Monday, March 24, 2008

Uncle Sam, not so good to us

We interrupt this broadcast of enchanting family vignettes to bring you the latest installment of our Adventures as a Cash-Strapped Family of a Ph.D. Student. :-)

Normally I do not discuss finances on here, because really, who wants to read about other people's private stuff like that, and I hold to that old saying about discretion being the better part of valor. But, disaster sort of struck yesterday and so here I am visiting my therapist, Dr. Keyboard, to pour it out. (And by the way, I know that this incident can be easily outdone by Jenny's own tale of the year when she was expecting a tax refund, in fact needed it to purchase a new refrigerator (? washing machine? something crucial and vital like that) and discovered too late that her dh had had practically NOTHING withheld and that they therefore OWED the government hundreds of dollars. Jenny can ALWAYS top my disaster tales, in fact, just as she can top anyone's bad-in-law-gifts stories -- this is the girl who was given a Christian weight-loss book for Christmas one year, despite the fact that she is neither fat nor Christian)).

So last year, we got a generous subsidy from Uncle Sam -- I can't really call it a rebate, but we qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit (like I said before, there are advantages to a tiny paycheck) which basically brought in about $4500. Yahoo! We were expecting, in fact my dh assured me, that this year it would be about the same, so in my head I was making plans for, you know, various things on the spectrum of need/want. Well, guess what, folks? Due to the fact that we cashed in some mutual funds last year, we get a grand total of $221 this year! Um, I think I already spent that in anticipation of the $4500 -- yeah yeah, I know, don't spend money until you have it in hand.

Sigh. We just kinda stared at each other for a while yesterday, trying to choke down that dose of reality.

Since I stress about money a LOT (including every time I go to the grocery store), I feel like the Lord is constantly exposing the fact that I am in the realm of anxiety, not in the realm of Christ. When has He ever failed to meet our needs? We've never gone hungry or naked in the streets. We've never missed a house payment. We even have some "extras," like extracurriculars for the kids (thanks to my in-laws). My mom just bought Eliza some summer clothes. Other things happen that remind me that He is taking care of us, often through the generosity of others, even though I wish I could be the one taking care of THEM. I realized the other day, as I felt that familiar tightening in my stomach over something money-related, that my anxiety cannot possibly have its source in Christ, since He is its opposite -- He is peace, He is strength, He is security, He is joy. So, I need not spend even one anxious minute. Yet neither can I throw caution to the winds and rush gleefully into credit card debt, trusting that "God will take care of it." As with every other aspect of my life, He wants to be my real balance. He is taking us through this time of testing and material leanness (by American standards) so that we will learn something very specific of Him -- how to reject the temptation to be anxious, how to reject our covetous, greedy nature, and how to really cast all our cares of Him. We're also learning to figure out what's really worth buying, and not taking for granted what we have (cliche, but true). We're sort of in boot camp now, I guess, and I'm earnestly hoping that when the time comes for us to be entrusted with more (i.e. after graduation), we'll be well-trained steward of His resources.

A song is running through my head right now, and it's straight from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
"Always rejoice;
Pray without ceasing;
In everything give thanks;
For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."


Jenny said...

Ah, yes, I do remember that unfortunate tax year...that would be the year my hubby decided to fill out his W4 like we had 14 kids rather than the one we actually had. *sigh*

Sorry to hear about the money woes...BTDT and it's not fun. (((hugs)))

MoreThanJustaMom said...

Oh, I know, I know, I KNOW what that's like! I'm so sorry - and yet, I know that sometimes not getting is just what the Lord intends for us, and is, in fact, the best thing. All the same, it's so hard to see your wish list, the one you thought was so close to becoming a reality, rendered unattainable in one punch. :-(

Allen Tsuei said...

Don't forget about the 2008 tax rebate - $1200 / couple and $300 per child!

Vanessa said...

Hannah, the same thing happened to us because we too took out of our mutual funds last year. The Lord has to gain this part of our heart for His interests! We are all in the same process. . .hugs to you.

Samuel said...