A Fresh Start

The last time I sat down to write on the pages of this blog was almost a year ago. There were many times throughout 2018 that I wanted to come here, to share my heart…but the reality was I often found myself unable to adequately express exactly what I was going through.

Some of the stories are not mine to share. I think there may be a time that God will use those stories for His purposes, and maybe I will have a part in sharing them. But for now I can just say that going through this past year was painful in many ways. I leave the year changed. I spent more time in desperate prayer than ever before. I saw God answer prayers in ways I hadn’t expected and felt that He was stretching me in ways that made me very uncomfortable.

I am grateful for my family, especially my husband who was that strong tower that I needed multiple times. I am also thankful for two of my best friends who with the wonders of Voxer encouraged me and prayed for me daily. Each of us had our own unique struggles this past year and their voices cheering me on every day were a lifeline for me.

But I walked away from 2018 with some “baggage.” And I started to feel very convicted that the causes and conditions related to that baggage needed to be addressed. You see I am a pretty emotional person. I shared this on FB recently “I am a “feelings” person. I feel big and love big but it also means I get angry big and resent big and get sad big. There is always a good with the bad it seems.”

When I am not addressing my feelings in a healthy way I start to make poor, emotional choices. I made a LOT of those choices this year and mostly in the way of my spending. It is hard for me to admit that, but it is true.

A little backstory for you…when Dominic and I got married we were broke. Just all the time broke. We lived paycheck to paycheck and our parents always had to help us and we just never seemed to get it together. Early on I racked up some credit card debt, mostly due to necessity items like food and diapers we needed, but I only ever made the minimum payments on those cards. (I know OUCH!) I cringe now realizing how much in interest we must have paid over the years.

Tax return time would come and instead of saving the money, that was the one time we could buy something big…and often we did. We spent years making very poor financial decisions. I even worked for a bank during some of those years and it wasn’t until I was there a few years that we started to see the value in contributing to a 401k and paying off debt each month. So many mistakes!

When we moved to MN we were in a better financial position than we ever had been. We were finally able to start giving to our church a little, being charitable was something I always wanted to do…but never seemed to be able to manage. We left SD with no debt except our house, cars and some student loans and had a plan to work at those.

Many of you know our story, what we thought God brought us to MN for ended in a way we had not expected and we faced the reality that we might lose everything. But Dominic trusted God’s calling/leading and started his own business…and now we do this thing together. God has blessed this business from day one and I am forever grateful. But sometimes I take that for granted.

I think I have gotten in a habit of justifying my actions. I love to be generous and now we can be and that brings me such JOY. But when I use that as a reason to justify spending on things for myself (or my kids) that we really don’t need….well that isn’t right. {Like we gave big to XYZ Charity…so now it is ok if I want to buy this sweater for myself right?!}

And that is where I have found myself this year.

I have always been the one that handles our checkbook. I balance the books at the office and manage all the bills etc. at home. A few weeks ago Dominic and I were talking and he made some comment about that he trusted me and how I managed things and that if I bought myself something from time to time it didn’t bother him.

But you see, his words of trust..they bothered me. I was super convicted and called my best friend to share that something had to change. She and I had done a 40 day fast a few years prior before Easter and “fasted” on spending on clothing for ourselves. I thought maybe I should do that again.

She came back with something even more challenging. “I think we need to fast from all discretionary spending for the first quarter of 2019.” UGH. And she told me that I needed to return something that I had purchased on impulse the day prior. She said if I was serious…it was the right first step.

I knew she was right and so the next day I made that return. I canceled a recurring monthly subscription I had that I didn’t really need. And I unsubscribed from about 30 emails from retailers that bombard my inbox each day with their best sales and offers. Too tempting for me!

Even though I could have spent prior to the New Year, I really didn’t. I was thoughtful about each purchase I made. Was this something we needed, or something we wanted? I told the kids no more Minecraft mod downloads, or movie purchases for a while. It has become too easy to say yes and not even think about it. It may only be a couple of dollars…but is it necessary? And will they ever learn to respect finances well if I am always saying yes?!

And then I had the hardest conversation of them all. I shared the challenge with Dominic. You see, not telling him about where I spend our money has become second nature. I don’t discuss purchases with him, or ask permission, and as a result I have given myself WAY too much leeway. I am not accountable to anyone and that has led to poor choices.

And even more truth for you….I really just wanted to get through the 3 months and not tell Dominic what I was doing and then proudly show him how great I did. But the reality was keeping it a secret would just make secrets later easier too.

So I am coming here and being way too honest, to remain accountable and to maybe encourage someone else who might be struggling in the same area. Buying new things isn’t bad. I love to treat my kids and I am always looking for great deals. Most of what I do purchase is with a fantastic deal. But they aren’t always necessary purchases.

My friend and I talked about how we both want to be able to be more generous in our giving, and to save for more experiences with our kids. Being thoughtful about our spending helps reset our view on what matters most and where we want to use our money. How can we best honor God with our finances?

I know this will be a challenge for me. But I believe that God is leading me down a path to learn more about Him in this process. My prayer is that He will continue to refine me so that my choices going forward will bring Him glory.

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