Four years ago on this day, September 5th, 2009, I wrote my first “Reflections” piece on my blog. I mentioned something about a bleak financial picture and downsizing.
The fact of the matter was that that morning—the morning of my fifty-second birthday, we had told our children that we would be moving into our basement.
In January of 2009 my husband lost his job. I guess my overriding feeling at the time was thankfulness, because his job was so terrible that he was being driven into deep depression. He began freelancing again, but times were tough, and freelance illustration jobs seemed to be in short supply. On September 4th Tim told me that after his unemployment compensation ran out, he didn’t see how we were going to be able to make ends meet. He said we should sell the house, a large one with five bedrooms, purchased when his parents were both alive and living with us. But I said this would be an abysmal time to sell a house because the housing market was terrible.
Then I thought about some people we had heard of who decided, when they were in financial straits, to move into their basement and rent out their upstairs. We had a basement. It was unfinished, but still, if we put in a kitchen and scrunched our family of six into that thousand square feet, we could do it. I said to Tim, “Let’s do that!”
Tim struggled—he was still struggling with depression from his parents’ death, the aftermath of the boss who had sought to beat all self-respect out of him, from some family issues, and now from not being able to provide for his family. He said, “If we did that I would think of myself as a failure.”
I said, “This isn’t failure. It’s restructuring. It isn’t failure. It’s just the next step.” God in His mercy had me at a strong place in my life when we were faced with this new challenge, and I could already envision the new living arrangement.
Tim went for a walk. He was sober and quiet and didn’t sleep well that night. But by early the next morning—which was my birthday—the Lord had given him peace. He said, “I can see how we could make this work.” He began to think through logistics.
Amazing. The next thing to do was tell the children. We still had four children at home, and they weren’t little. How would we tell them we were going to move into the thousand-square-foot basement? Katy was 22, starting her senior year of college, and dating the man she would eventually marry. Stephen was 19 and struggling in his own way. Christiana was 16 and Joshua 13. This would not be easy for any of them.
And so I prayed. “Lord, please let the children be at least accepting and willing. Please, I know they’re working through their own stuff, I know they’re pretty old to have to do something like this, but give them peace. Maybe they could even have a vision for the bigger picture this is about?”
We certainly didn’t plan to tell them that morning—the morning of my birthday. I can’t remember now how it happened, but it just did, sometime after the delicious strawberry smoothies that Christiana made for the occasion. I remember so clearly all of us standing various places in the kitchen as Tim dropped the bombshell.
But all four of them were accepting and willing. All four of them. And Christiana even said, “I’m excited about getting rid of stuff.”
I had a birthday brimming over with happiness.
In the following months Tim took to the renovations with a will. He and our stalwart son Stephen, who has walked with his dad through many a construction project, finished the basement, added another bedroom, and put in a kitchen.
But we never moved into that basement. Instead, God began bringing us international students who supplemented our income and expanded our world. For three and a half years we hosted ten students in our home from Thailand, China, Colombia, Korea, and Saudia Arabia. Some of them we were able to introduce to Christianity for the very first time.
And now, four years later, with two children married and a third at Bible school, we’re again planning on downsizing. This time I think it’s going to happen, as we prepare to move closer to my elderly parents and needy sisters. Maybe someday, maybe in four years, I can write more about that.
For now, I stand rejoicing that God is faithful through every stormy wind that blows, and there’s never a need to be anxious. He knows my needs, and I know that when I’m weak, He delights to show Himself strong.
This blog post is longer than usual. But I’m having a birthday brimming over with happiness.