I’ve been reflecting on what God has done in my life over the last two years, and I don’t want to keep His goodness to myself, so I’d like to share some of our story. (I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures and my wordiness!)
The hard part is figuring out where to begin…
By nature, I’m a fairly independent, self-motivated, self-reliant person. What I didn’t realize until recently was how much my self-reliance stunk of pride. I’ve always been a go-getter. If there was something that needed to be done, I did it. If there was something that needed to be fixed, I fixed it. (I sometimes even fixed things that didn’t need to be fixed.) If there was a problem, I could analyze it and conjure up a (usually) practical solution.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely good to be a hard worker, but it’s also good to know when to leave things alone and to trust God. I didn’t have that balance down. Up until the beginning of our marriage, I had never had to trust God with anything big. Everything in life had been pretty well managed by me. Then, God began doing something beautiful. He began taking my false pretense of control away. He began showing me that I couldn’t figure out everything on my own; that I couldn’t direct my own life. He did it by taking things away from me.
At the beginning of our marriage we were happy DINKs (Double Income, No Kids). It’s funny to look back at that time now (you know, hind-sight is 20/20). At the time, I had a tendency to be somewhat tight-fisted with our money. I knew we were comfortable financially, but never saw our situation as abundant. I was cautious. I planned. I budgeted. I was “in control”.
And then we got pregnant, and when Clara was born, I stayed home with her. Allen and I both always knew that was what we wanted, so when the time came, it was an easy decision for us. And our income was cut in half. And there were three of us now instead of just two. So, I became even more tight-fisted, even more cautious, even more “in control”.
And then, when Clara was four months old (yes, seriously, four months… not a typo) I was pregnant again (surprise!). And the economy started turning down. Macy Jane was born and out of necessity Allen started his own business. Now, in case you don’t know experientially, starting your own business is hard work… and the first years don’t typically pay well. We lived day-to-day. Our needs were always met, but things were t-i-g-h-t. For awhile I was pretty stressed, always worrying about future needs, but in the midst of it, I began to seek God more and heard Him question my heart, “Brooke, do you have food to eat today? Do you have clothes to wear and a roof over your head today? I know that you don’t have what you think you need for tomorrow, but tomorrow is not here yet. I am taking care of you today, and I’m already in your tomorrow. I’ll take care of you there too. Rest in Me.” And so, I began to release the control that I thought I had. The burden was lifted from my shoulders.
Because Allen worked for himself, he didn’t have a consistent paycheck, so we didn’t know what our financial status looked like until the end of the year when he did his taxes… and that, I’m sure is a blessing. At the end of the year, we discovered that with a family of four, we lived on half of what we had lived on as a family of three, and one-fourth what we had lived on as happy DINKs. And, unbelievably, I would describe that year and the year that followed as the two best years of our marriage (to date).
Had we known what to expect at the beginning of that year, I know I would have panicked, refused to live that way, and “fixed it”… and as a result, I would have missed out on all that God taught me through the experience. I’m thankful that we didn’t have an overall picture of our salary for the year until the year was over and we had already survived it! And truly, it’s amazing to reflect on those two years, knowing what we lived on, and knowing how we lived. It just doesn’t add up. We should have been p.o.o.r. Seriously. And though I was constantly aware of how tight our budget was, I never felt poor or deprived of any good thing. Mathematically, the numbers simply don’t compute. But, there’s no equation that factors in the goodness of God and His provision for His people. God showed me His power and deepened my faith and trust in Him through this experience.
Throughout the same two years, my health very gradually decreased, and my weight very gradually increased. At a time when I desperately wanted to find a creative way to help our family financially, I no longer had the clearness of mind to plan or the energy to execute any grandiose ideas that I came up with.
And then, sweet Clara, got sick, and we simply couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She got terrible welts all over her body that would unexplainably appear, disappear, and re-appear in different locations. Her stomach hurt all the time. She didn’t want to be hugged or tickled – ever – because even the lightest touch hurt her belly. She didn’t seem like the same girl at all. Our pediatrician said it was just hives caused by a bug bite and that benadryl would fix it. WRONG. We didn’t have answers or the resources to find the answers. We felt helpless. And it turns out that when we’re at the point that we realize we’re helpless, that’s the very best place to be. Helplessness, or brokenness, forces us to focus on and depend on God like nothing else. It humbles us, and that’s what I needed in my life.
Those two years are over. We have “turned a corner”. Allen was offered his dream job, so he no longer works for himself… and it turns out that he likes his new boss better than his old one (I couldn’t resist!). Clara received expensive medical treatment from some amazing doctors who very quickly discovered what was wrong and effectively treated her. I have just begun (even more expensive) treatment at the same facility, and have already been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (a form of hypothyroidism), which explains all of my symptoms, and my health has already begun to improve. And God has provided for all of our needs each step of the way, including for our medical expenses.
At this point, I should feel intense relief because our circumstances are improving. And I do. But I also feel some uneasiness. When things were hard, it was obvious that I had no control, and I had to depend on God like never before. But now, we’re slipping back into comfortable living. Our needs are met for today and tomorrow and we’re healthy (or getting there). Will I forget what God has taught me? Will I slip back into self-dependence and pride? I pray not. Now, I can truly say that I would rather live in poverty for the Lord than live in excess for myself.
Here’s what I learned during those two lean years that I don’t want to forget…
- to thank God for His provision today and to trust Him for His provision tomorrow.
- to seek God and wait patiently on Him.
- to be joyfully content in want.
- even at our poorest, we are still richer than the majority of the world.
- to let go.
- in a stuff-driven world, to appreciate, and strive for, simplicity.
- to give sacrificially.
- I learned that God detests pride, even in the form of my self-reliance, and that when I am unwilling to humble myself, He will humble me because He loves me too much to allow me to continue living relying only on myself, apart from Him.
- I began to truly understand that He is my strength and my happiness and I will not find those things anywhere else.
- to get my priorities straight and live according to them.