It’s time to dish.
Long ago and far away (as in four or five years ago when I lived in the land-of-the-working-mom) I was not very good at handling my money. Embarrassing but true. Even though I had a fairly decent income, there never seemed to be enough of it to cover all the bases, largely because I spent impulsively and foolishly. Okay, here’s an example: after a particularly late work meeting one evening I picked the children up from their babysitter, only to have them drop dead asleep as soon as their seatbelts were fastened. Halfway home, I realized we had no milk for their breakfast the next morning. UGH. Unable to face the prospect of dragging my entourage of whiny exhausted children through the grocery store for a measly quart of milk, I instead went to the McDonald’s drive-thru, where I willingly dropped about ten bucks for four of those little half-pint cartons. The sad thing is that it was totally worth it. The really sad thing is, I did stuff like this all the time.
So yeah… I’m sure you get the picture, and I don’t imagine it’ll surprise you to hear that back in those days, and in that state of mind I got behind on my mortgage. One month, two months… honestly right now, I don’t even remember how far behind I was at the worst of it. Interestingly enough, once I stopped working I was able to keep up on my mortgage just fine, even though my income suffered a huge drop. I was blessed with a very understanding mortgage company and as long as I made my current monthly payment on time, they didn’t press me too hard for the months that were overdue. Of course, I received frequent “reminders” of the overdue months. I knew that if I should ever let the current payment go late by even a single day, then all bets were off; their patience would run out and to foreclosure we would go. It was a lot of pressure, and some months it was a tremendous strain scraping that payment together and getting it all in, checks cleared and funds transferred by the sixteenth of the month. Last November was one of those difficult months, but by the evening of the fifteenth my checking account balance finally registered enough to make the payment. On the morning of the sixteenth I called to make my payment, only to discover that after all, the sixteenth was too late. The gal I spoke to told me that my account had been transferred to foreclosure merely an hour before my call.
I talked to them for hours that day, and for hours on several other days. No, they would not accept a payment at this point. No, there was no way of pulling the house out of foreclosure. No, they couldn’t tell me exactly how much I owed; by now, legal fees would have been added onto what I had previously owed, thousands of dollars worth of legal fees. It looked like my best hope was a repayment plan, but the worker warned me that I’d need a hefty downpayment to even begin such a plan. Even if I managed the downpayment, I secretly worried about how I’d be able to cover the increased payments such a plan would require. Nevertheless, I began scraping together every spare cent I could lay my hands on in hopes of somehow qualifying. That was hard… especially since we were right in the middle of the holiday season. It’s hard not to have even enough money to buy your kid a candy cane.. to hear them excitedly making plans for making cookies and going to Nana’s and wrapping presents and to know that you don’t have the money for wrapping paper and gasoline and vanilla, much less Christmas presents. So now you all know what a tremendous blessing this really was. And I want to take the opportunity to thank you all once again.
And if that wasn’t enough, just days after Christmas I received another blow: come January 25th my income would be reduced by approximately a third.
Just after New Year’s I finally heard from the bank. I had been approved for a repayment plan, however the money I had painstakingly scraped together was barely a third of what they were requiring for a downpayment, and with my just discovered income reduction, there was no way I’d be able to make the increased payments required. We talked some more that day and more the next week, but in the end there was nothing else to be done, no other options to explore. I received a call from the bank worker assigned to my account. I would be receiving notification of the date I needed to vacate the premises. Did I have any questions pertaining to the foreclosure proceedings?
“No,” I answered dully. “No questions.”
As hard as it was to scrape through the holidays without funds and as difficult as that pressure was, it was nothing compared to the pain of having no one to discuss any of this with. I told my children nothing, told my parents nothing. No one in my church family has known any of this was going on, none of my friends. Maybe it was pride that made me carry this alone, I don’t know. I know that the thought of causing my children pain and insecurity almost paralyzed me. But most of all I hated the thought of causing dishonor to God. I live my life by the premise that one can trust Him to the uttermost, that He is relentlessly dependable. I live that truth loudly and joyfully. What would people say if they saw me losing my home? I knew that His provision had always been more than adequate to meet my needs. I had always had more than enough money to pay my bills, but in my own foolishness and sin had mismanaged the funds He had provided. I was the only one to blame for my current situation, but would God be the One to get the blame? Would the people around me doubt His sufficiency? Would they doubt His love? Would they shake their heads and say that my misfortune proves God is not really all that dependable after all? Of all the bad things that could come of this, this was the worst of all.
Finally, I asked for prayer.
Then I gathered my courage and told one friend.
And then I told Amelia what was going on.
“This is a beautiful house,” she said. “Most people don’t have houses this pretty. Or this big.”
“Mhhmm,” I responded. (Profundity, thy name is Diane.)
“We’ve had it for a while.. we’ve had it for a long time…” she hesitated and I didn’t know what she was getting around to. “But we don’t need it. We have everything we need.”
“Well… yeah…” I said doubtfully.
She thought for a moment. “Even if we have to live in a tiny apartment and all share the same bedroom, we’ll still be the same happy family.. yanno?”
“Yes,” I said slowly. “I know…”
She leaned back in the chair. “No matter what happens we’ll always have everything we need. I’m not worried.”
A couple of days after that, I started having this bizarre urge to call the mortgage company again (Just a FYI here, when one’s mortgage is in foreclosure, the experience of talking to the mortgage company is something akin to the seventh level of hell.) I have grown to hate talking to them. My stomach wrenches when I see their number on my caller ID. I break out in a cold sweat when I’m waiting on hold. Having the desire to call them is truly nothing short of bizarre, but it was there and it was undeniable. So call I did, and I talked to a guy named Bobby.
“According to our records here, you’re under consideration for a mortgage modification,” Bobby said.
“No. No, I’ve been denied a modification. Three times as a matter of fact,” I rifled through the folder of papers on my lap looking for the three separate letters I’d received, each of which oh-so-politely informed me of my impending doom.
“Well, this is a different kind of modification,” Bobby insisted.
“I wish I was under consideration for a modification,” I laughed.
“This is a different kind of modification,” he repeated.
“No really Bobby, I’ve been through all of that already and I was denied. Really. Several times…” I trailed off.
“THIS IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF MODIFICATION,“ he insisted and I could tell he was losing patience with me. “Can you fax us your financial information?”
Okay, so guess what? Bobby was right. I am being considered for a different kind of mortgage modification. And even though things have not been completely resolved, it looks as though that modification plan will be approved. And if it all works out I will have a fresh start with no back payments owed, no legal fees and a lower monthly payment. A fresh start with no money owed… no back payments hanging over my head and a lower payment every month… how’d that happen? Seriously, how did I go from looming eviction to this in the space of five short minutes? The mind reels. Sometimes He really does give you more than you could ever ask or imagine.
And oh yeah! Remember how my income was going to be reduced by a third? Apparently that was a mistake. The girl didn’t understand how I could have gotten that notification and she’s so very sorry. And oh my goodness, now that she’s looking closely, it appears that my income will actually be increasing by approximately fifty dollars each month. Could I possibly accept her apologies?
Ladies, my most heartfelt prayer is that my life will tell the truth about God. That people will be able to look at my life and understand who God is and how He operates. For years now He’s shown me that I can lean hard on Him, that He really will make sure that I have enough of whatever I need. Over the last few months, I was gripped with the fear that my own foolishness and sin could hamper His provision, could limit Him. But through all of this He has shown me that even my own sin and foolishness does not limit Him… and incidentally, that He can handle His own PR. I may screw up. Actually, I will screw up, you can count on that… but I can never screw things up so badly that He is not able to unscrew them. His promises stand sure and strong even in the face of my own silliness.
Often we must live with the consequences of our poor choices. I am a single mother as a result of my own and my husband’s sin. I am a chubby little thing because I eat too much butter and don’t like to exercise. I have hurt people and must live with relationships that never will be made completely right until we meet in glory. That’s the reality of life on this side of glory. But sometimes in His grace and tender love, Jesus chooses to not only forgive my foolishness and sin, but take away their consequences as well. He chose to remain nailed on that cross so long ago, so that I would not have to bear the consequences of my sin for eternity. He gives me a fresh start every morning with brand spankin’ new mercies. At the moment, it looks like He might do that for me in working out this mortgage situation. But even if He chooses not to give me my brand spankin’ new mortgage start, even if I end up losing this house, I’ll still have everything I need. As Amelia said, we’ll still be the same happy family.
It really is true; no matter how big I screw up, the truth about God is bigger still. No matter what happens, I’ll still have Him and more joy than I can hold.
from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory,
to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
may be able to comprehend with all the saints
what is the width and length and depth and height—
to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations,
forever and ever.