It's cold. So cold. Through the broken window I can see, driven by a merciless wind, the snow gusting against the cars, the trees, the hedges.
Sometimes the wind comes whistling in through the break, slapping my face with an icy hand. All I can do is curse. I'm too cold to move.
I don't think I've ever felt so cold; down to my bones. Numb hands and feet. And numb brain; I don't know what to do.
Mary's in bed, coughing. I've heard newspapers keep you warm. I put those on her first, then the blanket. But she needs something to eat.
Macey's crying. Her voice sounds as thin as she looks. The weak soup and bread was not enough. I'll cook a potato later. Can't do it now; there's not much gas. God, what do I do? Feed a sick wife or a hungry child? I don't suppose you care. You're going to take us all soon anyway.
I can't believe it's come to this. In ten long months; from a nice suburban house and decent car, to this.
Of course, no-one ever told us to balance the budget, to make ends meet; that's not what they say.
"You want it? Get it now."
"You deserve it."
"Because you're worth it."
"If it feels good, do it."
"Buy now, pay later." -- that last one's about the most accurate. We're paying now alright.
Too late, I've seen their deception -- seen the real messages:
"You want it? Give me your money"
"You deserve it. If you're stupid enough to part with money you haven't got, you deserve what's coming."
"Because you're worth it. You're worth my spending money to deceive, because you're going to give me money you haven't got."
"If it feels good, do it. Go on your feelings, not your conscience."
All with the same underlying message:
"Why make ends meet, when there's credit on tap?"
They don't care when you're suddenly retrenched and everything is repossessed. Suddenly, you're not worth it -- not when your teeth are chattering with cold and hunger and you can't support your family. I wish Mary would stop that coughing. It's like a knife in my heart.
God, if you're there, forgive me. I'm trying to think what You had to say -- trying to remember from church, way back.
"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his very self."
"If he squanders his talent, even the little he has will be taken away."
God have mercy. Isn't there also a story about a prodigal son who squandered everything, yet was welcomed home? I want to come home. I see now that Your way is the right way. Give me a second chance; let me learn about You and Your way.
Macey, please stop crying. My happy-go-lucky child, always on her tricycle on some adventure, you're breaking my heart.
What's that? My phone? But I don't have airtime. Oh, I guess I can still get incoming calls.
"Salvation Army? How did you get my number? Yes. Yes. I'd be so grateful. When can you come. Thank you so much. I do believe you've saved our lives -- and I mean it literally --- and spiritually."
How did they know, God? Did You show them? If You can do that, I know You can provide in other ways, too.
I think I'm starting to see it already. The secret to making ends meet is understanding that I'm looking after God's provision. How can I squander it on myself when it's God's? Or spend what He hasn't given me?
Suddenly I'm feeling warmer.
"Mary! Mary, my darling." You look so frail under the blanket. "There's help on the way. Real help. God's help. From now on we're doing things differently. Come. Get dressed. The Salvation Army's on its way. From now on it's up -- into God's way!"
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