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Monday, March 28, 2011

Even in Hardship - An Abundance of Blessings


Many changes have taken place in the 30  months that Big Bear has been out of work.  There have been many difficult and humbling changes, but nothing that has really been negatively life altering - like having cable turned off (which obviously means no television), or lowering the thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer, or finding creative ways to earn money to pay the utility bills.


We've learned to be conscientious energy consumers and we turn off unnecessary lights, we don't run the dishwasher or the washing machine unless it is full.  We also don't run errands as often as we did for most of the last 18 years together.  We plan our trips to the grocery or whereever else we need to go so as not to waste gas.  It's just too expensive.


We've learned that shopping at the Goodwill really isn't all that bad after all.  I mean, I've come to love shopping there!  Just this past few Sunday's we've stopped in after church and I've found some surprising deals.  I found a perfectly new Burberry handbag for 99 cents.  I found about 4 dresses for Sarah for 4 bucks a piece - all name brand too and in excellent condition.  I bought Matthew and Glen some nice dress shirts to wear to church too.  For me, it has become a bit of a treasure hunt.  I'm not ashamed to admit any of this because I can honestly say, without hesitation, that I've learned a great many things over the last 2 years, and most of it has been good.  I'm actually grateful for the Goodwill.


I've learned that I (yes, little ol' me) am fully capable of carrying my family of 5 financially through the blessings God has given me to write, paint in oils, sew, craft, and design websites and blogs.  My crafts have turned into a full-fledged business and God has brought me the business to keep me busy.


I've learned the value of a dollar - more than ever before.  I will never again waste a dollar on frivolous purchases, and instead will think about the value of saving that dollar. 


Sure, it was nice having the money to go shopping and spend it on whatever I desired that was within our budget of course, but still, we've been very comfortable for most of our marriage and have never wanted for anything.  Now, of course, our lives have changed, but has it been all that bad?  Not really.


We've all been praying.  Praying that Big Bear finds a good job and we can get our lives back, but as the days and weeks and months have passed, what I thought was an unanswered prayer has actually been answered abundantly.


Honestly, I think we needed a wake up call.  And "wake up" we have.  Even for all the resumes that Bob has sent out and for all the interviews that he has been on, no job is on the horizon - at least not one working for someone else.  Still, we are happy and healthy.  We have our home and we have each other.  We have family - and nothing is more important than family.


In addition to all the hard-learned lessons, I wouldn't take back one day of the last 30 months.  I believe, for us, this has been the Lord in action in our lives. We've each had difficult days, stressful days, days of worry and turmoil, but the sun has always shined brightly the next day.


Where as we used to make excuses for not getting up on Sunday morning and taking our family to church even when our children asked us if we could all go, we now go every Sunday without fail.  The children are happier than ever before - not that they weren't happy before, but Sunday's have come to represent time with God, time with prayer, time to reflect, and time with family.  Rain or shine, we've gone to church every Sunday.  I made a promise to my daughter, Sarah, that unless we are all sick, we will go to church on Sunday.  I won't break my promise and I am better for it.


As a result, we are becoming more active in our church.  We love our congregation family, and we absolutely love our pastors (yes, I said "pastors") as our church has 6 pastors.  Every Sunday we leave feeling renewed and blessed.  We each share our experience and thoughts as we drive home to begin our week.  I love this time we share and I look forward to Sunday now more than any other day of the week.


I also made a promise to myself and God that I would read the Bible this year and I have been reading almost daily.  I enjoy reading God's word in the morning before I begin my day.  It's amazing how it calms me and brings things into focus.


Think about it ... How often do our schedules, long to-do lists, and our immediate line of priorities trump the things we claim to love the most?  A pile of laundry certainly seems insignificant the day a family member becomes sick or injured, or your mother falls ill.  Yes, life involves a great deal of responsibility, but it also involves a need for responsiveness to urgent situations - like a child struggling in school or a loss of a job.  We need to gain perspective - fast - and respond accordingly.  I am proud of my family because we have each stepped up to the plate and helped each other through these tough economic times.


We've had to respond, and in doing so, we've prayed that God show us the way for our journey through this "relative" hardship.  I say "relative" because really now, how bad is it really for us?  Not.  Think of those poor souls in Japan, or the families who have lost their homes to this economic situation.  Think of our young men and women fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the fighting in Egypt.  Perspective.  Suddenly "this" life we are living seems glorious by comparison.


In the last year especially, I've managed  to grow and nurture a business from nothing to something - Red Easel Designs - and it has carried us through.  My painting commissions have picked up too for my Vaughn Fine Art business, and I've sold a number of my crafts too.  I had a task to fulfill and I needed to step in quickly to honor that need for my family.  With God's help, I've been able to do this.


Talk about putting things in perspective - think of Moses.  Here's a man who was tending sheep, fulfilling his daily responsibility, when God intervened with an urgent call.  Moses was available and obedient, but when God told him what he wanted him to do - to go back to Egypt and lead a rescue mission for the Hebrew people, imagine what must have gone through Moses' mind.  "I can't do this, I'm just an ordinary man" (maybe)  In many ways, I thought that being able to carry my family financially while Big Bear continues to look for work was impossible and it scared the bageebees out of me.  I didn't think I could do it.


Like Moses, I certainly felt inadequate for the job of picking up where Bob left off, and I felt ill equipped for this mission in my life.  However, I've learned that when God calls us to do something bigger than we think we can accomplish, He will equip us by working through us, just as He did with Moses.


I've learned to rely on God's strength and not on my own abilities.  That is how we can become more confident in our own successes.  His great power overcomes our lack of confidence or talent.  We act in the power of the great "I Am."


So when you hear the call to step up, just as I have in the past few years, answer without hesitation "Here I am Lord!"  God's call.  God's strength.  Your availability.  I'm proof positive that the Lord works wonders and blessings through hardship - little ones and big ones.  We may not see His answer in our time, but we will surely see it in His.


Love to all my readers and friends - you are my family and I am so grateful for all of you. 


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