I was sitting in a Walgreens parking lot, gripping the steering wheel, willing myself to go in. I wandered the aisles inside, hovering over one item in particular. Then I chickened out. I threw a random facial moisturizer in my basket, paid, and drove off without the one item that was burning in my mind. I passed three more Walgreens along the way home before finally getting the nerves to stop and actually pick it up: my first pregnancy test.
Fast forward two and a half years. I was standing in a Meijer aisle holding a two year old’s hand and a ridiculous gorilla card with googley eyes and everything. At home I had a pregnancy test waiting to be taken, and I was nervously hopeful with the thought that perhaps tomorrow I would be tucking a positive test into this very card- a Father’s Day card- to give to Mike.
For some reason I can remember very clearly and vividly the excitement and anticipation of finding out about the pregnancies of Olivia and Malachi. Details that don’t fade away with time.
Not so with my middle pregnancy- the one we lost just shy of 14 weeks. The baby we named Avelyn. I have no idea why. There was at the time, though, and still is, a sense that she was never meant to be held in our arms. I can’t explain the feeling… but from the beginning, even though I wanted this baby very badly, a part of me just knew something was off.
No, I don’t remember the day I found out I was pregnant with Avelyn. But I do remember the day, the moment, we found out we lost her. I remember all too clearly the day I had surgery only hours after she was born. And boy, do I remember the moment I opened our bill from the hospital and nearly fainted with anxiety: $16,000 out of pocket in hospital charges alone.
It’s not cheap to birth a baby. It’s not cheap to lose one either.
That moment was filled with sheer panic. We had been working for a little over a year to pay off $16,000 of debt, and had made great headway. We were down to a mere $6,500. And then just like that… our original debt was doubled overnight.
Grief and money trouble do not mix well.
Of course we applied for financial assistance through the hospital, and the bill total was lowered to right around $3,000, which we began chipping away at with a monthly payment plan. Grand plan to get out of debt in 18 months: busted. Granted the bill wasn’t $16,000 anymore, but a little piece of my heart died every time we had to write a check to the hospital for the baby we never got to take home.
We also felt defeated at having worked so hard to get our total down so low only to have more debt to pile on top.
Then we had to move a few months later to a much more expensive living situation and found out we were pregnant again, with Malachi. Our neat little plan for getting out of debt was rapidly coming apart as each extra cent of our finances was now being stretched to the max to pay for living expenses, hospital bills, and trying to stay on top of saving for this next birth so we wouldn’t end up with even more debt. We were so stretched we stopped making payments on our student loan, in fact. Thankfully we were far enough ahead on payments that our statements each month read: Minimum Payment Due: $0.
Everything had been going so smoothly- look at us! We’re paying off a ridiculous amount of debt in a ridiculous amount of time! And having a baby to boot!
Then it all crashed down hard.
It wasn’t all bad- Mike got a new job and a better salary. We carried a healthy pregnancy to term. We loved having our own living space again. But it was a lot of work, and it never felt fully certain that we would, in fact, become debt free.
Actually, even as we came down to the final months and were tantalizingly close to paying off the student loan, a part of me didn’t really believe it would actually happen until the morning arrived that I sent our last payment off to the student loan company.
Clearly, there were roadblocks. Not the least of which was feeling demoralized and defeated after it felt like we had been such a great winning streak. Doing everything right, according to plan. So why did we get so horribly off track?
But somewhere in the midst of these ups and downs, Proverbs 19:21 became clearly illustrated: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”
To me there was greater purpose to the last three years than simply paying off debt to be debt free. This time was a sharpening tool for our hearts and minds. An exercise in grace and humility, and learning that we can have it all together on the outside but still be totally missing it on the inside. To have had everything go smoothly and easily? To have given up completely when things got tough? We would have missed out on the richest treasures of this disciplined lifestyle: greater revelation of truth and insight in our hearts.
And isn’t that always the Lord’s purpose? To draw us to greater understanding and illumination within. Much more so than having us get our ducks in a row financially (or in any other aspect of life really). He calls us to these disciplines not for the sake of the discipline itself but because the act of working out the discipline in our weak human frames draws us to a place of greater enlightenment as to who God is, and who we most certainly are not.
So I’m thankful for the path- roadblocks and all. Because honestly I can’t imagine it having gone any other way, and I feel all the richer because of it.