WE’RE DEBT FREE!!!!! Words we have been longing to say for three and a half years now. Words that right now are our future, but will very soon be part of our present. You see, something happened almost four years ago to wake us up and make us see that we were living beyond our means without assigning a job to every dollar we brought in. I wrote this blog years ago and called it hisbrokenremnant because we are a broken people in need of someone to save us. And four years ago, my husband and I were just that: broken people who had been hurt and in need of saving. Not salvation- we both already had His amazing salvation. This was a different kind of saving. We had poured our lives, identity, and money into our children, our church, and our hobbies. We had lived without paying close attention to where our money was going. We got used to living beyond our means and then living extremely tight before payday. It was as if we had a ball and chain and were trying to go and do whatever we wanted even though the chain was constantly weighing us down.
Well, four years ago we experienced a major life event. We had been through the tough side of ministry and needed a breather. We didn’t know what was going to happen next, where we were going to go, or where the other half of our income was going to come from. We just knew that God was leading us away and we trusted He knew what He was doing and where He was leading us to. My husband went two weeks without a job before finding a temporary factory job but was always able to provide for our family, even with Christmas coming. One month after that, he was offered a job in a different kind of ministry: a hospice chaplain. A month after that, Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey came into our lives.
It was everything we needed to inspire us to continue on in our financial journey, the ministry, and the legacy we wanted so desperately to leave our children. Until then, I had just always thought a preacher and a teacher couldn’t make any money. We were destined to be poor, but we were rich in love. I thought for sure we wouldn’t have anything to leave our children but the examples we set in our marriage and spiritual lives. Financial Peace University changed all of that.
As we watched Dave speak on the videos every week and planned out how we were going to attack our mountain of debt, we began to dream together of what the future could be. Throughout the 9 week course, we threw several thousand toward our debt. It was exciting. However, over the next 3 years we would go through many ups and downs, including an increase of income, having a baby, being laid off, working a lower paying job, another increase of income, two surgeries, and finally getting back into the ministry we loved. During this time, it was hard to be consistent and although we made mistakes at times, we still continued our debt snowball, just at a slow pace. As many Dave Ramsey followers would say, we were Dave-ish, definitely NOT gazelle intent. I let him do everything when it came to the finances and I would agree to whatever budget he set without really knowing where the money was going, and I was still surprised at the end of every month how little was left. Blame it on my life as a teacher, or as a mom and wife, but really, I just wasn’t motivated. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It still felt like the debt would hang around forever. As if Sally Mae had taken up permanent residence in our home and I had just grown to accept it.
Then this summer everything changed. A few days before my daughter’s birthday, I was in the kitchen preparing for her party and decided to listen to Dave’s podcast. Next thing I knew, I had listened to three hour long episodes. We had paid down half our debt and in my mind probably still had another few years left on our student loans and a car loan (we bought the car a month before we took the class). But listening to people’s stories started to spark hope back into my heart. Four days later, the kids and I were in the middle of another life event: a car accident that totaled our car (we were all okay but the car was not). While fear lived in the depths of my bones, I just kept listening to Dave’s podcast and did not let the fear cloud our vision of being debt free. The last time we had been through something traumatic, we fell into stupid car debt and we were NOT going to do that again. As Dave says, eventually you get sick and tired of being sick and tired and that’s where we were at.
Fast forward two months and while we are still waiting on a few things, we are gazelle intent with an end goal in mind, and that goal is less than a year away. YOU decide when you’re sick and tired. YOU decide when you want to get out of debt or if you want to walk through life in bondage to your money instead of deciding where it needs to go. YOU decide how quickly you want to rid your life of that bondage. Throughout our journey, we have decided there would be a few non-negotiables in our family life from now on: we would GIVE God our first-fruits because he has blessed us with so much more than we need, we would no longer be slave to the lender (Prov 22:7), and we would walk through this financial journey together- making sure we seek the Lord and make decisions together. So my hope is that through the last leg of our debt journey, we can share our hopes and dreams with you, as well as tips, lessons learned, and celebrations! Please drop a line and let me know how we can pray for you in your journey (whatever that may be), tips you have learned, or something we can celebrate together!
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
Romans 13:8 NIV