At the end of 2013, I wrote about 10 things among the many others I learned during the year and one of those was knowing more about God as provider. I saw how He provided for the construction of my Nuvali home while still enabling me to pay for its monthly amortizations and fulfill my other obligations. God did not only provide for my needs but for my other desires too like diving lessons, personal trips, and giving to causes I support. Indeed, God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20 ESV). As a friend echoed to me, “hindi mo alam kung paano nagkakasya pero nagkakasya.”
While 2013 was drawing to a close, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that more sacrifices in the area of finances would have to be made in 2014. I wondered what that could mean because I had thought that I had sacrificed enough – fewer travels, eating out less, and being more conscious of my budget generally. Of course, in God’s perfect wisdom, I did learn a lot about my finances and ultimately, myself and my character this year – that while He provides, my part is to be a responsible steward of His blessings; after all, they are still His, I am just a manager. After all, everything I have now is not by luck, chance, or my own effort but by His love and favor. When blessings are seen this way, it can make one humble and so, grateful and responsible. For this year, I can categorize the lessons in three areas:
A friend put a label to what I have been practising albeit on and off for several years now. It really is all about knowing that I have practically everything I need to live. I do not need a lot or many of the same item – tea cup collection? This friend asked me, “akala ko minimalism, eh bakit kelangan mo ng maraming tea cups? San mo ilalagay yan?” Watch collection? My father asked me, “ilan ba ang kamay mo?”…am I not thankful for these wise reminders that helped me be consistent in practising minimalism?! I opened my bag and oh wow, why do I have so many pens in a bag? What about that flashlight?
The rule is to buy or retain only the ones that are useful, necessary, and beautiful. Buti na lang parang lalaki ako mag-isip in decorating/styling my home that I bought mostly functional items; very few are ornamental stuff. Alright, I conceded one corner for my mother who put in flowers and a plate. 🙂
I learned that I do not need a lot of shoes or bags or clothes. I just need a few quality ones (parang friendship!). When it comes to these purchases, the general rule is to buy only when I have something to throw or give away. And the purchases do not need to be high-end brands because there are reasonably-priced brands that are also of very good quality. Plus, I will not feel bad roughing it up with my shoes or bag because I like walking and I do not like changing bags a lot so I take whatever I have from Rockwell to Divisoria! On a deeper level, in a world that increasingly values material possessions and judges someone by his looks, possessions, or achievements, I choose not to conform. I choose to not be defined by brands because what is seen is transient but the ones that are unseen are what matter most. My confidence is not in who I wear but in who I serve – God Almighty.
In 2011, I adopted a lesson I learned from a friend and continues to be a guide to this day – to invest in experiences rather than in material possessions. So, I have since climbed mountains and done spelunking, parasailing, flying trapeze, and practical shooting; studied scuba diving, water color painting, and creative writing; and strengthened my relationships with family and people who encourage and inspire me over new food discoveries! Of course, I also invest in my health and retirement.
2. Delayed gratification
I have been avoiding the sale seasons at the malls because the SALE sign tells you that you NEED an item NOW so you need to buy it NOW, when you don’t. Some things can wait because my budget can be used for the real necessities now. Of course, if there is a legitimate need for an item, I say go to the mall sale! I actually wait for the sale season when I am eyeing an item or I go to Dapitan or Mandaue Foam (yes, most of my purchases lately were for the home). I realized that when I desired to make wise purchases, God led me to the right places at the right time. A friend actually taught me to pray for where to buy an item from when entering a mall to avoid unnecessary purchases…and it works! It certainly works! The yellow rug in the picture above, for instance, was bought from a souvenir store in Baguio when I went there in early December. It cost me Php1,100 after my mother haggled skillfully. It can be machine washed. In November, I had seen a smaller rug in a mall, priced Php3,000+ after a 50% discount if I remember correctly. One needs to use a vacuum to maintain it; they also did not have my preferred color. If I did not wait, I could have spent Php2,000 more and would have been stuck with a rug I did not really like and would be difficult to maintain.
The more I delay buying certain items, the more time I have to reflect whether I really need them or not. There were items I had delayed buying and I had them nevertheless as gifts from relatives and friends (like bags and wallets that I wished for but could not find the right design or budget for…but God knew the desires of my heart and provided them anyway because “even before a word in on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” Psalm 139:4). There were also other items that I found at a good price after having waited some time. On the other hand, there were items that I bought on impulse which turned out to be unwise purchases. I learned that Jesus Christ being the Wonderful Counselor that He is (Isaiah 9:6) can also be depended on in this area. If there is a voice inside me telling me to delay, then do so. Better things will come my way.
Long before I learned about the biblical foundations of generosity, my parents modeled it to us. My parents wisely gave to people and organizations even when they themselves had their own and our family’s needs to think of. I joke that our family has become a manufacturer of jobs so we could help others earn even a little to provide for themselves and their families. But true to God’s promise that whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25), the harvest of refreshing that comes to recent memory is the funeral of my father. Dying in the Philippines is expensive – the cost can run up to almost a hundred thousand pesos but we were richly provided for in many ways – we received financial provision through my brother’s company, through the generosity of relatives and other people, and we also received the gift of quality time from our friends, colleagues, relatives, and the people my parents had helped. My brothers had friends who accompanied them to wherever they needed to go to fix my father’s funeral and that to me is really, really special because you cannot take back time. And up to this day, I am grateful to the people who braved the trip to Tondo, Manila to be with us during that time.
Now, my journey from being kuripot to generous (though I still have a long way to go) has been a rather difficult journey. There was a time that I practised faulty generosity; it was both painful and foolish. I learned that in the process of helping others, I should also teach them to pray and depend on God who is the ultimate provider. I was told to beware that I might be replacing God’s role as provider in their lives. A pastor told me, “lend her an amount that you can forego if she cannot pay it back and for the rest, teach her to pray to God for the provision.” I learned that while it is in God’s heart for us to be generous, it should also be done with discernment as a way of stewarding God’s resources wisely.
It would be difficult to write about generosity to others without writing about generosity to God. I and friends attest that when we withheld on tithing for some reason or another, we found it more difficult to manage our finances. There was a lack when we thought we would have more. But when we gave cheerfully, provision came. Truly, in obedience, there is fullness of blessings. God does not need our money; it is His anyway. He does not need our small change; the whole world and everything in it is His but for me, it is a question of obedience out of love for God who gave His Son to die for me on the cross so I can have eternal life in heaven.
I have this verse that I am reflecting on:
Hebrews 13:15-16 English Standard Version (ESV)
15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
My prayer is that we will learn more and more to be a good steward of God’s blessings and that this will well up in right generosity to God and to others.
Have a truly blessed 2015!