Neither poverty nor riches

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So… You might remember that I went to the Philippines in May with Compassion International. They have this brilliant idea to take bloggers to countries where they serve, where they play with the kids and listen to the hearts of Compassion volunteers, and then ask the bloggers to write each evening during their trip.

All these trips are the fault of a guy named Shaun (who also happens to be a SM contributor), and in my life, he’s gone from a faraway musician with crazy hair who moonlights as a mommyblogger—to a friend.

Right now, I want you to click on the button below to play Enough, my favorite song from his new album, Third World Symphony. And then I want you to keep reading as you listen.

Enough by shaungroves

And at the end, you’ll have a chance to win a copy of Third World Symphony.

Shaun and I talked via email recently, and I thought it’d be fun to share some of that conversation…


“I go through these bouts of missing our life overseas (I’m in one now), and I think the root appeal is not having much stuff. …I’m not talking about intentionally living in poverty because of guilt—it’s that contentment of just having enough. Not always wanting the next, the better, the newer.

“I’m daily learning to reconcile who I am as an American—it’s not my fault I was born here—yet not buying into our culture that what we have isn’t quite enough for our family. I still struggle with it. I love our tiny home and our one bathroom and our one little living room, until we go to a friend’s house for dinner and they’ve got twice as much space and newer everything. And then I feel lame for a few days. I shake it off, rinse, and repeat.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m thankful for the Philippines trip—I’m in Target, admiring the new dishes, and then Analyn [Denise’s mom] with the filthy sink she shares with nine other adults pops into my head. And I can move on without buying.”


But there’s a danger in that comparison too don’t you think? Comparing my house to a friend’s can eat away at my contentment and send me shopping for new appliances, sure. But comparing my life to the life of the average Kenyan or Haitian can do the same thing. Comparison leads to discontent for me.

“I used to compare constantly! It turned into a religion for me—just a bunch of rules really. How many square feet I can live in? What I can eat? How much can I save? Lots of rules.

Where I found greater contentment was not in rules telling me how to live but by discovering why I live. The why of my life now guides the how of my life—instead of anyone else’s how dictating my how. This kind of why-driven life is much less oppressive for me personally. …”


“That is very true. I told this on our trip, but after my first overseas trip, when I was 15, I slept on my floor for a week because I didn’t know how to properly process the poverty I saw. I felt guilty for having a comfortable bed and a room to myself.

“Finding your ‘why’ is absolutely essential. How have you and Becky found your ‘why’ together? And was this something she was in agreement with, or did you sorta have to coerce her? And what about your kids?

“I ask because so many SM readers mention that they agree with ‘living simply so that others may simply live,’ but getting their spouse or kids to think similarly is another story.”


Becky and I found our why by making lots of mistakes together. About a year after I signed a record deal—when royalties started arriving in 2002—we were suddenly rich by anyone’s standards.

We didn’t know exactly how much “enough” was and we built a house that was way too big for us. Together we filled our closets. Together we filled our calendars with too many activities and too much work—to pay for too much stuff. Together, one small choice at a time, we over-complicated and over-consumed.

“We both became unsatisfied but were each scared to speak up. I thought she wanted that big house and she thought I wanted it. …One night Becky told me she wanted to keep less so we could be prepared to give more—wow, I felt free! So free for the first time in years.

“Soon after that I went to El Salvador with Compassion. On that trip I met a little girl we sponsored and saw the dramatic change our measly $38 each month had made not only in her life but her family’s. When I got home we decided together to simplify things a bit—a little at a time, the same way we’d complicated things.

“My kids were very small then so life in a smaller house without cable, etc is what they’ve always known. And because they each sponsor a child through Compassion and read the letters their sponsored kids write, well, they have a focus and perspective I didn’t have until my thirties! They even correct me when I say I need something. “You don’t need it,” my oldest has said. “You just want it.” …”


“Was working on this new album different for you? Just thinking in terms of having this focused ‘why’ in your life. I know when I was working on my latest e-book, I was all the more motivated to make it quality yet affordable so that, quite honestly, lots of people would buy it and then know more about Compassion.”


“Absolutely, it’s changed everything. And it’s not that I didn’t have a why when I started making music. I wasn’t completely aimless. I wanted to do some good with my platform, sure, but it was very unfocussed good. I was like a pageant contestant – “I want to make the world a better place,” etc.

“Now, my why is more informed and precise—I want to partner with Compassion International to release children from cognitive, economic, physical, emotional, social, environmental and spiritual poverty in Jesus’ name. Very specific.

“And there’s an enjoyable pressure …that comes with a more exact focus for me. I carry around in my head the faces and names of children I’ve met around the world in my travels with Compassion. They aren’t statistics. They’re people I know personally.

Kiran in Kolkata. Yanci in El Salvador. Yoseph in Ethiopia. So I know what’s at stake when I write a song or stand on a stage. Every day I have the opportunity to make friends and fans who could one day be child sponsors. And every child sponsor is giving a child the opportunity to grow up and be a mature thriving adult.”


“…I’ve told you before, my favorite song on this new album is Enough. Obviously it comes from Proverbs, about finding that sweet spot between poverty and riches. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I love this song so much is because this particular verse… drives a lot of my decisions as I run SLM to be a blessing to both my family and the other editors’ families. I don’t write and write and write for gold-plated toilet paper and an out-of-control mortgage.

I write and work alongside Kyle so that we can have enough. To live in that sweet spot where our work doesn’t rule us, but where we can eat our daily bread and thank God for warm beds while still remembering Who it is that daily provides.”


“Gold-plated toilet paper? No, we write because we’re insomniacs and writing is cheaper than meds. No? Just me? Well, okay then. Moving on.

Seriously, the song Enough is based on Proverbs 30:7-9. Those verses changed my life by changing the questions I ask myself. I stopped asking ‘How much is enough?‘ and started asking ‘Is God enough?’

If God and food for today are enough to make me happy, then I can give up anything God wants to make someone else happy. To give them food, medicine, education, a vocation, freedom, an opportunity to hear about God’s love for them.

“I didn’t build a ginormous house because 1400 square feet wasn’t enough for me. I didn’t own a dozen pair of $300 jeans made by slaves because the three pair of secondhand ones weren’t enough for me. I did it because daily bread and God weren’t enough for me. I’m ashamed to admit it, but some days that’s still true. Especially the days Steve Jobs holds a press conference.

“But I want to be able to say the prayer of Proverbs 30: Give me neither wealth nor poverty. But give me only my daily bread.

Head here to buy Third World Symphony on iTunes.


Shaun-Groves-Third-World-Symphony-iTunes-banner-200x200Want to win one of five copies of Third World Symphony? I would, if I were you.
Here’s how to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post, answering this question: What’s something (or who’s someone) in your life that reminds you what’s really important?

(If you’re reading this via email, you must click over to the post to comment.)

2. For an additional entry, tweet this giveaway, including @simplemom, @shaungroves, and the URL of this post: Then come back to this post and leave an additional comment, letting me know you tweeted.

This giveaway will end tomorrow, Saturday, September 17 at 11:59 pm. I hope you win!

This post is part of a blog tour for Third World Symphony.

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. My daughter and son. One is a toddler and the other is a baby. They keep me focused on what really matters. I know that every decision I make will effect them in some way.

  2. Angela, Jhunior, and Naomi, our compassion kids, help our family remember.