He Is Faithful

great-is-your-faithfulness

 

At a recent Bible Study, we were each given a black stone and encouraged to identify it with a fear. Then we walked up to the large pot filled with water, cast it into the pot to symbolically cast it out of our lives, and were handed a new shiny jewel-like stone with just one word written across it. A word prayed over so that each recipient might be given the one special jewel that the Lord wanted to use to speak His love directly into her heart.

I walked back to my chair and sat down before looking at my beautiful stone. The word written on it was Faithfulness. I put my head on the table in front of me and cried.

It’s 2016 but this exercise takes my mind back several years to a dark and difficult season.

2002 began with my husband discussing his decision with me to give up the ministry credentials he had held for over 20 years. The Lord had never led us to work on a full-time ministry staff, even though we had been working as part-time associates and sending out ministry resumes off and on for all those years. He was feeling that it was time to change course and knew for sure at that point that full-time ministry was not what we were supposed to be doing. At that time, we were a little ways out from a former part-time associate position and we had not found another local church to comfortably settle in. I could no longer call myself a minister’s wife, and church friendships, for a time, had become a thing of the past.

I had also begun homeschooling our children the previous year and so my school mom friendships had pretty much come to a halt as well. We didn’t know many homeschoolers in our area.

February rounded the corner with news that my husband had been laid off from the job he had had for over 20 years. The company had downsized and my husband was a casualty.

It was becoming apparent that my husband’s instincts, that it was time to change course, were correct.

All of our supports had been pulled out from under us in a very short amount of time. Friends, church, school, ministry, and finally job had all vanished.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

After trying unsuccessfully for months to find a job where we were living in Texas, a job was found in Oklahoma that summer near where my parents lived.  During that summer, we were living with my parents while trying to sell our house in Texas. On one of our trips back to mow and check on the house, our van caught fire on the side of the highway in Thackerville, Oklahoma. By the time the local volunteer fire department got there, it was fully engulfed and we had lost luggage, clothing, glasses, shoes, and some bedding. It was our one vehicle and it was covered with only liability insurance.

And then 3 months later at the end of the summer, that new job was also lost. Over time, we have come to believe that job’s purpose was to simply get us to Oklahoma and it was the vehicle God used to get us here.

While still reeling from the shock of two lost jobs within the same year, our house in Texas mercifully sold and we were officially Oklahomans. All of our belongings were put into a storage unit and we continued to stay with my parents while beating the pavement yet again.

Since we were without adequate health insurance coverage, I decided to go down to the local DHS office to sign our kids up for Soonercare. I cried my way through the process with a very kind, God-sent social worker. Government assistance had never been on my radar as I pictured my life’s travels.

Shortly after that humbling day, our 5-year-old daughter broke her arm and I found myself in a pediatrician’s office with her ~ a recently transplanted homeschooling mom with a husband out of work, living in the boondocks outside of town with my parents, a daughter with a broken arm, and our kids on the state’s Medicaid program.

After hearing our daughter moan in the exam room that “no one will let me tell how it really happened!” (because she had been trying to climb down off the desk and had not just fallen off as I had been saying), the pediatrician walked back through the exam room door a few minutes later and yelled, “Boo!” to her fairly loudly. She just stared at him like she wondered what in the world he was doing. I was positive at that moment that we had been red-flagged as a possible child abuse case, but we knew no one in town yet who could vouch for our family stability. Fortunately nothing ever came of that, but I am still positive we were red-flagged that day.

To say that I was beginning to fall into a period of depression and overwhelming anxiety would be an understatement. It was a full-blown fight for my sanity. And I didn’t have much fight in me.

Great is Thy faithfulness. Great is Thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.

My husband was nearing 50 years of age, his degree was in Christian ministry, and his work experience, although long-term in Dallas, was in the vending services industry and, for whatever reason, he was not being looked at favorably by potential employers.

With no other options coming available and dwindling savings, he eventually began selling insurance in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and we have worked over the past several years to build that business, starting with zero dollars, and receiving payment through a commission-only system. It’s been a slow and painful process for us.

During that time, God miraculously provided a house for us in a location that would double as a small home as well as an office for my husband. We purchased it from a heaven-sent Christian man who sold it to us, owner-financed, even though we had no appreciable income to justify it. That transaction baffles us to this day. We still own the property. God’s merciful hand of faithfulness in the midst of our pain.

I was very grateful to be in Oklahoma near my parents because I knew that if or when they became in need of assistance, it would most likely fall on my shoulders. For various reasons, I was the obvious sibling to be most easily uprooted, and 5 years ago it proved to be a blessing as my mother became ill and passed away after a difficult 6-month illness. I was so fortunate to be living across the field from them at that point and to help with her caretaking along with my dad. Again, God’s merciful hand of faithfulness in the midst of pain.

The church we fell in love with, Christ Community Church in Ardmore, became a lifeline to us as the messages our pastor preached every week were balm to our souls and sent healing down to our very bones. I cannot imagine my life without Tim’s preaching during my life’s most turbulent years and I feel so blessed to have found such a wonderful connection in our church.

“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me, your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” Psalm 40:11

I was doing quite a bit of journaling during those dark days and some of my entries read, “Why can’t I trust?? Why can’t I shake this fear that controls my life?? I’m so tired and weary. It’s taking too long…” “I’ve become so fearful of the future over the last two years that it has hampered my life…I’ve never experienced the depths of despair like I have recently…I don’t want to be like this.”

In His time, in His time. He makes all things beautiful in His time…

Life has a way of ebbing and flowing. As time went on, I was able to begin journaling more along the lines of “God is so good and I have been much better these days than in the past… My faith level is up tremendously from this time last year and I’m hanging on pretty well aside from just being tired of the stress. I can take comfort in the fact that all things are under His control and, although times get rough, I am never out of His hand or His will if I’m seeking it with my whole heart. Fear is taking a backseat to faith and it is a blessed place to be!”

“For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Psalm 117:2

As I was beginning to slowly come back to life, the thought came to me that if I ever decided to write a book, I would write one entitled “From Fear to Faith.” I was feeling so grateful that the overwhelming weight of depression was beginning to lift and I was no longer in the 24/7 throes of despair to the point of out-of-control anxiety and of being comfortable with the idea that God could welcome me to my heavenly home at any time and I’d be happy for it.

I will fast-forward a few years and simply say that the title of that book I had thought about writing has been changed from “From Fear to Faith” to “From Fear to Faith: The Journey Continues.”

Our lives since those most turbulent years have had additional joys and pains, highs and lows.

Some highs ~ A new small but perfect-for-us home built in the country near my dad, my present work situation with 2 part-time jobs that I love and suit me well, friendships here like I never knew in Texas, 3 homeschool graduates, and a grocery budget with a little bit of breathing room.

Some lows ~ A fairly recent job loss for me due to internal restructuring of the business, continuing financial stresses, an adult child who claims God doesn’t exist, and a few scary health issues that we still hold our breath over but seem to have resolved themselves for the present time.

During those times of life that still dip into the valley, it is hard not to return to my anxieties and fears. I have a tendency to rehash old memories and can still quickly fall into despair. But these days I have the first-hand experience that God is ever-faithful, He has never left me alone in the pit, and He is worthy to be trusted.

Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word. ~ Andrae Crouch

It’s a learning process ~ From Fear to Faith: The Journey Continues.

God takes us on our life’s journey and teaches us that He is God and we are not. He is faithful and we can trust. He is Lord and we are very much loved.

Corrie Ten Boom is quoted as saying, “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.” I cannot compare my suffering to hers, but I wouldn’t mind going the rest of my life never hearing another person lament that they will die if they don’t get a larger home for their family or that their dishwasher is broken.

Experiencing God’s faithfulness first-hand in the midst of difficulties is worth all the years of financial loss, living in cramped quarters while raising children, and hand-washing dishes.

And I can’t stop here without also encouraging all of us to purposefully pass the baton of God’s faithfulness to the next generation. As our children see us stand on the rock-solid foundation of God’s faithfulness, their own faith journeys will start out on much firmer footing. What a legacy to leave our children.

“Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe and the lives we live inspire them to obey. Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.” ~ Steve Green

“For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:5

Faithfulness. A word written on a beautiful shiny stone hand-delivered to me, in timely fashion, by a blessed Bible teacher and my loving Lord who is ever faithful to all of His children.