In 2012, with a new baby in my arms and my school district cutting positions (of which I was one of the last hired and assuming I would be let go), my husband and I set out to pay off our college loan debt with intensity.
Over the next two years, we cut our budget, moved, sold our second car, worked lots of hours, and cut our budget some more.
We also experienced some of the hardest years in our health, our marriage, and our parenting. None of these things happened because we were paying off student loans but the perfect storm that swirled around us was intense and painful.
In June 2014, we sent our last loan payment, well over 2 years ahead of the projected pay off time line we had started with back in 2012. Close to $50,000 was paid off in 28 months while I was a stay at home mom with our kids.
In the book of James 1:2-4, we are reminded that our many trials produce perseverance. Perseverance is the keep going, keep growing hutspah that we need to not only survive but come out on the other side changed. Sanctified. Matured.
Perseverance produces maturity and from maturity we start to see our gifts, where we can serve well, and why our stories matter.
Our Stories Matter
In 2011 halfway across the country from me, author Erin Odom was getting off a plane with a stroller, a pack’n’play, two suitcases, and her family of 3.
She was looking hard in the face of the hardest years for their family – both financially and otherwise.
And now in 2017 she’s releasing a book chronicling those hard years, using her hard-earned gift of maturity and grace to encourage, teach, and walk alongside other families during their own financial struggles.
Erin’s story matters because the deep, redemptive, powerful work of God can be seen over and over. It matters because it takes you by the hand and says “I’ve been there, let’s walk together”. It matters because perseverance produces maturity and maturity shows us where we can use our mess to minister to others.
Erin’s book More Than Just Making It is part memoir part how-to on getting through the financially lean years and not just surviving them but growing and maturing because of them.
Out of my story has grown the desire to encourage and equip wives and moms for the hard seasons we are guaranteed to experience. To be intentional in my own marriage and family, and to encourage that within my local church and though blogging.
Out of Erin’s story has grown a desire to walk with the financially frustrated and offer guidance and love as others navigate a trying season of their own.
Out of Our Mess Comes an Opportunity for Ministry
Our stories matter, not because they come out all neat and tidy, wrapped in a bow, but because the perseverance it takes to live them produces maturity and out of maturity we see where our mess can become our ministry.
We see where we can show up and walk alongside others.
We see where we can sit in the ashes and cry with others.
We see where we can teach and counsel others as they walk through a similar trial.
We get to become the hands and feet, serving one another as God intended- by using our gifts for the Body of Believers .
What I’m NOT saying is that for your story to matter that you have to have a book or a blog or a Facebook page.
Your story matters because you matter. Period.
God knitted you together stitch by stitch, on purpose, and for a purpose. He specializes in making beautiful things out of dust and ashes. Redemption is His story and song.
And He wants you to share your story if His redemptive work in your life, the places where grace oozes out like a marshmallow between two Graham crackers when you make a s’more.
Erin’s story matters, not because she has a book (which is a beautiful read as her story pulls you and makes you hope right along with her), or a blog, or anything other than she is willing to be used by God to walk with others.
Sometimes we need to be reminded that our story is useful. That’s when I look to great books like More Than Just Making It to see a story willingly and servingly lived and loved out in black and white.
Our stories matter, yours and mine, and out of them we can learn to share out of the perseverance and maturity as we walk alongside others.
Whether your story is one of financial frustration, difficulty in marriage or parenting, illness, or any other hurt or trial, remember the trial is not the end. The pain is not the whole story.
The story is redemption. God’s redeeming work in us.
And that matters.
I am a member of Erin’s launch team for More Than Just Making It and received an advanced reader copy of the book. All opinions are my own and I would never recommend something I didn’t personally read and enjoy.