Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time to Reflect

We never know what a year will hold. That is part of the excitment of ringing in a New Year. It's full of possibilities. But before looking forward, I think it's good to take a moment to look back and reflect on the blessings and lessons of the past year.

Looking back on 2008, I cannot help but be filled with gratitude. It was not necessarily an easy year but it was a year of growth in many areas for me. When The Man and I were led to take a closer look at our finances early in the year, we didn't fully understand the peace the steps we took to improve our finances would bring to our lives later this year. We didn't know that by the end of the year The Man would lose his job and spend three months unemployed. And when he lost his job we certainly didn't understand the scope of blessings that would come our way because of his unemployment.

A few weeks before The Man lost his job, I received a call from a lady at my church inviting me to join a small in home Bible study group for the Fall. The only explanation for her including me in that group is that she was prompted by God to do so. She and the other women in that group all belong to a different L.I.F.E class than I do at church. I knew all of these women casually but none of them very well. The study started a week before my husband lost his job and ended the week after he went to work as his new job. Those women prayed me, my family and my husband all the way through those three months. I could sit with them one morning a week and pour out my heart to them and they would listen and pray for me. And I did my best to return the favor for we all had our struggles and concerns over those 3 months. Those women are now my precious friends. I can't help but see God's hand all over this because not only did He provide me with these wonderful sisters to help me bear the burden of those three months, He also provided us with a study that applied directly to what I needed each and every week. He and I had some really wonderful talks during that study. He really opened up His word to me and filled me with a desire to give more of my time and energy to knowing Him and His word. He met me right where I needed Him. He always does.

Another blessing of the job loss was just having my husband at home. He worked many long hours at his old job and it had become increasingly demanding of his time. His days off weren't even days off anymore because of the constant phone calls he would receive. We had three months to just enjoy spending time together as a family. It was a blessing we did not take for granted. Baby Girl started school just before the job loss and I was feeling rather sad to be home alone. I was given a period of transition by having The Man home. That time off proved to be even more valuable when just over a week after the job loss my friend Stacey passed away. I didn't have to worry about finding someone to watch the kids. I didn't have to question whether or not it would even be possible for me to attend the services. That was never a burden. I was able to just go and say goodbye for now and pay my repects to her family. And again, in November, when my cousin's daugther passed away, I was able to just pack my bags and go be with my family. I never had to worry about my kids because daddy was home to take care of them.

We were also surrounded by the love and prayers of family and friends during that period of unemployment. We were frequently checked in on by those near and dear to us. We received phone calls from numerous people offering job ideas, contact names and even contacting people on The Man's behalf. And others, who had gone through unemployment before, extended an ear and offered words of encouragement. We got to go and spend time with my parents and grandmother in the mountains as well. Their trip was already planned and since The Man was free we were able to join them over Fall Break. Those opportunities don't come along often and we really enjoyed our time. And as I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post, we got to spend Thanksgiving together as a family for the first time. My husband always had to work on Thanksgiving at his old job. This year he was free to be with us. What a thrill!

We also learned just how we really could live with less. It was hard saying no to karate for Sister Girl and ballet for Baby Girl but we did and they weren't too upset about it. We continued to refine our money saving skills that we'd been working on for most of the year. I learned that I could cut the grocery budget even more and we would still have an abundance of food with careful and skillful shopping. In fact, just a few days after the job loss, I received my referral bonus for The Grocery Game list I use for my grocery shopping and do not have to pay for the service again until January 4th. I was able to sell just enough of the girls' outgrown clothes to purchase what they needed for this year. And I learned that it was really okay and honestly quite enjoyable to live this way.

After just three months, The Man received a job offer. We realize just what a huge blessing this is. We realize that so many others have to endure much longer periods of unemployment and much greater financial hardship. We watched the unemployment numbers climb, we watched the stock market decline, and we personally experienced the replies to resume submittals dry up. As it was so clearly put to The Man as he was speaking on the phone with a recruiter, he was one of many. If he hadn't already begun the month long interviewing process for the job he received, we feel it was quite possible the period of unemployment would have been much longer. But it wasn't. God provided for us in His perfect timing and we are immensely grateful.

Yes, 2008 was a challenging year for us but in so many ways it was a wonderful year. We watched our children grow and experience new things. We spent lots of wonderful times together as a family. We learned that we could make sacrifices and live with less and it was okay. We learned to receive the love and support from others during a time when we needed it and that it was okay to be on the receiving end. I was reminded that it's always hard to say goodbye to someone you love but when you have the hope of seeing them again it becomes more bearable. And we were reminded, once again, that God is faithful. He meets us where we are. He is enough.

I go into 2009 carrying the words He gave me during my time of study this Fall. These are words I will treasure in my heart always.

From the book Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss,
"Dear Child of God, your heavenly Father will never lead you anywhere that His grace will not sustain you. He will never place more upon you than He will give you grace to bear. When the path before you seems hopelessly long, take heart. Lift up our eyes. Look ahead to that day when all suffering will be over. And remember that when you stand before Him, all the tears and sorrows of a lifetime will seem dim in comparison with the beauty and glory of His face. Without a doubt, you will say, "His amazing grace has brought me safely home."
And from 2 Corinthians 12:9:
9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Wishing God's blessing upon you all, dear friends, in 2009.

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