A New Normal

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!! I’m no longer CHASE-ing the facade by swiping my VISA every chance I get. DISCOVER-ing the One who provides the real FREEDOM has allowed the CARD to no longer MASTER me. I never knew that was possible as an AMERICAN, where you’re told to EXPRESS everything rather than wait. The morning of December 21st, 2018, I made my last credit card payment & officially paid off my credit card debt!! 🙌🏾🙌🏾 The Bank of America representative began congratulating me on my journey & I unexpectedly started crying… tears of joy & relief! 😭

This picture is from the leap of faith I took in December 2012. At this point, I agreed to work with a Debt Management company because I was in over my head. I  was 26 years old & accumulated almost $21,000 in just credit card debt (not including my car payments & student loans). I thought it was ok because my credit score was excellent & I never missed a payment. 😒 I used to put just about everything on credit card… gifts, expensive clothes, trips, groceries, and gas. My income was pretty much for my rent, car payment, and student loans. When I prayed & begged God for more money, His response was that my problem was a lack of contentment, not a lack of money. My inability to contain my lifestyle to my $32,000-$35,000 salary then, meant that a $1,000,000 salary wouldn’t be enough for me either. I sat in my living room, in complete shock & didn’t know what to do. I was convicted that in order for me to live the life God had for me, I could no longer be irresponsible with His money. At this point, my bank statements said it would take 23 years to pay off my cards. 

Miraculously, a debt management company from Bank of America reached out to me twice (Money Management International). When the Debt Counselor told me I had to cut up ALL my credit cards & not have a backup one, I was terrified. I lived on credit cards for 8 years (18-26 years old), and didn’t know adult life without it. He said I couldn’t even keep a card in my freezer as back up. I was agreeing to live on cash & not open any new cards for at least 5 years. The goal was that by using the snowball method, my car payments, credit cards, and student loans will all be paid off in 5 years. The first time I had to say “No, I can’t afford it” was both scary & liberating at the same time. 

The journey was HARD & filled with tears of frustration!! Every month, I was short the EXACT amount I was tithing/giving to my church community, so I knew I was being tested & had to remain faithful. I tried working many additional jobs to make up the difference. Then I began asking people around me for help. Talk about humbling! I now had to invite other people into my mess & allow them to help me carry my burdens. Pride said “I got this.” But I had to come to grips with the reality that I didn’t have it. There were times when I’d pray and ask, and the help came. There were times when there was no help & my account was overdrawn $373. I remember pleading with God to bring me someone wealthy & generous who could just write me a check & wipe my debt clear. After that prayer, I watched it happen with 2 different people, and I went back to God like “what about me?” That same week, I heard a message on the radio that said “Jesus forgave the man on the cross next to Him, but He didn’t take the man off the cross.” Just because God forgave me for my greed, didn’t mean I didn’t have to deal with the consequences of my actions. Earlier this year, I saw this quote in a book I read that resonated so well with this experience – “If God simply waved a wand over us and broke every yoke without our cooperation, we would soon pick up another [yoke].” I wanted a quick fix, but He wanted to strip every ounce of the behavior that led me here in the first place. So my prayers changed to “God help me learn what it is you want me to learn.”

Oh, and for those thinking I must have had a job that allowed me to live on only cash/debit… within the first 4 years of cutting up all my credit cards, I received a 40% pay cut. From February 2016-mid 2017 I lived on food stamps & the generosity of others. Despite my 2 business degrees, I became “that person” at the welfare office, and “that person” asking for help at the gas station. It was a grueling & pride shattering season. Although I had someone call me to tell me I must have done something to deserve this (like Job’s friends did to him in the Bible), I also had someone encourage me by reminding me that this experience wasn’t going to be just for me, but also for me to have a deeper sense of compassion for those I would minister to in the future. 

When I started falling behind on my bills, I began to do what I’d seen people do, which was dodge the debt collectors. They called non-stop, and I was finally convicted that what I was doing wasn’t right. I decided to call them & explain my situation, and to my surprise, they were willing to work with me. They brought my monthly payments down to what I told them I could afford at the time, and stopped the interest from accumulating. They simply wanted me to take responsibility for the debt that I acquired.

God was also teaching me peace in the midst of absolute chaos. I’ll never forget the moment I knew my heart was changed. I was 4 months behind on rent (while my unbelievably gracious roommate was helping me carry this burden & trusted that I would pay her back). I checked my account, and it was – (negative) $878. The old me would have burst out in tears of frustration. This time, I burst out laughing & said “well God, I know you have something planned cuz I can’t hustle my way out of this one.” I was surprised at my reaction & immediately thought of Proverbs 31:25 NLT – she laughs without fear of the future, and I thought “Wow! God you did it! You changed my heart!” 🙌🏾

The same God who provided daily manna for the Israelites while they were in the desert for 40 years, is the same God who was & has been sustaining me. The same Jesus who fed over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread & 2 fishes, is the same Jesus who was & has been multiplying my resources & providing for me daily. I am not afraid to remind God of what He did for those in the Bible & ask Him to do it again for me. I’ve learned that if I want the same miracles He did then, I need to obey even when things don’t make sense, like He requested then. 

There is absolutely no reason I should be able to write this testimony now. I am VERY grateful to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who helped me directly or indirectly (family, friends, strangers). You know who you are & my prayer has & continues to be that God will multiply to you the blessings you bestowed to me. God really is faithful and trustworthy!! It is ONLY by His faithfulness that He’s allowed me to keep my commitments & pay back those I owed. 

Although I get down on myself for 1) getting into this mess in the first place, 2) not reaching my goal of including my grad school loans in the pay off, and 3) paying back a total of $27,000 due to interest & wondering how different my life would have been if I invested & gave that money instead, I am reminded that I submit to a God of mercy and redemption. I have full confidence that He is able to redeem & restore the years I lost. Nothing is impossible with Him! 💙 

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