This time of year we tend to look at our financial situation and attempt to balance between what we should buy and what we would really love to purchase.
We live in a culture that is so abundant in material possessions that it’s not unusual to hear a radio advertisement asking the listener, “what do you get for the person who has everything?”. This is a phrase that convinces a customer to buy and helps a business survive – and possibly thrive.
But the reality is, many of us are using credit to do our shopping and our bills do not leave us with much for savings.
Personally, I LOVE Christmas shopping. I love buying people Christmas gifts. Somehow, even as a poor college student, I always managed to buy presents for family and close friends. It is something that has brought me joy as long as I can remember.
This year, the budget is super tight. This week in particular reminded me of that. My husband’s car was inspected and needed almost $1,000 of work (and that was just to pass inspection); our oven broke and our heat up stairs stopped working. What a week – for any time of year. But it’s Christmas time, so it’s an extra reminder to me that our finances are limited.
However, that doesn’t change how much I really like to Christmas shop. One thing I look forward to each year is purchasing a gift for our parish giving tree so that a needy child will have one more thing to open Christmas morning. I reached out to the woman who runs the toy drive and asked “what age group needs gifts?”
I knew the answer before she responded. Those tween years are tough. Sure enough, I was informed – both boys and girls ages 10-13.
I have a special place in my heart for the average 13 year old girl. I remember vividly how challenging that time was – and I often choose that age when I shop for a gift to donate.
But . . . how can I justify buying another thing?
Then a phrase that has been a voice inside my mind once before returned:
God will provide.
And He did. I found coupon for Staples (an office supply/stationary store) for $10.00 off a purchase of $10.00 or more. So basically . . . $10.00 appeared.
$10.00 is not going to get the most amazing gift . .. but it enabled me to get some colored pens and two adorable notebooks. Hopefully that humble gift will bring a young girl a smile and some joy.
Although ten dollars is a small gift from above, I have seen God provide in much bigger ways.
The fact that I went to college, lived there and graduated in four years is a huge testament to the value financial aid, hard work at humbling part-time jobs and divine intervention.
But that phrase:
“God will provide” was particularly loud and persistent about four years ago . . . when, after years of praying, my husband and I finally became parents.
As a teacher in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Secondary Schools, I knew that once we became parents, I would stay home for a year. That was a benefit I saw many other teachers I worked with enjoy, I had planned to do the same.
That year went by so quickly . . . and my husband really felt that I needed to go back to work so that we could stay afloat financially.
But, all I kept hearing inside my own head was . . . “God will provide”.
Our son was born with some health challenges, and my life as a teacher had me working on lesson plans and grading almost every waking hour that I wasn’t instructing students in the classroom. I had tried to change that “system” many times; but then I would be teaching content I wasn’t familiar with or something else would be thrown in the mix.
I couldn’t be both a good mom and a good teacher. I knew this in my heart.
I assured my husband, “God will provide”.
And He did. From secondary insurance, to part-time work as an SAT reader, to more babysitting jobs I had in high school, God provided. And He didn’t stop there. My husband has earned two promotions since we have become parents.
We certainly do not live extravagantly, and there is a list of things that need attention, but we are okay. Our heat is on, and we are not hungry.
God provides us with what we need. He loves us. Sometimes I need the reminder that what those who I love most don’t need an extra gift, but extra love, extra listening, extra attention, extra prayers and extra forgiveness.
If you are worried about balancing your checkbook, remember, God will provide.
Sometimes, He just wants to remind us to close our checkbooks and open our hearts.