God’s Ways with Our Debt

If there is anything I hate, it is surely debt. I would dare say I hate it more than Mr. Dave Ramsey. 

Test me. 

We had debt when we got married and paid off a huge chunk of it within the first year. We took Dave’s Financial Peace University class at church in our 2nd year of marriage. Other than our house and a car payment, we had zero debt as of a little over two years ago. And this is when we thought we didn’t have any money. 
Then God asked us to live on one income and sent us on a crazy whirlwind of unfortunate financial events over the past two years, and here we are again with debt. 
I HATE IT!!! Have I made that clear?
And it’s not the kind of debt that is accrued because of a lack of self control over purchasing material things. Remember, I grew up in the household of Mr. and Mrs. Frugal. I can do without new clothes and cute furniture in my house. I’d love to have it, yes, but I am able to go to Target to get a gallon of milk and leave with only that. Thanks Mom and Dad, seriously. 
It’s the kind of debt accrued when there is no other option to pay for unexpected events. Forget Dave’s emergency fund. It gets wiped out pretty quickly when you have to pay for individual health insurance for over a year, three trips to the ER, and two surgeries. 
Believe me, it is only by divine intervention that we have never been late on any single bill. It blows my mind, actually. It’s all God, because it certainly is not our bank account. 
Now that we have steady and sufficient income (thank you JESUS!), we thought of different opportunities to get rid of this debt, all of which provide a surplus of income. 
1.  Brent gets paid overtime the first year of work. 
2.  Brent goes on CAT deployment training in March. (sounds fancy)
3.  Tax refund (since we have used that every year of marriage to work on debt or make big purchases)
4.  Rental home income
It is such a downer, those days where all you get in the mail is bills. That was yesterday. And yesterday was the straw the broke the camel’s back. God has literally shut the door on all of those options to pay down debt. In the last 2 weeks, we have learned: 
1.  The company Brent works for no longer has a budget for overtime. 
2.  The CAT deployment training has been indefinitely suspended while they revamp the program. 
3.  We OWE taxes for the first time this year. I know EXACTLY why and it was something not in our control and it makes me ill…working on my attitude. 
4.  We got a bill in the mail yesterday stating that our mortgage payment on the rental is increasing. 
The combination of all this sent Brent and me (and Lily) on a walk yesterday where we complained and questioned God. Lily was busy in her wagon beating metal sticks together and singing songs that she is learning at church, so she was the only one praising God. 
Frustrated to the MAX! God knows what a burden this debt is and how badly we want it gone and any attempt we have made to pay above and beyond the minimum God has deliberately declined. What is He thinking? 
After the walk, we were a little cooled down and decided to work on our budget for the next two weeks (something we do twice a month). And after all that complaining and questioning and doubting and trying to maneuver money around to get all the bills covered and still eat, we had a SURPLUS of money that didn’t have a purpose. 
Now, it’s not like a thousand dollars fell from Heaven. But there was a little extra that wasn’t going to bills and we quickly and humbly realized this: 
We can plan and stress and strategize all day long with very wise ways to pay down our debt…ways that Dave himself would applaud…but in the end, if it’s not God’s way then it’s not going to happen. OBVIOUSLY!
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9
Even establishes his method of paying down debt. 

A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way? Proverbs 20:24
Our “debt” steps are from the Lord, how can we understand them? Just trust the the One who directs the steps. 

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. Proverbs 21:5
May we trust and work in the diligent plans the Lord has for us, in all ways. 

One of these days we’ll be able to say we are debt free. Until then, we will roll with the punches, do things His way, and try not to be discouraged when things don’t work out like we hoped. And we’ll continue to praise God for all the miraculous ways He provides for us despite what our money looks like on paper.  

Part 2: The story behind the name

Let’s do some math.

What happens when you add these four guys together???

Michael Allen

Michael Brenton
Terrell Scott
A very young Benjamin Scott
If you did the math right and got the hint, you get this guy: 
You get the name of our first son: Michael Scott. (He’ll go by his middle name.) 
Please make note that we ARE NOT naming our son after our favorite TV boss. And if you bother to mention that to me I might will slap you silly. But, if you were to buy him a “World’s Best Boss” mug or a Dundee, I’d be okay with that. It’s just a mere coincidence. When we first thought of using this name and said it out loud, Brent and I gave each other a look like, “Uh, do you realize who that is?” And for half of a split second we almost changed our minds. But then we thought, nah, that just makes the name even more perfect! We love The Office, particularly Michael Scott. However, we have NO desire for our son to turn out like him. A sense of humor? Yes, of course. But that’s about the only quality we want Scott to mimic. And what better time to be naming our child Michael Scott than the farewell season of The Office? 
How could we resist naming our son after FOUR very important men his little life?  Especially when two of those men are just plain weird and crazy… 
So I guess you figured out that my brother is the one I needed permission from to use the name Scott, just in case he ever wanted to use it. So…a reminder to future Ben and a notice to his future wife: I asked and his words were something like “Sure. I don’t care.” 
And…I just got a text from my cousin “Congrats on the man!” 
Time to land this plane. 
Michael Scott VK to arrive sometime in early July 🙂 

Gender Reveal and Baby Name Hint

I’m very thankful for text messaging. I can’t imagine what today between 10:30 and now would have been like with a bunch of phone calls.  

I do appreciate all the texts, I really do. It just confirms my extreme popularity among my peers. 

I just don’t do well AT ALL with a mass of texts coming in at once begging for me to answer the gender question (or any other question). And I had so many people tell me to send them a text. That’s a lot of pressure. Because it’s inevitable that I’ll forget someone.
After we went to the doctor, we enjoyed lunch as a family of 4 at Five Guys for Brent’s bday (on Wednesday)/happy gender reveal day. We (I) decided that we should enjoy our newly gained information quietly as a family. I wasn’t ready to tell the world. Even Baby’s anxious grandparents. 
I consider it my gift to you: a lesson in patience. And my mother’s response to that, “It’s God’s job to teach me patience, not you!” I was a little snobby, but I think it can slide this one time because I was snobby for the sake of my child. 
And because the name requires some explaining, I certainly could not tell anyone the name any other way but on this here blog. 
I mean, isn’t this why I created the blog in the first place…so I could let a mass of people know the same information at the same time without me having to explain something over and over again (something I loathe doing)??? 
So here goes. I know you are thinking SHUT UP and get to the point. 
The point is, I’ve been anxiously waiting to write this blog for about 2ish years now. We’ve had this name that long. And once we realized the hilarity of the name (you’ll see why), I wrote this blog in my head. It’s just been patiently sitting in my writer’s mind waiting for the day it can make a public appearance. 
I’m going to reveal the name in part 2 very very soon. But first, you must know that 

And I’ll give you a hint while you wait…

Baby Update #4

How far along: 19 weeks

Baby Bump: Yes, my belly has all of the sudden popped. It’s very obvious now 🙂

Maternity Clothes: Maternity pants are a necessity these days. Shirts, not so much. Regular pants are just WAY too uncomfortable.

Total Weight Gain: +1 pound, which I’m thrilled about because at this point in my pregnancy with Lily I had already gained 15-20 pounds.

Cravings: JAPANESE STEAKHOUSE FOOD!!! Love and crave it all: the soup with slivers of mushroom, the iceberg lettuce with ginger dressing, every single vegetable I can cram in my throat, all the fried rice, and the hibachi chicken. And all of that smothered in the pink shrimp sauce. AH-MAZING! We discovered a yummy hibachi steakhouse near our house and they don’t cook in front of you, so it’s cheaper. I can’t decide if this is a wonderful thing or a terrible thing. I’m sure it will cause that 1 pound to increase greatly for the next 20ish weeks.

Food that nearly makes me vomit when I think about it: Nothing lately

Symptoms: Still having some awful round ligament pain that pretty much paralyzes me for a couple seconds. Not sleeping well. And my uterus must already be taking up space that my bladder usually does because I go to the bathroom constantly.

Sleep: Huh? What’s that? Oh, you mean that time of rest at night that allows you to function each day? Yeah right.

Movement: Yes! But it’s unpredictable.

Gender: Find out on the 25th! And if it’s a boy, you are in for a treat with the name :). Although, we have one person we have to talk to before the boy name is set in stone. And if it’s not a boy, we still aren’t giving away the boy name but I promise you’ll like the girl name (as soon as we figure out what it is ourselves).

Belly button in or out: In

What I miss: Laying on my belly in the floor to play with Lily

Best Moment: Finding out I’ve only gained a pound, when I was sure to be on the plus side at least by 15 pounds by now.

Biggest Challenge: It’s not so much a challenge, but we are playing “pretend there is a baby asleep in the nursery” a lot to hopefully teach Lily when it is ok/not ok to be loud.

The way is hard that leads to life

I always think in the moment that this is the worst fit she’s ever thrown and I’m the only mom that has a child who acts like this. Because in the moment it can get pretty ugly. And fear makes a home in my head reminding me that there are times when relief and help will not be around. He’ll be out of town. And I just shut doors to separate myself because it’s all I know to do. A break, never from her, but from the stress and chaos that leaves me empty–a break so I can break and crumble into a million pieces because I.just.can’t.do.it.

I hate what gets me to this point of brokenness. But the brokenness is certainly what I need and what You desire. Broken over the sin of self. The sin that convinces me that though I know I can’t do it on my own, I can at least give it a shot.

Why can’t You break me easily?
Foolish me. I know the answer.
Easier would just be…well, easier, right? But I’m not here for the easy. That’s a dead end street with no reward. I’m here for the hard and the holy. Not because I chose it, but gratefully because You drew me to it and demanded it. It’s no dead end street. You are at the end, when really You are the beginning, and You are my reward.

the way is easy that leads to destruction. the way is hard that leads to life. 

So here I am in my most vulnerable and humble state begging for your help. Parenting is simply discipleship. But making a disciple is no simple task.

I don’t want to only find You when I’m at the end of my rope. May I find You at the beginning when things are blissful, in the middle when things are getting a little crazy, and at the end when I’m crying, she’s yelling and we both have lost sight of what the problem ever was in the first place.

Lord, in the middle of all the mess, let her see Your goodness in turning the messy into something beautiful. Let forgiveness and unconditional love always abound in our hearts and in our home.

The ugly mess we sinners get ourselves into is inevitable. Oh God, may the ugliness never cease to lead us to You. Thank You that even in our sin, You don’t throw us back onto the easy path that leads to destruction. You offer forgiveness and grace and hold us tight on the hard path that leads to life.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love; 
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions. 
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, 
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment…

Let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities. 
Create in me a clean heart, O God, 
and renew a right spirit within me…

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 

Psalm 51: 1-4, 8-10, 17

Boxes and boxes of books

I should have written this post in May of 2010. Actually, I’ve been writing this post in my head since then. Now it’s time (way overdue) for a post.

Something I did today spurred me on.

A great friend of mine leaves tomorrow to serve orphans in Mexico for a week. Is it ok to be jealous of her?She gets to love on the least of these. She gets to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the fatherless. I can think of no one with a bigger heart for orphans than my friend. I’m thrilled for her and excited God has afforded her this opportunity.

All week, I’ve been wanting to write her some notes of encouragement with prayers and scripture for her to read each day of her trip. However, this week has been crazy and I’ve been feeling like I went back in time to my first trimester. Exhausted and without energy. So, I sent her a text this morning to explain my plans and why they weren’t going to happen. I sincerely apologized because “it’s the thought that counts” doesn’t apply here. 
But God said do it anyway. He arranged for an hour long Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to entertain Lily while I sat in the kitchen to write seven notes of encouragement, knowing my friend needs it. 
I say none of this except to boast in the Lord. Encouraging others is something I love to do and it is one of my spiritual gifts, therefore it is Christ in me that did this. Not my flesh. 
I’m about to bring this post full circle and I can see it may be a lengthy one…stick with me. 
Other than my parents, there are two people that have had a HUGE impact on my walk with Christ. One is Erin, who gave me my first prayer journal in 5th grade which I do believe is the early beginnings of this here blog. That first prayer journal gave me a passion for writing prayers to God and writing about things that are heavy on my heart.  
The other is this guy right here. My youth pastor, Randy. 
After 15 years he retired from being a student pastor in 2010. In May of that year, the church organized a big celebration to honor his years of service to the body of Christ…though his years of service began long before he was a student pastor and will not cease as long as he lives.  As we were decorating for the party, I had to go into his office to get a few things for centerpieces. I walked upstairs and turned the corner to see an image I will not forget. 
Boxes. A hallway filled with boxes. Boxes packed full of nothing but books he used to increase his knowledge of Christ which then spilled over into his teaching and shepherding of the students at Philly and in the community. 
But it didn’t stop there. I carefully made a walkway into his office to find shelves full of books that were yet to be packed. 
My heart sunk with thankfulness. All those years and all those books for the glory of God and for me (and the 100s of students he impacted during his years as pastor)…I was a beneficiary of Randy’s immense knowledge and contagious love for Christ. My heart filled with gratitude for him, for being committed to us, his students, whom he often referred to as his family.  
Never have I known a man more devoted to Christ and to his students. He gave 110% to every single detail of his ministry. And after that, he gave 110% to other ministries of the church. 
He’s the cream of the crop. Bottom line. 
Here’s why I know so in pics (thanks Dad and Kristen for letting me steal pics from your facebook!)
1.  He taught me to put the interests and needs of others before myself. He didn’t do this just by his teaching, but also by his example, requiring us to memorize Philippians 2:1-11 (among many other scriptures), and throwing us into uncomfortable situations that forced us to deny ourselves and rely on the strength of Jesus Christ. 
Repairing a roof in TN 

At a daycare in Pritchard, AL. We visited many times. It was probably my first encounter with the fatherless, as many went home to single moms, grandmothers, and some who even went home with the director because there was no where else to go. 

Box City. Living in cardboard boxes for a weekend to get just a taste of the homeless…rain or no rain, storm or no storm. Our first item on the agenda was a trip to the thrift store. We had $5 to buy our wardrobe for the weekend. We returned to the church and changed into our “new” stinky and filthy thrift store clothes. Stayed in them all weekend. A porta-potty for a restroom, a pillow or a sleeping bag (not allowed to have both), toothpaste or a toothbrush (again, not allowed to have both). Meals included a “soup kitchen” at the church and digging in the dumpster at a local bakery. 
Not pictured is the annual trip under the bridge at Thanksgiving to serve the homeless a hot meal. And the countless mission trips all over the US. 
Constantly in all of these adventures, it was nearly impossible to think of ourselves first. He just flat out didn’t allow it. Jesus was first, others were second. It was tough love. If we were tired, we kept going. If we had a bad attitude, we had to get over it. If we didn’t want to do it, we did it with joy. If we complained or weren’t flexible, we all wore rubberbands so someone could pop it on our wrist as a reminder to be flexible. 
2.  But strict and reserved are no words to describe him and his leadership. He knew how to have fun with his students and his creativity is unmatched. 
My first year in the youth. I’m in red in the front (in my really cool Gap Anorak jacket). That would be Brent and Randy climbing on top of everyone. 

Randy came across 500 lbs of rotten bananas. So what do you do? Certainly not throw them away! Have a banana bowl, complete with baseball, slip and slides, wrestling, and just down right dirtiness. That’s Brent again wrestling in the banana filth. 

Skits at Delta Flight (his version of a DNow weekend)

Summer tubing trips down the Little Cahaba River

And just for kicks…a pic of my mom going down the rusty aluminum slide after tubing the river

More craziness at Delta Flight

He made us do some pretty nasty things as part of our games. One included putting an entire Happy Meal into a blender and drinking it. Of course that’s something he never volunteered for, but here at his retirement party he got a taste of his own medicine!
3.  He taught us to let go of our reputation, hence why we did the Six Flags Dance as a group in parking lots at random and attracted a lot of curious onlookers. Or why we (and by we, I mean the boys) would find a girl in the crowd at a conference and sing Happy Birthday to her…just for the sake of awkwardness. But seriously, he knew we had to give up our reputation in order to live recklessly for Christ. And again, he led by example and put us in situations where we were forced to apply what he taught us. 
3.  He was passionate about the word of Christ and that was evident every single time he preached. He was also passionate to see young people give up their own lives for the sake of Christ. 
4.  He taught us to be a family, because that’s really what we all are as followers of Christ. Cliques don’t exist in God’s kingdom. These people were my support group, my best friends, my family. 

5.  He taught me how to be a leader. He poured so much of his life into his students, that I want to do the same for other teens, which is why I have worked with youth at church since I graduated from high school. It’s where I feel called and equipped…which may have something to do with my youth years. 

6. Finally, the reason why this whole post started…encouragement notes. I couldn’t help but think of Randy and his mailbox when I was writing my friend this morning. Every mission trip we went on Randy had a mailbox. In the mailbox were blank cards, each with a name on it for everyone on the trip. Every night as we gathered together to discuss our day, we would reach in the mailbox and get an encouragement card. For the next 24 hours, our job was to pray for that person and write them a note of encouragement to return to them the next night. Then, we would all draw another name for the next day. It was always such a fun surprise to see who you had to pray for and who had been praying for you. I still have some of mine. Randy taught me the importance of praying for and encouraging others. 
Overall, he taught/showed me how to deny myself and take up my cross daily and follow Christ. He held all of us accountable. He expected a lot out of us because he expected us to be used by God in great ways. He was a true leader because he created situations where we could apply what we learned or scripture we had memorized and see with our own eyes that what the Lord says/does is good and true. He taught humility. I’m so very grateful because it left a lasting impression on my heart, one that effects my marriage, my life as a mother, a teacher, a friend, and so so much more. 
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. 
C.S. Lewis
You just really never have a clue what kind of impact you have on someone. Who are you impacting?
And, just in case you need a picture of the hottie I fell in love with in 5th grade…that’s him in the glasses. Married to him now. If only he still had those glasses and that flannel shirt.