Yesterday at church, our pastor specifically requested that business owners receive prayer. Quincy was actually in the lobby with little lady loudmouth (aka Aspen), and he said he was happy to receive prayer where he was. I know of at least one other business owner not in attendance for whom I specifically prayed as well. Anyway, I have to assume the fact that our business (amongst others) was specifically prayed for on the day before our business anniversary is significant.
I'd like to share some of what God has done in our business, what we are working toward, and what God has already done since yesterday. I'd also like to be honest with you about what to pray for our business.
When Quincy felt led to begin this business full-time, five years ago, it was completely a giant leap of faith. We basically had no safety net or back-up plan. We were just trusting God. It was a challenge to make that step, but I will be frank, that leap was nothing compared to the daily walk of perseverance in the same direction. The initial leap was exhilarating. We didn't know exactly what God was going to do, how He would come through, but we knew what He called us to do, and we knew we had to do it. Neither of us had any expectation of the mountains and valleys over the years of building this business, learning balance, praying for and receiving miraculous provision again and again, or continually doubting the call.
Throughout the past five years, we have literally never been charged a late fee for a single bill. I know many people with predictable incomes who cannot say that of themselves. That is a miracle for us, seriously. Now, the reason for that has not always been because business has come in at the exact right moment. More than once, our brothers and sisters have come through for us. We've had unexpected money on our doorstep or in our mailbox. We've had friends show up to buy us groceries, not knowing we were down to rice in the cupboards. This is why none of us should ever doubt or question a prompting of the Holy Spirit to give. Seriously. I cannot emphasize this enough. If God leads you to buy someone groceries, pay their bills, give them a car, DO IT. I cannot express what one particular grocery trip did for my heart. I had been feeling so depressed and overwhelmed. I was a mom who felt like I was not providing for my child. I was disappointed with God. I was hurt. I was upset with my husband for leading us down this path. I WANTED TO QUIT. This grocery trip was honestly like a sweet hug from Abba. It was as though He sent a friend to buy us food, to remind us He was listening, that He loved us, and that we are indeed, far more important than the birds of the air or flowers of the field in His sight.
This life is complete foolishness sometimes. Quincy and I are both highly qualified college graduates. To choose this path just makes absolutely no sense sometimes. God has chosen it for us, though. He has orchestrated our steps and made our path straight. We will keep walking it until He tells us otherwise. I often think of the scripture, I Corinthians 3:19 - "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight." I can't tell you the number of times that scripture has kept me on the path of foolishness. I know that selling our first house appeared to be complete foolishness to most people, even myself at times. I also know that it was what God led us to do. I know that being in the position we were in, giving away a car to someone else appeared to be complete foolishness to most people, but I know that was what God called us to do. I know that many times as we've given money, taking our bank account to a big old goose egg, it has seemed like complete foolishness. I've been stressed out, scared, worried, and freaked out more in the last 5 years than ever in my life. I've also been blessed beyond measure. I pray daily that if God ever does change our position, that I never, ever, ever forget this time in my life. Please pray this with us.
For the first four years of the business, we paid our taxes in full, on time. This was HUGE for us. For those of you who don't know, small business owners turn approximately 30% of our income right on over to Uncle Sam. This is a HUGE percentage. (This obviously depends on the type of business, etc., but it is a fair estimate.) Imagine that for our single-income family who is barely making ends meet, we have to shell out 30%. UGH. April is NOT a fun month for us! For the fifth year (April 2010), we just couldn't pay it. We prayed. We struggled. We worked. It just didn't happen. This was/is discouraging to us. We had to borrow to pay half of it, so we now have to work to pay that back, plus preparing for next April. The big wheel keeps on turnin'.
When the economy was completely bottoming out and I was at my wits end with this whole venture, I decided to try to get a part-time job that I could do from home. I've always done some sewing and selling of baby carriers and other items, but I really wanted to know I was contributing as much as possible, working as hard as possible, and giving my husband as much breathing room as I could give him. I enrolled in a program to become qualified to do medical transcription from home. I worked my butt off and completed it in 4 months. I was hired about 2 months after that and have worked ever since. I am a subcontractor for another company, and am also therefore self-employed. This is good in the sense that it allows me scheduling flexibility and gives our family extra income, but on the tax side of things, it just adds to our mountain. I am making pretty good money though. The work is relatively easy. I am probably bringing home just a bit less than I would if I were still teaching and paying for daycare for 2 children (minus benefits, of course. We grownups haven't had health insurance since beginning the venture. The kiddos are covered, however.)
Before I began working, I had been on a Dave Ramsey kick. I love Dave Ramsey. I really do. I read all of his books, which I checked out from the library (and did not BUY). He would be proud (I think? ha!). I often have this saying when I want to buy something. "What would Dave Ramsey do?" He always says no. :) That's gazelle intensity baby. (If you have no idea what this means, go read one of his books. You don't need to read them all. That was just a bit of OCD on my part. Many of the same stories are told over and over in each of the books. Sorry Dave!) Anyway, every month, I would try to begin a debt snowball. I'd put whatever extra we had toward debt. Unfortunately, we'd hit the next month and be in the hole. It was SO frustrating. So part of my thinking was that my income could be "extra" and would go straight to debt. Well, guess what? The economy completely bottomed out as soon as I started working, and our business took a major hit. REALLY!?!? SO frustrating; however, I was also SO thankful I started working when I did. I have no idea what would have happened otherwise.
So I began developing a love/hate relationship with Dave Ramsey. What do you do when there are no corners left to cut? We don't have car payments. We don't have cable. We don't eat out. We don't have an "entertainment budget." Our money went straight to our bills. End of story. There was no extra. We were both working around the clock, so there was also no more time. It was at this point that Quincy began to subcontract for another company. We felt it was our only way out. He has been subcontracting for them for awhile now, and that helped to get us through our toughest time yet, but I have to wonder...
Were those the right moves on our part? Did we take a shortcut and short change God? I don't know. We honestly felt no clear leading from Him about what to do, so we just took steps praying He'd slam doors in our faces if necessary. Part of me wonders if these shortcuts contributed to the inability to pay the taxes this go round? Maybe we made our own way?. I don't know. I know God isn't that simple, and He isn't sitting around waiting for us to make a wrong move so that He can "punish" us for it. It's just difficult to know the right answers sometimes.
Over the years, we've consistently prayed for our business. We've worked hard, been frugal and faithful. This year, we are making major strides toward growth. Quincy is working at least 12-hour days, and there is more business potential, but there is no time. We can't afford to hire another person, but we are subcontracting to a friend and brother in the Lord, and training him with the hope of bringing him on full-time as soon as possible. Please pray for this aspect of our company, our family, and he and his family as well.
For year six, we are petitioning God for a turnaround. As the economy recovers and business picks back up, we are already seeing change. The company for whom Quincy subcontracts has not really had work for him for the past several weeks. Therefore, we should really be hurting right now. Let me assure you, we are NOT. As of Friday, we will have paid all our bills for the entire month of November. This has happened maybe once or twice in the past five years, and it has been followed by a month of great difficulty. With trepidation, I am believing this is not a fluke, but an indication of what year six will be for us. (Lord, help me in my unbelief!) Please pray with us.
I know it's really TMI to talk so openly about finances, but I figure that after listing my faults for you, what difference does it make!? haha! :) I would like our story to be one that you can share in and be encouraged by God's provision. I want Him to receive all the glory, and you to be encouraged in your faith.
We don't want to "get rich." We don't want to "have new stuff." Our specific immediate and long-term goals are to give more, be able to pay our bills and extra toward our debt (mortgage, taxes), be able to move (We are currently in a 2-bedroom townhouse. We are thankful for a place to live, but it is tight and not our "preference."), be able to take on our friend full-time, be able to purchase health insurance and have some savings, and ultimately, to honor God with our money and our story. So, I humbly ask you to join us on this journey and see what God will do with year six!