Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Friend in Your Time of Need

Today I got a call from one of my dearest friends.  I had put a call into her and not 5 minutes later she called me back! It was like a refreshing rain (if you live in the desert) or (if you live where I live and it rains all the time) a blue-sky sunshiny day after many many days of grey and rain.
We chatted and chatted and shared experiences that we have had in common recently. We listened to each other's stories...and you know what?  She doesn't live next door to me.  In fact, she lives on the other side of Canada...we are on opposite coasts.  I wish she lived next door.  But perhaps in heaven we can dash over to each other's houses and have a coffee or tea, laugh and cry, and give each other a hug but for now that phone call was a life-line for me.
For those of you who have moved a lot - moving provides the opportunity to meeting new people. It also has many days of loneliness.  Being alone of not great when you're going through a hard time...the times that ultimately refine you. Us girls need our girlfriends.  I am thankful for the phone and social networks especially in these times.
I have many wonderful friends who are a massive gift to me, but this one, she is one of the extra sparkly jewels. We were roommates in college, we dated our future husbands at the same time, we did music together, we got married around the same time, I was in her wedding and she in mine, we had our first 2 kids together...we've moved waaaay to much. We are knitted together through our love for God and doing life together to begin with and now keeping in touch. She is one of those friends who I may not talk to for 6 months or a year but when we talk it's as if no time has elapsed.
Today God used her to bolster my faith, and also to just strengthen me to face the day.  I am thankful for my friend. I am thankful for her call today.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Debt Free

Last summer we were in a massive amount of debt...something like $70,000. And we could not see a way out of it and it was crushing us.  We weren't making enough money to pay it off over time.  We were drowning. It was overwhelming, embarrassing, and extremely stressful.  
We began to pray. We began to plead with God to help us find a way out.  My mom had given us Dave Ramsey's course and we bought his book "The Total Money Make-Over" to start to educate ourselves about this stuff.  We really knew nothing about money nor how to manage it.  We did our best but obviously that wasn't good enough.  We started to look around and see that our monthly living expenses where way too high.  Our lives looked REALLY good. We lived in a really nice house. We drove a pretty much new nice car.  We looked really good. Beyond the facade was a completely different picture.  And admittedly I did not want to take a step back and deal with it because I liked how our life looked...even if it wasn't real.  My husband patiently waited for me to come around. He didn't bug me. He didn't say a word. He simply prayed. And after a year of that God changed my heart...that was around last summer. 
Then we started implementing what we were learning. We did tons of little stuff...but we did massive stuff as well. We sold stuff, got rid of my pretty car...so now I was car-less( not fun for a girl who loves her freedom that a car provides), and we moved from the lovely little safe town and pretty house.  We moved to a more blue collar neighborhood. It's not as cool to say our address now. People's eyebrows don't go up approvingly when I mention our new address as they did when I mentioned our old one.   I will not lie and say "Wow that was fun!" but I will say "Wow! It's worth it!" 
BUT...even all of that wasn't enough.  We still weren't making it, believe it or not.  More circumstances came up beyond our control that completely snowed us in yet again.  We kept praying, and stressing, and praying.  But mostly we were stressing. My mom was right there with us praying and stressing and helping us by taking care of the girls...getting them out of the stress as often as she could. 
In the midst of all of this I received a phone call from my side of the family saying that they were going to send us money to help tide us over and get us through. That completely COMPLETELY floored us.  I don't think I have the words to describe what a gift that was to us...not just financially but mentally.  Someone believed in us enough to help see us through! I sobbed...I rarely cry.  I sobbed. We talked it through and decided the best thing would be to put that money towards debt.  So we did. With that we had one debt remaining and it was a personal debt to another family member.  Being released from most of our debt was a major load off of our backs...but the personal debt weighed VERY heavily on us.  
On this past Monday we received a card and were told not to open it until we were together.  OK.  So that evening we opened the card together and we were completely blown away again...our personal debt to that family member was completely forgiven.  WOW!  Another massive gift.  A boost in moral in the midst of the storm.  
AND with that...we are completely debt free! 
Most of it was not by any of our strength.  We made some tough un-fun decisions for sure.  But God heard our cries. He moved on the hearts of people. Those people responded and blessed us.  And here we stand the beneficiaries...debt free!!!!!!!!!! I am in awe. I am still taking it all in and have to pinch myself often.  Debt free!  Not many are given that gift they work years and years to be able to say that.  Wise stewardship is in order and required. Nothing less will do. 

Keep Going...but only with His help.

You know those times in life when every step you take you have give yourself a pep talk that "really! Keep GOING!" It takes tenacity and intestinal fortitude. It takes reaching waaaaaaaay down deep.  The past nearly 10 months (as you well know if you follow this blog) have been beyond that.  That wasn't even enough.  In the midst of all the chaos and struggle and just trying to keep going I forgot one little thing...but one thing that makes the utmost difference...prayer.  I mean I prayed.  But I didn't work at it. I didn't spend time on my knees really really praying specifically...not for us and not for anyone else.  All the noise of life simply took over and drowned out the very thought never mind the action.
I've always been someone who prays pretty much all day. God and I, we have a non-stop conversation...as that is basically what prayer is. I talk to Him and He talks to me. I ask for wisdom and He gives it to me. I thank Him for His mercy towards me...I thank Him for a never ending list of things. I pray for my husband and children and extended family and our friends...and my enemies.  I don't pray or believe in God as a safeguard or as an insurance. I pray because God tells us to pray to Him and over time I have obeyed and I have found the joy in it and the blessing regardless of the outcome or circumstances. There is a peace that defies all understanding in it.
When I don't pray my attitude is not pretty. I have no patience.  I feel far from people and relationships ans I really don't care.  When I don't pray life seems beyond overwhelming. When I don't pray I feel very lost.  When I don't pray I get depressed and can't see light from dark.  It's like, in a way, I'm blind and fumbling around. I often feel out of control emotionally...a deep seated rage.
In contrast, when I do pray, no matter what life brings God undergirds me with the strength to see it through. He gives me peace that I cannot explain in the midst of it all other than to say "It's God!". He gives me joy even when it does not make sense.  I do not have the same mental frailness that would be mine but for Him.
And here is a funny thing I have noticed...that even when I don't pray God still blesses me.  He still loves me. He still disciplines me.  He still walks beside me.  He does not leave.  He is a father who loves no matter what.
This past weekend I was reminded of the need for prayer. I am so very thankful for that reminder.  It was a massive gift to me. So I'm back at praying.  Circumstances have not altered but I have...thanks to Him and His gentle reminders.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Your Very Essence

You might think this post would be about God with a title like that right?  No...not this time...it's about my husband.  My mom, Shaun and I were talking and we were discussing how, when you really love someone, you love who they are...their essence...the very core of them. As the movie Avatar said "I see you".  You see them.  Really and truly see them.  It doesn't matter what wrappings they come in..We all know our physical appearance changes over the years no matter what we do.  We all know when we look into a marriage and that part is missing.  It's blatantly obvious, especially to those who have experienced being seen by the one they love. When a couple can't or doesn't see each other it's heartbreaking for them and the ones who love them.
My husband and I have have the gift of that kind of relationship. We see each other.  We know each other. We love the very essence of each other.  It doesn't matter that over the years both of us got thicker and now we're thinner.  It really doesn't.  It doesn't matter what we look like externally EVER (...although I have to say he is a hotty!  I mean look at that face!)  It doesn't matter that life gets so stressful at times and it gets much harder to "see" each other.  We still do.  It doesn't matter that there are bad days or months. It doesn't matter when others try to get in the middle...they can't!  It simply doesn't matter.
Shaun I love you. I love exactly who you are today. I loved exactly who you were in your yesterdays and I will love exactly who you will become in your tomorrows.  I love you. I see you.  I am thankful.  I am blessed.  You rock my world...still.
Happy 35th Birthday, my love.