Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When It's Better To Be Honest

I got a letter from a reader the other day referencing a book that my husband and I did a few years ago called Learning To Live Financially Free. It's the story about how we worked hard to get out of $95,000 worth of debt in 4 years on one income. I hadn't thought about that book in awhile and to be honest, little alarm bells started going off when I read her letter. She wants me to give her advice? Me? I started thinking about how absolutely comical it was for me to give anyone advice on money right now. Because while we know what we should be doing, the honest truth is we don't always do it. Not because we don't want to but because we can't. The realities of our lives right now mean we can't do everything financially perfect. We wrote that book, you see, before we had two kids in college. That, my friends, is a game changer. We still believe everything we wrote and aspire to it. We just don't always get it all done perfectly.

And so, after debating how to respond, I decided, like the saying goes, "Honesty is the best policy." After I wrote the response, I decided it was worthy of sharing here, in an effort to be as real as possible with the face I show others:

I was going to write you this very nice-sounding response and say all the right things but then I decided it's better to just be honest.

First of all I am no longer with P31-- long story but suffice it to say I'm much happier where I am, writing what I love, which is fiction. Your email was just a reminder of why I make stuff up now instead of trying to tell people how to live their lives. I'm just not cut out for such things. There is what is true and what we wish were true. And in between there is a gap that I think a great many well-intentioned Christians are falling into.

Which leads me to my response to your questions. That book was true-- every word-- when we wrote it. We did all those things. And they are all things you should be doing. However, over the years it's been harder and harder for us to do. We now have a car payment. With two kids in college, we've taken on some debt. We live by a budget, but it's much less rigid than it was described in the book. And while we do try to communicate about money, it's not as often as we'd like. Life with six kids and two demanding jobs just makes it hard. The good news is, we still don't fight about money-- that is a lasting affect of our financial journey. We still recognize that our struggle is not with each other and that we must be on the same team if we hope to come out on the other side still married.

That's the reality of where we are. We have debt again. We struggle to find enough month to our money just like many people. And while we know the right things to do, we sometimes fall short of making those things happen. We even quit tithing for a time and are trying to get back into the habit in this new year.

In short, I have no words of wisdom to offer you save this: Lean into God. Approach the throne of grace with confidence that He DOES care. Ask Him for all your needs and then practice the faith that He wants to see in your life by actively trusting Him to provide. When the Pharisees asked Jesus what they must do to do the works God requires, He answered simply: "Believe in the One He has sent." (John 6:28-29) I try to keep that in mind whenever I start to worry about finances. I must believe that He's got this. Jesus understood that was WORK. It's not easy.

My advice to you? More than anything, let this financial stress draw you closer to Him. Let it teach you about what that work Jesus referenced looks like. Let this increase your faith because you see Him answering prayers and showing you that He really is love and that grace and mercy are what He can't help but give because of who He is, not what you do.

That's what I'm doing.

Incidentally we recently got notice that the publisher was taking that book out of print and both of us felt a great sense of relief!! :) I hope you get some sense of comfort from this email. I just wanted to be honest and, more than anything, let you know you're not alone.
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Pam said...


Your response to your reader's letter is refreshing. We do have a tendency in Christian circles to portray our lives as "perfect" when we are far from it. I appreciate your honesty in saying that although you wrote a book about finances and know what to do, you don't always follow through. I believe it's a place many of us find ourselves.

I don't know if your reader will read your post or these comments, but you are so right in leading them to lean into Jesus. After walking through an 18-month unemployment journey, we too are trying to make the steep climb out of debt. The path seems long and impossible on most days, but I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that HE is able. HE is my provider. When I stumble, HE picks me up. When I lose my way, HE sets me back on the path the right way. HE has brought us this far and will be with us till the end. This is how I walk through those days that seem so impossible.

I appreciate you and your openness.

Blessings to you today!

Marybeth said...

Thank you so much Pam. I did send this letter directly to her so she did see it. And actually as I re-read this post this morning, it was a nice reminder to me too! Ah, the work of believing is never done.

Josey Bozzo said...

Thank you so much for this. Please don't take this the wrong way, but I always feel better when someone I admire admits their faults. It helps me keep things in perspective for myself. It also keeps me from putting people I admire too high on a pedestal. I hope that makes sense.
I am a big fan of no debt, I didn't read your book but I have read Dave Ramsey.
That being said, I also completely understand what you are saying. Life happens, and we can only do our best in this particular area. And yes, sometimes our choices are unwise but we learn from them and then move on. God is sovereign over all, the good and the bad.

Thanks again for this.

Stephanie said...

I have to agree with Pam and Josey and say that this post is refreshing! I have taken a temporary (or maybe not too temporary)hiatus from facebook. After almost 3 months of this hiatus, I have a lot to reflect on. One thing I've realized is how desperately we christians want other christians, in particular, to see us believe that we are getting it all right! Even when we express God correcting us, it usually ends in some form of self elevation. Whatever happened to honest humility? It's rare! I was even blessed to read that you admitted to not tithing for a time. I never thought we would! But, after leaving a church we were at for our entire marriage and longer, we ceased tithing while visiting other churches and praying about where God wanted us. In so many christian circles, that in and of itself gets a big finger pointed in your face...of how you're failing. I wish we could all learn--I wish I could learn--to fully humble myself before the Lord! Thanks again for your honesty!

Kathy Kensing said...

Life consists of many seasons. How we live, manage, & deal with one season may not work for the next. However, by keeping faith & trust in God, asking Him for guidance in our decisions, strength to carry out what we are called to do, & comfort when times are bad, we are better equipped to transition between the seasons.
Thank you, Mary Ann, for your honesty & sharing reminding us no one is perfect!
You are loved!

Heather said...

I love this post so, so much. Thank you for being honest with us. You're easy to relate to and seem like such a sweet, likable person!