"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21
It is time to tell our story. Our great story of God's faithfulness to our family. I must give Him the glory for the many miracles, big and small, that have brought us to where we are. Less than 3 years ago, we were buried in debt and barely making our bills with our 2 full time jobs and one child. Now, I am working part time, we have no credit card debt, and we have 2 kids! It is only through the goodness of God and the power of prayer that we have come to this point.
When we decided to start our family, I had to resign myself that I had no choice but to work full time. Of course, after he was born, this became much less attractive. When I was on maternity leave, I did everything I could think of with our budget to figure out a way to stay home or work part time. Anything! There was just absolutely no way that it was going to work at that point. We just needed my full time income. End of story. Just the 2 months that I was not paid during my maternity leave put us into a tailspin of credit card debt. That was a result of failure to prepare on my part during my pregnancy. God was blessing us during the pregnancy and I was in denial about what we needed to do to be prepared for that period of time.
That first year after Zane was born was one of the hardest we've had financially. That's saying a lot for a couple that married at 20 & 21! Between the cost of daycare and our credit card and student loan debt, we were beyond broke.
It was also a very difficult year for me. Being a full-time working mommy was much harder than I expected. Being away from him all the time was hard enough, but the lifestyle was completely overwhelming for me. I spent all day at a physically and emotionally demanding job just to come home to my other full time job to care for and play with Zane, get him to bed, get everything ready for the next day, and fall into bed so that I could wake up super early the next morning to start all over. There was no downtime and things like house cleaning just didn't happen. Neither did a lot of other things. When Zane was sick all the time, it was that much harder to deal with. My "mom guilt" was at an all time high when I had to keep taking him back to daycare where the cycle just continued. I loved my job when I was there but the combination of everything was just too much for me.
I continued to pray for God to make a way for me to reduce my work time. That was my dream but I just didn't see how it was ever going to happen. Tommy was in a job with no real chance for a raise or advancement and we were years from paying off most of our debts at the rate we were going. I was afraid that we were trapped and wouldn't be able to have another child or change my work situation for years and years.
Little by little, our finances improved. Tommy was actually unemployed for part of that first year, but God was still so faithful to take care of us during that time. Tommy eventually landed a great job with a pay increase and opportunity for advancement and raises. Between gifts, bonuses, tax returns, etc, we were chipping away at our debts. Somewhere in there, Tommy's grandparents decided to help us completely PAY OFF 2 of our student loans! God was working.
God really worked in my heart and my life during this time to teach me to completely trust our finances to Him. He taught us generosity and showed us how He will always take care of us when we remember that everything we have comes from Him anyway and to allow Him to use it in whatever way He wanted, not just in the ways that we think are best.
At the beginning of 2011, I was really feeling God moving in my heart that being home more was where He was calling me. I know it seems selfish but I truly felt like that is what God wanted for our family. God has shown me that raising my children in His truth is the greatest ministry opportunity that I will ever have. They are the people who will be most influenced by me and I wanted to have more time to be with them at this crucial stage of life. I also knew that the flexibility would allow me to have more opportunities to minister to others through the time and energy that it would free up to allow me to reach outside of myself more to be an encouragement or help to those around me.
At that time, I was prayer journaling a lot and I saw that in the prayers I was writing, this desire to be home with my children more and reduce my work load was growing deeper and stronger. I felt very strongly that God would fulfill this. I even went to Tommy in February and was ready to just take the plunge and talk to my manager about maybe taking a PRN position or at least just letting her know that I would be interested in part time in case something developed. I knew it didn't make any sense financially but I was eager to take action on what God was telling me. Tommy did not have a peace about it at that moment. I was disappointed but I had prayed that we would be on the same page if this was the right time. I have learned through the years to follow my wise husband's guidance. He is usually right when it comes to big family decisions and I make a mess of things if I push forward away from his leadership. I took a step back but continued to pray and took steps emotionally and financially to prepare our family for what God would do.
In May, Tommy and I decided that God was leading us to begin trying to have a second child. Through that conversation, we were on the same page that I would not work full time by the time our next child was born. We agreed that it didn't make any sense to spend more than half my income on daycare for 2 when I would much rather be home with them more. This was a huge step of faith, trusting that God would work out the details, because the budget was nowhere near where it would need to be.
We experienced a heartbreaking miscarriage in July but we continued to trust in God's perfect timing and His sovereignty in our lives. In September, we found out we were pregnant again and we were overjoyed! We had peace that God was carrying out His perfect plan for our family.
That November is when one of the biggest miracles happened. My grandmother decided that we should do Curry Christmas early, the day after Thanksgiving. The past several years, with all of us having young children and different careers, etc., we haven't even necessarily had a big Christmas get-together every year. But that year, she was determined that we would have a get-together and that we all had to come because she had a special gift for all of the grandkids. We don't argue with MawMaw! Everyone changed their plans so that at least all of the grandkids got to Lubbock the day after Thanksgiving, even if their families could not come along with them. What we received was a shock to us all. My grandmother had saved and scrimped her entire life to build up an estate. On that day, she gave us each our share, our inheritance essentially. She wanted to be able to give it to us in person and not wait until after she was gone. The amount almost knocked me over. It was enough to completely pay off all of our credit card debt, start small college funds for both kids, and still give some to share our blessing with others. It was an incredible answer to prayer! My uncle shared with us that MawMaw began to feel God leading her to do this in May. That was right about the same time that He led us to take the leap of faith to expand our family and we had no idea that He was going to provide for our needs in that way. He had been planning it all along, even for the decades before that my MawMaw was saving her money for her children and grandchildren.
With our credit cards paid off, we were able to take the money we had been paying on the cards each month to pay down some other debts and build up our savings account to prepare for the change that we knew would be coming with our baby girl due in the Spring. We were also able to take advantage of record low interest rates and refinance our house with significantly lower interest and monthly payments reduced by over $100. The budget still wasn't perfect, but it was so much better than it had been even a year before. We could see that this was actually going to happen for us.
Then, there was the "small" issue of there actually being a part time job for me to work.... At Cook Children's where I work, there are a few part-time social work jobs, more than I would likely find at most other places that employ master's level social workers, but the positions don't come open very often. It had probably been over 2 years since we had a part time job open up. My last resort would have been to return to work as a PRN until I found something more permanent there or elsewhere, but the unpredictability of the schedule and the loss of eligibility for benefits made that less than attractive to me. I told my manager in January that my intentions were to work part time after my baby was born, even if that meant leaving the hospital. She was understanding and agreed to let me know if anything was going to become available but there was not any immediate plan for a part time position to be created for any of the areas. I kept an eye on some job boards online but as my pregnancy advanced, I knew I was less and less "hireable" at that moment. Nothing part-time was showing up anywhere anyway. By about March (baby due in May!), I was feeling a little impatient but kept reminding myself that God had brought us to this point and would be faithful.
About that time, I noticed a posting for a half time position for our home health company on the hospital's internal website. I brushed it off initially as I wasn't sure that home health would be a great fit for me. At second glance, however, I began to wonder if I should be so quick to dismiss a half time social work opportunity that would allow me to stay in the company and keep all my benefits and PTO accrual, etc. I prayed and thought about it for an evening. After discussing it with Tommy, he wasn't convinced it was the right opportunity but we agreed that I would discuss it with some co-workers and keep thinking about it.
Before I made up my mind, I found out that another member of our department had applied for the job and would vacate a half time position within the department if she got that job. The position within the department appeared to be a much better fit for me and would allow me to stay within the hospital and in my same department. I decided to hold out and not apply for the home health job to see what would happen. I prayed and waited and, sure enough, my co-worker did get the new job and opened up a fantastic half-time "job share" position on one of the medical/surgical floors in the hospital. It took a little longer than I had expected, but I was offered the position just weeks before going out on maternity leave.
Facing the reality that I was leaving my wonderful job in oncology with a team that I had adored working with for 4 years was harder on me than I expected. That part is still sinking in. But, I know that this is exactly what God has planned for me and my family right now and I am so excited to see how He will use this new position in my life to help me grow as a person and as a social worker.
Over the summer, the final details came into place as God lead us to the one church preschool in the area that had a last minute opening for Zane and an in-home childcare provider who had openings for both kids and was willing to work with a kind of weird part time schedule. Oh, and did I mention that she is just in the neighborhood over from us? We serve a God of details!
I am a week into my new part time job and I am still blown away by how blessed I am to have this gift from God. It was fantastic to have 2 days off during the week and this week I only work 2 days. That's practically not working at all! It is really everything I could have hoped for and more. I still can hardly believe that all of this is real. We asked God to do something that only He could do and He did it in ways that we could never have anticipated!
I am really excited to watch how God is going to provide for us as we walk through this new chapter of our lives. We are definitely back in a place where we are forced to rely on Him to get us through each month, but I know that it will be good for us if we are willing to make sacrifices and allow Him to take care of our needs. An unbalanced budget is not a big problem for a God who turned 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread into a meal for over 5,000 people. Please pray for us as we begin this new adventure for our family!
My God can do what seems impossible! All praise and glory to Him!