When you’ve attended a word of faith church going on 7 years, there are things you just know. When you’ve attended Believers’ Fellowship for that entire time, you know about tithing. Believers’, has taught me the difference between being asked for money, and giving God what is His.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV
 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Over the years I’ve either purposefully given, or shamefully not. Let me be clear, the shame is mine. No one is making me feel this way but myself. But for me there really is no in between. When I’m paying my tithes regularly things just fall into place. The bills are paid; there is food, and enough money for other things. When I’m not, I stay home a lot. I become a spaghetti (because BOGO) eater and water drinker. And I feel tired from all the worry.
I tell you all that to share my testimony from this past Sunday. I still need to give you a little back story so you can truly appreciate what I’m about to share, but hopefully you’ll be just as excited when I’m done as I was yesterday, well still am today!
Let’s go back to last year. I can’t place a finger on any one thing that wasn’t going right, but I just wasn’t happy. Work was difficult, I was angry all the time, and staying home much more. Things in my family’s life were also a struggle and I felt this awful ripple leaking out into those I love. I knew (because I wasn’t paying my tithes, or attending church very much) that Pastor Wayne was going to call any day. In fact I found myself praying he would. Strange how that works. I wanted him to call, to remind me of what I already knew. And then the call came. “Hello Carmen”? “Hello Pastor”. What a sad, sad voice I had when he called. We talked for almost 45 minutes. I won’t get into all the details because; well some of it was private. What I can say is that he reminded me, that I’ve been here before, I’ve seen the difference in my life, and I know what to do to get out of it.
Someone unwittingly said to me when repeating this story that “Man that must be a small church if your Pastor has time to call you and ask for your tithes”. I did my very best not to be offended by the offhand comment, and really I wasn’t. It is something I would’ve thought 7 years ago. But I happily said, actually, our church is debt free, and gives away most of its money to missions and spreading the Word of God. They run the church with minimal staff and mostly volunteers. So no, he didn’t call because he needed the money. He called because it was God’s money I wasn’t paying.
Malachi 3:8 NIV
 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.
I decided even before I hung up the phone that no matter what; I was paying tithes on my next paycheck. Not surprisingly it was pay week. Immediately feeling a sense of relief at my decision my week improved. For Christmas I was able to purchase all my gifts in cash and not accrue any additional debt for it. They may not have been as lavish as I’d previously been able to do, but they were well thought out and meaningful. My needs were met, and I was able to go home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Now just because you do what’s right, doesn’t mean bad things, or unfortunate circumstances can’t happen. In December right before Christmas, my car was broken into and many items were taken. The most costly being my Nikon camera and all of my lenses. If you know me at all, you know this was a major blow. I had Christmas coming up and the Adult Christmas party at church. All those moments and all I was going to have was my iPhone. Not that that is a bad thing, just not the way I like to capture those family moments. My family immediately jumped in and offered their cameras. My family is awesome! And while those offerings of support were amazing there was another moment that took my breath away.
The night of the adult Christmas party Rebekah who I could not yet say was someone I knew well, but thought highly of came up to me, and said, “I know about your camera and I’d like to lend you mine until yours comes in”. Tears sprang to my eyes. This is a woman who’s work I admired and respected coming to me and entrusting me some with very expensive equipment. She also took the time to give me some tips on its use. That night I came to the event expecting to sit through it. Instead, she put the loaner camera aside and invited me to share in the use of her new and amazing new camera. She allowed me to enjoy the event in the way I love; behind a lens capturing moments. It also set the goal for the camera I wanted to replace my Nikon with.
When I got to Miami, my dad handed me his camera bag and again with tears in my eyes I accepted. It’s funny to note I have been carrying around two camera bags since (NEVER leaving them in my car). I hope I’m painting the picture for you. It may seem long winded, but I want to give God and all the people that have helped the glory to which I feel in my heart they deserve!
Last week was the culmination of many months of planning for the McGee wedding. I have to say the bride and groom looked so darn happy they were contagious! Rebekah and I were also going to have the opportunity to finally shoot together for the 1st time since Christmas. It was amazing! As soon as the wedding was rolling, I was behind the lens. I won’t say my pictures were as good as they’ve been in the past. Mostly because I’m still learning all the buttons on a Canon that are significantly different to someone who has been on a Nikon for 7 years. For goodness sakes I think the two companies are trying to make me crazy with opposite zoom directions! But alas it was happy, satisfying work.
I tell you all this to finally get to my point. Yesterday I woke up and I just knew something was different. To start with my friend Maria made breakfast. This was likely because her granddaughter Layla was there, but I am not complaining about the benefits (love you my friend). As I got to church and took my seat I immediately felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. There was a stirring in my soul as soon as I put my purse down and turned towards the alter to worship our God. I also was relieved to see Rebekah because I’d realized I left both cameras at Maria’s house. Oops. As it runs out there was a purpose, because today was not my day to take pictures. I haven’t gone to the front of the church in a long time for worship. But the music was just taking over and I was becoming overwhelmed with emotion. I wept with relieve for the absolute love from God. I wept with joy at his love. I have so much to be grateful for.
I’ve said it before, but one of the best most amazing things about Believers’ Fellowship is they are led by God and listen to the Holy Spirit. Yesterday was a day for worship, and Jon joined us instead of preaching to us. He gave over the microphone and allowed us to give testimony. I was hesitant at first about sharing mine… again. But when the Holy Spirit pushes you to your feet, you obey. This is the testimony I gave. I spoke of last year, I spoke of Pastor’s call (thank you so much Pastor Wayne), I spoke of not ever feeling judged and just being welcomed back into the flock. I spoke of the before and after of not paying tithes, and paying them. How since then I’ve received not one but two bonus checks (both of which I paid tithes out of first) that would pay the balance of a cruise I was going on and the balance of my Mission’s Trip in March. As I just mentioned I’d already set aside money for the Mission’s trip when Maria F. (There are a lot of Maria’s in my life) text me to tell me someone had paid $200 towards my trip. Praise God! I was so excited. Here God knew I had the money, but I could now put that $200 towards my new camera that was coming! Thank you to whoever you are, as you doubly blessed me with your giving. I told the church the amount of my tithe for the bonus check. To be give credit to God, the amount of my tithe check would’ve been enough to by the new camera. But again it wasn’t my money to spend. I ended by saying I knew the camera was coming and God would take care of it.
Wouldn’t you know that before I’d fully sat down, someone, and per their request I will leave their names out of this, asked me what the balance was to purchase the camera. I looked at them and simply said “a lot”. They repeated the question and said “How much”? My jaw went slack. They told me not to deny them the opportunity to bless me. I gave them the number and they immediately wrote me a check. Just like that, I now have the money to purchase my new camera. As Jon and Maria R. said “You can’t out give God”! All the glory to Him!
I cannot wait to get my new camera in my hands, capture moments in Usila in March, and work on my photography. Eek I’m so excited!!! Big thanks to my family and friends for all their support!
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.