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Living With and Without

Hey did you guys know life gets busy around Christmas? Nope? Just me? Okay well then I apologize for not posting but I’ve been enjoying the season and being busy serving where God puts me. Annnnyywaaays..on to the today’s post!

If I could go back and meet any one Bible character it would definitely be Paul. (Jesus being exempt from this theoretical question, of course.) I love Paul. His testimony, life, example, writing…everything. I love his rhetorical and sarcastic questions in Romans (he cracks me up) and his love for all the saints. Yup, he’s my favorite.

In Philippians 4, Paul talks about how he has learned to be content in whatever situation God has him in. He has learned to live with plenty and to live with nothing. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve been thinking about finances. (I work at a bank for goodness’ sake, people!)

I never really worried much about money in the past. I always had more than I needed and I lived what I considered simply. In 2017, when it became clear to my doctor and I that I needed to take a break from working, things changed. It meant I needed to move into an apartment and (gasp!) actually pay for housing. It meant no income until I could go back to work. It just meant a lot more expenses in general. And I was prepared but it was still a little nerve wracking.

There was one Sunday I never want to forget. It was right before I was going to be done at the Farm and I was having a really rough time emotionally, physically, mentally- all of it. I had just finished up a conversation with a lady who meant well but was stressing me out with details that I didn’t have yet. I just wanted to trust that the Lord had things figured out that I couldn’t answer yet and that wasn’t good enough for her. I walked around the corner and (in my usual, fake fashion) I flashed a smile at one of the elders of my church as I started to walk by him. But he didn’t let me walk by. He pulled me around and I realized it was a group of elders there. They didn’t ask me if I had everything figured out; they put their arms around me and prayed with me. And that wonderful man is now in heaven getting some reward for calming and encouraging a discouraged heart at that moment.

But at some point, I did have to think about money. It just wasn’t then. God SO blessed me that I had plenty saved so that I didn’t “have” to worry during my rest time. It was still in the back of my mind that I didn’t have any incoming money, just outgoing, but I knew how much was there and I kept an eye on it. 

In general though, I don’t spend a lot. But I found out that when finances got tight, I didn’t get to spend money on the things I loved doing. Random baking adventures for my friends kind of stopped because suddenly butter looked really unnecessary. Not that I COULDN’T have bought it. It was more evaluating the need.

This year, as I looked at coming off my Dad’s insurance, panic came into my mind. I knew there would be a 3 month gap between coming off and when my work insurance kicked in and I was honestly scared. I prayed and worked my butt off to organize because in case you forgot, meds are REALLY expensive. And just when I thought I had it all figured out that I could get a 90 day supply before coming off insurance, that fell through.

Do you know what I learned? To be content with and without, in every circumstance. Over and over again, I have to remind myself that God has ALWAYS supplied my every need. Sometimes that’s been through other people saying, “Hey, I’m going to get that for you. I know you CAN but I don’t want you to have to worry about it.” And that’s really humbling, folks.

But wait, there’s more. I’ve had money show up anonymously in my church mail box. I’ve had my medications drop in price for NO REASON. To the point that the pharmacists can’t figure it out! This last time I went to get my most expensive med and it wasn’t ready yet. She looked at me hesitantly (they always do) and asked if I was aware of the cost. I said yes and confirmed it. When I came back 20 minutes later, it had dropped over $300!!! I just stared at her. She had no idea why. I’m convinced God creates computer glitches in my favor. That’s literally not the first time that’s happened to me.

Maybe this post sounds to you like a plea for help or money. Oh no, it’s not. It’s an exclamation of praise! And it’s an encouragement. I know a lot of people that worry about finances. Sometimes it’s still a mind struggle for me and I rehearse God’s faithfulness to myself. I’ve never been in need. And I’ve certainly never been in need to the extent that Paul was!

It’s also a reminder to continue to be generous even when you don’t have much. I remember hearing a sermon as a kid on finances and my pastor said as an example that the first check he writes out every week is the one to the church. And I remember thinking, “Huh? What’s the big deal?” Yeah…I get it more now. The temptation is to let that be the last thing because it’s not necessary like a bill and THAT’S exactly why you put it first! I’ve been blessed to remember that this year. I’ve gotten creative with how I choose to bless others. Sometimes, all people really want is a listening ear. It doesn’t cost anything to go to the nursing home and read your Bible to an elderly lady and listen to her story. There are ways to give that involve money and there are ways to give that don’t; both are vitally important.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on enough tonight. What has God taught you about finances and trusting him through it?


 
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Posted by on December 13, 2018 in contentment

 

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Two Cars, A Job, and a Great God

In case you didn’t know, on June 9th, I was officially 6 months seizure free! You’re probably thinking, “Hooray! So what?” Yeah, I know. But actually, it was a really big deal because you have to be seizure-free for a six month period before your driving privileges are graciously placed back in your hands. So yes, I WAS counting those days. Somehow, I thought it would be a pretty simple process but my doctor had to send forms to the BMV and they had to send forms to ME and I had to visit my local BMV so it took longer than I thought it would. Basically you have some of the slowest organizations communicating with each other over one person. No driving on 6/9 which was a bummer but that’s ok. All the paperwork eventually got in order, my new license came, and I’m now good to go.

The problem was, back in 2016, when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to drive for a while, I had sold my car. Car shopping is LITERALLY one of my least favorite things to do. Some people really like it. Not me. But that was next on the list. I looked and looked but I couldn’t find anything in my budget that actually still ran. Fortunately my work is a 3 minute walk away so it wasn’t an immediate need but still a need.

Enter Car #1: Edna. Some really good friends of mine had an extra car lying around their house. To be honest, they were planning a project with the engine because the car had some issues but they said that if I wanted it while I looked for something else, it was mine. No charge. They are really generous and I felt SO blessed. I’m not kidding. While everyone else saw the rust, smelled the mice, and heard the engine, I felt the freedom of having a car that was my own. Not having to coordinate rides to go to the store or see a friend. Being able to surprise my best friend by showing up at her house for the night. I knew it wasn’t a long term solution because there’s no way I would drive this car farther than 20 minutes from my house, but it worked for the short term.

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There was just one problem. Next month I have a rather significant birthday coming up. Not necessarily the number but what happens on that number. I have to come off my parents’ health insurance. Sad day. It’s been wonderful. I doubt they’ll miss me as much as I’ll miss them. 🙂 And although I work full time now, they don’t offer insurance so I have been job hunting for a little while. A couple weeks ago, I was offered a position at a small bank. The hours are great (like, I don’t have to work till 9pm anymore!), they have full benefits, and the atmosphere is friendly and inviting. It felt like a good fit but it’s around 30 minutes from my house and I honestly wasn’t sure my car would last long doing that every day.

Enter Car #2: Peri. I was pretty sure I was going to accept the job offer and see how long my car would make it before I had to get another one. Last Saturday though, I was thumbing through FaceBook and a car popped up on my feed. I wasn’t even on Marketplace or anything. It was just there. It caught my eye because it was a Honda but listed for several thousand less than Hondas run for around here. And I saw it two minutes after it was posted so I knew if I messaged the lady, I would have a good chance of being the first person. I contacted her and set up a time later that day to come look at it without really knowing why. I literally prayed on my way there, “Lord, I really can’t afford this car so I don’t see a point in test driving it. Why am I even going here?” But I went and not only was it super nice with regular maintenance and low mileage, it had several “extras” on it. Like a dark tint on the windows, black tire rims (which, apparently, is a cool thing?), new headlights ready to be put in, and a sound system complete with a subwoofer that takes up most of the trunk space. Actually, funny story on that. When I was looking at it, the owner excited told me to try the radio. I turned it on and up to about 7 and told her it sounded great. She looked kind of disappointed and said, “Oh. Well. I think it goes to about 50 or 75.” I asked her if I could pray about it and give her an answer the next day and she said she wouldn’t let anyone else look at it if I let her know by noon the following day. Which was super kind of her. (Oh, did I mention the owner was a believer???) The following day I told her I would take it but I asked if she would want to take the sound system out (because I certainly won’t use it) and would she be willing to take the cost of it off the car? Otherwise, I said she could leave it in and I will just take it out myself and sell it. She said she really didn’t know how to take it out but she would DROP THE PRICE OF THE CAR BY $200 and I could keep the sound system. I probably read that message 4-5 times before I responded because I wasn’t sure I had read it right. Uh, yeah, I’ll take the car.

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I told a friend of mine that I almost feel a little embarrassed by my car now because it has all these things on it that I would NEVER put on any car I owned simply because I wouldn’t spend the money on it. And she told me that it should just be a reminder of how great God has blessed me.

And she’s SO right. As I was driving home after signing off on Peri’s title I actually started crying, just amazed at how God works. How he not only provided one car that got me about for a short while, but yet another one that I can trust for long distances and my new job. How he provided the finances I needed. How he went above and beyond anything I would have even dreamed of asking for in a vehicle. I am amazed.

But I didn’t begin praising God when he started giving me things I wanted or needed. That’s not the reason he gets praise. He deserves it simply for being God. Everything else is simply another reason to thank him!

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2018 in blessing

 

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A Parched Mollusk

Today I have the very special opportunity to share a story with you from my best friend. She wrote this up a week or so ago and has such a talent for communicating so I asked if I could post it. I hope it blesses you as it did me.

IMG_2047“So, how can I tell if it’s alive?” I questioned a stranger on the beach. “Hmm, splash a little water on it and see if it moves.” the stranger offered as she walked toward me. She drew in closer as I scooped a handful of cold ocean water into the shell. I caught this quick picture as the mollusk poked out of his shell. “O yah, it’s alive!” she exclaimed in her Wisconsin accent. “It’s just been out of the water for a while. I like to throw ’em back in and give ’em a second chance.” she said pointing at the water. I nodded in agreement and tossed the little guy back into the ocean.

This simple interaction sparked a life-giving conversation that moved me to tears.

You see, that morning I went to the beach feeling much like that stranded mollusk. Spiritually parched and so far away from God’s life-giving, soul-refreshing, Living Water. Feeling and looking rather dead and hiding from the light. Not that I didn’t KNOW or BELIEVE in God’s goodness and the fact that he is my source of life… it’s just I hadn’t FELT that abundant life in a long time.

While certain circumstances played a big part in feeling spiritually drained, the bigger culprits were sin issues and neglecting time with the Lord. Since my work is in a Christian ministry, I felt like I had to conjure up the appearance of spiritual vitality. I was exhausted from trying to keep up the facade while my heart was withering inside.

That week I was on a trip to Florida and had designated that day as my “Jesus” day. I was going to ignore my phone and other distractions and just focus on resuscitating my relationship with the Lord. In the past, I found spending time outdoors and acknowledging God’s hand in nature to be great faith-builders for me.

I decided to wake up early that morning and go for a walk on the beach to spend time in creation. As I got ready in my hotel room, I begged God to show himself to me that day. Like so many of my previous prayers, I felt like it fell on deaf ears and I was just talking to the wall.

As I walked toward the beach, the cold ocean air whipped through my hoodie and I wished I had stayed in bed. When I got to the beach I looked around and forced myself to come up with praises. (Not the right attitude, I know.) My heart said, “God you are so powerful that you control the tides.” Then my head butted in and said, “The moon controls tides, you dummy!” So my heart responded, “God, I’m so thankful for your control over ALL things!” Then my head came back with, “God if you are in control of all things then why can’t you fix…?” Ugh, not a very good start.

With a conflicted spirit, I reached down to pick up the little conch shell and noticed Sherry, who was walking several paces behind me.

We were two of only a handful of people willing to brave the 40 degree weather on the beach that morning. After tossing the mollusk back into the ocean, we started walking along the beach together.

Almost instantly she brought up her church and we started talking about faith. I learned that she grew up in church, but had fallen away a few times before returning the final time decades ago. She shared about her love for Compassion International, her passion for serving young adults in her church, and her interest in traveling. When she mentioned a life-altering career change to follow God’s leading, we talked about the blessings and sacrifices of the Christian life. I can’t even remember everything we talked about, but the conversation flowed so easily, it felt as if we had known each other for years.

For nearly two hours we walked along the beach together: gathering shells, tossing back mollusks, and talking about life. I found myself opening up to her about details of my life I don’t usually even share with friends. Her honesty, wisdom, and kind encouragement felt like cool water to my thirsty soul. What she was saying resonated so much with me that I felt like her words were a direct answer to my prayers.

As we neared the end of the walk, we hesitated, almost wishing we had more beach to walk and more time to talk. We both acknowledged what a mutual blessing it was to spend that brisk January morning together and felt God had ordained us to meet. Sherry gave me a big hug and we prayed together before a final farewell.

When Sherry first met me, I was that lowly mollusk that had been out of God’s life-giving water for far too long. With her encouragement from the Lord, she gave me a second chance by tossing me back into God’s great ocean of Living Water.

As I walked alone on the road back to my hotel, tears streamed down my face. For the first time in a long time I didn’t just KNOW and BELIEVE, I FELT the love and the presence of God in a real way. God had answered my prayer in a way I didn’t expect and I still don’t fully understand.

My revived soul spent the rest of that day soaking up God’s Word, talking with the Lord, and worshiping him. Only this time it wasn’t forced or conflicted, his praises came overflowing out of the abundance of joy in my heart.

Praise God!

“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 68:1

~Natalie Frueh

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2018 in encouragment

 

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