Those of you who have followed the blog for a long time, or know us in real life, know that Paul and I are working towards getting out of debt. Paul used to be a Pastor. One of the reasons he felt that he was no longer qualified for that role was because of our debt. (See Titus 1 and I Timothy 3: these texts do not speak specifically of debt, but of being "above reproach.") about a year and a half ago, we nearly filed for bankruptcy. We were drowning in debt.
That day that we were looking up phone numbers for bankruptcy lawyers, God stopped us. I cannot say that we heard His voice, but we both just KNEW that God did not want us to take that step. Among other things, we kept coming back to the idea that it would (in the eyes of some) make Paul permanently unfit for a pastoral role. (I do realize there are differing views on this, and I am not looking for debate.)
We never did call a lawyer. We decided to stick it out. I talked to creditors on the phone daily... usually while they ranted, I cried. I begged God for relief from such a heavy burden of debt. We begged God for miracles.
Time and again, God has miraculously provided for our needs. Our income has not been enough, in the time we have lived in MO, to make ends meet... but we never go without true needs. Our propane tank has never gone completely empty (though it has gotten down to 0%). Our home has always stayed warm enough to be comfortable with many layers of clothing on. We have always had enough food. These are just a few examples of God's provisions.
But, in the past TWO MONTHS, God has been doing some amazing things for us. One local hospital cancelled Paul's debts to them (about $3000 for a CT Scan). Another hospital cancelled my debts and reimbursed what I had paid. We used that reimbursement to get caught up on our van loan and pay off a few small bills. (I cannot tell you how many times we have nearly lost our van!)
Then, with our tax return/credit we paid off all of our remaining credit cards except one! So, our debts are now realistic! We have college loans (who doesn't!?), a van loan, and two personal loans, but only one credit card, and one last small hospital bill! I cannot tell you how great it feels to be released from these debts! But, I can tell you that I do NOT regret choosing to pay them, rather than having them all written off by bankruptcy. (Please know that I am NOT judging anyone who has claimed. I am just saying that we could not claim.)
It has been a long journey. It has not been easy.
Here are some of the ways we cut back:
- canceled our life insurance last March (which I do not really recommend)
- canceled cell phones last March (though we recently picked these back up)
- no eating out, unless someone sent a birthday check, or family took us out
- very few new clothes/shoes
- using cloth diapers
- cancelled long distance service on our home phone (we kept the landline, because we have to have it for our internet service)
- choose the slowest speed of internet for many months (we recently moved it back up)
- no gym membership (for me, I LOVE to work out and go to aerobics classes)
- live in a house with snakes, mice, and more, just because the rent is cheap
- ran the heater at 60-63 degrees last year. This year with a new baby in the house we ran the heater at 67.
- I tried to use mostly free homeschooling resources off of the internet, and checked out books from the library to supplement. I sometimes use gift money to buy curriculum.
- Paul has to fix anything that breaks himself
- very small entertainment budget (we allow for 15/month for Netflix during the winter months)
- no dates, because we cannot hire babysitters
- very few visits to see my family in IL
- no dishwasher for a long time
- no piano until last week
- no fancy mixer for making bread (until last week), I had to make it by hand
We have lived in this house, in MO, since August 2008. It has been HARD! But, I am finally truly grateful for it! (Though, honestly, I do still struggle with contentment with the idea of staying here indefinitely)
And, we still owe far more on the van than it is worth... but, if we stay on track it will be paid off in less than 3 years. That seems like forever right now, but I must try to be more optimistic. After all, we do not know what God might do next!