It was December, 2004. I'm sure of the date because I was pregnant with our fourth child. I tend to catagorize major life events around where we lived or which children were/were not born yet. I'll have to amend this dating system, because barring a miracle, we are done having kids. Regardless, I will always remember this moment in time with crystal clarity.
We lived in Central Florida, a part of Florida that had scoffed at hurricanes because "we're so far inland." Perhaps those scoffers needed to study a map a bit closer as the state isn't really all that wide and is surrounded by water! This year, all of Florida got a wake up call to the destruction and far reaching effects of hurricanes...even to inland counties. Four storms crossed the state that year, all of them crossing with in miles of one another and with in the short time frame of 2 months. It was the only time in history that four storms affected the same state.
The finances at the small church we were serving at were greatly effected. In order to give them the stability they needed, my husband volunteered to work gratis for a time until the financial footing of the congregation could be restored. We were serving in a support role (Family Pastors) and the Senior Pastor gratefully agreed to this arrangement. Two months later, we had burned through what little saving we had and my husbands free-lance design work was not enough to feed the family and pay the bills and we still were not back on payroll. Clearly, something had to give. Either he needed to be released from the position so that he could pursue full-time free lance or he needed to be paid for his time at the church.
After meeting with the pastor, we found the finances just were not there for us to continue in full-time ministry at the church. He agreed to a severance package of what we understood to be two months of pay (Nov/Dec) and we set a date for our last Sunday sometime in November.
The first week of December rolled around and I pulled into the parking lot to pick up what would be the third of four checks (two months, paid twice monthly). I walked into the office of the book-keeper and she tearfully told me that she made out the check, but the pastor told her that we had agreed to TWO PAY PERIODS severance pay, not TWO MONTHS and would not sign the check. I assured her that this misunderstanding did not take God by surprise and we would be fine. I walked out to my van and bawled my eyes out.
Knowing that the church was indeed dire financial shape, my husband chose not to push the issue or seek clarification, rather to trust God to provide. Easy for him, he did not manage the money every month!! I knew the mortgage payment was already past due by a few days, we had no groceries and only $60 in the bank. It was the first week of DECEMBER and I had three little boys to make Christmas happen for. Although we only purchase three gifts for them anyways, it still wouldn't happen at all without some money from somewhere.
On top of the stress and pressure this would naturally put upon a mama, I was 5 months pregnant. Talk about weepy and emotional! I remembered all the phrases and verses about how God provides and sustains and tried very hard to meditate on them, but circumstances kept choking out what little hope I could scrape together. I shared our situation with a few friends in our homeschool support group, not hoping they could take up an offering, rather sincerely desiring prayer for my doubting spirit.
A few days went by and although we'd recieved a few bags of groceries, the mortgage was still unpaid and there didn't seem to be any hope that my husband would pick up enough work on such short notice to make ends meet. I was desperately trying to hold myself together in spite of our bank account. Peace eluded me, I couldn't sleep, I was nervous, restless and irritable. With a deep need to find some solace, I picked up a book I had purchased over the summer and headed to the bathroom (the only room in the house that little boys can NOT follow thier momma into). The book, "Praying God's Word" by the lovely Beth Moore.
It fell open to the chapter on Unbelief and as I read her devotional opening to the chapter, I identified with her story. She talked about how when God wants to get your attention, it seems that you will hear the same message in several different ways. The Sunday morning sermon, the scripture reading on the radio station, an encouraging card from a friend...I have had that happen several times to me. She shared a particular time in her own life when the message seemed to be on "Believing God" and how she was offended that God would continually prompt her spirit with such a message. After all, she had grown up in church! Of course she believed in God! I understood her indignation, as I grew up in church myself. The Holy Spirit checked her and said, "I didn't ask if you believed IN me, I wonder if you BELIEVE ME. Do you believe I will do what I say I will do? Am I able to deliver on the promises found in the word?"
Wow. Immediately upon reading those words, I was deeply convicted. I had such familiararity with God and his promises that I was cavalier about how much he truly cared for my little family! I found as I reflected on where I placed my trust, I was very dependent on those paychecks for provision instead of realizing who was ultimately in charge of making sure my husband got paid!
In Beth's story, she too was convicted and prayed the prayer of the man in Mark 9:24, "Lord I believe, Help my unbelief!" I began to weep and seek repentance for not trusting God to take care of us and our needs. But then in an impatient moment of humanity, I said, "I want to trust you, I do! I know you will take care of us, I do! But could you just give me little sign right NOW, that would help me know it so much better."
God is so sweet with us and our childish ways. Speaking of children, mine were clamoring outside the bathroom door with important, life altering questions like, "Mom, can you come out and fix us some lunch?" "I hear you crying in there, are you hurt?" "Can you make him give me back that toy!?" Reality crept in on my stolen moments with the Lord and I began to close the book to come out and take care of thier little crises when a small, yet thick and heavy, business sized envelope slipped out of the book into my lap. On the front was scrawled our family's name in blue ink. While I wondered what this was, I also was trying to think when I might have slipped it in the book. You know...when someone hands you something and you slip it in your Bible or purse to open later? I couldn't remember ever being anywhere with that book, in fact, I hadn't even looked at that book almost since I first had purchased it. It had been on a bookcase in my bedroom. I hadn't loaned it out, so it was a real mystery where the envelope came from.
While I pondered the questions of where did this come from, who had my book, and what was inside, I opened the envelope.
Oh my friends, God is so sweet. Remember my asking for a sign? Inside that envelope was a STACK. OF. CASH. As I counted it out, I began to simultaneously weep with greater repentance and yelp with shock and surprise. I remember getting to $300 and thinking, "There's still more in my other hand!!" It was $500 in cash. We have never figured out the earthly person that placed it there, for all I know, it could have been supernaturally planted there by angels at my point of need. What I do know is that God provided for us the most miraculous month ever.
I love how the Body of Christ responds to needs. God began to prompt friends and aquaintances to minister to us in ways as simple as bags of groceries and as marvelous as money in Christmas cards. Black garbage bags showed up on our doorstep full of gifts for the boys. We came home one evening and there was a tree propped in the corner of the porch. Over the course of the month, we received over $2500 in cash, gift cards, and checks. About $1700 of that was anonymously given, including that first very miraculous $500.
God seriously showed up and helped me overcome my doubts and unbeliefs in the area of provision that year. What is truly astounding to me is how patient God is with me. Would you believe I STILL struggle sometimes with trusting God to supply our needs?! When this happens, I not only take the time to reflect on scriptures and promises to the contrary, but I take the time to remember how incredibly he met our need in December of 2004. It always builds my faith and blesses me to remember. I pray that it has blessed you too. Merry Christmas!