Learning to Live Debt Free Part 2

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By Katie, Contributing Writer

Perhaps you’ve seen part 1 of Learning to Live Debt Free. (If not, check it out here.) To recap, my husband and I have begun the journey to financial freedom by paying off our debt. It’s been quite a journey but so far, it’s been completely worth it. So, in this part 2, I’ll give an update as far as where we are on our Debt Snowball and I’ll also share some of the practical ways we’ve cut corners, saved/made extra money, and the importance of it all.

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Update on Our Journey

First of all, thank you so much for those who showed support and encouragement because of my last article! We were so blessed by many of you and excited to see that some of your are on the same path.

As of January, which marked the beginning of our journey to financial freedom, we hadn’t made much progress. We were still saving up for our $1000 emergency fund which seemed to take a lot longer than we expected. Well, Praise God, we have our emergency fund in place! But the blessings don’t end there. We are grateful that our tax return came when it did. It allowed us to pay a good chunk toward our debt. So we are on our way! After paying more with our tax return, we’ll use the minimum payments for those loans that we pay off and put that money toward the next one on our list. And the snowball keeps rolling!

It’s been amazing to see God use even the little things to show us and teach us how to use what He’s given us to plow through this debt.

So how did we get to this place? How did we go from just barely making our payments to paying extra on our debt every month?

Here are some practical tips that we took to whittle down these loans:

1) We set up a budget

I mentioned this in my original article but I think it’s worth mentioning again. Setting up a budget is absolutely key in any financial journey whether you have debt to pay or not. Telling our money where to go gave us so much freedom! I know it might seem restrictive to follow a budget, but it really isn’t. It’s actually quite the contrary. We now have freedom and power over our money.

2) We got some information and did some research

This really should have been number one on this practical to-do list, but I still think the budget is the most important component so it gets top billing. But this is key too. As I mentioned before, we started listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show, we read The Total Money Makeover. Then we took some of the tips Dave suggested and applied them to our own situation. For example, Dave suggests that while you’re working on paying off your debt, you should reconsider contributing money to your 401K. So we decided that would be ok for our temporary situation. (I am not saying this step is right for everyone.

Please remember these tips are meant to help others see how to make changes in their own situation but it’s up to each person to decide what is right for their family.) We decided to do so because my husband’s job contributes to his 401K even without our contribution. Also, we decided on this because we are fairly young, we can temporarily stop paying on our 401K in order to pay off our debt.

3) Get/Stay Motivated

You don’t have to do this (and no, I’m not a Dave Ramsey affiliate in any way), but it really helped us. We signed up for a membership for our own My Total Money Makeover. This site is packed with information, tools, forms, and so much more. It’s definitely a great resource to have. The best part is that it connects directly with your smart phone or mobile device so you can update or consult your budget and such while you’re out and about.

Another way we stay motivated is by encouraging others and learning from others. We are thinking of starting a small group Bible study this summer with a few other couples from church in an effort to encourage them. And you know what they say: you learn more when you teach. We also want to surround ourselves with people who have the same goals and plans. While those people are few and far between, we do have a few friends who seek to do things the debt-free way.

4) Get creative in order to stick to the budget

We’ve had to make some sacrifices but over all, our experiences have taught us to be creative as well as disciplined when it comes to staying within our budget. We’ve been planning our meals (and sticking to them!), trying not to eat out as often, paying cash for purchases, and budgeting for expenses we know we’ll need down the road like clothes for the kids or birthday gifts. But sometimes, you really need to be creative when it comes to finances. We’ve been setting aside $100 a week for groceries for our family of 5 and while that is challenging, God always provides.

We try to eat a whole foods, healthy diet so not buying as much junk food helps out immensely. We do salads, soups, one piece of large meat (like a whole chicken) a week, I make homemade broth and we buy rice to put in our soup. We also buy quite a bit in bulk.  And like I said, I plan meals in advance and we value our meal times together. This is just one way we’re creative in saving money.

5) Knock it out!

Be aggressive. B-E aggressive. Seriously. The only way to knock out the debt is to be aggressive and passionate about getting it paid off. I took on some babysitting, my husband did some extra odds and ends for a little pay. We are now big proponents of yard sales. Every little bit that we can spare we try to put toward paying off our debt. We aren’t always successful and wise with our choices, but we are trying! Working hard at this one goal will ultimately bring us closer together as a couple and we will also have the opportunity to teach our children the same principles so they might not end up in the same situation down the road.

I’d love to hear about your debt free journeys! Please share with me in the comments.

What Modesty is {and isn’t}: A Practical Approach

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In our A Modest Heart series, we have been reviewing what the Bible has to say about modesty and what is really at the HEART of modesty. Now I would like to shift the attention a little bit away from the heart of modesty to the practical application of modesty.

What Modesty is {and isn't}

My Modest Journey

The idea of modesty didn’t really click for me right away. In middle school and high school I didn’t really hear a word about modesty. I wasn’t taught about it in church or youth group, and I wasn’t actively ignoring the Bible’s teaching on it. I just was ignorant to what the Bible had to say about modesty.

I think that a large amount of the women in the modern church are this way too, not blatantly ignoring God’s teaching on this subject, but rather ignorant to what it Scripture really teaches about modesty.

It wasn’t until I started hearing solid teaching from Scripture on modesty that the Lord started to change my heart and mind. But it still didn’t seem like that big a deal to me.

Because really, the term “modesty” seems so ambiguous. I didn’t wear mini skirts or walk around with see-through clothing or anything. It seemed like such a hard concept to nail down.

That is, until I started studying about what modesty means in relation to the men around me. 1 Corinthians 8: 9-13 teaches that we are to not be a stumbling block to those around us. If we have it in our power to help weaker Christians in their walk with the Lord and not to stumble into sin then we need to be doing that. 

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:13

We are also called to serve one another in love. Maybe we don’t feel convicted that our dress is immodest and we can live in Christian liberty, but we should not live in the flesh. We should serve those around us, and that means serving our brothers.

“:For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” ~ Galatians 5:13

I have heard the argument before that it’s the man’s fault that he is lusting. That is his sin to deal with. I completely disagree. Now I’m not saying that if one man can’t look at a woman’s face without lusting then all women should cover their face up, of course not. But rather, within reason, we should help the men in our lives. {And yes – of course the lust is indeed the man’s own sin to deal with, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to help protect our brothers from sin either}

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” ~ Mark 9:42

When I started to see that a big part of our responsibility with modesty is in our relationship to our brother’s in Christ, things started to click. I could finally see some guidelines forming in my head about modesty.

Open and Honest Talks about Modesty

I heard a college pastor talking openly with the women one Sunday morning. He asked all the men to leave after he had given his sermon on modesty. The next ten minutes were spent discussing what is appropriate dress and what isn’t. This helped open up my eyes to what men really think about clothing and modesty.

They surveyed dozens of men within the church and asked THEM what made them stumble when it came to how the women in the church were dressing. Some of their biggest stumbling blocks were in seeing cleavage of any kind, midriff showing, short shorts, and more. Finally, someone had come along and TOLD me what causes men to stumble (from the men’s own mouths).

Women’s brains work so differently compared to men’s. And for young women especially, who are not married, it is often very hard to know what causes those men in your Bible study and church to stumble.

This is where asking the men in your congregation and household what is modest is an excellent way to help guide those in your church on modesty.

Another excellent resource is The Modesty Survey. In this 148 question survey, over 1600 Christian men (ages 12-50) submitted their answers to what they felt was modest and what was not. The survey covers everything from  swim suits, to dresses, to pants, and more! I would take a few minutes and sit down and look over this survey yourself. Encourage any other women in your life (daughters, sisters, friends) to look it over as well. {Note: This post was originally published in August 2012 – the links to the modesty survey are not working right now but I’m hoping they will be again soon!}

So What is Modesty {and what isn’t it}?

Some of their results were surprising to me, and others were eye opening. Here are a few thought provoking results from the study.

What men think about modesty in general:

Guys notice whether a girl dresses modestly or not ~ 66.9% strongly agree and another 29.4% agree. {96.3% Total}

Despite rampant immodesty all around us, girls who choose to dress modestly do make a difference. ~58.5% strongly agree and another 33% agree. {91.5% Total}

Girls can dress attractively without being immodest. ~ 78.3 strongly agree and another 19.1% agree. {97.4% Total}

A guy can consider a girl attractive without thinking about her in an impure way. ~ 66.4% strongly agree and another 29% agree. {95.4% Total}

A modestly dressed girl can still be a stumbling block because of her attitude and behavior. ~53.5% strongly agree and another 40.3% agree. {93.8% Total}

Practical Tips from Men on Modesty:

Showing any cleavage is immodest. ~36.6% strongly agree and another 33.8% agree. {70.4% Total}

Bikini swimsuits are immodest. ~59.3% strongly agree and another 25% agree. {With 6.8% feeling neutral on this, only 8.8% of men disagree with this, or only 93 men out of over 1600 surveyed. This is eye opening!) {84.3% Total}

A two-piece swimsuit consisting of a long tank top and skort is modest. ~19.1% strongly agree and another 52.5% agree. {71.6% Total}

It is okay to show cleavage when wearing a swimsuit. ~34.6% strongly disagree and another 35.7% disagree. {70.3% Total}

Jeans are generally immodest, even if they aren’t tight. ~41.6% strongly disagree and another 35.9% disagree. {I find this one very interesting in the debates between skirts only vs. pants} {77.5% total}

It is immodest for a girl to expose her legs up to mid-thigh. ~28.6% strongly agree and another 35.9% agree. {64.5% Total}

Miniskirts, long shirts, or short dresses over leggings are a stumbling block. ~26.4% strongly agree and another 38.5% agree. {This one is becoming more and more common} {64.9% Total}

 My Standard of Dress:

Yes, this is a lot to digest and I only covered a couple of the questions they asked the men. Some of the questions are open ended as well, so it’s really eye opening to see how they responded to those questions.

I did want to share what my personal standard of modesty is. And it seems to always be changing as I get older and more convicted by the Lord. But please note, I do not think this should be the standard for everyone! In fact, my sisters and I (who all hold to a really high standard of modesty) can tend to disagree sometimes on what is modest and what isn’t.

But I thought it might be helpful to share my own personal convictions.

1) Cleavage: I don’t show my cleavage. As a general rule, I wear shirts that are high enough to cover my cleavage OR I wear cami’s underneath (they are my best friend!!).

2) Sleeveless: I will wear sleeveless shirts/dresses depending on the style. Some clothing is tight fitted or really open around the arms. But generally I will wear sleeveless that covers my entire shoulders. But I do not wear spaghetti strap shirts by themselves.

3) Midriff: I do not show my midriff. Period.

4) Shorts/skirts length: This has changed over the years a bit. But in general I do not wear anything above the knee. I do have one pair of jean shorts that just barley reach to my knee, but because they are not very tight my husband and I determined that they are just fine. The same goes true for dresses. I generally do not wear them above my knee. Sometimes this rule is flexible because even a skintight dress that goes to your knees may be very immodest whereas a very flowy dress that reaches just above the knees with tights on underneath may be modest.

5) Tightness: This is a hard one for me to judge sometimes. I do not want to wear skin tight clothing but sometimes it’s  a hard line to walk. This is where my husbands valuable opinion matters.

6) Bathing Suit: I like tankinis because in general I don’t think they are as tight as one pieces. My tankinis always reach past my stomach so even if I move around my stomach isn’t exposed. I also wear a skort or shorts with my bathing suit, always.

I hope you found this encouraging and not legalistic. Ultimately, what is important to the Lord is what is in our hearts. But we are also called to humbly serve Him and serve those around us. God commands us to live modest lives and we cannot ignore that command.

The Intent of the Heart {Biblical Modesty}

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A discussion of Biblical Modesty must first begin with Scripture. The Bible is sufficient for showing us how to live our lives and there is no exception when it comes to how we dress and act.

The Intent of the Heart - Biblical Modesty

We are called to live modest lives, whether that is in dress, character, or actions.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—  but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:1-4

Slow down, stop and read that verse again. There are a few very important lessons to take from this passage in 1 Peter.

Our modest behavior can have an effect on others

Peter began this section explaining to wives how they can have an effect on their husbands. As a wife, even if we have an unbelieving husband, we can win them to Christ by our behavior!

As women we are to be respectful and have pure conduct. This begins in our hearts. Luke 6:45 tells us, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

If we have a pure heart and practice good, then our conduct will reflect that pure heart. Likewise, if our heart is a black hole of deceit and sin, then our lives will eventually pour that out.

Our outward expression of a pure heart is modest dress, speech, and actions. And because the Lord commands it, we must do our best to follow it, even if we often stumble in this area.

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The Heart is more important than the outside

There is nothing wrong with wanting to dress in a cute way or have some trendy clothing. At the same time, however, modesty can be made out to be an idol. Some can become self righteous when it comes to modesty and judge others who don’t feel the same convictions as themselves.

But this verse makes it clear that the focus should be on the hidden person of the HEART. It is not sinful to do such things as braid your hair or put on makeup, but that should not be your sole focus.

Your focus should be on your heart and that you are conducting yourself in a pure manner. Focusing on your heart will help you to produce the imperishable characteristics of a gentle and quiet spirit.

Your modest dress is simply an outpouring of your pure and modest heart. 

How does a woman discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress and dressing to be the center of attention? The answer starts in the intent of the heart. A woman should examine her motives and goals for the way she dresses. Is her intent to show the grace and beauty of womanhood? Is it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshiping God? Or is it to call attention to herself and flaunt her beauty? Or worse, to attempt to lure men sexually? A woman who focuses on worshiping God will consider carefully how she is dressed, because her heart will dictate her wardrobe and appearance. ~ John MacArthur

As MacArthur so eloquently put it, a woman who is more concerned with worshiping God and following his commands than pleasing man and her own selfish desires, will work on having a modest heart and the outpouring of modest dress, speech, and character. We will not always be perfect at this. And sometimes the Lord convicts women differently.

My sisters and I all have a strong desire to serve the Lord and honor him in our dress, and we disagree sometimes on certain modesty issues. But that is okay. The point is, we shouldn’t look at other women and judge. Some women are seasoned veterans in modesty and have walked closely with the Lord for years. Others are new to the Christian faith or have maybe never had an honest discussion about modesty.

I am not here to judge the way others dress, and we should be careful on how we look at those in the church. The Lord convicts each of us differently and at different seasons. 

But I would ask women to listen to the Lord. Just because we shouldn’t judge others for what they wear, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t judge yourself. Take an honest look at your clothing. Ask yourself (and your husband/dad) what is modest and what isn’t. But be careful, it is easy to lie to yourself and make yourself feel better about what you are wearing.

Proverbs 30:20 says, “This is the way of an adulterous woman; she eats and wipes her mouth, and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’”

Tomorrow we will look at the more practical side of modesty and delve into some of the nitty-gritty practical details and tips to help us dress modestly.

More in this series:

Cultivating a Modest Heart Series

What Scripture Teaches about Modesty

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An honest and open talk about modesty must begin with the Bible.

As Christians, the Bible is our ultimate authority for what we say, how we dress, how we act, and how we live our lives. It doesn’t matter what I have to say on the subject or what the world has to say. Ultimately, the only truth in this world is what Scripture teaches, and its teachings are all we need to run our lives.

What Scripture teaches about modesty

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~2 Timothy 3:16

God’s Word is truth. He gave us His holy Word so that we could learn how to live lives for Him. By reading and studying God’s word, the man (or woman) of God may be complete, and ready to handle EVERY good work. Scripture is sufficient to teach us all that we need to know about living a Christian life, parenting, work, ethics, morals, and yes, even how to dress. We must first know and grasp that before we can delve into how the Bible handles modesty and dress.

Scripture does not go into every detail. It doesn’t talk about hemline lengths or how tight is too tight. But it does give general principles on how to live a Godly life. From there we must go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to convict our hearts and show us His way for modesty.

1 Timothy 2 9 - 10

 

Modesty is an attitude

While Paul does not speak to specific guidelines when it comes to dress, he does call women to be modest and to have self control. The New Testament church, hearing this for the first time, would not have been confused on what Paul meant by modest dress. Many in the church that Paul wrote to were copying the fashion of the Roman ladies, which was provocative and extravagant. They dressed to seduce. In contrast, the woman of the church were expected to wear modest clothing that did not draw sexual attention to themselves.

Essentially, modesty is putting on an attitude of humility. Humility in dress, in speech and in life. A humble woman does not draw unnecessary attention to herself, but rather serves her brothers and sisters in humility.

Part of our modest and humble heart is serving those around us. The Bible commands us to not be stumbling blocks to one another. You may feel comfortable wearing a mini skirt, but chances are, it is causing a brother around you to stumble.

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?  And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. 1 Corinthians 8:9-13

This verse is talking about eating food that was previously forbidden under the old law, but is now acceptable under the New Testament covenant. But, even in this context, where eating the food is acceptable by God, if it makes your brother stumble to eat it, then don’t. God clearly commands this, if it is causing your brother to stumble then it’s not okay.

Modesty from Time Warp Wife

Image from Time Warp Wife

We need to be careful to not take this to the extreme. Some men have such a problem with lust that looking at any woman in any condition will cause them to lust. We obviously cannot base modesty on them. But we should be concerned about the teenage boys in our youth groups, and the men across the pew, and the pastors in charge of our congregation. Are we making it difficult for them to stay pure at church and at Bible study?

And unfortunately, our modern fashion and clothing are designed for just that. Sex appeal. We must be careful to not buy into this fashion crazed culture. We can have some fun shopping and enjoy being trendy without causing our brothers to stumble or not being humble and modest in our dress.

C.J. Mahaney said it well:

Modesty means propriety. It means avoiding clothes and adornment that are extravagant or sexually enticing. Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality. 1

Likewise he shares what immodesty looks like:

Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear.

Scripture commands that we dress modestly. God wants women to learn to be modest, self-controlled, and humble in our dress and how we act. We are also commanded to not be stumbling blocks to our brothers. This means wearing clothing that will not cause them to lust. Clothing that emphasizes cleavage, is too tight, too short, shows too much skin, too much leg, etc. Specific modesty guidelines will differ from household to household based on how the Lord convicts each person individually. 

But a good starting place is to read C.J. Mahaney’s God, My Heart, and Clothes. His wife, Carolyn Mahaney wrote an excellent pamphlet, the Modesty Heart Check, which helps outline certain styles of dress that may be less modest than others. Another excellent resource is to ask the men in your life.

Do you live at home still? Ask your father before you buy a new outfit or leave the home. I know, this sounds extreme if you are not used to doing this. But your Dad can give you an accurate idea of what MEN are thinking of when they see you in an outfit. What seems cute and innocent to us, can drive men wild. My husband greatly helps me with this. My husband can give his opinion and share how men might be seeing my outfit.

More in this series:

Cultivating a Modest Heart Series

1. C.J. Mahaney, God, My Heart, and Clothes Page 2.

How To Make Any Recipe Health(ier)

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This post is part of our series: Crafting a Healthy Kitchen!  Follow along via email as we share practical tips for creating a healthy, real food kitchen, and pick up a copy of our cookbook, on sale for 31% off!

As I shared last week, learning how to craft a healthy kitchen has been a long journey for me. As I started realizing that the things I thought were “healthy” really weren’t and that a lot of my old recipes were full of junk items I no longer bought, I felt a little lost knowing what to cook.

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But as I’ve become more comfortable using healthy ingredients (like know which fats are actually healthy, how to make my own dried beans, ect), it’s been easier to look at old cookbooks and know what ingredients to substitute to make them healthy meals!

Sometimes, you still need to indulge in an ooey gooey cinnamon roll made with lots of sugar, but usually I try and cook healthy meals eat healthy snacks. Jaimie Ramsey has also been on a similar journey and shares some fantastic tips on how to convert any recipe into a real food, healthy meal! 

Read the full post by Jaimie HEREHow to Convert Any Recipe to Real Food

More in this series:

And, for two weeks only, you can get our cookbook designed for women who want to create a healthy kitchen, Real Food for the Real Homemaker for over 30% OFF! Get our entire eBook jam packed with practical advice, how to’s, and over 175 real food, healthy recipes! Plus as a bonus, get the Kindle version of our book, printable recipe cards, and meal planning software to make your healthy journey an easy one! Get all this for $8.95 this week only! Find out more HERE!

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