Sunday, December 14, 2014

The month we survived on $75 Part II

Unless you have read Part I, you might be a little lost.  :)

Week 4 - $7: wow!  Just now, as I was typing and looking at the amount for week 4, I realized the significance of the number 7.   God's perfect number.  The number of completion...and, of course, this test of faith had to end in God's perfect timing.  I love Him so much.

Nobody at my house has gone hungry.  Ever!  I don't know what that would be like.  But, there are many people that do...we don't have food and clothes and shelter because we deserve it or God loves us more.  We have those things simply because we do.  Those that don't aren't loved by God less.  Maybe they know God in more awesome ways than I ever will.  Maybe they will be more open to the Gospel because someone meets their spiritual need through meeting their physical need.  God has wowed me many times by meeting my physical need, only to show me that the spiritual and physical aren't really separate.  He meets both! 

What I bought at the store the 4th week has eluded me.  I know that experimenting with making meals from what was in the pantry was interesting and fun!  We learned that we like hummus and falafel.  Never underestimate the power of a can of chickpeas!  :)   I was exhausted and stretched but obedient...what is crazy hard is what happens next...

As some work began to pour in, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I could pay things instead of floating them.  Income came just in time or we would have had to pay INTEREST on the business credit card...this makes me feel physically ill.  For real.  Bruce told me to make the MINIMUM payment...To me, that is crazy talk that sends me into a fetal position.  After I got over myself, I was prepared to do it but, thankfully, I did not have to.  

So, bills have been paid.  The phone is ringing.  Bruce has work!  (Bruce is, technically, always working on something when he's not hanging with his family and sometimes even while he is hanging with his family but I am referring to paid work)

Yay!  Things are easy now, right??

Well, they are different.  Maybe even better but, for me, not easier.  Let me explain.

As hard as stretching $75 for a month's worth of groceries is, figuring out the post-fending spreeze budget is the hardest for me.

I am sure I was driving Bruce crazy!!  I was asking his opinion on every penny I wanted to spend.  We were out of toilet paper, contact solution, diapers, TONS of food items, and at least one kid needed shoes.  Meanwhile, he needed a new winter coat, I didn't have jeans that fit, and gas stations still wanted money when you filled up your tank.  Not to mention that we were feeling like doing a tiny bit of splurging after being so tight.  And, by splurging I mean eating at a restaurant or getting hair cuts or driving to see friends hundreds of miles away.

Thanks to generosity from my hubby's Mom, I was able to visit my KY peeps!  Thanks to a family member and a sweet friend we were able to travel for my Dad's open heart surgery without worrying about the cost.

But, how to budget everything else was weighing on me.  Here is one of my biggest weaknesses.

I don't know how to prioritize without over-analyzing.  After spending a month stretching $75, how can I drop $150 in one trip to the store?  What gets prioritized and when is crazy hard for me.  I don't know if I should spend or save.  Should I stock up on pantry items when things are at their best prices?  I try to buy items on sale (I don't really use coupons much anymore because most coupons are for processed items that we don't usually purchase) and I buy in bulk a lot so having to buy very small amounts as we have the money is mentally maddening.   Should I spend meager amounts at the store and save the money?  Can I spend on x, y, z or are q, r, and s more important?  Not knowing when the next fending spreeze will be, I just don't know.   Do I buy that school book when it's on sale or wait until we have the money but it's full price??

When the wants or needs exceed the ability to buy them all, what should I do??  What does pleasing God with my spending look like?

I am floundering all over the place, I'm sure.   It really doesn't matter what anyone's income all comes down to what you do with what you have.  Decisions must be made.  Sometimes, very difficult or even heart-wrenching decisions.  We really are all in the same boat.  We all have to decide what to do with what we have.  Contentment and wisdom are what I want to guide my decisions.

I do know that somehow it all works out.  God's math, that is.  It always does.  Somehow we have everything we need and so much more. 

I share all this to hopefully encourage you to remember that our minds are fierce battlefields that Christ can be the Victor in...if We really let Him.  Now that you have had a tiny peak into my crazy head, you can run away or, maybe, stick around and pray with and for me.  We all have burdens, way beyond financial decisions to lift up to the Throne of Grace.  Let us go there together with boldness and confidence.

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Friday, December 12, 2014

The month we survived on $75

We have a varied income.  I cannot stress the word varied enough!!  We have our own business.  We never know what we will make or when.  There is no base income expectation.  No benefits package.  No paid days off.  Let me also stress that we choose this life.  We have chosen to live the way that we do.  We have also chosen to stay out of debt and hope to, one day, be free of our mortgage and have NO debt.  Sometimes, when choosing our lifestyle and choosing no debt collide with an empty bank account, I freak out roll with it.  We have to make decisions about our stewardship.  

Recently, we were faced with an empty bank account.  Now, we have faced this before.   We bust out fending spreezes when necessary.  But this time was different.  We couldn't just stop spending or cut back.  There wasn't anything to spend.  We paid for our important things like the mortgage (for the house we don't live in) and the utilities.  You might think that food is important and, we agree.  But we have also agreed not to spend money we don't have...and I was worried slightly concerned about getting behind if we began to borrow from Peter to pay Paul (although we have floated things in certain ways so that we stay caught up without actually being ahead).

Amazingly, the Lord worked it all out.  The Lord provided what He saw fit and I love His timing!  First of all, we didn't know we had the $75 ahead of time.  We were starting with $0 to spend on food or anything else...  What we were to spend per week was revealed to us on a weekly basis.  Secondly, we had a pretty good amount of food in our pantry and freezer already.  We just had to be creative!  The $75 we survived on was for anything beyond our regular bills (mortgage, phone/internet, utility, and car insurance).  So, the $75 had to cover food, gas, and anything else...

Week 1 - A customer had paid us in cash and we had $20 left.  Bruce found $5 in his wallet...provision for the first week!   $25:  I honestly don't remember what I bought.  Probably some produce and a random item or two.  :)

Week 2 - We found a dish of coins and decided to take it to the bank.  I was surprised and excited!  Turned out to be $34  $34:  Being so excited that I had more than Week 1, I'm sure I splurged

By the end of week 2, I had no idea where the next week's provision was coming from or if there is even going to be anything to spend.  The excitement about the previous 2 weeks provision is beginning to wane and I'm slipping in to a bit of a woe-is-me mentality.  Doesn't God know that I am going to eventually run out of meat, veggies, flour, butter, cheese, baking powder, fruits and have nothing to be creative with?  Doesn't God know that I am being super creative with what we have?  Doesn't God know that I am just trying to feed my family fresh, home-cooked healthy foods?  Doesn't God know that I have a child with holes in their tennis shoes?  Doesn't God know that we're going to run out of shampoo and toilet paper?  How can I pick between shoes and food?  Doesn't God know that I have been stretched enough this time...I mean, we were running out of things like mustard, cheese, chocolate (mine and Bruce's indulgence each evening is a piece or 2 of dark chocolate), baking essentials, etc.

**God can totally handle my honesty and me talking like an Israelite.  He knows what is in my heart and longs for me to come to Him with my whole heart.  It is the only way He can show me what should not be there and help me get rid of anything that doesn't look like Him.  When I am complaining and grumbling, He does listen and gently reminds me that He is the Creator and Sovereign Lord and and it does me good to remember that...

Oh, wait.  Yes.  Yes, God does know.  And, yes, God does care.  And sometimes He prompts a friend to give you a bag of chocolate and straws because the little things do matter!!

And, sometimes He says, "Do you trust me?" to which I reply, "of course I trust you, God!"  And then He says again, "Do you trust me?"   (Well, He must not have heard my first response because isn't it obvious that I trust Him? )  Maybe I do need to be stretched and humbled.  Maybe I have some pride that needs to be removed.  Maybe I have so many issues that only a merciful, loving God could stick with me.  So, He brings up the subject of trust again...

God:  "Do you trust me?"
Me:  humbly and honestly, "yes"
God:  "Am I enough for you?"
Me:  "definitely, but let me tell you what we need..."
*this is where I picture God patiently, lovingly shaking his head*
God:  "Elizabeth, am I enough for you?"
Me:  "Oh, you mean just You and nothing else?"
God:  "Yes"
Me: "hmmmmm...I think so.  Please help me overcome my unbelief"

Week 3 - I was looking for something in the diaper bag in the van and came across $7.  Party time!!  Found $2 more in change in the house.  Party and dance time!  $9:  I was so tickled at what I was able to buy to feed my family, I had to take a picture.  :)
The simple fact that I worked in an avocado for myself made me giddy!

We are now running out of gas and I am not going anywhere!!  My husband's work van needed gas and that went on the business credit card.  Let's face it, if he isn't able to drive to people's houses and businesses, he isn't able to work so, his gas will get paid for later.  We also needed some feed for the animals but that worked out as well.  We sell our eggs and put that cash in an envelope that is used to buy chicken feed when we need it.  That envelope had enough in it to buy the goat feed we needed.  It is important to feed the goats, especially since one is a dairy goat.  Milking the goat every day during this time was a blessing because I didn't have to fit $4 per gallon milk into the ever tightening budget.  I figured the $9 week would be our tightest.  The test was surely over.  Time for God to open up the floodgates and fill our pantry...

By the way, I am usually always wrong when I try to figure God out.   :)

Week 4 - Believe it or not, it was less than Week 3!!  Stay tuned for the conclusion in Part II!