So, Hugh survives another layoff. The fifth in five years. On the day we choose to fast for him, we receive this news, and are awestruck by God’s timing. Surviving another layoff has become a frequent enough occurrence that it’s not surprising, but the fact that we were fasting for him made this victory seem especially poignant.
But we weren’t out of the woods yet. A giant energy bill plus a little bit of this and that had eaten away at our money and we were terribly strapped. And I was terribly afraid. I had seen enough of God’s work to know that we, somehow, would be ok, but I still felt like I was living in a tourniquet.
But there was a light in the form of my husband’s parents, who were coming to visit. Generous, kind, devoted people who love their son and his family dearly. A visit from them meant gifts for the children, shopping, a dinner out. Time to forget our problems for a day or two. I had hopes that maybe we could fulfill some family needs through their generosity too.
Part of me hated myself for feeling that way. For feeling dependent. For feeling desperate.
My super sweet mother in law called me from a Publix in Georgia to ask me what I needed…if there was anything she could bring us, anything I would like that I don’t normally buy. I panicked…I hadn’t thought about it. I had thought we might go shopping while we were down there together. She was in the laundry aisle. I had started making homemade laundry detergent and I had a TON, plus ingredients to make more after the huge 5 gallon bucket ran out in oh, a year or so. I wish I had said Woolite…anything! I stuttered and finally asked for Downy Unstoppables because Amy Sedaris was in a commercial for them. Basically perfumed laundry pellets, like fabric softener. That’s something I’d probably NEVER buy for myself!
I finally told her I couldn’t think…but diapers, wipes, toilet paper and paper towels would work great. Always helpful.
I had just started taking thyroid medicine a few days before to help boost my sluggish metabolism. It was to be taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. The day my in-laws arrived though, I had taken it later in the day, which was a mistake. I soon found myself consumed with severe anxiety, which is a side effect of the medication. They came, bearing gifts of household goods, and I was grateful, but also full of nerves. There was dread climbing up my skin, speeding up my heart, nagging me in my brain. It’s hard to describe when you are not in the middle of it…but if felt as though the inside of my body was trying to commit suicide by jumping out of my skin, and it couldn’t make it through.
Besides the diapers, wipes, toilet paper, and paper towels there were several packages of pasta, and a picnic pack of ketchup, mustard, and relish. I started to hyperventilate. Describing this sounds ridiculous…but I had a brand new bottle of ketchup in the pantry, and here were two more. I didn’t need ketchup, and all I could think was that it was $12 or so that could have been spent on something else. My best friend put it best…”When you are crying about ketchup, you know you are down and out.”
I tell this story not just to highlight my anxiety and just how bad the stress had gotten to me, but to show the insidious nature of fear. I was so afraid that I could not appreciate the gifts in front of me because they were “wrong.” My fear took the form of control. I had specific ideas about where my blessings needed to come from and when they did not take that form I began to feel crazed. I ran upstairs and cried for several minutes. Over ketchup.
I finally steeled myself and we went out to dinner, at my insistence to Bob Evans because that Labor Day weekend kids ate free with a coupon. I was going to do my part. If I couldn’t pay for the meal at least I would provide a COUPON! And after dinner my husband revealed to me a piece of news that made my foolish weeping seem almost clownish.
Hugh’s parents not only brought toys for the kids, and household necessities. They also brought a hefty sum of money collected from various family members. To help us. Nothing quite so humbling as being caught grumbling and then having your prayers answered in a way you never imagined. And of course, I cried. Out of gratefulness, and out of embarrassment.
(Jesus) replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.a” Matthew 17:20.
I know my faith is not even as big as a mustard seed, but after seeing what God has accomplished by just one act of obedience, by just one day of fasting, I can feel it growing day by day. My mountain needs moving, but I am starting to see how it can be done.