In the summer of 2007, my husband and I moved our kids almost 1,000 miles from one Rocky Mountain town to another several states away. We knew spiritually it was right. And it was a great move for all of us in every way…except financially. It was the largest dichotomy I have ever experienced. I had a strong support network in our new town. My kids had friends. It was really a great move. But financially, we went down in flames.
My husband and I have never been rich (in terms of money), but we always made it. We had one credit card on which we owed and a home mortgage. We had moved in 2003 and were able to buy a house before the real estate market in our little resort town boomed. So in 2005, we used some of the equity in our home to make a “sure thing” investment: We bought a vacant lot in our neighborhood and were planning to build on it. We thought we could make enough money to buy a bigger house for our growing family, ensuring our longevity in the town. The problem was that I didn’t feel right about buying the lot. And when I prayed about it my answer was simple: “You will sell the house and move in the next few years. But if you buy the lot, you will be fine.” So we bought the lot but never could find a house plan to fit our budget.
Two years later, my husband got a job several states away. We needed to sell the house and the lot. The housing market in our town was solid, but there was a glut of vacant lots. So we turned to the Lord and prayed diligently and earnestly. That summer 3 out of about 100 lots sold, and ours was one of them. We were relieved, but we lost more money on the deal than I care to calculate. That, of course, meant that we had less equity in our house.
Right after our lot sold, the real estate market took a dive, and with it, so did the value of our home. By this time, we were in a new place and were paying rent and a mortgage. We could afford one, but not both. During this time I gave birth to our fourth child. And in January, our mortgage payment ballooned. It was the perfect financial storm. We fasted and prayed. I begged and pleaded with the Lord that we would get an offer on our house. We even sought assistance from the Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the Mormon Church). We were humbled and scared. We called the bank and asked what could be done. We told them that we couldn’t afford the bigger payment. They said we could refinance. But we didn’t feel that was honest, because no matter what the terms were, we couldn’t pay them. We were tapped out. Our credit card was maxed. We did all that we could do, and I held onto the faith that we would be OK. The Lord told me that. I just didn’t know what He meant.
Well, what He meant was that my children would be healthy. We would have a warm, safe home. We would find peace, happiness and wonderful friends in a new place. And the bank would sell our house for us. Eventually we did receive an offer on the home, but the second lienholder would not accept it. The representative told my husband, “We have no incentive to work with you because we will make more money if we foreclose on you.” My husband and I were stunned and livid. But we decided it was in the Lord’s hands. And if He didn’t want us to sell our home, then it wouldn’t happen. We didn’t stop hoping and praying for a miracle until the bitter end. And by that time, I had stopped tearfully and frantically begging and pleading for a miracle. I just humbly sought the Lord’s help and asked Him what we could do to be better stewards over our finances. We had peace, even though the storm was raging.
After we stopped paying the mortgage, we started to pay off our bills. We had several thousand dollars in medical bills and owed more than $10,000 on our credit card. We threw as much money as we could at the bills and actually made a dent in them. But then the second lien-holder came after us for the money we owed them. We had hoped that the company would write it off, but they didn’t. We prayed and asked the Lord for guidance, and filing bankruptcy was our answer.
My husband and I both fought feelings of anger and resentment toward the banks, especially the second lien-holder. But that is not the Lord’s way. Proverbs 3:5 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thy own understanding.” Through this trial I learned to trust the Lord, no matter what happened. And I learned how to let go. We also decided to trust the lessons that the Lord was providing for us.
The Doctrine and Covenants is another book of scripture in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 88:119 says, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”
During this financial firestorm, we decided to more fully commit ourselves to the teachings of the gospel and the counsel of the prophets. Not that we were doing anything really wrong, but we knew there was room for improvement. My husband and I started doing our homework and figuring out how to manage our finances better. We stocked up on our food storage. Our Christmas one year was a fully loaded 72-hour kit for each person. We knew that in order to be better, we had to organize ourselves and be prepared temporally and spiritually. We became more committed in our personal and family scripture studies. We made a goal to never miss a day, and we haven’t missed a day since.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:4 says, “For after much tribulation come the blessings.”
Looking back, I see the tender mercies of the Lord in our trial. He sent us to a place where several of our closest friends were experiencing the same difficulties. We were 1,000 miles away, so we were spared the humiliation of the public newspaper announcements, signs in front of the house and being kicked out of our home. I know there were employees at both banks who did their best to help us and work with us. They could have made us feel stupid (and some did), but several went out of their way to be kind, courteous and helpful. This trial helped to bring my husband and me closer together. We had been committed before, but our commitment to each other was deeper and stronger, forged in the fires of financial disaster.
Our lives (and our finances) are not perfect, but we are more aware of what is truly important and what is not. I am grateful for the experiences that have taught me the difference.