Lessons I Learned During our Foreclosure

Just over a year after the very awesome and unusual resolution to our foreclosure issues, I was talking with someone about it and how thankful I was.

I’m thankful not just for how the situation ended (particularly given the options), but for the lessons our family learned during the whole thing.

What originally got me thinking about this was the comment from someone I know who said, “I’m glad it worked out for you guys, but it seems so pointless that you went through 4 horrible years of stress only to have it be for nothing.”

Ah, but it wasn’t for nothing. Some pretty amazing things happened during those four years, which I couldn’t see at the time (I was too busy being a whiner-baby. <g>).

 

Thankful, thankful for all of it.

I can actually bow a knee and say, “Thank you God for allowing us to go through all of that.” — and mean it — and not just say it because of how the prayer was answered in the end. We’re thankful for the journey itself.

Looking back We're thankful for the foreclosure journey itself. Click To Tweet

Why? Here’s why I’m thankful for the lessons learned during our foreclosure:

We Learned How to Get Serious About Saving

Sure, we gave lip service to saving…you know, if we had the money to do it. However, after this experience, we’ve actually sort of become money hoarders but not in a crazy Ebeneezer Scrooge sort of way. We are using our new super power for good.

This was proved out recently, when a major appliance died and within three minutes we were able to pay cash for a new one, even though we were earning less than when we went into foreclosure. When a friend needed some cash for an emergency, we were able to meet that need, and it felt good.

Having this kind of savings is also really humbling to us. We are in a point in our lives, after all that we experienced and learned, where we don’t feel like patting ourselves on the back over this either, because we don’t take anything money-related for granted. Saving really is an act of grace in our lives, and is treated as such now.

Saving is an act of grace in our lives, & is treated as such now. Click To Tweet

We Learned How to Get Serious About Thriftiness

Were you to ask most of my friends (if not all of them), they’d tell you that I’m extreme in my thrift. Meh. Maybe.

Faced with not only being unable to pay for our mortgage and other basics, but realizing that rentals are far more expensive than the mortgage we couldn’t afford, stuff got real in a hurry for us during this period of foreclosure.

As a result of being in foreclosure, we cut to extremes. Even more extremes than before, in fact.

One of those was even cutting the internet (gasp). My new office became my car, while parked in front of anyone who couldn’t figure out how to lock their wi fi, or nursing the same cuppa joe in any diner with free wi fi. Because of this inconvenience, that meant we weren’t online every day. We lived somehow, even though I’m a web designer.

I recently thought of going back to that, as it was more peaceful. 🙂

We got cell phones from the dollar store, and later the grocery store, the service for which was paid for by points earned from grocery shopping. We went even more thrifty on groceries and toiletries. We lowered our electric bill.

With every expense, during our four years in foreclosure purgatory, we asked ourselves, “Do I love this enough to allow it to cause me to live in the van?” …after all, that’s what would have happened but for the grace of God through this foreclosure situation.  We’re still using this reasoning, asking ourselves, “What do I love more that this item might keep me from?” This can include saving for college, paying for the property taxes on time, getting a lump sum discount on the homeowners and auto insurance…

We Learned More About What REALLY Was Important to Us

This occurred in two parts during our foreclosure.

Part one was in purging our home and lives of anything that was not totally necessary, and selling it through garage sales, Craigslist, or scrap metal places.

Part two was realizing that there were some expenses, some purchases, and some things we thought we ‘needed’ that we really could live without, as I mentioned earlier. We don’t have to have internet at home all the time. We don’t have to have smartphones, or expensive data plans. We don’t have to do many of the things we thought were necessary.

It’s amazing how little we really do need. 🙂

It's amazing how little we really do need. Click To Tweet

We Learned to Protect Our Health

This is an odd one and maybe even counter-intuitive in light of the bit about saving money. However, during this whole saga, I was hospitalized for what originally seemed like chest pains but turned out to actually be a liver issue, likely caused by eating foods that were not the best for me. With or without a house, I get to sadly keep this body I’m in, so I’ve started to do what I could to care for it — without lame excuses.

This means, we make it a priority to buy and cook as healthy as we can, and I can say that I’ve worked out 3 out of 5 days a week at least for the last two years. This in itself is a miracle. (not having internet helped ha ha)

The biggest change, as I’ve mentioned, was cutting out all sugar and high fructose corn syrup from our diet, which resulted in some fairly easy and lasting weight loss, as well as an improvement in our health. After some work, we even were able to spend less on groceries despite eating healthier.

We Learned and Understood Better God’s View of the Poor

We’ve attended several seminars, retreats, and read books on the topic of “Christian Money Management” specifically and other topics more generally that seem to gloss over the verses in the Bible about the poor.

Usually the only verses you learn about are those ones where it talks about how to be blessed, get rich, prosper and what have you. It’s been over 13 years since we’ve been in a health, wealth, and prosperity church thankfully, but apparently that theology was still stuck in there. I may have outwardly rejected the concept that “If I’m right with God, I’ll not have money problems”, but some of the more subtle ideas were still affecting my heart.

As a result of the combination of bad theology and our impending foreclosure, we were trying to figure out what we did wrong to deserve this.

The answer: nothing that others haven’t done too.

If there is one regret, one thing we repent of, it’s ever getting into debt in the first place, but that’s a different topic.

The truth is, apart from having debt to start with, we were following the various “principles of prosperity” so to speak. So why on earth were we sliding backwards and into the abyss of bankruptcy and foreclosure? We were managing money fairly well (though as I indicated, we learned to do even better)…we were giving…we were trying to live out the principles we had been taught.

Why? Because God was at work in our lives in a far more meaningful way, and because we were learning things that we probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. We went through the foreclosure process to learn some necessary lessons.

God let us go through the foreclosure process to learn some necessary lessons. Click To Tweet

I realized, as my husband and I have often discussed since going through this foreclosure situation, how much was missing from my understanding of God in the area of finances and blessings. How was it, I’ve wondered since experiencing all of this, that I had never noticed the many verses God talked about His thoughts on the poor, and how He promises to care for them and to advocate for them? Why is it that we don’t hear more about that? God has a heart for the poor, and He loves the poor so deeply. He has much to say about the poor, and about what our response should be to the poor.

My heart has been touched and my brain continues to ruminate on it. It’s one of those areas that I’m still processing. 🙂

We Learned that God Could be Trusted

I mentioned this before in a different post, but one of the themes in this time of my life was really questioning everything I had previously believed. I believed that, if I did what pleased God, then God could take care of us. I believed it didn’t always mean our wants, but certainly our needs. I believed this included housing. I mean, obviously, housing is a need, right?

Years earlier, when a family member told us that since I was not going back to work, and since we had five children, we’d most certainly one day lose our house, I proudly told her, “No! God will take care of us!”

She and a few others spent most of these four years in foreclosure mocking me, my faith, my choices, and the statement that I made earlier, and even referred to God as my “Invisible Friend”.

I remember one day saying, “Okay, God, I am okay with living in my van. Really, I’ve done it before, and I guess I can do it again, though I’d prefer not to with the kids. However, I would really like You to do something COOL to shut them up. I told them You would take care of me. I know You can, though You may choose not to at this point. I want them to see it.”

The person who did the most mocking was convinced for several months later that the letter in which the mortgage company gave us our house, free and clear, was a mistake. We have the evidence, a notarized copy of paperwork showing our house paid for, no lien in place, 100% ours, framed and displayed under the words, “With God, all things are possible”.

When God worked a miracle in our lives in our foreclosure situation, He was showing me and everyone in my life that He could be trusted to take care of us through anything. I knew He would. I didn’t know if that meant that we’d find an affordable place to rent in the 11th hour, or if we’d have some other situation come up. How this situation ended was pretty awesome too. 🙂

God Used This To Teach Me Grace

Going along with the above, and some of the misguided teaching and understanding I had, I found out that I was pretty legalistic about some things, especially when it came to this topic.

Let me be totally transparent here: I was a very angry person for a very long time while going through all of this with our foreclosure.

About three months before we were given the house, I finally came to a breaking point in my life, where I just realized that no amount of me being angry and frustrated and worried was going to solve anything. I finally just said, “Okay, God, whatever You’re going to do here, just give us wisdom to walk through the right doors.” We had so many decisions to make, and nothing seemed right. Basically all options on the table, to me, seemed awful.

They also seemed like just punishment for finding ourselves in this situation. I mean, you must be a total moron if you wind up losing your house and filing bankruptcy, right?

I was angry and full of condemnation that we had to file bankruptcy most of all, because every time I ever heard a teaching on the topic it was understandably negative (I wouldn’t call it something to be embraced, even now). I was downright furious over it. It took my husband two years of nagging to get me to sign the papers, which I did begrudgingly. I even had a hard time writing much because of how upset and emotional I was feeling.

After the bankruptcy hearing, in which the judge joked around with us, told me I needed to teach his wife how to spend so little, and asked us what took so long to get here, I had a run in with a creditor that changed me and profoundly impacted me.

I was standing in the hall, waiting for my husband to finish up a phone conversation with work, when our one and only creditor came out, whistling. He smiled at me (oooh, I did NOT want to be smiled at), and then said, “No, really honey, you guys should have been there a long time ago. You did the right thing. Don’t feel so badly.” then he said, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?”

I’m thinking, “Yeah, some Christian…who just filed bankruptcy, shaming her testimony…” What I said was something to the effect of, “I don’t know how you can stomach sitting through listening to people who won’t pay their bills give you their lame excuses. I wanted to hit a few people in there, and yet they didn’t owe me anything.”

He said, “I don’t think you understand grace. Did you ever ask God to let you be debt free?”

Me: “Yes, all the time.”

Him: “Congratulations! your prayers were answered. You’re debt free.”

Me: “But that’s not how it was supposed to be! You’re supposed to pay your debts!”

Him: “Oh, so you wanted to do it yourself? Work hard? Pay it off? You did work hard. Most of the time, you paid for the principle in everything, including that mortgage, at least once or twice. Sometimes you need more than hard work. That’s where grace comes in, right? We’re Christians. We get that better than others or at least we should, right?”

I felt a tear roll off my cheek. Stuff like that hurts the pride, doesn’t it?

Pride, I realized, wants to do it all by itself. Pride and its cousin legalism reject grace when offered….work, work, work, right?

Pride and its cousin legalism reject grace when offered....work, work, work, right? Click To Tweet

Then he said, “Listen, you need to take the grace, my dear. You had debts that you could not possibly pay, through no direct fault of your own. You know what that is like? It’s like your Christian faith — a free gift — debts that you couldn’t possibly repay, wiped clean through grace. I think of that every time I sit through a bankruptcy.”

In this situation, more than any other in my life, I’ve seen God’s grace at work in my life. Maybe it’s more pronounced, because this is one area where I especially felt like I didn’t deserve it, or I didn’t earn it, but that’s what Grace is all about, right?

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