Let me preface this with one thought, this post is meant to teach and invite you into our journey. You are welcome to hear the story and learn with us. That is all. It is not an invitation for solutions. We have one Solution-Giver. He holds the answers and we look to Him alone. I hope from the story you will see that our God is not-so-subtle and has a strong streak of humor in him. I think the humor is what has kept me singing.
In 2008, we knew we were headed for the Perfect Storm. There was no way around it. It was before us and we were going there. In short, we were without pay for four months in late 2007 through early 2008, which is super-short comparatively. We sold and “ate” (lived on) our truck. We sought godly financial counsel, who recommended some routes, which turned out to be dead-ends. Finally, he told us our only option was bankruptcy (keeping our home apart from that). He said that as believers in Jesus, we should try to pay back when it was all discharged. And we shall! That alone makes it an easier solution for me. I am honest to a fault. I could this very second rattle off a list of people and the amounts they gave to help us. I carry it every single day and lay it again with thanksgiving at the foot of the cross.
So we went through it–one of the hardest seasons of my life to date before my dear friend had a stroke early this year, which has also marked my faith in countless ways–I love my friend and am grateful for her life and her wisdom to me today. Bankruptcy was shameful, embarrassing and humbling. With friends like Teresa, who sent me cards every week (sometimes more!) and she still does, to remind me that I am loved and prayed for…I don’t know about you, but there is a lot of LOVE bound up in those cards and a lot of prayer. Thank you, Teresa. Other friends brought groceries and gifts to our door. Some gave “hilariously”–a car, gift cards and even beautiful get-aways. Some loaned to us, and I pray to pay it all back someday. It is BEAUTIFUL. It was hard. And I am humbled, not debased, but I walk with head bowed in thanksgiving much more often than with a strut of pride.
Early this year, we began thinking we would also lose our home. Through miraculous workings (through two unlikely sources–the government home bill and our financial institution), we will not lose our home! We actually will go to court in the next month to sign papers establishing our new loan(bankruptcy makes everything a bit more difficult). Our bankruptcy will be complete on March 17, 2012. Praise God for that light at the end of our tunnel!! He is our Way-Maker! Then it is my turn, I hope, to bless someone coming behind us in this hard journey and pay it forward.
So lately, my Chris and I have begun to dream again. Dreaming is good! We are trying to save, budget and follow good and right ways. Even so, we still live paycheck to paycheck for the most part. Sometimes, we pinch pennies beyond what is possible. I know that is the Lord’s provision. Sometimes, we laugh, because once again we feel like college students, learning to handle money for the first time, as displayed also by the ramen noodles. Sometimes, we feel guilty for going away for a night and spending from the little we have. But I know that is not God’s way. He doesn’t teach by guilt–only man does that. So we are learning to rely on what God says and His love–not on the opinions of man.
The other day, I was shopping with a dear friend and she said, “Do you know that you justify everything you buy? You must feel like you are under such scrutiny.” I let out a breath of a laugh and said, “You are absolutely right.” I love a friend like that! I have turned over her words to me and can think of several reasons why I justify–bankruptcy, scrutiny, living up to people’s expectations, aware of people’s judgement and trying somehow to appease it. It is a default way of thinking, which I am asking the Lord to change in me. It stems from people-pleasing, which is rooted in pride. I am living for an audience of One. I do have accountability. Oh yes. It is His faithful Holy Spirit in me that keeps me in step with Him–His checks and balances, if you will. I am like a child learning to walk.
So yesterday, we are driving home from a wonderful away trip to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. And we are broke. We had $4.31 for the day to eat and enough (cross-your-fingers and pray really hard) gas to drive home. We knew we’d be paid today and other things would be coming in, etc. etc., BUT for yesterday, we had $4.31. And we laughed until we cried–happy tears…thinking, “Here we are again, Lord.”
You see, we don’t have our act together. We have a blessed family and marriage. But we do not have it all under control. God knows that! He laughed with us. We were in beautiful country. We could sing. We could laugh. I could crochet a birthday gift. We could take pictures that were astounding. AND we could arrive home to a happy family of four children (and eat when we got home–ha!).
During this time, I saw a bird flying over-head and thought, “He’s lucky. He doesn’t worry about refilling gasoline. He eats every day. God makes sure of it.” AS I was thinking this way, God reminded me in my heart, “Holly, rely on me daily. I watch over the birds. I WILL WATCH OVER YOU. Trust me, child.” And I do. I do trust Him. I’ve not “arrived” yet, nor are we perfect. But we are willing to be taught. And we are humble enough to let God provide through the ways He chooses. I wouldn’t trade any of this story. It is our life. We will walk with a limp straight for the foot of the cross of Jesus, where we daily find freedom and learn how to walk. In Christ, we are free indeed to run this race with JOY! So can you, friends. You need only come to Him and exchange your ugly life-stuff for His more than enough.
With Beauty from my Ashes,