“Mum is Always Right!”
We brought our Chrysler Town and Country mini-van over from America (incidentally, Americans, it’s called a Voyager people carrier here. Why? Search me!).
And because it drives on the American side of the road, I sit on the right side, and Roy drives. And that’s how the kids learnt right and left. Right is where Mum sits, because Mum is always right; Left is where Dad sits.
Well, I indoctrinated them with that ditty when they were little, and they said it with all seriousness. Now, at 17 and 12, they say it with some irony. Alas.
The mini-van, or people carrier (I write kind mid-Atlantic English as I have lived in America for longer than I’ve lived in England, and my blog readers are evenly balanced between the two countries) has a story.
We bought it right after September 2011, when the economy was low and prices were depressed. We bought it through an incredible windfall. We had been making gift annuities to Samaritan’s Purse of $1000 dollars at a time every now and then, and I think had given $22K. (Gift annuities are an arrangement by which you give money to a charity and they pay you quarterly interest. When you die, they get the money. I like it, and think I would like to die with all my money (such as it is) tied up in gift annuities, apart from what I’m leaving my kids and hopefully grandkids.)
The catch for the charity is that they commit to giving you a fixed percentage a year for life. I think we were getting a 6.5 % interest. And in the investment climate after 2001, the charity, like everyone else, was losing money on their investments.
So they asked if they could return the money we had been giving them over the last few years. A charity return money? Apparently so.
We accepted it. Our Toyota was stalling at lights, and taking a while to restart after it stalled. I was concerned I’d be rear-ended. I won’t drive, and would rather not be in, cars which might be unsafe. I am a nervous enough driver anyway.
So we gratefully accepted the windfall, and bought the mini-van which has proved serviceable for over 10 years now.
Of course, I felt there was a bit of unfinished business. We shouldn’t have accepted back money we had given to the charity (i.e. given to God, as far as I was concerned).
So I privately resolved to return the money with the next cash windfall I got.
The windfall came when we sold our house in Williamsburg. We had bought it in what realtors said was the neighbourhood most likely to appreciate, Kingsmill on the James. And appreciate it did. We bought $30K of gift annuities with Samaritans’ Purse when we sold the house, as a sort of tithe.
When Roy got his Professorship in the UK, they asked him to write down what his previous salary had been. He was offered 10 percent more.
I was very pleased with him, and with the offer, but I had not reckoned on the difference between British taxes and American taxes (ouch), or British property prices and American property prices (ouch, ouch) or the difference in the cost of living in Williamsburg, Virginia and Oxford, England!
And then we bought our dream house. And then we put the girls in the perfect school for them which was private, excellent, but hideously expensive.
And so, I needed to work.
And I sometimes thought crossly of the $30K I had grandly given away. It would have staved off my having to work for a while, or having to work so hard.
I didn’t regret giving it away at all—give and you shall receive is one of my core convictions—but I was most cross at God for not rewarding me for my generosity by returning the money when I needed it.
And as I’ve written elsewhere–for it is one of the miraculous stories of my life, which I still marvel at–I eventually, through trial and error, turned out to be rather good at business, which surprised me, Roy, my children, parents, and perhaps friends. Everyone but God!
The business did okay, we now have 12 people on our payroll, most part-timers, and it soon surpassed my ability to both run it and do anything else. And oh, I so wanted to be Mary, not Martha. I just wanted to read and write.
And so, last June Roy took over, and I am back to full-time reading and writing, though I am finding it hard to get back into the book I was writing which I put on the shelf in 2006, when I became a businesswoman.
I like Roy working from home so much. I like the fact that he cooks, and keeps the house tidy, and keeps up with the laundry, and the children’s homework—all things I found very hard to remember to do. So I have washed my hands of all that, and enjoy guilt-free writing.
But to get to this point, I had to leave my writing on the altar for 4.5 years.
And of course, if I had not given away that $30K perhaps I would not have needed to establish the business which has been such a blessing to us and to others.
Give and you shall receive, full measure, pressed down, flowing over.
But as you might expect, when dealing with God, you may well not receive when you expect to, or quite in the way you expect to.
Because if we did, we would be dealing with a celestial cash machine, and not a person. Not with God!