Can I just preach to somebody for a minute?
Eight years ago, when we got married, we lived in a teeny tiny 500 sq ft house that we rented from my aunt and uncle. It had 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, and a kitchen with carpeting. Even at half the rate we would pay to live anywhere else nearby, we struggled to make the payment along with the utilities. We scrapped and scraped. We ate frozen pizza, spaghetti, and protein bars an awful lot. We didn’t eat much that was fresh. We called both sets of parents and hinted until they invited us over for dinner. I’m sure there were times we just flat-out asked if we could mooch off of them.
There have been times when we didn’t have health insurance. There have been times when our heat was turned off. There have been times we owed so many people money that I felt ashamed, hopeless, and buried from the weight of it. I turned down offers to go out with friends because we “weren’t spending money on that right now”. I began to feel like a broken record. We had no credit and couldn’t get credit cards – the one we did get, we maxed out almost immediately, for a whopping $300.
It must have been difficult for our parents to watch us go through that.
Today, I spent $240 on a dress I will wear one time. Like it was no big deal. Like it didn’t matter. Eight years ago that was half our rent. We would’ve had to save for MONTHS to be able to afford a $240 dress. We wouldn’t have spent $240 on a dress. That was unspeakable. $240!! There was a time when I felt excruciatingly guilty for spending $5 on something like mascara. The difference does not escape me.
But money is cheap.
I’m reading a book and at one point while telling a story, the author says, “Cheap, cheap money.”
Money is cheap.
I’m not going to lie: we didn’t get to where we were by trying to keep up with the Jones’. We put our blinders on and stretched our dollars, every last penny of them. My incredibly money-smart husband threw money at our debt until it disappeared. It hurt. It ached. All that hard earned money tossed away, with no physical thing to show for it. It felt like we worked and worked – for awhile, only my husband worked and worked and worked, worked himself to exhaustion – and then wrapped our money in a pretty package and tossed it in the garbage. It was hoping, and hoping, and being excited about bringing in more money than normal, only to have it be gone, handed over to someone who had a claim on it before we even earned it. They owned us.
Lord I hate debt.
Sure, I wanted our own home, one I could paint and decorate and fix up with new furniture and appliances. But we didn’t have the money. We lived off our meager incomes and sometimes the generosity and pity of our parents. Still we dreamed of things. We’d walk through furniture stores and point out the things we liked and say, “someday.”
I remember the first time we bought new furniture. I can literally count on one hand the things we’ve bought FOR OURSELVES, NEW. The first thing was our bed set. Somehow we had saved up extra money and put it in savings. We needed a new bed. But I was looking at our savings account thinking, I want to hold onto this as tight as I can! I don’t want to spend all this right now on a BED. I wanted to go up to that finance desk and tell them, YES! “Sign us up. We can afford to make a monthly payment on this bedroom set. Look how we paid off the debt we used to have. Just look! Look how we’ve brought up our non-existent credit scores. And now you hand over the bed and the dresser, and we’ll sign a piece of paper, and we’ll pay you slowly but surely.” What could it hurt? There was no interest for the first year at least anyway. But my hubby, that man is smarter than that. God gave him a gift with finances. We paid cash for that bedroom set. Here I was, worried that we had spent the last of our reserves. Worried we wouldn’t have enough. Worried we would be in the red again before we stepped foot out the store. Not trusting, not understanding that YOU CAN ALWAYS MAKE MORE MONEY.
Why spend it before you have it?
Even sillier yet, why owe someone for something when you can just pay them right there?
You know what’s funny? People say you will never be ready for kids – and they’re right! You can read all the books, take all the classes, take your vitamins, and store up money for years and years – and society will still convince you you don’t “have enough” to support a child. (Because society always tells us we need the newest, best, fanciest gadgets and equipment and furniture and gear.) But having a child forced us to support ourselves better. I don’t mean in a cold, obligated, grudging sort of way: “I have to provide for this child so I have to get a better job.” Maybe for the man it’s like that. Maybe that’s part of the process, though I think it’s more a feeling of duty and honor. But to me – our situation started changing when we had a child because along with a child come all these other things… namely, bigger dreams.
You want to experience life through their eyes. The first time they swing at the park. The first trip to the pumpkin patch. The first Christmas. The first obligatory mall picture, on the Easter Bunny’s lap. There is so much of life to experience, and you want them to experience it ALL.
But experiences cost money.
I remember when we were trying to qualify for a house, explaining to Aubrey when she asked for a treat at whatever fast food joint we happened to be passing, that we were saving our money for our house. After awhile I could just ask, “Do you remember why we’re not spending money on that right now?” and she could answer accurately. And then she stopped asking altogether.
The thing is, God knows us.
He knows our weaknesses. He knows my natural inclination would be to try to keep up with everybody else; He knows I hate to feel left out, and if left to my own devices, I would do things I couldn’t afford just to fit in with everyone else, just to feel included. He knows I don’t like to settle for anything less than the best. Not because I’m haughty – because I’m unsatisfied with living life at any rate less than the fullest.
I thank God often that for YEARS, we couldn’t qualify for a credit card. Thank GOD He slammed that door shut TIGHT! Where would we be if we had just racked up debt on credit cards and paid the minimum balance? Oh, we might’ve looked pretty on the outside, but on the inside we would be writhing, uncomfortable, despairing, trapped, owned.
Romans 13:8 says it plainly: “Owe no man anything, except to love one another…”
That hung on our wall in our first apartment for 2 years. (And not in a pretty Pinterest frame either – hand-written on a piece of white printer paper, held up with scotch tape.)
Freedom is in owing no many anything except for love. Why? Because if you owe people money, that will be your first priority. Debt overtakes you and chases you down. It keeps knocking until it gets its fill. Debt is ruthless. Debt owns you.
You work for your creditors instead of working for yourself.
When we have no debt left, what we’re left with is the freedom and ability to fully pursue God’s calling on our life.
I thank God we were taught delayed gratification. Thank GOD! The time for us to have those things we wanted would come eventually, but it wasn’t then. It wasn’t when we were scraping and struggling to pay the bills as it was.
I thank God He blessed me with a husband with a gift for finances. With a no-nonsense attitude when it came to getting out of debt. I thank God He gave me a hard-working man who is willing to do whatever it takes to provide for his family. I thank God He gave me a husband with dreams and ambition, who is not satisfied with just ‘okay’. And I thank God for a husband who loves and delights in his family; who is not tight-fisted with his earnings.
I thank God we learned this: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) PEACE. I thank God for peace.
The peace that I can purchase a $240 dress without feeling guilty for a month, wondering how we were going to make up that money we spent on something we couldn’t afford.
The peace that I can spend money on clothes each month and it’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal!! You know what? For years I wore clothes that were not ‘in style’, that were old, or frumpy, or plain, or didn’t fit right, or had baby vomit stains on them, which most of the time I didn’t pick out for myself, but which were always practical. They were hand-me-downs, or gifts, or clothes I had greedily salvaged from storage in my parent’s basement, or from my old closet. And let me be clear: I was thankful to wear them.
Now I am thankful – and PEACEFUL – wearing clothes that fit properly, that are new, that are even a little bit trendy!!!!
For example. Ankle boots that are ‘wine’ colored. They have a heel. They are impractical. I am absolutely, 100% peaceful about that purchase. I got a GREAT deal on them, and I didn’t spend money we didn’t have. I don’t care that they don’t match everything. I LIKE THEM. So I bought them.
Let me say it one more time though: it does not escape me that for the first 7 years of our marriage, I did not buy things just because I liked them. I bought things only if the one I currently had was broken, ripped, or falling apart, and only if I absolutely needed that item. And then I likely bought off the clearance rack, and/or waited until a holiday or special occasion when someone gave me a gift card so I could afford it.
I don’t regret it.
I am really thankful we had those years, because now I can really appreciate when I spend money. I have these moments like today, where I just hand over my debit card for a large purchase, and I almost brush right by it.
And then, when I’m driving away, or scrubbing dishes, or folding laundry, I’ll think… “I just spent $XXX on such-and-such item… without batting an eye.” And I can’t think that without remembering what it used to be like.
Man, God has blessed us.
God is not closed-fisted with His blessings.
Malachai 3:10: Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
When God blesses us, and He begins to open the windows of heaven, do you know what it looks like? I’ve only seen a glimpse, and here it is: THERE WILL BE MORE, AND MORE, AND THERE WILL BE MORE BEFORE YOU RUN OUT.
I don’t like to waste things because I know the value of them. I know money is cheap cheap cheap, but still people live without running water. They have houses – if you can call them that – with dirt floors, and no soft mattresses for beds. Maybe some straw and a blanket if they’re lucky.
We’re so RICH. I make coffee in the morning, and pour it out to make fresh coffee in the afternoon. I pour. it. out. Down the drain. It pains me to do it. I know what it’s worth. I know there are people in the world who, even if they had money to buy coffee, wouldn’t. They’d buy something more practical, like seeds to plant a garden, so they could have food at harvest time. What use is coffee if you’re starving?
The worst I have to do to get hot water is wait a few minutes for a machine in my basement to heat it up.
I don’t have to walk miles and miles with a huge bucket or basin.
I don’t waste half my day walking to retrieve it.
I was not kept from studying in school because I had to help my mother carry water back and forth every day…
Carrying what weighs half my body weight back to my home, to ration and boil before it can be used.
I don’t have to worry about catching disease from the water I drink, which runs freely from a faucet in my home any time I turn it on.
Or which I can afford to buy bottled nicely in plastic packaging.
I no longer hate to waste because I’m afraid where the next portion will come from; I hate to waste because I know that everything we have has value.
Delayed Gratification + God’s grace = Abundance
Delayed Gratification + Abundance = Appreciation
My God is faithful. He may work in mysterious ways, but sometimes He gives us little glimpses of why He does what He does; we can look back on our past and see His hand in everything.
I am so thankful for the blessings we’ve been given – relationally, spiritually, financially, physically, emotionally. We truly have so much that we do not “have room enough to receive it.”