Before I get into this post, I want to tell you why I’m sharing this part of my story with you. I’m in a challenging season, to use popular Christian parlance, but I believe God is going to do something amazing. I’m telling you about it so when it happens, we can praise Him together for His faithfulness. Also because I need your prayer.
[Side note: It’s late and I needed to get this post out of my brain so I’m not proofreading it. I’m a very disreputable writer whatever.]
It’s rare that you can pinpoint the exact day and time a season starts in your life. Usually you just wake up and realize something has changed and it isn’t necessarily good. For me, it happened on a Wednesday, the day before Valentine’s Day, in the year of Lord 2019. I was in my favorite spot on the couch wearing my penguin onesie.
In another sense, this story really goes back 10 years, to a foolish girl who got a credit card. Like most bad choices, they continue to spiral until you’re in your late 20s with more than $20,000 in credit card debt.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was my financial destruction. After years of ‘I swear I can stop’ and ‘I swear this is my last big purchase before I get a handle,’ my spending habits had caught up with me. You see, I ended my teen years with a job that gave me ample money to spend and save, so I wasn’t used to not getting what I want.
The problem became I entered my 20s in a much worse state. Instead of adjusting my habits then, I continued to indulge myself because I could get everything I wanted and only pay $25 a month! Seriously, if I could time travel, the first thing I would do is go back and slap that child in the face. After I might doing something more important, but the first act is definitely correct my idiot 20-year-old self.
I can’t actually tell you how bad it was because I have no real sense of living within my means from that time period. Which I suppose tells you how bad it was. I continued to make rent and juggle all my credit card payments all while buying everything I could ever want. I completely furnished an apartment only to leave most of it behind less than a year later when I moved. Crazily enough I still didn’t realize I had a problem.
Fast forward through worsening behavior and I’m making less money than I have in a while due to a new direction and I’m at my wits end. I see a banker because my financial situation is beyond my control. He says the magic words to me: consolidation loan.
Now, before you roll your eyes, this was a legitimately good call for me. My monthly credit card bills were nearing $800 minimum payment. I wish that was an exaggeration. At that rate, I’d be paying for years and years. The loan meant a decent amount in interest, but ultimately it saved me years of paying more interest and lowered my monthly payment. Still, you know you’re in a dark place when you’re only hope is a consolidation loan.
It was then, at the end of 2017, that I knew I had to change. 2017 had already been a doozy of a year for me growth-wise, so it seemed fitting that it would be time to change my spending habits. And I did, amazingly enough. I closed a few cards once they were paid off and took the one I kept out of my wallet. I spent 2018 only buying what I needed, and with the exception of some planned ‘treat yo self’ spending, I did it. If you ever want proof of the strength of God, my 2018 is proof.
The saddest part is you can’t even look at my spending year over year to see how much better I did because so much went on credit cards. My spending through my bank account doesn’t seem bad because I hardly used my own money.
I swear I’m getting back to February 13, 2019. Stick with me.
In July of 2018, Girl Scouts brought me on full time which meant I no longer had to work at Sephora. Even though I made more at Girl Scouts, I was working less hours which worked out to less monthly income. Fortunately, and by the grace of God, I continued to make it work. I wasn’t living lavishly, but I was living.
Lulled into a sense of confidence also known as stupidity, I decided to use my credit card to buy Christmas gifts so I could get my shopping done. I didn’t go too crazy and had a plan to pay it off, but if you know me, you know how my plans go. For the first time in a year, I had a credit card balance but I still wasn’t concerned. I felt in control.
The only thing exciting to me about January is tax season, because it means free money from the government. Yes, I know it’s my money blah blah blah, but it’s always felt nice. Last year I received a lower return than usual due to freelancing and New York state taxes, but it was still something, so I wasn’t concerned. I began to pray that I would be thankful for whatever I received. I feel like God saw through me and knew I was just trying to show faithfulness to get more money. I’m sorry, God. I’M SORRY.
Most years, I’ve filed by the end of January because I cannot wait. This year, however, I hit a snag. Sephora had my old address and I couldn’t access my W2 online which meant I’d have to wait. I filled out a form with the company and resolved that I would to file until it came. For a while, I was pretty good.
Until February 13.
I began the day like any other with my time with God. I was nearing the end of my Daniel Fast and wrote the following entry in my fast journal:
Dear God, only You know when I will receive the Sephora W2 and how much my return will be. Help to focus on Your provision and faithfulness and remember, no matter what, You’re taking care of me. Thank You. I love You. Amen.”
I wrote those words as a gesture of faith and God was like “oh really?”
I spent the day in a team meeting, so I got home a little earlier than usual. My first act was to put on my onesie because it was starting to snow and be very windy outside. Eventually church was cancelled which was a relief because I was in my onesie and definitely not going anyway. Then everything started to crumble.
Despite telling God every single day I would wait until my physical return made it to me, something in my snapped. I emailed my contact again and said it’s been more than two weeks since the mailing deadline can you send me a digital copy and within minutes I had it in my inbox. Okay God, we’re on, right? (for the record, I received the physical W2 in mid-March, still well-within tax time).
I gathered all my other documents and logged onto Turbo Tax. Remember when you could actually file your taxes for free? The good ol’ days. Everything was going fine and I had a bit of a return until suddenly I didn’t. After many tears, retries, and a panicked call with a nice woman who I paid $50 just for her to tell me I had until April 15 to pay what I owed, it became clear. I was severely in the hole to the government.
The next few hours were a blur of self pity. I cried and cried and cried. I cried all my makeup down my face until it formed a beard-like pattern on my chin. I couldn’t do anything except cry. It was like I was in shock. This is not what I was expecting. I had $100 in my savings. I still don’t live extravagantly, so there’s not really room to cut. I thought about everything I had bought and all the money I had spent recently and I hated everything. How could I be so foolish.
Everything seemed to line up for the day. I started by randomly (and for the first time) planning my return spending (my current mattress I’ve had since high school and has a lovely dip in the middle). I received my W2 so quickly I thought God surely had His hand in everything. Now I know it was my need to have control.
Do I think it would’ve been a different outcome had I waited? Maybe. I mean truly, everything is possible with God, and this is clearly an area where I needed to be tested and refined a bit more.
Either way, all that matters is how I did act, which was on my own timing. After several hours of a semi-catatonic state on the couch, I decided to go to God. Yes, it’s embarrassing it took me so long. It’s not like I wasn’t talking at Him and praying, but I wasn’t trying to listen. You see, we’re doing an Experiencing God study at church and the author said God answers prayers, we just don’t wait long enough for the answer. Mind blown.
So I move to the less comfortable end of my couch, turn on the lamp, and grab my Bible. I begin a prayer asking for guidance. Asking for scripture. Take me anywhere, God. I need to know what to do. Should I get another job? I don’t know if my anxiety could take it. What am I going to do. Tell me. Please. I need You.
Suddenly, two came to mind that weren’t unfamiliar to me, but two I’d never put together. The first was 2 Chronicles 20:12. It features King Jehoshaphat seeing his enemies and understanding he is powerless. He cries out “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes on You.”
This is a verse I’ve had a on a post-it note since I was 18. I don’t know why it struck me like it did then, but God clearly had a purpose. Interestingly, Jehoshaphat had another daunting battle and believed he could do it on his strength. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out.
The next was Matthew 6:33 “seek first the kingdom of God and live righteously and He will give you everything you need.” These words have been long-favorites. Actually, most of chapter 6. I love how it talks about how God clearly cares for all living things, and since He values us above all else, He obviously won’t forsake us.
It became clear what God was telling me. Look to Me, live righteously, seek Me. I know what you need, I know it seems impossible, but I’ve got you.
The tears didn’t stop, but their vibe changed. Suddenly I was elated. My God, my Provider, my Waymaker knew what I needed and I knew He wanted to be glorified through it. Sure, I could get a job, but how does that glorify God?
God’s always had my back with money, despite my countless times of ruining everything. Things have worked out that shouldn’t have and there’s always been money. I’m either a terrible bookkeeper or God is still a God of miracles (it’s the latter, obviously).
Now we’re here, more than a month later and just about three weeks away from the State Tax Robot coming into my savings to take what I owe (I charged what I owned to the federal government because I panicked so there goes my manageable credit card debt). I’ve spent every morning by seeking Him and asking to dwell in His house of peace, and it’s made a huge difference in my life and peace overall. But I’m still struggling with this financial miracle.
See, I’ve heard countless tales of unexpected checks and things clearing at just the right moment, and I believe them wholeheartedly, but being here has been such a huge test. In the first chapter of James, it says we won’t receive if we don’t fully believe and that terrifies me. I know God is faithful and keeps His word, but what if I heard it wrong? I don’t think I did. Why on earth would I, the worst kind of control freak, leave my financial fate to a plan I can’t know?
It doesn’t make sense to me or most humans, so it must be God.
Any time I start to maybe look for something else I stop and remember who this is about. God is going to bless me, not only because He loves me and always takes care of me, but because how it will show His glory and greatness. His miracle for me will bless others. And I want it to! I want people to see how He moved in my life and realize He’s with all of us, always.
I’m up and down in my fear every day, but I hold fast to His promise. Even if a magic check doesn’t show up and I’m in more trouble with the tax people, that won’t mean He failed me. It just means my story isn’t over yet. And I need to be willing to remain faithful through every day, week, month, and year that I struggle with none of it making sense.
To keep it interesting, I lost one of my freelancing clients this week which puts my finances into an even more precarious balance. In all honesty, I don’t know how I’m alive. I’m not ‘trying to save’ broke. I’m ‘how am I still alive’ broke. Spending $5 worries me because that makes a huge difference in my budget right now. I look at the numbers and have to fight the dismay that tries to steal my joy every day.
I’m holding fast to the promise that my circumstances don’t matter to God. He’s not behind me when I check my budget going, ‘yeah, you are out of luck. Even I can’t fix this.’ Dude fed 5,000+ people with five loaves of bread and two fish, so He can radically change my situation.
I also don’t try to imagine how it will happen, mainly because I’m not trying to anticipate or put God in a box. My mind wanders, but I shut it down because I can’t know the thoughts of God. All I know is the outcome is God’s responsibility. Obedience is mine. (originally heard this phrase from Pastor Steven Furtick)
Now, friends, I need your prayers. I need a miracle. Living is really hard right now. I don’t mind the struggle, especially because I know it’s a time where I need to show God I can be trusted with less, but the weight of what I owe is getting to me. I can’t do this on my own, not even the prayer aspect. I want the original elation I had upon realizing that nothing in this world compares to what my God can and will do.
This is long, I know, so thank you for taking the time to read it and pray for me. I look forward to sharing the update about what God does in my life because I know it will be major.