Since starting this series I have received emails from folks who are struggling to get by and even a little doubtful about their ability to make it. I can relate. I thought I’d share my story of how we overcame huge financial obstacles and learned the value of a dollar the hard way.
Four years ago when my husband and I moved to Texas, we had exhausted our savings and were literally down to our last dime. After trying for years to struggle through the economy in Michigan, we finally decided it was time to move somewhere where the work was still plentiful. By then we were in pretty bad shape. We had to start over from nothing and rebuild our lives. And by nothing, I mean $0.00, give or take $20.
I can’t say I regret the years of trying to hang on, even if it shook us to our core and drained our energy along with our bank accounts. We were, after all, trying to maintain a life close to our family, friends and church. If we had given up a little sooner, I believe we would have a mind full of what-ifs and regrets, wondering if we might’ve made it if we held on a little longer. Still, it was rough.
Moving didn’t solve all our problems. We were able to find work, but were living paycheck to paycheck for months trying to reestablish a savings. Then the unthinkable. Our youngest child was diagnosed with autism. After that, every extra penny would go to his therapy. The last thing I wanted to do at this point was empty our new savings and live more of our lives in financial uncertainty. But looking into the eyes of that beautiful little boy, I knew I had no choice. The experts told us he needed 40 hours per week of behavior therapy to have a chance at a normal life. The most we could afford was 15, so we weren’t about to hold back a single dollar.
I’m not the kind of person who likes to live day-to-day. And I admit I had a freak-out moment or twelve. But I learned through these years to lean on God and not on my own plans because I had no choice. The lesson learning process wasn’t pretty. I wish I could say it was. I’d love to say I was at the feet of Jesus, peacefully thanking Him for stretching me as a person. But that’s not how it went down. I was at times emotional. Unreasonable. And occasionally I gave in to my hopelessness. The journey wasn’t pretty. But the destination was. The lessons I learned about money and faith are now ingrained in me. I promise you, these are lessons that would not have come any other way. And I desperately needed them.
Today we are on the other side of it. This season that seemed like it would last forever is behind us. We budget. We scrimp. We save. We coupon. We value every dollar. These are lessons we can pass on to our children. And so the ugly mess we endured for years is no longer ugly at all. Today it has become something beautiful.
“…to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness….” Isaiah 61:3
After all these years, I finally have a true understanding of what that means. Our ashes have been turned into tools that have taught us how to be better people. I hated going through it. I’m glad it’s over. But I’m also glad it happened.
I’ve heard it said that our “mess” is our “message”. If that’s true, then this is mine. If you’re struggling in any area of your life. If you’re suffering the consequences of your own bad decisions. It’s not the end. You will walk through it and you will emerge stronger and better. Your mess will be a message someday too. That’s the beauty of redemption. Stay hopeful.
Our triumph over financial adversity sends one resounding message. If we can do it, anybody can. It’s not about being good enough or having family support or an ideal career. It’s only about daily choosing to put one foot in front of the other and walk through it, learning as you go and having faith that all will work together for good. It’s about wanting it badly enough to make changes. You can change your financial story. No matter where you are now, you can transform your mess into wonderful story of hope.
Set up your budget. Stick with it. Use cash envelopes and spending journals and any tools that will help you. Try new things. If you fall down, get back up and try again. Set big goals for yourself to keep you on your financial path. We did it. That means you can too!
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