Big Life Changes and a Never-Changing God

A few weeks ago, Jeremiah accepted a new position at a well-known hospital where we live. Just a few days into his nursing job, the higher-ups decided to get rid of the entire floor he was working on for budget reasons.

All of the staff including his manager are seeking new jobs, hoping that the recruiters in the hospital can place them on another floor soon.

Of course this came out of nowhere for us. Jeremiah was so excited about his new job and I was happy too. We were excited about the awesome benefits and convenience in him walking to work. Clearly, it was God’s will. How could it not be?

But in an instant, that security vanished like a vapor.

Just before Christmas? Really, God?

I’ve asked him many times.

Not only that, in October, we found out we’re expecting a special little gift at the end of June- our third child to which we are very excited!

A job loss while I’m pregnant? Really, God?

I’ve asked him many times.

And in May, Jeremiah will graduate from seminary and before the summer ends, we will have to move out of seminary housing and know where we are going to live and do ministry.

Where do you want us, Lord?

I’ve asked him many times.

Right now, there have been no clear answers to my questions. But I know it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

And even in the midst of my questioning, a sweet, still voice has spoken truth into my heart. Truth that comes straight from His Word, reminding me that He. Is. God. The God of the Universe who created me and loves me and my family deeply.

When life is crazy and ever-changing, there is no shadow of turning with him as the old hymn says. He is constant, yet fully engaged in the details of our lives.

What I am starting to understand more as He takes me through trials is that he is teaching me God-reliance instead of self-reliance.

Way too often, I love to have the control and to tell him my plans. I’m often wrapped up in self instead of what God is doing. I often forget the bigger picture at hand.

God has proven himself in the past and has always been faithful as I wrote about this past summer, I have no reason to doubt him. It would be foolish to not trust Him this time.

So in this Christmas season, my prayer of course is that Jeremiah will have a job again. Soon! But more than that, my prayer is that God will change me and teach me what it means to cling to Him in the good times and the trying times. I want to look more like Him and give him glory no matter what season of life I’m in.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:5-9

The Stuff That Satisfies (Hint: It’s Not Stuff)

photo: G&B's Art Gallery

Downtown Dallas sits proudly right outside our window. Every morning, I look forward to opening the blinds and watching the sun rise over the skyscrapers. We’re among a few of our friends who have a stunning view in seminary housing. We feel pretty blessed to live in an apartment that people typically pay big bucks for.

But don’t be fooled. On a tight seminary budget we aren’t rolling in the dough by any means!

And that’s just where my heart often longs for more especially since the discipline of being frugal can get old. While all my needs are being met in addition to my wants and then some, the sinful part of me believes that stuff will satisfy my deepest longings. And I’m not just talking about the “big” stuff. The silly, little stuff too.

God desires to bless me and to give me good things but it’s the coveting, obsession, mismanaging, greed, lack of contentment and making comparisons that are like poison to the soul.

True life and contentment can only be found in a person and that person is Jesus. Life cannot be found in material possessions or gadgets or other goodies. I’ve looked and I just can’t seem to find it. Life just doesn’t exist there.

I don’t need to worry about the stuff that will fill up my life on a daily basis either. As always, Jesus has a way of gently shooting straight to the core:

Consider the ravens; they do not sow or reap, yet they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! – Luke 12:24

Will God take care of me and even give me my deepest desires? Certainly. They might look different than what I thought but he promises to provide for me. And a raven… A bird that isn’t attractive or special… God has his eye on and cares for.

God is much more concerned about the details of my life than a raven.

He knows about the stuff I long, but he wants me to learn to lean on Him before I try to put my trust in things that have the potential to greatly disappoint and that aren’t eternal.

Even though our budget might not look like anyone else’s right now, the truth is that I have more than I could ever imagine materially and spiritually. Above all, I have Jesus, my ultimate joy and satisfaction in life. And He is enough.

Do you ever long for more stuff? Is there anything stealing your satisfaction in Christ?

Consumerism and the American Dream

To help people trade in the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ.

This is the mission statement behind the work I do every day for RightNow, Bluefish TV, and Small Group Trader.

Our passion is to create Traders. A trader is a new kind of missionary not defined by geography but by a resolve to: Choose Daily, Hate Injustice, Work as Worship, and Act Swiftly by using his or her time, skills and money to impact the world for Christ.

Our 3 strategies for making traders is to inspire church leaders, transform small groups, and coach individuals.

As a writer and editor on our team for our Bible study curriculum, articles, and more, my role in our ministry is fleshed out mainly in inspiring church leaders and transforming small groups. I have to tell you though that every day, I’m challenged and inspired by our mission here. In a culture that is all about consumerism, self-focused leadership, and “what’s in it for me?” (yep in church culture too), I’ve been challenged to really consider what the American Dream means in my personal life.

The truth is that the American Dream was once about opportunity, but it has evolved into a “more” and “me” way of life. More house, more car, more money, more everything. And I have to regularly ask myself, do those things control me? Even in the smaller things like getting a Starbucks drink, buying clothes, or household things, I’m becoming more aware of my motives and realizing that sometimes I just buy things because I can or maybe even because I feel entitled to.

But through a process, I really desire change and to trade in those pursuits in order to give my life away for the sake of other people and for the gospel. And this is no easy task because I’m so s-e-l-f-i-s-h and sometimes I love my agenda more than people. I think when we truly grasp all that is at stake when we cling tightly to the American Dream, our lives are changed and we can’t go back. And life is just too short to live it for ourselves.

Over the past few years, my husband and I have both traded in time, comfort, and sleep to provide meals and community activities to our apartment residents every week and through that experience, I learned more than ever what it means to trade in my life. Since I’ve tasted what being a trader is about, I don’t really want to live life any other way. But I recognize I will always need God’s help in order to be a trader.

Have you thought about the idea of being a “trader”? Are you trading in anything right now or would like to in the future?


Finances, Debt, & Freedom

piggy20bank1It’s been far too long since I’ve posted on finances. Can you tell the very word makes me nervous? Maybe it does for you too especially in our economy’s present condition. Well the good thing is that for us, right now, things are going really well.

Jeremiah and I are down to $1,000 left on his school loan and around $10,000 towards our car. A year and a half ago, we were about 30-40K in debt. Now, we’re $11,000! Jeremiah has mentioned how simple it would be to pay the whole car off in a matter of months but with the season of life we’re in (with him in school, internship, ministry, etc.), it’s best to wait and chisel away at the debt as we can.

We would not be where we are without the help of Dave Ramsey and my Mom spurring us to take his 12 week class- Financial Peace University. Finances is just one of those things, like sex, that not too many people discuss and many families don’t talk about growing up. So the result: ignorance. And it’s bliss. I’ve been there.

I’ll never forget a few months ago when our community group at church sat down and we went through each couple’s budget- every detail from car maintenance to cosmetic allowances. I hadn’t done that with anyone, ever in my life. But something about it was so freeing. There was accountability there and we knew we had each other’s best interest in mind. Our goal was to steward whatever resources God had given us the best we knew how.

Even now, I admit the struggle to constantly be aware of what I’m spending. What I’m saving, etc. It’s not easy or always black and white to know what God would do in this or that situation. But I do know for sure, that plummeting away at this debt is bringing him glory. It’s getting us farther away from bondage and closer to freedom.

We can’t wait for the day to call Dave Ramsey’s radio show to say, “WE’RE DEBT FREE!”

God, My Mom, & Dave Ramsey

It’s been several months since we took the Financial Peace University class by Dave Ramsey. Looking back on the class, it couldn’t have been a more appropriate time for us to be in it. My mom is the one we have to thank because she “urged” us to. We had no idea we would get pregnant during that time either or even that the economy would look a little different six months later. God’s timing is always perfect.

We now have 3-6 months of income saved. Our savings account has never looked so big. It’s almost surreal. Our credit cards are gone and the only debt remaining is about $8,000 on student loans and a car payment. All that to say, we would not be where we are without God, My Mom, and Dave Ramsey! We are no way near perfect in the area of finances but we’re striving to keep growing.

The highlight for me this week was my first guilty feeling of purchasing a pumpkin spice chai frappucino for almost $4.00. Now, I love to splurge and treat myself (I don’t over-indulge too much at all). I’m a big fan of rewarding yourself. But something just clicked and I thought, this is definitely a lot for a drink that was gone in 2 minutes!  My husband agreed it was a huge step for me. I mean it’s Starbucks, come on.

Later on in the day I learned more about the condition of our economy. It’s pretty crazy what’s going on right now. I’m more encouraged now to be wise with the money God’s given us. It’s not always easy but so worth it.

How it feels to be Credit Card Debt free

After working out this morning and getting out of the shower, Jeremiah rushes in the bathroom with a beaming smile on his face. “We’re debt free of all our credit cards. I just paid all of it off.” I didn’t know what to say but “oh my goodness this is so awesome. We have to celebrate.”

As a married couple, we’ve never known life without credit cards. It’s just so crazy. And we even have a substantial amount in savings for any emergencies.

Since we’re still being intense about the rest of our debt, we will celebrate, but not go all out (We have about $30,000 to go in car payments and student loans but we’re going to attack it). So today, we went to Chick-fil-a and got a breakfast bagel (which we never eat out for b-fast) and today Jeremiah’s going to bring me lunch at work. We’re really going to celebrate together by thanking God for his grace on our life and for helping us learn more about money.

We’re hoping to take a babymoon soon and perhaps then we’ll celebrate with a vacation. And then maybe after that, a trip to Italy (the place of Jeremiah’s ancestry- Sicily). But right now, we must focus on today. 🙂

Cutting Up My Credit Card

 I’ll never forget the day I cut up my credit card. I performed this plastectomy on my baby blue Wachovia card 2 months ago. It was the best feeling ever. Looking back, I don’t miss it one bit.

You see, I used that card as a “crutch.” When I couldn’t afford something at that moment, I would swipe it and always say “Oh it will get paid off.” In reality, the debt and interest just kept building on itself and before I knew it, I was in $1,000 or so of debt in just a blink of an eye. Perhaps you know the feeling.

Dave Ramsey inspired me to cut my card up. I did even before it was paid off and the temptation to swipe no longer exists. I buy only what I have in my account- in cash mainly. Sometimes on our debit card. My husband’s credit card will be paid off this weekend and we will be credit card debt free. We still have student loans and a car payment to go, but we are on our way to being debt free.

I can sum up credit cards in one word: bondage. Just like all debt.


Sex & Money- Taboo?

  Thoughts on Financial Peace University… I am in my twenties. I’ve talked to many wise people who are beyond my years who said that when they were growing up the two words never talked about were Sex & Money. In this category, I’m not going to talk about the sex part (I’ll save that one for later). But, it is interesting that many people are raised having never been taught how to handle money- let alone how to create a budget. They or their parents never made it a priority.

I know many people are in that category. I am one of them. I was handed many wonderful things growing up which I am so appreciative of, but I never had the desire to learn about money when my parents wanted to sit me down. I was stubborn. Besides we had everything so what was there for me to learn? I wasn’t looking into the future.

If you feel you’re in the same boat of never having learned much about finances. You are not alone. Don’t feel stupid or mad at yourself that you never took the initiative to learn. Learn from that careless decision and move on. It is never too late to start the journey now- no matter if you’re in your 50’s, 30’s, or 20’s.

Break the curse of money being taboo… and begin to talk about it with your friends and family.

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