Another Summer Twist

My husband’s job was eliminated this summer.  This is actually the third time in our marriage my husband has gone to work in the morning and returned home shortly after learning that what he thought was secure was no longer secure.

This third time (I assure you, it didn’t feel charming in any way) I actually had a plan.  This ain’t my first rodeo with a job loss and so I understood the necessary steps we would take to live on a financial lock down. 

The last time we found ourselves without income the children were six and four.  Hardly a thing changed in their world with the exception of their prayers and the amount of time they were able to spend with their dad.  

Ages nineteen and seventeen have been a bit more difficult to navigate with the loss of income than ages six and four.  Granted, the nineteen and seventeen year old were the only two people in our family who were employed this summer. What’s the irony of that?  Yet, even they were shocked by how quickly our financial habits changed. Shortly after the job loss my daughter inquired, “It’s only been a week, mom.  We don’t have to shut down spending on everything.” I responded, “Oh, but we do, Alissa. We’d like to think this won’t last long, but we truly have no idea how long this will last.  If we wait to change our ways until it truly gets desperate we could find ourselves in a truly desperate situation.”  

Multiple people have told me, “I wouldn’t have any idea where to start if my husband lost his job.”  For us, here are the immediate steps which occur during a job loss:

  1. Absolutely no money is spent on entertainment, or clothing, or anything which is not a necessity.  It doesn’t matter if the musical “Oklahoma” is at the local theater, even if your seventeen year old son (who is not exactly a musical theater aficionado) wants to see it.  If it’s not free, it’s not an option.
  2. Food.  I don’t know about most of you reading, but I would guess you and I purchase basically what we want when grocery shopping.  And when we run out of a particular food item, we replace it. That’s not the case in a job loss shut down. In a job loss shutdown we literally empty out our pantry and freezer.  Some meals get a bit “creative.” The only situation I can remotely compare it to is when I was a first grader during the worst blizzard of all times here in Indiana. We couldn’t get to the grocery store for weeks, and while we never went hungry, meals were certainly not what we were accustomed to eating.  The same has been true for our summer. We did allow ourselves one $6 treat carry out pizza one Monday evening, but other than that, the benefit of having servants prepare our food (eating out) was not an option.
  3. We sold things we didn’t need.  Whether selling on the corner of our property or eBay, it doesn’t take much to look around one’s life and figure out there is an excess of abundance.

I recently read a study conducted by a professor at DePaul University in Chicago.  Coauthor of the study, Joseph Ferrari, concluded, “In this society of abundance we live in, I think the idea that we have to have more makes us less satisfied with life.” 

Is it the abundance that’s the problem or our attachment to the abundance?  

A good friend recently inquired of me, “Have you always been a minimalist or is it just since the wreck?”  I’ve reflected on that, for sure. I think I’ve always been a bit of a minimalist when compared to American culture, but I’m also not sure I could do without running water and electricity, so compared to much of the world, I probably wouldn’t come across as too minimal.  

I believe having your whole life turned upside down unexpectedly does cause one to reevaluate possessions. I read once where someone had drawn an equation between contentment and possessions.   He believed the fewer the possessions the greater one’s contentment, and so of course, vice versa: the greater the possessions, the less contentment. I haven’t really studied that carefully to know if it’s true, but I think I lean towards agreeing.  

I do know that when one wants to buy a new item of clothing, no matter how expensive or how cheap, if your family is on a financial lock down an unnecessary purchase is simply not an option.  There’s actually a bit of freedom in that discovery.  

Needs and wants have come into much sharper focus for me the last few years. 

And so, Dear Reader, these are thoughts, questions, and reflections I’ve gotten to ponder up close and personal again this summer.  I will be the first to admit, I’m a bit tired of seemingly big trials in my life, but I assure you, there’s still good solid lessons to learn; learning to be content in it all is one of them.    

And maybe you feel the same way too, Dear Reader?

Until the next Wednesday the Lord allows.

Editor’s note: 8.5 weeks after his old job was eliminated, Chad began work again. The Jaggers are thankful to once again have a paycheck and insurance, and thank God for his provision and for friends and family who took extra good care of them this summer.