A strange and wonderful new thing is happening to me lately. Since I went public about my blog 10 days or so ago (and shamelessly sent e-mails to, oh, I don't know, maybe 60 of my closest address book friends), not a day has passed that someone does not mention something about the blog to me...
"Hey I like your blog."
"I read you blog today, I think is is great."
"Thanks for your story. Loved the pictures."
"I can't believe I am married to a blogger."
And my favorite of all, "Your blog is an inspiration to me."
Can I just say, PRAISE. THE. LORD.
Who knew?? I mean of course He knew, but who knew besides Him, that the silly somethings swimming around in my brain could affect someone else's day?? That the annoying habit I have of thinking about everything as an object lesson, could actually be put to good use?? It's crazy!! (In a good way, of course.) It is almost surreal, really...I am officially a "blogger". I think my hair even looks better to me since I claimed that title. It's all very exciting!
The day after I posted the sandwich story, a dear friend said to me that it broke her heart that I had to skip lunch to buy toilet paper, and since then I have been thinking a lot about her comment and that reality. I feel it best, first off, in the spirit of all truthfulness, to admit that I selected the example of toilet paper for the humorous side of it. Cause, you know, TP is waaaaay funnier than Windex. But in our budget, TP and cleaners both fall into the category of "miscellaneous necessities", and what is more necessary than TP? Not much in a family of eight. Not much. But were we actually in danger of using leaves and scratch paper in the bathroom if I had eaten a sandwich that day?? Maybe not. Then again, maybe we were. It is all in the choices.
If you have never heard of Dave Ramsey, I highly recommend him. He has taught me more in one easy-to-read book, The Total Money Makeover, than years of stumbling around by ourselves, believing the lies of modern society, ever taught us. The biggest lie we were believing was we must have it now. Wrong. Or how about the lie that says budgeting is too hard. It's not. Or my personal favorite, credit cards are my friend. I don't think so.
Driven much by fear, but trusting totally in God, and empowered with some brand new knowledge thanks to Dave Ramsey, Dan and I took a good hard look at our finances a little over a year ago, and boldly decided to cut up all but one credit card, and that one was left at home on the shelf to collect dust. We condensed to using only one checking account. We even got the dorky envelopes from Dave's website and started putting cash into categories. Yes, that is me, the one at WalMart who divides her purchases up by category, and takes four hours in the checkout lane, so that I can buy the socks with "clothing" money in the "clothing" envelope, and milk with "grocery" money in the "grocery" envelope, and toilet paper with "miscellaneous necessities" money from that envelope. I'm the one who saves a measly $10 a month so that we can license our car once a year without dipping into grocery money. At first, I was embarrassed when I went into the bank and asked for such a large lump of money divided into such a specific combination of bills. I was embarrassed to be in the checkout lane digging into 4 different envelopes just to buy the 8 things I had on my cart. It's counter-culture and a tad embarassing!
You know that commercial, the one where the happy music comes to a screeching halt when someone uses cash instead of credit? Where all eyes whip to the one who has no plastic? I am that dork. It's me. Now you know. I have known it for years, but my dorky-ness usually only rears its ugly head when I play any organized sport, or try to design my own Halloween costume from household articles, or attempt any sort of craft. For the most part, I think I have been pretty good at hiding the major dork in me...until now. However, with this new cash-only envelope system, with happy music screeching to a halt every time I hit any checkout lane, I feel like painting it on my forehead just so everyone will know that I am that dork.
I'll let you in on a little secret about being that dork. It's liberating. Oh my gosh, truly liberating. Who knew? Who knew?? I mean of course He knew, but who knew besides Him, that embracing the Biblical principals of tithing first, saving before you spend, abandoning all credit, and some good old-fashioned self-denial, would be so liberating! It's amazing! It's dang hard sometimes, but it is amazing.
And you know what? God is not failing to notice. Everything falls under his dominion. Even whether we choose toilet paper over fast food is important to God. He is not failing to notice any "little" thing we do to get our lives just a little more right with Him, and He rewards His faithful. For example, He watches when His little ones tithe first. (Forgive me for this next part, but what fun is a captive reading audience if I don't toot my horn just a little bit?) Tithing is a huge strain at times to keep it up, but God loves a cheerful giver. We once had a financial advisor suggest our cash flow would look better if we would "consider giving less to charitable contributions". We thought about it for approximately 7.2 seconds and said NO way. We'd never get anywhere if we had abandoned the one thing we actually did right. God is not failing to notice. He watches when His faithful pass up a new shirt to make sure there is enough in the clothing envelope for back-to-school. He watches when we deny ourselves for His principles. He watches the hard stuff we do just to be right with Him.
No, Dan and I are not getting rich just by giving up plastic and embracing our dorky-ness, but we are now totally debt free. One year, debt free. He used amazing people and unexpected gifts (perhaps more on that in another post sometime), He used lots of our tears, and He used a huge measure of His strength poured down into us and our little envelopes, but with His help, we are debt-free. I may have mentioned it before, but God is GOOD.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23