Wisdom for Wives

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks …"

Hide-the-Word Wednesday: Enjoying the Ride

This summer each of our children received some money from their grandparents, to spend as they choose.  For the past few days, the youngest has been asking–very earnestly :)—to be taken to the store to buy some Legos (more Legos, that is).  Today, Daddy agreed to take him and so they’re on their way.  I didn’t go with them, but I have to imagine that their in-car conversation is about the amazing structures that Little Man is going to build, or perhaps the French fries he’d like to get on the way home.  Maybe he’s telling Daddy about his day.  Or he might be asking Daddy whether Legos existed when he was growing up.

I’m pretty confident that my son is not asking whether Daddy knows the way to the toy store.  Or how an internal combustion engine works.  He’s probably not checking to make sure that Daddy uses the turn signal, or pointing out cars that might be about to enter their lane.  He knows that Daddy knows the way, because he’s seen Daddy drive there before.  I’m pretty sure he’s just enjoying the ride.

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?  😀  Our Lord knows the way!  He made the way.  HE IS THE WAY!  He’s not alarmed or dismayed by potholes or roadblocks.  He sees it all coming and He has a plan for where is taking us.  We have a capable pilot in command, and a tank full of gas.  We need only trust Him, and enjoy the ride.

How would life be different if we truly believed that God knows the way?

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Hide-the-Word Wednesday: God Says, “Try Me”

I have a wise friend who, when I have shared about amazing things God has done in my marriage, has encouraged me to really savor those moments. To treasure them in my heart as in a treasure chest, that they may be “stones on the other side of the river Jordan, reminding [me] of God’s mighty works on [my] behalf.” Then, I can later pull out those precious gems whenever I need a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

I also love hearing about God’s mighty works on behalf of others. Those stories can encourage my faith as much as the memories of my own blessings. In financial testimonies, there is often an act of generosity that preceded the blessings: a financial act of faith, out of lack, without knowing how or when more provision would come. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of those testimonies, at least not from recent memory. God has always shown up with right-on-time blessings, but often in spite of my lack of generosity. We tithe (when we “think” we can), but we have not always been faithful about giving Him the first fruits.

Lately though, my husband has been consistent about tithing on the weeks that he gets paid. If the pay schedules work out such that we both got paid that week, he will tithe for me, too. And I’m always truly glad when he does it. Last week worked out to be a week that only I got paid. Come Sunday, I wanted to tithe, but my mind got busy. I knew that there was a payment coming out of our account this week; it would make money a little tight for my comfort. We would have enough, but I was still a leeetle nervous. I didn’t want to talk with my husband about it—I knew he would be fine with it (your mileage may vary!)—because I didn’t want to talk myself out of it! Inspired by my husband’s recent faithfulness (and Sunday’s message, which “happened” to be about generosity), I did it!

When I checked my email Tuesday morning, I had to laugh. There was a notification that our state income tax return—about the same amount that I had given—had been deposited in our checking account. I’d known that we were getting a refund, but we just mailed our return last week, so I wasn’t expecting it already! (The return was finished in February, but we weren’t in a rush to mail it because we owe Federal taxes :).) And I certainly wasn’t thinking about that on Sunday! So I was already impressed with God’s Try Me program.

Later that morning, I got online to pay a medical bill that I’ve been grumbling about for months, using money recently added to our health savings account (HSA). The bill was for what I thought was a routine test, so I didn’t understand why the bill was so high. On the lab website, the account balance was $0.00, but I didn’t get too excited because I assumed it was because I had waited too long to pay the bill. So I called, and as the phone rep prepared to take my payment information she asked, “You have Aetna, right?” I responded, “Ri– No, wait! I have Cigna!” As it turns out, the bill was so high because the wrong insurance had been billed (which I suppose I could have investigated instead of grumbling). So the agent told me to “put the bill aside,” (music to my ears!!) while they resubmitted the claim. To top it off, a few weeks ago I was telling my husband how concerned I was about the extra bills we’ve had, especially medical ones. But if we had had the money sooner, I probably just would have paid this bill and been unhappy about it!

I know from God’s Word, and from others’ testimonies, that we can give even when we think we can’t afford to. God was gracious to show me, for me! I didn’t give our last dollar on Sunday, but I gave beyond my comfort. I took a step, and God met me. He gave me yet another jewel to add to my treasure chest, or better said, my storehouse, of His works on my behalf.

image credit: Harmondsworth Great Barn, London by Prioryman under Creative Commons

Do you have one of those testimonies, of “trying” God? Share it so we can all add it to our treasure chests. 🙂

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5 Reasons to Get Involved in Your Finances

5 Reasons to Get Involved in Your Finances

In the first installment of the 5-5-5 of Finances Series, I talked about reasons why some wives may avoid learning the details of their financial situations. You may have more of your own. But there are at least five reasons why it is worthwhile to “learn the state of your flocks.”

Your Husband
~~The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:11-12)~~
Relationship dynamics and division of labor are different for every married couple. But whether you both bring in an income, or one of you does all of the earning, you are partners in life. Even if your husband writes all of the checks, managing the family’s finances doesn’t have to be a burden that he bears entirely alone. He may not even view this task as a burden, but there may be many ways that your talents and abilities could bless your husband in this area. If you have a careful eye for detail, you can catch erroneous charges on your bank statement. If you are an organizing maven, you could put those powers to use on the stack of bills (but maybe don’t “surprise” your husband with a brand new filing system without discussing it). Or you might have great ideas for saving money, bringing some in, or getting out of debt.

There may not be a need for you to do anything differently.  After all, there only has to be one bookkeeper.  But simply understanding the details your financial situation could help you gain your husband’s perspective on things. Now, it’s true that you two could look at the same set of numbers and draw different conclusions (as is sometimes the case in my house). But such knowledge may help you better appreciate your husband’s efforts to care for the family. In other words, knowing the financial score may help you to be a better cheerleader.

Furthermore, your husband might find comfort in knowing that if he were unable to manage the finances, either temporarily (due to illness or military deployment, for example) or permanently (may you both have long healthy lives!), you would know what to do.

Getting involved is not about whether you trust your husband’s ability or integrity; may they be above reproach. But don’t discount your own ability to provide moral support, practical support, or both.

Your Children
~~Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).~~
Having more money doesn’t make you a better parent, but your children would be the beneficiaries if your involvement improved your financial situation. And they would benefit from your ability to handle the bills if you ever had to do that alone.  You also have an opportunity to model good stewardship for your sons and your daughters. As they watch you, they can learn precious lessons about careful saving, thoughtful spending, generous giving, living on a budget, and being content—lessons for a lifetime. And if your children are anything like mine, they will turn right around and start teaching you! It happened in our family when we became more conscious of our food spending. The kids went from wanting a treat every time we got in the car, to reminding the parents about the budget when we wanted to order pizza. The nerve!  (Don’t worry, they still ask for treats 🙂 ).

To me, the most vital lesson my children are learning is that it’s never too late to change. We ought to continue learning and growing no matter how old we get.

Your Neighbor
~~John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry” (John 3:11).~~
Do you wish your family were able to give more to your local church? Are there missionaries or causes that you’d like to support more generously? Do you have big dreams for serving, but don’t think your family can afford them?

Maybe you can afford them. Perhaps, with some adjustments to the food budget, you could set aside some of your weekly groceries for a local food pantry. Maybe you can be the one to find some extra money each month to sponsor a child in need.  And every dollar that no longer goes to repaying debt is a dollar that can potentially bless someone else.  Is it possible that through your prayers, changes that you could initiate and encourage, your family could give more generously?

Yourself
~~Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds (Proverbs 27:23).~~
You are a great reason to take an interest in the family finances. After all, it’s your money, too! Regardless of who earns it. And it’s not selfish to take care of your stuff and plan for the future. Actually, it’s God’s stuff, entrusted to us for faithful stewardship, which includes knowing what’s going on with it. And, the commandments for stewardship apply to the single and married, male and female. Besides, anything with your name on it—tax returns, mortgage, lines of credit, etc.—is yours as far as the creditors are concerned. They do not care how little you know, only how much you owe.

And believe it or not, setting a budget can be liberating in a way. Once you have agreed on how much to spend on particular categories (granted, that is the hard part), you don’t have to wonder whether you’re spending too much on clothes for the kids, or whether you can afford to splurge on groceries this week. If it’s in the budget (and the Lord isn’t telling you otherwise), then you can!

Jesus
~~So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Corinthians 15:58).~~
Becoming more aware of your financial situation might improve communication and promote understanding in your marriage. It could lead to more generous giving, or setting aside more for retirement, or your kids’ education.

Or not.

None of those things are guaranteed.

But where we do have assurance, is that if we seek wisdom in faith, the Lord will supply it generously (James 1:5). If we trust Him, He will direct us (Proverbs 3:5-6). If we seek first His righteousness—in all areas—He will take care of the rest (Matthew 6:33). And if our motivation in managing our money is to serve our families, bless our neighbors, and faithfully steward His blessings, our efforts will not be wasted.

Stewardship may not look the same for every wife, but if we ask the Lord how to do it, He will show us. And I will have a few suggestions next week, in the final installment of the 5-5-5 series.

Thank you for stopping by,
Susan

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A Woman’s Work

Work Zone sign

image credit: state.ma.us

For the past eight years, I have had the great blessing of working from home.  It started as a full-time job outside of the home, and I was able to begin telecommuting after my third child was born.  Over the course of marriage and motherhood, I have also stayed home full-time without an income, worked from home as a consultant, and I have worked part-time while my husband, mother, or close friend watched the children. All of these scenarios have come with challenges and advantages, but I consider myself very fortunate to be in my current situation.

Whether a marriage starts with one income or two, that number may change (multiple times) as the family grows in size and as financial needs change.  Whether and how a wife will earn an income affects the entire family and can be a difficult decision.  As I have learned from experience, that decision can be even more difficult and a source of conflict if she (or he, for that matter) does not fully understand their financial situation. In other words, sometimes a husband and wife don’t agree on this issue because they don’t both have a clear picture of the budget.

While knowing your total income and expenses doesn’t guarantee that you and your husband will be in agreement, it’s important information to have as you consider this decision together.  If you work outside the home, for example, but your heart’s desire is to stay home, would leaving the workplace require small adjustments or major changes?  Would you and your husband both be willing to make those changes?  If not in the short-term, is it a goal you can work towards?  On the other hand, you may have a desire, or sense a need, to return to the workplace in some way.  After factoring in commuting, childcare, clothing, and other work-related costs, would the net increase in income be worth the effort?  As you add up the numbers, seek the Lord for wisdom, direction, and unity (see James 1:5, Proverbs 3:5-6Philippians 4:6-7, and Ephesians 3:20 for encouragement), knowing that ultimately, the Lord can change any heart and any circumstance.

For many moms, working is about more than money.  Moms who stay home may find themselves envying their commuting counterparts, who get to enjoy adult conversation during the day, and perhaps put some of their skills and education to work in interesting ways.  There may be added pressure from friends and relatives who do not understand a woman’s decision to focus her energies on the home, as taught in Titus 2.  But God sees that investment, even if others do not recognize its value.  And even without earning an income, a woman can bless her family financially through wise management and learning the “state of her flocks.”

It’s also tough on the other side.  While it’s nice to be able to go the bathroom without small people following you, balancing family and professional responsibilities is extremely challenging.  And here, too, there may be judgment from others who disagree with a family’s choice.  But the wife who earns an income can thank God for the skills and experience that enable her to bless her family in this way.  I rejoice that God has given both me and my husband wonderful work opportunities, and provided beyond all of our needs.

Above all, whether we work at home, outside the home, or both, let’s remember this:

~~ Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV) ~~

Thanks for stopping by,

Susan

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