Ever hear of UPRR? Let me phrase that differently; ever have a surprise (good surprise) fall at your doorstep the moment you needed it most? This, perhaps, is the most accurate way to describe our year.
What began as a great adventure, moving south and widening our wealth of relationships, quickly turned literally south with the onset of a world-wide financial crisis and closer-to-home banking catastrophe. Here we were, living far from ‘home’ and family, in a house we had no chance of selling, facing the indiscriminate potential of job lay-offs, in a town that revolves around the bank industry. To use the term Hopeless was inadequate, to say the least. And although Bob surfaced from the initial firestorm unscathed, our income did not. Banking became the new pariah profession and the word ‘bonus’ America’s archenemy.
Never mind the average, never-saw-the-initials-MIL-on-their-paycheck Banker’s salary is part bonus; similar in structure to the commission a salesman receives. (ok…I’m sorry…I just had to do it. Please forgive me, I will get off this soap box I tripped over…)
Anywho…we quickly reevaluated life, our budget, our spending habits, my work potential and laid everything before the Lord. This passage, from the NIV commentary on Haggai, became our mode of operation.
“Experience of hardship should always become opportunities for spiritual reflection in our lives, turning us heavenward to ask hard questions. The various psalms of disorientation in the Psalter encourage us to ask God about the hardships that enter our lives. These questions are not expressions of rebellion, but rather the honest voice of a child reliant on a parent. Such questions, however, should be accompanied by questions directed inward as we ask God to search us for those areas that do not reflect the priorities of the kingdom.”
And there was, quite frankly, a certain amount of repentance necessary. We had become careless, ‘self’ rather than ‘other’ focused, unwise. We needed to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and re center our lives, particularly our financial lives.
Unfortunately, try as we might, we could not slim down or skim enough of our financial commitments to fit into our new pay scale. We came up short. So I dutifully set to working on a resume; something I have never had to do before! And with good reason…there was SO LITTLE I could put on it! The bulk of it was filled with unpaid self-employed entrepreneurial endeavors and volunteer experience. I’ve never even brought home a paycheck! Well, ok, there was that one year when I worked at Lord & Taylor. But those paychecks inevitably came home in a beautiful ‘LT’ engraved shopping bag.
By what seemed like immediate grace of God pouring down on us, two potential job opportunities appeared! And immediately both opportunities disappeared. No positions in my skill set emerged on the daily onset of job listing email I requested and, short of posting my silly lil resume on the Internet, I backed off. Apparently a job for me was not the way God intended to provide.
My mission became finding ways to trim wherever I could. I sold some things on Craigslist, started menu planning and shopping sales with coupons. Coupons became my best friend, I regularly had to GO BACK home because I forgot them and fogettabout paying full price!
To no avail. We were still short.
I have to admit my faith faltered. I believed that God would provide, yet not seeing how that would happen left me lost; I incorrectly thought success in this situation would need to be my hard work. God would necessarily need to work through me to produce His provision.
I questioned everything. “Why did we move here?” “Why did we move from our old house?!” “Why did we buy THIS house?” “What should we have done differently, and how do we change it now?”
And then it happened. God moved. And let me tell you, God moves in thee most mysterious ways! Apparently our relocation messed up our taxes the previous year in a big way. Now, here’s the punch line; God used the IRS to get us closer to a balanced budget. Go figure.
…and UPRR? Well, I’m hear to tell you that there really are (as you hear about on infomercials) people who have Unclaimed Property out there; and we are one of them!
Before ya’ll run to your cell phones to see about getting in on our newfound riches you must know that yes, God has provided for us greatly and blessed us beyond measure. And part of the joy we find in this, and the way we give Him glory, is that He has given us exactly what we need (no more, no less).
While I contemplate my answers for the “Collecting Data” portion of Counseling the Incompetent Counselor I am reminded of how God moved mightily in our previous situation. It causes me to ponder how, instead of me again putting on a ‘pull-up-your-bootstraps’ mentality (this time for discipline and motivation), God would instead change my heart. And in an effort to discover this process I am supplementing Counseling with How to Help People Change, by Jay Adams.
The first step in producing the heart change that God requires is, as author and Pastor Jay Adams says, “an awareness of God’s requirements.”
To be continued….