“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1
Going back and reading through my journals, in order to accurately write this “Sanders Family Unabridged” series, has been a journey in itself. It’s amazing how much we have changed in our heart, mind and spirit over the last 8 months. It is proof that when you let God write your story, everything changes. I was fascinated and I am the one that lived it. Haha!
A friend invited me to go with her to help at a charity event called Help Portrait on December 6th, 2014. It was a wonderful day of helping less fortunate families go through the exciting process of pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, feeding them yummy food catered by Chick-fil-A, while they got their hair and make-up done by certified beauticians, and had their family pictures taken by professional photographers. We arrived at 6:00am and didn’t get home until 7:00pm. It was the best kind of tired!
I called Aaron when we were leaving the church to let him know I was on my way home. He told me he was forwarding an email he had gotten from the family we were living with at the time. They had just gotten back from vacation and the husband had been woken up in the night and felt like God was giving him direction for us. He had already talked with Aaron about it, but put it in email form for better explanation. My friend and I had just pulled up to a new coffee place when I opened the email. As I was reading I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Essentially what the email said was that we needed to be moved out of their house by the end of the month and that the Lord had given us choices. We could leave TN or we could stay. Staying would be harder and require more endurance, but the Lord would be with us whichever path we chose. Thankfully the friend I was with knows our story, so I was able to tell her what was going on and she was understanding when I sat there in shock for a little while. Please believe me when I say there was absolutely no anger. This family had taken us in because they believed that’s what God wanted them to do and we had multiple conversations with them about when it was time for us to go. We told them that if they ever felt it was time for us to leave just tell us and we’ll be gone, no hard feelings, we totally get it. Also, there had been a major feeling of unrest and agitation in our family for a couple of months, so we knew it really was time to move on. Where the shock came from was we had a neat little plan in our minds about how we would be leaving their house. We assumed that God would have another place all lined up for us and there would be a moving truck involved and a known destination. We had neither of those. The majority of our belongings were already in storage, following our 48 hour eviction notice from our rental house the previous December, and we had been living out of our suitcases since we had moved in with them. So, packing up to leave their house wasn’t going to take long, but where were we going to go?
Our other concern was talking with the kiddos about it. We weren’t sure what their reactions were going to be. Our biggest concern was that their reaction would be one of fear. We did tell them about what our friend had said about God being with us whether we stayed or left and that if we stayed it would be harder and require more endurance. To our surprise, all four of them were excited and said that we needed to stay in Tennessee. Jack even held his pinky finger out to Aaron and said, “Pinky promise that even if we have to live in our van we’ll stay in Tennessee.” After our talk we were all very excited to see what God was going to do next.
The next morning we went to church. We attend a church that is very dedicated to following the Holy Spirit and allowing the gifts of the Spirit to be used. After worship someone spoke out in tongues and following that someone else interpreted the words. They were words from the Lord: “I speak to you this morning and I declare I have given unto you everything that you need. I have given you my name, I have given you my power, I have given you who I am, and I declare unto you this morning that you are more than well equipped. You are more than well able, because I stand and I declare that my name is above all names and I will perform my Word.” We all felt like it was God telling us that whatever we were going to be stepping into we would be ok, because he has already given us everything we need and that he hasn’t forgotten the promises he has spoken to us. He will do what he said he would do. The following Sunday, December 14th, we were at church again and one of the songs was “Break Every Chain”. I had my eyes closed as we were singing and I saw a door that was wrapped in chains appear in front of me. As we sang the phrase “there is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain”, the chains on the door broke and the door opened to a hallway. At the end of the hallway was another door wrapped in chains. I started walking down the hallway and as I got closer to the door the chains broke and the door opened to another hallway with another door wrapped in chains at the end. This happened about three times when the phrase “I set before you an open door” came to my mind. I stood there and let it roll around for awhile. I knew it was a Bible verse, but I couldn’t remember where it was found or what the circumstances around it were. I sat down to look it up. It is Revelation 3:8, “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” Once again, it felt like God had given us a message letting us know that he knows where we are and that he has already traveled the road ahead of us.
My sister called me on December 19th saying that my grandpa had collapsed at home and was being taken by ambulance to the hospital. His potassium levels were way too high and his kidneys were only functioning at 20%. They pumped him full of fluids and did a couple of rounds of dialysis. He scared the daylights out of us, but was able to go home on Monday and was even feisty enough to insist that Christmas still be celebrated at his house. I was especially grateful he was recuperating so fast because this was going to be my first Christmas away from my family. I was already a teary mess, but would have been far worse had his condition been more serious. We had to forego the trip to Minnesota/Wisconsin because we had about $50 to our name, our van needed a new battery and was having trouble starting in the southern winter temperatures (it would never have survived the frozen tundra temperatures) and the tires were bald. Our northern winter driving options were non existent. We had just enough money to drive to Aaron’s parents house to stay with them during the kids’ 2 week Christmas break. That opened up a whole new scenario to try to wrap our heads around: the inability to buy even one gift for any of our kiddos. They are the most amazing children, they completely understood why they didn’t have presents from mom and dad, and they never said a word, but it was still really, really hard on us. You’ve heard the saying, “Christmas is not about the gifts, it’s about being with the people you love.” There is truth in that statement. We have celebrated Christmas without an abundance of gifts, but we had never been in a situation where we couldn’t buy them anything. As you know, it wasn’t the end of the world, we’re still here 8 months later, and they got plenty of gifts from their grandparents. For us it became one of those life moments that you never thought you’d actually experience and it was hard to act like everything was good and fun when we felt like we had completely failed the expectations we had set for ourselves as parents.
We spent the 2 week Christmas break, at my in-laws, praying and asking God for wisdom and direction. We left to go back to Tennessee at the end of those 2 weeks still completely clueless as to where we would go when we got there, but full of hope and expectation that he would have something waiting for us.