Thursday, June 16, 2011

Saved by...Tomatoes??

You know, it's been one of those years where a lot of discouraging things have happened one after another...the kind of year that can really depress a body not grounded in Christ. We've been in some pretty awful situations before, but it seemed that when we were just despairing some light broke - the silver lining, if you will - and things didn't seem so dire. However, the past year has just brought an onslaught of bad news and even worse hit to our finances. I can't say it's been the absolute worst, but I can say that I now recognize a pattern -- whenever Les and I and our precious children start to be intentional about pressing in to the things of God and dive deeper into our relationships with Christ, stepping out beyond our comfort zones to follow what we know are His plans for us, the enemy is not far behind us trying to undermine our efforts - and our family. I think of the story of Job and am thankful that God restores, although I wonder at times why my Father allows so much testing!
And as if that were not enough, there's more...Like most women who strive to be Godly wives and mothers, I've done enough brainstorming and such to try to find ways to ease the burden my husband bears day in and day out when he runs off to work his labor-intensive job as an HVAC technician. And with the hot spell, everyone definitely "needed" their A/C! So he works hard all day and worries all night. It is such an unfair burden to him at times, because in the past I have to admit I had been pretty spoiled. I didn't always see it that way -- there were times I truly thought that I was "entitled" to at least some of the things I desired and craved...I did not give much thought to how little respect that showed my sweet and patient husband for his love and hard work. My unthoughtful pouting, or little comments from time to time, did not encourage him at all, but increased his worry that he could not give me what I want -- not at all the picture I wanted to present!!!! I want him to know he can safely trust in me at all times, not just to spend our money wisely and make better choices, but also to not discourage him and to be respectful of what he does for our family.

I am not always good at it. It's hard for me to let go and trust sometimes, although I can honestly say that in my marriage I have no reason not to trust my husband with everything, even my very life, because he truly does love me as Christ loved the Church. I have no doubt whatsoever that Les would lay down his life for me and the children if it was required, and so I struggle with why I'm so untrusting and where that all comes from. But more than worrying about where it comes from, I can unfortunately see where it goes at times...
I was recently praying about this after reading a post on Homespun Heart about the topic of respect from Proverbs 31:23. ( It really touched my heart that I was not always having a good attitude, and that I was letting so much worry about our financial situation consume my thoughts so that I was unintentionally being more dis-respectful. This stemmed from being unable for some reason to really trust that God would provide. (There's that whole trust thing all over again, sigh!) So I prayed. One thing I've seen as I've grown in my walk with the Father is that God is good. Yes, He's just and righteous, but He's also merciful and compassionate. AND He's my Heavenly Father, who wants to give His children good gifts...So as I was praying God brought to mind a time last year where we were really, really struggling to keep ourselves afloat. I was not sure what our financial picture was going to look like day-to-day, let alone in a year's time. I had, in desperation, cried out to God to find some way that I could feed our family of eight not only cheaply, but healthy too. It's almost an oxymoron at times to do that, especially with eight of us. The rising cost of groceries makes it seem like we should multiply our grocery dollars x400% just to incorporate adequate nutritional meals for our growing family. I think many people would be surprised at how much we set aside to spend, and even the dollars budgeted are often a stretch.

Anyway, one day during a sweltering rush of heat in the heart of last summer, Les came home at the end of the day with a huge -- and I mean HUGE! -- box of tomatoes. Because of Les' job situation, that amazing guy drives all over the county, on roads I've never even heard of in the almost 18 years I've been here! I looked at the box with admiration for a quick second, and then in a panic -- our grocery dollars were few. In fact, I hadn't even shopped that week and we were out of bread, milk, eggs and other staples and I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to even buy what we needed. I almost wanted to make a comment, but I thankfully bit my tongue. The tomatoes in the box looked near-perfect. They were the kind you could pay a small fortune for in a store, or even at a farmer's market (I know, I'd priced them!). I was frustrated and almost in tears because I'd been praying to God for help, and I was sure Les had spent that week's whole grocery budget on this box of tomatoes...I could not imagine that we'd even get to them all before they started to turn so I envisioned ending up having to give some away - or worse, throw some away. My heart sank.

Les stood there calmly, trying to guage my reaction - which I'm sure was a puzzle at the moment, having first appeared pleased and then all of the sudden looking really quite the opposite - and asked if I could even use them and what could I do with the huge box of tomatoes sitting in the middle of our kitchen. I started rattling off a litany of things I could make: BLTs, tomato tarts or quiche, maybe soups. Then I thought I could figure out canned tomato sauce, canned salsa, canned ketchup...Just to try to keep from wasting our dollars, and if I could even get to them before they rotted. But still, in my mind I kept thinking how much cheaper ketchup from the store would have been, because I was sure my darling husband had spent way more money on this box of tomatoes than we could afford. I know that thoughts that were disrespectful were starting to pile up in my heart. I felt miserable because I could see that my husband had tried to be helpful. All of the sudden in the middle of my list, he blurted "Not bad for $3 worth of tomatoes!"

WHAT?! God had really come through for us that day, and He actually fed us quite nicely the rest of the summer as Les continued to stumble upon little off-the-beaten-path stands. Some examples were a 50 pound bag of potatoes for $12, another box of beautiful tomatoes for $3, a basket full of green peppers (which I stuffed as a "thank you" to my husband, who loves them) for $4...The list was endless, truly. One day we went to a farmers' market near the end of the day and got some deals we didn't usually see, even at that time of day -- a basket of Vidalia onions for $2, three heads of lettuce for $1 and about 10 pounds of bananas for $1 -- all of which I paid for with change I'd scrounged from couch cushions and under the bed!!!! God came through for us last year with oodles of healthy food for close to nothing. Les, it turns out, had been praying to God to meet our needs too. My grumbling and worry about the food dollars made us both desperate to reach for the One who could help us.

But I still needed to repent -- and still do at times -- of what kind of message I am sending not just to Les, but to others, about how he provides for us and what kind of man he is. Others may hear my little gripes when I don't get my way maybe because we have to put money toward bills or because we don't have this or that, and get the wrong picture, thinking that Les is not a good provider or that I feel he's somehow not adequate as a husband and father. I really do NOT EVER want to send that message!!! Les is amazing, and I am so thankful for him! But...

Whenever I think of how my husband's income has blessed us, I also have to couple that with how blessed we are that God provided him with ability to work not only in the position he has but also at the company he works for. I need to keep telling myself that God WILL provide and that God DOES care for His children. And when I do that, I remember to be more of a blessing than a curse to the man who swept me off my feet and gave me the honor of becoming his wife almost 18 years ago (June 26th!!!)

I pulled out the next-to-last jar of canned tomato sauce the other day and looked at the shelves in the jelly cupboard that are still not wholly bare, but are getting there. I am not afraid for me or my household because I know I have a God who provides, through the efforts of my hard-working husband, and that I am blessed to know God in a deeper and more intimate way because of my husband. I am so grateful that my Father can use a jar of canned tomatoes to prove His love for me, to teach me to respect my husband by trusting in God to meet our needs and not always grumble and worry, and to teach me to trust because He will not leave me nor forsake me, so what is there to grumble and worry about anyway?!

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