This is me being openly honest about real life. I’ve written and rewritten these words countless times. I’m sharing it now with the prayer that God uses these words of mine, particularly to those of you struggling on limited budget and / or a church worker’s salary. May you be encouraged to look for examples of how God is providing in your life!
My husband and I filed our taxes last week. Since Andy is a Lutheran school teacher (as I once was), we use an accountant who specializes in ministry taxes. You see, Lutheran school teachers and Pastors are classified to the IRS as Ministers of Religion. For all you non-church workers out there, it basically means we’re self-employed and have lots of hoops to jump through with taxes.
Anyway, we went to our tax appointment to file our taxes for 2015. At the end of each tax year, our accountant prepares a prior year comparison of our taxes. We were truly surprised to look at our income numbers from 2015, as compared to 2014 and 2013. (Update: Nothing much has changed in 2017! This all still holds true for our family.)
In 2013, my husband and I were both Lutheran school teachers. We weren’t making a lot but we made enough to cover all our bills, save a bit in retirement and tuck money away in savings. This was also my last year of teaching full-time before we became pregnant with our son.
In 2014, I finished out my year of teaching preschool (since Nathan was born in March) and decided to only teach music part-time (2 afternoons a week). Our income dropped dramatically.
In 2015, we decided it was time for me to stay home full-time. Our income dropped once again. We were both committed to making this work and doing whatever we needed to do so I could stay home with our children.
When we compared our income from when we were both working full-time to now (with my husband as the sole provider), we were honestly and truly shocked to realize that our income has dropped 46% over the past two years! It was actually our tax lady who pointed it out to us and asked us if it has been hard to have our income cut in half.
We explained that we were still pinching pennies and living frugally, but no, it wasn’t as hard as it seemed. As we started thinking about it more at home, Andy asked, “How is it possible that we are still able to do everything that we were doing with so much less income?”
It doesn’t make sense. It’s contrary to logic. The numbers prove that. Yet we had the faith that God would continue to provide for our needs – and He has! As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:25-26, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” I need that reminder constantly.
Before you read any further, please understand this. I don’t write this to boast in what we’ve done but rather to shine a light on what God has done! We’re certainly not living extravagantly. Nor do we think we’re living in poverty.
We believe sincerely in good stewardship of the gifts God has given us. We live within our means. We tithe. We save for big purchases. We don’t have debt (besides our mortgage). We budget. We make tough choices and hard sacrifices. We paused investments and scale back savings. It takes us longer to complete projects and meet financial goals now. We work diligently and live responsibly with what we’ve been given.
When I became pregnant with Nathan, I was intending to stay home full-time. That was always our intention, once we had children. Then, the part-time music position opened up and my in-laws volunteered to watch Nathan for free those two afternoons a week. God provided.
When I was ready to focus on being a full-time Mom, God provided another qualified teacher to take over my music position. At the same time, my blog started to earn some income and I had more students ask for piano lessons. God provided.
When we found out we were expecting again, a part-time social media position for our LCMS Indiana District was suddenly and unexpectedly offered to me. I work from home and set my own hours to earn an additional source of income for our family. God provided again.
We still work hard and pick up lots of extra jobs. Andy coaches. I blog. Andy records stats for high school basketball. I teach piano lessons. Andy mows lawns and sells glow sticks. I create customized Biblical children’s books and baby-sit. We are not sitting around blindly expecting God to cover all our needs. We know we have a God-given responsibility to provide for our children.
Still, it is always amazing to see first-hand how God provides. If you had told me two years ago, that our income was going to be cut in half and we were going to have 2 children, I honestly would have panicked. Yet, now, I can see how God has been preparing us for these transitions. Our income dropped somewhat gradually. He continues to provide, day by day. His goodness never ceases to amaze me!
I am sharing this today because I want to encourage you. If you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t see the logic of your finances, know there are others in the same situation. We, as Christians, are called to live by faith. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says it perfectly. “For we live by faith, not by sight.”
Faith trusts and clings to what God has both said and done. Faith is living in and seeing the gifts that our Lord has already won for us. Faith receives and rejoices in being rich in forgiveness and peace and joy. Living by faith is trust in the gracious God who is unseen – but who is known to us in His Word and in His Son.
And, so, we can be good stewards of what God has given us. You can be a faithful steward of what God has given you.
If you have debt, I know everything seems harder. My heartfelt advice is to work diligently at paying off that debt. Remember, sometimes it means we have to do things we don’t always want to do – whether that is cutting certain expenses from our budget or taking on an additional part-time job. It’s true of anyone living on a tight budget!
Trust me, there are many nights during basketball season when I say to myself, “I would love to have my husband home before 10pm at night.” There are weeks when I’m tired of parenting alone while my husband works long hours for us. It’s hard. And there are days I feel overwhelmed trying to be a wife and mom and run our household while juggling so many different part-time jobs. It’s honestly hard.
If you’re considering the switch to one income, but simply can’t get the numbers to line up perfectly – have faith. Look at the numbers carefully. Cut more expenses. Adjust your budget yet again. Pray about it and have the faith to believe that God will provide!
Perhaps your income has been cut in half suddenly and you are unsure of what the future holds. None of us know. We only know that God is faithful. Find the practical and immediate ways you can cut expenses. Know that you are not alone in this struggle.
Make the tough choices and hard decisions and, then, walk by faith. I was raised this way but I’m learning the lessons anew in my life as our family grows.
You see, my dad is a Lutheran pastor and my mom a Lutheran teacher turned stay-at-home mom. They raised 4 kids on my dad’s pastors salary. I always knew money was tight but we never felt poor. It is a testimony to their hard-work and faithfulness, as well as God’s provision.
Sure, we wore hand-me-downs and rarely went out to eat. We never had cable TV. And there were those months all 6 of us drove around in the 2-door orange Toyota because we couldn’t afford another car after our mini-van was totaled. We never went to Disney but more importantly, our parents paid tuition for all 4 of us kids to attend Lutheran grade schools, high school and helped us all graduate college debt-free.
Again, it was hard-work but God provides. I’m sure my parents could tell you countless stories (some of which I don’t even know) of how God provided for our family. I know this because I’m learning these stories as God provides for my own family.
Whoever you are – and wherever you are – know this. It is possible to live a joyfully thriving life, even when your income drops 46%. This is why I wrote this. I wanted to share another reason we are learning to love our frugal life. We are learning to rely on God more as we tighten our budget.
Life isn’t easy but God never promised it would be. When faith and logic collide, make the choice to live by faith.