Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Psalms For Moms: Financially Free Christmas

Psalm 146:7, He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the
hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free.

Today I have a devotion running at P31. It's a devotion that I felt when I was writing it was going to be very important for someone out there. If that's you, don't be afraid of the journey you are about to go on. It's a hard one, but it's worth it. Take steps to do whatever it takes to get out of debt, to live free. Once you're on the other side, you will be SO glad you gutted it out. We are.

In keeping with the theme of the devotion, I wanted to share a verse from the Psalms about being set free. Many of you are feeling the oppression and captivity that comes with being a slave to your creditors, constantly working to pay them off, their hold on you robbing you of your joy. Curt and I know how that feels and that's why we shared our story in detail in our book Learning To Live Financially Free. We wanted to offer hope-- to share that there is a way out. It's not magic and it's not instant. And sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

But it does get better.

You have to make a plan and work the plan. You have to come together if you're married and not come apart. You have to work hard and go without. It's not easy. But it's worth it. Because at the end of all of your hard work, there is freedom waiting.

Our journey out of debt (4.5 years) was one of my biggest times of spiritual growth as we learned to seek God and depend on God like never before. He wants you to live a life of freedom. Very rarely does He send along miracles that instantly get you out of debt. Like any good parent, He's a Father who knows we won't learn our lesson if we get rescued and don't have to walk out the consequences of our poor choices. But He also will protect you and give you just enough to keep you going when you get down along the way... because you will. But it doesn't have to stay that way. He sets the prisoners free. If you are feeling imprisoned by debt this Christmas, let this be the impetus you need to change, just like it was for us years ago as we sat in a cold car and talked about what it would look like to be debt free.

I can tell you that I am glad we did whatever it took. You will be, too.
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The Calm of His Presence said...


Your devotion & blog post were exactly what I needed today. A year and a half ago my husband & I made the commitment to become debt free. We have had our ups & downs with it but have seen some progress. Just last night we had a discussion about this very topic. We are struggling with staying focused and not over extending ourselves this Christmas. Please pray that we will remain focused on our plan and trust God to provide what is needed.

Have a blessed day,

Lisa said...

I am a single mom with a 3 and a haf year old. Money is a huge issue for me. It is a pattern in my family also. I want to break the pattern and do better for myself and my son, Zechariah. Reading your devotional today has given me new strength to do WHATEVER I have to do to be the best daughter of God, and the best mom to my son. Thank you!!!!! God bless and Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Today's devotion (12/8/10) is an inspiration to so many who, especially with the hard economic times we're currently living in, are entrapped by their debt. My husband and I own our own small mfg business and two years ago I came to him, by the Lord's persistent leading, and laid out on the table the financial mess I had allowed us to get into. Without going into detail, it was over $120K !!! I was certain my husband would leave me over what I had done, thus my reluctance to bring it before him and attempted to "fix it" on my own. But God was so incredibly faithful. My husband was by no means happy with me, but after some time and a lot of prayer and sitting down together and figuring out just how we were going to pay this all off, here we are two years later with only $39K left (and 80% of that is from equipment we had bought for our business) and only 6 years away from paying our house off !!! Told you God was faithful :) I will tell you, though, that our business has slowed way down, due to the sad state of building in Arizona.....we are holding on, but we don't know when or if we will have to close our doors in the near future. But I and my husband are so, so glad that we no longer have that burden on debt sitting on our shoulders. I sure wish you, your family and all the Prov 31 families a very Merry CHRISTmas and blessed New Year to come.
Glendale, Az

Anonymous said...

So many people find themselves in similar situations, but one statement in your devotion really hit the nail on the head for why so many people find themselves in financial trouble:

"We wanted to begin tithing and saving, yet there was never any money LEFTOVER to do that."

Our tithes should NEVER be from our leftovers...they are to be our first fruits. How can we expect God to bless us our finances when we don't give Him our trust over our finances by Tithing first and foremost before anything else?

I firmly believe God's promise to take care of us if we are obedient to Him....and that includes tithing.

Do we really want to give the Creator of the universe, the Savior of the world our "Leftovers"?

Zibilee said...

We are going through some periods of heavy debt right now, and are doing everything we can to get out of it. It's not fun while we are on this side of it, but hopefully we will be able to come out of this with clean credit and not owing anyone anything. Thanks for posting this, I needed to hear it today, when my mind is so focused on just paying for all we have to pay for!

Dee Oviatt said...

My wife and I are the parents of five grown children. A few years ago when most of my children were in college and their funds were particularly limited, I suggested that we consider giving used Christmas gifts. I encouraged everyone to look at items they already had in their closets or stored away, could find in thrift stores or at garage sales, or could create in the kitchen. I was concerned that the children might see this as "downgrading" the gift giving experience. However, I was delighted at just how successful this approach turned out to be. In fact, it was so successful that we have by mutual acclaim continued the tradition ever since.

Now we avoid the malls, the lines, the returns, and -- most importantly -- going into debt. We find ourselves in the Christmas spirit all throughout the year as we keep our eyes open for gifts in unexpected places. If a gift is not wanted or cannot be used, it can be tossed or donated to charity ... or even re-gifted to another family member the following year!

We enjoy the spirit of the season more than ever because of "used Christmas."

Marybeth said...

Anonymous, what I was stating was the view we USED to have... a view that many people do have. You are right about that.

This wasn't a devotion on tithing but if you read our book, you will see that tithing is the center-- the core-- of the plan God laid out for us to get out of debt. It was only when we truly surrendered our finances and began to tithe regularly that we saw a change.

My husband counsels people to begin tithing right where they are. If they literally can't give the full ten percent, then give something just to get into the habit of giving. That's how we started and it didn't take long to get to the full ten-- and sometimes more, as we are able, now. We LOVE to give and that was the change God brought about in both of our hearts as we took this journey with Him.

Thanks for pointing that out about the tithe-- it was a good point to make but definitely not something I wanted to push in this particular devotion. One step at a time. God got our attention, then He laid out the plan to us. I know He will do that with many people who are moved in such a way. Tithing is part of His plan for sure.

Evalyn said...

Your devotion spoke to me in a real way. I have had 2 years of job struggles, layoffs, contract jobs that paid poorly, and our oldest daughter beginning college. Like you, we didn't mean to get into debt but now find ourselves $40K in credit card debt, almost no savings outside of 401K, and to top it off, I lost my job this week. My husband and I need to pray about a plan. One of my favorite sayings is in your devotion... You have to make a plan and work the plan. So true. We haven't really had a plan in a long, long time. Tithing has become a thing of the past. I ask for your prayers as we sort out our finances and as I search diligently for a job (no severance pay from layoff).

Thank you for writing from the heart.

Marybeth said...

Evalyn, thank you so much for letting me know that the devotion ministered to you. I am sick right now so hearing your words of encouragement was a bright spot in a yucky day. My prayers are with you as you 1) make a plan and 2) search for a job. Spend time seeking Him as you make your plan. His word is full of valuable wisdom about money. He will guide you.

Anonymous said...

Mary Beth, I didn't mean to offend with my earlier comments (I'm also not meanint to post as "anonymous" but couldn't get the thing to take me as myself - Marjie.

I agree that people need to begin tithing now...right where they are...but I disagree with not giving the full 10%. I believe that if we give God the 10% back (after all the whole 100% of what we have is HIS anyway), He will bless that 90% we keep and do amazing things with it. I believe if we aren't willing to trust Him with the full 10%, if we only give what WE think we can afford to give, then we are still not putting our complete trust in Him. We must be as committed to Him as He is to us...we cannot hold back because of fear. God WILL provide if we trust Him, and He will pour out the blessings on us above our expectations.

I have counseled many people myself...especially those who are making their first major purchases (car/home) and I've told them upfront..."always, ALWAYS give God your Tithe first before paying anything else...even your car payment and mortgate/rent. If you are faithful and obedient to give God your first and best, He will be faithful to take care of all your needs."

I also believe that many people (not all) are in trouble today financially because they have not trusted God for their needs, and have turned to credit cards and such to take care of what they thought were needs, but were actually their wants. I realize that some people are in financial problems through no fault of their own (loss of job, death of a spouse, etc). I fully understand that as my own husband has been out of work for a year now. We've had to be very careful with our spending, but the first thing I do each week is pay my Tithe. Everything else is secondary to our tithe.

I think we do our fellow Christians a disservice by telling them to tithe what they thing they can tithe. By doing that, we are telling them it's ok to be disobedient to God.

Anonymous said...

I may be in the minority here, but I agree with the other "anonymous" on several things. For those who think they can't afford to tithe their full 10%...I can't afford NOT to. I give because I love God, and because I want to be obedient, and because I trust Him to take care of me. How can we pray and ask God to help us if we show Him we don't trust Him by not tithing our 10%?

Perhaps some people are going through financial BECAUSE they haven't trusted God....perhaps this is His way of showing them that HE is in control and that they need to put their full and complete trust in Him. I'm just saying....

Marybeth said...

Hey guys, I would like it if we could keep the comments on the subject matter of the devotion and not get off on a tangent about tithing.
I wrote this devotion for people who are in serious debt to the point of not knowing which end is up or how they can even pay their bills. These folks aren't ready to discuss tithing or anything else beyond just taking that first step of deciding they need to make some changes.
I wouldn't want them to come here and then get discouraged by this conversation thread because it's more than they're ready to face. I want to be sensitive to those I am hearing from privately who are really, really hurting. Let's just pray for them... that God will show them the proper first steps to take. I know He will.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. Although we don't use credit cards anymore, we are still trying to pay them off, plus a few small loans. I thank God it's not a huge amount but also fee embarrased by that as well. Why haven't we paid them off?? I hate to say but I can't seem to get a plan. Maybe I haven't prayed enough, or just didn't pay attention when the Holy Spirit was leading me. Our problem is overdrawing to pay bills, or go out to eat, or someone feels they just have to have this or that. So we end up living paycheck to paycheck. Too me that is just as bad as debt. I want to break that cycle. I don't want to "eat all of our seed" as the Word says. It just seems so overwhelming to try to save, and pay off debt. Plus we just had a baby and I desire to stay home but that seems IMPOSSIBLE! We have 2 other children. I do want a miracle, but I have to be sensitve to the Holy Spirits leading. Please pray for us as we embark on this journey.

Marybeth said...

Anonymous, I would urge you to 1) create a budget that counts how much you have to spend on eating out, how much you spend on debt payment, groceries, gas, other living expenses... then don't go outside that budget and 2) start paying off your debts smallest to largest. This is Dave Ramsey's program which we followed to the letter. His book Total Money Makeover is very good and also not to plug our book but Learning To Live Financially Free is written for couples who would like to embark on this journey together, and create a plan together. (We tell you how we did it.) You might want to check it out. I urged one person to ask for the books for Christmas if you can't afford to get them right now! Then start the new year off armed with a new plan and a new commitment!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University helped us pay off debt a few years ago. But we did not build up our emergency fund and increase savings like we were supposed to. I look forward to reading your book sometime soon. I believe God wants us all to be in a position to not only take care of ourselves but also invest so we have have excess to offer to others. It is very frustrating to me to know this and want this but still be living paycheck to paycheck (my husband has a good job. I stay home). Plus he and I are not in agreement on giving and the whole financial situation is causing him to feel hopeless. I do believe in God's provision. I am filled with hope and faith and will take action and pray that my husband's faith will grow too.

Anonymous said...

I a point.
The first step is realizing that you have a problem.
The second step is deciding that you must do something about it.
The third step is praying for God's help.
The fourth step is indeed tithing to show God that you truly trust Him to work in your finances.

It may not be what people want to hear...but it's not something that we can get away from if we truly want God's help. The most freeing experience I've ever had is praying God's promise that He would provide for my wife and my needs, and in return for His faithfulness, we began paying our 10% tithes. Our financial burden was no longer a burden...the weight was lifted off of our shoulders. Was our financial debt gone overnight? No, but now we knew that we'd put our faith and trust in the ONE who could direct us. Now two years we are debt free because we gave Him our trust and our finances.

Shelia said...

Thank you for this devotion. As a single mom with 3 children and only one income - finances are HARD!!!! i am tryin to follow Dave Ramsey's plan as i purchased it a few months ago but will admit i haven't been fully committed. i will admit that sometimes i tend to spend money on items that we don't really need but because i work hard i tell myself i deserve things. Then forgo paying actual bills that provide for us. I think this is a rut i've allowed myself to fall into and partly from emotions stemming from my divorce and being a single woman now. Times can be overwhelming and lonely so to combat that i find myself out spending when there's nothing to spend. in fact, just this morning before reading your devo, i was trying to budget things a little better and write down goals for 2011 that i would like to implement with my finances. Wish me luck and lots of prayer.

Anonymous said...

We tithe first, an amount that God has given us, before we pay any bills or buy anything. This amount is much higher than 10%, before tax, and it was a realy leap of faith to start tithing this amount, but we have NEVER gone into debt, have always had enough to pay bills, and always have food on the table. We know this is God's provision and blessing! We have seen in many people's lives that when you tithe first, by giving God your first fruits and the 'best' of your money, he pours out the blessings :-)

Kimberly said...

I know that God is speaking to me because right befor I read your post I was on the phone to our credit union and sending and email to our bank begging for re-turns of overdraft charges that had been assessed due to "unexpected bumps" in our financial picture. I have 7 children and have had 3 children in the last 5 years and been on bedrest for 3 months plus maternity leave of 3 months with each one which equeals a lot of time in the last 5 years with only one income coming in and we did not adjust our spending to reflect that!! I just had to reach into my purse to take my anxiety meds to help me because I am consumed with the thought of "what are we going to do...what about christmas...what about our pride?" We have had the talk together almost daily but something keeps coming up and we are just feeling buried!! Thanks for your honest post. I am trying to breath and know that there is a bigger plan here for us and my wonderful, healthy and blessed family!! THANK YOU!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Marybeth,
I've been a fan of your Learning to Live Financially Free book for nearly 2 years now. I originally read it with my fiance whilst we were engaged & working through our financial future.
Unfortunately my spending habits & accrued debt eventually caused the gentleman to leave to me :O( That happened 12 months ago now & but thankfully we have a God who is faithful & merciful. Thankyou for being obedient to God's guidance in your life & sharing that with your sisters around the world (I'm in Australia!! I discovered P31 when I was planning to move to Wilmington, NC)
Your devotion has confirmed what God is asking me to do next, as I journey along the path toward financial freedom God's certainly confirming He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Thanks again for being so honest & open about your financial journey, it's been inspiring me to keep going for several years. It also helped me hold onto God 12 months ago when it seemed my life was falling apart. Praise God!!
Merry Financially Free Christmas!

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Thank you, Marybeth --- your faithfulness and transparency truly changes lives.

I am whispering thanks for you tonight, sister...

All's grace,

Wendy Staas said...


As I kept reading this post I nodded my head and nodded my head in pure agreement.

My husband and I are in the middle of the beginning of getting out of debt, if that makes any sense. We hit reality a while back, but the last 6 months the Lord has been preparing us for the ultimate battle, DELIVERANCE!

In Fact, I felt the Lord lead me to write a bible study 'Debt, Prayer, Deliverance' to help women with the emotional battle of being in and getting out of debt.

Satan loves to suck our souls in and devour our hope with every phone call, every letter, every in ability to pay and remind us that 'we can't do it' -- then we cling the the Biblical Truth, cloth ourselves with the Full-Armor of God and press on!

Thank you for sharing such a raw and true experience with us. It means more than you could know!

Love In Christ,


KELLY W said...

Mary Beth, I totally agree with you! I've been there also. It took my husband being unemployed for almost 2 years for us to realize the crisis we had created by credit cards and living above our means! Yes, we had a years worth in savings, but in todays world it was not enough! Our life, only through the help of our Lord, Jesus Christ is totally different. Are we debt not quite, but we will never be in the mess we were in should one of us lose our job again. A lesson learned, only to make us stronger through Jesus! It was all in His plan!

Anonymous said...

I just want to encourage you all that there is light at the end of the tunnel. A few years ago we were living in a cold dingy rented bedsit and couldn't go shopping without adding up every penny and used to steal bread and milk from peoples doorsteps just to get by. Now thanks to following the Lord's ways and experiencing his blessings we have more than we will ever need. We live in a decent house with room for visitors, I never need to look at what we have in the bank I just know there is enough and we can give away large amounts of money without even blinking and never miss it. I don't mean to create a feeling of jealosy or anything but just to encourage that the seemingly impossible dream can come true when you follow the Lord's ways.

First I would say do not be afraid to talk to your partner about it specially if it is your own making or they don't know, yes it could be one of the most difficult things you have ever done but if it is left to fester things will only get worse. There are lots of different organisations who offer debt counselling and advice if you want it, don't be afraid to ask for help. Often when you are stressed you can not think logically about how to deal with a situation and a third party can help you do that. also if you have children try to explain to them at a level they can understand, you may well be surprised how much they have already worked out for themselves. If the children have an understanding they may not be so demanding and impatient to get "stuff". Older children in particular may be able to help with ideas or maybe even find ways of earning a little themselves.

I pray the lord will help every one of you with this problem specially at this time of year when there is so much pressure.

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