From ruined to rescued, broke to prosperous, shattered to whole.
TRIUMPH(ed) is the story of how my wife and I are climbing out from under a mountain of debt, poor credit, and far too many mistakes to claim the reward He has promised.
Follow us on this journey. Witness the trials, failures, doubts, frustrations, and ultimately the TRIUMPH firsthand. In real time.
Everyone’s fighting a battle you know nothing about. This one is ours.
And we’ve already won!
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January 9 – Sittin’ on the Dock …
As I mentioned, we’re sitting in a financial mess. It dishonors God. It’s stressful. It hurts … everywhere.
When I began to plan this series, we were 3 1/2 months behind on rent. That’s $1,650 per month, plus $50 late fee each month. Within 40 days, we caught up. Not all on our own; we had help.
We fell almost $2,000 behind on the electric and gas bill from the time we moved in.
We owe a past landlord $4,250, though they aren’t coming after us for it. They let it go. We can’t. That’s not right.
I was behind over $17,900 in child support payments at the start of last year, with no more being added as my son aged out. I paid almost twice that much in over 6 years, even as my son’s mother lied about her income and continued to lie in open court. That’s on her, but it cost me twice what I should have been ordered to pay. It made the payments untenable.
The worst part was that I didn’t know about my son until he was almost 10. His first years of life were stolen from me. On top of all that, even though it was a court order (too, on her part), I’ve yet to hear from his mother to tell me he had cancer. The court order clearly stated she was required to not just tell me of all major health issues, but to also consult with me on those decisions.
To date, she still refuses to tell me anything. Even if it wasn’t commanded by the court, wouldn’t it stand to reason this would be the morally right thing to do?
She claimed to be a Christian, too. She was the one who first brought me to the church where I thought I was saved. If not by court mandate and if not by moral integrity, then what about obligation to the Lord?
I wonder, if I can be considered a deadbeat (and rightly so) for not obeying a court order, but when I finally pay it all off and it’s done … I’m out from under that stigma … what about her? What sh9uld she be called for violating the same court order and refusing to tell her son’s father about his cancer?
That’s not something that can ever be undone. There’s never ‘paying off that debt’ in the human realm. But I’ve forgiven her. I just wonder, if people can disparage me (rightly so) for my sins in this regard, what about her? A professing Christian? You see, Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ but don’t do what I say” (Luke 6:46).
Obedience is critical.
So, at this moment, the total arrears is down to less then $12,500.
For taxes, I can only estimate because it’s a monumentally complicated mess. Somewhere around $17,500 owed to the federal and state governments.
Our current car payments (the entirety of the auto loan was set to be paid off in March, 2020) is almost $3,000 behind.
Between credit cards and other revolving debt, we owe just north of $10,000.
Student loans, with penalties and interest, somewhere around $40,000.
As I continue to move forward and write this account, I’ll update the details as they come into sharper focus.
As noted already, the total debt we carry is close to (or possibly slightly higher than) $90,000.
Diane was striving to start a business last year, but it didn’t take root. She’s been taking care of our daughter, Abbey for the past six years. She’s homeschooling, and the results have been nothing short of phenomenal.
Abbey was born with Down syndrome. She was diagnosed prenatally at about 16 weeks. We had heard her heartbeat by then. Diane had been told by her doctor many years ago that, due to certain health issues, she shouldn’t expect to ever have children.
But she always wanted to be a mom.
Once we heard that heartbeat, we never looked back. There was no thinking twice. How could we? While some family was supportive, others weren’t. We hold no animosity toward anyone who admonished us to ‘consider your options … you don’t know what you’re getting into.’
We knew. We learned. But we never flinched.
There were concerns about her heart, about her health, and we learned so much about the elevated risks for leukemia and other health issues for children with Down syndrome.
But we had heard her heartbeat!
No way could we not give her the best opportunity for life. I remember saying before she was born, “This girl is going to change the world.”
She already has!
With that diagnosis, the struggles were greater. The financial pressure more intense. More sleepless nights. More demand on our time and attention.
It’s been worth every second, even as the court couldn’t have cared less. Have a child after another one … that doesn’t child doesn’t matter. It’s just a broken system.
It’s a worldly system.
Because Diane was home and because she worked tirelessly with her on strengthening, learning, speaking … Abbey is so far ahead of other children with Down syndrome her age. I have no doubt the effort put in pays off.
But the financial pressure was all on me.
And I lied. I cajoled. I manipulated. And I failed.
I thought I was saved back in 2011. The joke was on me because when God led us away from Connecticut to North Carolina, from one church to a second, and into a small group Bible study, only then did He open my eyes to the truth.
After someone hijacked a half hour of the study to rail against one institution and then another one, then claim he thinks ‘everyone’s getting into heaven because, well, God is love,’ that didn’t seem right. Why would Jesus have to die if that was the case?
But what did I know? I hadn’t read much of the Word. Then, God opened me up to the Sermon on the Mount, especially the closing passages: “Enter through the small gate for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow (hard, compressed, difficult to stay on) is the road that leads to life and few find it“ (Matthew 7:13-14, parenthetical added). I then discovered 7:21-23: “There are some who call me ‘Lord, Lord’ who will not enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. For many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’“ (emphasis mine).
Everything changed. I knew in that moment I wasn’t saved. I only ‘believed’ because a pastor stood in front of his church and said, ‘All you need to do is believe and you’ll be saved.’ I had an emotional moment. I cried. That was it. I was just second soil.
Few will find it. Many will be denied. I understood that the ‘many’ Jesus was talking about weren’t unbelievers; these were the people who assumed they were right with God. Christians included.
That’s when the road to salvation really began. Four years ago. And during that time, I continued to fail. I continued to not get the bills paid, continued to struggle to earn consistent money. I’m a freelancer. I get paid when I get work done.
It’s not easy, but it’s doable. Millions of people are doing it these days.
But I kept failing.
That’s where we sit. Still struggling, still begging for sleep most nights, still mired in a financial mess.
But that will change. It has to change. Now.
I will not dishonor the glorious name of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior anymore. I will do what He commands. I do not wish to hear, ‘I never knew you …’
“If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciple” (John 8:31).
It’s in His word where the commands sit. It’s also in His word where the promises rest.
That’s where we are right now. Looking ahead. To the promised rest after the battles are fought. He already won it. We must now step into it. The arrows are sailing. The thundering steps of our enemy are roaring closer.
Here we go …