Thursday, April 4, 2013

Money and the Writer, and God, Too

Money. A few writers I know have been struggling with Not Having Enough. I’ve been trying to find words of encouragement. But I have to admit, my responses sound glib.

Don’t let poverty define you, I want to say.

Don’t stop giving because you’re afraid. Contribute. Share. Be who you are meant to be.

It’s hard to make people listen when you just seem lucky.  

That’s easy for you to say, is the response I imagine.

It is true: I feel rich.

This hasn’t always been the case. I was born to an alcoholic, jobless father and a disabled mother. They lived on handouts and family sympathy. My father died soon after I was born, and my mother kept me and my brother fed through food stamps. I grew up in hand-me-downs and castoffs, at the mercy of the merciful. I shoplifted when I was old enough to be sly, telling myself, It’s not fair that I should go without nice things.

My teen years included the stigma of foster care, along with joblessness and a sort of paralysis, and barely enough money for the basics. The basics didn’t include health care or education. The messages I learned about money were:  

There is never enough.

You must find work even when it’s something you hate, because the work you love won’t pay you.

If you find something on sale you’d better buy it. You’ll never know when the chance will come again.

Bouts of scarcity continued throughout my adulthood. I experienced eviction and homelessness for a short while. I lived with my daughters in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment where the real homeless surfed the dumpsters. But then, things changed.

In my new financial picture, the basics were provided for, and they encompassed insurance, good food, dependable vehicles, vacations. In a Christmas montage, presents spilled from under the tree and filled the living room of my lovely home on its quiet, manicured street.

Even so, one thing was missing. I still felt poor.

This feeling led to a bad habit. I bought things I didn’t have money for.

After all, it wasn’t fair that I should go without.

I nursed a mounting credit card balance which I kept secret from my husband. I experienced the shame I’d felt a small child, back in those days when I tried to hide my red ticket when paying for school lunch. I couldn’t be like those other kids who used blue tickets.

The debt was mounting, and my income was not keeping pace. One day, in panic and tears, I told my husband about the thousands of dollars I’d racked up. The result was an explosion of frustration and stress, just as you would expect. At a total loss for what to do, I prayed, “God, I’ve made a mess of things. If there is some way you can help, I’ll lean on you.”

Two weeks later, I received a writing contract that quadrupled my income, and over the next eight months I paid off every penny I owed. I was filled with gratitude. I noticed insights that trickled into me as if I were a baby bird being fed with an eyedropper.

These thoughts were:

If I want to be provided for, I need to do my part, and let God do God’s part.  

My part means not overspending.  

My part means doing the work God shows me to do. Even if my work is challenging or imperfect, I can do it with a grateful heart.

I am not poor just because I don’t have a: _______________________ (smart phone, remodeled kitchen, Prius.)

God has set me on the earth for a purpose. I need to spend according to my purpose. Instead of spending money on ______________________ (smart phone, remodeled kitchen, Prius), I need to invest in ____________________ (creative purpose, passion, serving others).

As my art teacher says, “I used to care about making a lot of money. When I began painting and teaching full time, I realized I didn’t mind going without the latest gadgets or fancy car. I’m doing the thing that fulfills me, and I feel rich.”

This new perspective called for an overhaul. I had to stop being afraid. I had to stop thinking I wouldn’t be taken care of.

I began doing more to serve others without worrying about the paycheck I was getting. I did my part. I gave the rest to God.

Being afraid had kept me poor, even if only in my mind. Time after time, I had chosen jobs that didn’t maximize my skills because I didn’t think writing or using my talents could pay my bills. In desperation, I put my efforts or investments into frantic schemes, hoping for paydirt. These things did not, in the end, bring provision.

This changed when I learned to work from simple trust.

I still make mistakes. Financial needs continue to crop up. I live on Earth, after all. But I don’t let fear or shame run the show anymore. I’ve found out that just around the corner there is always a provision I cannot see, and if I will keep patiently doing the work of my heart it will come forth.

Then again, you could just say I’m lucky.
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Jeff said...

What a powerful testimony! Thank you for sharing this story. It is encouraging to me in many ways.

Christi Krug said...

Thank you, Jeff. I really hope not to sound too simplistic. It's gratifying to honor the whole picture of resources and know where they come from, including my own talents and energies.

Edee Lemonier said...

Powerful, yes. But brave... incredibly brave. Thank you for sharing it, Christi!