This post was written in mid-December. Sorry for the trip down Snowy Lane, but at Daniel’s request I waited to publish it until now.
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It was a lot easier a little over a week ago when I pushed the “submit order” button to shell out the money for the last two Christmas gifts. Even though I won’t say I placed the order without a second thought, it didn’t weigh heavily on my mind, still optimistic that all would work out seamlessly.
What’s a $30 order? It’s Christmas.
Today, I sat… and pondered… and calculated… and ate a cookie before I made up my mind… what amount do I write on the check for the “special” offering this Sunday, the offering which is dedicated to not only reducing our church’s building debt, but also to the local food bank and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
I thought about the money helping those who have severely! less than I have. Any other year, it would have been easy to fill in the spot with a “hefty” amount. Maybe it’s because my parents modeled generosity my entire life or maybe because I’ve experienced a small bit of life in a third world country, but I don’t view giving money as some dutiful-moral-Christian obligation; instead it is simply a form of caring for the needs of others.
But today, the fact that the money was coming out of a savings account that had no promise of replenishment in the near future was certainly a test of my generosity… and my faith.
Daniel was recently informed he would be laid off. As of 5 o’clock this evening, he will be officially unemployed.
After we were notified of his impending unemployment, I spent a few days denying the fact that we should limit ALL superfluous spending. But the day before Daniel was to become officially unemployed I finally realized… there’s no more money coming in… none. Every check I write or dollar bill I hand out will not be replaced in the foreseeable future. Every bite of food or flip of the light switch is another subtraction from our savings. (I know our situation isn’t dire, but it is certainly a new and very uncertain situation to which I’m trying to adjust.)
Struck with this realization, I turned the heat down 3 degrees. My scarf is now a permanent accessory.
The kids still run around without socks and dress like it’s June – guess it can’t be too bad.
I’m a numbers-gal. I’m in charge of paying the bills and am familiar with the ebb and flow of our finances throughout the year. I know what bills to expect to pay when; I know how to save throughout the year to be able to pay our way through summer and still have enough left for Christmas and savings. But I don’t know how to make this work… how to watch a dwindling bank account balance.
Daniel has red spots on his torso. They’re growing and multiplying. He’s not sleeping well, waking in the early hours and thinking… thinking… thinking.
My man doesn’t get stressed; he doesn’t worry. I’m usually the worrier, sporting hives and mouth ulcers long before he blinks. I guess I should start worrying now, especially because the next employment opportunity which seemed hopeful has also disappeared into the blue…. poof! Just like that.
But hold the brakes on my pity party. Today Alice reminded us of a ritual which we’ve recently forgotten amidst tense dinner conversations about prospective employers (or the lack thereof) and interviews and “what-ifs” and “how much” and “how long”—all in adult code of course so that our kids remain oblivious.
This past summer we began to implement a ritual that at supper time each person states one thing he/she is thankful for from the day. Alice reminded us that it had been a few days (weeks?) since we had remembered our thankfulness ritual.
Ian took Alice’s cue and jumped right in; he was (not shockingly) thankful for Christmas. Then it was Daniel’s turn. My man, who has questioned himself over and over as to whether or not our current circumstances are his fault and questioned even more how it will turn out, didn’t even pause to think.
“I’m thankful for a warm house, clothes, and food to eat,” he firmly declared.
Alice was thankful for something Christmas related too, and then it was my turn.
Up until now, there have been (many) days when I have shamefully wracked my brain trying to come up with something to be thankful for… just one itty-bitty thing. Many days the only thing I could think of was that it was soon bedtime.
But it was in that moment of hearing Daniel’s thankfulness for the “simple” things—warm house, clothes, food to eat— that I realized this is a chance to start over, to remember what really matters, to focus on living simply and to continue to be thankful for what we have.
On that night of total uncertainty for our future, I looked Daniel in the eyes and hope he felt my own hope and trust as I said, “I’m thankful for new beginnings.”