We've ben incredibly blessed as people have given us almost all of our possessions. Our home is filled with things from other people. This home we rent is a huge blessing in and of itself. I could write for hours describing the blessings we have received since we have been married. Sam is blessed with a generous stipend through his graduate program. The amount he receives is almost enough for us to live reasonably on, but not quite. Despite the generosity of others and our attempts to be frugal and make ends meet, we've had to get some loans.
We've also tried to make sacrifices in order to somehow live on what Sam earns.
Things like Sam giving me wildflowers he picked out in the country and a homemade card for Mother's Day.
Like not fixing a laptop in need of a new battery.
Like having a cell phone plan with few enough minutes that we really have to keep an eye on them at the end of the month to avoid going over.
Like fixing simple meals.
Like buying needed items second-hand.
Like teaching piano lessons to bring in a little extra money.
Like finding free things to do when we go out on dates.
Like Sam wearing broken glasses that are taped together and being teased about his nerd image.
You know...pretty normal ways to save money.
But recently, Sam and I have both felt a push to try harder to cut things down even further so that maybe, just maybe, we can live on the stipend he receives. As we've discussed our options, the sacrifices we have decided to make have interfered with our normal lives a bit more than before.
Things like giving up our cell phones and instead using a Magic Jack landline which will cost only $30/year. It is going to take re-learning how to manage life without a cell phone.
Like making sure lights are always off when we're not in the room, turning down the hot water heater, and taking short showers.
Like letting our stomachs growl a little bit and reducing the amount we eat.
Like setting a $5 limit on gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc.
As we have tried to make bigger sacrifices, it has been amazing to see how the Lord has blessed us. It has been a huge testimony to me that when the Lord tells us to do something and we strive to obey but our resources just aren't enough, He provides the way:
Shortly after we determined that we really needed to make a more conscientious effort to live within our means, I walked out to the mailbox and found an envelope inside that said simply, "Brady's" on the front. I opened the envelope and much to my surprise found $400 cash! If the angel that left us such a substantial gift is reading this now, thank you. Not only was the money a very helpful contribution, but it helped us see that God is aware of us and encouraged us to keep trying.
It's kind of stressful to have an unexpected stay in the hospital with a newborn with RSV, and aside from the emotional stress of it all, the bills are amazingly huge. I am so grateful for the good medical care we are able to receive. But how grateful I was to go to the pediatrician for a well-baby checkup and find out that our insurance had changed so that well-baby checkups now have no co-pay! That saves us $30 each time we go! Not only that, but we received a really large tax return--more than enough to cover the bills from when Wesley was born and those incurred from his RSV stint.
I decided to try to take on some more piano students. Just hours after I posted an announcement, a woman that used to be in my ward responded and said she had been looking for a piano teacher for her daughter but hadn't known where to find one. Another friend in the ward also wanted to start her daughter.
Again, shortly after we started making these efforts, Sam found out his stipend was being increased $3000/year! His professor worked hard to make that happen. It may not seem like that much to some, but that is huge to us.
The final blessing I wanted to mention came in a very interesting way. We were going to the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting and when we arrived at the Stake Center, the power was out, so they sent us home. We were on our way home when our car was rear-ended! My parents gave us this car about a year and a half ago. It is 17 years old and has over 300,000 miles on it, but it just keeps on running. An old woman was driving behind us and wearing a medical cast/boot on her foot due to recent surgery. Her boot got stuck and she couldn't push on the brake, so she hit us. Our bumper was crunched in and our trunk wouldn't close, but we were all just fine. However, since the car is so old and has so many miles on it, the damage was enough to total it. The insurance company gave us around $1,700 dollars since we elected to keep the car. We were going to just fix it enough so the trunk would close, but to make a long story short the repair place said they couldn't do a partial fix for liability reasons. So we were going to take it to a different shop that would do the partial fix. We picked the car up from the first repair place and brought it home. Much to our surprise, their taking the bumper off, doing the diagnostics, and putting the bumper back on was enough to knock the trunk latch back into place so the trunk was functional. The significantly crunched in bumper had also somehow popped out enough to not be a really big deal. The surprise continued as we have driven the car and the bumper has popped the rest of the way out. So, in the end, for some very minimal cosmetic damage we received an extra $1,700! It is unusual to pray in gratitude for a car accident, but I do often.
The blessings have continued in other ways. We see the Lord's Hand in our lives daily. It is amazing to see how the Lord blesses His children as they submit their will to His and do their best to obey. I share these experiences not to boast--please don't think that! That is not my intent at all. My hope is that testimonies may be strengthened as mine has been when I have read others' accounts of the Lord's Hand in their lives. I am so grateful for the things we are learning in the midst of (and even through) the challenges we presently face. And I know that someday, when things aren't so tight, I will look back with fondness--perhaps even a little wistfully--on the days of wildflowers, broken glasses, and miracle cars.