From the beginning of our marriage - almost 5 years ago - life has been rough. Actually, it has been rough from the beginning of our relationship - almost 6 years ago. Finances have never been available in abundance, if you know what I mean. Chase had to borrow money for my engagement ring! Our wedding was a simple affair without many decorations, but we were in love so it didn't matter. The first night of our 3 day honeymoon was a wedding gift from an anonymous source. The other 2 nights were paid for by gift cards we received as wedding gifts. The rest of the week was spent sharing a room with his brothers at the family Thanksgiving reunion! We didn't care! Life was "perfect"!!!
After the wedding and honeymoon, it was back to real life. We both continued our individual jobs and worked an additional job together cleaning the church just to make ends meet.
9 months and 1 week after the wedding, Elizabeth Ann was born. The original plan was for me to quit working and us keep the cleaning job. We quickly realized that wasn't going to pay the bills. However, with a new baby, it just wasn't practical for me to work all day and then work again in the evenings. So we stopped the cleaning job, and I continued my day job.
14 months later, still barely able to keep food on the table, Jennifer Bryce was born. I had to continue working. I hated it, but it was where we were in life.
When she was about 4 months old, Chase joined the management program at work. The pay increase was just enough to replace my job! I was ecstatic!!! I was going to be a stay-at-home wife and mommy! I was going to live my dream and my calling. Life was "perfect".
The new job required us to move to Waco. As soon as we got there, Chase's truck broke down. We couldn't afford to fix it. So he took our only vehicle to work for 13 hours a day, and I sat at home with two babies. I couldn't afford curtains, but it was too hot to leave the windows uncovered. We couldn't afford the electric bill if we did. We couldn't afford to turn the lights on during the day either though. So we sat in the house with the lights off and blankets nailed over the windows. I didn't complain (much). After all, I had asked for this, right???
I found out I was pregnant with #3, but even with insurance, we couldn't afford health care. I got an infected wisdom tooth. I couldn't get it taken care of. The money simply wasn't there.
It was about this time that God began teaching me a very valuable lesson, one I hope I never forget. It is important for me to make note right here that this lack of financial resources was nothing new to me. It was how I had grown up. There were times we were thanking God for dinner before it had made its way into our home. There were Christmas' where "Santa" literally showed up on Christmas Eve. (Seriously, neighbor men dressed as Santa dropped a bag of toys off on our front porch one Christmas Eve because they knew my parents had absolutely nothing for us!) I was familiar with this lifestyle. It wasn't/isn't important for me to have things. My frustration was that it seemed every pay period we were begging God to stretch the money so the bills could get paid. God used a conversation with my sister to show me that He was/is trying to teach me dependence on Him. He also showed me that my children are learning valuable lessons through this as well.
Anyway, back to the story. Samantha Brooke was born 15 months after her big sister. She was a welcome addition to the family, even if we didn't know how we were going to afford diapers! When she was 5 weeks old, we moved to Terrell. Shortly after, Chase was up for a raise. It was small, but between that and an larger-than-expected tax return, and an unexpected bonus, we were able to pay off some of our debt (except for Chase's school loan, all of our debt is medical) just in time for . . . You guessed it! We found out #4 was on the way.
Because we had gotten some debt paid off, we were able to afford health care. God blessed me with an amazing doctor who somehow new our financial situation and didn't charge me for the weekly office visit to get my progesterone shot. He also blessed us with an amazing medical company that didn't charge us for the progesterone shots! I slowly began to be able to see His hand moving us toward greener pastures.
I'm sure the fact that I was diagnosed with depression and put on meds helped. He had been moving the entire time. I just wasn't okay enough to see it.
Anyway, things are still tough. We didn't come across a million dollars. We didn't receive a vast inheritance from some wealthy ancestor. We have simply been faithful to God. I have made it a point to pay tithe (10%) from each paycheck. I didn't always want to, but if things were this tough WITH God helping, I didn't want to experience it without his blessing!! Know what I mean???
Slowly but surely, I began seeing that God is going to take care of us. He is going to meet our needs. We may be below poverty level for the rest of our lives, but we will always be taken care of.
One day, one of the kids asked for something, and I told them we couldn't afford it. They asked why, and I told them "because we are what most people would consider poor. BUT we have each other and we have God, so we are actually RICH!!" Jennifer said, "I will ask God to give you more money." (Apparently I have a materialistic daughter!!!) Then she prayed. When she finished, she looked at me and said, "He said He will." This is a common comment after they pray so I thanked her politely and went on my way. I only thought of it again later to tell Chase because it was funny to me. I didn't realize God was speaking through her.
A few days later, I woke up with some discouragement. Though I know he is taking care of us, the debt hangs over me like a dark cloud, and some days I wake up frustrated by it. This particular morning I woke up and read my Bible. This is the passage that was the "Verse of the Day":
"Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem!
Rejoice in the LORD your God!
For the rain He sends demonstrates his faithfulness. [I have to point out that it was raining as I read this!]
Once more the autumn rains will come,
as well as the rains of spring.
The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain,
and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil.
The LORD says, "I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts,
the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and
the cutting locusts.
It was I who sent this great destroying army against you.
Once again you will have all the food you want,
and you will praise the LORD your God,
who does these miracles for you.
Never again will my people be disgraced.
Then you will know that I am among my people Israel,
that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other.
Never again will my people be disgraced."
I know these verses from Joel 2 are meant as a prophecy to the people of Israel, but that morning, they were for me as well. It was like He was telling me that He had sent this lack of financial resources in order to teach me, but that I had learned (or was close to learning) the lesson, and I was about to see His had move in a mighty way. I knew, clear as day, that these verses were meant for me that morning.
A couple of days later nothing had changed. Well, nothing for the better. A family member had to loan us some money for a few days because of some unexpected charges. We were frustrated and embarrassed that we had to ask for help . . . again.
I was praying that afternoon and telling God that I was sick of this. I told Him that I wanted to be free from debt so we could afford to pay for our own unexpected expenses.
Suddenly it clicked.
For the past (almost) 6 years, I have been praying for God to provide so we can get out of debt. I want to put every single penny toward it so that, in a few years, we can help people the way we have been helped. Don't get me wrong. This is a noble, honorable thing. This is a good thing. God wants us to be free from debt.
However, He doesn't want us to wait until then to help others. He wants me to want to help others NOW. He wants me to give NOW.
As I was praying, the words just came out. "God I wanna pay off debt, but more than that, I wanna be able to help people. I wanna be able to give. I wanna be able to be a blessing instead of the one always on the receiving end. Even if I don't get debt paid off any sooner than I would have, would you please bless me so that I can bless others? Don't bless me because I deserve it. I don't. Bless me so I can be a blessing."
No lie, the NEXT evening, a job opportunity came my way. A job keeping a little girl in our home. I have been trying to do this for years now, and God has always shut the door. It was as if he was saying, "Finally. You got it."
I don't know about you, but when God says, "You got it", that makes me feel good. I stuck with it until the "end". I finished the race. I learned the lesson. I'm not saying I'm finished and have reached perfection. All I'm saying is that I continued to seek His face until I learned His lesson, and He was faithful to keep His promise.
Whatever you're facing today, don't give up. Continue persevering. Continue seeking His face. He won't leave you in the wilderness forever. One day, you'll learn the lesson He is trying to teach, and the reward will be all the sweeter because of the path you walked with Him in order to reach it.
"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." Galatians 6:9