In the last place we lived, I felt surrounded by tangible reminders of the Lord’s provision to us.
Food. Because of my work at the university, we had much of our food provided through the meal plan I was on. And for as many complaints as cafeteria food gets, we saw it as the Lord taking care of us in that season through the salad bar and ready-made dishes. Food for every meal that we needed, right across the street was a gift.
Clothes. I loved the bins of stuff students got rid of at the end of every semester. My wardrobe loved the new additions in December and May, as I got to enjoy things that someone else no longer wanted.
All things baby. We were also part of one of the best social media groups I’ve ever experienced, a Buy Nothing community. This group was the Lord’s means of providing all of Lark’s clothes for her first year, a stock of cloth diapers, a changing table and a host of other things. I literally cried several times, out of an overwhelmed heart, at how kind the Lord was to give us so much. In a season where I felt like I couldn’t handle shopping for baby things and lacked the energy to add one more thing to my plate, we were given what we needed and more.
Health care. Between my job and government health care, our family had health insurance for the frequent pediatrician visits and everything that was part of my pregnancy.
Housing. Through my job at the university, we had housing included as part of my compensation. We got to live in a beautiful city, that we otherwise couldn’t have afforded. We had an apartment to ourselves, and just a few walls shared with several hundred college students and a non-existent commute.
Food, clothes, housing, medical care…everything we needed, the Lord provided in that place in abundance.
But when we made the decision to leave my job and move away, I had a small panic.
Would we have to start buying all this stuff?
What if we couldn’t afford it?
What was going to happen to us?
Where would we get insurance if we didn’t even know what jobs we were moving towards?
Would we give away all our stuff to move and then not have anything?
Would we have to eat rice and beans for the next few years just to make it?
Fear felt loud and I believed that it was up to me and my husband to take care of these things.
And then I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart.
You may not have Buy Nothing where you are going, but you will always have me.
You may not know what you will eat, but you will always have me.
You may not know where you will live, but I am your home.
You may not know where your clothes will come from, but I will take care of you.
I go with you. I am for you. You will always have me.
Recently, one of the lines from Joshua jumped out of the page to me.
“And the manna ceased the day after they ate the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” Joshua 5:12
As I read these words, I was reminded of how often the Lord provided for us, for our family through the people and community he placed around us in our last season. I was so afraid to leave that place, feeling like we were done being provided for. But the truth is quite the opposite in fact. The Lord has NEVER stopped providing for us. Our manna simply ceased as we entered a new place. The Lord is taking care of us here, just as he did there, it just looks different. The specifics may have changed, but the Lord is the same provider. He may give manna in one season and the fruit of the land in another.
In this season, instead of the Caf, the Lord has given us what we need to buy good food. We may not eat out much, but I enjoy cooking for our family and we have yet to eat rice & beans (unless it is paired with salsa and tortillas and cheese, and then it is most welcome.) I seriously think we eat better than you could find in a restaurant at a fraction of the cost, especially considering the gluten free factor.
Instead of Buy Nothing, the Lord has given us free clothes for our daughter through friends and neighbors and friends of friends. I literally was given a huge bag of clothes last weekend that was the next size up. Totally unsolicited and generous. Next week she will be 21 months and I have yet to buy her clothes. I’m overwhelmed that this is true.
Instead of housing through my job, the Lord has provided housing through family. We have the rough equivalent to the apartment we had in the season before, in the upstairs of the house we rent from and share with my mother-in-law. I forgot how much I enjoy living in a house, and it is a gift to be in one again.
Instead of bins of free clothes, the Lord has given me clothes through a friend with similar taste through a clothing swap in the fall and an at-home “yard sale” this spring. Instead of resources for work, I get new books sent to my door to read and write about. He has given us a huge TV by the side of the road this fall, free and it works perfectly. He has given my husband a job that provides enough to meet our needs, and is lifegiving for him. He has provided health insurance for us here.
Last week, Jesus gave us a second car through our generous neighbors. (WHAT?!?) Let me just pause. I spend most of my days at home. While I enjoy the slower pace and see the gift it is to be at home, it has been hard to depend on others and planning ahead to be able to go anywhere. I had not even thought to ask the Lord for a second car, since it wasn’t a need and he was caring for us so well. When our neighbors offered their car to us, I was astonished. The Lord was going well beyond needs to give us a good gift. It felt like he whispered to my heart, “I see you and I love you. Here’s a present.” L and I enjoyed our maiden voyage on Friday to the library and post office. I’m utterly blown away by the Lord’s goodness to me when I look in our driveway.
The list could and does go on and on and on. Even as I write these things, I’m utterly overwhelmed. The Lord seems to delight in surprising us and caring for us, beyond our imaginings.
One of the things the Lord has put on my heart this season is to be on the lookout for stinginess in my own heart. When I forget who the Lord is, I am quick to resort to hoarding and storing, as if the Lord’s goodness has run out and I’m on my own. I start holding back from sharing and generously giving what has been given to me. I act panicked, like I did when I thought we were moving, as if the Lord’s resources only exist in my current season, under certain stipulations.
My heart needs to remember his goodness. My heart needs these reminders of his faithfulness and bountiful dealings with me. My heart needs to see the Lord as my provider, whether I’m eating manna or the fruit of the land. My heart needs to tell the story of why there is a second car in our driveway and why we have another bag of baby clothes. Only when I see the Lord who he is as my provider, can my stingy heart become a generous one, reflecting who he is to me. Everything I have is from him. All I have comes from him. All I have is a grace.
I certainly don’t want to say that following the Lord always looks like this abundance I am currently experiencing. Certainly, Paul talks about contentment in seasons of want and of plenty. I think there may come a day when his provision for us may look like “less” or “want.” But as I look at the ways the Lord has taken care of us, I’m realizing that the Lord is the same. He is the same provider, the same Father, regardless of circumstances. I echo the words of David, as I remember how faithful, generous and kind the Lord is to me.
“I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:6