That one time I thought I was all that but really it was God.
As they handed out sacks for a food pantry drive last Sunday, I remembered having thought a couple of times in the past year, we could probably use some help from the food pantry. At what point justifies asking for help? As it turns out God was pretty helpful, and by pretty helpful, I mean like really really a whole LOT.
This time two years ago, with my encouragement, my husband, Adam, decided to start a new career in finance. He said goodbye to a small but steady paycheck, unpleasant rotating 12 hour shifts, a terrible boss and 15 years of life as a police officer.
At this point we had been married for 6 months and it was clear we had some different ideas about money. I prioritize things like groceries and pocket money, even if it’s just a little bit. I hate feeling broke. Adam figured he could skip a few meals, and feeling broke, well, that’s how you keep from spending money. And who needs lunch when you could invest that extra $8 in Fundrise? He said on numerous occasions that you have to have money to budget, like it doesn’t work unless you’re flush with cash. To which I say, and have at long last won this argument, the less money you have the more important it is to have a budget.
Learning to do money together has been one of the most difficult, and when I say most difficult, I mean stressful, feeling like lying on the floor in the fetal position crying, things we have done as married people. My husband would tell you that we are great at budgeting together and that we are basically a rock star couple for how well we function financially. But he has a very selective memory. Adam also had a much lower standard of living and a smaller wardrobe before we got married. One of his coworkers says that guys need women because they’d all be happy living in a van under a bridge if left on their own. We do agree on several fundamental points, like the importance of generous giving, creating more income, paying off debt and investing for the future.
Three months post career transition, we had completed FPU, Adam qualified for a base salary and was bringing in steady commissions. We started to relax a little, thinking this little hump of a few months without extra cash was behind us. I do love the Lord’s discipline and this was like a little financial cleanse.
On June 9th, 2018, Adam received notice that his office was shutting down and he was immediately terminated. The very next day, I enrolled Adam and his daughter in my awesome Home Depot health plan and Adam had a new contract within a couple of weeks. Around the time of annual enrollment, Adam hadn’t really want to talk about health care. He preferred a high deductible plan with the assumption that we are pretty healthy people and don’t need to go to the doctor. I preferred the kind of health insurance plan where you just go to the doctor whenever you need to and don’t worry about the cost. In order to avoid conflict, he decided to just keep things separate. When I made the switch, it lowered the premium significantly. Six weeks later, when we were headed to the Children’s Mercy ER, I realized that Adam’s office suddenly shutting down was a tens-of-thousands of dollar gift from God.
Our daughter would spend the next three months in residential treatment for anorexia. I listened to other parents wrestling with decisions for their kid’s treatment based on what the insurance company would approve. A couple of weeks into her hospital stay, a nurse from Blue Cross called. I panicked for a minute, waiting for her to tell me that we owed a ton of money and prepare to pick up your kid. No, she was just calling to make sure we were connected to all of the resources we needed. At the end of the year our girl was home safe and our out of pocket was the max, $5000.
Budgeting with a spouse is tough work. When income is uneven and unpredictable, well, there could be ugly crying sometimes. Spring of 2019 was one of those times Adam went like 12 weeks without a commission check. I didn’t have a second income from the church. It was hard. We paired down to the essentials and even then, we were behind. Things had been feast and famine for a while, but this was an extended famine. Even still, we managed to pay all of our bills mostly on time, keep an emergency fund in savings and still afford to eat three meals a day without a food pantry pick up. I was feeling really good about my superior budgeting skills. I mean, ours. Together with Adam, not just me. Well, mostly me.
I had this moment of realization that maybe I might be taking a little too much credit for myself. Like, I pray every day that God would help us financially, and here I am thinking I’m the shit with my mad budgeting skillz. I told my lady pastor book club friends that Saturday morning, that I was realizing how much God had helped us and how grateful I am for a whole list of things. Like learning to budget with my husband, for instance.
That afternoon I was at the grocery store for my usual Saturday run for the week. I was doing the thing where you count how many dollars are in your basket before you get to the register so you don’t have to put stuff back when you run out of money. As I’m bagging groceries at check out this guy starts trying to swipe his card. And I’m like, “No, that’s mine.” I have my little cash envelope and I’m ready to empty it right then and there. I try to shew this guy away and all of a sudden I realize, he’s paying for my groceries. There are lots of days that I didn’t need any help, but this day, I really needed it. I was so emotional, I couldn’t look him in the face. In retrospect, I should have just started crying like I wanted to instead of trying to appear tough. Sniff… cough… super awkwardly bagging with my head down… To make it even more uncomfortable, his debit card was declined. I was too emotional to function. He pulled out a bunch of cash and covered my bill. I have no idea who he was and I wish so much that I could have expressed my extreme gratitude at his generosity. I wanted to introduce myself, get his name, but in my stupid act tough moment, I can’t even remember his face. I headed toward my car, shocked at what happened and so thankful. Apparently, this is what happens when you stop being dumb and trust in God.
Things have gotten much better. My husband is already, as I predicted, a leader in his field. We have enjoyed several budget meetings where we get to figure out how to use our extra money instead of how to make ends meet. Last week we paid my car off a year early. I doubt that I’ve learned this lesson about trusting God for the last time, but I’m sharing this in hopes that next time I’ll be telling stories about paying for other people’s stuff at the grocery store.