Today, it’s my turn over on Storm Stories. Here is my story…
The Lord is not done blessing you yet,” she said.
There I was, standing beside my husband and not entirely sure what to think. I knew Betty only slightly… not enough to really know whether she ever heard God wrong or not. And did she mean financial blessing? If so, I certainly wasn’t going to argue… but it didn’t quite make sense. We were already experiencing financial blessings that ranged from a major pay increase and a miracle house, to insurance proceeds and winnings from a drawing we hadn’t known we were in. So, while it was nice to hear that God wasn’t done blessing us yet, I’m afraid we’d started to take that blessing for granted.
But then my husband’s company decided to restructure territories, impacting his commission-based income. I remember telling him, “Maybe this is why God gave us that word.”
“What word?” he asked.
“The one that Betty spoke over us a few weeks ago, that God wasn’t done blessing us yet. Maybe God told us that so we wouldn’t worry.”
“I don’t remember a word like that.”
What? Had I dreamed it?
I began to doubt that God had even said it, so I prayed. “Father, if that word was really from You, then give us confirmation somehow.” I added that it be something that my husband couldn’t possibly miss.
A few days later Betty stopped by our house on an errand. She and I chatted a little. Just as she was leaving, my husband came home early – another unprofitable day. He met her in the hallway, and then she suddenly pointed a finger at both of us.“Don’t forget, you two, what the Lord told me,” she said. “He’s not done blessing you yet. And He meant blessing you financially.”
I couldn’t help smiling… so sure that somehow, the new work situation was only temporary.
But it wasn’t. In fact, as 2004 changed to 2005, we discovered that we had received a 30% pay cut.
If I told you I handled it well, I’d by lying. I worried. I budgeted. I crunched numbers. Week, after week, after week, after week. I knew worrying was a sin, and I tried to trust God. I did trust God, and He showed me many things. But somehow, no matter how deep my walk with Him got, the trust never went quite deep enough.
We used the credit cards. We weren’t reckless… we only used them when we absolutely had to. But that prompted my very worst fears. My thrifty, penny-pinching, number-crunching mind wouldn’t let me forget exactly how fast our debt would snowball if we didn’t find a way out.
And so I crunched numbers over and over and over again, looking for that escape. It HAD to be there! If God, in His wisdom, saw fit to take so much of our income, then it was our responsibility to figure out how to live on what He’d provided. Or so my clueless self thought.
I started questioning God. My belief in His love and faithfulness never wavered, but my willingness to be left in the dark as to why this was happening was fading fast.
A year inched by… a year when revelations of God’s goodness battled with worry over finances. Then my mom died. We traveled from Florida to Maryland for her funeral and to be with family. And while we were there, we realized something amazing. That house that God had given us… the one that had been a miracle… was now worth over $230,000. And we only owed $84,000! On top of that, real estate in the little town in Pennsylvania where we’d always dreamed of moving was still very low priced. We could sell our house and pay cash for our little dream house! I sure wasn’t worrying now!
The months that followed were a strange mix of grief over losing my mother and excitement. We bought the things we needed to finish one last house project and got to work on it. Yeah, we had to use the credit cards for it, but that didn’t matter. We would soon have the money to pay it all off.
2006 brought the news of a ‘real estate bubble’ bursting. We still weren’t worried. God could sell our house in any market. So finally we put out a “for sale by owner sign,” and we waited.
And while we waited some more, we discovered that the real estate bubble had indeed been real, and it had burst the exact same month we decided to sell the house. Needless to say, I started worrying again.
We decided to sacrifice $15,000 of our profit to list with a Realtor. She recommended that we drop the price on our house another $30,000, and she promised it would sell. We realized that it would be much more difficult to pay cash for what we wanted, but we figured we’d still be doing pretty well. So we did it.
Several more months went by. And now, on top of worry, we started to battle confusion over whether we were really supposed to move or not. Yet through it all, God showed me things during the hours I spent at His feet.
The Realtor suggested dropping another $25,000 off the price of the house, again promising us that it would sell this time. And it worked! We wouldn’t be able to pay cash now, but at least our mortgage would be small. I eagerly started packing as closing day drew nearer. I reserved a moving truck, and my husband gave notice at his job. The church prayed for us and gave us a send-off… moving day was two weeks away.
And the sale fell through.
The company let my husband keep his job, but talk about confusion! Were we really supposed to move? Or were we supposed to stay in Florida? Where was God in all of this? If He wanted us to stay in Florida, then why wasn’t He blessing us there? But if we were suppose to move, then why weren’t doors opening? Around and around and around we went. But God was patiently working inside of me… gently but persistently teaching me the true meaning of trust. I began to experience a roller coaster in my spirit… trusting one day and filled with fear the next.
2007 began and God dealt with us about using credit cards. He showed me that all too often, His people choose to rely on banks and the credit they offer when they should rely on Him. My husband and I made a joint decision to live on cash no matter what. We still weren’t sure how we’d have money for food, but we became convinced that this is what we needed to do.
And God honored that in ways that are still beyond my understanding. Work for my husband increased a tiny bit, but not enough to pay the bills. Yet month by month, miracle by miracle, as we relied upon God instead of credit cards, our bills were paid on time. Every. Last. One. And God showed me how this journey of learning to trust Him was really a gift from Him.
But the house still wasn’t selling, the real estate market continued to decline, and our confusion persisted. We tried selling by owner again and failed. All around us people started losing their homes.
We decided to try another Realtor. We dropped our asking price again, and again we waited while nothing happened.
But in October, I had a moment that was like finding the garden of Eden in the eye of my storm. In one brief instant, God showed me something that He had accomplished in me over the last four long years. It’s another long story, but the joy that I experienced that day and the freedom I found made me grateful for this storm. I no longer cared how severe my storm got or how long my roller coaster lasted. The prize was worth every single moment of it.
November came and we discovered that our house had lost 45% of its value – over $100,000 – in the last year. Our county was listed as having the fastest real estate decline in the nation. And that was hard to accept. Why was God allowing the blessing He’d given us to slip through our fingers? Were we going to end up losing our miracle house? We had no answers, but we started wondering if we should move to Ohio instead of Pennsylvania. So we made another decision. If, for some out-of-this-world reason the house sold, we’d see if my husband’s company could transfer him to Ohio somewhere. We thought maybe they’d have something, somewhere in the state.
Six days later the house sold. And before noon the next day, my husband was offered a job in a town only fifteen minutes from family, in Ohio.
Needless to say, we were in shock. We really didn’t know what Ohio would hold for us, but we were totally convinced that Ohio was where God wanted us. We even dared to hope that finances would be easier there, even though 80% of our potential profits had disappeared.
2008 found us in Ohio… and things weren’t any easier. The profit from our house sale just barely covered the down payment the bank required, and my roller coaster of trust continued… but at least I was riding trust more often than worry. And at least the confusion was gone.
Which brings me to last September, when I found my rainbow.
I was fighting one of the nastiest bouts of worrying that I’d had in a while. I began battling it in the ways that I had learned were most effective, and it was then that God showed me something that blew me away. He told me that His desire is for me to fully realize that I am His slave. That sounded negative… until He showed me what that means.
I was set free. I was given peace. And a different kind of trust was birthed in me… one that I no longer had to strive for. I simply do because of who He is. It sounds so simple, yet it took me four years and multiple revelations to even begin to grasp it.
It’s now 2009, and the storm I was in seems to encompass the entire world. Banks are failing. Governments are going bankrupt. The stock market is plunging at record breaking speeds. And everywhere I look, people are drowning in the exact same fear that I fought for so long.
But I am not. I have found a rock in the middle of the storm… a Rock who is bigger than any storm and a peace that is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced.
Will the financial blessing that God promised my husband and I four years ago ever come? We believe it will. In fact, we’ve received several confirmations of it in the last two months. But we now believe that a tremendous responsibility will accompany it… one that we definitely weren’t ready for then, and might still not be ready for. It’s because of that responsibility that we’re in no hurry to receive it, strange as that sounds.
You see… if we are indeed blessed with money in the midst of a bankrupt world, we could easily be overwhelmed with opportunities to meet needs in other people’s lives. That has been a dream of ours for years. Yet… if there’s one thing these last four years have taught us, it’s that financial hardship can be a blessing and wealth can be a trap. And only God knows when which is which. If we had gotten our $150,000 cash two years ago, it might have ruined us. I certainly would have missed out on what I received instead.
Many people cling to Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.'” I believe that’s true. But I also believe that His plans are deeper and more meaningful than our human minds can possibly comprehend. I believe that, in order to fit into that beautiful plan, we must be willing to become His slave. Totally. Completely.
I don’t know what God’s plans for my future will look like. I don’t know if it has something to do with that word He gave us, or it’s to simply be a doorkeeper in His house. And I’m sure there will be more storms that will bring me to my knees.
But I know that He’s used storms to work miracles in my life. So while I can’t say I now welcome storms, I can say that I no longer fear them. For I know the One who will see me through.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn bush, the cypress will come up,
And instead of the nettle, the myrtle will come up,
And it will be a memorial to the LORD.”