Saturday, October 25, 2014

Giving your finances to God

I often feel like we have an unfair advantage when it comes to trusting God with our finances. After spending two years doing missionary work with a group call FOCUS, Nathan and I had first hand experience at seeing God come through. As missionaries we raised 100% of our salary, which came from donors. The entire two years taught me so much about the power of asking for help, praying specifically for my finances, and the obvious-seeing God come through.

I remember one instance where I was going to be $500 dollars short that month. I went to the chapel to pray specifically for the $500. A few days later I got a check in the mail for exactly $500 from a donor who I had contacted about 6 months prior. At the time she had been unable to donate because she was without employment. Little did I know that she had promised God that once she found work she would give a certain percentage of her first paycheck to me in thanksgiving for God finding her a job. Well that job came for her at the exact time I needed my $500. After that I really started trusting God with finances and in the two years of missionary work Nathan and I could tell you dozens of stories like the one above.

Then we got married and were unemployed. We lived week by week and kept trusting that God would provided. Except, it didn't look how I would have wanted it (a nice 8-5 job with benefits) but instead looked like a bunch of little jobs that came out of no where. We lived like that for the first 6 months of our marriage and while it was tough, there was also a freedom in it because we had no other choice but to trust God. Again we saw checks being sent to us from refunds from over a year ago, people giving us gift cards, etc. One day after the next God came through.

Fast forward to now where we are living on one income. At times I think what is harder than trusting God with our finances is giving Him control of them. When you have a steady paycheck coming in every two weeks it gets hard to imagine how God could work within that, because its such a "set" number. Even though we have steady income, we live on a tight two week, cash only, system. When the cash is gone, we wait until payday to get more.

With the new baby coming we have been doing some big projects around our house like new carpet, paint, etc. In August when we began these renovations I sat down to look at the budget and thought "no way can we afford this." I just couldn't see on paper how it was going to work out. So we began slowly and bought things little by little every two weeks. Interiorly, I was struggling with "should I get a part time job?" Its such a temptation for me to go back to work. I came from a working family with a working mom and I'm the only SAHM in my family. I feel constantly lazy because I don't work. But then I know that this is what Nate and I have decided is best for our family. So in my mind the thoughts of "you should be working, you should be bringing in something to pay for all these renovations" rang constantly. Then finally after taking it to prayer for a few weeks it went away. I started to have peace about just giving our finances over to God and letting Him show me how He would come through.

Let me tell you:
We had budgeted $120 for new light fixtures------went to the store and found them on mega clearance and got all 6 for just $36.00!

We had budgeted $150 for a new ceiling fan-----again another mega sale and we got one for $59.99!

I had secretly been wanting a combi double stroller to go with our combi car seat. But they are so expensive and I knew we just couldn't swing a new one. And a used one is next to impossible to find. But, this past weekend I found one on varagesale for half the price of a new one.

Nathan's car is in need of a new battery. Sometimes it starts, sometimes it doesn't. We keep pushing it down the road because we didn't have the money for it this month, which meant I took him to work many mornings! I went to our neighborhood social Tuesday night and guess who won the door prize? ME! And the prize was a gift card to auto zone where we buy our car batteries.

Yesterday I sat down to look at our grocery money for the week and plan meals. Since we had spent so much this two weeks on renovations it had left us with $10 for groceries. The good news was we were pretty stocked up in our freezer. The bad news was Nate's family was coming in Sunday for lunch and I wanted to feed them a nice meal. I began planning and going through the cupboards to see what we had and what I could come up with. I told Nate we were going to have a "scrounge" week since we only had $10. Then I went to take Abigail for a walk and out of the stroller fell a thank you card from a friend. She had given it to me last week at the park but I had forgotten about it. In it she thanked me for the clothes I gave her (Abigail's old ones) for her new baby. Out fell a $20 Hyvee gift card! So now our grocery budget for the week is $30 and I can easily provide the meal for my in laws.

So yawn, yawn, why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to not just trust God with your finances, but give them over to Him. Here's the thing-Nathan and I are in no way struggling in your typical sense when it comes to finances. No, we can't afford vacations right now and we can't just go buy things whenever we want them. We are not starving by any means, but we do have goals-make a loving, safe home for our family; send Nate to grad school without taking out any loans;me stay home with our kids. And God still cares enough to give us light fixtures and double strollers. He cares about the details. I've had so much fun waiting on the Lord to see where He will provide next. Its almost like this crazy game where I try to imagine how He will come through, but then its always so random (winning the door prize!) that I can't believe it. Every month on paper our finances don't make sense and every month God comes through in the small and little things. And every month we let Him, we don't go out and panic and get more jobs. Instead we just bring our needs to Him.

After 5 years of marriage on a budget I would say that my list of how to do it would go like this:

1. Cash only
2. Eat less meat
3. Plan means according to only what is on sale
4. Give it all to God and watch Him come through

God wants to come through and provide for us but we have to let control go. Challenge Him, try relying on Him for your finances for a week, or a month. Go to Him first when you see you will need something. Be specific. Tithe. We never hold back tithing no matter how tight it is because the money is not ours in the first place. Giving it away always makes me less attached to it, even though it hurts some months.

What I desperately don't want readers out there to do is to roll their eyes at this post. "Sure, thats fine for you to trust Him with your light fixtures, but we have series debt, medical bills, etc." Please, if He can come through for us in the details and the small things, He can come through for you in the big things and He wants to. Trust me, I've been there when I've had more bills than money coming in for the month and God always came through. Give Him the stress of your financial situation. And wait for Him to come through, which is often the hard part.

Another thing I want to mention is our discernment to allow our parents on both sides to help us financially. My husband wrestled with it early on because he felt that as the man of the house he should be the sole provider and taking "hand outs" from our parents just felt juvenile or irresponsible. He took this to prayer and what God told him was "How can you accept things from your Heavenly Father if you will not accept things from your Earthly Father?" Ever since then we have humbly allowed our parents to help us financially. Its typically with big things-my grandpa left us a down payment for a house when he passed away. My parents gave us new hardwood floors as a house warming gift. Nathan's dad has lent us money for his grad school until we got reimbursed. Recently my parents gave us money to put with ours for a down payment on a new van. Its humbling because I would like to say we did this all on our own-but we haven't. The truth is that our culture tries to make us all so independent and that's just not How God works. The Trinity is not independent from one another, but a communion of self giving and receiving love. We are made in that image and so its only natural to rely on our family. We hope that because of their generosity we can one day do the same for our children.

So thats my story. God is showing me He cares, He can come through. How have you seen God provide for you? I'd love to hear stories!

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