Life Tips and Ideas

Fix the Leak: How to Stop Bailing with a Spoon

You have to fix the leak before the bailing will make a difference. It takes a change to make a change. You won’t be able to stick to the same ole same ole if you want to have different in your life or for your life. Stop trying to make it work for the moment and begin making the changes for life.

Hitting the Wall

I stared at my computer trying to determine the amount of money the silver I had spread out around me might put into our bank. It might pay the mortgage for a month. At that moment, “might” seemed better than nothing, but it was not enough.

No matter how I looked at the numbers – no matter how hard I squeezed – we always ended up in the red. Something had to give or we would be giving all we had worked for to the bank.

That failure just could not be an option.

I did the calculations once again, hoping beyond hope that I had put a decimal in the wrong place – or maybe just subtracted wrong. My math was right and we were in trouble.

I had a leak and I needed to fix the leak – but I was focused on bailing with a spoon.

How it Began

We started struggling after the online economy crashed in 2008. I had missed the signs of the upcoming storm – being distracted by things immediately around me. The place I built my writing business turned to be out to be more sand than rock. I was not prepared for the foundation I had built to crumble around me and to crumble so quickly.

But it did.

I should have sat down at that moment and explained it all to my husband. I didn’t. Instead, I shuffled and juggled and spun plates trying to make sure that his world didn’t fall apart around him.

The more I tried, the harder things seemed to get.

Almost a Break

We clawed and pushed our way through the next six years. Troubles continued to pound us down and we continued to find the strength and courage to stand back up and move forward.

The tornadoes of April 27, 2011, crushed the roof of our home and could have been so much worse – it was for many people throughout the state and in our small community. We were blessed in many ways but still had a long road to walk.

The experience I gained writing insurance content for online companies helped me handle the disaster without despair. The lessons I learned from the people who had gone before me gave us a foundation for overcoming.

Despite the reprieve, we still weren’t quite there. I still needed to fix the leak.

Daily Challenge - fix the leak

The Struggles Continued

My mom visited our remodeled home twice before her health deteriorated to the point she could no longer come over. She passed on March 17, 2012. The heaviness of the situation threatened to bury me. My friends and my family gave me the support and encouragement I needed to dig my way out and keep going.

We continued to inch our way through – despite the obstacles that continued to go up around us. I had given my husband a heads up, but not a complete view of the troubled waters. In other words, I only gave him a spoon.

Back to the Wall

Looking at our budget on paper never made much sense. Somehow we had always gotten through, but the paper representation never calculated the faith manifestation. The income and the outflow numbers on paper do not mash.

I took the steps I needed to take along the way. I cut the outflow all that I could. I set up a pantry challenge a few times a year so that I could skip at least some of the grocery shopping (a HUGE cost for a family of boys). I did all that I knew to do to make it work out.

It did NOT work.

I found myself staring at the silver handed down by my grandmother and my mother trying to determine if I wanted to sell it to a company online or sell it to a local dealer that would melt it down.

The reality hit me. Even if I sold the stuff around me, it would not fix the situation. Until I fix the situation, I will be left trying to bail out the boat with a spoon – and that just does not work.


working on a boat - fixing the leak

My son and his cousins invested the day pulling apart old pallets to put back together in a hand-made boat. Somewhere along the way, they realized that the gaps in their construction would likely get them wet IF they could get the boat to float at all.

“We need the duct tape.” My son declared – convinced the tape would hold back the water.

I knew better – and just like I knew the duct tape wouldn’t help him I knew what I had been doing wasn’t helping us.

Something had to change. I had to find a way to fix the leak. The place it had to start was the same place it always has to start. Change starts with the man in the mirror.

Fix the Leak

  • I had to get honest about where we were. A budget tells the truth so I had to choose to believe it. Although we have been blessed to have unexpected money show up just when we needed it most, that is not the answer. Yes, I know that God can do amazing things. Yes, I know that God owns it all. Yes, I know that He often does things in ways that make no sense in this world. I also know that He expects His children to be wise in the plans they make and the steps they take. Our budget told a story that we had been skimping on our stewardship duties.
  • I had to take steps to build back up the income I had lost in the crash. Bring in more money sounds easy enough – until you try juggling the added responsibilities of homeschooling and parent care. I had tried a few things but they seemed to put me farther down instead of lifting us up. I kept trying . . . and that may have been part of the problem. If you are still struggling to move forward then it may be time to admit what you are doing is not working and look for a different direction. It may not look like expected, but something needs to give until the leak gets fixed.
  • I had to cut deeper or cut more. We had already cut back our outflow to what we considered the bare minimum. There are some other things we could do without but they would limit the opportunities for building income. Still, when you have done all that you can do it may be time to do even more. There are still a few ways we could cut deeper without causing lasting damage, but it would be a last-ditch effort for survival-type cut.
  • I have to be honest about where I am. There are days when it feels like I do a lot, but I know that I am just doing what makes it look that way . . . if I am honest. Not being honest protects me from the responsibility of having to do more. I have to be raw and real and exposed if I really want the boat to stay afloat.

The difference always comes back to the choices we make. You can deal with a problem without fixing the problem but that is a lot like trying to bail a boat out with a spoon. You will get tired. You will get wet. You will eventually go under.

Make a different choice to make a better way. Fix the leak in the boat and then start bailing – because even with a spoon you will still make a difference once the leak is fixed.

Until the bottom line falls into the black, things have to continue to be adjusted and changed. No easy button exists and no magic beans can be planted. It takes choices – sometimes hard ones – to make change happen.

I may still end up selling some items in the long run or for the short-haul or somewhere in between. No matter what actions I take, recognizing the need to fix the leak in the boat will get me a long way toward having a successful journey once again.

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paddling a boat - fix the leak

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