Financial Hardship Dramatically Showed My Family God’s Love
By Demensio and Dolores Barton
Ever heard the expression, “When life gives you lemons…make lemonade?” It is an old saying used to encourage us to make something sweet out of something bitter, whether it be a bitter life experience or an uncomfortable circumstance. A funny thing about this saying… it doesn’t come with a lemonade recipe. Life can really hand us big lemons that we have no idea how to squeeze, let alone what to even squeeze them with or where to get the other ingredients (water, sugar, container, stirrer, ice etc.) to turn the bitterest of lemons into the sweetest and most refreshing of lemonades.
It was during one of those especially lemony life experiences that my wife, Dolores, and I were forced to learn how to make that drink, not only for but with our four children. It turned out to be a rather painful…oh, I mean bitter (*wink wink*) time of learning and growing. We (Mom, Dad and our 4 children) entered this season having left Corporate America with a dream of establishing a successful family owned business.
Everything was looking better and better during the first year or two, little did we know, a very lemony odyssey was on the horizon. It was so bitter that it earned its own name “the Great Recession.” Personally, I still don’t know what was so ‘Great’ about it.
During this time we learned that our little darlings, who seemed to have nothing more important on their minds than the next Rescue Hero action figure or Barbie Doll…were actually paying attention to the ABCs of our overall family life and household economy. Even when it looked like they were just playing. Actually, they were keeping a good eye on snack and cookie shortages, along with the depletion of the soft drink inventory.
Once, when my wife and I bought 50lb. bags of cornmeal, flour and beans (no meat). They noticed! On one hand, they reasoned that we could make biscuits and desserts, which they wanted. On the other hand, after a few meals of beans, they point blank confronted us at the dinner table and simply asked, “Where’s the meat?” Our family definitely had raised omnivores that were heavy on the carnivore variety. That day, my wife and I had a decision to make. To this day, I am glad for this God-inspired answer. Not only did it resolve the issue but turned a bitter problem to our overall good.
The choices were clear: “To Lie”, “To Become Defensive and shut down the Questions,” or “To Simply Be Honest.” When pressured to lie, I like to think of the story told by a boy who was in 5th grade. He was asked by his teacher, “Johnny, what is a Lie?” The boy was thoughtful for a moment and then replied… “Well a lie is an abomination to God and an ever-present help in time of trouble!” See, lies can be sweet in the beginning, but their end is always sour. We had learned by then that if we wanted our children to become people of character, we had to be so ourselves.
On the other hand, becoming offended and defensive, over their questions, would only serve to shut down the lines of communication. This is one of the most deadly and sadly, most used, ways of avoidance. You may ask, “Why is it deadly?”, because it tells them that shutting others out or down is acceptable behavior. No matter what, never shut down the lines of communication. During the “Great Recession” the children, 8-14 yrs. old at the time, were the ones needing feedback from us. We knew that we had to sow open lines of communication then, so that in the future we would receive it back.
To come clean, was hard for us as parents. It felt like we were answering to our children. The funny thing is, we were! I remember listening to the Lord for guidance before sitting down to explain things to them. In my heart, He simply let me know if I didn’t come clean, they would in the end blame Him for everything and getting them to trust in Him again would be hard. So He gave me two things, first I discussed them with my wife and gained her agreement, then together, we discussed them with the children.
The first was to simply kiss them. Not the lips version but the, “Keep It Simple Stupid” version!
Clearly, plainly and without excuse admit to my children something that I knew but they didn’t. They knew that God had told us to start a new family business, I had shared that truth openly, but they did not know that God had wanted us to start it 3 years earlier. I was late getting started, and it had cost us dearly! I explained that if I had done exactly what the Lord had told me to do, we would have made a lot of money during the boom market and that the bad times would not have affected us much or at all. With that said, I openly repented to God, my wife and children as a group, for not being totally obedient to the Lord and causing us to be in this unforeseen shape that we were in.
Talk about grow up juice. I took responsibility for my actions before my entire family and before God. And to my surprise and joy, I was openly forgiven by all. No one condemned me. It brought tears to my eyes and everyone else’s. It was a moment of healing and growth for me, my wife and our children.
Lastly, I gave the children a prayer challenge from God, and this time, “I wasn’t late!” As soon as we had finished hugging, I told them what God said. Everyone was to take a sheet of paper and pen, so that it cannot be erased. Then, they were to write down everything that they wanted from God, with absolutely no parent intervention. They had been taught that “God is Good!” and that He would place good desires in their hearts and then give them those good things. This was between them and God. We were going to be lifting these prayers up to God daily, and the word from God was that He was going to answer them all. (WE parents were not allowed to read the prayer lists)
I believe at this point the best thing to do is share one of the four testimonies of our children concerning their prayer list. They said that this was one of the most influential moments in their childhood below is how they described it in their own words:
“I learned that God wants to answer my prayers. This was done through writing a prayer list and watching as God answered each item.”
All be told, God did a clean sweep. Every child received their list. Over time, we learned that the lists ranged from clothes to laptops and telephones, and a whole lot more. It helped to solidify that God was not just real, but that He was GOOD and that He is interested in them. They told us that they know that they have open access to God themselves not just through an adult. What could have become a very ugly affair… ended with family growth and personal relationship growth with God for our children. It became one of the most refreshing times of our lives. God was and is able to make the bittersweet and to turn the most lemony of times into some of our best lemonades.