Saturday, October 8, 2011

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Future me? Who knows!
I have always been frugal with my money. I have always tried to live within my means, only spending money that I actually have. I'm not even close to the level of extreme couponing (yet), but I hardly ever buy something that isn't on sale or if I don't have a coupon (and usually both!). I also like to take time to make larger financial decisions, so I will thoroughly research products before making a big purchase (and by "big" purchase, I'm talking more than $20... that's how frugal I can be).

I also am a big saver. I was raised in a household where a certain amount of any money I received, whether it was an allowance, a gift, or hard-earned money, was put into a special savings envelope. I eventually grew up into a savings account at the bank, but that's where I started. Thankfully, I saved enough money over the past few years that I could put a down payment on a house, buy a car, or put on a wedding - at least those are things I said I was saving up for.

This was all when I had a steady income, and could afford to be a bit frivolous with my money.

And then the time of no-job came about. Since my last substantial paycheck from graduate school, I've had to cut my costs enormously. I'm talking cutting my credit card bill in half - which is not an easy feat. Despite being frugal with my money, I do like to shop the sales. So I had to make some drastic changes. No shopping, unless I absolutely need something. No eating out, which I used to do multiple times a week (I'm a single gal, it's tough cooking for one!). Only travel somewhere when necessary, and combine my trips when I can in order to save on gasoline expenses.

And I was successful. I cut my credit card bill in half for three months.

And then I hurt my back again. Hello, crazy doctor bills.

And then my roommate decided to move out. Hello, doubling the rent.

Don't let him get your bank account number!
All that money I had been saving up for something great suddenly began to quickly vanish before my eyes. It's like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named broke into my Gringotts account to try to steal the Sorcerer's Stone!

So, I've been trying to budget even more. Thankfully, I have parents who help out where they can (hello, crazy doctor bills!), friends who feed me for free (even if it's free packages of cookies leftover from Girl Scout meetings), and a temporary position that is guaranteed for a couple of months. The pay for this job would be more than enough to get my through the coming months... if I didn't have these surprise additions I mentioned above added to my monthly expenses. Now, it basically covers my rent and internet bill, with a bit of spare change leftover for everything else.

So, I've started seeing dollar signs in terms of food and gasoline. Here's an example scenario:
Me: They withheld $35 in these taxes, when I filled out the tax exempt form...
Someone else: It's not a big deal, it's $35...
Me: $35? That's my food budget for a week! The cost of gasoline in the car for ten days! $35 means I either don't eat for a week, or I take even more money out of my secret Gringotts vault. $35 is a big deal!
My new best friend.
Yes, I have turned into that much of a money pincher. $35 has even been known to be the cause of mini-breakdowns. I feel like the long lost Weasley cousin amongst the Harry Potters of the world, staring longingly at the mound of chocolate frogs that the young Harry Potter just bought from the trolley lady with his sack-full of galleons.

Because of these empty pockets, it also means I am unable to tithe with regular financial contributions to the church and select charities. I have tried to find ways to tithe with my time, but this has also proven difficult. Not many people want volunteers who can commit for the next week or so, and then go from there. Since I don't know when and where I'll get a job, that's about as far in advance as I can plan, and so as much as I want to be able to commit, I can't make any long-term commitments. Right now, my tithing of time consists of baking delectable treats for my weekly Bible study, playing with the concert band at community events once a month or so, and being a good listener to a friend in need. But it's not enough - it doesn't feel like enough.

All of this has me feeling like I'm unable to make decisions to go this way or that and a bit useless - I feel like I'm stuck in this constant state of stagnantly waiting.

For a job.

For a new, innovative way to make money (No, MetroExpress, I will not go to the "dancer" auditions that will make me $500 a night...).

For a way to volunteer my time without being required to give a long-term commitment.

I do not mean to give off the impression that I am so poor that I am driven to searching the couch cushions for spare change and on the verge of living in a cardboard box. I have many blessings in my life, including a substantial amount in my savings account that could allow me to live very frivolously, if I chose to do so. However, being me, I am finding it difficult to balance continuing to plan for the future and meeting my needs of today. This Sunday's epistle speaks a bit of knowing both abundance and need:
I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me...My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 4: 12-13, 19)
Sure, St. Paul. Your life was sooooo easy... at least, sometimes I feel like he leaves out a lot of details that really show how much of a struggle it can be. Did he just wake up each day completely trusting that God would provide for him, or did he struggle with it as we all tend to do? I'm not sure, but I wish I could better emulate St. Paul, who trusted God to care for all of his needs:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."  (Matthew 6:25-34)
Where are the wormies?!
Dependence on God is a constant theme throughout Scripture, but especially in the materialistic world in which we live today, it's not always easy to trust that God will care for our material needs. Sometimes, I feel like a sparrow flying around searching for worms, but the ground is too hard and rocky to find anything fulfilling.

It was about a year ago that I made the decision to switch from the PhD to the Master's program, thereby "leaving" graduate school by graduating this past May. I was scared. I had no idea what was in store for me, but I knew that I was not supposed to continue with school at this time in my life, and so I placed my complete trust in God, trusting that He would take care of me since I only sought to follow His lead.

Yet, every path I've felt like I've been led down since then has quickly and suddenly turned into nothing. I trust that all of these paths didn't work out because that's not where I am supposed to be, but I have to wonder why I am in this state of getting my hopes up, only to have them dashed away in a heartbeat. It's come to the point where I don't know where to go, because if all these previous paths have been wrong, then what (or whom) was I following?

I have not lost complete trust, because I still trust that in the long run, things will work out (as people constantly remind me). It just has been a long, uphill (both ways! in the snow! without my snow boots!) battle, and now that I've gotten to the point of becoming such a penny pincher that I worry what I'm going to do without $35, I'm not sure how much longer I can continue in whatever direction I am going. To say the least, wandering around feeling lost is a stressful burden to carry - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I just long to seek God and His will for me. I've been told that's all we need to say - Thy will be done - and maybe this all is His will. I just sometimes wish I knew what it meant, and where it will eventually lead.

Until then, I have to keep trying not to worry as much about tomorrow as I have been recently, but instead work to keep my heart constantly seeking Heaven. Since I trust that Christ always spoke the truth, I know that God has His eye on the sparrows in the sky as well as His eye on me.


  1. $35?? I think anyone would care about $35! At least, I know I would. Admittedly though, I'm very much like Molly Weasley and that may be her side of me poking out. :)

    I'll be praying that you find your path!

  2. A few of us are praying to the Sacred Heart of Jesus right now for jobs and discernment- I'll add you to the specific name list!! God bless, Liesl! I totally understand the penny pinching needs.

  3. @Katie - unfortunately, living in DC, which is much more affluent than the average city, $35 is spare change to many people! Thanks for the prayers!

    @Julie - Thanks for adding me to the list! Hope your job search is going better!

  4. Great post, Liesl. Your spiritual frustration is honest and real, making for a great read. I pray things turn around for you soon. And if you're interested, here's a newer song called "Sparrow" by Audrey Assad, a Catholic convert:

  5. Tony - thanks for reading! I try to keep it real over here, even when I am spiritually frustrated (I like that terminology, I might have to use it).

    It is a well known fact that I LOOOOOOOOVE Audrey Assad (just click the music tag and you'll see what I'm talking about), so I will have to check out that one - I don't think I've heard it yet!

  6. I'm an Audrey fan as well and have written a couple of articles about her. I heard her do "Sparrow" live when she recorded the "Live from Soho" album here in NYC and thought it was wonderful. I'm glad to have introduced you to it. And feel free to use "spiritually frustrated"as much as you want - though hopefully frustration will turn into fulfillment in the very near future.

  7. Oh my goodness, I saw her live at FOCUS conference, but it would be so cool to see her in a much smaller setting... I loved her rendition, by the way (I posted it yesterday), once I get a bit more money in the bank account, I will have to add that album to the list of things to get.

  8. I know the feeling! I graduated college in 2008. It tooke me over 8 MONTHS to find a job. The one job I was able to find only paid minimum wage :(.

    I worked there for two years. My moms job got transferred from TX to FL. Since I was only making minimum wage I was still living at home and had no choice but to move with her. Now I have a college degree and 2 years experience and can't find a job. On top of that most of the jobs I've been applying for only pay $10/hour. It's AWFUL!

    $35 is A LOT of money! I've yet to start paying on any of my student loans. With the little money I was making it covered the rent and my credit cards. It was awful. This economy isn't very good for kids our age :( GL I'll be praying for you)


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