How do we stop living to pay bills?
This is a question we asked ourselves several years ago. We went from making more than enough to barely getting by. And it was in that very moment, we earnestly sought God to help us stop living to pay bills.
One morning, André had a revelation. We were so caught up in survival mode; we didn’t make time for us. As we didn’t even included us in our family budget.
Quite honestly, we didn’t make time for us because we were too occupied with paying bills and making ends meet. We felt we were doing our part as parents to provide a roof over our head, food on our table, and clothes on our back. Sure, we were providing, but what are we teaching our children?
Is life really just about earning a living and paying bills?
We learned in church to be good stewards of our money, and we’ll be blessed. But what good was being a good steward of our money if weren’t doing anything for our marriage or family? If our family is supposed to be our first ministry, then shouldn’t we be a priority on our list of things to do, and our budget?
As we sought God concerning this matter, He showed us two important revelations. The first was to recognize that although we were experiencing financial challenges, it was not necessary to work 24/7. At that time, we had just begun to understand the order of God’s priorities. We understood by prioritizing God and family, God would honor that and bless us. Therefore, we started making some changes to cut work off at a certain time, so we can invest time into our marriage, our children and other relationships that were important to us.
Keep in mind; we were self-employed. And we know first-hand how difficult it is to stop working especially when you are the sole provider. But, if we kept working 24/7, we were putting more trust in our ability than God’s ability.
In hind sight, it was a blessing for us to have learned that lesson then while we were self-employed. You see, our situation has changed substantially; we currently work in the corporate world, serve as Pastors for our church, and passionately maintain this blog. Now more than ever, it’s critical for us to set designated times in the places God has appointed us, while we maintain the health of our marriage and our family.
The other revelation we had was to put ourselves, our marriage and our family in our budget. Yes, that was a shocker even for us. How could we add pleasure to our budget when we were barely making ends meet?
Our mentors encouraged us to include “us” in our budget. They explained that it didn’t have to be too extravagant, we just needed to make it a priority; and no matter how small, God will reward our efforts. By experience, we can attest to that, as we have seen God do exactly that-reward us for our efforts.
When we first started prioritizing ourselves in our budget it looked like this: going out for yogurt when we had a coupon to buy one get one free, because that was all, we could afford. Free movie night at church (hey, it was a free date without the kids). In addition, we took the kids to the park with a blanket, our lunch from home and spent time with no interruptions. We even took it a step further, instead of family vacations in a rented van with hotels, we drove to our families’ homes and stayed with them for a week, just kicking it and having fun.
Those things may have been low key, or may not even sound too exciting. However, those were some of the best memorable moments we’ve had.
As a result, over the years we’ve seen God bless our efforts with unexpected blessings such as: gift certificates to the movies, dining gift certificates, couple’s massages, even overnight hotel stays. That was just like our God to grant us the desire of our hearts. By doing the best with what we had, He made sure we could do more.
While counseling couples over the years, one of the biggest challenges we would hear is that there isn’t enough finances. In particularly, we would constantly hear; “it’s not like we want more money, we just want enough to get by.”
That statement alone would put a check in our spirit, because that’s not God’s best or quite frankly, even His will for us. He doesn’t want us to just have enough for our four and no more. No! God blesses us, so we can be a blessing.
How can we be a blessing when all we ask for is enough for ourselves?
We know it’s hard to see the forest from the trees, when money is tight, but God really does want to bless you with more than enough so you can bless others. In the blogs to come, we will share how God took us from making more than enough to barely enough, to learning to live on less while experiencing more than we’ve ever had!
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
~ Matthew 6:33 NLT
~ André and Timberley Gray