Christmas when you’re a kid. Most of us, and I’m sorry to those who don’t share this experience, were pretty excited. Receiving gifts is awesome. Whatever toy you may have been hoping for, whatever new game, whatever would make your life easier, some new clothes….it was all so awesome. Then something changed for me around maybe 12, 13 or 14. I wanted to give. I liked being the giver. I sure did still love to receive and I was in a family that was blessed enough to make that happen. I still did receive new outfits, whatever the latest bath and body works scent was (I was a plumeria girl myself), and many things that I had been hoping for…but I also started to give. I was lucky enough to start making my own money pretty young and just really loved finding that special something, especially for my parents. Something about coming into the realization that they have given so much just makes you so happy to give a little back. To this day my sister’s and I still put our heads together for most birthdays and holidays hoping to come up with the one thing they don’t already have that will make them smile. It’s just a great feeling. My mother is the worst at it. She is a terrible receiver. There have been times that we have nailed it, truly, and all she does is cry and explain how we shouldn’t have. She almost ruins it with the guilt she makes us feel knowing we spent our money on her. She likes to only be a giver. I get that. It really is an in-explainable feeling to be the giver.
I’ve been fortunate enough in my life that my husband and I have also been able to be the giver to some people in our lives. Some people we love. People that have had unfortunate experiences. People who are struggling. People who are fighting addiction. People who are important to us. People we just want to say “we did everything we could”. We have done our best to be servants and to truly give wherever and whenever we can. We get joy in it.
But this year our life took quite the turn when our little girl was born. We had saved and planned for my time off of work but we never imagined that time would be multiplied by almost three. We also didn’t imagine the NICU bills would come so fast and so furious after we felt like we were just emotionally recovering ourselves. But they did.
Then what seems to always happen, happened.
Andy’s car stopped having air conditioning.
No problem, mine has air.
Wrong. My car lost the air conditioning. (This was in July).
It’s ok. We don’t need air. People lived for years without it. But those people sure weren’t driving babies fresh out of the NICU to doctor appointments an hour away.
We’ll be fine.
Opening the bills became an almost joke in our house as “put it in the piiiiillllleeee” became almost a battle cry. I began calling on some of them and got payment plans for a few. But so many were from so many different “businesses” that they had to be paid separately and not combined. Then while opening mail fully expecting to see more medical bills we got a new one. Car insurance. Remember six months ago when your lives were totally different you thought you could pay car insurance six months at a time? Ha. Well, we’re here to collect on the next six months. Due in a week.
Then the email reminding me that my husband’s car is up for inspection and even though it will pass without air….we know the tires won’t. Ouch.
The list could keep going and going. Everyone has one. You could probably write this blog yourself and just insert different bills into the “when it rains it pours” scenario. My lowest point, in more ways than one, was trying to sign my daughter up for dance. I saw a facebook event from the studio for an open house on a Tuesday afternoon. I worked all day, picked my daughter up from day care, fed her drive through on the way and honestly felt like I was finally getting my life together as we were on our way to sign her up for something she loved and something “normal”. For this girl, who has also had her life turned upside down over the last six months, just mama and her, going to sign up for something just for her….it was bliss.
Until we got there and there was no one there. Check the invite. Yes, right time, right day. Message the teacher. She says she’s there. What am I missing?! How about the fact that this is a studio under the same name…but an hour away…..wonderful. I have to explain to my now crying daughter why we are not signing up for dance today and reassure her that there will be dance just not today. Contact the right people and find out the last day to sign up is the very next day from 6-8. I’m already working from 3-11. Wonderful. But I make it work, because…..mom’s….am I right? I take a break, run across town and run into this studio. I am amazed at their set up. Greeting table, followed by the sign up/schedule table, t-shirt order table, fundraising table, birthday sign up table….it was so cute. Of course I am grabbing all of the things. I get to the last table…the payment table and hand over my card (oh you know, the one we have literally been living off of)….and the cute teenage girl looks at me and says “um….cash or check”.
I am literally still wearing my apron and I have a handful of forms and other things that cost money, not to mention the registration fee and first month of class. I think as quick as I can. I need to be back to work in ten minutes. My break is almost over. Frankly, being here is costing me money (waitress life right?). My husband is home and is currently putting both kids to bed if he hasn’t already. He can’t run out. I can’t run somewhere and back in time even if I wanted to…..so I do the only thing I can at that point….and I reach into my apron and start to straighten my ones at this table.
Y’all…..can you just visualize with me for a minute?
I said I reached into my apron and started straightening my ONES at this table….counting…praying….ignoring the heat on the back of my neck and the sweat in the middle of my back. It. Was. The. Worst. ESPECIALLY when I counted about 28 dollars……and I needed about 45…….
I just didn’t even know what to say, I didn’t know what to do. I had never asked a favor like this before, I didn’t know how this worked. This was a new studio for us and I was unfamiliar with the teachers, the people, or how the system worked. I didn’t know if they were flexible or not and judging by the poor teenage girl in front of me…they were not.
Well thank God I read that room wrong. Because as soon as the owner saw what was happening she laughed with me, showed me the drop box and said to put whatever I needed to in that box whenever the first day of class was. You all better believe I put the registration fee, first month of class, second month of class, t-shirt fee and first costume deposit all in that envelope trying to redeem myself.
That was a learning experience for sure.
Now here we are a few months later and I have to be honest with you without sounding like I’m bragging.
Someone paid to fix the air conditioning in my car.
Someone paid for the rest of Ricklan’s dance tuition, for the year…and her costume.
Someone sent us a check for enough money to cover the car insurance.
Like, I don’t even know where to go from here. These feelings I’m feeling are so mixed and twisted. I am so, so thankful. I am humbled. I am joyous. I am embarrassed. I am determined. I am sorrowful. I am strong. I am loved.
When you become the receiver after being the giver for quite some time….it is a total shift in identity. It is so hard. But when you are literally put into a place in your life where you don’t even see another way out, it can make you love harder than you ever have. For me, it just makes me more determined. A friend I talked to about Ricklan’s dance tuition laughed at me when we talked on the phone. I was accusing her of paying it, or knowing who did and I told her my thoughts about how next year we will be in a better place and I can’t wait to pay for someone else’s tuition. She laughed so quick. She said “can you listen to yourself? You can’t even accept this love that someone is giving you at this shitty time in your life without already thinking and making plans to pay it back. Calm down. Accept it for what it is. And stop making plans to redeem yourself. It’s done”. But guys, it’s not done. I’m not done. That’s just the way I operate. I can’t wait to get back into the giving phase. I can’t wait to be the one someone calls for the money. I can’t wait to spend a little to much on that all too perfect gift for someone. And I will get there, it will just take time.
In the meantime, God is showing me how to be a receiver. He is showing me how sometimes in the past when I have given and it hasn’t been received well…why that may be. He is showing me how we are all capable of being in every position at any time. He is showing me how much love is out there for my husband and I. He is also showing me how to be even better with my money. How to be more diligent in only buying what we absolutely need right now. He is showing me that I may have been spending in ways I shouldn’t have and that maybe I wouldn’t have beaten myself up for delaying my own progress….but I’ll be damned if I take advantage of what someone else has done for us. So excuse Andy and I while we put our heads down and disappear for a minute. We’ll be cooking at home and working all of the hours trying to get back to being the givers. But until we get there….until we can finally extend our hand and pay if forward or hopefully even find a way to pay some of these people back…..we just want to be thankful receivers. Because there is nothing worse than a mother making you feel bad for the Christmas gift you and your sister’s thought was perfect. Be a thankful receiver. Even when it hurts.
My girl and her favorite dance teacher (a daughter of a friend of mine who is coming in a future post next week).