The Words You’re Probably Avoiding

Finances. Budgets. Bills. These are words most couples dread, right?

This topic has been on my heart, so I wanted to share a few principals we follow that I believe bring peace to this area in our finances.

  1. Tithe/Give. If you’re on the fence about tithing, I can promise you it’s worth it to be obedient to the Lord. When we follow His word and do as He asks, abundant blessing follows. Our first couple years of marriage, our combined income was below the poverty level, and yet, we followed this principal of giving 10% of our income to the Lord—and we never went without. God has always provided everything we need.

We’ve always had the mindset that everything we own is God’s, and from the very beginning, we’d ask him, what do you want us to do with your money? My dad used to tell me, even as a young girl, “You can’t out-give God.” How incredibly true! From the beginning of our marriage, we not only tithed, but we prayerfully considered giving to specific ministries every month. At first, we couldn’t give much, but as we were diligent to give away the little that we had, God quickly and immeasurably provided a blessing in return. With every raise we’ve ever had, our question has always been—Okay, God? How much and where to?

  1. Save. We saved enough for a down payment to buy a house within one year of being married on an income that certainly felt teeny-tiny. Want to know how? We save 10% of our income each month. 10%–that’s all. Give 10, Save 10.

We’ve been supernaturally rewarded by being stewards of our money in this way. We’ve been married 9 years, and we’ve paid off roughly $90,000 in debt. Today our only debt is our house, which will be paid for in 13 years or less. I don’t say that to brag—in fact, I was humbled when I started totaling it all up in preparation for this post. But because I know it’s possible to tackle what might even feel impossible, I want to encourage you: it can be done!

  1. Mutually submit. We get paid twice a month, and we immediately tithe and save 10%. We do it on the gross income (though we don’t think there’s anything wrong doing it the other way), so we’re a little more stretched. What’s left after that is the money we live on and the money we give away.

So what do I mean by mutually submit? Every couple has a spender and saver—and sometimes to more or less varying degrees. Whether you’re one or the other, remember that every financial choice you make affects your spouse. You’re communicating love and respect by how you spend your money (or by what you withhold in spending).

If your spouse has asked you not to purchase something or to be conscious of the “leftover” money this month, then honoring that amount is the way you honor him or her.

And I believe the Lord blesses us, not only when we honor each other with our spending but when we honor Him with our money as well.

I know money isn’t everyone’s favorite subject, but I hope you’ll be encouraged this week. If your bills feel too high, if your savings feels too low—begin to ask the Lord how He wants you to steward your money (and then be obedient! 🙂 ).

His word is true. Psalm 23 begins,

The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not lack.

Believe that, my friends. He will always provide for you!

This post was written by Laura Brandenburg. To read more about her, click here

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The Place Where People Want to Be

Growing up in a family with five children all under the age of seven, one of the things I looked forward to—with great anticipation—was spending the night at my grandparents…by myself!

My grandma was an amazing cook and a wonderful hostess. It didn’t matter if it was just me, or the entire family, the table was set with her good dishes placed atop a placemat, the napkin to the left alongside the fork, with the knife and spoon on the right and my glass placed directly above that, exactly as it should be. Favorite foods were always made, sometimes together, and we would play cards all night long…she knew how to make things special for me, and I loved that!

At a very young age, there were deposits made into my heart that helped shaped who I am today. There are so many ways to create a beautiful and comfortable home, but the home that is full of peace, love and joy is what makes it inviting—a place where people want to be.

I believe that having a servant’s heart, preferring others above myself, is where a beautiful home becomes an inviting home. Sometimes, going “the extra mile” doesn’t require much on my end but means the world to someone else!

I enjoy having treasures with history in my home, things we’ve collected from the places we’ve been. When I look at them, gratefulness fills my heart.

I like to have fresh flowers in my home…they make me smile, reminding me of how the Creator of the heavens and earth takes care of His creation…I don’t have to worry.

I like to have music playing in my home brings peace and joy to any occasion, lifting away any heaviness from the day.

I like to have candles lit when we eat…taking meal time out of the mundane and making it a banquet feast…because the people I’m eating with are that special!

Here are some of the virtues I strive to implement daily, wherever I might find myself:

  • Faith – Visualizing God’s plan and responding accordingly. Can I visualize what God can and wants to do through me and my home?
  • Anticipation – The eager expectation that God’s promises are true and that He will work through my circumstances to fulfill them, not only for me but for others.
  • Availability – Giving up my right to determine how my time and resources are spent. When I hold the resources He’s given me with an open hand, I’ll get them back, in “good measure, pressed down and shaken together” abundance!
  • Enthusiasm – The outward expression of the joy that is in my heart.
  • Gratefulness – A thankful response to the benefits that have come into my life.
  • Generosity – Not being stingy with the resources that could be used to benefit others. I serve a God of “more than enough”!
  • Hospitality – Eagerly sharing the resources of my home to benefit others.

Even in this…especially in this, in these times…heaven can and does invade earth. We should not forget to show hospitality to strangers (and friends), for some have done this and entertained angels without realizing it! (Hebrews 13:2)

This post was written by Connie Paxton. To read more about her, click here. 

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Practical Ways to Care

Becoming a full-time caregiver of a parent, spouse, disabled child or foster children is life-altering at a minimum. For many it can be the most demanding, difficult job they’ve ever done as they lay down their lives to love, serve and care for the needs of another. Today I want to offer some practical ways you can be a minister of love, hope, and encouragement to these special people.  I’m writing as a daughter, a respite care provider for my parents, as someone who has been a foster parent.

When my dad was about 60 years old, he developed a rare brain disease that began with things like not being able to tie his shoes and all too quickly took his ability to speak and use his hands and arms. My mom was thrown into processing all the changes that were occurring with my dad, taking care of him, making financial and business decisions, doctor’s visits, and care of the home and property. For several years, Dad could not be left alone, and taking him anywhere was an enormous challenge.

Suffice it to say that, for many, caregiving can be very isolating. Caregivers often struggle with exhaustion and being able to take care of themselves, as well. Their lives can feel totally out of control and they need help and compassion.

There are many ways that you can breathe life into their situation.

  • Visit: Ask when it’s a good time to come by. Bring them news of the outside world: what’s happening at church, your job, the community. Please, tell a good joke. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine. One of my dad’s favorite hospice nurses would carry on and tease and make jokes about the awkward things that would happen when she was caring for him. Don’t forget a hug or touch for the disabled, even if it’s awkward when they can’t respond. They still know.
  • Listen: Caregivers need to be able to tell someone about how hard it is and if they’ve had a particularly bad day.
  • Meals: A healthful and delicious meal is a God-send.
  • Holidays: Offer for them to join you at your house, or ask if you can bring the food to them and do the dishes.
  • Remember: Send texts, a thinking of you card, or call. Pray with them.
  • Help: Offer to help with yard work, pick up groceries, or stay with the home-bound person while the caregiver gets out for a while. My uncle kept my dad once a week while my mom went to lunch with friends or a doctor’s appointment and ran errands. These friends and this help from my uncle were life support for her.

Body of Christ, we have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need. 2 Corinthians 9:12 says,

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here. 

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7 Must-Wins: Stewardship

7 must winsThis week, we continue our fall blog series, “7 Must-Wins.” With a uniquely personal twist toward us as women, we will address seven topics that must be understood and walked out in order for us to have success in this life. To start with Part 1 of this series, click here.

At some point, we’ve all asked and answered the question. If I had a million dollars, what would I do with it?  And usually it follows with some grand plan to give and help others…right after we go ahead and buy that new car, or boat, or vacation we’ve been dreaming about.  The reality is that most of us will probably never be millionaires. The real question is: what will you do with that with which you’ve been entrusted—no matter the number?

That’s what stewardship is all about. How will you allocate the gifts that God has given you?  It speaks to more than just finances, but since money is mentioned more than almost any other topic in the Bible, I’d say it’s probably a big deal. It’s a big deal because the way we steward our money says a lot about where our hearts are.

Many of us say things like, “Well, I’ll give when__________.” Fill in the blank. When the babies are out of diapers. When we get out of debt. When the kids are out of the house. But the Bible says in Proverbs 11:25, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” It seems our logic (myself included!!) can be a little backwards in the economy of God’s Kingdom. We think, “I’ll be generous after I prosper.”  He says be generous and THEN you’ll prosper!

Here’s the key: It’s all His anyway. He didn’t ask us to be good owners. He asked us to be good stewards. And if we truly see Him as our source, it’s not that hard. After all, spending other people’s money is easy! 😉

orangesLet me wrap this up with a picture God gave me a few years back. I was standing next to a solid white picket fence that seemed to stretch on for miles and miles. Right next to me a tree branch was hanging over the fence with several ripe, juicy oranges on it. I felt like I was supposed to give a couple of these oranges to someone else. But then anxiety set in. “But Lord,” I said, “if I give these two away I’ll only have a couple left, and that’s not going to last long!” At that moment he took me up to a higher perspective. I could see over the fence that this wasn’t just a single branch of an orange tree, but a massive orchard that stretched as far as the eye could see. I realized that all these oranges were available to me, and suddenly, giving away two didn’t seem like a big deal at all. It’s all about perspective.

I know financial hardships are real. And I know that as women, one of the things we crave is security. But we don’t have to live in the fear of lack. When we are faithful to answer the call to give, He is faithful to meet all of our needs.

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NIV)

This post was written by Becca Wilhite. To read more about her, click here

**To read Part 7, click here. 

The Heart of Giving

give love liveOver a year ago, God placed some specific financial goals on the hearts of both Derek and I, so that we could ultimately give to others. Since the very get-go of this journey, I hunkered down and decided to give my very best.

Recently, God revealed to me the true motivation of my heart in deciding to give my best. It came about when Derek decided that we needed to wait on purchasing something I’ve wanted for a while. We had the ability to walk out of the store with my “toy” in hand, but all I walked out with was a crummy attitude.

I knew the reaction in my heart wasn’t due to just being told “No.” There was a deeper reason for why I truly believed I needed that item. Not even just needed, but deserved it. God showed me that deep down the true reason of why I worked so hard in meeting our goals wasn’t the freedom to give to others, but the freedom to consume things on myself. Instantly my heart turned to repentance and an honest prayer came out: “God, I want to have the heart of a true giver.”

The next morning, God took me to 2 Corinthians 9:6-9, 11:
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work…He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.”

God showed me that the theme of this passage isn’t finances, but it’s the heart of giving. Realizing this, I read it again. This time, the words grace, sufficiency and righteousness stood out. Understanding that my righteousness in Christ means I’m complete, whole and lacking nothing, and that grace (God’s ability or power) reigns through righteousness, the passage came alive. God says that when we give from a heart that believes in its true state of righteousness, he will make all grace abound so we can ultimately give to others.

If I give from a heart of lack, then I will be reluctant to give. I will want to keep my resources for myself so as to meet my own needs. If in that attitude I choose to not give at all, I’m saying no to more than just the giving of my resources. I’m saying no to grace abounding in my life and an increase to the harvest of my righteousness.

Whether it’s giving time to a friend in need, genuine love to those in our family, or full surrender to God in our moments of pain, we all have something to give.

This post was written by Abbie Kellum. To read more about her, click here.