Saturday, October 20, 2012
COM Ch 19: Blessed Be Your Name
Chapter 19: Blessed Be Your Name
Ten long years of waiting and we finally found the house that we had been looking for. After months and months of searching and praying and waiting through God’s silence, God brought us a good one. I had always wanted the opportunity to find a house where I could say, “This is it!” And when I saw it on-line, I had to say, “This is it!” Lord, You have been so good to us! Blessed be Your name!
And the Lord went over and above on this one. It met all of our needs, as well as some of our wants. It had over double the house space that we have now. There were four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large basement. We could finally put a playroom in the basement like the kids had always asked for. And Jason could put up his train tracks after ten years in storage. The boys have been so anxious for that.
It was a short sale that was in fairly good condition. Good bones, but there were several problems that would require immediate fixing and a good chunk of money. So we had to offer about $20,000 less than what they were asking. We knew it was a ridiculously lowball offer, but not unreasonable since the housing market had crashed. But we had prayed about it, and it was our strong conviction that we could only offer what we knew we could afford. If it was “meant to be,” it would happen.
So we put our offer in two days before Christmas. And just a few days later, we got the word that the owners accepted it, much to our shock and pleasure. It was quite a gift, literally! Our ten years of waiting were finally coming to an end. I don’t like moving, but this would be our last move. We could be comfortable in that place for a long time.
Not only did it have lots of space, it had a window over the kitchen sink to look outside into the fenced backyard. And the side yard was up against a cul-de-sac. And, the best part, almost all wood floors. (But they would need to get refinished.)
Unfortunately, though, the whole house would need to be repainted because the owners smoked so much that it permeated every surface of the house. And the carpet downstairs would need to get torn out because it was in terrible condition. And the biggest expense, both bathrooms would absolutely need to get torn out and redone. But we knew people who could help. (And we found out during inspection that there were high radon levels in the basement, though. There goes our dream of it being a play-space. But maybe we could find a way to remediate that?)
But on the positive side, it was only a mile or two from where we are now, in the town that I wanted to stay in. And the kids were thrilled because it was only about a mile from some good friends of theirs: a family with seven children and a friend for each of my boys. The parents are also friends of ours. So we were all blessed with that. (In fact, I used to pray, “Lord, either bring us a place in the country with chickens or a place in town right next to them.”)
I was thrilled and I was praising God for His wonderful timing and generous answer to our years of waiting and praying. And we were able to use it as a lesson to our boys of how waiting on the Lord will be rewarded, in His time and in His way!
For the first time in my life, we started looking at paint samples. I was finally able to put some of my creative ideas into action as we planned room colors. And I could look at the home and garden magazines again without feeling sorry for myself. And there was definitely room for a large enough garden in that yard. It was a little smaller than what we have now, but it was still a good size. (Well, good enough!) So I had some fun with drawing up some gardening plans and some rotation schedules. (Hey, if it’s winter and you can’t plant, you plan.)
So there we were, boxes packed up all over our small little rental. Getting totally claustrophobic! And we were set to close the next week. The only thing left to do was wait for their bank to give the final approval for the sale. We had already pushed the closing date back a month while waiting for their answer. What was taking so long? (Ah, the problem with short sales - there’s nothing short about them!) But, with the economy in such a slump and no houses selling, we were confident.
To be honest, though, we did struggle from time to time with wondering if this was really God’s Will. At one point, we felt sure that we should just walk away from the whole thing, and then a little later we would feel that it was God’s Will. We were cautiously confident and optimistic. So through it all, we prayed, “Lord, if this is Your Will, help it all work out. And if not, let their bank say ‘no’.” But who would say no to an offer like this in this economy when so many banks owned too many homes that they couldn’t sell?
I’ll tell you who! The bank that was foreclosing on this house. I never saw it coming! It was the last thing that I ever really thought would happen. A week before the closing date, the bank rejected our offer and counter-offered for only $2,000 less than the asking price. I was stunned! I couldn’t believe it! Here was a house that they were ready to foreclose on and someone was willing to buy it in a horrible economy, despite the major problems it had (which would have required at least $8,000 right off the bat to fix).
And they turn around and offer only $2,000 less? It wasn’t even a “let’s negotiate” kind of an answer, like “We’ll meet you halfway.” It was more of a . . . well, let’s just say. . . a “no way” kind of an answer. And it was way out of our price range! We had prayerfully chosen the price that we knew we could offer, and we couldn’t even come back $5,000 higher. God’s Will was clear. So we rejected it, got our earnest money back, and sat there - rather stunned - in our cramped, boxed-up living room. And it began to feel a whole lot smaller.
We were quite confused. Hadn’t God led us to this one? Hadn’t He brought us a home that fit us so well, that we could be happy with for years? That came at the right time? (Well, my idea of the right time, anyway, especially since my sinuses and throat couldn’t take much more of this moldy house.) Why had He waited until a week before closing to shut the door? How did we make a mistake about His Will when we tried so hard to listen to Him? How do we let the kids down in a gentle and godly way when we ourselves were so disappointed?
We couldn’t understand why it turned out the way it did. And it did hurt. But we knew one thing for certain. We knew that we could trust Him. We had to trust Him. We had prayed for His guidance and wisdom through the whole thing. We had prayed that He would protect us from any unwise move if He knew it wasn’t the best thing for us, even if we went forward in faith. We had decided to keep going in the process until we felt that God was telling us “no” or until He shut the door. (Not really thinking that He would actually end up doing that.)
Well, He quite obviously slammed the door on us and we didn’t know why. And I just have to say, I was so thankful that God broke me down and began rebuilding me before that . . . or I would have really been crushed! But I was learning - learning to trust in His sovereignty and His wisdom, knowing that what He did was right for us and for His glory. Even though we didn’t know why.
Yes, we were confused and disappointed (we got so, so close to all of it finally being over), but we were trying to remember who God is and what He is capable of. And we were able to use that disappointment to teach the boys a different lesson: a lesson about what true faith and obedience is, about what it means to praise God in the unknown and the pain, when we don’t get the answer to prayer that we wanted. And it was a lesson that I was having to relearn all over again. (Oh, we were so close - one week away from being out of this moldy, tiny rental.)
“God knows what He is doing, even if we don’t. He’ll provide when it is time. Our job is to wait! Pray, watch, and wait,” we told the boys.
To wait! To go back to waiting again after years of waiting! Ugh! Back to wandering the desert, and it began to feel a lot bigger and drier!
So, here we are now! It is over half a year later and the house still hasn’t sold and they are still asking the same price and we are still sitting here with unpacked boxes. We are not sure what to do at this point. We haven’t seen any other possible houses or felt His leading in any direction. And so we are continuing to pray that God would help us on our path. But since we don’t have any leading from Him, we wait still.
We are unsure if we should unpack and get comfortable or if God has something around the corner. Since I had just had baby Jackson not too long ago, I decided to just leave things packed and focus on having a new baby. It’s a good distraction. And it has given me a chance to sort through our stuff and get rid of a lot of excess. When I realized that we weren’t going anywhere, I got a panicky, cramped feeling, like I had to get rid of as much as I could since we were staying here for a while. (Oh, I pray that we are not here too much longer. But I need to prepare for it, in case we are.)
And again we face the skepticism from others who wonder what on earth we are waiting for. We are busting out of this house, my sinuses and throat are getting more congested, house prices are low, the $8,000 first-time homebuyer’s tax credit deadline is almost here, and we have to sign our lease again in two months. So, what are we waiting for?
We are waiting for a God that I’m positive has not forgotten us, but who hasn’t chosen to move us yet (for some reason). (What does it mean when the Bible says that God “remembered” someone? Surely, He hadn’t forgotten them?)
When I first thought that we were getting that house, I knew that I had my book ending. I was going to write about how if I just waited long enough and was patient enough, God blessed me with what I wanted. If I waited for Him and didn’t run ahead with my own plans, I would be rewarded. But He surprised me. And I didn’t get the ending I expected. We are still wandering around this desert, waiting to enter the Promised Land.
Except that no land was ever promised to us. And actually, things have only gotten worse. It has been a rough fall and winter, physically and emotionally speaking. Not too long after God shut the door on the house, the boiler in the basement of the rental went out. And the landlord asked us to move everything out of our one storage closet that leads to the basement so that they could switch boilers. So we filled our back-room with all the stuff from the closet (on top of all the boxes that we never unpacked after not moving).
And it wasn’t until four months later that they finally got someone out here to fix it. Four months of having the back-room so packed up that we couldn’t use it. That left us with the 10x12 kitchen and 16x12 living room as downstairs livable space, and two 10x11 bedrooms upstairs and a bathroom. And that’s it . . . for six people. We were cramped! (And there were so many unpacked boxes, waist-deep, lining every wall of the living room.)
Then the holidays came. Just as we were starting to get the closet boxes put away, we were taking out Christmas decoration boxes. Now, it was Christmas boxes upon closet boxes upon moving boxes. And I would have been able to get the Christmas boxes put away, but Jackson ended up getting croup really bad for a week. It was so bad that I spent three or four sleepless nights holding him on the chair downstairs because he would wake up in a panic that he couldn’t breathe, and I would have to walk him all bundled up outside in the middle of the frozen night.
So we never were able to get the decoration boxes put away before the holidays were over. This made me feel like we never even started the holiday season. That was depressing! Of all the years that I really needed a joyful Christmas! It felt like we were in transition the whole time. I told Jason that we were going to keep the artificial tree up until February so that I could feel like we had a Christmas season. Which we did. (I hate fake trees. It’s just not the same. But real ones make Jason’s arms itch. C’est la vie!)
As it was, my friend with the seven kids didn’t feel like she had a Christmas, either. She was busy having another baby. She just had her 8th child at 1 a.m. on December 26. (God bless her!) Seven of them are boys. (God help her!) So we had a post-Christmas Christmas party weeks later. We both needed it. And it was especially nice since we both share a love of homemade, healthy food. So dinner with them is always wonderful. And I finally felt like I could say that we celebrated Christmas, and I could put the decorations away.
But hot on the heels of Christmas, we discovered mold in our bedroom upstairs, right next to the bed. It was from a roof leak, coming right through the walls. January 1st. What a way to start the new year! (Just great! More mold!) So I spent the first week of the new year moving everything out of our bedroom and into the boys’ room before the worker came to tear the wall off.
And I have been sleeping with Jackson in the boys’ bunk beds, while the boys sleep downstairs on the living room floor (next to the moldy back room) and Jason sleeps on the couch. And it has been that way for months now. Plus, I don’t think the worker took care of the mold problem the way that you should. There was no bleach or cleaner used, no removing bad outer walls (since it’s winter). Just ripping off the inner wall and replacing it with a patch job until spring when he can officially fix it. But he left a long, gaping space in the temporary patch job that’s open to the space between the walls, further exposing us to the mold between the walls. So we won’t be moving back into that room anytime soon.
And then . . . the dryer went out! That did it! Suddenly, I was overcome again with utter hopelessness. I had one of those days! (I told you that I never learn a lesson just once!) It was one of those days where you just despair that things will never work out, where you lose all sense of hope and joy and faith. When your back is up against the Red Sea and all you can do is scream, “I’m doomed!” Call it an Israelite moment! I began to question if it really matters to God, if I was fooling myself, if I mattered to Him. In fact, I sent this email to my friend, Jen, to lament my frustrations:
Jen, Do you want to hear something really funny? Our dryer just went out. (If I don’t laugh about it, I’ll cry.) Here we had 4 months of boxes all over when we cleaned out the closet so they could replace the boiler last fall. (It took them 4 months to get out here after they asked us to clean it out)
Then we had to pull out Christmas decos. And before that was over, we got the mold problem. So for months now, I’ve been widdling down our clothes and stuff so that we can fit into one bedroom while the boys sleep down on the living room floor, Jason on the couch, and me and Jackson in the boys’ bunk bed. Then they didn’t fix the mold problem right, so I can still see it growing. And they are coming back in spring to take off a section and check again. So we have no plans to move back into the room.
But at least in doing all of this, I caught up on our huge pile of dirty laundry. And now, I am just down to one laundry hamper full of dirty clothes. But it takes daily washing to keep up with our tiny washer/dryer. And we still haven’t gotten all the clean ones to fit in the one room, so they are all over the bed and the floor and the dresser. Heaps of them. But at least they were getting washed on schedule.
Then today, I went to use the dryer and found that the heating element is broken. (Pray for me - I don’t want to lose it here.) So I started laughing because I don’t want to cry and have a pity party.
(Here’s a good thing, though. Sunday, I woke up with that neck pain that makes me sick all day. I vomited 7 times without haven eaten anything but 6 cheerios and 5 bites of yogurt. I threw that up and all the water I drank. I only get this neck pain when I am pregnant. So I took a test and, Thank God, it was negative. Now, I love babies! But being sick like that again made me realize that I really, really hope God thinks our quiver is full with 4.)
Anyway, I just had to share this so that I don’t hold it in and freak out all over the place. Please pray that God sends us a place soon. Please, Please, PLEASE, PLEASE! (In case you’re wondering - I’m really doing rather okay mentally and emotionally. I think I’ve shut down and am on auto-pilot. But it’s a good thing that I don’t drink alcohol or smoke pot or I’d be in La La Land by now.) Take care and we’ll get together soon. -Heather
Although they came and fixed the dryer that day, I was already broken down to a blubbering heap. I didn’t feel like facing the day, or life, or anything. The baby was sleeping, so I laid down to take a nap, too. There was food to make, dishes to do, and schoolwork to be done. But all I could think about was how tired I was. So very, very tired!
And I laid there, wrestling with my dreams and my frustrations and my pain. And I cried. And I asked God what I had to do to bear this, because I couldn’t even hold my head up right now. And do you know what He said?
“Give up? What more can I give up, Lord? Haven’t I given enough already? I let down my walls, learned to be transparent, got past my fears, gave up my fight for self-sufficiency, gave up control (most of the time). What else is there to give up? I have nothing else to give.”
And the Holy Spirit dug deep and pulled up two more things that I was holding on to for dear life: my dream for a big yard and my concern over what the mold was doing to our health.
I found myself once telling Jason that I could give up having chickens if I had to (Yeah, very big of me!), but that I wouldn’t give up a garden. I wouldn’t do it! Later that evening, I heard those words echo again in my head. I won’t give up a garden! I won’t! And I realized that (like the Israelites complaining to Moses) I was not telling that to Jason, I was telling that to God. It’s as if I told Him that I wouldn’t give up a large garden, so He would have to bless me with a yard big enough. I would accept nothing less.
Well, God called me on that! And He told me that I had to let go of that “idol.” That thing that I coveted and pursued and demanded from God. And I remembered the Israelites and the contempt!
“Do I have to give up my dreams, too, Lord? It’s all that I have right now!”
“Yes! The dreams, too. Or I can’t give you My dreams for you. It’s your choice!”
So I gave it up. “Okay, Lord, if You desire to bless us with a yard that is not big enough for a garden, I will praise You still and I will be thankful.”
I also felt that God was calling me to hand my health concerns over to Him, my concerns about what the mold was doing to my sinuses and to my children. He showed me that, for a long time, I had used that in my grumbling and my prayers to convince Him to move us soon.
“Lord, I’m coughing all the time now because I can’t clear my throat out. I think my tonsils are swollen, and my arms are going numb in this house. My kids have to sleep downstairs where it reeks of mold, also, and now our bedroom has mold. I’m going to get irreversible lung damage. You can’t leave us here like this!”
“Lord, I’m sure that You wouldn’t allow us to stay here if it was hurting us.”
“Lord, You know how much I am trying to trust You and wait for You. That is the honorable, proper thing to do. So I know You won’t reward that faith with problems.”
And deep in my unconscious was the belief that we had to move soon or I would just end up dying of some throat cancer or something. And then God would feel bad that He didn’t listen to me and move us sooner.
“Lord, what if we never get a sense of direction from You, and we end up staying here until I waste away into nothingness? Am I being foolish to wait when my health and my family’s health is at stake? What kind of a moron knowingly remains in a place that is making them sick when they can find someplace else, somewhere . . . anywhere?”
I was being severely tempted to give up on God and to take matters into my own hands.
And God responded, “You don’t have to wait if you don’t want to. The choice is yours. But you need to trust Me that I haven’t forgotten you and that I am working behind the scenes for you. But you are not ready yet and neither is the way. If you choose to wait, you will know it when it is time. I’m not done with you yet. But you still haven’t learned to fully trust and you still don’t have complete faith. I want those things for you. Do you want them, too?”
“Yes, Lord. I do.”
“Do you really?”
“Yes! I do!”
“Even if it’s making me sick?”
“Yes! Even if it’s making you sick. Don’t you think I can keep you safe in the midst of this? Obey and give Me your concerns about your health and your family!”
That was hard to give up. It was my last bargaining chip with God, my last little bit of leverage to get what I wanted. But I had to give it up. It was only hurting me to hold onto it. And I had to remember again Who it was that I was talking to! Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? And so I gave that over to Him in prayer, too.
(As I have been learning, it’s very important to actually put these things into prayers and not just to think them. They’re not the same thing, despite the fact that a lot of us think that just thinking it should be enough. After all, God knows our thoughts, right? Isn’t that enough? No, it’s not. Read the Bible and you’ll see how crucial prayer is. Thinking about it is just mulling it over and knowing that you should pray about it. It’s letting God know that you intend to pray about it, if you ever get around to it. Praying about it is the act of bringing it to God. He knows our thoughts, but He responds to our prayers. More on this later.)
And so I simply prayed, “Okay, Lord, I trust that You will do what’s right and that You can keep us safe through all this. Please, protect us from long-term consequences of this mold. But if You choose not to, then You have Your reasons and I will accept it!”
I have to be honest here, though. Initially, giving all this over to the Lord made me want to cry, to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to throw myself a great big pity-party where I dressed up like a sad clown and stood next to a large bonfire that I threw all of my hopes and dreams and joys into. Poor me. I have to give up my dreams. And this made me want to chuck everything that I enjoy in life. If I can’t have it the way I want, then I don’t want to have anything that makes me happy. We’ll just roll over and die in this mess!
What’s that line . . . “Who am I that God would want to know my name?” I wanted to be like, Yeah, who am I? That’s rhetorical. I’m nobody that should matter. Just let me give up and go into my depression. Isn’t that what ‘giving up’ is? Fading into oblivion and hopelessness?
But it isn’t. Not this time. Oh, it could be, if I chose it. But I knew that God wasn’t calling me to “give up” and slide into depression or apathy. Although that’s what I really wanted to do. He was calling me to consciously give my dreams over to Him, to replace my will with a desire for His, and to take up my cross daily and follow Him, regardless of whether I felt like it or not, and regardless of where He led us.
(And yet, how I thought I was following His Will all this time. And maybe I was. I’m so confused. Maybe this trial was all a part of His grand plan, even if I couldn’t make sense of it. Like God deliberately leading the Israelites into a “trap.” Hmm?)
And so I picked up the pieces of another shattered dream, and I started the hunt all over again. But every time I looked at new houses on-line, I would get a splitting headache as I tried to evaluate or compare homes. It would begin at the base of my skull and work its way up until my whole head pounded. Every detail I considered about room sizes or location or prices made the headache grow. I physically couldn’t concentrate enough to evaluate the homes or to discern if God was leading us to any of them. It felt like I was trying to find a piece of hay in a stack of needles, and I was getting stabbed by them all. It was just too much stress.
And for me, as I prayed and thought about it, I believed that it meant that I wasn’t supposed to be looking for now. For some reason, God wanted me to not look at houses for the time being. Not only was I asked to give up my dream of a garden, my fear over our health, and the home that we were supposed to have by now, but now I was asked to give up the search. To stop trying so hard to make something happen, to stop trying to help Him find the answer. I prayed about this and felt that my only job for now was to learn to fully give it over to the Lord. Fully! And to let go of every bit of control that I thought I had over my future, and any attempt to create His answer.
God was calling me now to be willing - to be willing to do nothing, to wait on Him completely. And as someone who likes to make things work out, it was the hardest thing He could have called me to do - to sit at the starting line and wait for Him to give the signal. (And yet I kept at it for a while because it looked like the responsible thing to do. That way I could look like I was doing something, in case people asked how the search was going, instead of just being like, “Well, I don’t think God wants me to do anything, yet!” More concerned about how I looked to others than to God, I guess! Sorry, Lord!)
I finally realized that I had to come to the end of myself: my desires, my fears, my efforts. Searching for God’s Will (or more accurately, trying to make God adopt my will) in this area had become torturous. I couldn’t physically or mentally rest because of my pursuit for the “right home.” My days and nights were filled with exhaustion and headaches as I tried to find a way to get us out of this moldy rental. But God said, “Don’t. Not yet.” And that really didn’t make sense to me.
Even though I was sure that He was asking me to give up the search, I still wondered if it was really alright to give up, to lay down in exhaustion at His feet and do nothing. I’m not a quitter. I push through and make things work somehow. So to stop trying to find a house - when the only way to find a house was to look for one - just seemed so . . . so . . . pathetic. So irresponsible. And I’ve always “earned” my keep by being responsible, by doing my part. But I just couldn’t do it anymore. Was He really asking me to give up? To do nothing? Or was that the hopelessness and exhaustion talking? Would God see that as laziness or presumption? It felt foolish and risky.
And so I sought guidance in the only thing that I could rely on now: God’s Word. I prayed for Him to bring me some verse, some word of encouragement. Something to fortify my faith that He did indeed tell me to give up, and that it would be okay. And, no joke, this is what popped in my head (and I hardly ever read this book of the Bible) - Ecclesiastes 3. As I read that section, I found what God wanted to tell me in verses 1 and 6: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: . . . a time to search and a time to give up . . .” Thank You, Lord. Thank You! It’s just what I needed! And I exhaled and I rested.
And I told Him in prayer that I was really giving up. I was giving up the search and it was really in His hands now. “I’m broken, Lord. We have no way of making anything work. We can’t stay here much longer like this, but we have nowhere to go and no means to get there. Not with Jason’s severe cut in pay. So it’s all on You, Lord. I give up. I give it all over to You. We are stepping out in complete faith here for You to guide and provide.”
And it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Complete faith! So that’s what walking by faith really means. (Not too long before all of this, I had a desire to learn to walk by faith, to know what that really feels like. And I prayed to God and asked Him to help me learn it. I guess I got my answer. I’m learning that these kinds of prayers are “dangerous.”) Walking by faith means that when I can’t see anything ahead or any way out and I can’t even sense His presence, I still trust that He’s there and that He is in control. When my back is up against the Red Sea and I see the circumstances of life bearing down on me like Pharaohs’ army, I “stand firm and see the deliverance that the Lord will bring.” My job was just to “be still” and know that He is God. He will be exalted!
And I knew that God wasn’t done with me yet. (And somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I was quite curious what the Lord was up to.) Learning to trust and to walk in faith is hard. And it does hurt - because it requires pruning. It requires the Holy Spirit getting into the deep recesses of our hearts and minds and weeding out all the dead, useless branches that seek to choke out the healthy vines, that siphon off the energy and life that could be going to the development of fruit. For our best, for other’s best, and for God’s glory!
And this pruning time usually makes us vulnerable, and so we want to fight it. It exposes tender parts of our hearts that we tried so hard to hide and to protect for so long. It makes us feel (temporarily) hurt and weak. And Satan knows this. He knows when we are confused and at our weakest. And he’ll do all that he can to exploit that.
And it is then, when I am at a complete loss and am very vulnerable, that I have a choice to make. I can despair and crumple into a ball and pull back from God. Or I can (like Jacob) - once again - choose to cling to Him and refuse to let go, even though I have no idea what’s going on. Especially when I have no idea what’s going on. (Or I despair and crumple into a ball first, as is often the case, and then I come to my senses and choose to cling to Him.) This is walking by faith. And when we can’t even walk, it’s just “giving up” and clinging in faith.
I didn’t know how God was going to answer our prayers. But I did know that, all fantasies aside, I wanted His Will and not mine. I knew that His Will is what would bring Him the most glory and be the best for us. And I wanted to be able to say, no matter how He chose to answer our prayers, “Blessed be Your name!”
But what trips me up is that age-old struggle: the struggle to find His Will when the path ahead is so dark and when He is so silent. As I said before, prayer was once really exhausting to me because I was so concerned with doing it right. Well, searching for God’s Will was just as exhausting because I saw so many pitfalls.