Growing up in upper middle-income families, my husband and I were always the givers and never the recipients of charity. I never imagined that the tables would turn on us when we were in our late 20s and early 30s, with a toddler and infant underfoot, and a third child on the way.
But that’s exactly where we found ourselves during and in the aftermath of the recession in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
We were living on a low income, with a home underwater, and despite our best efforts to spend within our means and bring in extra money through a variety of side jobs, we still couldn’t make ends meet.
Thankfully, my parents lived nearby, and I never once worried about being able to partake in a holiday meal during those lean years.
It was a given that our family would spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my mom and dad; going without a turkey, holidays side dishes, and pumpkin pie was never a concern.
But that’s not the case for most who live in the daily tension of not having enough money to live.
I’ll never forget the phone call from one of the ministers at our church. When my husband hung up, he explained: “That was Roland calling, asking if we needed a Thanksgiving basket. The church is putting together some food for families in need.”
At first, I scoffed. “Why would he call us?” I asked, with a smirk and a giggle.
But no sooner were the words out of my mouth than the realization hit: Without my parents’ help that holiday season, we would be in need of a food donation.
In fact, just a few months earlier we received some anonymous bags of groceries on our doorstep.
We later discovered the donor was a co-worker of my husband’s, and she provided groceries for us on more than one occasion after that incident as well.
As God began to peel away my pride during our time of financial crisis, I began crediting each and every gift—from the sacks of food to the offer of a Thanksgiving dinner—as His provision.
Philippians 4:19 became a reality in our lives like never before:
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
My pride-fueled smirks and scoffs turned into praise for each small gesture from a friend, neighbor, or family member.
A couple weeks after Thanksgiving that year, my husband and I reached our breaking point.
Embarrassed that our income level was far below the example budget in a church financial planning course, my husband walked out of class. Afterwards, the teacher and his wife volunteered to come to our home, pour over our finances, and help us come up with a plan to exit this season of financial frustration.
And that they did.
The couple in their 60s came armed with a lifetime of wisdom hard-won in the trenches of career change and self-education.
At the end of the talk, the teacher, Randy, gave us a plan but, more than that, he gave us hope: “You need to create more income,” he said, as he rested his glasses on the table and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. “You don’t have enough money to live.”
In that moment, my husband and I committed to doing all we could to create more income for our family.
Within a year, we saw our financial situation begin to improve, and a year after that we exited the financial crisis we had been navigating for nearly half a decade.
Although our time living on a low income taught us how to better steward our finances, I look back at that season with gratitude for how God changed our hearts.
We learned that all things come from Him (James 1:17) and He is truly the Great Provider of all of our needs.
What are some ways you’ve seen God cultivate gratitude in your through seasons of crisis? How have you been able to witness God provide for all of your needs?
My book can help. Exiting financial frustration–or just a hopeless situation–can be a reality for you, too–just like it was for me and my family! Check out my new memoir, More Than Just Making It, to read how God rescued our family and can use the principles we learned to redeem your situation as well.