Come Running

Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better I’d have come running with a bucket.
— Nancy Spiegelberg

It's been an interesting two weeks in our house.

You see, we had planned to make it through the holidays and my brother's Nashville wedding first. We had planned to save a little money. We had planned to wait until Spring.

That's what we had planned.

But the void left by the loss of my husband's faithful Springer Spaniel in August (the second dog which we had to say goodbye to in a matter of only 18 months) was too great a hole to endure any longer. I combed every website of any and ever animal shelter, humane society and rescue in a 100 mile radius. I created a profile on PetFinder.com which listed the specifics of what we were looking for in a dog. I received emails every time one popped up that possibly met our criteria. The first few we went to meet just didn't seem quite right. Too hyper. Too big. Too yippy. Too young (and not at all house-broken).

And then we found her: a six-month old, 99% house-broken, adorable and incredibly soft and cuddly Lab/Shepherd/Miniature Doberman mix (or so they think).

Originally rescued from unsuitable conditions in the south (Mississippi, to be exact) when she was just weeks old, the girl had already seen a lot in her short several months. We met her in an incredibly cramped shelter, filled with deafening barks (not from her) and way too much activity for such a small space. She tried to hide, looked at us with such fear in her eyes But she let the kids pet her and rested still in both my husband's and my arms when we picked her up.

And that was enough for me.

We brought her home that night, just ten days before Christmas. And she was terrified. Upon entering our house, she immediately found a corner and sat there, quivering with fear. She spent much of the next few days laying by our back door, tucked away from the hub-bub of our family of six.

We tried everything: squeaky toys, mouth-watering treats, soft voices and slow movements in her presence. And I just kept thinking: C'mon, pup. We just want to love you. your life will be so great; you just have to trust me. While I don't know all of the details surrounding her early weeks and months, I couldn't imagine they were great. After all, there's a reason they call these dogs "rescues". I couldn't really blame her for not throwing herself at us.

But our family of animal lovers was desperate to love her, to welcome her with open arms, empty laps and table scraps covertly passed under the table. If she only knew.

Sitting there one night across the kitchen floor, treat in hand and desperation on my face, I whispered, "Just trust me to love you." And that's when I heard His voice in my own.

Just trust me, Mel. I can and will meet your every need. I already love you with an unending, unconditional love and am just waiting for you to let me show you. Without me, you have nothing.

I sat there. Once again amazed at what He was showing me. Was my lack of trust in the love and provision of God really that much different than this pup and me?

Why the resistance to a God who just wants to love us?

The first six months of this dog's life had been filled with change and uncertainty -- with the exception of the last month in an amazing foster family's home, it was all she knew. And unfortunately, all we know here on earth is the human side of love. The kind that disappoints us, fails us, and doesn't live up to our expectations. 

But with our Heavenly Father it's different. And He tells us that:

I have loved you with an everlasting love.
— Jeremiah 31:3
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
— John 14:27

And this love is not dependent on anything we do and don't do. He gives it freely, no strings attached, not needing anything from us in return. But yet we find it difficult to accept this, don't we? Our minds have a difficult time wrapping around a love that doesn't fit into our human understanding.

He also tells us:

The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made...The eyes of all look to you [the Lord], and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
— Psalm 145, select verses

He's standing there. Waiting. Arms out-stretched, asking us to trust Him. And unlike any human relationship (or one with a four-legged friend), He will not disappoint. His love never fails.

So go. Run to Him with your bucket. And have faith that He will more than fill it.

Side note: "Savannah" is doing much better than that first night in our home. She's become quite the "family dog" and is one of the kindest, most docile creatures I have ever known. The trust-building is slow, but we're definitely making progress :)

God the Provider

God is an incredible provider. Just incredible. I say this because he promises that he will provide. I also say this because he has done this in our lives time and time again. Do you mind if I give you just a few examples of what I'm talking about?

As we started walking into foster care (almost two years ago already) we knew that it would mean bringing in another child into our home. Added responsibility, added cost, another bed needed in our little home. But as we read our Bibles together each night we continually saw Jesus calling his followers to a life of justice for the oppressed, care for the orphans/widows and giving wholeheartedly to God. We never saw commands that were contingent on good financial savings, a debt free life, or spare rooms in a house. God led us to step out and follow his calling and not worry about all the little details that would need to fall into place.

And that is when we started to see it happen: God's crazy provision in ways we never expected. The spring we were looking into foster care, my husband unexpectedly lost all hearing in his left ear. So that season we found ourselves with a pile of medical bills for auditory tests and ear specialist visits. Fast forward to July. I was calling on a medical bill making sure it had been sent through our insurance before I paid it. When I asked about the balance to see if it matched up with my statement, she informed me that it was at zero, that it had been closed out on July 9th. I asked if there was a reason for that or if there were any notes on why that might be. She just told me again that it was at a zero balance as of the 9th and we didn't have to worry about it. I got off the phone and called Justin right away at work, as I was telling him the good news, it hit me: July 9th, the day we mailed in our foster care application!

clothes
clothes

A month goes by and its August, and we are in the process of getting licensed for foster care. Over the course of 1 week, I was given 3 bins of hand me down girl clothes for our daughter. I once again called Justin while on his lunch and jokingly said that perhaps God was going to place a girl in our home (instead of the boy we always pictured). Justin went back to work and called me 15 minutes later saying that he'd received an email from a foster couple we knew, wondering if we'd be interested in possibly adopting the little girl they had been fostering for the past 8 months. A little girl, just 4 months younger than our daughter, who we lovingly call "Autumn". It's been over a year since we've had two little ladies in our home and I've never had to buy them any clothes.

Did I mention the day that I was talking to my hubby about everyone else being stylish and feeling douty and out of style? Well the next day someone came by to visit and brought a bag of adorable, trendy shirts that she didn't wear and asked I would be interested in them.

Oh, how I could go on and on all day!

All throughout the Bible God provides for his children from Abraham to David to Paul. We have that same God and he continues to provide daily for our needs. No, he doesn't always give us all our wants or desires, but all of our NEEDS. It has been such a faith builder for Justin and I to see his provision day after day. With our deepening trust in Him, rather than in ourselves, we've discovered something else incredible. The pressure is gone. The pressure to plan and plot out our next steps.

While we try our best to be wise with money and be good stewards of what we've been given, we've been able to throw off the worry and chains of fretting over how the year(s) will look.We have confidence that God will provide what we need, when we need it. 

And he promises the same for you!

In Matthew, after Jesus talks about money, storing treasures in heaven rather than on earth, and about worrying, he says: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:33

The key here isn't that God is promising to make you rich, but rather, above all things, we are to seek first his kingdom and his righteousnessWhen we set our hearts and lives on living for the things that matter to God, he gives us a promise that everything else will fall into place. And that is just what God has taught us when we've stepped out to faithfully do what he has called us to. That's when we've seen him providing for all of our physical and emotional needs to make that possible.

So what does this mean for you? Are your worries taking up so much of your time that you find yourself with no time to "seek Him first"? Have you said "no" to something God has put on your heart because it just seems too far of a stretch for you or your family? Go to God in prayer and put your trust in his promises. Just like any parent loves to be able to provide for the needs of their children, God LOVES providing for us, and what joy that gives us as his children to lean on him for our provision!

Unexpected Provisions

It had been one of THOSE days. One of those when you feel the weight of every obligation, every responsibility heavy on your chest before you even set foot out of bed. The morning had consisted of an overflowing sink of dishes from the night before – yes, I am one of those that find it extremely difficult to go to bed while soiled dishes remain in the kitchen so this was a rare occurrence -- and a headache the size of Montana. Of course it also happened to be one of the three days during the week that I work, which meant not only did I have to get myself looking presentable, I also had to get the kids ready, bundled up, out the door, and loaded into the Jeep in time to drop them off at the sitter’s prior to heading to the office. Bound and determined not to be late, I attempted to shake the overwhelmed feeling as best I could and forced myself into the morning routine. Despite the fact that my jeans felt even tighter than they did the day before and that I realized I still hadn’t found the time to pluck my ever-growing out of control eyebrows, things were chugging along. Then I noticed the stroller which had managed to be forgotten sitting out on front walk. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the fact that rain had fallen for a good portion of the nighttime hours and was still continuing to do so. It would have to wait.

After successfully settling an argument about who would “sit on the potty” first and then carrying both of my almost 30 pound twin daughters to the Jeep (I’ve learned the hard way that allowing them to walk there themselves only leads to a much slower transition to the car and many tears shed over the disappointment that comes from not being able to run like a screaming banshee into the back yard regardless of how cold it may be), we were off. Knowing that our automatic payment for our mortgage was due to be taken out of our account any day now, I quickly texted our automated banking service at a red light for an updated account balance. Fifty-four cents.

Look on the bright-side, I told myself, at least you’re not overdrawn. I shook my head and laughed under my breath, realizing what an eternal optimist I had become when it came to matters such as these.

Once at work, I fell into my normal routine, going through the motions of the tasks at hand. For the most part, it was a pretty run-of-the-mill day: I ate my typical hard-boiled egg and yogurt for lunch, chatted with co-workers about the weather and the upcoming work party. But I definitely wasn’t myself. The fact that I had two disgustingly dirty bathrooms at home, a pounding headache, 54 cents in my checking account, and no plan for dinner whatsoever plagued my every move, my every action.

Steamed_Pot_Lid

I’d like to say that I prayed unceasingly that day for guidance, wisdom, a break. Anything to help ease the pressure I was feeling. But I didn’t. I think I may have managed to squeeze in one or two shout-outs to the Man Upstairs, quickly asking Him merely for the strength to make it through the end of the day, which probably sounded more like grumbling. But unfortunately, the pity party I had chosen to throw for myself that day took precedence over most everything else.

Then I got a call. A call from a woman at our church who had recently hired me for some landscape work.

“Mel,” she said, “would you be able to stop by quickly after work? I pride myself on paying people promptly for their work and really wanted to get you the check for the project you’ve done.” Even though I could not say for sure, I can just about guarantee that my mouth slightly dropped open at the moment. I obviously quickly agreed, knowing that stopping there would mean I’d have to leave work right on time so that I could make it there and then the bank before picking up my girls -- after all, it would be nice to actually be able to pay the sitter today.

I arrived only five minutes later than I had planned and was greeted by this wonderful Sister in Christ with a hug and a smile. Talk about an eternal optimist, this woman has the gumption and drive to do God’s Will of an entire convent. As she handed me the check she said, “How about some chili to take home for the family for dinner tonight? Would you like that? I just made some and it's more than we can eat -- in fact, it's already warm!”

Are you kidding me? Would I like that? I would love that! I literally could’ve kissed this woman at that very moment. The last thing I wanted to do after this day was to attempt the cooking of a meal while two hungry girls and a starving husband encircled me. I was elated as I carried that warm bowl of comfort and the check which was a financial lifeline back to the Jeep, I barely knew what to say.

As I drove to the bank to deposit that check, I smiled to myself. God had done it again. I had woken up that day, not really knowing what I needed. I had figured something along the lines of a cleaning fairy or a winning lottery ticket may be what I was craving but I had no idea that His help would come in the form of something much more real, much more personable.

Chili_in_Pot

I recounted the story to my husband that night over dinner and marveled in the fact that this woman probably had no idea what a difference her seemingly small act had made in my day. When I made sure to tell her so later she responded by saying, “Thank God, for He gives us all good things and it was a joy to do His will.”

This one gesture had opened my eyes that night. I had spent the entire day wrapped up in all that I had needed to do – all that demanded my attention within my life. Yet God had provided. And not in a way that was tangible or self-induced, but rather through a fellow believer in Christ. Reflecting on the day’s events later, I was reminded of Galatians 6 vs 1-10, specifically verse 10 which says,

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Hasn’t God equipped us for good works (Phillipians 1:3-6)?

The night did not end perfectly. In fact, not more than an hour after enjoying this wonderful provision of the Lord did one of my daughters proceed to have an incredible accident in her favorite underwear, resulting in a spontaneous bath and scrub down of the entire bathroom (hey, at least I got one of them cleaned!). But it no longer felt like another responsibility on the pile. It was merely a part of life, which was made slightly sweeter that day by the thoughtfulness of a fellow believer.

I pray that I may be able to see past my own responsibilities and in turn, be a blessing to someone else who desperately needs it. Perhaps a random act of kindness performed by me may have the same effect as it did on me that day!

MelSignature