Ready or not....
However humbling I thought our drastic change in lifestyle was in 2012, 2013 held new levels of humble yet to be experienced.
Then came fall and winter, and we fell into a business slump that the summer's abundance couldn't carry us through. The 2014 New Year was not beginning as we had hoped, introducing a deeper level of humble. Our roller coaster lives had beaten us to a pulp.
All these months have turned into years of trying to work out how to be content with what we have, of reading Paul's words in Philippians 4:12, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want," and just not grasping it.
And James, who said to do what? Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4). Really not grasping it.
What is abundant life if it isn't health and wealth and prosperity? It surely doesn't mean being in a state of hunger or want or infirmity. I'm really not ok with that.
Question after question asked, psalm after psalm read, I identified with David and was as determined as he was to, despite my lack of understanding and answers, trust God and not walk away from Him. I had to be in this place of being completely emptied of my self; of all the chasing after happiness and self-realization while blind to the fact that my happiness had been dependent on things I could lose. Having lost my car, work, money, and independence in a short period of time, I had fallen right into a very deep pit that looked familiar to where I was following my divorce in 2004, but deeper. Didn't think that was possible, but there I was.
Nowhere to go, nothing to do, in pain (in more ways than one), feeling isolated, Leland and I alternately clung to each other and hurt each other out of our desperation, confusion, and exhaustion, or we attempted to protect one another by not speaking at all. What else to do but search? I so wanted answers to my questions, and I wanted even more to hear from God Himself.
Lord, I'm empty, ready and willing to be filled. Please, show me what I need to know.
The answer came in the form of 2 incredible books; the first, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. If you haven't read it, please do. It reads like poetry, and the author is refreshingly down-to-earth, honest, and transparent. She speaks to the reader from the humble place of her own personal struggle with pain and loss, witnessing the death of her baby sister, and from her real and messy life as a farmer's wife and home-schooling mother of 6 kids--not the perfectly coiffed, made-up, and designer label-adorned TV personality who speaks from the comfort of her gated, multimillion dollar home. She leads readers to the place of rest and comfort through what she calls a "joy dare." It's the challenge to write 1,000 gifts we see every day but would ordinarily overlook, and in the midst of pain. That's why this thanks offering is called a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). It can seem so mechanical when tears are welling in your eyes, but seeing God in the ordinary and being grateful really is transforming. The book was such a treasure I bought the devotional.
The second book is Desperate Hope, by Candi Pearson-Shelton.This is Candi's story of her and her friends' and family's journey through the illness and passing of her much-loved brother, Rick, in 2005. Rick was 22, a worship leader, Christ-follower, and engaged to be married when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The book wrecked me for so many reasons, and all for the good. This story, all by itself, should be read by everyone tempted by those false teachers on radio and TV who are making millions by duping people with their lies, claiming God wants everyone to be healed (until they're not, then it's Satan's doing) and financially prosperous, and you will see that God absolutely has a purpose in pain and answers prayer through suffering. Everyone who knew Rick knows how beautifully God answered his fondest prayer, and what a win-win the story is. Read it. And don't ever doubt this truth: God is Sovereign and He is in control.
So many great resources have crossed my path--yea for the internet! Every time, the message points to everything counter-intuitive or counter-culture. No surprise, since that is exactly like Jesus. But how to sort out what I've been hearing in any sort of orderly fashion? That will be my goal for the next post, as well as to let you in on opportunities we've had to move forward in our walk with Jesus.