Photo Credit: © 2006 Lynne Holder

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Surprise #3: Grace

On Monday of this week, my phone rang and a number showed up on the caller ID that I didn't recognize, which always makes me nervous given our history.

Hello?, I said, quietly and cautiously.

The pleasant voice at the other end announced herself as Lisa, the assistant to the Stewardship Director at our church, Fellowship Bible Church. She said she was calling to follow up on our previous conversation.

A little back story here: I had called several months ago asking if the church had any recently donated cars that they might consider letting me have. I had applied for a job about 20 miles north of home and I knew transportation was an issue since public transportation does not extend that far and the fact that Leland's photography bookings took priority over any job I might have. Since our bankruptcy, obtaining a car was problematic, and I had zero dollars for a downpayment. Lisa told me that they hadn't received any donations lately, but she would keep me in mind if one came up. I thanked her, and that was the end of the story.

So I thought.

Back to the phone call, slightly embarrassed, I asked her to refresh my memory, which resembles something like Swiss cheese of late. She reminded me of the car request and said she was curious as to how it worked out.

Letting a little laugh escape, I told her that her call was timely, and very considerate. I launched into the sad story of how my "great job" had turned into the biggest nightmare in recent months. I couldn't help the tears that flowed, and the shaky voice.

When I told her the part of how I was told to leave my job, she gasped a little, then suggested taking advantage of the counseling services the church offers. Having logged many hours pre- and post-divorce sitting in a counselor's office, and knowing in my heart where my help comes from (it comes from the Lord, as the Pslamist said), I told her I would consider it, but I wasn't really interested in just sitting and talking. I wanted to DO something--like WORK--so we could continue eating and living indoors!

Lisa asked me if she could make an appointment for us with Kevin Cross, the Stewardship Director, and I agreed that Leland and I would come Wednesday at 3:00. I had heard Kevin speak at church and I knew a tiny bit of his story, but was anxious to meet him and get to talk to him face-to-face.

Wednesday, around noon, my phone rang with another number on caller ID that I didn't recognize. Since the sky hadn't fallen on me the last time, I wasn't nervous about answering this time. It was Kevin. He told me that he needed to leave unexpectedly on account of a family emergency, but wanted to speak with me first.

Lisa had already told him about our conversation. He offered that it sounded like we were having a rough time and he wanted to know what our financial situation was; what bills we were behind on, what we needed. I gave him the rundown, and told him our car needed about $1,000 worth of repairs.

What I heard Kevin say next took my breath away.

Here's what I'm gonna do. I want you to bring your mortgage statement, and other bills to Lisa at the church. I'm paying next month's mortgage and catching you up on healthcare coverage fees. I'm going to call Carl at Roswell Auto and tell him you're going to drop your car off. I'm going to pay for him to fix your car.

GASP, was all I could manage. More tears, more quaking voice, and a muffled thank you!  

At the appointed time we met Lisa and handed over our documents while Leland and I were spending a ton of mental and emotional energy trying to process what was happening to us. It felt surreal, to be honest. To that point, our lives were largely a string of disappointment, save for the grace of sweet respite in time with family, and joy when we had work on the calendar.

To our surprise, Kevin suddenly breezed around the corner. He's tall. He's full of energy, magnetic even, and met us with warm greetings. We talked for about an hour, during which I was taken aback by the vision he had for the 2 people sitting in front of him that he didn't really know, but instantly started forming a future story about.

I remember him saying something about dreaming, to which I replied, I don't dream anymore. I felt instantly sad to hear myself say it, having once been a big dreamer, but in my heart I knew my dreams were selfish; dreams of personal achievements, a better house, replacing our old car, and my favorite dream--my horse farm and a pasture full of horses.

The death of dreams can be very painful, but even though I have been very sad, deep down I have hope that the loss will be redeemed by God, replacing the dreams I've surrendered with HIS dreams for me. Way better, I suspect.

The short time we spent with Kevin was such an encouragement, I can't even begin to communicate it. As we said our goodbyes, Kevin blurted out, Oh, I almost forgot! He ran to his desk and handed me a $100 VISA gift card, on which he had written, "Enjoy your trip!" This will get you to Charlotte for Christmas, he said. Another hug, another thank you. I think I had run out of tears.

We left him to prepare for his flight to see family, with 3 books he handed to us, hearts with hope instead of despair, renewed faith in God and His timing and ways of working in our lives, and still with that surreal feeling of, Is this actually happening?

I devoured one of the new books, Kevin's own story, Embezzlement--A True Crime Story. I can't recommend it enough. It was crime drama and suspense, a story of brokenness and renewal, a life transformed, and many examples of what living and leveraging our money for God's glory looks like. I was stunned when I closed it. I will never look at money the same way again.

As I finished the book, Leland got a call from the mechanic's shop, saying the car was ready for pick-up (a relief, since it had been there 2 days and we were hoping to depart on time for Charlotte). Without hesitation, Leland was out the door, fleece hat snugly over his South Florida-born head, for the walk to Roswell Auto.

As simple as thank-you sounds, it comes from a heart overflowing with gratitude to Kevin, Lisa, and the church at FBC Roswell. We are grateful for your giving hearts, and for that, I am hoping this little blog will bring glory to God in the telling of the story. God bless you!

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