Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Alone, On My Own--Now What???

Job lost his possessions. His cattle, flocks, almost everything. And Job was a very wealthy man.

In the summer of 1999 I lost the family home. The house was paid mortgage. But property taxes were way past due and I didn't have the money to pay them. The house was needing some major repairs and I had no money for those either. Eventually the house was going to go up for sheriff's auction so to try to get more out of it, I put it up for auction through a realtor who helped me get settled in a mobile home of my own fully paid for, with a brand new storage shed, and help paying off my car and getting a car down payment for my son to use to get to and from school and work. I didn't get much for the house, but it covered the needs I had at that time.

I was only working part time, but since I only had a small lot rent to pay and utilities were not bad, I was doing okay. Then in January 2000, I lost that job. I got another job and ended up having to give that up because it caused further damage to my right knee which was already giving me a great deal of pain. I found another job that helped me be able to work and still not be on my feet all the time. It seemed to be working out well, and even though my knee was getting worse, I was able to keep working until I passed the probationary period so I could get medical insurance. Right away I went to the doctor who ordered me to not go back to work until after I talked to an orthopedic surgeon. I had all the necessary tests and had the initial appointment scheduled. About that time, my employer called me and told me I had a choice...either I had to come back to work or be terminated. By that time I had pushed myself so much I could hardly walk, so I really had no choice. They said even though I reached the probationary period where insurance was taken care of, I still needed three more months before I could take a leave of absence. Since they had no idea when I would have my surgery or how long I would be off work, they could not work with me. So, in 7 months time I had lost 3 jobs.

All through the previous year and into this year I had been praying that I wish I could take a vacation. Now really, this was not the kind of prayer we think of when we talk about praying. But I have learned that God hears our prayers whether they are spoken formally, informally, or just a cry out in the night. My prayers for a vacation were more like the cry out in the night kind. For the next six months I tried to find another job, but I was unsuccessful. The money ran out, the help ran out. I was battling with a faith issue at the time about food stamps and other governmental help vs trusting God. The food stamp program administrator was nasty as they come and the stress I was already dealing with that had gone undealt with combined with the current stress was more than I could deal with when I had to deal with that woman on top of it all. I took another leap of faith and stopped all food stamps and other assistance. Very soon after that I was hired for a job, the employer knowing that I had surgery coming up. The wait for all of this was 6 months. About 3 months into the wait, it dawned on me that I had asked for a vacation, so I should be trying to enjoy the time I had. I stopped letting myself be so scared and I started working on making individual scrapbooks for each of my children for their Christmas presents that year.
Getting to have the surgery was something provided by God, but He used government assistance I did not ask for to get it for me. I got a letter concerning medicaid and that since my son was still 18 we both could now get medicaid until he was 19 and because I had been turned down before we each got a free 3 month medicaid card. I got my surgery and all the other medical things done during that three months that I could get done.

It turned out that the company that hired me knowing I was going to have surgery kept me only through the time it took for me to build up my department so they could pass their state survey. They already had their person they wanted for the job in place but she had no certification and had no time to get it before the survey. As soon as the survey was over, they found a bogus reason to fire me. Yet another job lost. What's going on here God?
At this time I was trying to help my daughter with her wedding plans. I had bought all the flowers and decoration things and was working on making all the bouquets and corsages (sorry I can't spell the French word I want). I was out of work for almost a year. How did I survive? Here is an interesting story about God and how He works.

After I lost the family home I bought a mobile home. Back when I was a teenager I enjoyed reading David Wilkerson books. In one book he told about how he felt convicted that his family was watching too much television. He was not sure about what to do so he asked God if He really wanted Him to get rid of the television to send someone over to buy it from him. That night someone knocked on the door and before the night was over David had sold his television to the visitor. I remembered that story all the rest of my life. When we couldn't sell our family home while we were living in the other state I believe it was because God knew we would need it when we came back. After almost a year in my mobile home, and having the financial difficulties I was having, and realizing that I would be soon needing to sign another lease for the lot, I prayed. I asked God what He wanted me to do. Should I keep the mobile home and sign another year's lease, or should I sell the mobile home and move somewhere else? At this point, I believed that it just didn't matter if there was a realtor involved and a sign in your yard or not. If God wanted me to sell, He would provide a buyer, just like He provided a buyer for David Wilkerson's television. I asked God to provide a buyer with the price I wanted in time for me to know what to do about the lease if He wanted me to sell. Nothing happened. I stayed another year.
So the year 2000 had been a year of learning to trust God's provision in the midst of being alone, out of work, no income, and a knee needing surgery. When the W-2's came out I found I had survived the year on just around $7000 total income. And I did not go without one thing that I needed. The year 2001, although starting out like it was going to go well, turned into another financially difficult year. I had had my surgery in January, and lost my job the first week of March. What little money I had saved was almost gone. Once again, it was getting closer to time for deciding what to do about signing the lot lease for another year. There is a park not far from where I lived that has a duck pond and it is one of my favorite places to go pray. I once again asked God what He wanted me to do. Once again I asked Him to show me by providing me a buyer at the price I wanted if He wanted me to sell the mobile home and move somewhere else. (As I write this I am realizing that both prayers happened in April because the lease was due to be signed in June. Is there something special about April in my life? Only God Himself knows that.) I reminded God that I had faith that He would be able to do something this seemingly impossible. After all, I had not contacted a realtor about selling the mobile home. All I had done was confide in a friend of mine that I had been thinking about it. After I spent some time at the duck pond praying, I went home. Within 3 hours--yes 3 hours--I was talking to a woman on the phone who had called me wanting to buy my mobile home and she wanted to spend the exact amount of money I had told God I wanted for it! So, the first year I prayed, God sent no one. The second year, He sent someone within 3 hours of my prayer! Not only that, as we chatted, we found out our children knew each other, and we went to the same church. I don't know what you think of that, but I think that is so amazing! God is amazing!

Okay, so I started packing and looking for someplace to move. Laughing at myself I realized I had not put anything about where God wanted me to go in my prayers. So I started praying about that. I was also praying for some way to be able to afford some kind of exercise program to help strengthen my legs after my surgery. Not having an income at that time not only limited the possibilities of finding any exercise program I could afford, it also limited my opportunities at finding a decent apartment. At this same time, I found a part time job doing private duty home health care which gave me a small income to get by on. Plus I had the money from the sale of the mobile home. So how did God provide for both of those prayers?
He did it with just one answer! I got accepted into an apartment complex, fairly new in the area, and very nice. The apartment was on the third floor--36 steps from ground to home! Thirty-six steps to climb up and down at least once every day! Oh how those helping me move complained. I felt so bad for them. Laundry facilities were on the ground floor so that meant I would get plenty of exercise for free just going up and down those stairs every day. God has a sense of humor. The only way I got into the apartment was because I had that part time job. The money I got for the mobile home mostly went toward future rent, future car payments, utility bills, and stocking up on groceries so that I would not have to worry about anything for awhile which would give me time to find another job. My knee was much improved and I had no doubts that I would get a job sooner or later. It turned out to be later...much later. And once again, I ran out of resources, and I ran out of time. For the first time I was facing homelessness and I was threatened with losing my faith.
Through all of this--through everything that had happened from before I lost my marriage--from before I saw my children pulling away from me and from home--I was identifying myself with Job. I was losing everything. What was I going to do? Amazingly, this trial was one that taught me so much about how our wonderful Lord is our Jehovah-Jireh--The Lord Provides. During this year as I continued to try to find a good stable job, the Lord guided me to read the scriptures and whenever I found anything at all about Him providing for His people, I should write it down in a little notebook that I could keep with me all the time. The notebook is still in my purse with me to this day. Whenever I was away from home where I had no Bible to reach for, that little notebook was with me and if I became fearful, all I had to do was pull it out and read what I had written in it up to that point. One day as I was flipping through television channels, some words from a Christian program jumped out at me. The woman was saying that we would never need faith unless we were going through trials. Without trials, faith is not necessary. I hung onto that. I also had a pile of old Guidepost magazines from the 80's. As I read through those I kept finding stories that encouraged me to keep trusting God to bring me through my situation.
So there I was, facing eviction, facing homelessness. At Christmas time. In the middle of winter. God did you bring me to this place to let me fall? Would you lead me on a journey to learn to trust You and then just let me go on alone without Your help? NO! NEVER! All through the holidays, I was learning something new about God's provision. For example, I learned what a "Pentacostal handshake" was. That is when you shake hands with someone and find money in the palm of your hand at the end of the handshake. That happened twice. $50 at Thanksgiving, and $100 at Christmas. I received foodbaskets for the holidays. I found $20 in my coat pocket once and I have no clue how it got there, but it arrived just when I needed it. One person gave me $75 to use when I move and that money ended up paying for a storage unit so I was able to save about half of my personal belongings. But up until the very last day, I had no place to go. The next day I had to be out. I had held on as long as I could, even going to court and getting only 10 days more. This was day 9.
It was time to go to church and a friend was coming to get me. My car had been repossessed. She didn't show up. I wasn't really feeling much like going to church but I thought, one more night of having people pray. Maybe God yet had a solution. So, not living far from the church, I trampled through the snow and bumpy ground and walked to church in the dark. When I got there, my friends told me that about that same time the one who was supposed to pick me up remembered and went to get me. We just missed each other. During the prayer time I once again raised my prayer request. At the end of the service a woman I barely knew approached me. She had not been able to attend church for a few weeks and had not heard of my struggles. She offered me a room at her house and in exchange I could work for her in her home business, helping out a little here and there while I got myself back on my feet! What would have happened had I given up and gone back up those 36 steps and not gone to church that night?
God may cause us to wait. But He is never late. He is always on time. When w-2's came out that year, my income including the sale of my mobile home was just slightly over $8000. Who can live on that without God's provision?

At this point, you may be asking yourself, or wanting to ask me--How can I say He is never late? How could He allow me to lose my home once again? How could He want me to go through such fears and emotions? In all honesty, I cannot answer those questions other than to point you back to the story of Job. God is good. There is nothing in all of this that I would ever want to go through again. At the same time, had I not gone through all of it, I would not be the person I am now. I would not have the strong faith in God that I do now. I never would have learned any of the things I know about God without going through all of it. And this story is still not over. I also know that there are things I needed to learn about myself that I was too stubborn to face. There were things buried inside me that I needed to have dug out into the bright open light of day...things I didn't even realize were there. Things I still didn't know about myself.
Please come back for the next part of the story.

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