In the middle of messy stacks of crumpled paper and torn envelopes, which blocked the view from my dining room’s large picture window, I put my head down on the table and began to cry. “Where in the hell am I going to get the money to pay for this year’s taxes?” I mumbled to myself.
Every January, it’s the same routine. I pull out a shoebox filled with receipts, notes, canceled checks and Visa bill statements from under my bed. I lay them out and sort my financial life into neat little piles, first by month, then by donations, personal deductions and finally, business expenses (marketing, car, fees, education, gifts, entertainment). After adding up all the 1099s, W2s, W4s and 1040s from the various forms of my employment (realtor, dance instructor, beauty product consultant and author) I was shocked to see the net income.
“How could I have made that much money and not have anything left over?” I wondered. “There has to be some kind of mistake!”
Pen and paper in hand, I began to add and subtract the columns in front of me. “Where’s my calculator? This is going to be a long night.” But within a matter of minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. Punching away on the small plastic electronic square, with numbers ranging from one to ten, no matter how hard I tried, I never got the same answer twice. Dragging my haggard pea brain to bed, I knew I’d have to tackle the project again first thing in the morning. Sleep was imperative. But three hours later I awoke, shaking violently and laying in a puddle of sweat.
“Please God, no!” I cried out loud. Remembering my nightmare, I couldn’t get over how real it seemed. There I was, standing on a street corner, looking tattered and torn, and my hair in knots resembled Bob Marley’s famous dreadlocks. Where I usually dotted crimson blush, dirt was smudged over my cheeks and my clothes were a mishmash of jewel-colored stripes with black and white checks. I was not a vision of loveliness.
Standing next to me was my crazy and faithful hound, Maddy, and in my hands a cardboard sign read: Single mom homeless. Will work for food.
“Enough is enough!” I yelled, as if God was in the bathroom with the water running, out of earshot. “I need your help! Why are you making life so hard right now?”
Tax time has always been the bane of my existence, mainly because it requires a certain level of math skill to get the job done. On top of that, the art of managing my money often eludes me. As long as the little slip from the ATM comes out showing I have a plus sign in my account, I’m good to go. Balancing my check book was an activity I always felt just wasted my time. Why go through that when it didn’t matter what method I used to add or subtract, the bank statement never matched my ledger. Besides, there were still a few bills left on the money tree in my backyard.
But now that money tree has been completely picked clean, the branches are bare and spring is looking a long way off. No new green buds with George Washington’s mug shot are sprouting. That feeling of renewed hope has vanished.
Lying in my bed that night, my breathing became labored and the symptoms of anaphylatic shock crept over my entire body. First my airways constricted and I began to wheeze. Next came abdominal pain and a severe itching in my hands and feet. Knowing the symptoms all too well and what it took to relieve them, I ran to the kitchen. I grabbed a paper bag, pulled it over my head and began deep breathing.
“Okay God. I’m really hating you now.” I hissed from inside the brown Safeway sack.
As I sucked air in, forcing it to the pit of my stomach and slowly releasing it, the words to one of my favorite prayers came to my mind.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
Slowly lifting the bag off my head, I pushed the mountain of papers aside on the dining room table to look out the window to the black evening sky. A recent storm had passed. Through the thick, ominous clouds, a full moon smiled. My neighbors were all asleep and there was peace on our street. A gentle calm surfaced and my breathing returned to normal.
“So why do you want me in this moment?” I whispered, looking towards heaven. “I’m sure you’re trying to teach me something.”
Crawling back into the dry side of my bed, I realized that most troublesome times in my life have been of my own making – not God’s. Maybe they weren’t intentional, but my fault all the same. There have been issues with my health that I continue to put aside because I don’t have time to see a doctor. When my leg began to ache, it took me two years to see an orthopedists. Consequently, the problem only worsened and now I need a hip replacement. There were the times I wasn’t on top of a project at work because I was lazy. This only created chaos when the deadline was near. And now it was basic Accounting 101. That was definitely of my own making.
“Okay, God, I get it. I have to make some changes,” I prayed. “But I still need some help.”
We all know the old saying, God helps those who help themselves. Call me a Pollyanna, but I believe that if I take the right steps to help change a situation, even if they’re only baby steps, God will help me with the outcome – and ultimately, it will be good.
Drifting off to sleep, a renewed sense of hope dawned. Yes, there would be changes I needed to make. There were expenses that had to be cut and credit cards that would be hidden deep within my wallet. To better prepare for the upcoming year, all the scraps of paper I typically hid in the shoebox would be compiled on a spreadsheet and to top it all off, a portion of any paycheck that found it’s way to my front door would be set aside in another savings account earmarked “Just for Uncle Sam.” But the peacefulness came from a deeper, richer place. Despite the fact I was laying in a king size bed by myself, I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew God would get me through this just like all the other crazy times I’d experienced.
We all have troubles in our lives. If you’re struggling with any now, take a moment to assess. Next, make a plan to fix. Prioritize the steps and tackle one at a time. For me, one has been staying out of the shopping mall. I’m a much happier woman now when the credit card bill comes in. Whether you like it or not, the moment you are in is exactly where you are suppose to be. The task is to learn from it or rejoice in it. Either way, God is by your side.
On March 20th, spring arrives and experiences a rebirth in nature. Perhaps the buds on my money tree will be stunted this year, but with some fertilization and water I’m confident they will produce richly once again. In the meantime, I plan to be grateful for all that I do have. Life has a way of fixing itself – as long as we’re patient and make the changes to help it along.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love
that has been given to you…
May you be content knowing you are a child of God…
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
St. Theresa’s Prayer