Friday, October 1, 2010

A Season of Engagement - Lessons Learned

In all reality, you can't live in a dream world, and in real life, the little throat tickle that started the night we got engaged had turned into a full blown sore throat. I tried all the tricks, but nothing I did was getting rid of this bug.

In the midst of it, wedding plan was already beginning - appts. were being made for bridal dress shopping, and there was eagerness from family for me to start making decisions on what I would do with bridesmaid and candle light and flower girl dresses.
I started to feel pressure... pressure.. pressure... I think the pressure that a lot of brides may feel, to start working out all the details.

And then in the midst of everything, I found out I had strep throat. So, we brought on the antibiotics, pushed ahead, and life got busy.

And then interest rates went up. Which meant I lost my job.

Can I stop and share a quick finance lesson that Nick helped me out with when we were dating? Actually two lessons. The first one was on my own. No okay, three total. I just keep thinking of little lessons God taught me along the way and I can't leave any of them out.

I got my first credit card when I was 18 - it was through my bank, and I thought why not? That few weeks after I got it, money stopped having any sort of concept to me, and I saw, I wanted, I bought. And then I got my bill and realized I had charged $900 in less than a month. Thankfully - by the grace of God - I had been working two jobs that month, being in transition from one job to another - and because of that I had enough to pay it. But it was enough of a scare for me, so I took that credit card, cut it right up, and so was the end of that bad choice for me.
Do I think credit cards are all bad? No, I think there is a time and a purpose for them, but you should only spend on them what you have available to pay when the bill comes(treating your expenditures like it's coming out of your checking right away). And if you can't handle that sort of choice, then you should not have a credit card. Period.

I look back, and I was pretty spoiled and blessed by my parents. I muttled through college the first year after I graduated. But I really didn't know what I was doing. I was going to get married and have kids, that's what I was waiting for. And my parents knew that and wanted Nick to be done with school, and I wanted that too.
After my first year, I got a job working at a real estate office that turned full time, and then the next door mortgage company hired me on and trained me to be a loan processor. For not having any sort of degree, being able to get that on the job training, and be paid decently for that, I was pretty grateful. And then having parents that didn't want me to move out, to save my money, I really only had two mandatory expenses.
One, my cell phone bill, and Two, my car insurance. Oh, and Three, I loved to buy presents for people at Christmas. The problem for me was, the car insurance bill wasn't monthly, it was every six months. And Christmas was once a year. So when the months for insurance due, or Christmas time, I would be hit with an extremely big bill, that would make me pinching pennies the rest of the month.

Nick suggested I set up a savings account, and put money aside every month for car insurance and towards Christmas, so that when those bills came I would have the money all set aside and wouldn't be stressed where it was going to come from. I totally freaked out about the idea in the moment, but I finally calmed down and tried it out, and you know it worked so beautifully, that to this day I now am the opposite extreme in that. I will save monthly for my Costco Membership renewal. That is how nit picky I am in this, and how much I stand behind that concept now.


My first car was picked out by my dad. It was this weird half car half truck from dodge, that rode low to the ground and had the longest front hood ever. So long that I drove it into the rear of someone else's car because I had looked down to fast forward a DC Talk song on my tape player, and looked up to brake lights and could not stop in time. There went all my graduation money to fixing that.

Second car - I took over driving my dad's black manual transmission Dodge Challenger with a sun roof and let him take the red weird car truck to be back into his possession. I drove that Challenger to the ground - literally having black smoke come out of it on 99W right before I was ready to get on the freeway.

Left without a car, my boss let me use one of his cars, which was a nice gesture - until I knocked off the electronic side view mirror dropping of a real estate sign for him and not guaging the distance from the railing on the side to my car very accurately. Two hundred dollars later...

Finally I saved up enough money to purchase my car from our friend Joel - a red toyota corolla that did the "I think I can i think I can" up any little hill. That gutless mobile was passed on from friend to friend to friend. So where is the 3rd financial lesson?

I wanted a new car - or at least a newer to me car. I had grown up my whole life with old cars, because my dad was great at fixing cars and they saved lots of money by not having new ones. This also meant that sometimes we would be that stalled car on the side of the road that everyone felt sorry for. So I did not have a happy taste of older cars.
My parents went on a business trip and I stayed home, and got it in my mind I was going to purchase a new car.
I started looking around. I found the car that I wanted! And it was a great price too. The exterior looked awesome - Nick went with me to check it out. But right before we left to go talk to a bank about me getting a loan, Nick asked to look at a title, and we saw the words TOTALED on the title.
We found out this sporty little Nissan with a SUNROOF had been involved in some flooding in the midwest. After irritating but none the less wise counsel from Nick and my dad, I submitted and let that one go.

Then I drove by Kia. They had a brand new car with less than 2000 miles on it, for $7500. I purchased it - well, me and the bank - and had my very own new car. I shortly after began to see the downside of a loan. The bank earned a ton of money on it. I got motivated, and started paying double the payment, and I got my car paid off in less than a year.

Best decision I ever made. Because I paid it off quickly, I ended up being able to save enough to go to Hawaii with a friend, and then I started saving the difference from my payment, to go towards my future possible wedding. So I think the lesson here is the blessing of savings.
I had no idea how much God would use that little decision to pay off my car quicker, but He is amazing and I love how He continually puts His finger prints on how He provides.
So back to the story.

Then I lost my job.

Interest rates had gone up, I was the only one in the office most of the time. My boss told me when I had nothing to do to just have fun looking at wedding dresses on the computer.

But after a few weeks of that she told me the news that they were going to have to close shop. That she might work from home sometimes, but at this point I had two weeks notice. This wasn't the worse news in the world, because I had planned on stopping work right before I got married anyways, because you know the plan - I was going to get married... and.... have kids. So why would I want to work if we started whipping out those babies.

At that point, I had $7000 saved. See, I didn't know when I started saving, that I would need the money at the end, but God totally knew. I tried to find a few temp jobs while on unemployment, but in the end it was hard to commit to anything because I would be quitting in 4 months.

I remember a night being very overwhelmed and stressed about everything from a dress to cake flowers to photography. I went back to my bedroom with all these thoughts and plans and feeling completely out of control. And the Lord took me to the passage in Philippians 4 that talks about being anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God, and His peace which surpasses all comprehension shall guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. So I prayed over that verse and took out my journal and started listing all my prayers and supplications before the Lord, and I gave them to Him. I said you take them. And He totally did, and being engaged was one of my favorite seasons in life.

The crazy thing is, that not having a job ended up being the best pre wedding present God could have ever given me. It gave me the last few months of my unmarried life to be able to be at home, spending time with my family, and wedding planning with them. Things like, making my veil for $30 instead of spending $100, or seeing a ring bearer pillow in a magazine for $40 and making it for $6. I had a blast planning my wedding. There were a few things that had to go, like throwing a nice dinner reception with dancing at it. But instead, my big splurge: I got a beautiful cake - for a great deal of $600, (which a year later they showed my cake at bridal fairs and were charging twice as much for it).

Truly being engaged is has some of the funnest memories of my life, and if it weren't for the things that looked like trials to me in the moment, I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did.

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