Posted by: annnorris | May 27, 2015

Trusting God (with our money-or is it His money?)

While growing up, I remember my grandmother, Mimi, would receive a quarterly certificate of deposit statement. Clearly, I can see her standing over the dining room table, looking to see how much interest she had earned that quarter. Then, she would say something like, “That means I need to give the church their 10% of this money.” And, I believe she did just that. I also have heard often from my mom that when you tithe you get back so much more. She also enforced that this was money you gave to further God’s kingdom, but yet, didn’t necessarily have to all go into the church offering.  And, like many of you, I remember putting my dollar in the plate passed during church service (usually the dollar came from my mom or Mimi).

While not always being a Christian, and not always going to church, I tried to donate 10% of my “found” money. I don’t remember the circumstances, but when Jake and Hailey were around 5 and 6 years old, I received a substancial amount of money (meaning maybe around $2000 or so). I told them about giving 10% to help other people and how I had this money to do just that. We talked about what to do with the money, and unanimously decided to buy books to give to the children’s hospital. My kids picked out the books.  We went to the hospital meaning to just drop the books off at the front desk or something like that. However, the front desk sent us up to the floor where kids stayed that had to be there for an extended amount of time. Again, thinking we would just drop the books off at the nurses’ station and leave. I was SO surprised when the nurse said we could go around to the rooms and distribute these books ourselves! This was a moment in time that you want to carve into your memory. Jake and Hailey loved every single minute of this. They would just walk into the room and ask the kids if they wanted a coloring book and crayons or a reading book. I hope they remember doing this.

Over the years, we’ve done other similar things. I wanted them to know there was a world around them that was not as fortunate as us. I remember Hailey’s birthday, on October 8, 2001. We had a simple party at a the “rocket slide” playground in Burn’s Park. However, Hailey, all on her own, asked that no presents be bought, but to please bring a donation to send to the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission organization for the benefit of the survivors from 9/11. It was a huge success, and I think she had maybe $150 or so to give! I love her giving heart!

I remember so well the pastor at our new church, Lee Epstein, talking about tithing. It was the goal of his family to be able to donate 90% of their income to the work of God. NINETY PERCENT! Can you even imagine? Your friends and family would think you had lost your mind! It was then that Mark and I started thinking more about this tithing thing.

At our church around Christmas, for several years, would collect shoe boxes to send to other countries.  Hailey and Jake loved picking out the items to go into the boxes.  They knew some where in the world was a kid not having any Christmas gifts and it was our responsibility to help them.  Most Christmases we would let Hailey and Jake pick an angel from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree in the mall and they would select all the items for the kids, then make the delivery back to the mall. Great values to have instilled in them.

As we grew much stronger in our Christian faith, and more dedicated to serving within our church, Mark and I started to tithe.  We didn’t feel like we could do 10% at the time, so we gave $50 here or there.  Nothing consistent. I cannot remember when or how we came to this decision, but at before Mark retired from the military, we started working towards an honest tithe of 10%. Pretty good, and mighty Christian of us, to give 10% of what was left over after taxes, savings, and benefits were taken out of Mark’s check.  But God spoke to us and wanted us to give more. Did we have the kind of faith to trust our needs to be met without this money?  We had to. While I can’t say we were the best at hitting that 10% of our gross, we did try.  In our defense, or maybe as an excuse, we did give freely to the Boy Scouts of America, and several other charitable organizations.  We were doing very well financially and this was easy for us.

Our faith was tested when Mark retired. (We did not know this was happening until 3 months earlier. We thought we had years left! Thank you USAF!)  He did receive retirement pay from the USAF, but this was not enough for a family of four to live on.  He was looking for work and so was I.  To make matters worse, Hailey was going to college in the fall.  It was during this time that we decided to give a true 10% tithe. It was hard for us, very hard. Living on $2400 a month was a struggle, and I still don’t know how we did it.  But, something started to happen that we didn’t expect – all of our needs were being met, plus some!

A bit of topic but…Mark started having back pain just before retirement and it just progressively got worse as time went on.  He immediately applied for help from the Veterans Administration, to get a disability rating in order to receive benefits.  This was the worst experience of a life time.  Paper work out the wazoo, mandatory doctor appoints that no one tells you about, phone calls and mail the VA said they sent, but were never received by Mark.   There was no one that was helpful through this process.  We were told to do this by one advocacy group, then a whole different plan from another group.  Truly and sadly, the VA is run by too many people who don’t care about doing a good job and there is nothing you can do about it.  This whole time, Mark’s back is getting increasingly worse.  Mark started sinking into a hole physically, mentally and emotionally.  I didn’t know how to help him or how to handle the situation.  My rock was not as stable nor as strong as I was accustomed to.  We needed some help and soon.   We continued to be faithful tithers.

In July 2011, help came. Mark started a very well paying job at Falcon Jet.  This was the relief we were waiting for!  For months, this position seemed to be an answer to our financial prayers. In many ways, we enjoyed this additional income. We could pay off debt easily. We could go on nice vacations. We could let our guard down and just enjoy life. And, we could tithe in abundance! Look at us, giving so much to our church and other charities! Again, what great Christians we are!

The backlash of working for Falcon Jet was the fact that Mark was NEVER home, but to sleep and shower.  There were weeks where he would work 16 hour days, with no days off to rest.  The whole time, Mark’s back was still in severe pain.  He could live, but only by taking pain meds constantly.  At one time, Mark was in such pain that I had to take him to the ER.  He was admitted, given more narcotics than a human should have, yet still in intense pain and still walking around like a normal person. (Anyone else would have been knocked out by half the meds he was on.)  Within a week, Mark was in surgery and we had hope.  For several months, he was almost a normal person.  Its funny how when you are in pain, money doesn’t really have any value.  You just want to be better no matter what the cost.

Let’s jump up about a year later.  Mark is still working.   I am working from home for a children’s book author.  Life is almost great.  At least until after my mammogram…breast cancer.  For the next year, I go through chemo and many surgeries.  We are so thankful for the two health insurances we have at this time.  And, so thankful for all of our family and friends who reached out to us and at times, held us completely up.  We still managed to continue our faithful tithing.  (I should add that during the Falcon Jet year, we did do a lot of saving as well.  However, I don’t think we were as responsible with our money as we should have been.)

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48  (Mark and I have this thought that we weren’t that responsible with God’s money when it was abundant, and there fore we have to earn that trust back.)

Moving on along, many things have happened. I am at the end of cancer treatment and reconstruction.  Mark quit working at Falcon Jet for personal reasons.  His back pain is back strong.  Mark finally received his VA disability rating and is getting payments for that. (He is still owed over $40,000 in back benefit pay and after now 38 months, he is still waiting.)  Both of our kids are in college, and thus far have not had to take out any student loans.  If you’ve been to college within the last 20 years, you know what a big deal this is.  Our sweet daughter got married to a wonderful Christian young man, Jason.  Life is life – good and bad, but God is still with us.

My main point in writing this is for others to know how important it is to tithe and to tithe as closely as you can or even over the “recommended” 10%.  I want you to see what happens in the next month for us. Let me layout what is what. In reality, we get $xxxx a month income.  Our bills are $xxxx. We  usually carry no debt other than a mortgage and car payments. However, with the wedding, we had to use much of our savings and put some of the expense on credit cards. We always pay off our credit cards monthly. This month we paid $xxx to Discover Card and Kohls. (Just FYI- last month we paid over $xxxx for our Discover Card bill.)  We had two additional expenses this month, a $xxx vet bill for vaccinations, and Personal Property tax of $xxx.  We tithed our usual $xxx to church. If you are adding this up, you know this leaves us with $xxx to last until August.  Out of that has to come food, gas, and a few more doctor visit copays.  All we can do is pray that God provides for us – and He will, He always does! But I want to share candidly exactly how He will get us through this month. I want to see Him glorified in all He does.  Watch!

(I will update this as often as a miracle happens. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul.)

May 27, 2015  –  This was obviously written some time ago and I just found it here as a draft. I think there are good points here on trusting God, even with your money, so I am going to post it. Originally, I wanted to post exact amounts so you could see how God takes care of my family. However, Mark wasn’t comfortable with that, so I “xx’d” out those exact figures.  Every month, we seem to have enough. Its been amazing how money will just show up in different ways through the month to help us get by. God continually graces us. Since this draft, Hailey married a God loving, wonderful young man and she graduated from Williams Baptist College; they have a bright future. Jake has been blessed beyond measure as well. He just finished his junior year at UA at Monticello, has a great internship with Eagle Forestry and takes flying lessons. God willing, both Hailey and Jake will graduated college with no student loans! Mark and I own Errands Arkansas, where we do different jobs for people, such as errand running, grocery shopping and what not. Its going well, steady. We are also in the resale business with booths at local flea markets, as well as selling on FB and Ebay. Its been a fun and lucrative hobby. 

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