Come, Rejoice with Us!

Last April, Kathy and I performed a comprehensive review of our finances. We discovered that we had allowed our consumer debt to slowly increase, month after month, to the point that we owed nearly $20,000 on various credit cards. Although we own both of our aging vehicles ‘free and clear’, we had made a practice of living above our means on a monthly basis. In just a few years of self-indulgence, we grew our indebtedness into a substantial millstone, hanging around our necks.

our mountain

Our debt seemed mountain high.

“We’ve got to do something,” Kathy implored me.

My wife is the more fiscally-conservative in our marriage. Debt bothers her more than it does me, and (although she can spend some serious money at a Target sale quicker than you can say “50% off”) she inherited many good financial habits from her thrifty parents.

Although I also am blessed with parents who are frugal, money has sometimes come easily to me, and so I can be a little cavalier about it. “Easy come, easy go,” I sometimes think. Blessed with the gift of generosity, I don’t always draw a clear distinction between giving to others and giving to myself.

Over the past ten months, we have seen the hand of the Lord time and time again in the area of finances. In spite of unexpected expenses and repairs, we’ve made steady progress on reducing our indebtedness. Each time that we have faced a hurdle in expenses, God has provided a way to overcome that difficulty without going further into debt.

Finally, the day arrived: our tax refund was deposited into our account, and we were able to pay off the last of the remaining debt.

No more debt!
Our debt is finally gone, after eleven months of God’s goodness!

As soon as I woke up, I fired up my computer to check to see if the promised deposit was there. “Did the money arrive?” Kathy asked, before I had finished logging in.

“I hope so … hold on … YES!” I checked again, just to be sure.

We gathered the kids and I let Kathy push the ‘Continue’ button on the funds transfer. “As of this moment, we don’t owe anyone anything except for mortgage debt,” I announced. Technically, I was wrong, since we still have another kind of debt:

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. — Romans 13:8

Kathy and the kids trundled off to co-op, but I found my mind circling back to this startling truth: we don’t have any more debt hanging over us! It felt strange, as it does when you’re in college and your last paper is turned in and your last final is complete, and Summer Break has begun.

My mind turned to consider the parable of the lost coin. In Luke 15, Jesus tells a story about a woman who loses a coin, and then finds it again:

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

We thought about having a party, and inviting all the people we know, to rejoice with us. Not to boast, but simply to celebrate. It wouldn’t be a fancy party (since we’re staying on a budget), but it might be an opportunity to encourage others. “If Tim and Kathy could do it,” people might say to themselves, “then surely anyone can get out of debt.”

a girlie tea party

Not our actual party. A Valentine’s Day tea party.

So we’re having a party.

‘Open House’ format, from 4 pm to 8 pm on Saturday, March 7th. Games, fellowship, food and fun.

If you read this blog and know where we live, consider yourself invited. Come, rejoice with us!

david is 8 years old!

We won’t make you wear the party hat unless it’s your birthday.

Please bring something tasty to share, and also write down (on a 4 x 6 card or something) an idea you have used to help save money (or avoid spending it altogether). We’ll compile the ideas, print ‘em out and make them available to the contributors, sort of like compiling a stewardship cookbook.

A time to celebrate!


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Shall We Party

Tomorrow is David’s birthday party.


A whole bunch of 6, 7, and 8 year olds coming to my house, most of whom will then spend the night. I’m not sure I’m ready. Wait, I know I’m not ready. Thankfully I have a team of workers on hand.

who's that do you suppose?

One of the very best things about our family is the way the children serve each other. They have true hearts of love and celebration for their siblings. I’m not on my own for this Birthday Bash. Oh no, I have Joshua and Daniel on board.

go this way, you birthday punks

See how helpful they are? Ready to point the way.

Joshua has been planning all week, during his free time, for David’s party. As a very busy (and also fighting off a cold) high school freshman, this is quite a gift. He’s got the schedule organized, the clues written and events planned.

“Your job, Mom,” he told me, “is to have a prize at the end of my treasure hunt and food for the kids.”

“Um, a prize? What kind?” I’m easily overwhelmed.

“Don’t worry,” Joshua reassured me, “party favors will work. It doesn’t have to be fancy.”

Whew! See how well I’m cared for. Joshua even has a friend hired to work with him (and Daniel) during the party.

these are my boys!
Maybe some Old Navy party favors?

What a blessing!!

Now to create some party favor bags, figure out food for the party, get ready for co-op tomorrow, and finish cleaning the house. It’s a good thing it’s only 8:45 pm.

Plenty of time left in the evening. :snort:


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Happy Birthday David!

Happy Birthday, David!

a knight in training

Grandma made this incredible knight outfit. David is ready for battle!

Some children should NOT be allowed to grow up. They should remain seven year olds and not rush off and turn eight. We tried and tried to tell David he was one of those special kids. We regaled him with tales of how wonderful seven is, no need to move on, we said.

my three sons

“Raise Your Swords!” “All for one and one for all!”

Would he listen?

No, but then we have an obstinate bunch here at our place. Daniel is planning on turning 12 in April and Sarah seems to think she’ll leave six behind in July.

Ungrateful wretches.

your majesty!

Daniel was a good servant to His Majesty, David, today.

As if we raise them to grow up. Sniff. Whoever put that kind of thinking into their heads.

“Let them eat cake,” I say. That’ll show them.

time for cake!

tasty indeed

David requested a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Good taste!

I guess we’ll let David turn eight. There doesn’t seem to be anything we can do about it. He is a wonderful boy and a delight to our family.

Joshua reads another book.

games they played

Joshua gave David the gift of quality time today. He played with him outside, read him numerous books, let him pick the board game of his choice, and, most importantly, let David hit and shoot him at will all day. If that isn’t brotherly love, I don’t know what is.

David makes friends easily, laughs heartily, forgives quickly, and loves deeply. A well-beloved son. Happy birthday you 8 year old!


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You Can’t Hide Your Lying Scales

One of the things God hates is ‘lying scales’, and I can begin to see why.

The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight. – Proverbs 11:1

… or again, a few chapters later:

The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him. – Proverbs 20:23

Back in November, I began a weight-loss plan, with the goal of losing 28 pounds by May 20. Enjoying some early success (and a little discouragement), I managed to stay ‘below the line’ on my goal graph for the first three months or so.

Stepping onto the scale Wednesday morning, my toes curled as I tried to brace myself for the worst. I’ve thrown caution to the winds the last two or three weeks, enjoying large portions and lots of sweets with wild abandon, as Kathy’s folks were in town. I stopped recording my calories and my visits to the local YMCA faded into hazy memory.

Goal Graph
So much for being ‘below the line’.

In spite of this mental preparation, I was dismayed to see the numbers: 225.4. Yikes! Up more than two pounds in just a week!

I stepped off, restarted the scale, and stepped on again: 225.6.

The numbers were not moving in the direction I had hoped.

Now, with a 2.2 pound weight gain since last week, I have no choice but to return to a more disciplined approach to eating.

It is sometimes strange to me that discipline appears to be a zero-sum-game, in my life. When I exert self-discipline in one area (like my finances), I seem less willing to simultaneously exert myself in another area (e.g. weight-loss). Keeping all the areas of my life in order often seems as futile as that old arcade favorite, Whack-A-Mole.

It is a remarkably satisfying game, perhaps because so many of us fail in real life.

In general, successful discipline in one area of life is transferable to another, so maybe the problem is my flesh, pathetically using the excuse that it is ‘weary’ of self-control. Let’s not look too closely at that, shall we?

Valentine's Day Cookies
Naturally, at a time when I am struggling, Kathy makes Chocolate Chip Cookies.

When I began this weight-loss program, I very much wanted to succeed, and so I asked for people who would pray at least 4 times a week, that I would actually exercise some discipline and lose weight. I try not to be delusional; there is no particular reason that I should be successful in losing weight after all these years of being, er, fat.

M and M sorting
Not wanting people to know she used old, Christmas M&M’s, Kathy had Daniel sort out all the green ones.

In exchange for their prayers, I promised to pray for those folks every day (with one day off each week). For the most part, I have nearly kept that promise, specifically praying for those ten people, five days a week. So if you are one of those who promised to pray for me and have slacked off, please be reminded: I desperately need your prayers to succeed at this.


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A Brief Budget Update

Last night we went to the YMCA to pick up our Swim Team kids. We arrived early so that we could sneak in a workout (it’s been almost two weeks since I was able to find the time). After about 20 minutes, I was ready to quit.

“What time is it?”, I gasped to Kathy on the next machine to my left.

“Seven twenty-four,” she replied. “I’ll bet you hoped it was seven forty-four.” The kids are done with Swim Team practice around 7:45 on Fridays.

I was disappointed at how quickly I had fallen out of ‘shape’, in terms of exercise stamina. There are, unfortunately, some parallels in the area of financial stewardship.

We’ve had a couple of difficult months, in terms of record-keeping. Neither of us seems to have much passion for writing down every little expenditure, and they seem to get away from us in only a few days. When we got home from the YMCA, Kathy whipped out the laptop and we attempted to wrestle the month of January into submission.

Budget Battling
Some months, you have to use excessive force.

First she went through all the receipts, and then I dug up a few more I’d been hoarding. Then we did reconstructive surgery on the month, based upon records from various financial institution. I dusted off my accusatory drone: “On the 17th, someone went to Albertsons and spent $54.23.”

When the dust settled, we had a number of budget category overages, including:

  • a trip to Oregon for the Prayer Conference
  • very high utility bills (water and natural gas)
  • some unexpected water line repair work
  • an expensive heating duct diagnostic visit
  • new running shoes for both Tim and Kathy

Happily, this was a three-paycheck month, plus I received a small bonus from my company, and I was finally paid for some side work that I did, so there was a lot of ‘slush money’ available. We were able to close the month out and make significant progress toward paying down our debt, so that only 15% remains of what we owed on April 1st of last year.

Almost done!
We’re down to 15%, after 10 months on the budget.

We were cheered to see the progress, and to feel that we can see the end of the tunnel, with regard to becoming debt free (except for house debt). We have every expectation of paying it all off by the time we get our tax refund (which, in a spurt of financial ambition, I filed last night).

God has been very good to us over the past 10 months, allowing us every advantage in paying off our foolish debt, and graciously encouraging us at every turn. We are so thankful to Him for His provision for our family, and for the strength and determination He has given us in exercising our flabby stewardship muscles.


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