When Kris and I got married, we faced the same realities of student debt that many face today. With nearly $100k in combined debt and degrees that equipped us to work in ministry, we were confused and desperate. A year and a half into marriage we started to see that we had no idea how to handle money. In our desperation, we heeded the advice of many to take Financial Peace University and this is what happened:
1. We chose to give. From the very beginning, Kris and I wanted financial giving to be in our family’s financial DNA. Even when it hurt, which it often did, we wanted to be faithful in the little bit that we had to offer. And by little, I mean the first year we were married our tax report stated we made something like $13,000. As a family, we believe that all provisions have a spiritual element. We believe in the temporary nature of the earth and the eternal nature of heaven, and that there is an amazingly loving God who is always faithful.
This isn’t some self-righteous, guilt-ridden area of our life. It’s actually quite fun. Since we believe that God is creative and that everything we have is an outflow of that creativity, we figure we might as well choose generosity and see all the fun experiences that flow from that place. We also figured if we didn’t force generosity into our daily lives when there wasn’t much to be generous with then we wouldn’t magically start being generous when we reached some imaginary threshold of financial comfort in the future.
Therefore—be it little or be it much, we wanted to give. I could tell you some amazing stories just about this topic, and maybe some day I will. But for now, I’ll leave it here: generosity matters always. In my experience, community is the sweetest and truest among the most impoverished humans on earth. In the midst of need there seems to be a greater capacity to understand our need for one another more than our need for wealth.
2. We said “no…” a lot. Kris and I instituted the phrase “It’s N.I.T.B.” or “It’s not in the budget.” This was our way of informing one another that we’re not prioritizing this purchase or that outing because of our commitment to paying off our debts. Some say you can see a person’s priorities pretty quickly when you look at their bank statement. Over these last three and a half years, our family’s statements, for better and for worse, would tell you that we wanted to get out of debt more than anything else.
3. We also said “yes.” For one, we said yes to every legal odd job that came our way—again, for better and most definitely…for worse. But we also said yes to many people and experiences. Instead of dinners out in the city, we said, “yes” to hospitality. We said yes to grilling out and sitting on stoops to hang with our neighbors. We said yes to staying in, playing board games, and watching movies on Netflix. We said yes to the park and the beach and spending time outdoors. There were so many yeses these last few years that my heart is warmed just thinking about all the sweet memories and relationships we now have as the fruit of those yeses.
4. We wanted to show gratitude. At times we did, but at times we most definitely failed. We thanked God by remembering to give when it hurt and more recently, by celebrating his creativity. We showed gratitude by sharing this journey with others and by thanking those who played a roll in this incredible feat—those who hired us for odd jobs, those who provided cheap housing, those who were willing to eat in instead of eat out, those who made this financial journey possible. But…
5. We also lost sight. I would be lying if I said this path was an easy one or that we did it perfectly. There were many times that our decisions affected us emotionally, relationally, and physically. There were times that we took on too many jobs and times that we forgot to show gratitude. There were times we felt defeated, felt alone, and felt like our situation wasn’t fair. There were moments we were jealous of our friends. Times we coveted their jobs and homes and ability to go out whenever they wanted.
Over this past year, we began to see our failures of loan repayment for the first time. When a mentor told us how we were failing, we were hurt and heartbroken. We cried and we repented. We were sorry for the hurt we caused, the damage we did to our relationships, the way we processed the stress of it all, and we surrendered.
This one is huge because it isn’t in the textbook or the teaching. It’s huge because I think in great regard we would have done so many things the same. And yet, the experience for us and for those around us may have been drastically different because our hearts may have been different. The way we relieved stress may have been different, our attitudes may have been different. Maybe we would have done better at verbalizing all the amazing provision we saw instead of verbalizing the stress we were experiencing. Maybe, but maybe not—perhaps there is a greater purpose as to why we lost sight.
Either way, I’m grateful that we now know the importance of our overall well being in this process. I’m grateful to finish out this last year of paying of our debts better than we started three and a half years ago. Perhaps through these lessons this last $10k will be even sweeter to pay off the first $80 or $90 some thousand.
I don’t know for certain, but here’s to the last $10k and to all the amazing generosity we encountered these last few years. Here’s to living in a place where we are free to give thanks to God for his provision, to pursue an education, and to a place where we don’t experience financial corruption like many others. I could really go on for days telling you all the amazing ways we experienced Divine provision and human love. But for now I leave you with a full heart and an encouraging word that getting out from under the weight of debt is possible, and maybe doing it while caring for your holistic well being is possible too.
The story of the photo: When Kris and I were practicing the “envelope system” by carrying designated cash, we lost around $400 halfway through a two week camping trip to Canada. We lost all the money we budgeted for the trip, so we tore our car apart in a little town north of Portland, ME where it was last used. We experienced the kindness of strangers who helped us search late into the night—this is why I am featuring a Disk Golf course this week instead of a coffee shop.
Fast-forward a year: I asked my dad to unscrew our back seat JUST in case the envelope slipped under it. I thought it would be super fun if a year later, as we set off for a similar trip to the same places, we found the money. Alas—we did not.
Fast-forward another year: The day our family loaded up our car to move across the country, my dad was changing a fuse in our car behind the glove compartment, and what slips out? Of course—the envelope of $400! As we set out for a new chapter in life, moving across the country—a decision that was made three weeks prior, we had this extra bit of cash to help alleviate the burden (and make the 10-day drive more fun). This is just one of the countless stories I’ve got about all the creative provision we’ve experienced during these years.
Play Disk Golf? Sabattus Disk Golf is more than worth your time. These amazing friends helped us (as I described above) look for our cash, rewinded security footage, fed us, offered us a bed since it was nearly midnight by the time we called it a night. They were AMAZING and we love to support their efforts in the DG community, so check em out!!