Editor’s Note: This is the next installment in our “Married and…” series where we will interview couples from all walks of life. It is our hope that you are encouraged by the stories of people who have similar journeys as you, who share the same dreams you have, who face the same obstacles you do, and who can remind you that your marriage isn’t the first one to experience the things you’re dealing with.
When couples decide to start a family, there are a lot of decisions to be made. One of the most stressful ones can be whether or not the family can afford for the wife to stay home. Some see it as a luxury they can’t afford; others see it as a necessity they can’t ignore. What works for one family doesn’t work for all.
After walking this road personally, Joe and Heather have learned the importance of communication in figuring out how to best shift from two incomes to one. We caught up with them recently to hear about their counter-cultural decision to downsize their home. Here’s what they had to say:
Tell us about your journey to decide to downsize your home. How did you get to this point?
Joe: We were at a point where we wanted to start a family, but we were unsure of our finances, as we wanted Heather to stay home while our kids are young. We prayed for God to provide a solution if that was his will, and He did. I got a job offer two months later. We sold a house, bought a new house, moved, and Heather got pregnant. This all happened very quickly. We tried to do the Lord’s will and prayed about all of the decisions, but we were very rushed.
After Luke was born, we had new financial obligations and Heather began staying home so we went from two incomes to one. This decision for Heather to stay home is what really led to our new conversations about finances. All of these transitions left us feeling financially challenged, which was new to us.
This made us work on our communication and give these new stresses over to God. Through all of this, the idea of downsizing kept coming up as an opportunity to be better stewards of what God has given us.
Heather: All of these new discussions about finance came up because of our transition from a two-income family to a one-income family. If we hadn’t decided for me to stay home with Luke, none of these conversations would have happened. Everything was always fine with two incomes so we never really had to talk about these things. So, after talking about our new financial situation we felt that downsizing is the best option. It will allow us to become better stewards of the money that we do have.
How has this decision positively affected your marriage?
Joe: Our communication has definitely improved—and overall the decision to downsize has been a stress reliever. It was stressful and difficult working through all of these transitions and our new situations. This choice alleviated that stress which had a positive impact on our marriage.
Heather: It has helped us to let go and to give control over to God with our lives in general and more specifically with our finances. We understand better now that nothing is really ours to begin with. Everything we have is a gift from God. It has strengthened our relationship with God and with each other by having to work through this.
What is your biblical basis for doing this?
Joe: The biggest thing I found in the scriptures that spoke to me about managing our finances is that it speaks out against laziness, tells us there are rewards for working hard, but not to work hard for selfish reasons or to just accumulate possessions. Proverbs 28:20 teaches us, “A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”
I may say I wish I could do A or B with my money, but things are too tight to make it happen. At the end of the day, we felt if we had that extra money to do something different with it, it would be better for our family. It’s not ours anyway. It is all a gift from God. In Ecclesiastes 5:19 (NLT) it says, “And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.”
Heather: Lots of scripture has spoken to us about how to manage our finances. The main idea throughout all of them seems to be “be wise.” Proverbs 14:23-24 (NLT) says “Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty! Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only foolishness.” Also, we read how we need to work hard and be generous. These scriptures lead us to want to be wiser with our money. Everything we have needs to be used for God’s glory.
How did your community encourage you in your pursuit of stewarding your money differently?
Joe: We have been blessed to have friends who love the Lord and understand this move, despite the fact that this runs counter to our culture. They have been praying for us, supporting us, and encouraging us through this experience.
What surprising elements have you experienced so far during this process?
Joe: Our house hasn’t sold yet! But God has still used this to grow our faith so much, even to the point that if the house doesn’t sell we know it wasn’t part of His plan for us. We really thought this was what God wanted and that it would sell quickly, but we’re learning that all we can do is try to be obedient. We don’t know exactly what His plan is. Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) says, “We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”
Heather: God might have other plans and want us to stay where we are for reasons we don’t know or understand yet. Even through this process I have had to fight human fleshly desires. I need to understand God may want something different. Proverbs 20:24 (NLT) says, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” I know He is directing our steps now.
Have you felt led to live counter-culturally with your finances? Start a conversation with your friends by sharing one of these photos: