Restoring the Lost Petal

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*Biblical Stewardship: When Determination Isn’t Enough

Growing up, I knew one thing about money:  Bills got paid first, then we ate, then everything else.  That was the cycle week after week, paycheck after paycheck.

Christian financial counseling

We did very little vacationing.  We did lots of park trips, rides around the countryside and trips for ice cream, but real leave-home-and-stay-somewhere-else trips were few and far between.  This was partly because of our family dynamic but also due to finances.

To my knowledge, there was never a fear that the lights would not come on or that we’d be evicted from our apartment, but I have a sneaking suspicion that sometimes Mom had to choose carefully between gas and groceries.

Fast forward 15 years and I found myself in an unhealthy relationship, on the verge of bankruptcy and eating by the grace and good will of my Aunt and Uncle who bought my then-boyfriend and me groceries.  They showed us the love of Christ even while we were living together unmarried and wasting money on beer and video games.

After this abusive relationship ended, I found myself with more debt than I could handle. Enduring one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, I stood before a trustee of the bankruptcy court and under oath discussed my debts and inability to repay them.

On September 11, 2002, I was officially free of the mound of debt that I had created due to poor choices, bad money management and unhealthy relationships.  I was determined never to be in this position again.  In a rather quick turn of events, I went from casually dating a guy to walking down the aisle with him in September of 2003.  I was still determined not to ever default on my bills again, though now it was our bills.

We were debt free except for his two credit cards when we got married. With the money we both made, our income far exceeded our expenses each month.  This meant a Canada bear hunt, a week in Jamaica and many short weekend trips or dinner outings with friends, often paying their way if they could not afford it.  Our bills were always paid on time. After all, I wanted to be responsible with our money. 

We bought our house in 2004, with a modest mortgage of $135,000.00, and continued to spend our excess money each month.  Credit card use crept in, and soon we found ourselves in over $30,000.00 in credit card debt in 2009.  I finally got pregnant in December of 2009, and my whole world changed.  Suddenly I knew that we were headed off a cliff with our finances.  That, and the desire for me to be a stay-at-home mom was the strongest of desires I’d had almost ever.  It felt right to me.   However, there was no way on earth that I could not work when we had so much debt.

I know there are hundreds of blog posts telling you to “just do it,” to quit work, suck it up, sell your house or live with one car.  But these options don’t do any good if there’s no revelation and change in thinking and spending.

The Problem with Good Intentions

The problem we had was that while our intentions were in the right place, we had no tools or training to make those intentions reality.  We were simply unable to produce the results we thought should happen.  My son intends to tie his sneakers every time he puts them on, but at age three, he just doesn’t yet have the skills to loop, swoop and pull just yet.  He tries and ends up with a jumbled mess of shoe laces that strangely look as though they’ll stay in place, but of course, they won’t.

Not only were we lacking tools and training, but we also lacked a sound understanding of the biblical principles of money.  God’s economy, stewardship, tithing, Kingdom wealth… these were foreign phrases to us.  We threw a $20 in the plate from time to time, but it never crossed our minds to give until it hurt.

a deeper rut - Joyce Meyer

If you weren’t raised with a model of biblical stewardship, chances are that you may want to do well by God with your money but you don’t know how.

When you want to learn something new or become good at a particular thing, you need to practice and immerse yourself in it.  You read the right stuff, you talk to the right people, you change your habits and make decisions around your new “thing.”

Biblical stewardship is no different.   The Lord can give you revelation, but you still have free will and it needs to submit to the Lord’s ways of dealing with finances.  Your intentions are great, they may even be Spirit-led, but if you don’t get your will under control, you will fail.

A Helpful Tool

Last week we talked about biblical counseling.  Today I want to talk to you about a different counseling of sorts:  Christian financial coaching.

Being accountable to someone who can take an objective look at your finances, point out your strengths and weaknesses, and help you understand biblical stewardship is an excellent way to help you realize and actually achieve your financial goals.  That is what Christian financial coaching is all about.

In December 2010 we started Money4Life Coaching and our coach, Nancy was a God-send.  She helped us realize how much we were overspending (like the $500 a year I was spending on lattes on the way to work). She also helped us navigate the Mvelopes online budget program, which really made our finances black and white. No longer was I talking AT Brad about how bad things looks, but I had proof. And he no longer felt like I was judging or over reacting.  It was all there in front of us for both of us to see.

In January of 2011, we had $28,331.30 in debt besides our mortgage.  By June of 2013 we had $5,278.13 in debt. That final amount we paid off with the money we didn’t use from our fire, but otherwise there was no windfall of money.  Had we not had that left over insurance payment we were on track to be debt free by February 2014.

Teaching and accountability are keys to success.  Olympic athletes have coaches to help them reach their peak performance, cheer them on, evaluate their less than great moments and push them when they feel like giving up.  The same is true with your finances.

Now, three years after starting as coaching clients, I am a coach helping people reach their goals.  There’s no greater feeling than when someone who is overly dependent on credit cards realizes that they need to make a change in their lives.  You can read more about the coaching on this page.   While Money4Life Coaching and Mvelopes are open to any one of any faith, I do approach finances from a biblical perspective.

I would love to help you reach your financial goals as your Money4Life Coach.  If you’re interested, you can get a free debt analysis by contacting Money4Life.  Then, request me, Danielle Tate, as your coach.

I want to hear from you.  What’s your biggest stewardship challenge?  What would you like me to write about?

If you’re looking for other resources, check out my Top 8 Biblical Stewardship Resources Post.

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