I will never forget the day my husband and I paid off our car. The evening before, we spoke about how much life had changed for us since giving our hearts over to Christ years before. We had changed our frivolous ways and learned to be pretty good stewards of our finances. We’d paid off our student debts, plus paid and canceled all our credit card debts.

Now, with a small nest egg, we decided to nearly empty our savings account and eliminate the monthly car payment. I almost couldn’t sleep waiting for business hours to open so I could make the call releasing our savings account contents to the bill collector.

Apart from the monthly mortgage payment, we were going to be debt-free. When morning finally came, I kissed my husband out the door to work and got the paperwork ready, checkbook in hand, and put a smile on my face. After making the final payment I decided to take myself and our seven school-aged children out to lunch to celebrate. Because of our diligence in paying down debts, the kids had not even been permitted to look at the menu of a fast-food establishment for almost 3 years. So, I splurged on a sit-down restaurant with cloth napkins and servers who wore white button-down shirts. It was heaven considering I had cooked and cleaned up after 27 meals a day for three years straight. That’s 29,565 plates of food.

In the evening I sent the kids to bed early and heated up the fancy meal I had ordered for my husband; It was time to C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E!

My husband came through the door, and I wrapped my arms around his neck feeling a rush of relief. I could feel his body start to shake and the tears coming down his cheeks. I was so happy. However, as I backed away from him to lead him to the dinner table, I could see he was not feeling the same elation.

Then he spoke, “They fired me.” I could see in his eyes that it was not a joke and my heart dropped to my ankles. I knew he was carrying so much weight from the loss of a position he had held for almost ten years, but all I could think was that I had been tricked by the devil himself.

Hours earlier we had enough money in the bank to handle the mortgage, the grocery bill, and gas in the car for a couple of months while he searched for a new job. But that was not the case now. I had been homeless at another time in my life and the flood of emotions that consumed me now with seven children was beyond what I thought I could handle. Had God deserted us? Was I destined to be a bag lady again?

The following week I was told about a ministry called Papa’s Pantry/Encompass Ministries that would provide groceries for our diminishing refrigerator supply. I didn’t want this to be the sequel to my homelessness after everything I had overcome. We felt humiliated asking strangers to provide for our children.

But, when I went into the Pantry, I was introduced to Faith Moody. Her compassionate approach eased my soul instantly. She asked me if I was interested in learning how to optimize community resources by enlisting in a budget course. The course helped me better understand how to spread out our finances and pay off debt without feeling as though we were forging forward with our heads down; this had been our approach for years.  Instead, we learned a precious balance of how to enjoy some reasonable things and still get all the bills paid.

Many months later my husband landed a wonderful job he would never have gone searching for. My older children volunteered as stockers in the Pantry, now Encompass Ministries Inc., and learned what true servanthood felt like. And I enjoyed using my new spreadsheet even more now that I had some income to add to it.

Three and a half years have passed, and we were able to accomplish paying off our home… and did it while being able to still eat drive-thru hamburgers and burritos.

I can tell you assuredly that God had not deserted us that day when my husband lost his job. Rather, HE was guiding our path so that we might enjoy life more abundantly, so that we would meet people who reflected HIM and how much HE cares for us. I am eternally grateful.

All for HIM,

The Bag Lady