Back to work

Just before Thanksgiving, my husband Andrew lost his job. He hadn’t been very happy anyway, and received two months of severance, so I didn’t fall apart completely, at least not right away. Things were scary to be sure, but somehow we all seemed to have an underlying conviction that everything would work out alright.

We were encouraged by the fact that despite the severe economic crisis, there seemed to be quite a few positions out there that matched Andrew’s experience and expertise. Andrew applied for unemployment, immediately reworked his resume, called every recruiter he could think of, hashed through endless listings on the internet, and did everything he could to find a new position as quickly as possible. His qualifications were answered with a host of phone calls and emails, and even an interview within a week.

But as Christmas grew nearer, things slowed down, and the reality of being without a paying job became more and more frightening. We committed ourselves to doing whatever needed to be done to maintain the most important things. It helped when our son received a few college acceptance letters. Good news was more than welcome. But no matter how hopeful things appeared, it was hard to escape the thought that maybe the floor was going to fall out from beneath us.

To me, it felt like life had suddenly become a ticking time bomb. That is what anxiety does to you. The junk emails that advertised foreclosed homes for sale weren’t just unwelcome spam anymore. Every time one of those infernal emails came into my box, I imagined us losing our house. With every downward spiral of economic indicators, my fears cast longer shadows. Neither one of us slept very well.

We cut expenses as much as possible without making any drastic decisions. But we also had numerous discussions about what we’d eliminate if it came to that. It’s clear how little a cable TV box means when you’re talking about real priorities. For the time being, we watched the gas and grocery bills, and nixed all unnecessary spending. We simplified Christmas gift giving dramatically, and used the situation to teach our kids about how very much they had, and what was truly important.

All of that was fine and good. But I knew that if Andrew wasn’t able to land a job to pick up where his severance left off, we’d have to make the significant changes we were doing everything in our power to avoid. Private schools are high on our list of values. Nonetheless, I figured I could home-school the youngest three children if I had to. We could sell the car that our teenagers use, and get out from under the insurance bill as well. We could get rid of cell phones, or maybe keep those and nix the landline. We could, in fact, forfeit the cable TV, and eat pasta even more than twice a week. We did turn down the heat, and I sent my resume around some too.

The most important thing for us to do was the simplest--but most difficult: trust God more, and not less. I tried my best, but it wasn’t very good. I’d be fine one day, and completely terrified the next. I’d glimpse God’s hand at work, but was afraid that He would abandon us. I prayed, and worried, intensely.

Timing is not one of God’s endearing qualities, at least not to me! But in the end, when Andrew’s job offer came in one day after his severance ran out, I could almost hear Him saying “I told you I would take care of you.” Of course, I reminded Him that people were losing their jobs and homes and health care every day; that those things could have happened to us too--and why not? But the Good Shepherd didn’t seem impressed. After all, none of those things did happen to us, and Andrew’s first day back to work was this week.

In the past two months of riding our own emotional roller coaster, we’ve heard so many stories of people who have it worse than we ever could. Some of them brought us to tears, but mostly, they brought us to gratitude. When I was most frightened by our situation, I asked God to give me a sign that everything would be fine. He always did. The greatest, I think, was the love of friends who cared. So many people helped us. They encouraged us with words and prayers, made job referrals, gave our kids an extra Christmas present. They let us know that they were there for us, ready to help in any way they could.

This economic crisis will, I think, touch everyone in some way. If you’re lucky enough to keep your job, someone you care about won’t be as lucky. If you manage to keep your house, someone you know may struggle to keep theirs. If you didn’t lose a great deal of what you saved when the markets tumbled, a neighbor or friend or family member probably did. Whatever has happened or will, remember this: God keeps His promises. When we don’t have jobs to go to, God is still at work. He is busy in us, and for us, and through us. He will use our situation to bring us closer to Him and to one another. We don’t have to trust banks, or employers, or the government. We need only trust God for all our needs. And He is faithful, ever deserving of that trust.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.