Hmmm...that doesn't exactly work for us, since we are both anti-starving-to-death.
So we did the only thing we could think of to get us through - pray.
We were 3 1/2 weeks away from Ben's next paycheck, and we really had no idea how it was going to work. We had done everything right, including paying tithing and offerings first, because we both know from experience that paying God first is the most important thing to when you can't make ends meet; He tends to make them meet for you. And that's exactly what He did with us.
The first week we came across an ISO add on Facebook from someone close by to us who was searching for a coffee table. Funny, since we happen to have one that we don't have room for that has been leaning against our wall in the spare bedroom - we just never had time to put up the add that we were selling it. We got in contact with the buyer and offered them a selling price. They didn't even try to talk us down, and paid cash for the coffee table. It was just enough money to buy food for a week.
We thought it was a pretty good idea to sell old stuff that we don't use anymore, so we went through the house and picked out everything we figure we can downsize on/do without, and posted it for sale on several local "online garage sale" facebook pages. We thought, surely, this would be the answer to how we would be able to pay for the groceries for the next 2 weeks. But no one was interested in our kitchen appliances and textbooks (we live in a college town) and other stuff we were getting rid of. So at the end of the week, we had no idea how to make things work again. That Saturday we went to Ben's parent's house to visit (the live about 45 minutes away). Even though they still have their own bills to pay and children at home to feed, they had bags of groceries waiting for us when we got there, and pulled food out of their own cupboards and freezer to send home with us. That was such a huge blessing to us, and they didn't have to do that. On top of that, some friends of ours heard that I had been sick, and a few times during the week different people brought us dinner. There were many small things that happened that allowed us to get through the week without worrying about what we were going to eat.
So that left us at last Thursday trying to figure out what to do to make until the 15th. 9 days to go and we were running low on food again. Realizing that we won't be able to do anything really nice for Valentines Day or our first anniversary (which is 2 days after Valentines Day), I felt even worse about not being able to afford anything other than our bills. I mean, it's our anniversary, I should at least do something nice for it, right? So I decided that I could at least make some cute heart decorations that can double for both valentines and anniversary (I have a feeling those two holidays are going to be combined for us every year =) I guess that's what I get for getting married so close to a holiday). I have some scrapbooking stuff and stickers and paper from before we got married that was in a box somewhere, I figured I could just do some homemade stuff and that will have do to for this year. We also kept all our greeting cards from our wedding (I have plans to learn to scrapbook...someday) and I figured some of those might have hearts or cute patterns I could cut out and use. I started sorting through them, glancing only at the front of each card to see if it was worth cutting out. About two thirds of the way through the stack, I found the answer to buying groceries for the next week: There was an unused $20 gift card to WalMart tucked in the cards.
Now, we received a lot of gift cards when we got married. It was a good thing too, because Ben was only working one job at the time, and we REALLY couldn't afford anything besides the rent. We lived off of gift cards for the first 2 1/2 months that we were married, and they ran out right as Ben was able to pick up the 2nd job, which allowed us to afford everything we needed. We were so desperate during that time in our lives, and I know that we went through those greeting cards several times to make sure we hadn't missed any gift cards. There is no way that we could have missed one.
But there it was. Right at the time when we just couldn't do anything else to make ends meet, God helped me find it.
Now, I'm not suggesting that God went to WalMart and bought us a gift card and hid it in my old wedding stuff. I do however believe that when we were double and triple checking the stack a year ago that He kept us from finding it, so that it would be there for us when we needed it right now. I also believe that He inspired me to want to do something nice for Ben even though we don't have money for it, so that I would look through the greeting cards. How can anyone argue that God doesn't care about or notice His children?
I'm reminded of the story in Matthew chapter 6 (and also in Luke 12), when Christ is teaching the people what they should really be focused on. He tells them to think about the lilies that grow in the field, or the birds that fly in the air. God feeds them and takes care of them and makes them beautiful, because He loves His creations. If God gives so much love and attention to flowers and birds, who are temporary and insignificant and little, how much more love and attention and care does He give His children, especially when they have faith in Him? He then says:
"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? ...your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you."
I know that when we put our trust in God and make it our first priority to serve Him, that He will make it His business to ensure that we are taken care of. When I say "put our trust in God", I mean to do what He says no matter what. Not just to say you believe, but to act on that belief. Actions speak louder than words. On my mission in Argentina I worked with many families who lived day to day - meaning the money they earned that day paid for the food they ate that day, and the next day if they wanted to feed their family, they had to go find a way to work and get paid the same day, or there wouldn't be food. And by food for their families, I don't mean dominoes pizza, or even cold cereal for breakfast - most of them lived off of bread and noodles with a little sauce. Every day.
It was hard for me to ask these people to trust God by paying their tithing, when they couldn't even afford food. It was hard to ask them not to work on Sundays (4th commandment out of the 10) when they wouldn't be able to feed their families that day if they didn't go to work. I could see that many of them wanted to do it, wanted to believe that somehow God could make those blessings happen for their family as long as they were obedient, but they just couldn't let themselves trust that God would provide their families with what they needed if they made that sacrifice. I don't blame them. It's hard. I don't think that they didn't have faith, or that they were sinners or that they don't deserve God's blessings. I just wish they could have had enough faith to believe that God keeps His promises, and to be obedient to what He asks, even if that means that for a while you don't know how you're going to feed your family or pay your bills.
Because there were a lot of families who did sacrifice. There were a lot of families that did choose pay tithing, and not work on Sundays, and keep ALL of God's commandments, even though it seemed like they were "giving their grocery money to the church" (as some skeptics call it). They understood that wasn't the case. They trusted God through their actions (not just their words) and returned to Him the portion that He has always asked. And you know what? Every person that I worked with who trusted God enough to do what He asked was blessed with an increase. Some of them found steady jobs, some of them had pay raises, one man who was living off of $250 a month had his retirement check increase to $1000 a month. There is not a single person I can think of who wasn't taken GOOD care of after trusting God enough to sacrifice what they had in order to serve Him. God takes care of His children, and He keeps His promises. He knows exactly what we need, and He is always just waiting for us to trust Him, so that He can "open the windows of heaven" and pour out so many blessings on us that we don't even have enough room to receive them (Malachi 3:10).
I didn't mean for this post to turn into a testimonial about the blessings of paying tithing, but I guess that's what it turned out to be. What I hope that anyone reading this will understand is that God blesses us for obedience to any and all of His commandments. That doesn't make it easy to do, but it means that obedience is worth it.
He always makes it worth it. I promise.