My final New Year’s Resolution this year is centered around the topic of finances, and I am excited to share with you some things I have read, learned and a great tool for managing your budget. But, before I get to the “practical” things, which I will do in my next post, I want to share with your our personal story on this topic.
Jon and I have been through quite a financial journey these last few years, going from a place of comfort and margin to a place of discomfort and a LOT of hard work to make ends meet. Please don’t misunderstand, we have lived completely comfortably by the world’s standard the entire time, but relative to what we had before Jon’s income changed due to the economic crash in 2009, it has been a long push for us to stay in our home and not incur debt.
Our story started in the fall four years ago, with the stock market crash. While one of his well-paying jobs disappeared overnight in Sept 2009, and the other took a large-pay cut, we continued on our existing budget and spending. This continued for about a year while we lived in denial of our financial circumstances. You see, our generation had never gone “backwards.” With our parents and ourselves, the forward movement of jobs and income had always been–forward. We did not know what a serious stock market crash looked like, and how it would affect our grocery budget. With that mindset, we thought, “Of course things will turn around!” Surely the airline Jon worked for would recover and he would go back to his previous pay and status. It didn’t happen, and we realized after a year that we had spent outside the truth of our income–we had not been living in financial reality.
Once we pulled our heads out of the sand, we decided to do the natural next step–pray for provision and work really hard to make ends meet. That had been our way of life for the first 10 years of our marriage, and we were going to go back to that, which meant Jon finding a second job again, and me going back to work. I was in the process of applying for jobs as a teacher again when another job literally fell in my lap–working for a friend at an orthopedic office. This was an incredible blessing because I could continue the tutoring I had started and work part-time at this job, coming home without any papers to grade or stress spilling over into home life (kudos to mom/teachers–you are saints!!!). We saw this as the clear provision we had begun to pray for.
Jon invested in another company and we set off into the next three years–a time when we would feel in the valley for much of the journey. This was not the life we had imagined–both of us working two jobs (I started working with another company from home during this time), making our budget but with no margin, less time for our family, for our kids. We wondered how long this would last? .
There were many “no’s” during this time. Jon’s second business struggled, my side-business moved forward slowly, and we tried to re-finance about 6 times with no luck for strange and un-explicable reasons. Finally, it happened, but not without hours and days of frustration, and so much time Jonathan put into the effort. Jon ran for President of the union at his airline, hoping to make some positive change there, and provide income for our family–and lost twice after showing great integrity and strength in the process. It was a difficult season.
We constantly re-evaluated our situation, should we move? Each year we seriously looked at this option, but we never felt God moving us that direction. We were continuing to keep our home open to hosting youth group and bible studies, renting out our basement to some wonderful single girls, and then a sweet family who found our home as a place that served a time and a purpose in their lives. He was using our home, and we hoped God would allow us to stay just another year. God did continue to provide–just enough, for us to remain.
Finally, at the end of 2013, just a few months ago, we made the decision (after months of processing) that it was time for me to leave my job at the orthopedic office for a variety of reasons–mainly that it was best for our family and kids for me to be home with them. This was a very difficult decision because it meant that we would most likely need to put our home on the market in the spring. We prayed constantly that God would give us courage and strength to make this decision when the time came to list our home. I personally asked God to help me let go, loosen my grip on the foundations that had been built in this place–the best friends to my kids that lived right next door, the familiar paths Jon and I took when we walked the dogs, the flowers and trees I had picked out and planted in our yard, the familiar faces that I waved to every day as I drove through our neighborhood.
I knew that wherever God led us, we would be OK…we would re-establish. But it was hard. And the hardest part was we weren’t feeling “called” to leave. It just looked like that on our financial spreadsheet. Trust me, God said.
In January of 2014, the same month I turned in my resignation at work, something just short of miraculous happened. Jon held a “line” at work for the first time in 4 years. Somehow, in the great airline Pythagorean Theorem, Jon’s seniority allowed him to move to a higher pay level. Just a fluke, we said. Then it happened again in February, and then this month in March. And…it looks like this might be the new norm going forward. The income Jon receives at this new pay level just replaces the income at my orthopedic job.
Really God? We can stay in our home for now? But of course, this is how He works. He asks us to let go, trust, take a step of faith. Then He provides. He either provides strength for the “move” whatever that may mean in our lives, or he fills the gap where we were striving so hard to fill ourselves.
Here are the lessons the past 4 years have taught me:
1. Be Grateful In Difficult Times— even when things seemed so frustrating and difficult, there was so much to be thankful for. Healthy kids, healthy marriage, jobs.
2. Patience— we didn’t know how long our “valley” would last. It lasted a lot longer than we wanted, that’s for sure. We had to trust that God was still in control, that he still had a plan, and that if we stayed in tune with Him we would be given direction and comfort even when there was no end in sight.
3. Provision— God provided the whole way. Whether through jobs, or people to rent our basement, or just giving us enough faith and fight for a little longer.
4. Perspective— We do not feel like “we are set!” going forward. If we have learned one thing through this journey, is that life throws us curve balls when we least expect it. No longer will we ride on the coat-tails of “continued prosperity,” but humbly accept that God is our provider and when life does shift–which it will–He will walk through that with us.
We will continue to keep our palms open to God’s plan for our life, and hold things loosely.
Thanks for reading our story–it has been in the making for a while.