Monday, May 19, 2008

Unexpected Blessings

Malachi 3:10 (NLT); "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in My Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put Me to the test!"

This has been a tough year for John and me. Many things have drastically changed - just a few of those things have been our address, our income, our expenses, and our margin. Thankfully, God has met all of our needs and we have been blessed beyond belief. I was fortunate to learn about tithing at an age when my paychecks were small and my bills were few. I quickly discovered that as I gave with a willing heart, my checkbook balance no longer made sense. It was as if God had a different textbook for math when it came to tithing. Although my income very rarely matched the stack of bills I owed, there was always money leftover. The question went from "can I afford to tithe?" to "how can I afford not to??" Tithing is an absolute in our house - it is never questioned, debated, or compromised. Each time we tithe, we are telling God that He has first place in our lives - not so we can check off a to-do list or so that we will be blessed by God's math - it is purely an act of obedience.

Shortly after we joined Southside, they announced their plans to expand and started a building campaign. While the money will help to complete a new building, it will also provide room for more families to come and experience the life-changing love of Christ. Although it would make things tight, we decided to be a part of the giving and committed to giving an amount each month in addition to our tithe. Does this make us better people? Absolutely not! Did we receive a big fat check the next week as a reward? Hardly! Again, since God has first place in our lives, we trust Him and are willing to give to an eternal purpose.

While we have been blessed to be purchasing our first home, it is not going to be free. With the price of gas continuing to climb and the cost of living increasing almost hourly, we are feeling the temptation to worry about our finances as we take on the expenses of home ownership. We are trying hard to live with a balance of trusting God to meet our needs while not overspending and not indulging in wants instead of needs. (And unfortunately, as much as my head tells me it does, Starbucks does NOT qualify as a need!!)

Growing up in church, I often heard other people testify to receiving money in various ways after giving sacrificially. These stories were often peppered with tales of financial struggles, unexpected losses, and unfair circumstances. I have a friend who anonymously received a week's worth of groceries for her young family - they were working hard, but were still having trouble making ends meet and were asking God to provide money for their groceries for that week as they had tithed and were left with a zero balance in their checking account. She never said a word to anyone about their financial situation - God just stepped in, responded to their faithfulness, and met their needs with His faithfulness.

Well, today we are shocked to find ourselves as the narrators of a similar story!! While our checking account is not even close to being wiped out, it IS at an all-time low. After writing our tithe and building fund check yesterday and then going to Publix and Target today (just for the necessities), I discovered that I had gone over our budget for the week. Knowing that it will be another week before either of us receives a paycheck, I started to get that sick feeling in my stomach when John called and asked how much money I spent today and how much we had left. After I came home and put all of my purchases away, I walked out to get the mail. Inside our mailbox was a check from the health insurance company for $4 OVER the amount I had spent today. There was a letter along with the check that said they had just gone through an audit and discovered that they owed us this money - we never would have known or expected it!

While the check is amazing and totally a blessing, we have also been blessed with 10 amazing friends in the most amazing small group ever, family members that never cease to amaze me with their love for us, improved health (that's a big one!), healing from the past, hope for the future, jobs that we both love to get out of bed for, the church of our dreams, talents and passions that we get to use to bless others, friends who overcome the challenge of distance, and a marriage that is better than the one I prayed for from age 18 to 31!

Honestly, I hesitated writing this post for fear that someone would read it and think that I am patting myself on the back for being such a great giver. Let me just say that is not the case at all!!! It is not easy, but as God continues to prove Himself trustworthy, I can't imagine holding anything back from Him. I wanted to share all of this to encourage you to trust God with EVERYTHING - your decisions, your finances, your relationships, and your life - and I promise you that the verse above is true - He will surprise you with His faithfulness and His blessings!

P.S. - Don't you think that the extra $4 should go towards a Decaf Soy Caramel Macchiato????