Category Archives: TRUSTING GOD IN HARD TIMES

How to trust God to help you get through hard times

Ch 7, Post 3 The Pain of Change. . . and of Losing Time with Sharon

Losses too Painful to Bear, It Seemed

I woke up one Monday morning, like a person on the evening news revisiting a home reconfigured by a tornado or burned to the foundation by a fire, with only the chimney standing as a reminder of the former way of life.

Single parenting leaves little time together at home
Single parenting leaves little time together at home

Gone was my cherished half hour of a leisurely breakfast with Sharon and giving her the privacy of the bedroom and bathroom to dress as well as the presence of an attentive mom with time to locate a missing belt and disentangle a stubborn shoestring.

Gone were the afternoons of picking her up from school, myself, and giving her a snack, myself, and talking about things in her little world before she went outside to play.

Gone, too, the evening hours when I’d had a relatively untired body and mind available to rough house, help with fractions, explain grammar rules, and serve as an evening playmate for my cherished only child.

Replacing all those joys, overnight, was the need to wake at five-thirty to shower and dress myself; the pain of waking Sharon up at six fifteen; the scramble to get out the door at six forty for a dash to daycare at six forty-five and my bus stop at six fifty.

The bus deposited me downtown, in one of my three work outfits, feeling country bumpkin awkward, for an eight-block walk to the office in one of the coldest winters we’d had for years.

I quickly learned that the old trench coat I’d had since high school did not keep out the chill of the morning when the wind picked up speed as it swept across empty parking lots and streets.

Long, hard days
Long, hard days

Working in an office in itself was a jolting change.  I had worked at home, completely alone, for a year and a half and before that in a three-girl office for seven years.  Worst of all, though, was the fact that I could not stop thinking about Sharon. Every day was as wrenching as the first day of first grade.  I knew I was losing something I could never recapture—-the hours and minutes of her childhood.  My hours and minutes with her now were, perforce, rushed.  For the first few weeks, they were also often agitated, no matter how hard I tried to stay calm.

Chap 7, Post 2 – Change. . . Ever Inevitable, Ever Stressful

Effects of Poverty and Single Parenting

The year before, Dorothy Wexel had blithely encouraged me to start typing at home, saying, “Oh, you’ll be able to write off all your expenses and part of your rent and other expenses and . . .”

That might have been good advice for someone at a higher income level, someone who owned a home and other big-ticket tangibles that could be itemized.  It was less than sound advice for a renter, with a low income.

That is one of the devastating effects of poverty and also of single parenting.  We often have no one to help us make financial decisions, or at least ones that fit our situation.  Dorothy was trying to be helpful but she was thinking from a non-poor perspective.

Dorothy’s well-intentioned advice was particularly devastating because I had no savings out of which to pay an entire year’s worth of suddenly due tax.  Even if I had known taxes would have to be paid, it’s doubtful I could have saved anything.

Making Lemonade out of Lemons

Tired of hard times. . . tired of lemonade
Tired of hard times. . . tired of lemonade

Grateful that I had at least had enjoyed one entire year of being a stay-at-home Mommy for Sharon, I began reading the classifieds. I also began reviewing my shorthand, still required for higher level secretarial jobs in those days.

Night after night, after Sharon was asleep and I had finished the day’s transcribing, I sat at that rickety card table. I filled page after page after page practicing the basic strokes, short forms, and abbreviations I’d learned for Gregg shorthand in secretarial school ten years earlier.

For twenty dollars, I purchased one interview outfit,  a gray and white striped top and skirt on a double mark-down.  I scheduled interviews while Sharon was at school, came home, hand-washed my outfit and had it hanging on our patio clothesline by two o’clock.  It would dry in the afternoon sun and I ironed it that night for the next day’s interview.

Setting My Heart to Trust God

After several weeks, I was interviewed for a civil service position.  Because the duties and the benefits looked good, I was hopeful; however, being hired by the Sheriff’s Office, even for a secretarial position, was a long and tedious process that included several interviews, background checks, and so forth

1interview

While I waited, I kept looking, desperately and consistently.  But I found nothing that would pay our bills. So I kept transcribing, hoping something would turn up before the extension for last year’s taxes was over and before I had accumulated yet another eight hundred dollars of unpaid taxes.

I began working as an executive secretary in early December that year.  That’s when the maelstrom hit Sharon and me both with equal force and effect.

Chap 7, Post 1 – Trusting God in Hard Times

  Chapter Seven

  Adolescent Agitation

Hard Times

Change, broad, sweeping, life-altering change, most often comes suddenly and when least expected.  It is no accident that such change is often compared to a storm. Depending on geographic location, the most apt analogy might be a tornado, a blizzard, or a hurricane.  Regardless, the sequence of events in life-altering change and storms are similar.

1winter blizzardFirst, there’s a frenzy of violent, intense activity followed by a calm requiring one to assess what was destroyed, damaged, and rearranged.  One has to plan how to proceed with life in the new surroundings when the comforting, familiar landmarks of daily life have been forever altered.

These landmarks upon which we all depend include the hour of sleeping and waking, place of employment, manner of dress, days designated for certain activities.  Perhaps, most of all it’s just the feel of a typical workday that waits for you Monday morning, like a laid-out suit of clothes you can gratefully, if a little resentfully, slip into without picking up the burden of conscious thought or the irritation of unfamiliarity.

As a blizzard or hurricane or tornado changes the visible landmarks by which we navigate through the roads,  so  financial storms change those comforting and familiar landmarks by which we navigate our daily life.

Trusting God

In late spring of the year Sharon was in fifth grade, we endured that kind of storm-like change.  My income taxes confirmed the nagging suspicion I had ignored that being a private subcontractor was not the financial dream come true I had been led to believe by, not surprisingly, the owner of the company profiting from my labor.  Imagine my horror when I discovered I owed $800 in income taxes. it might as well have been $8,000.

 

God will make a way where there seems to be NO way
God will make a way where there seems to be NO way

As I sat at our little rickety card table that morning, with papers and forms covering every inch, I knew this was another occasion to learn how to trust God more.  There literally was no way to solve this problem that I could see.  Over the years, I had told many other single moms that “God will make a way where there is now way.” It was my turn now to walk that faith out in my own life.

If I had had a computer way back then I would have listened to encouraging songs like this over and over and over  – until I felt His peace.   http://yhoo.it/1S5TOUs

 

Ch 1 Frugal Living Tips – Don’t Get Trapped by Feeling Poor

Feeling Poor is a Deadly Trap

  1. If your children are very young, they might not realize how difficult your family’s finances are.
  2. You can do countless things that will reduce the sting of that inevitable realization. That is the main focus of this book.
  3. However, regardless of what you do, your children will one day understand that their family has less and does less than other families.
  4. At some level, you yourself likely struggle with feeling and/or actually being poor. Because our world values the possessions, status, power, and recognition money can buy, all but the wealthiest face the green-eyed monster of jealous.  And truly, those at the top of the monetary heap seem even more focused on things that come with wealth.
  5. You must admit and overcome hidden feelings of jealousy, embarrassment, shame, anger, resentment, inferiority and especially helplessness and hopelessness.  These feelings will keep you and your family trapped in your current financial and emotional situation.   If I did it, you can, too.  I admit it was not easy.
  6. More importantly, you will pass these same crippling attitudes on to your children – unless you stop feeling poor – NOW. No, you cannot change your situation or all your attitudes overnight but you can make dramatic changes immediately – just by changing what you say out loud.

How do you stop feeling poor?   

Begin by being grateful – out loud so your children can hear – for whatever good your family has. For example:

  • On your way home from driving, or walking, to buy groceries or pick up a bag from a food bank, say “I am so glad we have so many groceries! What do you kids want for dinner tonight?”
  • When you tuck them into bed, give them an extra hug and kiss and say “We are so lucky to have a warm and dry bed to sleep in.”
  • If you must send your children to school without breakfast or a lunch box, tell them “You enjoy that breakfast and lunch today at school. I want to hear what you had when you get home!”
  • You get the idea. Just look around you.  You are surrounded with things you can talk about with your children.

In Matthew Chapter 6, verses 25 through 34. God carefully warns us not to worry about material things–because He will take care of us.  He points out that the birds do not worry about what to eat or what they will wear and He feeds them. Then He says, “. . .Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Think about that a minute.

In another place in Matthew (Matthew Chapter 10, verse 31) Jesus says He knows about each detail of our lives, that “even the very hairs of our head are all numbered.” (verse  30)  Then He says in verse 31, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

For a beautiful rendition by Whitney Houston of the song based on this verse click here http://yhoo.it/1ZwhtMr

1sparrowsinhand

 

HEADS UP!! Unjealousheart website is now called “www.stopfeelingpoornow.com

During the Christmas holidays, I have been busy trying to improve on blogging.   Although I will continue blogging my book that explains how to stop you and your child from FEELING poor, even if you are, the unjealous heart website is changing to http://stopfeelingpoornow.com  – giving you and your child an UNJEALOUS heart.

Please help spread the word – and please, as always, pray!

Chap 1 Backstory: Part 2 of 2 – Facing the effects of our poverty

So, what events set the stage for this story to happen?

[A] Out of desperate unhappiness, I gave my heart to Jesus in April 1981. I had to hit bottom before I could look up. I was divorced in 1977, when my daughter was three; in 1981 she was seven. Her father faded out of her life in sync with fading child support. I would be the only parent Sharon had, so I set two goals that guided my life for the next 11 years.

1motherdaughterpic

  • To mature as a Christian as fast as I could. Things did not get perfect overnight after April 1981, but the unhappiness and fear were replaced with a measure of peace and joy.  I did not want to mess up this relationship with God!
  • I resolved to take the very best care I possibly could of Sharon, no matter the cost to me.

These two goals still anchor my life, although they now include my son-in-law and two grandsons.  I have never regretted one thing I did for Sharon or what I am still doing for her and her family.  It is a priceless privilege and joy, a t rue gift from God!

[B] In pursuit of those two goals, we went to a Friday night Bible study at the Wexel’s house. I never once hired a sitter so I could “go out.”  I cherished each moment of each evening with Sharon.  By going to the home Bible study with me, Sharon got to play with the two Wexel girls, and I did Bible study and made friends in a relaxed setting.  At that time, painful shyness still crippled my life.  I needed all the help I could get in making friends. I needed Christian friends to encourage me and help me grow, which was a two-way street.

[C] I “gave all of me to all I understood of God.” And I have done that ever since. I sincerely hope you will not see this as bragging.  It is simply the truth. I was VERY grateful that our lives were better and so I clung hard to Jesus and wanted to do what I knew He had said to do. So, I studied the Bible, prayed, attended church, tithed and gave offerings, and made friends with other believers.

My life verse

Many Christ followers have what they call a life verse– a verse in the Bible that they try to live by and that has shown to be true in their lives over and over.

My life verses are Proverbs 3, verses 5 through 6:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (New International Version)

[D] Through living out Proverbs 3:5-6, Sharon and I met the Wexels. As Chapter One shows, that friendship eventually nudged me to face and change my horrible attitude about our finances. By God’s grace, I began making changes so I could give my daughter the gift of an unjealous heart.

1young-girl-smiling

Chap 1 Backstory: Facing Poverty – Part 1 of 2

Major Benefit of This Blogged Book

One benefit of this blogged book is that it gives you proof.  I have lived out these principles, or guidelines, for overcoming the effects of poverty for the last 33 years.  My simple story shows they work!

Timeline

As the foundation for the backstory, here is a timeline of how this book came to be:

  • 1982 – As a new Christ follower, a mature Christian couple took my daughter and me under their wing. (This is the “Wexel” family in the book–not their real name). That was the first time ever  I was befriended by someone I considered wealthy.
  • 1985 – I began writing this book (originally entitled “The Happy Have-Not”.) During three years of close friendship with the Wexels, God helped me change my attitude toward having and having not.  This in spite of the fact that we still were, most definitely, living through hard times.
  • 1999 – A Christian movie producer, who saw an article I had written that summarized “The Happy Have-Not”, called to express interest. Needless to say, this was a HUGE pat on the head from God for me.   The producer said things were better for authors to get the book written first.  So nothing happened – except I tried to finish writing it ASAP although I was working full time and going to school half-time.
  • 2001 – I finished the manuscript and a proposal the same year I entered graduate school. I mailed it to a publisher but then stopped trying after two rejections.  School consumed the next four years, then I worked full-time from 2005 through 2012.  In 2012, I relocated to Texas to be with my daughter and her family.
  • 2015 –After three years of delightedly devoting most of my time to helping with my two grandsons, I began this website and my other one http://fredafarmer.net

And here we are, you and I, on this journey together.  I’m having fun and being so blessed in the process – hope you are, too!

Comparing. . . Grasping a Grenade

Comparison and gratitude cannot coexist.

Last October, I attended a class reunion and saw some childhood friends I I had not seen for over 30 years.  Mingling has never been easy for me, but I did mingle (at least some!) because I wanted to know how people were doing.

As I looked around me and saw faces from high school, I began the habit of thought I had had way back then – comparing.   As a teenager, I had felt inferior in just about every way, though in fact me and my family were not. Painful shyness had accentuated that feeling.

As I stood among my former classmates, I began thinking.   What would they think of my 325 square foot apartment, my thrift store decor, and my meager annual income?  Never mind that  I was blessed to have retired early so I could relocate near my daughter and her family.  Never mind that my current economic status was my choice, that I had resigned from a well-paying job on purpose.  Never mind that I had overcome the habit of comparing ages ago and was even blogging a book about it.  That old habit just reached up and grabbed me!

Trusting God stops comparisons

Then, thanks be to God for a truly  changed heart, common sense surfaced.  The gratitude and joy of this life God has led me to bubbled up from within as I recalled that true riches are intangible.

True riches are available, even in poverty.

True riches are the peace God gives when you are living in right relationship with Him.  True riches are the fulfillment of loving and serving those in your life and beyond, for His purposes.  True riches are the unseen things, which God says are eternal.  Love is among those things that will never die, and God sends that daily from His own tender heart,  and from family, friends and often strangers to whom I reach out.

We CAN develop gratitude

Researching for this blog helps prevent most comparisons.  I find a lot of good ideas. Author and blogger Kay Wills Wyma wrote an excellent book on this topic  – “I’m Happy for You (Sorta. . . Not Really:  Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison)” .   The title says it all, right?  You can purchase this life-changing book and others by Kay at http://amzn.to/1YPC7GY.   You can also follow Kay’s insightful, and hilarious, blog posts about parenting FIVE kids at http://www.themoatblog.com/

Reach out for contentment – and you will find it!

Would you reach out to grasp a venomous snake, the blade of a butcher knife or a grenade? Comparisons will  not do as much physical damage, but they will:

  • poison your perception of the good in your life,
  • pierce your heart and leave a wound that must be healed, and
  • worst of all – destroy your happiness as well as the happiness of those dearest to you.

Dear Father in heaven,

In this “culture of comparison”, please empower me to grow closer to You and to set my heart on  unseen, eternal things.  Show me how to be a good and godly influence to those You place in my path.   Thank You for your countless blessings, Lord!  Help me see them and remember to thank You, for I know all good things come from You.   I love You Jesus!

Amen.

Three Changes to Make This Site More Useful to You

Sometimes it seems the only constant is change, right?  Well, Unjealousheart.com  will  soon have three new types of blog posts.  You will continue to receive a portion of the book regularly.  However, these three types of posts will appear in addition to the story itself.

  1.  Insights and tips that are embedded in the chapter – This book was written to help others in the same or similar situation as me and my daughter. Therefore, I purposely wrote the book  so that it illustrates what helped us. But. . .  I want you to see those things clearly, so I will put them in a list.
  2. Other blog posts and related information available on the internet –  Quite a few folks are blogging about thrift and gratitude and other topics included in Unjealous Heart. I will collect these links and put them into a post.
  3. The backstory for each chapter – Each chapter has its own backstory or events that led up to what happened in that  chapter.   Including these in the story itself would interrupt the flow.  So, the backstory posts will show you what I was doing that made the story turn out like it did.   For example, since becoming a Christ-follower I have tithed (given ten percent of my gross income to God, which He says in the Bible we are to do.)  I have also given offerings above the tithe as well as “alms” or free gifts to those who were poorer than me.   That obedience is one reason God has taken such good care of my daughter and me all these years.

These posts will also be on this new tab.

That is a bit of catching up to do since we are about to start Chapter Six but I am going to thoroughly enjoy it.    I hope these additional posts will make this blogged book more useful to you!

Love to and prayers for you and all your loved ones!

Freda

Tips to s-t-r-e-t-c-h Christmas pleasures for your children

christmas lamp and frosty

I did not plan for Chapter 5 of this blog to coincide with Christmas 2015. But. . .  since it has, I am taking the space here to share my tips for making much of little at Christmas for your children.

Making special events even more special was part of the art I had learned of making little seem much every chance I got all year long.   My method was simple.

For Christmas, I focused on finding many little things so that Sharon would have lots of gifts to open on Christmas morning.  I also got some larger items, too, but mainly I purchased small  things.  At her age, I believed quantity would trump quality.

Second,  I paid close attention to what Sharon  seemed to like or find interesting.  That meant that for months earlier I had been buying up little gifts, things she noticed but thought we could not afford.  One truly sad fact was that she hardly ever asked for anything.  She knew our finances even though I never said a word.

Third, I took pains to wrap each gift elaborately.   I splurged in the one item I could: curling ribbon.    I used yards of bright reds, greens, yellows and blues to wrap each gift, sometimes doubling the ribbon so that two colors entertwined.  Then, each gift had a large hand-made bow, which often hid most of the little gift!   And each and every bow had several looooong streamers of curled curling ribbon dangling in every direction.   I stood some gifts up under the tree and laid others out flat, spreading them out as much as possible without making it obvious.

Fourth, I made a HUGE deal out of decorating our tiny tree.  We talked about it a week ahead of time.  I reminded her when we bought the package of instant cocoa that it was for when we decorated the tree.   The special box of cookies was also for tree decorating night.   On the designated Friday night, I prolonged the process as long as possible.  I also let her be in charge of where to place the lights and garland and ornaments, carefully discussing each placement when she asked my opinion.

Fifth, I stirred up Sharon’s  excitement ahead of time by putting some of the gifts out early  and telling her she could shake them and feel them.  (Some, of  course, were disguised.  I put one gift inside another and put rocks in the loose box to make a tantalizing noise.  For another, I wrapped the gift in an old towel so she would think it was “just clothes.”)

Sixth, on Christmas morning, I prolonged the tension of waiting by saying “Let’s wait until I have some coffee.”   And I numbered each gift on the bottom with a pencil so that she began opening with the little ones and worked her way up to the big, more exciting gifts.

Seventh, I watched her every response and commented on her comments, letting her happiness direct what we did.  Then, after it was all over, we laughed about it and talked about it some more.

Finally, and most important of all, I prayed.   I simply prayed that God would give my precious little girl a happy and grateful heart.  I shakily put it into His hands, telling Him, again, that I knew He loved Sharon and me every bit as much as folks who had more money.

 “I trust You, Lord”, I prayed.  “I trust You and I appreciate with all my heart how You help me take such good care of Sharon.   Thank You for loving us, Lord.  I love You!”