God’s provision

God’s Most Favorite Child: Thoughts on Grace, Provision, and God’s Economy

For as long as I can remember my mother has possessed an uncanny ability to snag the very front parking spot in whatever parking lot she happens to be in. Not like, near the front. The very first available spot. The one that’s practically inside of the store and is also under the only shade tree in the lot. “I am God’s most favorite child!” she would spout in triumph, gliding into that parking spot like it was a front-row seat at the Super bowl.

I love my mother for this. For the way she taught me to see the fingerprints of God in something as ordinary as a parking spot.

Of course, she wasn’t trying to make some deep theological statement here. I don’t think she believed we could measure God’s favor by the way he doled out parking spots. There was no assumption that God gave the choice spots a few of his favorites while the less favorite were relegated to the back of the lot and the really awful people had to park across the street. She simply saw a good thing and let it point her, and all of us, straight to God.

Over the past few months as we’ve moved steadily towards the end of our time in Korea and the beginning of a new chapter in South Carolina, I have struggled with anxiety. I have struggled to believe that everything would work out. That I could trust God to provide a job with sufficient income, a place to live, vehicles to drive, new friends and community.

Even as the pieces began to fall into place I continued to Children-of-Israel the situation. Remember the Israelites in the desert? God delivered those dummies out of slavery by parting a sea and they were like, “Did you bring us here to starve?!” and then he sent them MANNA FROM HEAVEN and they were like, “Ugh. Did you bring us here to die of boredom from eating the same food over and over?”

I like to make fun of them because I see myself in them so much. My whining skills are top-notch. (My husband says he shudders to think that our children will inherit that from me). So even as God has opened doors and provided for us over and over again, I’ve continued to come up with new insurmountable obstacles to complain about. And God, in spite of my grumbling and in spite of my disbelief, has continued to provide.

I want to share the story of how God is providing for us. I want to give credit where credit is due. But in the past few years I’ve become more concerned with right theology when it comes to things like God’s blessings. I think “blessed” is one of the most overused and misunderstood words in the Christian vocabulary (but more on that another time). In particular, I am very uncomfortable with the idea that good things in my life are a sign of favor or blessing. I believe that all good things in the world come from God, but if I say that the good things in my life are from God’s favor or blessings, what does that mean for people who aren’t experiencing good things?

I know there are several of you who are in a similar situation to mine right now – preparing for a big move or a big life change and experiencing a lot of anxiety about it. I would never want to imply that things are falling into place for us because God is blessing us, but if they aren’t falling into place for you it’s because God is choosing not to bless you. I don’t believe that’s true.

I want to share how God is providing for us. If you are in a season where you aren’t seeing things work out and you feel anxious, I hope you can be encouraged by this story rather than discouraged. A parent doesn’t always give a child everything they want in the moment that they want it, but that doesn’t mean the parent doesn’t love that child or is no longer present with that child. So with that in mind, here’s our story.

The first major provision came in cars. We sold both of our old beaters before moving to Korea and have no vehicles. Jonathan’s grandmother recently decided to give up driving and offered to sell us her car inexpensively. And then my dad told us that he was planning to get rid of his big vehicle (a Tahoe) but that the trade-in value is minimal even though it’s not that old, because it has high mileage. He offered to donate it to us which means a tax break for him and a free car for us. Grace.

Next we were stressed about finding a place to live. We’re in a unique situation trying to “view” places and apply to rent them from another country. Imagine being a landlord and getting an email saying, “We live in South Korea and we don’t have jobs in America so we can’t prove our income, and our current landlord only speaks Korean so he can’t give you a reference, but we’re really great, I promise!” Not surprisingly, we weren’t getting lots of positive responses.

And then something amazing happened. I have an old family friend living in Columbia – our families were friends when I was a kid and I was friends with her little sister, but we haven’t seen them in 15 years or more. But I got in touch with her to ask about Columbia stuff and she volunteered to go look at places for us. At first I felt bad asking that of someone I didn’t know that well, but she was so kind and enthusiastic about it that we quickly gave in and accepted some amazing help. Guys. Lorien is the bomb.com. Like the actual bomb.com. She arranged viewings, talked to landlords, went to places, took pictures, made videos, found new listings for us, etc.

We signed a lease on a condo by the end of the week. Initially we really wanted a house for the charm factor, but God provided a beautiful condo that’s going to be awesome. It’s the most spacious and nicest place we’ve ever rented with a kitchen that makes me swoon. It’s comfortably within our budget and it is less than a mile from Lorien’s house which also helps put us at ease about our concern for friends and community. Grace.

While I still don’t have a full-time job lined up, I have been wishfully thinking that I’d like to work part-time and do freelancing/work-remotely things part-time so I have a more flexible schedule. As of right now I have two long-term freelance writing contracts and one more in the works. All three of these contracts have come through friends or other old connections that have randomly resurfaced. Grace.

When I look back at each of these graces, I can see God’s hand and his provision, and I realized that my mother was right. She is God’s most favorite child. And so am I. And so are you. And so is my frustrating coworker. And so is my most disrespectful student. And so is your Mother-in-Law.

God’s economy is not finite. Lavishing love on me doesn’t mean he has any less to give to you. It is the one economy in which all of our being of equal worth doesn’t diminish our value. And that is a divine, unearned, and irresistible grace.

I hope this can be an encouragement to you, wherever you are in your life, especially if you are like me and can always find something to stress out about. Take a breath and look for the places where God has stepped in, even when it didn’t look the way you wanted it to. Often you can find him in unexpected places if you only choose to look.

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Oh Me of Little Faith

Well, we did it. We packed up the apartment and our cats and drove 15 hrs south and east to North Carolina. For the past few weeks we have been house-sitting for some family friends of Jonathan’s family who live in Durham but are out of town for the summer. During this time, Jonathan started working at the Starbucks he transferred to and I started looking for work even more diligently than I already had been.

Here’s a timeline of how the last few weeks went for me.

Friday July 8-arrived in Raleigh. Well, actually to Durham where we are house-sitting. Many thanks to Jonathan’s mom who helped us clean and pack and drive.

Saturday July 9th-unpacked stuff, returned moving van, applied for jobs online, was generally excited about life.

Sunday July 10th-applied for more jobs online. Despaired of ever finding a job. Told Jonathan I was sorry for thinking we should move here when I clearly would never find work. Resigned myself to a life of flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

Monday July 11th—received three interview requests, did a total of 8 interviews over the next ten days.

Friday July 22nd—received a job offer from CB Richard Ellis as an administrative and marketing assistant

Makes me pretty ashamed of Sunday July 10th.  But it also makes so grateful for God’s care in spite of me and my little faith. It makes me grateful that God’s faithfulness is not dependant on mine. And it makes me grateful that his mercies are new every morning.

Since being here I have already begun to feel more alive in some ways. I’ve started to think about going back to school and being excited by the possibility rather than daunted by it. My successful job interviews have given me a new dose of self-confidence and I no longer feel quite so much like I have nothing to offer. The beginning of our search for a new church has been exciting and I can sense in myself a spiritual hunger for a place to belong and to be a part of God’s story after a season of dryness and doubt.

This week we are moving from the house into our apartment. My mom is coming up to help us paint and get everything put away. I am hoping to start my new job August 1 and Jonathan is hoping to find a new job ASAP and not have to be at Starbucks too much longer. There’s still a lot of transition in our lives and we are looking forward to settling in and for this to start feeling more like home. In the meantime, I am working on the faith thing, choosing to trust in God’s care for us first, instead of allowing fear to swallow my faith.

More to come soon… and maybe some pics of the new place!

Why I’m Loving Being Broke

I’m back! After a month of being a truly terrible blogger I am back. Here’s a quick picture of the last month for us: packing, cleaning, babysitting as much as possible, saying goodbye to friends, our first anniversary trip to NYC, trip to Raleigh to sign on an apartment, packing, Jonathan’s birthday (24 somehow seems so much older than 23!), applying to jobs, and did I mention packing? It’s been fun and busy and exciting and exhausting and nerve-wracking all at once.

We are incredible excited about the new area we are moving to, the new experiences we’ll have, new friends we will make, and the opportunity to be somewhere scenically beautiful and with warmer winters. We also love that the Raleigh area has so many universities around it, giving us the freedom to go back to school if we need to, potentially without having to move again. And my roommate for all four years at college (Christina) will be living in the same apartment complex as we are so I will get to see her practically every day.

This has been a difficult season for us in some ways though. Mainly, financially. We have always been good with our money, apart from my student loans we are not in debt, and we don’t buy things we do not have the cash to pay for. With my nanny job and Jonathan’s Starbucks salary we made enough to live on and, some months, even saved enough for our anniversary trip to New York. But when my job ended at the end of May our total income went down by nearly 2/3. We knew this was coming and had tried to plan accordingly (hence all of my extra babysitting over the past few weeks.) We have had to use up most of our savings to pay for our rent, the moving truck, and an unfortunate $1,000 medical bill from an unexpected procedure. And, added to these expenses is the concern that this period of low income could last a while. Jonathan is transferring to a Starbucks in Raleigh, but despite applying for more than 50 jobs so far, I am still unemployed. At one point we had figured it out and realized that by the time we got to Raleigh we would have $52 left to our name.

Between Jonathan and I, I am easily the one who worries more about money. I don’t need a lot and am happy to cut back and to say no to things, but (probably because of my attorney father who taught me to plan for all contingencies) I do not like not having a cushion. In other words, I want to be in control and know that if anything happens, I can take care of it. In these past few weeks, God has been teaching me about letting go of that control and trusting that he really will provide for us.

Both sets of our parents blessed us with generous gifts for our anniversary/Jonathan’s birthday. People that I’ve been babysitting for have asked me to babysit many times and then over-paid me (sometimes by a lot) for the hours I’ve worked for them. Friends have treated me when we’ve gone out for a meal or given us gift cards. And just last night some newer friends of ours gave us a going-away card full of cash, just to pass along blessings they had received at times that they really needed it.

In reflecting on all of this, three things have really struck me. Firstly, I am humbled by God’s provision. Secondly, I am so grateful for the way that these people in our lives have been listening and obeying God’s voice, and being generous with their time and their resources. And thirdly, I am hopeful that we will remember this time and that when God brings people into our lives that we have the ability to give our time and gifts and resources to that we will be as willing to listen to God and to give generously, as these people in our lives have over these past few weeks.

It is a good reminder to me that God always takes care of his children, but he often uses his other children to do so. So whichever side of that you are on today, be encouraged that you have an opportunity to embrace God’s provision for you and to be God’s provision for others. Deep, deep thanks to the many who have been God’s provision to us lately.

“And my God will meet all of your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

PS-I’m in the process of updating my about page, so if you have the burning desire to know even more things about me than the things I had already posted, click here. 🙂