If you are a long time reader of this blog, you probably see in this title that there is a provision story coming on, and you are ready to buckle up and be wowed no matter how long it takes. If you are a newer reader, you are probably about to scroll down and say, “Holy OverLong Blogpost Batman!” but I’m just gonna BEG, that you hang with it. If you don’t have the ten minutes to read now, just come back later. These novella length posts only come every so often, so BE BRAVE!
Part I: Last year, the end of September and October were a TOTAL emotional roller coaster for me. God provided for me to win a ticket to a Christian women’s blogging conference, which was called Relevant, but is now called Allume. Then he spent the rest of the month ASTONISHING me with his care and provision for me through the Body of Christ. If you haven’t read I Love the Big Catch of Fish and Big Catch Catches Air, you might want to do so as they are kind of a prequel to the AWESOME that I’m about to share. (In fact, read all the provision stories. Then send me one of your own. ;))
BUT, as awesome as Relevant was last year and how it totally revolutionized my heart and my blog in many ways, when it came to buying a ticket for Allume, I just didn’t feel it. I’ve learned from a number of missteps in my life that I should listen to my heart. When tickets first went on sale in February, I was unclear whether OneVerse, a program I blog for and care a lot about, was going to sponsor or be there. Then this summer, we didn’t have the extra money. In fact, due to the poorganic lifestyle, we pretty much never have extra money. This fall, as the conference got closer, I ended up taking weekend job working at a pumpkin patch. I just didn’t get the emotional nudge to pursue going to the conference until . . .
. . . about three weeks ago, I found out OneVerse IS going to be there and sponsor. In fact, many of the other OneVerse bloggers are going to be there to mobilize for the coming year.
STINK. I hate to miss that.
Then my local blogging friend down the road asked me if I wanted to carpool since she was going.
Well, double stink. That would be fun and really keep costs down.
Then my roommate from the conference last year asked if I wanted to room together again.
TRIPLE STINK. Now I’m starting to feel left out.
Finally, I got about four different e-mails from other bloggers asking me if I’d be at Allume.
No, no, no, not this time, unfortunately, stinkity, NOT NOT NOT.
In a moment of prayer/ talking to myself/ insanity, I prayed, “God, if you want me to go to Allume, you are going to have to do even more crazy miracles than last year because
- it is in 3.5 weeks,
- I have no money,
- I’m supposed to work,
- all the tickets are sold out,
- and the ProvidinaTOR will probably freak about me leaving town for four days.
And in my mind, I thought, “This is like Gideon setting out the fleece and praying that God will soak it if he is supposed to go into battle.” That passage has always bothered me a teensy bit because it feels presumptuous to ask God to do tricks, but honestly, that is what I was asking for. I was asking for not one, not two, not three confirmations that I should go. I was asking for a bunch. (Read Judges 6-7 if you need to know about this story.)
Yet, I was even more bothered by this weird part of my brain that said, “God isn’t going to do this for you because you already had your chance, and He doesn’t do things like this twice. You don’t deserve to have him do another miracle for you. What will other people say if they hear that you expect God to get you another ticket? God has bigger things to do than rustle up conference tickets for gals who don’t plan ahead for them.”
I don’t like that part of my brain because I know it is a liar. But I hear that voice more than I want to admit.
Faithlessness. Doubt. Disbelief.
Meanwhile, my kids and I are working on memorizing “N Verse” for Letter Verses for OneVerse. (See how all this is connected in an only-God-can-do-this sort of way.)
In a divinely unsurprising way, the N verse is: Matthew 17:20 If you have faith small as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ” Move from here to there” and it will move, and NOTHING will be impossible for you.” In the song we are using, it also includes the line from Luke 17:6 “If you have faith small as a mustard seed, you can say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ it will obey.”
The reason I chose this for N verse is because in the song, the line “Nothing will be impossible for you” is repeated three times.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
Faith. Conviction. Belief.
Faithlessness. Doubt. Disbelief.
I decided to put my fleece out. Fully expecting him to tell me what a dumb idea it was to go, I had a conversation about it with my husband. I told him all the reasons I shouldn’t go. Then I told him about the reasons I had started thinking about it again. In the patient manner of a stoically easy-going man, he said, “Why don’t you see if you can get a ticket and get off work. You can use your job money. If you can’t get a ticket, that’s God shutting the door.”
Duh. This dude is so correct! I am lucky he married the mess of an indecisive, emo-wreck that is me.
I put it out to my friends in the interwebs that if a ticket went on sale, I was in the market. I emailed my boss, expecting her to glower that I was asking off for the weekend before Halloween.
To keep things brief, I will list a hurricane of things that happened in the space of 72 hours.
- I thought I could carpool with my local friend, enabling me to use my job money for a conference ticket. Wet fleece.
- My carpool friend didn’t know I was thinking of going and bought a plane ticket eliminating my cheap transportation option. Dry fleece.
- Another friend said I could room with her for free. Wet fleece.
- Free-room friend had to back out of going, so the room wasn’t available. Dry fleece.
- Two Twittering friends found some Allume tickets on sale. Wet fleece.
- I didn’t hear back from my boss, so I assumed she was mad. Dry fleece.
- My local Twitter-addict friend spotted someone GIVING away a conference ticket and claimed it for me. Wet Fleece. I was SO EXCITED and humbled that once again I had gotten a free ticket. I felt aghast almost. Why me? Why not someone else? Lord, is this my big sign?
- I realized that I still had to pay for transportation and a room, which would cost anywhere from $300-$600, which I didn’t have from my job since I would have to take off another Saturday. DRY Fleece.
- My boss e-mailed and encouraged me to go to the conference, offering to let me work some hours another day. Um . . . . DAMPISH invitation to mildew FLEECE.
I was confused. I prayed. Lord, maybe the ticket isn’t enough. Maybe you want me to regift it to someone else and bless them. I just don’t know if or where I should get the money for the room and transportation. Is this good stewardship? How can I be sure? Am I just imagining all this because I WANT IT.
But really, even though I used the word stewardship in my prayer and tried to dress it up, what I was really thinking was, “Lord, I need another miracle.” All the back and forth felt like drizzle– like instead of a clearly wet fleece or a dry one, I just had an annoyingly moist fleece.
So that day when I went to the mailbox, I used my mustard seed of faith to believe that there might be some miracle money in there. I opened the door; I flipped though the envelopes, but it was just flyers.
Having pulled together my trip to the conference in two weeks last year, I knew that if I was going to regift the ticket, I needed to do so SOON out of fairness to anyone trying to arrange her own trip. I prayed, “Lord, you have to do something OBVIOUS, or I’m going to give this ticket away. It needs to be something that NEVER happens. It has to be like a wet fleece on a dry plate or dry sponge in a bowl of water. Right now I have what feels like a bunch of contrived coincidences. To pay for the hotel room and gas, I need about $250 and I only have $150. I need about $100 of obvious soggy fleece.”
But I closed the mailbox doubtfully.
My grocery store has recently made available an online shopping option where you can drive through and pick-up your groceries. Grocery store, how much do I love NOT setting foot inside thee with my children. Let me count the ways.
That afternoon, after my fleecy prayer, I popped the kids in the car to drive to the grocery store to pick-up the groceries I’d ordered that morning. (I had used the service three times before with increasing love and devotion each time.) I drove up to the line, put in my name, and waited. And waited. And . . . waited. Still I was unperturbed because rather than hauling my kids through the store, they were buckled in the backseat merely whining. After a few minutes, the employee came out to load my groceries in the car and said, “Our system isn’t working properly and we couldn’t find your order. You get your groceries for FREE.”
I said, “For free?”
She said, “Yes, for free. Would you unlock the back so I can load them?”
And then she loaded my entire order of groceries into my car for free. I would have paid $50 for the food.
And as I was sitting there dumbfounded, wondering what to do with my totally unnecessary handful of coupons, I heard the Lord say very CLEARLY: Girl! I can do this ALL DAY LONG.”
I would have cried, but all I could do was smile. While I was turning away from my cashless mailbox, faith draining out of me, across town my grocery order was being gathered up, but my receipt was being lost.
Still marveling at the AWESOMENESS that is NOT going into a grocery store and yet having your car loaded with FREE groceries, I drove home and began unloading my bags. My husband arrived home from his staff meeting and says, “Oh, here. I won this as a doorprize from the benefits workshop.” He handed me . . . . a $50 Target card.
All. Day. Long. ALL DAY LONG. I can provide for you to go, and do, and be where I want you to go ALL DAY LONG. This is SO easy for me. Nothing will be impossible for YOU if you have faith in ME. I’m awesome at this.
I’m going to the conference. My fleece is soggy. I started pursing finding roommates and carpools. I found three great roommates to split hotel costs with. I couldn’t find a carpool up, so I’m excited that, providing I don’t wreck my car again, I will get the eight hour drive up to PA for the quiet chat with the Lord that’s been a year in coming. (You have to read the Big Catch posts to know what that’s about.) Also, my mother gave me $50 for my trip today. (Of course, that cheeky gal pointed out that she was able to give it because they have savings. 😉) Then I found another blogger who is going to ride back with me.
My God is a provider extraordinaire. He deserves all the glory for enabling this conference, year 1 and 2. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t necessarily want it. I didn’t save for it. I didn’t buy it. And while I still feel inadequate, unworthy, and undeserving of this drenched, dripping fleece, I am starting to see that this is very little about me and VERY MUCH about HIM. I am starting to get a tiny glimpse of what God is doing. If I had bought a ticket in February, or June, or even August, this post wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t be telling you this story, singing of HIS Glory, bragging on HIS mighty skilz in providing the simple to the large.
When I plan for something, or when things slide into place by coincidence, I don’t always see Him (due to my giant ego). But when there is NOTHING I have done to deserve or seek something, His provision just knocks my socks off. My only response can be to shout it from the rooftops, To God Be the Glory.
Thank you, Lord. Thank you for speaking my language of provision, with free groceries and Target cards. Thank you for being real, present, and last minute in my days. Thank you for persistently claiming all the glory for my life. Take all of it. Open my ears and eyes wide to your teaching on the road, in the hotel room, and through the women I meet. May you be glorified again, again, and again.
I am reminded of King David’s prayer to the Lord in 2 Samuel 7 after God has promised to establish David’s kingdom forever. David says, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? . . . .How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.”