Saturday, October 8, 2011

What are you hiding under your bed?

A couple of weeks ago, we determined that it was in Samuel's best interest to have him tested for ADD. We've suspected it for several years, but it's getting worse. When we called to set up the appointment at the psychologist's office, the receptionist wanted to give me the 'heads up' on the possible costs involved. She wouldn't know until she contacted our insurance company for specifics, but her 'worst case scenario' had us shelling out $500 on the day of the tests. Knowing that we don't have that in our checking account or our savings account (or between the 2 accounts combined for that matter!), we quickly did what every good parent would do.

We panicked.

I would love to laugh here & say "just kidding" here but really, we panicked. We absolutely NEED to get him tested. He's suffering in school. I would not be able to live with myself if I knew that my child has a very easily diagnosed & treated problem, but I left it untested & untreated and watched him flunk out of school this year. His lack of self-confidence is bad enough as it is. I can't do that to him. We are sort of praying that we'll get him tested, figure out he has ADD, get him on some medicine and then salvage this school year & his grades---and self confidence. Hearing him tell me that he feels stupid is heartbreaking. He really is a smart boy, but he can't focus to save his life and he's so disorganized that it's killing him academically! He's been able to pull off passing grades (sometimes, just barely passing) for the last few years. But this year, the work is getting harder and it will only continue to get harder throughout junior high & high school. So it's time to DO SOMETHING.

We started trying to figure out how we'd pay for his tests, racking our brains, trying to come up with some creative way to make some money quickly. He has a set of captain's beds in his bedroom that he's been on me forever to replace with a single bed. He doesn't like having to put sheets on 2 beds, make up 2 beds, keep the headboards clean on two beds. Yes, he only sleeps in 1 of the beds, but somehow my tornado child wrecks both beds on a daily basis. So on a complete whim after he was in bed one night, I listed them on Craigslist. I had no idea if they'd sell, but they did!!! And whammo---half the price of his tests was in the bank! We had plans to pay down the bill with that money & then 'pay out' the rest over the next couple of months.

Samuel was gone to a Boy Scout campout when the beds were picked up by the new owners. I sat in his floor the morning before with a giant trash bag, picking up handfuls of trash -- little bits of cardboard, pieces of plastic from broken toys, crumbs from forbidden-from-his-bedroom-but-eaten-in-there-anyway snacks, wadded papers & the like from around his beds. I gathered up a lot of stuff & thought I'd gotten every speck. I brought in the vacuum cleaner & sucked up all the teeny bits with the extension hose thingie. I was satisfied with my work. The carpet was clean & the beds were tidy & ready to go! The men showed up the next day in a big truck & went to work hauling off the pieces of the two beds. With each piece they picked up, junk fell out. Larry & I stood, looking at the piles of stuff that were hidden beneath, behind, under and inside the beds and just laughed. If you have children & have ever moved furniture in their room, you know what I'm talking about.

There were at least 15 pencils that Samuel has karate chopped in half over the past several years. There was a big pecan. There were cards, letters and other pieces of paper. There were matchbox cars and beads and markers and photographs and rubber bands. There were pocketknives and pens. There were folders and bookmarks and a few books. There were cords and pieces to games we no longer own. There were flattened pieces of candy. There were broken CD cases. There were old socks. We found coins, bills and pesos! Larry's last trip to Mexico where he brought home money for the kids to look at was about 5 years ago! The list goes on & on.

As I sat down in the floor with another trash bag to sort through all these treasures that afternoon, I couldn't help but think of the spiritual application of all these things my son had tucked away & hidden (or that fell off the back side of his bed & were forgotten) so long ago.

How often do I clean up the outside of myself to be presentable to the people in my life but know that there are still things hidden behind my mask? Tucked away & forgotten until someone tears me apart & removes all my barriers and forces me to face the junk. What is it about us that makes us think that stuffing things away & not facing them will make them just 'go away'? Or that if we hide them, people will still see us as holy or well put together or good or whatever? What is under your bed tonight? What's hidden behind the frame, under the mattress, in those nooks & crannies no one sees?

It's different for everyone. An addiction, some hidden sin, a 'dirty' secret, a lack of obedience to God in one area or another, those whispers of the past hiding in the back of our souls that we try to stuff down & cover up.

Until recently for me, it was tithing. Or rather, a lack thereof.

For 15 or so years Larry & I tithed regularly. We never questioned it. We wrote a check at the beginning of the month without even considering doing otherwise. Admittedly, it began early in our marriage because it was all we knew. We had been taught to give God 10% off the top of our income before paying our other bills. So we did. Period. No questions asked.

But then life got hard.

We left the church where we were serving. We knew it was the right choice, but it meant taking a huge pay cut. All of the sudden, our money troubles took on a whole new level of trouble. We had never had loads of money & bills have followed us all the days of our marriage, but things were more tight, more difficult, more impossible to manage with this pay cut. And like so many couples, tithing was the first thing to go. It freed up some money to pay bills each month. And without even thinking much about it, poof, it disappeared from the radar.

Honestly, we never discussed it. It didn't come up. We were just fighting to claw our way out of financial disaster every single month. Just making ends meet has been an unattainable goal for a while. I probably wouldn't have argued for us to tithe if Larry had told me we weren't (I didn't know) because I would've understood the logical argument against it. I'm such a logical, concrete thinker type of person that I would've asked him to show me our budget (on paper of course!) and when tithing didn't fit in, I would've shrugged, wished we could do it, and then moved on. So in late April when Larry asked me to take over the checkbook, I noticed for the first time that there were no records of tithe checks being written. And I continued with that habit for May, June, July, August & September.

Part way through September I found myself asking God what was going on. Would we have to continue on this path of financial struggles forever? Because as it stands right now, unless one of us gets a promotion or a raise (and I don't see that happening for either of us anytime soon), there is no end in sight to the cycle of barely being able to pay our bills each month.

And that's when He whispered to me "Give me what's mine."

What?? How can I afford to tithe God? I can hardly afford to pay the water bill. How on earth can I shovel out another couple hundred dollars a month to tithe?? It doesn't make SENSE. It doesn't fit into the budget. But as September moved on, I was struck with conviction to just do it. Just write the check & TRUST HIM.

A Sunday School lesson about trusting Him....a friend's forwarded email about giving....a blog article about faith & how we sometimes can't trust logic, we just have to take a leap of faith & trust Him....over & over, through one means or another, He peppered me with reasons to TRUST HIM & tithe. I found myself on this blog, looking up all the many, many, many old posts where I praised Him for provision -- all those times that I've pointed to the Heavens & said "Look what He's done!". And it struck me that He's been taking care of our every need all this time. How much more of a blessing would it be if I submitted & gave Him what's already His? And you know, obviously what we are doing isn't working, so why not trust HIM?!
I am convinced that He loves me and cares for my needs. I am convinced that He has my best interests at heart. I am convinced that He will take care of me.

But I'm scared. Tithing when I can hardly pay my bills doesn't MAKE SENSE.
I emailed some girlfriends & asked for their stories about tithing. How has God shown His faithfulness in their lives where tithing is concerned? How have they been blessed for their obedience where giving is concerned? What does that "look like" in their life? A few of them wrote back, but ultimately the decision (in my heart) had already been made. When October 1st rolled around (pay day), the check would get written.

A sweet friend wrote to me & said she was thinking about my email about tithing during church last Sunday morning. She had such a sweet analogy for me! She said she was thinking about how God sees tithing & wants to bless us for our obedience & trust in Him. She likened it to telling her kids to clean their rooms before going out to run some errands. She said "What if I came home & found that they had baked me a cake & cleaned up the kitchen & made cards for me? While all of those things are great & I would love them & would be grateful for the gesture, I had told them to CLEAN THEIR ROOMS. And I was going to take them out for icecream to reward them for cleaning their rooms." By not cleaning their rooms, they weren't doing the 1 simple thing she'd asked. All of those other things they did were nice, but not what she'd asked. And she couldn't reward them for their obedience because they didn't do it. She said it struck her that this was like the way we go to church & worship Him & serve in various ways & teach our children about Him and yet don't tithe. He wants to bless us & take care of our needs, but without following His command to give, He can't.


In the days leading up to October 1st, Satan pulled out all the stops. Knowing that the ADD tests were coming up (to the tune of $500) scared the bejeebers out of me. I realized that this month was when we'd have our dog's annual check up & that costs money. The water bill arrived & the city's rate increased shocked me. Seeing all these upcoming October bills almost convinced me to skip tithing. But as the day drew near, God kept grabbing my shoulders & shaking me saying "Just trust me. Do this. Have faith in me. I will cover the check!"

All the sudden my prayers moved from "Please give me the courage to write that check & trust you." to "God, please give us what we need to pay our bills this month. Nothing extra, just enough. Help us to spend wisely & save money when we can."

On October 1st, I put a check in the mailbox to our church before I could chicken out. Just walking to the mailbox with that envelope was an exercise in faith. My feet hitting the sidewalk seemed to tap out the rhythm of the old hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness". I had to run back into the house before I pulled the envelope back out & tore it up.

When I got the mail that day, we had a check from our insurance company for being safe drivers. It wasn't a huge amount, but every little bit helps!

The same day, the men arrived to take Samuel's beds away. More money in the bank.

The next day, a text came asking me to do childcare 2x/month at a local church for the rest of the year.

A couple of days later, we found out about the ADD testing price not being as much as we'd thought it would be---in fact, it would be significantly less!

I filled up my gas tank last weekend. There is no way to logically explain how that tank of gas has lasted me a full week & I'm still at the 1/2 full mark.

Yesterday, another friend from a different church texted me with another childcare offer.

No big dollar figure has magically dropped into our bank account & I don't suspect it will, but little by little, He has provided. We might still end the month with a negative balance but that's not the point.

The reward is in obeying Him, trusting Him, allowing Him to control my checkbook. The reward is in praising Him & squealing a little louder every time He hands me another blessing & says "Look! You can trust me! I've got this!" The excitement in watching Him work makes me a little bit giddy. I will admit, I'm still nervous about what the bank account will look like at the end of the month, but every time those thoughts wander through my head, He does a little tap dance on my heart and squeezes my hands and says "Focus! Put your eyes RIGHT HERE on me! Trust me!"

You would think I would've learned this lesson by now. Perhaps it's ME who needs the ADD testing.

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