When Marvin and I started to feel the Lord speaking to us about getting out of debt we really had no clear idea of how to do it or what it would even take to reach such a goal. So, we prayed! We prayed for wisdom and guidance and understanding and courage and for the ability to be obedient. Though we prayed for these things, we actually had no idea that it would take all of this and more to walk the path that would lead us to becoming debt-free. It was hard! It was scary! It was possible!
Honestly, all these years later, I can’t remember exactly what triggered that part of the journey for us. I could tell you that it was something we heard someone say, we did listen to a lot of Christian teachers speak on the subject of finances; or, I could tell you it was because I HATED paying bill—after bill—after bill….every month, over and over again. It felt like pedaling upstream in neck deep water on a unicycle with a ton of bricks on your back and a rope tied to the wheel of the unicycle that had its other end tied to a tree on the shore in order to completely insure that you could NEVER make any headway against the current of interest payments and certainly never get out of the water! Exaggerating? Well, you tell me. How does debt make you feel?
Whatever the catalyst that propelled us to take the leap (and I’m sure it was a combination of all the above plus some), we stepped off the cliff and started our freefall into an uncertain chasm only to discover that we were being carried to a land filled with what can only be described as—miracles!
The beginning: AprilDawn and Simon were playing around in the front yard, I was sitting on the porch swing. This was what we did almost every day around 5:30pm. It had been our habit for seven years as we waited for Marvin to arrive home from work. The kids would run to meet him at his truck and greet him and usually say, “Daddy, watch me!” and then run into the yard to perform some trick which they had been practicing on their bicycles or in the trees. He would give them a hug and come sit with me on the swing for a few minutes as he watched them, and we would talk to each other and yell back and forth to the children. We laughed a lot!
Today was different, I had something to tell him. There was a seriousness in the air as he sat down on the swing beside me. Was it coming from me or from him? I’ll never know and can’t to this day remember who spoke first, but as our conversation started we told each other that the Lord had spoken to us—to me, to him…I knew I had heard something, but he didn’t know, and yet he was telling me that he had heard something too. An identical phrase had dropped into each of our minds that day, into each of our hearts.
“Out of the excess of society, I will build your house!”
A couple of months earlier we had decided that we were going to get out of debt. We knew that in order to do that we would have no choice but to sell the house in which we currently lived. But, we had no place to go that we could think of at the time; so, we decided to pray and seek God’s will for the process. Today we had heard a clear message from Him. We also had a clear understanding that He meant for us to go ahead and put our house on the market because He had a plan. HE HAD A PLAN, PEOPLE!! For us!! But, we had to be bold and obedient in order to see His plan unfold in our lives.
So, we called a local realtor and put our house on the market. As only God’s timing can be, it was perfect. Our house sold immediately, and we closed on the sale within six weeks. It was a scramble to get out of the house. So much to pack. During this time, and with Marvin’s parent’s permission, we decided to move into a little building on their property that had been used as a corn crib during their farming days. The inside of this building was approximately 182 square feet. (That is not a typo folks. You read that correctly!)
This was not a building that was ever meant to be lived in and even if it had been it would have been super tiny for one human. There were four of us—two adults, one 13-year-old girl, one 11-year-old boy—about to live in 182 square feet for (what we didn’t know at the time would be) exactly two years to the month. No lie!
We once heard a pastor say that you should never tell anyone what God has done for you without also telling what it cost you to get it. Otherwise, you are doing them a great injustice. The reason being that you can make people feel like it all just came easy for you and that can prove to be very discouraging to someone who feels as if they are either paying or being asked to pay a high price for whatever it is that they are seeking to receive from God. So, I want to make it clear that we spent two very sacrificial years living this way even though Marvin had told us when we moved into this little building that we were not going to stop “living” just because of this circumstance.
So, Simon still played ball, AprilDawn still danced, and I still homeschooled the two of them. We still went to church and took our family vacations. But, we really didn’t have much money. The sell of the house had paid off all of our debts; so, we were completely debt-free, but it also only left us with about $3,000 to our name. Not a huge profit by any stretch of the imagination especially when you take into consideration that now we were in the position of needing to build a new house for our family.
We knew that was what we were supposed to do and had been given a small piece of land on Marvin’s family farm that had an old hammer mill building on it which had also been used for farming purposes. It wasn’t going to be easy to turn into a home for our family. We basically needed to systematically tear down the old structure while we were building the new one, as well as add a lot onto it in order to make it large enough to be a real home for our family.
I never will forget one pivotal day when Marvin walked into the “Little Shack Out Back” (as we had taken to calling where we were living at that time) after a hopeful trip to see a man about some cinder blocks. These blocks were the first thing that we needed to be able to build a retaining wall under our new house since it was built into the side of a hill. The price for the cinder blocks was too high for us to pay at the store, but Marvin had heard about a man in the next town over who had a bunch of them he was wanting to sell for half price just to get them taken off of his property. So, he had gone to see if we could buy the blocks from him. I could tell by the look on my husband’s face when he walked through the door that we couldn’t.
His shoulders were low and so was his chin. Discouragement! He had moved his family into a building not much bigger than some people’s bathrooms. Our children had to climb a ladder to get into their “bedrooms” which were only 3 ½ feet from floor to ceiling. They literally had to “crawl” into bed at night. This was the only thing that could have been done. We were actually super grateful that the corn crib had 10-foot ceilings because this allowed Marvin to loft one end of the tiny building. He lowered that half of the room’s ceiling down to 6 ½ feet and made a small area above it that was divided into two really small but functional sleeping areas. One for each of our children. A mattress fit perfectly on each side and the space was separated by a curtain to give them each some privacy.
Discouragement is not what I wanted to see on his face. I wanted him to come home elated and say that he was able to get the price of the blocks down to fit our budget and that he would be picking the blocks up tomorrow! Nope! What I heard him say instead was that the man had already sold the blocks to someone else. Someone else! Had beat Marvin to the blocks! He was, as I said, DISCOURAGED!
I don’t know what made me say it. I believe it was the Holy Spirit prophetically speaking through me. The thought was not my own. I walked over to Marvin, reached up to put my hands on his shoulders and said, “That’s okay! It just means that God is going to give us the blocks!” Y’all, I knew when I said it that it was true. But, I didn’t have a clue what it really meant.
The next day five dump truck loads of cinder blocks were given to us. GIVEN TO US!! The first part of a story that seems so unreal had begun. For the next two years, every time we needed something for the house, it was given to us. This is a story that has to be told. But, it’s too long for one blog post.
Let me end this first installment by telling you that God has a plan for your life and He still speaks clearly to His children if we will dare to listen, dare to believe. It breaks my heart that we live in such a faithless time in human history. We are so afraid of offending each other that, I fear, we are offending God. How dare we not believe. Yet, we don’t.
Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
I wish that every part of my story was filled with belief and obedience. It isn’t. But, the parts that are have been pretty incredible. This part of my story started with a thought being dropped simultaneously into mine and my husband’s minds. The scripture tells us in John 10:3b-5 “the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (NKJV)
We heard and recognized the voice of our shepherd that day we talked on the front porch swing. What he said to us was:
“Out of the excess of society, I will build your house!” ….and that’s exactly what He did!
How about you, do you have any thoughts you’d like to share? If so, please leave a comment below and…
Let’s Grow Together!