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Lessons Learned While in a Financial Valley

financial valley

Guest post from Jennifer of The Intentional Mom

While growing up, I experienced what many would consider a privileged life filled with numerous niceties… like a 34-foot power boat, annual vacations, and a closet full of clothes and various things.

I was not given everything though. I had a regular job by the time I was in eighth grade since my parents instilled within me a strong work ethic and required me to work for some of the extras I desired. My parents also taught me the importance of budgeting and saving; but growing up with this privileged lifestyle provided me with a false sense of security and a warped idea of what I needed to feel satisfied.

As a young newlywed I was working 60 to 70 hours a week as a hairdresser while my husband made a career in retail sales. A few years later, we were able to build a house and began looking toward having children.

After being married for nearly seven years, we became parents and I reduced my work hours to just two short evenings a week. Shortly after our third child turned one, I left my job completely.

Fast forward several years to this past fall as I sat surrounded by the bins of clothing that have passed down from one to the other among our now seven children.

I opened the box of boys clothes labeled “4T/5T” and was taken aback. The tears began to flow like Niagara Falls, which soon gave way to heaving sobs. Inside the box were three neatly folded shirts on top of three neatly folded pairs of pants with one pair of pants covered in soot from the fireplace in our old house.

Those clothes were worn in 2008 and 2009 — when we could only afford to buy our four young children three pairs of pants and three shirts that were mix and match styles so it wouldn’t be obvious that we were… poor. It was during this time that we put a few measly Christmas ornaments on a large potted plant because we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree. I also had only five dollars to spend on each child that year for Christmas.

You see, it was shortly after I stopped working that the financial crisis hit, and my husband’s well paying job in retail sales was no longer well paying. Not in the least.

With an eight-year gap between my first and second sons, I hadn’t seen the clothes in this bin since 2008. Those soot-covered pants were free from stains when I put them in the box, but over time old stains have a way of seeping from the fabric and becoming new stains again.

Much like the deeply stained threads that had emerged once again, the emotions of the heart-wrenching journey we traveled rose to the surface again that day. During that time in my life, I learned to become humble and to swallow my pride, and I was forced to graciously embrace the gifts others gave us to help keep us afloat.

I wept over the nearly empty box of clothes that day last fall because that season in my life was not an easy one, but it is the season of my life that I miss the most. This sounds completely counter-intuitive, I realize, but it was the season in my life when I lived, breathed, and learned to internalize the words of Paul when he speaks in Philippians 4:12 saying, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

As a family, we were incredibly blessed during that drought that lasted for more than two years. We didn’t lose our house, we always had food to put on the table, and we even had $1200 show up in our checking account completely out of the blue. We once opened the front door to find a gift bag with cash inside, we were given grocery money from a family member, and we had a different family member contribute toward car repairs that could no longer wait.

It was the lessons I learned during this time in my life, however, that made my heart bleed red all over the inside of the box of clothes that day. I learned what it means to truly be content even while in that valley.

Although losing our financial security felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me, I learned to find security in the faces of the little people I had been given to raise, love, and nurture. Traveling through the crisis of financial distress taught me that contentment cannot be found in what we have, but in who we are when our current securities are ripped away, leaving us completely raw and vulnerable.

I discovered that my contentment is found in the unconditional love and acceptance of my God, my husband, my children, and the loved ones who extended a helping hand along that rocky path.

I cherish that season of my life because it was then that I learned what I truly need to be satisfied, which is a lesson that could only have been grasped while in the valley.

Do you find yourself in a valley today? Do not be anxious, do not fear. The lessons you learn while in your own valley just may be the lessons you will one day treasure the most.

Jennifer is a busy, homeschooling mom of seven who enjoys keeping a home, living an active lifestyle, and loving the little and not so little people in her life. Her mission is helping other moms find contentment in living intentionally every day over at her blog, The Intentional Mom.

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  • Mel H. says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • What a beautiful, heartfelt post Jennifer. I can relate as we went through almost exactly the same circumstances, when our children were very young, and after I gave up work we had one (fairly small) income. That season also lasted for years – I agree that we learn humility, thankfulness for the little things, and stewardship….it’s a valuable, precious, though painful (!) time. Thanks for sharing your story with us xxx

    • Thank you for reading, Mel and Sue. I am hoping sharing my journey can help someone who may be traveling a rocky road in their own lives.

      • Cindy Brick says:

        I appreciated your honesty so much, Jennifer — thanks for sharing with us.

        I hope you’re sharing in other ways, too…like passing on clothes to other families, leaving gift cards anonymously — all the things that blessed you during that difficult time can now be passed forward to others. Even a $5 gift card mailed to someone who’s struggling can make all the difference in the world.

        I’m grateful (in a way) for hard times, too — they just made my relationship with my husband stronger, and taught us to rely on God more. Helping others (as anonymously as possible, so God gets the credit, not you) just reminds me of that.

  • Erin says:

    I needed to read this today – thank you so much. In the past six months we moved out of state, my husband started a new job, and we had our first baby. The ends just don’t want to meet right now and I have been so discouraged worrying about how we are going to pay our bills. It is so helpful to remember Phil 4:12 – again, thank you for sharing.

    • Yes, Phil. 4:12 is one of my life verses. Cling to it. It is so amazing how God only gives you enough light for the step you are on today. Matthew 6:34 was another verse that spoke to me during that time: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” You’ll be in my prayers, Erin. The valley doesn’t last forever 🙂 Enjoy that precious babe. I have seven—it goes soooo fast!

  • Wow, Jennifer, that was so well said. It was beautiful to see what God was growing in your heart during a time of tribulation. Thank you for sharing the amazing work He does in our lives…all for His glory and for our own good toward sanctification!

  • Jessica says:

    This is a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. I had a similar experience lately when I pulled out our bin of newborn boy clothes. It has been seven years since our last boy. I was floored to find only a handful of clothes that we had acquired for our firstborn. We didn’t have much (materially) at the time, but we were rich in so many other ways.

  • Mary says:

    I love this Jennifer! We are raising 4 kids 6 and under on one income. We are debt free and work to stay that way. This presents its challenges, but like you we get to see the Lord provide in amazing ways. This has grown our faith and amazes our children! Just the other day our neighbor gifted us with a porch swing all because she knew how much my children loved to swing on hers. I was blown away! We could never have afforded that! We see God provide needs and wants we didn’t ever expect to see!I wouldn’t want to live this life any other way.

  • Robyn says:

    Beautiful! This resonates deeply with me. We also went through a “valley” time, and you know what? It was the BEST thing that could have happened to our family.

    My teenage boys have a strong work ethic (from watching me and their father work our tushes off!), and have been making good money this summer mowing lawns in our neighborhood…their idea, not mine.

    All three of my kids have a sense of gratitude that I know comes from the years of having so much less. Vacation is a treat, no matter where we go. I recently took them to a first run movie at a “real” theater with soda and popcorn…and they were so excited. The genuine “thank yous” warmed my heart, and are in direct opposition to the “entitlement” generation they are seemingly a part of.

    Our favorite activities together cost nothing…hiking, playing games, singing songs around a camp fire. Being broke forced us to think outside the box and be creative…and it has paid off in our relationships with each other.

  • Kathy says:

    This article brings back many memories, and I look forward to many new lessons as I am reminded that I am so extravagantly blessed! Thank you for pursuing your mission and following God’s leading in your life.

  • Rocki says:

    Yes. All of this.
    We are normally the family who gives and donates, but lately we have been th family in need.

    My husband has an amazing career as a train conductor and we were able to live within our means. We decided to lease 2 cars and buy a house, my husband adopted my son and we had another baby.

    Next thing you know 5 months later there is no work at the railroad and he is furloughed (employed by the company but there is no work and no benefits).

    Scrambling to make ends meet my husband is delivering food and I we have even gotten to the point of renting out one of our bedrooms for income.

    Life is stressful but I have everything I have ever dreamed of. So my dreams have come true.
    Two healthy, kind, wonderful children, a home to raise them in, and a supporting loving husband who helps me raise our children. This is what I dreamed of as a kid. And I have it.

    Someday the bills will get caught up again, but not today and that’s okay.

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