My parents, even from the youngest times I can remember, have always taught me about money and tithing. I remember the importance they taught me of taking care of my things instead of simply replacing them when I lost or broke them. I remember the lessons of balancing the checkbook and about using credit cards only for what could be paid off. I remember the biggest lesson – the day I saw Dad write & give a tithe check when I knew things were tight. I questioned him, “Dad, why give money to the church when we need it?” I remember him explaining that the Bible said we were to give a portion of what we received back to God through the church – no matter what.
I’ve followed those lessons to perfection in life (chalk it up to a little perfectionism/OCD tendencies). It could be argued that some of them I’ve been too good at following. For instance, I internalized the “take care of things” to the point that for many years it was very, very difficult for me to share i.e. let other people borrow or even to take things to functions to share them. One instance specifically comes to mind. Early in our marriage we had just “splurged” on one of those $20 thingies with about 5 old Atari games on it. Jeremy wanted to take it to church for the youth to play some competitions. I had a cow. A large cow. Then, it ended up disappearing. I didn’t let him hear the end of it for a while. Then, there’s the constant, “Why did you do that? You better make sure we get it back!” every time he would loan “stuff” out, and you can just imagine when he gave something away! And, a few years ago, you better bet that if I bought you a coke, I had a mental tally of how many you ‘owed’ me. [Not any more for those of you that think I may have a magic number in my head.] God has truly healed me of this stinginess in the past year to the point that I truly don’t have a clue what the ‘balance’ might be, and I like it!
I always rationalized it. In the beginning of our marriage, we were both full time students living on grants, scholarships, and Jer working as a youth intern & substitute. We figured it up once, and we were living on about $500 a month. That was when we started tithing. It was hard. I mean, we did not spend more than we could pay off on credit each month, and to start that $50 tithe…well, it first fell under the “take care of things” category. I mean, I was supposed to take care of what God had given me, and to give it away?
But God used it. That should have sent us into the red. It didn’t. Then, when Jer felt convicted to give for other things, I submitted, but with gritted teeth thinking, “this will show him because we won’t be able to pay the bills!” We never missed a bill. We never even paid one late. We even had money left to buy our first bicycles – matching green from WalMart!
God’s always been faithful to us like that. He’s provided for us more than I could ever think to ask for (beyond those super selfish indulgence askings). He provided the camera I began my photography business with through some amazingly generous friends. He’s provided for StoneWater through some amazingly generous people. Generosity is contagious. He’s transformed my heart from one of cold-hearted hoarding in the guise of “taking care of my stuff” into one that loves to give. I’m still not where I hope to one day be, but giving doesn’t make me break out in a panic, and it doesn’t make me start thinking of reasons why to not give.
I set the stage for all of this because I’m about to relate a story that’s just a tad bit beyond the believable. It really is.
There is a point in photography were a camera upgrade is actually needed. I have loved and adored my camera (the Nikon D200) for 2 1/2 years, and I’ve learned how to push it to it’s max and even work around some things that shouldn’t work. But, facing facts, and the fact that technology improves so quickly, it has been time to upgrade. The cameras I had my eye on were $2500. That’s a bit of change for a beginning business that’s still at hobby level. I’ve looked at the two cameras for months now, and even met up with two photographers to try their cameras since each owned one of the ones I was looking at. Desire grew as well as the knowledge of how much more I could do artistically and how much time it would save me if I took the plunge.
I made the decision a few months back, and when I got to the site to purchase the camera – out of stock. I chalked it up to God’s speaking and moved on. A few sessions later I was in a situation that exceeded the limits of my camera. A bit frustrated and downhearted, I took another approach that worked fine. Not what I wanted, but fine nonetheless. I began praying for discernment between what I wanted and what I needed because it’s always easier to covet a desire than uncover a true need. As I processed images from the session, I knew my answer – it was beyond want.
So, I continued to pray, knowing that I didn’t have the money in the bank, but also that I was on my way toward having the money. It became an even harder decision when I reflected on what I learned in Crown Financial Bible Studies – “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (Pr 22:7), “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty” (Pr 21:5), “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity….” (Phil 4:11-13), and “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Luke 16:13). I lived through Luke 16:13 when I registered for the Raver/Ryden/Jansen workshop a few months ago. I knew I would have the money by the time I had to have it to pay in full, but I spent those months taking every single job that came up and just about wore myself out! I was definitely a slave to the workshop that owed money for.
As a caveat, I want to make sure I don’t promote going into debt. If you’ve studied the Scriptures and/or taken Crown Financial or one of the other great financial Bible studies out there, debt is not a favorable situation to be in. I’m not saying it is. There are also caveats in Crown regarding business debt being regarded differently. In all honesty, we had the money to pay for the workshop and the camera from our personal account. But, the business is a separate entity, and I feel strongly that the business should not take away from the family finances. Bottom line, when I refer to ‘debt,’ I’m referring to Misti White Photography going into debt to the Jeremy White family should I not be able to cover a bill from the business account.
I continued to pray for discernment if the purchase was truly the right decision, and I felt the release from God to purchase the camera on July 18, so I went to the site and put it in my shopping cart. I had a moment of epiphany, though, when I realized I should check the cycle date on my credit card & see when it closed as that could potentially buy me an additional month + time before the due date to earn the money. The statement showed the cycle would close on the 18th, so I waited. I spent the night in prayer with a heavy heart as I churned over the decision. Jeremy was gone, the kids in bed, and I just fell prostrate on the floor in prayer and worship. In the light of the new morning, it was clear and I felt excited and confident in the purchase.
So, I did it.
My email, facebook inbox, and phone began to fill up with requests for sessions in the next weeks. My online ordering system was regularly notifying me of new orders. My faith in God grew as I saw him providing in a most generous way.
I just received the online notice that my business card has a new statement.
I have diligently written down every penny I have taken in since July 19. I sat this morning and totaled it prior to looking up the exact figure of the camera that is on the credit statement. The total? $2414.34.
I knew this was in the neighborhood of the camera purchase, around $2400, so I excitedly went to my statement.
The exact cost of the camera as I see on my credit card statement? $2414.34
I have never made that much in a month. Heck, that’s about what I made in the first six months of this year combined together. Luck? No way. That’s my God blowing me away with his goodness and mercy.