The past two months have been even more challenging than usual for our family, financially speaking. And, I’m just guessing here, but I bet we aren’t the only ones. Slower business at my husband’s job combined with high gas and grocery prices has us tightening our belts more than ever before. Most weeks we are just plain broke.
In the midst of these last two months, God has drastically changed the way I view our finances and His provision for us. I’ve come to see His care for us in a whole new way. So what has He taught me?
1. There’s a massive difference in my stewardship when the account balance is high versus when it is low. When the account has a “cushion” in it, as my husband refers to any small surplus, I don’t question every purchase I make and I tend to be much more impulsive in buying coffee at Starbucks or raiding the local Goodwill. I’m still not spending loads of cash, but I’m definitely not seriously considering everything I buy with the same scrutiny I would when there’s only $25 in the bank until the next payday. God has been teaching me that my stewardship of what He’s given us shouldn’t be based on a number in the account. It needs to be the same stewardship regardless of how much He’s given me to steward at the moment. (Can you see the light bulb going off over my head?)
2. I’m still learning the difference between “needs” and “wants”. I really thought I had this area down pat. Needs are things like food and clothes and shelter and wants are things like satellite tv and trips to Disney World, right? But how much food do we really need? How many outfits are necessary to live? How large is my shelter? Michael recently went on a mission trip to Rancho 3M in Mexico. After he got home, he told me stories of seeing how the children there are fed. God has graciously provided everything the ranch needs to care for these children but sometimes what we see as needs are wants wrapped up to look like needs. The kids at this ranch get three meals a day but the meals are extremely basic and meager – a spoonful of oatmeal in the bottom of a bowl of milk served with a corn tortilla for breakfast, a bowl of rice and beans with another tortilla for lunch. A breakfast like that at my house would send me running to Harris Teeter because we “need more groceries” but God is sustaining and growing these children through His provision and it is enough. It’s challenging to begin to stop myself and analyze my perceived needs to determine how much want is wrapped around it.
3. My level of giving doesn’t need to be determined by my bank account balance. I’ve always loved the saying “You can’t out give God”. At a time when our finances are tighter than they’ve ever been, I also realized we are giving more than we’ve ever given before. Now I’m not saying we’re broke because we gave it all away! But God has challenged us to give in such a way that when the giving is done and the needs are met, there is nothing left but dependence on God. That’s a difficult place to live, let me tell you! I wish I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee and tell you all the stories of ways God has gone out of His way to bless us – friends calling to tell us they have extra meat in their freezer they want to give us, a free box of books that shows up just as my inventory of books I sell on Amazon is getting low, hand me downs for my girls, an unexpected check in the mail. And in return, He’s given us the opportunity to bless others in similar ways. It’s all His anyway to distribute as He sees fit, I just need to be willing to let go of what He’s given us when He wants to bless someone else with it.
4. There’s always a way to make or save money. We recently went through our bills and analyzed what we were paying out for everything. With just a couple phone calls, we were able to cut our car insurance and satellite bill down to half what we were paying before. By making a few changes to how we plan meals and buy groceries, we were able to save a little money on our grocery budget. I got creative with making lunches for Michael to take to work so he didn’t have to pay to eat out. I also used my talents and love of baking to make banana bread and pound cakes to sell to pay start up fees for the activities the kids are involved in this school year. I sold several used books and dvds on Amazon. Michael took some used auto parts that had been stuck in his trunk and sold the cores to a recycling center. I came up with some really interesting combinations for dinner to avoid going to the store for more groceries. When we weren’t sure what to do, we prayed and then waited for inspiration.
Overall, the past two months have taught me that God is faithful and His provision is perfect. His faithfulness and provision aren’t dependent on my circumstances. They are the unchangeable qualities of His character and they remain, even when I doubt and fear.
Let’s talk! How are you faring in these uncertain economic times? What is God teaching you about money and provision? Any great money saving ideas or income producing opportunities you can share with us? I’d love to hear from you!