The checkbook sat unopened. The reality was hitting home: There was not enough money. The stack of bills on the table required ten times the amount of money in my account. With two children in college, and my daughter's wedding nearing, the monthly budget was just the tip of my financial iceberg. My employer's agency cutbacks reduced my work week to three days, and my paycheck shrunk proportionately. I managed to tread water, but six months later I was about to go under.
I wasn't a rookie at stretching a budget. My husband, Jon, and I agreed that I would quit my job when our first daughter, Aimee, was born. By the time Molly was born two years later, I had penny pinching down to an art form. I planned menus from the weekly supermarket sales. I clipped manufacturer's coupons, and saved even more money on our grocery bill. My daughters dressed in brand-name clothes I purchased at garage sales for a fraction of the original cost. Jon marveled more than once, "You sure know how to stretch a dollar."
In spite of my budget-stretching expertise, it was still difficult. At times we delayed purchasing necessities. Unexpected car repairs or medical expenses wreaked havoc on our cash flow. Frequently we received shut-off notices on our utilities; I negotiated monthly with Juanita from the gas company to prevent a disconnection. When the books were closed on our family's finances each month, the bottom line was always this: God was faithful.
Trusting God with My Tithe
When Jon and I first became believers, we made a decision to tithe our income based on God's promise in Malachi 3:10: "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,' says the LORD of Heaven's Armies, 'I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!'" Since those early years in our marriage, God held true to his promise.1