He Will Restore…

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day or, as we call it, Aubrey’s birthday. Everyone on Facebook is putting up pictures of themselves with their Valentine.  Well, as I scrolled through all of our pictures, I settled on this one because it made me smile.  I remember that moment, remember laughing as we danced together at our wedding and remember how Joel 2:25 rang in my ears that whole day.  “I will restore the years the swarming locust has eaten.”  This may not seem to you a very romantic sort of verse, but for John and I, it really is.

I was separated from my first husband after sixteen years of marriage and four children, ranging in age from eight months to sixteen years old.  It was a devastating time in my life, a time where I didn’t quite understand what God was doing.  It was a painful, desolate, aching season.  I remember one night I was really longing for a breakthrough. Longing for a break in the pain, in desperation crying out to God.  I let my Bible just fall open, hoping for a word from Him.

“So, I will restore the years the swarming locust has eaten.” is what I read and there was immediate peace in my spirit.  This word was for me.

I wrote it on my mirror that day.  It was God’s promise to me.  That He would restore what had been lost.  I didn’t know what that meant or what it would look like, but I knew it was His promise to me.

At first, I thought it meant that my marriage would be restored.  It seemed obvious after a time that it would not be…but I clung to that promise anyway.  I knew God would give me the desires of my heart as long as they were in line with His perfect and good will for my life.  I wanted to be a godly wife and mother.  I wanted to love my husband and children, these were good things that God had called me to so many years before.  So, even though it seemed impossible…I knew He would restore.

Time went by and I learned to be at peace in my circumstances.  I made a life for myself and my children that was full and beautiful. I  began to feel restoration.  And then I met John.

We were chatting over IM one night and I was telling him my story.  I didn’t mention Joel 2:25, though it was still on my mirror.  I told him about my life, my first marriage, the pain of my divorce.  My heart almost stopped when he typed back:

“There’s a verse I love to remember when things are hard.  It’s Joel 2:25 and it says ‘I will restore the years the locust has eaten.”

I could not believe that MY life verse was a verse that had meaning to him too.  It was one of the things that confirmed to me that my relationship with John was a God thing.  Joel 2:25 is not a verse you see on bumper stickers or t-shirts or bookmarks.  God was using it again.  Just as He’d used it to bring me peace and comfort, He was using it to tell me that John was to be part of my restoration.

I gave him a pocket watch for a wedding gift with Joel 2:25 engraved on the back.  It was also a verse that was written on our wedding program.

Obviously, I’ve seen lots of blessing since my divorce.  I am very happily married.  I have a beautiful new daughter.  My husband’s family has added such blessing to my life. God has helped me work through forgiveness and brought so much healing to my heart.  I wholeheartedly believe and stand on Joel 2:25.  I even named my blog after it.

But even though all that is true and God has shown me such goodness and mercy and blessing…Sometimes I still struggle to understand.  What I struggle with is this:

Why do such awful things have to happen?  Why does God so often LET bad things happen?  Is the only good we are assured of the good we will recieve in heaven?  I mean, redemption, deliverance from sin, the sacrificial love of Jesus is enough.  Eternity with Him…it’s enough.  But are there blessings to be had on earth as well?  Is our lot in life on earth to ONLY suffer?  Are trials and tribulations to be the norm and blessings just placed here and there so we don’t go crazy?

Here’s what I’ve finally landed on, after wrestling with those questions for as long as I can remember.

1.  God will restore what the locusts have eaten.  He will.  He will give back all that was taken from us unjustly.  He will redeem situations that seem unredeemable.  He will always work everything that happens to us for our good.

2.  God will stand with us, if I may quote Stephen Roach, “in the center of the flame”.  We will endure hardship and suffering and even torment…but He will not abandon us to endure it alone.  He will stand with us and His mighty right hand will uphold us.

3.  God is more interested in the purification of my heart and the molding of my inner me than He is in my personal comfort levels.  If that means walking through tough times, He is fine with that.  It’s all about the internal with Him.  He is about the business of making me new and whole.

4.  No matter what, God is good.  He does everything through a filter of love.

I believe God does enjoy giving us good gifts here on earth.    Psalm 27:13 says, “I remain confident of this.  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  He wants to bless us and He does not mean to only bless in eternity, but also here on earth.  I have discovered that sometimes hardship and pain bring blessing.  Some of my sweetest times with God have been under duress.  I also find that I appreciate the good things I have in my life much more after a time of trial and pain.

God is a perfect Father.  He will not make the mistake of spoiling me with earthly gifts and letting me have my way all the time.  I have to accept His sovereignty even when His answer disappoints or even angers me.  And I have to accept that sometimes there is no easy answer as to why something happened.  Sometimes I just won’t understand how a particular outcome will lead to His best for me.  I just have to trust that it will.

I am still learning and I have such a long way to go.  Today, I am grateful for the things the Lord has restored to me.  I am thankful for Him and for His love for me.  I am thankful that He is willing to stand with me through everything, through my tantrums, through my anger, through my sorrow and regrets.  He sings songs of love over me when my heart is breaking.  He sings songs of rejoicing when I am glad.  He is with me.  He is faithful to stand.  So, I am grateful that He remains with me.

Money Saving Madness

John and I have become obsessed with excited about couponing lately.  We have our giant binder, we buy several copies of the Sunday paper.  We organize coupons and make our list at http://www.SouthernSavers.com.  We’ve had some pretty good deals so far.  John got about twenty cans of Rotel tomatoes for .11 per can!  We’ve got enough Rotel to make Chicken spaghetti twenty times!

Because we’re excited about saving money, we assume everyone must be.  So here are our latest big couponing events.

This was a big one.  Scrubbing Bubbles in a power spraying thingy.  Usually sells for $7.99.  It was on sale at Food Lion for $5.99.  I had two coupons for $5.00 off each.  Also, the refills that come with it usually sell for around $4.99.  They were on sale for $2.99.   If you bought three of them, you got a $3.00 off coupon on your next shopping order.  Also, I had two  $1.00 off coupons for the refills.  I got to the checkout lane and the lady took all of my coupons and then she peeled $2.00 off coupons from the necks of the cleaner bottles.  She scanned them both.  The computer took one, but rejected the other.  So, for five items that combined should have cost $30.95, I actually paid $3.95.  And I’ve got bathroom cleaner that should last around six months.

Today I tried my hand at CVS coupon shopping.  The goal at CVS is to buy things that are on sale, with a coupon and earn ECBs at the same time.  ECBs are basically free money.  Free money that can only be used at CVS, but we spend a lot of money there so it works for us.  Here’s the breakdown for today.

2 bags of Hershey’s Kisses at $2.50 each – $1.00 coupon- $1.00 of ECBs.  Final price:  $1.50 each.

Garnier Haircolor (two for Aubrey and one for me) at $7.00 each- $5.00 in coupons- $10.00 in ECBs.  Final price:  $2.00 each

Revlon Eyeshadow at $6.99- $1.00 coupon – $4.00 ECBs.  Final price: $1.99

Maybelline Lipstick, eye shadow and mascara at $21.97 for all three- $5.00 in coupons- $5.00 in ECBs.  Final price:  $11.97

2 pack of Oral-B toothbrushes at $4.99- $1.00 coupon- $2.00 in ECBs.  Final price:  $1.99

Old Spice Deodorant at $3.99 each- $1.00 coupon – $2.00 in ECBs.  Final price:  $2.49 each.

2 bottles of Tums at $6.00- $1.00 coupon – $1.00 in ECBs.  Final price: $2.00 each

Clairol Nice and Easy at $7.99- $2.00 coupon – $1.00 in ECBs.  Final price: $4.99

Robitussin and Omeprazole at $16.88 – $5.00 in ECBs.  Final price: $11.88

Reese’s Puffs cereal at 3 for $10.00- $1.00 coupon- $4.00 in ECBs.  Final price: $1.66 each

4 Colgate toothpaste B1G1 free- $5.18- $4.00 coupons.  Final price:  .30 cents per tube

Stride gum at 99 cents- 99 cents in ECBs.  Final price $0

So, $114.97 worth of products – $24.00 in coupons – $35.99 in ECBs = $51.98

This works.  I don’t know why everyone isn’t doing it.  We’ve been working at it for the past few weeks, have not spent our grocery budget yet, have not gone without things we need and have stockpiled so much stuff.  The idea is that you buy things when they are at the best price, with a coupon, and stock up on what you need for the next twelve weeks.  We’ve set up some shelves in the garage for the things that we’re stockpiling.  It’ll be interested to see in three months what happens to our budget.  I’ll keep you posted.