Friday, December 3, 2010

My Christmas Gift


God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

To explain how wonderful the gift will be, you need to know some history. About three and half years ago—I cannot believe it has been that long!—our income began spiraling downward with a series of events.

The Injury
It began with an injury while on vacation that put my husband on short term medical leave. We were paid 60 percent of his base pay, when we have always had overtime because of the nature of his work, so that meant more like 35 percent of his typically take home. That was doable for four months.

The Call to Downsize
My husband began working again with overtime and all, but I felt a call to downsize our life and expenses. I also had been feeling a push to get out of debt, but it was not until then that my husband felt it as well. However, the first week of December, about two months after coming back to work and right after selling our nice conversion van for what was to be beater minivan for around town, my husband lost his job and the company car. (He always had driven a company car even before we were married so this was a big change.)

God Provided Severance Pay
This story reminds me of HeeHaw's "Oh, that's bad. No, that's good because...." The company was downsizing also and they were looking for ways to fire people so they did not have to pay severance pay. They would have done the same with my husband, except that for nearly five months of the time covered in his mid year evaluation, he was on medical leave. We all knew that if they fired him on performance, we could have sued and won more than if the company paid the weeks of severance, so they called it a lay-off and paid the severance.

Our Downsizing Paid Off
All of a sudden we were living off of his base pay without overtime and no health insurance for a set number of weeks. My Lord, though, was in it all. We had made enough from the sale of the conversion van to not only pay in cash for the mini-van, but also repairs for the mini-van and the pay-off a 401K loan that was due within so many days of losing one's job. It is amazing how the Lord works things out like that!

A Promise Fulfilled
I spent much time in prayer and fasting during those days, begging my Lord for a job before the severance run out. My husband knew afterward that his former boss would be working for another company in a few months and that he would hire him, but it would be likely it would be weeks after the severance ran out. However, the Lord told me he would get a job with a that company before the severance ran out but he would not be hired by his former boss. As the last of the severance was being spent, my husband was offered a job by another manager in that company, a job for which he had not even applied!

A Smoother Ride?
You would think I would have more faith in God when things like that happen and I do...at least, until the next thing rolls around. (Well, that is probably the most honest thing to which I have confessed!) Being a Christian is not always a smooth ride; sometimes it is like on a roller coaster with all the thrills and chills of the unknown, leveling off slowing down toward the end which is almost a let down so the very first thing one says is let's do that again! (Or let's never do that again.) Either way the ride is has now some familiarity and you know you can do it, but there is another roller coaster with its unknowns just waiting for you.

More Downsizing
The job made only about 60 percent of what he used to make but we could get by and still pay off our credit card debt slowly. However, two years ago the company cut salaries incrementally and at my husband's level that meant five percent (for the CEO that was 20 percent). I was thankful the company was being cautious and fair and that they were working at the best solution to keep employees, so I sucked in a breath and tightened our budget belt even more.

Last Year's Gift
Because the company did well last year, they gave back the five percent in a lump sum and small bonuses too, which was such a nice surprise! However, staying on the side of caution with the economy, they did not reinstate regular pay and there were no raises. My husband was even promoted in February nearly a year ago and he did not get a raise for that either.

The Double Tithe Commitment
As you know, right after the 40-day fast in July and August, we made a commitment to our church to double our regular tithe in giving 20 percent for six months, which started in September. Since all this began we have had more things break than we can afford to fix: Our front porch was about to fall down and still has no railings. Our refrigerator door handle broke off. Our van began leaking oil and obviously needed repairs. The trim on our house on the south side has big round holes in it (we have no idea why yet). Our oven stopped working. Our computers have been having all kinds of problems. We can now add one more as last night our dishwasher began to make a strange noise.

The Mortgage
I want you to understand that it is not that my husband does not make a good enough salary, it is that our mortgage is based on what he used to make, with all that overtime. So the mortgage and just our regular ten percent to the church is just shy of being half of his take home pay (with taxes and health insurance taken out). We could not qualify for a loan like that right now because of the change in income, but because of the falling house values, we could not refinance either. We were stuck with this out of proportion mortgage. Taking another ten percent to give to our church has not out of our excess, it has come out of our necessities.

My Financial Meltdown
Then, I had what will be historically remembered as My Financial Meltdown of 2010 some days ago. It was triggered by my husband when he asked what else we would be getting the Princess for Christmas...I, at first, just stared at him incredulously, then came the tears, and then I began to rage about how he may be too far removed from the actual managing of the money to realize that we have nothing more for Christmas gifts (we had already gotten a few things). In fact, I was not even sure we could afford a tree at that point. Not having a real Christmas tree...that was the worst of the worst. That was the one thing we did even when money was tight. It was our tradition. We were actually thinking of borrowing an artificial tree!

The Very Next Day...
Before 24 hours had passed, I was completely embarrassed for my lack of faith the day before. My husband received an email from his company with some very good news! Again my husband's company did well and this time they are going to reinstate regular pay levels, as well as raises (although we do not know what that means, if anything, with his promotion yet) and bonuses. It all sounds so good, so close we can almost touch it, so real we can almost spend it, but it looks like we have to get through December first and that is the really difficult part.

Refinancing the Mortgage
A few weeks ago, my husband looked into refinancing our mortgages...yes, we have two. Although house values are really down in our area, and when I say this you need to understand that our county was in the top ten in the nation for growth in housing and now is one of the top counties for foreclosures. However, we had a fifteen year mortgage, which mean we have been paying a substantial amount on the principle, while we have been waiting for the figures to work in our favor for refinancing and the good news is the house seems to be assessed and we have been conditionally approved for exactly what we need. This refinance means we will pay only $6,000 more in interest over the life of the loan (if we do not pay it off early) than we would pay on the two as they are now. However, this also frees up $6,000 a year for us and we could be out of debt in a year or so and working on saving for another vehicle.

It Costs Money to Save Money
While I was happy dancing just before Thanksgiving about all this news and I am very grateful, as roller-coasters go, there is a down after the up and our down is that we have to pay out money to get the refinancing. We got hit with the first part of that this week and so...

Waiting for the Promised Gifts
We have learned that very good things are coming, but we have to wait for them. The refinancing will take two or three more months. The salary adjustments and bonuses will mostly likely be after Christmas. In the meantime, we basically have no money. All that comes in, at this point, is already spent for the church, mortgage, bills, and a bit of perishable foods; thankfully, I do have a well stocked pantry right now.

My Struggle
The reason I am writing this out is not for you to feel sorry for me, but for you to understand how much I have struggled in trusting the Lord through all of this even though I know He does reward the faithful by providing for their needs. I felt the Lord has been telling me that we shall be fine. That next year will be a bit easier. However, I am also not seeing much on the finances easing up for our church. In fact, last month we met only about half of the budget. We have four months to go on our commitment to double tithe and I am wondering if the Lord is asking us to extend our commitment longer instead of paying off our debt. It is difficult to know what to do. Is it possible to do both?

~ My Lord, thank you for this Christmas gift. May we honor you with it and seek to do Your will with all You provide for us. ~

5 comments:

  1. It is hard to trust blindly. Liddy has been dancing this jig too so I know the roller coaster feeling ~ all. too. well!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ahhh well dear, when you get anxious, just remember what's ahead! It must be such a comfort to know that there is financial relief just around the corner... and maybe that is why the Lord let you know that it is coming. He could have just kept it all under wraps and made you slog along on trust, but He didn't! He gave you a glimpse of what was ahead so that it would be easier to hang in there through these last few difficult weeks. He is so good♥

    And if you want to know my opinion on the double tithing thang... I think you should leave it up to your husband. And when I say leave it up to him, I mean really truly let him decide with absolutely no chatter, or convincing or manipulation by you (and hey, we're both girls here, so let's be honest. It's wayyy too easy to manipulate men into doing what we think is best sometimes, right? ;-})
    And if you don't want to know my opinion, then just ignore that last bit, ok? ♥

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you both.

    Persuaded, I tried to call you today. There are many things that have been happening not been posted here and last night my latest hard drive that I just had half way set up was hit with yet another malware virus and I had to restore it losing hours of work in settings and loading programs. I have just been moping around most of the day, but I did find a free program that may have taken care of it...I am hoping.

    As to my husband, our marriage is a very, very good one. I don't manipulate that man--NO one does! Besides, there is no need because we have mutual trust and good communication. He wants to know what I am thinking and he weighs my opinion before making a decision, but there are times when emotions just get the best of one of us and this time it was me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Linda.. I wondered if that was you! Girl next time leave a message and I'll call ya back:-D

    And I never doubted for a moment that your marriage was anything less than wonderful... knowing you, how could it be anything else? I'm sure the two of you will come up with the right decision about the tithing (and like I said, ignore that last bit of my previous comment;-})

    ReplyDelete
  5. Persuaded, it just rang and rang. I did not get the voice mail. Please do not hold back on advising me. I appreciate you caring so much, but just where were you about twenty-five years ago when I REALLY needed this bit? ;) Love ya! The double tithing is not really the problem...I believe that is what God is calling us to do. However, it requires us to be very frugal and in that arena, my husband and I have some differences in our spending habits, but if it is the Lord's calling and it all is His money, then He will provide so we can get through it.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.