Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chapter Five: Transforming Poverty

Moving from a beautiful hundred year old four bedroom country house in my home town into a one bedroom basement apartment with no windows, a walk-in closet turned mini-kitchen was humbling. I had wanted the house, the car, the fine things, but most of all I had wanted a marriage and children. Over the next year Shane and I would have to fight for our marriage and family and forget the material things we so often desired. God brought us to this humble place emotionally, spiritually and physically. He stripped away everything and made us utterly dependent upon Him. He had provided in a real and tangible way, yet humbled us to poverty.

While it would've made sense for me to keep working full-time catching up on our debt and saving, that was not where God wanted me. Emotionally I was broken and needed to reconnect with my baby girl and with my husband. God used that time to put Shane in a position where we completely depended on his work to provide for our family and to heal our marriage. As he was recovering emotionally, Shane bounced from job to job: painting & drywall repair, bellhop, valet, and once again, pizza delivery. The thing we wanted most was for him to get a record deal and much of his time - his heart- was focused there.

A few weeks after our son was born, a real record label was interested in Shane and his music! We were excited in anticipation of what lay ahead. They planned to put him on a European tour with a known artist that spring. We couldn't have been more elated. As we waited for more details to follow, our hopes began to fade. Eventually the label folded. There would be no tour and NO record deal.

We struggled to pay the few bills we had, and often struggled to buy food. We were experiencing poverty. Here I was, a college graduate, married to an intelligent, talented man with two babies, and we didn't have enough money to buy groceries. Shane had already sold the guitar his mother and dad had bought him a few years before she died, along with much of his gear and equipment. The only thing of any value left was my engagement ring. I had had it since I was seventeen and had imagined wearing it for the rest of my life, but our children needed to be fed. Too proud to ask for help from family or friends, and too embarrassed to admit to our church family who had so graciously helped us before, I slipped it off of my hand and gave it to Shane, asking him to sell it so we could buy groceries. Even now, when I see it missing from my hand, I mourn it's loss, but it's absence reminds me of where we've been and how far we have come.

Even during our time in a free living situation, we struggled to stay afloat. We incurred medical debt when three separate occasions sent us to the emergency room, one involving an ambulance ride. I have no doubt we could have qualified for government assistance, but were convicted not to go that route. Financially, we were no better off than before we had moved. Trying to find meaning in all this was difficult. While my head was immersed in the biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty over all, my heart was struggling to believe.

Shane got a steady job delivering radiators for $8.00 an hour and we moved back to my hometown. Our marriage was strong and our children were precious to us in a new way. On paper, one would wonder how we survived on that little income, but I am confident that it was God Himself delivering us through every turn.

I was learning that the value of worldly possessions and success is worthless. I was beginning to trust my Savior to not only provide and sustain us, but to save me.....I still thought I was "good," taking care of my children and being faithful to my husband, but my inability to pay my debts was weighing heavily on my heart. They had mounted to a level that seemed insurmountable and I knew on our own we could not overcome them. God was revealing to me my own depravity, my own sin. While I was usually able to do good and be good, internally my heart was hotbed of sin. It had been full of doubt and despair, had thought of leaving my husband a year before, resented his unsuccessful attempts to make it in the music business, and often doubted the faithfulness of my Lord. Rarely, if ever, did I reflect on my own sin, seeking repentance from my God and from those I had wronged. I too needed The Savior. As though a veil had been lifted, I saw all my attempts to be the perfect daughter, the perfect wife and mother, had failed. I could not redeem myself, but the perfect work of Christ had already.

As I began to walk in faith in a new way, recognizing that I needed the saving grace of Jesus Christ, -not just for my head, but for my heart- I was refreshed and hopeful. I was being transformed by a new faith, a new hope and no longer had to look to myself or my husband for a way out of life's difficulties or even my own sin; I could truly trust God who was making my heart rich. God had taken us to that lowly place and would carry us through every circumstance with a faithfulness that no human possesses.

Today, I leave you with some scriptures that have given me hope and confidence:

2 Corinthians 7-10
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Ephesians 2:4-10
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Stay tuned as I fill in the gaps and connect the dots for His perfect story of my life....

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