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171 pages
Aug 2003

Prayers of Comfort and Strength

by Michele Howe

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Penny Pinch

Gwen counted out the change in her purse, almost six dollars and some odd pennies. Enough, she thought with relief. “Here’s the money you need for today’s lunches kids.” Handing off her final cash reserve, Gwen experienced both a rash sense of relief and anxiety. It’s only Tuesday and I just know someone’s going to need more money before Friday. Shaking her head, Gwen turned her thoughts to meal planning. Let’s see, she pondered, what inexpensive meals can I turn out until the paycheck comes in? Some minutes later, Gwen felt a tad more at ease. That’s one more task out of the way, she thought. Now on to the difficult stuff, Gwen reached for the newspaper and took out her red pen, armed and ready to circle any possible job openings. It was so aggravating, this issue of budgeting, Gwen decided as she looked down column after column of advertisements. She didn’t want to get a job working full-time. Gwen was happy working from her home selling personal care products and further supplementing the family’s income by occasionally filling in as the church secretary. But the little she brought in hadn’t made a dent in their debt. Gwen’s husband finally told her that for at least the next year, she’d need to get a job. “Doing what?” Gwen asked. “Anything,” the curt reply.

So today was D day and Gwen was determined not to allow her fear of the unknown to hinder her from this job search. Though she’d been diligent to cut costs in the past month or so, Gwen admitted that both she and her husband had been living far above their means for the last several years. In the back of her mind, Gwen had been trying to ignore the niggling little voice that continually cautioned her to pare back and live more frugally. But she hadn’t listened and now she was paying the price.

Gwen worked her way through the entire ten-page listing and circled seven possibilities. Tearing the ads out, she wanted to cry again. How would getting a full-time position away from home change their lives? Gwen wondered. Suddenly overcome by the immense transition they would be facing, Gwen sat back in her chair, closed her eyes, and cried out to God for some small measure of strength and peace of mind.

    You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. —2 Corinthians 6:12

Dear Lord, upon waking up this morning I was suddenly shaken with the realization that today was it, no longer could I make excuses for not following through on this task. Oh, how I wanted to climb back under the covers and sleep the day away. But it was no use. My poor choices have finally caught up with me. Now I must tackle the difficult work of digging myself out of the trenches of debt we’ve accumulated. Lord, this is not going to be easy. In fact, when I look at the cold, hard facts, it seems monumental to me. How long will it take for us to rest easy again? I admit that my family and I have been placing far too much emphasis on enjoying the extras of life. We’ve somehow gotten off track with what’s most important. Each of us, I think, has willingly taken the road of comfort and expedience when instead we should have pressed hard to finish the work at hand.

Lord, is it too late to undo the mess we’ve made? I wonder. Will you enable us to forge ahead even though the going will be slow and tedious? Help us not become discouraged when we get weary. Show us the path through and make a way for us even today. Please be my guide and provide me with all the discipline I require to live out my life pleasing to you. Let not greed for material wealth put a wall between us. I commit my coming days to you, faithful Lord. I beg your mercy will surround me and that your grace will shore me up whenever I need fresh encouragement. Amen.

Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence. —God’s Little Devotional Journal for Women