In May 2008, I closed on my house. It should have been an exciting day filled with happiness and joy, but my most vivid memory of that day was more like panic…the room was getting hot, my palms sweating, my stomach churning. Why? I had to sign a paper called “truth in lending” which detailed the fact that over the course of my thirty year loan, I was going to pay more in interest than the value of my home! I had only put down 10% on the house and had a meager income, so wasting money was not something I could afford to do; however, society and even well-meaning family members had told me that I was at the stage in life to buy a house, so I did.
During the first seven months of home ownership, I spent $2,000 repairing broken water lines and the damage they caused. Those expenses left me penniless in the middle of winter. My first winter was spent coming home from work, putting on an extra layer of clothes, grabbing a couple of blankets, and sitting in the dark waiting to go to bed because I could not afford to turn on the lights or turn the heat above 52 degrees. Those miserable evenings are engrained in my memory and I specifically remember thinking “I never want to be in this financial situation again.”
As the years went by, my income slowly increased. With each raise came pressure from friends and family telling me that now I could afford nicer clothes or vacation or eating out. There was always something more that I was told “I deserved” since my income was going up; however, I noticed that any time I treated myself to what “I deserved”, I could not escape the nagging thought: “How do you justify deserving this when you owe the bank money?” So, I tried not to splurge on things and tried to put a little extra toward my mortgage when I could, but I never really saw the balance go down much.
In 2012, life hit hard. It literally seemed as if every area of my life was falling apart…problems at work, security issues at home, and overwhelming grief from the loss of 5 family members and then 3 friends in their 20’s throughout that year, one of which being the guy I had planned on marrying. By that fall, I was a mess and struggling just to breathe and face another day. I knew the only thing that would get me through was my walk with the Lord. I started dedicating more time to praying, reading the Bible and memorizing Scripture. I used a concordance and studied topics like peace, joy, sovereignty, and comfort, for obvious reasons. Each time I would read surrounding verses, or even the whole chapter, to keep things in context and I often found a recurring theme in those verses—money. Eventually, I decided that was not a coincidence and decided to do a study on what God says about money.
During that study, I was reminded that God owns it all. He gives us everything we have and He gives it to us for His glory. I was convicted about the fact that I am a steward, whether good or bad, of everything in my life, and that one day I will give an answer for how I spend every penny of His that He allowed to flow through my hands. I could not help but think that paying more in interest than the value of my house was not being a good steward of His money. Next, He reminded me of Proverbs 22:7: “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” My mind instantly went back to the sick feeling in my gut at closing and the nagging thought of not being able to splurge on fun things for me when I owe the bank money. There was a great reason I did not feel free to spend money as I wanted—I signed up to be a servant! But, by far, the most impactful verse in my study was a verse that I memorized in high school and clearly had never actually applied to my life. Romans 13:8, “Owe no man ANY THING, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” That shattered the philosophy that friends and family told me four years prior that mortgage debt is “good debt” and everyone has a mortgage, so it is perfectly acceptable to have one. Instead, my mind went racing to times in life when missionaries came through my church and made statements like “$5,000 would allow us to buy a vehicle and transform our ministry” and how my heart yearned to be able to write a check and hand it to them, but instead I could barely put food on my own table because of my debt.
As I considered how best to align my life with Scripture, it seemed that renting meant every month I would owe someone money, but paying off my house would finally make it so I did not owe anyone anything. So, I decided to pay my house off as soon as possible. The little bit of extra money here and there that I was putting toward my mortgage was not enough. So, I sat down and re-wrote my budget. I went bare bones to the point that when I would get paid, I would deduct my tithe, offering, utilities, fuel, groceries and $5 for spending money for the month and then write a check for the balance as a mortgage payment. The next day, I would take that check to the bank and my budget was set for the month because I had no more income coming in for thirty days. Friends and family worried about me. People told me I was crazy. I went without vacations, without eating out, and without new clothes, but I had more peace about finances than I had in the past. And it seemed that as soon as I started trying to align my finances with Scripture, my overtime increased, meaning more money to put each month on my house payment. After three grueling years of living on a bare bones budget and working a lot of overtime, I paid my last mortgage payment on November 12, 2015. I had an immediate sigh of relief and a spring in my step walking out of the bank that day! I was finally free from the bondage of debt!
In January 2019, I saw firsthand how much easier difficult decisions can be when financial stress is not part of the equation. Circumstances at work caused me to choose between my integrity and my career. The choice was not “easy”, but it was obvious. I turned in my resignation without having even looked for a job and the general consensus from friends and family is that I had lost my mind and would never make it as a single female homeowner who was unemployed. But, my how God blessed that step of faith and provided me a job offer three days after I turned in my resignation. The job offer was for a part-time position that would hopefully turn into full-time work within six months. I had complete peace about the offer and gladly accepted it without having to make the decision based on financial stress as I had enough in savings to cover the difference in income for those six months. During my five weeks off work between jobs I was able to rest and then to travel with MMO to San Miguel, El Salvador with zero stress about paying for the trip. After working two months at the new job, I am completely convinced that it is exactly where I am supposed to be. I have had multiple spiritual conversations with co-workers and have seen God meet my every need financially through my income without even touching savings yet. In May, I was only scheduled for seven work days. I looked at my budget, told God that He sees the same math I am looking at and that there is not enough income for May to pay the bills, so it would be great if He would provide more hours of work. Within a week, He doubled my work schedule for the month which paid every bill! How amazing that God cares about every detail of my life!!
Little did I know how the most difficult year of my life, would send me into in-depth Bible studies that would transform many areas of my life, including my finances. As I have recently been reflecting back over all of this and considering how God was working in my life in 2012 to prepare me for what would happen in my life in 2019, I am humbled and overwhelmed by the sovereignty and love of God. I thank God for the peace He has afforded me in the area of finances, and even more so for the numerous opportunities that He has provided me to financially assist friends, family members and missionaries over the last few years without any hesitation when God leads me to help them. Now I find that I pray more often for God to open my eyes to the needs of those around me and show me who He wants me to help…as the song says: “Channels only, blessed Master, but with all Thy wondrous power, flowing through us, Thou canst use us, every day and every hour.” What a blessing and honor to be a channel He can use!