Nehemiah 6:3 and a Little Elrod Transparency

I’ve written this post out about a million times in my head, and this is my third go in typing it out, but only because my second was lost to some technological error. Boo.

In my head I’ve written Christmas updates, full of pictures and happy stories. But it’s too late for those now, and honestly I’ve grown bored with them, so you probably would too.

I’ve also written New Year posts, listing off resolutions and inspiring thoughts. Completely original, right? Bah.

Then yesterday Sunday {it’s taken me five times sitting down to get this post written!} I went to church. We showed Andy’s message called This One Thing that I had listened to about a year ago when he first gave it.

Flash back a year ago. I’m in the garage as the boys nap, sanding down our dining room chairs, painting them a chalk-paint yellow and sealing them with wax. Tim is at work and sends me a text. How’s your day? I respond. Fine. Just working on the chairs and listening to Andy Stanley. It’s a good one. It’s on the Nehemiah verse we keep talking about. 

That Nehemiah verse we “keep talking about” is Nehemiah 6:3 – I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. 

We first heard that verse when we were doing our homework for Jack’s Baby Dedication. Andy and his wife Sandra were talking about how they made family time a priority when their kids were young, and how Sandra, personally, had to take this verse to heart during the years she chose to homeschool her children. Sometimes you just have to say no, and that’s okay. Sometimes what you are doing right now is important enough to say no to life’s little distractions, even good ones. Like play dates. Extracurricular activities. Blogging?

Even as I typed that out, Jack came up to me and dumped a box of legos in my lap. My initial reaction was frustration. Doesn’t he know that I rarely get even a moment to myself? Even peeing alone is hard to do these days.

But then I stepped back and released the selfish side of me to the Lord. Jack loves me. He wants my attention. One day he won’t. One day I will long for his. Right now he listens to me. Right now I have influence in his life. One day I may not. So playing with my son? Sneaking in little “I love you, and Jesus loves you too”s during tickle fights, or serving a side of “be nice to your brother, the way you want him to be nice to you” with his peanut butter sandwiches; those are great works. Those are great works and I cannot come down! Not now. So if it takes sitting at my computer five separate times over three separate days to write one stinkin’ blog post, so be it. I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.

It’s the same with our finances. Ready for some Elrod transparency? God gains glory through transparency, right? Here’s hoping so.

You see when Tim and I got married we were by no means debt free. We had two car loans and a credit card. I have a very vivid memory of sitting on our bed in our first apartment, opening an envelope that I knew to be our credit card bill, expecting it to be a $100 or so of putting gas in our cars {something we had said we would only use it for, and then pay it off each month}, and seeing a 4 instead of a 1 at the front of that number, and three 0’s instead of two.

Yeah. $4,000. WHAT!?! How did this happen?

Needless to say, that day we took that credit card out of our wallets, said a prayer, and got serious. We were doing a great work and we were NOT going to come down. About three years later, with only Tim working full-time, and I taking odd jobs acting here and there, we had paid off that card and both of our car loans. In that time we had had a baby and bought a house, but besides having a house payment, we were debt free.

And it felt good. So. Good.

But a year ago when I was painting those chairs in my garage, I felt the Lord calling my heart again on our finances as I was listening to that Andy Stanley message. We had two kids and knew we wanted more. We knew we needed a bigger vehicle to accommodate, especially since we couldn’t even get our double stroller in the trunk of either of our cars. We decided that we wanted a van.  You’re doing a great work. You’ve come a long way. But don’t come down now. 

We had saved up a little chunk of money we wanted to put towards a van, but once we started shopping around we realized it wasn’t enough. Vans are expensive! If any vehicle holds it’s value, it’s a van. For what we had, we could get a year 2000 beater with manual everything. Should we just put what we have down and finance the rest?

The thought made my stomach turn every time. We had sworn against ever having another car payment. To go back on that after doing so well for so long just made me want to hurl.

You’re doing a great work. You’ve come a long way. But don’t come down now. Trust me, child. Don’t come down. Not now. 

No, financing was not an option. We were going to be faithful to the choice we made. And not to our surprise, God was faithful to us. Just like Andy says in that message. No miracles happened. We didn’t win the lottery {which would definitely be a miracle if we did, because we don’t play the lottery}, we didn’t have a long lost relative that we never met pass away and leave us a large lump sum, we didn’t even get an anonymous check in the mail; we just continued to save.

Rice and beans, beans and rice is what Dave Ramsey says, yes?

But Tim did get a bit of a bonus from work, and we did just have another baby, so that boosted our tax refund; so by spring we had more in savings than we thought we’d have. Tim started the hard and exhausting work of shopping around for deals. We would hard ball them, they’d hard ball us back, tell us they’d be more than happy to help us finance the remainder. “You can pay it off quickly!” One guy at a Toyota dealer actually told us, “What you’re looking for just doesn’t exist.” We walked away.

Then one day, with Tim exhausted from talking to one shady dealer after another, we walked on the very respectable lot of a family owned used car dealer. We were there to look at a bare-bones Toyota Sienna. It took all of my minuscule muscle strength to pull those sliding doors open, and when I strapped Cole’s car seat in back, it pressed hard against the seat in front, with no more room than our Altima already had.

I was frustrated. Tim was reaching a breaking point. Parked two spaces over was a white 2004 Nissan Quest. We liked Quests. It was our second choice behind an Odyssey. This one, however, despite being an older model, was low on miles and loaded {DVD player, all leather, seat warmers, sun roof, sky-light windows all the way back, stow’n go rear seat, six-disk CD player, iPod plugins, it even came with a satellite radio}, which meant this one was a couple grand out of our price-point.

“Can we take the Quest for a spin?” Tim asked the young guy helping us, who turned out to be the owners nephew. We got the keys, climbed in, and drove a few miles discussing how that Sienna was not an option. “Do you like this?” Tim asked.

“Uhhh, yeahh…but this one is too much.”

“Maybe we can talk them down.”

Turns out the owner of the lot had bought this van for his son that lived out of state, fixed it up, went ahead and did it’s complete 100,000 mile tune up, including oil changes and new tires, and his son never came to get it. Tim offered low. They said no deal. Downtrodden, we headed out to our dented Altima. The nephew ran out behind us moments later as Tim was starting the engine.

“Look. We’re gonna offer you bare bottom. After the work we put into it, we’re not making any money off of this, but…” He offered a price about $500 over what Tim had offered. Tim looked at me, got out of the car, and left me to nurse a just weeks old Cole in the backseat. I was not hopeful to say the least. I was sure Tim was going to walk back out of that small glass office with a grimace and our Altima keys in hand. I knew the $500 wasn’t a deal breaker for us, but Tim was determined. He wanted a deal. And a good one. I’m so proud of my hagglin’ hubby! 

After a little while, he came walking out, not making eye contact. Door opened. He sat down. “Do you want to drive the van home, do you want me to?”

Wha???? He made the deal. In the end, he was just ready to be done and the extra $500 wasn’t a big deal since we had gotten in the habit of offering under our max so we had wiggle room. That was our van and we had paid cash. I drove off the lot in our fully-loaded van, fully paid-for {no bills coming in the mail for this baby!} van, following Tim in the Altima, and praising God. How amazing was that? We went to see a van that we thought was all we could afford and left with {in our mind’s eye} the Holy Grail! We thought that by doing things the “right way,” that meant settling for less, but God honored our faithfulness and gave us top notch. Our wall {well that wall} was complete. We were steadfast in our beliefs and goals we wanted to achieve. We know that being debt free is God’s will for his people. When we were faithful to him, he was faithful to us.

And let me tell you, resisting the urge to drive our sparkling clean Quest to that Toyota dealership with our kids strapped in back watching a DVD and our buns getting toasted in our leather seats to gloat to the guy who told us what we wanted didn’t exist was hard. Really hard. I still kind of want to do that.

Listening to that message again this Sunday at church, one year after having heard it for the first time, I was overflowing with thankfulness and I wanted to stand up in my seat and yell out over the auditorium, “He’s right! It’s worth the fight! It’s worth saying no to the distractions around you! Stay put! You know what’s right! Don’t be moved! You are doing a great work! Do not come down!!

If you haven’t already, please listen to that message. Figure out what your wall is. Seriously. You already know what it is! Finances, marriage, parenting, career? And I’m here on the other side. My wall is complete and I know the benefits of waiting it out. Now Tim and I are starting on a new wall. But I’m also at the bottom of your wall, standing next to the messengers of Sanballat yelling, “No! Don’t listen to the distractions! You are doing a great work! Do not come down!”

Nehemiah 6:3 – I knew they were scheming to harm me so I sent messengers back with this: “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?” {MSG}

Oh yes, and Happy Christmas, Merry New Year, and in 2013 may the odds be ever in your favor. Yada yada yada…

With love, Malorie






3 thoughts on “Nehemiah 6:3 and a Little Elrod Transparency

  1. This post was so encouraging and inspirational to me; exactly what I needed to hear today! This is my first time hearing of the Nehemiah 6:3 verse, and it just really spoke to me with the walls my family and I are staring down right now. Can’t wait to check out the accompanying message. Thanks for the reminder to keep holding my head high and not give up!

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