The question loomed large, larger than the news that her job was about to end.
Would she be "all in" with her promise to faithfully tithe from her very last paycheck? Or would pending rent and an already overstretched budget be reason enough not to give this one time?
It was a question the "40-something" mother of two pondered.
Officially single after a 20-year marriage, and with teenage children to consider, it seemed logical to hold onto every cent. Already, the Seattle-area professional was accessing the church food bank and pulling cash from her IRA to survive.
"I rationalized that God would understand," Cathy Fisher said as she reflected on the financial unknown she was facing. "He knew my situation, and that I would make it up to him once I knew what was happening in the month ahead."
But was that really her original intention when she'd told God she was "all in" with her renewed relationship with him?
The Bible she had begun to study months earlier had a lot to say about giving back to God. Something Cathy had never done when she and her husband lived on a combined household income of almost a quarter-million dollars.
"I am so sick to admit that we probably gave the least then than we ever did," said Cathy with regret as she remembered the many "toys," big home and properties they enjoyed — and had to maintain. "We thought we couldn't afford to give 10 percent."
Now in the leanest of times so far — and with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner — she had to ask herself whether she would step out on faith again, trusting God to provide. Without a job and not knowing where she and her daughter would live the next month weighed heavily, and her faith faltered.
"Then I stopped myself right in the middle of it," the petite brunette said, remembering the moment, "and I said out loud, 'No! I am going to trust God with this. I'm all in and I mean it. I'm doing this.' "
Cathy immediately wrote a check for her $265 tithe from the gross income she had received — the last foreseeable income.
"I didn't calculate anything because I knew it wouldn't add up and only stress me out," the struggling mom said about her meager budget. "I prayed out loud, 'Jesus, I trust you. Please have this little bit serve you in the best way, and please get me through this month."
Shortly thereafter, a letter from her attorney arrived. Cathy knew there could be a few hundred dollars left from what had been set aside for divorce proceedings. However, there was also the possibility that additional paperwork may have incurred more cost.
"I prayed before I opened it, that I would have grace with whatever was in that envelope," said Cathy. "And I found a check for $2,900!"
This was three times the amount she thought would be in the account after seeing the previous statement — and now enough to see her through another month's living expenses.
Once again, Cathy knew God had blessed her and so she wrote a 10 percent tithe from the $2,900 to her church. But then she felt a nudge to give even more out of her "abundance."
"I felt God strongly told me to share his gift with some friends I had been praying for," Cathy explained. "I knew they were in a very dark situation in their lives; the husband was losing his faith."
Cathy decided to give the married couple $200. But she then felt God say it should be $165.
Why $165, Cathy had wondered? She would happily give even $250. But the thought came again that it needed to be $165.
"I'm laying there in my bed one morning going, 'Why $165, God? That's weird,' " Cathy said of her bewilderment. "I'm willing to give them more! 'How about ...' Then I felt strongly him telling me, '$165! Do it!' "
So Cathy penned a letter explaining the money was from God and included the check.
"I knew I was supposed to tell them that he is hearing their prayers, he knows what's happening to them, and he is there with them," Cathy said about the message.
A few days later, an envelope addressed to her friends arrived in their distant mailbox. It sat unopened while this couple priced two tires they desperately needed, but absolutely could not afford.
Then, remembering the mail had not been picked up in a day or two, Cathy's friends discovered her letter and gift. Stunned, they stared disbelieving at the amount on the check — $165.
And the quote they had gotten for the tires? $164.52
Without a doubt, Cathy has learned that when we are "all in" with God, his abundant blessings pour out on others, too.
Malachi 3:10: "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."