Stepping Out in Faith
I well remember the day we moved. All of our family helped us pack up our little apartment and drive up to Topeka to unload it in our basement apartment there.
It was a bittersweet day. We knew that this was how God was leading us. We were excited to begin the law school experience. But we were so sad to be leaving behind our friends, our family, our church, our community, our jobs — basically everything we’d known for over 20 years.
And we were scared. Our savings was nowhere near enough to live on for three years, so we were going to have to get really creative and resourceful, as well as come up with some sources of income pretty quickly. Since we were in a small town and knew no one, this was going to limit our options (in the past, almost all of our jobs had been offered to us without us even applying or even looking for them!)
But, since we believed this was God’s will, we knew He would provide. So we couldn’t worry about the next three years for long, because we had to dive right in and start figuring out how we were going to make ends meet in the here and now!
We settled into our little basement apartment, Jesse started his classes and I set out to find a job. I had worked as a mother’s helper before we got married and loved this, so I decided to advertise in the local homeschool newsletter to see if there were any families interested in this. Within a month, I was working for three families a total of four days per week, plus I had a regular babysitting job.
Jesse worked part-time virtually for his dad’s business and, between our two incomes, we made enough to just barely cover all our expenses. In the extra time I had while I wasn’t working, I started researching more about work-from-home jobs.
We were hoping we would be blessed with a baby soon and I knew I wanted to stay home as soon as we had children. So I figured now was the time to be preparing for this.
Soon after Jesse began his second semester, we were elated to find out we were expecting! The only problem was that I was soon so sick that I had to quit working. This cut our income in more than half and created quite a bit of anxiety since our outgo was suddenly much more than our income.
Jesse was able to get a job working part-time for an attorney so our income increased some — which was a huge blessing! — and I spent most of my days in bed with the laptop researching anything and everything I could come up with about ways to make money from home. I knew that I needed to come up with a way to make at least $200 extra each month in order for us to barely eek by and not dip into the law school savings.
As most of you who have tried to start a home business from scratch know, making a $200-per-month profit in the beginning is no small task! I’ve recounted my story of how I became a work-at-home mom before, so if you’ve missed that series, be sure to read it here. It wasn’t an easy journey, but I learned so much in the process!
During the last year of law school, we discovered this guy named Dave Ramsey. Jesse started listening to his radio show and kept coming to me all pumped about what he was learning. I really wasn’t too excited. After all, I stubbornly thought, weren’t we pretty smart when it came to finances? Did we really need some guru with a radio show to tell us what to do? I mean, c’mon, we were debt-free, we were living on a budget, we were living beneath our means, and we were giving–even on a very small budget. What more could some guy on the radio really teach us about money?
I drug my feet. I made up excuses. But Jesse persisted in encouraging me to listen to Dave Ramsey. So I finally gave in and said I’d go through Financial Peace University with him. I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything. And maybe, I’d learn something new.
Boy, was I ever stubborn and proud.
After the first week of Financial Peace University, I understood why Jesse was excited about this guy! Dave really knew his stuff, he thought a lot like us, and he was a great communicator. And believe it or not, I was getting a little hooked.
As we went through the next 13 weeks of classes, I learned all sorts of stuff I realized I had no clue about when it came to finances. Things like the various pros and cons of different kinds of insurance, what exactly mutual funds are, and how to wisely prepare for retirement.
But more than the typical financial terminology, I had a complete paradigm shift when it came to money.
I’d always thought it was great to live beneath your means and it was good to give generously, but I’d never really thought extremely long-term concerning money. Nor, had I ever had a strong reason for practicing frugality other than that we had to—or else get ourselves buried beneath loads of debt.
Dave Ramsey gave us a vision. He inspired us to think big, plan ahead, and dream big dreams. Most of all, we were motivated to get our family in the best financial shape possible so that we could bless and help others by being generous givers.
When we were finished with Financial Peace University, we sat down and made some big goals. In fact, the goals were so big, they seemed impossible to us at the time. But we decided to aim for the stars. After all, we figured that even if we didn’t hit them, we’d likely make more traction than if we hadn’t aimed at all!
One of the seemingly-impossible goals we made at that time was to buy a house debt-free within five years of finishing law school. It felt so far-fetched that we didn’t even have the courage to tell anyone else about it. However, we thought that if we really scrimped and saved, we might be able to squeeze out enough extra from our budget to buy a small, very basic fixer-upper home at an incredible deal within five years.
It was also during that last year of law school that our income increased a fair amount. Jesse got a better-paying part-time job working for our state’s Attorney General, and I was finally landing upon some work-at-home jobs which were actually producing a regular part-time income. For the first time in two years, there was actually money left over at the end of some months!
We started realizing that, once Jesse was out of law school and able to work full-time, there was a good possibility we’d be able to save a nice amount of money every month. So we began to talk about our post-law-school financial goals.
Changes After Law School
When Jesse finished law school, by the grace of God, we had no debt and we had a few thousand dollars in savings — thanks to our income increase over the last year of law school.
We were ready to jump in with both feet and start saving everything we could. But first Jesse had to pass the bar. It was a grueling six weeks of study. He took off work and we lived on our savings while he studied.
After the two-day intense bar exam, he went back to working part-time and we waited for the bar results. A lot was hanging on him passing the bar, as we didn’t really have plan B — or the funds to cover another round of studying and prepping for another bar exam if he were to fail the first one.
We were elated to find out about six weeks later that he had passed the bar! He was sworn in as an attorney a few weeks later and began his job as a full-time Assistant Attorney General in Kansas.
For the first time since we were married, we now had a full-time income coming in each month, in addition to the part-time income from my business. We were excited about being able to increase our budget some and start building back up our savings again. It looked like we were “set” for the next few years and it was an amazing feeling to finally be adding to our savings, instead of just depleting it.
In the middle of all this, we were thrilled to find out we were expecting our second child! We started looking at the possibility of moving from our little basement apartment to a duplex and we began thinking of how fun it was going to be to actually be able to afford to splurge on little things every now and then.
There was a very real temptation to want to significantly increase our standard of living. Hadn’t we lived on beans and rice for long enough? Hadn’t we spent enough time wearing secondhand clothes and driving old cars?
Instead, thanks to Dave’s encouragement, we decided to think long-term. Sure, we could easily blow the extra money which was coming in on nicer cars, expensive clothes, lots of restaurant meals, or extravagant purchases. But what would be the point of that?
We’d stopped worrying about impressing people a long time ago, we’d learned that money and things don’t buy happiness, and I really liked getting good deals at the grocery store and elsewhere and couldn’t bear the thought of paying full price for things.
In addition, we also considered the possibility that our income could go down significantly or we could have some major medical crisis. Wouldn’t we rather do all we could now to put ourselves in the best position financially while we had the opportunity?
So instead of going out and buying a house or even increasing our standard of living by much at all, we opted to continue our beans-and-rice budget and sock away as much of our income as we could into savings.
And that was a good thing, because God had other plans… plans much different than we could have imagined.
Just a few weeks later, much to our surprise, the Kansas Attorney General was defeated in the October election. In hindsight, I’m not sure why we never considered this outcome; I guess we were walking around on Cloud Nine, wearing rose-colored glasses.
Needless to say, this was a major blow. In fact, I remember standing there watching the concession speech with the biggest knot in my throat and the sickest feeling in my stomach. All our dreams, plans and hopes seemed to be dashed to pieces right then and there. Jesse didn’t feel comfortable working for the elected Attorney General for a variety of reasons, but that meant he was left jobless once the new Attorney General came into office.
The next eight weeks were a rollcoaster ride. Something would come up and it would look like a great job possibility only to have it fall through the next day.
Near the end of the year, we started feeling a little desperate. Nothing was turning up on the horizon and Jesse had already turned down the opportunity to stay on at the Attorney General’s office under the new administration (a decision we were starting to seriously question, even though we prayed about it and had felt strongly that’s what God wanted us to do!).
At the very last moment, a job opened up in Kansas City. It wasn’t Jesse’s first choice for a job and it looked like it probably would only be a two-year position, but it was our best option at that point. So, in a record five day’s time, we packed up our little apartment, found a rental in Kansas City and moved.
Little did we dream what difficulties lay just ahead of us in Kansas City.