Friday, September 6, 2013

Living in Want in a World of Plenty and Depending on God

At this point, I don't care who reads this personal blog entry- if you want to judge me then go ahead! I challenge anyone to judge or look down on me.  I am tired of putting a phony outward appearance when inside I am fighting a spiritual and emotional battle. I am a blogger and ironically, I come across plenty of spiritually uplifting reading material which I review ( that I normally could never afford to actually purchase).  Two notable books, directly applicable to my situation came in the mail recently. These two books served as a springboard for me to pray and meditate about my current unemployed situation. One was about losing a job and the other was a Max Lucado book, "You'll Get Through This".

Its ironic that I received a book titled, "Why Did I Lose My Job if God Loves Me?" by Rick Pritikin- not only once but TWICE in the mail! I assume it was an error on the part of the publisher.  Maybe God was telling me that my initial reading was not sufficient- so I took the hint from God- hence this honest and intimate blog entry.  So I read the book a second time and decided to use the guided study questions as a springboard for my own honest journaling about the subject of being unemployed.

At this point I have been unemployed for a year.  And due to other circumstances that changed for the worse- very recently-  I am especially feeling the effects of not having an adequate income.  An interesting discussion question in the devotional book asked about shame and embarrassment related to unemployment.  The author urges his readers to reflect on everything- factors and situations that add to shame.  It was uncomfortable to consider this question as I could think of plenty of things; things that many people probably take for granted.  Going to the supermarket is one major shameful thing I must endure, for example.  Its hard to hold back the stinging tears as I go down the isles and see all the food I cannot afford.  When I consider that a bag of grapes or apples costs almost $5, and that I must limit my fresh fruits to one "splurge" per trip.  And yes, a bag of grapes is a splurge on my budget.  Its easy to stick to a short list of food when you just don't have money.  My list is simple and always includes the same basics. I've started to limit the foods I buy for myself to inexpensive basics like oatmeal and pasta in order to make sure I get the food my kids enjoy.  If I eat something other than peanut butter sandwiches, oatmeal or pasta I feel guilty- not because of the calories but because I know I need to save it for my kids. I sometimes feel like I have been transported into the world of the "Grapes of Wrath".   Fortunately I could stand to lose at least 20 lbs.  And I have finally been able to lose a couple of pounds.  TP is rationed, utilities and food are rationed- budgeting is just a matter of fact reality. Its how you have to live when you need to pay the rent.

My old run down twenty year old car is another difficult reminder- especially when it requires a costly age related repair. Once again going to the car repair shop its hard to hold back the tears to pay for a repair just to keep it running a few more months.  I don't have a steady income so there is no way I could afford a more reliable car. I wonder how everyone else has brand new cars- and its always a reminder.  I find myself alternating between thankfulness for a working car and the humiliation of driving an old car.  Its especially humiliating to drive to a job interview in such an old car.

Recently I was told I dress like a "hobo".  Its no surprise as I don't have money to go to the salon or the dentist much less buy any clothes.  My self  esteem is at an all time low, I must admit. I feel inferior about how I look. Between my old run down car and clothes- I didn't feel comfortable going anywhere.   For a while I was rotating between two pairs of jeans, frayed because the inseam was way too long.  Eventually- these five year old jeans were beyond repair and were tossed in the trash. I went digging in the basement and was fortunate to find a bag of old clothes from ten years ago- yet still in good wearable condition.  I am also fortunate to get hand me downs from my sister. Yet because I weigh at least 50 lbs more than my thin family the only things I can wear that they give me are their t-shirts, shoes and select items with elasticized waist bands. Nevertheless, I am fortunate that basically my entire wardrobe comes from my sister or I would have no clothes.  The last time I purchased clothes was two pairs of jeans from Goodwill during my pregnancy- and that was a splurge for me. I do some volunteering.  Volunteering is supposed to be a good thing but even that makes me feel pretty low when I pull up somewhere in my old junky car and my old clothes.  I wonder if this exercise revealed some flaws in my faith- a tendency for self pity, resentment and anger.  I now know some attitudes that I must pray about- to overcome.  I know areas where my faith is sometimes weak.

As  long as my two children have the clothes and shoes they need I am happy.  Last spring I started putting money aside - and I even sold some things- to get enough money to get them a  pair of sneakers- of their choice! By the end of August I had enough money for them to go to a sneaker store for real name brand sneakers- it was the first time in a long while that I didn't have to take them to payless.  I also got them other pieces of clothing and  supplies for school as well.  All this was paid with cash that I had set aside and saved since the spring.

I don't go out to eat at restaurants, or go to shows or vacations or salons.  I guess I don't do too many things that costs money.  We go to the park and the library and activities- girls scouts, soccer, boy scouts etc.  A trip to a fastfood place for nuggets and hamburgers is a rare luxury or going out for ice cream! Fast food is not cheap when on a budget but sometimes children do need a treat.

In this economy, I am not alone- it just seems that way sometimes when I see other peoples' cars, clothes, handbags, manicures and phones.  The unemployment rate in my state is about 9%.  And that figure includes only those receiving unemployment benefits.  That super deflated figure does not count those who exhausted their benefits or stopped looking or those who work at low minimum wage jobs. Also to consider are the numbers of foreclosures and the number of people on food stamps and other assistance. So I know there are many out there hurting more than I am. It feels so petty to feel so self centered.  Its just the simple, poignant reminders that get to me.  As I near the two year anniversary of my stillborn loss- a loss recognized by God, and largely deemed insignificant by society, I realized how fortunate I am in celebrating my baby.  Not only that, but my older perfect children. As far as my health- I am without health insurance, and haven't gone to the doctor for the longest time despite my condition.  Yet, I feel healthier than I have in 20 years. Emotionally and physically I have never felt as good as I do now.  My health is in God's hands.  I trust God with my health.  And just as I held on to my faith during my high risk pregnancy, I know that a lack of money or medical care will not interfere with God's plan for me.  I remember in my pregnancy I could not afford a $560 prescription medication that the doctor said I needed to sustain my pregnancy.  I prayed and depended on God, my lifeline- trusting that the fact I could not afford a certain medicine would in no way alter God's plan for my future.  After many shed tears, I left my unborn baby's health in God's hands knowing that life is a gift of God and not simply a product of how much money I had.  I have much to be thankful in this world where so many grieve over the loss of their children or babies. If faith does not pull a person through the difficult times, then what is the point of faith in God?

I hold fast to God's promises in the book of Matthew: 
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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