Thursday, October 22, 2009

God's Greatest Blessings

Wow. I can hardly believe that we have been in WI for over a year. It's hard to believe the struggles that we endured at this time last year. But, it's amazing to see how God was and is so faithful to us. God put many wonderful, supportive people in our lives to encourage us, root for us & even to be a blessing to us when we were in need.

There's something about being on the receiving end of tremendous blessings that I had never experienced until last year & well into this summer when we went through another setback with our belongings. It was really difficult to receive. I struggled so much with accepting many of the things that we were given & just the outpouring of support we received here from friends & family. And through our situation, God taught me how to receive. He taught me about the humility that arises in us when we are in situations that we can do nothing to help ourselves at that time. It's only been through our struggles that we completely have grasped what it means to rely on God 100%. Many times, we think that we are relying on God...but we're still out there trying to make things happen, which isn't necessarily bad to keep an active attitude...but sometimes it turns into what "we" think we should do. Rather than sitting back & listening to what God would like us to do & actually really trusting. We'll always be learning...but, how grateful I am to have been blessed by a God who loves me & my family. Realizing that every single day is essential for me to in turn be a blessing to others. It makes me want to give even more because I know what it felt like to have been blessed.

I know that the people who helped us didn't do it because they wanted some "praise"...I know that they did it because they truly cared for us and/or care for other people. Many people can go looking for people to "give to" or "help out"...but those who are truly givers & do it out of a pure heart will see needs all around them...especially in the lives of the people closest to them...their family, friends, etc. and will do anything they can to meet those needs first. Helping those elsewhere is just an extension of a giving spirit. I think one of the biggest mistakes people can make is to think that helping out "strangers" & giving to "outsiders" is the true definition of "giving". Although, that is beneficial & definitely needed...I personally think the true definition of love & giving is loving those closest to you....giving to those closest to you...meeting the needs you see right under your nose...first. And sometimes doing so even when it is hard to do. Sometimes we don't always agree with people's decisions or sometimes we don't always think they "deserve" it...but I think sometimes those reasons for not helping out someone or giving to them is a root of pride. Maybe we think they should pay for their mistakes. Maybe we think they should suffer. Maybe we think they don't deserve it. But you know...it's our pride that gets in the way when we think someone else doesn't deserve to be taken care of. It's pride when we think that they made their own bed & now they should lay in it. I love what Jesus says below in Matthew 25:

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

The question I have is: Did Jesus tell us here what "kinds" of people deserve to be helped? Does he describe for us...well if you think someone got themself into their own situation...you don't have to help them? Here is what he said:
35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 

I love their response...
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

You see...someone who is righteous & of a pure heart & mind sees a need and tries to meet it or help. They don't go out seeking people to "give to"...they are just givers. They are sensitive to those around them. They have a love in them that can't be made up or created by themselves. They truly love other people. They want all people to succeed. They want all people to be provided for. It's not enough to think it. It's not enough to pretend it. You have to live it. You have to love other people.


And Jesus finished speaking to those of pure heart like this:
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Wow. I think it's safe to assume that "the least of these brothers" refers to people who maybe didn't really deserve it or people that may go unnoticed or forgotten.

The bottom line for me is this...we should never walk around "hand-picking" those we "think" we should help or give to. We should be living our lives in such a way that wherever we are...whoever is in our lives...whether it is your brother, your sister, your parents, your family, your friends, etc...be a blessing to them & meet whatever needs you see if you need to. Because God puts people around us...and he's not blind when we "skip over" people around us. He's not blind to us "hand-picking" those we will help. He wants pure hearts. He wants faithful people that will love his people...even when it is hard.

With all that being said...we just wanted to say THANK YOU to the faithful people who surrounded us during our very difficult struggles. We want to say THANK YOU to the people who gave of themselves to help us get through a very difficult year of ups & down, unemployment & struggles. We appreciate every single one of you & we are so grateful for your faithful hearts for meeting our needs. You blessed our lives more than you know.

Special thanks to the following:

*North Bay Community Church ~ We are so grateful to the wonderful people who provided for our family last Christmas. To our pastor & his family who gave us what we needed when we were without. To the many people at North Bay who attended our "Starting Over Shower" & those who gave us gifts as we moved. Thank you!

*To our Parents...Mom, Jake & Lois...thank you for giving us a place to lay our heads when we had no idea what we were going to do. Thank you for sacrificing your homes to provide a safe place for us to seek God for his direction & supporting us in our decisions. Thank you also for the many gifts you gave to us as we moved into our new home. We are forever grateful.

*To my sisters...Shannon, Amy & Amber (and spouses!)...thank you so much for being our best friends. For providing support & encouragement & a shoulder to cry on. Thank you for giving us things for our new home & for making our Starting Over Shower so special. Thank you for never making us feel less than & believing in us even when we didn't believe in ourselves.

*To Wanda & Shannon...thank you so much for loving us. Thank you so much for supporting us & making us feel special even when we felt like failures. Thank you, Wanda, for being a shoulder to cry on when times were really tough. We miss you very much. Thank you also for sending us some wonderful gifts when we moved into our new home. We appreciate it. Your love for us & your desire to see us succeed has been encouraging.

*To Leah...wow. You are surely an amazing friend. You have given us so much & have just overwhelmed me with your love, support & giving. You never cease to amaze me. :-)

*To our friends...so many of you came & supported us during our Starting over Shower. You gave us many special gifts that we truly needed for our new home. You are such amazing people...we are so grateful for your generosity & support. Many of you who don't even live here blessed us with amazing gifts, sent us cards, collected gifts & sent them to us...THANK YOU. Your support & love will never be forgotten.

*To the strangers...we received several anonymous gifts & notes of encouragement. We are so grateful for everything. And to Caitlin...who collected some donations from people we didn't even know...and who didn't know us...THANK YOU! And thanks to those people!

Even if we didn't speak with you personally...you know who you are that helped. We thank each & every one of you for your love, support & grace that you poured out on us during the last year. You allowed God to use you to bless us because of your giving heart & your compassion for us. It will not be forgotten. Our children's lives are so much more enriched because of your compassion & love. They understand what it means to trust in God & they know how God uses many people to love us & support us & meet our needs. God never lets us down...even when people fail us, mistreat us, ridicule us, treat us unfairly, hurt us or our circumstances are unfortunate and/or difficult. What a reassuring hope we have in him!

And because a blog post is always better with a photo...I hope this cute little face makes you smile. I know it makes me smile! :-)

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