Am I a failure?
Have you ever had something in your past that made you ashamed? I did. Back when we first got married we made several bad financial decisions. We didn’t go out and buy a bunch of stuff on credit. If we had, we might have at least had some stuff to show for our mess. No, we were just struggling to keep our business afloat. We kept hoping that things would get better, but instead, we were just digging ourselves a bigger and bigger hole. In the end, we found ourselves $50,000 in debt with no jobs and very little hope.
And yet a spark…
Almost all the advice we got told us that we needed to declare bankruptcy. After much discussion, Keith made an appointment with the bankruptcy attorney. But we didn’t feel peace about the appointment. We thought that it just might be possible to dig ourselves out. So we spent five years chipping away at the gigantic pile. We cut every extra expense that we could. I squeezed every dollar bill so tight Uncle George screamed, and we finally managed to pay it all off. During that time, we facilitated many financial classes at our church. Some people knew bits and pieces of our story, but no one, not even our parents, knew the majority of it. It was still a story that we didn’t want to talk about.
A few years ago our family felt led to start sharing life and leadership skills for teens via videos and podcasts. Through the parent community that arose from that, the one skill I was told over and over that people wish that they had learned as a teenager was money skills. One of the skills that we have been most intentional about teaching our teens is money management. So I just began sharing some about how we teach our kids. We decided to finally tell our own money story in a podcast episode. It was one of our most downloaded episodes.
Why did we wait?
Once we began to tell our story, we saw how it resonated with so many other people. Our lives may look pretty good now, but the struggle to get to where we are was a hard one. People began to tell us how hearing our story, gave them hope that normal families like them could win with money and become debt-free. Our story was not one of those, we paid off $100,000 of debt in six months. It was a slow, consistent chipping away at a mountain that stood in front of us. I can’t explain how great it felt to finally share our story. We had let shame and embarrassment keep us quiet for almost twenty years. Looking back, I can see how that mess made us into the people that we are today.
Our mess became our message
About nine months ago, I just had this feeling that it was time to write a book. Now this may sound normal for some people but I had never aspired to be a writer. Though I was a good writer, I never liked writing. I just couldn’t get away from the thought that I needed to share our story and give other people hope. Though many people may have never been taught about money, that doesn’t mean their family and all future generations are doomed to never succeed with money. So the fact that I just finished a book is nothing short of miraculous.
Our mess did become a way to help others. I am excited about helping other people so that they don’t make the same mistakes that we did. The older I get, the more I realize that even some of our biggest mistakes in our journey can be used to help teach us and others an even greater lesson. I just want to encourage you today. Your mess can become your message!