A Journey of Faith: Settle It Now

Well, the journey Michelle and I have laid out about God’s provision is a life-marking journey–today I am bringing the story to its miraculous closing. Read the stories below for the whole story:

A Journey of Provision
A Journey of Faith | Timing and The Lord’s Provision
A Journey of Faith | The Lord’s Provision & Trusting God
A Journey of Faith: Beginning with Hope
A Journey of Faith: Life that Can Not Be Taken

Our family lines will be greatly marked for good by what God’s allowable will has brought before us.  But you know? Sometimes when everything seems so very wrong and unfixable, focus your eyes on the story God has written all around and over your life.  Recount the times He has done wonders over your life.  Don’t forget to recount the times that something could have happened and didn’t…those times unseen are just as real as the times seen.

So let me bring the story of the painting home to you…

My Chris and I have been married for 22 year this summer, and for good or for bad, we have a marked stumbling point in the area of discipline–be it financial, physical or interpersonal–and follow through.  No excuses, we battle it every single day.  We must choose differently for the circumstances to fall differently.  On the wonderful side of it, we have willing hearts.  We follow God and love Him with all that we are.  So we must bring our willingness to the throne of Jesus every single day to walk well.  And truth be told, we are!  We are breaking some old habits and finding freedom in so many areas.

Amazingly, we had a “too hard for us, but not too hard for God” set-up going on.  Last year, we struggled with all that we were to work hard and make ends meet financially. It was a hard year for us–the hardest, yet. With details left in a mostly vague sense, we were really on the edge all year long.  It all came to a head on December 3rd.

But let me back up two days…our friend Greg had come into town.  We have such honor and respect for our friend and his family.  We had been in the same home group (our church calls them base camps) for a couple years, when we first came to Colorado.  Then God led their family to serve with YWAM in other places. Greg came over to share his heart with us about the ministry that God is doing through their family right now. So we spent a wonderful few hours together and Greg began to speak of India, and some engineering-design needs they have.  I watched my Chris’ face light up.  I knew that he would go with Greg later this year or early next…I knew it, but I also thought, “Lord, how in the world will we ever afford it?  We can barely… (you fill in the blanks, for I had a slew of financial needs come to mind).”

Then two nights later, Greg would spend the night with us.  We picked up the conversation right where it was left on Saturday. That evening, Chris had picked up the mail. And we had a Fed Ex envelope on our front doorstep.  It was a notice of foreclosure.

It basically said unless we did “this” by the end of December, we were out. I was shocked. After Greg left that next morning, he had no idea what God was doing through his story and our own.  That week was filled with calls to our lender.  They had some misinformation (from before bankruptcy) on our credit report, which we had to fix.  Then they worked out a plan of action for us to catch up and keep our home–a plan that would last through June 2013.

The first thing we did was get a working budget in order–something we had lacked for the previous year (fail to plan, plan to fail–yes). We worked through it together as a couple–we still are. We paid a double payment by December–a miracle of God.  The only hitch we saw was January.  It went below the line.  There seemed to be no way for us to make it–we could not figure it out on our own accord. With much prayer, my Chris spoke to our home group men, letting them know our situation and asking for accountability, too. Within ONE hour, a dear brother brought to our doorstep a check for the amount needed, to repay without interest when we could.

I was a puddle of tears.  Poor brother, I know I made him uncomfortable!  But he told me, “We had this extra and we did not even have to pray about it.”  They, too, had been in a similar situation–and they wanted to help us.  What rescue!  Only a Christ follower would walk in such a way.  How undeserved we were.  And how very LOVED.

I closed the door and sat at the table, head in hands, praying…then I heard a gentle whisper in my spirit.  And I knew it was the voice of God.  He said, “It is finished.”  That is all I heard.  And how shall I take it?  I took it as meaning that our financial journey is done.  The fullness of what God wanted for this part our lives was completed.

I knew Chris would go to India.

I knew that we would not go back there again.

I knew that we still had 6 months more of tightness before us, but that we would be equipped for it.

The next day, and by no surprise at all, God pulled out his highlighter with bold print and ALL CAPS!!!! The next day, Michelle’s painting arrived at our doorstep– from Fed Ex, no less. God wanted us to know that He is our Provider.  He will be seen.  And through this very unguarded and transparent story of our lives, I pray you see God, too.

It is finished.  See it here on our wall?

Settle It

God is telling us every day, that we need to settle it in our hearts that He is FOR us and with us.  He is providing–even dividing and multiplying.

When our financial circumstances may hearken back to where we were, sometimes even on a daily basis, my Chris and I must settle it in our hearts–that Jehovah Jireh, the Living Word, who spoke Philippians 4:19 over us, is STILL speaking it. We are provided for.

“And my God will liberally supply, fill to the full, your every need according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

In Him, we are so very rich!  And that budget I spoke of?  It is projecting that we will have in our savings over $10, 000 by year’s end. But we do not look to that, no.  We look to, and keep looking to, Jesus alone.  What a turn-around.  What a Savior!

All for HIS Glory,

Holly winter2012

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Ebenezer Stone


(Pictures: Family on Thanksgiving 2003 (Our fourth child, a baby girl, came along as our beautiful and joyous gift in 2006) and finally our Ebenezer stone (actually petrified wood, which is wood changed to stone, so it’s quartz-like) in our front yard moved all the way from East Texas to Colorado–a very heavy rock!

It was late November 2003 right before Thanksgiving. Tabor was only 4 1/2 months old, Noah, 5 and Kylie, 4. Chris began to have pains in his stomach. He went to the doctor twice before Thanksgiving to no avail.

Thanksgiving day, we are at Chris’ parents house and Chris is not eating. We should have taken him to the emergency room right then and there. No good southern boy misses his Mom’s best dish–Sweet Potato Casserole done-the-right-way. He didn’t eat at all that weekend. His stomach hurt. He took hot baths. Nothing would help. On Sunday, he began to run a fever at my parents’ house. I was very worried. I remember crying, “I think you’re going to die. You need to go to the doctor. What if it’s cancer or something?”

So on Monday morning, Chris took his truck to work. We lived 40 minutes away from his work and 45 from the hospital/ doctor’s office. He was going to get into the doctor’s office as soon as he could. On I-20, his truck broke down (pump module driver went out). His parents came and gave Chris their ’88 Suburban. Chris went to work. When he finally got in the doctor late that morning, they gave him something to drink and were running an MRI on him at 4 pm. So Chris slept in the bed of the Suburban. I got a call at 5:30 from Chris. They were keeping him through the night, but couldn’t tell him what was wrong, yet. Finally about 7 pm, I heard that Chris was having a laparoscopic appendectomy. No one was there with him.

At 10:30 pm, the doctor called. He began, “He’s not out of the woods, yet.”

I asked “Should I come up there?”

He said “Someone should be here!”

Oh my, I didn’t realize how very serious it was. Then came the doctor-talk. Basically, Chris’ appendix had been ruptured for 3-4 days and it had solidified (so the poison did not spread to his bloodstream).

They had opened Chris up immediately and took a part of his intestine, as well. His brother went up and stayed the night, since I had the kids asleep.

I drove to the hospital every day for 7 days, spent the day with Chris and then went home. The oldest two kids had preschool, and friends and family helped. Baby Tabor went with me to the hospital.

Chris looked at us and didn’t really care about anything. He really was not with us. I took him home and took care of him for the next month or so. Christmas was a blur, but I went and got a tree, bought new lights for it and decorated it. I took the kids to school and lived life in a blur.

January 12th rolled around. Chris went back to work! He was very slow with his “shark bite” incision healing, but numb. The following Sunday we did our blessing box with the kids. We had so much to be thankful for! Then we all went out and signed & dated our Ebenezer stone. We thanked God and said, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”

The next Christmas rolled around. I began to remember the year before and then Chris said, “Where did those Christmas lights come from?” I began to cry. “You weren’t really with us last year, were you?” “I guess not,” he said.

God has been unbelievably gracious to us. I remember the prayer I prayed during that time, “Lord, I’m weak. YOU be strong.” I said it over and over again. I am thankful also for so many who prayed. Indeed, many stood in the gap for my Chris! God was strong. He IS and He will be.  Our HELP is He.

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Journey of Provision

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,

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Dirt Cake

This is a fun recipe to make with children.  They love it–making and eating! It is especially good to theme in with planting season–plant seeds while waiting for it to chill.  You can even make this individually in small pots for a dirt-themed party.

1 1/4 lb Oreo cookies, crushed
1 c. powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, melted
3 1/2 c. milk
12 oz. cool whip
2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding

In a large mixing bowl, blend powdered sugar, butter, and cream cheese. Add 1/2 c. milk and blend (I like to use a hand mixer). Add pudding and 3 c. milk and blend. Gently fold in cool whip with a rubber spatula.

In a 12 X 12 inch dish, layer 1/3 Oreos, 1/2 mixture, 1/3 Oreos, 1/2 mixture and top with 1/3 Oreos. Chill for one hour.

Optional: Can add gummy worms for fun!

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I Saw a Man Today

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join my husband, Phil, on a business trip to Hawaii.  I almost didn’t go because he would be working most of the time, leaving me to my own devices and because it is such a long flight (eight hours each way from Denver).  Since I could only stay for a few days, I wasn’t sure that a total of 16 hours in a plane was worth the trek.

About a week before the trip, my husband said to me, “I can’t believe you don’t want to go to Hawaii with me.”

When I heard him say those words out loud, I realized that I was CRAZY for not jumping at the chance to spend a few days in the warm sun in one of the most beautiful places on earth with my man – even if I had to share him with work.  So, we packed our bags and off we went!

The first night we were on Oahu, there was a welcome dinner for my husband’s colleagues and their spouses. After enjoying a sumptuous dinner on a poolside patio overlooking the ocean, we all walked as a group back to our hotel along the street that runs parallel with Waikiki Beach, taking in all the sights and sounds around us as we strolled.

Between Waikiki Beach and the sidewalk we were walking along, there is a grassy area with park benches so folks can sit and enjoy the view of the surfers by day and the sunset by nightfall. That’s the direction I was looking when I saw him. A homeless man reached into one of the public trash receptacles and pulled out a “to go” box that contained the remains of someone’s discarded meal.

The man opened the box and examined the contents. He tossed part of it aside with a flick of his wrist, but the rest of the leftovers would do for his dinner as he eagerly started eating whatever it was in that box.

Immediately, my mind recalled the meal I had just enjoyed. The smell of salt air, the sound of live music, the laughter of new friends, and, of course, the taste of delicious food – of which there was more than enough for all of us.

The sight of that man eating out of a garbage can haunted me the rest of that night and for the next few days. Of course, I have seen homeless people before, but the stark contrast between our two meals that evening shocked me to reality.

And to be completely transparent with you, I am very confused about what my response should be.

The “experts” on television tell us not to give the homeless money because it just prolongs their stay on the streets keeping them from getting the help they need. Then there is also the possibility of it being used for drugs or alcohol.

For a while, my response was to ignore those standing at the exit ramps and entrances to the shopping center in my neighborhood with cardboard signs asking for food or money. The problem is too big and overwhelming, plus I don’t want to be contributing to an alcoholic’s binges or a druggie’s fix.

But the knowledge that each one of these people is God’s child, dearly loved by Jesus as much as you or I am weighs on my heart.  I don’t know what the answer is.  Anything I can think of to do falls so short.

Volunteering at a soup kitchen is a wonderful thing and a great opportunity to expose our children to the idea of helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Yet, that still doesn’t address the man on a corner asking for something to eat.

I thought about programs like Habitat for Humanity that helps those who are willing to help themselves. I may look into volunteering with them. There is something about that program that speaks to my heart and seems like a more permanent solution for those who seek their help. But I still don’t know if that’s enough.

I realize that in many cases, mental illness plays a huge role in homelessness. And, yes, so do to drugs and alcohol.  There are many shelters and programs “out there” for the homeless and that is great. My question is what do I do when I come face to face with another human being asking for my help? What would Jesus have me and you do to help “the least of these”?

I’d love to hear your ideas and ways you have helped others in the comments section!

Only You Can Save by Chris Sligh

I saw a man today, his whole world across his back
A living monument opposed to my success.
I tried to look into his eyes as his shuffled past my car
Sweat beading on his skin, his clothes and hair a mess.
As the light turned green and I pulled away, he slowly disappeared
Just a memory of another chance I failed to show your love here.

I wanna love because You love
I wanna give because You gave
I wanna reach my hand out to the lost
because I know Your hand can save
Only You can save
Only You can save

Sometimes I have to wonder if I really want to know
The struggle and the pain that others feel.
Do I want to hear the stories I see echoed in their eyes
Or is this love I say that I’m reflecting even real?
As the light turns on inside my head and I slowly disappear
I steel myself cuz what you call for me is to show your love here…

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Heart Prompt #3

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;” Isaiah 42:3 NIV

Contact your local homeless shelter and see what areas they have the most need.  Then collect those things and ask your friends and neighbors.  Deliver them to the shelter.  If you have the time to spare, see if you can volunteer your time, as well.

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Lord, I enter the Foyer this evening, with my eyes focused on one thing–direction. The twists and turns of the day, Lord, have left my mind spinning. There is little I can “figure” with my mind–the hows and whats and whys. But You know. Lord, I am resting.

So tonight, Lord, as I enter the Foyer, I am going face down. Face down before You. Even my prayers, Lord, they need your assistance.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to intercede, where I cannot voice my prayers nor can I even voice what my prayers should be.  Lord, I am resting here, face down.

Gleaning the good from the day, Lord, I thank You once again for your mercies. They were new and applicable to my journey today. The time you kept a car from hitting us….the time you sent a friend to share…the time when you kept a situation from my plate…the time you are giving me now to lay these burdens at Your feet. You give peace like a river, Lord.  And my river, it is raging.  But I hold fast to Your hand. Lord, I am resting here, face down, trusting you in my river.

Others around me have shared burdens today.  They are huge burdens, which make mine seem so small.  And yet…and yet, you care about them all, each one, big and small.  You have a plan for each journey.  You have a blueprint.  You have ordered it.  It is not disarray.  It is precisely timed and tuned. Better than the finest inventor or repairer, You are Creator and Restorer. There is nothing beyond your scope to do–to accomplish. We need only say Lord, Your strength is perfect. You are the Way Maker.  Just let us know, “This is the way, walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21  We shall walk it with You. Lord, I am resting here, face down, trusting you in my river, listening for Your voice.

The road ahead, Lord, it is unknown darkness to me.  I cannot see my way nor my path.  But I know that Jesus, You are the Light (John 18:12). You know the way that I take (Job 23:10).  There is nothing too hard for You (Jeremiah 32:17). You make my feet like the feet of a deer (Habakkuk 3:19). The law of the Lord is perfect (Psalm 19:7). Your eye is on the sparrow (Luke 12:7). You love me (John 16:27).  I have hope!  Your compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-23). Though a mother may forget, You will not forget me (Isaiah 49:15). You have called me chosen (1 Peter 2:9).  Peace is what you leave with me.  Peace is what You give me. I am not afraid (John 14:27). You are enthralled with my beauty (Psalm 45:11).  I am the apple of Your eye, hiding in Your wings (Psalm 17:8). Lord, I am resting here, face down, trusting you in my river, listening for Your voice, and writing Your word on my heart.

The Foyer is filled with Your Presence, Lord.  I thank You that you are an ever-present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).  As the world and my life calls me back, I will remember that what I have entrusted to you here is a seed of investment, that You, my Jesus, will tend and care for and grow into fruit. Thank You, Lord, that I am able to fully rest all of me on all of You. Thank You for thinking much of my offering here…for treasuring it…for treasuring me.

“With your help I can advance against a troop ; with my God I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18:29

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Abandoned Shopping Cart

Today, as I was walking the streets of my Orange County town, I noticed something that seemed a little out of place. It was an abandoned shopping cart in the middle of the sidewalk next to a bus stop. This, of course, was out of the ordinary for a few reasons. We know that shopping carts belong inside stores, not on the streets. And then we also know that when a shopping cart IS on the streets, it is usually the property of a homeless person so that they can keep their things somewhere. But this one was empty, and it had no owner. And I wasn’t sure what to think.

Orange County or not, the area where I live is not void of hurting, hungry, hopeless people. This cart was just another reminder of that reality.

This cart was not just a cart. It obviously used to belong to somebody. Somebody with a story. Somebody who, for some reason, picked up and left.

So many times, we treat injustices and social issues like secrets, something we can lock away in a closet and keep our minds off of for a while. Maybe we revisit the closet during the holiday seasons, when it’s more appropriate, when we “feel up to it.”

Being a woman after Jesus’ heart means going after those who capture Jesus’ heart. Jesus spent most, if not all, of his time with hurting people. Social outcasts. He fed the hungry, he welcomed the broken.

God calls all of us to do what he did, but I think he created women to be especially good at this. Women can use our gifts of compassion and nurture to reach out to people. Every calling is different, and every action is important.

Maybe you are supposed to invite a family over for dinner, or cook a meal for a family especially affected by the economic crisis. Maybe you’re supposed to volunteer at a retirement home, and be an ear who listens to stories. Maybe a single mother needs help cleaning her house. Maybe a child or teenager needs a hug, or a friend. Maybe a stranger on the street really could use five dollars to get something to eat.

Whatever your calling, don’t be afraid to answer, and don’t hesitate to use your gifts. That’s why God gave them to us!

James 1:27 instructs us,

“…look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

We cannot keep this kind of a commandment stored up like a secret in a linen closet. Rise up, sweet women of Jesus, and do His good work.

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