In order to fully embrace the Father’s calling on our lives, He asked us to enter into an extreme place of trust in Him alone for the resources to take care of all our needs.
We’ve often experienced significant hardships since we embraced this daily trust in the Father for everything. Yet witnessing over and over the miraculous presence of God transform the lost, hurting and distressed has made every hard time worth it all to us.
It’s actually been an amazing Journey of Faith that was inspired by heaven.
This is that story
It was the life-changing year of 1997 when Barry and I said yes to the Lord and laid down everything we had to serve Him. Immediately we felt stretched in our willingness to trust Him.
This stretching of our faith actually started for me when God began to show Barry He wanted us to move from San Diego, California to Seattle, Washington to birth a church.
Barry was eager to go. He was born in Portland and had longed to return to the Northwest for many years. But we knew absolutely no one there and Barry had no job where he felt God was calling us to go. And I really depended emotionally on the security of a regular, predictable paycheck. To make the thought of all this happening even more distressing for me, my roots were entrenched in California. This is where I had raised a family, established friendships and built a fruitful ministry. I didn’t want to leave all that I had known for most of my life. Even more painful for me to consider, if we left San Diego I would be moving away from my adult children. This meant giving up the family dinners and holidays together that I had dreamed about since I had been a young mother. The thought of losing this dream grieved me. It was such an important part of my life and nothing in me wanted to give all this up.
Yet the Lord was asking of us what He required of Abraham:
“Leave his native land and his relatives and come
to the land that God would show him.”
Acts 7:3 NLT
“By faith when Abraham was called,
he obeyed by going to a place which he was to receive
for an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going.”
Hebrews 11:8 NASB
While I wrestled with an overwhelming feeling of loss every time I thought about moving far away from California, the Father shocked me. This is what He showed me:
“My glory cloud over you and Barry has moved to the Northwest. Will you go where I am going or will you choose to stay where you are comfortable? It is true that if you decide to remain here, you will have a good life. I will still love you and take care of you. But you and Barry will miss out on my very best for you. If you cling to what is familiar and take the path that is comfortable, my purposes for you will be frustrated. And in the years ahead you will have leanness of soul because the fulfillment of My promises for you will not happen here. They can only come to pass in the new place where I’m calling you to go.”
The moment I saw this unsettling perspective I said, “Yes, I will go!” Within a year we packed up all of our belongings and left for Seattle. For the longest time tears rolled down my cheeks as I stared out the window of the U-Haul truck and watched the miles race by. I mourned that I was saying goodbye to the only place I ever felt I had found a home for my heart and the only one where I finally belonged.
What stunned me was that shortly after arriving in Washington State, a job opened for Barry to make more money and work fewer hours while we pioneered a church. Another year went by and once again God stretched our faith. He instructed us to give up being local church pastors. Though we obeyed, this decision catapulted us into a season of crushing pain and confusion. Barry went back to his lucrative computer consulting career and was gone a great deal of the time. My soul felt empty. I had no friends or family. I just kept saying to the Father with a crushing sense of disillusionment:
“I left too much that mattered to me in California for it to end up like this. I don’t understand! I feel lost and confused. I feel You have betrayed me. This hurts so much I can’t even worship and I feel too sad to play my harp. All I have left is obeying You. This I always will do. But I have nothing else. Everything hurts too much for me to want to be close to You.”
Slowly we emerged from our grief.
My heart did heal.
My intimacy with the Father returned. The silence of the harp ended and I could sing to Him again.
Then in April 2000, the Lord asked us to step into an even more challenging realm of faith when He showed us that Barry was to end his job and we were to begin trusting in Him alone for the resources to take care of all our needs. He made it clear to us that this drastic change in our lives was the only way we could fulfill our calling to serve Him as a team.
We surrendered to what the Father was asking of us. The unity of heart, and the vision and direction we shared as we made this rather shocking choice was remarkable. It’s also what protected us with the most amazing, all-encompassing peace. It was the kind of peace that does indeed go beyond human understanding because it makes no sense at all to the natural mind. As we entered into this new season in our lives, I finally realized why the Father asked us to “Leave our native land and our relatives and come to this land that He showed us though we did not know where we were going.” We seriously needed that challenging, and at times heartbreaking year as pastors of a local church so that we could understand what it felt like to walk in those shoes. Now with tender compassion we could effectively encourage the pastors and leaders everywhere He sent us, both in our own country and in other nations.
Eventually I was also overcome by knowing that the people God had destined us to know, to become His family with, to walk intimately close with were here in the Northwest. We would never have known them if I had refused to leave California. And though there were times I grieved over the loss of not being with my adult children the way I had dreamed about, He gave us the dearest people I have ever known in my lifetime to become our Book of Acts kind of family that surpasses anything I’ve ever known my entire life.
Any time I reflect on all this I shudder at the very thought of what we would have missed out on if we had not come to this new land where we had to go so that the Father’s destiny for us could be fulfilled. Consequently, no matter how difficult the hardships were that we experienced, we went to bed each night at peace. And I often reflected that we were living the reality of these incredibly comforting promises:
“I will hide you and shelter you beneath the
shadow of My wings until each storm is past.”
Psalm 57:1 NLT
“I will calm each storm to a whisper and still the waves.
I will bring you safely into harbor.”
Psalm 107:29-30 NLT
Yet there was never enough money coming in to support us. This shortage of funds forced us to learn how to trust the Father each and every day, no matter how serious or immense the need we were facing. This was very hard on us. During those early years of our extreme walk by faith, I still wished I could have the security of Barry having a regular job making lots of money like he used to. But the Father kept telling us to stand firm in a place of immovable faith and He would provide. And He would do this even when our circumstances were humanly insurmountable and our needs were overwhelming. So the only choice that gave us peace was to decide to trust the Father with abandonment, no matter what.
On this amazing Journey that stretched us in our ability to depend on Him as never before, the Father often encouraged us with this reassurance:
“You have stepped out of the boat.
Don’t look down. Hold fast and keep looking straight ahead.”
We did feel quite often that we were out of any boat that could keep us safe. Instead it was very real to us that we were “out on the water,” while God tested our hearts just as He did the Israelites:
“The Lord your God led you through the wilderness for forty years.
He humbled you and tested you to prove your character and to find out
whether or not you would really obey His commands.”
Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT
Later in Joseph’s life we see God working in this same way because “until the time came to fulfill His word, the Lord tested Joseph’s character” (Psalm 105:19 NLT).
Oh how we longed for the day when the Father would say to us:
“You have passed the test.
Now enter into the fullness of what I have promised you.”
This stretching of our faith is by no means unique. If anyone decides to surrender his life to the Lord in order to be used by Him, there are going to be times when he must trust Him for something he can’t do himself. Likewise if the Father only asked us to believe Him for those things we can accomplish in our own abilities and resources, when the promise is fulfilled we risk looking at our own strength and efforts rather than being humbly and deeply aware to the core of our being that it was the Lord who made the miracle possible.
If it was in any way something we could accomplish by our own efforts, we also would never have to come to the end of ourselves. Yet that is the place where true faith begins. Because in that uncomfortable place where we are helpless and must depend with abandonment on the Father to intervene, attitudes which need to be changed are glaringly exposed. For example, in the months shortly after God told us that Barry was to end his regular job, I experienced moments of overwhelming panic. It felt like we were financially free falling off a cliff and I was waiting with utter dread for when we would hit the sharp rocks below and go “splat!”
This pressure from being stretched far beyond what I was even remotely comfortable with exposed this issue in my heart that had to be dealt with before I could ever fully embrace the call that the Father had placed on our lives: My sense of financial security had always come from knowing that there was going to be a regular paycheck. But now I had to die to any dependence on a predictable source of income and place all my security in the Father as our Source and Provider.
In the midst of this radical change in our finances which was scary for me at times, a breakthrough happened when a friend sent us this story:
A young girl traveling on a train for the first time heard that it would have to cross several rivers. She was troubled and fearful as she thought of the water. But each time the train came to a river, a bridge was always there to provide a safe way across. After passing safely over several rivers and streams, the girl settled back in her seat with a sigh of relief. Then she turned to her mother and said, “I’m not worried anymore. Somebody has put bridges for us all of the way.”
Just as soon as I read this simple account, the Father overwhelmed me with this compelling encouragement:
“I will be for you that bridge over troubled waters so that you also can find your way to the other side. Every time you find yourself in a place where you need that miracle to get to a place of safety, I will be there. I will make the impossible possible. I will do the same for you as I did for that young child on the train.”
Many times since that day I’ve marveled as I watched God give us an unexpected bridge of provision that enabled us to walk over to a place of safety.
There was also another sobering dimension to what the Father was asking us to do. He had called us to bring people into His presence that they might have a life-changing encounter with Him. But from the beginning of this call, He cautioned us to never use this sacred part of what He had commissioned us to do for one of us to ever talk about financial needs. He also instructed us that no matter how serious our financial situation ever became, we were never to fundraise or send out pleas for money.
We were very careful to obey these instructions. But to be completely and vulnerably honest, this was an extremely difficult place of obedience that we guarded as a sacred instruction from the Father. Sometimes when our needs were overwhelming and there was no provision for even our most basic essentials, we felt like God had forgotten us. So we pleaded for His help.
Yet there was only silence.
After several years of this challenging Journey of extreme faith, the Father revealed to me this insight into Noah’s life that I had never seen before. He spent one hundred and twenty years building a boat in preparation for rain and a flood, neither of which had ever taken place. To make this even more of a stretch, he was constructing this huge ship in an area where there was no body of water. So surely there were those who mocked and judged him as he spent all those years building something that made no sense to them at all. Then he ended up on a large ship with water everywhere and no land in sight.
But one day, this brief statement in the story of Noah impacted me in a powerful, unforgettable way:
“God remembered Noah.”
Genesis 8:1 NLT
Those three words contain such life-giving hope for anyone who is waiting and waiting and it seems like God is far away. For although Noah and his family did move into the Ark and the rains did come and flood the earth, he still ended up floating on an endless sea of water for another twelve and a half months. From that moment, I hugged this verse to my heart. During our hardest times of trusting the Father so radically for seemingly impossible needs, it helped me to have renewed courage. For I had been apprehended by the profoundly strengthening realization that just as the Lord remembered Noah, there would come a day when He remembered Barry and me.
Then one day we were in awe as we experienced our Abba Father finally saying to us:
“You have passed the test.
Now continue to trust Me to provide for what you
still need and I will continue to honor your faith in Me.”
Other than overcoming the damage from my severely abusive background that lasted until I was forty-five years old, this faith walk in the area of our finances is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Yet as I look back on the years since this walk began, I understand why God required that we learn to depend on Him in such an extreme way. Because when we emerged from each struggle, our capacity to trust Him in all areas of our lives and ministry had grown monumentally beyond all human logic. Therefore we eventually realized that the Father was carefully equipping us so that no matter what serious obstacles lay ahead of us, we had the persevering strength to boldly declare as Paul did:
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken.
We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit.
We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep on going.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT
We can only grow in this unwavering tenacity when we have to go far beyond what we think we can endure in trusting the Father. But again to be transparently honest, it can be quite painful to be stretched to such an extent when people can’t understand what God is asking us to do. And sadly, what people don’t understand, they easily judge. Consequently Barry and I have experienced the judgment of those we dearly loved when they looked at our lives through the lens of their logical, natural mind.
At the same time, others we cared deeply about predicted our defeat because to them we looked foolish for believing things that were so impossible. Gratefully, this experience of being judged and misunderstood as a result of what God called us to do helped me to understand how Noah must have felt. He also had a dream that God birthed in his heart. He also wouldn’t give up on it, no matter what price he had to pay and regardless of how long he had to wait. Surely he also must have looked like a complete fool to his contemporaries when he:
“Obeyed God who warned him about something
that had never happened before.”
Hebrews 11:7 NLT
For Barry and me, our humbling in the eyes of people prodded us to be
set free from mindsets that had limited us for most of our lives.
It spurred us on to grow in ways we never thought possible.
We often marvel that no matter what it has cost us to live like this,
every sacrifice and hardship has been worth it all.
Because we get to live our dream to make a difference for the Father.
And we’ve been given the priceless gift to witness, wherever the Father sends us,
His miraculous presence transforming the lost, hurting and distressed who so
desperately needed Him to come to them and give them back their hope.
“What is taking place is
going to affect me the rest of my life.”
Each time this happens, we know we’re witnessing a Miracle.
Consequently we are so deeply grateful that years ago we said yes to the Father when He called us to establish a Lighthouse Ministry in the Northwest that He clearly wanted dedicated to Hope.