“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” ~ Philippians 4:11-13
After holding a few lemonade stands in an effort to raise enough money to buy a pet, my daughter handed my husband a plastic bag heavy with coins and a few dollar bills in return for payment for her beloved creature. He, in turn, bestowed upon me the honor of using said currency to buy our groceries since he would, reasonably, use bills to pay for the pet. I was, in fact, left holding the bag.
This afternoon, my daughter and I went to the grocery store to pick up a few necessities. At checkout, I pulled the plastic baggie from my purse, and she and I began to count out the coins. The person behind me peered over the cash register, saw what I was doing, and abruptly changed lanes. Who could blame her? The next gentleman in line did the same thing. Oh well. I had coins to count.
The third person stayed in position, but stared at me – which by the way, makes me nervous…counting with someone looking over my shoulder.
My daughter and I worked quickly, and I remarked under my breath with a chuckle, I’m the person no one wants to be behind – trying to confront the elephant in the room.
The teenage cashier replied, Oh it’s okay. You do what you have to do. There’s been plenty of times my mama and I had to hunt the house looking for change to buy what we needed. You take all the time you need. I’m here until 10 o’clock.
She was very kind, but she misread the situation. However, I now felt compassion towards her because she had been in more than one circumstance when change is all her family had to get by.
As I handed her $26 dollars and 25 cents in jingling change, I pondered her perspective. There has been a lot of change over the years – for better and worse. There was a time when, in the very same grocery store, I had to buy my family’s groceries with food stamps. They aren’t the small green stamps my mom used, rather an electronic debit card of sorts. Still, one selects the EBT button on the payment machine just the same.
Our children were 5, 3 and 1 years old. The company my husband worked for dissolved a week before September, 11, 2001 with no last paycheck, no severance, no insurance. We were in a really bad way financially and occupationally.
Think back farther. We live where we do because a company my husband worked for in another state merged with another company – leaving us very few options.
Think back farther. We worked our way through college together. We carefully considered every single penny. Dinner was often nachos (tortilla chips, jarred salsa and cheddar cheese). Our dates were always at lunch when restaurant meals are less expensive and we enjoyed blockbusters at matinee prices. We were completely content.
Think back farther. My husband asked me to marry him on my 18th birthday. He previously asked my grandfather for my hand, and my grandparents joyfully agreed. However, when I told them the big news the next morning, they were speechless. They thought he meant after college. Here he was, 22 and exiting the military service. He had no job, no permanent address, no money. They gave us their blessing nonetheless, but no financial help. They loved us that much, as did his parents, and I thank them for it.
Over the years, we’ve weathered job loss, company mergers, relocation, temporary jobs, full-time work and freelance jobs. We aren’t afraid to work hard, and we trust the Lord to take care of us.
I’ll admit that knowing what the cashier was thinking made me a little embarrassed. It’s a shot to one’s dignity. But, as fast as that feeling came, a smile grew across my face knowing that God has indeed been faithful no matter what our checking account balance has been. I also smiled at life, thinking back on seasons of our marriage and affirming that hard times grow us closer together.
Tonight, as we gratefully ate the food those handfuls of coins bought us, I thought about our 22 years together and the change that has accompanied it – both literally and proverbially.
My husband and I have the Lord, each other and our kids. We have extended family who are priceless to us and friends who love us deeper than family. We are blessed with good health. Most of all, we have Christ as the center of our lives. Everything in our entire lives revolves around Him – not the other way around.
We will go to sleep knowing we are loved by God and by each other, and because of that I feel like the richest girl in the world.