Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Stewardship Journey (conclusion)


In this post, I will share how our journey has continued to develop and change in the past 3 years.

During Steve's first year at ABRA, his salary was $20,000 less than his job at Saturn. The difference in pay required us (for the first time in a long time) to take a look at our spending and work on differentiating between wants and needs. As we did that, there was never the consideration to not tithe. We knew that the Lord had blessed us with this opportunity and we were very grateful and we wanted to continue to show our thankfulness. By 2011, his salary was back up to where it had been when he was at Saturn (due to a promotion).

All the while God's blessings continued to flow in, I still felt as though I was holding on tightly to money. Yes, we were tithing, and doing what God commanded of us, but something didn't seem quite right.

When I would hear that there was going to be a "door offering" taken after church, I would be sure to exit a different way.

At Voters' Meetings, I would listen to the issues that St. Paul's was having with the budget, all the while, thinking to myself, "You're preaching to the choir. We're doing what we were supposed to, let some other people step up and help out." All these feelings continued until March of 2012.

Here we are again, sitting in the pew at church on Consecration Sunday.

Steve is holding the white pledge card. The same card that I loathed when we were first married. He looks at me and say, "What should I put down?" I told him, "You fill it out."

He wrote down a number that would indicate the amount we would be giving per month. My jaw dropped. (My husband has little to no idea about how our finances work and how much our monthly tithe was at the time.) My knee-jerk reaction was, "That's 15% of our gross income!"

15%...15%...that still leaves 85% for us (more than enough). I gave it a second to sink in and we decided that we would do our best to meet that tithe, but if anything changed with our financial situation, we would adjust as necessary.

Do you know what God did?

In the year, 2012, He not only increased our income to cover that 15%, He doubled it!

A 30% increase in income. Why should I have been surprised? It's right there in scripture with Jesus' Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

We were so grateful for God's goodness and provisions, our giving last year ended at 20%...and, it was incredibly FREEING. To no longer be controlled by money. To truly embrace the meaning of "it's not ours". It's all His. He has just blessed us with it to further His kingdom.

God blesses each of us in His own way. As I stated before, just because a person chooses to give (tithing or not), does not mean that the Lord will bless s/he financially. There are many other blessings and the Lord knows exactly what we need.

Pastor Greg and Sara Hintz are an incredible example of "other blessings" that the Lord may bestow, when you put your full trust in Him. You can read about it here. What a testimony their story is!

Tomorrow is Consecrated Stewards Sunday at St. Paul's. Please, take time to pray and ask for God's guidance regarding your giving.

You won't regret it!

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Stewardship Journey (continued)

Below are the events that unfolded, starting with a total God thing a couple of days prior to Steve being let go from Saturn back in January 2010:).

Monday, January 4th

Steve is at work and an insurance adjuster he hasn't dealt with in over a year comes in for business. She asks him how Saturn is doing and if his job is secure. He assures her that it is. She tells him that if anything changes, to give her a call and she will see what she can do for him.

Thursday, January 7th

Steve begins networking and applies for unemployment. He calls almost anyone and everyone he can think of who has connections in the industry that may have a lead for a job. He starts with the insurance adjuster that he spoke with on Monday. She returns his call and has an interview set up for him--no resume, no application, just based on his good name.

Friday, January 8th

Steve goes for to interview with ABRA Auto Body and Glass. They ask him to come back for an assessment test on Tuesday. Seems like a very good company, and we are very hopeful, but realistic. In this economy, who gets a job in just a few days?

Monday, January 11th

More networking. Gets a call from a top guy at an insurance agency and he says he will call the gentleman Steve interviewed with and put in a good word for him.

Tuesday, January 12th

Steve goes for his assessment/interview with ABRA. He is offered a job! They don't actually have a position for him, but they are creating one until the new store opens.

I can remember these events as if they had happened yesterday. To look back and see God's handiwork and incredible faithfulness to us (and all His children) is just amazing. He put that insurance adjuster in Steve's path, just when he needed it. He gave Steve the skills to do the job he did (and does), which enabled him to have the "good name" in the industry and secure a job within a week.

Stewardship is about being stewards of everything, not just time, talents and treasures, but of all the things God has blessed us with. This includes our jobs. As His stewards, we should always be working to His glory, making sure we aren't deliberately abusing the gift of employment that God has given us. I didn't earn my job at St. Paul's, God blessed me with it. Steve didn't earn his job at ABRA, it was a blessing from Him.

To be concluded...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Stewardship Journey (continued)

Part 5

Now I certainly won't bore you with my endless instances of witnessing God working through our lives in the manners of stewardship (trust me, there are hundreds), but there are a just a couple more "God Moments" I would like to share.

As I had mentioned in my first post, Steve was working at a car dealership (Saturn) as an oil change technician. He had been struggling with what he wanted to do as a "career." He had gone through two years of college for architecture, but determined that wasn't for him. He had also tried out jobs in a couple of other areas, but they weren't what he was looking for either. He actually obtained the job as an oil change technician at Saturn, partly due to a connection his dad had with the Service Manager.

Steve started out at Saturn of Brown Deer, changing oil. Eventually, they saw potential for him to start up an in house auto repair shop. So he became a Body Shop Consultant. Over the course of 16 years, he worked his way up through various body shop positions and ended up as Body Shop Manager at Saturn of Greenfield. We lived in Milwaukee when he moved to that position and our home was about 5 minutes away from his work. It was an ideal situation.

In September 2004, we moved to Ixonia. By this time, we had been blessed with our Benjamin. He was 3 years old. Isaiah was in first grade. Steve's employment allowed me the luxury of being a stay at home mom. We had come from our church home of St. Paul's in West Allis, where my boys were 5th generation members. I had deep ties and I was missing my "connection" to my church home and church family.

I remember sitting in the pew at St. Paul's of Oconomowoc reading the blurb in the bulletin looking for a full time church secretary. In my mind, it was the perfect way for me to become integrated in my new church family. I had no intention of working outside of the home and Steve wasn't very keen on the idea. But I decided to "throw my hat in the ring" (over eight years ago) with no office experience, and see what God had in store for me. As most of you know, I got the job. You may find this hard to believe, but I am working my dream job. To be surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ on a daily basis and to be serving my church with the work that I do, is more than I could have ever dreamed of. Not to mention the fact that I was really able to get to know my new church family:).

Meanwhile, Steve was driving to Saturn of Greenfield each day, which was a 45 minute commute each way. He had about 3 guys working for him and they all got along really well together. There was lots of joking around and fun days. I wouldn't say he loved his job, but he didn't mind waking up and going to work.

Through all of these times, we were faithfully attending church as a family every Sunday, becoming involved in Bible Studies and continuing our commitment to tithing.

In November of 2009 on his way home from work, Steve was pulled over by a police officer for expired plates. It also turned out that our car wasn't registered (long story, but not the main point:)). The ticket was $400, along with some points being added to his record. We were less than thrilled with the situation, but had the means to pay it if necessary.

Fast forward 2 months to January 6, 2010. Steve had a court date to explain the circumstances of the ticket and hopefully get the points reduced, if not completely taken away. He called me at work later that day to let me know that they not only took the points away, we didn't have to pay the ticket either! I was ecstatic! (It's the little things for me:)).

That evening, the kids and I were having dinner at my in-laws before Time to Grow. Steve would always join us after work. I remember him walking in to the dining room and asking to speak with me privately. He told me he had lost his job. After 16 years with the company and with no real reason, he was let go. No severance pay, no notice, nothing. This was during a time when I was hearing of people who were taking months find employment.

I looked him in the eyes and said, "Okay. God has given us this. What do we do now?"

I had such a sense of peace and serenity with the situation. There was no anger, no frustration...complete trust. I knew, without a doubt, that He would take care of us. He always had and he always will. There was no reason to believe otherwise.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Stewardship Journey (continued)

Part 4

Well, I left off here, with Isaiah being born and my heart being broken and reshaped by the Holy Spirit to the point of tithing. This was just the beginning of our journey of being stewards of our treasures.

When it comes to the stewardship of money for me, hindsight is always 20/20 and I truly believe that is the way God designed it to be so that we can reflect back on our blessings. In Luke 6:38, God says, "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (ESV) We have witnessed this in our lives over and over again.

Following the car accident we were involved in, we received a fairly large settlement as compensation for our losses. I remember laying in bed one night, thinking again of our blessings (family, home, health) and feeling compelled to tithe our settlement. This was no small amount, but I was certain, this is what God desired from us. Steve agreed.

Within a week after we had made the commitment to give the tithe to the church, we received a call from our attorney. He told us that they finished the negotiations with the health insurance companies and we would be receiving an additional check for almost the same amount of what we had just committed giving to the church.

Now, let me be clear. I do not believe that God "gave" us that additional money because we committed to tithing the amount of our settlement. However, I am a firm believer in 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (ESV) We gave the tithe, because it was what we had decided in our hearts, not because we felt we had to.

Tithing is one of those things that once you start, it's hard, if not impossible, to go back. The Lord started our stewardship journey back then and is continuing it today.

To be continued...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Stewardship Journey (continued)

Part 3

Even after Bobbie's reassuring words, I still worried. I was still concerned. I was so grateful to God for blessing us with the baby growing inside of me, but I was fearful.

At my 20th week of pregnancy, my doctor scheduled a very detailed ultrasound with a specialist. They measured our baby's leg bones, arm bones, head circumference. They took close-up pictures of all of the major organs. Everything appeared to be developing normally. Even though the doctors couldn't guarantee there would be no issues once the baby was born, we felt incredibly blessed with this good news. I also learned that I would be having another son. I cried tears of happiness and began to feel myself "letting go" a tiny little bit of the control I wanted to maintain over the situation (even though I had none!).

As I look back now, it seems to me that the rest of pregnancy went smoothly. However, I remember that Steve and I were still both anxious and worried of the day when he would be born and the years following. My doctor told us that we wouldn't know for certain any lasting effects that the blood thinner would have on our child until he was about 5 years old. That seemed like a lifetime to me!

I was scheduled for an induction on March 6, 1998. We were very excited, but also very nervous. After giving birth to Noah and experiencing the incredible grief that went along with it, I didn't know what emotions to expect. Isaiah James Scheuer came in to the world at 2:22 pm that afternoon. The feelings we had were completely overwhelming. I remember Steve saying, "I can't believe he is ours". (More on that statement later:). Immediately following his birth, Isaiah was whisked off to the NICU, to be examined more closely. When they brought him back, the doctors were confident that he was physically fine. PRAISE GOD!

I chose our second born's name. It comes from the two books in the Bible, Isaiah and James. They were both books that I would pour over as I sat by Noah's graveside. I would read through them over and over again, gaining comfort and being reassured of God's promises.

When Isaiah was about 4 months old, my mom and I attended a Stewardship Dinner for our church. Steve wasn't able to go, due to work. I recall sitting there, listening to the testimonies and feeling the Holy Spirit working in my heart. As I held the white pledge card in my hand, my feelings this time were completely different than they had been earlier. How could I possibly look down at my son, a miracle, and not give thanks to God for His faithfulness? How could I not return to Him, what was rightfully His? Isaiah wasn't (and isn't) mine. He isn't Steve's. None of our beautiful children are. They all belong to God. They are "on loan" to us, to raise in the ways of the Lord. I pledged to tithe.

Many of you know Isaiah. He is one of the most tender-hearted children (young men) I know. He can quote scripture better than I can. He has an incredible sense of intuition when it comes to people. When he notices that someone is feeling down, he senses it and has such empathy.

Just the other day, he and I got in to a disagreement. I attempted to guide him, in the direction I felt the Lord would want me to. It was one of those situations where I wanted my child to make different choices than I did at that age, and I tried to "push" him in a better direction. He became frustrated and developed an attitude. In hindsight, I realized that I was projecting my failures on to him, not wanting him to make the same mistakes. I apologized to him and explained why. With complete sincerity, this was his response: "Mom, you are my mom. I am always going to need you guide me. I am always going to count on you to lead me in the direction I should go. I will work very hard to not turn away from you and develop an attitude."

Seriously? What 15 year-old says this to his parents and actually means it? This is who God blessed us with. This type of response is all Him. As I watch my oldest son (on earth) grow in to a young man, I see his incredible love for His Lord and Savior. Our gracious God has blessed Steve and I as parents with the knowledge to raise our children in the love of the Lord. We are being good stewards of our children. Do we screw up? Yes. Do we make mistakes (the same ones, over and over again)? Absolutely! God's grace (getting what we don't deserve) is sufficient for all those times we stray from His desires for us as parents.

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Stewardship Journey (continued)

Part 2

While I seethed in my anger towards God, He was working miracles all around me.

The hospital had asked me what I would like to do with my son's body. Did I want to bury him? Did I want the hospital to dispose of him? At the time, I was so devastated, I felt as though I wanted no memory of my Noah, so I asked the hospital to dispose of him and signed the papers. The papers were lost, so the hospital staff came to me again, to have them signed. They were lost a second time...and a third time. Um, I think God was trying to tell me something, but I was not in the mood to listen.

Bill, my father-in-law, stepped in and helped Steve make the decision to have Noah buried in "Babyland" at Wisconsin Memorial Cemetery. What an incredible blessing! I cannot count the hours I would spend there, just sitting by my son's grave, talking to him, telling him how much I missed him and how I wondered he would have been like.

I can recall some very dark times after Noah died. I remember telling my mom that I wasn't thinking about taking my life, but that I wished that God would take me, so that I could be with my son. In my desperation, I felt as though that was the only thing that would bring me any sort of happiness.

Through those dark times, Steve and I continued to attend church regularly, because I just felt that I needed to be there. Even though I was angry, I needed to be in fellowship. I needed to be surrounded by people who were in the faith. It was comforting to me. As I look back now, I realize that God brought Steve and me closer to our church family about 6 months prior to the car accident. He was preparing us for it and knew that we would need that support. He is always faithful.

About 2 months after the accident, I was healing, and seemed to be moving in the right direction. The only physical reminder of the accident I had was having to take a blood thinner, due to a blood clot that had formed in my leg. One afternoon, I was working out in the yard when I began to have some shooting pains in my arm. I called my doctor and she directed me to the emergency room. It was there that I learned I had a ruptured diaphragm, a result of the accident. I had to go in for major surgery to repair the tear. Prior to entering being put under, the nurse asked me if there was any chance I was pregnant. I told her that there wasn't. After spending 3 weeks in the hospital, I was finally able to return home.

Before we knew it, summer was coming to a close and August was upon us. It dawned on me that I couldn't recall the last time I had my cycle. I so wanted to be pregnant. I very much wanted a baby, but I knew that my body had been through so much, I was afraid. I remember taking the pregnancy test and it was positive. I remember clearly, telling Steve, and the look on his face. It was not joy or happiness, but anxiousness and worry.

I immediately stopped taking the blood thinner and called my doctor to make an appointment to see him. I had no idea how far along I was or the potential side effects of the blood thinner on my child. I was able to get in to the doctor fairly quickly, because they needed to get me on another type of blood thinner that was safe for women who were pregnant. When I went to see the doctor, we learned that I was about 3 months along. 3 months - that meant that I had undergone major surgery while pregnant and that I had been on blood thinner during a very critical time.

The potential side effects of the medication were not good--miscarriage, stillbirth, dwarfism, mental retardation, brain/spine problems and the list went on and on. The risks were highest when the blood thinner was taken early in the pregnancy, just as in my situation. I asked my doctor about the major surgery I had and possible side effects of that. He said that the surgery didn't appear to have an effect on the baby, so that was some good news. Regardless, Steve and I felt that we had 5 more months of worry and concern ahead of us, before our baby was born. Waiting, wondering, hoping, praying.

All the while, God held us in His hand. He gave us a church to support us and family to love on us. I remember telling Bobbie, my mother-in-law, about my concerns. How scared I was that something would be wrong. She responded confidently, "Everything is going to be just fine." I wondered in awe how she could be so sure.

To be continued...

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Stewardship Journey

These posts regarding stewardship are the personal experiences of my husband, Steve and me. They are designed to illustrate the long and sometimes trial-filled road a Christian can take when making strides towards stewardship. As you will see in this and upcoming posts, God has faithfully shown his provisions to our family over and over again. I would not change one thing about the way He laid out His plans for us, or we wouldn't be where we are today.

Part 1:

Uggghh! I strongly disliked that "stewardship" word when my husband and I were first married. In my mind, it was all about money. I knew that talents and treasures were a part of it, but the main focus I had been taught was on money. I could recall my dad, grumbling, when the church elders showed up at our house, talking about that word. Like my parents, Steve and I worked hard for the money we earned. We didn't want to give it away to a church or any other charity.

God started my stewardship journey about a year in to our marriage. We had both been raised in Lutheran homes and had witnessed our parents placing their white envelopes in the offering plate on Sundays. We had heard about tithing, knew what it was and certainly felt that it didn't apply to us. 10%? Are you kidding me, God?! We're just starting out. We're getting ready to buy a house. And, doesn't "God love a cheerful giver"? I would not be giving cheerfully, so better not at all, right?

I clearly recall sitting in the pew at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in West Allis (our church home at the time), during "Committment Sunday", staring at the white card my husband was holding. He wrote down $10 per week on that card. I remember glaring at him and being angry. At the same time, I was having pangs of guilt, for feeling that way about $40 a month.

Well, we committed to that $10 a week and moved forward.

Steve and I had been attending church, fairly regularly, about twice a month, and were feeling pretty good about that. After making our stewardship commitment, God gently tugged on our hearts and we began attending every Sunday. I clearly remember our vacancy pastor at St. Paul's in West Allis at that time, Dr. Rev. LeRoy Hass. His sermons spoke loud and clear to me and I was feeling (for the first time in my life) as though I wanted to be sitting in that pew, not that I had to be.

About 6 months had gone by and Steve and I were overjoyed to find out that I was pregnant with our first son. We were thrilled! I, being a planner, began rummage sale shopping, going to all of the resale shops and accepting any hand-me-downs that were offered. I have always been thrifty and this situation wasn't going to be any different:). I was working as a substitute teacher during the day and as a cashier in a grocery store at night. Steve was working at a car dealership as an oil change technician. We had recently purchased our first house and everything was going according to our plan.

However, our marriage was far from perfect. We were struggling in some areas that we were not proud of. We were living in Milwaukee at the time and one Saturday afternoon in April, decided to take a drive out to Steve's parents' house in Dousman. I felt it would be beneficial to talk to them about our struggles and perhaps get an "experienced" opinion:). We visited, talked, and had a good discussion, which included prayer.

We left there, with our spirits feeling lifted, being reminded that God is in control. It was snowing (in April) and the roads were slippery. As we traveled down Hwy 67 towards the interstate, a large SUV pulled out in front of our little Plymouth Duster and we T-boned it. I was 4 months pregnant, and unbuckled. Thankfully, I was not ejected from the car, but my head hit the windshield and my right arm and hip crashed in to the dashboard. An ambulance was called and I was transported to Oconomowoc Memorial. They did an ultrasound and found that my amniotic fluid was a bit low (I also learned that I would be having a boy!). I wasn't concerned and I told Steve, "God won't take our son."

That evening, the doctors performed two surgeries--one to relocate my hip back in to its socket and another to put a rod in my upper arm, which was broken. Both surgeries went well.

The next morning, I had another ultrasound done. My amniotic fluid was all but gone. My water had broke. On Tuesday, April 15, 1997, my first son, Noah Daniel, was stillborn at 19 weeks. We were surrounded by family. We sang the doxology. Everyone took turns holding him. Steve baptized our dead son.


to be continued...