For over ten years, the financial health of our family has been precarious. Precarious means: not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse.
Yes, that pretty much nails it.
I left full-time teaching when my first child was born, and worked part-time from home for the first three-and-a-half years of his life. I stunk at balancing home and work life, being nearly always behind schedule. All-nighters became the typical means I employed to catch up on paperwork before the homeschooling facilitating meetings I conducted for a public charter school in California, one week a month. I also taught a couple enrichment classes, but mostly, I worked from home.
Pregnant with my third child and two still in diapers, a nervous breakdown seemed likely. My husband, a Pennsylvania native, loved California but I told him I couldn't live that way anymore and could we please move to a cheaper state so I could stay home? No matter the numbers, I said. God says he will provide for those who seek first His Kingdom.
I studied the Bible and knew it was not my responsibility to support my family financially. As bad as that sounds in this modern era, it is true. Mothers can work, but they aren't required by God to do so if a husband is present and able-bodied. They are required to be good stewards of family resources, such as the Proverbs 31 woman was, but a breadwinner? No.
Before quitting work entirely my income twice benefited our family: in the purchase of our first home in California in 2001, and then in our cross-country move, our home here in Ohio in 2005. Not to mention that my teacher retirement, available in about six years, will cover our house payment for the following 14 years, until it's paid off. (Okay, that's assuming God won't let California go bankrupt before that--California being the holder of my teacher's retirement account).
So, I've done something to support our family financially, just not recently.
My husband? Terrified about describes his reaction to my request. The prospect of being relatively poor for the rest of our lives sent him into a depression he's never fully come out of--but he didn't say no to my request to be home full-time. He believed me when I confessed I was headed for a nervous breakdown.
I loved and still love mothering--believing it is who the Lord created me to be on earth--and I wanted to do it well for the glory of God. Leaving my two baby boys with a sitter several hours a week tore my heart in two. With a third child on the way, I knew what was needed.
A full-time mothering ministry.
Day in and day out, I wanted my mothering work to express my gratitude for the little blessings God so graciously gifted to me. I wanted my roles in life to come from the Bible, not from the world. I believed and still do believe that the Lord will provide for my at-home mothering position--if I keep my eyes and heart on what is most important.
And despite my husband's fear, I knew the Lord would bless him with a solid legacy if he, too, lived out his biblical role for our family--knowing that the Bible doesn't command a man to support his family in style. A man just needs to feed, clothe, and shelter his family, through his obedience and through the Lord's provision.
I knew not to look for financial blessing from all this. Financially is only one way God blesses. If we do what he assigns us in the Bible to do, we are not promised a comfortable life in return. There are spiritual blessings from following God's word and they aren't necessarily externally manifested. Our struggling for ten years financially is not a curse, though it may look like it from the outside.
At times, this lifestyle is excruciatingly hard for all six of us. We're the "poorest" family in any church we attend (except for some of the single-parent homes), but it's a hidden thing mostly because our thrift store clothes look pretty good, and our van isn't too bad on the outside either.
We know being a part of America's working poor is far different than abject, or third-world poverty, so "poor" isn't a good description, but poverty is always a relative thing. If you're the only family who never goes to lunch after church and can't even afford a camping trip--much less a vacation or a movie out--than it translates to an impoverished feel...
...if you don't hold your thoughts captive for Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
The minute we entertain coveting thoughts--or want more of the world's riches than we enjoy--our thoughts become sin. The result is disastrous if we don't heed the Holy Spirit's prickle and repent.
I'd like to say it gets easier, but it doesn't. I have greater faith than ever before though. As that faith continues to grow, my testimony deepens with each bill the Lord provides for. I know what it's like to wait for manna from the sky, rejoicing that it came just in time, but that doesn't mean I enjoy having to wait.
Sadly, I miscarried our third child shortly before our California-to-Ohio move--but after we'd sold our house and couldn't look back. I often think about the miracle of that timing. If we hadn't sold the house already, my husband may have withdrawn his consent to living poorly.
We moved in August, 2005. We got rid of all our bills and student loans by selling our modest 3-bedroom California home, and buying an inexpensive 3-bedroom Ohio home. We live on a cash basis and almost always buy used or do without. My home decor has seen no changes in ten years, unless you count little thrift-store trinkets that find their way to a shelf.
My husband is a low-wage earner, having earned a Bible college degree that never translated to financial success. He knows the Bible backwards and forwards though, which comes in handy often.
The financial numbers that should have concretely given us permission to do this, have never worked out to this day. We didn't have earthly "permission" for me to stay at home. It's entirely a daily act of faith. A daily testing of Matthew 6.
Matthew 6:19-21, 26-34 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also....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. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[?28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
We remain as sinful as the next person, and just this week I needed a popular Apologia Christian science textbook for the girls' science curriculum that I couldn't afford, and couldn't find used. I evaluated it and decided it was a need not a want, but at first I just downloaded the first sample chapter for free from the publisher, which wasn't going to last long.
Finally, impatient, I bought it new, but at a discount over the publisher price. Though I felt the purchase was consistent with seeking after God's Kingdom first, I preceded to worry about the money I spent.
But you know? Not ten minutes after I hit purchase, a homeschooling mother from homeschoolclassifieds.com finally responded to my inquiry. Yes, she still had the used textbook for $20 postage paid, and did I still need it?
My heart went all a flutter.
I had just spent $34 on it after shipping, but thankfully, the purchase being less than fifteen minutes old, the company refunded me, no questions asked, and lo and behold, I now have a nice used textbook coming in the mail from a very nice homeschooling lady.
Little did she know how God used her to bring me back into the fold of believing.
I immediately felt ashamed of myself that after ten years, I doubted God would provide...even though he has always provided for needs, unfailingly. He loves the last-minute scenario, never telling me of his plans, but asking me to trust him implicitly. He commands me...do not worry about money. Ever.
Please my friend, whatever your situation: Do Not Worry About Money, even if you've messed up with money. Study the Word and decide what "seeking after his Kingdom" will look like in your life. You are responsible for that, not for your daily needs.
Isn't it freeing to know that? His yoke really is easy and his burden, light.