A Roof and a Family
We chose to leave our church last summer after finding ourselves in an unrecoverable situation. Don't trouble yourself with the details. Suffice it to say we obeyed God. But we had to leave our house and our job too onaccounta both were at the church. We felt a bit like Abram, starting out. God tells him to go to "the place I will show you." In other words, "I'll tell you when you get there." Less than four hours after we told family and friends we were moving but we didn't know where, God had given us a place to go. We've dwelt for the past year in a 1,200 square foot treehouse apartment in a century-old home in downtown Newberg, above the most generous and selfless family I have ever known in my entire life. Not only did God drop housing out of the sky for us, but He allowed us to walk beside living examples of what it means to be broken bread and poured out wine.
A List for God
Things were quite tight after we arrived in Newberg, and one of the many things we couldn't afford was homeschool materials. I stressed and stressed over finding the materials we needed, poring over websites for discounted books. At full price, our course load was over a thousand dollars. It just looked totally insurmountable to me. My obsession with schoolbooks reached a fever pitch in early August. I had done everything I could think of to do. Except one. Surrender. My cousin, Angi, a veteran homeschooler, told me she had that struggle her first couple of years, too. Now, every summer, she makes a list of what she needs for the coming year. And every fall, God gives her everything she needs. Period. I sighed, shakily, and made my list. Then sheepishly, I gave it to God. Three weeks later, when school began, I had everything I needed. Everything. Without having to spend a penny.
To Eat or Not to Eat, That Seemed to Be the Question
I can't remember if I posted about this one last year or not, but it's so great I'm risking a repeat. My cousin, Angi, offered to lend me an enormous chunk of the aforementioned homeschool supplies, but I had to drive an hour to get them. Our van was broken, so I had to take Jeff's truck, which gets truck-like gas mileage. We had no gas and no money, and if we'd had money, it would have gone to food because we didn't have that either. Jeff's mom put $20 in our bank account so we could buy milk, eggs, and cheese. A long debate ensued. Do we spend the $20 on food, or gas to get homeschool books? Oddly, it seemed buying gas was the right choice, even though it flew in the face of reason. So I filled up the truck with gas and headed out to my cousin's house. She gave me the homeschool books, as promised, but guess what else she gave me? Milk, eggs, and cheese. And two large grocery sacks of food besides. Much more than I could have purchased with my $20.
All Bundled Up
We were short one blanket last fall. The boys and Jeff each had twin comforters, but I only had a folded-over king-size duvet and a series of throw blankets that didn't stretch far enough. Our apartment got pretty chilly at night, and I often woke up shivering. Jeff had been lamenting for years the absence of his glorious childhood quilt, and for three years I'd been praying for a quilt just like the one from his childhood. I'd had in mind a quilt large enough for both of us to sleep under, onaccounta we share a bed and all. But a few years back, we discovered we both sleep much better if we have our own blankets because we are both cocooners. It took me all three years of praying to realize that we didn't need a quilt like the one from Jeff's childhood. We need the quilt from Jeff's childhood. His mom, who had saved it these many years, washed it and brought it over to us. Two prayers answered. Jeff had his childhood twin-sized quilt, and he gave me the remaining twin comforter. We all slept warmly for the rest of the cold nights in our apartment.
We got on food stamps last October, which has been a huge help. I've been able eat organic, low-carb food that I'm not allergic to. Pretty cool. We did not apply for assistance with anything other than food, so we were rich in vegetables, but poor in paper towels, cleaning products, medicine, etc. When I realized this, we still had enough of each item, but I freaked out anyway. Oh no! Pretty soon we'll run out of toilet paper! Not so, with Yahweh Yireh. Some friends from church had recently cleaned out someone's cupboards and passed the bounty on to us, including paper towels and toilet paper. As I spied the supplies in my worried state, God whispered, "Look around. I provided all these things before it even occurred to you that you might run short of them." My worry melted away as I stocked my bathroom cabinets for future use.
Jeff and I wanted to go to Idaho for Christmas, but the van was broken and the truck was acting up. We didn't see how we could make the trip. Then a lovely pair of anonymous donors, for whom I have great affection, stopped by the house one day in November toting money and a couple of boxes of food. Jeff was able to buy the parts he needed to fix the van, and we were able to afford the gas to drive to Idaho and spend Christmas with my parents, my four brothers, and their families. I cherish this provision especially because it allowed me to be with Daddy for the last three weeks of his life. Satan tells me that if I hadn't been there, Daddy might still be alive, but he's lying. This provision, clearly from God, is tangible proof that God meant for me to be in Idaho last Christmas.
Jobless with a Purpose
After we moved to Newberg, Jeff got busy looking for work, to no avail. Bad economy, blah, blah, blah. There was even a position created just for him that fell through. We spent all of last fall wondering what in the world was going on. It was clear God was keeping Jeff from procuring steady employment. I know joblessness doesn't seem like God's provision, but in our case, it truly was. If Jeff had found a steady job last fall, we would not have been able to pick up our life and spend six months in Idaho with my mom this spring. This is where it gets theological. (Everything is theological, of course.) God, in His sovereignty, knew that Dad would commit suicide on December 29. He spent all of 2009 preparing us for it. He put in motion, while Daddy was still alive, what it would take for Dad's death to work together for good. Jeff's joblessness was part of that. And Jeff adds that God's consistent provision last fall was what gave him the courage to trust God for our six months in Idaho this spring.
My cousin, Samantha, who is really a sister and best friend rolled into one, had twins last December. I'd been up to see her in the fall while she was on bedrest, so I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to go back for the birth. She wanted me to be there, and I wanted to be there, but it just seemed impossible. I couldn't afford train tickets, for one thing, but her c-section was scheduled for December 3, and we were leaving for Idaho on the 7th right after the Christmas program James had a major role in. We were quite busy. But somehow, that week, I managed to get ready early for our trip. A total miracle in Becky Land. God provided the time, but what about the cost? The day before my cousin's c-section, her sister called and asked if I would be able to make it up, and when she found out I couldn't come, she bought me a train ticket. God graciously allowed me to cuddle my new
Broken Pipes for Good
We needed tire chains for the drive to Idaho. It was supposed to be very snowy and stormy. Jeff searched around craigslist for chains and he found some for cheap, but how to pay for them? Then Jeff's grandma called and said there was a water leak on her property and she needed Jeff to fix it lickety-split. She paid him cash, and we got the chains we needed. I know God is not the author of evil, but are broken pipes always evil? Hmmm...
Wrapped in Generosity
There were a few gifts I wanted to distribute locally before we left for Idaho, but I did not have wrapping paper or the means to acquire any. I asked our neighbor if she had a little I could use, and she brought me four giant rolls of premium paper, insisting I keep it all. So generous. Not only did I get all the Oregon presents wrapped, but we took the paper to Idaho and wrapped all the presents for my family as well.
Last fall, a friend of mine sent me a link to a site where I could get free photo Christmas cards, and my first-time user status included free prints besides. I found some boxes of Christmas cards at Dollar Tree, and I was all set. Except for stamps. Very spendy. I went to my purse to see how many I had and how many I would need to get, and I found five and a half books of stamps nestled in with my receipts. It took me a minute to even figure out where they had come from, and then it dawned on me. The previous April, when we still lived and worked at our last church, I had asked Jeff to pick me up a book of stamps at Costco. He brought me not one book but 100 stamps because Costco only sold them in bulk. I remember joking with him at the time that there was no way I could use all those stamps, my being an e-girl and all, so I stuffed them in my purse and forgot about them. But God didn't.
What You Shall Wear
James outgrew all of his clothes while I wasn't looking. He keeps doing that. So does Jonathan. Last fall, we went into the colder months a little short. Literally. James had no long pants that reached his ankles. I mentioned it to my extended family, and they galvanized into action. My aunt mailed James a good supply of pants, and she sent more supplies home with my other aunt, who delivered them to me and added to the pile some clothes her own son had outgrown. My cousin went shopping at a free clothing exchange in her town and then came over with a giant garbage sack of stuff. Jeff's mom, who didn't even know about our need, bought both boys some new outfits. We were rich in clothes, and James was comfortable and toasty warm all winter. God always clothes my family better than the lilies of the field.
In Our Distress
Dad's death incurred many unexpected expenses. It's all quite a big blur. I'm sure none of them want me to mention their names publicly, but let me just say that 23 people gave money and gift cards, 9 people brought meals, 6 people provided housing, 5 people sent care packages, and 2 people took time off work and flew, emergency-style, to be with us. So many others supported us via text, email, facebook. And that's just for Jeff and I personally, not to mention the exponential support my mom and siblings and I received as a family. We were constantly surrounded by the Body of Christ, day and night. I know this post is meant to focus on material needs, but at that time, our material need was love. And God provided it. Just as Jeff's joblessness last fall was God's preparation for our time in Idaho this spring, the past three decades of relationships were preparation for the Body of Christ in action last January. Beautiful.
We tried to keep up with church happenings while we were in Idaho. We received email updates and prayer requests, we listened to podcasts of sermons, and we were sent the weekly newsletter. One of the events consistently advertised was the church campout happening at the end of July. We were back home by then, and I really wanted to go after months of reading about it, but it was out of our price range. A few days before the campout, one of the hosts asked us if we'd like to fill a spot - free of charge - that had just opened up. Um, of course! I thought it was just a prepaid spot that couldn't be refunded and the church would have had to eat the cost, but when we arrived at the campground, we were told the family that had to back out had thought of us specifically. When I sent a thank you email, the reply came back that God had whispered, like He does, that there was someone who should go instead of them. What a poignant, specific gift of love from God.
A List for God, Take Two
Last summer, after all my worry, I made my list of homeschool books and God provided everything we needed. This summer, I haven't even had time to make a list yet. I know. It's August. Last year at this time, all I could think about was homeschool materials. This year, I'm focused on packing, and I'll think about school once we get moved. Nevertheless, our very faithful God is preparing for school while we cannot. He sent me a check in the mail from some very dear friends, designated specifically for the cost of homeschool materials.
Yahweh Yireh is the God who sees beforehand and provides in advance. I know He's already done the same for our next housing situation, and I can't wait to tell you about it. (Also, I can't wait for Him to tell me about it.)