Debt Free 2014

A few months ago, I told my husband that I had the perfect idea for a new year’s resolution: getting out of debt. We were nearly maxed out on all our credit cards, we had two car payments to make, I had payments to make for student loans, and I had a few large medical bills from giving birth last June, plus my son’s doctor bills because my insurance had run out. We were thousands and thousands of dollars in debt and I just wanted out.

But I didn’t know how to get out. In fact, I was so scared to check the bank account sometimes for fear of seeing a dwindling number and payments that hadn’t gone through yet. I was afraid to open envelopes that contained hospital bills because the numbers were so high. I knew that we were in debt and I knew that I wanted a way out, but I was too scared to face it. Frankly, I was hoping that a lump sum of cash would happen upon me and I could pay it off in one sitting.

One night this past weekend, when my husband and son were sleeping, something reminded me of my new year’s resolution. I googled something quickly about getting out of debt, and happened to come upon Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps. I read it and other things on his site and I wondered if I could do that — he just made it sound so doable.

So, I prayed about it that night, admitting that I wanted to make a change about my financial habits and wanting to trust God with everything.

Here’s a little bit about me, to provide some background information for my debt. My husband and I are a young 20-something couple. We got married after my junior year of college and, although I know many would frown at that, “the plan” I had seemed foolproof. I was working part time. I had a full tuition scholarship to a state university that would get me to a master’s degree so long as I taught in the state for three years. So, that was five years of free education plus three years of a guaranteed job. We had some debt at that point, though not a lot. And “the plan” was that when I started working, my income would either all go to paying debts or saving money and, eventually, we’d have a baby when my three years of teaching were up. But, as I read in Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (ESV).

So, halfway through the first semester of my senior year, I got pregnant. It was a rough semester to begin with, but adding first trimester woes to it made it unbearable. I don’t know how others could do it. After talking it over, my husband and I decided that finishing school right away was not an option for me and that we would trust God to provide for us since He is the One who gave us this baby.

Fast forward to now, I am enrolled in online school as I stay home with our infant son, my husband works full time + over time, and I am about to get my real estate license. I thought many times about working part time to pay off debt, but in the end, my salary would be negated by the cost of childcare. Even though I live next door to my parents, I could not expect them to babysit for free, especially since they (and all my loved ones) had other pressing matters in their lives. The most cost effective option for us is for me to stay home with the baby.

So, for some time, I felt trapped. We were living off of one salary and were trying to get out of debt, but not managing it properly, so we only got further into debt. But February 1 begins our conquest for living debt-free. I don’t know if we’ll be debt free by the end of the year, but for the time being, I’m not focused on goals. I’m just focused on progress. I used to work at Starbucks and on really busy days, I would always tell myself to not look at the end of the line (which seemed to go on forever). Our debt seems a lot like those lines, so I’m just going to take it as it comes.

In the meantime, I will track my progress here in my new blog. And it won’t be sugarcoated.

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If You Just Believe…

Even before we got married, Roland and I had one tradition planned:

On the day after Thanksgiving, we would sleep in and set up the Christmas tree in the afternoon and at night, we would watch The Polar Express while sipping hot cocoa and cuddling on the couch. We had such a wonderful, busy day yesterday (which I will talk about in a later post), but we got to fulfill that dream last night.

The Polar Express is hands down my favorite Christmas movie. (It’s a Wonderful Life comes a close second!) The movie isn’t much like the book, but, in my opinion, it’s better. I don’t know if the creators of the movie intended it to be like this, but it is just so symbolic. Every time I finish it, I’m left in tears. My mind is constantly rolling every time I watch it, catching new things that I can relate to my faith. I can’t wait until I have kids so we can watch it as a family and I can tell them about God and heaven and faith.

For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to see it (spoiler alert), it’s a story about a boy who doubts the existence of Santa Claus. He stays up one Christmas Eve, questioning everything he was told. He even opens up an encyclopedia to read what it says about the North Pole, noticing the phrase “devoid of life.” He soon goes to sleep and wakes up to an express train and runs out to see it. He is told that the train is heading to the North Pole (devoid of life, remember?) and, after being reluctant, he jumps on. But he is still doubtful about its destination. 

There are plenty of kids on the train, but the story focuses on only a handful of characters who, all but one, do not have names. There’s the doubting boy, a know-it-all kid, a sweet, smart girl who is filled with the Christmas spirit, Billy, a poor boy who feels lonely and think that Santa forgot about him, and the engineer of the train, who is annoyed by the doubter boy’s disbelief. The journey to the North Pole is quite crazy, and there are so many issues along the way, and at times, the engineer himself wonders if they will ever get there.

At one point, the doubter meets a man on the roof of the train. There is interesting conversation there. The man asks the boy how he feels about Santa, and the boy replies that, while he’d love to believe, he doesn’t want to be proved a fool. The man and the boy continue to converse, and while the man doesn’t encourage the doubt in the boy, he does nothing to believe it. In fact, he says at one point that seeing is believing, because this is clearly what the boy believes to be true. But at the end of the conversation, the man asks “One more thing — do you believe in ghosts?” to which the boy replies no. “Interesting,” the man/ghost says. Later on, the engineer says the same thing: “seeing is believing.” But he adds on to it, “but sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see at all.”

Often times, everything seems so unbelievable, so the boy wonders if all of this is a dream. Even when they get to the North Pole, he isn’t convinced. His new friends can here the bells on Santa’s sleigh, but he cannot. Even when Santa comes out, everyone can see him and everyone is cheering — everyone but the boy. Then a bell falls to his feet, and he realizes that when he shakes it, he hears nothing. He finally says it: “I believe” and he can hear the bell. When he looks up, he sees Santa face to face. Believing is seeing.

When he gets home that night, everything is the same. Cookies aren’t eaten, gifts aren’t there. He was given a bell, but he lost it because he had a hole in his pocket. The doubt was immediately creeping in that everything really was just a dream, especially when, the next morning, he rips his pocket again, having no proof that it was ripped the night before.

Both relief an belief come at the end, when he opens a little box with a note from Santa and that same bell that he lost. He is forever changed at that moment.

 

I love that this movie has almost no names. It makes it generic — it could be anyone. And it’s all about faith.

 

Some people have lost all doubt in the existence of God. With all that’s going on in the world today, with tangible science overruling blind faith, it’s easy to think that Heaven is just a fairytale and God is a made up being. Some people, like Billy, have lost all hope and think that God has forgotten about the. Some people, like the know-it-all, have faith but are a bit too proud for the actual faith to shine through. And some people, like the girl, have a strong faith and are absolutely confident in the character of God. 

Then you have the engineer, a perhaps less compassionate image of Christ, leading them to see God. And the man/ghost perhaps can represent the Holy Ghost, again, a little less sarcastic though. He’s there as a guide and a helper, as a friend, and he’s not quite an angel (as mentioned in the movie). 

It almost reminds me of a CS Lewis book, how this boy got a chance to see heaven. Still, he was a doubter. Some people, even when they have so much proof, are convinced that this faith cannot be real because of what everybody says. They don’t want to be fooled, and they are convinced that seeing is believing.

But, as in the movie, he only saw when he believed. 

John 3:16 says that “whosoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.” 

 

It’s true. I could be wrong. I’m only human! I could be wrong about Jesus Christ and about God and about heaven and about my faith altogether. But His word says I’ll never see Him unless I believe. I’m not willing to chance it — I want to meet my Creator one day! And I believe that I will.

Because, sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things you can’t see.

 

 

PS – I have about a dozen more examples of symbolism here… if you ever watch the movie with me, I’ll let you know all about them. =)

 


My Jesus Reigns in This Place

Where the Spirit of the Lord is… there is freedom.

Freedom from oppression, from heaviness, from the presence of Satan. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is peace, there is glory, there is love, there is wonder.

I realize that this is my first post as a married woman. I will apologize shortly for my absence. But I write because of something deeper today, something spiritual.

At around 8:30 today, I felt exhausted. I fell asleep on the couch as Roland watched TV, and an hour later, we came to bed. We’re so tired, and yet can’t sleep. And we could have brushed it off as being overtired.

But we both knew… this was beyond us.

Sometimes you feel an uneasiness. It’s one of the great things (or not, when you’re trying to sleep) about being baptized, immersed in the Holy Spirit. You sense when something is up. You sense when something that is not of God is somewhere lurking around.

We read Isaiah 40, which reminded us of the greatness of God. Then Roland shared a nightmare last week of a demon possessed young girl, and that’s when it hit us — oh yeah, demons are real. Satan is real. And he is always waiting to come inside. So we both prayed, rebuking the spirits in the name of Jesus Christ. I thanked Him for covering us in the Blood of the Lamb and asked that He would cover this house with that same blood, both our apartment and the main house upstairs. I asked for His presence and His peace.

I then put on Jesus Culture radio on Pandora when Freedom Reigns started playing.

Roland’s back in bed from praying over the living room (I felt there was an evil presence lurking in there, not allowed to get in the bedroom because of angels guarding us) and the kitchen (a glass broke in there this morning… and for some reason, that small instance remains so profound to me…)

This entry is mainly for me to record today. Two weeks ago, we felt this same presence lurking in an area of the resort in Punta Cana, where we had our honeymoon. Of course, by the grace of our amazing God, it did not reach us, but we could see that it was there. Anyway, if you happen to read this entry, remember that we see in the human, worldly realm. There is a whole other realm, which, thank the Lord, we cannot see, because it is a scary one.

But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15

(My Jesus reigns in this place)


This is The Day!

(I’m not supposed to be up for another half hour, but of course, I’m just so excited, and I HAD to document this morning, since I probably won’t be here again for a looong time… =))

Today is the day when I begin my journey as Roland’s wife. It’s a lifelong journey, similar to the journey that a person makes when he gives his heart to Christ. Marriage is the epitome of that relationship.

It’s been the craziest two weeks. Roland wasn’t supposed to get sick. I was supposed to do this and that. I wasn’t supposed to have a mental breakdown the day before my wedding… But I did.

But after a decent night or rest, I’m awake. I have about fifty thousand butterflies in my stomach as I look at my wedding dress and realize that the next time I see Roland, I’ll be walking down the aisle, ready to marry him!! I’m shedding a few tears (happy tears) as I think about today…

Let the rain of Your presence fall on me… every day that I live, with every breath I breathe. Let the rain of Your presence fall on me… everywhere that I go, Lord, let Your presence flow. Rain on me.
Love divine, joy unspeakable overflowing in my soul. This heart of mine is refreshed and at rest in Your presence.

That song entered my head today… it’s my prayer… that this day and all the rest, as I go on this new adventure, that God’s presence will always be with me… because, one day, the same way that I will meet Roland down the aisle today, with smiles, laughs, tears, butterflies, and everything else your could think of, I will one day meet my Savior in Heaven.

When we arrive at Eternity’s shore,
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more,
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring.
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful.

(You’re Beautiful by Phil Wickham)

This day, as beautiful as it will be, cannot compare to that day.

For as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.
(Isaiah 62:5)


The Small Stuff

I am writing to you at 3:48 in the morning. 

No, I do not have insomnia. No, I did not just come home for a late night out with friends. No, I do not have to wake up super early to go somewhere.

I’m at the hospital.

Up to and including this point, I have been blessed enough to never have to be admitted into the hospital. I wish I could say the same for my fiance.

On Tuesday night, Roland suffered from sharp pains in the abdomen. Having experienced similar pain a few times before, he bore through it and went to work the next day. He had no fever, felt no nausea, and his appetite was fine. Wednesday and Thursday, the pain subsided, but on Thursday night, it returned. After bearing through another long day of work, he finally went to the doctor without an appointment. They suspected appendicitis. But then again, he had no fever, felt no nausea, and his appetite was fine — contrary to most of the popular symptoms of appendicitis. Plus, his white blood cell count was normal.

Still, they sent him to the ER in a small hospital close to where he lives. I met him there at around midnight and, shortly after I got there, he had his cat scan. And the results came back.

Appendicitis.

It’s currently 4:01 AM and his surgery is scheduled for three hours from now. We moved from ER to the (very empty) pediatric ward. (It feels like a suite compared to the little dingy ER room… I’ve got a comfy chair, and an en-suite bathroom. Heaven in a hospital!)

Frankly, I feel like I should add something of more substance. You know, something like how the wedding is only two weeks away and all of a sudden, the groom has appendicitis.

But, really, I’m not worried. Maybe it’s because it’s 4:07, and I am exhausted. But, maybe it’s because my God is in control and He knows what he’s doing. He’s got a plan. And, really, it’s all for the better. Of course, I wonder why He couldn’t have waited until after the honeymoon. Of course, I wonder where the money will come from. Of course, I wonder how we’re going to move into our new apartment next week, how we’re going to do everything we need to do in time, how quickly he will recover.

But do I worry? No.

God has been teaching me a lot this week about worry, how I shouldn’t do it. He’s been putting things in my life that increase my stress level, and He’s saying, “do you trust Me?”

“It is not only wrong to worry, it is unbelief; worrying means we do not believe that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything but those details that worry us.”

(My Utmost For His Highest, May 23: Our Careful Unbelief)

You see, Jesus said in Matthew 6:25, “. . . do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.”

It’s so easy to do it, but don’t sweat the small stuff. God’s got it all figured out, and the only thing He requires is to “seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and all this things will be added on to you” (6:33).

Anyway, this is where the healing begins.


Marriage as a Partnership

I know it’s been forever since I last wrote. I hate that because I feel like I can never continue something I start! However, school is finished (thank the Lord!) and the wedding is in four (that’s 4!) weeks!

Having the time to think about it leads to even more thinking. I have 30 minutes for my wedding ceremony. Thirty short minutes. There’s so much I want to do!

Last fall, at one point when I was ranting on about not being engaged, I talked about marriage… I talked about why it is important to God, and that I shouldn’t feel that something so seemingly simple in the grand scheme of things is too small that it should be overlooked to my Father in heaven. My marriage to Roland is the closest I can get to the relationship that I, as a follower of Christ, have with my Savior.

That being said, on my wedding day, although I will be the one walking down the aisle with the pretty white dress, I don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be about us. And I don’t mean just me and Roland. I mean me, Roland, and the God who fashioned us in His image, who redeemed us from death, and who brought us together. And, really, I want to display that throughout the wedding ceremony. And with thirty minutes, there’s only so much you can do!

We want prayer, communion, worship, Scripture reading (not in that particular order) amongst the vows and exchanging of rings and (of course) the kiss. [That being said, if there are any past brides out there who have performed this feat, please comment and teach me your ways!!] But I don’t want to just try to squeeze all of this into a thirty minute ceremony. While I want it there, I also want to keep it going throughout the rest of my life with Roland.

This marriage, although it can survive without Christ being the center, will never thrive unless He is. I can’t assure it will be easy. In fact, I can assure that it won’t be!

Bethany Dillon, the young woman wise beyond her years, whom I’ve also written about previously, explained it perfectly in her song Say Your Name:

I’m trying to find a moment with You
These days are speeding by
This ring gives me a new point of view
I’m a dealer in my time
And if I can make a confession
My time is torn between
The man who has won my affection
And the God who made me

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul goes on one of his rants, which, in my opinion, are so fun to read. They’re usually confusing because He says a lot and sometimes it seems like He’s going around in circles, hence why it sounds more like a rant. But he just comes to the issue from every perspective. This one is about marriage…

To paraphrase, marriage is fine and everything, but if you’re not married, you really shouldn’t get married, because then you’ll be torn between focusing on your spouse and focusing on God. Then again, marriage isn’t bad, and by no means should you end your marriage if you aren’t married, because it is not a sin to be married. Oh, and if you can’t “contain yourself,” do yourself a favor and get married because it’s better to do that then to sin.

Confused yet?

Paul’s main point in all of this was that marriage, although it is a wonderful thing, really tears you from alone time with God.

So here I am. I want to have a wedding ceremony that blesses my God. But I have to continue that into my marriage if I want Him to bless the marriage. That means I can’t rely on Roland for everything. I’ve been guilty of doing it before. I’ve been let down. Because Roland, although he is a wonderful man and I am so in love with him, and he is in love with me, is simply incapable of knowing my every need and fulfilling them.

That’s why marriage is a partnership… two people coming together as one and communing with Jesus Christ.


Doubt.

I saw a video today that a friend of a friend posted. 

I’m not sure if you have ever heard Jose Luis de Jesus. I’ve never heard of him until about an hour ago. Since then, I’ve been doing research. 

This guy claims to be Jesus Christ reincarnate. He has a six-figure salary, he claims to be immortal, and he says that he is greater than Jesus because “He spoke in parables, I speak with wisdom.” He says sin and the devil are dead and the Ten Commandments are good statutes to live by here on earth but have no effect on the Kingdom of Heaven, since there is no hell.

Give me a break! This guy has got to brush up on his Bible skills!

This has me on the defensive for the Jesus Christ I know and love — it makes me feel so much closer to Him. Maybe because I just read some chapters in Matthew yesterday, it’s really fresh in my mind, and I have more of a rebuttal to Jose’s (I’m first-naming him, as I am Jesus, also to avoid confusion) speakings.

My Jesus was a vagabond. He wandered the streets with no money and did not make for Himself a home. My Jesus spoke in parables for a reason, which He explicitly told his disciples — “they have ears but do not understand.” Jesus knew that the crowd of the people He was speaking to would not want to listen to Him if He had told them flat-out that that Heaven is filled with the “good” — the followers of Christ — and the “bad” — the ones who turned away from Him — would have to (to put it bluntly) burn in hell. Could you imagine telling someone that? Could you imagine being told that? What would you do? I’d be pretty turned off. Jesus knew this. So He told them the parable of the weeds. 

Jesus preached that sin was rampant, even cracking down on the basic laws of the Old Testament and making them harder to obey — killing was no longer ending someone’s life, it was saying something mean. He told the people that devil was alive and well, out to kill, steal, and destroy. He foretold His death. He knew that, as flesh and blood, He was not invincible to the most inevitable thing in the world. 

Now, tell me… why would Jesus say all these things and do all these things and then, two thousand years later, pull a 180? Why would He when the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever?

Anyway, I rolled my eyes at this Jose guy until I read something even more interesting…

He claimed to be the Antichrist.

This alarmed me. It made me wonder whether or not this was actually the antichrist that the Bible speaks about in the later books. I mean, you sort of have a psychological game going on: well, he sounds like the antichrist. But then again, why would the antichrist claim to be the antichrist? According to an article, he means, “that, as the second coming of Christ, he rejects the continued worship of Jesus of Nazareth.” 

Aside from these mind games, he went further. His followers are getting 666 tattooed on them.

That, to me, is unreal. Either this guy is actually fulfilling the prophesy of the antichrist as laid out in the Bible, or he’s doing a pretty good job at making a scene.

I honestly cannot believe that this is the Biblical prophesy being fulfilled. It’s all too blatant. It seems like I’m in a Left Behind movie, yet this guy rose up nothing like Nicolae Carpathia did…

But what’s it to me? I have a firm foundation of faith in my Lord Jesus Christ. I will not be swayed by this Jose. All I have to do is let my light shine to show the world the true Savior. I don’t have to preach against Jose Luis De Jesus — I just have to teach about my precious Jesus.

On June 30th of this year (there’s been a countdown for over a year now) Jose claims he will become immortal. He also claims that those with his number, 666, tattooed on them will also become immortal. They will be like radiation and not die, nor have a fear of the growing amount of radiation. He’s got his own website with his Nicolae Carpathia-like emblem that explains all that he teachers and “proof” that he is who he says he is.

Logical, yes, but I’m skeptical. Is this guy really the antichrist? Why is that that when I google his name, I have to get to the “de” part before it shows up in the suggestions — wouldn’t more people be falling for this? And wouldn’t newscasters and interviewers talk in favor of him and not mock or be skeptical of him? And, according to Revelation, isn’t the mark of the beast to occur midway into the Tribulation? If that’s the case, then the first half seemed a bit easy for the Tribulation, even in spite of everything that has happened.

To me, it’s easy to act. It’s easy to have in mind that you want fame and you’ll do any crazy thing to get it, even if it means calling yourself the antichrist. Either way, this guy is, at the very least, a false prophet, and we’re a day closer to the end times. 

Just be ready and get others ready for the actual second coming of Jesus Christ!