Vanessa knows what it feels like to be financially strapped and barely keeping her head above water. She knows what it’s like to come up for air, only to see another wave crashing down. Following is a description in her own words of how the crashing waves turned out to be a blessing that pushed her family to an unexpected and joyful end. She writes:
January 30 2019
Much of life can be summed up like a trip to the seashore. Sometimes it’s blue skies and warm weather & water and perfect waves. Sometimes it’s stormy and windy and cold. I actually love the beach under all of those conditions. But lately this is what my life feels like.
You’re out enjoying a beautiful set of decent bodysurfing waves. You’re challenged, but keeping up and enjoying yourself, catching some good rides (for this analogy, you’re bodysurfing or boogie boarding – because I don’t surf). It’s exciting and adventurous, although not a lot of downtime. Then you see a monster wave forming in the distance. You know it could crush you because it’s going to be a big one – but you also know you don’t have time to make it to shore before it hits, so you do the best thing you know – head out to meet it and hope you get there before it breaks, so you can dive under the swell or maybe even catch an incredible ride.
But you’re not fast enough, and before you know it, the wave is crashing right over you. You do what you’ve been trained to do since you were little – you dive down as deep as you can and try to swim through, under the wave. But even though you’re practically grabbing the sand and rocks on the bottom of the sea floor, the wave grabs you, thrashes you about, tumbles you around as though you’re in a giant, violent washing machine. Around and around you tumble, until you have no idea which way is up, which way is down and your lungs are screaming at you for a breath of air. Then just when you don’t think you can hold on for another moment, you’re able to push up through the water and gasp for breath.
Dizzy and lightheaded you look around to try to get your bearings when you see another monster wave headed your way – and you realize you’re in a “set” of big waves. You barely have time to catch your breath before you’re under the water again, swirling around in the savage wave. You try not to let panic set in as you are pummeled repeatedly by bigger waves than you feel ready for, each time not knowing if you’ll resurface before running out of precious breath. But somehow, you make it through, and the boisterous seas subside, and at long last the waters are calm enough to swim back towards the safety of the shore.
This last couple of years has felt very much like that experience…except that in the ocean, big sets of waves usually come in 3’s or 5’s…not dozens. In the ocean, you know that if you can hold on through just another couple of waves, the set will be over and you can make it back. Here in the real world, it feels an awful lot like I’m caught in a set that never ends. One setback or trial or challenge subsides and before I’ve had a chance to catch my breath, another one is upon me.
But here’s the difference. Unlike the me that is caught out in the ocean, I have learned not to panic while in the midst of the deep. Because panicking is the worst thing you can do, in either the ocean or in life. Also, I have learned that God always has my back and He will not let me drown. (although it sometimes feels like I am drowning!). And, I have learned that often, the big wave that I think will finally be the death of me, is actually taking me closer to the destination God has in mind for me….or at least it’s bringing me closer to a respite that I had no knowledge of.
Such was this last wave. As I wrote about last month, it was a challenging time to be sure in December…Eric’s health was in decline and I was pushing myself to the limits to hold everything together – as I always am in December. This time I got sick, and ended up in the hospital at the worst possible time (the week before Christmas). I had to cancel or reschedule a couple of sessions and refund another one. I was counting on those sessions to bring me the income I needed to pay for basic necessities. Then I was blessed with an incredible miracle of my landlord not only allowing my payment late for the previous month, but completely absolving me of my responsibility to pay rent for the month of December…a “Christmas gift” of $2650.
Feeling so grateful for that huge gulp of fresh air – and taking the huge weight of not knowing if we would be homeless the next month off of my shoulders, I went into January with a renewed determination to make a fresh start for an abundant new year and decade. January is typically my slowest month of the year, but as I prayed about what I should do, I wasn’t worried. I felt prompted to run a promotion for my fine art, because I had so many comments from people wanting to purchase it, I felt like I should launch it as a new business with a big sale, making it really affordable for most – and also offering a big giveaway in the spirit of abundance.
Within minutes of posting my promotion I had my first sale, and I was excited to be off to a great start. However, things didn’t go quite as planned after that. I did sell a few pieces, but nowhere near enough to catch up from falling so far behind the previous month. And just enough to pay my current bills for the new month, but that big one looming in front of me, the $2650 rent payment, felt quite impossible.
As I got closer to the end of the month (my landlord had generously given me the entire month to pay for January rent), I could see that unless we had another miracle, I would really need to figure out some other housing situation. I held a garage sale the weekend before the end of the month and sold about $300 worth of furniture, but all of that was eaten up by the check engine light that came on our only vehicle the last week of the month and the necessary repair. I usually have some good ideas of what could come through to save our family – a client who owed a large amount of money, or something we could sell, but at this point I had exhausted all of those options.
My husband would call me from his bed a couple of times a day and ask me for any news. He had had surgery this month, as well as several tests, MRIs, CT scan, etc. and was in no shape to be moved. But I felt strangely calm and at peace. I knew we would not have our rent “forgiven” a second month in a row, and I really didn’t have a lot of options as to where we could go. No family close by to move in with, and with my current income and credit we wouldn’t qualify for even a 1 bedroom apartment – and we had 5 people to house (and a bunch of pets and a business with lots of equipment).
I was a little perplexed as to why I had felt so prompted to pursue this promotion and it hadn’t panned out. But at last, being in a truly humbled state of need and no way to supply the resources myself, I turned in desperation to look up resources for disabled veterans. I thought maybe, just maybe, there would be some organization in our area that would help a disabled veteran in need just on a one time basis. I was able to get a hold of a few places – most of which directed me to other agencies, which I filled out lots of applications only to find out we didn’t meet ALL the criteria (mostly that we weren’t currently homeless)…but someone did point us to a program through the VA…the HUD VASH program.
I honestly don’t know why we haven’t been referred to this program sooner – it would have made my life sooo much easier. But over the phone it sounded like they could help me, and 2 days before our rent was due I dragged my husband out of bed and to the VA office to be screened. It turns out that we very likely will qualify for a veteran’s housing voucher (based on my husband’s service, and honorable/medical discharge and our income) that will subsidize our housing for as long as we qualify. Once approved, we will only be responsible for between $1000-$1500 for rent (still waiting to get that all sorted out)…which is a lot less stressful than coming up with $2650 every month! I feel pretty confident that our landlord will accept the voucher, for at least a little while, and that will take a huge weight off of our shoulders! And the nice people at the VA were able to point us towards our local American Legion offices that were able to combine to help us out with our rent for the month of January.
This great news was followed by another wave, when the next morning, the 31st of January, our electricity was turned off. I spent the entire day (my birthday) trying to come up with the $420 I needed to turn it back on – and all of my efforts fell short. All my birthday plans (which were not much) fell by the wayside and I was looking at spending the entire weekend in the dark, worrying about also losing all of our food, and not being able to work to earn money. Again, I didn’t allow myself to worry, just kept working at finding solutions. Then at the last possible moment, a friend sent me a birthday gift via Venmo and I was able to take that and pay the bill right before 5:00 and the lights came back on!
The really crazy thing is, if my promotion had gone as well as planned…or if I had had the hours I really wanted to work last month (sooo much time was eaten up by all of the medical issues/appointments/tests/surgery for my husband and myself)… I would never have been looking for outside help to pay our bills. I would never have learned about the HUD VASH program that will make the months going forward so much easier. I would not have learned about the other programs that are going to help my husband with his help in other ways.
So that wave that felt at the time like it would be the death of us (or at least rendering us living on the streets) actually brought us that much closer to a sustainable life situation. The peace I felt in the midst of it all, makes so much sense to me now. When the next wave hit (the electricity being shut off), I was that much better able to just roll with the punches. I’m catching a decent breath of air now, filling my lungs as much as I can by working as hard as I can before the next wave hits. Because truly the waves don’t ever stop. Some are just bigger than others. But I’ll be ready.
And even when I’m grasping for a handhold on the bottom of the ocean floor, I will know in whom I have trusted, and that it’s all going to be OK. And maybe the undertow that feels like it’s pulling me away from where I want to go, is directed by my Father in Heaven who sees beyond the immediate shore and knows my ultimate destination.
Update, 2 1/2 months later:
So….it’s taken a while…and I was reminded by your answer to someone’s post that you only get money “immediately” if you truly need it immediately, but most of the time your real needs aren’t as immediate as they feel, and He provides just what you need at the right time.
In this case that has been more than true for us, and I want to wrap the previous story up…for a quick recap:
Due to more health issues for me, wasn’t able to pay rent all on my own in I think Jan or Feb….none of the other money I was expecting to come in did either – so in desperation we turned to an agency that helps disabled veterans for help – and they set us up with the HUD/VASH program.
Now, with all of the COVID stuff, it’s taken way longer than we expected, but just got word yesterday that our hard work on repairing our house paid off – it passed the inspection – and our landlord is willing to accept the VA voucher and beginning this month our rent is now only 1/3 of what it has been the last 8 years. The VA will be paying 2/3 of our rent for us because of Eric’s disability and service in the marine corps.
And because of everything with COVID and the moratorium on rental evictions (and because I have the most understanding landlord i the world – who also can afford to do this)… I can pay back our unpaid April rent in installments. So, even though my photography business has been basically shut down for the last couple of months, our expenses have been cut down to the point where I can make ends meet.
So while it felt like a total emergency and that we could be out on the street, in the end, things will be much more manageable for us going forward! This was like gaining nearly $2000/month in income! Just thought you’d like to know.
Thank you, Vanessa for your share. It affirms the truth that there is always a way and there are always hidden blessings contained inside the most difficult challenges. As we approach our hardships with an expectation that we will find a way, and that there ARE blessings to be found, we will continue to be supported through all of our trials.
To find out how these kinds of trials bring us closer to the very things we’ve been asking for, click here to read Strange Surfer Wisdom.