If you’ve ever seen Stephanie Bortnick around, one of the first things you’d undoubtedly noticed about her is her eyes. Bright and wide, they crinkle at the corners whenever she smiles – which is a common occurrence. She and her husband Allan have attended our church since 2013, and a year ago gave birth to a wonderful baby boy named Evan (who is a spitting image of his mom).
Recently, Stephanie took time to jot out a few words on a praise report card to put into words what God has been doing in her family’s life. She begins her testimony with an honesty about where they began, tracing it back to their individual upbringing, writing, “My husband and I do not come from financially stable homes. Neither of our parents are very good with money and at least in my family I believe it is due to spiritual bondage. My husband and I got married young and both attended post-secondary using student loans. Unfortunately, student loans only give you so much but the bank was willing to give us more, and more, and more.
My husband grew up in a strong Christian home and he has always understood the call to tithe and the blessings it brings. I did not. We started attending Northside when we moved to B.C. in 2013. We had finally found a church to call home. We were getting settled in our volunteer positions and community at church when my husband cautiously brought up that he wanted to start tithing. I say cautiously because it was always a debate trigger in our house.
“I felt that we could not tithe when we were in debt. It seems so counter intuitive to give away what you don’t actually have. After much debate I told him I would draw up a budget to prove that we did not have enough to tithe. I spend the next couple of weeks pouring over our finances and lo and behold I was able to find a little bit of wiggle room in our budget to start tithing. I had to eat a bit of crow and we agreed to start tithing temporarily. I will admit that I was not tithing with a glad heart at the start.”
The honesty of Stephanie’s words were what I liked so much. Hearing her admit that her heart was not glad at the beginning is refreshing, as well as inspiring. Sometimes following God looks like a feeling, and sometimes it looks like doing what is right even when we don’t feel like it (which can be a very tricky thing to do). The middle of the story looks a lot different from the beginning already, where she describes the faithfulness of God in their situation.
“I cannot say it was a particular moment but over time after many monthly conversations with God when we tithed I started to see a shift in how I perceived our finances. Suddenly, our monthly budget was not something that made me stressed but became a challenge. Could we pay down more debt and still tithe? Every time I have asked this God has come back with a resounding yes.
“Over the past five years my husband and I have been blessed with very stable jobs which is a rarity in both our fields. We have had random financial blessings that always seem to happen right when it seems there is more month at the end of a paycheck. We have even been blessed with the ability to do some travelling (a dream of mine) still while paying debt and tithing.
“We have seen blessings in many aspects of our life but for the sake of keeping on topic our finances have been abundantly blessed. I say this is an ongoing praise report because we are still in some debt but I actually get excited now to tithe. I am so thankful for God’s faithfulness and his partnership. When we once used to tithe 10% to the penny we now tithe a little more here and there when we feel God has asked us to, joyfully, and that has been the greatest blessing.”
The second thing that stuck out to me reading Stephanie’s praise report is her deep conviction that even though they are still not completely debt-free, their attitude towards their family’s finances has completely shifted. Now, Stephanie says, she gets excited to tithe. The lesson they’ve learned is the importance of knowing that when God asks you of something, you are ready willing and able to do it joyfully.
She ends her praise report by writing, “I do not know why God has asked me to write this down but I do hope that it helps someone else to find the joy in tithing and the peace he can bring in someone’s financial situation.”
Their testimony speaks to the importance of faithful work – that even when it doesn’t feel joyful, God sees and will pour out a greater measure.