Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chaos & Financial Peace

Do you guys ever have a day where anything that could go wrong... does? That was my yesterday! I knew that it was going to be a busy day and I was anxious about it the moment I woke up.

The morning started off pretty normal. Landon and I pretty much did what we do everyday. 10:40AM rolled around and Ryan came through the door to watch Landon as I went to an appointment. I was hesitating leaving and just kept returning to give Landon more kisses until I knew I had to go or I would be late. I arrived at the dentist and went up to the front desk. The receptionist asked me for my license and my insurance card. I gave her both, but as I looked at her typing in my insurance information I got a bad feeling. She handed me my information back and, on my way to a waiting room chair, I called Ryan. He confirmed my fear that I had indeed grabbed the wrong insurance card. Uhhh! So I stayed on the line as he began digging through our file cabinet for the correct one. I could hear Landon screaming in the background. Ryan said, hold on Landon is dying if I'm not looking at him. As he was comforting Landon I started filling out the paperwork the lady had given me. Ryan came back on and eventually found the card and started telling me what it said so that I could write it down. I was having a hard time hearing what he was saying and kept asking him to repeat himself. Or he'd repeat what he just said and I'd realize I missed a letter or something then I'd try to squeeze the missed letter in. We were both getting frustrated! Ryan: EMP/ Me: EMC/? Ryan: EMP/ Me: EMC/? Ryan: no, EMP! As in POOP! I just bursted out laughing because it was so funny and yet I was so frazzled and frustrated I just wanted to cry. We finally got it all and I walked up to the front desk and explained to her my mistake and gave her the new information, written on the back of an expired applebees coupon, which was all I could find in my mess of a purse. I felt like an idiot. Then she asked me if I'd finished my paperwork and I had to tell her no, which only added to my feelings of idiocy. She then sent me back to talk with a financial counselor. I filled out my paperwork as she typed my information into her computer as I finished each page of it. She was talking to me as I was filling it out and when I got to where I was supposed to sign and date it, I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the date! I kid you not people, I sat there trying to remember what month it was. When I remembered it is July, I couldn't remember what number that is. I'm sure I looked like I was trying to solve a really hard math problem or something. I had to think back to when Landon was born, April=4, he's 3 months now so 5, 6, 7.  Not my best moment, and definitely not one to make the home-schoolers out there proud, sorry mom. I finally finished filling out all the paperwork and followed a nurse (I don't know if that's what their technically considered) back to a small room, with the, all to familiar, chair in the middle of it. I have ALWAYS hated going to the dentist. I had a bad experience as a child. I remember hating the gas they would put on me. I would cry, and I even remember one incidence where I hid under the chair.  I was dreading this visit because I knew I had put it off about six months too long. Do you blame me? An unnecessary bill was the last thing I thought we needed. About six months ago I noticed a small chip in one of my back teeth. That tiny chip somehow grew over six months until I realized one day that almost half my tooth was missing. Ryan and I agreed that it would probably need a root canal. So you can imagine, how thrilled I was for this appointment.

Overall my appointment went pretty well, I liked the nurse and I thought it was really neat that they have tv's extending out the wall and facing down so you can watch them when your mouth is being worked on. I thought this was a great alternative to closing your eyes and risking falling asleep, staring at that insanely bright light, or exchanging the occasional awkward glance at the person 2" from your face. The dentist was also very nice. She told me that her brother just became a pediatric cardiologist. I was excited about that and told her how needed great cards are. I told her CHD's are actually pretty common you just don't know about them until someone close to you has been touched by it. We talked for quite a while and then she broke the news to me about the fun that lay ahead of me. Root canal, three teeth need to get caps put on, a couple cavities, and potentially removing my wisdom teeth. I was expecting the worst, my grandma used to tell me the story of when she went to the dentist and they told her she needed all her teeth pulled. She said they wanted to just pull a couple at a time, but she told them to just pull them all out that day. So compared to that, this news wasn't so bad... but still bad. I went back out to the financial counselor person and she gave me estimates of how much everything would cost. Just the root canal will be $900! She told me that insurance will pay for most of it, but I need to check with my company because most companies have a $1000 cap you can spend in any given year. So if I get a root canal, well you can do the math, it doesn't leave much left over for all the other stuff I need done. So that was depressing, but I was just glad that I was done and I could go home.

Walking out to my car, I had this awful feeling because I didn't remember locking it. I was relieved to see that it was still where I had left it, but my relief quickly disappeared as I couldn't find my keys. I peaked through my window and there they were still in the ignition. UHHHHH I called Ryan and told him what I had done. He said he would get Landon and they'd be on their way. When I hung up the phone I was so frustrated I seriously just wanted to cry. It wasn't enough that I was nervous about speaking that night, but EVERYTHING seemed to be going wrong. I leaned up against the back of my car and just prayed. I'm not stupid, I know satan doesn't want me to speak and tell our story. He doesn't want God to receive the glory that is due Him. He wants to get me to back out. I wanted to, I wanted to email the teacher and tell him that I couldn't do it, that I was sick or something. I've been on this earth long enough to know that when satan is trying everything to get you not to do something or not to go somewhere, it is because it's going to be good and it is exactly where you need to be or what you need to be doing. He was trying to discourage me, he was trying to make me feel inadequate. Who am I that anyone would want to listen to what I have to say? I can't even remember the date for crying out loud? Those were the thoughts that were going through my head, but I just kept sensing God telling me that His power is made perfect in my weakness. I know that God gives you just what you need in the present moment. I just had to make it to that moment and with the way my day was going, I really didn't know if I would. Sitting outside my car in 90 degree weather wasn't fun. I know I could of gone inside to wait, but I really wanted to spare myself from more embarrassment. I love my husband so much, he never made me feel bad or complained that because of my silly mistake he had to drive 20 min in the opposite direction of his work. He just encouraged me, told me him and Landon had fun, gave me a kiss, and headed back to his job. I need him more than I can tell you and I thank God everyday for giving me the privilege of being his wife.

I was exhausted when I got home. I shut the door behind me and just sighed a sigh of relief. I told myself that I'm never going to complain about being stuck in this apartment again. Landon had fallen asleep on the drive home so I put him to bed and took advantage of the time with a nap of my own. Ryan got home from work at 5. I had to leave around 6:35. Ryan kept telling me I was going to do great. We went over my outline and he told me a couple things he thought I should add. Then it was time for me to leave. I kept telling Ryan I didn't want to do it. "Why do I agree to these things?" He reminded me that I love speaking. I told him I only love it when it's over with. We both smiled, he told me he'd be praying for me and then off I went.

I prayed the whole way to the church. I told God that He had to show up. He had to speak through me. This is His story and only He can use it for His glory. I got to the church, got out, realized that I forgot my notes, went back to the car, opened the door, grabbed my notes and the alarm goes off. "Seriosly??" I pushed every button trying to get it to stop, nothing worked. Then finally it stopped on it's own. I think God was just like, "ok, give the girl a break!" I hurried into the church before my notes could blow away or a tornado could engulf my vehicle.

Financial Peace

When Ryan and I were engaged and I still lived in Warroad our church began going through a thing called Financial Peace University. From what I could tell from the short advertisements of it that were played on Sunday mornings, it seemed like an awesome thing. I wanted to go through it, but I knew that it was something Ryan and I should do together. Ryan and I began looking for a church in Bismarck that would be hosting it in June so that we could attend it together after we were married. We found one and we enrolled. Leading up to that day, I read Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makover" I was hooked! I loved what he was saying and how backwards it was from what the world was telling us we needed to do. If your not familiar with Dave's principles I really encourage you to pick up his book and just read it with an open mind. I had learned from my marriage counseling classes that debt could be deadly for a marriage. Money issues are the #1 reason for divorce so I knew that this was something Ryan and I needed to figure out early on. I discussed with Ryan everything I was learning in Dave's book and it gave us this understanding and vision for how we wanted to handle our finances when we got married. We were excited to go through the class together.

We started attending FPU classes the week we returned from our honeymoon. We began learning how to budget. Dave's principles are laid out in what he called "the baby steps" the first baby step is getting a $1000 emergency fund. This money isn't to be used for anything except "real" emergencies. After you have that you move onto step #2 "the debt snowball".

We were really enjoying our class, but we were having a hard time with the baby steps. We were trying to get our emergency fund in place, but things would always come up. We were in such a transitional period of life. We were getting settled into life as a married couple, I was trying to find a job, and any money that didn't go to bills, we would save to pay off our wedding photographer. So we didn't feel like we were making much progress while we were actually in the class, but we were learning so much.  

Fast forward a year... I received an email from Paul, the pastor who led our class, asking us if we wanted to share how God has used FPU in our life with the class he's taking through it this Summer? My first thought was, "NO! I don't want to speak." but immediately I felt God nudge me and I knew that this was something I had to do. So that day when Ryan came home for lunch I asked him about it.  He looked at me like, "are you serious?" I knew he wouldn't want to do it. I told him he could stay home with Landon if he wants, but I feel like it's something God wants us to do. He told me that we're not out of debt though, we really haven't done that well. I thought about it and then mentioned some things and the more we both thought about it, all of these small accomplishments came to mind. He agreed that our story was worth telling and that maybe it could encourage someone else. So I emailed Paul back, telling him that I would be willing to share. He asked if July 18th would work for me? 

So that brought me to yesterday. I walked into the church and followed the FPU signs to a room that had around 15 people in it. That was a lot more than I was picturing. The class we went to was much smaller. Paul introduced me and I walked up and began telling our story.

I began with the background I've already mentioned then I told them about the night, after one of the sessions, we were supposed to go home and write out a 2 year plan. Me, being the goal maker I am, was so excited to get our future mapped out on paper. I remember Ryan and I picked up a pizza on the way home, sat in our living room eating pizza, drinking pepsi, and wrote out what we decided would happen to us in the next two years. We put down that I would finish school, find a good counseling job, then Ryan would go back to school to get his architecture degree, we would buy a house with a backyard so we could have our dog Kota back. During this  whole time, we would work like crazy to pay off our debt and then at the end of 2 years we would start our family. We prayed that night and committed all our plans to God. No joke, it was like 2 days later and I found myself standing in our hallway, showing Ryan a positive pregnancy test. Wow, God has a sense of humor! We were scared, we didn't know how we would get out of debt with the added expenses a baby brings, but we trusted God. We began to prepare as best as we could. 

One evening we went to buy a 3,000 jeep armed with 2,800 CASH. We were totally prepared to use our walk away power, but were praying so hard that we could get it. At the time, we just had Ryan's parents car that already had over 200,000 miles on it. 3,000 was just too much for us to pay because we knew we were going to have to buy new tires for it. 2,800 was a very reasonable price, but the guy said no. He was ticked off that we would bring less money then what he said it was selling for, but when his wife saw that we had CASH and we were going to leave, she stopped us and asked to speak with her husband alone for a minute. Ryan and I just stood there, holding hands and praying that God would change this mans mind. When they returned the man, he explained to us, with defeat in his voice, that it was his wife's jeep and she wanted to sell it, so that is how we got our jeep. We were SO proud of ourselves. We had done everything Dave taught us to do AND IT WORKED!! So I briefly told that story and how we payed for my school without taking out any student loans. Then I changed the whole attitude of the room from happy/funny to devastating/scary as I told them about getting Landon's diagnosis. I told them we were in shock and terrified. We didn't just not know if our son would make it out of the hospital, but we didn't know how we would make it through financially, but we continued to trust God. I told them that I could take up their whole class time, telling stories of how God has provided for us in miraculous ways. 

Landon racked up over $300,000 in medical bills, just in his first two weeks of life. I'll tell you what I told them last night. I really don't know how we're making it. I just know that somehow as the bills come in, somehow there is money to pay them. We have been exceedingly blessed that God led us to people who pointed us to Early Intervention. I've written about Roxanne before, but you guys really have no idea what an answer to prayer she was. I don't know how we would of made it through without her help and expertise. She gave us reassurance that it was going to be ok, so that we could just focus on Landon as he was in the hospital and not worry about how we were going to pay for all of the care and treatment he was receiving. 

I began closing my time with the FPU class by giving them two challenges. I told them that no matter how high their mountain of debt may be, it's not to big for God. I told them that we have been through the impossible this last year, but God provided for every one of our needs. I encouraged them to just keep taking steps toward their goal and trusting God each step of the way.
I also challenged them to focus on what they have rather than what they don't have. I believe that debt is often an outcome of discontentment. I wouldn't wish our experiences on anyone, but Ryan and I feel so blessed because they have taught us, in our first year of marriage, what really matters in life. It's the relationships you have not the things you acquire. Not that things are bad, but they don't bring contentment. I told them that we lived in the Ronald McDonald house for a couple weeks while Landon was in the hospital. We met families there that have lost EVERYTHING because they are fighting for their child's life. They have close to nothing and yet these families radiated strength and joy. I believe it's because they have been forced to realize what makes life worth living. Love and sacrifice. Can't the whole message of the gospel be summed up by those two words? Jesus told us that there's no greater love then when a man lays down his life for his friend. This is the kind of love Ryan and I saw in that house and on that hospital floor. This immense love, stronger then life and death, that a parent has for their child. This love that would sacrifice whatever it takes to give their child a chance at another day, even though they have no promises. This love that would do anything if God would just allow them to take their child's place. When you see that kind of love and are forced to live in that world, the greatest possessions of this world just don't matter anymore. That doesn't mean Ryan and I aren't sad that we didn't get to buy a house like we wanted to this Summer, but we don't focus on it, instead we thank God that we got to bring our Landon home to our little apartment. It's small, but it is full of joy and love.

I ended by telling them that we're not out of debt, but we have paid off our only credit card and now that our son's home, we are going after our last 11,000 in Ryan's student loans. I told them that God used FPU to prepare us for everything that He knew we were about to face just as He has them there for a reason. He has great plans for them that He longs for them to fulfill, but He needs them to be free from the burden of debt. 

I share this part of our story with you in hopes that you will be encouraged. I have no intention of condemning you if your struggling financially. I just want to tell you that no burden of debt is so large that Jesus can't remove it and no hill is so long that God won't see you over it. 

Also, I just have to thank everyone again who answered Gods call and became an answer to prayer for us. Your prayers and financial gifts gave hope to our hurt.

Thank you!!


The K. Family said...

Oh, Natalie, that was wonderful! God has really blessed you, Ryan and Landon, and it shows. I love your attitude and how you were able to share it. What a great opportunity! I hate to say it, Natalie, but losing your memory is part of being a mom! I've talked to so many mothers and we can never remember what year our children were born, what day or even what year it is! Thankfully, it's not all the time! Have a great day! Give Landon a hug from his aunty.

Landonsmomma said...

Thanks Auntie Camille! I will give him a hug from you. We can't wait to see you guys and go through your awesome corn maze in the fall! Miss you!