See Ye First
Our family has been on an adventure! It’s been a year now since God made it clear to me that His will for me was to quit my job, relocate to Knoxville, TN to join my husband in his career move, and to start a new life as a full time mother and homemaker.
By the world’s standards this could hardly have come at a more awkward time. I had been intensely involved in my banking career for twelve years, having recently been promoted to an officer’s position while completing my degree in bank management. I had been very successful in my profession-al pursuits, quickly moving up the corporate ladder and receiving recognition for my efforts. But with the successes came more responsibilities, including traveling, longer hours and a new appointment that would require me to work evenings and weekends.
In addition, for the previous six months my husband and I had been living apart, and were working towards the restoration of our marriage. So I had the full-time responsibility of our four children, then ranging in age from just under two to seventeen years old, the oldest about to start his senior year in high school.
As I arrived at our fellowship’s summer camp in late July of `95, I was both dissatisfied and concerned about our current family situation. The thought of going back to my career, with all its new responsibilities, seemed overwhelming and I was concerned that our children were being lost in the shuffle.
Through several teaching sessions that week, I came to realize that I was leaving a "back door" to have my own way. I had said a word of faith some months earlier that my marriage and family would be restored with my husband taking his rightful place as the head of our household. However, all the while I was pouring myself into my career with the underlying motivation of "what if he doesn’t make it?" I had also said to myself and others that there hadn’t been significant enough progress in our marriage to justify my making the move to Knoxville to join him; actually, I did not want to consider switching jobs at that time, not to mention what it would do to the children to be uprooted.
After realizing the double standard I was walking out, I asked a group of trusted people in my fellowship to give me some input on my situation. The feedback I expected to hear was to cur-tail my commitments, or seek addition-al help to fulfill them. Instead, the message God spoke through those assembled was clearly that He desired for me to give my full attention to my first commission–wife, mother and homemaker.
At first mention, I literally pretended not to hear, frozen at the thought of leaving my career and college. My mind filled with all the reasons that was an impossibility–our family’s finances being dependent on a significant second income, our present living arrangements, the children’s very likely negative reaction, not to mention the thought of a move to a strange city where we knew no one!
Deeper reflection revealed my fear of having to be a "real" mother, and my feeling totally inadequate for such a feat. Still, a settledness and excitement of the possibility came over me and I found myself anxious to explore our next move. I was so clear that this was indeed God’s will for our family that I became sold out to thoroughly pursue this opportunity.
A Tight Budget–The Perfect House
Some quick math revealed that with the new job God had already provided John in Knoxville and the substantial savings involved in changing to having only one parent working (such as child care, meals out, travel expense, wardrobe, etc.), this might indeed be viable. Knowing God was truly behind it gave me all the assurance I needed to know that even where it looked awfully tight on paper, God would provide for our needs.
I called my husband in Knoxville and shared with him what God had revealed to me. He, too, felt anxious, but he rested in the knowledge that it was God’s plan. He told me he would get busy seeking housing for us.
All that was left now was to inform the children. They knew nothing of my reservations about our present situation, nor had any idea that I was even pondering such a drastic move! Initially they were shocked, even angry, to hear the news. But when I shared with them that this was God’s plan for us, they soon settled into the reality of the upcoming changes, encouraging each other despite their individual doubts and fears. The children and I made arrangements to spend the weekend in Knoxville on our way home to Kentucky, hoping to use the time to familiarize ourselves with the city and find housing; the new school year was to begin in less than two weeks.
Our first impressions of our new town were bleak: there was no evidence of suitable housing. Satan hit us with all the negatives and doubts, but we were prepared, having been warned that he would no doubt launch a major attack.
John and I worked out a tentative budget, determining how much we could afford for housing expenses, and determined the most desirable area to focus our search. John said he felt that God wanted for me and the children to return home and trust him to find our new home, So we packed our bags and headed home to Kentucky.
By the time we got home, the answering machine was flashing, already containing the news: God had miraculously located the perfect house in the school district we most preferred, for the exact dollar amount we had determined we could afford. Before we could get back the following weekend to see our new home, John had placed a deposit on the house, signed a lease, and done the preliminary work to enroll the children in school.
We loved the house and knew God had saved it just for us! The house had been on the market for sale for several months, but since it hadn’t sold, the owners had decided only that weekend to offer it for lease. Several couples had responded to the ad in the morning paper, so John hung back and waited for his turn to view the house, striking up a conversation with a lady who turned out to be the owner’s daughter. She liked him and agreed to lease to him, despite the fact that several couples had viewed it before him, equally interested.
The older children made the initial move the following weekend so that they could start school on time. Our toddler, Kaitlyn, and I waited until the Labor Day weekend to move with all the household goods, fulfilling a four week’s notice on my job. Moving in stages gave the older children and John a chance to reconnect and pull together in tough circumstances, the four of them sharing a tiny one- bedroom apartment and commuting across town to their new school for two weeks before our new home was ready.
The weekend of the move will long remain as a major item on my grateful list, as friends from both our Kentucky fellowship and North Carolina fellow-ship met in Knoxville to help us unpack and settle in. They not only accomplished the huge task of completely setting up the house, but also participated in necessary overhauling, including painting, yard work, installation of some badly needed lighting in the kitchen, converting a closet, and significant decluttering (as our storage was limited). In three days’ time we were completely set up and ready to begin our new lives. Only God could do such a feat!
Each of us faced different challenges in our new surroundings. One evening during our after-dinner devotions, it occurred to me to bring some of these concerns before God. We each took several small sheets of paper and wrote out specific prayer concerns and things we were believing God was going to accomplish through us in our leap of faith.
God gave us specific words of faith on everything from Christian friends for our children, to new jobs for the boys, to a word of faith for the replacement of our fellowship in this new place. It was exciting to hear from each family member throughout those first months about the awesome answers to prayer, with the ceremonial removal of the prayer slip from the brass vase where we’d placed them expectantly only a short time earlier.
Still, through all the excitement and awe at what God was doing in our family, there was in me a lingering undercurrent of fear about our finances. Working with our budget stirred great doubt in me (someone who likes to see things proved out on paper) about our ability to meet expenses with our significantly trimmed income. I hated that I still doubted God and was experiencing such fear when God had shown me in so many tangible ways that He could be trusted.
I realized, though, that my fears were grounded because prior to our move we had been disobedient and unbelieving with our finances. Over the years, we had accumulated significant debt, lived beyond our means, and refused to regard His biblical guide-lines out tithing. In my spirit I knew that the only way I would have any peace was to be obedient with what God provided for our family, and take decisive action to repair the damage we had already done.
When I shared these convictions with John, he first resisted, thinking that it made good sense but was unrealistic in application. He wanted for me to prove that we could swing it, to which I replied that if we knew we could do it then it would not be a thing of faith, would it? From that point on we have been obedient with what God has given to us, realizing it is ALL from Him.
It has been such fun to watch how God has met every need, little and big. Just when the children would be in need of clothes, bags of wonderful "hand-me-downs" would arrive. John received a gift of work shoes and reading glasses from an unsuspecting friend who just felt led to share. His income increased with an unexpected Christmas bonus and end-of-year raise, and my former employer astonished us with a letter wishing us well, along with a belated bonus of $1000 just when our wintertime heating hills were unexpectedly higher than planned.
We would scrape and save for the family to attend a conference, deter-mined to share with others what God was so graciously accomplishing in our lives, then discover that God had used someone to bless us with scholarships to attend–so we would save the money for the next conference opportunity, only to be blessed again. It wasn’t always easy. At times we felt great fear when circumstances looked bleak. But God always came through, and it became a real adventure watching to see how He would do it.
The greatest doubts came when tenants in John’s investment property in Arkansas fell seriously past due with their payments. Although through God’s grace we were meeting our bud-get, funding another house payment seemed impossible. Then, in the middle of winter just before the holidays, we discovered that the tenants had skipped town, leaving the house empty and in ill repair–three payments past due.
We were encouraged to ask for help from John’s father, who was grateful for the opportunity to lend a hand in support of my move to be at home full time. He assisted with the payments until the house was eventually rented, and then, subsequently, sold a few months later.
Part of what we learned throughout this ordeal was the importance of being willing to let others know of our needs, ask for help, and be blessed as God used many folks to demonstrate His love and desire to provide for us. And many times, we, too, found our store-house brimming and were privileged to help those whose needs were even more pressing than our own.
A Ministry for Others
It’s interesting to note that the miracles God was accomplishing with us in the area of finances became the vehicle He used to attract several people to us–first for help with their finances, but then ultimately to be fed spiritually. We took opportunities to share a bigger picture of what we were learning about who we are in Christ, walking in faith through this whole transition.
It became clear to us that God had moved us to this place not only for our personal adventure and growth, but to be a catalyst for sharing Himself with numerous individuals and entire families. This seemingly overwhelming task pressed us to be clear on what we believed and lived from, to the point of being able to share it with folks hungry for answers in their own lives, having seen the transformation in ours.
We found ourselves not only teaching practical skills like budgeting, parenting, and housekeeping, but also dealing with people who were desperate for answers in their lives–something beyond a mere salvation experience. They needed to know what we had discovered–we were never just ourselves–but vessels created to contain the spirit of Jesus Christ. It was He who is in union with us, living out our lives at His good pleasure. Having experienced first-hand God’s faithfulness in my own life, I found myself boldly sharing the spiritual truths that had become real to me, first by inviting folks to attend a weekly Bible study in our home, then launching a weekly ladies luncheon and study as God brought numerous women my way who were hungry for spiritual nurturing.
I would always feel inadequate to share or minister to these people, many times overwhelmed at their incredible needs and the desperation in their lives. But would prepare all I could and trust that Christ would say exactly what He pleased by me, and stood in awe as Christ’s work through me began to have tangible results in their lives. Whenever I felt I was in over my head, I could always call folks in our fellow-ship in Boone, who would gladly team up with me by offering input or by getting in touch with the person directly.
Through conferences in February, March and April, we were able to intro-duce our new friends to our bigger circle of fellowship in Boone and beyond. These new ones experienced new friendships that expanded and continued through summer camp in July of this year.
Where only John had represented the city of Knoxville at summer camp `95, 1996 saw eighteen folks from the Knoxville area attending camp, thanks to the combined efforts of our entire fellowship to sponsor many new ones. And if the numbers alone weren’t impressive as to what God can do for those who dare to believe, the trans-formed lives of each individual in our group provided indisputable evidence of His faithfulness.
…And All These ThingsWill Be Added
It was during summer camp that we were able to share the miraculous story of the new home that God had provided for our family. Our original house was perfect at the time of our relocation, but it became evident that God was moving us on to another home. The one year lease was to expire soon, so we began looking at our options. We really desired to buy our own home but were concerned about being able to swing the expenses of college education for our oldest son, who had just graduated high school.
When our son received notification of two scholarships to pay the majority of his undergraduate expenses, it became clear to us that we should look beyond just another rental home and consider buying our own place. Renting seemed the safer route, but we both had a spirit knowing that we were to press on with exploring the option to buy.
I remembered a lady I’d met months earlier–the mom of one of my daughter’s friends–who was a realtor. She had left a real impression on me and God brought her to mind as someone who could at least tell us if we were even in a position to consider buying a house. We became instant friends and she not only addressed all our concerns but delighted in being a part of helping us to find just the right house.
She led us to what turned out to be the perfect house for our family. This house seemed truly too good to be true–with just the right layout, ample space for our large family, and an abundance of extras that only God could have been at the heart of it all. The owners had prayed for buyers and confirmation from God that they were a part of His perfect plan. When we pulled up with a van identical to theirs, with boys who had the same name, husbands with the same occupation on just the day they had prayed they took that as their go ahead, and gave us everything we asked for and then some, knowing God was in it all and meant for us to live there.
We were blessed with a beautiful home in terrific shape with new roof, new central heating and cooling unit, new vinyl siding and windows, and an incredible view. The previous owners left behind for us every appliance, light fixtures, ceiling fans, bedspreads, drapes, pillows and even bathroom linens. We were able to negotiate the sellers paying a portion of our closing costs and paying a premium so our interest rate was low. Our initial investment was within what we could afford, and we were able to completely redecorate with fresh paint and carpeting throughout before we moved in.
We know we have been the beneficiary of God’s abundant, overflowing blessings, and that He means this house to be a physical demonstration to us and others of His faithfulness to those who trust in Him.
I am so incredibly grateful for what I have learned and experienced this past year, and particularly for those people God has placed in our lives as our mentors and guides throughout it all. It has been a year of revelation and personal, first-hand participation in many a miracle as Christ by me simply responded in obedience to what God wanted to do in our lives, surrendering Satan’s delusion of "my way," and sold out for only God’s way in my life.
What a privilege and honor it has been to be used of God to make a difference in other people’s lives–and how it solidifies what I know to be sharing it with others on a daily basis. To think that only a year ago the compelling force in my life was the attainment of the next wrung on the corporate ladder. I realize now that those selffor-self aspirations left no lasting benefit for anyone.
Now what drives me passionately minute by minute is the overwhelming desire for others to know and experience a victorious life–knowing who they are in Christ Jesus, and by example encouraging them to dare to believe!
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 12 No 4
- It All Depends On God
- Editor’s Note
- Fooled By Our Souls
- Moments with Meryl
- A Look at a Book
- Free At Last
- Who Will Me Deliver Me?
- Questions & Answers
- Faith Defies Difficulty
- The Mailbox
- Irish Conference Report
- One Requirement
- Tape Talk
- Summer Camp 1996: The Adults
- Summer Camp: The Youth
- See Ye First
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- Words to Live By…