Which financial season are you in?
I was writing an article on 10 things I have learned whilst living by faith as a missionary in Peru for the last 10 years when I realized that one of the points was a blog post in itself and something I think is worth exploring. So that blog post will come soon but today I wanted to talk about seasons of fruitfulness and seasons of scarcity and what they may look like to help us have wisdom in our finances...
A field of flowers to sell
A few years ago I had a writing day in a valley about an hour south of us. I was sat in the restaurant and it overlooked some fields which were sown with flowers to sell. The flowers were in different stages of growth - some in the early stages, some growing tall and others ready to harvest. There was one solitary man harvesting slowly in the fields some of the flowers that were ready for market and as I watched him and his field I saw the wisdom of his process. He didn’t sow more than he could harvest and he didn’t need to pay to hire more help in order to harvest, but instead, he had created a small business which he could sustain and that would sustain him continually. Rather than having hundreds of flowers ready at one time, he had staggered the growth to have smaller amounts of flowers ready each day.
Now whilst I understand that he could have hired help to sow his field then harvest his field and he could have perhaps worked another field and scaled up his business over time, being more efficient and making more money, that wasn’t what I felt the Lord speaking to me about that day. I felt that He was talking to me about sustainability, pace and how when we take time to sow and work faithfully each day (or pray faithfully or invest in anything faithfully) we will see a harvest, and it will be a sustainable harvest if we are faithful in sowing.
Starting to live in Peru as Missionaries
When we first lived in Peru we had very little monthly money and monthly rent and bills that needed to be paid. After two years of living hand to mouth, we were at the end of our overdraft and I didn’t even believe God would allow us to go into our overdraft! We had one to use for paying for things when money was due in the next day or so, or for emergencies, but we didn’t ever expect to need to use it for daily living. It was still the middle of the month and we were not due to receive any more support for a couple of weeks and we had bills to be paid and we needed to eat!
We had come to Peru believing God would provide and now we were running out of cash so perhaps we were no longer meant to be here - perhaps we had made a huge mistake?! Had we sinned in the way we had spent our money? Had we failed to administer it well?
We looked at our spending - it was not extravagant. We would buy an orange juice rather than a meal at the local café once every two weeks for our date night because it was cheaper than a meal and we only bought the essentials. Our double stroller was two umbrella strollers on sale at the supermarket for $15 each attached together by a piece of string!
When we looked at our spending we also noticed that there had been some attacks on our finances. For example, the ceiling had fallen in because of a plumbing problem in the house we were renting, and the owners didn’t want to take responsibility (normal here in Peru). Fixing that cost the better part of a month’s budget for us at the time and a large part of our overdraft.
When I talked to my sister about it and wondering where we had gone wrong she read to me from Psalm 1 which says:
‘Just because you aren’t seeing fruit right now,’ she said, ‘doesn’t mean that your roots aren’t in the water. It just means that it isn’t the season yet for fruitfulness.’
A late night visit
I appreciated her wisdom and was writing it in my journal late at night when I heard voices below. At first I wondered if someone was breaking into the house as it was past 11pm. But then I heard Lili, who lived with us, talking to a male. Anger and confusion rose up within me as I couldn’t believe she would sneak a man into the house! I confidently walked downstairs to confront her, but to get to her room I had to pass through the kitchen.
As I reached the kitchen I drew in a deep breath and was totally taken aback - it was full of shopping bags! A family from our church had done a weekly shop for us and left it for us in the kitchen! The male voice wasn't a secret lover but a secret shopper!
Disconnection with sowing and reaping
In the centuries before ours, people were not disconnected from food production. If you wanted to eat potatoes come summertime you had to plant it with time. If you wanted your children to enjoy fruit then you had to plant the fruit trees a few years in advance. There was an honoring and understanding of the effort and patience and protection that was necessary to safeguard the food and future provision!
These days if I want an apple I walk 100 meters down the road to our corner shop and pick up an apple in exchange for a coin. When strawberries are out of season or lemons unavailable due to a landslide or road block from the jungle I feel taken aback because I grew up with almost instant access to things I want year round in a supermarket in the UK. If food supply to our local shops stopped for any reason (like it has in countries like Venezuela) then we will be left hungry very quickly. Our poor old rabbit wouldn’t even be enough for one meal for one hungry family!
A few years ago I planted a peach tree in our garden. It took 2 years to produce fruit and it only produces ripe fruit for about 3 weeks a year. The quantity of fruit is enough only for a few people. There isn’t a total abundance and it requires a lot of patience waiting for the fruit! This year the birds got to most of it before I did and we only enjoyed a few peaches ourselves. It has made me realize how much effort and how many trees (and space!) we would need to actually survive of our own food!
The choice of sowing or reaping
In the past, if someone wanted to plant more vegetables or more fruit trees then they had to replant the seeds. In the case of a vegetable like a potato, they had to decide which potatoes they would eat and which they would replant for a future harvest. The literally had to choose between sowing or reaping at each harvest.
We have to make the same decisions with our finances. If we choose to reap all we have access to now then we won’t have any left to invest into the next season. I’m not just talking about savings - the investment could be in education or a sports class as an investment in our health. One area of our finances I feel uncomfortable investing in at times is our downtime or ‘rest and relaxation time’. It seems frivolous to go away for a weekend or go out to a restaurant for a date night. But because we are invested long-term in our key relationships and mental health in order to lead others here, I choose to see those things not just as an investment in the relationships but also in the lives of those we lead. Ultimately it is an eternal investment.
Heavenly Financial Provision
I love comparing finances so seeds and harvest because there are so many parallels! We often find when we start praying for finances or communicating about our needs or doing something to bring in income that it takes a while (months!) for those finances to be realized. Often there is an attempted attack on our finances too before we see the breakthrough (just like the birds eating at our fruit!). In fact, so much so, that when things start breaking down in our house we often laugh and start praising God that His provision is on the way! We have also noticed that we can go months without any extra support being sent and things can get pretty dry and then suddenly with a week we will receive not one but three or four gifts to get us out of a tight spot. I cannot explain it other than to say there seems to be a heavenly sowing and reaping going on too!
So what financial season are you in right now?
Are you in a season of dryness waiting for a harvest to ripen?
Are you looking out at bare earth and need creativity where you can get some seeds from?!
Are you enjoying a harvest and needing wisdom how to re-sow some of it for a future harvest?
Are you choosing to invest in other areas other than financial growth right now like education or health?
What harvests are you hoping to see in the coming year(s) and where can you sow towards them right now?
For a further discussion on not just financial capital but also other capitals we have to invest into and out of then check out this article by Ben Sternke on the Five Capitals. It is a very helpful way to think when looking at finances and their role within our faith.
Next week I will share 10 things I have learned whilst living by faith without a fixed income for 10 years as a missionary in Peru. If you aren’t signed up to get new posts you can do so by clicking here. (You will also get a free 60-second guide with 8 ways to meet with God in 10 minutes or less.)