Renewed Sense of Purpose

It’s been ten years since I first took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. For the first time, I felt like I knew how to handle budgeting (I used to think it was inhibiting, when it’s actually incredibly freeing) and how to tackle debt. I met Brennan a few months later and eventually taught him what I had learned.

When we got married, we both brought debt (student loan and other debt) into the marriage. Our total amount of debt was $106,929.39. Staggering. Crippling debt. But, we followed Dave’s plan (with a few detours) and committed to knocking that out as quickly as possible.

We bought our first home six years ago because we saw the profit potential and knew it would be a way to become debt-free even faster. And it worked.

In our first six years of marriage we paid off $85,000 and were down to only my student loan. But then we became lazy and, when tempted to take out a large construction loan to remodel our new home, we gave in impulsively to have the instant gratification. While not in debt to the extent we were when we first got married, it’s debt, regardless, and it has been difficult mentally to get over our mistake.

Our new church announced that they were offering the class beginning in January, so we decided that it was time to take it together and get back on track. We have continuously budgeted our entire marriage but it’s time to start the “debt snowball” once more.

Now that we have children in our home again, we’ve realized that THEY are our motivation and purpose. We never want to have to tell them they can’t participate in something because we don’t have the money if debt is the reason. 

Our goal is to be debt-free by the time they turn five. That is fifty months from now.

We have a plan. We’ve tightened up our budget as much as possible – which led us to realize that we surprisingly don’t have a spending problem, but rather an income problem (in terms of having extra to be aggressive with debt payoff). We weren’t sure what to do, but we prayed for opportunities to earn extra money that could be applied directly to our debt.

And, as always, God is faithful to His children.

I was presented with the opportunity for a new part-time job that will not only bring in some extra income but also help us cut our food budget and simplify meal planning (and give me a much-needed break a couple of nights each week).

And then, on Friday, I was offered a promotion at my other part-time job that not only pays more but it’s a lot more responsibility (being the manager on duty – MOD). Not only was this an answer to my prayer, but I was an answer to their “prayers” because it’s only 1-2 weekend days a month and they didn’t know how they would find someone willing to work so few hours. Then they remembered me, my qualifications, and how I’m currently only working there 1-2 times per month, and they said it was the perfect solution all-around. God’s hand is clearly in this. 

This all happened in the last three weeks and we’re still in awe. 

We didn’t pray that God would just hand us money (though we wouldn’t say no 😉 ) – we prayed for opportunities to EARN it, and He came through quickly and amazingly!

I share all of this as an encouragement. ANYONE can do what we’re doing. EVERYONE can become debt-free even though it requires dedication, sacrifice, and hard work. As Dave says, “Live like no one else so that later you can live and give like no one else.”

We are “gazelle intense” and ready to pay off my student loans and this construction loan as soon as we possibly can. The future of our children is worth the sacrifices we make now.

Even So…

The common theme of the past six months has been hurdles. Things haven’t been going as smoothly as we would like and we’ve come up against some significant challenges.

  • Buying this house came with one obstacle after another and cost more than we anticipated not only to buy it, but to do the necessary renovations (that still aren’t done because we ran out of money). It seems like all of our Dave Ramsey progress was lost and we’re having to start over again in our process to becoming debt-free.
  • We drained our savings (and our HSA) to pay for IVF (though MUCH of the cost was donated by generous and amazing people and we are SO very grateful!), and it’s tough to rebuild it.
  • We started an AirBnB in the apartment upstairs and have LOVED running it. It has brought joy to us and to the families and single mothers we have been able to serve and bless through this venture. It has also been hugely beneficial financially. 

    However, two of our neighbors are “uncomfortable” with the idea for ridiculous reasons (they don’t understand AirBnB at all, essentially) and they filed complaints with the township. We were forced to make a decision to either pay $450 and wait three months (and go to two zoning board hearings) to try to be rezoned for this type of use (no guarantee of approval), or give up and just get a tenant (less income, loss of the opportunity to help others enjoy Hershey and run an AirBnB; loss of space to host family and friends and bands (through RYFO.org) upstairs).

    Ultimately, we’ve decided to try to find a tenant because some battles aren’t worth fighting. The township needs to modify their rules about AirBnB instead of trying to make it fit into other molds and making it impossible for residents to do. I am proud of my letter to the township supervisors and hope that it will make a difference in the future for property owners to use their property as they choose.

  • I haven’t had much time to finish my book proposal or to find an agent, even though my manuscript has been complete (and edited) for six months. I’m struggling to remain positive about it being published, even though I believe that the Lord led me to write it for that purpose.
  • I am committed to do many good things, but finding a balance and remaining disciplined has been a challenge.

Even so, it is well with our souls.

It hasn’ t been ALL bad, but the hard things in life tend to overshadow the good; when we focus on the positive we realize that we have had some GREAT things happen:

  • We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to California, Oregon, Washington, and ALASKA in June and returned home feeling rejuvenated even though the trip was exhausting. Seeing the beauty of God’s creation and spending treasured time with family was worth every lost minute of sleep.
  • We found out that we have THREE embryos (out of the five) that are healthy! Two are not even carriers of Krabbe! The fourth embryo needs to be retested, and the fifth has chromosomal abnormalities that are not survivable. We are thankful for these 3-4 and will hopefully do the first transfer in August.
  • Thanks to my dad spending two weeks out here, we’ve nearly completed the basement projects (laundry room/bathroom drywall and paint, etc.). We’re going to be ready for hosting bands and other guests so soon! Since we’re giving up the AirBnB this space will allow us to continue to minister to bands through RYFO – an amazing network of host homes for touring musicians.
  • Brennan and I are trying to become much more disciplined than we are currently in every area of our lives. It’s a struggle but we must overcome and become self-disciplined.

Through it all, my heart has remained at peace because I trust the Lord completely and I have absolute faith that this is all happening for a reason. As the popular song states, “Let go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name…” He is still on the throne, He is still in charge, and, most importantly, He still LOVES us. In those moments when I feel worry start to encroach on my peace, I stop and pray and remind myself that He’s got this.

And so we press on, knowing that it will all turn out alright.

Financial Transparency and Blessings

We have been wanting to share how we have been using the Team Tori funds for quite a while as a way of being transparent, as well as to show our stewardship with the amazing financial blessings that have been sent our way by very generous people.

Since the amount is publicly known, we wanted to use this as a way to say thank you once again. We don’t feel that we “owe” an explanation, but we want to give one as a way to show you how much your generosity has blessed us and has enabled us to take even better care of Tori than we could have on our own.

When our friend Jessica surprised us with the GoFundMe page we were still in the hospital with Tori, pre-Krabbe diagnosis. She set it up to cover both medical and living expenses that we might incur because of Tori’s situation. We had no idea what we were facing or how much it was all going to cost. To say that we were blown away by the support that came in is an understatement!

We would have been more than happy with the original goal she set of $5,000, which would have covered our deductible and out-of-pocket requirements for our insurance; but you kept giving and giving, and eventually over $19,000 was raised. That doesn’t include the cash, checks, and gift cards that were sent directly to us, either!

You may have been wondering how have we spent the money, so we want to share with you that we have done so very carefully. This probably doesn’t include everything because my memory has been affected by a lack of sleep, but it gives you an idea! We promise that none of it has been used frivolously or carelessly, and all has been for Tori’s benefit.

Because of your generosity, we…

  • Filled up our HSA (health savings account) as much as was allowed legally in order to pay medical bills;
  • Purchased a deep freezer to hold Tori’s breastmilk;
  • Purchased essential oils to aid in keeping Tori (and us) healthy, as well as to help with pain relief for her;
  • Purchased an inexpensive laptop ($300) for hospital stays and traveling so that we could update the blog and communicate properly (we discovered how difficult it was to only use our phones while we were in the hospital for five days with her in February);
  • Purchased supplies and ordered photos to create her Project Life albums so that her story is fully recorded in words and photos;
  • Reduced Brennan’s work week from five days a week to four days so that he can be home with Tori three full days a week…
  • Started making memories with Tori off of her “Bucket List“;
  • Paid for our stays at the Ronald McDonald House and other expenses to get us to and from Pittsburgh for her appointments;
  • Took Tori to California to see Lesa’s side of the family, who aren’t able to travel to see her in Pennsylvania;
  • Helped another Krabbe family pay for a piece of equipment they desperately needed and insurance was fighting with them over;
  • Traveled to the Hunter’s Hope Symposium where we received much needed encouragement and knowledge;
  • And more than I can even remember, I’m sure…

All of that listed above amounts to less than $10,000.

On top of this, you all voted diligently and we won $1,000 in free gas from Exxon! This is going to last us for a very long time and we were able to take gasoline out of our budget! Huge blessing!

As you can see, YOU have been God’s hands and feet to us, and through you He has taken care of some significant needs during this time. This has eased some of burden we carry in this journey with Tori and has allowed us to have much-needed time together as a family. Priceless.


We have been so fortunate to have amazing primary insurance that has covered EVERYTHING for us. We do not take this for granted or even expect it to continue, given the issues that so many families have shared with us.

We had kept most of the money in savings in order to pay for things we assumed that insurance wouldn’t cover, but, thus far, Brennan’s insurance has covered all of her equipment, even the $5,300 adaptive stroller!

But, once we got the stroller we realized that we had a significant problem: it wasn’t going to fit in either of our cars.

Her stroller, which provides comfort and support so that she can travel more comfortably, would not be able to leave the house/neighborhood.

We realized that a different vehicle would be required, so we started looking, knowing that we didn’t have the money saved up to pay for it (we follow Dave Ramsey and don’t believe in financing anything 🙂 ), nor could we afford a car payment right now.

So, after seeking counsel from trusted friends and family, and after prayer, we decided that this was the best possible use of the Team Tori funds that we had left. After all, what good is all of this equipment if we can’t take Tori out of the house?

We knew our budget of $14,500 was low for a minivan, but we started looking anyway. There were three used minivans on the market at local dealerships, all with low mileage and unbelievably low prices. We consulted with a friend who is a car expert and he advised us to pursue one of the three – the same one we loved!

So, we went to the dealership, test drove the one van (2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew) we loved the most (and Tori slept through the entire test drive because she was so comfortable in it!); they wanted more than we had for it, but Brennan did an amazing job of negotiating and talked them down to exactly what we had left in the Team Tori fund!

IMG_8031

We paid for the van in cash and walked away SO excited, knowing that Tori would now be SO much more comfortable in “her” van, and knowing that we didn’t have to be afraid to take her out of the house as much anymore.

Tori always used to cry in the car…she rarely cries in the van now. It is obvious that the smoother ride has made a difference for her.

We absolutely believe that the purchase of the van was a God-ordained thing! From the timing to the amazing van we found for just the amount of money that we had, to the fact that it can not only store all of Tori’s equipment with room to spare AND she is comfortable, it has been one of the greatest blessings of our lives.

The fund has been building back up thanks to so many donations toward her “Bucket List” – and that is exactly what those funds will be used for. Experiences, memories, joy. Designated funds are used as they are designated.

We are very diligent with these generous gifts that you have given to us and we do not take your generosity for granted. Every gift that we have received has left us in awe and wonder of God’s love – and your love – for Tori and for us, that even in the middle of the worst storm of our lives, He is there, calming the waves and making a way for us to focus on the important things, like loving Tori with our whole hearts.

So, THANK YOU. Thank you for supporting us, for organizing fundraisers, for designing t-shirts and bracelets and Jamberry wraps; for bringing us meals, for pumping breastmilk so that Tori has nourishment; for sending Tori cards and gifts (and giraffes), and for allowing the three of us to have so much cherished time together; thank you for spreading awareness about Krabbe and leukodystrophies, for contacting your legislators about Newborn Screening legislation.

Most importantly, thank you for continuing to pray for Tori and for us. We know that God hears our prayers, and even if He chooses to answer them in a way that we don’t like, we will still praise Him and serve Him, because we know that He is good, loving, and kind.

Thank you doesn’t seem like enough. This long post doesn’t seem like enough. Know that we are so blessed by each and every one of you who follow Tori’s story. Your encouragement and prayers get us through each day ❤

Book Review: Smart Money Smart Kids

Smart Money Smart Kids is a MUST read for any parent who wants to ensure that their children learn from an early age that money is a responsibility to be taken seriously.

It’s no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Dave Ramsey’s principles – they have changed our financial outlook forever.  So, when I saw that he and his daughter, Rachel, were writing a book about how to instill financial wisdom within children, I was immediately excited. Even though we have a few years before we’ll be teaching our not-yet-born daughter about money, it’s really important to start learning these lessons now so that we can implement them later with ease.

Dave and Rachel have broken down important concepts – such as budgeting, college, working hard, etc. – into “easy to reference later” chapters so that it’s not only something to learn from now, but a book you can reference again and again as you parent your children into adulthood.

In this culture of credit, debt, and impulsive spending, it is SO vital that we teach our children to save, give, and to WORK. Otherwise, they will fall into the same traps that we did – student loan debt, car payments, credit cards.

I long for our children to experience the freedom that we are working so hard now as adults to achieve! We are ready to break the chains of debt in our family tree and to teach our children to “live like no one else” – which will change the legacy of our family forever. This book has prepared us well for what lies ahead and has been a great reminder that we must also LIVE OUT these concepts if we want our children to embrace them.

I will blog about specific concepts later – but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share this book with you!

To pre-order the book AND receive extra material, click here! It will be released on April 22, 2014.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Day Twenty-Five: I’m Thankful For…Dave Ramsey.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. :)

In January 2009, my church offered a class called “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey. I had never heard of Dave, but I was in desperate need of financial peace. I had a lot of debt (both credit cards and student loans), I didn’t budget, and I was always uneasy when it came to money matters.

I can truly say that this class changed my life. 

Throughout the thirteen weeks of this class, we learned about the importance of having an emergency fund of at least $1,000, how to budget, how to prioritize our debts to pay them off in what Dave calls a “Debt Snowball” (smallest to largest debts), what types of insurance we should have, how to save for retirement wisely, and many other practical tips.

We learned that it’s important to “Live like no one else (meaning to make sacrifices now) so that later you can live like no one else (debt free and able to do whatever you want!).” This simple phrase makes it easier to sacrifice things that we may want right now for the long-term goal of being debt-free.

My favorite lesson was the last one, the one that focused on giving. Dave emphasized that the greatest thing about being debt-free is the ability to “give like no one else” because you don’t owe anyone anything. 

Since going through FPU, our financial outlook has changed completely:

  • We LOVE budgeting and the peace that it brings. Seriously. We tell our money where to go – we don’t wonder where it went.
  • We have NO credit card debt (paid off our last one in August 2012) AND no credit cards!
  • We were able to buy a house last year.
  • We are hoping to be completely debt-free in a couple of years (if we sell our house, we can pay off our student loans with the profit).
  • We give so much more than we did before, and it is such a blessing to be able to do so.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to take one of Dave’s classes or read his books, please do so TODAY. He’s having a huge sale from now until Christmas (I believe) and most of his books are drastically discounted. It will be the best investment in your financial future that you have ever made!