Earlier this year in January, I was asked to share a brief 5-minute testimony at our church women’s retreat. I’m finally getting around to posting about it and it only took me six months! In the months following the retreat, we find ourselves still waiting and trusting in God’s timing (it’s been challenging!), but we continue to lean on Him with hope and praise.
This was my introduction, before I went up to speak – I live in San Lorenzo with my husband Jason and am a stay-at-home mom to our kids Micah (8) and Rebekah (4). We’ve been attending Creekside [Community Church] for almost 5 years. I am a coffee and milk tea addict, [who] loves discovering new places to eat and fun things to do with my family, and am passionate about missions and service.
And here’s what I shared with the group – “So a little background about myself. Before coming to Creekside, my husband and I attended a church in San Francisco, where we were active members since we were Junior Highers, so for about 20-25 years. Coming from a church where you know almost everyone and all the ins and outs of what’s going on, to a church where you only know maybe only 1-2 families…well, that was a BIG change. We stayed pretty low key at Creekside for awhile. It took us about two years to even sign up for name tags and for some reason, it was a big step and a big deal for us! Since then, we’ve been serving in little ways that we can and have been blessed to be a part of Tim and Jenny Sloat’s community group for the past couple of years.
Tonight, I’ll be sharing about what God has been doing in my life more recently and how I have been responding.
September 14, 2015 is a day that I will not forget for a long time. The morning started out fine. Jason went to work like normal, and we were expecting to hear from our real estate broker about signing new loan documents for our house. Which was a huge relief!…because back in April, we found out that 1of our 2 loans was not a 30 year fixed loan like we thought it was, but actually a 10 year loan that was due on October 1st. We had to either come up with ~$48K to pay back that loan or try to refinance, which we had NO luck in doing before. But after a lot of research, days and nights of worrying and stress, lots and lots of prayer and a referral from a friend that led us to our broker…God provided a way out for us. We were days away from signing our new papers.
Then that Monday afternoon comes around and I get a call from Jason. He tells me that he got laid off from his job, a company that he had been with for almost 10 years. This couldn’t have happened at a better time, right? We already had accumulated all this debt, the Oct.1st deadline was coming up, we had very very little savings…what else can go wrong? I’ll come back to this in a bit.
That night, some of the ladies from our small group met up for prayer time and I got to share with Jenny and Ashley about Jason’s job and some things that had been on my heart regarding our community group…things that I had been praying personally to God. I wanted to experience more with the group…to grow closer and nurture authentic friendships, be transparent, really live life together, celebrate the joys like new babies and birthdays, and especially supporting each other during the bad times and struggles. Jenny summed up it best when she said in an email, “we’re all looking to go deeper, to connect more, to risk more, and to support and love more deeply.”
Back to our refinance issue. I’m jumping back and forth, because it all ties in together. Praise God that Jason’s former employees agreed to keep him on the payroll until the end of September, which meant that Jason was technically still employed and we were able to sign the new loan documents that week. It was a such a heavy burden that was lifted.
But, as God was showing me…when you ask Him for something, you have to prepare yourself for when He answers in other ways…
After sharing about my hopes for our community group with Jenny and Ashley and 5 days after Jason’s layoff…my mom gets into a really bad accident that left her with a subdural hematoma (which is some bleeding outside of the brain), a slightly collapsed lung, a fracture collarbone and fractured ribs. My then 69 year old mom had fallen off the ladder in their backyard and I know that God watching out for her, because she was not knocked unconscious. Somehow, she was able to crawl closer to the back door and started screaming for my Dad, who could not hear her screams, because he is hard of hearing. Thankfully, their neighbor, who isn’t always around but happened to be around that day, heard her screaming. He climbed over the fence and called 911. If he hadn’t been there or if my mom was knocked unconscious, who knows what could’ve happened. My mom spent the next 6 nights at Highland Hospital in Oakland, two of those nights were in the ICU. Btw, my mom is doing well and has recovered from her injuries.
Needless to say, that was a stressful time. But it was God’s perfect timing, because being unemployed allowed Jason to be at home full-time with the kids and I could focus on taking care of my parents. We could have managed even if he was still working…it just would’ve been more stressful and inconvenient.
During this crazy time, instead of focusing on all the bad stuff, God was teaching me to focus on all the good stuff. Instead of focusing on Jason’s unemployment, God was giving us more family time together. We also began to experience those deeper connections with our community group that I had been praying for. I just didn’t expect us to be on the receiving end of things, because I like to be the giver and the encourager and the helper. We are always willing to help, but we don’t like asking for it, right?
An example of how we were on the receiving end. The Men’s Retreat was coming up and Jason had decided, even before he lost his job, that he wasn’t going to attend for other financial reasons. But the guys from our small group decided that they wanted to send Jason to the retreat and gift him with a weekend away, so he could rest and reflect and fellowship. At first, Jason wasn’t sure if he should take the offer, but God reminded us that our friends really wanted to bless him with this. If Jason and I find delight in blessing others, we should allow our friends to experience that same joy. “Every good and perfect gift is from God.” It’s not about who gives and who receives…it’s about God, the one whom all gifts come from. So Jason went to the retreat, had a good time and was really blessed by it.
Since then, family and friends have been blessing us in different ways…dropping off meals, giving us gift cards for gas and groceries. We have no other income other than the money coming from unemployment, but we’re focusing on trusting in God and making it work.
Author and speaker Brene Brown says in her book Rising Strong that “Connection doesn’t exist without giving and receiving. We need to give, and we need to need.” “The bottom line is that we need each other, and not just the civilized, proper, convenient kind of need. Not one of us gets through this life without expressing desperate, messy, and uncivilized need — the kind we are reminded of when we come face to face with someone who is in a deep struggle.”
It’s not always easy admitting our struggles and shortcomings, but God doesn’t want us to go through these things alone. So I’m thankful that through our struggles, we are growing deeper connections and just allowing our friends to help and be there for us. And when our friends need us, we want to be there for them too. “
Six months has passed since sharing my testimony at the retreat and my husband Jason is still looking for a job. Though it’s been a difficult season in our lives, we cling to the hope we have in Christ Jesus. In our weakness, He strengthens us. In our weakness, He has blessed us with family and friends who pray and walk alongside us, sometimes even carrying us. I hope to share in another post how God has shown us love through the hands and feet of other people. It’s been quite a journey with lots of highs and lows, humility and gratefulness. Each day, I am reminded that God’s mercies are new every morning and Great is thy faithfulness. :)