Well, September got away from me and October has nearly done the same. Life has been busy to say the least and this new road is a little harder to travel than I expected. I’m still not use to how quiet my house is and sometimes that quietness can get the best (or perhaps I should say worst) of me. I have struggled with depression most of my life and when it is quiet it is harder to battle, harder to distract. Add to that financial struggles and it becomes like quick sand pulling me back into that proverbial pit I can so easily fall into. One would think, or at least I did that having only one child in my house and the bills would lessen. I suppose a lot of them did, but add three months of overage on the cells (still not sure how we managed that) and the same three months of an ever increasing water bill (it literally quadrupled before I found the problem!) and things get a lot crazy!
Confession time here, I have never been very good with my checkbook. For over two decades I have tried to take care of four children, solely by myself – one income, NO child support. So, as you can imagine; we lived paycheck to paycheck and often had to get creative to do it. I have robbed Peter to pay Paul more times than I would like to admit. Well, I am here to confess that for the second time in my life that stopped working too. Because you see… it is a bit hard to rob from Peter (the nice guy that he is) if he doesn’t have any money either! You can only get so creative, stretch and move what little money is there before it just doesn’t work anymore and as the expression goes (pardon me) but the SH*T hits the fan!
Nearly one month ago, when I would have liked to be writing a fun and witty entry for September I was battling for control of this thing I call my life. I was in over my head and needed to stop the insanity that was continuing to be a part of how I was handling my finances. You know the definition of insanity right? Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. I was the queen of that little world once again and it is one crown I would rather not continue to wear. I was in crisis mode more so that I had been about 10 or so years ago. I had multiple disconnect notices, my overdraft protection was no longer in effect, which in itself was actually a good thing. Because as hard as I tried to rationalize having to pay an extra $30.00 here and there, it was becoming the norm and I was only falling deeper into the pit.
Fortunately, God has surrounded me with some pretty amazing people and has showed His continued love and provision for me and my family by allowing the funds to be made available to me to take care of the first disconnect notice, thus allowing me to feel “safe” for the moment. And as I tried to see what I had to do next… tried to plan my attack, I was blind swiped (which I actually should have seen coming) and the walls just kept crumbling down. One week to the day after the first hit, I came home to find a small amount of groceries on my door step, which included a couple gift cards to purchase more groceries. As I entered my house with tears of joy, I fell to my knees to thank God for this thoughtful gift. I moved to the kitchen and flipped the light switch, nothing happened, let me repeat, NOTHING happened. I was now on my knees once again, weeping because the electricity had most certainly been shut off. Al I could think was how much I knew the bill was how much it was going to cost to be turned back on. I was overwhelmed with a nearly paralyzing fear; yet just like in early recovery when God made my love for my children just a little more important than my desire to drink. Today, my trust and faith in Him is a little bit bigger than the fear of what the evil one throws my way.
So I took out my phone and called the power company, just as I thought it was going to be a lot more than I could come up with to take care of just getting my power turned back on, especially if I wanted to do so that evening. I couldn’t rationalize asking someone to not only help me pay the bill but to also pay the reconnect fee, an EXTRA fee for after hours reconnection so I decided I would find a place for my daughter and I to stay, and I would go from there. Next I sent what was basically a 911 text to a couple people explaining what had occurred and asking for a place to stay that night. Within minutes, I had a reply that I most certainly had a warm bed to sleep in that night and we would address the rest in the morning. This was on a Wednesday and I was in pretty bad shape emotionally but duty calls and off to church I must go. But it was also exactly what I needed, as not only was it a distraction for a couple hours, but it was a gentle reminder of the loving God I serve. He allowed me to feel His comfort and grace all evening long.
After Awana, I returned home, flashlight in tow and grabbed what we needed from the house and headed to our sanctuary for the evening. After a nice bedtime snack, we tucked my daughter in and then spent some time in quiet conversation. I am so glad that God has placed the people in my lives that He has. It is such a comfort to have a conversation with someone and not feel judged, to not feel belittled, but to instead be given encouragement and guidance. I went to bed that evening drained of everything, including worry. There was nothing left, He had removed it all so that I could rest and be ready for the new day that would follow. I got up the next morning, actually ate a hot breakfast (such a novel idea) and was off to work. I followed up with the person directly involved with helping me get my power turned back on, to see what needed to be done. I had to have someone go over and turn my breaker off, or they could not turn my power back on. At lunch I ran home and let out a sigh of relief and uttered a BIG thank you to the good Lord above as I had electricity once again.
So, once again God had graciously provided for me. However this time, He also provided the opportunity for me to make some changes in how I was managing my financial life. He was making it possible for me to learn how to stop the insanity! It was an unwritten understanding that with the help I was receiving this time that I would become accountable for what was occurring in my financial life and given some direction for the steps that would need to be taken. So I went through all my bills and made a list of each one, amount owed and how far I was behind; I am saddened to say that there is not one bill that didn’t meet the later criteria. I was behind on everything, multiple months in some. I can blame (and have) the serious of unfortunate events that occurred in my life since last March for my situation; however that would not be entirely true. The truth of the matter is, I don’t know how to manage my money – but I’m learning. I have never had a budget and paying bills on time, so as to not occur a late fee is foreign to me. I have never had a plan of any sort, occasionally I would think about what was coming up… but most often it was the afterthought of “how the heck am I going to get that paid”. I’m here to tell you that is no way to live. I repeat, NO WAY to live.
I spent that first week doing one of the hardest parts, picking up the phone and talking to people, telling them what was going on in the wreck I called my financial life. I apologized for not reaching out sooner and being honest about my situation. More people than not were understanding and thanked me for my honesty and willingness to see the severity of some of the situations. One person had just 2 weeks before said point blank “I am no longer interested in working with you, you have “X” amount of days to take care of this or else” was now saying, OK, what can you do today and how long do you need to take care of it? WOW! Talk about a God-thing! I approached my employer about my situation and they graciously provided me with some extra hours each week through the end of the year. Instead of working a second job at minimum wage, I am now working overtime. You do the math… can I hear a Halleluiah? 🙂
I was not able to make one call, to contact one place that I owed money too and it became a legal situation. I was extremely worried about it and did a lot of praying over the situation and what should be done. It was coming down to a given deadline and I just didn’t know what I was going to do. I have had it rough at times; but God has always provided for me, He has always ensured that our basic needs were met. I knew this was outside what counted as a basic need and was instead a screaming numerical statement of my insanity at its best. I kept praying and asking God what I should do, I couldn’t ask any of the people I normally turn to because they were already doing so much, but I had to do something. And that was exactly what this particular situation was about, my action in the matter. I often tell people, mostly my family that prayer is action. You can’t just say, here it is God, please fix it. More often than not you need to ask Him how He wants you to fix it… what you need to do to help yourself. So on Thursday of that week, with the deadline being Monday just four days away I found myself calling the one person I would never had dreamed I would call. We had a very pleasant conversation and this person asked if things were any better. She was aware of the turmoil I was going through, or at least what I was willing to share. When I get in the really deep part of the pit, I don’t do real well in the conversation department. I have a bad habit of pulling out old masks and putting on the pretense that even if it’s not OK, it will be… eventually, maybe. Not. So on this day, through the period of a 20 minutes conversation, she inquired not once but twice if I needed anything, if there was anything else… giving me permission to ask, to ask for help when it was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. I was independent and strong and I didn’t need help… but I did and my pride almost got the best of me. So I asked, I asked for the money needed to keep me from further legal financial hardships and she said yes. She said yes within moments and even went the extra mile to make sure it was all taken care of in a timely fashion. I told her I would pay her back that very next week when I got paid, to which she said no. She said NO, I needed to take care of everything else first. Then when I was caught up, I could pay the money back. Talk about God at work, indeed.
That was a couple weeks ago and I now with great effort make sure I pick up the phone and call this person every week, allowing them to be a part of my world again. The relationship just feels different these days, but a lot of things do. After two weeks of meeting with my accountability partner, starting the Financial Peace program, I am empowered and without fear. For nearly all my life I have been overwhelmed with fear of how I was going to make ends meet. By God’s provision and grace we always had what we needed and sometimes even a few wants were met. Today, I am not afraid, instead of worrying about how I am going to pay my bills; I have a PLAN of how I am going to pay my bills. I sort of feel like I did when I was in early recovery, I’m on fire to make this happen, to change my life for the better! I have started my debt snowball and am working on savings too! I don’t freak out when there is a bill in the mail. I actually look at it, and see when it is due. Such a novel but new approach for me. 😉
I also got back into my daily devotional this past month and even pulled out my old NLT version Life Recovery bible to look up the verses and passages. My poor money management is not an addiction, but it is a bad habit I learned while in my addictive lifestyle and I can’t break this pattern without doing some hard work. It has been such a comfort to read the Word and have these examples of better living, breaking old habits and becoming a new creation in Christ right there in the mix. Once again I am moving forward by admitting my weakness and allowing God to help me through it with His strength. The other remarkable thing that is happening as I embark on this new journey is how my children have embraced the situation. My oldest daughter has helped me a bit financially which was such a kind and thoughtful gesture. My son has helped also and was very encouraging when he was home for fall break this past weekend. The second night of meeting to watch the FP video, my youngest left the sweetest note for me, reminding me that GOD IS BIGGER. My middle daughter too, wrote me a note, including encouraging verses from the Word. Talk about the feeling it gives you when your children are lifting you up with encouragement and prayer. It makes my heart smile as I brush away a few tears of joy.
So once again, like I have at many times in my life I will thank God for my struggles, it is making me stronger. It is making me a better example to my children, teaching them not just how to live; but how to LIVE! Last March when the estimate for the repairs on my vehicle was $8000, after the initial shock and a few tears, I simply wrote on a piece of paper, “My God is Bigger than $8000” and He was! Today He is still bigger than any dollar amount I can imagine. And with time and effort, even though I traveled through a series of most unfortunate events, I will arrive at my final destination, known as peace.
Until the next moment,