We've all been in a "mess." But what do we do with that mess? We seek God's wisdom to figure out what message is being sent out from the Messenger. And then, we share it! Here's my family's story of how God worked wonders in our mess. You can watch or read below.
On October 13, 2018, my husband and I sat in the dimly-lit worship center of Grace Community Church in Newburgh, New York. It is a place where God is moving in astounding ways to further the Truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ. Pastor Jarrod introduced a new series called "Let's Go!" I didn't even know where we were going but I was already gone! Sign me up, I need the ticket, I'm going where you lead me, God--no questions asked!
As we listened, we learned that God was calling our church to spread the message of Hope far beyond the reaches of Orange County, New York. This vision would require 20 million dollars from the church over the next two years. I was ready to offer all our savings (and give my husband a heart attack in the process). We sat down with our children, prayed about our role in this giving process, and made a plan to find areas of our life where we could go beyond our monthly tithe and begin giving sacrificially.
We decided to cancel my monthly Young Living essential oils order, our twice-weekly dinner box subscription, and cancel cable television. Our children decided they wouldn't buy any books or movies, and borrow them from the library instead. The money we used towards those items would now be added to our usual tithe. This step in faith came with a warning from our pastor: If you choose to participate in "Let's Go," the Devil will push back. “New levels, new devils,” he said. Warning heeded. Mission: proceed. All-in, at all costs for Christ. Fast forward, two weeks:
I want you to take a moment and picture the inside of your house. Now, imagine a roaring fire on the horizon. You have mere minutes to gather a few precious items before your home is engulfed in flames. What would you take? Treasured pictures, baby books, family heirlooms, love notes? Now, have you ever wondered what you would slowly dispose of if your home was infested with toxic levels of mold? I hadn't either until our log cabin in the woods went from a magical fairyland to a dark and dangerous forest. We were transported from one realm to another when the mold inspector knocked on our door almost one year ago today.
"Why are you having your home tested?" His first question.
I responded, "Our family has been sick for two-and-a-half years and all the medical specialists cannot figure out why. Our children are especially ill."
Next question, "Has the roof been replaced since you lived in the house?"
"Yes, it was a month-long process that began the week we moved into the house."
And then the words that changed our lives, "If there is mold in the attic, then replacing the roof is the worst possible thing that could have been done. All of the pounding would have released mold spores into your home." He headed straight for the attic and summoned me, "You'd better come here." He shined a light up through the attic door which we’d never lifted to reveal a space filled with mold. Aspergillus-Penicillium--a neuro-toxic mold. It only got worse from there.
We learned that our entire home was infested with several types of mold at uninhabitable levels. We now knew what was making us sick. The fascinating thing about mold is that it's negative effects on our bodies manifest in different ways. One of us experienced neurological, psychological and physiological damage. One of us had nausea, dizziness, and joint pain. Others were afflicted with a sore throat and chronic cough. Another had a constant runny nose, wheezing, and rashes. The mystery was solved. I spent the next three days crying and blaming myself for moving our family into this picturesque log cabin and mourning over all the damage that ensued--in our bodies, our minds, and our emotional well-being.
And then I remembered the warning from our pastor when we chose to “Let’s Go”: Satan will attack. We were in the process of losing just about every material possession we owned. Intense medical costs were on the horizon. Lawyer fees were in the future. It would only make sense to stop our sacrificial giving. Or so, the enemy thought.
However, this trial showed me with certainty that we were in God's will. Satan diligently and maliciously attempts to thwart our progress to advance God's Kingdom. We weren't going to let him win. Our sacrificial giving remained constant despite our losses, and Grace Community Church continues to receive our giving to this day— a two-year commitment to be all in with Let’s Go. I had no doubt God would provide for our family, even though we didn't know how that would come to fruition. I have seen God work miracles in my life; I knew this time would be no different. Onward and Upward we go for His Kingdom!
Then came the constructive eviction notice from our landlords. They could not afford to remediate the home and our belongings, so we were forced to move out. With masks covering our faces to protect us from the very air we'd been innocently breathing in for two-and-a-half years, we worked in the New York winter.
As we designated piles to throw away and piles to remediate, their lawyer delivered a threatening notice to exit the property or fines would be issued. The callousness of our landlords was hard to fathom. We quickly left the property with the help of friends, but the letters kept coming. The harshness progressed and soon we received a letter informing us that our previous landlords were suing us for $25,000 in the Supreme Court of New York! THEY were suing US? How was this possible?
Throughout the following weeks that were filled with utter chaos, the peace of Jesus reigned supreme in my life. Instead of dread, I was filled with marvel at God's constant provision in seemingly every direction. It started with a phone call to my daughter's school to inform them of our situation. With trepidation in her voice, the administrator informed us that we were now technically homeless. Now that is a place I never imagined I’d find myself.
Soon after, the Holy Spirit spoke his wisdom into my heart: "I am enough." And just like that, the people around us became Jesus with skin on. My husband's friends geared up and moved our belongings to the curb and hauled potentially salvageable items to storage. Several of my friends stepped in for the constant babysitting that was needed, even providing date nights to combat the stress. For an entire month, God provided meals for us. Sometimes it would just show up on our door without us even knowing! Another person provided us with a free AirBNB rental while we tried to find a new home, and a family member decked it out with every possible need that might arise. The West Point and Cornwall community completely furnished our new home in one day, ONE DAY!!!
Donations poured in for weeks to the point that we had great surplus and were regularly making trips to donate back to other organizations. Family mailed us generous gifts and strangers donated gift cards. One woman sent me 500 dollars, with specific instructions to spend it on myself! Most importantly, people prayed diligently and corporately for our family and we received wise counsel from our church. When we had to begin purchasing items to rebuild our home, there was next to no stress financially. What could have been devastating financially was already provided.
As an engaged couple, we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University which completely equipped us for this situation. Ten years ago we began saving for our future home, with Dave’s principles in mind. We merely dipped into that fund and haven’t had to go one cent in debt to furnish our entirely new household. Jesus wasn't jokin', the provision was miraculous! He IS enough.
Did you also know that God likes to throw some icing on the cake? I imagine he gets a little giggle right before he begins to really show off. And boy, did he EVER ice our cake. As we struggled to find adequate and affordable representation due to being sued, God sent a new lawyer to West Point--a couple of weeks before we were set to move to Kansas. Oh yeah, did I mention all this was going on right before our tenth Army move!? That’s the way it goes, right?! This newly arrived Lieutenant heard about our case and reached out to a veteran who is now employed at a law firm in New York City. The company offered to represent us PRO BONO. Want some more icing? This firm is rated as the number one law firm in the entire United States of America. Only God! I just love how the Lord is glorified even in the depths.
God also used this circumstance to draw my husband into deeper communion with the Lord. Whereas I found peace, my husband found brokenness. But He didn’t allow the brokenness to break Him. He used it to build himself up in the Lord. My husband identified that God had gotten his attention to point him to what he should really be striving toward in life--The Lord and our family. My husband regularly dove into prayer on his knees, dug deep into Scripture daily, and vowed to never let another day pass without reading God’s Word. Maybe what I admired most was watching him lift his arms in praise during the worship music at church. Even though we were suffering monumental material losses and uncertain health challenges, my husband was still praising the Lord, trusting his goodness. Sometimes it takes the mess to point us toward the message and the Messenger.
Now, this story is not over and it may be a life-long page-turner. We continue to suffer from symptoms and we will struggle with hypersensitivity to mold for the remainder of our lives. Our family members have asthma, lung disease, and psychiatric issues as a result. The visits to medical specialists are a constant in our lives, the conference calls with the lawyers continue, court cases await, and our home is still being rebuilt piece by piece. Throw in another military move in a few months, and normal life with three little children... there is never a dull moment in our family. Through it all, God has shown us his face, his love, and the love of those surrounding us. He has shown us that he will provide. That he is enough. That when we seek him, he listens. That we can trust him. That we have true hope in him. That he can use this mess for his Message.
The sermon my former pastor preached that fall morning was entitled “Let’s Go.” As Christians, we have to be willing to GO for God, no matter what. He may not provide the cure you need, the job you’re hoping for, the baby you long to hold, the post you want to call home, or the resolution for your family’s struggle. But he promises to walk through the fire with you, to provide for you, to listen to you, and to give you the Holy Spirit as counsel. We have to get to the point where that is enough, more than enough! What an unfathomable gift that he gives all of that to us. He will provide-maybe not the cure, but the meal for that day; maybe not the job but the margin to serve him instead; maybe not the baby you envisioned but the opportunity to adopt; maybe not the post you want but the post where he needs you. Maybe not the family resolution you’re pleading for but the breaking and remaking of your heart to look more like his. As we strive to trust in God’s bountiful provision in our lives, Satan will attempt to disengage and discourage us. Let’s be a body of believers who vow to praise the Lord all the more--our voices united, declaring “He is enough.”