Remember back about 10 years when you didn’t pay a bit of attention to finances? Would you call that time period a time of ignorant bliss? You didn’t work hard at home economics. Specifically, you didn’t budget, cook often, or even consider using coupons. Matt was making less than a first-year teacher and together you were spending quite a bit more than that every year. Life was tough, financially, but it would have been doable had you been a bit more aware of what was going on under the surface of the financial landscape; had you heard about and listened to Dave Ramsey’s message.
Remember a few years ago when you noticed a small mole-hill of debt that had you slightly concerned about your financial status? Remember the moment when you realized that the debt was going to keep you from buying your dream house? Do you remember sitting outside Chick-fil-a in Shelby, devestated because you knew it wasn’t going to happen. Surely you remember lying on your bed that night crying, grieving over that dream that was lost. And of course, you remember hearing the mortgage broker threatening to sue you if you didn’t go through with the purchase, even though you had clearly told him you could not afford the house and hadn’t signed anything legally tying you to the house. I wish I could go back to that moment and tell you to let him sue you. What would he have gotten? A mole-hill of debt that you realized, soon after moving into that dream house, was just the tip of the iceberg of debt.
Remember the moments of sheer panic that would set in when you got bills and knew you were only making the minimum payments, not making any dent in the balances? Remember the almost-physical blanket of depression you felt each time you sat in the office of that dream house? Remember counting the days till the next payday because you were barely making it two weeks between each one? Remember being so consumed with the debt that you searched scriptures to find out how to take every thought captive? You learned a great lesson during that time of desperate searching: that when your mind is being overrun with thoughts you do not appreciate, you can sing praises to Him or quote scripture… the enemy cannot be in the presence of praise and you learned how to go to battle against that enemy with the song, “I Cast All My Cares Upon You.” Remember singing that song while cleaning? While mopping? While driving? While folding clothes? It was the easiest thing to recall when you needed to drive depressing feelings away. It worked.
Remember when the song “Praise You in This storm” came out? It was at this time in your life and the lyrics pierced your heart unlike any other:
I was sure by now God, You would have reached down, and wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day. But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining.
Remember going through the gate at Fort Jackson when this song had just come on the radio. You were unable to stop the tears, incapable of getting out of the line, so you had no choice but to roll down the window, give the gate guard your I.D. and let him see your pain.
Remember being so dependent on Christ that your sweet husband read your mind and converted the closet into a prayer closet? Remember the hours you spent with Christ in there? He was your comfort in a time of need. He was there. You were never alone.
Remember needing rescuing? Remember the added level of fear when the Army told you that it was time to move after only being in the house 8 months? Remember leaving the house empty after having lived in it only 13 months? I wish I could have told you not to buy the house, not just because you had debt, but also because you were not going to be in Columbia long enough, anyway. Remember the house sitting empty for 6 months? Do you remember the moment you finally gave it up? You were sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot on 8th Street in Colorado. You finally said, “Okay, God. Take it. I have no idea how to do that, but if you don’t, this house is going to kill us. I’m going to give it to the bank tomorrow.” You had no idea what that was. What a foreclosure or short sale was. But you were desperate for it. Remember when the property manager called you the next day with renters? God stepped in and rescued you.
Remember the deployment? You needed rescuing from your own financial decisions. God gave you and Matt a chance to earn extra income in the form of a 15 month deployment. Remember the long, lonely days that you endured, encouraged by the ever-shrinking iceberg? Each day was worth it, and Matt agrees. That iceberg would have taken twice as long to thaw without that deployment.
Remember reading in Deuteronomy 8 a call to “remember what the Lord your God has done for you.” It is clear that God has rescued you. It is time to remember. You need to remember THIS moment, as well. You have come so far. From a place where everything on earth was at stake, to a place where the debt is so small you can squash it in a few short months. But you have not gotten to this point alone. As a unified team, you and Matt have declared war on debt and have made a joint decision to never go back. You will soon be calling the Dave Ramsey Show to do your debt free scream and it will be a great day! But I am afraid you will forget. Forget how not paying attention to the finances got you in a mountain of debt. Forget the feeling of fear lurking in the mailbox. Forget the surrender when forclosure would have been a relief. Forget the 440+ days you spent without your husband knowing that each day was one day closer to being out of that disaster. Forget the clipping of coupons that saves you $30-40 on each grocery bill. Forget the cooking-by-the-month that has saved you THOUSANDS of dollars over the past few years. I don’t want you to increase your lifestyle by much, though some is okay. I don’t want you to forget the simple birthdays and Christmases which have cost you so little. Those inexpensive holidays have taught the boys many great lessons. Lessons that include the fact that Christmas is more about Jesus’ willingness to come to earth to rescue us than gifts under the tree. That, though we could spend hundreds of dollars on toys and gifts for birthdays, we prefer to spend TIME celebrating each other. That we make choices with our money and we don’t buy certain things, not because we can’t afford them, but because we are making choices with our money that will help us win. Lessons that help the boys learn to earn money for the things they want and to not borrow money, for the borrower is slave to the lender. I don’t want you to become lazy with these lessons just because the noose has been removed from your neck. If you become lazy, the boys will end up with a similar noose around their necks as adults. Remember your goal… that the boys will learn the value of a dollar (and a Euro… depending on where we’re living at the time), and that they will know the meaning of working for what they need, saving for what they want, and giving generously. Remember that the lessons you’re teaching them by example now are only going to get more and more important with each passing year. They will need to see the long-term benefits of saving, not just the day-to-day slow climb. Find ways to show them the fruits of your labor in ways that helps them to appreciate the hard work.
Remember hearing Dave Ramsey say, “Broke people can’t help people.” He’s right. When you’re debt free and working on your next few baby steps, remember the desire to pay for others to go through Financial Peace University. Remember that there were people you were willing to pay for their classes if they’d promise to graduate, but you were in no position to help them. Log/Stick. Drowning people aren’t much use in the water. When the noose is gone and the issue doesn’t feel as pressing, remember that there will be others whose noose feels uncomfortably tight. You will have the opportunity, and the ability, to help!
The remembering ensures that you won’t go back. Making yourself remember the fear, pain, and shame you felt isn’t to make you feel bad about getting into that situation. You were only normal. “Normal is broke,” as Dave would say. But it was a miserable state to be in and if you can remember that, you will avoid that at all costs. You never want to be “normal” again.
Dave Ramsey says that it is hard to get excited about the “how” of getting out of debt until you’ve examined the “why.” Remember the “why.”
Why be debt free?
– So you can give to other people in need.
– So you never again have to worry about money (note: you got to this place LONG before you were debt free because you kept the starter emergency fund full at all times… removed stress immediately!)
– So you can always OWN what you have rather than make payments on it…
– So you can travel without guilt.
– So you can retire and have the house you really want.
– So you can leave the boys something when you die.
– So you can help the boys go to college.
So, in conclusion, remember the hard times you endured in order to get to the great times ahead, the times you mentioned in the “whys.” Remember who rescued you. Remember the amazing man who walked beside you, hand-in-hand, willing to sacrifice deeply to win. (Remember the guitar he sold? And the guitars he didn’t buy but really wanted to?) You’ve come so far. Be fully alert these last few months of being in debt, watching the finish line come more and more in focus. The count-down is on. The crowds are cheering. Hear them?!? Family and friends who have encouraged you all along. Three boys who can’t wait to scream with you on-air! Those boys, along with Parker, who has no idea what debt is, will enjoy a totally different view, from a changed family tree..
To any reader who might happen to be out there…
I had Matt read this in its entirety just to be sure he was okay with my transparency. These thoughts and feelings are mine, but they are very much tied to his story as well, and I didn’t want to share more than he wanted me to. He didn’t want me to change a thing. He liked it as it is, and was not ashamed by it at all. Neither am I, though I do feel a bit nervous posting it. You’ll notice I didn’t put a dollar figure on our debt. One main reason: If you have debt that is greater than what we had, you may feel it’s too big a mountain and if we were this stressed over THIS number, you may feel your situation is hopeless. If you have debt and it’s smaller than ours, you may feel it’s small enough to ignore. I implore you to try it this way. Get out of debt. If you don’t like the way it feels, you can go right back into debt in a matter of minutes. Apply for a credit card. Take out a loan. Whatever. But I bet you will like this way of living more than the other. I now look forward to pay day not because can barely make it till the next one, but because our “snowball” is so large that we make a BIG dent every 2 weeks. We’re looking at being totally done with debt in March. And at that point, we get to move on to Baby Step Three. And at that point the dollar figure will not be shrinking, as it does with debt paid off. It will be growing. We’ll feel like real live grown-ups, saving money! 33 years old. A bit late to be growing up, but hey, we’re trying! I may sound like I am selling Dave Ramsey and his plan. That’s fine. I often get accused of being a salesperson for Pampered Chef because I love the stuff so much. I’m not. Don’t want to be. But when I find something that makes my life better, like a stone that makes the best pizza crust ever, or a muffin pan that makes beautiful muffins, or pots that NOTHING sticks to, I must share! And Dave Ramsey’s plan has made my financial life so much better and if that plan can work for me, it can work for others… and therefore I share. If you have been doing great on your own, fantastic. You are different from most. Imagine what you could do with Dave Ramsey’s plan. You could have millions in a few years. I dare you to try! If you live in Wiesbaden the chapels are going to be hosting Financial Peace University starting in January. I believe it will be free, or at least, very cheap. Let me know if you’re interested. If you live in the states and want to find a local place hosting it, click here. Put in your zip and the options will come up. I dare you.