In September I participated in Owlhaven’s grocery challenge and was pleasantly surprised at how much we were able to not spend on groceries. I had never kept track before and surprise, surprise, we realized how much money and food we were wasting. This is also the same time that we were trying to sell our house before we foreclosed on it. Ya, fun times.
We’ve always struggled with our budget and we’ve always struggled big time with credit card debt. When we were first married we decided to get rid of our debt and went through the consumer credit counseling program and paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt. Three years later we were back in debt again. Then comes our two miracle babies, two maternity leaves within 14 months, expenses from those two babies and oh ya, lack of budgeting. Come the Spring of 2009 and we found ourselves in a huge pickle. Did I mention that we weren’t tithing either? Because we couldn’t afford it of course. Even though God’s Word is very clear that we are to give back to Him our first fruits we were very sporadic in our tithing. And when I say sporadic I mean we hardly ever tithed and certainly never 10%.
Well come Summer of 2009 and we committed to start over. Again. God convicted us that we were being disobedient and yes part of our decision to finally obey was hope that He would bail us out of a really bad situation.
So first and most importantly we would begin tithing. Consistently. Before one penny was taken out of our paychecks we wrote our check to our church. It honestly was pretty scary because I had no idea how we’d pay all our bills. But while God’s Word is clear that we are to tithe it’s also very clear that He will provide.
On the inside I had reasoned that God is probably going to somehow wipe out our debt entirely. After all, we are tithing. And He knows the desire of my heart is to be able to be home with the kids. He’s going to swoop in and rescue us – even though it was all our doing in getting in the mess we were in. Well, God didn’t swoop in and rescue us. Month after month we didn’t find a check in the mail that would wipe out our debt. But He did do something even greater. He showed Himself to us. He proved that He was walking with us as we climbed out of the hole. He was with us in the little things.
I remember one week I had forgot to write down a check. We were going to be $500 overdrawn when that checked cleared. I was so freaked out. I went through the kids closets and found stuff to sell at a local consignment shop. But that obviously wasn’t going to get us what we needed. I broke down and swallowed my pride and called my brother and asked if we could borrow a hundred dollars (I couldn’t bear to ask him for more than that). He stopped by that day with $400. I was able to get the rest from the stuff I sold. And then one of the checks was delayed (for some “unknown” reason) until our next paycheck and so didn’t bounce.
We also had a huge medical bill that we applied for assistance for. We about fainted when we got a letter in the mail telling us it was forgiven. The entire amount. Maybe that’s all coincidence. But I know it was God walking with us and providing for our needs.
For the months of August and September we really cut back our expenses. We started living by cash, for the most part. And then in September we were approved into Consumer Credit Counseling. We had been denied in March because our debt to income ratio was too high. Gee, thanks. Nothing more depressing than a financial counselor telling you they can’t help you. But for some reason, partly because of us buckling down and budgeting but mostly because of God’s faithfulness, we were approved easily in September. We now make one payment to CCCS each month. We will save over $30,000 in interest that we would have normally paid if we paid the cards ourselves.
The next step in this perfect plan was to sell our house. That would for sure allow us to pay our debt down in 3 years and provide for me to stay home to home school the kids. After 4 months on the market and over 40 people walking through the house, Pat decided he didn’t want to sell. He said he never did have complete peace about it. I was kind of glad because it was so exhausting trying to keep it spotless and packing up the kids for showings.
But I was also crushed. This was the plan. This was the only way that I’d be able to stay home with the kids. For a few days I wallowed in my misery and wondered why God would allow this. He then reminded me – as I spoke about here – that He still has a plan. I’m about 95% sure that He does want me to home school the kids. I’m not sure where that desire would come from otherwise. And so I need to trust that He will make a different way for that to happen when the time comes.
Within the past four months, even without us selling the house, we have been able to make it. It’s not easy and to be honest I mess up alot and I go back to my old ways alot of not keeping track. But every single bill has been paid on time. Slowly we have been able to put a little bit into savings, which we haven’t ever had.
Why am I sharing all this? I guess because I’m pretty sure there’s someone reading this that is struggling the same as we did. Whether it’s finances or marriage or in your faith walk. Often we have a plan but circumstances change and our plans don’t work out quite right. Thankfully God is so much bigger than our circumstances and so I wanted to encourage you. There is a way through it. God does have a plan. It’s often not with some hard work, and it’s always relying on God’s strength and not our own and being obedient to His Word. And it’s through the journey that we are refined.
I’ll share later more details on our budget and how we’ve cut back. I can’t tell you how much I miss me some Starbucks and going out to eat as much as we used to. But I also know that I’ve acquired alot of memories of eating supper with my family at the supper table – even if it is mac-n-cheese for the third time that week. That $3 coffee might not seem like alot but it really does add up. I’ve come to experience that while discipline might be hard it’s also rewarding and freeing to know I’m completely being obedient to God and trusting in His plan, not my own.