by Jenelle Garden 

Less is more, or so they say. This month, as the Beautiful Blog discusses the topic of living a life free of excess, I decided to take a closer look at how this little cliché applies to me.  My family and I have learned some hard lessons about shedding excess and being better stewards of our time, talents, and treasure. That last one- treasure, is one area that we’ve had to focus on, especially. 

It’s almost laughable (or maybe, more like, cry-able?) when I reflect on the lies my husband and I used to tell ourselves about how “thrifty” we were. We reasoned that since we always bought used cars, shopped the “BOGO’s” and clearance racks at our favorite stores, clipped coupons, and vacationed locally, we were money conscious. Anyway, how could WE be excessive spenders? In order to be in that category, wouldn’t we have had to have an excessive amount of money lying around? We didn’t!

But, despite our “efforts,” every month it was the same… we always had great intentions to tithe and save for a rainy day, but it just never seemed possible. And, it was a scary feeling to always be waiting for the other shoe to drop… maxing out credit cards and refinancing mortgages to pay for the “necessities” and the unforeseeable costs of home ownership, parenthood, career life, and so on.  I shudder to recall how many times we used loans to finance the purchase of a used automobile or a home improvement project.  And, it wasn’t just the big things! We often resorted to using credit cards to pay for little things, like school supplies for our kids, household goods, and even groceries. We were living paycheck to paycheck, and falling deeper and deeper into the pit of debt.   

And yet, we believed that God had something better for us! We knew He loved us and wished to bless us in all areas, including our finances. But, the bible says that we must be faithful with a little before the Lord will bless us with more (Luke 16:10). The bible also says that the borrower is a slave to the lender, and that we are meant to be the head and not the tail.  What kind of example were we setting for unbelievers, if, as believers and children of the most high God, we were living in lack and fear of the next financial obstacle? It was time for a change, a new nature.

My husband, Isidro, and I took Pastor Craig’s challenge, to stop letting our money control us, instead of the other way around. We attended the Financial Freedom class offered at Grace and made the decision to put God first in our finances. Why? First, because we believed His word. He says, to give first, and it will be given unto you (Luke 6:38).

Secondly, we’d seen firsthand, in our own extended family and in the families of many of our friends, how often homes, marriages, and lives of good and godly people, were torn apart by the love of, or more commonly, the LACK of money.  We wanted our story to be different. We believed that God had something better for us- plans to prosper us.  

But putting on a new nature and changing your mindset is no piece of cake. Old habits die hard and we’d failed so many times before…  What made this time different? We knew that we needed help so we went to the source of our strength and wisdom… God, Himself. We dove into the promises in his Word and listened to the godly counsel of friends and loved ones who’d been successful and were living in real financial peace. We began tithing faithfully and we made real sacrifices. We rented out our home and sold some of our possessions to pay down debt.  We traded firsthand for secondhand, eating out for eating in, vacations for staycations, and credit for cash.

We are still working hard to walk in this new nature, and admittedly we still sometimes struggle. We hold tightly to God’s promises and thank him for the many ways he has set us up for success by placing the right people (such as our Money Mentors and good friends from church, Steve and Lisa), in our paths. We thank him for the way that He has strengthened our resolve and our marriage, as we tackle the demons of Debt and Lack as a couple. Finally, we give God the glory for the fact that, if we stay on course and continue to shed excess, and stick to His good plans for our lives, we will be living debt free and mortgage free in only a few more years.

In what ways have you put God first in your time, talents, and treasure? What obstacles have you faced or overcome in your own pursuit of financial peace? Please leave your comments below. 

Jenelle Garden is a first grade teacher, mother of 2 beautiful girls and married to her high school sweetheart. Jenelle recently joined the Beautiful Ministry as a small group leader and enjoys sharing her love for Jesus with other women and feels most blessed as she draws closer to God through fellowship. 

Several of us at the Beautiful Blog have read Jen Hatmaker’s Book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  As a result, we have taken on a mini challenge of the experiment she writes about.  We are focusing this month’s blog posts on simplifying, getting back to the basics, and spending time on the things that matter. Misty does a great job summarizing Jen’s experience in today’s blog.  Our challenge to you is get the book and see how God would speak to you through it!

by Misty Umholtz

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess is the true story of how Jen Hatmaker (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. In the spirit of a fast, they pursued a deeply reduced life in order to find a greatly increased God.

Sounds serious, doesn’t it? There are many thought-provoking moments in the book, but at the same time, Jen Hatmaker is one of the funniest authors I have ever read. Her book offered many laugh-out-loud moments that had my husband asking, “What is so funny?”

Jen, a pastor’s wife, did her due diligence for this project. She took seven months and fasted from one thing each month. She did a lot of prep work in advance to make this all work successfully. She had a husband who was on board plus her three kids all go to school, which in my opinion, makes it all more doable. She also did it with seven of her closest friends by her side, who she calls “The Council.” Even when you’re fasting, friends make anything way more fun.

Month 1- Food.  Jen and her husband ate only 7 items for 31 days. Chicken, eggs, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and apples.

Month 2-Clothes. Jen wore 7 pieces of articles of clothing for a whole month. Underwear did not count, (she got to change those, thank God). Not 7 outfits but one pair of plain jeans, one long-sleeve shirt, two short sleeved shirts, one pair of capri pants, one long dress shirt and cowboy boots or tennis shoes.

Month 3-Possessions. Every day, their family gave away 7 items that they owned and used in their home. Yes, 7 items each day. And they did not just drop it off at a Goodwill but hand delivered it to the homeless and people in need in their church and schools.

Month 4-Media. Their whole family shut it all off. No TV, gaming systems, facebook/twitter, iphone apps, radio, texting, and internet (except for business and school purposes).

Month 5-Waste. Their family started gardening their own produce, composting, conserving water and energy, recycling (everything), driving only one car, shopping only at thrift and second-hand stores, buying only at local stores (for everything).

Month 6-Spending. The Hatmaker’s picked only 7 vendors they could spend money at all month. The Farmer’s Market, the gas station, online bill pay, the kid’s school, limited travel fund, emergency medical, and Target. No restaurants!

Month 7-Stress.  Jen practiced the Seven Sacred Pauses a day, which is to stop and offer designated, specific prayers seven times a day. Their family also practiced observing rest on the Sabbath for 24 hours from sundown Saturday night to sundown Sunday night.

Throughout this book, I laughed, I cried, I was convicted and I prayed that I would never be the same. The spiritual truths that the author uncovered and explained were of earthquake magnitude that shook me to the core. This book never made me feel condemned, judged or guilty but inspired me to be more like Jesus in every way possible.

It might not be feasible to do a full blown 7 month fast like Jen, but maybe it is possible is to get a group of friends together and try to do a condensed, modified version for  7 weeks or even 7 days.

Where am I as a reader going to begin? A major overhaul to my closet, household items, budget, thought processes and the motivations of my heart.

At the very least, it might bring some much welcomed balance and order to my life.

Here’s a video previous of the book:

[jwplayer mediaid=”2452″] 

Misty Umholtz loves being a wife and mom of two small children. She enjoys ministry and she also likes football, which should win her an award for “dream wife.” But on the other hand, her love for shopping might disqualify her from that possibility. You can read more about Misty on her blog, Finding Meaning in the Mayhem.