Hopes for the New Year and Blessings of the Old One

Last night I watched on television the New Year’s celebration in Times Square.  It struck me as odd that we get so excited about what is essentially just another day.  When you think about it, it’s a bit crazy for grownups to gather in the streets on a cold winter’s night to watch a ball drop.  Of course, for many people, it’s simply an excuse to party.  For others of us, the New Year signals a new start.  It is fresh and unblemished; we are filled with hope that the coming year will be better than the one just ended. 

 In 2011, I hope and pray that the economy improves significantly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end, our troops come home and are reunited with their families, and the President and new Congress work together to find answers to the problems facing our nation. On a more personal note, I pray that my husband will find a job, preferably one that matches his skills and in which he finds fulfillment.

2010 was a rough year for our family as my husband’s period of joblessness extended to two years and his unemployment benefits were exhausted.  Despite those challenges, we were blessed in many ways.  I think it’s appropriate to begin the New Year by acknowledging some of the ways God blessed our family during the past year.

Our top ten blessings of 2010:  

  1. The birth of our grandson Daniel was the highlight of our year.  He is a delight and brings joy to our life.
  2. My first novel, Restorations, was finally published in October, three years after I finished it.  It took me 8 months to find a publisher, followed by 28 months of waiting for the book to be published.
  3. Our oldest child completed a Master’s Degree program in History at Villanova University. 
  4. In June, my husband and I took a Caribbean cruise.  The cruise was wonderfully relaxing. 
  5. A new, lasting friendship was formed on the cruise. A woman seated with us at dinner turned out to be the sister of one of our high school classmates.  We spent much of the week with her husband and her and found that we shared not only a common hometown but also a common faith. 
  6. I completed my second novel, Reconciliations, and started the third novel in my Restored Hearts series.
  7. All three of our sons are employed in jobs they enjoy.
  8. A new administrative assistant was hired for my office.  We had been without one for nearly two years due to a hiring freeze.  Our new co-worker has been a wonderful addition to the staff.
  9. Although there were no raises for state employees for the third year in a row, we did receive small Christmas bonuses. Mine went to pay for a root canal and crown.  I’m thankful God provided the money to pay for the necessary dental procedures.
  10. Despite my husband being unemployed, we ended the year with more savings and less debt than we started it with. 

We are truly thankful for the blessings God bestowed on our family in 2010. We look forward expectantly to 2011 knowing that God has great things planned for our family.

As you will look back on 2010, how has God blessed your family?

Acknowledging God’s Blessings

“Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you, Lord, just the same for the food we’re about to eat. Amen.”

 The sentiments of Charlie Anderson, played by Jimmy Stewart, in the movie Shenandoah probably ring true with many people.  If I grew my food or worked to earn money to buy it, and I cooked the meal, why I am thanking God for it?

 For me the answer is found in the words of Moses to the children of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”  Deuteronomy 8:17, 18

 Charlie Anderson is a proud man.  He thinks he can support and care for his family without depending on God’s help.  At the end of the movie, we see a much humbler man.  He has not been able to protect his family from the devastation of the Civil War. Several family members have been killed and his youngest son is missing.  For the first time in many years, Charlie goes to church and asks for God’s help.  When he does, his son returns.

We all need God’s help in our lives every day.  God supplies each of us with talents and abilities that allow us to be productive.  In taking time to thank God for our food and to ask Him to bless our meal, we are acknowledging that God is the source of our strength, and it is God who gives us the ability to provide for our families.  It is my desire to never take God’s gifts for granted.  If you aren’t in the habit of thanking God for the blessings He bestows on you each day, it’s never too late to start.   Please consider making this a new habit in the coming new year.

Two Years of Unemployment and Counting

January 5, 2009.  My first day back at work after the Christmas holidays. Steve’s  first day of unemployment.

My husband, Steve, an engineer, worked for a small, family-owned firm. Work had been slow throughout the fall, and the boss had toyed with the idea of cutting hours, but had put off that decision until after the holidays.  Steve went back to work fully prepared to have his hours cut.  Upon arrival, however, he and most of the staff learned that their jobs had been cut.

Steve called me shortly after 10 to give me the news.  He had packed up his belongings already and was back at home.  Fortunately, my job was still secure.  Unfortunately, my job accounted for only 30% of our family’s income.  At that moment, as shaken as I was by the news, I felt a strong sense of peace. My foundation was firm.  God is my fortress; in Him I trust. 

I took off the next day and provided moral support as Steve applied for unemployment and began a job search that held little hope of success.  We took immediate steps to cuts our expenses.  In God’s providence, we were about to become empty nesters.  During the previous four years, we had helped to put our three sons through college, but we had just made the final college tuition payment for our one son still in college.  With careful spending, we could survive on my salary and Steve’s unemployment.  Money has been tight at times, but we have never lacked for anything we needed. 

Steve’s unemployment benefits ended a few months ago.   But by the grace of God, we have been able to not only pay all our bills, but have also managed to save some money. We know that we have it much easier than many other families who have been affected by long-term unemployment, and we are truly thankful.  But, some days I despair that Steve may never have a job again.  That’s not to say that I don’t benefit from his being home. Steve has taken over an ever-increasing share of the household chores.  I look forward to coming home from work and being able to relax knowing that dinner is cooked, the shopping has been done, and clean clothes are hanging in the closet.  After years of taking care of my family, it’s nice to be taken care of.  I will miss these things when he finally does go back to work.

I read yesterday that unemployment benefits are running out before Christmas for 2 million Americans.  My heart goes out to them, and I will remember them in my prayers.

We’re approaching the end of two years of Steve being unemployed, with no end in sight.  Yet, every day we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.   In many ways, this period of long-term unemployment of our family’s major breadwinner has been a blessing.  It has reaffirmed that our faith is not in our government, the economy, or earthly systems.  Our faith is firmly rooted in God.  It has opened our eyes to how much we have and how little we truly need.  When Steve goes back to work, we will have a better balance in the management of our household and our money.  After all, everything we have is a gift from God.  We want to do our best to honor Him by being the best stewards we can of all that He has given us.