I told you I would write more about God’s provision in this season of our lives. It's only taken me three weeks to finish what I wanted to say so, here is goes. . .
Recently, in a down moment, I sent a message to a friend. A portion of their (wise) response to me was:
“… in these times and seasons in our life when were wondering what's going on and things don't make sense - we purpose to assess all that the Lord is doing and how he has blessed us in so many ways. We list everything, and write it down so we can see it.”
So, I thought I would do that here. Perhaps it will be an encouragement or admonition to others to do the same. So, where do I begin . . .
Well, I guess first and foremost, we have a (relatively) happy, smiley, healthy, handsome 18 week old baby boy who brings us such joy!
Many of you know about our concern with finances and Joshua being born early. I had enrolled in an AFLAC disability program intentionally for his birth. I was of the impression that I would received 6 months of pay as long as he was born 10 months after my enrollment date, which in this case was March 1st. So I was hoping and praying that he would come on or after March 1st. He did not. I was devastated. We chose to apply for the cash benefit anyway. And two weeks later, we received a check in the mail for a little over half of our monthly living expenses. It seems that I had misunderstood. For OTHER disabilities, you could be awarded UP TO 6 months of pay but for pregnancy, the maximum benefit was only 6 weeks, which we received despite his birth date being early. At this point any money was better than no money at all.
Prior to Joshua’s birth, we had started hearing information about our church’s annual Men’s conference in Ocean Shores. It was scheduled for March 25-27th. Joshua’s due date was March 12th. We determined there was no way Kenton would be able to attend so soon after Joshua’s birth. But then . . . he came early and the conference was no a full month away. I could handle being home alone with a preschooler and a one month old for sure. But then there was a question of finances . . . again. Kenton got in touch with the church to find out if there were any scholarships available. Eventually he was granted a scholarship, accommodations and a small budget for food for the weekend. When he arrived at his room, he also found a gift card from an anonymous member of the ministry Kenton had been volunteering with at church. (Our awesome online campus that you can check out here: http://www.livingwateronline.tv/) From that moment on, God worked amazing things in Kenton’s heart over the course of the weekend. If you’d like to read more about that, you can read Kenton’s account on his blog here: http://betweenpadawanandmaster.blogspot.com/2011/03/weekend-of-men-and-god-march-30-2011.html
At this conference, Kenton was able to make connections with many men from our church. He was invited to attend an informal bi-weekly men’s breakfast on Saturday mornings where he has been able to further grow some of the relationships he began on that weekend away. This has turned out to be an answer to prayer and an encouragement to both of us. Enter Michael Stark. I don’t know that I have ever known anyone like this man. He is a powerhouse of encouragement, energy, hospitality, humor and unbelievable willingness. He’s the kind of guy that you are sure was the class clown in school and would scale the walls if only he had the physically ability to do so but his heart is HUGE!!! He has been encouraging my husband from the moment the park ranger caught them doing donuts on the beach highway in Ocean Shores . . . Woops! And recently, we have had the opportunity to engage with his family and other friends of theirs, which are now friends of ours, through ‘chance meetings’ and an invitation to the small group they host in their home. It was through these interactions that I met April, the friend whose prayer I wrote about in my last post. These friends & their families have been such a great source of joy and encouragement to us over these last few weeks (see http://betweenpadawanandmaster.blogspot.com/2011/05/moment-to-smile-at-05312011.html & http://betweenpadawanandmaster.blogspot.com/2011/06/meant-in-midst-060532011.html) Two week ago we had a game night with them that was an absolute blast!
Another source of great fellowship & encouragement to me was the women I spent 10 weeks with while I was off of work. Because of my leave, I was able to attend the weekly women’s Bible study at my church. We spent two hours a week together learning from God’s word about covenants. These women faithfully listened, encouraged me and loved on me and my little boy (when he would accompany me to the group). It was such a blessing and I look forward to rejoining them in the fall, God willing.
After Joshua’s birth, medical bills started to trickle in. This is to be expected after any birth but since we had been in Olympia for a year and a half and none of us had seen a doctor. Joshua’s birth and well checks were just the catalyst we needed to finally establish care with a local physician’s office. So, in addition to my pre-natal expenses and Joshua’s birth expense we also had standard appts & related follow-ups for all of us. Add to that a pesky visit to the ER after our dear son (a mere 8 days old) busted open his circumsion incision within hours of the surgery and bled profusely. We knew we were covered by my medical insurance but were of the impression that Kenton needed atleast 100 hours a month to qualify for medical insurance through his work. Through a phone call to the insurance company regarding a completely different matter of a cafeteria style plan for out of pocket expenses (which we had NO idea about), Kenton learned that because of his tenure with the company, he was grandfathered in to an 80 hour a month minimum hours and therefore, we had had coverage through his work since January 1st IN ADDITION to the medical insurance from my work. So, ALL of our medical bills would be dual covered by insurance and went into a holding pattern while the secondary insurance is being contacted. Praise God!!
God also provided for us financially & physically. I already mentioned the gift card that Kenton received while on the Men’s Gathering. One of the women in my Bible Study group (who has chosen to remain anonymous) also gifted our family with a gift card to Fred Meyer at our last Bible Study meeting. Another dear couple of friends felt God leading them to share a portion of their monthly giving with us. This thoughtful gave us a little ‘extra’ to cover our vehicle registration renewals for the year which both came due while I was off of work and allowed us a simple night out for a date without the kids. Something, I know the givers would have approved of. Especially since our date led us to a new coffee shop we had heard of and the givers do greatly appreciate their coffee.
Other paths of provision started early on in my pregnancy and have since come to abundant fruition. In the second month of my pregnancy, an old childhood friend that I had re-connected with via Facebook had received notice that her husband was being restationed to the other side of the country. To lightentheir moving load, she started getting rid of things, including a Medela Pump-in-Style backpack style breast pump. She offered it up on FB to any takers. I was the first to respon even though I hoped I wasn't going to be working and wouldn't need such a powerful pump. This dear friend gifted me the pump for free along with a dozen or so accessories. This was the first blessing. With God's help and the assistance of this pump. I have been able to keep my baby on a strict diet of mama's milk only. My first day back to work, I pumped 10+ ounces. The next day it was 12. I have continued to be able to pump enough for Joshua's feedings while I am at work and some days, a little extra. I thank God for my ample milk supply and the ability to provide for my little man in this way. My little man who lost nearly a full pound in the week after his birth and who at last check was nearly 15lbs and 24 inches long, putting him in the 75th percentile for weight and 95th percentile for height for his age. He still doesn't have his sister's cheeks. . . yet. But is developing quite the little rolls on his long legs.
Another tremendous blessing came from one of the member of my first FPU class which happened last fall. This particular woman is the mother of three little boys, I believe. She had some of their old clothes taking up space in her basement. When I ran into her one night after a church function, she asked me if I'd be interested in them. I said sure and we parted ways. A few months later, after Joshua was born she contacted me and let me know she was moving and could I come get the stuff she had, if I still wanted it. Of course I wanted it. Baby shower clothing gift were just about to run out and we hadn't had the means yet (except grandmas) to acquire more clothes. I rushed to her house the next day where her husband loaded up the back of my van with two 32 gallon totes, two large black garbage bags and a few miscellaneous toys and baby items.
When I finally had the opportunity to go through the totes and bags about a week later, I couldn't believe what I found. There are dozens of baby boy outfits from 6 month to 2 or 3T, including some that still had tags on them. There were FIFTEEN pairs of shoes, ranging from size 2 to size 7, including three pairs of converse (which I would NEVER choose to afford but would LOVE to have for either of my kids).
In the very bottom of one of the boxes were 5 cloth diapers. That may not sound like much but it's a savings of about $100 that our family didn't have to spend to increase our diaper stash AND it nearly doubled out current pocket diaper collection. Finally, the pièce de résistance, in the very bottom of one of the garbage bags was a small compact folding travel bed. I had registered for a similar one before Joshua was born but had not received it. All of the sudden, it was as if God was saying to me, "See. I DO see you. I know your desire, even the ones that may seem petty to you. I know what you want and need and I WILL provide for you." I am SO looking forward to using that little bed for Joshua's first camping trip THIS weekend!
Despite the feeling of dryness and God's silence in this season, it is impossible for to deny that God is at work. Daily there is something that reminds me of His constant presence and awareness in our lives. As Pastor Jon pointed out at church a few weeks back, despite the storm that the disciples faced on the sea with Jesus sleeping below deck, Jesus was still WITH them. He had not left them alone in the boat to navigate by themselves. Jesus is always in the boat. And based on the provisions in this post and many other incidences in our lives, it is obvious that Jesus is with us in our boat too! Praise God!