Reflections on my fifty-sixth birthday: thoughts about moving into the basement

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.

17 thoughts on “Reflections on my fifty-sixth birthday: thoughts about moving into the basement

  1. Praise the Lord for your willingness to pull together as a family and support your husband in that way. I truly believe that the Lord saw your willingness to sacrifice to be good stewards of what you had and so in the end blessed you with the experience of hosting these students. Thank you for sharing, I am in tears at this moment remembering how the Lord also worked in our lives so many years ago when he brought us to Indiana. The reaction of your children to this new adventure only reflects the way you and Tim brought them up in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord”. Praise the Lord for you!

  2. Dear Rebecca,
    Thanks so much for so humbly sharing your experience. I´m also a freelancer professional and sometimes I have jobs to do and sometimes not. My two kids (19 and 15 years old) and I face so many challenges since the day, four years ago, when their dad turned his back and left us, we also had to undergone downsizing and my two teenagers still suffer but the three of us are pressing into God´s plans and will to our lives. I will share your testimony with them.
    Many blessings and may God provide you with all you need.
    Sônia – Brazil

  3. Wow! Thank you for sharing this with us. I love the way your family was united and willing for what you thought would need to happen. What a blessing to see how God worked it all out.

  4. What an inspiring story. Am grateful to hear that you all bonded through such a difficult decision and met it so beautifully. That must have been a trial God presented to you and wanted to see how you would do. He certainly is a great God and blessed you with so much love and special opportunities. Thank you for sharing this. I’d like to share as many friends are facing such difficulties now themselves. It would be wonderful to know they could gain greater faith and to know indeed that God never leaves or forsakes us. You’be been a great blessing in my life. Thank you & happy birthday, Sweet Rebecca 🙂

  5. Thank you, Rebecca, for your encouraging words, and reminder of our faithful God. It has now been a little over a year since Craig was laid off,….lots of applications sent, but still no offers. I am still caring for my Mom 24/7,….who has slowly declined to the point where she finally met the criteria for ‘home hospice’ in July. We are often stressed, depressed, and totally exhausted….so easy to be tossed by the storms of anxiety and fearful rejections. But, we continue to seek the Lord’s will in our lives and are blessed by God’s provision, and the hope and encouragement sent our way.
    Happy Birthday Rebecca,.. may all your days overflow with happiness!

  6. Please be careful Rebecca and don’t move too close. My relationship with my parents improved greatly when I moved 20 miles away from them. It may be that I matured a little during that time as well but I know that living too close can draw you in to be their solution to many of their problems when they still need to attempt to solve problems and not pass them along to you. I’ll pray that God will give you and Tim the wisdom to make the decisions that will help them and still keep a great relationship for you and your own family. Serving the Lord and helping your family does not equate to becoming their servant.

  7. After taking the course, “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”, my husband and I looked at our almost grown-up children and thought, “What’s next?” We met with several friends we knew in full time ministry and asked them, knowing what they do about us, what they would recommend. After three different people suggested living in the international student house on campus, we figured we’d check it out. It really didn’t seem like our thing, but three people said it, so…

    This is our second year, and we are very happy we listened to those wise counselors. Even though our American Dream House sat empty and on the market for a full year. Even though we drained the savings account. Even though last year had a rough mix of students. We haven’t regretted it for one second.

    Isn’t it wonderful how God knows what we really REALLY need?! I’m so happy for you and your family.

  8. Becky, I just read what you went through. It is an encouraging report of how God spoke his wisdom to you and you were able to follow his plans and climb out of your difficult situation. Thank you for sharing. I knew most of the information, but it was good to read how the Lord led you.

    • I love reading stories all in one place too, stories that I pretty much know, but maybe not in complete order. It’s also helpful for me to write them out and see the big picture of how God is working in my life.

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