Monday, May 5, 2008

A Standing Memorial

Friends and Family- The past few years have been full of incredible blessing and we've decided to share our story in full so each of you can enjoy what God is doing.

Our story begins with two young people refusing the life we were given. We were chronic pot smokers, drinkers, cigarette-smoking, party animals. I was into Goddess-worship and anything else that I knew would make God mad. Matt and I were both raised in good Christian homes, and though we each had heartbreak, and lots of anger, our lives were good. Matt lost his twin sister to a brain tumor in 1990 and my parents divorced when I was younger, leading to major emotional instability (depression, suicide). In college we met and a few years later were reunited and fell in love at first sight. We see in hindsight that God manufactured that moment. We lived together for a few years before a man at Matt’s work relentlessly pursued him and brought him back to the Lord. I came along later, just on the cusp of giving up everything that was good in my life because of my pride and rebellion. We took a few months apart to reevaluate what God wanted for us and decided to get married. We lived celibate for nine months before our wedding day and God honored our choice to put Him first in our lives, freeing us from the party-life.

We prayed and decided that God was calling us to Bend, both for our spiritual and emotional health. The fresh start we sought led us to Westside Church and jobs at Mt. Bachelor. Soon after moving here, God healed me of my ongoing struggles with depression. One day I heard God call me to be healed, so I went to the prayer team after church and they prayed for me. I spoke against the strongholds of depression, and a few others, and the burden was lifted. Forever. I can honestly say I've never relapsed.

About a year later we took a huge step of faith. We gave our only car to a cousin in need, one who would most likely never repay us. The avalanche of blessings began. Matt’s employer (a Westsider) loaned us a vehicle. We got pregnant and soon after Westside Church gave us a car. We stepped out of our comfort zone and took the MTI (Ministry Training Institute- class at Westside, learning more about our freedom in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

During this time, I was uninsurable because of my “pre-existing condition” of pregnancy, but a month before our baby was born, God led us to an insurance agent (we found out later he goes to Westside) who got us into a state program. We had been planning a midwife assisted home-birth, so didn’t think we’d need the insurance, but God told us to do it anyway. Turns out June had to come via emergency c-section, while I was under full anesthesia. Juniper Grace and I were in the hospital for a week, though nothing was found wrong with her at all (I had an unforeseeable infection). God spared both our lives, and our financial lives through our last-minute health insurance coverage. The brokenness that came from that birthing experience changed us, teaching us that faith is real and God is bigger than anything we face. Also, that we really need to do exactly what he tells us to do! God put a desire in my heart to stay home and be a mom, which meant decreasing our income by more than half. “Ok, God,” we said, “You’re the miracle worker. Show us what You want to do.” In 2007, the first full year of June’s life, we received over $10,000 in gifts from unexpected inheritance money to friends and family just plain giving us cash, expecting nothing in return. The cousin to whom we gave the car sent us $500. That’s more than we'd paid for it. A “real job” dropped into our laps (from a Westsider) so Matthew could work full time, year round, with paid family insurance. At the same time, we were handed an opportunity to rent a house for exactly the amount we could afford, less than we‘d been paying for our apartment. Our free car recently died and we were given another by friends (again, at Westside). I can’t count the times money mysteriously appeared in our checkbook, or a friend offered a few hours of work that would just cover a bill needing to be paid.

Without a doubt, I can say that God has called us to a life of simplicity and one of being set apart from the world's values. I could write a book about our journey on that path, but I’ll just say that it is an incredible way to learn about God’s favor, what faith in action really looks like, and how to live within your means. We recently discovered that after much prayer, mediation and (some) worrying, God has made us financially free. This is not what I thought it would look like, we don’t make more money or have less financial responsibility, but we are free. We are no longer “needy,” we are simply very blessed, living as the Levites did, owning nothing, serving God daily, and walking closely with Him. Our house, car, child and job are all manna from heaven! If I had to choose between the life we have and one with more worldly success, there is no doubt in my mind I’d choose this path of faith. So, be encouraged out there, if you’re barely making it. God is doing an incredibly amazing work in you. But it will be humbling, sometimes painful, and always unexpected in the way He will choose to do that work. I didn't share all the places we fell short, ignored God's voice and went our own way. These are setbacks, but He uses them for His purpose.

This is our testimony to you, and our memorial to where we have been. This is a door opening to huge breakthrough in the year to come. And this is a thank you to a church that is more than walls and chairs. You pray, you give and you fight hard. You are a battleship, not a cruise ship, and we’re here to testify to that.