2016 was the year, boys and girls, the year where we weren’t going to worry about money.
We had made it through the lean years with Chris working very few hours (read: none) so he could stay home to raise our babies while I taught. We were officially student loan free after years of paying way more than the minimum payment to get rid of $28,000 worth of debt. In July, Chris started a new job making more money and would be working full time even when I went back to school. Ellie was in first grade and Harper was going full day preschool. One more year of preschool and daycare. Plus, our last credit card was dwindling fast, and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We were going to finally be okay. Almost no debt and two full-time incomes for the first time in six-and-a-half years. I was dreaming big with a few bathroom remodels, saving for a new car, and stockpiling a huge amount of money in our savings account that I could swim in like Scrooge McDuck on Duck Tales.
Then, after two plus years of asking/praying/wanting a very specific job, I was offered that job. A job that would allow me to be home in the morning with the girls and get them ready for school. A job that would allow me to walk to the bus stop every afternoon. A job that would allow more flexibility as I continued to have more writing and speaking opportunities. A job that would allow me more time to write.
The only problem?
This dream job included a $17,000 pay cut.
Pretty quickly it came down to dream job or dream bank account.
At the beginning of 2015, I did a devotional that asked me to make a list of prayer requests I had for God that year. I had to ask specifically for things so large that if they came to fruition, I would know it was only because God intervened. Last week I looked back at that list of scary-to-say-out-loud prayer requests and guess what?
Four of the six had happened.
Four of my really crazy, this-probably-can’t-happen prayer requests were answered.
Two of them were to be debt free by the end of the year and to be able to quit my current teaching job. God was moving and listening and acting on my prayers by giving me a new job offer, and I was scared to death because it meant I was going to lose the money cushion. See, the world tells me I deserve that money. I worked hard, had a lot of years of school (a freakin’ Master’s degree, for crying out loud), and I was really good at my job. I deserved the status we were at in life now.
But that’s not Gospel truth, that’s American dream truth. And this year, through studying God’s Word, I’ve come to see how different those two really are.
As you probably know, I took the new job and the significant pay cut (you can read more about that wrestling match here). When I was struggling with the decision, God convicted me pretty heavily that what I was wanting was security and safety in a higher pay check instead of through him. He had taken care of us through years of no extra and proved faithful time and time again. So why would he stop now?
I understood that in a new way as I worked my way through the Bible and read story after story of God showering gifts and blessing on those who were obedient. I really wanted to be obedient, I just wanted to be obedient with lots of extra cash in the bank.
In Habakkuk, God and the prophet are talking and Habakkuk questions God on his schedule of things. Habakkuk doesn’t think God got it right. God responds that his timing is always perfect even if man cannot understand it.
If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time. -Habakkuk 2:3b
The just shall live by faith. -Habakkuk 2:4b
I had a lot of questions for God and his timing with this job–but ultimately I knew he was answering a prayer and it would be foolish to say Thanks, but no thanks to his answer. So we bit the bullet, a $17,000 bullet to be exact, and I resigned.
(And quietly tucked away all dreams of swimming through gold coins in my money silo.)
Here’s the thing I don’t want to admit but need to: God knew what he was doing. Not just with the timing thing, but the money thing. A year spent in his Word has taught me if I have too much, I use it unwisely. I know this. God knows this. So answering my prayers in a million other ways while taking away one thing I was relying on more than him only makes perfect sense.
As I look back through my devotional/prayer journals from the last twelve months, I am astonished at the ways he provided for us. (To limit the word “provided” to just money is a waste of time and it limits God too much so don’t get that twisted.) Yes, he took away a large chunk of my salary but he replaced it with a million other things that were better. He needed to keep refining me and he knew that money is my fallback instead of him so he said, let’s see what we can do without money.
Good news: we can still do a lot. Because I’ve truly never felt richer.
(Side note: This story isn’t done. I have lots more pieces of the money puzzle I’d like to share in the coming months so if you’re left wanting more, I swear I won’t leave you hanging. Our finances are something we’re pretty open about and to be able to share how his hand has been in them from the very start of our marriage is a story that needs to be told. I promise to do it soon.)
(If you’re interested in digging into the Word this year and you don’t know where to start, here’s a post I did in March 2015 that explains how I began. Maybe my routine won’t work for you, but it might lead you to your own.)