maybe we didn’t have money to go out, but I challenged myself to think up creative ways we could still have fun without coughing up money. We’d check out a movie from the library and have homemade pizza. In the winter, we’d brew some coffee, pop some popcorn, and play a board game. Sometimes, we’d go to the park with a picnic, or we’d browse the book selection at Barnes and Noble.

We couldn’t afford fancy restaurants but that didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well. I had fun trying new recipes, searching out good deals, and stretching our grocery budget as far as possible. I discovered and enjoyed using their ingredient search feature to come up with new recipes to use what I already had on hand.

Instead of going out and buying things, I’d go to the library and check out a stack of books. Sometimes we’d check out CD’s too, so we’d have new music to play in our home throughout the week.

Learn from the experience.

Yes, living in that little basement apartment in an unfamiliar town and barely squeaking by financially would never have been something I would have chosen for myself. But I’ll always be grateful that God allowed me those three and half years to learn to be content, learn to love simplicity, and learn to make the most of what I had. I hope I never forget those lessons.

You know what all of those lean law school years taught me? They taught me that contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances.

Make a choice.

Contentment isn’t a result of having life turn out exactly how you hoped it would be. Contentment isn’t something that you can only have when you have money, a good job, health, and strong relationships.

No, contentment is a choice. So choose today to bloom where you are planted. Choose to make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Choose to stop focusing on what you don’t have and start being thankful for the many blessings you do have.

No matter how hard your struggles, no matter what difficulties are currently on your plate, if you start looking for things to be thankful for, I promise you’ll begin to see the world in a whole new light.

Crystal Paine is a wife, mom of three, author of The Money Saving Mom®’s Budget. Visit her blog,, for high-value coupons, online bargains, freebies, and practical ideas and inspiration to get your life and finances in order.

Angelia White decided to step out on faith with her dream of creating a lifestyle magazine for today's inspiring woman. One thing is certain: she is illuminated by her passion for life, encouraging change and inspiring women to live, dream and inspire their ways to greatness! She is definitely a woman on the move! Connect with Angelia on Facebook - and Twitter -, @angeliawhite, or visit


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  2. Jennie

    November 23, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Our struggles are vastly different, but we found a common ground, being thankful even when life is hard. We spent Thanksgiving in the NICU, with my nearly 4 month old baby, who should have been just a couple of weeks old. She’d had surgery the day before, and been given a trach. But what I saw when we rejoined her in the NICU following surgery was her face. She’d been covered with tape and tubes and leads, and now I saw her face. Free from all of those things and I kissed her chubby little cheeks and didn’t have to dodge anything. It is a feeling I never forget!

  3. K.M.

    November 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Great article, Crystal! This really spoke to me today. Your story years ago with hubby in Law School sounds an awful lot like mine. We’ve been at this for 6 years now and while we live in a home and not an apartment, it’s old and often required repairs and maintenance. With hubby still furthering education and living off of one meager salary, times are the toughest they’ve ever been. I am normally quite thankful and actually do all the things you mentioned for free entertainment and have been for years. I’ve never felt so broke financially as I do now and it’s really hard. I’m not even worried about not going out to dinners but more just trying to figure out how on earth I can climb out of this mess. Thank you for your post, it gave me a glimmer of hope and is a good reminder that our current circumstances are not forever. I need to push harder than I ever have before to encourage myself. I know God’s promises and I never doubt that he’s with me but some days you can just feel so absolutely alone.

  4. Samantha Hendrix

    November 29, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Hi, I really appreciate your article because it speaks to my soul. I am a recently widowed, christian, stay at home, homeschooling mother of two children under the age of 10. I don’t work at this time due to I really feel that God would have me stay with the children right now.We live on less than $400 a month and I have no vehicle right now. I could be really discouraged and believe me, I have had my days, but God is good!!! He covers me with grace and he continually takes care of us. I have a big biological family and I have a awesome church family. I guess what I am getting at, is I agree with what you said. That we need to find comfort in what we have and not dwell on what we don’t have. Trying to find the Jones’s will kill ya!!!

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  6. Tash

    November 28, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes, and could possibly be some encouragement. I am very thankful for my 2 precious kids and extended family, however my marriage is on the rocks and I’m sitting here trying to brainstorm on how I’m going to make it alone , with 2 kids. The man I’m married to, if it’s even a marriage, has recently showed and expressed how angry he is with me, reasons I’m not sure of, and throughout this time, has said some very hard words to me and to has manipulated my kids into believing what he tells them about be , is true. I cry myself to sleep every night and sit and wish and pray my life would be better. I know the ball is in my court and the firstove I need to make is to leave. Easier said than done. So today, this thanksgiving, I’m sitting with my kids, snuggling, watching movies and praying 2014 is a better year for the 3 of us. I look forward to following your blog.

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