My husband and I, both self-employed, started this year knowing that we needed a miracle. He had lost one of his biggest clients at the end of 2017 and it was uncertain how he was going to make up the shortfall in income.
January came and we wondered how we would survive. February, March, April. Still there was not enough to replace the gaping hole left by the lost client. Sitting down to prepare our monthly budget became an exercise I dreaded. Where was the money going to come from? When you’ve got kids, a mortgage and grocery bill that keeps expanding (either because of rising food prices or having to buy more things, I’m not sure which), it’s difficult to trim your budget. We analysed our spending to see if there was anything we could eliminate and where we could cut back, we did.
We also looked at ways to boost our income. Were there new projects we could do to bring in more bacon? We started applying for jobs, while my husband tendered for more work. My boys developed an interest in how much things cost and I wondered how our situation was affecting them. I was grateful that whenever we went shopping, they didn’t push to get something they wanted. They simply accepted it when I said no.
It was unfortunate that the timing of our financial trial coincided with the arrival of Hope, our foster daughter. She came to us at the end of February and we are so enjoying the unique quality she adds to our family. There have been times, though, where I’ve lost it when she’s thrown food on the floor (because how can she think of wasting chicken when it’s cost us so much to give it to her?) But thankfully, we now have a foster-care grant for Hope (a small miracle) and I’ve reminded myself that all babies will at some stage throw their food on the floor – they’re not being ungrateful. It’s perfectly normal, age-appropriate behaviour.
And I’m mindful of the fact that there has been light along the way. Family members have been supportive and kind to us, friends have blessed us with money for dates and spoils. A friend helped me start a creative writing group for homeschooled children, which I am loving. It has been one of the highlights of my year so far. She thought she’d get her kids and their friends interested in creative writing (and I’m hoping it has), but what it’s done for me is to get me planning a series of middle-grade fiction books that combine sci-fi and fantasy. Plus I have an ideal focus group to test my ideas out on. They know kids’ literature far better than I do and are full of great suggestions and insights. I’ve already told them I might steal one or two of their ideas!
The other comfort is that my husband and I still love each other; we’re still working through this trial together. We’re still trusting God for breakthrough. I was encouraged chatting to someone at a baby shower recently who told me that just as the rains suddenly arrived in Cape Town and Day Zero was averted, our “suddenly” would come too. I’m still looking forward to that day.
But as I wait, I’m learning to be thankful. I’ve realised there are so many people around us who are going through trials of their own. Someone in church who’s lost his wife of 30 years. Someone whose husband was hurt in a freak accident. Someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer. These are all severe trials, much greater than my own. Perhaps the humility that I’m learning in this valley is making more sensitive to the needs of others and less likely to judge them in the future. And that’s something to be thankful for, too.