First I'll give you a little background about Dave and I. Of course, I'll try not to repeat stuff I've already written about. When we got married 12 1/2 years ago, both of us had dreams...big dreams. We wanted to have the American Dream. You know...a nice house, nice cars, kids, travels, all that stuff. It was all about the stuff. Well, except for our kids! They are such blessings! So, we were "there". We had a nice house, nice cars, 4 kids and traveling. The thing is that it wasn't really all that great. At some points in our marriage, we were both out to make as much money as we could. We were making 6 figures, but that involved us working long hours. That meant not much time with our kids. The more money we made, the more we spent, the more we wanted. I wasn't having much fun being a single mom on most weeknights. Dave was working 60 - 70 hour work weeks.
Looking back, God was really trying to speak to BOTH of us. Every time Dave would climb the ladder of a company and get that big title and big salary, something would happen. The company would decide to cut out it's upper management, or would suddenly go out of business, or would suddenly need to shut down a branch. After this happened for about the 3rd or 4th time, our savings kept dwindling. You think we would get the hint! Of course not! You see...at that time Dave was our provider...not God, or at least that's what we thought.
When I quit working to stay home with our children, it was the best decision I made. It just didn't seem worth it to put our kids in a day care for 10 or 12 hours while we worked. Although I did get a part-time job about 4 years ago, but that really wasn't about the money. Remember...I work at a church. ;) The part-time job gave me balance. It got me out of the house and I got to bring Mitchell & Hailey with me while Kenzie & Amanda were in school.
Finally in September 2006, Dave and I took a Good Sense budget course at church. Probably one of the biggest strongholds on us was money. My husband would tell you that it was more of a stronghold for him, but it was for me as well. You see…I always thought that I didn’t care that much about money. I don’t spend a lot on myself, I’m not a big shopper, and I don’t need much. But the thing was…I wasn’t doing anything to change our course. God said to me: You know it BUT ARE YOU WILLING TO BE OBEDIENT! Now that is where I realized that I was right there with my hubby. Because what God meant by being obedient and what I "thought" it meant, were 2 different things.
Both Dave and I felt strongly that God was telling us to sell our house and downsize significantly. Matthew 19:21 Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” We interpreted this scripture as a way that we would be able to help the poor. We didn't know how...but we knew it would be in some way. That’s what we felt like God was saying. We then started telling our family and friends what we were doing. They thought we were crazy! This was culture vs God’s will for us. Now we didn't go sell everything, but we did sell our rental property to pay off our debt and then started to get our house ready to sell as well. We also stopped using our credit cards. We haven't used a credit card in 2 1/2 years. We just made that decision and cut them up. We kept one for emergencies, but we've never needed it. It just becomes a way of life, a decision we made, that we would only pay cash for things. It's very freeing!
Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” - So we had to make a choice.
The choice we made was to get out of debt. After we stopped using credit cards, sold our rental property and paid off debt, we started to get our house ready to sell. We decided that we would refinance first. One night we got together with some friends to play cards. That night we got to know a couple who are realtor's. We were telling them our story and how we were going to refi first. They recommended that we didn't do that, but we really felt like we needed to do that first. So, we went ahead and started to prepare for that.
A few days later, I was at the women's retreat. I was sharing with the women in my group about our plans and they were so amazed that we would do that. I felt so encouraged by their words. During a silent retreat that weekend God reminded me of my dream to help the homeless. I’ve always wanted to own an apartment building so I could allow homeless people to live in many of the units for free as they got on their feet. I would help them find jobs and teach them how to live a biblical life. I thought my biggest obstacle was not enough money. On March 10, 2007 I put my dream on paper. This was taken right from my journal. Even now looking back at this, I had no clue what these words would really mean to me in the months and years to come.
God speaks to me through the material and scripture. 3 qualities that excite God and make Him want to get involved in our pursuits:
- Humility – Do you have a humble and teachable spirit? (I wrote that I’m trying to, especially financially)
- Courage – God wants us to be courageous and to be set apart. It pleases Him when His children dare to step out of the crowd.
- Loyalty – Being loyal isn’t hard. The test is when storms come, remaining loyal.
- He kept doing it by taking away Dave’s jobs. Because they were always about money.
- Colossians 3:23 says “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites."
Ok - so keep in mind that I wrote that stuff on March 10.
On Monday, March 19, 2007 Dave lost his job. I was grocery shopping and when I got into the car I noticed that I had missed a few calls from Dave. I noticed that it was his old cell phone and right then I knew he lost his job. So, I called him and indeed he was on his way home in a cab. I was pretty calm because the Lord had already prepared me for this. That night we dropped our kids off at a friend's house and went to church to pray.
On Tuesday I went to work and told my team what had happened. They told me that I seemed at peace about it. And I did. I really did. I just knew that God would take care of us and everything was going to be OK. During our team meeting I started to develop a sore throat. By the time I got home I was not feeling well at all and I got worse as the night went on. Wednesday afternoon I decided that I should get to the doctor because I knew that this was not going to get better on its own. Even after taking medication, I had a 103 fever. It turned out that I had strep throat. I got on a medication and went right back to bed. The next 2 days were terrible. I thank God that Dave had lost his job, because he was able to stay home and take care of me and the kids. There was no way I was going to be able to take care of myself, much less our children. I was sick for 2 weeks. I ended up with pneumonia and then the infection went into my bloodstream. So, it really was a blessing to have Dave at home. Thank you Lord!
After all my illnesses subsided, it was time for us to start getting to work on our house. We had already planned on selling the house in a few months. But now that Dave lost his job and our refinance fell through, we needed to get moving! Quickly! We started praying and asking God for His guidance in all of this. With no money and no job, what will we do if we sell our house? We talked about renting an apartment or town home. We would need to find something that is in our price range but that has enough room for all of us. My mom made a comment about us moving in with them. We think that’s what God wants us to do. Wow!?! Could this be true? What about my dad and his drinking? What about the space issue? Well, we decided to just get our house on the market and let God worry about where we would do. With so much to do, where would we begin? How would we ever get our house ready in just a short time? We made a list (ok, I made a list) of everything that needed to get done. Dave, being the doer of all things, just dug right in.
We told our parents that we needed help and they came to help. Without going in to all the details, it was just amazing to see all the help we had to get us started. One thing that was really neat was that Shannon Olson, a mother who lost 2 of her children within one year of each other, and whom I’ve been developing a relationship with over the past year, offered to come and help. This was amazing to see how much God has opened her heart to now helping others. I had once organized meals and cleaning for her when McKenna was sick. And now she was helping me. It seemed really surreal. Although it was awkward to me to let her help, I knew that God wanted her there. She called Cindy and they both came to help me get a start on my laundry room. It was amazing. My friend, LuAnn from church, came that week and brought us a meal. That was so great as well. In the midst of this, Rick our cook at church, sent us home with a couple of meals as well. This is just so like God and what He does for us. He is our provider!
It seems like almost every day or night we have someone helping us. Dan came one night to help Dave paint. That was neat and they had time to chat as well.
During the next few weeks Dave and I spent a lot of time seeking God. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. **This includes the promise of financial freedom."
During this time Dave was sending out resumes – 100s. He didn’t get a single response. It was like every door was slammed shut and locked! Dave had gotten some advice from someone to ask me what my dreams were and to see if we could align our dreams. Then I shared my dream of helping the homeless. He had always wanted to work in the inner city. Some how we knew our dreams would align, we just weren't sure how. Dave started having visions of starting a non-profit. We sought wise counsel and he landed at Avodah Services. This is Hosanna!’s non-profit to help people find work. The thing about this job was that it didn’t pay anything. Yes, he took it. And this was even after he was asked to consider taking a job at Midwest Challenge as the President of the company. This was a time when I remembered the scriptures and teachings from the retreat and what I had written in my journal about how God is pleased when we are courageous and we set ourselves apart from others. Well, this is what we did. Dave took a step of faith and trusted God to provide for us while he got Avodah started. How ironic is that? Dave takes a job that doesn't pay him any money. That job is to help other people find jobs. Of course, the plan was to eventually make money, but we didn't know when that would be.
Well, I'm going to stop here and I will finish when I have time to tell you. What I can tell you is that the ways that God would provide for us over the next few months was UNBELIEVABLE!
May you have the courage to step out and be obedient to what God is telling you. This is my prayer for you!
Click here to read Part 2.