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December 14, 2018 Featured

 Ashley Houston

In January 2017, my husband, Scott, lost his job basically overnight. He just stopped getting paid, which was a huge adjustment—from a good salary to nothing. So, we said, “OK, God. We are listening. This won’t break us, but we will do what You want us to do.”

As I was packing up our Christmas décor that same month, I started writing down wishes for the following year. I packed the list into one of our Christmas boxes to find and read in December 2017.

Because we had been suffering through pregnancy loss and infertility for a few years, the first thing on my list was an “Addition to our family.”

The rest of the list included:

  • Church community
  • Good health
  • Professionally happy (for my husband)

God doesn’t usually just throw these things into our laps. 

We had been really craving a good church community for some time, so we had started back to Newport Church (Irvine, CA) in January 2017. Very shortly after, our pastor spoke about “Giving God 90 Days,” to see what would happen if we started tithing consistently. He said, “If you don’t see God work in your life after 90 days, we’ll give you your money back.“  The timing seemed ironic; we didn’t really have anything to give, but Scott and I looked at each other and agreed that we had to do this.

In those months we started seeing that our bills were being paid; but in retrospect, God had so much more. 

By the middle of the year, we were not even thinking of our finances. We had gained an amazing community within the church. Yes, God covered our finances, but He gave us so much more. I discovered that tithing can give us so many other benefits. 

One month, during those 90 days, our pastor started a series on hope. It completely changed the way I pray and the way I see the future. We were no strangers to traumatic situations; in just a few short years, we had lost my brother’s wife to a rare lung disease, leaving him and their two young daughters behind; had suffered our first miscarriage, which had me dealing with major depression and anxiety; and now we were dealing with a huge job loss. I had started preparing myself for the worst in any situation, but this hope series at our church changed that. It allowed me to have hope for our future, in health, in finances, and in growing our family. Being hopeful didn’t have to mean I was being naïve, it could mean that I had faith in what God promises us.

In December 2017, I opened up the ornament box where I had packed the Christmas wish list from January. When I read through it, I started to cry.

God had given me everything I had asked for!—except a growing family.

We had church community. We had great health. Scott was professionally happy again with an overwhelming amount of work. I prayed, “God, I’m so grateful for everything on this list!”

Our church’s Sisterhood nights are the first Friday of every month. It just so happened that for the month of December we were focusing on “Christmas Wishes”, and my pastor texted me to ask if I would share about my ultimate Christmas wish. As I was texting back to accept that invitation and to share with her that God had already given me almost all of the things I had wished for in that year, God spoke to my heart.

He said, “I gave you everything.” And I realized in that moment, that our family did get an addition to the family, a pet gecko, that year! God whispered to me that I need to make my prayers more specific. See, I thought I was being safe and non-demanding by requesting an “addition to the family,” but God tells us to be specific and He was reminding me of that right in that moment. So, I laughed at the thought of our gecko being our addition, then started praying for a human baby child—in those words exactly.

The following month, January 2018, I found out I was pregnant. Unfortunately, I miscarried the following month. However, this time was different. What God had done in our lives in the year prior truly prepared me for this next season. I did not experience depression like the first time, I had an amazing church community and family and friends that surrounded us and supported us tremendously, and I had a calm mind and spirit to walk though something difficult and praise Jesus in the middle of it. And I have such hope that our family will grow in God’s perfect time.

So what are my tips for a Merry Christmas? Here are a few:

  • Find a church community. It makes all the difference! “Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, MSG).

  • Remember the joy in the middle of your trial. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11, NIV). 

  • Trials don’t always have happy memories—but God is with you in them. “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23, 24, NIV).

  • Pray in detail—be specific in your requests to God. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6, NIV).

That year, and in the present, I continue to experience the kindness of God in the middle of our trials. Isn’t that what He came to earth to show us? I’m so grateful for His love.