Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning to trust...

Today, it's my turn over on Storm Stories. Here is my story...
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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 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."

-Isaiah 55:8-13

3 comments:

  • Dianne Medlin-Pinard says:
    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    I dont even know how I found your blog at this very moment in my life .
    I am struggling with all of the things you just talked about. I confess I am not able to trust God and I am confused about what he is doing and I am scared. Very Scared.
    I dared to pray some deep prayers about life change and well thats what has happened. I feel as though I have made a mess of things financially I am angry at my husband for not providing and we might be loosing our home in a few months. I can barely function at work because its what I fight with deep down inside. Ever since I was a young girl I only wanted to be a wife and mother a homemaker, I am so creative but have become stuck in working hard for many reasons that would be to long to list right now. I am sad and jealous of other women who have husbands who have and are still providing I need help.

  • Katie says:
    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Dianne, I have no way of contacting you, so I don't know if you'll ever read this. But I'm going to pray for you anyway.

    "Father God, I thank You that You are no respecter of persons--that what You did in me, You are doing in Dianne as well. Father I thank You that peace is not dependent upon Dianne's husband, his job, their house, her own job, their own financial wisdom, or even the desires You've placed inside her, for You are bigger than all of those. Just as You are bigger than the struggles that I faced and didn't handle all that well in this difficult day, so You are bigger that anything Dianne is facing right now, and anything that either of us will ever face. For You are the Beginning and the End and the Here and Now. You see everything, and You know when the things that we wish for would harm us, and You know what circumstances will bring us closer to You and fulfill the deepest, deepest desires of our hearts. You know every day of Dianne's life, both past and future, and Your grace is sufficient for every mistake and every weakness. And Your love is big enough and wide enough to cover us, even when we can't trust You. You are still there, and still faithful.

    Father, I ask You, in Jesus' name, to open the eyes of Dianne's heart, that she may know what is the hope of her calling, and that she may know what is the glory of her inheritance (Eph. 1:17-19), for that inheritance is so much better than what she has lost and anything she might lose in the future. I ask that You show her the pearl of great price that You want to give her in exchange for what You are asking her to surrender. For that pearl of great price is the kingdom of God---that which is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 13:45 and Rom. 14:17) She needs that peace and joy, Father, and we all need Your righteousness.

    Thank You for the right to come to You in Jesus' name to ask these things, and to trust in the promises that are available to us through Jesus. May all the glory may go to Him. Therefore, I pray all this in Jesus' name, Amen."

    Dianne, I'm also going to pray that both you and your husband learn what my husband and I had to...that neither of us could trust in his abilities to provide. Only God is capable of providing, and He is jealous of trust that is laid at anyone's feet, other than His. But it is oh-so-worth trusting Him! And the battles He leads us through so we can learn to trust Him are so small in comparison.

    ((((hugs)))) dear sister in Christ! God will honor those deep prayers you prayed! Do not lose heart because the training is turning out to be more difficult than You anticipated. He knows what He's about, and He'll do an amazing work in You and see it through 'till completion! (Phil 1:6)

  • josephmcole.com says:
    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Enjoyed reading your story. After all the time we've been acquainted through the writers' group, I never thought that it was these circumstances that God used to bring you here. Inspiring.

    Too often, these promises take so much time to come to pass because we take so long to be ready for them. Kind of like writing and publishing a book, I'd say...

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