It was kind of easy to say in my head with a sigh, "Yeah, yeah, I'm blessed. Lucky me. I have everything I need." I've always known I am blessed, but I haven't always realized it. I have been through a few challenging circumstances, many that I've never talked about publicly, but I don't see myself as a victim to these circumstances. That is life and I have worked through them. My life, compared to so many others, has been incredibly easy. I don't understand why things have happened the way they have. I don't understand why my life has thus far gone with very little heart break. I could sit down and write a list of all the heartbreaking things that have happened to me, and it wouldn't be very long at all, and very few of these things actually had a lasting impression or still affect me today. It doesn't make sense to me why some people have to go through so much worse, and I am not really of the "everything happens for a reason" mindset, so I see it more as chance than anything that I have "dodged the bullet" per say.
(My belief is that God gives us free will and out of that free will comes selfishness and greed and lies and poor decisions, and from that, very shitty things happen that affect many people, like death and cancer and car wrecks and accidents, you know, the whole cause-and-effect thing, and his heart breaks when we are in pain and suffering; after all, he wept over a man he raised from death just minutes later because the sisters' hearts were broken... he is a merciful and loving God, but he does not control everything that happens on this earth, which is not our permanent home anyway, so on and so forth... this is what I believe and I am not going to get into it here and now, but I can feel it bubbling forth into a blog post in the very near future. Stay tuned for the sharing of my very personal, screwed up theology that is the result of years of arguing with myself and others over western Christian beliefs.)
I look at the homes of friends our own age, and some of them are spacious, filled with light and pretty rugs and brand new furniture and nice, expensive, fair-trade wooden toys for their children, and sometimes a twinge of envy makes its way into my heart, and I am just now aware of its presence and want so desperately to change it... but I am not going to pretend its not there. Our dwelling places have always been on the smaller side, and in the past we couldn't afford simple furniture like a table and chairs and a decent couch. We've lived mostly in small, old apartments because they are cheap and available. But you know what's really amazing?
Well, okay. Let me tell you what happened when we had to move last month. Just, go ahead and get settled with a cup of coffee or something because this might take a while. We were not prepared at all for the move, mentally as well as financially, because we were expecting to resign the lease and stay another six months. All of a sudden, we had to be able to pay for all the expenses that come along with moving, including a truck rental and storage unit, first months' rent, move-in deposit, pet deposit, so on and so forth, along with our normal living expenses, which are usually just covered by our monthly income. I had no idea how in the world we were going to do it. It looked absolutely impossible to me. I mean, what were we going to do, pull money out of our butts? Pluck it off the money tree in the backyard?
We stayed with my parents for a while, but had to be out by a certain date (they are renting) and in the meantime, I had to find an apartment that had to meet a lot of requirements, which included being close to my husband's work (we only have one vehicle and I need to be able to take him to work sometimes), on the first floor (we have a piano), having a washer and dryer in the unit (we use cloth diapers), and allowing dogs over 20 pounds. With all of these demands and on top of living with my family for over a month, I was getting so stressed out and turning into someone you wouldn't want to be around. I was venting to John a lot and his answer was always just to trust and not worry. NOT WORRY?! Are you kidding me? How could I not worry? I told him there was no way I could just sit back and continue on as if we weren't in a dire situation that seemed to have absolutely no solution. I am a realist, damnit it! I don't live in some fantasy world where everything works out! We are going to be on the streets in a couple weeks and you are telling me not to worry?!
But I tried to take his advice and not worry. Instead, I started praying. Now, I have sort of a weird relationship with prayer, so before you start pinning me as some blind believer in Goodness and Fate and white American blessings, let me just say... well, I'll save that for another blog post, too. I began to pray and when I found I didn't have the words to pray, I started repeating certain words over and over. Whenever I would start to feel the worry creep in, instead of dwelling on it (which is so natural for me to do), I began praying, Jehovah Jireh. My provider. Your grace is sufficient for me. I looked back on all the times that I thought things were looking really bad, and reminded myself that although we've faced some really hard times, we'd always had what we needed... even if it came at the very last millisecond.
The very last week we were to stay at my parents, after calling approximately thirty-five apartment complexes and physically visiting at least a dozen, and praying to Jehovah Jireh a lot, I found exactly what we needed. When I say that this was the only two-bedroom apartment that was close to John's work, that accepted large dogs, had a washer and dryer, and was a ground floor unit that we could actually afford... I am not exaggerating. This was the only one in the entire city of Lacey (or Olympia, for that matter). What was better, they would allow us to make the deposits in payments. I still wasn't quite sure how we were going to afford everything, even in payments, what with bills to pay and gas being $4 a gallon and not being millionaires and all... when our tax return came in. And the only reason our tax return came in is because it didn't go toward student loans like it had the past five years, because we had just recently started paying those off (another reason money was so tight). This was a small miracle. No, I'm serious... for us this was a small miracle.
So do you see why it doesn't really matter to me anymore if my home isn't spacious and full of light and dreamy and perfectly organized in Martha Stewart aesthetics and decorated with nick-nacks from Anthropologie and West Elm? (God I love those stores. I've never bought anything from either.)
Beside all this, once we moved in, I realized I love this apartment so much more than the last. The floor plan is more open and our kitchen and living room get more light. The other apartment was so dark, even during the day it still looked like it was 8 o'clock at night. And I have a window right above my sink! I've always wanted a window right above my sink. Right outside our new patio is a small field of bright, green grass and a little park. River can ride his tricycle on our long porch while I am cooking dinner and I can open my window-above-the-sink and keep an eye on him. He goes outside every day now, rain or shine. And I love that on nice days, I can plant myself outside on a lawn chair and read while the kids play at the park, and it is just steps away from our door. And another thing: the trash bin is just steps away. At the old place, I had to get all bundled up and walk across the parking lot; it was such a pain in the ass.
And to perfectly match our old, little apartment, our car is pretty old and certainly isn't a beauty... but heck, that car is the result of desperate prayer to God when our previous car was on its last leg, and I have the faith that he gave us this car when we had no other options... and so to me, this car is a frickin' limo! Oh, that's a story too. Is your coffee still warm?
Before I got pregnant with Austen, my white mini-van that I lovingly called Sexii (no Y, two Is) started giving us a lot of trouble, and something... happened... that was going to cost a lot of money to repair. More than the car was worth, and more than we could afford. (I am not a car person, but essentially the steering wheel stopped turning and you had to muster up the strength of the Hulk to make turns... which I did, when I was pregnant. It would give me these really strong Braxton Hicks contractions whenever I would drive. Eventually I stopped driving.) We also needed a washer so we could stop spending $55 a month washing our clothes, linens, and cloth diapers at the laundromat, and since our rent had just gone up, we started looking out for a less expensive place to live. I decided to make a list of needs. A plain and simple list, in black and white. A list that I didn't have to feel guilty about, or try to remember when I remembered to pray. One that was full of things that would make our lives so much easier. Every now and then, particularly when I started worrying about it, I looked at the list and not in the least bit eloquently or fervently, I would pray a simple prayer asking God to miraculously bestow upon us a new car, a new place to live, a new washer, and a bit further down the road, an entire maternity wardrobe was added to that list.
(Another side note. I know that at this point everyone has stopped reading, and I don't blame you. I am writing this mostly for myself. Anyway. I do realize these are very minimal "needs." Again, I won't go into it... right now.)
Long story short, we moved from our apartment at the time into a three-bedroom house that was going to save us $120 a month in rent (in exchange for laying down new tile and redoing the baseboards), and during the the same time, a friend's mom gave us her washer. She said her dryer that went with it broke down, so she wanted to get a new washer as well, and just gave us her old washer. A few months later, after we'd discovered I was pregnant and added maternity clothes to the list, my new friend Elise gave me two HUGE bags of maternity clothes. Hello new wardrobe! And, as far as the car goes, John's grandparents offered to sell us their car for a price that we could actually afford.
I remember staring down at the list and being amazed, my heart holding more gratefulness than I could ever express. I had crossed out these things one by one. The car was the one that boggled my mind the most. I remember writing it down -- "a working vehicle" -- and thinking, Ha! Yeah right. You have to understand at the time that we did not have extra money to buy these things for ourselves. The $55 a month that we were spending on washing our clothes was needed to buy groceries. The extra $120 that had been spent on our apartment helped pay our steep electricity bill that summer. And I certainly didn't have the money to buy even used maternity clothes at the time. These may seem like small needs, but to us, they were essential, and they were provided.
I don't believe every prayer will be answered with, Sure what the heck. I can really see you're struggling with rent there, and it's kind of inconvenient to drive that car around like that, so here ya go. And sure, here's an apartment that accepts Colby-size dogs so your kid can keep his pet. I don't know why these prayers were answered. But I am grateful, and consider myself as blessed as someone who lives in a mansion and gets to take numerous vacations a year and drives a Lexus. Maybe we have the wrong idea about what blessing and grace means, anyway.