As I detail in the previous part of this story, over a year we piled up our holiday money for God’s use. We then came back to the word about putting solar panels on the vicarage roof. It didn’t feel like giving, it would benefit us, but the panel would belong to the diocese when we left, also the feed in tariff would be theirs at that point. I think we break even if we stay in the vicarage until around 2023, though I’m not really sure, we’re not keeping tabs. God revealed this to us just before the end of the year in which we were setting the money aside, we checked the cost and we had the exact amount of money we needed. Just as we started to sort it out the government announced that from Jan 1st the Feed-In-Tariff (the amount you get paid for the energy your generate) was to drop drastically, God had the timing and the cost covered, it took some wrangling with the diocesan housing folks, but they were very helpful once we made ourselves understood and thing got sorted. We reduced our costs and looked after the environment and blessed our employers and the future incumbents of St John’s.

But what of the holidays? There was some surplus from our holiday account over the years; we always try to live inside our means, not at the limits. We managed two half terms in self-catering cottages, sharing and supported by my mum and sister. We spent another half term and a longer holiday at Caroline’s parents caravan sited on a lovely park in South Devon where there was loads to do and explore and we just needed to cover the electric costs, with trips to family on top we managed to get away. The main blessing was weather, God provided us with great weeks in the right places to get the best weather, he sorted all the details and whilst the holidays were less salubrious than we were used to we felt God’s peace, His rest and enjoyed them as much, if not more than we had the ones in other years. We learnt to be content in him in (ever so slightly) reduced circumstances. Then He gave us the icing on the cake. Caroline and I try to take an individual retreat each year. A chance to get away alone and seek God. This seemed almost impossible. Then another Vicar, a social media friend, bought an old boat on the Broads and opened it up for fellow clergy at cost. 3 days on the boat followed, with a great friend who had a PhD to finish writing up. So we spent long times in silence on the Broads and caught up at meal times and helped/laughed at each other when manoeuvring the boat was required. It was great and I was able to leave some money to cover costs for which my Vicar friend was very appreciative.

I thought I’d done well. Caroline hadn’t had a retreat as summer turned to autumn. She thought God was inviting her back to Toronto to Catch the Fire church for a conference. The cost was high, so we began praying for two things; finance and someone to go with Caroline as all that travel and a Canadian autumn would better with a friend, but Caroline wanted a sensitive friend who’d let her have space with God but support each other when necessary. We were given money through the letterbox in cash and had some surprising income that covered the cost of the conference, but not the flight. (Caroline drew up a budget for the trip down to the last penny.) We took the step of faith to book the conference, believing God would provide the flight money. Within 48hrs of booking a cheque dropped through the letterbox which covered the flight and rest of the trip to within £14. We figured we could contribute £14 for a retreat in Canada. Then Sarah, who perfectly fitted the bill of a friend with whom to travel, came and asked if she could go too. Prayers answered and a great trip followed.

I was feeling like I’d missed a trick, the Broads were amazing, but Canada. Maybe I should have set my sights higher? Caroline and Sarah came back and said that there was a conference in January that some or all of the staff team should go to. We prayed and asked. Nothing happened. We forgot about it, then 48hrs or so before the conference started I mentioned to Caroline that it hadn’t happened. That evening I got a text from Mike, Sarah’s husband, asking if was still up for going at short notice. I thought it was a joke. He had word of a tax rebate; he was offering to pay for both us. Long story short; we were off in the morning and on the plane before I’d realised how ridiculously, amazing it all was. (The tax rebate eventually turned out to be a tax bill, but that started a journey for Mike and Sarah, but that’s their story. Giving me a retreat and their sabbatical being such a blessing may be connected, but you’d have to ask them.)

The trip was a transformative one for both of us. God did amazing things. Healing old hurts, opening up things that festered, Mike experienced a trip without migraines which had been constant till that point and he is now on the way to freedom from them. It was the icing on the cake. Having become content with less God blessed me with more.

You’d never believe I set out to write a short story about cars and provision would you?