“…breathing in the Word and exhaling gratefulness.”
This is how The Rev. Gary Beson described the Dr. Wendy LeMarquand, wife of a visiting Bishop to our church on Palm Sunday. I regret that I didn’t get to hear Bishop Grant’s sermon that morning, or Dr. Wendy’s talk during the Sunday School hour. Anyway, Gary talked about how Dr. Wendy expressed that there are times when even she struggles to be grateful for everything, but she continues to try.
I’ve done a lot of verbal (and written) complaining in the last 18 months. It isn’t a secret we aren’t where we want to be, things haven’t turned out how we planned. Selling our boat, our home out of necessity isn’t easy. It means forcing Vivienne and our dogs to transition to yet another living situation and facing even more difficult realities: we handled our finances poorly in the past and we have been forced to look our mistakes in the face.
We were living at the highest end of our means when TJ was working in the oilfield, not being smart and saving for the future. Buying into the American Dream of having the big home, the nice car, new clothes, and taking trips to prove we were successful before we even reached age 30. Looking back, we were severely misusing the funds God provided. He wasn’t giving us the money to “keep up with the Jones'” but to help take care of His other children who didn’t have the financial means to care for themselves. We know now that we could’ve lived well on significantly less than we were making–giving us the opportunity to help provide for others in their struggle. We were selfish, living the American Dream with a side of Christianity on Sundays (Radical, David Platt).
While we are ashamed of our past behavior, and still paying for those mistakes (literally & figuratively), we have a new-found, deeper appreciation for what we have been experiencing. Not only has this time in our life shown us the error of our selfish ways, and just how unnecessary all those things are, but it is granting us the opportunity to experience the kindness and selflessness of others. It isn’t easy to admit we have “fallen” so far; to where things like the inability to pay bills on time (think, months…plural…late) and food insecurity have been a reality at times. Our families have come to our aid financially, provided food for us, purchased clothing and shoes for Vivienne, and surrounded us with prayer; while others have helped us without even realizing it through other acts of kindness. It has also made us realize there are many in Christ’s Kingdom who do not have family that can help provide those things in a time of need. We could’ve been doing that for others instead of only worrying about ourselves.
TJ and I have been knocked off our high horse and we have no intention of getting back on it. The prayer of confession we say on Sundays prior to communion comes to mind, “...we are truly sorry and we humbly repent…”. They are not just words mumbled in unison for us but said with true, heartfelt meaning. We screwed up…big time…and we know it. We were selfish, haughty, and ungrateful. God had given us much and we took it all for ourselves. Just as God gives, He takes away and in this time of need we have seen the error of our ways. While God has taken away, he has only taken away the excess, our needs have always been covered and I’ve found myself worrying needlessly.
This time of insecurity, scarcity, and financially instability is where God has been asking us to trust Him and his provision; to look to our brothers and sisters in Christ during this time of need and ask for their grace on us. He has asked us to give up our pride and reveal our vulnerability, while also showing us we need not worry because He will provide care for us. In the last week one theme has been consistent in things I’ve read, sang, and heard: Trust in the Lord. Trust.
Surprisingly, even after all we have been through, I find we are struggling to trust. We still worry about money, food, and the future; wanting with our whole hearts to take the Gospel to other nations as missionaries, yet feeling “trapped” where we are now. God has put this calling on our hearts and He will not obstruct us from our calling. We are in a time of preparation. From the deepest wells God’s stars shine brightest. We are in the well now, being polished, refined, and reshaped and when this time of trial and pressure comes to an end, we will be bright shining diamonds for Christ; prepared to take His word to the unreached world.
So, for now, we will try to practice exactly what is quoted– breathing in the Word and exhaling gratefulness because, above all, we still have so much for which to be thankful. Our family is together (most of the time), TJ and I have jobs now, we have a roof over our heads, food to eat, family (both blood and faith) helping and encouraging us in this trial and, above all else, a Father who loves us. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the trials of this world are only temporary.
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
-Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)