Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pour blessings

Scott and I continue to be blessed in so many ways.God is amazing. Let me count our blessings.

So, here's the pooper scooper. Several months ago, our church announced to staff (and to the congregation) that we were going to need to make some significant budget cuts. If things continued on the current trajectory, this meant also making some cuts to staff. (Now, mind you this is the first time in SAC history where there would be staff cuts.) As generous as our congregation is, over the course of the next couple of months, we didn't see improvement. Ya gotta hand it to the dudes at the top... This decision wasn't made overnight. In fact, the pace at which they moved was pretty much glacial, so no one could accuse them of making rash decisions.

Anyway... long story short... A couple of weeks ago, the announcement was made at our weekly staff meeting that cuts were going to be made that day. The plan had been approved by our pastoral management team (PMT) and Governing Board, and conversations with "affected staff" would be happening that afternoon. ("Affected staff"... that cracks me up.) Then, the plan was that the following morning, all staff would once again gather so that we would all know who was "affected". (This was to curb the rumor mill.)

Well, that afternoon, my boss enters my office. I expected two things: 1) that I would (finally) be brought into the conversation about what was happening with staff. (After all, I am HR and that would only make sense.) And, 2) that my hours would be cut some because a few months back I had offered to cut a few hours from my work week.

This is how the conversation went:
Me: So, what's the scoop?
Boss: Let's first talk about how this will affect you personally.
Me: Ok.
Boss: Well, a number of months back you had offered to cut your hours by 4 or 5 per week.
Me: Right.
Boss: Well... it will be a little deeper than that.
Me: O... k...
Boss: We'll be cutting your hours to 30 per week.
Me: Um... ok...

We chatted very briefly about this. Partly I was in shock. Partly I didn't feel the need to process this with my boss. I let him know immediately that it was a blessing. Truly. This has been a desire of mine for quite some time now; to be home with my kids more. To be honest, this isn't exactly the way I thought it would happen, but perhaps God knew that I never would have made this decision on my own, and, therefore, provided me the way. Ok, He pretty much booted me into this situation, but it's all good. (I mean that very seriously. It IS GOOD!)

I won't go into my issue with the rest of it. Really, this isn't the venue for that. Just suffice it to say that, professionally, I LOVE HR, and I highly value what this office brings to any organization. The fact that this plan was implemented without so much as a conversation with HR is so shocking to me. I'm disappointed that, it seems, this office isn't valued as I think it should be (whether it's me or any other HR professional in this position). This has been an ongoing struggle within the organization. But, I'm commited to my role. And I'm commited to the challenge I took on a year ago which is not to demand a seat at the table, but rather earn a seat at the table. So... I'll continue to the best of my ability to bring value to the HR role in this organization. Perhaps I'll succeed. Perhaps not. But I'm here for as long as God wants me to be.

Let's get back to the personal stuff. So... yeah... This is HUGE. Essentially, 25% of my income has been eliminated as of August 1st.

Blessing #1: I still have an income. I can't say that of all of my colleagues. I know many HR folks (and so many others) who have been laid off from their jobs altogether. So the fact that I still have a job (30 hours or whatever) is a great blessing.

You read a little bit about my night (Psalms on a sleepless night, June 17th). That was a SIGNIFICANT night for me. I spent a lot of hours wrestling with God over this - all in a very healthy way. I already knew that one of my favorite places is, literally, at the foot of the cross. I also have learned in my years walking with Jesus that much fruit is borne out of dark places (suffering). It's not a fun place to be, but... then again... yes it is. I've learned that when I lay it all out in front of God and invite Him to work, He does. Sometimes not in the way that I want Him to, but He works.

And so He has.

Blessing #2 - This was the blessing that I knew immediately. That is, I get to be home with my babies more. Thank you, Jesus, that you are "feeding the hunger of my heart", as our dear friend Dale would say. I've been praying fervently over the last year that we (Scott and I) would be given an opportunity where I could be home more. That's where I am all the time... Even when I'm at work, my heart is at home. I long to be there. I long to be a wife (more) and a mom (more). God has answered that prayer.

Blessing #3 - At first glance, our budget won't work (on paper). Once our income is laid out, and all the expenses are accounted for, we're screwed. Hmmmm... or are we? When we took these jobs 2+ years ago, we had to make some significant cuts in our budget. Unfortunately, we also added a few things (like another car, since Scott's was a company car from a previous employer, a baby, which means diapers and clothes and medical and daycare...). We had a little wiggle room, but not much. With a 25% reduction in my salary (which is about 2/3 of our total income), we needed to look at what else we could live without. We're dropping our gym membership... We're dropping cable (cuz we really don't need to be sitting around watching TV anyway)... We had to make the AGNOZING decision to drop World Vision.

(Oh, man... people... This killed me. The day I made that call, we received a letter from Africa from one of our sponsored sons... I'll post it one of these days. I couldn't even read the first sentence without falling apart. Even now as I type this, my heart is just ripping open. I love our two boys. We don't know them. We've never met them. But I love them. We've been praying that God would bless us in ways that would allow us to continue to support them... And that may happen!)

Back to Blessing #3: Part of looking at our budget included our tax situation. Now that Scott is a licensed pastor, he is treated as "clergy" according to IRS rules. This means that we have the benefit of a housing allowance... but he is treated as self-employed. Originally when we met with our CPA a month ago, we were SO not on track for 2009 taxes. He was estimating that we'd be short about $3-$5K, and we'd need to make additional withholding of about $500 per month to make up for it. Two days after this announcement, we were in our CPA's office making the 2009 tax projection, taking into account my cut in hours (i.e., cut in income) and an additional baby. It turns out that we won't owe anything. It's pretty much a wash. Unbelievable. So the timing of this cut and our baby is pretty much perfect.

Blessing #4 - This is totally like God. He has a way of orchestrating things FAR in advance where we're only beginning to see the tip of the iceberg. Case in point: Scott's ministry partner (our coworker and friend) is also pregnant... She is due in August and has decided to take 5 months of maternity leave and return to part time status. Without this decision Scott's hours would have been cut by 50%... But because of this decision, Scott's job is whole. (Ok... not exactly... His ministry has all but been cut, so his duties will change, and not consistent with his passions, but at least he's not losing hours or income.) HUGE blessing! Where we could have, potentially, lost 25% of my income AND 50% of his, we're only losing part of mine.

Blessing #5: Another huge budget item is daycare. Currently, Jeffrey is in care 4 days per week, for a total cost of $520 per month. There is no way we could afford this come August... in addition to another baby once I'm off maternity leave in December. We'd be paying almost $1000 for 2 babies each month. Yipes. So, we needed to find a way to reduce this. Well, one significant piece is that now that I'm working 10 hours less per week, that means 10 hours less in daycare. However, we worked my schedule such that Jeffrey would only need care 1 1/2 total days per week (instead of 4), dropping the monthly cost of one baby to around $200. That means with two babies, we'll be paying less than we were for one. BLESSING!

Blessing #6: Our friends, Angela and Travis (son and daughter-in-law of Dale and Susan - two of our bestest buddies) have two children, Colton and Riley. Colton is 1 year older than Jeffrey and Riley will be 1 year older than our little girl. Angela is a stay at home mom. We started a discussion a few months back about maybe having Angela care for our babes... It would be cheaper for us, and would bring in some extra income for their family, as well. A nice two-way blessing. We met with them earlier this week and she is totally on board with the 1/2 day or 1 1/2 day schedule. Not to mention the fact that the boys love hanging out together, and there is something truly special about being raised with a life-long friend. (I've known my BFF for 34 years now... We met when I was 2. So I love the idea of Jeffrey having a little BFF for his whole life!)

Blessing #7: We spoke with Jeffrey's school two weeks ago and let them know that we just found out about my cut in hours and that we'd have to drop Jeffrey to part time. They told us (at the time) that they would not go less than 3 days per week because of their budget requirements, etc. They said that the only way we could do less is if another family filled in the other days (or vice versa). So, yesterday I wrote them an email and let them know that we can only do 1 full day in school each week, that we'd be thrilled if there was a family that had the other days so together we'd make up one full time schedule, and that if that wasn't possible, we'd have to pull Jeffrey out. (This was a killer for me, too. Jeffrey loves his class... and so do we! We are SO blessed to have found a Christian school. He learns the same values at school as he learns at home, and he thrives in a structured environment. This place is far beyond our expectations and we hated the idea of having to pull him out completely... However, obviously if our budget couldn't allow it, then we'd have to make other arrangements.) So... we went to pick him up from school last night. I dropped off our monthly payment to the office where the Director was standing there. She said, "I got your email... and I wanted to tell you that we just had a little boy drop out who was here only 1 day per week. There is another family who has a child in care 4 days per week, so if Jeffrey can take Wednesdays, then we'll let him drop to 1 day." I just stood there with my mouth open. She smiled and said, "Isn't God amazing?" HAHAHAA No kidding!!! I couldn't believe my ears. Just that day the child dropped out and so as of August 1, Jeffrey can drop to 1 day per week in school, and Angela would take Jeffrey the other 1/2 day...

Blessing #8: Our dear friends Shawn & Gretchen (and two kids) are moving to Colorado (lucky dogs) in August. Shawn is finishing up an adjunct teaching position at Chemeketa Community College teaching a philosophy class. He spoke to Scott about getting in touch with the gal in charge of hiring for that position cuz he's be a perfect candidate. (They graduated from the same school with the same degree, with pretty much the same experience, etc.) So, he did. Well, she contacted him back and told him that she'd love for him to apply... And she mentioned that she has a couple of classes open... Now, he hasn't received an offer (and we're not sure one would come). But there is a possibility that if he does get an offer, that would mean at least $400 per month in added income for one class (double that for two).

Blessing #9: I paid off our dining table today, and now we can just focus on the one small credit card balance we have left over from our vacation last year. Then we'll be out of debt (other than house and cars). We thought initially that we'd have to get rid of one of the cars... Not an ideal solution with opposite work schedules and two kids, but definitely doable if had to. But... now it doesn't look like that will be necessary.

God is GOOD! We've laid it all at the foot of the cross, invited God in, and now we're just watching Him work. Had this not happened 2 weeks ago, we would not be seeing God's Kingdom unfold before in this amazing way.

I was challenged 2 weeks ago when in Psalm 31:5 David said, "Into your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O God of Truth." Jesus told the Father in Luke 23, "Into your hands I commit my spirit" just before His last breath on the cross. David, however, uses this in terms of his life. And the challenge to me was, am I willing to commit my life into God's hand? That means, am I willing to give Him everything? Everything? My answer was (is), YES! And if that is my answer, what does that look like? Well... part of it means that I relinguish control and allow my Lord to pave the way. So... these last two weeks have been a testimony. The way is definitely being paved. Not by me.

Let us remember:

Psalm 29:2, "Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name"

Psalm 30:5, "Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning."

Psalm 30:11-12, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever."

Psalm 31:24, "Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD."

All you who hope in the Lord... be of good courage.

Thank you, Jesus, for courage... for strength... for mourning... for joy, and for the suffering that led us down this path. Thank you for the abundance of blessings that you have poured over our family, and may it be that we will never forget your mercy when we cried out to You! May our circumstances be used to bless Your name and bring glory to Your kingdom.