The Last Shall Be First

This week I was reminded that God is ever in control of my life.  Deep down I have always known it, but as I have grown and matured, God has revealed Himself in ever deeper and more meaningful ways.  My story today will begin at the end of a journey of self discovery, of awakening to the joy of the Lord Jesus Christ – my life, my strength.

My journey – as most journeys – began with suffering and darkness.  When I was a senior in high school I faced the break-up of my family through a messy divorce, a dear friend’s sudden suicide, the break-up of a loving relationship, and deep loneliness as I faced college alone and away from home for the first time.  The only way to survive my loneliness and depression was to study, study, study!  A poor comfort for sure!  I did not have the comfort of my Savior until after I was through with college …. but I digress.

Over the years I have found the Holy Scriptures to be a constant voice of sanity in my mind; quieting the voices of fear, pain, worry and self-doubt.  I have also learned to accept poverty, being humbled by my current financial situation, joyfully accepting help from others rather than feeling guilt or shame.

For the past three years my family has been a recipient of the local Delta Christian Community Food Pantry.  It is hosted by the Byron United Methodist Church in partnership with St. Anne’s Catholic Church and the Delta Community Presbyterian Church.  It was not always easy to accept this free food provided by loving Christians.  In fact, it was many months after learning about it’s existence that I would even go.  Finally, in April 2013, after my neighbor invited me again, I went.  I was welcomed with warm smiles, kind words, and generous hearts.  My family has since visited the food pantry every Tuesday for the past three years.  I have personally gone on all but one of the Tuesdays when I lay in bed with a feverish cold.  While I am there, I visit with the people, I rummage through clothing, and I pray – for the recipients and the givers.

My family used to be a lot more comfortable than we are today.  My husband and I are college graduates from U.C. Berkeley.  We had good paying jobs, were high achievers and were pursuing the “good life”.  However, we were dissatisfied with the emptiness it brought us.  As we grew in our faith in the Lord Jesus, we began to rethink our life choices.

In 1997, my husband started a wholesale reptile business breeding chameleons and various species of geckos.  In 2000, we opened a reptile retail store.  After working full time, raising four kids, homeschooling and helping with the pet store, I was exhausted and miserable!  My husband and I realized that I really needed to be home so he could better focus on the business and I could focus on the family.  So, in 2004, I quit my high-paying Civil Engineering job to be mom to four kids then 3, 5, 7, and 9.

We worked hard, invested time and money in people, inventory, and property.  In the end, we lost it all in December 2011.  It didn’t happen all at once, it took five years to fall apart, but fall apart it did.  Thankfully, my father-in-law was able to invest in a small piece of property for us and we moved everything – animals, kids, and stuff – to our new farm.

For the past four years we have been scraping by with just enough, and sometimes not enough at all.  Thanks to the food pantry, kind friends, and family help we have never gone hungry.  However, there never seems to be enough funds to go around to pay bills on time.  I am forever requesting more time from utility companies, always pushing the bill out to the farthest possible date. It is a tiring way to live.

But last week I was reminded – as I often am – that God is in control.

I arrived at 8:48 am at the food pantry.  They always start at 9:00, so I was really running late.  My alarm didn’t go off, I completely forgot it was Tuesday, and I almost forgot to go at all.  But there I was standing in line waiting to be called.  Since I was the last on the list, I had not looked at my number yet.  They had just recently started a lottery system and I was still frazzled from being late, so I forgot to check.  Then the Spirit prompted me to look NOW before the first number was called… it was number one!  I was first through the line that day, even though I was the last one to arrive.  Everyone helping to hand out the food rejoiced with me,  finding it joyful I was going through the line first, laughing all the way.

The givers at the food pantry have all met my family – kids now grown to 15, 17, 19 & 21.  All still home trying to help us make our new way in farming.  They see our joy even though we are struggling to stay afloat.  My family is not angry at God, I do not blame anyone or anything for our current situation.  I know it is the path God planned for our family, to build our faith and trust in Him.  In our suffering, in our daily struggles, I am forced to look up into the face of my Father for comfort, for guidance, for peace.   I am in no real danger.  I am in no dire need.  I receive just what I need to get through each day – no more, no less.  And like manna from heaven, the blessings fall down.  I just have to hold up my hands in praise!  Thank you, Lord, for using this period of suffering to bring me ever closer to You.

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