Asking and Abundance - The Story of Our Jericho
One year ago today, July 1st, we moved into our home, Jericho. Tonight we sat at the table and discussed some of our favorite memories from the past year here. After reminiscing, Eva Grace and I went to the porch. As soon as we opened the door, a deer ran past. We've seen a few deer here before, but tonight, this one stayed around about a half hour. I've never seen one behave this way. It wasn't scared, but peaceful. It came pretty close to us and just lounged around, casually grazing and enjoying our front yard. Eva Grace and Isaac decided to try to slowly walk towards it and as they did, I felt His arm around me and He took me back many years to that beautiful moment where my four year old self unknowingly caught a glimpse of the wonder and awe of God.
Momma was on the porch and Daddy was (thankfully) filming this moment. They had Kris and Rita blaring and I was in our front yard doing my best Rita Coolidge impression, dancing and singing with my polka dot dress, big floppy hat and jelly shoe as a mic. The sun was setting. It was perfect. Suddenly I heard Momma scream, "Liz! Look! A deer! A deer!" I turned around to see a beautiful deer about 15 yards away from me. I screamed, "A deah! A deah!" (had a little trouble with those r's then! :) ). Daddy zoomed in on the deer. It held our gaze for a quick second and then turned, flipped its white tail up and leapt away over the hills. Daddy continued shooting as the sun went down and "Tennessee Blues" began to play. It was a quintessential moment.
Ever since then a deer has always been a symbol of His presence to my family. They appear out of nowhere for just a split second at just the right moment when we need a gentle reminder of His goodness. We have countless stories of incredible encounters with deer/God.
A lot of my relationship with God has been about Him saving me from the crisis and reminding me that everything will be ok. However, my latest few chapters have had more of 'check out how good I am even when things aren't bad.' Does that even make sense? The first 20 years of my life were peaceful and relatively pain free. I developed a firm foundation in who He is and began to gain head knowledge of His goodness. I had not done any of the typical 'bad/rebellion' stuff and I mistakenly equated my smooth waters to that - my own choices and character.
Then came the trials. After a lot of refinement and learning to trust Him again, I know of God's character and goodness even when it looks dark. He has taught me time and time again how the messiest of messes can be transformed into the most beautiful of creations. He loves fixing broken things and showing His glory through them.
The story of our Jericho has been a testament to Him being good just because. Not due to me doing anything, not due to Him reminding over and over that this trial will soon be over and I will be 'ok' again. My relationship with Him is changing from that of a judge/slave, helper/victim, to Daddy/daughter. A Daddy that teaches with a kind hand and a loving heart and truly just wants a relationship. I'm learning in a lot of relationships that I need to speak up for what I need and what I want and that doesn't make me selfish. Coming out of such a long bout of struggle and storms, unknowingly developing PTSD and depression, one of the things I needed was a place of true rest, a fresh start. So I spoke up to Him and tentatively asked for just that.
Our Jericho has been a lesson in God's ABUNDANCE, a lesson in delighting ourselves in HIM and allowing Him to give us the desires of our hearts. I recently heard Kris Vallaton speak on how God doesn't just give, He gives abundantly. Jericho is part of our proof. (FYI - this is not a story to speak of materialism or to show off anything of our own doing. This is all about HIS glory and how He gives desires and meets them.)
We had been looking for our forever home for years. Josh had his checklist - land land land and I had mine - bigger kitchen, bigger rooms for the kids and a front porch with a view and a swing. We both just wanted a place that was peaceful and felt like our own little piece of Heaven.
We looked tirelessly and every place either fit Josh's need or my need or was too expensive. We had countless people tell us what we were asking for just didn't exist in our county. Josh would have to give up the land, I would have to give up the home or we would have to hit the lottery. I became frustrated and Josh would calmly tell any naysayer, "Don't tell me what my God can't do." He even began calling our future home Jericho because he knew it would be difficult to find and claim, this place of rest and peace, our own promised land, but he knew God wanted to give it to us.
After a few months of seriously looking I became disheartened and even told Josh, "Why are we even praying for something like this? He has bigger things to deal with than your land and my front porch with a view. He doesn't care about my swing." It truly felt selfish to even ask, desire and hope for it.
Little did I know...
The moment we walked in the doors we knew. It checked off every want and need and more. With the pile of realtor cards on the counter we knew we were against a lot of interested buyers. This would have to move quickly. It was at the top of our budget and a major part of me thought we were being too foolish to even consider it. As we drove away, Eva Grace, out of nowhere says, "Momma, remember God will provide for your every need." Out of the mouths of babes.
As that week continued, I had many signs and pressings from Him urging me to believe this was our Jericho. I had friends randomly text me, not knowing the full story, and tell me they felt led to let me know that He cares about the desires of my heart.
I was beginning to actually hope. Could it be that He was actually giving us our heart's desires in this area? Could it be that He is not only a mighty, powerful God, but one who also delights in giving good gifts to His children?
Then there was the swing. This home met every single box (I mean down to things I didn't even vocalize to Josh or the realtor - no popcorn ceilings, brushed bronze door knobs, a gravel driveway!) except one box, no swing. I really wanted a swing on the front porch and there's just not a good place to put one on it.
The night I actually began to hope (before they had even countered our offer) I went to the piano and began to sign "King of My Heart". I began to praise even before the walls fell. (A quick backstory here - whenever I feel like I'm distant from Him, I will often picture myself (don't laugh) in the scene of Evan Almighty where Steve Carrell and Morgan Freeman are sitting under a tree, laughing, and looking at the view.) I'm sitting at my piano worshipping and thanking Him for what I feel is about to be our home and...it's hard to even write it. He is so good. I'm sitting at the piano singing and He begins to communicate with me. He asks me if I noticed what was in the front yard at our new home. I begin to cry and realize that He has placed my own little group of trees to sit under whenever I feel like I can't find Him. But then, then...He says to my heart, "I know you are upset that there's not a swing on the front porch, but that's because I put it under our tree." There is a self standing swing under this beautiful grove of trees.
I immediately stopped playing and sobbed. My heart, in shock and awe, humbled and so loved. I was seen. I was heard. I was cared for and thought of. It was almost too much to take in.
I went to Josh and told him that he might need to put me in a straight jacket or something because the Creator of the world, the voice in the burning bush, the I AM just told me, little old insignificant me, that He has provided our forever home, knows my visualization of trees that I go to, and put a swing in that specific spot so that I could have it there when I needed Him. I just kept looking at Josh and saying "Am I crazy? Is this really what He's doing?" Our Bible study that night had touched on Matthew 7:7, "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you." Josh looked and me and said, "Have you asked Him? Have you straight up asked Him if this is ours?" He also asked me to remember the story of Jericho. I was having all of these doubts that this home would be too much for us. There would be too many obstacles to face and it would be unwise. Josh looked at me and said, "Yes, and all of the Israelites felt there were too many giants inside the walls of Jericho. The land was great and the fruit was bountiful, but they were too scared to claim it. All of them said no...except two, Joshua and Caleb." (Josh's full name is Joshua Caleb by the way. :) )
I went to my journal, still on cloud nine, and for the first time noticed the verse quoted on the cover, Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." I just started crying and shaking my head. Finally opening up the journal, I was floored by His goodness again. This journal has a different verse printed on each page. Guess which one was on my next clean page? Matthew 7:7, "Ask and it will be given." I couldn't stop laughing.
A few months later we finally moved in. This place, this structure, this land it's so much more than that. It's anointed by Him. It's set aside. He heard the desires of all of our hearts and He has met them. Did we walk right up and take the land? No, just like the original Jericho there were walls that had to come down. And just like the Israelites we did not have to move a single stone. We simply had to be obedient and circle the place with praise before the walls even shook.
Has this year been perfect? No, but as different trials have come have I had a place of peace, a constant, tangible reminder of His provision and His heart for our hearts? Yes. Every single day I come up that bumpy gravel driveway. (Why did I want that again? :) )
So tonight, when the deer came to just kind of peacefully hang out, it was like a little one year anniversary present from Him for me to see who He is transforming me into through this gift of Jericho. The deer was at peace. It was content to just graze and eat, trusting it was safe. It stuck around and seemed to enjoy it's golden hour walk and didn't run and hide in fear at every new noise. He walked me all the way back to the beginning of my story to show me that He was with that four year old little girl then, before the foundation of her world was set, shattered, and set again. And at that moment when her brown eyes met that deer's, He knew there would be another deer thirty years later to meet her gaze again. And of course He knew what that full circle moment would represent.
He showed me that He's taught me about His power and might, His greatness and bigness. But this season for me, He is showing me how to breathe again. He is showing me that He's not a drill sergeant only barking orders. He is a Shepherd that leads me beside still waters and restores my soul. He is a loving Father who wants His children to ask Him. He loves the details of our lives. He knows the desires of your heart. He created you. He knows you, when you sit and when you rise. And He's not looking at you waiting on you to fail just so He can mock and punish you. He does watch to see when we fall so that He will be there when we finally realize we can't do it without Him.
Listen, I know what it's like to feel selfish asking. I know the thought of "This is too trivial to talk to Him about this silly thing." I'm not stating we should all go out and ask for a millionaire lifestyle of a middle class budget. I'm not saying that just because you want something He will always give it to you. I am saying though, that we are His kids whom He loves and He is a Father who knows how to take care of and give to His children what they need and what they desire. Tonight that deer was not afraid. It was at rest. He showed me here at Jericho, what life looks like when I rest. That's something I desired and it's something I needed - a place of peace and rest. He wanted me to have that because He comes to bring life and life abundantly. Did it have to have specific door knobs and a gravel driveway? No, but He knew that secret (maybe odd) wish of mine and He granted it to show His goodness and glory and show that He hears me.
So tonight, on my peaceful, long awaited front porch, the message I want people to know is that He is good. He is good to you. You have no shame in front of Him. He sees you. He knows you. He already knows your desires. Some He will give you just because and some He's just waiting on you to ask*. You are no longer a slave. He does not have a relationship with you just so you can 'go do his bidding.' There is more out there of HIM for all of us. We just have to ask and seek. Seek Him. He will then show you what you need and you will be able to truly figure out your desires (which all begin and end in Him). And He will grant those. And He will grant them abundantly.
(*There are some who have ventured out to knock and knock and knock and that door will not open. I know what it's like to beg and plead, and Him not give you those desires and for you to finally just give up and collapse outside the door frame. (Read the previous post.) But what He continues to show me, is even when we collapse outside of that door, giving up in anger, sadness, confusion...He's on the same side of the door with us. He knows that hurt you feel and He doesn't want you to feel it alone. Give it to Him. He can take it.)