Friday, January 11, 2013

A Journey of Faith | Timing and the Lord's Provision

"The Lord's Provision" Original Mixed Media/Acrylic on Canvas size 30x40. 
Scripture Philippians 4:19

I completed this painting as we prepared our hearts for Thanksgiving this year. Painting took a back seat this year to leaving a full time job in vocational ministry at a church and launching a new online radio program. In many ways my journey with the Lord's Provision mirrors the growth in my faith in Jehovah Jireh, my Lord who sees to my every need.

Still, this story begins before the first pencil stroke pressed itself out on a page. My husband and I have spent years struggling financially, starting out behind the 8-ball so to speak. When we met in 1997 we had five children ranging from three to nine years in age. Two oldest boys, two youngest girls and my middle child, also a girl in the middle of the alphas and the babies. 

Having a long history of legally financial issues, I worked hard to make our extremely inadequate budget work with a child support payment, house payment and the many other requirements that come with raising a blended family with five children. 

I worked off and on throughout the years as our kids grew up, and for some reason we always seemed to manage with a little help from our parents and God, Himself. We walked our way through a bankruptcy filing, "robbing Peter to pay Paul," and many other sorts of Creative Financing. Even taking a turn through Financial Peace University. 

God rocked our boat a bit in 2007 when He moved our hearts to leave my part time job and our secure place in a small rural church for something unknown in a larger environment. Scott and I began to explore what leaving would look like and felt strongly called to a growing young body in Southlake, Texas. You may have heard of it as it has gone from around 10,000 members to just under 20,000 in the last five years. It is a fast growing, visionary church that values people and God's ability to transform and use any life. 

I began to check out things online including a page on the website called "Job Opportunities." I even applied for a position and eventually interviewed. Scott and I made our decision in the interim. We would move our membership to Gateway. I remember the Saturday before our final weekend of transition. We returned home from our Saturday evening Gateway service to prepare for the Sunday morning service at our previous church. I opened the mailbox and removed a letter in a Gateway envelope. 

I walked quietly into the house and retreated to our master bath where I hastily ripped open the envelope and read the nicest rejection letter one could ever hope to receive. "We regret to inform you that we offered the position to someone better suited for its responsibilities." In other words, we did not think you were a right fit for this position. 

Panic gripped my heart as I considered what they could have learned, what about my life story (and there is a pile of it) had come up that would disqualify me. I reread the letter and peace covered me as I realized the meaning of the words. You are not the person for THAT position. 

I presented the letter to my husband who made his way to napping on the couch. He read it slowly as I sat on the arm of the sofa and waited. He looked to me and I noticed a hesitation in his eyes. "I-I'm sorry?' 

"More than that, what should we do now? Do we go back to our old church or do we continue to move forward? I mean this really changes things." 

He nodded and pulled his chin to his chest. I observed the mannerisms of my husband when in reflective consideration only a handful of times. This time I knew he was weighing the matter carefully. He smiled and spoke a single word of release. "Forward." 

We set about making plans for the transition since I would not have the income we had come to rely on for our monthly budget. Our choices: sell one vehicle, move to a smaller house where the rent payment would be less expensive and required us to clean the house so it would be inhabitable, and tighten the belt. May I add, Scott did not take the first two items on our list as well as I did, and I on the other hand did not fair so well at the last one. I never have been good at asking "Mr. Budget" or even considering much beyond the immediate need or desire. 

Life would change significantly over the next two years. It also meant giving up our dream of buying the home we had come to love in the year we had lived there. Certain of God's call we moved forward and made the painful cuts. 

We landed at Gateway and Scott began to blend into the background and learn to breathe in a church environment. Something I had not really given him the chance to do in our previous leadership roles. I volunteered "us" many times without asking him. I immediately signed up to lead a small group. It was in my wheel-house and the leadership of the church called for it from the pulpit each week that August. 

No one came to my group - I only received one call inquiring about it and she indicated the time and day were not convenient for her. I signed up for a couple of groups, engaged the inner healing ministry and inquired of the Lord. "What should I do now?" 

Habakkuk 2:2-3 came to me immediately, write the vision and make it plain. 

So I started a blog, joined a readers and writers group at church and dove into what I felt the Lord wanted me to do. I wrote my heart out for nearly two years. I recovered from grief over the death of my son. I even weathered a particularly difficult season working through some marital issues that threatened to dissolve our union, if you know what I mean.

In July 2008 our financial struggles were weighing on me. My husband seemed distant and unhappy and I felt like I scrambled every payday just to make ends meet. I lay in bed one morning running the financial calculator of my mind and I arrived at a number. Five figures danced in my head like a taunting bully threatening to undo me on a whim. I began to pray aloud. "Lord, I need a job. Any job. I need $XX,XXX today. I can't wait. I'm going out to find it."

As soon as that last sentence came out of my mouth the Holy Spirit began to massage my heart and I heard my Daddy God whisper ever so quietly in my mind. "You have not asked Me about that yet." 

In my dramatic, oldest child-rebel fashion I rolled my eyes and gave God the heavy sigh. "Okay! I'm asking..." 

NOTHING... 

The silence not only confused me, it also made me question what to do next. I had no peace about moving forward looking for a job so I resolved to wait until I heard the Lord say move. Over the next few months I would see God move in miraculous ways to help us recover in finances and He threw in saving my marriage while He was at it.  

Spring 2009 I began to regularly volunteer in the office for Freedom Ministries at Gateway Church. I had gotten to know the oversight pastor for Freedom Groups well by leading a "Freedom Group." It only seemed natural to come into the office on a regular basis and help out with the routine responsibilities that needed to be done. I got to know other staff members and within a few weeks both the administrative assistant and pastor I served began to ask me questions that suggested they might want to offer me a job. I didn't know if they would so I prayed. I hoped. And, I kept it to myself. 

By the first of June I was asked if I would like to apply for the position of administration assistant to the pastor I had been serving under in Freedom Ministries. I asked them if I could talk to my husband and pray about it. And within a few days I knew I would get the job. I emailed the assistant: I would like to be considered for your position.

In the midst of this glorious news we found out our landlord wanted to buy us out of our lease and they were willing to take us to court to break the lease. In the midst of this great opportunity we found ourselves homeless. We moved in with family for a few weeks while we found a new home, and decided to enter the home buying market. We found a house that we thought would do, and leased it with the intention of buying it within a year. Our solution to a homeless problem, but I had already realized there might be major structural problems with this home. I would later also recognize that God indeed had other plans for our housing problem. I did not have a clue at the time, but He had them just the same. 

After three interviews I received the job offer by email. The position being vacated had been held by an employee who had been on staff for five years. The salary available was higher than what had been indicated when I spoke to human resources about the details of the position. The offer was exactly the figure I had told God I needed in a yearly salary REMEMBER: $XX,XXX PLUS a TITHE. I wept at the revelation. I began work at Gateway Church July 19, 2009. Almost one year from the day I had told God I needed a job and two years from the date we transitioned from our old church to Gateway. 

The Lord shall supply liberally and abundantly, beyond your wildest dreams or imagination, all your needs according to His glorious and abundant riches in His Son, Christ Jesus. AMEN. (My paraphrase of Philippians 4:19 AMP)

To be continued... 

This post originally appeared on A Martha Heart in December, 2012. 

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