Looking back over the years, it is encouraging to see how God was preparing us and teaching us for this life. Well, encouraging is only one word to describe it — it’s faith-building, affirming, deeply satisfying, comforting, overwhelmingly lovely, like a big hug from our Father. He does care! He does have a purpose in it all! Nothing is wasted. Oh, it’s nearly unspeakably wonderful!
I would like to share just a few memories with you. Just a handful of the times I know God has used to grow us into the people we are now. I share these to glorify Him, to show you His faithfulness. I share with you from the overflow of my heart. I am so amazed that the Creator of the universe loves me and cares intimately about every detail of my life. I am amazed that He has patiently taken years to draw me into greater faith, into greater dependency on Him. Baby-step by baby-step, He has taught me to trust Him. Bit by bit, He has proven Himself faithful, even in my great unfaithfulness.
There have been plenty of times when God has shown Himself to be our Provider. Early in our marriage, our car had to be repaired, but we did not have the money. We prayed and moved ahead with the repairs, trusting we would somehow be able to pay. Just when we needed to pay the mechanic $113, we received a check in the mail for $100. It was the deposit from the gas company. We’d been customers for one year and they were sending back the initial deposit. At exactly the right time, God provided. This lesson rooted itself into our hearts. God is capable of providing for us.
I had always known that I would be a stay-at-home mom. It was never a question, really. I knew I couldn’t leave my children with a sitter or in daycare to go off to work each day. More than a preference, though, we knew this was God’s plan for our family. While pregnant with our first baby, Lauren, I was teaching in a private Christian school. Conveniently, I delivered her at the end of May, at the end of the school year. And I would receive paychecks throughout that summer. We knew Patrick did not make enough, as a beginning technical writer, to pay all of our bills after my paychecks ended; but we also knew I had to stay home. We felt God was calling us to step out in faith and watch Him work. *** I feel it is important to add that that the reason his income would not cover all of our bills was because we had some stupid-debt. Though our financial problems were our own fault, we knew God wanted us to trust Him to provide and walk obediently to His calling for us, which was for me to stay home.
So I enjoyed my days with our baby girl, and we waited to see what God would do. We had been helping with the youth program at our church, and our pastor approached us about leading a team of couples to do youth and college ministry. In exchange for our service, the deacons wanted us to live in the church parsonage rent-free, beginning in September — the month after my paychecks ended. Here was the answer to our financial problems! We wouldn’t have to pay rent or utilities. God’s provision!
While we were living in the church parsonage and days after we learned little Rachel was growing inside me, Patrick was down-sized from his job. With the little money we had in savings, the unemployment compensation checks, and kindness of church friends and family, we made it through the three months he was out of work. And we had the blessing of knowing that God had provided a home for us during that time because we were in the parsonage. I also enjoyed having Patrick home to help with baby Lauren during that first trimester of morning sickness. What a blessing that season of unemployment turned out to be!
In March of that year, Patrick ended up finding a great new job that paid much better than the old job had. In the summer, the church made other plans for the youth and college program, and we began looking for a new home. In early September we delivered Rachel and closed on a house the very next day. As it turned out, the company that had downsized Patrick closed down altogether in August of that year. How much more stressful it would have been to be 8 months pregnant, looking for a home, and losing a job all at once! What exceptional timing the Lord had in releasing Patrick from that job way back in January!
Those months grew our faith so much. God showed Himself Sovereign over and over and over again. He was perfectly in charge. And even the things that seemed like trials at the moment proved to be blessings and God’s protection for us. I am so thankful for God’s involvement in our lives and His patient instruction.
After Rachel was born, I was praying and reading in my quiet time and listening to our pastor’s challenges, and I became convicted that I wasn’t interacting with unbelievers. My friends were all from church or teachers I worked with in Christian schools. I did not spend any real time with people who didn’t already know Jesus. How was I supposed to fulfill the Great Commission? So I began to pray for opportunities to know unbelievers and share my faith with them. I laugh as I type this because I had no idea how God would answer those prayers!
When Rachel was three months old, she stopped growing. She actually started losing weight. And she stopped growing in length. And her development of gross motor skills lagged far behind. Though she ended up being fine, we didn’t know the outcome at the time. She was examined by specialists and subjected to all sorts of medical tests. I was in and out of doctor’s offices with her, interacting with all sorts of people — believers and unbelievers. Because her development was so delayed, we began a program of early intervention. Suddenly, I was hosting all sorts of ladies in my home on a weekly basis — a gay social worker with the early intervention program, a sweet but unbelieving physical therapist, a speech therapist who came to teach me how to teach Rachel to eat. They saw how I loved my daughters; they knew I was praying for Rachel’s healing; they saw my Bible study booklet left conspicuously on the coffee table. I did not have the opportunity to recite the Romans’ Road of Salvation to any of these ladies, but God did give me opportunities to show them how my faith impacts my life, how a relationship with Jesus looks fleshed out in a real life with worries and troubles and pain. For more than a year, Rachel continued in physical therapy and the early intervention program. The physical therapist and the early intervention social worker watched as medical test after medical test came back negative and God gradually healed Rachel from her poor muscle tone and growth issues. Throughout that time, God answered many prayers. We learned so much about truly trusting Him with our most valued treasures (our children) and about resting in His great love. We grew in faith. I had opportunities, as I had asked for, to interact with unbelievers but in a more raw way than I ever imagined. We learned much about being real and vulnerable and asking other believers to enter into prayer and times of difficulty with us. I am so grateful God used that time to teach me and nurture me and grow in me the things I would need at this time of my life.
There were other times we reviewed our lessons of trusting God with our children. As each of them struggled to grow, we reviewed how to trust God with our most precious treasures. We learned again and again how to depend on His sovereign love.
In light of ill children, this next lesson seems almost silly. But in 2002 we needed a larger vehicle. Silas was growing inside me, and we knew that to travel with four children and a dog and the extra set of household furnishings a baby must travel with we would need something larger than the minivan we had. We decided, after much prayer, that we needed a Suburban. But we did not have enough money to buy a Suburban from a used-car dealership in our town. So we looked to ebay. My husband knew exactly what we needed and exactly how much money we had to spend. One day a black Suburban came up for sale on ebay. It seemed to be exactly what we needed, but the reserve price was more than we could pay. We prayed and continued to watch car listings and we waited on the Lord. Other Suburbans similar to that black one sold, but that black Suburban did not sell. The listing ended. The sellers re-listed it with a lower reserve, but it was still more than we could pay. Though it was tempting to stretch ourselves and go into more debt, we chose to wait on the Lord for a Suburban at the price we’d agreed upon. Again, other Suburbans sold, but that black Suburban still did not sell. Again, the listing ended. Soon, the sellers re-listed it with a Buy It Now option for the exact amount we had agreed we could afford. We are still driving that 1996 black Suburban and it now has more than 250,000 miles on it — which is a whole other story in God’s provision and the Holy Spirit’s power to lead us into contentment. I know this is the vehicle God wanted our family to have. Again, He showed His sovereignty and His abilities as Provider. He also taught us how to wait on Him and trust Him in the most minute details. How we have drawn from those lessons in the past two years!
Day after day, month after month, year after year in so many situations God drew our hearts to His. He built for us a foundation of faith, a rich collection of stories to remind us of His faithfulness. As I remember how He has worked in my life to teach me and mold me and gently show me His character, I feel like the Israelites of the Old Testament who would recite their stories and celebrate God’s faithfulness with holy days and feasts. I have my own history to recite. God’s hand is obvious in our story. And when times are difficult, I can look back and see Him there and know that He is also here and will be with me tomorrow as well.
You have a story also. Look back. What has He built in your life? Don’t you see His faithfulness, His drawing you to Himself? Don’t you see how He has intricately, purposefully built a foundation in your life as well?
Part 4 will come sometime. It seems I am so busy living this full life that I have smaller amounts of time to actually reflect on it all.