I know 2020 has been deeply challenging for so many. It’s probably been one of the worst years for my girls and me too, and simultaneously one of the BEST breakthrough years of God’s faithfulness in our lives.
Due to financial challenges, we had to move TWICE in the last 12 months. In March alone, after paying our rent and one minor financial commitment, I had $50 for our food and all expenses for my family for the entire month.
We watched the movie The War Room and as a family wrote down our prayers, lifted our needs to God, and I cleared my closet to make a mini prayer room. I needed God’s help desperately. (Of course, I was also working to find solutions too).
By March 25th, I almost moved from GA to a friend’s farm out of state just so we would have food and a place to stay while I pondered next steps.
That same day, the day I was quietly asking God for direction on moving, He opened doors for us to remain in GA within hours. A friend from Whole Foods dropped by the Widows’ Center to donate more than 11 boxes of organic facial products, candles, and other Whole Body products (which would become over 400 gift bags for widows on Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day, and birthdays in 2020). It took us two days to organize it all.
Which bought us two more days in Georgia.
The day we finished organizing all the Whole Foods products to distribute to widowed families, an offer to become a nonprofit partner in a food distribution program fell in my lap through an email request. We would help others by sharing food, have food ourselves, and our skincare was never better!
This effort resulted is us being able to distribute over 6,000 meals from March 28 to August 19.
Then our landlords, by March 27, without my mentioning a word about our financial challenges only that we would be moving out in a few days, generously offered a rental exchange opportunity to use our production studio space and I happily accepted. We had a safe, lovely place to stay for free for several months while I worked to raise funds for my salary and our housing.
Within 7 days God took care of our food, housing, and organic skincare (that last one was just Him showing off).
Due to COVID, by Easter of 2020, Widow Strong lost 80% of our small business partners because many were struggling themselves. In the natural, our nonprofit support looked bad.
Widowed moms were also losing jobs, grieving in a new way, and struggling to make ends meet while solo parenting grieving children. Some had to abruptly move from their family homes because they could no longer afford to live there. Do we, as a ministry, tuck tail and run when they needed us most?
In times like these, I remember a true story my father told me of a community of Polish believers during communist rule in their country. This congregation’s church was razed to the ground. That didn’t stop them. For 22 YEARS they met outside weekly, holding their faith services on that same spot where their church once stood. Poland’s winters are intense and can last for many months. I often think of parishioners having their faith services in the snow. Or rain. Or sleet. Or heat. Not for a few weeks, or months, or even a year or two.
When communism fell in Poland, these congregants rebuilt their church building on the same ground.
“Don’t give up ground,” my father would conclude. “You stand.” This determination is part of my father’s precious legacy.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
When circumstances are hard, I remind myself to pray and praise, show up in faith, and make
the next, best decision. And then the next, best decision after that. Hold your ground. Stand.
There were times that I privately battled significant doubts and depression. I felt deeply broken and this phase demanded that I trust God for absolutely everything.
Through it all, I am able to report that in absolutely everything, God has provided in the most practical and surprising ways. We were never hungry and we always had housing. I don’t always share all the details because it’s so humbling to my very independent spirit and stunning at the same time.
Maybe that was the point. Absolute, active, transformative trust in God.
“The Lord will fight(A) for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
What was our most difficult financial year became our biggest financial BREAKTHROUGH year for Widow Strong with new ministry partners joining us, original partners stepping up, some of our original small business partners that had to pause returning stronger than ever, as well as many individuals giving as you felt led to support widows and their children through our programs.
Astoundingly, 2020 became our most robust fundraising year to date!
Personally, after two years of (gratefully) living either in a basement flat or a petite in-law suite with my girls so that we could keep personal costs down and stay in widows ministry, God provided our own little rental house and a modest salary partnership which allows me to provide for my daughters while working full-time at Wisow Strong!
THANK YOU for partnering with us!
Our programs to serve widows and their children have also grown and pivoted. After this year, I understand firsthand significant financial challenges which inspired me with a refined focus to help widowed families going through grief, job loss, housing loss, and overwhelming financial difficulties.
Even our family extras, such as Christmas gifts, God has provided! A few friends privately reached out to me in early December asking to share gifts with my girls. An answer to prayer that I never vocalized!
I helped Arie and Sophia make private Amazon wish lists and shared them with three friends. This kindness to our family inspired our first Amazon Charity Widow Strong Wish List for other widowed families this year (which you all generously gave to provide presents for their children). which then inspired our Free Christmas and Holiday Shopping Party that blessed over 20 widowed families with many gifts!!
Christmas has transformed into an amazing, deeply shared community experience. So deeply satisfying!! (Thankfully, my daughters have also discovered thrifting and love choosing their presents that way too).
My point in sharing this raw, humble phase of our ministry journey is to encourage you that no matter how tough it gets, no matter how bleak it looks, you are not alone, the power of prayer is very real, and God is most able to help!
Pray, Praise, Hold ground, and Stand!
My uncle, a pastor, once said, “When I take care of God’s business, He takes care of my business.” That challenge always stuck with me.
James 1:27 says that “True and perfect religion is simply this, to take care of widows and fatherless children in their distress…”
There are 92 Bible verses calling us to serve widows and their children. In my mind, that counts as God’s business.
I have been studying George Müller’s life of prayer and it’s been a game-changer. I highly recommend reading or listening to biographies on his life of prayer.
Philippians 4:6-7 has been an anchor for me for these past 12 months:
“Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Messiah Yeshua.”
We celebrate our Messiah’s birth today. Emmanuel, “God with Us,” came to give us life and life abundantly! The gift we needed most now and for all eternity!!