God Math

I am a smart woman. I can budget like an accountant on steroids. The poverty we have endured thought the last three years was able to be endured thanks to, among other things, extreme diligence and discipline.

As I step out in faith and begin to tithe, and truly trust that God will provide it was been lesson after lesson of trust.

My income for the month of July totaled $926.30. My rent is $800, insurance is $87.04, phone $43.25 for a total of $930.29.

Just as Jesus fed thousands, my income was enough to not only pay those essentials, my boys were able to attend the county fair, I was able to buy myself a pair of jeans, we had a full gas tank all the time, we even had a couple evenings where we treated ourselves to fast food.

That is what I call God Math. He told me to trust…I obeyed and was given great peace.

As I explained it to a friend this morning, that I am right back to zero to begin August with, I am confident that God did not provide me X amount of dollars and gifts, He provided the fair experience, He provided for our needs and a few wants.

There is a season for building up an emergency fund so that we can bless others in their time of need. That season will start when I am back to working my regular hours at work in the fall. The confidence that God will get us from here to there is a weight I cannot even measure that has been lifted off my shoulders.

If I did not trust that God would provide, the boys would not have experienced the fair, I would have taken from my children the knowledge that God provides.

They have seen a different side of Mom this month. They have seen peace we have not known for three years. They have been witness to unfailing faith and obedience.

Lord, 
I pray my children never again witness the insecurity of me not trusting Your love, grace, and mercy. May they remember these days and moments as the people on the shores once did while Jesus fed thousands. May they understand the miracle of God Math.

While they are away for the next three weeks, guide them as they spread Your love wherever they roam. Give them the confidence to follow You when the people around them live a different lifestyle than they see at home. Teach them empathy and compassion for those who do not know You.

Continue to give me strength to be vulnerable in my current social situations. As life is ever changing, it is good…and it is difficult. 

Your light guides my feet, and they are on the move. 

Amen

The Next Week

After making the decision to start Tithing, although I was not panicked or worried, there was a nagging in the back of my head. What if that $26.00 is the difference between making the rent payment and not making it. What if the cost of a tank of gas does not get replaced? How was I going to come up with those needs.

I just kept hearing God say, “Trust Me.” He repeated Himself over and over again in those first days and weeks as I did the math over and over.

What I did not know and am learning beyond all rhyme or reason is new math; God Math.

When He says, “Trust Me” He is NOT kidding.

Not only did I have enough money to pay the rent, I also was able to take my children to the local fair (something they had resigned themselves to not being able to do). I was able to buy myself a pair of jeans (I only have one pair and they are not suitable for work/play). The jeans I had BOTH (yes, I only had two pair of everyday jeans) had holes worn through that made them unwearable within weeks of each other.

I remember when my friend explained to me the loss of dignity when people are poor…I have lived this way for so long that I was baffled to have it explained. To be able to walk into the store and buy myself a pair of $29 dollar jeans felt so amazing, so empowering.

I always say it’s the little things that matter, I just did not realize how many of those little things we were going without.

When I give my tithe, I feel like the modern version of the Widow’s Mite:

Luke 21: 1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

It is a humbling privilege to give with great joy what little I can give. I truly trust that God will provide for all our needs.

I gotta say, His batting average for taking care of me thus far is pretty good 😉

Lord, 
Humbly I come to you with such a grateful heart. Thank you for all Your good works, your faithful servants whom surround my family. 
I will continue to praise You from the rooftops, the sidewalks, the playground, the parking lot, the fishing hole, the open vehicle window, the top of the stairs, the workplace…
Your love is abundant and my cup overflows. 
Be with the boys and their aunt, cousins, and my mother as they travel over the next couple of days. 
Amen

Welcome Back

Thanks everybody for being patient while God took care of a few things.

This will be a very short post today as I am trying to type with a broken middle finger that has to be splinted and buddy – taped to my ring finger. (I actually un taped it from that finger just so I could type this…but I know that can’t happen every day.

I have been using my Facebook page to download some of my thoughts with their LiveFeed feature. I never would have guessed that Vlogging would be so awesome. Seriously considering maybe starting to YouTube some of my less ‘filtered and edited’ thoughts as I know not everybody has Facebook and I hate to think that anybody is missing the message that might be the exact one they need to see or hear.

Life has been moving at a lightening fast pace this summer. It is absolutely crazy how God has been showing up and getting things done every time I turn around.

I lost a dear friend and cancer mentor last week and my heart continues to hurt for her family. Her funeral was yesterday and the boys and I made it though in one piece…and some times that is all that matters.

When she died on Saturday morning I talked to my mom (over 600 miles away) and she told me, “I don’t care what you have to do, you just get through this. You be strong for her family, and you let others take care of you.”

For the first time…I did just that. I ugly cried my good friend and she came over. When she had to go be with her family, another friend showed up just as I was going to lay down. That friend stayed while I tried to nap and cleaned my house while she just was here for me. I cannot thank them enough for getting me through that day.

I will continue to do my best to catch you up on God’s amazing work this last couple of months.

I pray you are all well and having a wonderful season.

Deb

Stepping Out In Faith

As change continues in my life and the life of my children lately I have been called to make one more change and it is not an easy one to make.

As I have shared before, our financial situation is beyond difficult. Besides a reduction in hours throughout the summer there are several unpaid weeks of time off I have no control over. My children and I live in poverty. Not just that we have more month than money, there are often months where the money I earn does not cover even our basic expenses (rent, electricity, car insurance, phone, parenting time expeditor, and gasoline).

I have no debt outside of the parenting time expeditor who is court ordered through my divorce. Thankfully he takes payments and unfortunately the need for him is necessary for any and all co-paretning communications.

As you can see, we do not have lines in our basic budget for items such as clothing, sports, school fees, household needs, vehicle maintenance, vehicle replacement, furniture replacement savings, dining out, internet, or entertainment.

Things most people take for granted…a stop at Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone, running to the store for toilet paper or cleaning supplies, socks, even stopping at the local Farmer’s Market for some amazing strawberries…the little things that most people can find an extra dollar or two around the house for; we do not have that dollar or two. Every penny is strictly accounted for. Every.Penny.

This week, my gas gauge was low and I knew that I had barely enough money to pay my rent and gas was going to have to take a back seat. If we needed to walk, we were just going to have to walk.

Then God said to me, “If you trust Me, fill your gas tank.”

And I’m like Dude…I know how to count, I know exactly how much money I have and I cannot fill my gas tank AND pay the rent.

“I can.”

It cost $41.37 to fill my tank that day.

I do not claim to understand how God does the things He does; I just know He does them with love for me. He loves me so much and His provision is great.

It was after I realized just how big of a step out in faith this was for me that I decided it was time to start Tithing.

Malachi 3: 10 – 12

10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (NLT)

The Lord has provided for us through so much, it is only right that I trust Him to provide for us. How can I claim to be so trusting yet keep my tithe to myself? Will He not provide for all my needs?

“Try it! Put me to the test!”

I have never tithed in my life although I have always been called to, it was always something I wanted to do. In my life right now there is no better time to put ME to the test, not God. It is a test of how much I trust in the Lord.

Proverbs 3: 5 – 8

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the first fruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.

I am challenging myself. I am trusting the Lord beyond my understanding.

Starting July 1, 2017 I am committing to giving a Tithe. I had no worries as I dropped that envelope into the plate this morning. I knew God would take care of me and my boys.

Even though filling my gas tank last week made me short to make the rent, I filled my tank. Even though I have been so worried about making sure I have enough money to pay my rent this month; today I tithed.

I am so very excited to see how God uses this newness for His good. I am so excited to trust Him beyond my own understanding.

God is so good and I am so excited to be His child.

Lord,

I have heard Your call and I have done as You instructed. I live for You; to bring people to Your glory. Lord I want people to see You in me, to see Your love, Your promises.
Lord, you called, I answered…and I continue to grow closer to you and to show the world Your greatness.
I thank you for this opportunity to trust you beyond my own understanding and to show others Your Glory through Your good works.

Amen

Done Dating: Part 2

My first Done Dating post was the announcement. This one is more of an explanation of how I got there and why I can be confident in my decision.

My friend Katie and I have only known each other for a little over a year. We met after the hard chemo was finished and I was healing from radiation and the after effects of chemo.

In normal circumstances, Katie and I never would have met. Her husband is a pastor of a church I had never stepped foot in and had never even been curious about stepping inside. Not that I questioned their church, I was just happy with the church I was regularly attending and very heavily involved with volunteering.

She started a MOPS group at her church and I was invited by a friend from Epiphany Station. I explained I have no preschoolers left and so a MOPS group was not really my thing. I was assured they were also a MomsNext group for mom’s with older children and I agreed to give it a try.

I was through what we thought was the difficult part of cancer, life was moving forward, and I was interested in social activities that were not overly time consuming. I enjoy group social activities that are regularly scheduled; especially if they include food and a craft!

Katie was very pregnant and we did not socialize much. We were familiar with each other but I would not have called us friends.

Then it happened.

I went to Rochester for my reconstruction in March 2016. I flew down on with Angel Flight Central and was scheduled to fly back with them as well.

I was released to fly home on Good Friday. With my appointment time and the volunteer pilot’s schedule, flying home Friday was not an option. Then the weather was bad for small aircraft travel and my weekend flight was canceled. I was heartbroken.

When I knew I would be going home before Easter I had visions of surprising my boys at church Sunday morning. With no available flight, my plan was crushed. I posted my heartbreak on Facebook and was flooded with messages of sympathy.

Then Katie said she would come and get me…she would drive to Rochester (384 miles) to pick me up and bring me home so I could surprise my boys and be home for Easter. This plan was coming together on Good Friday.

The caretakers of Nazarene Well House (where I had spent my post operative time) knew what was happening and they offered to meet up with Katie so that was it…they drove North and she drove South the day before Easter and got me home in time to surprise my boys at church Easter Sunday.

Our friendship has grown from there and she has become a best friend. She babysits our cats when we are out of town, I babysit her animals when they are gone. I can walk into her home as they start a meal and sit down at the table as if I was invited.

A few weeks ago when tragedy struck and four people died, she comforted me, she engaged me, she got me through. When I did not know how exactly chicken eggs were fertilized (she has chickens, I was curious) she taught me. (Note to self: Don’t ask if you really don’t want to know…I didn’t really want to know). When she needed help taking straw off her septic field, she put me to work. When my heart is rattled and confused and breaking and filling all at the same time, she grounds my feet.

This woman, a mere stranger just 15 months ago who let me carry her water and nothing else when we stopped for coffee on our way home from my surgery. The woman who understands my humor, who gets me, who loves to see me growing closer to Jesus and helps me through the tough spots.

This woman is why I know I no longer need to be on dating websites where men with questionable motives lurk. She is the reason I do not need to be searching for my life partner.

If God can bring together Katie and I, He certainly can bring together the man I will spend the rest of my life with. He certainly can make things happen without my assistance.

I thanked Katie for this the other day; telling her that our friendship gave me the understanding that I did not have to be out there looking for ‘The Right One’ when God already knows where to find me.

Lord,

Thank you for everything You have provided through Katie and her family. They are truly my family here with so many others.
I am so thankful that You have opened my eyes through her about the ways You work and that she has been able to show me just how much You can do.
For my future husband, I pray he also has a friend or group of friends who teach him lessons he doesn’t even know he wants to learn. (save him from the chicken stuff though if he doesn’t already know)
For all of my friends whom are now family; the thanks goes to You. I am eternally grateful.

Amen

Faith Filled Friday

I just found this on my Facebook from June 24, 2007 (my seventh wedding anniversary). I am leaving it unedited:

Well everybody, I have good news and bad news…GOOD NEWS FIRST: I am still pregnant…
the BAD NEWS is:
-I had hemmorhaging this past week
-I had premature preterm rupture of membranes
-It has been determined that I have a low lying placenta.

The doctor in the ER has said there was a prognosis of ZERO…I was heart broken (as you can imagine).

Jay had just left that day for a fairly long trip and was parked for the night when I called him with the news. I knew there was nothing he could do and told him I would keep him up to date through the night.

After several calls in the middle of the night (Jay, my parents, and Kara) I was finally taken upstairs to a room at 1:30am.

The next morning I was scheduled for an ultrasound after being counselled on the probability that Stickers was already dead…the nurses were great…I could not have done this on my own.

The doctors were very shocked when they did an ultrasound and found Stickers in there with a strong heartbeat… Then the attitude was that we would be waiting for the baby to die so they could perform a D&C…There was no way Stickers would make it through these complications.

Jay was turned around and on his way home when he had to stop and gather himself after I called with the great news.

I spent one night in the hospital and was sent home with the advice to prepare for “fetal demise”…why can’t they just say go home and wait for your kid to die…then come back and we will rip it from your body.

As you can all imagine, I have done a TON of research on everything that has happened and none of it was very promising. After the membranes rupture, approximately 50% deliver within the first week, and another 50% everyweek thereafter. I have done the numbers and have discovered that we have a 5% (yep…FIVE PERCENT) chance of carrying this child to the age of viability (24 weeks)…and even at 24 weeks, it would mean weeks or months in a neonatal intensive care unit with a survival rate of about 50%. Everyday inside me after the 24th week increases the chance of survival.

We sat down, discussed the options, statistics, and everything we could think of. My biggest fear is delivering too early and having a baby so small that it could fit in the palm of my hand. We had had a routine ultrasound only five days before this all happened and saw that Stickers was growing big, and had a strong heartbeat. This little being had two arms and legs, eyes, ears, fingers and toes…perfect in every sense of the word.

That was Tuesday night and Wednesday…it is now Sunday and I am still carrying this miracle. Jay and I keep saying that obviously nobody explained the rules to this kid so we are going to think positive.

Oof

*strong language warning*

I’m not gonna lie, I used to have a terrible potty mouth. I used the f-bomb as a comma in everyday language. I have worked SO HARD at being aware that the language I use may offend people I am not even sure are paying attention. That being said…talking to my mother and my brother in this situation I knew there were no other ears listening. I chose to not edit these words out of our conversations for authenticity’s sake…people who know me now, know how hard I have worked to be free of such vulgar language…knowing how I lost it…they know this is beyond understanding. 

My week started out as every other week does, I dropped my boys off at school, waited for Squishy (the baby I babysit) to be picked up, and went to work.

Mondays are so difficult for me. Saying cya later to my boys every other week knowing nobody can love them the same way I do is, even after four years, heartbreaking. I never asked for the divorce, they never asked for it; yet they are still paying a price that is unfathomable to so many.

I go to my second job, and things are as usual. I love my job at the middle school. Those kids fill my bucket every single day. I regularly post on my personal Facebook page about how awesome the middle school students I work with are. I make sure to tell the parents I know how great their children are; because as a parent, there can be nothing more comforting than to know that your child is just as awesome as you think they are! 

…and then it happened..

My brother (650 miles away) posted:

At a loss for words, cant imagine the hart ache.

Earlier in the day I had seen a woman post on the community page about her husband, son, and a family friend were late returning from a canoe trip. So I sent him a private message:

Me: Did they find the canoers?
Darcy: Ya, not good news. 😦
M: ALL OF THEM????
D: From the information I got so far, ya. 😦
M: Oh fuck
D: Yup
M: Oh fuck oh fuck
D: That’s all I can say too.
M: I got nothing
M: Just oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck
M: This can’t be real even
D: Too close to home.

Now, at this time, I only knew of the father, son, and the father’s friend (a friend of my family). I sent my mom a text

Me:SHANE CRIPPS???????
Mom: He and Dylan and 2 more died.
Me: Dylan is younger one?
Mom: Ya, almost 15.
Me: That’s what I thought.

Dylan is Shane’s youngest son.

Two fathers (best friends) and their sons out in a canoe for their first paddle of the year. With all of them dead on scene, only God knows what happened. They were all found floating next to the capsized canoe. They were all wearing personal floatation devices. We are left with two women have lost not only their husbands, they have each lost a child. Each of these women also have a surviving child.

I can still hear the screams in my own ears…my screams. My devastation…my hurt…my disbelief…my shock.

Later that evening my mom called. When I answered I lost it…”what the fuck Mom?” My mom lost it…the strongest woman I have ever met, known, cherished replied through her own anguish, “Oh my God it’s so awful.”

We talked until we were both calm, she told me of the man who refused to check out of Shane and his wife Li’s hotel when the news broke…like literally my mother had to go over and threaten him with the police because he, “…paid for a view of the river and I am going to have a view of the river.”

In perfect Colleen fashion, “Sir, I understand your disappointment. I can assure you though, you can leave with me, or you can leave with the police…but you ARE leaving.” I know she said this with a voice so calm, not even for a second betraying her anger. I also know that her eyes were so full of tears for this family.

I love that woman more than life itself! I am so thankful that Li and James (her surviving son) have my mom.

My mother than picked up all of Dylan’s hockey team and drove them to one of the coaches home where they had opened their home for the boys to all be together.

Shane Cripps (44), Dylan Cripps (14), Connor Sykes (33), Liam Sykes (6) all gone.

My father and another man went out to the boat launch later that evening to bring their vehicle back to town.

Some people bring brownies…my mom and dad do the logistical nightmare stuff. That is how they bring brownies. I mean seriously…the last person in that vehicle was a friend who is now dead. My mom drove around town picking up and dropping of a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds in the midst of their shock and grief.

All of this happening on the first weekend my parents’ campground is open to the public…so I know that in between all the running and shuffling, and tears, and shock they are also greeting guests, guiding tourists, mopping bathrooms, collecting garbage.

Time only stands still for those who are grieving…the rest of the world continues to spin, and somebody has to clean their bathrooms and make sure the garbage is taken care of so the bears don’t come.

On Wednesday morning, word got out that the wives and children of the deceased are planning to go out to the boat launch, which over the years has become haven to those not willing to pay a dump fee at the city dump. The litter and garbage is atrocious out there.

A post was made on the same page the wife posted asking if anybody had seen her husband and son on Monday. By 5:30 pm the place was immaculate. The city dump waived fees for people bringing garbage from the site, people showed up with water and food and they took out several FULL pick-up trucks of garbage in time to allow the families the opportunity to begin processing their situation.

As I work to process this grief from so far away I am in constant contact with my family back home and reaching out to my local friends to keep me afloat. My friends have surrounded me with the love I knew they would…keeping me safe from letting satan enter into this turmoil.

…and then it happened…

My girlfriend (Jessa’s mom) sent me a message that the roller coaster has officially started. Miss Jessa has a grade one brain bleed, her lungs are having issues and she is going to be started on steroids that are going to cause her to feel yucky…

And I’ve got nothing. I cannot even process this. I try to send love, I pray, I try to talk with her and comfort her…and I’m just lost. We will get through this, we just need to connect…we need to get back on the horse and we need to refocus.

The NICU team reassures everybody that these things are ‘normal’ for a micro preemie and that she is still doing so amazingly awesome. The roller coaster is started and we are firmly buckled in.

…and then it happened…

On Friday I am almost finished my work day…less than an hour to go and we stop for lunch.

I check my Facebook and receive notification that my friend from childhood has lost her mother to cancer. Oh shit I just CANNOT do this…

FUCK YOU CANCER! #itsnotaboutme

Is my Facebook update. I do not even remember the last time I swore on Facebook. even the times I have REALLLLLLLLLY wanted to, I always edit it and find better words. At first I did not post the hashtag…but did so pretty quickly so that people would not think I was sick again. 

Not yesterday. Nope, I did think about it. I thought about posting something heartfelt and loving. And then I realized that nope, this WAS heartfelt. These words perfectly summed up what I needed to say at that moment.

I texted my mom, “Call me.” I only have a cell phone, I cannot afford the plan that allows for calls to Canada (it would be an extra $15/month). When I need my mommy…she calls me. 

Mom: Hey
Me: Mom…Giselle died. (sobbing)
Mom: Oh shit, we knew she didn’t have long…you told me that, right?
Me: Yep, Michelle called and said it was close not long ago…just not this week.
Mom: (I can hear her voice crack) It’s going to be one of those years Deb; there are already forest fires burning up here; it’s not going to be good.

She comforts me and I get back to work. It’s all I can do.

There are beautiful things happening all around me…and I am searching SO HARD to be mindful of them…I really am.

I am also hurting and my tears are always falling, and I am letting them. I have cried this week at work, at the grocery store, at Thief River Falls House of Prayer, in my vehicle, on the phone with my landlord, in my bed, in the shower.

It has been one heck of a tough week.

Last night I posted on Facebook:

Two hours ago I said I was going to bed…I just cannot sleep. I went fishing with God earlier but apparently the fish had already talked with Him and were safe. I had supper with friends, I vented/shared love with a friend over FB…and yet my heart is still so hurt tonight. #INeedATripHome

This morning my mom responded “less than two weeks. XO”

Then I got out of bed this morning and was met by this mountain of laundry. I posted a picture of it and said “Apparently the laundry doesn’t care about the week I’ve had…I’m so not ready to die on this mountain! #GriefWaitsForNothing

Just seeing the laundry waiting started the tears again…but it is real life. Grief does not mean your underwear stays clean, grief does not remove the worm poop you wiped on your jeans when you were fishing last weekend before this all happened.

I am struggling, I am devastated, I am grief-stricken. I will be okay. I am surrounded by love, by prayers, by those God has put on this rollercoaster with me.

Lord,

I know there are lessons and beauty in all this tragedy…I am working so hard at seeing those wonderful things through my tears and my hurt.

I am so thankful for those who remind me that the tears are okay and that I don’t have to be strong through this. It is completely okay for me to be on my knees in pain and anguish.

When I’m ready to get off my knees, I look up and I see so many hands held out to help me. They have been praying with their hands on my shoulders. They have been doing all they can so I know I do not have to get through this on my own…I one have to get through it and they will not let me do it alone.

Guide me trough this agony as I glorify Your name.

Amen