OK, so the Lord has been on me for a while now to write my testimony. This is probably the hardest thing in the world to write because there is so much to it. I find it quite difficult to express the awsomeness of Gods work and let me tell ya, he worked hard for me!
One of the hardest parts is where to start. The Holy Spirit says "At the beginning", but where exactly was the beginning. So much is clear now that I am amazed to say it all started before I knew it was beginning!
I'll start with about 2 years before we got saved. Rick (my wonderful hubby) and I were setting up at shows, flea markets, trade shows and places like that. Every weekend we were somewhere. As vendors, we spent the evenings with other vendors having dinner and talking shop. There was this one couple that did a lot of the same shows we did and at a flea market in Knoxville Tennessee, I had a life changing moment. I was talking with....let's call him Joe, and he was talking about how he didn't believe in God. How could God allow the things to happen that Joe had witnessed? What kind of god didn't stop it? He was angry and bitter and I was speechless. I truly, truly believed in God. But I had no answers for him. And I was so troubled by it for weeks and weeks.
Then crossroads happened. You can read about that here:
God was making me think. He was building up to something I was unaware of. He was gently showing me that I needed to know more about Him. He had more for me. I was not living the life He planned for me!
A year or so passed and during that time, I dug out a small little bible I'd had for years and began carrying it with me. I read it pretty often but was getting nowhere fast. It seemed like a different language that I could not understand. I didn't know I could have asked God to help me understand it. I didn't know a lot of things, but I knew something was missing.
I know some folks won't believe what I am about to say because it goes against everything God stands for. But I believe God put something in my husbands heart that made him loose hope. Or maybe the devil did it and God used it, I don't know, Rick would have to say. He was allowing us to dig ourselves into a hole until we had nowhere to turn except to HIM.
Rick started selling off inventory at a loss. We weren't making money anymore, just dumping product. For some strange reason, we opened a shop during this time. It was one of those "God moves" I guess. We were offered a building to rent from a friend at a deal we, being money hungry as we were, couldn't pass up......We only saw dollar signs. And the bills started piling up. Fast! I watched as the man I'd know for years who could wheel and deal and come out smelling like a rose, started making some really bad deals. I was helpless. And he was...different. He finally told me one day that for the first time in his life, he didn't know what to do. He was without hope. Worse than I knew at the time.
Along this same time he began leaving our shop and going to the pawn shop where he worked years ago. The owner, Bill, and he had remained friends over the years and Bill was now a Christian. Rick was drawn to him I believe and probably could not have stayed away had he tried. I don't know what all they talked about in those days. But some peace began to show on Ricks face. And then one day, Bill came to our shop and he talked to the both of us about God. Several times he came and he talked and he talked and my heart was screaming out, "MORE!" My spirit began an awakening. I can't tell you all that he said, and neither can he, but it was hope for us. Like food for a starving person, we couldn't get enough. There was something more that we didn't know and our hearts had softened to be able to take it in.
Bill invited us to attend church with him. And one Sunday we went. I never felt so out of place and nervous and scared. The devil did all his little tricks on us. That Sunday night we attended Ricks brothers church where he is a pastor. We had visited before, but nothing got through.
On this particular Sunday night though, an alter call was made and my husband stood up and headed to the front of the church. I remember grabbing his hand and thinking there was no way he was going without me! I didn't know exactly what was happening, but I knew the safest place for me was with him. I knelt on the alter next to the man I would have lived with in a cardboard box.
The pastor wasn't one to ask why folks are at the alter, but what a shock it must have been for him to see his brother on his knees praying.
He asked someone else first....I can't remember how he worded it, but it was tactful and not intrusive. And then he looked at his brother. And Rick gave his life to the Lord. And me too, I wasn't about to let him give up everything without me! He poured his heart out on that alter. I would have followed my husband into a snake pit, but this was no snake pit. This was RIGHT! This was a chance to start all over again WITH THE DIRECTIONS! This is where my soul wanted to go! Jesus was accepted and invited into our hearts.
We gave Him everything, including our business that we had made a mess of. And so, we began seeking the Lord. If the doors to that church were open, we were there. And we sat in our quiet little shop all day, with no customers and the bills piling up and the law suits starting and our van being repossessed and we read our bibles and talked about God. All day long. And the peace that came with every word we read was indescribable. The world was falling apart around us and everything that we had thought was important was slipping from our hands. Our new little shop was dying.
There were days that if we had not sold something, we didn't have the gas to drive home nor would we have anything to eat that night. We really thought we had to close the shop and go get jobs. I had even gone and put in some applications and strangely, jobs I was perfectly qualified for were denied!? (another God move) And I can't tell you how many times he headed out the door to put a "going out of business" sign out front. And each time he headed out, a customer would come in. I'm serious, right at that second! And each time, God made it clear, it was His business and we should do as He said. The customer would spend just enough to pay for food and gas for a day. So we obeyed. Not willingly I might add. But we obeyed. We were learning trust, faith, and patience.
But the time came when we just couldn't pay rent on a home and a business. Something had to go and if God wasn't going to let us close the shop, that only left one other choice....our home? Sounded pretty crazy to us too. But after much prayer and discussion , we began selling our furniture. And stuff. And more stuff. Everything else, we stored in one of the offices in our shop. The other office held our bed and a TV and our clothes. Snug as bugs in a rug. But no kitchen or bathtub or washer and dryer. A hotplate and microwave did the trick and I cut my long hair off so I could wash it in the sink and went to the laundry mat once a week. Our outside, long haired, dog got shaved and became an indoor dog and is so happy! We used a Rubbermaid container to take a bath in.
And there we stayed for 1 year and 7 months. In that year and seven months we grew at a tremendous speed. We trusted, we learned, we studied, we obeyed, we held our faith like it was life itself. I am thankful that we were obedient. I am thankful that we learned the ways of God. I am thankful that we grew together. I am thankful that God was patient with us and led us down the paths he did. I can't say it was easy. In fact it was quite difficult. But it was all worth it. Worth every second.
God blessed us. The debt we had dug ourselves into He was able to guide us through paying it all off in a year and a half. We could never have done it without HIM. I love our life now. We are living in a house again. Been there about 4 months now. It's more that we even asked for and we love it. Cooking and soaking in a hot bath are not things to take for granted!
And God's little shop? It's still here and doing fine. Rick works for Bill and loves it. He is here every morning and evening and on his days off. God sends lost folks here on occasion for us to share the word with. He has used His shop many times in ways we would never have dreamed up. We have been blessed. And we strive to bless others with the knowledge of He who blessed us. The trip through this life is good with God leading the way.
Footnote added May 23, 2008
As I was falling asleep the night I posted this, several things came to mind that I'd failed to mention. During the time we were sitting in shop and feeding like hungry wolves on The Word, law suits that had begun against us for failure to pay "mysteriously" stopped. Bill collectors stopped calling. Everyone suddenly became very willing to wait for payment and work out payment arrangements. That was God, no doubt in my mind about it.
And I also want to take this moment to honor my husband. He led the way. He instantly became the spiritual leader of our home . I can't tell you how much I have always loved this man. And I still cannot tell you how much more I love him now. I thank God daily for him. God knew He could use my love for Rick to get me. I sat for an entire morning in our church, alone with God struggling to give Rick to Him. God had to work pretty hard on me to get me to realize I had to love HIM more than Rick. But that is another days entry. God bless! Amber