Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Unexpected Benefits

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28

One of the things that we've been earnestly talking to God about over the past several months has been money.  Not so much prayers of asking FOR money, but prayers for wisdom in dealing with the money that comes into our household.  And then prayers for actually acting on that wisdom.  Every winter it seems we find ourselves, at one time or another, in a pickle about something with money.  Some winters it's minor and less important, some winters it's pretty major.  This winter has been absolutely horrendous, as we were caught off guard with such an early lay-off.  We weren't prepared in the least, and other issues came to light, and it's been a very, very long four months. 

Andy is finally back to work, and as the income begins to flow again, I have been praying daily that God would help us to stretch what is coming.  It would be so, so easy to take these first few paychecks, pay some on the many back-bills, but then fritter much of it away.  How easy would it be to take the family out for dinner, or go on a small spending spree, buying a few clothing items that we've been needing or splurging on higher priced grocery items.  The fact is though, that for a while anyway, every penny that comes in is going to be required to go elsewhere.  Our livelihood depends on it- if bills are not paid, bad things happen. 

I know that God's got our backs on this.  We've got the knowledge on how to get through the next few months of catching up, but what we need is the application of that knowledge.  And that's what I've been praying on an awful lot.  I've been asking the Holy Spirit to get ready to stop us from doing anything dumb.  I think He's at the ready, and we'll get through these next few months, and all will be well.

But what I wanted to talk about today is really some of the benefits we've discovered during these four months of lay-off time, because it goes along with wisdom and finances.  There have been unintended consequences of being broker than broke for a few months.  We've learned to do without A LOT of things, and many of those, we'll not go back to.  One such example is that Andy has re-discovered car maintenance and repair abilities.  Once upon a time, we couldn't afford a mechanic to take care of our vehicles, and Andy did the majority of it himself. Well, as time went on and his income increased, the mechanic became more involved in our lives.  Every oil change went to the mechanic.  Every stray sound went to the mechanic.  Andy literally forgot that he knew how to do this stuff himself.  Well, guess what he's rediscovered?  He does know about cars.  He can do an oil change himself, easily and way cheaper than any mechanic could do.  He can do the research and replace parts in the vehicles as well.  Had we not been to a point where this stuff HAD to be done, when we had no money to do so, I doubt he would have rediscovered that he even could. 

Naturally, I always discover benefits in the kitchen when Andy is laid off.  We get cravings for various dishes, and I learn how to make them cheaply and deliciously.   When he's not working, one of my number one items that I make consistently is homemade bread.  But last week I ran out of time on a day that I needed a loaf of bread to go with a soup supper.  On the way to dance we stopped at a pricey bread shop and picked up a loaf of their bread.  It was good, don't get me wrong.  But every single one of us thought about how much better my bread tasted.  My homemade bread, that I've perfected and can prepare with my eyes closed was so much better than this expensive artisan loaf from the bread shop.

Through this time of lay-off, God has been showing us little ways that we can save money all year round, not just when Andy is laid off and not working.  This is huge, because I've really been feeling a need to do more to feed the hungry.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, this can be difficult to do, because you need money to feed the hungry.  Well, by changing our own oil in vehicles, Andy is probably saving about $300 a year.  Not much in the grand scheme of things, but in other countries, that $300 can go far.  We can feed an entire orphanage in Kenya for a couple of weeks with that money.   By making my own bread instead of buying it, I am easily saving hundreds of dollars a year, more than enough to sponsor a child living in the slums of India, or living in a tent city in Haiti.

Too many years, Andy goes back to work and we go right back to normal.  The cars go in for maintenance, the grocery trips adjust.  Not this time.  I believe that God has been showing us where to adjust for reasons beyond saving money.  He's showing us where we can trim so that we can begin giving more in the areas that are on our hearts.

And the examples of car maintenance and baking bread are only a small part of the things that God has been showing us.  They're just two of the things that immediately spring to mind when I think of what He's been teaching us.  They're also reminders- that God will use anything and everything for HIS good. 

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