Cast Your Net
Cast your net, with all the might of your faith, into the waters of his will.
Send it deep into the sea of his promises,
Into the waters of his abundance, into the depths of his supply.
As you do, you will gather ~
More wonders than you have ever seen,
More surprises than you can ever imagine,
More blessings than you can ever hold.
The night before we left Illinois for Tennessee we sat down and had a conversation, as a family, to see how everyone was feeling and what they were thinking. The first feeling shared was excitement, followed by nervousness. We looked back on how God has taken care of us and talked about how we have become so much closer as a family (that’s our favorite part). Additionally, we have never gone hungry and our bills are always paid. When we have come up to something that has frightened us, or looked impossible, we have found that when we continue to step forward, in faith, the fear disappears and the situation either dissolves or is easily solved. Aaron calls them paper mache brick walls. They look so frightening and imposing, but if we’ll just walk up to them, instead of shying away in fear, we will find that we can easily push them over. Max admitted being anxious about the thought of having to live in our van. How would we get ready for school? How would we shower or brush our teeth? We admitted to Max that we had the same questions, and that we didn’t know the answers. All we know is that God is good. He told us he would give us what we need, so we need to trust him for what that is, no matter what it looks like. We prayed together and everyone went to bed feeling hopeful for the next day and what it would bring.
Our excitement and hope lasted until we were back in Tennessee, sitting in a cold van in the Wal-Mart parking lot, without a clue as to what to do. We didn’t think we had placed any expectations on God but, after sitting clueless in our van for about an hour, we realized that we had most definitely placed expectations on him. We were waiting for someone to come knocking on the van window, or a phone call from someone offering us a house or a hotel room, or an angel, or something miraculous. We purposely didn’t tell our Tennessee friends when we would be back, because we wanted to see what God would do. We started getting quite frustrated because it looked like God wasn’t going to do anything. I’m not sure how long we had been sitting there, but around 7:30 a friend texted and asked if we were back in town yet and if we had anywhere to stay. We admitted that there hadn’t been any kind of miraculous breakthrough and we had just been sitting in the parking lot. We were invited to come stay at their house for at least the night. We gladly accepted.
My friend and I chatted over coffee the next morning and I shared what had happened over the last few weeks. She shared that, in her life, when God stripped things away it was not to punish, but to help her refocus on what she should have been paying attention to all along. I felt like we were in the same place. All this “stripping” isn’t about punishing us, it’s about helping us to focus on what is most important. Our family made a commitment to God, when we moved here, that our life would be about him and about him showing his power and goodness to people through us. Also, that he could do whatever he needed for that to be shown. It most definitely has not looked like what we thought it should look like but, honestly, we have no idea what it needed to look like. We may have been so used to the distractions that they had to be removed in order for us to even see that they were there.
Aaron and I continued to struggle with the feeling that we weren’t supposed to be staying at our friends’ house for the long-term and that, as crazy as it sounded, maybe we really were supposed to be in the van. God does weird things! Ezekiel had to set up a mock war with a brick and an iron pan and then lay on his side for 390 days to bear the sins of the people of Israel (Ezekiel 4). When was the last time you heard of God telling someone they had to lay on their side for over a year because of the sins of the people in their country? Ezekiel was probably the last one, and if he lived now and told you God said that you’d think he was a whack job. I know I’d think he was a fruit cake! But, that’s the kind of weirdness God does. It makes living in a van pretty tame when you compare them. When I told my friend what we were thinking she flipped and threatened to end our friendship if we stayed in our van. She was teasing, but at the same time was serious enough that we didn’t move to the van. I think more than anything we didn’t want to face the discomfort of van living, when we were standing in a nice warm house that had been graciously opened to us.
We were also struggling with doubt about what God said. Eve listening to Satan when he twists God’s words ever so slightly, teaches a great lesson. How many times have we fallen for it as well? We know good and well what God has told us to do! For the time being we are supposed to rest (“be still”), write, trust God and not seek gainful employment. That last one is very Ezekiel-esque, i.e. crazy, and incredibly challenging to obey. It is especially difficult here in America where we are taught to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and make something of ourselves, busting our hind ends to provide for our families. We have had people tell us that we are wrong and will quote Bible verses to us. Trust me, we have already processed every argument you can come up with. We have been there and hashed it out a million times. Then we come to our final reasoning; someday we are going to stand before God and answer for our obedience, or lack thereof. Are we good with telling him that we couldn’t handle not having gainful employment, for however long, because people disagreed with us? We really had to get to the nitty-gritty of it and ask ourselves if it really is God asking this of us. We have to say every time, “yes”, it is God telling us to do this and if we are wrong, we believe he’s big enough to let us know that also. At the same time, that doesn’t make it easy to live through. Yes, God gives us what we need and our bills are paid, but sometimes…aye yi yi!!! He is soooooooooooooo slow!!!!!! He knows when we have to pay our phone bill, couldn’t the money be there on time?! Why does it have to be a week late? He “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” why on earth do we have to eat so much peanut butter and jelly? It’s these questions that get us completely off track and we start to freak out. For every freak out our response is, “did God really say not to work?” Maybe it’s only Aaron that shouldn’t get a job, and it’s ok for Jen to go get one. Maybe Aaron could get a night job and then he’d still be free to do whatever needs to be done during the day. See what I mean about Eve? Sooo easy to compromise, especially when you are uncomfortable or discontent.
We went to church on a Sunday in the mindset I just described. We were so weary of not having our own place and feeling like a burden to others. It would be so easy to be done being still and waiting on God and take care of it ourselves. We asked the kiddos what they thought of our situation. Should mom and dad get jobs and get this stupid homelessness over with or should we acknowledge what God said and trust him even if we do end up in our van? We all agreed that our friends’ house didn’t have the God peace we have had in other situations. That had nothing whatsoever to do with our friends, they were incredibly gracious, but we were not feeling the peace that had been with us. Max was the first one to answer and said we could not get jobs, that we needed to continue to wait on God. The older two thought that maybe we should get jobs, if God didn’t say anything soon, “because we need money to live somewhere”. Bella said we should keep waiting for God. Then we all admitted that if we quieted our minds and listened only to God, not our situation, he is not saying to get jobs. He is saying to trust him and live in the van. SO WEIRD! We got to church 45 minutes late because we were having a crisis of obedience. Worship was still going on and there was nowhere to sit. We were in serious pouting mode and thought, “Nice. We’re not even allowed to be at church.” As we were getting ready to just turn around and leave a young girl told us she had seen a spot in the very back corner. So perfect for pouters, right?! God totally has a sense of humor! Instead of preaching that morning the pastor asked for anyone that has a special verse, that they go to in difficult times, to come up front and read that verse to the congregation. For the sake of space I won’t put the text of each verse on here, but I’ll leave the references in case anyone else reading this needs some scripture to go to in the middle of trying circumstances. This is the order in which they were read:
Max looked at us, with tears in his eyes, after all these scriptures were read and said, “See? I told you, you didn’t need to get jobs!”
We decided that we were going to go ahead and step out in faith and move into the van that week. We went to the food pantry at church and picked out food that we would be able to prepare in the van and headed back to our friends’ house for one more night. The next morning we went back to their house, after we brought the kids to school, and rearranged our things so that we could drop more stuff off at our storage units and have optimal living space in the van. Haha! “Optimal living space in the van”, who’d have ever thought we’d be saying that. Ha!! We left our friend’s house while they were working, so we wouldn’t weaken when we heard their pleadings. We left them a note of thanks and some treats and headed out into the unknown of van living.