Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Debt and the Single Girl



This summer I dated this guy. On paper, he was exactly what I had been praying for. 
Loves Jesus. Thoughtful. Quirky.  And he's debt free. 

My sister has been telling me for years that my debt would be a problem when it came to dating relationships. I didn't believe her. After all, I had embraced the lie that everyone has debt, that debt is normal, and that debt is even expected. 

But, it's not. My debt was a huge concern for him--and rightfully so. We didn't date long and there were other reasons it didn't work, but I'm very thankful for those couple of months this summer because it woke me up to debt's effect on my entire life--including dating relationships.

1. Being single and in debt is hard. There's no one to go over your budget, bring up issues, and hold you accountable. Find someone to be your Budget Buddy (or something a little more clever). Someone who can ask you questions, go over numbers with you, encourage you. And listen to them. There were people who tried to hold me accountable in this area before, and I shrugged off their advice. But there's such encouragement when we allow people to speak bold truth into our lives for our good...even if it hurts to hear it. 

2. Recognize debt for what it is. My friend Lauren described it to me as "tangible gluttony," and that's so true. We get into debt because we want more than we can afford and often because our desires overrule our common sense. We can get out of debt, but if our hearts don't change, we'll find ourselves right back where we started. Like with other sins, to overcome tangible gluttony, our hearts have to be transformed by the power of Christ to crave the things He wants us to crave more than we want another cardigan or tickets to a Rockets game. And it's really hard to die to our selfishness. But, it's for our good and His glory. 

3. "They" say that money is the number one reason couples get divorced. So, why would we want to carry debt into our marriages? Singlehood can be a time to focus on getting out of debt and becoming financially secure on our own. 

Any other advice or encouragement for us single girls struggling with debt? 



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Don't Believe the Lie



Many of us believe the lie that debt is normal. School loans. Car payments. 
But it's not. 

Proverbs 22:7 says "the borrow is slave to the lender." If I clear 1, 686 dollars a paycheck but have to pay 800 or more to either Bank of America or Discover, I'm not in control over that money, the credit card companies are.

So, that's 800 a check (1,600 a month) that I have no say over. It's money I can't give to organizations like A21, a non-profit fighting human trafficking. It's money I can't use to go on a mission trip or give to a missionary spreading the gospel to unreached people groups. It's money I can't use to buy books to give to kids who don't have books at home. 

And that sobering thought is why I'm up at 2:30 in the morning writing this blog.

Debt is unacceptable because it keeps me at the mercy of credit card companies--how much interest will they charge and what will my minimum payment due be? Debt keeps me tied to earthly things when my heart wants to invest in spiritual things. 

And so I'm left with sorrow, great sorrow at what my sin has cost me--the chance to give lavishly to the kingdom of God. But the beautiful thing about Christ's grace is that it is always there, whether it's the first time I've sinned or the hundredth. 


So it's not too late for me. Or you. When I look at my debt numbers (read about it here and here), it makes me sad to think of what I could be using that money for. It also makes me mad I was selfish and greedy. It breaks my heart that I let sin guide my choices.

"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death." -2 Corinthians 7:10

So I lie here broken but thankful. Because godly grief over my sin changes me, it produces a repentance that refuses to live in sin any more. And that is incredibly freeing.

But to be financially free, we have to take action. First, we can take a long, honest look at our debt and what our selfish choices have cost us--not just financially but emotionally and spiritually as well. And then we can let that grief and anger change us for the better. Because I don't know about you, but once I climb out of this hole, I'm never going back again. 











Monday, November 14, 2016

Debt Update


Two weeks ago, I opened up about my debt journey. It was hard. 

However, today feels harder because I should be debt free by now. I can list a hundred things I should have done differently over the years. 

This summer was the first time in six years where my debt went up each month instead of down. I went on a second vacation when I should've stayed home. I had some car repairs that drained my emergency fund. Then, a I battled a bad case of bronchitis that was not only painful but also very costly. (Just got another bill from that this weekend.)

I can't change those things. Seeing my total debt go up the last couple months was a huge wake-up call. I had to pray and ask the Lord to forgive me for using His money for my own desires instead of advancing His kingdom. He's so faithful to forgive, and I'm eager to see how He uses even my own failures for my good and His glory. 


So, here's where I am. Only two debts left. The light is there at the end of the tunnel.



Now, you may notice that my Discover balance is HUGE, a lot higher than when I started. 
I'm sure a lot of it I can't explain. I did put some of my graduate school on it. I went on this vacation this summer. I was in a wedding and spent more than I expected. There's no excuse. Just transparency with complete strangers. 

The biggest mistake I made was having my Discover card connected to my Amazon account. I had great intentions--I would just transfer money to Discover after charging something...like I didn't listen to Dave Ramsey rant and rave about how stupid it is to think credit card points help you in any way. (Sidenote--if you have the will power to pay off a credit card every month and take advantage of those points in some way, that's awesome. I lack such self-control and know that.)

So, tonight I changed the card connected to my Amazon account to my debit card. It's a start.

And, y'all, it's kinda exciting to look at that Bank of America change. :) 

What can you do today to tackle your debt? It may be something small, but those little things make huge differences over time. 







Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Debt


I've started this post about fifteen times, sure that I want to talk honestly about debt but unsure of how to start. So I started thinking--why do I want to share about my long, arduous journey to get debt free.

And here it is. 
When you start getting serious about clawing your way out of the slime pit of debt, you hear all these stories of people who did "this" or "that" and paid off 100, 000 dollars in eight months. You tune into Dave Ramsey, the debt-free guru, and you get so excited to hear people's success stories and hope that's your testimony too. (I HIGHLY recommend Dave Ramsey. I attended his 13-week class, which was one of the best decisions of my life.) 

And then reality sinks in. You already work three jobs (teacher, coach, babysitter) just to make ends meet, so where are you going to find hundreds of extra dollars each check to tackle this debt mountain? It takes you months just to get the 1,000 emergency fund in savings. You cut everything you can, but you still have exactly 75 dollars a month to add to your debt snowball. 

And so years pass, and you're slowly plugging away, but some months you fail. You use a credit card for a vacation you're desperate to take. You blow your emergency fund on "extras" instead of emergencies. And you think you're never going to be debt free, so you might as well enjoy life.

So that's why I'm sharing. Because surely I'm not alone in that struggle. 

I have so much to say, and I plan to post regularly about different aspects of getting out of debt. But I wanted to start by encouraging people who feel there is no end, the ones who hear those amazing stories of people who got out of debt quickly and then get discouraged. Your story is different. Mine is different. But, there's beauty in the journey. And I want to find it and share it. 

I have this notebook where I've kept track each month of how much debt I have and how much I've paid off. This is my first entry from April 2010 when I started this journey.

I can't believe I'm sharing this. I've only shared this number with a couple people--like literally two people. Feel special. 




I have no clue why I thought I needed a new outfit from Gap every week. I can't tell you what the heck I bought using that Bank of America card. And Target? Who knows. 


Proverbs 22:7 "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." 


But, it's good to see those numbers because they make me mad. Mad enough to want to change. Because I definitely don't want to be Discover's slave. 


What's your debt story? If you've never had the nerve to add up your debt, I encourage you to do it. It will be hard and probably discouraging, but it's the first step. 




Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Chicago


I don’t know when I first fell in love with Chicago. I’ve never been. I don’t have family or even any friends from there.

But she has stolen my heart. Maybe it’s because Michael Jordan posters lined my walls and his books filled my shelves. Maybe it’s because I read an article once about Chicago students who were afraid to go to school because of the violence on the streets. I thought of my own students, states away from Chicago but often living in similar unsafe neighborhoods surrounded by preying pimps and the alluring temptation of gangs.

Pro-gun advocates love to talk about Chicago. After all, they can make memes about the fact that Chicago leads the nation in murders per year despite having strict gun laws. Those in favor of gun control rarely mention Chicago because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

But what gets lost in the shuffle of Facebook debates and Twitter hashtags are people. People who are just like us. People who dream the same dreams for their kids that we do. People who worry daily about becoming a victim of gun violence.

468 people were murdered in Chicago last year.

Just stop and think about that a moment. Let that number sink in. Do you even know 468 people? I definitely don’t know 2,900! There are 837 kids at my school. I’m sitting here numb, unable to fathom the idea of over half of them losing their lives in one year.

It’s gut-wrenching. It’s the unimaginable that feeds our fears and inspires horror films. But it’s reality for the city of Chicago.

Every number is a person, an image-bearer of God Himself.


So why are the people of Chicago forgotten? Is it because most of the victims are minorities? Because many are poor? Is it because one murder at a time isn’t a mass shooting and therefore not as newsworthy?

Why in the world does the city of Chicago not matter to us?  I think about her often, but she’s heavier on my heart every time I see something as gruesome as Orlando. And I want to cry out, “Why don’t we love Chicago? Why aren’t we changing our profile pictures for those we lost? Why aren’t...why aren’t...why aren’t?”

As if their 468 lives weren’t valuable. As if the shattered pieces of 468 families can just be put back together. As if 2,900 lives can just go back to normal after they’ve felt the impact of a bullet and lived to endure the nightmares.  

Just this weekend, while we all justly mourned the lives lost in the horrific shooting in Orlando, 7 people in Chicago died. Another 35 were shot, including a five-year-old girl. (http://abc7chicago.com/news/42-people-shot-7-killed-in-chicago-weekend-violence/1383393/)

So, I ask you. When you’re thinking about the devastation in Orlando, please remember Chicago. Post about her. Grieve with her. Pray for her.

In Isaiah 49, God makes a promise to His people.
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. 16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.
God has not forgotten the people of Chicago. He loves them. He sees them. He knows them. And if our hearts are beating in one with His, full of love for the lost and compassion for the hurting, then we should remember Chicago too.

If you feel led to help, here is a link to organizations in Chicago working to end violence and to help those who have been affected. http://abc7chicago.com/archive/9009544/ **I have not researched all of these organizations, so check them out carefully.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When God Speaks to You Through a Children's Book


I love Mo Willems. When I’m not sure which book to read to my students, I can always turn to his books for a good laugh.

When I ordered Waiting is Not Easy for the library, I expected a good read aloud.

I didn’t expect for God to speak to me all twelve times I read it.

See, Piggie and Gerald are best friends. Piggie has a surprise for Gerald, but Gerald has to wait. For the next twenty pages, they argue in the funny way only Mo Willems can write.

Gerald wants to give up.
Surely the surprise can’t be worth all that waiting. After all, he’s waited the whole day. It's growing dark, and the surprise still hasn't come.

I am Gerald.
I scream and holler when I have to wait. I don’t trust that what God has planned for me is good. I don’t believe that His plan will be worth weeks, months, and even years of waiting.

So I get impatient. I ask how long, and why, and myriad other questions.

But like Piggie is with Gerald, God is patient to remind me that His plans are amazing because they are for my good and His glory.

If I’ve trusted Him with my eternity, can’t I trust Him with my present?

I’ve got this book of a life, and I can either whine and moan about the wait, or I can enjoy the story, fully trusting God to write a beautiful ending.

I bought a copy of the book for my personal library. I have it out on my night stand, next to my Bible. It’s a reminder that even while I’m waiting, God is faithful to speak to me--even if it’s through a children’s picture book.





Friday, January 29, 2016

Still





I know I haven't posted in forever. I was posting on Fridays, which meant I had get the posts ready on Thursday nights. Then, Thursdays became busy fairly regularly. And other things took over. 

But, I hope to be back. Hope.

Because life seems to have hit the pause button. Seems as all the major parts of my life are still. 
Nothing is happening.
And it's discouraging. And full of loneliness.

But isn't that when God usually works?
In the quietness of our hearts?
In the stillness of our souls?

So, that's been my word for this year. When I picked it at the beginning of December, I had no clue what God would be asking me to go through, how hard it would be to trust Him when I can't see or understand what He's doing. 

I trust Him, I believe He's working even when I can't see anything. 
And I will be still and wait.




Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Favorites


I'm so tired that I can't even think of things that happened this week to know what my favorites are. 

I don't think I shared that I passed another milestone on my debt snowball. I've been following the Dave Ramsey plan for a long time now. I'm not as strict as I should be, but it's hard to be that strict for years on end. Each month, my debt has gone down, and I try to focus on that instead of times I spent money I shouldn't have?

I bought tickets to the Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder. I'm a huge Rockets fan, but I've wanted to see Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook play in person for a few years. November 2nd, I'll finally see them!

I deleted the email for the Kate Spade 75% off sale. There are no words to express my pride and joy in myself. :)

I got a new phone. Syncing all of my stuff nearly drove me crazy. I can't keep up with the passwords. Why do they keep making me change them. And why is it such a hassle to merge everything?
AND why does every app want to send me notifications? I hate notifications. 
But, I like my phone, so all is well.


How was your week?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Favorites


I always have a ton of questions. So, for today, I'm going to throw out a couple of things I'm wondering about?

1. How does the Internet really work?

2. Why is my computer suddenly not downloading my pictures from my phone when I plug it in?

3. How can you lose a few pounds but a pair of jeans feels tighter?

4. How could every single computer in my library have a different time (26)?

5. Why aren't any of my favorite stores putting out the cardigans I love yet? 

6. Why is it still over 90 degrees even though it's the end of September? 

7. Why does my hair look like a frizzy mess all day and then looks fantastic when I'm home in my pajamas?

What's on your mind?




Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Favorites



I went to the Taylor Swift concert, and it was one of the best concerts I've been too. I only wish I had gone to one of her concerts earlier so that I could hear more of her country songs. 

 I'm a big fan of Taylor. I love her music, and I think she's a genuinely nice person. I love how she looks for fans to interact with online--making a big difference with her kind words and her help. Each song was a huge production and entertaining. I didn't know what to watch half the time because so much was happening on stage. 

When we got to the show, they had bracelets on our seats. Then, we got instructions when to pull the tag. Finally, during the show, the bracelets flashed colors in sync. It was amazing to see the whole crowd lighting up in unison. 


I admit I suffer from shoe gluttony. I was looking for some brown sandals and found four pairs. These are just the flat sandals. I defend it by saying brown has so many shades that you need multiple pairs of very similar shoes. 

Finally, the other day, this was delivered in my box at work. There was no name, no indication of where it should be delivered. I do get a lot of magazines for the library, but not Bride magazine. I'm taking this as a sign of good things to come. :) 

Have a great weekend!