I am on a church camp high this week. Jesus has been moving so clearly in my life that insufferable Jesus Freak Sarah is bubbling right under the surface this week. I mean He showed up this week in personal ways, just for me, to show me He is fully present. This Savior blows me away. I can say things to Him like, "Are you here? Do you really see me?" and He answers me every time. I am struck by how dumb this question is. The clay pot made by the potter, looking up at the potter saying, "Are you here? Do you see me?" The potter could say, "Dude, do you feel my hands around you molding you and shaping you? Who do you think is doing that? You dumb pot." But Jesus, the potter says, "Yes, pot, I am here, I have my hands around you and I am molding you, searching you for areas that need my attention, I will never let you go because I made you and I am delighted with what I made, I also love to bless you!" GGGAAHHHH! His word tells us this is true. The Creator of the universe is the same person who is grooming me to look more like Jesus. It makes me want to write down what He has done in me this week.
The week started with Jesse and I kicking off our first week of leading Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. This class is so special to us because it is the same one that we went through 6 years ago when we were in financial crisis. As any good Christian wife does, I pray "God help me to respect Jesse the way you want me to. Make him impressive to me, so I can be impressed by him the way You impress me, Lord." And HE DID. Where I have had to micro-manage this class before to make sure everything would go off without a hitch, now stands a man who said, "Lady, I got this under control, get off my job." As always my first response to this was super holy and Godly, and I said something like, "yeah right, we'll see about that." But God worked on my thought process and asked me to pray for Jesse instead of critique him. That is hard for me because critiquing Jesse is my spiritual gift. But I tried, and I was encouraged by Jesus every step of the way. In the end, I watched my husband start that class with a confidence I have never seen in him before. He knew what he was going to say, was comfortable in front of the class, and funny (which I put a very high value on.) I stood there humbled and amazed at what God has done in this man. And I thanked God for him. Did you hear me? I THANKED GOD IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT CLASS FOR THE MAN HE IS GROWING JESSE INTO. I am so struck by this because when we first did this class I was not thankful for this husband of mine. The fact that we have lived through our financial crisis and are able to lead other people though it is truly a miracle. The fact that my heart can be thankful we went through all that is proof that God is real for sure. Here is a brief history of Sarah and Jesse and money--a Greek tragedy.
So here's the deal. There is no reason why Jesse and I should have ever had money trouble. We were blessed with a fully functioning portfolio that, placed in the proper hands, would have sustained a family for a lifetime. We have parents who taught us how to be responsible. We took the MC Hammer route instead. (MC Hammer is a rapper that became rich really fast, spent it all and then had to declare bankruptcy.) The reason we had money trouble is because we were two selfish people with no other desire when it came to money except to spend it. And spend it we did. We kept up with the Joneses, who we didn't even know, but we were keeping up with them. We were buying things, experiences, horses, cars, and crap to try to find what only God could give us. I have mentioned before about that gaping hole in my chest. Well one attempt to fill that hole, meant only to be filled by God, was to fill it by spending money. We were totally ill-equipped to manage the legacy that had been placed into our greedy hands. I will give you a very unbiased picture of what happened--It was all Jesse's fault. Just kidding! If you have taken a Dave Ramsey class with us, you know I am the actual spender, Jesse is the saver, but lets just hold onto the fact that we were both to blame. As it turns out, money problems could touch us.......(watch the video)
See what I did there? I crack myself up. And yes, I can do that whole rap and dance, just ask me.
As God does, he used our circumstances to finally draw us to him. Wanting more things, and making more and more purchases leaves you with one problem, no money left. "No money left" hit us hard. With no plan and jobs that didn't pay us enough to sustain our spending, loans, and lifestyle, we hit rock bottom. Our rock bottom did what it should do. It made us change, and though we did not know it at the time, it was drawing us closer to the Lord. For the first time ever we had to look at each other and decide how to solve the problem we had gotten ourselves into. Our first step was to get help. We had to take a family bail-out just so we didn't lose our house. We had to hire a financial planner to teach us what in the world to do to get out of the red. Our only option was a major change and major fire sale. We had to sell everything that we could. Cars, horse, house, barn, truck, trailer, crap, toys, clothes, shoes, and tools. Essentially the lifestyle we had become accustomed to was over. It was change, or live off our family for the rest of our lives. So where there was a fancy house over in the fancy part of town, now there was a rental house on the affordable side of town. Where there were fancy new cars, there were used cars. Where there was excess, there was now a budget. And this girl had to learn to make dinner so we could eat something other than mac-n-cheese, because the budget did not allow for eating out.
God used all of that to woo us to Him. If we had not moved to the "affordable" side of town, I would not have met Autumn, who invited me to church, where eventually I got saved. If I did not sell my barn, I would not have made the one hour commute to the barn in Aubrey allowing me to hear Dave Ramsey on the radio for the first time. Dave Ramsey told me that God had something to say about how I spend money. If Jesse and I didn't have to finally work together we would have continued to live separate lives using money as our companions. If we had not had all the money stripped away we would have never realized that the money wasn't the problem, we were. Those are just a few examples of how God used our circumstances to get us to know Him. The biggest one being that money was our god instead of Jesus. We trusted money to save us, not God. We trusted money to fill the gaping hole, not God. We trusted money to make us happy and feel loved, not God. This sweet Savior was not ok with us continuing to ignore Him. He furiously ran us down, until we had to make a choice. Love Jesus, or love money. By some miracle of God we trusted Him and started to release our grip on money. It took us 5 years to undo what we had done to ourselves. It took being humiliated, and talked about as "the people who lost all their money" by supposed friends. It took being crushed by our choices, to get us to finally do this money thing God's way.
Because I am trying to get to a point, I will skip ahead to us attending Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University for the first time. For the first time we had a plan for money and how to spend it. For the first time we were not using money to make us happy. I say for the first time because it would take us starting the Dave Ramsey program THREE times before it actually stuck. Sin nature would rear up every time. A mix of budget summits, pie charts, intense negotiations, "I'm right!, No I'm right!", finger-pointing, and intentionally blowing the budget ended up leading us to several false starts. The flesh dies hard, sometimes it takes us down. We had to see that rock bottom coming at us again to finally buckle down, be grown ups and submit to what God says about how to spend money. We were getting to know the Lord and learning to start to trust Him in this area. He encouraged us with little victories. Those victories taught us to keep saying no to our flesh and to keep saying yes to God.
So on this side of financial freedom it is important to us to lead these classes so other people are free too. Money is not a good master, Jesus is a good master. Debt is a slave driver that will have no mercy on you. We are so blown away that people actually sign up for these classes because we know how hard it is to take that step. We are also fully aware of our short-comings and realize only Jesus would use us to tell people about money. He uses the most jacked up people because they know how badly they messed up with money. This week when we started another class, we had the sweetest reminder of His faithfulness.
This car. This car is just a car. But this car represents a time when we did not know God. This car is one of the things that got sold off in the great fire sale. This car was Jesse's dream car. He drove it in parades (that is why it has City Bank on the side), he worked on it, he dreamed of things he would do to it and with it. We originally bought it at The Cattle Barron's Ball in Lubbock. Jesse let me bid on it, so naturally I spent too much on it because that was my super power then. During the great-sell off we knew we owed Jesse's mom money for some horse stalls she gave us for my barn. We called her and asked if she would take the mustang instead, and she said yes. Little did we know that the real reason she did that was to hang on to it so someday Jesse could have it back. Those are the kind of things awesome moms do. Little did we know God had a plan for it too. At the time we were just thrilled we had settled another debt, we didn't care why she wanted it.
This week, the same week we started another Dave Ramsey class, we got this car back. You can't tell me that is not the Lord. You can't tell me that God is not all over that to encourage us. You can't tell me that God does not love to bless His children in the sweetest most personal ways. Once this car was a tool we used to settle a debt, now it is a reminder of God's faithfulness. God promises to meet our every need. We didn't know that because we trusted money to meet our every need. As we got to know the Lord we learned to put money in its place, a resource God will use in our lives to bring Him Glory. Nothing more, nothing less. We had to start living by God's principles for money. As we said no to our desire to trust money to meet our needs and asked God to meet our needs we crawled toward financial freedom. We are at place right now where we are free of debt and have a place to put a project car like this. That is a MIRACLE. Hear me when I say I am not patting us on the back. I am giving Jesus a high-five for rescuing us! We had to let go of this car to get it back in a way that brings God glory. Even the way it got here is a blessing.
When we were in Lubbock for Johnny's funeral I caught Jesse and Brock out in my Mother in law's garage looking over the mustang. They talked almost all the way to Sweetwater about what they would do to the mustang if they had it back. It was an "if" conversation for sure. Then Jesse talked for some time about how Johnny left the legacy of how to build things with Jesse, and Jesse wanted to leave that same legacy with Brock. He wanted to teach our kids the importance of pursing you passion and letting God use it for His glory. That planted a seed in my heart. You see, I am the best wife in the world. Seriously I should win an award. I decided that I would try to buy this car back from my Mother in law for my guys for Valentines day. I was able to make this decision because we are finally in a position where Jesse could have a project car again. I called my mother in law a week later and asked if I could buy it back. That's when God started to show off. I say he started to show off because my mother in law's response was, "Sarah, that has alway's been Jesse's car and you don't have to buy it back from me." What?!? Then as we started to discuss how to get it here, she decided to just bring it down here to us. WHAT?!? So I don't even have to go to Lubbock to get it? My mother in law is amazing, yes, but God used her to bless us beyond measure. So Monday afternoon this beauty showed up. As the best wife in the world I was so excited to see how Jesse reacted. He couldn't even talk, He just said, "How did you do that, and how much did it cost?" He is a saver to his core. Maybe it's because I am a girl, maybe it's because of my flare for drama, but it is not just a car anymore.
Where there used to be a car, bought to try to fill a hole, there is a car where a father and son will get to work to make it run, driveable and cool. A father will pass on to his son the skills he is passionate about. Most importantly a father will teach his son that this car represents a time when he did not trust the Lord, and then a time when he did trust the Lord and the Lord blessed him. He will tell his son that making a car work can be a skill God will use to bless someone, and making a car cool can tip over into worshiping the car. These are all lessons Jesse has learned, and lived out. As a fellow believer in Christ I love to see Jesus bless Jesse and encourage him in this personal way. As someone who has struggled with materialism it is cool to see God say, "It's not the stuff, it's the heart posture, stay focused on Me, and have fun with this car." For me I look at this car and see God's faithfulness to us. He promised us that if we would trust Him he would meet all our needs. That is the understatement of the century. If we trust Him we enter into the sweetest relationship in the universe. The Good, Good Father, meets our needs but also blesses us in such personal ways. The Creator of the universe cared that we were worshiping money and not Him and pursued us to teach us that Jesus is better.
Jesus is better. I read a book this week that is centered around that theme. It is "If You Only Knew," by Jamie Ivey. Even that book was a personal blessing for me because she talks about how to live in a vulnerable way. Moments that have led me to think this blog is a joke were washed away because God used her story to encourage me to keep writing about what God is doing in my life. Telling people what God has done, taught and lead us through brings God glory. Even writing about how we have done things wrong, but Jesus is right, brings God glory. And the tears come, because Jesus is better. I cry because He shows me His loving-kindness when I look back. When I see where we were and where we have come from. When I look up and see that I am married to a Godly man who loves the Lord enough to stand up to me and say, "Lady, I got this, back off!" When I look up and see that money doesn't have any control over me anymore. When I look up and see that I get to use what God has given us to bless other people. Jesus is better, just like Jamie says in her book. Jesus is so much better. We didn't get ourselves out of financial trouble, Jesus saved us. We don't live generously becasue we are so great, we live generously becasue Jesus changed our hearts. I don't write this blog because I need more attention, I write it so that Jesus gets more attention in my life. Jesus is better.