I walked in to my counselor’s office and said, “Okay. Today I want to talk about two things. Money and Exercise. I want to start with money.”
My counselor, Kate, and I have worked together for decades, literally. Over the years, we have processed the stress of ministry, the challenges of life — all those question marks and exclamation points. She has helped me avoid becoming toxic in my relationships and helped me grow immensely. Here’s a shout out: Thank you, Kate for the work we have been able to do together! It is good to have someone who knows all the dirt and goodness, and keeps me reminded of truth day by day.
So, on that day we began with prayer and then I said, “There’s something connected to money in my life. I mean, I stress about it, yet we are fine. But, it does not feel fine in my own heart. For two years, while I have been building this new ministry in mediation, God has provided for us every step of the way. Sometimes with surprise gifts, and often with surprise work. So, I can honestly say, we have all we need. But this month, I had to borrow $2K from savings to pay for some of the basics on the credit card which include gas and groceries, etc. It freaked me out.”
As we talked about it, she asked how my family had handled money. Here’s what I recalled:
My mom was always stressed about money. She believed we never had enough even though there was plenty. I grew up in a middle class family, in a small but decent, single-level house on Hawkeye Avenue in Turlock, California. My dad was super handy. He built on an extra room, poured concrete steps and a patio, and built fences and garden beds. He constantly improved the place.
We moved from there when I turned 13 to a 40-acre almond ranch. This bucket list dream of Dad’s to try his hand at farming have come true. Dad had advised farmers in his day job for years in the agricultural chemical business. Now, he would keep that job and add the almonds alongside of it. We moved from town to the ranch into a beautiful, big, sprawling, 2-story, red with white trim house which sat on a bit of a hill surrounded by trees — huge eucalyptus trees grew around the house itself, then the 40 acres of almond trees beyond.
With all this, the beautiful house, the pool, the guest house, which we used as a rental, the big red barn, storage sheds, corral for the horse, still mom felt she didn’t have enough. When dad died, nine years later, at the age of 59, she was left with the loan paid in full through the death benefit, and plenty of life insurance money. She was suddenly wealthy, could go anywhere, yet lacked the one reason to go, my dad. It was a bitter pill.
I can recall dad’s celebration of life service in February, 1982, like it happened yesterday as we all stood in the choir room waiting for the family entrance. Karen and I stood near mom, just six months after our wedding, with my older brothers, John and Roger and my sister, the eldest sibling, Nancy. Dorothy, Roger’s wife, stood with Roger, Dede, John’s girlfriend shyly stood with him, and Andrew, Nancy’s husband, stood with Nancy.
Mom was dressed in her turquoise dress and coat, with a multi-colored necklace. It felt surreal. Dad was dead? We talked and laughed about the outfits Karen and I were wearing, all borrowed from siblings since we had come for a short weekend visit to see mom and dad, not expecting his death. It was strange for we felt shell-shocked, yet still could have normal conversation. There’s no pre-planning for the emotions of such times.
What I recall most was as we stood there, mom suddenly buckled over, and began to sob, crying out, “My God, my God, all these years I have complained of not having enough, and now…” she cried and sobbed. We looked at one another, silent and still. Nancy rushed in, asking, “What is it mom?”
“I have always complained about money and now I will have plenty but the one I loved is gone.” Mom wailed and grieved and we hugged her. We knew, she had spoken the truth. It was a brutal truth.
Coming from a home where money felt like a constant struggle and fear, I breathed it into my own cells. Money has long been a nemesis for me. Karen and I learned years ago to die to the myths we believed about money, and have used the Financial Peace principles of Dave Ramsey and lived on the cash-only basis. Karen has continued to follow this, but with my nip and tuck earnings, I’ve left money in the bank and used a credit card for basic expenses. I believed there was never enough cash to draw on/plan for. Of all I earned, I gave and put aside money into tax savings and regular savings, then paid the monthly needs from the account. But still it felt tight.
“I think you might be learning contentment,” Kate said.
I said, “Like what Paul wrote in Philippians? ‘I have learned to be content in all circumstances whether with plenty or in want.’? Or in another place, ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain.’”
“Exactly,” she replied.
Contentment — not putting trust or hope in finances, but in God who richly provides; being satisfied with my wages; remembering God has even this. Contentment is the opposite of greed or striving. As I quoted above, when combined with godliness, becoming like God in character and heart, it is great gain.
The fact is I need to catch myself in the act of speaking lies. My mouth often expose the false beliefs I carry inside the heart. To speak out truth is a powerful remedy to the statements of the heart.
By the end of this part of our conversation, I had this list:
- Recognize and operate in my strengths, asking God to teach me about them.
- Seek God to learn what it means to be content.
- Remember: God pays for what he orders.
- Be patient to learn what God has for me now as I prepare for what he will bring.
- Stay in my lane.
- Results don’t matter.
- Continue to show up, be faithful to the work: this is all that matters.
- I will always be successful in doing what God has called me to do.
Success has always been a slippery subject. Then, I came across this definition:
“Success is having those closest to me love and respect me the most.”quoted from John Maxwell’s Today Matters
When I turned to the subject of exercise, I realized abruptly it also had to do with money.
Exercise changed abruptly for me with the pandemic. The pools where I swam closed. Then, I tore my rotator cuff in my right shoulder so activity was limited for nearly a year. In two years my regular pool never re-opened. I did what exercises I could at home, took walks, etc.
Gabri (our youngest) told me the fitness club 24-hour Fitness, a strange name for a club which is not open 24 hours, was offering a membership special. The morning of my appointment with Kate, Karen had told me she would be glad to pay for the year’s membership for me.
Those lies were hardly out of my mouth when I heard them for what they were. Kate agreed. I also feared I wouldn’t get there and waste the gift. She encouraged me to counter the lies by action:
“Let her be generous, Brian,” Kate said. “Receive the gift. The times will fall into place.”
So, I signed up for the membership and began to go the next morning. I left around 5 am, did some weightlifting and then swam. I meditate on Scripture while swimming so it is a combined physical and devotional exercise. This has fit right in. I’ve gone for 11 days as of this writing, every day but Sunday.
With Kate, I have continued to learn the power and gift of healing relationships. To share the heart with a trusted friend in this life is a gift.