Financial fears are the number one reason we’ve heard, and continue to hear (even from strangers), why having children at the rate the Lord gives them to us is a bad idea. It’s the number one reason I hear others giving for why they can’t/won’t have more children. Finances seem to rule us with fear and dominate our life decisions, regardless of what the Lord has reminded us about His ability to provide for those He loves.
I hesitated to write this post. I’m sure I’ll be misunderstood, but still, the nagging whisper, “tell how much the Lord has done for you” (Luke 8:39) compels me. And, it is all for naught unless it can be used to strengthen and encourage someone else.
The First of Our Struggle
It’s true. Early in our marriage we began struggling financially. Part of it was because we didn’t make much money. Add to that, I quit my job, cutting our already meager income by at least 35%. Then, when my husband became unexpectedly laid off, and began his own business for which we were ill-prepared, we made some knee-jerk, foolish decisions that increased our debts.
So there we were, living off too little, paying too much, and the Lord prompting us to give our child-bearing to Him. Dumb? It sure felt like it, even to us. Add the criticism of family and friends around us, and really, I still don’t know what gave us the tenacity to surrender. It was truly God’s hand that would not let us go. Looking back through Scripture, it’s amazing to see how many “dumb” things God has asked of His people. I think He really does delight to show His power through what looks like the impossible, if we’ll let Him.
There’s more…being laid off means no insurance. I still remember the “breaking point” for us. I was nursing a four-month-old baby, (typically a form of natural birth control). I can still remember a man–one who embraced the blessing of children–talking to my husband, learning we had no insurance and saying, “You better hope she’s not pregnant”. Turns out, I was.
I wrestled with God. I told Him He obviously did not know what He was doing and finally, I had proof. And He spoke back, actually through a radio program by Charles Stanley, I think, and though I don’t remember the message exactly, I remember tears streaming down my face, my feeling ashamed and my own lack of trust, and a relinquishing, that night, to whatever God had for me.
Long story short, my husband got another job, and in the mean time, insurance laws had changed to pick up a pregnancy, no longer regarding it as “pre-existing”. First important lesson learned.
But we continued to struggle. That is, we struggled to pay our bills, but our needs were always met. We never went without food, or heat or air or lights (and really, those are the extras). I can’t count the number of times an anonymous gift card showed up in our mail box, or an envelope with some cash, and one year, a mysterious phone call, directing us to a location where we found Christmas presents, carefully selected and wrapped for us. We never discovered the giver.
Do They Really Cost That Much
The phenomenon is, as I think back over the years and calculate our living expenses, children really aren’t that expensive. That crazy number the media flashes to scare everyone out of having children is insane. Oh they’re expensive if you follow our consumer-crazed, recreation-obsessed culture and buy them all they want, give them all they want and carry them everywhere they want to go–if you live a child-centered life, yes they’ll drain you down to your last cent.
But to be a responsible adult raising kids? That’s not where most of our expense went. Regardless of the number, we still had to pay the power bill, the insurance, the taxes, the gas, etc. And as I’ve laid out in another post, larger families tend to live more frugally, often having an annual household expense quite less than the average family (bathing 3 kids at one time costs the same as 1). Diapers were always given to us in abundance as shower gifts (and cloth diapers remain a fantastic option), I nursed until they were eating regular food and they only eat a tiny more for several years. We always had more clothes than we could house–hand-me-downs or if not, consignment stores and thrift shops have brand new, cheap baby clothes…it’s really difficult to find where a new child adds very much, for a long time, to the family’s budget. By the time they are more consuming, they can be more productive, paying for added expenses. (My daughter took a trip to NY this week because she had saved the money to do so. No biggie. She helps pay for gas to go to piano lessons and chips in on the family car’s insurance, and she paid for her on-line college course this year. She doesn’t drain us, she is an asset. Even the younger ones have earned money to help pay for things they want.)
So I want to encourage someone who is leveraging a decision about children based on money…let it go. You’d be smarter to look into other areas of your life and decide what you can and can’t afford.
The Irony of Avoiding Hardship
Humans avoid hardship as much as possible. And we are human and we didn’t like it. It wasn’t pleasant. And yet, it’s such an irony that the greatest lessons, the deepest character, the real molding of a person can really only come through hardship. We avoid what is usually very beneficial, often life-changing for us, skirting, perhaps, the very instrument God had designed to make us more like Him.
Financial hardship has given us the unique opportunity to depend on God in ways we couldn’t otherwise. I can’t teach my children that God really is able to provide our daily bread–I can’t learn it myself, unless we literally must pray for daily bread. We don’t recognize Him as much in plenty; it’s in lack that we really see Him.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” -C. S. Lewis
Lessons are learned but opportunities are born too. It’s similar to the adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Our circumstances pushed us to find solutions. One of those was the beginning of this blog as a means to sell things our family made. I had NO idea what the Lord was doing leading me in that direction, but what an incredible blessing, in far more ways than financial ones, this on-line community has been to me!
The rest of the story
There were years of tears, years of wondering when or if God was ever going to reward my husband’s unbelievable hard work and faithfulness, though we had resigned that since much of our trouble was self-inflicted, we deserved the work of digging out. And digging out we did. Many of you have read my ebook (another blessing born from the adversity), Finding Financial Freedom, where I share all the many ways we cut our budget and the long hours of working to make ends meet. We had almost paid off our consumer debts ($38,000) after six or seven years of intense effort.
And many of you also know the rest of our story….that in April 2011, the largest, most horrific tornado–one of the worst our country has seen, plowed through our neighborhood destroying everything. And again, through the tragedy, God showered innumerable blessings on us and our community. In the end, we were able to build half of our home back, be rid of the money-pit of a mobile home that we owned (the storm took it too) and get a fresh start with our finances.
Half a house. Plenty to move into. And boy were we overwhelmed at that. Never did we think we could own the before-rented home, debt-free. And God showed up in ways that were incomprehensible.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” Eph. 3:21
But God wasn’t done. Two weeks ago, when we relived what seemed like another tornado tearing our upstairs apart, it turned out to be our roof and porch–traumatic enough having still been emotionally recovering and in the building phase for the last two years.
“Lord, why”, I asked. “I’m so tired, so scared and so ready to just live life again.”
And as my husband sat with me in the early morning hours, tears still brimming, he said, “God has a good plan”.
That plan, as it turns out, is that the insurance company paid enough for the damage to finish our house–another answer to prayer that we couldn’t see on our timeline!
The Real Point
But that’s not even the point of my story. The point is below, in these pictures. The faces of my precious children to whom we said “Yes”, when everything logical screamed, “No”. The joys of my life, day after day, all of whom I could so easily have missed. The souls of those who love the Lord and will become a part of the throng in Heaven one day. People whom, I have no idea how God will use, but He has brought here and He has taken care of them because He can afford it.
And through no glory of our own, but all to Him who IS able to do beyond what we can imagine, I give Him praise. He IS faithful, He CAN provide, He delights to work miracles and He never leaves us nor forsakes us.
And I want you to know that, wherever you are.