Organization, clean lines, matching baskets, tidy boxes—these things bring me great joy.
Every paycheck, with a click of the "record pay" button in my budgeting software, the entire amount gets distributed across rows and rows of envelopes.
The dollars assume their positions. I know what I can spend and where. It's nice and orderly and the money obeys the boundaries I set for it.
But because it is the way life happens (two kids in braces at the same time???), my envelopes are hardly ever overflowing with money. In fact, it seems, more often than I would like, the needs are overflowing. And when the incoming needs outpace the outgoing amounts of money, my sense of orderliness and calm flies out the door and, in my anxiety, I invite in chaos.
What if we have to go into our savings?
hat if I'm not being a good steward with our money?
What will happen if something else breaks?
What about the kids' college education?
Why can't we ever get ahead?
Why does this always happen at the worst time?
Just when I think, we can save more, THIS happens!
Do you sense the downward spiral? The fear-driving "what ifs" expand into frustration and ingratitude. What were objective lines on a computer screen have shifted me into an emotionally-charged frenzy where I lament, complain, scrutinize, blame, and scheme.
But this tends to be my MO for more than just money. When life doesn't fit into my carefully designed boxes, I could react in surrender and submission. I could recognize my own limitations and grab hold of the One who has none. But typically, I ignore option A and go to option B, where I simply try to seize more control. I bark orders. I rearrange things. I sit with pencil and paper until I can figure out a way to make things right in my world again.
I am grateful, though, that God does not give up trying to teach me about who is really in charge. One of the most influential ways he does this is through my husband. As we said in the video, before we were married, Craig didn't have much of an affinity for things like saving and budgeting. But he has always had an affinity for knowing that God provides. He doesn't always provide what we want, but our history has shown, He never lacks in showing up with what we need.
In my complaining and refiguring, I forget to remember all the times God has come through for us. I forget that every good and perfect gift is from Above. I forget that there are times I will make money mistakes, but that there is grace that covers them.
Here are three ways I'm learning balance in managing our money:
- Giving. Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Craig and I know that God wants us to be cheerful givers to those in need. It would be so easy to hoard our money away! But instead, the act of giving reminds us that what we have is not really ours. As such, every month, we give to our church and two sets of missionaries. We set the withdrawals on electronic debit, so I am not even tempted to spend the money in another way.
- Practicing gratitude. I want to be thankful for whatever God gives us instead of quickly resorting to statements like, "It's not enough!" My perception of what is or is not enough is skewed because I so often fall into the trap of thinking money is my security. My new practice is this: when I see the money deposited in our account and before I pay the bills, I say a prayer of thanks for what we have and trust that God will give me creative ideas for how to steward it well.
- Involve God. I'm not saying that I have to pray before I buy every loaf of bread, but I do want to be increasingly aware of God's prompting, no matter what amount of money I am spending. This can go several ways:
- Sometimes it means save more: God could be prompting me to say, "No, Jen, you really don't need another set of throw pillows for the couch" or "Jen, you really need to be strong and not buy the kids ______ right now, even if it means conflict."
- Sometimes it means give more: God prompts me, from time to time, to pick up an unexpected gift for someone or to buy their lunch even if we've previously decided to go dutch. It can be easy to give when I know the envelopes are full, but harder when I know I'm going to have to pull elsewhere (like sacrifice my home decor budget). But it goes back to who my true Master is—God or money. The envelopes are a tool. They are not my god. I need to be flexible. (Is there a "money yoga class?")
- Sometimes it means to get more: There are times when Craig and I have splurged on things (even if it meant taking money out of savings). I personally don't want to take on debt for things like this, but from time to time, we do take money out of savings for unnecessary things that are fun and bring delight to us and our family.
Whatever your money struggle is, we believe that God has a plan to help. He has given us many godly leaders who can help us when we can't do it on our own. Our prayer is that money will not be something that continually divides us, but something that we can tackle together as good stewards of both our finances and our relationship.
If you'd like to discuss, we'd love to know in the comments what parts of stewarding money you've gotten good at and where you still struggle.
(PSST...this has nothing to do with money, but we are hosting a Giveaway of a new bible study called Live Full, Walk Free! Stop by here to enter.)