Monday, August 19, 2013

Apples to Oranges

So, finding time to blog while preparing for a baby, "homeschooling" my child, doing housework, and earning money for medical bills has proven to be somewhat difficult. :)  I am still wondering what kind of schedule my sweet little family will be on when we become a family of four in December.  In the midst of it all, though, my God is still finding ways to love on me and sharpen me in my walk with Him.

Like some of my posts, this post is raw, meaning I am still walking through this trial.  Like all of my posts, this one is real.  I like to be transparent--it is the way I am with my heavenly Father and it is the way I am with anyone who is around me.  I am not perfect, but I love learning from my mistakes.  I love it even more when my heavenly Father gently shows me my mistakes and lovingly leads me through them, fixing me as we go.  Letting Him take the driver's seat in my life is the only way I grow, becoming more mature and, hopefully, more like Christ.

I mentioned in a previous post that my husband and I prayed for and tried to conceive another child for eight months.  I know some women have to wait much, much longer than that before they conceive and some women never conceive at all.  I can't even imagine walking through that and my heart hurts for those women.  I do not want to seem callous or not compassionate toward those situations, but if your story is one that has not turned out the way you hoped in the area of children, I encourage you to keep reading.  I think you will find that the message of this post is one we have in common.  Going back to the prayers and hopes of my husband and me, God chose to answer our prayer after eight long, silent months and a three-day fast for the conception of another child.  I had given the situation over to Him and let Him control it and lead us as He desired, all for our good (Romans 8:28).  We were pleasantly surprised when a pregnancy test came back positive in March.  We were beyond delighted and praised God over and over for His grace over us.

However, the journey of preparing for and making a home for this baby has grown me and is growing my faith as we speak.  Like many American families in today's world, our funds are not immaculate.  We answered a call God put on my life to stay at home when the financial numbers did not add up on paper.  We took a step of faith for me to stop working outside the home and work inside the home full-time, trusting God to provide for all our needs (Philippians 4:19).  And He has.  Every step of the way, He has been faithful to us.  We have everything we need and are not lacking anything essential in our daily living.  He has taught us ways to be frugal and cut spending, ways to earn a little money on the side, and, most importantly, has sharpened our faith like no Sunday school lesson ever could.  Lately, though, my faith has wavered.

When I was praying for the conception of a child, part of my prayer was "...but only if You can financially provide for us and the new baby, Lord."  Part of me, my flesh, was focused on the numbers on paper and I was nervous about how we would ever pay for a new baby, an addition to our family.  I asked my husband about it and he calmly said, "We'll just trust God with that."  All the counsel we had ever heard from good friends from which we seek Godly counsel was "Don't wait until you have money to have kids because you'll remain childless."  Therefore, trying to have a baby was another step of faith my husband and I decided to take together.  If we had it our way and money was no matter, our house would be full of children, natural and adopted--bring them on.  But, it is our responsibility to feed, clothe, and provide an education for them.

Needless to say, my flesh started to take over.  The medical bills started to roll in, the first major one being the amount the doctor's office said we owed BEFORE delivery to pay for the delivery.  They put us on a payment plan that I shared with my husband that afternoon.  He let loose a deep sigh and made some comment about how he didn't know how we were going to pay all of that.  Lightheartedly and in a joking tone, I playfully asked, "What happened to trusting God?"  But, I can relate to his reaction.  I hate to admit it, but it is so easy to take our eyes off of our God, the Owner of everything in the earth, including the money, and put our eyes on our circumstances, focusing on the mountain of bills and the flatlands of our household income.

I had no idea how we were going to pay our bills.  So, I started to pray.  I prayed for God to open my eyes to ways I could help with our income.  I started selling furniture and other items we had around the house that we did not need or use any more and publicizing my artwork, and God has blessed it.  So far, those two means are how we have paid off our medical bills.  But, that is where the spiritual struggle came in.   Taking my eyes off of Jesus again, I started looking around at other families who have been financially "blessed," families who have abundantly more than we have and I started to compare my family to theirs, which caused me to feel sorry for my family, angry, and jealous, none of which are emotions that please God.  They don't please God because when we feel that way, we are not trusting Him to meet our needs.  We are looking for our needs to be met in other places, and God longs to be that for us; He longs to be our Provider, Shelter, and Refuge, and that is what I have found in Him through this walk.

I came across Psalm 37 one morning during the time I usually meet with my Savior.  I have prayed through the entire chapter more than once, but some of the passages that stood out to me are "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him...Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways...Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it only leads to evil...Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;...but the Lord upholds the righteous...Wait for the Lord and keep his way.  He will exalt you to inherit the land... ."  Through that chapter, God gently reminded me that my eyes were not focused in the right place.  I had chosen to focus on what I thought we lacked, rather than on the multiple blessings God has showered on my family.  God never promised that our journey through this world would be a smooth or easy one, but He does make several promises in Psalm 37 alone--that He will give me the desires of my heart; that He will make my righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of my cause like the noonday sun; the Lord will uphold me; the Lord will lift me up and give me the land where I need to live.  He has and always will be everything we need and everything we need is found in Him alone.  I have learned that my family is one, too, that has been financially blessed--just like the families to which I was comparing us!

When I feel my fleshly emotions and attitudes start rising up, I go back to Psalm 37.  I refocus, setting my eyes on Him and proclaiming His promises and provision in my life.  I know that in this world, especially today, it is so easy for us to compare ourselves to others, whether it be physically, materialistically, intellectually, financially, or in other ways, but God is the Author and Perfecter of our faith and He is the only One to Whom we are held accountable.  He is true, His ways are true and right, and His promises are true.  I know because they are true in my life.  As long as I am faithful to abide in Him, seek Him, and follow His ways, all of which show my love for Him, none of which are rules I have to follow, He will continue to provide for and bless us.  And because I love Him, I will continue to walk in His ways.

I like when the psalmist of Psalm 37 says, "though he [a person following the Lord] stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand."  That is why I can be real with God--that is why I don't have to pretend to be anything different, flaws, worries, doubts, and all--because my God upholds me.  It's OK for me to stumble--He knows I am going to, which is why He is already lovingly prepared to catch me and pick me back up.  I don't have to try to be perfect--God is sufficient for me.  I am not sufficient, I fall everyday and stumble in my faith, but God is sufficient.  He knows my inconsistencies, fears, worries, etc., but He loves me anyway and He loves me just the same.

So, if you are like me and sometimes find yourself comparing your own life, body, or circumstances to others, remember that they are not our standard.  Christ is our standard and the One Who loves us the most in this world.  He will complete us, satisfy us, and provide for us in ways that no person or thing in this world ever can.  He is our everything!