Monday, October 4, 2010

A post in which I remember I cannot place my faith in dollars.

It was not long ago that Jonathan and I were in Washington, living in Pullman. He was attending WSU, earning his masters, and I was working full time+ as a restaurant manager/catering coordinator. While things were by no means rosie all the time, we really did "have it made". We gave to the Lord, paid 350 a month for rent, had a few minimal bills (phones, insurance, electricity, internet), and bought just enough food to survive on. Everything else we threw into the bank, usually before we even had time to read the numbers on the paycheck. We're savers by nature (we find it difficult to spend money on ourselves) so it wasn't particularly difficult.

Fast forward to 2008. We moved to Nebraska where Jonathan was offered a job. By the grace of God, I also was offered a job. As planned, we tithed, paid our bills, and threw everything else in the bank. It was similarly as easy.

We bought a house; and even though we were now certainly spending more each month, we were still able to throw all of my paycheck into the bank. And I would say it was still relatively easy in the sense that we didn't feel like we were "strapped".

Fast forward to 2009. We had a baby. I quit my job. We stepped out on faith, knowing that we had been able to successfully live within the confines of Jonathan's paycheck in the past, and praying that it would also be possible to do so with a little one. We knew this would not be easy. With prayer, we made choices which would effect us financially (such as cloth diapering), we made choices which would effect us socially (such as reducing our budgeted allowance for eating out and entertainment). We made lots of choices. Together, those choices, the many prayers which preceded them, and the grace of God for which we are truly unworthy, this little family of three has been plugging along month - after month - after month - debt free.

And that was the goal. Right? To live on Jonathan's paycheck. Or was it...

I mentioned before that Jonathan and I are, by nature, savers. We have a difficult time NOT saving. As such, it is difficult for me NOT to see money going into savings each month but rather to be SPENDING ALL OF IT. It scares me. It makes me feel unsafe. It makes me feel uneasy and I DON'T LIKE IT. To be brief, I like to save for the sheer joy of saving. (How dumb is that?) So to say that it was my goal to live debt free would be - truly - fibbing. My unspoken goal was to live within the confines of Jonathan's salary AND to save money on the side.

Fast forward to September, 2010. On my list of expenses to pay are a plane ticket home to WA (our August trip, the bill for which I paid off in September), baggage fees, and one, nay TWO trips to an endodontist who is NOT covered by my insurance - one trip of which included an $875 root canal. ACK! As you may have guessed, without breaking the law I cannot fit these items into an already stretched budget. I simply cannot. And so, without further adeau, I would like to introduce you to: September 2010, the month when Jonathan and Melissa overspent their budget by $506.44

My eyes get big when I see that. I'm ashamed. Totally. And, on top of that, I'm fear full.

Except I'm not telling you the whole truth.

You see, savers that we are, we do indeed have an emergency account. We can (and will) transfer money from this account to cover the overage. But that very act makes he shiver in my boots. What if we spend our emergency account until it's dry? what if we continue to experience circumstances which force us to spend spend spend? What if Jonathan contracts some kind of weird flesh eating bacteria and has to be sent to a state-of-the-art hospital in Pa Pa New Guinea". WHAT IF? WHAT THEN?

The voice of reason becomes so quiet when I'm balancing our budget, that sometimes I almost cannot hear her at all. She speaks of thinks like "faith", and "provision", and "wisdom". As in, when we have faith, and ask for wisdom to make wise financial choices, God will provide --> even if his provision is not what we expected, even if his provision does not come in the package we desired.

So here we are in October. September has passed and yet I find myself continuing to worry about things I have little control over (read: I worry about the possibility that I may have to go back to work, that we may have to find a day care, that we may not be able to afford to raise more children...), but I do know this: If I place my faith in the dollars remaining in our emergency fund I will ultimately be dissatisfied, frustrated, and full of yet more worry.

(here comes the pep-talk)

The truth is, we can't plan for the unplanned, we cannot prevent the unexpected, and (despite my deepest efforts), we cannot fix things that are not yet broken (I'll explain our great bath-tub leak another time). So here I go, off into the depths of October, with a greater determination to live with what I have and purchase only what I need, but at the same time not to look at the unexpected necessities as God's unfaithfulness towards us. Rather, to look at them as opportunities to place our faith where it belongs.


Learning to Parent said...

Good blog. :)

Anonymous said...

The thought- nay, the FEAR of running the emergency fund until it's empty caused me to work 80 hours a week for several weeks. Then I realized we have a 3-month emergency fund in our personal account, plus another two-month emergency fund in our business account (that includes our salaries - if we didn't take a paycheck we have 2 years of business expenses in emergency business savings). I decided enough was enough and I was going to spend time with my family instead of making money in hope that I could stave off a "0" on the bank statement X number of months/years/decades down the road. I figure if God is going to choose us to go through trials of not having enough money, well, we've been there done that and got the T-shirt so I figure we'll get through it again. And no matter how much I save God can still calamity my savings account down to nothing if He wants to!


Honest to Christina said...

You are an amazing woman.

Hilary said...


Quite an insightful post. I'm beginning to think that maybe, deep-down from before our ancestors came to the US...we are related.
My mom might be an interesting perspective on this as well. As you know, she's a natural-born saver who has stay-at-home mommed it through 8 years in the ministry and later, 12 kids on one income. I quite enjoy your writing! (P.S. That's EXACTLY what emergency funds are for.)

Melissa K. said...

Hil, you have NO IDEA how often I think of your family as I go about my daily life as a wife and mother. It's truly scary. In my dark moments when I'm lamenting about how we don't have enough money in our grocery fund to buy cool things like blue cheese and pesto, I remember that we DO have all the staples, and I can afford to make minestrone until it comes flowing out my ears. Your family has really been an inspiration to Jonathan and me, especially as we've moved away and tightened our financial belts.

Julie said...

I can relate, I like knowing we have extra so we can pay extra on our mortgage and eventually be debt free...but expenses always come up with owning a home or having some health problem or something, too. I think we just have to remember that whatever happens, we can't predict the future but we know we have a never-changing God who has promised to provide for us. Maybe He won't provide exactly how we want but He will provide. I know I'm really not adding anything to your post or saying anything you don't know but I appreciated your post. I also have a little girl saying "mamamamamammamamammamama" right now so I better quit typing :-)