Michael and I made a decision a few months ago that we were going to be more faithful in giving back to God of our time, talent, and treasure. We recognize that all we are and all we have is because of Him. He continues to provide for us in very real ways.
Specifically for us, the stress of finances can get the best of us at times. We have done "life" non-traditionally in the eyes of many, which is fine with us- it has caused us to grow immensely at an early age. Michael persevered through a manual labor job so I could finish school while we were raising our first child, and now he continues to work while he gets himself through school while we raise an additional child. Life is hard! But, life is precious and we have been given great joy in the mystery of the unknown and learning to cling to God through each up and down.
After we made a commitment to each other and to God that we were going to be faithful to give back to Him, things got tougher. I was angry! I was claiming Malachi 3:10 (Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.) and acting like I expected this magical thing to take place where all of a sudden we had overflowing riches! My dear, wise husband reminded me that this verse does not say anything specifically about monetary blessing. It doesn't mean it can't be, but it doesn't mean it always is either. This became clear to me this week.
To help with the load of Michael's schoolwork and job, I do most of the bill paying, etc. I am slightly neurotic and also easily nauseated, so this isn't a good combination for keeping track of our finances! But I want to do this to help him. It never fails each time I sit down to calculate everything I end up in tears. It is a lot to take on! If I mess anything up, our whole family pays.
Today's tears were different. I have been stressing lately about this month's (and December's) budget with the added Christmas gift section. We knew we wanted to participate in two programs our church was doing as well to help the needy families in our community to be able to have holiday dinners and gifts. As I went through each gift I realized we were going to have to cut some…each name I got a little bit weaker- the only names we could "cut" would be Trevor and Elliott. I know this is going to sound mundane to some, but this broke my heart. I was so excited to be in our own home this year and have Christmas morning with the boys and watch them open gifts. Immediately God reminded me of all our faithful family and friends that are so kind and generous to T and E, and by no means would the boys even know we weren't able to get them gifts. Besides, my heart remembered that gifts are not the meaning of Christmas. I began to feel better and remember God's promise to me from Malachi. Though millions of dollars weren't flowing through our doors, the storehouse of abundant life in Jesus was bursting! He was my hope and my joy!
I took one last look at the calendar and recalculated again. What? I recalculated again. How could I be missing this "extra" payday that I hadn't noticed before? I know this was God. I know this because I had given all of this up to Him before I knew it was going to be okay. I had "let go" walked on in faith and been okay- and then I saw Him in a tangible way because of it. I truly believe He allowed me to visually miss that chunk of income that was going to come in because He wanted me to trust Him even if it wasn't there. God, you ARE growing me! Instead of letting the stress get to me and feel like I couldn't go on, I had decided I was only going to put my hope in the eternal, not the temporal. At this I broke down into tears of joy- thank you for finally helping me grasp this God!
Then I burst into even louder sobs (wish you could have witnessed it!) when I saw the verse for today on my little desk calendar:
How excellent is Thy lovingkindess, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures. For with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light. O continue Thy lovingkindness unto them that know Thee; and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.
Psalm 36:7-10 KJV
I know that my God loves me and He loves Michael, Trevor, and Elliott. I know that by resting in Him, I will have His joy and His peace. I know there will be trouble and there will be hardship, for we live in a fallen world. But I hope in the Lord, who is my strength.
What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries.
Matthew 10:29 The Message
Our new series:
Are you tired of barely scraping the surface in your relationships? Do you wish they could somehow go more than skin deep? Join us for this new series as we explore how to go beneath the surface in our marriages, friendships, parenting, and even our dating relationships!
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I love Scott Hodge (pastor at The Orchard)…here's his blog: http://www.scotthodge.typepad.com/
We did something major for us today…we made steps to get involved at our new church home. This is huge because I'm extremely shy and Michael is extremely quiet, so taking this step is always hard for us. Once we finally did this in Texas though, we made friends of a lifetime (we miss you tremendously Jessica, Josh, Catherine, Randy, Ben, Brittany, Rick, Lorrie, Evan, Addy, Tiffany, Mark, Hailey, Jamie, Brandon, Savannah, Jhordn, Jennifer, Jonathan, Lauren, Richard, and Shellee!!!!!!!)
Anyways, we went to Connecting Point and met the staff and found out about ways to get involved. Wondering what we chose? I am going to lead a small group for Orchard Kids! (however, not with ages 1 or 3….) and Michael is going to help with the Production/Media team. We also inquired about Young Marrieds small groups…but that is still a little nerve wracking…for me at least.
You would be glad to know though that our son Trevor has already become involved and can name off all of his friends from what we refer to as "Little Church" (he goes to the 3 year old class for Orchard Kids! while we are in "Big Church"). Elliott has also made major strides from when we first started out. He has made it through two services now where our security number has not been posted on the screens meaning we have to come get him. He is learning to love his 1 year old "Little Church"!
is the church we have been attending since we moved to Illinois, and we really are falling in love with it.
Michael and I together have become passionate about who Jesus is and who He desires us to be. As followers of Christ, we are told to be like salt. Salt is supposed to enhance and blend with the other flavors-not stick out like a sore thumb…Have Christians lost sight of who Jesus really is? He hung out with the people religious leaders saw as ungodly and unlovable. Are we forgetting God's sole desire? To bring Him glory by building relationships with with those in the world so that they might know Him too?
How is that being accomplished if the world is so turned off by 'Christians'? Are we getting too caught up in the rules and regulations like the Pharisees and losing the whole element of relationship?
From our lead pastor, Scott Hedge:
Jesus VS. Christians (Again…)
As a part of my talk, I showed this video that we originally created and used in early 2007. The video is straightforward, bothersome, and quite revealing as it illustrates a huge gap between how people view Jesus and how they view the people who are supposed to be representing him.
(And just so you know, the video was not edited to make a point. In the 45 minutes of interviews, we did not receive ONE positive comment for the second half of the video.)