Are you struggling to get out of debt? Do you feel like you’re in a hole so deep, you’ll never be able to climb out? As I’ve mentioned here before, Dustin and I have struggled quite a bit financially. However, we’re starting to gain some momentum toward freedom from past mistakes.

Without going into detail about the hows and whens, Dustin and I fell into a pretty deep pit of debt before we raised the white flag in 2013. Before you judge a person (or yourself for that matter) too harshly for making poor financial decisions, you have to consider that a person of good-will doesn’t wake up and say, “I think I’ll make terrible decisions with money today. Maybe I’ll even destroy my family’s finances.” Financial ruin is a slow, agonizing process, as far as I’m concerned.

People use money poorly for all sorts of reasons. We wanted to follow immature dreams, “make a life for ourselves”, feel better about personal failures, heal from sorrow, love on other people, feel like we belonged…We never meant to enslave ourselves, but that’s what we did.

When I started working full-time in 2013, I was devastated and afraid I’d never be able to shovel my way out of the mess I was in. I feared my choices would limit Josiah’s future. The difference this time, was that I made a very specific financial plan and stuck with it.

Little by little, I paid off small debts – doctor bills, store cards, etc. Then onto the bigger fish…consumer credit cards.

I kept a margin, albeit small, for fun. However, I didn’t let it get me down when I had to turn my friends’ invitations down if I just didn’t have the money. The truth is, the people who love and care for you will make opportunities to spend time with you that don’t involve spending money. I kept fighting and celebrating each little victory.

Every penny counts, as they say. Although it felt like it would take all of eternity to pay down the mountain of debt standing in our path, making good decisions each week really adds up. Time passes so quickly; even here to eternity isn’t as long as you’d think. I look back on all of the small extra payments I’ve made over the last few years, and I’m so grateful. I kept pushing even when it seemed like it wouldn’t make a difference. After two years, Dustin and I have pushed through about a fifth of what we owe. We have a long way to go, but so much less than we did in 2013. All that’s left are student loans, and at least we know that debt had a solid purpose.

Truthfully, during our early years of marriage, we were “needy” unnecessarily. I don’t love admitting that, but MBW is about vulnerability and solidarity, right? Anyway, when we moved to Indianapolis is 2010, we were “in need” of a washer and dryer. We should have been able to afford that ourselves, but we couldn’t. A friend, full of grace, reached out and offered us the funds to have clean clothes at home. He offered it as a gift or a loan, and that was up to us. Somewhere between gratitude and pride, we agreed to pay him back, but he requested we only pay back the money when we could do so in one lump sum.

Although it wasn’t an outlandish amount of money, by the time 2013 rolled around, I couldn’t imagine a time when we’d be able to pay him back all at once. I mean, surely there’d be some “emergency” that would make saving that money impossible. If we hadn’t changed those old habits, I would have been right.

However, last week, I mailed the check to our friend. Debt paid in full.

If you’ve ever run in a race, you probably know that feeling of exhaustion and pride at finishing. You’ve given it all you’ve got, and you’re out of breath, but it’s over. It felt like freedom and victory all at once to sign that check and stamp that envelope.

If that weren’t reward enough, I received a beautiful message from our friend. The check was an unexpected blessing that came at the perfect time for him and his family. Glory be!

I’ve been at the receiving end of just-in-time financial blessings, and it was amazing that God used our victory to bless our full-of-grace friend.

There’s a lesson there for me. So many times, I’ve wallowed in sorrow that I wasn’t in the place/relationship/job/financial status that I SHOULD have been. My LORD is teaching me that when I hand my life over to Him and make choices within His will, I am EXACTLY where I belong. It may have taken us almost five years to pay off that small debt, but it was in perfect time in the hands of God.

Those of you who watch F-R-I-E-N-D-S, remember the scene where Phoebe is dating that creepy psychologist who sits around and effectively, but annoyingly, psychoanalyzes everyone? Near the end, he tells Monica (who is eating cookies), “Remember, they’re just food. They’re not love.”

Phoebe and Roger

The same can be said for money. “It’s just money. It’s not love.” At its best, money should be used as a tool to live and better lives. At its worst, money can destroy families, as they seek ways to give and feel love. You don’t have to let that be your story.

Be encouraged that no matter what mess you’re living in, it’s not over, yet. It can get better, even when it feels like all hope is lost. Start making healthy choices now, or reach out for help if you don’t know how. I’m no expert, but I do know how to stop digging the pit of debt deeper and start climbing out toward freedom. I’m willing to help in whatever way I can. Message me if you need encouragement. You can rise out of the ashes, too.