Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Halloween Angel

The sun on that Indian summer day burned hot on the back of my neck as I gazed at the most beautiful roses I had seen in my garden all year. What is it about the last rose of October that blooms with such beauty? As I relished the simple pleasure of lingering in my garden gazing at the lovely flowers before me, that sweet moment of solitude was rudely interrupted by the ringing of my telephone. No doubt, it was another bill collector. Since our move to a larger home in the suburbs we had fallen behind on a couple of our credit card payments and the burden of keeping our creditors happy was becoming oppressive, like the heat of that late October day. Halloween would be here in a couple of weeks, but I had no money with which to buy or make costumes for my children, now seven and two years old. I could never begin to explain the reason why we had no money, nor could I bear to disappoint them. I began to pray for God’s provision as I thought back to a simpler time, just a few months prior to that Halloween.

After seven years of being happily married and gainfully employed, God blessed my husband and me with our first child. Although we both enjoyed working and the income we derived from our jobs in banking, I never gave a second thought to staying home and raising our son and any other children who came along. Being a stay-at-home mom was my heart’s desire. My mom had not worked outside our home when I was a child. Although I was one of six children living in a household that was sometimes chaotic, I grew up happy, largely because my mom was always there for us. Having been raised that way, I couldn’t imagine leaving my children in someone else’s care and returning to work at the end of my maternity leave. Determined to do whatever it took to be a stay-at-home mom, I worked as a beauty consultant and did a little freelance work to help make ends meet, but my income amounted to little more than fun money. Still, we had everything we needed and were content in our little home.

About the time our second child came along, our large metropolitan church began the process of relocating to the suburbs. I remember uttering a prayer under my breath one day that it would be nice if God would find us a place to live a little closer to the church. Certainly our growing family could use an extra bathroom and additional space for visiting houseguests. Not long after, I ran into a friend who mentioned that a home on her street was for sale. Perhaps, I thought, this was an answer to that prayer. Pretty soon, my husband and I began spending our Sunday afternoons looking at homes we knew we probably couldn’t afford. When we visited one particular home during a realtor’s open house, I left it feeling certain that we had found our next home. It had to be, because I had the same feeling – a sense of God’s presence as we walked through the house – I’d had when we bought our first home. God had given us fourteen wonderful years in our starter home, surrounded by caring neighbors who had helped us welcome our two children into this world. Surely that sense of God’s presence was an indication that this home in the suburbs was meant for us.

Knowing that our house note would double, we prayed long and hard before signing the papers to make it ours. We felt we had God’s blessing because our home sold quickly and we were easily approved for the mortgage on our new home. Living closer to our church in a suburban community, with excellent public schools and a family-friendly environment in which to raise our two children, was all the incentive we needed to make the move. Little did we know how radically that one decision would change our lives.

We moved to our lovely home in the spring while the azaleas were in full bloom. A lifelong lover of flowers, I was thrilled to have a big yard with plenty of blooming shrubs and daffodils. The cheer of having a lovely garden, however, soon gave way to the grim reality that we had unknowingly bought a home with a bad foundation, which had been undisclosed to us at the time of the purchase. Not long after we took occupancy, we began noticing flaws we had not seen during our three visits to the home prior to our closing. Door jams were crooked, the den floor sagged, and sheetrock cracks were present in nearly every corner of the drywall. How had we missed all these things? After hiring the services of an independent structural engineer and residential appraiser, we realized that our dream home was not worth nearly as much as the mortgage we now owed. Our suburban paradise had become nothing more than a money pit, threatening not only our financial security but straining our marriage as well.

As our financial condition continued to erode, it became obvious that I would have to put my toddler in daycare and return to work in order to make ends meet. With the older of my children nearly eight years old, I had been out of the work force for as many years and was not eager to return to the world of office politics, stress, and endless hours on the clock. The thought of leaving my precious little girl in the care of total strangers was nearly unbearable.

I found myself praying a lot for God’s provision and guidance during that difficult first year in our new home. Despite the challenges we faced to make ends meet, find a solution to the foundation problems, and somehow keep the faith that seemed so fragile, we never found ourselves without the basic necessities of food, shelter, and clothing.

Looking at my bill calendar as I sat down to pay bills that late October afternoon, I realized that once again my husband’s paycheck would fall short of covering all our bills. As I did every payday, I would set aside enough money for groceries, pay what bills I could, and trust God to provide some of our other necessities. With Halloween just around the corner, dare I possibly believe that God would provide money for something as trivial as candy and costumes so my children could go trick-or-treating? As I stared at the expense spreadsheet on my computer, I prayed. “Lord, you know what a difficult time we are having just paying our bills this month. I know that you have promised to supply all our needs, and I thank you for your provision. Unless you provide them, my kids won’t have Halloween costumes this year. Lord, could you please...?”

The doorbell rang before I ever finished my prayer. Curious, since I was not expecting anyone at that hour of the day, I peeked through the window to make sure the visitor was not a stranger. Standing on the porch with her back to the window was Elizabeth, the mother of a boy in my son’s scout troop. Not knowing her well, I was surprised to see her at all until I opened the door. When I unlocked the door, I nearly gasped when Elizabeth turned around holding two adorable Halloween costumes for my children! How could she have possibly known the desire of a mother’s weary heart and the tremendous joy she brought that day?

Many years have passed since the Halloween angel paid her visit in answer to my heartfelt prayer for something as insignificant as Halloween costumes. These days when I feel discouraged about money and wonder how we’ll make it through another day, I remember God’s faithful provision that October long ago and rejoice that no request is trivial in the eyes of my loving Father.

No comments:

Post a Comment