Saturday, August 31, 2013

Our Story, Part 4

One of our purposes in having a family blog [link to about family abounds page] is to record our story.  And that is why I've been taking a post each week to tell how God has worked in our lives to bring us together and to teach us more and more of His abounding love and grace.  We are currently at a stage in our journey where some reflection and healing are needed.  It has been very good to remember back to our earlier years with a new perspective on the Lord and on life.

If you haven't spent time remembering your story, I encourage you to do so.  Even those painful and awkward memories may bring you greater insight and enlarge your view of God and His ways.

You can catch up on previous posts here:
          Our Story, Part 1 - How We Met
          Our Story, Part 2 - Getting Engaged
          Our Story, Part 3 - Getting Married and Starting an Exciting Journey

We left off last week with our whirlwind summer - relocation, wedding, quick honeymoon, and onto a new life together in the Big Apple.  Exciting, right?

Our first year together was probably the hardest we've been through.  At the time I insisted that it wasn't, but I'm pretty sure I was unable to let myself admit it.  But even though it was our hardest, it was also one of tremendous growth as individuals and as a couple.  The Lord taught us to lean on Him TOGETHER, and that has laid a solid foundation for our marriage.

I won't go into details here, but it's enough to say that we were in financial hardship that first year.  I could probably write a series of posts on that experience, how it made me feel, how others sometimes made me feel, and how it actually brought Claude and I closer together.  For now, though, I'll just say that we walked a lot and ate a little - and we were healthier for it.

While Claude studied and practiced during the days and evenings, I tried to find administrative work.  After a few months I finally broke down and got an hourly job as a cashier at the drug store across the street from our apartment.  It was very humbling for me, but it is one of the best things I've ever done.  Not the work...that was a bit lame.  But being humbled was very good for me.  Why, you ask?  Well, just allow the Lord to humble you in HIS WAY and you'll understand.

Even with Claude working a bit at school, my hours at the drug store, some violin teaching, and a part time orchestra gig, we still were struggling financially.  At one point some very well-meaning people suggested that we budget our money so that we wouldn't be wondering where this week's groceries were coming from.  The problem was that we hardly had anything to budget.  If you're earning about half of your overall expenses it doesn't really matter how you break it're not going to make the bills without some help.

And help we did have.  We set our eyes on the Lord and trusted Him as best we knew how.  And God provided in many different ways throughout that year.  Sometimes He used the generosity of others and sometimes He gave us an extra gig.  Sometimes the numbers simply didn't add up and we really couldn't see how everything was paid.  But we were growing in faith and learning more of God's character - it was hard but incredible!

A quick note...some of our financial trials were a result of our choices but many were from external circumstances that we couldn't control.  What I learned, though, is that God doesn't seem to be concerned with how we get into trouble, unless of course it's a matter of sin.  As I've looked back to our money challenges I realize that our mistakes were simply out of immaturity but our hearts were fully set on the Lord, seeking Him and learning to trust Him more.  The hardship was not a means of teaching us money smarts - although we did grow in wisdom in that area - but rather a part of our path to knowing God more.

I will also add that Claude and I were both struggling that year with all of the life changes we had just endured.  He had just moved from a foreign country.  Wait a minute?  You don't think Australia is a foreign country?  They speak the same language, right?  Let me say the words "biscuit", "chips", and "pudding".  Same language...I wonder...  :)

The change of location was also hard on me.  Both of us, although we were learning to rely on God together in our finances, were feeling lonely.  Our friends and family were far away and as much as New York is a part of the U.S. it is very different from anywhere that I had (or have) ever lived.  It's culture shock for anyone who hasn't grown up there.

And then we hardly knew each other.  We had spent all of three months (if that) together before we were married.  That time was spread out - a few weeks here and there at a music festival - over a three year time period.  And more than half of that time was leading up to our wedding.  In other words, ALL of our time together had been in completely abnormal circumstances.  We simply didn't know the day to day side of each other.

The Lord had been speaking to us about being in the crucible - a place of being refined - and staying in the U.S. Northeast was part of that.  But with so many challenges, we were eagerly awaiting Claude's graduation and a ticket out of New York and a chance to take a little breather from the refining flames.

We needed to make a trip to Melbourne since Claude had to get a new visa, so in June 2006 we hopped on a plane and flew across the Pacific.  It was supposed to be short - just one month - but it wasn't until September that we had a visa in hand and were able to head back to the states.

Despite our desire to be done with New York, we were learning to give our plans and desires to the Lord.  And I think we had accepted where God was keeping us.  We weren't thrilled about it, but we did have peace and we both agreed that God's time for us in the Northeast wasn't over.  Maybe we'd be around for another year or two?  In any case, we had jobs to find and an apartment to save for.

And before we knew it God was growing us again...

To be continued...

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