Just Enough

By Noelle Sterne

Living in a university neighborhood and with no heart for nine-to-five office jobs, I started a home-based freelance typing service for graduate students’ papers and theses. The first year, after circling the campus countless times and posting my card on every bulletin board in every corner of every building, I did pretty well. 

One day, on a break from laboring over a lengthy thesis, I went to the local stationery store for supplies. At the good paper shelf, another woman peering at the same labels commented on the virtues of different finishes. We started talking and discovered we were in the same business. She had been serving the students with their papers and longer projects for many years and earned a good living at it. 

As we recognized other common interests, and living two blocks from each other, Margo and I became friends and often met for lunch. We talked “shop,” laughed over nightmare clients and their more impossible professors, and shared many other parts of our lives. Even though I was a potential competitor, Margo generously shared her technical tricks and answered all my novice questions.   

As my second year approached, business fell off. Maybe it had to do with the decision I’d just made: to separate from my husband. Margo, a longtime single woman, listened sympathetically to my endless monologues of insecurity and sorrow and supported my new-found independence. When I found a perfect studio apartment about twenty blocks downtown, she brought bottles of wine and correction fluid. 

But I was scared. For the first time in my adult life, I was solely responsible for all my expenses. The small savings I’d managed just about covered the first two months. As the third month began, I couldn’t seem stretch my funds to cover everything, especially the new, rather hefty rent. And the phone was not ringing and email inbox was empty.

Every night I awoke at 2:30 a.m. with a hole of fear in my stomach and fell back to sleep only out of exhaustion. I awakened again as the light dawned, in the first conscious instant forgetting but then immediately remembering my plight, and the heaviness came crashing back down.

I dutifully carried out the “marketing” steps—phoned professors, emailed contacts, tacked up more of my cards on university bulletin boards, visited departmental secretaries, made them laugh, and hoped they’d recommend me to their students.

Nothing materialized. Trying to fill that hole in my stomach, daily I prayed, not quite sure Who I was praying to: Please, please, please. 

I even recited what I remembered of the Twenty-third Psalm, wanting to believe in its promise of my cup—and wallet—running over. But the Shepherd had wandered away like the sheep.

My rent loomed, and I couldn’t stop my mind from reeling out dire scenarios. I’d have to give up my new apartment, move back in with my almost ex-husband, my head figuratively hanging, and have to listen to his icy I-told-you-sos. 

The phone rang. It was Margo.

“Hey,” she said. “I’m swamped. You got time for a job?”

Did I! It took all I had not to spill out that I’d rearranged my single-woman’s closet for the fourth time and was having lettuce for dinner.

She said quickly, “It’s one of those rush jobs, and they need it fast.

“When do you get the manuscript?” I asked, trying to keep the joy from my voice.

“Got it now.”  

“I’m coming over!” I threw on a jacket, slipped on my shoes, and, nearly forgetting my key, slammed the door.

I was so elated that I almost ran all the way uptown to her apartment, a mile of city streets.

When Margo told me the fee the client was paying, I almost cried. It was just enough for my rent!

With the manuscript box tightly under my arm, I walked back home, still jubilant but now shaking my head at the perfection. The work had appeared exactly at the moment and in just the amount I needed. I kept repeating quietly, “Thank you, God, thank you, God. I will never doubt again.”

I’d like to say that I never did. Being human, though, I’ve doubted God’s supply many times. Learning to live with the ups and downs of freelance work, I’ve adjusted in many ways. But in the meager times, I always come back to this experience and its lesson. My supply came in an apparently miraculous way from the unfailing Source of all our needs. 

© 2023 Noelle Sterne