I have spent many thoughtful moments this last month reflecting on 2009, and my what a tumultuous year this has been at Ararat Acres. We have had several bouts of "not so good" events, lots of stress, moments of unsureness and insecurities, financially panicky moments.....not a stellar year for the faint of heart. But after all the rubble is cleared, and the superficiality life is so wont to adorn us with is stripped away....I have to say that while this has not been an enjoyable year, it has been life altering and soul strengthening. Let me explain.
On February 4th, we lost our youngest horse, Dooley, in a freak accident. I was devastated and heartbroken.
God knows better than I as to why Dooley's life ended, but I believe He knew I wasn't going to have the time and energy to train this young guy any time soon. That, and He needed another sweet horse in heaven.
As we entered 2009, the US economy was well into its decline. Charlie was wrapping up the end of the enormous apartment project that he had been building, and we knew that his employer did not have any new local projects in the pipelines. On April 2nd, he was laid off.
I am so thankful to have parents who taught me to work hard, save money like a squirrel, and keep debt to a minimum, and that I have been able to share this wisdom and knowledge with Charlie throughout our married life. This background and foundation readied us with the skills and budgeting we needed for the coming months.
At the end of April 2009, Charlie was eating lunch at a local cafe when someone came rushing in to let the patrons know that a truck was on fire outside. It was Charlie's truck, and the battery had caught fire (yes, while parked and not running). His truck was totaled by the insurance company. It was an older truck, but a good one. We doubted we would be able to afford to replace it with a similar truck because of our recent cut in household income.
Yet, we were blessed by the insurance company. With the money we received, we were able to purchase a nearly identical truck truck with almost 100K less miles on it. We even had some money left over, AND our insurance premium did not rise. Praise God!
In May, I lost my most precious, beloved cat, Oliver. He was 17 years old, and he shared my pillow every night. He had developed the cat's version of irritable bowel syndrome and was literally wasting away before our eyes. Multiple trips to the vet, medications, tests...nothing altered the path his life was on, and we had to make the painful decision to put him to sleep. Oliver was perhaps the best, most devoted cat I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and losing him left a gaping, lonely void in my heart....not to mention a pillow that was now much too big for one head to sleep on. Our dear vet came out (as they always do for us), and I was able to say goodbye in peaceful surroundings.
Sweet Oliver. He gave me the final gift of laying on my lap and purring, right up until the moment that his little heart quit beating. That memory is bittersweet, but cherished. He was at peace, and I am ever so thankful for having had his life in mine.
Throughout the spring and early summer, Charlie looked for employment in the construction industry, but was unsuccessful. Construction in Dallas remains stagnant at best, even now...in December.
I am thankful that I have a husband who is a "Go Getter". Who doesn't wallow in self-pity. Who has hands that can create and build. Who is game to try almost anything. I am also thankful for our dear friends who needed (at just the right time, I might add) a large greenhouse built.....giving our household budget a little boost, and allowing Charlie's hands to remain busy and productive.
Spattered,scattered, and smeared throughout this year, has been my "new" work life. In my "old" work life, I worked roughly 30hrs per week at my real job, and moonlighted at my "other" real job in retail pharmacy and then managed day to day chores and activities around here on the farm on my days off......which in itself is really a full time (but most gratifying and joy filled!) job.
Life has changed for me. Coincidentally(?), about the time that Charlie lost his job, my job went from normal, to busy, to mandatory overtime crazy busy, to **I must be a lunatic to still work here**busy. The hours were nuts, and I must say, so was I. Working 60-65 hrs per week at a job that demands 100% perfection taxes the soul. Being away from home as much as I am now steals the time I need to refill my "joy cup" when working outdoors with the animals. I am rarely a "cryer", yet I find myself tearing up at things I normally find only minimally stressful or emotional. It is December now, and although things aren't perfect at work, they are do-able and they are (mostly) bearable and I have survived. For I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me.
At the beginning of "The Impending Financial Crisis at Ararat Acres", I prayed that Charlie would quickly find another job, and that God would show me better ways to watch and manage money, above and beyond what we already did. We also made a commitment that, in faith, we would continue to tithe at the level we had when we were a two income household. Charlie and I were blessed at the onset of this life season by being prepared financially, having only our mortgage (which is reasonably priced), our monthly living expenses, and taxes. Having as many mouths to feed and care for as we do, this can get costly very quickly. We have nipped and tucked. We have liposuctioned our lives wherever financially necessary. We have adjusted and we have learned to do without. I even have a few more "emergency" measures up my sleeve that can be taken if absolutely necessary. This year hasn't been easy for either of us, financially, emotionally, or physically. And I will admit that I have had moments of bitterness and frustration. Weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth when things didn't happen as I had imagined. I do think God would rather hear us ranting and raving to Him, than not talking to him at all! And, what I was reminded is this:
God doesn't always answer prayers in the way we think they should be answered.
Although Charlie is working side jobs to bring in some money, we are still virtually a one income family.
So, how in Heaven's Name have we been able to pay every single bill, all taxes due, mortgage payments, and feed bills, not just on time, but ahead of time this year?
How is it that we've even had "excess" money....enough to bless a few other people who needed it more badly than we did at that moment?
How is it that we've been able to continue to tithe at our prior level of commitment?
All of this without touching our savings.
Believe me. The money hasn't fallen magically from the sky. We've worked to keep our heads above water this year. Way hard. Harder than the average bear. But He gave us the way and the skills to do this via paths that did not exist before we needed them.
The Lord Provides, although it may not be the way you or I want it done. I will be leaving 2009 and embracing 2010 knowing that as long as I trust and believe in Him, He will sweat out the details on my behalf. I know these things for sure.
Who knows. Maybe in 2010 my life lesson will be on better capturing that elusive creature, Joy.