Thursday, August 14, 2008

a look back on what my home life has been like.

This past year has been a rollercoaster year for me and I have found myself reflecting today and realizing some new things recently. If you read this, bear with me and please don't judge. I put my thoughts out there just to put them out there. Maybe someone needs to hear them.

2007 started off with K being born and having health issues. Despite my best efforts, I was plagued with fears for his health and well-being. I couldn't shake a feeling that he wouldn't make it and it left me in a deep darkness. I felt like I was pretty much just on autopilot but couldn't get out of it. I had received Priesthood blessings but none were of any comfort. I did, however, recognize it as a trial where I needed to learn to rely on my husband. Financially, we started off 2007 with all of our credit card debt paid off and only a small amount left on our auto loan. I had felt a strong prompting a few months prior to get it all paid off regardless of the sacrifice.

A few months into the year we found ourselves looking at new homes. It wasn't something we planned, though I had hoped to move before W started school. The first house we looked at was pure curiosity. Soon, as usual, I was obsessed with research. We looked at other homes ('just looking' we told ourselves), and kept finding ourselves being drawn back to this first house. There were just so many things about it that were so what we had hoped for when we eventually moved. I felt like I was in no emotional state still to make any major decisions, and so I left it to DH. I told him that he was the head of our family and that I trusted him to take it to the Lord and I would accept whatever answer he received. Well, the answer was that this house was the house and this time was the time...everything would work itself out. And so we invested money into our home to secure it's equity (so we thought) and found ourselves putting money on the credit cards again. We repainted the exterior, recarpeted, and installed a new air conditioner. We felt like it was the right thing to do and that it would pay off. For many months we tried selling our house on our own, holding open houses every weekend- not any easy task for me. As construction on our new home progressed and nothing happened with that house I felt very discouraged. I questioned DH's decision. I questioned my answer in following his. I felt that if we made every effort to make every sacrifice on our part and to do all those things that God asks us to do (the prayers, the scripture study etc) then He truly would bless us and that it would work out. I recognized that this was going to be a test of my faith but at the time had no idea just the extent of it. I went to the temple weekly.

It was during one time at the temple that I had a choice spiritual experience...actually it was really the result of two different visits. On one visit I was thinking about the sacrifices I, we, had made and the blessings we desired but seemed to not be receiving. I thought we were doing something wrong and that there must be something we were missing...that there was something more that my Heavenly Father desired of me. It occurred to me that there was one more sacrifice that I had not yet made and that was the most difficult sacrifice for me to make. I desired to show Him that I did have faith that He had told us what to do and that we had made the right decision. I wanted to show him that I trusted Him and would do whatever He asked of me, regardless of the cost. That's when I had that unmistakable feeling that there was another child who needed to come into our family at that time. Having K had been so difficult for me and had brought so many trials on top of the normal trial of being pregnant and having another baby. Truly the biggest sacrifice I could make would be to have another baby and to trust God that would work out. There were other choice experiences that occurred but I knew this was what needed to happen and I got the distinct impression that if I would do this then He would do His part. We made a pact.

So it wasn't long after that I found myself pregnant with K2 (who, by the way, I was certain was going to be a girl- another test of faith that I'm not going to go into right now). However, things were still not working out. We moved into our new house just a couple of weeks after I found out I was pregnant. We made more purchases on credit for the new house (appliances and the like) with the belief and understanding that things would work out as we had been promised. We typically got a sort of bonus at the end of the year from DH's job and we budgeted our purchases according to what we expected from that. We had initially hoped to make some money on the sale of our house but it was becoming more and more evident that was not going to happen. We moved into our new home the first week of October 2007. Our old house had been for sale since April 2007 with no offers. We had our realtor take over trying to sell it as it was now obvious that it was going to have to be a short sale. My nerves were a wreck as I felt out of control of our situation- moving into a new house without our old one sold and without a plan for how to take care of it. I could almost tangibly feel my faith faltering and asked DH for a Priesthood blessing. In it I was promised that I would "find joy" in my new ward. I loved the ward we had been in but I also knew very strongly right then that Heavenly Father knew me better and had a different thing in mind. He loved me and because He loved me He wanted me to not just be happy, but to be joyful, and He was telling me where I would find that joy... and that, if nothing else, that was the reason for the move.

November and December rolled around. I struggled with feeling forgotten by friends, family, and God. Things were not panning out as I had imagined. I couldn't imagine why God would want us to do things that would lead to debt when it was so contrary to what we are taught. And yet, I knew that we had made the right decision...that this was the house and that this was the time and that we weren't just being foolish when we got into debt again. I struggled even more when it was obvious DH couldn't work his second job anymore. We had tried not to plan on that income but we knew we would need it at least for a little while- if nothing else to pay those credit card bills. Joy was not exactly a part of my life. The one exception being the tremendous blessing that our neighbors (who moved in about 6 weeks after us) turned out to be. Come the end of the year I thought things would work out.  However, what he hadn't budgeted for was the economy.  We didn't get that bonus from work that I expected and instead we found ourselves with a compounding debt, minus an income, additional unexpected car costs, and no real hope.

So I'll fast forward a little bit. It's now August 2008. K2 was born relatively healthy despite the doctors beliefs that he would have more problems than he has. However, he has added another $400 to our monthly expenses (his special formula and diapers)....$400 we haven't had. Up until this past year I have always been the one to pay the bills around the house. However, I got the very strong impression that I needed to let DH pay them. Trying to make the money work when it wouldn't was very stressful for me. I was angry that we were in this situation and hurt and upset with God. Doing the bills each month only reminded me of our situation. I felt like He made me a promise and then I must have done something wrong and He changed His mind and was just leaving me to learn a long, hard lesson. I had got to the temple sometime after we had moved and was in a true state of despair. I had this thought come into my mind as clear as if it had been spoken in my ear "It is enough. You have done your part and it is acceptable. I will take care of the rest." Yet, I didn't see that happening at all. Turning the bills over to DH has been another exercise in trusting him. He's never had to do much bill-paying in his life and as a result is not in the habit of it. We have had countless late fees, disconnect fees, collection calls, etc. I don't say this to speak ill of my husband. I know that he is unaccustomed to it. All these things have been a big source of discontent in our home. Financial strains are huge strains on any marriage. I've asked myself, Why would God want us to go through all of this?  Until today I have asked that with a begrudging heart. I have been depressed that things have been so much harder than I expected or imagined. I have been frustrated at the struggle it has all been for me. I have been hurt that my faith and trust have felt shattered. However, all of a sudden I have recently started seeing the ways that God has been trying to find His way back into my life...back into showing me that He is still there and still aware of me and that He isn't mad at me or something.

For many months I had a thought in the back of my head that I should speak to a certain family member of mine and ask for help. I didn't want them to feel like I was taking advantage of them and I felt like we had put ourselves in this situation and that we needed to get ourselves out of it. After all, isn't that how Heavenly Father works? It wasn't until a recent Relief Society lesson that I had that thought come back into my mind. I believe the lesson was on receiving inspiration and that it is sometimes not anything like what we expect and so we argue or reason ourselves out of it.... And that as we refuse that answer we close ourselves off to the spirit and to any further inspiration. When that thought came to my mind during the lesson I knew then that I'd been getting an answer to my prayers but not been willing to hear it because I didn't see the reasoning, because it was hard, and because it wasn't at all what I expected. I summoned my courage and humility and called my family member. I had talked to her before about our financial problems but had never asked for help nor had she offered it. And yet, every time I had had that feeling, she had called me for no apparent reason- I just had chickened out on saying anything about my feeling every single time. So I talked to her about my feelings and asked for help though I explained that I didn't expect it but felt very strongly that I needed to at least have the experience of asking for it.  The conversation went much better than I expected. I knew she understood my situation because she's been here. I knew she felt my pain. I also knew that she couldn't help me because the economy has affected her as well. However, I felt much better at the end of our conversation and had my first glimmer of hope...simply because I had finally made that call I had thought of making nearly 6 months before.
Since that time I have still struggled a lot, but I have seen more. I had the prompting for several weeks that I should talk to the bishop. However, I couldn't figure out what for and so I didn't go. Remembering the experience with the family member I finally resolved that I would just go talk to him and maybe it would come to me. I literally sat down in his office and said "I don't know why I am here but I'm supposed to talk to you." Things then just sort of poured out. He didn't have any great inspiration or answers for me but I felt so much better afterwards. I actually feel hope now. This whole me going to work thing has bothered me. That's always been such a big deal for us, something we felt so strongly about- me staying home. I remembered something in my patriarchal blessing about being able to use my talents to provide means for my family and I thought perhaps this is the situation it refers to. I know we need more money and Billy hasn't argued with the idea of me going to work at night.... and yet it just hasn't settled with me and that has been a struggle for me. Talking to the bishop made me feel much better and reiterated my feelings, to my surprise, that there had to be another answer. He also reiterated another feeling that we need to be going on regular dates again, even though I hadn't brought that up. Every week. He was disappointed that we don't have family members who could (or would) really watch the kids every single week for a couple of hours for us to go out. However, he had some ideas for us and when I told DH about what he had said he seemed more inclined to make more of an effort to plan in advance for finding a sitter.

But I've gotten off track. What I realized today is this.... I should not be asking "Why would God want us to do this?" with a begruding heart when so many things seem to be so wrong and so off from what He would seem to want. I should be asking with an open mind into the lessons to be learned. I shouldn't worry so much about how it is going to work out and whether it will...but should worry more about what I can learn in the process. In the past month, we have had our water, power, phone, and gas shut off. A year ago we were debt free and setting money aside.  But I have learned more about emergency preparedness and about humility and the bigger blessings. I finally don't feel like we are being punished for small mistakes or for planning on money that then didn't come. I think this was part of the picture and I do have hope again, and more faith and knowledge, that it will work out. My brother recently asked me about faith and how much of it we just convince ourselves of.  With all the trials of my faith recently it has given me much to think about. My faith has typically come with taking a step with the hope that things will go a certain positive way to show that it was the right step. This has not been my experience and therein has lied the trial. But DH has never wavered. And I have never lost that conviction that this was the right move to make. If we hadn't paid off those debts we would not have had the excellent credit to qualify for this home when the other still hadn't sold and we would not have been able to move. If we had chosen any other house or moved here at a different time we would not have our neighbors that we have. I have felt angry at God for telling us to do something that would cause so much pain, suffering, struggles, tension, and that would put our marriage to such tests. But it occurs to me that I am not the first to feel this way. Surely the pioneers felt this way too as they crossed the plains, with faith in every footstep, suffering so much hardship and loss. I do not doubt that those parents who lost their children or the children who lost their parents or siblings questioned, even if for only a moment, why God would tell them to make such a leap of faith, promising that all would be well, and then seemingly punish them by causing so much pain and trial. I see now that as hard as it has been for me to keep going to church, I have been blessed with a lesson that touched my heart and gave me words I needed to hear (or comments by other sisters during the lesson) each and every time. When we went to the temple with my sister I sat in the Celestial Room and told DH "I'm just so tired. I'm so tired of the fighting, of the trying to be strong and faithful." His response? "That is why you come here, to rest." Why did that never occur to me before? Instead I have shied away from the place and things that once brought me such peace and comfort because it was there I received the promptings that then led to my pain. I'm not saying that I'm not still tired of it. I feel like I have been fighting to endure for most of my life. But I am feeling hopeful again and that is nice. It is such a wonderful blessing to be able to see the Lord's hand in your life and to recognize it. I still don't know how things will work out but they will. The bishop said to me "The Lord told you that things will work out and they will." It renewed my faith.

The house still hasn't sold. Oh, we've had offers...but the bank hasn't accepted them- or at least not in a timely enough manner. That's been another issue of concern for me. But DH also finally followed a prompting this week and spoke with a friend who is a real estate attorney. We learned that if you have homesteaded your property then if it sells as a short sale then you cannot be taxed on the difference between your loan amount and the sale amount (your debt forgiveness). We hadn't homesteaded yet so had one of those other offers gone through we would have had to pay that very large tax. Needless to say, it's taken care of now. There is another offer on the table and it will be interesting to see if they actually take this one and if it happens fast enough that the buyer doesn't go elsewhere.

So I'm still learning not to second guess myself so much. We've had to pay dearly for not managing the bills the right way, but I still feel strongly that I have done the right thing in giving them to my husband. He has a lesson he needs to learn and I have trust that I need to rebuild in him. This is our opportunity (plus, I've always felt like he needed to better learn how to run the household in case I wasn't around). I'm learning that sometimes it's just about an attitude adjustment. Heavenly Father wanted us to make these decisions and do these things so that we could learn certain lessons, have certain growing experiences, and maybe even because someone else needs something from our experience. I didn't make some royal screwup in the money department that I have to be punished for or pay the consequences of for a long time. I really feel like Heavenly Father is okay with what we have done and still approves of us. I think that is a feeling I have been lacking for a while and that I needed to get. I know that we have been affected severely by the economy as so many others have. I don't pretend that we are the only ones in a situation like this. I don't have a lot of hope for our economy turning around but I do have hope for our particular situation because I do realize that Heavenly Father really did make us a promise and He will stick to His word...even if it's not on my timetable and if I've done a lot of kicking and crying and whining like a baby. Growing pains hurt but evidently I had some faith that needed to be tested a new way and that needed to grow for some future trial. I'm so thankful that God hasn't given up on me. He's provided teachers who have been inspired to speak words I needed to hear or that I actually would hear. He's provided comments from others who listened to the prompting of the Holy Ghost to speak up during a lesson. He's surrounded me with people who love me for me and know me so well... who can see me at church and know what is going on and what to say or who can call me at just the right time and say the right things. He has given me a bishop who made me not feel bad for all the bad feelings I have had but who, instead, said 'it's okay' and 'it's not your fault' and 'you're not a bad person and neither is your husband' and 'I don't judge you' and who was saying what I truly felt like Heavenly Father was saying. He has been patient and loving with me and thank goodness for that! Don't get me wrong...I haven't been completely unhappy for the past year. I'm just saying that I have struggled and I am aware of how much I have whined. Some trials are harder than others and it has been a rollercoaster. I'm sure it will continue to be but I sure am glad to see a little more of the track now. I've spent a lot of time wondering if I have just 'convinced myself' of a lot of the decisions I have made in the past year or if I misinterpreted things. I can honestly say now that even if the path hasn't been the one I expected I was still led by the spirit. Sometimes we realize our testimony in the bearing of it. Sometimes we need to hear the spirit a different way or have it tested a different way in order for our testimony to rebuild itself. Heck, sometimes we have to fake it till we make it and then one day we wake up and realize that we've had it all along and just haven't realized it.