We had been in our new house about six months now and it was finally beginning to take shape. It was a beautiful Saturday morning in spring and there were no urgent projects on the radar of our 80-year-old house. I think we could have given Chip and Joanna Gaines a run for their money back in the day – but on a much smaller budget of course. The sun was shining, birds were chirping and the flowers were blooming – it was going to be a wonderful day.
We had moved to Greenville, Michigan the previous summer as I took my first teaching job. It was a wonderful job in a great city. But my measly teaching salary was all the income we had at the time, so we had to literally ‘design on a dime’. I coached a few sports and Kristen sold Mary Kay for extra money. To say we lived check-to-check was an understatement.
Kristen had just left to run some errands so I walked outside to get the mail – traditional snail mail – before the internet. As I sorted through the stack of junk mail and bills, I noticed a bill from a credit card company that I was unfamiliar with – in Kristen’s name. Hmmmm? Now don’t get me wrong. We each had a credit card and used it as needed for the house. We tried to discuss and communicate the best we could before using it, so to say I was surprised and shocked at an unexpected credit card bill was just the tip of the iceberg. A $500 charge that we couldn’t afford, and one that I had absolutely no idea about. I was livid! Smoke began to billow out of my ears and my face resembled a lobster! The beautiful day had just turned into Hurricane Chad. Ahhhhhhh!!!! It was a good thing Kristen was gone and that cell phones weren’t invented yet. It gave me some time to cool off and think about how to approach her when she returned home.
Her smile quickly faded as she walked into the kitchen and saw me standing there holding the bill. All my efforts to remain calm and discuss it gently went out the window in the first 30 seconds. And then I saw the fear in her face. As much as she was wrong for opening and using a credit card without telling me, I was just as wrong in my response to her. I also needed to be safe to approach – that she could ask me anything without fear of an inappropriate response or an automatic “No”.
While I was trying to build a house, she was trying to make it a home. We just had different thoughts and approaches in doing so and we needed to get on the same page. The experience helped us realize that we needed to communicate clearly and more frequently. We both asked for forgiveness and prayed that God would help us become more unified in our marriage – especially in the area of money.
1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT ~ I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions ... Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
Chad and Kristen Cottingham