Friday, November 22, 2013

There but for The Grace Of God go I......

Philippians 4:19

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.


Recently I went through some personal experiences that left me profoundly struck by the phrase: There but for the grace of God go I.

As I was preparing for my baptism, and for six weeks to follow, I was also going through a difficult time. A time that was challenging, but a time that taught me many lessons. I now realize, even though I was ready to give my life to God, to follow the teachings and examples of Jesus, I really still did not have a full understanding of how deeply I should trust in God. I still felt I should only "pray over the really important things, or to give thanks". I also still thought I could negotiate and bargain with God. I am still learning to turn to Him with everything, and will continue to learn for the remainder of my days on this earth.

When I started working as a travel nurse, in July of 2012, my biggest concern was that I would be able to work consistently. I could not afford to be out of work at all. Much of my adult life has involved financial struggles, and when you work for a travel agency you have no benefit time. I was assured this would not be a problem, and until July of 2013 it was not.

When I completed my assignment, on July 12, 2013, I did not have a new assignment to go to. As the weeks went on, with no job on the horizon, I was distraught! I asked my agency to review my application, resume, and references to make sure they didn't need a rewrite. I was assured that not only was everything in good order, but in several cases I was an ideal candidate for jobs I was submitted for.

I prayed to God continuously to find me a job. I would tell Him to send me wherever He wanted me to go, give me a sign, I would do anything He wanted me to. Of course, that wasn't really true at the time. It took me a while to realize I was always using qualifiers. I would pray "I will go wherever You want me to go, but please don't send me to.......(insert half a dozen places of your choice)" or "I will do whatever You want me to do, but PLEASE don't ask me to...............".

I often forgot to ask Him to provide for my needs, and was not  thankful enough for much of what He did provide. My children, my parents, my sister and her family, my son's girlfriend, friends, and members of my church community all helped me in a variety of ways during this time. Most of the time, instead of graciously thanking them for their help, I would try to refuse it. I was not use to accepting help. When I did remember to pray for help, I did not realize this was how He was sending it. He was reminding me that I had a much larger support network  than I realized, that I had people who loved me and were happy to help me if they were able. And I had two grown children who were loving, supportive and concerned. My children did everything they could to help me with bills, with money to buy my medication, even the ability to have food on the table came largely through them. My children bore most of the "burden" of helping me, and I would repeatedly say "I am the one who is suppose to be helping you, I am the mother".

One day my daughter informed me that she and her brother were happy to help me. She also quite firmly told me that instead of letting them be happy they could help me, I was turning it into a stressful and unpleasant experience. She said "mom, just say thank you". Shortly thereafter, I got the same message loud and clear from my son. Lesson learned!! It was hard, but I started reminding myself to stop arguing and just say thank you. Doing this did a few things. It actually made me feel less stressed. It allowed my children to feel good about helping me, as they should!!! It also made me begin to realize that this was a blessing from God!!

There were also other blessings! I was able to be baptized at the lake, by my hometown Pastor. This meant the world to me, and was definitely God's work. An ill family member was in the hospital three times within a month, and I was able to be there. I had some real quality time with my family. I was able to attend a wedding reception that I thought I would have to miss. I had a car accident, I know that doesn't sound like a blessing, but nobody was hurt. And I was able to attend the Unbound, Freedom In Christ conference with my daughter, this conference was one of many life changing events I have experienced since July.

After a job offer that fell through, I was offered a job at Calvary Hospital in Bronx NY. There were many indications that I was being lead to this job, and by now I had been out of work eleven weeks. The time off really had turned out to be a blessing, but I was eager to get back to work, to feel useful, and to pay my own way in life again.

On Friday, September 27th, I set out for NYC. Excited to see my new apartment, to start my new job, to explore the city.  God still had more lessons in store for me. I expected a direct deposit of a check on that Friday morning. I left home in VT before it would have cleared. Once I arrived at my new apartment, I checked my account balance to see it had not deposited. I had left VT with $22.00 in my pocket, and had paid $12.00 in tolls, I now had $10.00 to live on for two weeks!! I also found out that the hospital required a specific color of scrubs, a color that I didn't own!! I had brought some food with me, and food for my kittens, but how could I buy gas and uniforms to manage for two weeks? And what if my food didn't hold out??

I can tell you that I did remember to pray right away, and often!! I told a couple of friends that I knew God would find a way. And He did!!! By counting change, and being extremely frugal, I managed to buy a uniform that would have to be washed often. My mother sent a money order for me to buy  a couple more so I would not have to do wash every day. And then there was Carlos!

Carlos was a God send!!! He is a young man who lives in an apartment near me, whom I was to seek out to pick up my key. It turns out that his parents own the apartments. In addition to welcoming me to City Island, Carlos helped me load my boxes and totes into the apartment. He and his parents were friendly and welcoming. Shortly after my arrival to City Island, in conversation with Carlos, I revealed exploration of NYC would have to wait for a while and confided that there was no money to spare. Carlos became concerned about me having enough food, and specifically about proteins as he did not think the non perishable items I brought were sufficient. I assured him that he need not be concerned, that I would manage quite nicely. The next night Carlos was cooking chicken breasts on the grill and came knocking at my door to give me two. I tried to refuse, but he was insistent and it smelled so good I gave in quickly!! I thanked him profusely, the chicken would go for several meals, and that chicken tasted even better than it smelled!! Later I answered a knock on the door to find Carlos there, he brought me three frozen flounder fillets and one salmon fillet. I told him he was more than generous enough with the chicken, and that I was fine, but I could clearly see he was not going to take no for an answer. Again I thanked him profusely!! About a half hour later Carlos was back, this time bringing eggs which I did refuse as I am severely allergic. As I again thanked Carlos for his generosity, I told him that my family had sent out some money to help me get through the next two weeks until my first paycheck. During the next couple of days, while I was awaiting the money from home, Carlos showed up with groceries, he had bought me some deli chicken, soup, and rice. He also "accidentally" cooked more  cheeseburgers than he wanted one day and gave me one, and on another occasion bought extra food at McDonalds and I ended up the beneficiary. I am not usually a fan of McDonald's fries, but my diet had been so limited I have to admit those french fries tasted like they were the best food ever, I didn't even unwrap the burger until every last french fry was gone!

I will never forget what Carlos did for me. He did not know me, had no obligation to help me. He is not a wealthy man, he does not go to church, and yet he was definitely a blessing from God. I have given Carlos a small gift, have repaid him for the grocery bag he brought, have thanked him verbally and in writing, and will one day cook for him, but I will never be able to fully repay him. He does not fully realize how much his kindness meant in a time when I could not meet my own needs and had anxiety over having enough food. I certainly hope he never does, as the only way to fully understand is to experience it!!

There are many people in this world who have fear and anxiety about when, and what, their next meal will be, who experience this to a much greater degree than I did and for a much longer time frame. There are a lot of people who have no family to help them pay bills, who aren't able to keep their home or apartment and who end up homeless. And yes, there are also homeless people who are mentally ill and end up on the streets. Maybe they have never had medications and treatments, maybe they did but stopped taking them, or maybe they experienced a time of hardship and had no family to help them get their medications. I know my blood sugars were certainly way off before my children found out I had run out of medication and they insisted on paying for my refills. I want to help these people, and I want to do it in a way that treats them with respect and dignity. We are all God's children, and we cannot know the series of events that brought any of us to where we are!!

So now when I see the homeless, the hungry, the socially marginalized people of our world I cannot help but think : There but for the Grace of God go I.............