Thursday, November 21, 2019

Moving Debt Mountain

The hardest messes to clean up are the ones we've made ourselves. 
I found this while cleaning 
yesterday just before I got the call
I mention below...

Combine guilt with worry about the outcome, and add all the work that needs to happen... it's a formula that can be motivation-zapping. Plus, there is often the little voice in the back of your head, "You are just going to do it again... so why work so hard?"

Time and again God has shown me what HE can do if I just take a step back and stop worrying. And what He does is always just so amazing! But trusting Him for help can be difficult when you are stuck on the thought that "I made this mess, so I have to clean it up."

Even though I understand grace, it's hard to get through my thick head sometimes that God cares about what I'm dealing with, much less that I can ask him for help with it. When I do though, cool things happen!

Now I've got another one to give Him, and this one is huge...

Last week I said to myself, "I've decided to be debt free." and then I didn't tell anyone else.
I just kept it to myself and prayed about what the next steps should be. 

Side note: stop formulating your Dave Ramsey comment in your head right now. He's great... but what I've got going on here is bigger than that. I don't want you to miss the point of what I'm saying. 

I've decided to be debt free by the end of 2020.

If you knew how high the debt mountain is, or how small my shovel is, you wouldn't think it was possible. In fact, you'd be tempted to tell me to stop being illogical. And that's okay. You don't have to believe this will happen. Let me show you.

But if we're talking about being logical, I have to ask... what kind of silly person asks God to help them with things that are completely humanly possible?

Mike & I eating wedding cake. 
Some will assume this might be an easy task these days, now that I'm married. To be honest, my debt has been a point of contention with Mike since we met. It wasn't enough to keep us apart, and I love that he trusts me as much as he does, but I want to be very careful that I continue to contribute to this household in ways that keep those kinds of thoughts from even entering his mind.

Yes, I will have to cut back and plan ahead more. Yes, the month before Christmas is a hard one to start this. Yes, I will be cutting up most of my credit cards and choosing not to keep a balance on any I do keep.

No. I don't know how it's going to work out exactly.

Don't worry about me though, I have a plan.

The plan is... faith. I'm not doing this on my own. And actually, we have a plan. Mike and I are in agreement that if this is going to happen, God has to not only be IN it... but He has to do it.

God has got our backs and I have no doubt that the story that comes from this will be amazing.

Not convinced?

Let me share with you what happened yesterday...

While at Knox College, I was awarded a Minority Teacher's Scholarship that was to be repaid by teaching for 2 years in a qualifying school. 

Once I got out of school, I never taught full time and I didn't verify if the schools I taught in were qualifying or not.... I just needed to work.

Then I pretty much forgot about it because... life happened.

Sixteen years later that $6500 had turned into over $10,000 including interest. (Think about that before you encourage your children to take out student loans... those can be worse!) 

I'm telling my debt mountain, It's time to go...
I recently started getting phone calls that began with, "This is an attempt to collect a debt." The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) wanted their money.

They said if I could prove I met the terms of the agreement, they may be able to waive some or all of the fees. The problem? I'm terrible at record keeping. And apparently, not all of the schools keep their records this long either. Plus, I was fairly certain that few of the schools were "qualifying"... if any.

One district, who I called repeatedly, informed me that those records are in another building and nobody has time to look for them.

So, yesterday morning I faxed what I had to ISAC, hoping they'd at least cut it in half and set me up with a payment plan. In the afternoon they called and said it was being marked "paid in full" and I'd receive a letter in the mail.

They decided to accept and credit me with all the days worked at the one district I sent records from.

Over $10,000 off my debt mountain, just like that!

Praise the Lord!

And that's when I decided some others might want to join me on this journey.

Are you ready? Every month on the 15th I'll share what percentage of the debt is gone... and eventually a number. 

Thanks for your prayers and support. 
Despite all the parts of this that will be difficult... This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Experiencing Turbulence

My tray of food jumped up off of the table connected to the seat back in front of me, and my wine sloshed dangerously close to the edge of my clear plastic cup.

Ah, turbulence. I had forgotten it existed, really.
Photo taken by Ella
as the sun set while flying.

We were headed out of the country for the first time ever, on the trip of a lifetime. Lauren's Make-A-Wish trip would start in Rome when we boarded our cruise ship in a few hours, and take us through several cities between Italy, France, and Spain... ending again in Rome, seven days later.

We extended our trip by one day so that Mike and I could get married while we were there. It was going to be amazing, more fantastic experiences than I could have ever imagined that I would get to do with my family in my entire lifetime, much less over the course of 9 days!

My food jumped again and this time some wine did spill.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. It would be fine.

Then came what felt like a 100 foot loss in altitude... although it was probably only 5. It was enough. Passengers screamed and everyone scrambled. Just about everyone was trying to figure out the best way to keep their drinks from pouring all over their food, clothes, and each other. Others tried to comfort those around them.

One elderly gentleman took off his seat belt and stood up. I'm sure because he or his wife had spilled on themselves. A flight attendant yelled from her seat in the back in an “angry mom voice,”  “Sir! Sit down right now!”

He complied immediately.

One young woman held her cup out over the aisle, trying to anticipate the drops and keep as much wine in her glass as possible. I set mine inside my tray for a brief moment and then decided before any more of it was spilled on my pants, I should drink it. So I did. All of it.

I'd like to say it helped, but it didn't. My children were 11 rows ahead of me, separated from my line of sight by a wall. Fear began creeping into my mind and taking over.

I started to cry.

Mike & I before take-off.
Mike grabbed my hand and told me it was going to be okay. I nodded, but the tears didn't stop. I've experience major turbulence once before, on a trip to LA to visit my brother. There were no tears then. I tried to recall what was different, but in that moment, all I could think about was that my children were on the plane with me, and that I couldn't get to them to comfort them.

I looked out the window, straining to see anything that might give me some clue as to what was going on. The last bit of land underneath us had disappeared not long before and the only things I could see were the wings of the plane, lit up by the plane's lights, and total darkness beyond.

Mike kept trying to comfort me but wasn't sure how. So he just held my hand and waited for the turbulence to end.

After what seemed like an eternity, the pilot's voice came across the speaker.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,”

I held my breath

“We were warned that this was coming, but we climbed to a level that we thought was above it. It turns out that's not high enough. Unfortunately, we aren't able to fly above 39,000 feet and that is right where we are now. We should be through this in about 20 minutes.”


20 minutes? I could do this for 20 minutes. The bumps were still the same, but I was calmer after that... and I'm fairly certain it wasn't just the wine I had recently chugged.  I worked on eating what was left of my food and went back to my in-flight movie.
At O'Hare, waiting for our flight out.

(My kids were fine, by the way, when I checked on them later. They were laughing about the turbulence for the most part... although my oldest lamented some about the amount of wine she lost in the aisle of the plane.)

In retrospect I realized what was different about the turbulence on this flight...

The pilot.

When the turbulence started on the flight to L.A., the pilot came on almost immediately. He informed us that we were going to experience some turbulence for awhile and the flight attendants had been informed they must sit down and buckle up as well.

It's amazing how much it helps to have the words of someone who knows what the outcome is going to be...

It's the same when life gets turbulent. The sooner we hear from the Pilot, the sooner we start to feel better. That's true even if the answer we get isn't the one that we want.

In the moment, I would have rather the pilot told us he's pulling up so we could fly above the turbulence, and we'd be out in a few minutes. But, I had no idea what would happen if we flew above the approved 39,000 feet. Could we hit another plane? Would it be too cold for ours? Would the pressure be too much for our engines? In reality, it doesn't matter.

Sometimes all we get is, “There are reasons this won't change that you don't understand, trust Me.”

Would you accept that answer if a pilot said that to you? Of course!

How about when God says it to you?

When I was getting upset on the plane, there was no way to talk to anyone in charge. I couldn't knock on the cockpit door and ask what was going on. I couldn't flag down a flight attendant to see if she had any insight. I just had to wait.

In life though, I don't have to wait to hear from God.

I often say out loud, “It's You and me today. We've got this.” and then I go about my day, trusting that God's got this and He'll let me know if I need to do something different. I always intend to start my morning with that thought, but often it takes something frustrating popping up to remind me.

When I say it, I don't always get the answer I want or expect. Sometimes it's just a calmness that settles, and I know it's going to be okay.

Try it, next time you need some direction.

It's You and me today, God. We've got this.