Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Financial Lent (Post-Cana Post)

My husband and I have been scraping the bottom of the financial barrel lately.  It couldn't have happened at a better time.  Lent is about sacrifices, after all, isn't it?  Some sacrifices are voluntary, but some are imposed from the outside.  Cheerfully accepting the sacrifices we haven't asked for is as valuable as imposing mortifications of our own choosing.  Cheerful acceptance, of course, is easier said than done.

For many prosperous years, I watched our finances obsessively, fearfully, hawk-like.  It finally dawned on my that what I feared was my own mistakes.  Was I guilty of money mismanagement, stupidity, greed, wastefulness?  As our family grew, our belts got tighter.  No matter how we budgeted or planned, we always seemed to hit the financial skids at least once a year, usually in January.  This January was no exception, except that it was worse than usual.

We've experienced a series of financial whammos lately, including multiple car accidents, starting medical treatment to control my eldest daughter's attention deficit disorder, braces for what seems like every child, and-and-and.  But, for once, my fragile hold on peacefulness has not been broken.  The fault for these financial calamities cannot be laid at my door.  Calamity is like "Our Lady's caress," as Pope John Paul II famously called the assassin's bullet that wounded him.  Who can lose their peace when Our Lady is just introducing us to the kind of life she lived?  Even temporary poverty gives us a glimpse of the absolute trust that Our Lady must have placed in God to provide for her family's daily needs.

Besides, God has showed his care for me in so many dramatic ways these past few months.  Week after week, my mission to spread the Church's good news about marriage and family has received a surprising boost.  Chance meetings with chancellors, unexpected offers by editors, unanticipated invitations from publishers, all adding up to an overwhelming overload of blessings.  The blessings aren't financial right now, but that's okay.

In this amazing season of Lent, I feel like I'm body-surfing through surging spiritual waters, rocketing up, plummeting down, can't breathe, rushing faster-than-fast, but dry land waits ahead for me.  When I'm thrown on the sand, God will be there to pick me up.  He has numbered the hairs on my head.  He knows what I need, what my family needs, and he will provide.


  1. From Jeff K. via LinkedIn:

    "I'm studying Divine Providence right now and 90% of our worries are so un-necessary! Most of the things we worry about never happen. Worry is evidence of shortcomings in our faith. Matthew 6, I believe, talks about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field being cared for by God.

    Here's my advice: Don't worry. Do the best you can. Juggle stuff around. Don't waste. Downsize. Simplify. Detach yourself from your possessions--which were given to you by God for your use in saving your soul. Use them for God's Will and let go of them if they do not aid you in your journey. Focus on your spiritual health. Stay as close to Jesus as you can.

    I realize all this is much easier for a single person who only has to worry about himself, and this is much more complicated when you are responsible for others. But I think, as has been said already, trust is the most important attribute in tough financial times.

    T - Total
    R - Reliance
    U - Upon
    S - Saving
    T - Truth

    1. Jeff, I love the TRUST acronym. The parable of the lilies of the field was the Gospel reading we picked for our wedding, because I knew that I would eventually stop working in order to stay home with our kids, and our income would decrease substantially. I return to that Gospel reading again and again.

  2. From Jeff K. on LinkedIn:

    "I've been thinking about this topic and I think I have more to say. We must learn to be thankful for all that God does for us. Even if it is uncomfortable, or painful, or distressing. God has our best interests in mind with all He does. St. Paul said all things work for good for those that love God. All things. This is not a "silver lining" message. This is not a "what goes around comes around" message. This is about your eternal destiny. God wants you in heaven. If He gives you something you can be sure that he wants you to use it to get there. If He takes something away from you, it is because it was holding you back from Him. Attachments to creatures will drag you away from Him. Creatures like cars, houses, jobs, 401k's, pets, children, parents, spouses. All of these creatures can keep us from Him. He gives them to us in order that we might use them to do His will and grow closer to Him. (We don't use people, but they are in our lives for God's purpose, not ours.) If we love anything more than God, it will keep us from Him in the end. We came into this world with nothing and we'll leave it with nothing. In between God entrusts us with things, missions, people, and none of it is ours. We are only stewards. We should not feel loss when God decides to take back what was His all along.

    The whole idea of abandonment to God's Providence is about just doing the thing that is in front of us each moment and letting everything else go. God has such big plans for each of us. We have an internal GPS Navigation system that has our route all planned out. However it only tells us the next thing to do. "Turn right in a quarter mile." If we miss the turn, (decide to watch TV instead of go to Stations of the Cross), we get off of God's route, but we are not lost, because God knows the way and just recalculates and shows us the next right thing to do. WE don't know God's plan. He has our route all mapped out so that we can do the most good in this world and achieve the highest reward in heaven. He's got that part. Our job is to just do the next right thing. Keep choosing to do the right thing.

    If we lose something, it was never ours. If we gain something, it is for our use to do God's will. If we have to suffer something like embarrassment or shame or injury it is because we need that to become the person that can do what God is asking of us. Our job is not to be happy. But by surrendering all to Him, we can find peace--a peace that the world will never give us.

    I'm preaching to myself as much as anyone else. I needed to hear this stuff this morning. :-)"

    1. Jeff, it's hard to pick out what I like best about your comment, it's all so great! "People are in our lives for God's purpose, not ours." So important to remember when God takes someone away. The idea that we are stewards not only of our possessions, but also our MISSIONS and the people that God gives us to love and take care of. God takes our missions away, too, and it's hard to see why. The GPS analogy was fabulous, because I HATE only knowing the next step -- it makes me feel so lost not to have an overview of the whole route. It takes too much trust for me to really feel comfortable about it!

  3. From Marianne:

    "I have been going through a financial and physical Lent for years now. The financial end of it was because of an identity theft that cleaned out my savings, and 401K (which were once substantial) as well as my checking. There were a few years that I was eating only because of the food pantry and the saintly people that delivered it to my door because I did not have a car. The St. Vincent DePaul Society helped us keep our utilities on a few times, but we did have them shut off a few times too. I was in foreclosure. It was and continues to be difficult, as I am the sole supporter of the family, but through it all, when times were extremely stressful I would just say, God will provide. God has kept a roof over my head and food in my families bellies through it all. God has held me in his hands for a while now and just as he takes care of all of his creatures, I know that he will continue to take care of me as well. I am happy to say that things, just in the last 2 days, are showing strides in the right direction."

    1. So happy to hear that things are getting better for you.