I read this post at Her Bad Mother, and it helped me think a bit about our financial situation.
On the surface, you'd think we should be doing OK. Brian and I both work full-time. Sure, a little bit more salary would be nice, and I'd like to see an occasional raise or bonus (but I figure there's probably not a lot of chance, given the industry I work in and the degree of government involvement there these days), but looking at it on paper, it would seem like we'd be all right, like we could make ends meet.
Yet somehow that doesn't seem to happen. It seems like each month we're scraping to make it, to get everything paid, and that's before we've had to add daycare expenses to the mix (diapers and formula and medical bills, yes, but daycare won't kick in for a few weeks yet). And now we're finding ourselves in the position of having to start shopping for a new vehicle. My car is in good shape, but the van isn't so much. It still runs well, but it's got 125,000 miles on it, it's got some electrical quirks, and one of the wheels on one of the side doors broke last week - it vibrated open while Brian was driving, and that just won't do, especially not with kids who ride in the back seats. Where will the money come from for a car payment on top of everything else? Beats me. We're behind on the house note, don't know where funds will come from to catch that up, and it seems like each month it gets a little harder to stay current on things - even with both of us working full-time.
I don't ever feel like God drops the clue brick on my head too often. I can't point to many things and say, "Hey, God really convicted me of this, and I got the message from Him loud and clear." Tithing is one of the things where I did get a message. Before Brian was working, we decided to pick a number to give as our tithe and stick to it, even if it wasn't the full 10%. When he started at his previous job, we decided at first to tithe the full 10% from his paycheck and stick to the same amount from mine, which was a pretty scary number to us given that his paycheck wasn't that much to begin with. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but one day it hit me - either we trusted God all the way or not at all, and if we trusted Him all the way, we needed to tithe the full 10% no matter how much it scared us or how impossible it might seem. Since then, we've been faithful to give that 10%, even though there are plenty of times when I'm tempted to keep it for us to use (never mind that, in the grand scheme of things, it's not like that would accomplish anything big - it wouldn't be enough to pay our house note for one month, much less catch it up, it wouldn't pay for a month of daycare, it wouldn't pay off my car or get us a new one). I know blessings don't always come in the form of money, but right now things are seeming pretty dire on the financial front, and it's certainly nothing I can fix in my own strength. I find myself singing this song in my head a lot:
God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way,
He works in ways we cannot see,
He will make a way for me,
He will be my guide,
Hold me closely to His side,
With love and strength
For each new day,
He will make a way,
He will make a way.
God is going to have to make a way on this one, because we simply don't have the resources at our command to fix things (short of a death in the family, and we don't want that - we'd much prefer to keep our loved ones with us, thankyouverymuch). I feel helpless, I'm having a hard time with that trust thing, I'm feeling like somehow I've failed my family by the choices I've made or not made, I'm feeling like I must have failed God and gotten far afield of His plan for things to be going so badly. And sometimes I even feel a little resentful. This afternoon we were driving back from doing some vehicle shopping, and we went through a really nice part of a nearby town, the area by the country club where the houses cost more than I'll ever see in my lifetime and where the subdivisions have a list of "approved builders", so you know they're really pretty hoity-toity. I told Brian that I don't care about living the high life, I'm not interested in a million-dollar home or a new luxury car, I just want to stay in my house, fix it up for my family, drive a nice reliable car, have money to pay the bills without it being down to the wire all the time (or even a few dollars short), be able to do the occasional fun thing like a family vacation, and maybe do some good for others that we don't feel like we have the resources to do now. If I wanted to live high on the hog, I can see God telling me, "no, you're just being greedy now, you can't have that" - but I don't, and I sometimes find myself thinking, "God, are we asking for that much that it's not something You feel like we need, enough to not be constantly stressed over and struggling with money?" I've wondered before if being a person of faith, someone who trusts God to provide and meet your needs, has to be inconsistent with any kind of financial stability or security, if those two are mutually exclusive and you have to be one or the other. I don't know if that's the case, but some days it sure feels like it.
And gosh, it seems like I had a very similar conversation with myself back in September. Things haven't gotten better, really, in almost a year. Bright Blessings hasn't taken off, I haven't found a job that will give me a fat pay raise, we haven't won the lotto. Still, we're being as faithful as we know how to be, and I do know God has a plan. Right now, though, I'm just really, really scared. I want to know how things will work out and when, and I'm having a hard time with the trusting and waiting part.