“Are They All Yours?”

children

It happened again….

I took my kids to Taco Bell for a treat after school one day this week. Taco Bell has “Happier Hour” every afternoon, and the kids enjoy the frozen drinks. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it (Don’t judge me. I love Taco Bell.). My four children actually all behaved the entire time we were there. Shocker, I know. So, I was refilling my drink before we left the restaurant, and the man behind me commented on the kids. He was a guy around my age, so I was surprised when out jumped “The Question:” He said, “Are they all yours?” (I usually get the question from older people….I guess they take more time to notice.)

“They are,” I replied. “They keep me busy!” (Maybe I looked overwhelmed, or something?)

He went on to tell me about his two girls and how much fun they are. I remarked that they grow up too fast. It was a pleasant conversation, and then we left.

I try not to take all of the kids out to stores and such by myself unless I absolutely have to, because sometimes those trips are less than pleasant and sometimes I end up stressed to the gills. Maybe that’s why I get the question so often from complete strangers: “Are they all yours?” I hear that question more often than you would believe. And the next comment usually is, “You have your hands full!”

Okay, maybe I’m crazy, but four kids isn’t really an outrageous number, is it? I mean, it’s not like twenty-four or anything. My grandfather is the youngest of 13. I realize he was raised in a different time, but during his 84 years of life we seem to have gone from celebrating large families to looking down on them.

Hopefully most people are just trying to make conversation when they ask if all the kids are mine. I have to say that it comes across as kind of rude or judgmental, though. I almost feel like I need to apologize for reproducing so many times or explain that we really can provide for them ourselves.

I’m not quick enough on my feet, and I’m not one to be sassy or confrontational to strangers, but sometimes I wish I had some really great come-backs ready when people ask “the question.” Things like:

  • “No, I picked up a couple of extras on the way here.”
  • Or “They are, and the other seven are in the car.”
  • Or “These are just the ones from my first marriage.”
  • Or “Oh, yes. I’m producing workers to help reduce the Social Security deficit.” (I got this one from my friend, who also hears “the question” a lot.
  • Or “Absolutely! Four future conservative voters.”

Okay, well, maybe those aren’t the greatest responses in the world. But something like that would probably be better than the apologetic look and sheepish response that I usually give. I think I need to be more enthusiastic when I claim all of my children in public. What are they, if not an incredible blessing, straight from the Father?

Our society has seen a drastic shift from one that values life to one that thinks of children as a burden—something to delay until one’s career has taken off. Or not to have at all. We have Roe v. Wade to thank, in large part, for devaluing life, which has led to decreasing birth rates, increasing child abuse rates, some serious financial problems for the nation, and so on. Sure, we don’t “need” large families anymore to work on the farms and such, and modern medicine makes it easier than ever to prevent pregnancy. But I believe that we, as a nation, need to re-focus our priorities, return to an emphasis on family life, and celebrate the gift that children are to this world.

Consider a few things that the Lord says about children and family:

  • “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5a)
  • But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)
  • “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'” (Genesis 1:28a)
  • “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15)
  • “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 113:13-16)
  • “All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace.” (Isaiah 54:13)

There are many more.

My heart goes out to people who desperately want children but are unable to have them. I want to be sensitive to those families, too, and not imply that children have to be present in order for a family to be complete. God is sovereign and His ways are higher than our ways.

But instead of giving large families weird looks or making unkind comments, let’s commit to celebrate when we encounter them. After all, without children, the world’s population would die off and cease to be. Some countries are headed that way if things don’t change. I’m glad to be doing my part to re-populate the world and hopefully make it a better place in the long run.

Bottom line: Children are a blessing, even when they’re misbehaving in the grocery store. :-)

 

 

 

Posted in Family | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Worry; God’s Got This

don't worry

My name is Michelle, and I’m a worrier.

There are all sorts of groups for people who have problems. Maybe someone needs to start a Worry-Warts Anonymous group. Maybe I’ll start one. Any takers?

Some personalities lend themselves to a more carefree lifestyle; others—like mine—are more intense and tend to promote worrying. If I could’ve chosen my personality at birth, I think I would’ve opted for the easygoing, mellow, relaxed one. But alas, the choice wasn’t mine.

So, here I am. The worrier.

What kinds of things do I worry about? The list is long, I’m afraid. Here are a few examples of thoughts that run through my mind these days….

  • Noah is coming down with a cold. Oh, no. Now everyone will get it, and we’ll all be miserable for a week.
  • The refrigerator died. We weren’t expecting such a big expense right now. How are we going to afford to replace the car if it dies soon, too?
  • I can’t believe I said that in front of so-and-so. What is she going to think of me?
  • What if the kids misbehave at their friends’ house? I’ll be so embarrassed.
  • With the history of Alzheimer’s in my mom’s family, will she be okay?
  • Will this blog post offend anyone?
  • My kids seem to argue constantly. Will they be close as adults?
  • What if my kids rebel as teens/young adults?
  • My husband just looked at that woman. Does he think she’s prettier than me?
  • Will my kids marry the people God has chosen for them?
  • I really hope my kids’ spouses will like me.
  • With the direction this country is heading, what kind of place will it be for my kids and grandkids?

The things I worry about these days are different from the ones that burdened me in years past. Here are some that I can remember….

  • What if I never find my soul-mate?
  • Can we afford to build a house?
  • What if the baby is born with something wrong?
  • Will my baby EVER sleep through the night?
  • What if my child throws a tantrum in public?
  • My child just threw a tantrum in public; those people must think I’m the worst mom in the world.
  • Maybe I don’t have what it takes to teach my kids at home.
  • My child hates to read. Is something wrong?
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

Get the idea? Do any of those things (or other things) cause concern in your life? Are you a worrier like me?

You know what? ALL of the things I worried about in years past turned out okay. All of them. Do you know why? Because “God’s got this.”

Whatever it is, God has it under control. He has proven Himself to me over and over through the years, yet I still struggle with worry when I’m faced with difficult or uncertain situations. The following verses spoke to me today regarding worrying. If you need some encouragement in this area, let these words soak into your heart and mind, as well.

  • “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
  • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
  • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22)

If you want more, check out these, or these, or these.

For me, worrying becomes an issue of trust. Do I really trust that God is capable of handling the situations of my life? If so, do I trust that he will take care of them? It comes down to a choice. I must choose daily to trust Him. When faced with difficulties, do I pray and leave them in the Lord’s hands, or do I take them on my shoulders and try to carry them alone? It’s a constant battle with my flesh. It’s not that I want to worry; it’s just that worrying comes naturally to me. Trusting someone else to take care of me does not.

God knows human nature. He knows that we are temped to worry. That’s why, in His infinite wisdom, He told us literally hundreds of times in His Word to “fear not” or “do not worry” or “trust.”

So, if you’re a worry-wart like me, I hope you’ll take comfort in the knowledge that whatever your situation, God’s got this. He loves you. He’s all powerful. And He’s in control. :-)

 

 

Posted in Encouragement | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why Sex Outside of Marriage is Bad For You

couple holding hands

I feel compelled to delve into a very touchy subject here. My heart is burdened by the record numbers of young people who are engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage, evidenced by the rates of abortions, out-of-wedlock births, and couples cohabiting. Not enough is being said these days about the dangers of extramarital sex, and our young people are suffering for it. I realize that I might step on some toes here, but I believe that this subject is important enough to push forward anyway. Please read the following with a prayerful heart, and if you agree in your spirit with what I have to say, I ask that you share it with those in your circle of influence.

Here are some reasons why I believe that sex outside of marriage is bad for you:

1. It is physically dangerous.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1,422,976 cases of chlamydia were reported in the U.S. in 2012 alone! When you add in gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, herpes, HPV, genital warts, and other STDs, we’re talking massive numbers of people who are affected by these disgusting diseases (and if you’re not convinced they’re disgusting, try googling images of sexually transmitted diseases and see what pops up). The fact is, these diseases are optional. They aren’t like a brain tumor or Type 1 Diabetes….you get to choose whether you contract an STD by your lifestyle. People in monogamous, lifetime marriages just aren’t targets for these things.  

Did you know that some STDs are symptomless, so people might not know that they have them until years later when maybe they have infected others or they might be dealing with some heartbreaking consequences? Did you know that some STDs can cause infertility? Some can cause cancer? Some can even cause death? I don’t know about you, but for me, a few moments of pleasure aren’t worth such risks. 

2. It harms your relationship with the Lord.

The Bible tells us that sex outside of marriage is sin—this includes sex between unmarried people (aka fornication), adultery, and homosexual sex. Any sin that we allow into our lives separates us from God. That’s why Jesus had to come into the world and die and be raised again. Because we sin, we need a perfect sacrifice to bridge the gap between us and our Holy God. 

Listen to what God has to say: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

And this: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4)

And this: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people….For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 5:3,5)

3. It harms your spirit.

God created each of us with a conscience. That means we inherently know right from wrong. As we live our lives and make choices that are contrary to God’s plan for us, our consciences might become seared or dulled, but deep down we usually know whether something is good or bad. 

This should be especially true for those who have Christ in their lives, yet we see young people today who claim to know Christ but are living together without being married. I think one contributing factor is the lack of stigma in our “anything goes” culture, but I think churches are to blame, too. We often try so hard to make people feel comfortable in our churches that we fail to speak the truth on matters of sin. That is a disservice to a seeking, hurting, lost world that wants to know the truth.

Here is truth: Sin is bad for us. Sin hurts us. That’s why God tells us not to do it. He wants the very best life for His children, but when we get ahead of Him and go our own way and make choices that are outside of His plan, we get hurt. Period.  

4. It robs your future spouse.

When two people unite sexually, a bond is created between them. When that bond is created outside of a committed marriage relationship, pain and heartache and guilt are often the consequences. It might not happen right away, but eventually people suffer because of engaging in sex outside of marriage. When they then move on to other relationships, they carry a part of the previous partner with them, and it is difficult to get past the pain. 

I don’t know about you, but when I go to the grocery store to buy produce, I want it to be fresh and free from blemishes. I don’t want fruit that has been handled and nibbled and sampled.

Isn’t that sort of like people who engage in sex before marriage? They have tarnished themselves and have given away a precious part of their souls before the right time. They have robbed their future spouse of sharing the most intimate part of their lives only with them.

There’s a reason that a bride wears white in her wedding. It symbolizes that she is pure, that she has saved herself for her husband. What a precious gift a young couple can give to each other….the gift of purity in their marriage with no skeletons in the closet, no shameful memories, no soul-ties with another.

When I first started dating my husband, I didn’t know much about his past relationships and specifically whether he was still a virgin. That was one thing that was a must on my list for a potential husband. I wasn’t sure how to find out without coming out and asking (which I was too shy to do). We were riding in the car one day, and I asked if he would be willing to listen to a tape with me. It was a sermon (if I remember correctly, by Mark Rutland) about pre-marital sex. After it started playing, Trevor turned to me and said, “I’ve never had sex before.” Well, there you go! That answered my question and put my mind at ease.

As is the case with so many young people, Trevor and I regret some things that we did while we were dating and in prior relationships. However, by the grace of God, we both stood at our wedding as virgins. It wasn’t easy, and opportunities were there for both of us to give away our virginity. We had to make a conscious decision not to do things that we were tempted to do because we knew that God’s plan was better. It always is.

If you have already engaged in sex outside of marriage, all is not lost. We serve a mighty God who is still in the business of healing, restoring, and making things new. I know people who lived in promiscuity before marriage, but God has done a miraculous work of healing in their lives. If they could live their early lives over and save themselves for each other, would they? Absolutely! Are they training their children to live lives of purity for their future spouses? Most definitely.

They key is to start now, right where you are….

Are you considering giving away your virginity? Make a vow to the Lord to remain pure until marriage and seek out like-minded Christians to hold you accountable.

Do you need to break off a relationship that is unhealthy? Ask God for the strength to do it.

Do you need to move out if you are living with someone to whom you aren’t married? God can help you.

Are you suffering because of past choices to give yourself physically to another? Consider this: “He himself [Jesus] bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

If you need some encouragement to let God lead in this area of your life, here are a few books that I read as a young adult that might speak to you, too:

No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green by Melody Green

Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control by Elisabeth Elliot

Knight in Shining Armor by P.B. Wilson

The Bible by God

And here’s a huge list of books related to sexual purity from which you can choose. 

One last thing: God loves you. He is for you. He wants the best for you. If sexual purity were impossible, it wouldn’t be His standard. By His strength, you can live in purity, and you’ll be so glad that you did!

Posted in Encouragement, Sexual Purity | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Watch us on Life Focus TV’s “Dealing with Debt.”

dealing in debt pic

 

How is your financial situation? Is debt weighing you down? Do you find it difficult to make ends meet month to month? 

When my husband and I got married in 1998, we lived in a 1-bedroom apartment, had nothing in savings, and owed around $25,000 in debt. Trevor was a teacher, and I worked for a ministry, so our incomes were far from extravagant. I hated being in that much debt; it felt like a heavy stone was hanging around my neck.

After the wedding, we immediately went to work on a budget, based only on Trevor’s income, and we used my income to pay down the debt. We “snowballed” our debts, by paying extra to eliminate the smallest one first, then rolling that payment into the next one, and so on. With this plan, we were able to pay off our debt completely within about 14 months.

Many years have passed since we made our last debt payment, so the excitement has faded, but I remember feeling such peace. At that point, we still had a long way to go on our financial journey, but knowing that we no longer were indebted to anyone was such an amazing place to be. 

During the time that we were paying off our debt, God called us to commit never to take on debt again….for anything. That meant that if we ever hoped to own a home, we would have to save up and pay cash for it. Seems like a daunting mission, right? But yet, I had a strong sense of peace that God would help us do what He called us to do. Nothing is impossible with God.

To make a very long story short, over the next almost five years, we saved, toiled, cried, sweated, bled, and sacrificed to build our home debt free. If you’d like to read the whole story, click here to check out our book called Debt-Free Living in a Debt-Filled World

DFLDFW front cover for KDP 4-8-14

Life Focus TV interviewed us about our financial story. I hope you’ll watch the program entitled “Dealing with Debt” at this link (our segment starts at around 9 minutes in). It’s also airing on various stations nationwide, such as PBS, TBN, and NRB Network, so check for it there as well.

If you’re struggling with debt, I want to encourage you. Nothing is too big for God. As you commit your finances to Him and submit to His authority, He will give you wisdom, guide you, and provide for your needs. The financial mess in which Trevor and I found ourselves was of our own making, but God didn’t hold it against us. He was merciful and led us out of bondage and into freedom. It wasn’t an easy process, mind you. We worked hard and sacrificed, but the long-term benefits far outweigh any discomfort that we experienced.

My prayer for you is that you will find your path to financial freedom. It is worth it. I promise!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

 

Posted in Money | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Independence Day: July 2nd or July 4th?

flag and fireworks

Today, I’m re-posting a column that my husband wrote a few years ago about Independence Day. I hope you enjoy it!

 

By Trevor Thomas
July 4, 2007

On July 1, 1776 delegates of the Second Continental Congress entered what John Adams called, “the greatest debate of all.” Even after over a year’s worth of conflict against the mightiest military force on earth, declared independence from Great Britain was far from a forgone conclusion. Just weeks earlier the majority of the men in the Congress were very much hoping that some formula for peace could be found with Great Britain.

In The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, it’s noted that these Congressmen knew very well what it would cost them personally to, “cast their votes with those few who were advocating an open declaration of independence. For the men who signed such a declaration would, in the likely event of America’s defeat, be held personally responsible. And the penalty for instigating rebellion against the Crown was death.” Declaring independence required a unanimous vote from the Congress, and as Ben Franklin soberly put it, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

During the debate on July 1, John Dickinson, representing Pennsylvania, made powerful and lengthy arguments against declaring independence. With quiet resolve, but equal conviction, Adams answered him concluding with, “All that I have and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration…Independence now, and Independence forever!”

Shortly following this exchange, Congress voted. The majority supported independence, but it was not unanimous as required. Nine of the thirteen colonies were ready to officially declare for freedom and the war necessary to achieve it. Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted no. Delaware’s two delegates were split. The New York delegates abstained. Debate was to resume the next day followed by another vote.

On the following day, July 2, the South Carolina delegates, for the sake of unanimity, were swayed to support the Declaration. New Pennsylvania delegates voted for independence. With New York still abstaining, Delaware was the key. Its two delegates remained split. With a dramatic and grueling overnight ride through stormy weather, where often he had to dismount and lead his horse, an exhausted third Delaware delegate, Caesar Rodney, entered the State House in Philadelphia around 1:00 p.m., just as the final vote was about to occur. He had come to break the deadlock among his fellow statesmen.

Barely able to speak he exclaimed, “As I believe the voice of my constituents and of all sensible and honest men is in favor of independence, my own judgment concurs with them. I vote for independence.” Therefore it was unanimously decided (New York would join with the other colonies officially on July 9th). Thus, The United States was born on July 2, 1776.

The significance of the event and the day was such that, on the following day John Adams wrote his wife Abigail and said that July 2 “will be the most memorable…in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” So according to John Adams, the celebration of our independence is a couple of days late.

It was two days later on July 4 that an official Declaration of Independence document was actually signed, albeit only by two members of Congress: John Hancock, the President of Congress and Charles Thompson the Secretary of Congress. Most of the rest of the Congressmen would sign the Declaration about a month later.

On July 4, 1837, in a speech delivered in the town of Newburyport Massachusetts, John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, and the 6th U.S. President, proclaimed, “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth?”

Witnessing the events of the Revolution as a boy, and then going on to serve his country in many various capacities, John Quincy Adams saw that Christmas and Independence Day were fundamentally linked. He understood well that the Founders simply took the principles that Christ brought to the world and incorporated those into civil government.

That, my friends, is why the United States of America is the greatest nation the world has ever known, even though we may be celebrating its birthday on the wrong date.

Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
www.trevorgrantthomas.com

 

Posted in Patriotism | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“America: Imagine The World Without Her”

AMERICA-300x250_Banner_JULY2Last night, Trevor and I were privileged to attend a preview showing of Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie, America: Imagine The World Without Her. The movie will be released in the Atlanta and Houston markets this coming weekend (June 27), and then nationwide on July 2. I could really sum up the movie with a resounding “WOW,” but I realize that you’ll need a little more to go on than that. :-)

Dinesh and some of the other producers and writers were there for the showing last night, and they gave us some background information and details about the movie. We purchased D’Souza’s new book (by the same title), gave him a copy of our book, and were able to talk with him a little.

Dinesh D'Souza

Trevor and Michelle with Dinesh D’Souza

If any of you saw D’Souza’s movie 2016, you know what caliber film he makes. 2016 was the 2nd most popular political film of all time. I would say that America… is even better.

The movie addresses several points that progressives are pushing on the nation—false narratives that paint America as a greedy, evil empire bent on conquest and willing to use and abuse anyone who stands in our way. It shows how this “shame on America” mindset has been perpetuated in large part by historian Howard Zinn and his warped presentation of the history of America (Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, is required reading in most colleges and universities and in many high schools and was even plugged by Matt Damon in his movie, Good Will Hunting. It’s been “out there” in a big way for decades, and it’s doing untold damage to our young people and ultimately the nation.).

The movie goes on to reveal that both Obama and Hillary were mentored by radical socialist Saul Alinksy and details their agenda to re-make America by destroying capitalism (with crushing regulations and taxes), creating a discontented lower class that blames the “rich” for their troubles, and ushering in socialism (with massive national debt and government takeovers of healthcare, banking, business, and so on). In their agenda, the successful entreprenuers are painted as evil and greedy and in need of punishment (never mind that those entrepreneurs started at the bottom and worked their way up, in the process creating jobs for the rest of us AND we became the greatest and most powerful nation on earth because of such entrepreneurs).

Their agenda is working, isn’t it?

After debunking the false narratives about America, the movie reinforces the notions that most of us grew up believing about this country: we are a force for good around the world; we are the most generous nation on earth; we help people and countries in need; we are defenders of the weak; we spend millions to rebuild nations after war, and so on.

My words can’t do this movie justice. I urge you to take a moment to watch the movie trailer here, and then make a point to go see it in the theater when it opens July 2 (or this weekend, if you’re in the Atlanta or Houston markets). What happens opening weekend will determine how many theaters the movie ultimately lands in, and a huge turnout can send a powerful message to progressives who intend to destroy America as we know it.

If you’ve already caught onto the move that’s underfoot to “re-make” America, this movie will strengthen your resolve to stand up against it. If you are just starting to learn about what’s going on behind the scenes, this movie will open your eyes and ignite a fire in you to defend and preserve this amazing nation before it’s too late.

God bless America!

 

 

Posted in Media | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Financial Setbacks

money burning up

Do you ever feel as though your money seems to burn up in your hands or at least flies out of your hands faster than you can earn it? Financial setbacks can be so discouraging and even heart-wrenching, can’t they?

My family has seen our share of setbacks in recent years. My husband, a public school teacher, has endured several forms of pay cuts over the last few years as a result of the economic recession, totaling close to 10 percent of his gross income–a significant drop for a family of six. Last year, in addition to a 40 percent hike in our health insurance premiums, we had a lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses for the kids: pneumonia, hernia surgery, allergy testing, stitches, ENT visits, and so on.

To add insult to injury last year, our upright freezer died (or, rather, was killed during a defrosting attempt). Our main level heating/air system went kaput, so we forked out over $4,000 to replace it. Our washing machine bit the dust a few weeks ago, which we haven’t yet replaced. Our well pump had to be replaced last week, to the tune of almost $2,000. Our dishwasher seems to be on its last leg. Our upstairs AC system needs work. Our cars are 13 and 14 years old, so who knows….

That’s enough to make a person cry a bucket of tears. At least an emotional, hormonal, occasionally irrational girl-person like me. I get overwhelmed sometimes when I look at how much is going out versus what’s coming in.

At times, it seems like we’re under attack, financially. We just can’t seem to get away from the huge bills, much less have enough surplus to build up our savings to pay for future repairs. Have you ever experienced setback after setback in this area of your life?

I know that many of these are “first world” problems. People in much of the world can’t even fathom having an air conditioner or a washing machine or a dishwasher. We’re thankful for such conveniences, but they are expensive to maintain or replace.

So, how can we cope, and what does God say about how to handle these situations?

First, I’ve had to dust off my “trust” feature lately. I know in my head that God is my Provider. He has proven Himself oodles of times in my life, but this week, especially, I’ve struggled with trusting Him in the area of finances. I see more going out than coming in, and I don’t understand what He’s doing. I’m frustrated. I’m afraid. At times, I’m angry.

I was praying out loud in the car one day this week about the plumbing bill that we incurred, and I told the Lord, “If you want to use your money this way, so be it.” You see, it is His money. Everything is His (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). We’re only stewards, or managers, of His property. If He gives us a house or cars or children, we are to care for them, and sometimes that means large bills.

Second, a budget is an absolute necessity. Without a budget, it’s impossible to know how much is available for various areas and where/when to cut back. Some people like to use an online budget like Mvelopes or a software budgeting tool, but I still use a pencil and paper budget. I allocate money to each category every pay day, then when we spend, I deduct it from the appropriate area. Because we’ve been budgeting all of our married lives, we were able to dip into money that we saved years ago for all of the major expenses of the last couple of years and not incur debt. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to save for the last couple of years, and the reserve is getting dangerously low, but we have hope that things will turn around as the economy improves.

Third, we have to work hard at whatever the Lord gives us to do. I’ve been busy marketing our book to bookstores. Trevor has been brainstorming about extra jobs he could do over the summer to bring in income. We’re both working hard to get our house ready to put on the market, so we can move closer to Trevor’s work and save significant money in transportation costs. Of course, I still coupon for our food and household items; and since we’re home more over the summer, I’m cooking a lot and we’re eating out less to save money. We believe that it’s important for us to be proactive about expanding our income opportunities….not so much that our lives become unbalanced, but always being open to new avenues of God’s provision.

Finally, I have to understand that God has a purpose for this lean time in my life. If we look back at the life of Job, we see that he lost absolutely everything that was important to him. Everything. He didn’t know why God was allowing all of the bad things to happen to him, but in the midst of all of the turmoil, Job was faithful. He didn’t sin, and he trusted God to work it out. In the end, God blessed Job with twice as much as he had initially (Job 42:10).

Here’s the bottom line: God is in control. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He owns it all, and He has promised to provide for us (Philippians 4:19).

The key is trusting Him, while doing our part to be responsible and hard working and frugal. God will provide for our needs, because He said He would and if He says something, we can take it to the bank (pun intended).

So, if you’re struggling with financial issues, let’s pray for each other in our trying times. As Galatians 6:2 reminds us, let us “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

Posted in Money | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments