Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Another one bites the dust

If you are keeping track, I started with 3 credit card bills per month, 2 were small and 1 was large. You might remember that I paid off one a couple weeks ago.

So, here's another update: last night I paid off the second small card! It's a great feeling.

The short term is that it made me a little short on cash this week. But in the long run I know it will be worth it. I had about $100 left to pay on it. I was considering paying $50 this month and another $50 next month to be done with it, but after interest and all that, I would've ended up paying more on it in the long run, so I opted to scrape the money together this month and pay it off and be done with it.

I realize that none of this is ground breaking. I'm not doing anything special to pay off debt. I just want to share so it keeps me a little more accountable and so I can look back and track my progress! This is something that I have struggled with for too long and something that I want to rid from my life.

Credit cards can make life a lot easier. But their comfort is a lie. For too long I based my financial security on these things and now I am paying the high price, literally. I leaned on credit cards while in college so I didn't have to work but I could lead the same kind of life I would have if I did. I over spent and didn't think twice about it. If I wanted a new shirt, I bought it. If I wanted to go out to eat with my friends, I did. I didn't think twice about it. But now I am paying for those years of foolishness.

I pay a large sum of my monthly income toward the lifestyle I had in college. Had I buckled down and lived like the poor college student I was then, I could be living a little more comfortably as the slightly less poor young professional that I am now. I'm not rich by any means. Most weeks I barely scrape by. The day before pay day is usually pretty interesting. My gas tank is usually just about running on fumes and my food supply is down to scraps, but I make it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Small successes in finances

I'm so excited to be able to say that I paid off a small store card!!

My mom read a Dave Ramsey book a few months ago and gave me this piece of advice gleaned from it: Make a list of all of your bills in order from least amount to most, then pay off the least amount as quickly as possible. Then, when that one is gone, use the money you were paying on that bill to also pay it on the next least bill.

For example: if you have a bill that is $100 with a minimum payment of $25 and a bill of $200 with a minimum payment of $30. (continue paying the minimal amount while paying off the first one. Don't stop paying!) Once you pay off the first, start paying $55 on the second. You are already used to living without that extra money, so use it as an opportunity to pay down the principle of the next bill. This way you will be debt free that much faster.

I have 2 small bills and a larger one, as well as a moderately sized car loan. I paid off the first of the 2 small bills this week! The final balance was about $55. The minimum payment is $25. I can live without the extra $30 this week, so I took the opportunity to just pay it off and be done with it!

It's something so small in the grand scheme of things, but it feels great to be a little more free than I was last week!

Next I tackle the other small one. It's around $110. I want that one to be gone in about a month. It seems like an attainable goal.

I am learning budgets, and I hate it, but I can see how it is so necessary. I don't do a formal, spreadsheet budget or anything, but I make a list of my bills, and necessary expenses. And then I set aside a little fun money. So I make a list of bills, tithe, gas, groceries, stuff like that, and I take that amount out of the bank immediately. I do better with cash because I can see easily how much money is left, and not get caught without enough to cover a forgotten debit charge.

Do you have any advice for me when it comes to budgets and becoming financially wise? I would love to hear it!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Getting my personal finances under control

The past week and a half has been rough, but it has forced me to come to terms with some things and face one of my biggest fears head on. Let me recap for those of you who don't know what the last week and a half have been like in my world.

Monday I had a great day! I was excited about where I am in this stage of my life, which is a big deal in my mind. Contentment has been a roller coaster journey for me in the past, but I have felt it settling in little by little over the past few months. (Mostly because I have made purposeful decisions to be content in my life right now. And it has not been an easy road.)

Then Tuesday came... I left my house as usual. I was out of the house on time and everything. Traffic was a little heavier than usual, but nothing too bad. I got less than a mile from home before a woman in a blue minivan misjudged her timing and collided with my car, sending me into another car. When I came to a screeching halt on the side of the road, I was glad to be unharmed and saw the other drivers emerge from their vehicles unharmed. My vehicle got the brunt of the damage, given that I had been pinned between the 2 cars briefly, and I knew it wasn't a good situation.

Here is where I began to freak out a little. I don't have the money to buy a new car right now. I don't have a full time job. I work hourly, and those hours don't add up to as many as I would like them to. I do some babysitting on the side, but nowhere near enough to make a car payment. The stress began to set in a little, but it didn't really hit until Wednesday over a week later.

Wednesday through Friday were relatively unremarkable. The insurance adjuster was due to take a look at my car to decide its fate, but it continued to be pushed back.

Monday should have been decision day on my car, but it was again pushed back.

Tuesday the final word came letting me know that the insurance company had decided to total my car and not to fix it. I was a ball of mixed emotions. I liked my car, and my lack of car payment. But I wasn't too keen on getting back a car that had been "fixed" either. I drove a Saturn vehicle. Saturn doesn't exist anymore, so, mixed with the fact that it was a 2008, the parts would likely be hard to find and expensive.

Wednesday morning I had a conversation on the phone with my mom that sent me into an emotional spiral. I walked into work with red, puffy eyes and spent most of the day on the verge of tears. After work I met my mom at our bank to figure out what kind of loan I could get for a car. The insurance company gave us a generous amount back, a few thousand more than I was expecting, but it wasn't enough in itself to get another car.

I had this sick feeling in my stomach that I wouldn't qualify for any amount, let alone enough to get myself a decent car. We sat down with a bank manager and discussed my options. She ran my credit score and gave me a nasty insight into credit and responsibility. My credit score is not what I would like it to be, mainly because of my student loans they tell me, so my interest rate is higher than if I had a higher score. But overall, I qualified for more than I expected, giving me plenty of money to find a reliable car with low miles and a few perks that I am looking for, but not too much to give me a ridiculously high payment either.

I hate dealing with money. I hate every aspect of money, except the idea of spending it! The idea of talking about money, or the lack of in my case, sets me on edge and brings uncomfortable tears to my eyes every time. This made me realize that I have to get my money under my control. I will have a car payment soon and the bank doesn't accept IOUs.

So I am on a mission to get this aspect of my life under control so I can have that contentment and peace back. I am going to try to document my efforts here, while staying slightly vague to protect my privacy.

One thing that has helped me so much has been watching video blogs from Rachel Cruze (Dave Ramsey is her dad!) You can check her out on Youtube here.

Her specialty is college students and young adults, but she has great insight for everyone!

Friday, August 16, 2013

This single girl is headed to Women's Ministry

Hey everyone!
So, a few weeks ago I wrote a post about my struggles with the idea of women's ministry along with my own personal experiences that have added to the struggles. You can read it here. Since that time some crazy things have happened!

I don't usually get a ton of views or comments on my posts, and that is fine by me. My blog is mostly for me to get things out there for my own personal well-being and not to gain followers or get 100 comments. But that post got the highest views I've had on any post, ever! It seems I struck a nerve with some and spoke the truth others were feeling too. It wasn't my intention to upset, offend, hurt or bash any one or any thing. I'm just an honest, slightly sarcastic girl who tends to lean toward truth over grace. But through the messy honesty of that post and the real experiences that I went out on a limb and opened up about, things have begun to change, both in me and in the women's ministry of the church I call home. I know that I have no right to criticize if I'm not willing to do what I can to help.

So here's the big news! Are you ready for this? Not in a million years did I think I would utter these words, but here they are: I am leading a bible study on Monday nights in the Women's Ministry at the church I attend with one of my best friends. 

After my blog was published, a few key people read it and contacted me. The women in leadership positions within the Women's Ministry have been trying to come up with a way to reach out to girls just like me for years, but they didn't know how. Apparently my honesty and willingness to be transparent about my struggles opened a door that many faithful women had been praying would be opened. I met with Debbie, who heads up the bible studies for the Women's Ministry, and we chatted for hours about life and work, but most of all, about the gap between women that exists. At the end of our chat, she challenged me to pray about leading a study this fall.

I was mildly terrified at the idea. And, if I'm being honest, I'm still mildly terrified!

I've led studies before, in different settings. That's not what scares me. But the prospect of walking into uncharted territory as a young, single woman makes me nervous! I am so glad I'll have a close friend by my side. (To get to know her, head over to her blog!)

The words "For such a time as this" continue to run across my mind, and I believe that God has opened this door and pushed me through it for His purposes. So here we go!!

Some Details:
We will be studying "No Other Gods" by Kelly Minter.
(I have done Kelly's Nehemiah study and it was incredible, so I can't wait to dive into this study!)
If you are interested in taking this class, or any of the other classes offered, visit for more information, or meet me there Monday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. for Girl's Night Out to kick off the new year at The River Church, 8393 E. Holly Road, Holly, MI. Classes meet every Monday at 7 p.m.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Obedience Before Blessings

On Monday night, I was getting ready for bed and out of nowhere I felt like God was telling me to do something specific. Usually when God speaks to me it's more an impression than actual words, but this time it felt like I was getting direct orders from Heaven. He was asking me to give up something that seemed like a lot to ask. In the grand scheme of things it was really a small matter, but in my mind it was worth a fight with God. I went to bed still determined to have my own way.

I don't know why I think I can argue with God and win. It doesn't happen. Because, even if I do get my own way, I end up finding myself in worse shape than if I'd just obeyed in the first place. Going into any argument with God, I know that I will probably end up doing what he is telling me to, but I think maybe, just maybe this time I can persuade him to see it my way. (I hope you're realizing the irony in that statement!)

Lately I have been trying to get myself in the habit of waking up earlier, instead of rolling out of bed 10 minutes before I have to be out the door. So Tuesday morning I woke up at 5:45 am, poured a large cup of coffee, and sat down at the table to read my bible for a few minutes. This seems to be a good way to get my day started in the right direction. I wanted to read the parable of the Prodigal Son, so I flipped to the New Testament, but I didn't remember exactly where it was. (I'm convinced the parables wander around and trade places while my bible is closed because I can never find the one I'm looking for!) So as I was flipping through Matthew, reading the headings of each section looking for the one I wanted, another parable heading grabbed my attention. It was the parable of the rich, young ruler.

I've read this parable at least a million times in my years of Christian school, AWANA, Sunday School, weekly church services and teaching bible studies, but never before has it really resonated with me. I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination. I don't have bags of money laying around my house, like I always imagine the rich, young ruler having. I barely get by on my bi-weekly, part-time job paycheck. After bills are paid and my SUV's gas tank is filled I have barely enough money to get groceries and make it to my next paycheck many weeks.

Needless to say, God knew I needed to read that parable with a fresh perspective and used it to speak to the very area that I had been battling him about the night before. That parable tore my argument and my resolve to shreds and I knew I had to do it. I had to cut up my credit card and stop relying on it to provide, instead of the Lord. I was still struggling with it, but I grabbed the scissors and did it anyway.

My car has given me countless issues over the 5 years that I've had it. Problem after problem has come up, each as expensive and frustrating as the next. I have a friend who happens to be a mechanic and was recently hired at the dealership I take my car to. I talked to him about the newest issue I was having, a check engine light that had been on for a couple months. (Oops!) He had me take the car to the dealership to find out what was wrong. After he looked at it and diagnosed the newest problem, I had a feeling it was going to be expensive. And given that God had just made me cut up my credit card that morning, I was a bit annoyed and kind of wanted to cry! He said he would find out if it was covered under my warranty. But knowing that I was a bit over the 100,000 miles, I knew it wasn't.

Driving home I said "God, I believe that you know what you're doing, but I don't see a good outcome in this situation. You know I have like $15 in my bank account. I don't know how you're going to do this, but I know I didn't shred that credit card for nothing." Maybe that wasn't the most theologically sound prayer I could have prayed, but that was all I had in that moment.

My friend called me that night with great news, it would be covered under the warrant and to bring it in the next day to be fixed free of charge! On the way there
I contemplated getting my filthy car washed, but because money is so tight and I don't know how the mechanics feel working on a dripping wet car, I opted to wait.

Paperwork was filled out and I waited semi anxiously in the lounge, somehow knowing there was a mix up and I would be handed a $500 bill on my way out. The woman helping me came to walk me to my waiting car. As we walked out the door she said, "You're all set. And it even got a car wash."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

God's will hurts sometimes

Sometimes life doesn't make sense until you sit back and take a closer look.

You may remember a few months ago I wrote about my excitement to be spending 2 weeks in the city of Durban in South Africa. I prayed, sent out support letters, worked at fundraising events, and talked excitedly to people about the trip. I was so excited to get going.

And then the first financial deadline came and went. I was woefully short on support. I knew that if I was supposed to be going, God could have moved mountains and made it possible. So I did my best to accept that it wasn't the right time for me to go. My mom has assured me over and over again that there must be some reason why I wasn't able to go and to keep my eyes peeled for the reason.

The group going to South Africa left today. It hurt a little to not be boarding the plane with them.

I have some things in mind that could be the reason I'm not there. But I am waiting to see what the next 2 weeks has in store before I pass final judgement.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Women's ministry and the single girl

Women's ministry is a strange thing to me. 

I have to say, the church I attend has come a long way since my first encounter with the ridiculous tactics that women will go to, but it often seems like we are still so far away from the mark. As of late, they have given up the soap making retreats into the woods. They rarely use flowered table cloths to differentiate the women's ministry table in the lobby. And large, elaborate floral centerpieces are rarely used.

I'll start with a little background about myself. I am 25, single, no children, working, and living in my sister's basement. To many, that can lead to a belief that my life experiences are very minimal. For example, it can lead people to believe: 

• I have no experience taking care of a home. 
• I have little experience working with children (except when I'm called on to help in the nursery so actual mothers don't have to step foot in that war zone!) 
• I don't have experience in ministry. 
• I have all the time in the world, so naturally I should be more involved in ministries with all that free time.
• Or that there must be something wrong with me because no man has snatched me up yet.

(Believe it or not, I have heard some version of all of these examples from the lips of women around me.)

I want you to know, and maybe you already do know, that I am none of these things, and neither are my fellow single ladies out there.

I have never felt a sense of belonging in women's ministry. I have always felt like it tells me that I am not enough. Maybe they don't mean to, but I get the clear message that I have very little to offer because of a perceived lack of experiences and therefore a lack of knowledge. 

I can't tell you how many times I have gone to women's events and sat through talks about loving my (non-existent) husband, the trials of raising my (yet unborn) children, the importance of intimacy, house-cleaning, canning, baking, decorating, etc... But I don't think I have ever heard a single woman asked to speak on the trials of being single in today's sex-crazed, messed up world where people are trying to marry you off to the next single guy they see and ignoring your standards (or even your taste/age/goals/dreams/etc) because of some belief that you'll be better off that way. I have never been challenged to live a pure life that points back to Jesus, even when He seems silent. And forget the message encouraging me to wait on the Lord, in whatever situation I am in. 

I don't want to hear a cookie-cutter message about salvation or the grace of God. Those are good things, but, I want to hear practical words about the struggles that we all go through, single, married, divorced, or widowed. I want someone to look me in the eye and tell me the importance of prayer in my life. I need to learn how to guard my heart from the attacks of the enemy and the deceitful lips of others. I want you to invest in my life in a real way. Not by sending me a card once a month with a verse and signed "The ladies of _____ church". I want someone to send me a card telling me that they are praying for me in real ways and sign their name. I want a person. A real live person who takes the time to know my story. I don't want you to try to sympathize with me, especially if your singleness ended before the ripe "old" age of 23. I want someone to verbally smack that person who believes that there is something wrong with me for not being married already! 

I know that you are busy with your husbands and children. I know that our schedules don't always make meetings easy to arrange. I know that we both have a lot going on. But if you don't take the time to invest in my life and be honest with me, who will? Am I just supposed to float out here on my own until I'm finally caught by a man and have a couple babies? Then will I be welcomed into your ranks?

I'm not asking for someone to be assigned to meet with me every week. I don't want my name to appear on a list that you have been told to send text messages to once a week. I'm just asking that we get real. Can we do that?