yesterday, pastor's sermon reminded me that i haven't posted the details of how God answered our big prayers! if you weren't at elevation yesterday to hear pastor steven's sermon, you can check it out here! one part of our big prayer is financial, which is why pastor's sermon reminded me of our prayer. a lot of what he said yesterday, jamil and i had been doing. our actions were Christ honoring and i know that is why He has begun to answer our prayers. i will explain it all to you in this post. i honestly think that one post does not do justice or honor Him in the way that it should. i believe that one day God will use our story, perhaps the full, longer version to help someone else. until He tells us when, here is a shortened version (even though it seems quite long for this blog!!!).
a little over a year ago at elevation, we were challenged during several of pastor's sermons to pray a new way; to pray boldly and pray big prayers that when they are answered those around will know it had to be God. this really struck jamil and i. so we began to pray our sun stand still prayer (Joshua 10). i attached a second prayer to our first prayer, which i will explain in detail. so there were two big prayers that i commited to pray. we knew that while we were praying these prayers that God wasn't going to just drop the answer or the blessings in our laps. we knew we had to push while we were praying. we had to act on what God was telling us to do to have Him answer our prayers. so we began praying and listening to God and following His lead. we kneww it was Him leading us because we followed biblical principles and scripture, we talked and listened to other believers in our church family and we relied on and used pastor's teaching. we spent a little over a year doing all of these things and believing that our prayers would be answered. and God has begun to answer our prayers and bless us beyond our belief.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20
our first prayer was so big that it seemed it would take a miracle to be answered, which was our desire to be debt-free and financially secure. financially secure meant a lot of different things to us, one big thing was that our monthly expenses be met and that we would have a surplus and not be negative. our financial house was a wreck and had been for years. over the course of our marriage we had made some bad financial decisions that we were still paying the price for. we had begun to learn from our mistakes a few years ago but now we were seriously ready to fix this mess. learning from our mistakes meant we had to create a budget and stick to it and sacrifice in many ways - for example we haven't had cable or satellite television for several years. it also meant no more credit cards, we made the decision to say no to all the "deal"s out there and live on the cash we made. we also decided that we needed to do our best at giving our tithes and offerings. we felt very convicted to give as much as we could and as often as we could. for us it didn't always mean a certain amount each month. because of our tight monthly budget, sometimes we couldn't give. but we did so everytime we could. during this time last year, we pledged to give an amount of money to the dominate campaign at elevation, we could account for how we would give about 80% of what we pledged. we felt God was telling us to give even more. that was a little scary for us, but we stepped out on faith and commited an additional 20 %. we commited to sticking to these things (staying on a tight budget, no more debt and giving regularly) as we begun to pray that God would repair the messy debt and increase our monthly income. i have to add here that the big reason we felt a sense of urgency to for this to be done was because jamil and i both had an overwhelming desire to give back. to give to our church and to others. we both have a heart to give but often our financial situation would restrict us from being able to be a blessing to others. and we were tired of not being able to give!
the second part of our prayer was that God would add another blessing to our family. not feeling that our family was complete, i really wanted another baby and i had baby fever! jamil being the logical one, really wanted us to be debt free and have a tighter hold on our finances before we added another child to our already growing family. to me that seemed like an eternity and i didn't want to wait. we were at a stand still. so i began to pray that God would change Jamil's heart about the timing and bless us with another baby. God knew the desires of my heart and also knew our financial situation.
so our sun stand still prayer was two fold for me and it seemed like neither was going to ever happen when we started to pray these prayers. they seemed so big and so ridiculous that they could never be answered. at first, i think i felt that i wasn't worthy of having such big prayers answered. i had seen miracles and big prayers answered in other people's lives, but didn't believe that it would happen for me. there is definitely a difference in just praying and believing that your prayers will be answered. as i began to pray our big pray, i realized quickly that i had to believe they would be answered. so i began to really believe in His power!
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
in the beginning of the year, our small group leader and ministries pastor, john bishop wrote the above scripture on a card for me when we were doing a group activity. i have held onto that card and this scripture ever since then. this scripture was a constant reminder of what God was going to do on our lives.
around this same time, jamil and i had given the "new year" a title...
making it great in 2008!
we held onto this positive statement and believed in the meaning of it. and believed in the fact that God was the one who would make it great! we could make it good, only He can make it great! we knew big things were going to happen.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus Phillipians 4:6&7
as God started to reveal little pieces of His plan and how He was going to answer our prayers, we still faced some hard times and some challenges that we couldn't quite understand. there were times that i would be so worried and so unsure of how He would provide for our family, let alone answer a prayer as big as ours. i held tightly to the above scripture and repeated it to myself numerous times during this season of our life.
we continued to push while we prayed and a series of events began to unfold. little events that began to happen and began to reveal the answer to our BIG prayers!!!
on february 12 of this year, i took a pregnancy test and it was positive. i was so excited, i felt so blessed to be having another baby. i wasworried about how jamil would take it. at this time we had just begun to talk about adding a fourth child and jamil was just starting to be open to having a baby sooner rather than later. although i don't think he thought this soon. i told him on valentine's day about our new baby to arrive in october!! i knew he was excited but worried. and i was a little worried to. he really wanted our financial situation to be different and there hadn't been much change to this point. we both knew that God would provide for us as we welcomed a new baby into our family.
at this point, we had been blessed with small gifts (monetary, gifts, gift cards, etc) but nothing that quite answered ourbig huge sun still prayer. those small blessings we clung to, knowing God was going to answer the big prayer too. we didn't know how but we knew He would.
by the springtime, jamil and i both became very resourceful, thinking about the things that we had and how they could make us prosper. we began to sell things on craig's list to make some extra money. we also both took on a whole new meaning of being frugal, not cheap, but frugal. we put a lot of effort into this. we both were on the same page with our mindset of our finances and continued to make sacrifices! jamil came to me one afternoon and felt very convicted about our commitment to give more regularly even though we didn't know exactly how that would work in our monthly budget - we stepped out on faith and gave more regularly. every time we gave an offering or a tithe we were always blessed with that amount of money or even more. God provided for us and was really showing us He was with us and He was our source of provision!
around this same time, jamil decided to sell an old car. this wasn't just any old car, but it was his dad's car. jamil's dad passed away when he was 9 months old and he was given this car. it has been sitting in a garage for a long time. jamil began to realize that he wasn't going to fix it up and get it running again. but there were a lot of people around him that would enjoy this. jamil sold this sentimental object to his cousin who had been telling him for years to let him know when he was ready to sell. this money, not enough to free us of all of our debt was another blessing and answer to our prayers.
by early summer, when we looked back over the months, we saw how each month we were provided for and cared for. we were blessed with significant amounts of money that helped our monthly expenses. they came to us in many different forms. and we were so grateful. we never went without and God always provided above and beyond what we needed.
early fall, jamil was given a raise and the possibility of some extra income through some side jobs at work. the raise and the extra income wouldn't quite make all the ends meet but still such a blessing to our monthly budget. things were really starting to look up. we continued to pray our big prayer and never underestimated His power and that He was going to see us through.
in the spring of the previous year (2007), jamil and i had gone through a tremendous amount of loss. one of our losses was that of his grandmother. jamil's grandmother had left a piece of property to jamil in her will. the piece of property was once used as a cab stand that his grandfather ran years ago. by the time the property was actually released to jamil because of all of the paper work and legal stuff it was the end of this summer. jamil knew of a church that was located next to the old cabstand that was interested in purchasing the land. jamil met with the pastor of the church and they decided to buy the land! jamil decided it was best to let go of another sentimental object. he really felt God telling him to let it go as he did with his daddy's old car. the sale of this property was another answer to our sun stand still prayer! the amount of money we would receive from the sale could totally change our financial picture.
believe me when i say, we still had to push and pray during those months. from the day jamil showed the land to the church and they said they would purchase it through the day after (yes i said the day after) we signed the papers for the sale were very long and very hard. we were faced with many challenges and it took about three months for it to be completed. often i cried out to God feeling as if He suddenly forgot us. but i was always reminded by my husband, good friends or my small group that is doesn't forget us and that He is always faithful and is our rock.
finally on september 25 we signed the papers for the sale of the land. because one person from the church was not at the closing, we had to wait until the following day to have the check in our hands. looking back we think oh what was one more day, but while we were in it, it was so stressful. we were down to the wire on so many things. we had bills that we promised to pay because we knew the money was coming that were waiting for payment. we also had a new baby arriving any day and a lot of things to purchase for her! even though we faced a few obstacles getting the check in our hands and then trying to get the money into the bank and then being able to access the money so we could pay our bills - we continued to stay strong and keep on pushing!
on october 6 we welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world. the labor and delivery i experienced with baby jaelyn was the longest. my fourth baby to which i thought would be my fastest delivery was anything but. it was longer and a little bit harder. but i seriously and literally did a lot of praying while i pushed and went through each hard contractio. jaeln's arrival and her being a part of our familye reminds us each and every day of everything that God has done for us over this past year.
with the money he graciously blessed us with we were able to give almost all of our dominate pledge in one year. it was a wonderful night for jamil and i when we were able to give our pledge online - we had so much fun doing that together! what an honor and a privilege to be able to give to our church! we paid off one credit card. we were able to score a sweet deal - thanks to a good friend of ours who helped us out - we settled for 25% of what we owed - what a blessing!! we paid off our van - so we have no monthly vehicle payments!! and gave us $400 more each month! the money also allowed us to buy a few things that we needed for the baby's arrival as well as pay off some other small bills.
who would have thought that in just a little over a year we would be well on our way to being debt free, our monthly budget having a surplus and have a fourth child added to our family? only God has the power to do all the things He did this year for our family. we didn't think it could happen but we learned to believe that He can and He will answer our big prayers. our prayers being answered have blown us away. we are in awe of the mighty God we serve. we are so grateful to serve a God who is as powerful as He is. we are so thankful for the blessings he has bestowed upon us. and we know that he will not leave us or forsake us. He is with us and will see us through our big prayer of being debt free. only He will provide for us each and every month and allow us to be in the black and not in the red. we will gratefully and excitedly give back to him through our tithes and offering to elevation church, be able give to others in need, and be able to bless others as he has blessed us. we are so excited to be able to bless others with our resources and hope to eventually bless others with our testimony of what God has begun to do. and just about every day, we excitedly think... He is not done yet.
we believe God is going to blow our minds in 2009!!!