This time last year we were living in a 5 berth caravan on a campsite. The summer of 2013 was mostly hot, hot, hot with extreme flooding in between.
After 7 months the camping season was (finally) over and we moved into a property made of bricks, a strange little place located out-in-the-sticks on a livery yard. Describing it as a converted barn would be over glamourising it somewhat, although there were some beautiful beams. We had a real mixture of neighbours, a great couple who were Wiccan/Pagans, a Scottish ex-millionaire and a Michelin Star Chef with a mental health problem (he was of no real concern other than the police came to remove fire arms from his home once). Also moving into our little property made of bricks came the burdensome debt we had built up over the years. Although we had equity in a property (that we didn’t live in – long story), it could only be released once sold and we’d been waiting for that to happen for 2 years – but not a sniff of interest. Of course, we needed the equity to pay off all our debts but we just couldn’t see when this was ever going to happen, we were becoming impatient and couldn’t understand why God wasn’t answering our prayers by sending along a buyer so we could live in a proper house of our own.
In the meantime we worked hard, took advice from Christian’s Against Poverty and prayed that God would help us manage our spending, particularly me with my bi-polar-related spending habits (if in doubt blame the bi-polar). Amazingly, we cleared over £25k in credit card bills and over £7k in bank loans, nevertheless we were still finding it very difficult to make ends meet. Finances were very tight during the Winter months and we became Freegans. This involved ‘dumpster-diving’, asking restaurants and pubs for left-overs, using a Food Bank and eating roadkill. All of this was an experience I wouldn’t want to repeat; although it was very humbling and made us realise that when times are tough you have to swallow your pride, get on with things as best you can and pray (lots). During this time we were massively blessed by many friends and our trustworthy Father in Heaven did see us through…….often in the most unexpected of ways.
Clearly God wasn’t going to send along a buyer for the house until we really understood the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’, it was important that we became better stewards of His financial provision. However, it didn’t stop us getting rather annoyed with God for not selling the house, we would try to bargain with Him “please sell the house, we promise not to buy anything new until you do”. However, having done this bargaining-prayer with The Creator of the Universe for almost 2 years, we realised it was better to simply put our finances in His hands so we also started to pray earnestly that we would be released from ALL burdensome debt.
In January I surrendered my driving licence on medical grounds, but living out in the sticks made it almost impossible to get about, the children needed to get to school, I needed to get to work and there was no public transport for miles (and only on Tuesdays or something ridiculous like that). We needed to move into town so that we could access the facilities we all needed, but couldn’t see how we’d afford to do that without taking out another loan or putting on the credit card.
Then someone offered us some money, no fees, no charges, no interest, just ‘pay it back when the house is sold’. Suddenly, we had enough to put down as a deposit on a rental property in the town centre, the move meant we could get about on foot, by bus or train with ease. Living in a ‘proper’ house was also strange having been used to ‘alternative’ accommodation. What a blessing!
We continued to pray to be released from ALL debt and a few months later the equity was released as the property finally sold. We were able to pay off all our debts in full, and we started to look for somewhere to live that we could really call home. We soon fell in love with a family home which ticked all the boxes, it was perfect for us, right size, location, price – we’d only need a small mortgage and with a few extra hours overtime we could make ends meet. It looked like things were really happening – we’d very happy there. However, despite all this, something didn’t feel right. God had answered our prayer, He’d released us from debt and now we were thinking about jumping back into it….and yes, a mortgage is a debt and it becomes a burdensome one if you have to rely on overtime to meet the monthly repayments.
We had to show God that we could be responsible with His provisions, especially now the equity had been released. So we decided to look for something that didn’t tick quite so many boxes. By trusting God and being obedient to His prompting we knew things would work out well. Proverbs 16:20 – He that handles a matter wisely shall find good: and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he. We needed to give Him the opportunity to show us happiness instead of us continually searching for it in all the places that we felt it would/should be. More often that not it would be my next purchase, payslip, friendship, job, child’s milestone, holiday, the next ‘whatever’…………….not that there is anything wrong with these things, but they were usually short-lived, unreliable, sometimes expensive and often unattainable. Scripture makes it clear that God is our ultimate source of happiness and if we seek happiness in the Lord, He will give you your heart’s desire. Psalm 37:4. Praise God he is never-ending, trustworthy, available to everyone and always omnipresent!
So after a year and a half we finally moved (debt-free) into our new home just outside the centre of Romsey. It’s our own little place with a lovely community, we’re within cycling distance of school, opposite woods and a park. We’ve spent the last month updating and tidying the place and have been made to feel very welcome by our neighbours.
In many ways, the journey we’ve been on was amazing. God has shown His grace, mercy, blessings, patience, love, kindness, strength, guidance, comfort – you name it, He’s had it available in abundance, it’s just sometimes we simply forget to ask Him. Slowly but surely our focus has shifted, our hearts have softened, our values have changed and our minds (and eyes) have been opened. When we’ve been obedient to God He would give us more than we could have ever imagined. On numerous occasions people would approach us with Psalm 91:1-2 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust’”
Thankfully He is a faithful God and has plans for ALL of us, He promises to give us ALL hope and a future. So, when we impatiently asked God “is it option a, b or c?” we wait and trust in Him before He presents us (surprisingly) with option ‘d’.
Jo your story is amazing thank you for sharing . Lots of love and admiration from me jo smith xx