Something amazing happened to us! Actually, we planned it and chose it and did it to ourselves, my hubby and me. But it happened, and it feels incredible. We became financially debt free. Everyone – all together – cheer and clap in celebration of our long awaited success, and then breathe a huge sigh of relief with us, as we enjoy the feeling of the yoke being loosened from around our necks!
It’s really the biggest accomplishment we’ve had as a couple, I think. We crossed some seriously rugged terrain on our journey to freedom… and it feels good to be in this place where our credit card balances are at zero, and there’s room to enjoy the money that fills our bank account each month.
It seemed fitting that our pastor, Tim Lucas, gave a message last week about building margin into our finances. We’ve been listening to a series on building margin (in other words, breathing room) into our schedules. It truly isn’t possible to do that when you are living in debt, attempting to work multiple jobs to pay down bills and squeezing every last moment out of every work day to make ends meet.
I’ll be honest – it felt beyond relieving to listen to that message and know we weren’t in a place where we had no financial margin. While he talked about the dangers of financing a big screen TV, I found myself dreaming – about a future vacation… a new couch… finally purchasing a new carpet for my dining room…
We know, as you might know, that living a fulfilling life with debt is like trying to make a holiday supper from bare cupboards. You can envision the feast you want to assemble… but you don’t have the goods to bring it to fruition.
On Sunday evening, long after we should have been brushing our teeth and tucking into bed for the night, we found ourselves dreaming together! Snuggled up in our family room, covered in cozy blankets and drinking coffee, we were deeply involved in conversation about our future and the things we hoped to accomplish this year and beyond.
I talked about my ideas, and to be really cliche, my hopes and dreams! I talked about where I wanted to live, and even about the things that I wasn’t satisfied with here in New Jersey. Gord talked about his job, where he sees his company moving in the next few years, and what he wants to improve on in order to pursue some of his own hopes and dreams!
Isn’t that amazing? I know this should happen pretty regularly in our marriage, but what we’ve come to understand is debt doesn’t just put a ball and chain around our budgets and bank accounts – it also anchors our dreams and, by extension, our future.
After listening to the message on financial margin, Gord and I stopped in at an estate sale around the corner from our house. One of the glorious things about living in the Northeast is that there are turn of the century (or older) houses seemingly on every corner, and they are chock full of treasures. Beautiful old furniture, radios and record players, and all types of little trinkets.
We’ve grown fond of popping in at estate sales, but this one was different than others we had been to. It was full of personal items. Necklaces. Nightgowns. House robes. Even Marge’s Recipes were for sale. Boxes overflowing with hand written cards and magazine clippings. $5 a piece. In the kitchen, the cupboard contents were for sale, including food items, marked down in price, late on a Sunday afternoon.
And sitting unassumingly in a corner between ratty dish towels and out-dated dinner plates was a dented tin box, marked “keys inside here,” with an orange post-it. Inside the box were dozens of keys of all sorts. There were luggage keys, skeleton keys, and keys for chests and jewelry boxes. There were keys for a car that drove children to school and took the family to The Pokonos for camping trips. There were keys for a safe and keys for doors and keys for desk drawers.
Keys that locked up stuff. That protected things. That gave security to material possessions… which were now strewn about, up for auction and sold to the highest bidder, family jewels and all.
For $4, I bought all of Marge’s keys.
Being in this place brought overwhelming need to reflect on how I would use our new-found financial freedom.
We love stuff, don’t we? I love my tablet and my phone, and I love the big comfy chair I’m writing this from right now. I love new dishes and towels and all the things that line the shelves at Crate & Barrel. And that’s okay. Building a home that is beautiful is a way to honor our families and create a place of rest and comfort for ourselves and those we love.
But guys – one day, it’s all going to be sold to the highest bidder.
And it has never been more clear to me how I want my life to look when I come to the end of it.
I want my life to be full of things that can’t be sold one day. Full of memories of vacations with my husband and daughter. Building a future that allows us to care for our parents and families. Priceless art work that looks more like family photos – moments captured in time that we can’t get back. I want to change the lives of people who need a hand up. I want to drill another well, and blow the bank buying toys for the poor at Christmastime.
I want to visit every continent and see the Northern Lights. I want to be able to fly to see my nieces and nephews whenever I choose. I want to be able to eat well and live well and give well.
Oh, I’ll shop at Crate & Barrel and eventually buy that carpet for my dining room. But, after visiting Margie’s house, I want to do it more reasonably. I want to curb my appetite for stuff that will get stuck in cabinets and drawers. I want to learn to be content, and to live in a spirit of thanksgiving for the air in my lungs and the sun in the sky. If I’m to truly make the most of this life I’ve been given, I have to experience more and accumulate less.
At the end of my life, I want there to be very little to sell… instead, I want there to be much to say. Many stories to tell about the adventures we had and the people we met – and most importantly, the dreams we made come true.
What things do you hope to accomplish in your life?