My Adventurous Husband with the Crazy, Impossible Dreams Might Just Be Right

 

Hershey Park, Fort Hunter 079

My husband, Chris, is very different from me.  In fact, he is quite the opposite.  He is spontaneous and impatient, prone to making rash and risky decisions.  He is also very driven.  When he has a certain goal in mind, all else fades to the background as he plows through valleys and climbs over mountains to reach that goal.  When he gets an idea in his head, it seems like an obsession to me.  I am a steady and reliable creature of habit.  I like to dwell, remain, and stay in my comfort zone.  I feel no need to go trailblazing into unknown and possibly scary territory.  To change my course is like trying to alter the flow of a river.  I have found that trying to deter Chris from a goal is like trying to stop a freight train once it is barreling down the tracks.  It is much easier to jump aboard and enjoy the ride!

We faced our first major financial decision as newlyweds.  Our apartment had washer and dryer hookups, but we had no washer and dryer.  We would spend hours at the Laundromat.  Chris reasoned that if we could put our Laundromat money towards payments on our own washer and dryer, we would be much better off.  I agreed, but when I saw the large price tag, I was terrified.  We ended up in our car in the Sears parking discussing the pros and cons. The worry of making a bad decision brought me to tears.  We ended up buying the brand-new, super-capacity Kenmore beauties, despite my abiding nervousness.  Eighteen years, 6 moves, and eight children later, they are still washing 2-3 loads a day!  Chris was totally right!

In 2006 we were renting a nice house on Market St where I found my Little Piece of Heaven.  Sure, I wanted to move eventually, but I figured that God would bring that opportunity right to us at the proper time.  But Chris was obsessed.  He was unsatisfied with our living conditions and upset that our rent money was going into someone else’s pocket instead of building up equity for us.  He talked to realtors.  He got lists of homes sent to him every week on the internet.  He kept finding houses that he wanted me to look at. The available four bedroom homes priced around $100,000 were not at all what I would call attractive or comfortable!  I didn’t want to look at these homes, not to mention consider living in them.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.  We even put offers on two of them.  They had been on the market for a long time.  We thought we could get a good deal, fix them up and then sell them for more…all in an effort to get closer to our real dream house.  Both houses were snatched up right before our offers came in.

Chris didn’t give up, however.  He talked to other realtors, looked at other houses, and kept viewing homes on the internet.  None of the homes interested me at all.  Basically, I had given up on owning a home.  One day Chris came across a picture of an older home, shrouded in dark awnings and overgrown shrubbery.  He set up a time to see it.  He walked in the front door, took one look at the high ceilings and beautiful woodwork and thought, “This is it!”

There was just one mountain of a problem.  It was more than twice what we could afford.  He set up a second time to view the house and wanted me to come along.  I so desperately wanted to refuse him, and I almost did.  I didn’t want to go see another ugly house.  I definitely didn’t want to go see a beautiful house, fall in love with it, and then have to face the reality that we could never afford it.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.

The house was built in 1924 and was in a beautiful neighborhood with tree lined streets.  I toured the gorgeous home, loving every detail of it! I tried NOT to love it…but I couldn’t help it.  I took a paper containing the specs of the home that included a tiny black and white picture of the exterior.  In my mind, that dreary picture was a picture of my dream home.  I placed the paper on top of my filing cabinet.  Every time I passed by and caught a glimpse of that paper, I would pray that God would do a miracle and give us that house!  Every time we passed the exit on the highway that would take us to the house, longing would fill my heart that someday that exit would lead to my home!  Every night before bed, the children would pray and ask God to give them that house!  Chris’ obsession had become a family obsession!

The realtor went to the owners with a crazy idea.  Even though the house had only been on the market for two weeks, he urged them to consider a sellers agreement, where we would make payments to them directly and take over the mortgage in a few years. It seemed like an eternity before they responded…THAT THEY WOULD!  Amazing miracle number one! Yet our soaring spirits sank a bit as we heard the terms.  The monthly payment was way too much, and we had to come up with $10,000 upfront.  Chris countered with $300 less per month.  They accepted! Amazing miracle number two!

Time came to sign the paperwork, and we still had no money to put down. Chris continued to plow ahead, scaling that mountain and signing away!  I was terrified and thought back to the washer and dryer purchase so long ago.  How small that decision seemed compared to this one was!  I sat with the realtor, the paperwork, and a kitchen timer in front of me.  I was timing contractions that had been coming every twenty minutes for baby number six.  I was about to have a baby, and here I was, facing one of the biggest decisions of my life!  I wanted to call it all off, or have a conference like we did in our car in the Sears parking lot.  I wanted to cry my heart out and beg Chris to back out of the whole thing!

Quietly a peace descended upon me, and my emotions stilled.  My contractions stopped.  I saw the hand of God moving heaven and earth.  I saw that it was He who had put that obsession into my husband’s heart.  I signed the paperwork and believed that God would work out the rest.  Amazing miracle number three!

I didn’t have any more contractions for almost a week.  My grandmother joyfully offered to give us the money we needed and a bit more!  Amazing miracle number four! Chris’ mom flew in from Colorado in anticipation of the new baby’s arrival.  That night my water broke, but there were no contractions.  In the morning, we thought we would pass the hours by showing my mother-in-law our new home!  It was a hot and humid day in August. I walked around my home, and I began to get contractions.  They increased as I showed off my four large bedrooms and gigantic bathroom on the second floor.  They increased even more as I went down to view my spacious and clean basement with shelves and shelves of storage space.  Finally, we all gathered outside to return to our rental house.  I leaned on the truck with one intense contraction.  It was hard to escape the pain with heat emanating from the sun above and rising from the blacktop below.  I thought, “What have I done, coming here while in labor?  I need to get home!”

We arrived home in plenty of time to fill the baby pool in our bedroom and call the midwife.  Our little Cooper was born a few hours later, healthy and happy!  Some weeks after that, we began to move into our new home.

june 2014 229We are still in this home, paying the mortgage (our mortgage!) eight years later.  That is the real miracle!  We have weathered job losses, economic downturns, and debt reduction programs.  We were close to foreclosure during the hard times, yet we are still here!

Three years ago Chris became obsessed with another goal, to become a business owner.  He talked to a business broker and received emails about local businesses for sale.  He read books about entrepreneurs and conversed with friends who were business owners.

“Oh brother,” I thought. “Here we go again!”

He inquired about a Signarama shop just blocks from our house.  He went to visit with the owner and saw the shop.  He was convinced that this was it.  He wanted me to see it all and tell him what I thought.  I really didn’t want to!  But I did, because he asked me to.

When I saw the shop I thought, “This is definitely NOT it!”  A sign shop, full of vinyl to make signs?  How boring!  I never had any interest in being a business owner, nor ever thought about making signs.  Chris began the slow process of turning my course.

We talked with the regional VP of Signarama to learn more about the franchise.  What emotions surfaced when I thought about this proposition; spending all we had plus going into debt to acquire a business?  Terror!  Pure fear!  Fear of not having enough to pay our bills.  Fear of heading towards foreclosure again!  Fear of making a big whopper mess-up of a decision!  Quietly peace descended upon me, and I heard the voice of God.

“Do not fear making mistakes.  Mistakes aren’t as powerful as you think they are.  You see them as huge giants that can rob you of your destiny.  That is not true.  Your mistakes cannot negate my promises or my power or my faithfulness in your life.  I can cause all your mistakes to prosper and use them for good.  In fact, your mistakes are your servants.  Use them to learn about me, yourself, and your destiny.  Use them to draw near to me.  Do not fear making mistakes.  Make all decisions in confidence and faith.  I AM able to lead you and keep you in my perfect will.  I AM faithful!”

So we took the plunge into business ownership.  It has been harder than we had ever imagined.  Some of my fears have come to pass, but I realized that they weren’t so bad after all.  God is in control, and He is bringing us through this into the abundant prosperity that He has promised!  Chris is learning to slow down his freight train to prayerfully consider my wisdom.  I am learning that my adventurous husband with his crazy obsessions might just be tapping into the very heart of God!

chris

“The moment you are in is pregnant with possibility.  DON’T kill it with fear.” – Bill Johnson

            I won’t kill it with fear!  I will move forward with faith and confidence!

I WILL ENJOY THE RIDE!

           hershey park

Ordinary or Miraculous?

oatmeal

We all hope and pray for that divine moment when life passes from ordinary to miraculous.  Yet as I have experienced miraculous breakthroughs in my own life many times, I am struck by how they are always surrounded by the normal, everyday things.  I think most miracles in the Bible occurred on ordinary days in ordinary lives.  The people were still people like us; hot or tired, scared or angry, awkward or confused, obedient or backslidden…with faith and doubt living together in their hearts and minds.  Perhaps they were battling just to keep afloat, yet secretly wishing they could give up and slip into a dark and peaceful oblivion.  And after the heavens opened and the glorious event occurred, there were still battles to fight, details to agonized over, persecution and annoyances to deal with.  There were still journeys as long as a lifetime to be navigated…one step at a time.

I have been reading 2 Chron 14-16 a lot lately.  I am encouraged when I read about how God won an amazing victory for King Asa simply because the king relied on Him.  An army of a million men were defeated before the small nation of Judah!  Extremely perplexing to me, however, was the fact that the prophet Azariah came to Asa and encouraged him AFTER his stunning victory.

“The Lord is with you, while you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you…But you take courage!  Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded,” the prophet said.

Wouldn’t such a phenomenal victory be enough to show Asa that the Lord was with him?  Wasn’t he already on such an incredible high after seeing the Almighty God answer his prayer, save his life, and deliver his nation from defeat and annihilation?  Why did the prophet come to him AFTER the victory rather than before?

Recently we have had a miraculous breakthrough occur in our own lives, yet we still need many more miracles and feel overwhelmed by it all.  I think I might understand why Asa needed that encouragement.  He probably became king in his early twenties.  He inherited a nation full of idolatry, foreign relation nightmares, and huge needs. He had a kingdom of people with problems, all looking to him for the answers.  Being a man of integrity who sought the Lord, he felt the full weight of the responsibility that he was carrying; to please God and serve the people.  He probably would have rather died in that battle than to turn out to be a lousy king and have the people suffer under his lousy rule.  History tells us that he was a very good king, but he had no assurance that he would be.  He was probably plagued with doubts and concerns…just like all of us!  One miracle was not enough for Asa. One miracle is not enough for us.  In order to take courage, we need the miracle of God dwelling with us everyday, just as Asa did.

Isn’t it glorious that God promised that He would NEVER leave us or forsake us?  Isn’t it mind-blowing that God promised that NOTHING could ever separate us from His love?

The miraculous is ALWAYS at work, in every mundane step of the journey.  We all long for that moment when the power of God becomes undeniably evident.  Yet the miraculous is in the here and now, in the imperfection of ordinary moments.  It was surrounding me this morning as I was lying on the living room floor doing exercises to alleviate neck pain and Coldplay was on in the kitchen and my child was asking if he could have sugar on his oatmeal.  I wanted to just pause and take it all in.  The vastness of the universe, complicated beyond my comprehension, forever expanding, and being held together by His words.  The inconceivably minute details of every one of my cells, burning energy, producing life so I can exercise, listen to music, say, “Just a little bit of sugar on your oatmeal!” , and ponder the unexplainable mysteries of the cosmos all at the same time.  The wondrous is all around us.  The supernatural is on the inside of us…that is…if we have invited Him in.

How much of that miraculous are we missing today…simply because we don’t realize that it is here?  Can I be like a prophet speaking to you, as Azariah spoke to Asa, when I type these words that God led you to read?

Take Courage, the Lord is with you!  And with the Lord, every moment of your life is pregnant with divine possibilities!

Are You in Over Your Head?

beach

Are you overwhelmed?  Does your life feel impossible?  Do you feel completely inadequate and incompetent for the task before you?  Good!  You may be in just the right place…to see God do the impossible!

I am very familiar with the feeling that my life is out of control, being a mother of many children!  I don’t often get to attend special conferences at my church, but I love to listen to the CDs of them at home.  I was listening to a CD of Lesley-Anne Leighton talk about her amazing adventures as a missionary.  God would regularly do miracles for her as she stepped out in faith.  For example, she was taken into custody by Chinese authorities (China is very hostile to the Gospel of Jesus).  She was miraculously released after she started speaking to the men in Chinese…and she didn’t know how to speak Chinese!  She would do training schools all around the world to teach people to live a supernatural life like hers.  As I listened to her teaching on this CD, she said she would share with us her strategy for living such a life.  That caught my attention and I listened carefully; so much so that I remember what she said 9 years later.  Her strategy was simple; she would follow Jesus wherever he led!  This meant that she would get in over her head and watch God do the miracles on her behalf.

A new thought began to dawn in my mind.  This was a great strategy for a missionary, traveling to hostile and dangerous parts of the world.  But I knew that motherhood was a dangerous and perilous journey as well.  Mothers needed miracles just as much as missionaries did!  I knew that I needed some!  And Lesley-Anne had just told me that it was actually a good thing that I was in over my head…because that is the place where God moves!  My courage began to rise.

I had felt in over my head since my second baby showed up and didn’t get the memo from his big sister on how to sleep.  He would cry louder than I had ever heard anyone cry, and deprive me of my sleep and almost my sanity! He continued these nighttime disturbances even after I became pregnant with number three.

I had felt overwhelmed since I had three little children and a special needs baby who required many doctors’ appointments and special care.  I had no one close by to help and my husband, Chris often traveled for work, being gone for days or weeks at a time.

I  had felt overwhelmed when I had three little children, a special needs two-year old and a five-week old baby boy AND Chris and I had to pack up our home, drive cross-country (praying the whole way that I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel and kill us all!), and set up a new home in Pennsylvania.

I had felt overwhelmed since I had seven children, home schooled, and enrolled my special needs daughter in a therapy program that I was supposed to accomplish by myself, at home.  The man in charge told me that Ashlyn’s therapy program would be fairly easy, only requiring 6 hours a day.  I thought to myself, “How can I ever do that?”  Yet I wanted to try, because I wanted her to be better so badly.  I also felt that God had led me to this program for Ashlyn AND had led me to home school all the other children.

I would wake up at 5 am each morning, immediately feeling nervous about the coming day.  My mind would instantly begin to churn with all I had to accomplish and the fact that it was nearly impossible to do so.  Life felt like a test, and I would pass the test only if I could accomplish everything I my to-do list.  But almost every night I would go to bed with tasks left undone and the feeling of failure.  There were a few rare days that I finished everything and thought briefly that I had succeeded…only to look back over my day and realize that I had plowed over everything and everyone who stood in my way.  My victory was meaningless, because I did it without love, and my children suffered.

Thinking on these past failures, I would go from being nervous to panicking!!!  Lying in bed in the morning, trying to work up the courage to face my impossible day, I would pray.

“Oh, God!  I want to love my children today!  I want to do therapy with Ashlyn so she can be well!  I want to do home school with my children so they will be smart!  But I have so many other things I need to do!  I should have been up hours ago!  There is no way I can do this.  This is IMPOSSIBLE!  I am in WAY OVER MY HEAD!”

Then one day I was quiet enough to hear the Spirit’s still small voice.

This day is not a test, it is a gift!  I want you to open your eyes and see all the treasures I have hidden for you in this day.  Let me bless you in the midst of your business.  You are right, my child.  Your life is impossible.  I designed it that way.  I never intended for you to live a safe, easy, comfortable life.  I didn’t design you to merely do the possible.  I am the God of the impossible, remember!  I designed you to do the impossible through me!  I can’t fully show my glory unless the situation is Impossible.  All that I do through your life is changing eternity.  So be at rest.  Be at peace. I AM in control.

That voice changes everything for me!  It immediately tears the veil between my crazy, earthy life and the Holy of Holies.  I can step out of the temporary and step into the eternal.  I can step out of my failures and step into the finished work of Christ.  My life takes on a while new significance when I realize that the Most Holy God wants to dwell with me and do miracles through me! And what could be more miraculous than living with so many children and having perfect peace!

Now we have eight children and a ninth baby that takes a lot of time and resources – a new business!  I have so many things to do at home, and Chris has so many things to do at our sign shop.  I try to help him at the shop and he tries to help me at home, all the while being mindful of our precious children.  We are busy almost all of the time.  What little “free” time we have is not really free.  We are so selective about how we spend our time, trying fiercely to follow Jesus and no one else.  There isn’t time and energy and devotion to waste on anything less!  It is going to take a miracle to raise our children the way we should AND make our business successful. Both Chris and I are sure that we are in WAY OVER OUR HEADS!  Yet we know that Jesus led us here and through him we are doing miracles.

I am so encouraged by Mark Batterson and what he wrote in The Circle Maker.“If you’ve never been overwhelmed by the impossibility of your plans, then your God is too small.”

So are you in over your head?  If you got into this situation by following someone other than Jesus, start following him now and just see what he will do!  If it was Jesus who got you into the crazy mess called your life, let your heart take courage!  This is his specialty, doing miracles through little you!  So relax, let go, and enjoy riding on his waves of grace…and expect signs and wonders to follow you.