What I Remember When I Feel I Don’t Have Enough

The Way of Gratitude: Day 4 (originally posted here)

This evening we went to Costco and stocked up. Apples, bread, pancake batter, mandarins oranges, pizza, sponges, toothbrushes… and on and on. So much so that I groaned a little as I paid for it all. I’m not sure how much we have left in our grocery budget this month. And tonight, I don’t really want to figure it out.

Each month I clip coupons, shop the sales, and am as smart as I can be with our budget, but so often it doesn’t seem like enough. And today, as I put our purchases away, I had the familiar internal dialogue. Is it enough? Were these the best purchases we could make? Will we get through the month? What should I spend the remaining $XX.XX on? Will we have enough produce? Yogurt? Chick peas? (Ben is insanely picky and strangely enough these are my go-tos) Will we have enough?

As I remembered this challenge God has for me, choose Gratefulness over complaining and worry, tears come to my eyes. Sometimes it is so hard. And money can be really discouraging.

But then I remember a well known Scripture that got me through the second half of my pregnancy with Ben, through the unsuccessful external version, through the c-section and the first months of his precious life: The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. (Psalm 23:1 NLT)

psalm 23-1

It became a breath prayer for me during that time. I repeated it often. During times of uncertainty, pain, stress, I remembered. The Lord is my shepherd. He is with me. He is my provider. The Lord of the galaxies who has infinite resources in his hands is my provider. In Him I have everything I need.

Recently, God taught me this in an undeniable way. We had been really struggling financially for months when I went to a conference where that message above was taught. I had never considered God that way before: Infinite resources. Desiring to care for us. I was challenged to trust in a way I never had before. After the conference, I asked for a very specific amount of money to come in through Tim’s business and my work the next month. At the end of the month, Tim texted me. We made that much exactly. Plus 84 cents. (update: I recently wrote about this here)

Incredible.

So, as I face the next couple of weeks, I look at the food on hand and trust that we do indeed have enough. To feed our kids, to keep them healthy, to keep them full, to be taken care of. We have enough.

And I am grateful.

Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Advertisements

How God Cared for Me

Day 20 of 31 Days of Connecting

The other day, in a fit of exhaustion, I posted a link to my sermon on trusting God. I promised that part of my story (which starts here) is part of the sermon… and it is.

But since I know most people do not have 30+minutes to listen to a sermon, I will try to tell the next part of my story here. Now. For those of you who did listen, thank you! What an honor.

Now where was I…?

Oh yes, God taught me that He wanted a deeper relationship with me.

About a month after that conversation with God in my car, I was still grieving. I was still uncovering the hurt I had buried, the distrust I felt, and the fear I had. I was starting to see other misunderstandings of God, like:

I believed God was grading me.

I believed God expected me to be perfect.

I believed God was punishing us financially because of something I must have done.

Yeah… that last one sucked. It was incredibly painful. After all, I had given up everything to follow his call, Tim had taken a huge risk in starting his own business, and there we were, barely making ends meet. But the alternative to my understanding was that God wasn’t providing for us financially because He wanted us to suffer for Him. Or He just wouldn’t provide because He doesn’t.

All bad ideas. All gross misunderstandings of the God who gave himself for us.

But I didn’t see that then. I just saw our grocery lists, our small pay checks, and our unpaid bills.

In April I went to a conference for pastors in our denomination and through the keynote speaker, God broke through the lies I embraced.

Together we read 1 Peter 3:7 which states Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I know this verse by heart. I’ve sung it at summer camp, memorized it for youth group and heard it preached before.

But the preacher restated it: The God of the Universe has unlimited resources at his disposal, will you let him care for you?

Day 18

I felt my heart pounding in my chest as God called out to me. I realized how abandoned I felt by Him. How I thought He left us, financially. And the question rang out, “Will you let him care for you?” Followed by the fear in my heart: Would He care for me?

I went to my host home that evening praying and over the next several days I felt Love prompting me to trust Him. To ask Him for what I felt we needed and the promise that He would provide. I told my husband what God was prodding me to do and He said, “Good. Do it.”

How much do you need?

I thought… I hesitated…

$5,000?

Ok.

Really? Ok?! … $7,000?

Don’t push it.

I have never felt so sure in my life that God would answer my request. $5,000 sounded like a ton of money. I saw us catching up on our electrical and hospital bills. I saw the credit card being partially paid off. I saw myself breathing easily.

The next month came and went. I wasn’t sure how we did, financially. It felt good, but I didn’t take the time to check. I was too nervous! But then my husband texted me.

In May of 2013, our income added up to $5,000.84.

I couldn’t believe it. Numb with distrust, I thought surely that was a coincidence. But the more I considered the amount – the exactness of it – the almost to the penny answer to the prayer I had prayed – the more I was convinced it was God showing me He provides.

I can scrape and worry and count and stress and do all I can do to try to control things, but in the end He cares for me.

He cares for me.

We have not continued to receive $5,000.84 each month. In fact, many months we have been back at the bottom of the barrel, again being creative to get by. But you know what? I’m not afraid any more. God cares for me. He provides for me. He loves me.

I know that now.

I struggle trusting God with money, what do you struggle with entrusting to God? A relationship? Children? Career? An Illness? The God of the Universe desires to care for YOU. Will you let Him?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

31 days of connecting

The God of the Universe cares for you… Will you let Him?

Day 18 of 31 Days of Connecting

A year and a half ago, I had been working through tons of anger with God for calling us away from our families and our financial struggles were just adding insult to injury. Does God care? was a huge question in my life. And then a preacher stated this:

Day 18

The God of the Universe who has unlimited resources at his disposal cares about you. Will you let Him?

I felt God telling me: Trust me.

So, I did.

You can hear the full story here, within a sermon I preached at Scum of the Earth Church on January 12, 2014. You will need Quicktime player to hear this sermon – or you can search for it in iTunes podcasts under “Scum Sermons.”

Thanks for listening.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

1 Peter 5:7 NIV

And Then I Was Angry…

Days 10 & 11… & 12? of 31 Days of Connecting

I’ve known for awhile that I wanted to write about the year of 2013 – or as I call it, The Year of Mourning. And I’ve known if would be hard – and it is. But I’m grateful for such a receptive and encouraging audience. You guys are the voice of God to me as I work.

This is it. Part 3 of my story. (It started here.)

*****

They say grief has five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I had clearly been living in denial of my loss for far too long. At the beginning of my mourning I felt a deep sadness settling into my soul. Each of the losses was felt, individually and collectively. I carried them with me.

But, one of the losses took awhile to come to my attention. Actually, I didn’t perceive it as a loss, because I thought it was my fault. I thought I was doing something wrong. And I thought I was the one responsible to fix it.

It was the loss of financial security.

For several months, our income amounted to about two thousand per month. With a mortgage, medical bills, student loans, and other ongoing expenses we struggled to get by. Well, I struggled.

I thought the loss of our financial security was my fault because I believed I wasn’t handling the money correctly. I wasn’t saving enough. I wasn’t being thrifty enough. If only I tracked every penny every day, if I only bought sale items  and used a coupon with every item I purchased then maybe things would be alright. Since I sometimes forgot – since I sometimes paid full price for a box of cereal or a gallon of milk, since I bought myself a t-shirt at Target for $5, it was my fault we couldn’t stay within our tight budget.

And I thought I was in the wrong because I shouldn’t be depending on financial security. Oh the spiritual abuse I heaped on myself was heavy here. If I only trusted God, then we would be ok. If I only trusted God, it wouldn’t matter how much we had, because I would be content. If I only trusted God, then life would be rosy. No problems. No pain. No loss.

But I didn’t.

And I just didn’t want to acknowledge these losses: The loss of security. The loss of trust in God. Because if I didn’t trust God, what kind of pastor would I be?

But God didn’t let me hide that loss – He didn’t want me to go on living as if I trusted Him when I didn’t. He didn’t want me to pretend I was ok with our low income. In fact, He forced me to face it.

It happened one night when Tim and I were talking and Tim said to me, “I want to give the house to God.”

Come again?

“What do you mean?” I asked, defensively.

“I want to entrust it to Him. I want to surrender it to Him and use it the way He wants us to.”

I looked around our living room. The sofa we got at a garage sale, my Target armchair, the bookshelf Tim made after we got married, my electric piano…

And I saw us having to get rid of it all.

“No!” Fear, frustration, panic, and a sense of abandonment filled my heart.

Hadn’t we done enough for God? We moved to Colorado so I could go to Denver Seminary in order to spend the remainder of my life serving Him. We made financial sacrifices within our careers in order to honor Him. We stayed in Colorado to serve Him. I had given up family, friendships, and finances trusting Him. And He didn’t seem to care a wit about me in return.

How could He ask for my home, too?!

Bitterness crept into my heart, my defenses were up and my claws were bared. There was no way I was going to back down, not now.

If God wanted me to acknowledge my losses, I was going to. And He was going to have to deal with it. Because I was done. I was done trying so hard to please Him. I was done acting like I was ok with where He had called us. I was done being the placid, submissive, loving daughter of God I felt I needed to be.

Anger was here. And it wasn’t going anywhere for awhile.

I didn’t talk to God for a week.

*****

Dilemma: What do you do when you’re not talking to God but are one of the leaders of a prayer and worship ministry? What do you do when you’re not talking to God and have a church wide prayer event in the middle of your strike on God?

I went reluctantly.

I felt like a fraud.

Thankfully I didn’t have any responsibilities at that prayer event or I would have had to tell somebody I couldn’t talk to God. I was in hiding.

Did I have to pray?

The first thing the leader of the event did was invite us all to take a moment to be alone with God. To pray, to worship, to get ourselves ready to pray together.

Begrudgingly I went into our church’s prayer cave. I could hide here, I figured.

Sitting alone, in silence, David’s words crept into my heart. How long, Lord? How long will you forget me?

I pulled out my phone, searched for this phrase in my digital Bible, and found the rest of Psalm 13:

psalm 13

I brushed away the tears. The psalm became my prayer. His unfailing love? His salvation? His goodness to me? I wasn’t so sure. But if God was willing for these words of pain to be His Word, then maybe I could speak them to Him, too.

How long will I be alone? How long must I mourn? Grieve? How long will I be sad? How much longer do we need to be here? How many more goodbyes do I need to say? Please answer me. Please relieve me of my pain.

I went through the evening as one reciting the multiplication table: rote. I knew the motions. I knew the words. I just didn’t have the heart.

Then, the leader of the event asked for us to break into small groups, lay hands on, and pray for the staff members and their spouses who were there that evening. I was completely caught off guard. Did I want to be prayed for? I didn’t know. Could I be prayed for? … Sure.

I watched as groups of people migrated to the staff; then three, a mere three, came to Tim and me.

Yes, these three could pray for me. I trusted them.

I don’t remember if we talked first. I don’t think so. They just started praying.

I surrendered to their voices…

One woman who I’ve known for a long time, but not well, spoke – and she spoke my heart.

She spoke of how I love people deeply. Deeper than others love.

And she prayed about how it must be so hard for me to be away from my family when I love others as much as I do.

How did she know that?!

She prayed for strength.

She prayed for healing.

I wept.

31 days of connecting

The Day My Son Got Hurt

It was the sixth morning of kindergarten and we were waiting for the bell in the school yard with the other kids and parents. Jack had gathered a pile of rocks and formed a smiley-face with a few sticks and a strip of plastic. He stepped back and smiled at his work before running to his new friends, “You guys! Come see what I made!”

The boy and girl obliged and stood over the pebble-person while Jack beamed, content to share his creation.

I’m not sure who started it, or how, or why, but within moments they started burying it. Much to Jack’s horror, his friends were drawing stones in and covering the face Jack had taken the time to create – and had the courage enough to share with them. He started to protest, but they argued that this was good fun, so I watched as he nervously joined them. But he didn’t like it.

And then it happened. The young girl pushed herself to standing, lifted one foot, and stomped on the buried pebble-person, obliterating it completely. The two kids quickly turned and ran with Jack chasing them, tears streaming down his face, “Why did you do that? I thought you were my friends!!”

Ashamed (perhaps), the kids ran to their parents who had observed the whole scene while I rushed to Jack’s side to quiet his shrieks of horror and to wipe away his tears. I comforted him and half expected the parents to send their kids over to apologize, but they didn’t come.

The bell rang. The kids grabbed their bags, got in line, and, while my heart ached for his crushed spirit, I watched my son slog into the school.

In that moment, I wondered, “What are we doing? How can we send him off into a harsh world and allow him to be hurt by hard people? Is public school the wrong decision?”

Days later, I read these words from Steve Wiens, “The Actual Pastor,” to his son Isaac:

My job is not to protect you from hard things, it’s to launch you out into this great big world, so that you can play your part in great Big Story. This means that sometimes, you’ll make mistakes. You might not make the team. You might try to make friends with people who reject you. When those things happen, I hope I’m the first person you want to talk to. I’ll cry with you. Isaac, this is so hard for me. I’d much rather do anything and everything to make sure you don’t fail or get hurt. But you need to fail, and even get hurt sometimes, because that’s how you’ll learn how to be a person who brings great things to this world. Only those of us who have suffered a little know how to really help.

I want to protect my children. But I believe I am mistaken if I think I am protecting my children by not allowing them to feel pain, by not exposing them to others, and by not guiding them through the hard circumstances of fights, injuries, misbehavior, and sadness.

As a Christian, I believe my task is to be a light in the world of pain and sorrow that is. It is to be a comfort to those who are suffering, to listen to those who are abused, to point the way to the true hope in the midst of confusion and sorrow.

As a Christian mother, I believe my task is to comfort my children as they experience the reality of a fallen world so that they may experience greater life than they could find in the safety of our own home. As they experience pain, they can also experience healing. As they experience hurt, they can also experience forgiveness. As they experience sorrow, they can also experience a greater joy. As they experience hate, they can also experience greater Love.

Paul wrote, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. If we ourselves have not experienced the comfort of God, how can we comfort others? If my children have not run to God in their pain as children, how can they run to him in the greater pains and struggles of adulthood?

That afternoon when I picked Jack up from school, we talked about what happened in the morning. I asked him what he felt when they buried his art and smashed it.

“Mad,” he said.

I nodded. Yes. I was mad, too.

Watching the guilty children walk by I asked what the rest of the day was like; did he play with them? “Yes, they’re my friends. They got married at lunchtime and kissed!” His face wrinkled up into giggles and silliness surrounded him.

His anger had passed quickly. Forgiveness and love took its place. I saw the softness of his heart and examined the hardness in my own as I considered the anger still there. As the days and weeks have gone by, I can see that these two children who had hurt him so much truly are his friends. Perhaps the conflict brought them together. Perhaps Jack loved them despite it. I don’t know. But I do know it has taken me time to forgive them, though Jack did so quickly. And in that, he has been a light to me as I have been hardened by hurts of the world.

We are showing God’s love to each other, my children and me. This comfort, this learning is not one way as we enter the world, but as God guides us we teach one another about compassion and light.

I know there will be greater hurts and heartbreak down the road, but as Steve said above, my job is not to protect my kids. I will rejoice with them as they rejoice and mourn with them as they mourn. I will seek God’s help as I try to be the light and comfort of God in their lives, releasing them to the grand stories God is writing in them. And trusting, always trusting, that HE is active, HE is love, HE is comfort, HE is good, and that HE is always with them.