The past few weeks have been rough for us financially. Really rough. The Handy Man has not had any work lately, and the interviews of late have not yielded any results. We owe our mechanic money for fixing our new-to-us, twenty-year old Lincoln, and the phone bill will be due in a week. Thankfully all our other bills are paid. The challenge is filling the insatiable gas tanks of our vehicles and paying for groceries.
I try to be frugal in how I shop. We have put up some vegetables from other people’s gardens this year. Trim Healthy Mama food is essentially what we already eat, just configured differently. And we are on food stamps right now. I hate that part of our financial situation the most. It really bugs me. At the same time, it is really hard to stretch $400 a month to feed my family. I am grateful for it, but oh, do I have to be creative sometimes!
I have a Sam’s Club membership, and I go every 6-8 weeks to stock up on the things that I just cannot get cheaper else-where. Cheese, for example, has gotten ridiculously expensive. There was a time when I could get shredded cheese for $2.50 a pound, but not now. So, barring a great sale somewhere at one of my local (or not so local as the case may be) stores, I stock up at Sam’s. Butter is another expensive item, and we are a butter-consuming household. Boneless chicken breasts are generally a good deal there, as are almonds and vanilla extract. Today was stock-up day. It was also the day when I realized that although I have made a menu utilizing as much of my freezer and canned food as possible, there were simply things we would need in the next month that I would not be able to afford.
Today was also the first Thursday that the three youngest children and I spent with my father. Since my mother is working her long day on Thursdays, and since Gladys Mae has classes outside the home all day on Thursdays, it was the perfect match for us to go down and spend the day with Dad. Today we finished our school work by about 11:00, and I asked Dad if he was up to going to Sam’s Club with us. Boy, was he! We drove over to Sam’s…one of the perks of my parent’s location is having so many stores near them….and my father, whom my children call “Opa”, got into the electric wheel chair cart and off we went. The boys were each holding onto one side of Opa’s cart while Little Princess walked along side the chair and chattered his ear off. I got everything on my list, and as I plunked the last three items in the cart, my father asked me if that was everything. I told him it was. He pulled out his credit card and told me to hold onto that until the check-out. I told him that I was paying for my groceries, and he said that HE was paying…and it was obvious that he had his mind made up about it and that it would be useless for me to argue. I tried two more times to talk him out of it, but he insisted. The bill was $166. Daddy paid it without a second thought, and I thanked him with tears in my eyes. You see, now I knew that there will be enough grocery money to cover the rest of the month. The children and I went to Aldi on our way home and stocked up there, too, and now we are set for the next few weeks, except for the few things I will need at the produce store.
But the provision did not end there. Several weeks ago, I asked my mother if I could borrow my father’s car to drive to a wedding this weekend. Mom instead offered HER car…a fairly new Hyundai Accent. I had the lodging already figured out…my oldest childhood friend lives about an hour from the wedding venue. It worked for her family for us to come stay that night. I was so excited! And then I realized that we did not have the gas money for this trip. I told my mother that I did not think I would need her car after all, and I told her why. And then she astounded me. She asked how far the drive was, and she said she would pay for my gas. I am taking her car, and she is paying for my gas, so I can take Star Child and Little Princess to a wedding AND see my oldest childhood friend. Wow. What a picture of grace. Of course, the joke is sort of on me…..my mother is an avowed liberal, and her car is covered in Obama bumper stickers and a “We stand with Planned Parenthood” sticker. If you anything about me, you know that these things proclaim the opposite of what I stand for and how I would vote. It is really quite humorous, actually…..and it does not change the magnitude of my mother’s offering one bit.
How much does God love us? SO MUCH. I mean, really, He sent His son to live the perfect life we could not live in our place, to die the death we deserve in our place, and then he gives us the record of Jesus’ righteousness…as if WE were the ones who had lived obediently, as if we had never sinned. He gives us the car and pays for our gas. My mother is not a believer. She does not know Jesus and she classifies herself as agnostic. But God is pouring his grace through her to remind me that I am dearly loved and treasured….by my mother and by my Heavenly Father. What an amazing gift. So today, as we were trading car keys and talking about our trip to Sams and all the other details of the day, my mother pulled out her credit card. She said she knew she could trust me because of something that happened when I was 18 years old.
My Dutch grandmother passed away, and my parents had to go to Holland to settle her estate. They were gone a month, and I was left in charge of the house and my siblings, with my mom’s credit card and my parents’ checkbook. I had to pay the bills and make sure everyone was fed. It was a lot of responsibility. My mother has remembered all these years that I did not abuse the power I had been given. I kept every single receipt. I bought only what we needed. And so now, she had no qualms about handing over her credit card because she knows that I will be faithful to use it for what it is intended. It reminds me a Bible verse. Luke 16:10 says, “ He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” It is a lesson that I hope my children will absorb.
But that was not the end of today’s unexpected provision. We have some friends who have a milk cow. We help fund their cow’s feed and they give us milk. It works out to about $2 a gallon for really good raw milk. My friend does not have internet, and so she asked if I could order her some xylitol. I happened to have a bag on hand, and I suggested that we just barter for that instead of cash for the cow’s feed. She was happy with that arrangement, as was I, because it meant no money had to change hands, and I had a balance going into August. She asked me to get her some xylitol this week, and I had to tell her that I simply did not have enough money to order it, but that if she could pay for it, I would be happy to order her some more. She understood our situation and was happy to do that. Well, this evening, when we spoke about when I was coming to get the milk, she said she would have a check ready for me for both bags of xylitol. I told her that she did not owe me for the first bag because that was my barter for milk for July and part of August. Her reply was, “Oh, Andrea, I am not charging you for last month, and I am paying for both bags of xylitol.” As I sat around their kitchen table this evening and thanked them, she and her sweet husband said that they had had many years of want, and that they had had many people help them along the way. It was their pleasure to help us in that small way. God was providing once again through his saints.
I feel so much like the man who asked Jesus to heal his child of a the unclean spirit. His reply to Jesus when Jesus told him that everything is possible to him who believes was, ” I believe! Help thou my unbelief!” The last two weeks I have been telling God that I trust him, that WE trust Him. We have laid before him our needs in faith that He will answer, even though we have NO idea how He will do that. And all the while that I am believing God for a financial miracle, I have been railing at Him and asking Him, “WHERE ARE YOU? DO YOU EVEN HEAR US? DO YOU EVEN CARE?” I should know by now that He does. I should be confident, having seen Him do amazing, miraculous, GENEROUS things for us. I know God will provide, and yet, like a baby who cries when her mommy hides from her in peek-a-boo, I question and doubt that our Heavenly Father will actually come through again. Today was a love letter addressed to me, from my Father in Heaven, given through people…some who know and acknowledge Him, and some who do not. Maybe I will begin to get this. Maybe one day we will be on the other side and I will be begging to know Him like this again. Maybe there will be a time when I will not doubt. I hope so. I want to be so unshakable in my faith that nothing sways me.
Tonight I am just thankful that we have provision through this weekend. And tonight, that is enough.