So here it is, the last day of 2011. It is Saturday morning, and I am sitting alone in the small travel trailer we have called home since our home burned on November 1. The past several weeks have carried with them a variety of experiences and emotions. Just after the fire, the company David works for changed their pay structure, eliminating commissions altogether and dropping everyone to a barely over minimum-wage hourly rate. Then they eliminated overtime.
As you can imagine, this made a significant impact on our plans to stay here a little while and save up to get back into a real house. During this time, I have been brought face-to-face with some things in my heart that, uncomfortable as it is, had to be dealt with.
For starters, I have obviously realized how little of the “stuff” we have that we actually need to survive. Living in a tiny space for an extended period of time forces one to make different choices when deciding what items to bring into the living space. “Less is more” takes on a whole new meaning. I have wanted for a long time to live a more simplified life, and this experience has made me move from thinking about it to actually doing it. We currently have “stuff” stored in several locations while we are still in this transitional phase, and the majority of it we obviously don’t need, because quite frankly we are getting along okay with out it.
Second, Christmas was a different experience for us this year. With no (and I mean NO) available funds to purchase gifts for anyone and no space to decorate (other than stringing a few lights on the outside of the trailer), there was no running around trying to find the perfect gift for people who (like us), don’t really need anything anyway. I did a little cooking for a family gathering, and I made a little fudge to give out to a few people as gifts. That was it. Frankly, I enjoyed it. As I listened to coworkers stressing about how they were going to pay for the expensive things their family members wanted and trying to shop smart so there would be a large number of presents under the tree, and how they could not wait until Christmas was over, I felt thankful that I was not wrapped up in that this year. Our time with both families was relaxed and comfortable and focused on each other. As it should be.
Third, we were given a couple of lottery tickets for Christmas. The jackpot was 8 million, with the cash payout estimated around 6 million. We didn’t win, of course, but it was fun to dream and wonder how we would manage that kind of wealth. How would our lives change? Would we splurge and spend and squander it away like so many have done before? Would we live in a grand home and drive fancy cars and travel the world in luxury? Would we give the majority of it away, putting others in the same position to squander it away just as quickly? I would like to think that we would tithe, pay off what little existing debt we have, buy a comfortable home, drive reasonable vehicles, help family and friends who could use a little boost, and invest the majority of the rest in income-generating business ventures and in furthering the kingdom of God in changing the lives of others.
I know this current situation we are in will not last forever. Provision will come and this season will be behind us as we move into the next one. What I take with me into that new season is up to me and will determine whether or not this is a season that needs to be repeated.
As we enter into this new year, you may have parts of 2011 you would like to leave behind, never looking back. I would like to challenge you to spend a little time examining those things before moving forward. Look at where and who you were 12 months ago and where and who you are right now, in this moment. Take something of what the Lord has brought you through into 2012. What you have endured and survived has strengthened you and prepared you for what is to come. His goodness prevails.
Finally, last night, as I was leaving the grocery store, I encountered a group from Teen Challenge Texas (based in San Antonio). They were asking for donations and selling beautiful woodworking items. At first I started to walk by, knowing that I only had a few dollars left and still many days until the next pay day. But I didn’t. I turned around and emptied my wallet into their bucket. Then I stood there visiting with three fresh-faced young women who shared how God was changing their lives and awesome that was. We encouraged one another, and I wished them a safe trip home. My wallet was empty, but my heart was full.
Walking back to my car, I asked the Lord to multiply my very small offering, and then to multiply it again. As I put my key in the door, it occurred to me that I had no fear or hesitation in giving, and that I am confident that the Lord will continue to provide for our needs and beyond. That is what I am taking into 2012.
Filtering through the life-affecting moments of 2011, what are you taking with you into 2012?