God in the Checkbook, or Quicken’s Silver Lining

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May, 2010 — Since my accident, now nine months on, I’ve noticed quite a few times that I lose track of time. I’m not talking about clock time. I’m talking about calendar time. The month. The date. The year. The day. I suppose it could be because I spent quite a few weeks away from home in medical care facilities, and additional weeks after arriving back home in hospital. In many of these places, if I had a view out the window, it was not a remarkable view. An empty sky. A brick wall. An air handler atop a pebbled roof. That same squirrel running across that same oak limb. No longer passing time according to well-established routines.

I was, and am becoming again, a pretty (excessively?) organized person. Used to be, when the mail came, or when I noticed it had been piling up, I would sort it carefully into piles. Junk mail. Bills. Checks. Personal correspondence — mine and theirs. And bank statements.

I would quickly process most of the piles described above. Junk mail to the trash. Bills into the desktop sorter, according to due date. Checks to the desk next to the “for deposit only” stamp. Other correspondence would be sorted (thrown or stuffed, really) into each family member’s stair basket. Contents were to be removed from baskets by basket owners and carried upstairs. The expression, “Out of sight, out of mind,” and the term “black hole,” seem to fit.

Early in my adult checkbook independence, I learned the benefits of the envelope system and the ledger sheet method. Still, with lots of handwritten checks and ledger entries, home finance management was slow going. Enter Quicken! I no longer had to handwrite checks. Sweet! Having set up my paycheck allocations, and my income and expense categories, home finance management became much more streamlined.

Back to the mail. The bank statements would go into a pile that I scarcely could bear to look upon. Were I to see the pile, it was a chilling and demoralizing reminder that account reconciliation afternoons were seldom happy occasions. Missing receipts. Deposits I was sure of, but which the bank seemed to have overlooked. The check ledger’s “miscellaneous” category, with its siren call, “Use me for discretionary purposes.” Deep inside I knew it was merely the much misused ledger account I would deplete to make adjustments necessary to balance with the bank. Sigh. I can’t remember how many times six months would pass before I would tackle and reconcile a half year of bank statements. Upon slaying these multi-month statement dragons, I would sincerely proclaim I’d learned my lesson, and then announce, “I will never let this happen again.” I’ve been making that same announcement every six months for years.

This past week, I gathered all of the receipts, deposit slips, and the almost sacred composition book my lovely heroic wife used to split and track every check-writing atom. My involuntary abdication of the home finance management throne thrust my beloved wife into the role. I daresay she would rather have had weekly root canals. So, back on the throne, I began to work through the past 9 months’ income and expense history.

Quite unexpectedly, it was as though my newer version of Quicken had a AAA Trip-Tic function. Looking at every receipt, deposit slip and check number, it was as though each one was a Rick Steves travelogue stop with its own narrative. Entering each item, I matched transaction dates with transaction locations, picturing in many cases the payee / payor parties involved. I now understood where my wife and kids went each day — Target, Giant, Wal-Mart, the doctor’s office, Muvico, birthday shopping. I now could see who got new shoes, new clothes, a treat at Chick-fil-A, a prescription refill, a fill-up. Many deposit entries evidenced the staggering generosity of friends, family and strangers whose targets for kindness we were.

These bits of data — now all strung together — provided a much needed, much more useful cash flow picture. More significantly, this plodding multi-night exercise evidenced God’s close providential care, and reconnected me with the familiar reality away from which I had been so long, and with — to my eyes — a vast company of caring and supportive people.

And He who did not spare His only begotten Son, how will He not also along with Him freely give us all things?

One thought on “God in the Checkbook, or Quicken’s Silver Lining

  1. Carol McFadden

    Beautiful, Chuck! Thanks for reminding us of the privilege of the daily tasks that often we view as burdens or at least irritants.

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