My life is a continuing testament to God’s provision and loving care. This is a very personal story, but I realize that it is more His than mine. And, as I am so proud of the way He lovingly weaves everything I need into my life, I wanted to share.
Once upon a time ;), we were apart of a great adventure that looked a lot like a homeless shelter. A dear friend of ours invited my husband to work with him in opening a new shelter, in the city in which we were living. It was downtown in a nondescript, if not ugly, brown building. On the third floor, were 16 suite type rooms, for residents. The first floor housed social services for the organization. And, on the second floor, was the kitchen, dining room, outside-rooftop-playground, shelter offices, and our apartment. Yes, we lived there. In the early days, it was a necessity because there was only a handful of staff, and everyday had 24 hrs. full of challenges. It was a time where our personal lives were so intertwined with shelter life, that it’s hard , now, to think about it as a job my husband once had. If we were doing an Easter egg hunt for our son, we did it for all the kids in the shelter. If we were making popcorn balls for ourselves, we made extra to give to the residents. We believed in it, and we invested our lives in a way that sometimes looked a little crazy. There were very many nights when I would wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning, because a resident who missed curfew was throwing pebbles (or yelling) at our bedroom window. Which would result in this conversation, “Are you really just going to leave them out there?” “They missed curfew.” “Honey, it’s cold out there, maybe they have a good reason?” Then, my husband would get up, get dressed, let them in, give them a talking to on the elevator ride up, and come back to bed. The way we invested wore us out (and honestly, couldn’t be sustained for any long period of time), but now, looking back on those years, we treasure them. It was a time, where we never questioned if God could use us, or where He could use us, all we had to do was walk out into the hallway, and an opportunity to do something with Him, would present itself.
So, now you have the heart of it, we loved it, it was hard, and everyday there was drama. On one particularly not good day, I was in my pajamas, playing with our 3-year-old son in the living room. As we were playing, the door to our apartment opened, and a small group of well dressed business people walked in, chatting about what could be done in the space. I recognized the leader of the group as one of the women that worked downstairs, in social services. They had blueprints. They talked about tearing down my bedroom wall, and they didn’t seem to notice that I was shocked, and wishing I had a sweatshirt, or a robe on! Thankfully, my husband had heard the commotion, and came in on a white steed (okay, not so much on horse, but very much saving the day). He said something or other about, you can’t just barge into our apartment unannounced. She said something about needing to make plans. He said, something about making an appointment. She was really upset and didn’t understand, but then looked, I think, for the first time, at me and my son in our pajamas, and realized maybe she should have thought about it a little more. They all left to talk about it in the hallway, and then I was back to Duplos, and Elmo playing in the background. But, the damage had been done.
You see, my shock was not so much about people rushing into the apartment. This happened a lot. (In fact, in our first weeks, one of the staff members would walk into our kitchen and take our food out of the cabinets, to feed the residents. My husband had a talk with her about that.) I was shocked because these well clad strangers were talking about closing down the shelter. The shelter that we loved, and invested our all in. The shelter that we believed in. And, then there was the fact that my husband would be without a job, and we would be without a place to live, all in one fell swoop. Just as all this was dawning on me, the white knight returned with an explanation that didn’t explain much, and then went back to his office for a meeting.
I was left with confusion, hurt, and overwhelm. I walked to the kitchen to pour myself another cup of coffee. Away from my son, and Elmo, I felt the liberty to pour out my feelings to God. I can remember, even now, the way it felt to have the rug pulled out from under me. I didn’t really know what to do, or where to stand, in this new reality. Then, I did something new, and unexpected. There, in the silence of my kitchen, I lifted my hands and started to praise God. I praised Him for His goodness. I praised Him for His faithfulness. I praised Him for all He had given us. I’m not sure why that was my reaction. I’m pretty sure that God lifted my hands, and put those words of praise in my mouth. Because, in that time of praise, in my kitchen, there was respite for my soul. As I came into His presence, I was reminded of all He is, and all He does, and all He can do. It was there that I left my overwhelm, and replaced it with a peace that can only come from big, BIG God.
But, this is not the end of my story (although it has gotten long, sorry). I told you this was a story about provision, and although there was provision in the kitchen, it was not enough for our excessively generous God. A few days later, we were at church, in worship, when my sweet, loving God wanted to tell me that He saw me, and heard me. Our worship pastor is a very talented songwriter and likes to try out his new songs on us. So that day, he taught us a new song, line by line. And this is how it went:
Lord I surrender all
To Your strong and faithful hand
In everything I will give thanks to You
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan
When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth
When I don’t know what to do
The chorus blew me away. I saw myself standing in that kitchen, with my hands raised, only days before. How on earth could God have orchestrated this? Now, I know that this song was not just for me. God gave Tommy Walker this song so that he could share it with a whole slew of people. And, I know that it has, and will speak to them, and give words to their hearts. But, the timing, and the specificity, of those words spoke so directly to my heart. In the midst of uncertainty, and chaos, He had heard my cry. And, I knew that a God that would take such care with my heart, would very easily take care of the other stuff.
“Praise be to the LORD,for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” Psalm 28:6-7
P.S. If you want to hear the song, here is a video (from a different church): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfR1xLnwpTg