Thursday, March 10, 2011

Standing Up (When You Should Just Sit Down)

We hear it all the time, don't we--"Stand up for yourself," "Stand up for what you believe in," and "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." We see "standing up" as a show of strength and character but "sitting down" as giving up, resigning to a lesser fate. And that message of our society resonates with our sinful, selfish hearts, doesn't it? It sure does, mine. I HATE to give in! What about you?

And yet God calls us to submit--to His Word, the government, employers, church leaders, husbands, parents, and even one another. This kind of submission sometimes requires us to simply sit down. If someone's opinion crosses yours, you don't have to let them know. Really. (I'm trying to convince myself of this--I know it's hard!)

In my reflections of growing up in the church, family, school, etc., in which I did, I sometimes feel like the emphasis was much more on the externals than truly having the right heart attitude inside. However, at times I'm more inclined to think maybe they tried, and I just didn't get it. One example is the illustration I heard dozens of times from the pastor of my church; to fully appreciate it, you must imagine a hard-faced preacher with a deep southern drawl:

"The boy's father kept telling him to sit down, and finally, the boy folded his arms, set his jaw, and plunked down onto the chair. He looked up at his dad and said, 'I may be sittin' down on the outside, but I'm standin' up on the inside!'"

Is that you? So many times, that truly is me. And the saddest part is, that most times, I feel like I'm good! After all, I am sitting down on the outside, aren't I?

Tuesday night was such an example. For the past couple weeks, I've been privileged to have some freelance writing gigs to bring in some extra money. (And if you've been following my posts at all, you know that finances have been a struggle for our family, particularly this past year.) The pay isn't great, to be honest, although I hope it will improve as I prove myself and get offered higher paying jobs and as I get faster at this kind of writing. Anyhow, it's taken up a lot of my time, and my family has suffered. House work has been lacking, since I've used nap time and after bedtime hours to do my writing instead of laundry and other tasks. But with my first deadline looming over me this week, I started working in the mornings, too, holing myself in our bedroom/baby nursery/office until lunch.

Jonathan and I had decided that pushing myself for these first projects was a wise idea, but it was clearly wearing on us both. I knew he liked the living area and kitchen tidy when he got home each night, but that just wasn't happening. And my new-found coupon habit was overtaking our kitchen table, which is an area he specifically likes kept neat.

Well, Tuesday, after lunch, I put the boys down for their naps and chose that brief, just-us time of day to mention that I had another longer gig come up, if I wanted it. But I needed his help a little more, with some housework, to make it all make sense. I thought this was reasonable, and it would be unwise to say no to extra work. But he said no! I sat down on the outside, meaning that I didn't argue with him or go against his wishes, but boy, was I standing up on the inside!

I didn't talk to him again before he left, and I'm sure he knew that I was fuming! The thoughts that ran through my head, the arguments for why his choice was foolish, just begged to be let out. I didn't let them, though, and I felt proud of myself for that. I tried repenting, but God and I both knew I wasn't sorry. How could I be--I was right! I finally got calmed down enough to straighten up before Jonathan came home. Still standing up on the inside, though, and hoping for a chance to state my case.

Before I had a chance, he said,"I've been thinking more about you taking on that work, and it's fine." He looked at me, the rims around his eyes growing red. "It's just that you have to spread it out more. I miss my best friend."

My heart just melted! What love!

He went on to explain,"I love our boys, and I don't mind doing more to help out, but I want to do it with you, not to have you gone the whole time that I'm home."

Okay, I was wanting him to be reasonable, but he was reasoning with his heart. To him, this issue was about our relationship, and he missed it. Why would I resist that kind of love?

How like our Heavenly Father! When we "sit down" to his will on the outside, but insist on our own way, we are so foolish! He doesn't just want outward submission; that isn't part of a close relationship. We have to truly sit down.

(Now I have to stand up and clear off this table, though, before my hubby gets home!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

He Meets Our Needs

Did any of you grow up hearing heart-warming stories about people in financial distress who had mysterious bags of groceries arrive just as they bowed their heads to "say grace" over a meal they didn't have? Or countless tales of anonymous donors putting "just enough money" on someone's school bill to let them come back another semester?

Growing up in an upper middle class home, as I heard those stories, a part of me ached to be in such desparate straits simply so I could see God's hand provide for me that way. Well, financial difficulties aren't as exciting as I once imagined, even when God does provide. But He is faithful.

I started this blog entry last night, not knowing what God would do today, but I'll leave you in suspense on that one--for now. :)

I don't want to get awkwardly personal here, so I won't mention amounts, just portions of my husband's pre-tax weekly income, so you at least understand the significance of the amounts. But to give you somewhat of an idea, we thought money was tight when Jonathan was a pastor, but he actually made the same amount (or close to it) that he does now, while also having a home and utilities provided. Amazing!

I've mentioned previously how God provided a job for me last spring that helped us buy our minivan for cash, so I won't go into details about that, here. Those blessings are still fresh in my mind, but since we left Gillet last June, here are some of the main ups and downs we've experienced, financially:
  • Jonathan found a job here in Madison within a week of looking in July.
  • He was led to believe he'd get a raise, about the time Joshua was due in October, meaning about an extra week's pay, each month.
  • With most apartments in Madison requiring a year's lease, we were glad to find a great sublet situation in which we got our first month's rent for free and only had to commit to a 5-month lease, starting in December. (We think God may have detoured us to Tucson just so we would wait for this apartment to come available!)
  • When Jonathan's raise still hadn't gone through, we neared the end of January wondering how we could possibly make our budget (yes, we really have one and keep track of receipts!) work. We decided it was impossible and increased our energy going toward applying for jobs for him around Madison, in addition to the church search.
  • We found a part-time nanny job listed on Craigslist, but that didn't turn out. We were asked to do some odd jobs for the family, though, which included clearing out a basement and removing many sallable goods. We were paid to do this and then sell the items and keep that money, too. (This amounted to an extra weeks' pay.)
  • To end January, we received a surprise check from a family member for about a half week's pay.
  • In February, Jonathan was able to put in some overtime, which was like getting another half week's pay.
  • After many attempts at finding legitimate freelance writing jobs, I received two inquiries within two days, last week. In another week, with commitments already in place, I will have made an extra half-week's pay.
  • The day after I received those jobs, we had to sign a 3-month lease extension, which would mean higher rent, starting in May (about 1/10 of a week's pay). That was discouraging, but less so with the writing jobs starting to come.
  • This past Sunday, it seemed like my writing money would be used for something not-so-savory: someone smashed the window of our van, requiring about 75% of a week's pay to fix it.
  • Monday we received notification in the mail that we would be receiving help for our utilities that would basically make up for the amount we paid to replace the window.
  • Today (drum roll, please!) we found out that we'll be getting money back from taxes, to the tune of about 10x's a week's pay!

It doesn't make sense that we're not in debt, we're nearly making budget, and we're about to have more in the bank than we did when we left Gillett. I'm not saying that to brag on us, but to praise my God who truly does provide!