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A Short Story About Prayer and Overdraft Fees

A Short Story About Prayer and Overdraft Fees

My sweet Grandma! Thanks for the loan! :)

It’s funny looking back, but in 2004 I was so broke I actually borrowed $1000 from my Grandma. I never thought I’d add “Grandma” to my list of debts alongside Visa and Chase, but there she was. Poor grandma. Wait, I’m the poor one in this story.

I digress…

I had just moved to a new town (lovely Waco, Texas, sic’ em Bears!). I was still looking for a “real” job, but was waiting tables at Chili’s to make ends meet, which didn’t always happen. Long story short I incurred several overdraft fees over the course of a weekend. On top of that I was overwhelmed by my $8,500 in debt, including Grandma’s grand.

I needed help.

So where do you turn when you’re in financial trouble (besides Grandma)? The bank of course!

Because of the overdraft fees, I reasoned my best shot at getting some help was to show up at the local bank with my smiling face and beg for mercy. Here’s where it gets neat.

On the way to the bank, I literally prayed for an older “motherly” lady who loved God and had a heart for missions. I had spent two months overseas that summer and figured it would be a good connection.

I walked into the bank, signed my name on the waiting list, and took a seat.

Wesley?”

I looked up….it was an older lady, Joyce, who I would soon find out was quite motherly. Check One.

During our conversation, I explained that I had just moved to town to get plugged into an amazing church….turns out Joyce is very involved in her church and even invited me to join them on their next prison outreach (which I did). Joyce loves God. Check Two.

(You can see where this is going right?)

Joyce’s daughter just returned from a mission trip to China. Joyce loves missions. Check Three. 

Not only did God completely answer my prayer, and not only did Joyce help get a few fees waived, but we developed a friendship. There were several times where I went inside the bank instead of the drive-through just to say hello (plus free coffee).

Joyce was also very encouraging, letting me know that my financial situation ($8,500 in debt at the time) wasn’t that bad. She explained that she has worked with customers who had over $50,000 in debt. In that moment I never would have dreamed that I’d eventually incur over $119,000 in debt. I often looked back on that conversation and just had to laugh (it was better than crying right?).

What’s my point?

Pray! Even for the simple things. You have not because you ask not, so ask! You don’t even know the blessings you’re missing if you’re not asking!

And stop judging yourself every time you ask for something. Most of the time our prayers are a mix of pure motives and selfish motives. If we put ourselves under a microscope every time we pray we’ll stop praying because we’re rarely going to be 100% pure in motive. Just accept that your Father loves you and wants to bless you and start asking!

Having children has opened my eyes to this.

I don’t want to bless Macey because she deserves it, I want to bless her because I love her! Do you see it? Maybe you’ve made poor financial decisions and feel that you “deserve” to be in debt. So what? God doesn’t want you to be in debt, so just accept that he wants to give you good things, and he wants to set you free (in all areas, not just financially).

On the flip side, Macey never argues with me when I try to give her something. She doesn’t give me five reasons why she doesn’t deserve it or hasn’t earned it. She just receives it…and with joy! It turns out the Bible has a lot to say about “child-like faith.”

It’s hard to say it better than Jesus…”Everyone who asks receives.” (Matthew 7:8)

So what are you waiting for? Start asking!

-Wesley

Comments: As you were reading this post, what things were highlighted in your heart that you know you need to start asking for?

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How We Averted Disaster By Checking Our Credit Score

Raise your hand if you check your credit every year!

“But you don’t understand…I didn’t take out this loan!”

In February, we received a call from a creditor about an outstanding loan that we had supposedly taken out. The problem was, that we hadn’t taken out any loans in several years.

As we looked into it deeper, we realized that someone had used my wife’s social, along with my cell number, and was able to secure an online pay-day loan. […]

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9 Things I’ve Learned About God From Being A Dad (Part Three)

Meeting my princess, September 2011

Welcome back! It’s been an amazing first year of fatherhood, and I’ve really enjoyed looking back on this year and reflecting on the things I’ve learned. This is our final post on lessons I’ve learned about God from being a dad. Click here for parts one and two. Let’s jump right in where we left off.

7. Every rule has a reason.

Here in Florida, the #1 cause of death among children is drowning.  It’s unbelievably tragic, as it can easily be avoided if the right boundaries are in place. Like a fence around the pool, every rule that Beth and I have for Macey is for her good. Her limited understanding doesn’t always see it that way, so she pushes against the boundaries we have set up for her. […]

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9 Things I’ve Learned About God From Being A Dad (Part Two)

Swaddling my 6-day old princess.

Hi friends! We’re going to pick up right where we left off. Our last post was focused on love & grace; this post dives into the deeper issues of pain and difficulty. My hope is that this will speak to you right where you’re at, and that you sense the nearness of God even in your difficult moments.

4. God doesn’t desire pain for you.

Pain is a part of Macey’s story, just as it’s a part of your story.  She falls everyday. She gets upset sometimes when she isn’t allowed to do or touch something. But the pain she experiences isn’t “my will” for her as her father. […]

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9 Things I’ve Learned About God From Being A Dad (1-3)

Things I've Learned About God From Being A Dad

Me & Macey, August 2012

Did you know that Jesus called God “father” over a hundred times in the gospels? Fatherhood is central to who God is and to how he relates to us.

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Macey’s 1st birthday. Looking back over this past year, there are 9 things I’ve learned about God from being a dad.

 1. God loves you because you’re his.

If I was on a boat full of 100 toddlers and it started to sink, guess which toddler I would rescue? Mine. Hopefully I could rescue them all, but if only one child was going to be saved, it would by MY child. Why? Because she’s mine. Not because she’s the nicest, most loving, prettiest, or anything else. I love her because she is mine. […]

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What To Do When You Feel Like Quitting: The Solution

In our last post, we went into detail about the five most common ways people quit on themselves and their journey of financial freedom. In this post, we want to offer the solution.

Here are six exercises that we do personally anytime we feel like giving up on something that matters in our lives. Going through these exercises really helps get our hearts engaged again. (Hint: You + Journal + Quiet Place = Best Results)

6 Ways We Process Through The Desire To Quit

1. Identify the Why: Why do you feel like quitting? It’s obviously from stress, but what exactly is causing it? If nothing else, it’s helpful to understand why you feel the way you do.

2. Pros & Cons: This may sound simple (I’m reminded of an episode of The Office where Michael lists out the pros and cons of dating Jan), but it is a powerful exercise. Specifically, list out 30 reasons why it would be beneficial for you to keep going, and 30 reasons why it would be detrimental if you quit. Share the list with your spouse.

3. Set Goals: You may realize that the stress you feel is from unrealistic expectations. For months Beth & I prayed that we would be out of debt by a certain date, only to experience great frustration when that date came and went and we were still in debt in the high five figures. Identifying your unrealistic expectations and adjusting your goals accordingly will relieve some of the pressure you’ve put on yourself and give you a renewed outlook on your situation.

4. “I Want” List: Make a list of all the things you will do or buy once you are out of debt. Nothing is off limits, and it doesn’t have to be realistic or spiritual. It simply has to be emotional – the goal isn’t to impress God or others, it simply has to get your heart back in the game. The process of creating this list helps you more emotionally than it does to simply review it, so feel free to redo this exercise when you feel tempted to quit pursuing financial freedom.

5. Celebrate Each Victory: One thing Beth & I did that really helped was to create numerous “finish lines.” We didn’t wait until we were 100% debt free to reward ourselves. As an example, if you’re trying to save up $1000 emergency fund, once you do, take your spouse out to a nice date night to celebrate. We recommend making these “memories,” so instead of blowing $30 bucks on a steak, spend the money on an event that you will remember, such as a concert or event – something you can take a picture of. It may help to attach a reward to each one of your debts (Example: When we pay off the student loan, we’re spending a weekend at the beach). Just pay for the rewards with cash and know that the more you spend on a reward, the longer it will take ultimately to pay off your debt, so don’t go crazy.

6. Prayer: The sixth and final point is prayer. This should really be the starting point, not the ending point. Personally, I get motivated by writing out goals and dreaming. But for Beth, she’ll get a cup of coffee and her journal and sit out on the porch for an hour, quietly processing through her emotions and writing out prayers to God. One thing we have made a habit of doing is praying together before going to bed. Some nights it’s a simple “thank you for today” prayer and other nights it is deeper intercession where we lift up the needs of our friends and family and certainly our own needs.

Praying together can have a profound effect on a marriage, because in a very real way you’re inviting God to invade your marriage with his goodness. Psalm 118 says “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” It’s a simple verse, but it bears reflection. He is good. He is not out to get you. He is for you and he wants you to live in freedom and walk in the purpose for which he created you. You’ll never hear me say that God wants you to drive a Porsche, but you have to know in your heart that he designed you to be free in every area of your life.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

We respond to 100% of our comments! Let’s dialogue – which of the 6 points stick out to you the most?

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How I Got Here From There (Beth’s Story)

I’m in my early thirties and have been out of college for 10 years. Wow, just writing that makes me realize how fast time flies. I grew up in a home where we were always on a pretty tight budget.

I didn’t know much about my parents’ finances as it wasn’t an open topic in my family, but I did gather that it was pretty tight for most of my childhood. I never lacked but also didn’t get everything I wanted either (which is probably why I turned out so good!). Finances were pretty hush hush so I grew up with the mindset of its better not to talk about them.

I remember opening my first checking account and receiving a checkbook in high school (wow…they didn’t even have debit cards back then) and the excitement that came with this newfound freedom. Quickly I realized that even with all my hard work, for some reason my checkbook would never balance at the end of every month. I honestly think I only got it to balance one time, which is what brought a lot of discouragement and fear of keeping track of my finances.

I continued on this path of worthless checkbook balancing until college, where I got a debit card instead. Having a debt card meant I didn’t have to keep track of my purchases, right? At least, that’s what it felt like. As long as I ‘felt’ like I was not overspending, it would work out ok. But, too bad your ‘feelings’ don’t keep you from over drafting. Over drafting was a word I became very familiar with as I nervously would check my bank statement to see how many I had each month. This is more than a word, it comes with interest behind it. I had more overdrafts than I would have liked. Mostly because the fear of knowing how much was in my checking account gripped me and I would rather live in the unknown, than the known. Somehow pushing off the reality felt better than living up to it, which usually meant giving up something I wanted.

I never went crazy; I wasn’t one of those people that would spend thousands at a time, or even hundreds. But what I did, was constantly live in a place where I was spending more than what I was making, where each month just a small amount (eating out or a new pair of shoes) had to go on the credit card. Those small, constant charges added up over time to create more than a larger debt, but a larger fear, a feeling of loss of control and no idea how to get out of it. Looking back, I see how it all started, and how I got to where I am today.

The home we grow up in and how our parents view finances has an effect on us. From there, we go through a life that creates either positive or negative experiences with our finances and therefore forms how we think, believe and act. I needed to be re-wired and have a fresh, new look on finances, and it has changed my life.

How have your experiences affected how you deal with and view money? We want to know – please leave us a comment below!

Committed to your success,

-Beth

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Our Journey of Financial Freedom – Part 2

Hold Onto The “Somehow”

(Continued from Part One)

Despite our circumstances, somehow we still had vision (you may say it was tunnel vision, because all we were focused on was the light at the end of the tunnel). We knew God’s promise that “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Psalm 34). My wife and I would seek the Lord together, and we knew that somehow we were going to find a way out of the hole we had dug ourselves into.

In an act mixed with faith and a little desperation, I called up one of the managers whom I had worked for as an adjuster, just to see if there was any work, anywhere. To my surprise we were given an opportunity….but there was a catch. This “opportunity” involved relocating to another state.

The decision was easy. It was either, “move and work,” or, “stay and drown.” We moved. With only a few hundred dollars (thanks to a gift from our friends!), we packed up and hit the road. Just like in Houston, we actually went further into debt the first two months as it took a while for the paychecks to start coming in. But we had been given a great opportunity, and  Beth and I worked our tails off, harder than we’ve ever worked in our lives.

“We’re Debt Free!”

After 18 months of 60-70 hour work weeks, we finished paying off our debt. At its highest, we over $119,000 in consumer debt. This included $44,638 on five credit cards, $30,243 on a home equity loan, $37,242 in school loans, and $7,000 on a car loan.There were many times we wanted to quit and move back home, but in our hearts we had a vision of what our life could be without debt, and we reminded each other daily of that vision.

Our journey isn’t simply one of working hard and paying off debt. We had to let go of the mindsets that kept us in debt. We had to sever the spending habits that kept us broke. We had to learn to have financial margin in our lives.

It’s now March, 2011, and in just a few months, we’re having our first child. I’m thankful that Beth and I were able to close the chapter of debt in our lives before writing our chapter on family.

Our goal in writing this is to inspire you to go for it. To help you see that that debt is imprisoning your purpose, but that freedom is possible. Your purpose is worth it. Your marriage is worth it. Your future is worth it. If we can do it with six figures of debt surely you can as well.

If you haven’t signed up for our newsletter, do so now. You’ll also receive our special report detailing the first step you need to take to get out of debt that no one talks about. Stay connected with us and let us walk (or run!) beside you in your journey of financial freedom.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

PS: We’d love to hear from you! Please add a comment below. How is your story similar to ours?

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Our Journey of Financial Freedom – Part 1

“At its highest, we were $119,123 in consumer debt.”

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re buried in debt but not sure how  to get out. They say that “hope is not a strategy,” and while that’s true, sometimes what we need the most is hope. We need to know that there is a light burning bright and clear at the end of our tunnel.

My wife and I want to share our story with you. Why? Because the tunnel we were in was very long and dark, yet if we could make it out, we have faith that, equipped with the right behaviors and beliefs, you can too. Let’s begin.

The Debt Snowball

After graduating college in 2000 with over $10,000 in debt, I worked at a youth ministry in Texas for several years, where the job was amazing but the pay was…well…not so much.

In 2006, I bought a foreclosed home which involved a major remodel. I took on a car loan for $9,000, since I “needed” a truck for the remodel work, which, due to my lack of experience, went over budget by $15,000 – all on credit cards.

I married my beautiful wife Beth in 2007, and we paid for our honeymoon ($4200) on credit cards, which seemed small compared to the $33,000 school loan my wife brought to the marriage. We also bought about $3000 of new furniture for the house on credit.

Reality Check

2008 brought with it stress and frustration. My wife and I knew that there was a deeper purpose to our lives, yet we felt like we were slaves to our debt. While we both enjoyed our jobs (mostly), each paycheck brought frustration as we were barely making the minimum payments on our debt.

At our current income level, we knew we would be spending years of our future to pay for our past.

 

So in 2008, Beth and I took a huge calculated risk and quit our jobs to take an opportunity to work as insurance adjusters in Houston after Hurricane Ike. We actually went further in debt as a result, as I had to purchase several items which had been provided by my job (laptop, cell phone, printer, etc.) Since we didn’t have any savings, guess who paid for it? Papa Visa.

In 2009, we made ends meet for the first few months of the year, living mostly off of the money we made in Houston. Knowing that we would soon run out of savings, I took a job as a door-to-door roof salesman, working on 100% commission. My wife is a trooper, and we were committed to make something happen. However, after knocking on over a hundred doors with zero sales, we knew we were in trouble.

To be continued in Part Two…

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