And one of the things asked of Jeff and I, as a couple, was to share our Cedar Ridge testimony.
And a huge part of that testimony is the way God changed our lives through tithing.
I've also had several people ask me about our budget and tithing.
We usually follow Dave Ramsey's guidelines and use a cash budget every month
(sometimes we fall of the wagon and resort to debit cards...
like when we're moving and can't even find our toothbrush let alone our budget ledger. ;) ).
But even though our budget differs month to month
(due to my husband's salary + commission paycheck)
one thing never changes.
We do it every. single. month.
Now, I know the Lord does not like us to boast and be prideful and
"pray where everyone can see us" and
"make sure every knows how much we are dropping into the offering bucket" (Matthew 6)
but I want to share something that I am so extremely passionate about
so that I might "boast in the LORD." 1 Corinthians 1:31
I've been pretty open with the fact that Jeff and I have struggled financially.
And have even gone the better part of a year with little to no income before.
When we first got married I was working at an architectural firm and Jeff was going to school.
Then I got pregnant.
I was devastated, sure that I would have to return to work full time
while I paid a daycare to care for my son.
That is just not what I had pictured for myself for motherhood.
Jeff assured me we would make it work...somehow.
So when Jaymin was born I quit my job and we lived off of Jeff's school loans,
whatever part time jobs he could make work with his schedule
and whatever odd jobs I could do from home (which I still do :) ).
December of 2007 God made it clear to Jeff that he was not to continue on in chiropractic school.
January of 2008 he started job searching.
He thought he was being led to financial planning and landed a position with Waddell and Reed.
But first he had to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket to get licensed.
And spend months studying for and taking the tests.
He was finally able to start his new job that summer.
And if you'll recall, that was when the bottom dropped out of the market.
Like Great Depression style.
We couldn't believe it.
And Jeff's salary was commission only.
By the time fall rolled around we were hurtin'. Bad.
So we gave this whole financial planning thing a deadline of October 31st.
Which it did not meet.
That DAY. Jeff got a phone call. With a job offer.
It will forever be referred to as our "burning bush". :)
It was an incredible feeling to finally have a steady paycheck
but we still had a lot of work to do and still weren't "okay" yet.
We had acquired a TON of debt from Jeff's school loans,
mine were still lingering around from undergrad,
and we had pretty much lived off of credit cards for a year.
BUT. We knew that a very important part of our faith walk
was trusting God to provide and giving back to him.
Growing up, my dad always talked about how "our" money wasn't really "our" money,
that it was God's and he expected us to be good stewards of his blessings.
And all he asks from us is 10%.
Our pastor once shared a story about his daughter receiving her allowance.
And when they told her that she needed to give $1 for tithe
she said, "you mean I get to keep $9?!"
If only we all saw tithing the same way with our much larger "allowances".
So with the very first precious paycheck we received, we tithed.
And we haven't missed a month since.
It was really scary giving when the amount of those checks was so small.
We had rent to pay, groceries and diapers to buy, creditors were calling,
and due to interest, our debt was bigger than ever.
But we pushed down our fears and reminded ourselves
that God was bigger than our mountain of debt.
So we trusted him to take care of us, to provide.
And when an opportunity would arise at church to give more
we would pray about what to give and give what we could.
Sometimes it was scary what we felt called to give, but again, we knew God would be faithful to us.
And when that fear would creep in we had Malachi 3:10 to fall back on.
"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 there will not be room enough to store it."
Man, I smile every time I hear that.
And guess what.
We have never gone hungry.
We have always paid our bills.
We have paid off most of our debts.
And then some.
We have more than we need!
We have more than just our basic needs!
The more we give, the more we receive.
Jeff often tries to "out give" God.
And God always wins! :)
Sometimes when I see the checks my husband writes to our church I get a little giddy.
Its such a deep down, joyful feeling that I have inside
knowing that we are contributing to such good things,
knowing that the Lord has blessed us and allowed us to give what we do,
and knowing that he will continue to provide because we are obeying and TRUSTING him.
Which is why he asks it of us to begin with!
God doesn't need our money.
He can do anything he wants, whenever he wants.
But he wants us to hand something over to him, something that has way too much power,
so that we might put him first and show that we trust him.
That's all tithe really is.
Giving the money that God gave you back to him, to show that it hasn't consumed you,
to show that you aren't self sufficient, and to show that you trust him to provide.
For "what do you have that you did not receive?" 1 Corinthians 4:7
AND you get to help people in need!
And seriously people.
He only asks for 10%.
You get to keep 90!
However, I will challenge you to slowly increase that percentage
when you start getting too comfortable.
I said I feel giddy when I see the amount of our tithe checks.
That's how I feel when I truly see the money as God's.
That its not mine and never was.
It's so much easier to give away someone else's money, am I right? ;)
But sometimes, just for a moment, I'll look at the check and think,
"Wow. What I could do with that money..."
And now that we live in our own home, with an endless list of projects,
the amount of our tithe could do a lot of damage.
But I know if we spent that money, the purchases would be hollow.
For me, it would feel like spending stolen money.
I would also encourage you to write God's check first.
To make sure it gets done and also as a symbol.
In the Old Testament, when God's followers would prepare a sacrifice for him,
they would offer him the best animal from their herd. Perfect. Flawless. Reserving the best for God.
And the first of the harvest was always given to God.
They gave back to him first, then they enjoyed what was left.
They did not feast and then give God the leftovers.
How often have we been guilty of that?
"Oh I've got to pay my mortgage, buy some groceries, the electric bill is due, the kids need new winter coats, I don't feel like making dinner tonight so lets go out, and I MUST have those earrings."
Before you know it the month is over and the funds are gone.
And here comes the offering basket...
What are you gonna toss in?
Whatever is left in your purse?
Is that really what God deserves?
He deserves it all.
Every bit of it.
More than we could possibly make in a lifetime is what he deserves.
But he only asks for 10%. The first 10%.
I know its scary.
Believe me. I've been there.
I've wondered before how I was going to buy groceries for my family.
But do it anyway.
Give when it's scary.
Give when you don't think you can.
Give when its impossible.
I dare you.
And see if he will not throw open the floodgates.