I grew up in Southern California, the third in a family of four girls; only six years separated the oldest and the youngest. Dad worked for the federal government and Mom stayed home and supplemented his income doing in-home daycare and decorating cakes. We lived in the town that my parents grew up in. Until I was nine years old we lived in a 2-bedroom house; in 1968 we moved into what I thought at the time was a mansion, four bedrooms on a cul-de-sac. It was the California Dream.
That cul-de-sac housed nine families, including about 23 children. Gosh, the memories… playing softball until zero dark thirty, using the manhole cover in the middle of the street as home plate, watching the family of teenaged boys two doors down race around the sidewalk on their roller skates, it was our own personal roller derby. But the family we played with the most lived across the street. Nine children were in that family, and I remember looking at my mom and saying, “why do they have a new car, how do they have brand new clothes in the latest fashion?” I’ll never forget her answer, which by the way was a stock answer for many things my sisters and I asked for, she’d say “I have other things to do with our money.” Not a very satisfying answer as far as I was concerned, but later, years later, it made sense.
We were the family that was at church all the time. Dad was Chairman of the Deacons, he was Sunday School Director for several years and always taught a Sunday School class. Mom taught a Sunday school class, Women’s Bible Study, G.A.s and she was in the choir. We were at every Sunday service, morning and night and never missed a Wednesday.
As I grew up into my middle school and high school years, I started to understand what Mom meant when she said “I have other things to do with my money.” Sending four girls to GA Camp, Youth Camp and all the school activities wasn’t easy. But Mom had a plan. In her room in the dresser drawer where she kept jewelry, handkerchiefs and scarves, there were lots of envelopes and all those envelopes had words on them. They would say things like Vacation, Camp, Shoes… some even said Roseanne, Stephanie, Penny or Pam. Those envelopes were filled with $1 bills, $5 bills, $10 bills and occasionally a $20 bill, just waiting to be needed. It may not have been every bit needed, but it was a start and it was planned.
Another envelope was there as well, this one was titled Offerings, not Tithe… Offerings. This was money set aside for the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings. And when those special times rolled around each year at Easter and Christmas, it wasn’t a surprise and it wasn’t a burden. The money was there to support those ministries. Yes, there were other things we could have done with our money, but my parents made the choice to give to missions. So yes, it was a sacrificial gift, but it wasn’t a burden, because it was planned and budgeted for. It was a gift freely given (an offering) because it was given to a ministry that we believed in and wanted to support.