Miraculously, our morning was going according to plan. We were up on time, the kids were already wearing their Christmas pajamas, our gifts were ready at the door, and the only thing left to do was load the car and go. It was still dark outside, and we wanted to get on the road as soon as possible so we could join family for breakfast. I began ushering my sleepy-eyed, yet excited, daughters through the dimly lit kitchen to make sure they used the bathroom before we left, while Brian loaded our things into the van. Suddenly, I heard a muffled BOOM and CRASH. I paused for a short moment, not assuming the worst, and continued with the task of making sure every kid had a turn on the potty.
My husband came in breathless, red in the face, and said, “The window just shattered.” Visibly shaken, he explained that the struts on the rear lift-gate of our minivan gave out, and the door slammed down (thankfully missing his head), shattering our rear window. So much for being on time.
Inside I fumed. Why this? Why now? I calmly redirected my kids to watch a cartoon so I could escape to the shower. I reassured them that Christmas was not canceled, but selfishly I wished it had been. Beneath the hot running water, I felt too upset even to cry. Family dynamics alone were enough to make holiday plans stressful, and our broken window was the final straw after a month of similar mishaps that added to a burden we felt might actually crush us.
Our car wouldn’t start. The indoor furnace fan went out. The outdoor wood-boiler furnace fan went out at the very same time, making the task of heating our home very complicated in the middle of a Michigan December. A drain pipe in the basement kept freezing and flooding our utility room. The sum of these and several other unexpected expenses meant once again, Brian and I could not afford gifts for each other this year. For the first time, we couldn’t afford them for our kids, either. With each unexpected repair or mishap, we saw more dollar signs in the negative. We felt awesome.
Ten years prior, as hopeful and naive 20-year-old newlyweds, we survived on weekly paychecks from our respective part-time work. I was still in school, and Brian was a substitute teacher. We only had ourselves to worry about then, but I could still remember the sinking feeling I’d have when we’d go to buy groceries. We didn’t have any bills that were negotiable–no cable, no subscriptions, no fancy smartphones. Just the boring essentials like water, rent, and electric. We didn’t go out on dates very regularly, and we both took any opportunity offered to make some extra cash. Nannying, dog-sitting, wrapping Christmas gifts for a family I worked for or shampooing carpets in professor’s offices on our college campus. We hustled and barely made ends meet.
Returning from one of our shopping trips, I was near to tears as I walked from my car to our back door. Sure we had groceries for this week, but what about next? I happened to glance down at the garden planted by one of the tenants in the basement apartment and noticed a small sculpture of two cupped hands with a bird helping itself to seeds nestled inside of them. A stone inscription below read: “By His hands we are fed.” I felt encouraged by that tiny inscription and would acknowledge it with a smile each time I brought my groceries home from that day forward. Little did I know how much I’d learn this truth over the years.
Even after that newlywed season, it seldom felt like we had any financial margin. The same year our first child was born, Brian moved from a management position with a small company to an art teaching position at a small private school; with it came an even smaller salary. I struggled with this job change because it felt like we were taking a step in the wrong direction. We had no doubt he was called to this job in this season, and even if we wanted to ignore that call, all other job leads ran cold. During the six years he worked as a teacher, I had some serious re-learning to do. The fear related to finances I carried with me only pointed to a deeper heart issue I’d not yet dealt with: I was afraid God wouldn’t provide for our family’s needs.
When we found ourselves in the position of having to trust God instead of the numbers in our bank account, we became receivers of His unique provision time and time again. “God, we trust you,” became our continual declaration. We grew to understand that no matter how much income we had, if our hearts did not know our Father as our provider, then we’d always feel like it wasn’t enough. We asked God to help us live generously, despite what our bank account looked like. For a good number of years, our budget was so tight it legitimately made no sense on paper, but we never went without. Even with little, we learned what it meant to give joyfully.
One day, Brian told me he felt the Lord prompting us to double how much money we gave away each month. I felt fear start to rise up inside of me, but I simply said, “Ok, let’s do it.” I resolved that God’s kingdom didn’t operate the way ours does. And even if we stopped giving altogether, I still wouldn’t feel like we had enough, so why not just give more? For every month we doubled our giving that year, God somehow returned to us what we’d given and then some. It was a unique season where God showed us the beauty in keeping our hands open; ready to give and receive. We learned we didn’t want to be like a vault made to store and protect our resources, but like a funnel through which they could flow.
I finished showering, took a nap, and had a cup of coffee. Our parents picked us up, and we shared a late breakfast with them that morning. Christmas wasn’t canceled. My burning anger over all of the situations from December that tempted me to fear we wouldn’t have enough money to fix all the things and pay our bills ultimately subsided. The fruit of the spirit is joy, and it is peace.
Our current season is unlike any we’ve experienced before. We actually have a budget that makes sense on paper, and we live in a home of our own. We’ve learned to place our trust in His faithfulness, and not solely in our own capabilities. We’re learning to steward well the blessings we’ve been entrusted with. By His hands we are fed. I have walked too far with God to doubt Him now. He’s proven His faithfulness to me too many times for me to think a shattered car window would be our financial undoing. His provision had covered our needs in the past; surely, our window, our furnaces, and drain pipe weren’t beyond His ability to provide.
My kids opened their presents. It was just a week prior when my mother-in-law had asked what Brian and I wanted for Christmas. “Honestly,” I started, “we would like to buy the girls each a gift.” It was totally unconventional, but thanks to PayPal and Amazon Prime, three packages arrived just days before Christmas. Each of our girls opened their gifts from us Christmas morning: a doll, a telescope, and another doll. They were as overjoyed and as ecstatic as they’d have been if we surprised them with a trip to Disney. My heart swelled with gratefulness as my kids squealed with delight over their presents. I realized that, once again, I was the recipient of God’s unique provision.
Mary Kate and her husband Brian are high-school sweethearts who recently left their lifelong home in the Chicago suburbs for a rural property in Western Michigan. Together they homeschool their three daughters and are making plans for turning their new property into a small-scale homestead. After overcoming numerous health challenges due to autoimmunity, Mary Kate is passionate about helping others find healing and wholeness. She leads an online group teaching the basics of an anti-inflammatory diet and inspires others to incorporate simple, nourishing, real-food recipes in their own homes. She also writes online at www.choosinggraceblog.com, and you can catch up with her on Instagram.