Debt Freedom: Pay It Forward

Foreword to this post:
I struggled to write this because I didn’t want to be boasting about us.
I decided to write it as an encouragement that even in financial stress, you have space to give IF it’s a financial priority.

Jesus has graciously given me a heart that wants to be generous {most of the time – unless it’s my Thin Mints at Girl Scout Cookie time of year, of course…}. Recently a spiritual gifts test ranked my highest gift as voluntary poverty “The special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to renounce material comfort and luxury and adopt a personal lifestyle equivalent to those living at the poverty level in a given society in order to serve God more effectively” {according to Gifted2Serve}.

This is a tension we feel being in debt, because every penny that doesn’t go to necessities {plus a tiny space in our budget room for outings/recreation} goes to the biggest financial priority we have: becoming free from the debt we’ve enslaved ourselves to.
So when I see friends in a missionary family struggling, my heart leaps because I know the potential we have to give. And then I think about how far that same money would go to pay off our debt.

John gets paid weekly. And we give monthly to support missionaries & children + we give quarterly to support other opportunities that come up… friends going on their first missions trips overseas, missionary families in need, etc.

What’s interesting is that this heart to give goes beyond money, into ‘talent.’
John often reminds me that we can’t give away all our work for free.
Almost all the clients we’ve worked with – both for web stuff and photography – have been people we know, and everyone seems to be in financial stress these days.
Everyone’s in debt.
Some people have one spouse unemployed, or both. Some of those folks are people who receive government assistance to varying degrees.
I look around to friends, who I know stress about money, and think… here’s this thing that I can do, that I enjoy doing, and I could really bless their family by doing it for free.
And it took me some time to realize that doing it for free all the time can really be damaging to my family.
It costs me, deeply, to take time away from them {for shooting, and editing, and often being on-call for weeks at a time for births, of course}.. And that’s valuable.

SO… we finally decided on a system for giving away our services. {This year.}
But, last year, {especially as I got started with photography} we had the space to give a good bit of our ‘talent’ away.
With no knowledge at the time that we could actually have that as a tax deduction.

For 2010, I don’t believe we got a tax return. Or, if we did, it was nominal.
I didn’t have any expectations or plans for a significant tax return for 2011.
John did change the way he claimed dependents, but I didn’t really think about it.

So when we completed our taxes and saw a little more than $6,500 as our tax return, I was shocked.
We generally make space in our budget to pay at least $1,000 per month toward our debt. This means sacrificing things that we’d often like to do or have. It also means space to get creative having fun for free or super cheap.

I was shocked to discover that we were getting all that back because we had given away so much.
We got back more than we even paid in taxes {because of our tax ‘credit’ for Amelie}.
The only reason we got so much back in taxes is because we gave away so much.

So we gave away $700 of the $6500 {leaving $5800}.
And then we paid $7,000 toward our $9,000 balance because we also had $1200 for March.

So now, we’re $2,000 from our Jubilee goal.

And I’m in awe at the way we were given the resources we have, given the heart & space to give some of that away, and given an unexpected return because of that generosity.
God is so good.
{And He is certainly good even if it hadn’t happened this way, I’m just grateful that it did.}

ALL of this to say, there’s margin in your finances for your priorities.
If your priority is to be entertained, your finances will reflect that with a big ol’ bubble in your budget for movie outings, cable, restaurants, and more… and not much more than the 10% – often a felt obligation – that many Christians choose to give.

If your priorities are kingdom priorities – loving well the ‘least of these’ – then your finances will reflect that, as well. And 10% won’t

We love because He loved us. We give because He gave us everything.




William Wallace kills debt

Listening to Coldplay before work made it seem like I was getting ready for something epic.

Of course, in a way, my job is paying off our debt as well as providing my family with food and shelter. Not much that is more epic or important than fighting/working for freedom and providing for family. The entire movie Braveheart was about just such a topic. Spoiler alert – skip to after the photo if you haven’t seen the film!!!

The film has a very powerful moment when William is about to be killed because of his unwillingness to let Britain and a few powerful men in particular rape his homeland and his children. He looks and sees the reason for his own death – his wife. The reason he would not give up fighting was because his wife was, in the end, worth his own death. We have a Savior who could have had victor in a moment but gave up His own life because we were worth everything He had to give.

William about to take on debt

Although it is not as tangible, debt is an evil master – as evil as a foreign invader. If we need a more substantial direction for finger pointing, then the credit card companies make for an easy target, and rightly so with their debt creation tactics. But to defeat debt like William Wallace we must realize that the problem started with our desire for more. Life lived within limits doesn’t require or create debt but a limitless existence MUST create an imbalance. Debt is the result of wanting beyond what is appropriate. Death must happen for the victory to be won.

Painful journeys into the dark parts of our hearts can open up the hopeful future of living truly free. Freedom that knows limits and boundaries.

Impossible? Yes. But we have a William Wallace who already died to make all things possible.