Monday, December 26, 2011

Nolan walking!

He has been improving his mobility quite a bit over winter break! This was shot at Grandma and Grandpa Riedl's...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jehovah Jireh

"The Lord will provide" is what Jehovah Jireh means. Sometimes it is difficult to refer to God as Jehovah Jireh, however. Does He really provide for us? Or do we provide for ourselves?

39 days ago, Jen and I experienced something that has given us assurance to know that God should definitely be called Jehovah Jireh. He provides for us.

Our whole marriage has been a struggle financially. We moved to Portland from Seattle after being married only six months. Jen worked low wages and I found minimum wage work as we slowly used up our savings. I eventually took out loans and went back to school to get my masters degree in teaching. This was bad timing to be looking for a teaching position, as most school districts were making budget cuts and laying off teachers. I was eventually offered a full-time job teaching in Ontario, Oregon, so we moved our little family of three to the small town on the border to Idaho.

We thought it would be easier to pay the bills with my new teaching position, but we were wrong. We both wanted Jen to work at home raising Nolan, but didn't have any experience with the strain of having only one spouse bring home an income. The money we had saved when we were both working disappeared in our move from Portland and with each month of additional bills. We worked hard to be responsible and tried our best to cut expenses, rarely going out to eat and even starting to coupon with every trip to the grocery store. But we still were losing money each month.

The point of me writing all of this is about money. ...Duh... Not about how little we have, but about how much we were giving away. Over the past four years of marriage, we kept telling each other that we didn't have enough money to pay bills and also give 10% tithe or offering to church. So we didn't give. Well, not much. Maybe 10 bucks a month or something ridiculously convenient for us. We kept telling ourselves that because we didn't have enough money, we could give our time instead. So we served. We spent a lot of our time serving in the children's ministry instead of giving money.

This leads me to what happened 39 days ago. We are sitting with a cranky, fidgety Nolan on Sunday morning listening to our pastor's message about money. He starts talking about how the church budget had literally run dry. He told us, like so many times we've heard before, that God will provide the money even though we had not been meeting the monthly budgets to pay the church bills.

Up until this point, Jen and I both wanted to tithe enough for it to be giving Him the opportunity to provide for us. We wanted to actually trust God rather than just trying to make ends meet on our own. And we were in no position to do this. The minimum payments on our student loans were almost 50% of our monthly bills. Thinking about this statistic, I knew that we didn't have much hope for fixing this problem ourselves. I certainly knew I didn't want Jen to go back to work and have to put Nolan in daycare. We wanted to trust God with our finances for the first time in our lives. We didn't even have to discuss it...after the service, we both had the same conviction to give 10% of our income to the church, even when there was no way we could afford it. We were trusting that God would do something.

It only took 24 hours for God to work! The next day I heard from a friend about a plan that Obama was trying to pass that helped out graduates who are burdened by paying off their student loans. After doing a little research, I found out that this was called the Income-Based Repayment Plan and only certain people qualify for it. Jen and I looked into it, learned that we do in fact qualify, and stayed up late that night applying for the plan together.

While we would have likely discovered the repayment plan eventually, even without tithing 10%, we are certain that it was more than just a coincidence in timing. Right after we both decided to go out on a limb and be faithful to God with our finances, He answered our prayer quickly and revealed His faithfulness to us. We were guided to a place where we were not feeling the burden of bills that has weighed us down since getting married.

And two days ago, on my last day of school before winter break, I get a call from a lady at Home Depot telling me that a man came in to anonymously buy us a new washing machine. Our current washing machine has been leaking and slowly dying, and apparently someone we know who referred to himself as "Santa" wanted to be extremely generous and buy us a new one! Jen thought it was a joke at first, but we went in to the store to confirm the order and have it shipped to our apartment. We were racking our brains trying to think of who it was that could have done this for us, but then we stepped back and realized that we already knew who "Santa" was. It was God.

God has provided so many things in our lives, even when we don't even realize it. This Christmas season has been extremely special because God made it clear to us that He is the one giving us gifts...not just at this time of year, but all day, every day. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and it was especially clear to us here. We will always look back on this time as evidence that God is at work in our lives. He is Jehovah Jireh and we can only respond by giving up our lives (which includes our money) to serve and love others.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Another double coupon week!

I think we are to the point now where we have enough stuff stockpiled to wait and buy things when there is an awesome deal.  We are also at a point where we are cutting back on our monthly grocery budget.  It is a great feeling to know that we have saved so much money already, and now we don't have to worry about buying things!  I love being able to go into my pantry and just pull out what I need.  This week Albertsons was having a promo where you get $10 off the purchase of a gift card for every $30 you spend on select Procter and Gamble items.  I bought Albertsons gift cards with my transactions, used them on other transactions, and ended up with all these things!  The retail cost would have been $173.84.  We got 10 boxes of Cheerios (good thing, because they are both mine and Nolan's favorite cereal), four 100oz bottles of Tide, a bottle of Downy, 8 cans of Pringles (Aaron was excited about that one), 2 boxes of tea bags, 3 boxes of Hamburger Helper, 2 big bottles of shampoo, and 6 jars of applesauce (another of Nolan's favorite foods).  With the P&G promo, coupons, and sales, I spent $66.66.  Couponing success!