Watch us on Life Focus TV’s “Dealing with Debt.”

dealing in debt pic

 

How is your financial situation? Is debt weighing you down? Do you find it difficult to make ends meet month to month? 

When my husband and I got married in 1998, we lived in a 1-bedroom apartment, had nothing in savings, and owed around $25,000 in debt. Trevor was a teacher, and I worked for a ministry, so our incomes were far from extravagant. I hated being in that much debt; it felt like a heavy stone was hanging around my neck.

After the wedding, we immediately went to work on a budget, based only on Trevor’s income, and we used my income to pay down the debt. We “snowballed” our debts, by paying extra to eliminate the smallest one first, then rolling that payment into the next one, and so on. With this plan, we were able to pay off our debt completely within about 14 months.

Many years have passed since we made our last debt payment, so the excitement has faded, but I remember feeling such peace. At that point, we still had a long way to go on our financial journey, but knowing that we no longer were indebted to anyone was such an amazing place to be. 

During the time that we were paying off our debt, God called us to commit never to take on debt again….for anything. That meant that if we ever hoped to own a home, we would have to save up and pay cash for it. Seems like a daunting mission, right? But yet, I had a strong sense of peace that God would help us do what He called us to do. Nothing is impossible with God.

To make a very long story short, over the next almost five years, we saved, toiled, cried, sweated, bled, and sacrificed to build our home debt free. If you’d like to read the whole story, click here to check out our book called Debt-Free Living in a Debt-Filled World

DFLDFW front cover for KDP 4-8-14

Life Focus TV interviewed us about our financial story. I hope you’ll watch the program entitled “Dealing with Debt” at this link (our segment starts at around 9 minutes in). It’s also airing on various stations nationwide, such as PBS, TBN, and NRB Network, so check for it there as well.

If you’re struggling with debt, I want to encourage you. Nothing is too big for God. As you commit your finances to Him and submit to His authority, He will give you wisdom, guide you, and provide for your needs. The financial mess in which Trevor and I found ourselves was of our own making, but God didn’t hold it against us. He was merciful and led us out of bondage and into freedom. It wasn’t an easy process, mind you. We worked hard and sacrificed, but the long-term benefits far outweigh any discomfort that we experienced.

My prayer for you is that you will find your path to financial freedom. It is worth it. I promise!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

 

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Independence Day: July 2nd or July 4th?

flag and fireworks

Today, I’m re-posting a column that my husband wrote a few years ago about Independence Day. I hope you enjoy it!

 

By Trevor Thomas
July 4, 2007

On July 1, 1776 delegates of the Second Continental Congress entered what John Adams called, “the greatest debate of all.” Even after over a year’s worth of conflict against the mightiest military force on earth, declared independence from Great Britain was far from a forgone conclusion. Just weeks earlier the majority of the men in the Congress were very much hoping that some formula for peace could be found with Great Britain.

In The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, it’s noted that these Congressmen knew very well what it would cost them personally to, “cast their votes with those few who were advocating an open declaration of independence. For the men who signed such a declaration would, in the likely event of America’s defeat, be held personally responsible. And the penalty for instigating rebellion against the Crown was death.” Declaring independence required a unanimous vote from the Congress, and as Ben Franklin soberly put it, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

During the debate on July 1, John Dickinson, representing Pennsylvania, made powerful and lengthy arguments against declaring independence. With quiet resolve, but equal conviction, Adams answered him concluding with, “All that I have and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration…Independence now, and Independence forever!”

Shortly following this exchange, Congress voted. The majority supported independence, but it was not unanimous as required. Nine of the thirteen colonies were ready to officially declare for freedom and the war necessary to achieve it. Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted no. Delaware’s two delegates were split. The New York delegates abstained. Debate was to resume the next day followed by another vote.

On the following day, July 2, the South Carolina delegates, for the sake of unanimity, were swayed to support the Declaration. New Pennsylvania delegates voted for independence. With New York still abstaining, Delaware was the key. Its two delegates remained split. With a dramatic and grueling overnight ride through stormy weather, where often he had to dismount and lead his horse, an exhausted third Delaware delegate, Caesar Rodney, entered the State House in Philadelphia around 1:00 p.m., just as the final vote was about to occur. He had come to break the deadlock among his fellow statesmen.

Barely able to speak he exclaimed, “As I believe the voice of my constituents and of all sensible and honest men is in favor of independence, my own judgment concurs with them. I vote for independence.” Therefore it was unanimously decided (New York would join with the other colonies officially on July 9th). Thus, The United States was born on July 2, 1776.

The significance of the event and the day was such that, on the following day John Adams wrote his wife Abigail and said that July 2 “will be the most memorable…in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” So according to John Adams, the celebration of our independence is a couple of days late.

It was two days later on July 4 that an official Declaration of Independence document was actually signed, albeit only by two members of Congress: John Hancock, the President of Congress and Charles Thompson the Secretary of Congress. Most of the rest of the Congressmen would sign the Declaration about a month later.

On July 4, 1837, in a speech delivered in the town of Newburyport Massachusetts, John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, and the 6th U.S. President, proclaimed, “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth?”

Witnessing the events of the Revolution as a boy, and then going on to serve his country in many various capacities, John Quincy Adams saw that Christmas and Independence Day were fundamentally linked. He understood well that the Founders simply took the principles that Christ brought to the world and incorporated those into civil government.

That, my friends, is why the United States of America is the greatest nation the world has ever known, even though we may be celebrating its birthday on the wrong date.

Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
www.trevorgrantthomas.com

 

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“America: Imagine The World Without Her”

AMERICA-300x250_Banner_JULY2Last night, Trevor and I were privileged to attend a preview showing of Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie, America: Imagine The World Without Her. The movie will be released in the Atlanta and Houston markets this coming weekend (June 27), and then nationwide on July 2. I could really sum up the movie with a resounding “WOW,” but I realize that you’ll need a little more to go on than that. :-)

Dinesh and some of the other producers and writers were there for the showing last night, and they gave us some background information and details about the movie. We purchased D’Souza’s new book (by the same title), gave him a copy of our book, and were able to talk with him a little.

Dinesh D'Souza

Trevor and Michelle with Dinesh D’Souza

If any of you saw D’Souza’s movie 2016, you know what caliber film he makes. 2016 was the 2nd most popular political film of all time. I would say that America… is even better.

The movie addresses several points that progressives are pushing on the nation—false narratives that paint America as a greedy, evil empire bent on conquest and willing to use and abuse anyone who stands in our way. It shows how this “shame on America” mindset has been perpetuated in large part by historian Howard Zinn and his warped presentation of the history of America (Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, is required reading in most colleges and universities and in many high schools and was even plugged by Matt Damon in his movie, Good Will Hunting. It’s been “out there” in a big way for decades, and it’s doing untold damage to our young people and ultimately the nation.).

The movie goes on to reveal that both Obama and Hillary were mentored by radical socialist Saul Alinksy and details their agenda to re-make America by destroying capitalism (with crushing regulations and taxes), creating a discontented lower class that blames the “rich” for their troubles, and ushering in socialism (with massive national debt and government takeovers of healthcare, banking, business, and so on). In their agenda, the successful entreprenuers are painted as evil and greedy and in need of punishment (never mind that those entrepreneurs started at the bottom and worked their way up, in the process creating jobs for the rest of us AND we became the greatest and most powerful nation on earth because of such entrepreneurs).

Their agenda is working, isn’t it?

After debunking the false narratives about America, the movie reinforces the notions that most of us grew up believing about this country: we are a force for good around the world; we are the most generous nation on earth; we help people and countries in need; we are defenders of the weak; we spend millions to rebuild nations after war, and so on.

My words can’t do this movie justice. I urge you to take a moment to watch the movie trailer here, and then make a point to go see it in the theater when it opens July 2 (or this weekend, if you’re in the Atlanta or Houston markets). What happens opening weekend will determine how many theaters the movie ultimately lands in, and a huge turnout can send a powerful message to progressives who intend to destroy America as we know it.

If you’ve already caught onto the move that’s underfoot to “re-make” America, this movie will strengthen your resolve to stand up against it. If you are just starting to learn about what’s going on behind the scenes, this movie will open your eyes and ignite a fire in you to defend and preserve this amazing nation before it’s too late.

God bless America!

 

 

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Financial Setbacks

money burning up

Do you ever feel as though your money seems to burn up in your hands or at least flies out of your hands faster than you can earn it? Financial setbacks can be so discouraging and even heart-wrenching, can’t they?

My family has seen our share of setbacks in recent years. My husband, a public school teacher, has endured several forms of pay cuts over the last few years as a result of the economic recession, totaling close to 10 percent of his gross income–a significant drop for a family of six. Last year, in addition to a 40 percent hike in our health insurance premiums, we had a lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses for the kids: pneumonia, hernia surgery, allergy testing, stitches, ENT visits, and so on.

To add insult to injury last year, our upright freezer died (or, rather, was killed during a defrosting attempt). Our main level heating/air system went kaput, so we forked out over $4,000 to replace it. Our washing machine bit the dust a few weeks ago, which we haven’t yet replaced. Our well pump had to be replaced last week, to the tune of almost $2,000. Our dishwasher seems to be on its last leg. Our upstairs AC system needs work. Our cars are 13 and 14 years old, so who knows….

That’s enough to make a person cry a bucket of tears. At least an emotional, hormonal, occasionally irrational girl-person like me. I get overwhelmed sometimes when I look at how much is going out versus what’s coming in.

At times, it seems like we’re under attack, financially. We just can’t seem to get away from the huge bills, much less have enough surplus to build up our savings to pay for future repairs. Have you ever experienced setback after setback in this area of your life?

I know that many of these are “first world” problems. People in much of the world can’t even fathom having an air conditioner or a washing machine or a dishwasher. We’re thankful for such conveniences, but they are expensive to maintain or replace.

So, how can we cope, and what does God say about how to handle these situations?

First, I’ve had to dust off my “trust” feature lately. I know in my head that God is my Provider. He has proven Himself oodles of times in my life, but this week, especially, I’ve struggled with trusting Him in the area of finances. I see more going out than coming in, and I don’t understand what He’s doing. I’m frustrated. I’m afraid. At times, I’m angry.

I was praying out loud in the car one day this week about the plumbing bill that we incurred, and I told the Lord, “If you want to use your money this way, so be it.” You see, it is His money. Everything is His (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). We’re only stewards, or managers, of His property. If He gives us a house or cars or children, we are to care for them, and sometimes that means large bills.

Second, a budget is an absolute necessity. Without a budget, it’s impossible to know how much is available for various areas and where/when to cut back. Some people like to use an online budget like Mvelopes or a software budgeting tool, but I still use a pencil and paper budget. I allocate money to each category every pay day, then when we spend, I deduct it from the appropriate area. Because we’ve been budgeting all of our married lives, we were able to dip into money that we saved years ago for all of the major expenses of the last couple of years and not incur debt. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to save for the last couple of years, and the reserve is getting dangerously low, but we have hope that things will turn around as the economy improves.

Third, we have to work hard at whatever the Lord gives us to do. I’ve been busy marketing our book to bookstores. Trevor has been brainstorming about extra jobs he could do over the summer to bring in income. We’re both working hard to get our house ready to put on the market, so we can move closer to Trevor’s work and save significant money in transportation costs. Of course, I still coupon for our food and household items; and since we’re home more over the summer, I’m cooking a lot and we’re eating out less to save money. We believe that it’s important for us to be proactive about expanding our income opportunities….not so much that our lives become unbalanced, but always being open to new avenues of God’s provision.

Finally, I have to understand that God has a purpose for this lean time in my life. If we look back at the life of Job, we see that he lost absolutely everything that was important to him. Everything. He didn’t know why God was allowing all of the bad things to happen to him, but in the midst of all of the turmoil, Job was faithful. He didn’t sin, and he trusted God to work it out. In the end, God blessed Job with twice as much as he had initially (Job 42:10).

Here’s the bottom line: God is in control. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He owns it all, and He has promised to provide for us (Philippians 4:19).

The key is trusting Him, while doing our part to be responsible and hard working and frugal. God will provide for our needs, because He said He would and if He says something, we can take it to the bank (pun intended).

So, if you’re struggling with financial issues, let’s pray for each other in our trying times. As Galatians 6:2 reminds us, let us “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

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What Good Are Dads, Anyway?

What Good Are Dads Anyway

In honor of Father’s Day, many of my Facebook friends have been changing their profile pictures this weekend to photos of their dads. I love to see all of the precious pictures of dads—some who are still with us and some who have gone on to heaven. There’s nothing quite like a father.

If you pay much attention to popular television shows, you have probably noticed that dads (and men, in general) are more often than not portrayed as bumbling idiots. They are shown as dumb, lazy, out of touch, and even unfaithful. I despise the message that this sends to a generation of young people who, maybe more than any other generation, desperately needs to see hard-working providers. They need to see men who stick around, in spite of the difficulties, because that’s what dads and husbands do. They need to see men who are strong and brave and who protect their loved ones from harm. They need to see godly fathers.

I’ve often heard that people subconsciously equate God with their earthly fathers. If one grew up with a harsh, overbearing father, he or she might fear God and feel as though He isn’t ever satisfied or accessible. One who grew up without a father in the home might have an emotional disconnect when it comes to having a relationship with the Heavenly Father. One who had a good relationship with his earthly father will be inclined to have a healthy and accurate view of God, the Father. Fathers have unspeakable potential to lead their children closer to the Lord or, sadly, in the opposite direction.

Maybe every “Daddy’s girl” thinks this way, but I’m convinced that I have the best dad anyone could ever hope for. He’s always “been there” for me; my biggest cheerleader. He led me to the Lord when I was young. He is my counselor, my advisor, my helper when I need him. He’s my rock, and I’m thankful beyond words for him.

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And then there’s my husband, the father of my children. He is a faithful provider, the spiritual leader of our family, planner of fun activities, our homeschool math instructor, inventor of crazy songs, and my soul mate. He is teaching our boys to be men who will work hard to provide, to defend their families bravely, and to lead in godliness.

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Scripture gives us an idea of what makes a good dad:

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:11-12

“He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26

“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

“Which of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Do you see how important dads are? They weren’t just an afterthought or a means to help populate the earth. They are vitally important to the health of our children, families, and therefore communities and nation and world. Thank you, godly dads, for doing your part, for being Jesus with skin on to your families. Thank you, Dad and Trevor, for the impact you are leaving on my children. Thank you, Lord, for your awesome design for families.

Happy Father’s Day, dads! We celebrate you today and always. :-)

 

 

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I’m Never Really Safe Here

dangerI was soaking up some rays yesterday afternoon in my front yard, trying to combat the perpetual Snow-Whiteness of my skin. As I lay there enjoying the breeze and the beautiful spring flowers, suddenly the peace was interrupted by the eruption of very loud, relatively close, semi-automatic gunfire. After a few shots I realized that it was just a neighbor doing some target practice. I was in no danger, but my heart skipped a beat nonetheless.

Trevor and I are pro-2nd Amendment people all the way, but I understand that some people who possess deadly weapons will use them with evil intentions. I also understand that countless dangers exist in this fallen world. I have known people who were taken from this world in car crashes, from diseases, in terrible, freak accidents, or at the hands of violent criminals.

I watched some of the documentaries of the 70th anniversary of D-Day this weekend. Remembering the utter evil of Hitler’s reign and the millions of lives that were lost during that time drives this point home even more. The older I get, the more I understand how fragile life is and how easily it can be snuffed out. I realize that I’m never truly safe here.

It’s a really good thing, then, that this is not my home. Not ultimately, anyway. I’m just passing through on my way to heaven. And Jesus is getting my eternal home ready for me even now.

Instead of somber thoughts, I like to focus on God as my Protector. I can choose to trust Him in every situation, every day, knowing that He is all-powerful and more than able to keep me from danger and sickness and harm. Certainly God uses even what we deem bad situations to work good in our lives, but sometimes the devil just wants to hurt us. I believe God thwarts untold attempts by the enemy to inflict injury or heartache on His children.

Consider these verses:

2 Thessalonians 3:3: “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

2 Samuel 22:3-4: “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge, my savior—from violent men you save me. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”

Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 54:17: “‘No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the LORD.”

Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Psalm 91:1-2: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

2 Timothy 4:18: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Get the idea?

Our Heavenly Father created us, chose us, loves us. He protects us day after day from harm that we can’t even imagine. But because we all must leave this world at one time or another, eventually our earthly bodies will cease to work and we will cross over into eternity. Oh, what a glorious day that will be, when no longer can anyone or anything hurt us or harm us. There will be no more evil, persecution, danger, or peril. Everything will be made right, just as God intended earth to be, originally. Everything will be perfect.

Do you look forward to that day as much as I do? Do you long for Jesus to return to earth to take His church to heaven with Him? The darker the days become here, the more I want to be with my Father in heaven. But until that time, there’s much work to do here to share the Good News with the world.

Come, Lord Jesus. (Rev. 22:20)

 

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Catching My Breath

my rocking chair front porch

My peaceful place….

The last month has been a whirlwind. I’m sorry I haven’t posted much lately, but I’ve just been trying to keep my head above water until summer break arrived. Here are a few of the activities that some or all of my family were involved in during the last month:

Karate tournament

Piano recital

Birthday parties

Baby shower

Class play

Worship dance performance

Poetry recital

Water/field day

Standardized testing

Graduation at the school where Trevor teaches

All of this was in addition to normal things like work, homeschooling, karate practices, piano practices, church duties, cooking, housekeeping, couponing, and so on. Also, I’ve taken on quite a few new duties at the homeschool academy, so I’ve been busy ordering curriculum for K-8th grades (mostly used, from various sites and various sellers—very time consuming), while handling payroll, banking/bookkeeping, insurance, maintaining the school website and Facebook page, getting records ready for accreditation, and various other school responsibilities.

Add to that the fact that we’re trying to get our house ready to put on the market, so I painted a bathroom and laundry room and I’ve been working on a massive clean-out and give-away campaign to de-clutter our house before we list it.

Whew! What a month!

I’m always glad to see June get here after a tough and busy school year. Because I married a school teacher, summers are especially meaningful to us, since our family is able to take a long break together. We work on house projects that need to be done, take trips together, go swimming and bowling a lot, spend time with extended family, do some canning and freezing of garden fruits and veggies, and generally rejuvenate to get ready for the next school year. I love summer break, and it seems like this year I needed it more than usual.

Isn’t is sweet when the Lord gives us time to rest and re-charge our batteries? Here are a few verses that spoke to my heart regarding rest:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3)

“Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” (Psalm 55:6)

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31b)

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

“The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” (Exodus 33:14)

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11)

So, in the midst of preparing my house to sell and getting things situated for the coming school year at our homeschool academy, I look forward to taking some much-needed breaks, too. I plan to sit in the rocking chair on my front porch sipping coffee, read some great books that I don’t have time to read during the school year (I already finished the Hunger Games trilogy…..FABULOUS!), catch some rays at the pool with my kids, spend leisurely time with extended family and friends, and generally recover from the stress of the busy school year.

Life is full for our family (sometimes more full than we would like) during this stage of our lives, but I realize how very fleeting these moments are. I intend to savor them while they’re here. I hope you’ll join me in slowing down some this summer and re-filling your tank with rest, energy, enthusiasm, enrichment, and joy.

Happy Summer! :-)

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