All things considered, it was life as usual for Jenny Ingles and her family until last month when her husband, PJ, lost his job due the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s scary. Like chest pain scary,” says mom-of-three Jenny, “But at the end of the day, or should I say, at the end of the coronavirus outbreak, no matter how much change we endure, we will emerge a much different family".
Jenny is Director of Fertility and Life Ministries for the Diocese of Lansing. She wrote about her rollercoaster month in a recent internal note to parish staff across the diocese focusing on how the experience is enhancing rather than diminishing her trust in God.
“Through the uncertainty of it all we’re seeing God work in extraordinary ways. It is with confidence in our Lord that I want to reach out to you today with a message of Hope. Jesus, we trust in you”.
Jenny’s note moved many, inspired others and made all who read it consider the degree to which we too trust in the loving providence of a good God.
Quite a few people also asked that we publish the note externally. So here it is. We hope you find it useful:
Math. I’ve been doing a lot of math these days. It goes something like this ((“Rainy Day” Savings + Unemployment) + Stimulus) – (Daycare + Gas) = Broke in June. We’ve been doing a lot of “cutting back”. We have a list of non-essentials that are on the chopping block should this drag on for... who knows how long. It’s scary. Like chest pain scary. But at the end of the day, or should I say, at the end of the coronavirus outbreak, no matter how much change we endure, we will emerge a much different family.
On March 23rd, when we got word that my “non-essential” husband was losing his job, we went straight to the budget. On the one hand, it was a peaceful blessing that we’ve been budgeting the majority of the 14 years we’ve been married. On the other, being forced to cut 2/3 of our income from the budget was a painful exercise in showing us where we hadn’t been the best stewards of our money. Mortgage? Electricity? Transportation? Those stay. Food? Sorry kids, the word of the month is “rationing”. “No, you may not have 10 sausages. Grab a cucumber”. Cable? Gone. Tithe? We paused. For a long time. After all, we had been striving to increase our tithing over the past few years. We were finally getting to a percentage of our income that felt like we were being good stewards of our money. If we cut the tithe, then we certainly would have more wiggle room. We could probably stretch out the finances so that we’d be broke in July instead of June. But the end result would still be broke.
We’ve always trusted that God will provide for us if we listen to Him. We’ve had so many times that the finances have worked when they just shouldn’t work, that it’s impossible to pretend that we’re the ones in charge of this. 5 years ago I was working in the secular world making a lot of money. For years I had been brushing off a calling from God to teach Natural Family Planning. He would present the call and I would present the excuse. To his generosity I would respond, “I’m an introvert and I’d have to talk to people”. “I like my income and ministry would drastically decrease that”. “I’m comfortable in my job and this would take me out of my comfort zone”. But finally, God’s call was so strong that I said, “Yes. Jesus, I trust in you.”
I had been working at the diocese as the Coordinator for Natural Family Planning for about 4 months when that trust was tested. We needed propane to heat the house. It was going to cost $632 and we didn’t have it. Sitting before the budget with no money left for heat we wondered if ministry was really what God wanted. Maybe I misunderstood him for 4 years. Maybe it was my desire and not His. We had the choice to put the propane on a credit card or reach out in faith. We reached out. WAY out. I left for work that day with no money and no propane. I cried a little. At Mass that day I simply said “Jesus, I trust in you.” When I got home that night, I opened the mailbox. Inside was a letter from the Social Security Office that included a check. The check was for $632. I didn’t know that we were owed money. God had provided. I cried a lot.
This is just one of too many examples of God providing when we’ve reached out in Faith. So, we prayed and heard God say NOT to cut the tithe. He also said not to forgo our annual DSA donation or the donation we make to another local ministry. “Jesus, we trust in you.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says "In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself." CCC 2404. With this in mind, we know that our generosity is keeping the lights on at our parish and paying the salaries of those who are finding incredibly unique ways to bring us the Mass, confession and youth group. It is enabling the elderly who are lonely to receive Hope in this terrifying time. It’s providing food to those who don’t have any. And for these reasons, we can step out in faith and say “Jesus, we trust in you.” We aren’t the only ones doing a lot of math these days. And I understand and pray for those who have to stop giving. But like always, I know that God will provide. Maybe our giving is making up for someone who can’t give. God never ceases to remind me that when we trust in Him, life is better. In fact, we’ve already been surprised by several gifts from God that have presented in the form of ordinary people and ordinary things. Through the uncertainty of it all we’re seeing God work in extraordinary ways. It is with confidence in our Lord that I want to reach out to you today with a message of Hope. Jesus, we trust in you.
Peace in Christ,
* Pictured: Jenny and PJ Ingles with children Miriam (7), Teddy (5) and Eloise (1). Photograph by Thomas Dion.