Little Rock Hard Lessons Learned
I wish I could tell you this post will be all nice and neat; all wrapped up with a little bow and everything all figured out. It’s not one of those kind of posts. This is the kind of post that leaves unanswered questions. This is the kind of post that leaves you asking more questions that when you got here. I’m ok with that. I hope you will be too. Questions are good. They drive us to find answers. They drive us to find answers to longings in our soul that needed to be put to words. In essence, they drive us to Jesus.
In late 2009, we were living in Fort Worth, Texas. Unemployed with a toddler and a new baby. We had just moved into this house a few months prior and were in the middle of renovations. (I can’t afford my taste so we always buy the ugliest house in the neighborhood and bring it back to glory.)
We got laid off.
It was great! Wait. What did I just say? Yes, it was great!
We had felt the Lord calling us to ‘more’ and, we said yes. At this stage in our lives we still thought we were called to regular ministry. We still thought that if we could be in full time regular ministry that we’d be really useful and ‘real Christians.’ No, we never once consciously thought we’d be ‘real Christians’ but it sure was in our subconscious. In fact, we’d even had a pastor tell Mike that when he was ready to quit playing church and do something real with his life to let him know and he’d ‘help us’. Yes, it was as hard to recover from that one as you’d imagine.
When the Lord literally told Mike ‘it was time to get out of the boat,’ we said yes. We told the Lord we didn’t need a sign but it if He wanted to confirm it with a severance package, that sure would be great! (I hope you have a sense of humor with the Lord because you will often hear me say things that some would find irreverent.) Having recently had a pastor tell you to be truly worthwhile to Jesus you had to be in ministry and because I’d had a call to missions since age 9, we assumed this would be the time for such things.
At this time, he worked for a large firm that was going bankrupt and, frankly, was unethical and needed to go under. Because of his integrity and quality, his bosses loved him. They swore he would not be one of the ones laid off. They kept trying to give placements in other cities that we abhorred so much we’d rather take our chances unemployed. Nevertheless, within two weeks of the Lord inviting Mike to get out of the boat, he was laid off with a severance package. They eliminated his position in the entire nation. There was no way for his bosses to save him. (Don’t think the Lord fired everyone in the nation to get Mike a severance package. It doesn’t work that way. Back up a bit and realize that the Lord knew the position would be eliminated nationwide and told Mike it was time to get out of the boat. Back up even further than that and realize, God put him in that position, possibly, even, because it would be eliminated.)
The next six months were, possibly, the best six months of our life. It was like being retired and on your honeymoon at the same time… except for the terror part of being unemployed. We both found ourselves getting the house ready to sell. Even though we weren’t consciously doing it, the Lord was directing our steps. This six months were so life changing that we call it the 2009 Experience. It was about Freedom Ministry and Deliverance (more on that later.)
Job-wise, we thought we were moving overseas to work with a Anti-Sex Trafficking organization. Not a single door opened to fund-raising. Not a single dollar came in. The Lord didn’t say a word about it, not even one scriptural confirmation. We could see the ministry there was going to implode and we thought the Lord was raising us up to take the reigns. Can you say, ‘arrogant?’ At the time, I didn’t see it that way. Boy, was I blind. I was as blind as they were and yet I was casting stones in my heart.
Fast forward six months and we’re broke. The last dollar was going to be out of the bank account on November 11. Some time that fall, he had gotten a call from a recruiter for a job. He said no because it didn’t line up with what we thought God was saying. Yes, I know. God hadn’t ‘said’ a word but we thought it was all up to faith and walking in your calling and gifting. In hindsight, it’s easy to see; but, then we were truly groping our way in the dark.
Thankfully, a dear friend of his challenged our thinking. Thank the Lord for friends who are willing to speak the truth in love. Mike called the recruiter back and even though quite a bit of time had passed, the position was still available. The recruiter said she’d get back with him in a week. She called back the same day. They wanted to interview him. She figured it be a week or two. Turned out we were in Little Rock for the interview within 48 hours. They interviewed him and wanted to meet me the next day in another city. We had no money and slept in the back of our van at an abandoned hotel in the middle of creepy Arkansas forest near Lake Quachita. It looked like something from a horror movie. It still gives me the shivers.
All night, Mike was in pain. The more time passed, the worse it got. Shortly before dawn, I asked him if he needed to go to the ER. He said, yes! We talked some more and decided to head for home instead. We drove about two hours and decided if we could just get a hotel and stretch out for a bit it might be ok. We’d just put it on the credit card, it’d be cheaper than a hospital, right? Imagine what we must have looked like. Up most of the night. In our same clothes, him in pain. Where we stopped was at a hotel near a truck stop. I happened to be wearing these cute strappy red wedge sandals. They wouldn’t rent us a room! If it hadn’t been so serious it would have been hilarious! You know they thought I was a ‘lot lizard!’ (Look it up, if you don’t know 🙂 )
We managed to get some breakfast down and walk around the truck stop. Both of had a strong, strong sense that we were not supposed to leave. It felt completely wrong. After breakfast, we made the decision to go back! We then drove back the two hours and arrived five minutes before we were supposed to get on the boat for the ‘interview.’ The day went off without a hitch. We felt he had the job. They wanted to give us an answer but couldn’t because of official corporate legalese. They did smile a lot, however.
We returned to Fort Worth with the clock ticking down to broke. It was during the drive back a friend from church called and said he had decided we would take his place and be the new worship leaders. Now, we were really confused. First off, that was an extremely odd way to offer a job. Second, we had just verbally been hinted at a job in AR. Third, he had known us for quite some time so why, that day? Why that timing? Was the Lord trying to stop us from taking the job.
This was on a Saturday. We were pondering if we needed to get a job at McDonald’s or whatever. He had been looking for work and I had been doing some work in my Web Development freelancing; but, with two babies, it wasn’t much. What on earth were we to do about the worship position? We had already verbally agreed to take any job offered in AR.
As I prayed, the Lord gave me, a very specific answer. One of the clearest I’ve ever had. It was a scripture reference I for which I had no idea of the content. Upon looking it up, it said, “Go and pack your bags by day!” There’s more to say about that, but suffice it to say, we had our answer and knew we had the job. The house sold in 8 days even though the renovations weren’t finished. They bought it as is.
What on earth, though, about the worship position? I still wonder about that.
The Lord confirmed the move to AR with so many scriptures and prophetic words that we had no doubt of God’s hand at work. Unfortunately, we took this to mean that we’d be there for a very long time when in fact it was only 3 years.
We chose a rent house that was close to his work. It was awful. It had mold. Water would pour out of the downstairs ceiling fan motor when it rained. While cleaning the floor vents I found a porno magazine. Our one year old was crawling around on this floor with the mold. We lasted six months and begged to be out of the lease. The landlord agreed but only if we could find a new tenant. The Lord brought us new tenants very very quickly and we signed the papers to buy a house the same day the new tenants signed the lease to move in. We tried to witness to the landlord about the Lord’s provision but I’m not sure he had any frame of reference for it. He just seemed stunned.
We were never able to find a church home in this city. We absolutely fell in love with the people at the first church. They were the most welcoming group of people I’d ever encountered in the body of Christ. After six months, we were ready to deepen our involvement in the church (not that we wanted to wait but because churches don’t trust you until you’ve been there a long time . This is a HUGE problem for those of us who move a lot for work and military.) I met with the pastor and found out that he was basically a secessionist (doesn’t believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit working in today’s world). I was heartbroken. How could I submit to an authority that didn’t believe in the gifts the Lord has given me? We walk in deliverance ministry. We were learning to walk in the prophetic. We quietly left the church so as not to make waves. Was that the right thing to do? Was it immaturity to leave? Was I expecting everyone to believe like me? I still don’t know if it was the right decision.
In the next church, I was prophetically messy. I was trying to learn to walk in that gifting but there was no one to guide. My first attempts at prophetic intercession weren’t good. I got a weird look from the pastor and that was it. I was shut out from there. This wasn’t a charismatic church. It’s not that they didn’t have the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying that, but mentoring new people into the prophetic takes a grace for it. We weren’t allowed to serve anywhere in this church either because we were new. At least they had a plan for it and were willing to partner me with another group leader until they got to know me. Then, we moved.
All this time, we kept praying for our city. It was here that the Lord let us see a glimmer of our calling and how He works in groundbreaking intercession to bring revival to a city. This was the third place I’d been on the ground when revival broke out. Here me say, I know that it has nothing to do with me. It’s the Lord’s invitation to join Him in intercession and groundbreaking work. We were part of this church until revival broke out and ran its course. For weeks on end people came from around the nation to be a part of the Lord’s movement here. It was at the end of that revival the Lord moved us on from that city.
Unfortunately, we weren’t in agreement on the house we purchased. It was a the top, top end of our budget and became a huge problem for us in the future. It wouldn’t have been had we stayed employed; but, a year and a half later we were unemployed again. In order not to go out of business, his company got rid of all management in the state.
It’s now 2012. We looked all over the country for a job, including Little Rock, especially Little Rock. Nothing, not even in other industries nor ministry. One job opened up. One job in our hometown, taking a demotion, but at the same company. Prayerfully, we took it.
The house we had purchased for more than it was worth couldn’t sell for what we needed. We rented it to a friend for about two thirds of our monthly mortgage. It was a gift to them although they never knew it. All hell broke loose for them in that house. We never had a single problem with it, but from the moment they moved in there were problems. They even moved out after a few months in the middle of the night when smoke came out of the breaker box. They even borrowed the carpet shampooer and burned up the motor. I doubt they ever knew it. God was doing some major un-building in their lives as He does with all of us.
He was completely undoing us, as well, as we had to bear the financial burden of this. The next tenant I don’t remember and the tenant after that was directly from hell. Here we are, out of state landlords with a house on which we owed more than it was worth. As such, I was doing all the maintenance and tenant finding while Mike was trying to get his feet under him at the new job. It was on one such tenant finding trip, that I panicked and accepted a tenant I knew was trouble. I chose not to see it because I was afraid God wouldn’t provide. He certainly wasn’t providing in the timing I wanted and we were in another month with no tenant. This woman had the same spiritual eyes as the minister in Thailand who had the moral failure. I could see it in the spirit but hadn’t yet learned to recognize which demonic problem it was. It was deception. A deception so deeply rooted that they believed it hook, line and sinker. Within a month this ‘Christian woman’ had broken the three major terms of the lease. She convinced me to let her boyfriend move in (first hint she wasn’t an actual follower of Jesus – unless a new believer who doesn’t know any better yet, which she was not). She convinced me he would just smoke on the porch. She convinced me their little Lab puppy was harmless. Have you ever seen a Lab puppy? 80 pounds they are! I wanted to believe her. I needed to believe her. I was afraid God wouldn’t provide.
If you want trouble; if you want financial destruction; if you want sleepless nights and an ulcer; let me tell you, run ahead of God and be your own provision.
This woman and her family did over $10,000 worth of damage to the house. The boyfriend punched holes in the doors. That Lab ate every single piece of landscaping in the backyard except the thorned blackberries. The dog ruined the carpet in the entire house and the back door. The daughter burned flat iron marks into the bathroom countertop. The son wiped feces all over his bedroom wall. They left water running in the master bath and ruined the walls and the garage ceiling. I even got pneumonia repairing the chimney siding on the roof when I came to make sure the house was ready for winter. Did I tell you I lost sleep? Got an ulcer? Was financially destroyed?
WAIT ON GOD, PEOPLE! It may be expensive but not waiting on Him is MORE expensive.
We could have had a huge court case on our hands. She said this was normal wear and tear and “landlords always replaced the carpet anyway” and that she had paid us over $28,000 in rent, so what was i complaining about. I had politely made it very clear when she moved in that we were upside down on the house and there was not a single dollar of profit in her rent.
Every moment cleaning that house was either anger or weeping until I came to the point that the only way I could do it was to prepare the house for Jesus’ coming. Every moment wiping that boys’ feces off the wall was to prepare it for Jesus to come. Jesus was coming to that house whether in a worship moment or at His return and it was my gift to Him to prepare a place for Him to rest. It was in those moments that I felt His whisper to forgive them financially. My husband trusted me in this and we did not pursue court. We forgave the entire debt in a letter explaining them God’s great love and forgiveness for each of us.
After this, we sold the house for less than we owed and had to take out the $10,000 in a loan for which we paid over the next five years.
One of the blessings that came from this time is that my husband learned to hear from the Lord. It was after a time of fasting that the Lord revealed he held a core belief that God would not speak to him. Once we went through the freedom steps we had learned in 2009 that broke and hearing the voice of God became easier. Basically, you identify the lie, repent out loud with the Lord and break off it’s power over you, outloud in prayer. You command the enemy to stop working in your life by the power of Jesus.
Another blessing from this season is learning more about fasting. I remember doing a partial fast and standing at the pantry shoving almonds in my mouth, hangrily. I said to the Lord ‘I don’t see how this helps You.’ Immediately, the Holy Spirit popped back and said, ‘It doesn’t, it helps you.’ It was a big epiphany for me. So was standing over the stove cooking dinner for the family, smelling that aroma, yearning for it and feeling the gravity of how much the Lord yearns for the aroma of our worship.
We have good memories too, like playing in the snow and also raising chickens with cute little names like Cinnamon. One time I even looked out the back window to see a hawk swooping in after them. I ran out the back door screaming and the only thing I passed to throw at the hawk was my purse. Thankfully, my screaming chased him off! and the purse was saved!
I wouldn’t go back to the season for anything, but surely it was good in the Lord’s sight.