I know that may strike most of you as…well…strange. But as soon as I opened them, I was immediately reminded of the tremendous love of our Father this year. Here goes nothing.
Most of you know that 2013 marked our first full year “on support.” David left the fire department at the end of 2013 to support raise full time (for 2 ministry jobs, may I add!) while I continued as a full time graduate student. We were not allowed to withdraw any salary until we got close to 100% of our salary raised. It took us 10 months, and we are still not at our true ‘100%.’ We planned for 5-6 months, worst-case scenario.
7 months in, I got a part-time job…but still have been getting paid less than I ever did (for the same job) prior to seminary. It is not much – let’s put it this way: his W-2 from October – December was the same amount as mine from July – December. We didn’t pull a paycheck for David’s work until October.
In addition to living expenses, we have been paying off my school tuition as we go so we don’t incur any debt from it. And we have had some pretty momentous medical bills along the way.
You guys, our W-2’s were collectively $22,000. I’m pretty sure we were, by America’s standards, below the poverty line. I cannot believe that number.
Yet we never went without, in the truest sense of the word. In fact, I would say we’ve lived abundantly. We never stopped our charitable giving, even when we weren’t getting paid a cent. We have treated to meals and gifts. And minus one car repair that is still being paid off, we are out of debt. I don’t say any of this to boast, except to boast in Our Heavenly Father who is true to His word. We have been transformed by the idea of “seeking first the kingdom of God” and trusting Him for the rest. I wouldn’t run my life any other way. That was our aim, and He delivered abundantly. By all Biblical standards, I would call it a miracle.
I know the details of all this aren’t important, but hopefully they illustrate the magnitude of the God we serve. My prayer is that our testimony of this past year spurs YOU on to step out into the unknown. To seek the opportunity that brings the fullness of joy in His presence. I urge you, seek first the kingdom of God! We have a long way to go to truly doing that in the fullest sense, but God has honored our small steps in that direction. He takes the little courage and trust that we have (that He works in us!) and works miracles. Taste the joy that is waiting for you in His presence, seeing Him work modern day miracles.
Raise your support in 100 days!
We came out of the training ready, expectant. The promise (ok, my heart twisted it into a promise) made me excited. “We’ll go through half of our savings and still feel like we’re “trusting God” while maintaining a position of control. Yes, Lord, I want my faith to grow! No, Lord, I don’t want to go “too far” with this test. Don’t lead me to the point of true surrender, the point where I don’t know where the next day’s manna is going to come from.” Maybe I wasn’t saying (or thinking) these words exactly, but it is where my heart was. It was exposed on day 1.
Right after David retired from the fire department, we got his “cash out” check and it was half of what we expected. He called and after hearing the department’s reasoning, he answered everything calmly with “Well, this is very disappointing…very disappointing…” Meanwhile, I was on the opposite couch and gauging from the conversation and his body language, I knew. I didn’t know whether to scream or cry. When he got off the phone, I was angry with him, that he wasn’t more mad on the phone (Christian wife A+). They needed to know how much this hurt us. They needed to know that our well-being, our very manna, was at stake. Or so I perceived. David responded calmly, “God knew this would happen, this is not a surprise to him.” Back to the drawing board – we would have to do this in shorter time than we thought.
Again, on day 100, I got angry and…scared. First, the anger. What started as a gentle nudge, “David, how many people have you called today? Who is your accountability partner?” turned into endless questions dominating my mind’s space. I couldn’t sleep. And for those of you that know me, I sleep. A lot. I was consumed. His answers, however incomplete, gave me some sense of control. “If he contacts 10 people every day, and 50% of those return his call, and 50% of those support us, we’ll be done in 2.5 months!” I couldn’t stop my heart’s own madness. I had never struggled with anxiety more than a fleeting thought, and here I was – drowning in it.
Then, the promise in the midst of the testing.
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Seek first the kingdom of God, don’t be primarily concerned with manna! Every time I was faced with a tempting thought to withhold generosity: to cancel our monthly charitable giving, to make the woman we were ministering to day and night pay for her own meals, to stay at our free apartment even though we didn’t have time to do the ministry that came with it…again, “Seek first…” echoed in my mind and heart. Give it up, give it all up for His kingdom. He will take care of you.