I thought that if I am going to be spending some time here I should probably share part of our story. It has been shaping us into the family we are these past few years. My hope in sharing it is that if you are in a tough season that you would find encouragement in knowing you aren't alone & that it won't go on forever. My story begins on December 18, 2009 when my husband lost his job. It is a date forever seared into my brain as it has changed the entire course of our lives. At that point he was a journeyman union carpenter typically building bridges or schools and once a project was completed he would get hired on another one. He was making a great salary and we were comfortable as a one income family with just one son.
I can remember he was kind of excited as he was telling me thinking of new possibility and adventures as I was listening and nodding w/a smile plastered to my face my mind was running a 10000 different directions. Where will he work, where will I work, should we sell our house, what will we eat, why is he excited? I was having a hard time getting on board about this new chapter and was more at the panic and freak out w/unknown chapter. It was the only time I really recall hearing audibly from God. I walked into the dark kitchen and was praying and said I am not strong enough for this. And, I heard Him say I know, but I am. I had to take Him at His words as I had nothing else to cling to and a few weeks later we found out we were expecting baby number 2 . This news was really mixed for me. On the one hand I was overjoyed, because years earlier after sometime of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant and after testing I was told that I would never be able to conceive a child. And, since then we had one baby and know we were getting blessed w/miracle baby #2, but that was tinted by the fact that there were no job prospects in sight & the concern of how to care for our growing family was becoming a reality. He had been spending nearly every day driving from city to city looking for work, but since this is when the economy had started tanking jobs like bridges and schools were on hold or put off all together. We immediately applied for a mortgage modification for our house & were hopeful that we would be approved and be able to stay in our home that we had so many dreams tied up in.
After a few months we decided to start our own business. Details fell into place. Retirement was used to fund the start up costs. My husband took business classes, had a plan, got a contractors license and went into business. We had total peace about it and felt that this was the direction that we were supposed to go in at least for now. We had clients right away and my husband was loving every aspect of it.
We were denied for a mortgage modification and put our house on the market. We used all of our remaining retirement and our reserves & sold a car to pay our monthly payment & also to help with those other pesky things like utilities, food, gas for the car, etc...
Work continued to come in at a steady pace, but we quickly realized that with licensing, insurance, bond, taxes and our bills not much was going to be left over to live off of. We found ourselves needing to visit the food bank. This was very humbling for us. Only a few years earlier prior to having kids we had been earning well over 100,000 a year dropping $100 out on dinner was pretty typical so to be at this place was pretty surreal. We started having offers on our house and discovered that our septic system had failed & needed to be replaced. That was a cost we simply couldn't incur especially on a house we couldn't afford so we let it go. We started seeing evidence on the driveway especially after a lot of rainfall. We had to largely reduce our water usage, no dishwasher, limited laundry, etc...The Health Dept. started to make weekly house calls to see what we or our lender was going to do about the issue & they started using phrases like disease transmission and such. At times all that we could do was laugh, because it was getting so unbelievable. We nicknamed the evidence in our driveway as Poo River which made me smile every time I had to forge the river to go get the mail.
I started to feel super isolated & lonely during this time. Most of the other families we spent time with were in a different place economically, our lender started sending people to take photos of us through the window at dinner time to show the occupancy status of the house so between them & the health dept. home wasn't a very happy place to be, I didn't have anyone to talk to about how it felt after grocery shopping to have the cashier be friendly & engaged with my kids until they would see my form of payment was food stamps & suddenly their demeanor would change & they would almost be rude or just kind of closed off (this did not happen every where or every store) Just want to be clear about that. But, it happened often enough that it would make me want to explain to them how hard my husband was working or it would just make me embarrassed & second guess my purchases. I just started praying a lot and God was so faithful to meet me in that place. I don't think I've ever had as vivid as a prayer life as I did at that time. He was a constant presence and reassurance to me.
It became evident to us that we would have to leave our house soon. We had no idea where we would go and everything in our future was uncertain & it seemed never ending. But, we had such peace about it & the few times when my husband & I did have freak outs or break downs it it was never at the same time. And, that was such a gift! I remember one instance where I was so excited that my mom came for a visit & brought a Costco size pack of toothpaste for us. I was like so thrilled & my husband was in disbelief that we couldn't even afford our own toothpaste...so even though we didn't have much no one could ever say we had bad breath!
During this time God's provision was so evident. And we felt really loved on. We would receive anonymous gift cards in the mail, groceries would show up on our porch, friends would offer hand me downs for my boys just as their pants were creeping up into capris :). Literally I had no money to buy my son pjs and so I prayed about it. Next thing I knew a girl friend gave me a gigantic box of clothes to borrow complete with pjs:). My mom was constantly helping us out & once a check for 2 thousand dollars came. Still don't know where that was from. Even with all of these amazing and encouraging gifts it was so tough not to get amnesia and worry the next time the bills would be due. I was constantly having to juggle them to decide which one could be over due the longest before we finally had to pay it so we could try and stretch out our payments as much as possible. I started to write down all of these gifts so when the doubts started to creep in & I got caught focusing on my circumstances I could be reminded of God's faithfulness our family & that even though our finances or lack thereof didn't work on paper it would work out.
Christmas last year was huge for my entire family. Leading up to it I felt totally awkward every time someone asked me if I was ready for Christmas. I had no idea how to respond . Like yes we have a tree up, but when you can't afford presents for anyone there isn't much prep work that needs to be done. It became a point of contention with my husband and I. We both wanted so badly to be able to buy a little something for our boys, but there was no way. He wanted to use credit cards, but we only had one left a business card and there was no way we could risk it by putting things on there we wouldn't be able to pay off. I told him one day I would just love it if we could get them matching Christmas pj’s we were both resolved that we wouldn't be able to do anything and it wasn't like previous years we had gone all out we were always pretty conservative with gifts. Our oldest son was at the age where he was noticing the presents accumulating around other people's trees and I anticipated teachers, etc asking him what he got. We figured they would probably get something from my mom, but we were still bummed because who doesn't want to be the reason you see that joy on your kiddos face.
Anyways one night we came home from a Christmas party at a friend's house to a note on our door saying Merry Christmas & go check out your back patio. Through our kitchen window you could see that someone had strung up white lights while we had been gone. I thought that was so festive and fun we wanted to go check it out. As we started walking closer you could see the lights were wrapped around mounds of beautifully wrapped presents, groceries, paper goods&baby wipes. Our oldest son shouted someone got us juice!! To this day it warms my heart that the juice was what he first noticed and was excited about. He quickly started tallying how many presents were for him and how many were for his little brother and there sizes, etc...As he sorted that out my husband was silently taking it all in (not a shocker if you knew him) /tears in his eyes. I was a little more vocal (also not a shocker) doing some sort of hysterical laughing and crying thing. Later we found a card with gift certificates for more food and for gas. There were also 2 presents marked to be opened Christmas eve that turned out to be matching Christmas pjs!!! It was so awesome. I have never felt so loved. And, we had been struggling so much that this filled our encouragement tanks for a long time. To have people be the hands and feet of Jesus to us time and time again is how we got through intact as a family whole and not callous or bitter.
Fast forward to today.: We closed our business one year ago and my husband has had a few jobs since that time & has currently found one he is very excited about & it is providing enough for our family complete with a paycheck that comes consistently every week rain or shine:). I love checking the bank each Thursday morning it is a total thrill for me:). After 5 offers our house was foreclosed on and we survived:)!!! We have the most generous and compassionate landlords and a house we just love. We walked out of these past few years with zero debt and we are more generous and giving with what we have. Before we went through this we thought we were pretty generous people, but being on the receiving end of so much shows you how tightly you actually hold things.
When we were in the midst of this time it seemed like it was going to go on forever. Like life had stopped, but actually life as we knew it stopped and our new life went forward we just couldn't always see it. But, God was so good, He sustained us with His goodness and He grew our faith and trust in Him. I don't ever want to forget that time I want to be able to remember it clearly and be able to share it with my boys & hopefully it will strengthen their faith & it will remind me when other tough seasons come of how faithful He is. Which I forgot momentarily (amnesia again) last week when my extended family entered into crisis mode, but I think remembering that faithfulness is part of the reason I think I had it on my heart to share with you today.