Gimme Gimme, My Name is Jimmy

What God showed us about Materialism

Freedom from debt is a great thing, but there’s other things you must be free from first! Materialism and consumerism are global issues that permeate our daily lives.

This has been such a great walk down Memory Lane! It has caused us to pause and see God’s work in us, His faithfulness and guidance every step of our debt free journey. Thanks for asking about this, and thanks for reading!

We’ve mentioned how contentment was a key factor in our paradigm shift towards freedom. Today I want to share what God taught us about material possessions.

This is an example of “I’ve arrived”.

A little background (because we all have one, right?):

I grew up in Guatemala, a developing nation where “nice stuff” was king. It had to be the Real McCoy, too! No knock offs allowed! But it’s also the type of place where you bring your own toilet paper to a public bathroom because it’s just not provided.

AND, you were always looking over your shoulder so as not to get robbed (of your nice stuff… not the toilet paper). All to say, this doesn’t foster a very generous spirit: Once you get your nice stuff, GUARD IT WITH YOUR LIFE!

Brad, on the other hand, always had nice stuff growing up and didn’t realize what he had. He made a ton of money at his business as a teenager and spent allllll of it on nice stuff, ’cause that’s what you do with money, right? Both of these, in very different ways, had a materialistic focus.

I’ll just bottom line it for ya: Our stuff should not define our value.

We live in a world where wealth is king and it defines your position in society. STATUS comes from a Latin word that means “to stand”… and we figure out where you stand base on your nice stuff.

Now, we may live in this world, but we are not of it. That is the point we will forever be making throughout our chats. But it is so hard to remember the laws of our world when we’re constantly bombarded with THIS world’s messages.

So, what is God’s design? As citizens of Heaven, how do we operate?

Our STATUS was defined by God Himself:

He purchased us with the the most valuable thing in the Universe: the blood of His only begotten Son. He then brought us into His Kingdom as His dear children, and it has pleased Him to give us the Kingdom.

Why, then, do we feel the need to prove our standing in this world with more non-essential plastic items that are designed with planned obsolescence and are meant to enslave us and keep us dependent upon this world system? (Take a deep breath!)

Now, here’s what we’re not saying:

Only workaholics work hard.
If you have a savings plan, you’re not trusting God.
Don’t invest.
Having fun is ungodly.

The Scriptures clearly tell us the opposite (click to see references):

Work Hard.
Take care of your family.
Leave an inheritance for your future generations.
God wants us to enjoy life.

AND might I add:
Be Generous.

How can we do any of this without money and without stuff?

The point is: material possessions are a tool we use for our own sustenance and enjoyment AND for blessing others. We don’t chase them, draw value from them, or allow them to define our standing. Anytime. Anywhere. Period.

Question: What defines your status right now? What is God showing you about how He defines your standing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

 

Why Contentment is Vital to Financial Freedom

Our journey out of debt continues

Contentment is: Realizing God has already given me everything I need to be happy. (This definition is from Crossroads of Character, one of my favorite books to teach our Littles godly character traits)

Let’s face it. Most of us want more income and a few things “we’d really like to have”. Today. I’m not talking about goals here, just desires.

But what if I told you it’s not about the amount of money you have, but what you chose to do with it that counts.

And our choices are a direct reflection of our values and priorities.

Have you (or a friend of yours) ever been on a missions trip to a less developed area of the world and upon returning home, you realize how happy and generous those folks were? Even when they have considerably less money and stuff than you? What do they value? Why are they so happy? And yet, the U.S. is now considered one of the the top 2 most depressed countries in the world!

When we started on our journey to Financial Peace, I had to come to grips with the fact that I was never happy. There was NO contentment. No area of my life lived up to my expectations! So, obviously, I had to realize my expectations were not aligned to God’s design.

Did I really believe God loved me and was taking good care of me? Or would I continue to gripe about the perceived shortage of money? Not to mention the pressure Brad must have felt by my constant drip drip drip. I’ve come a long way baby!

And it wasn’t an epiphany that took hold in a fortnight. I think it’s been a 4-year process that has changed my outlook on pretty much everything. Even relationships have blossomed because I quit putting expectations on people to make me happy.

The “B” word… Budget

So, when it came to our finances, the first thing that showed my lack of contentment was the powerful tool called a Budget. The moment I started budgeting, I felt like someone had taken my ice cream away and I was now pitching a 2-year-old fit.

Was my happiness really this tied to the amount of money we had?

Yep. Yep it wuz. And that was a hard pill to swallow! You know what I’m sayin?

Thankfully, Brad (and Dave Ramsey) helped me focus on the right thing:

This is the money I have, now I tell it where it goes and what it does… not the other way around.

We made several decisions that helped “trim the fat” and “buckle down”. It was hard at first, very hard. But when I re-trained my thinking it became a game to see if we could stretch our money further. And boy did it ever!

We got our kids on board and told them we were learning God’s way of stewarding our blessings. They jumped in with both feet and started looking for ways to make money!

This really was the start of a great adventure where we are still discovering great ways to engage with God’s design for our life and family. It has enriched us tremendously!

To my surprise, our financial situation had little to do with money. It had everything to do with how we thought about ourselves, God’s blessing upon us, and our attitudes about money and stuff. Material stuff.

Hi there! We’ve been discussing our journey in and out of debt and important things we’ve learned along the way.In this video, we discuss the idea of good debt VS bad debt as seen in Scripture. We started our journey getting comfortable with financing things and the result was painful. We asked God to help us and He took us on a journey of transformation in our thinking, which continues to lead us to freedom.

We’d love to hear any of your success stories and things that may inspire others along the way!

I’m going to take a moment to laugh at myself: Based on my facial expressions in this video I think my coffee hadn’t kicked in! This was quite early in the morning… ahhh, just laugh with me.

Question: What has been something in your journey that you can share to inspire others? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

To Debt or Not To Debt Pt. 2

The beginnings of freedom

 We started out by telling you of the unfortunate events that lead us to a boat-load of debt and sadly, a strained family relationship. We had been wanting to get freedom from debt for a while, but it wasn’t until the heat was turned up that we had enough motivation to do something radical about it! (Really? We knew the right thing to do, but didn’t do it!)  Have you ever been there?

I have your cup of coffee freshly brewed and ready to go! Thanks for joining us today!

So… back to our story:

We went to God and asked Him to show us what to do. Seriously, it was a Mayday call and we understood that somewhere along the way, we (not something) had gone terribly wrong. We were a living proof that Proverbs 14:12 is true:

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

If you look at all these maps, it’s overwhelming to try find your way. If you ask God, He’ll zero in on a specific quadrant and take you from there!

That’s why it’s so important to get God’s perspective on things! And we remembered that if God could trust us over the little things (AKA money) then He would entrust us with more important things (AKA power to help others). This is a whole other post for another time…

Guys, we had an uphill climb.

We had some major lessons to learn in the following areas:

Contentment
Materialism
The blessing of God
Faithful stewardship

Remember I told you God has always sent us people and resources to answer our request for wisdom?

Enter Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University.

It was the intensive course we needed to teach us the practical side of being faithful stewards of God’s blessing.

Let me just hit pause for a second. I want to tell you one of my struggles with Dave. You may relate?

I wanted to make his stuff Law. I loved the formula and was gonna work it! Because I’m naturally a task oriented person, I found myself wanting to trust the system sometimes more than my Lord.  I thank God for Brad who could see the big picture and help me stay focused on the right thing.

The right focus: Principles, not formula.

That right thing was… that God has already pronounced His blessing upon our life. I thought I’d be blessed financially if I did all Dave said.

The paradigm shift came when I realized God already declared that I. Am. Blessed.

His blessing upon me doesn’t depend on whether or not I budget. Now if I budget, I’m engaging with His design of faithful stewardship, and that blessing materializes incrementally!

Just like the epic human saga of law versus grace:  I’m not “doing to get”. I’m doing because I am.

I needed overarching principles broken down into bite-size pieces and the mechanics explained to me, and that’s where Dave pointed me in the right direction.

There were others, too! Crown financial helped us in our first years of marriage. There were wealthy people who answered our questions. There were others that we knew had a good handle on putting money in it’s proper place, and they were also very helpful. Dave just came to us at the right time. We were finally asking the right questions, and his tough love was the speech we needed right then.

Question: What one thing from this post can you relate to and why? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

To Debt or Not To Debt

Our journey shared for your benefit

We just had some friends tell us that God has been dealing with them about getting out of debt and they asked us to elaborate a bit on this subject. We love questions and comments! Keep ’em coming!

Here’s a coffee… homemade, delicious and, since we’re talking about money… frugal! 😉 Have a chair! Make yourself at home.

Wordly Wisdom VS Godly Wisdom

We have come on a long journey in learning about finances. We got advice from all different schools of thought, such as:

  • Consumer debt is good… it keeps the economy going
  • Some debt is good, some is bad.
  • It’s not about what you can afford as long as you can make the minimum monthly payment.
  • Sometimes you need to get in debt in order to make money.
  • Debt is taboo, and if you do it, you’re not spiritual.
  • Just take a leap of faith… buy it on credit and then let God pay for it miraculously.
  • Let me get into debt in order to help you get xyz…

These are just a few of the things we have heard over the years. Can I just say? Every precious lesson we’ve learned has come at a great price to the body of Christ. What would we be able to accomplish at this point for His kingdom if we had engaged with God’s design from the beginning? So please, take the time to chew on some of these thoughts so you can avoid some of the same mistakes and improve upon our experience!

First of all, I was brought up to be diligent at keeping up with money. To work, save up and then buy things cash. To budget, stick to it and live below my means. Ummmmm, Brad was NOT. 🤓

So when we got married, I married Brad and his debt. We paid it off, stuck to the great principles I brought to our marriage and we are now millionaires.

Yeah, right!

If only it were that easy.

How We Started Feeling Comfortable With Debt

We started getting into debt when cars would break down or we would travel and spend a little extra than we imagined, and we had a couple of Christmases where we splurged a little, plus, we ate out a few times too many. Little emergencies. Big emergencies. They all added up!

You know? It wasn’t like we were grossly overspending and living “high on the hog! And yet we found ourselves wanting to move to the mission field with about $8k worth of debt that had come “a little at a time”.  The little foxes spoil the vine…

We moved to the mission field; and God helped us pay it all off after about 2 years. He’s so faithful! What a relief! Free again! Sigh!

But then, we needed a car, so we financed it…we didn’t want to wait. We deserved a nice ride like everyone else we worked with, and as long as we could afford the payments, we were good! (That was the advice we got).

We became comfortable with financing things, it became the norm.

After all, this wasn’t consumer debt… the kind you have nothing to show for when you finally finish paying it off. We didn’t know to ask “Why do we do what we do?” yet.

When Ignorance Became Our Downfall

After a few years, we moved to Canada and stepped into a completely different level of debt thinking. Real estate was so expensive! Food, fuel, clothes! All of these were higher than we were used to. Vancouver is ranked 3rd most expensive city to live in the world!

So, in order to get our own house, a well-meaning family member offered to lend us the down payment. Except they got the money through a line of credit. And they said “you can just pay me the monthly interest. Once you sell the house, you pay this off first and we’re all good”. That sounds good, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong!

 So now we owed $55 thousand just so we could get a town home and have the prestige of being a home owner. The funny thing is, people started respecting us more because of it. We think this is upside down!

The debtor is slave to the lender. That’s part of God’s design. So now, instead of being a well-meaning family member, we were in a completely different relationship along with all the mess it comes with!

Then, we had a falling out with this family member and they called in the debt immediately. Boom! Just like that we were in a huge pickle.

You might be shaking your head, calling us naive, inexperienced, or just plain dumb. And we would have to agree.  But to us, it was just part of the debt game.

We had become comfortable financing different aspects of our life and didn’t realize the rabbit hole we were starting down.

All those things I wrote at the top, we believed at one time or another. I’ll leave you hanging here, in the depths of despair, and say To Be Continued… because next time, I’ll talk about what God did to help us get from the worst financial situation we had ever been in, to the freedom we enjoy today.

Question: What part of our story is already resonating with something you’ve done, thinking it was a good thing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

As we navigate life with our spouse, do we hear their input as valuable? Or do tune them out like Charlie Brown’s teacher? I’ve sometimes gotten the glazed over look whilst thinking “Yes, but that’s how you think!” Join us as we explore how powerful valuing their God-given perspective can be!

The previous videos may help you connect some dots. You can watch them here.

Question: What conversation can you revisit with a renewed sense of valuing your spouse’s perspective? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Process of Transformation

“Your kids are such a joy!”

“Your marriage is such a blessing”

“How can you do all that you do?”

This is normal for us to hear on a consistent basis, and it sometimes follows up with:

“I could never do that!”

Well, we didn’t start this way! We came across a new idea, something we’d never done before, and went through a process to make it our own. In this video, we’ll take you through the process of transformation! This is part 2 of this video chat (that was just supposed to be 5 minutes long!) You can watch part 1 here.

Whether you’re single, married, with or without kids, this is relevant to you!

Question: What area would you like to see transformation in and what will you do to start ‘forming’ that new thought today? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

A Beautiful Story of Family Restoration

How God Brought Audra back to us

Hello friend! I’m excited because today my Handsome Man’s going to share his side of our restoration story! You know, the one where everything started with a grave mistake, but how God turned it into something awesome. You can hear the beginning of the story here, and Audra’s perspective here. So, let’s sit down to that amazing cup of coffee I’m smellin’, and Brad, the floor is yours!


Brad’s Side of the Story:

“I’m pregnant!” Two words that are normally received with cheers of joy but in the wrong time and context can cause your heart to leap into your throat. That’s exactly what happened when my girlfriend told me those words. My next thought was “now what am I going to do?”

Unfortunately, I heeded some terrible advice and I walked away…no I RAN away!

A few years passed and I came to understand the great love and grace God has for me. I was able to now take responsibility for my greatest mistake. After signing my paternal rights away all I could do was a trust that God could and would take my mistake and turn it for good. HE would bring restoration!

The small picture, the only one I had, of a little baby girl stayed with me, tucked into the pages of an old Bible. I’d pull it out from time to time and pray,

God, wherever she is, lead her to You. Put people into her life that will tell her about Your love. And Father, help me find her at the right time and place.

I didn’t realize it at the time but years before God restored my daughter to me, I had turned my heart toward her. And that is always the beginning of a reconciliation.

 


When Celina and I started dating, I told her about the daughter I had, out there somewhere, and that I was believing God would restore her to me.  I asked if she would accept me with this mistake, and in classic Celina fashion she took some time to think it over. Boy! Did that ever cause me to nervously sweat it out!

I knew she deserved someone who had no skeletons in his closet.  Of course, I’m very thankful that she said YES and as many times since then, she extended grace to me. In that action, Celina gave me the power to become a better man.

Fast forward to 2010 and a very random Facebook message from an old friend asking if I ever wanted to meet my daughter. I replied “Absolutely! It’s what we’ve been believing for!”  So, through the marvel of social media I was able to finally make contact with Audra.

It was a little strange writing her and saying, ‘hey, I’m your father…”, but it was the beginning of a restoration process that has taken us on a wild, God-ordained, God-inspired and God-directed ride. All because He helped me turn my heart towards my daughter. (To be continued)

Happy Mother’s Day

You either "is" one, have one, or both!

Happy Mamas Day! Flowers! Confetti! Crowds cheering! Ma-ma! Ma-ma! You’re so awesome!

Mother’s Day is coming up! For me and some South Americans it’s May 10th, for most North Americans it’s on Sunday.

Regardless of when and how you celebrate it, here’s the deal, you either “is” one, or you have one, or both! 😜

If you “is” one:

Motherhood, as a friend said, is the toughest job you’ll ever love. And boy! Was she right! Seek God’s design for this role and engage with it. I am amazed at the simplicity of His design and all the help He provides so we can fulfill our role well!

Our daughter Audra.

This tough job has moments of dark and disconcerting valleys and moments of sheer elation. Mama, the Holy Spirit is with you alllllll the way and will gently lead you and wisely guide you. He’ll point you to answers in Scripture. He’ll send people who are wise and willing to come along side you in the journey. He’ll put great resources across your path. Trust Him. Receive from Him.

Don’t take the valleys or zeniths very seriously! They don’t mark whether you’re being successful or not.

When your kids respond to your training and teaching from their own heart with some measure of consistency, then you know you’re on track.

Take the time to enjoy your kids and the fruit of your labor.

Mom and I enjoying Chai Tea for our birthday.

Now to those that “isn’t one”… you have one!

Who’s yo’ mama?

Most of us have a mama. Someone who brought us into this world and threatened once or twice to take us out of it. Ahem! Someone who sacrificed and did the best she could with where she was at the time. Let’s take the time to appreciate her and tell her what she means to us. Let’s honor her!

If for some reason you don’t have a mama, know that God fills that void in you with Himself and provides mother figures in your life. He loves you!

Psalms 68:6 says that he sets the solitary into families. Pray for a family you can belong to!

Our last trip to Guatemala to visit my grandmother.

There are grandmothers who stand in for mothers. There are adopted mothers, step mothers and spiritual mothers. All of them have a role in our life. Think of all their influence! Now let’s drop them a line and tell them!

Question: Who’s yo’ mama and what will you say to honor her? You can leave a comment by clicking here.