Friday, May 13, 2011

Couldn’t You Have Picked a More Exciting Hobby? (6

"Have you prayed about it?"

What is a devastated and defeated husband to do when his wife strikes a blow against the enemy of his mind with such powerful words?

With that simple phrase, Mindy got me refocused on what was really important and not on the seemingly impossible eight years. Mindy reminded me that I was concentrating on what was impossible for man when I needed to focus on what was possible for God. God understands time. He set the boundaries of time, but He has no limits.

Right there in that moment, we prayed together. We laid out our heart's desires before our Lord. We handed him control of our budget and all that He would want for us. We asked for forgiveness for the debt we had incurred. We asked that He would make us good stewards of all He would provide. We asked that He would give us the stamina, focus, and encouragement to keep climbing and to not give up despite our current circumstances.

When we were done praying, I was no longer focused on the eight years. 96 months was still right there on the debt snowball forecast but instead, I was at peace. I knew God was already answering our prayer and He had a plan. There was no way to know what He would do, but I had faith that He was already doing it.

Now, I am about to share some things which most people would find very personal. We have been very open with many close friends with our story as it has been happening. We do this for two reasons - accountability and to build trust while discussing a tough subject. Even so, three or four months ago, I was hesitating about doing this. But, last weekend something happened to give me reassurance it is all for His Glory. The numbers only matter to show what He has done.

DEBT at the start (February 2007): $95,283.48
That was 51 months ago. As mentioned previously, we struggled through the first year.
DEBT Paid in 2007: $4,094.37
DEBT (February 2008): $91,189.11

This was the amount staring me down when the debt snowball forecast said 96 months to Freedom! That was the point I found myself ready to give in and accept a lifetime of mediocrity. This did not appear to be going away anytime soon.

Then we prayed.

That was 39 months ago. Today we can say:

"Praise God, because by His Grace, We Are DEBT FREE and can walk in Financial Peace and Freedom."

There is so much more to the story than I can share right now. So much happened during those 39 months which always pointed to the Hand of God. Here are two quick examples:
  • During four of those months, as the sole income provider in our home, I was without a fulltime job. During that time, we never lacked and we had peace like we never had during three previous jobless periods in my career.
  • Since February 2008, I have been working on 6 or 12 month orders at a time for the Army. The additional cool thing about that is I do not have to worry about throwing numbers out and someone extrapolating them to figure out how much I earn. My salary is public knowledge and easily found through an internet search.
When God takes 96 months and changes it to 39, Brace yourself for what He will accomplish next!

The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender. - Proverbs 22:7

At least in terms of consumer debt, we are servants no more. We are now moving on to Baby Step #3: 3-6 months expenses in savings. We still owe on a reasonable home mortgage, which we will pay off early in Baby Step #6.

I'll focus on that when we get there!

"The rewards for those who persevere far exceed the pain that must precede the victory." - Ted Engstrom

Couldn’t You Have Picked a More Exciting Hobby? (5)

It's been just over a year since I started this series and now I can finally get back to it. If you missed any of the first four parts or would like a review, you can start here. Each of those posts has a "to be continued" statement at the end, which links to the next post in the series.

To summarize, where I left off in part four, I was discussing using Dave Ramsey's (DR) The Total Money Makeover (TMMO) plan for our finances in 2007. I mentioned that we were struggling through the year and would talk next about the focus we found in 2008.

When we looked back at 2007, we had paid off about $4000 during that year. Four thousand dollars is a good amount of money, but considering how much total debt we had, we were not making the kind of progress required. I knew we were doing something wrong because of the real life stories in the book. I thought, "if it worked for these families, then it has to work. I need to go back and figure out how to do this right." Part of me was still looking at the debt we had, and wishing it would just go away.

At the beginning of 2008, I reread TMMO and discovered my mistakes. Previously I mentioned, "through my impatience I was trying to apply at least four of the seven baby steps all at once, instead of concentrating on the step I was on." I was not focused on the one particular step we were on. This time when I read the book, I stopped after reading the step we were on and closed the book. I was going to focus on Baby Step #2, "Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball."  I was not interested in what came after that. Until we finished Baby Step #2, it did not matter. This time I was focused and we were going to be Gazelle Intense. 

With my renewed determination, I got up early on a Saturday morning in February 2008. I started a brand new budget using DR's budgeting tool that morning. Up to that point, I was still using my budget spreadsheet, which did not cover all the expense categories we had. After setting up the whole budget, I put together our debt snowball by listing all of our debts, smallest to largest. The debt snowball automatically forecast how long it would take to pay off the remaining debt.

The answer it returned was not good. Instead, it was devastating. It immediately caused me to lose hope that we could ever get out of debt. At my current income, from a full-time job and a part-time job in the Army Reserve, the debt snowball would take EIGHT YEARS TO COMPLETE! At this point, after struggling to find a way out of debt since 1995 when I graduated from college, I was mentally done. Sitting in front of the computer, by myself, I knew I could not continue to live that life of sacrifice for EIGHT MORE YEARS. I felt completely defeated.

It was not too much longer and Mindy came downstairs. She could see I was upset and asked what I was doing. I showed her the numbers, the debt snowball and the eight year forecast. I explained to her, with tears in my eyes, that I could not do it any longer. I could not make the kind of sacrifices we had been making for another eight years. Lovingly, she took my hands, looked me in the eyes and said,

"Have you prayed about it?"

To be continued...