Monday, September 22, 2014

Fish and Loaves

Remember how I was back?

Me, too.

I've been trying to find the time/motivation/inspiration/energy to write a follow-up to my re-entry post.  But I've been too busy/lazy/uninspired/exhausted to do that.   Which actually isn't true.

Those are excuses.  And hackneyed ones at that.

So here's the truth: I have way too much to tell you - oh enigmatic crew of internet readers.  (The few of you who are left after such an unexpected hiatus this summer.)

Confession, most of the time when I use big words like enigmatic I have to look up their definition to be completely sure I know what they mean.  Because I have a habit of thinking I know what big words mean and being wrong.  Super wrong.  Like when I thought infamous meant "famous in small circles" or precocious meant "endearingly naughty."  But then sometimes I know words and get to teach them to the Husband.  Really important words like vestibule.  How did he get through life not knowing what a vestibule was?  Hey, look at this strange thought progression I've wandered down...where was I?

Oh yeah... so much to tell you.  But the gist of it is: we bought a house, we worked on the house, we moved in a month later, lots of things broke in the house (did I mention it was raining in our garage?), we spent all our money, school started again, we still haven't unpacked.
The pipe from our master bath.  That's an 8-inch long corroded hole.
Because of all the aforementioned chaos and stress, I kind of lost myself.  Things got a little out of control and I panicked.  We were very short on money, scraping the bottom of our barrel of sanity, and completely out of patience for each other.  So two weeks ago, in an effort to gather my wits, I wrote about how God turns our not-enough into more-than-enough and I made the public decision to trust that he would do that for us and promised to come back here and tell you about how he did it.

Before I do, I want you to know what I think about this sort of thing. This is not some weird Prayer of Jabez thing (remember that self-indulgent nonsense?) or some completely whacked prosperity gospel a-la the Osteens (don't even get me started on this ridiculousness) where I'm saying "God will do what you want, you just have to ask."  It's not true.  In the words of my dear and wise friend who has been through more hardship than a girl should have to bear, "God is not the God of my personal good fortune."  He is good no matter my circumstances, she says.  And I agree.

So this is me trying to lean in to the things I believe.  To take Jesus at his word.  To believe with my actions and life that God is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do.

I believe God delights in giving us good things.  I know his habits.  I know his ways.  I have seen them myself for my own benefit and for others.  I have read about them from the stories of old - when faith meant waiting for daily manna, holding up your aching arms to keep the floods at bay, pregnancy in old age after a lifetime of waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, and walking on water.  I believe faith still means those things.

And I believe that sometimes God gives us enough day by day.  Bit by bit.  Manna from the skies and water from the rocks.  And he says, "Trust me.  Do not store up for tomorrow.  Trust me that I'll do what I say."

And I believe that sometimes God gives abundantly to overflowing.  Quail when they complained, a king when they demanded, forgiveness when they turned away, the cross when they left him to die. To the undeserving, the weak, the least of these, the most of these, and everyone in between.  And he says, "These sacrifices - these covenants - are not for my sake, but for yours!  Everything I have is yours.  You are mine."

And I believe that sometimes God appears to disappear.  It seems he is silent and gone.  It seems he has left us to our own devices.  He doesn't answer our most holy prayers the way we expect.  He doesn't seem to honor our faithfulness, our risks, our vulnerability, our righteousness.  He allows us to suffer consequences that we deserve.  Or those that no one deserves.

And here's what I believe about that.  He is not gone.  He has not given up.  He does hear.  He does not allow passively with no plan of response.  I believe that when the Enemy wins a battle, God has already prepared a Redemption plan.  He has a way of redeeming what the Devil intended for harm.  He takes a tragedy and brings restoration and healing.  He grieves a loss with us and then weaves a new chapter to our story.  He redeems and restores and mends and heals.  He binds up the brokenhearted.  He releases the captives.  He makes a way where there was no way.  And if you are shaking your head saying No, He doesn't.  He hasn't.  He won't.  I'm here to tell you that if it's not good yet, He's not done.  He does.  He is.  He will.

Our little family has seen each of those scenarios play out in our life.

We have prayed for a little girl to get to stay with her family and yet she was taken away. (I'm still waiting for that lamb.)
We have prayed for healing of a baby boy and his recovery from surgery had doctors coming by his room to see his miraculous healing.
We have prayed for a pregnancy and instead been brought the sweetest treasure of a thing we never imagined to dream for.
Oh remember this cuteness?!
We have made mistakes, messed things up, been irresponsible and prideful and still been given the kingdom.
We have prayed Impossible Prayers and had them impossibly answered.
We have prayed for no seizures, seen them stop, then seen them return.
We have risked our hearts and vulnerability and been rejected.
We have risked our hearts and vulnerability and been given the same in return.
We have squandered what was given and been given more.
We have squandered what was given and had to confess and work to repay the loss.
We have seen the last few dollars drip into our bank account mere hours before an adoption fee was due.  
We have been awed as thousands of dollars poured in at once and felt the squeeze of confirmation that Faith was ours because of it.
We have had our own dreams come true at the expense of others' pain and been kept awake at night because of it.

God has been faithful in countless ways.

So when I asked for our fish and loaves to be multiplied, it shouldn't have surprised me that he would be faithful again in surprising ways.  When I stacked our not-enoughs (time, emotional healing, finances, relationships), God met them each in small and big ways - through grace and consequence and healing and miracles.

Our tight finances were alleviated in small ways:
- I found a reimbursement check to Costco (that was mailed to us in April and somehow managed to migrate from our old house to my parents' house and to our new house without getting lost/thrown away/torn up/written on or otherwise rendered unusable)
- Faith's therapy school increased our scholarship by $15 a month
- the water bill was a few dollars less than I had budgeted
- we sold an old iPod on Craigslist
- my mom "bought" an unused gift card from me so we could have cash to go out on a date

Our emotional depletion was restored:
- with an unexpected date night
- by lots of hugs from Faith (that girl knows how to give a good squeeze!)
- with affectionate words from Lila ("Mommy, can we go on a Mommy-Lila date to the park? I like doing things just me and you.")
- by sweet friends checking in on me, making me dinner, watching my kids, bringing me Dr. Pepper

Our time was managed:
- by a new calendar system I'm trying
- in the grace of a new season, new school year, new house, new systems and a chance to start from scratch
- with a lot of effort from the unstructured Husband who followed my not-so-subtle advice in the thick of a fight (I said a bad word) and started using his calendar and alerts on his phone

Our relationships were deepened and healed and maintained:
- with gracious friends who drove 9 hours and suffered through our still-in-boxes life to spend a few days with us over Labor Day (we felt so loved!)
- by the presence of people in our new big-enough-to-host-people house
- when friends forgave my flakiness, my snarkyness, my random crying, my snippy attitude, my negative outlooks, my unkept promises and stuck around and told me they loved me and pretended not to notice all the other stuff
- by the camaraderie of people fighting the same battles, enduring the same obstacles, living in similar seasons
- by the gift of neighbors who take care of us after only a few days

When you consider the ways God cares for his people, we could tick off an example for every category.  We suffered consequences (bye-bye iPod and Half-Priced Books gift card), received undeserved grace (hello friends who bring me meals even when I'm a stress-induced recluse and don't respond to your texts for several days), we received small mercies (neck squeezes from the Faith-baby) and big ones (a clean slate and the ability to pay off our credit card bill - barely).  We saw long-prayed prayers come to be (a gathering of friends and their kids in our house) and we saw the fruits of new disciplines (meal-planning for me and iCal for the Husband).

I was kind of hoping for a big sweeping miracle - like a $1000 check in the mail.

Or a lifetime supply of Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

But instead I got $75 to Costco and store-bought cookies from new neighbors.

Here's the true miracle: those things are enough - they are more than enough.

And the thing is, if I hadn't stopped to confess my fears and anxieties to my Good Shepherd; if I hadn't quieted enough to hear his voice after the confession; if I hadn't acted on what I believed to be his words to me in response, then I would not have recognized the cookies and Costco check for what they were: fish and loaves, multiplied to abundance.

The Bible says that Jesus fed the multitudes by breaking the loaves of bread into pieces and giving the pieces to the disciples to pass out to the 5000 hungry bellies.  Piece by piece each person ate until they were full.  So it is only fitting that we saw our prayers answered and our needs met in many small ways.  Bit by bit.  Small mercies multiplied to meet a great need.

It's just the sort of thing Jesus would do, isn't it?


Jessica Blake said...

This is so very good.

Totschies said...

Kelsey, I have missed you guys, and I am sorry I didn't realize how hard it has been! Really looking forward to seeing you this weekend!!!