Saturday, July 23, 2011

From Despair to Hope

I first posted this on July 23, 2011. A few days later, a few people who were mentioned in this post felt uncomfortable with it & asked me to delete it, so I did. But I've felt like there were SO many people who commented, emailed, inboxed me on Facebook or otherwise contacted me (who REALLY needed to hear this story) that I needed to re-post the blog.

I am posting the original entry below, but with some edits that I think would make the persons who were uncomfortable before feel safe & OK with it. I pray that it blesses you.

Fear has never been a part of my world. Sure, I'm afraid of snakes and of falling off a cliff & that sort of thing, but that constant, nagging, anxiety-creating, stomach upsetting emotion of fear just doesn't exist in my life. It's not who I am. People I am around every day will tell you that about me. I'm a pretty even-keel sort of girl. I don't get flustered. I don't get mad very often. I don't stress out & freak over little things. I'm certainly no saint....I have plenty of other things I struggle with..... however fear & anxiety are thankfully not among that list.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

But last night, we spent the evening discussing our financial battle & the fact that there is no way out of this predicament we face every month. Larry called a relative for advice & a listening ear. I emailed my parents to ask for help. When we fell into bed, we were feeling quite hopeless. Despair hung like a cloud over our heads. We layed there & talked about the agony of being in a position like this. Again.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

We said things like "There is no end in sight", "What are we going to do?", "How will we ever get out of this pit?", "I just don't see how we can fix this.", "What are we doing wrong?","If we're doing what God asks us to do with our lives, why is this so hard???".

We went to bed pondering ways to bring the bank balance back up to $0. We discussed pawning furniture or some of Larry's guns. We discussed whether or not there were any things in the budget we could cut. (There aren't.) We talked about getting 2nd & 3rd jobs. I posted on facebook, asking if anyone knew of a local business that needed a Saturday cleaning person. We talked about the fact that Larry already works so many hours every week there is really no time left for him to work an extra job. Larry dozed off, restlessly turning over & over in bed.

If you've ever been there, you know what I'm talking about. Despair. Hopelessness. Depression. Anxiety. Fear.

We've never had much money. We've always struggled & lived paycheck to paycheck. It's not really a 'woe-is-me' sort of thing, it's just life. It's all we have known for many years. We kind of figure this is how people raise 3 kids & live these days. Sure, we know that there are people out there who are more well-off than us & recognize that they don't live paycheck to paycheck, but it seems like most of our friends face financial troubles of one sort or another. We just sort of feel like this is our lot in life.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Since we left the church where Larry worked in '09 it's been very difficult financially. For the first year, we lived off of the love offering taken up for us when we left (in addition to Larry's salary & my income from the preschool, of course). We emptied the savings account completely that first year just trying to make ends meet. Then Larry got a promotion and raise. We hoped we'd finally be okay. But we didn't know that the raise brought with it the responsibility of paying for his own gas expenses. That's all good & fine if you have a spare $500-1000 sitting in your bank account, but we don't. So right off the bat, we began a cycle of becoming overdrawn every month, waiting for the reimbursement check weeks later while we watched the bank balance drop. And drop. And drop. By the time we were reimbursed, the overdraft fees outweighed the the reimbursement check, and then we began the next month in the hole, already eating away at the next month's paycheck before we ever got it. And the cycle began all over again.

I'm sure God knows what He's doing here. Every time we've had the tiniest bit of overflow in the bank account, we start living like we don't NEED Him every minute of the day. We start relying on ourselves & feeling quite comfortable. We quit spending as much time in the Word. We're not on our knees as much. It becomes very easy to trust ourselves & leave God to Sunday mornings or moments when we're praying for friends. So He has to shake us up & keep us relying on Him. And ONLY Him.

But the past year, we've been shaken up pretty badly.

When the money runs out.....
and a negative sign precedes the bank balance....
and you've surpassed the point that the bank will "cover" you...
and you've had to rely on someone else to buy your groceries to feed your family....
and you still have 10 days left in the month and more expenses left before the next paycheck....
desperation begins to set in.

Especially when you know that this month is just like last month and next month will bring more of the same. It kind of feels like an endless race, running on a treadmill but never really going anywhere.

Job 11:18 You will be secure, because there is hope...

I snuggled up to Larry last night before he dozed off & whispered to him "You KNOW we're going to be ok, right?" He nodded in agreement and said, "Somehow, some way."

After he fell asleep, I found myself on my knees in the bathroom at 1am. I've found myself there a lot lately. I didn't know what else to pray but

I trust you, God. I trust you. I don't know how you're going to fix all this, but I know you will. You have before & I know you will again. I trust you. I trust you. I trust you. Please help us. I trust you.

The cries of a desperate heart. The pleading of a heart lost in pain, but holding a hand out, begging God to take hold & lift her up. A heart looking to the sky, praying for His mercy to rain down, not knowing how He would accomplish some great feat, but trusting that He would.

And then today happened.

In a moment of feeling like we had no other choice, we contacted my parents last night & asked for help. They offered to give us the money to bring the bank account back up to $0. We got the check from them this morning & saw a positive balance for the first time in a month. Oh the joy! (mixed with great amounts of humble pie!)

But wait.....there's more!

Someone came to visit this morning. That person took us out to lunch. What a treat!

But wait....there's more!

When we left the restaurant, that special guest handed Larry her car keys & said to take the kids to our house & that we'd be along later. She wanted to take me somewhere in our van. I wasn't sure what she had in mind, but she had me drive to the grocery store & bought us enough produce to fill the fridge and then some! I tried to argue with her, but she insisted.

But wait....there's more!

While we were back at the restaurant, our guest slid an envelope to Larry across the table. After our guest went home, we opened the envelope. It was a check for a LOT of money. We stood there & looked at it & wept. When she had given Larry the envelope earlier, I thought that maybe it had $20 in it. But this amount was far greater than that. We knew immediately what we needed to do with it! Larry drove to the bank & opened a separate bank account ONLY for his gas expenses. We've wanted to do this for a long time but have not had a spare penny to do it with. If he uses this account for his gas expenses only, we can successfully live off of our incomes (in the regular bank account) without dipping into negative numbers every month! Did you hear that? We can survive on our regular incomes without getting overdrawn every month!!


And tonight, for the first time since the Spring of 2009, we have HOPE. We can see a light at the end of the tunnel. We can breathe. We can rest. We can live life without despair & fear of running out of money & not being able to feed our family or pay our bills.

Isaiah 40:31 ...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Is it just me or did you just have a Pentacostal moment reading that verse? ::woohoo....time for a victory lap around the church!:::

God moved huge, vast, enormous mountains for us today. And for that, I have been on my face before Him, hot tears streaming down my cheeks much of the afternoon.

Matthew 17:20 For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

My prayer tonight is not one of desperation & fear, but one of thankfulness.

Psalm 69:30 I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

I am begging God to never, ever let me forget what it feels like to need help. To NEED Him. To feel hopeless. I am begging Him to never let me grow complacent, to keep me HUNGRY for Him. To force me into situations where I CRAVE Him and can't be satisfied or fulfilled by ANYTHING but Him. To shove me headfirst into places of poverty & hunger & longing. It's in these situations, whether my own or those of a friend or neighbor, that I am drawn to His side and feel like I am clinging most tightly to Him.

Hebrews 10:22 ...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.

Psalm 114:7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 139:7-12
7 Where can I go from you?
Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

Our journey is not over. Far from it, actually. Our bank account will not overflow from this point forward. Our account balance will not be grand & amazing. But we will be able to rest a bit. And that will be a very welcome change of pace. A change that I am so very grateful for.

I'm so excited & looking forward to the journey He has ahead for us!


Rachel said...

Oh Liz that is really awesome!

Sandy J said...

You inspire me everytime I read your words...He loves you so much..Sandy

Leslie said...

So glad God is moving in your life! Praising with you!

Pam said...

{{{Liz}}} I can't tell you how many times I have been on my knees saying, "I trust you, Lord" over and over and over almost like a mantra! Praise God He has shown you once again that He will provide just what we need when we really do trust Him! Hugs!!!

Barb G said...

Praising our God Who meets our needs in so many ways. I am thankful He met yours the way He did.

Bethany D said...

You are such an encourager to so many. I don't know you well so I had absolutely no idea what type of dire financial need you and Larry were in. Your demeanor and countenance are always so sweet and positive - I'd never have known had I not read this blog post. I'm so blessed by how God moved in your family's lives and especially WHO He used to bring you that blessing. What a testimony of His faithfulness. Thanks so much for sharing!

Candice said...

Praise God! I wonder sometimes if He allows us to see our need so He can show us His faithfulness.

The Lowry Place said...

God is so very good. What an awesome praise report. Thank you Liz for sharing it, it helps us who lack a little remember to keep believing.