A Downgrade Blessing

I came across a fabulous blog (Like Mother, Like Daughter) yesterday that had a great post: 5 things that are worse than being in debt. I thought the post was great. Yes, being in debt is bad… but there are far worse things. It isn’t the end of the world… in fact, God could definitely use it to teach you a lesson and radically transform the way you think about money. Your debt situation may very well be one of your biggest blessings. Allow me to explain.

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I am quite certain no one ever plans on getting into debt. Many times a series of unfortunate events beyond our control occur… a job loss, medical bills, an accident, etc. Other times, we spend frivolously, live beyond our means, want to keep up with the latest gadgets, gizmos and trends.

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We believe we deserve more than our paycheck affords. We deserve a vacation at the swanky hotel. We deserve a nice car with all of the bells and whistles.  We deserve a big house in the highly desired part of town. We deserve a nice dinner out at the fancy restaurant. We deserve our retail therapy and deserve to shop to our heart’s content.

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Have you ever had a case of the deserves? I think we all have at one point or another. I look back on times in my life where I rationalized this philosophy.

I worked hard. I earned it. I deserved it.

Looks like that little girl needed a lesson in who money comes from. And perhaps a lesson that it can be taken away just as quickly as it was given.

And how ashamed I am to admit that it has taken me this long as a Christian to figure that one out. My head understood the concept, but my heart didn’t want to fully give control to God. I had a pretty good bargain with Him, I thought; He could have everything else but I’ll keep my wallet, thankyouverymuch. And we all know how stories like this end. God wants the one thing you don’t want to let go of. And He’ll get it all right. I held it so tight…all through my spiritual tug-o-war with Him.

Guess who lost?

THIS GIRL.

And praise the Lord for it! You see, God doesn’t take things away from you because He is trying to punish you… He is lovingly showing you that there is a better way… His way.

For me, my struggle was money. (Although I never saw it as a struggle before) Not that I loved money itself… I just loved what I could get with money. I loved the false sense of power and control I had with it. And frankly, I was just a plain bad steward with what God had given to me. And I’ll just say that God had given me more than I deserved. Tithing? Isn’t that more of a suggestion? I don’t have any money to tithe; I spent it all on… well… me. I spent it all on what I thought would make me happy. Can we work out some sort of payment plan, God?

“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:8-10

Aaaahhhhh!!! Does anyone else feel a little panicked at the thought of robbing God? I just want to shake the old me.

Unfortunately, there is this time barrier thing that prohibits that…

But not to worry, God gave me a good shaking.

I had been successfully self-employed in the financial industry…contracted with another company. In other words, I serviced all of the business from this company. And we all know what happened to the financial industry. Last year I lost my contract… which meant I lost my job. And I now live in the middle of farmville, USA… and I am not skilled in tractor or horse. (but I really wish I was!)

Devastation.

Doom.

Despair.

What the heck was I going to do?

After several months of job searching to no avail, I surrendered.

Obviously God had a plan.

God never fails to deliver.

(My pastor said that at church yesterday and boy did that hit home)

By the world’s expectation, my deliverance would be in the form money. Perhaps I would land a high-paying job. I’d earn my lifestyle back and perhaps I’d even appreciate what I had been given. Maybe even give to a charity or two. And I would live happily ever after.

Or even better, I’d strike oil. I’m in Texas, after all. Or win the lottery. I’d be delivered into a comfortable, abundant, material-filled life once again.

But we all know that God’s ways are not the ways of the world.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ” Isaiah 55:8

I didn’t need to be delivered from money; I needed to be delivered from myself.

I was the problem. I needed to give everything over to God. Perhaps I proved to Him (and myself) that I wasn’t ready spiritually to handle a lot. I had to learn God’s ways with money… with a little.

And what better way than to start from scratch.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Ephesians 4:22

In the beginning of this job loss fiasco, I was so stressed out. The future was so uncertain and I had no control over it. I didn’t know what was going to happen or how we’d make it on one income. Jon and I had just gotten married; I found out that I was jobless when we returned from our honeymoon.

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I felt so bad. I felt bad that I lost my job. I felt bad that this was the first thing we had to deal with… that Jon had to deal with…when we got married. And of course, I felt like it was all my fault that I couldn’t find a job.

We were really left with no other choice than to buckle down, be extremely frugal, and go without the extras to make ends meet. The word budget was introduced into my vocabulary… as was the word no. (I had to say no to myself… I certainly did not grow up spoiled)

But out of all of the chaos, my life completely changed. The way that I looked at life changed. My priorities changed. The things I valued changed. My interests changed. God has done such a work on my heart and I am so grateful to Him.

+We didn’t spend our first year of marriage taking vacations, going out on date nights, eating out all of the time.

And I’m thankful for that.

The Lord blessed us with the opportunity to enjoy our first year of marriage…simply. We may not have had a lot of money but I was abundantly blessed with time. (Something I felt starved of when I was working)  Time to try new recipes and to teach myself how to cook so we could have good home cooked meals every night.  Time to tend to homekeeping. I had time to start a blog and time to start sewing and crafting again. Even time to start an etsy shop.

Yes, time is a very precious commodity and a huge blessing. With Jon being in the military, he will likely deploy (or go on cruise, if you prefer) several more times. I know I am going to look back on our simple first year of marriage and cherish every bit of our nights playing Scrabble together or watching our favorite shows together.

+I gave up all of my little luxuries that I enjoyed… not because I wanted to, but because I had to. No more acrylic nails for the first time in 10 years. No more biweekly pedicures. No more highlights every 6 weeks. My cosmetologist sister graciously colors my hair for me…one color. No more MAC makeup. (This is still an open wound so be gentle about it haha) Or expensive moisturizers. Or salon hair products. Or new purses. Or new shoes. Or new, fashionable clothes. Or department stores. Or designer anything.

And I am thankful for that.

I do not think any of the above mentioned is wrong by any stretch of the imagination. I miss my nails. I like getting a new lip glass every now and then. I enjoy getting my hair done. But I am thankful for the lesson that I don’t need those things to be happy. I would have felt very awkward in a thrift store a year ago. Not because I am above it, but because I had never shopped in one. Now, I pride myself on the unbelievable deals I find at the Goodwill. I have a hoot when I’m in there. It is like a giant treasure hunt and I can rummage through there like no one’s business. There is no better feeling than getting a compliment on an outfit that you spent $3.50 on… total.

As for the makeup and hair products. Yes, I can tell a difference between MAC and Maybelline. But I’ve learned that less expensive makeup can definitely get the job done. Same with a less expensive facial moisturizer and shampoo. In fact, I haven’t noticed that big of a difference with some of my switches.

+I’ve learned that a home is much more than it’s size and the things you buy to fill it.

And I’m thankful for that.

Jon and I both had our own houses before we were married so we didn’t really have to buy a whole lot once we were married. When we moved to Texas we rented a decent size house (when we thought I still had a job). We realized that a good portion of our income was being spent on a house way bigger than we needed. We waited out our lease and then decided to substantially downsize both in rent and in space. Let me tell you, the house was a lot nicer, more spacious, and felt more settled… but our new apartment feels just as much like home. Anywhere Jon is, is home to me. I have learned that it doesn’t matter the size of your home or how much you spend to decorate it… you can achieve a cozy, homey safe haven just about anywhere.

Downgrades can be bigger blessings than upgrades.

+I’ve learned that an abundance of money does not equate to an abundance of joy. Indeed, giving to those in need produces so much more joy than buying something for yourself.

+I’ve learned to appreciate and prefer simple things, to be resourceful and to not be as wasteful.

+I’ve learned that God uses people to bless His children. You may be the answer to someone’s prayer. If someone is in need, don’t look the other way…make it your business.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

+I’ve learned that God will always provide.

“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 important than food, and the body more important 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? . . . But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34

+I’ve learned to rejoice in the Lord no matter what circumstances I am facing. There is always something to be thankful for.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

+I have learned that suffering is only momentary and will lead to growth and character.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5

+I’ve learned that sometimes you need a little pruning to help you grow.

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2

+I have learned that God will never waste your pain. Overcoming an obstacle or situation can only serve as an encouragement for another person who is at the beginning of their struggle. Use the comfort you have been given through your spiritual growth to uplift another person with God’s love.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

+I have learned the importance of refraining from casting judgment on another person’s situation. It is always easy to point fingers at things we don’t struggle with ourselves. And I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be judged on your struggles with the same measuring stick you are using on them. Keep in mind, we are all going through something. They might just be at the beginning of the lesson that God is about to teach them. And, while advice and instruction can help in some situations, most people need to experience the pain and consequences of their actions to really learn a life lesson. A little perseverance never hurt anyone.

I doubt there are very many people who haven’t been affected (or know someone who has) by our current economy. There have been so many job losses, home foreclosures, people struggling to pay their mortgages because of adjustable loans, and people using credit cards (with astronomical interest rates) just to live. Don’t sit around and wait for the economy to improve. To get new results, try something you’ve never done: put your hope in the Lord. Bring your tithes to His storehouse and see if He doesn’t bless you abundantly. God doesn’t need your money; He wants your heart. What does your heart cling to?

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  • http://www.mrsyellowhat.blogspot.com Tara G.

    Nothing else needs to be said, but “Amen!” (and thanks for being so vulnerable by sharing this testimony!!)

  • http://www.mrsyellowhat.blogspot.com Tara G.

    Nothing else needs to be said, but “Amen!” (and thanks for being so vulnerable by sharing this testimony!!)

  • Lisa N.

    It was a true blessing to read this today when I really needed it. There are more important things in life besides money and material things. Thank you and God bless.

  • Lisa N.

    It was a true blessing to read this today when I really needed it. There are more important things in life besides money and material things. Thank you and God bless.

  • http://holidayinthesun-becky.blogspot.com Becky

    Hi Gal! What an awesome post! Thanks so much for taking the time to share how God has worked in this area of your life! I am kind of in a similar situation with the budget thing. Work is slow so and so are pay raises and bonuses, so in come the purse strings! I am very simple and don’t require much, but of course I have my little indulgences that I don’t want to part with, too! One thing I know is that God holds all the cookies, and I am a blessed woman. What else do I need? Just the love of my Lord, my family and my friends. I am blessed way beyond what I have ever deserved, so the rest is just icing on the cake!!

    Love and hugs to you! Have a delightful weekend, and know that I appreciate you. :o)
    Becky

  • http://holidayinthesun-becky.blogspot.com Becky

    Hi Gal! What an awesome post! Thanks so much for taking the time to share how God has worked in this area of your life! I am kind of in a similar situation with the budget thing. Work is slow so and so are pay raises and bonuses, so in come the purse strings! I am very simple and don’t require much, but of course I have my little indulgences that I don’t want to part with, too! One thing I know is that God holds all the cookies, and I am a blessed woman. What else do I need? Just the love of my Lord, my family and my friends. I am blessed way beyond what I have ever deserved, so the rest is just icing on the cake!!

    Love and hugs to you! Have a delightful weekend, and know that I appreciate you. :o)
    Becky

  • shilpa

    ” .Hello,

    ‘Yes’, the Cart can be used for subscriptions.

    Majority of our merchants’ buyers are actually international. Sadly, not a lot of local users are accustomed to buying things online.
    It does not include a website (although we also offer that service separately). You can get any 3rd party to do the website and we will just integrate with them.
    regards
    online payment

  • shilpa

    ” .Hello,

    ‘Yes’, the Cart can be used for subscriptions.

    Majority of our merchants’ buyers are actually international. Sadly, not a lot of local users are accustomed to buying things online.
    It does not include a website (although we also offer that service separately). You can get any 3rd party to do the website and we will just integrate with them.
    regards
    online payment