My superhero offered today to teach everyone! I laughingly thought, what will I do with that kind of spare time on a Wednesday morning? The last laugh was definitely on me. It is amazing how much managing a house requires. Not teaching school meant that there was more time to fold a load of clothes, pick up after-breakfast dishes, respond to e-mails, make a phone call or two, and adjust school planners. This morning’s lil’ beef smokies tucked into crescent rolls was a big hit. In Texas, I guess this would be called a twist on a kolache (pronounced ‘ko-LAH-chee’), but where I’m originally from, we’d call it a pig (or in this case, cow)-in-a-blanket. I scored even bigger with chamomile tea; by 10 a.m., I’d started second cups for the kids. At least their stomachs will be calm today—now if I could find something to calm the rest of them down!
If it seems as if I’ve written about my husband’s activities while at home a lot lately, it’s because he’s been here for 4-1/2 months now. He was one of the 4-5 million unemployed as of last December. I’ve not shared his testimony until now in part because men tie so much of who they are into their jobs. I wanted him to feel comfortable with me sharing this testimony as I’ve gotten many lurkers! The other reason I’ve held onto it is because I wanted to give his trial, and to a larger extent, our family’s trial, its due diligence. With the “extra time” I had this morning (LOL), I thought I’d take a moment to document the hand of God on our lives.
My husband was laid off in one of the most employee-unfriendly manners I’ve ever witnessed. All employees were asked to be a part of a conference call, where the company announced the layoff. During this same phone call, they were all told after the announcement that there would be a second call, one hour later, for all employees to announce the specific jobs/people that would be released. Behind the scenes, those employees who were staying were called individually with good news so that the second call was, in essence, the immediate release of those to be laid off. Although the company did offer a severance package and some delay in cutoff of health benefits, there was no warning and no tie over of employment until such-and-such date. Half the sales force was—two phone calls later—unemployed. This was such a surprise until my husband had scheduled a lunch that day and had to cancel the lunch. Since the food had already been prepared and paid for, it became our lunch…and dinner (and several more lunches and dinners over the next few days). The salt in the proverbial wound was that all of this came 2-1/2 weeks before Christmas. Praise God, we had purchased most of what we planned for the kids in advance, but it meant changes to any plans we had for each other, and the annual fir tree was a splurge, bought with the kids’ enjoyment in mind.
I don’t write to evoke sympathy or pity from anyone; I am writing to tell someone about my God. We’d been through job losses before and so the layoff in and of itself didn’t impact us as much as the way it was done. However, whenever my husband was unemployed previously, I always worked a full-time job, and so admittedly, we didn’t have the same test of faith. Even after leaving the corporate world and beginning my full-time sahm/part-time employee lifestyle (the one I have now), we would always tell people that my husband’s job gave us a life; my job gave us a lifestyle. A “lifestyle” income will not replace a “life” income, and with the stories all around us of homelessness, poverty, etc., there was plenty of reason to fear. Even as a Christian, we live on this earth largely based upon what we can afford, and a limitation on your income can take away options pretty fast.
I wish I had time to tell all the small, individual testimonies, but I don’t. Nor will I be able to convey all my thoughts and emotions accurately in a written forum. I can only tell you that we were at a place of such peace with God until it was almost scary. My husband, one of few Christians amongst the group, would minister and encourage the other displaced employees in the Word. I remember one night, a female coworker, a single lady, called, crying hysterically. My husband prayed with her. I should also mention that my husband’s former employer offered to hire several employees back in a different division of the company—at a 40% reduction in pay. To make a long story short, this young lady took one of those jobs. We never heard from her again. I was so proud of the way he, while trying to hold himself up, encouraged people who only planned to be around while it benefited them. My husband has recalled laughingly the story of Joseph and the two prisoners who swore to remember him to Pharoah—that was before they were freed.
We have fared so much better than many during this season in our economy, but for sure we had our tests. The company car had to be returned, leaving us with one car. The severance was worth only six weeks of my husband’s wages, which is impossible to stretch out over 4 months. Unemployment in Texas is $392 per week—ouch. It was interesting, for lack of a better word, to see the response of the few people we did tell, primarily people at church who would have to cover for us as one car meant cutting back on our weekday presence. Concern manifests itself in many and strange ways, from being ignored (maybe so that we wouldn’t ask for a loan? ) to being treated as if you’d announced that you were dying of a terminal disease. I couldn’t organize my words to accurately portray the reaction of others, but it is truly an entry in itself. What I am now aware of, more than ever, is how much the people of God need to be reacquainted with who God is. It astonishes me that, when I’d talk about the Lord’s provision, or praise Him for our daily bread, the saints would attribute our attitude to a “nest egg” that we must have stored away, or some moment of happiness that exists outside of our Lord. Do we not believe that God is the great I AM? When He talks about the birds of the air not having to worry about anything, so neither should we, do we trust Him to do what He says He will do?
How the Lord carried us in these times is amazing. I’d never paid close attention to the life of evangelist George Mueller, but early in this trial I read a brief biography on him to our youngest. In reading it, I drew an immediate connection to the first part of a Veggie Tales movie we’ve watched repeatedly. He never asked people for money; he went to God, and God honored his faith. This was our testimony. We continued to tithe, even on our unemployment checks, in accordance with Malachi 3:10 and Luke 6:38. I received an increased number of teaching contracts. My husband got a bonus based his 4th quarter performance that he didn’t even know was coming. Unexpected monies came out of nowhere, in much the same way that I was able to bless another church worker a few months back. She never asked for anything and never shared that something was wrong, but her countenance on one Sunday said that there was a problem. For all I knew, it could have been health, it could have been a death of a loved one, or any other stress of life, but I took out a clean, crisp $100 bill to give her. I strolled off quickly, before she could realize what she had and attempt to return it. It felt so good to be able to give that money, and I found out later that her water was about to be turned off at her home. Another time we blessed a homeschooling family who’d just gotten into their new home when they found out that the husband would lose his job. What we gave was just what the family’s son needed for an upcoming missions trip. These were the blessings that returned in like kind, and because they were from people who didn’t know about the job loss, it was that much more special, and that much more like the Lord.
Short of the enemy trying to bring confusion, the superhero will start work in a new job on Monday. There’s still much to be done in the next few weeks/months. We’ll have to buy a second car after being spoiled for a number of years. Praise God for a car allowance. The salary isn’t what we had. Praise God, we don’t have a lot of debt to suck our paychecks dry, and He is already making a way. I think if there is anything that I’ve learned in this situation, it is a new revelation of the scripture James 1:2-4. I never really understood it before, but there really is a joy to a trial. God knows what we can bear, and He will never place more on us than we can stand up against. He is also gracious enough to walk with us through our storms, and He’s waiting on us to turn it over to Him, stop worrying, stop confessing the same things our unsaved friends confess, and watch Him move. Each trial is designed for our good; we are trusted with trouble (as I talked about months ago). I know others who’ve lost homes and much more, and I read all too often of those who’ve given up altogether and taken their lives and the lives of their families. Not everyone will last under the pressures of life. Isn’t it wonderful to have a friend like Jesus, who cares enough about what’s good for you (though it may not be good to you) to consistently help you grow and develop into what is best for you? Be blessed, my friends.