From Loss to Life: A Truly Merry Different Christmas

A merry different Christmas is what we’re after. A budget, a cash envelope and a sense of responsibility are how we’re going to get there. The question is when.

What a crazy question, right? Christmas is literally just around the corner. “When” doesn’t appear to be up for negotiation. And, hopefully, you’re already experiencing the benefits of a new approach to Christmas.

Maybe, though, it isn’t different enough. For some of you, credit card bills and student loans will still be there to greet you in January, even though you avoided debt in December. For others, life is simply doing what life does—taking focus off of your goals and placing it on things outside of your control.

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Today, we want to remind you that these things take time. That if you’ll stick with it, your life really can be different. You see, it was during the holidays just two years ago that Shawn and Amber signed up for Financial Peace University (FPU). That simple action is what made this year’s merry different Christmas possible. Read their incredible story below.

“On January 4, 2011, my wife, Amber, and I started our FPU journey. It was our eighth anniversary, but we couldn't imagine spending it anywhere else considering what we hoped to gain from the course. At the time, we had around $70,000 in consumer debt and little idea where our income went when we looked at our W2s at the end of the year.

We jumped into FPU with both feet, ready and willing to do whatever necessary to change our financial future. We started naming every dollar and soon made a substantial dent in our debt. For the first time, we had a plan, and we had hope that living debt free could be a reality for us!

In April 2011, we found out we were pregnant. Wow, were we excited! We celebrated God's faithfulness and the timing of the events given our new financial future. Then we received news that no expectant parent wants to hear. During a routine checkup at 14 weeks, the doctor was unable to find a heartbeat. Amber had suffered a miscarriage—and suffer we did. The pain was so great. My wife went in for surgery, and we grieved over our loss.

The hospital bill arrived in the mail the following month. We were able to pay cash for the amount owed because of our efforts in FPU. That may not seem like much, but for me—a husband whose wife pays all the bills—it meant Amber didn't have to think about that dark day each month when the bill came due.

Ten months after taking FPU, we were debt-free! In March 2012, we reached our full emergency fund goal of $18,000 not knowing what God had in store. Just a few days after making the deposit into our account, I received a phone call from a lady in our church asking us if we would be interested in adopting her niece's baby. She knew about our struggles and put us in contact with each other to arrange a private adoption.

Two months later, Adalyn was born. Guess how much it cost in legal and adoption agency fees to finalize the adoption? $18,000—the exact amount we had in savings! God provided everything, including the finances, to make it happen! A week after Addi was born, we found out Amber was pregnant! Our second daughter, Norah, is due January 13!

We've always desired for Amber to stay at home once we had a child. Since the adoption wiped out our savings account and we had a second baby on the way, Amber went back to work so we could build our emergency fund back up. We are now to the point where she can leave her job and stay at home with the girls. She just turned in her notice on December 1!

Plus, this will be our first Christmas as a family. My favorite part of the day is walking downstairs first thing in the morning and watching my 7-month-old daughter's eyes light up when she sees the Christmas tree shining brightly!

It's been an amazing two years, but the genesis of it all was that cold, snowy night in January when we started FPU.”

If you’re discouraged this Christmas, we’re here to offer hope! Your life really can be different. FPU classes are starting all over the country this January—and it’s not too late to sign up. You’ll receive direction and accountability as you walk through the Baby Steps to living and giving like never before!

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