For the week that Embrace the Grace was out of commission I felt like....
- like my favorite coffee cup was broken.
- No, like my favorite bedroom shoes had been eaten.
- No, like my favorite pillow had been left at some hotel.
- No, I felt like.....well, I don't know what I felt like but it wasn't pleasant I assure you!
In order to properly celebrate, I want to share with you another miracle story from the Hawley Chronicles.
The God Who Sees
We became evangelists in the summer of 1999. Blissfully ignorant. Totally compelled. Living a dream. That's how we saw it.
And I don't mean that Frank and I became evangelists - this was a calling for the entire clan. The girls were 16, almost 14, and 11. (Only Meagan had the good sense to be a little reticent.)
But the excitement of the unknown drew us. And more importantly, we felt God sending us out with a message, "Your family is worth fighting for!" We learned several songs. We coordinated some clothing. We called some pastor friends. And off we went!
One smallish problem......our van only cranked when IT wanted to. No problem. We'll travel in the Taurus until God provides something bigger. (For those of you who don't know car models, a Taurus was a mid-size sedan. It supposedly seated five. But the fifth person actually sat on a hump in the middle of the back seat.)
Two things became apparent right away:
- God was calling us to this; our calendar filled up quickly with church services!
- All three girls were done with taking their turn on "the hump" in the back seat!
We journeyed on in the gift God provided for almost a year. Ample room. A video player. Great sound system for rehearsals while traveling. That van provided comfortable transportation for our first 60,000 miles as Family to Family Ministries.
As it was nearing the 100,000 mile mark, we were nearing the conclusion that it was time to invest in a home on wheels. An extended cab dually truck and an affordable fifth wheel RV became our search focus.
Once the truck was purchased, we began trying to sell the van. But the high mileage seemed a real turn off for potential buyers.
For six months we struggled to make payments on both vehicles. Certainly not an easy feat when your weekly income is entirely dependent on the generosity of the church where you just sang. Each month seemed more impossible than the last!
That's when we encountered a man in one of our services who dealt in used vehicle sales. "Bring it to me," he said. "I'll sell it for you right away and get top dollar!"
That very week, Frank and I made the four hour round trip drive delivering the van to him. We drove away from his house feeling like a huge weight had been lifted!
"This is a beautiful vehicle in excellent condition!" he enthused. "I'll have it sold in NO time!"
But four more months the van sat! Four more payments to eek out of our limited funds. Each week we called and each week he assured us he was even closer finding a buyer.
Finally it became apparent that we needed to bring the van home and try again ourselves to sell it. The dealer insisted on leaving it in a mall parking lot instead of meeting us himself. Odd. When we got to the van, we quickly discovered why he was avoiding us.
The odometer revealed that the trusted, church-attending, car dealer had been driving our van as his own. He had even used it to make a trip from NC to FL. (The score card for his golf game was in the pocket of the back seat.)
Total shock and disappointment! We had put our trust in this person and had been duped! We felt so foolish!
After we got back to Mom and Dad Hawley's (where we'd left the girls) Frank called us all together. He had spent the drive time home in prayer and had made a determination.
We shared the dilemma with the girls because we wanted them to pray with us for a solution. (A word to parents - prayers answered builds faith in children too!)
"This man took advantage of us, it's true." Frank spoke to us in measured tones. "But we are going to pray that God will bless him in spite of this. And we're not going to rehearse it to others. God has made clear to me that He will take care of us if we'll just obey and not defame this man."
What we wanted to do was string him up!!
But the man was well known by many of the pastors we would be visiting and we had clear instructions from above to keep quiet. Our obedience was tested multiple times. Several pastors knew of our need to sell the van and they would ask, "So, has ------ sold your van yet? We've been praying with you that he will!"
Frank would shoot a look at us that said, "God has promised to take care of us!" Then he would answer, "No, he didn't. We've decided to try again ourselves." And that's where it would drop.
The van finally sold - at a great loss. When all was tallied, we carried that payment almost two years!
Fast forward to 2006.
We had been pastors of Garden Grove Church for just over a year. This pastorate has been a beautiful marriage since the very beginning. We've loved the people and they have loved us!
Pastor Appreciation Day of that year was a benchmark, miracle day and the short version is this:
God gave a man in the congregation a dream that the church gave us a vehicle. He pitched
the idea to the board. They pitched it to the congregation. They decided to attempt raising money for it and just see what God would do!
(Please be aware that we have no wealthy people in our congregation. This was a miracle of Biblical proportions! Yes, I'll record that miracle another day, too.)
Pastor Appreciation Day found all of us standing on the parking lot sobbing and praising God and celebrating His miracle-working power!
Now fast forward another month.
I'm driving down Cypress Gardens Boulevard once again thanking the Lord for the MIRACLE of this beautiful vehicle! "Oh Lord, this Tahoe truly is exceeding abundantly above all I could ask or even imagine! You are so faithful to your promises! What a great God You are!!"
That's when I sensed the quiet whisper to my heart, "Didn't I promise to take care of you if you would obey me?"
"Oh yes, Lord! And You certainly have!" I wasn't on the same page.
Another quiet whisper, "I asked you to be generous toward the car salesman who took advantage of you. I asked you not to rehearse his dishonesty. You obeyed. This is the reward I had in mind. I love you, Little One!"
The tears began to flow freely. I had completely forgotten! But God had not forgotten!
He is the God who sees! That's what Hagar called Him in Genesis. He sees. He marks our moments of obedience. He rewards those who seek Him.
That Tahoe is still running! We've topped 206,000 miles now and it cranks faithfully every single morning!
Obedience is always important. Seldom easy. Sometimes nearly impossible. But His rewards far surpass the struggle!