Floods, Faith and Finances: A look at Proverbs

I’ve been following Dave Ramsey for a few years now and when my husband and I got married we were both committed to living a debt-free lifestyle. We were both working outside the home then, so each month we budgeted our income, and were able to very quickly pay off his vehicle, and then began to do the same with my student loan. Then, just 6 months into our marriage we found ourselves expecting, so we pushed pause on our debt-snowball (as Dave calls it, and as he recommends) and just started saving as much as we could, while still making the minimum payments on the loan. Once Cookie girl and I came home safe and sound, and the hospital bills were paid, the rest of money that we’d saved went to paying off the student loan. And then I was free to leave my job and stay home with the baby. I was nervous and excited about leaving my job to be a stay-at-home-mom.

After a few months we decided we were ready to purchase a home. Now, Dave Ramsey recommends that you save up a 3-6 month emergency fund and your 20% down payment before purchasing. Let’s just say, we were impatient, lol. We saved a couple thousand and were ready to move. We did not follow Dave’s recommendation, but we still tried to be wise in our financial decisions. We always kept a small emergency fund, refused to use credit (except the mortgage, obviously), and made sure our monthly mortgage payment wouldn’t exceed 35% of our take-home pay.

After a few months of being in our new home we’re finally back on track as far as budgeting and savings go. We’ve been putting a percentage of each paycheck in our emergency fund to build it up, and allocating money for our tithe, mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc. This means we’ve been taking some time to get our home in order, since we’re purchasing everything with cash, little by little.

The Flood…Well, a few weeks ago I called a plumber about a leak we noticed in our 2nd bathroom; the drywall was stained from moisture. He told us that it looked like the caulking needed to be repaired on the bathtub and the water was pooling in that spot. So, Saturday my husband and I went to the hardware store for items to make the repair. As he began tearing away old drywall, he noticed it was very wet. We decided we would call another plumber for a second opinion, but wanted to spray the area with a little mold and mildew remover since the area was now open. Suddenly, he heard a drip and then a pipe started spraying water everywhere! He raced downstairs to turn off the water and we called our insurance and the plumber.

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The culprit behind the leak, turned sprayer.

By Sunday afternoon, the pipe was repaired, the flooring and drywall removed, and dehumidifiers were in place. But Sunday morning, as I headed to church I was thanking God. For one, W was originally supposed leave on a work trip this weekend, and if that pipe had decided to spray when it was just me at home I wouldn’t have known how to shut the water off, or who to call for help. Second, we were home when it happened and were able to shut the water off before too much damage occurred. And third, we were able to pay for the repair using money set aside for our emergency fund.

Every day I pray over our home, that God protect it, and us; and that God give us wisdom over our household, marriage, child(ren), ministries, and finances; and I thank Him for His many blessings. Interestingly enough, I was thanking God for being our provider and helping us build our emergency fund, just a few days ago, and I noted that our emergency fund is not where we place our faith. Our faith is in God and His provision, because He gives us everything we need. And it’s our responsibility to be a good steward of these things. To plan and manage our finances according to biblical principles is to walk in obedience.

But what does that look like? The book of Proverbs is a great place to start. I want to share more on this book in the future, but here are a few financial principles you can find straight from the Word of God.

Tithe.

Proverbs 3:9 (AMP) says to “honor the Lord with your capital and sufficiency and with the first fruits of all your income.”

God doesn’t need our money, it belongs to Him from the get-go. The Word says the earth is the Lord’s and everything within it (Psalm 24:1)! To give Him the first fruits is to show that we recognize that it’s God who provides, that we are thankful for His provision, and that we honor and respect Him. At least a tenth of our income should be given to establish His kingdom and do His work.

Know the value of money.

Like I stated previously, money shouldn’t be where we place our faith. It can’t save us from the grave, and it certainly can’t save our souls; it’s simply something we use. Proverbs 3:13-16 states that godly Wisdom is much more valuable than riches, and it should be what we strive for more than anything else.

While there’s nothing wrong with wealth, in itself, putting it above God is wrong. Proverbs also states that “wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (11:4, NIV); “those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (11:28, NIV); and the rich man is deluded if he believes his wealth will protect him (18:11, my paraphrase based on the AMP, lol).

Work diligently.

While money and/or wealth should never supersede our obedience or love for Christ, we do need an income to provide for ourselves, our family, and in order to give. That’s why Proverbs has so much to say on this point:

  • Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth (10:4, NIV).
  • Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense (12:11, NIV).
  • Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor (12:24, NIV).
  • The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt (12:27, NIV).
  • All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty (14:23, NIV).
  • Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank (22:29, NIV).
  • Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house (24:27).

The list goes on! Proverbs 6:6-11,16:26, 19:15, 21:25, 27:23-27, and 28:19 all mention work, and/or laziness, as well.

Don’t be in haste to make a quick buck.

Building wealth, an emergency or retirement fund, or paying off your home doesn’t normally happen overnight. But if it did/does, God has something to say about that, too. Proverbs states that “dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow” (13:11, NIV); “an inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end” (20:21, NIV); and “a faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished (28:20, NIV).

Be a person of integrity.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but being a person of integrity will go a long way in every area of life, including your finances. Proverbs has much to say regarding this as well:

  • The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him (11:1, NIV).
  • A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward (11:18, NIV).
  • Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil (15:16, NIV).
  • Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice (16:8, NIV).
  • The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice (17:23, NIV).
  • Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a [rich] man who is twisted in his speech and is a [shortsighted] fool (19:1, AMP).

Again, the list continues with Proverbs 3:33, 16:20, 20:10, 20:23, 21:6, 22:1, 22:22, 28:6, 28:8, and 29:24.

Be content with what God provides.

Being content with what God provides doesn’t mean you can’t work harder to bring in more income, what it does mean, is that we don’t covet the things others have, or live in longing, and let our want consume us. Proverbs states that “the wicked desire the plunder of evil men, but the root of the righteous yields richer fruit” (12:12, AMP); “the craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing” (21:25-26, NIV); “he who has an evil and envious eye hurries to be rich and does not know that poverty will come upon him” (28:22, AMP); and “the greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper” (28:5, NIV).

Be generous.

As Proverbs 21:26 states, “the righteous give without sparing.” The Word says that when we give it will be returned unto us (Luke 6:38). However, this isn’t to say that when we give of our finances, we’ll receive more money in return; but a few things I’ve learned about giving are: 1) We honor God in our finances (and lives) when we give, 2) When we give, the remainder of our income is always enough to meet our needs, and 3) Our hearts are changed, and we become less concerned with our needs, than the needs of others. Proverbs says that “one person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty” (11:24, NIV); “whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (14:31, NIV); “whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done” (19:17, NIV); and “whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered” (21:13, NIV). Other verses concerning this, are Proverbs 22:9, 22:16, 22:22, and 28:27.

Don’t co-sign on someone else’s debt.

Now, being generous does not mean that we loan out money, or co-sign on another’s loan. Being generous means we simply give, no strings attached, and no expectations of being repaid. Proverbs states, more than once, that we should not co-sign on another’s loan. I love how the amplified Bible puts it:

My son, if you have become surety (guaranteed a debt or obligation) for your neighbor, If you have given your pledge for [the debt of] a stranger or another [outside your family], If you have been snared with the words of your lips, If you have been trapped by the speech of your mouth, Do this now, my son, and release yourself [from the obligation]; Since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, Go humble yourself, and plead with your neighbor [to pay his debt and release you]. Give no [unnecessary] sleep to your eyes, Nor slumber to your eyelids; Tear yourself away like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.~ Proverbs 6:1-5

The author writes like it’s a life or death situation!

Proverbs also states that whoever co-signs a loan will suffer (11:15), that only a fool (or one who lacks sense) co-signs for another (17:18), and that the creditor will be quick to take the belongings of the co-signer when the primary cannot repay the debt (20:16, 22:26-27, 27:13).

Don’t be a borrower.

There’s a saying I once heard: “Neither a lender or borrower be.” I can’t remember where I heard it exactly, but it came to mind while I was writing my notes for this post. Proverbs 22:7 (NIV) states that “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” A slave…

Being in debt, whether to a bank, credit card company, friend or family member, etc. is like being enslaved. It’s not something we think about in that manner, very often, is it? But every month we must pay someone else our hard-earned money (plus interest!), or risk repossession, foreclosure, calls from debt collectors, being sued, or liens on your bank accounts or estate (after your passing). Without that debt hanging over your head, your income would be yours to do with as you please (or as God deems fit).

Spend wisely.

Lastly, spend wisely. Proverbs says “the plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (21:5, NIV); “whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich” (21:17, NIV); “there is precious treasure and oil in the house of the wise [who prepare for the future], But a short-sighted and foolish man swallows it up and wastes it” (21:20, AMP); and “do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (23:20-21, NIV).

If we waste all our money on things we don’t need, or that deliver temporary satisfaction, we won’t be able to take care of our every day needs. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun, it just means that we have to set limits and budget. In the last chapter of Proverbs we read about the virtuous woman (often described as the Proverbs 31 woman); in verse 16 we read about how she considers buying a field–she thinks about it before doing so–and in verse 25 we read that she’s unafraid of the future because she and her family are ready. Are you ready?

I know this was a long post, but the book of Proverbs just has so much to say about our finances and I didn’t want to leave anything out. As I’ve mentioned before, there will be more posts on Proverbs in the future. I’ve been reading it over and over again for the last few weeks, and have been jotting down notes regarding different areas of our lives that it pertains to. I’d recommend reading it if you haven’t already, or re-reading it if you have, and check back with me in the upcoming weeks. Take care and God bless!

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Motherhood: The First Season

Recently, I remarked to my hubby that I’m in a place where I truly appreciate everything my mother did for us, as children. She was a military spouse, whose husband went away for months–and once, a whole year–at a time, which meant she was at home with me and my younger sisters, without any help (or family nearby) for extended periods of time. And it’s not that I didn’t love my mother or appreciate her before, but now that I’m a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), whose husband sometimes goes away for weeks at a time, I truly understand what this entails and appreciate the sacrifices she made.

Honestly, when I was younger, being a SAHM didn’t appeal to me, because I thought I’d be bored (HAHAHA). I didn’t realize the amount of work involved in being with your child. All. The. Time. It’s a never-ending routine of changing, nursing, feeding, bathing, reading, and so forth…and that’s not including all the household chores, grocery trips, or meal-making. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; I love having the financial freedom to be at home with my Cookie Girl. It’s extremely rewarding, but can also be lonely and exhausting.

A week or so ago, our church organized an outreach in our neighborhood. I tried to sit through an informational meeting, beforehand, with a squirming toddler, and failed miserably. I ended up leaving early, frustrated. God and I had a good talk on my drive home, though; and I’ve come to the realization that things will not be the same as they were before we had children, at least not for a very long time. My place, for now, is with my child(ren) and sometimes I will have to stay back, or behind the scenes, in order to be of any service. At first, I was upset about it. It didn’t seem fair that I wouldn’t get to participate in things the way I used to (or how I want to). However, I’ve accepted that for now, W and I have to play tag until baby girl gets a little older; it’s just the season of life that we’re in.

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As I’ve written before, this season will not last forever, nor does it mean that I’ve completely given up on my own dreams or visions. As a matter of fact, God placed something big on my heart, after a visit to Philadelphia, with the passing of my grandfather. But I’m recognizing the need to be patient and wait for the Lord’s timing. The things He’s planted in me will come to pass, even if not right away. I just have to let Him continue to prepare me for these things. Interestingly enough, I heard confirmation of this during Sunday’s sermon: that we’re never too old to walk out the calling God has placed on our lives and that we must stay on the anvil of God and allow Him to shape and mold us.

Therefore, whatever God’s promised you, whatever He’s planted in your heart to complete, sometimes we just have to be patient. We have to continue to seek His face and His will for our lives, and allow Him to mold and shape us through the power of His Holy Spirit. There are tons of biblical examples of men and women of God who probably wanted to give up on their dreams as they ran away from their enemies (Moses, David, Elijah), wandered through the wilderness (Moses, Joshua, Caleb), or as year after year passed, without child(ren) (Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Hannah, Zechariah & Elizabeth). As I’ve been studying Genesis–through Jen Wilkin’s God of Creation study–I realized that Noah was 500 years old before he had his sons, and 600 years old when he boarded the ark (Genesis 5:32, 7:6). It could very well have taken 100 years to build an ark for a flood that God promised a century before (we don’t know the details!). A hundred years…

David was just a teen when he was anointed as Israel’s next king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1-13), but it would be many years before he actually sat on the throne, at age 30 (2 Samuel 5:1-5). The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before Joshua or Caleb got to enter the promised land (Numbers 14; Joshua 1). And Abraham & Sarah (Genesis 17-18), and Zechariah & Elizabeth (Luke 1:1-24) were just two couples way beyond their child-bearing years, who gave birth to influential men of God! Jesus, Himself, didn’t begin His ministry until He was 30 (Luke 3:23).

As for me…this first season of parenthood is a tough one, requiring self-sacrifice, patience, trust, and complete dependence on God to get through each day; in fact, I am in no way the same person I was before our little Cookie came on the scene. But I know each season will be different, and each will teach me something new about myself, like what I can and cannot handle on my own, about the importance of flexibility, how to better manage my time, and how to show grace in different situations. And each season will change me for the better, and shape me more into the woman that God desires me to be, for which, I’m incredibly grateful.

Motherhood: The First 6 Months

Our little girl (our first child) turned 6 months a week or two ago. And although, I don’t want this blog to be solely about motherhood or parenthood, it is the season of life that I’m currently in. So, I just wanted to share some things I learned as a new momma.

  1. Being a parent is HARD.
  2. Being a mom is HARD.
  3. Being a stay-at-home-mom is HARD.

LOL. Talk about stating the obvious.

When I first began this post, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it, but then a friend of mine posted something on her FB wall that really resonated with me. She talked about feeling isolated as a stay-at-home-mom. I understood those feelings all too well. Then, after talking with a few working moms over the weekend, I realized it was most moms–regardless of working status–that felt this way.

While I love being home with our baby girl, some days are good and others are very challenging. Some days baby girl goes down for a 2 1/2 hour nap in her crib, while other days she won’t let me put her down. Some days she wakes up at 4 o’clock in the morning crying, for no apparent reason, and I’m wracking my brain to get her back to sleep; but other days she sleeps for 7 hours straight. We love our children, and love being able to stay home with them, but it can be lonely and exhausting.

I think it’s because, being a mom often means that our own needs are set aside for those of another. However, it’s far too easy to get caught up in this idea, and never put ourselves first. Which, I feel is a mistake. I love my baby girl, but sometimes I need time to myself. Whether that means asking the hubbs to watch baby while I go to the gym; do some grocery shopping; cook or clean; or take a nice, long, hot shower; I need some time unattached, if only for 30 minutes. (I’m going to be honest though, I know my husband doesn’t always understand this, and it’s frustrating; but I guess I need to just do a better job at explaining it to him.)

Perhaps that’s where our loneliness and exhaustion comes from…thinking we need to be able to do it all on our own. Maybe we think we’re a “bad mom” because we can’t do it all; or because we need some “me time.” We shouldn’t think this way. As I often tell baby girl, “Mommy can’t feed you, unless she feeds herself;” in other words, we can’t take care of another of we aren’t taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually speaking.

Instead, we need to ask for help when we need it; and as believers, it’s incredibly important for us to remain in the Word and prayer, and in community with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I understand that when you have a little one–or more than one–it’s sometimes difficult to just get out of the house, forget trying to get together with others. It takes a ton of planning to get everybody up and out of the house, but it can be, and should be done.

I realized this after the first few weeks of being a STAHM. So, here are some things I’ve recently begun implementing in our home…

  • Attending a Wednesday morning women’s Bible study, so I can connect with other women. (My husband attends Saturday morning with the men.)
  • Weekly library visits.
  • Monthly visits to the children’s museum.
  • We (my husband and I) have begun getting together with different couples from church each month.
  • Planning a family outing once a month.

Lastly, I mentioned this previously, in my Learning to Appreciate the Silence post, we need to be wary of our social media usage. First off, it’s a huge time sucker; you go to check one thing and by the time you know it, 30 minutes have gone by. Furthermore, it’s so easy to get caught up with things others are doing, to feel hurt or offended when we feel we’ve been forgotten or excluded. If we weren’t watching the every move of others via social media we wouldn’t even be worried about such things. Finally, it’s way too easy to go into comparison mode, thinking that others have it better than us; or that they have everything all together; or sometimes, even worse, thinking we’re better than another mom! We forget that FB, Instagram, etc. are just the “greatest hits” reel, where we usually get to see people at their best. We don’t often get to see their struggles or insecurities–and believe me, EVERY mom has them. We’re all different and just trying to do the best we can with what God has given us.

Although, it appears that I’m trying to figure this mom thing out on my own by creating schedules and getting together with others, I must reiterate the need for spending time in prayer and the Word. Ultimately, our peace and strength comes from the Lord; and try as we might, to do it all on our own, we’ll only end up exhausted, bitter, and feeling like utter failures if we don’t rest in His presence daily. So, let’s take a lesson from David, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, and seek refuge in the shadow of the most high.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is overwhelmed and weak. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help]. For you have been a shelter and a refuge for me, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever! Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings! Selah ~ Psalm 61:1-4, AMP