I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. It always fascinates me how different our lives can be in so many ways yet in other ways we are very much the same. I'd like to turn today's Wordless Wednesday into Wednesday's Wisdom and let you have a little peak into the life of my friend Shaunna. She inspires me with her creativity and perseverance through some of life's toughest storms. I hope her story will speak to you like it has spoken to me.
Living the Abundant Lifestyle - by Shaunna Wood
Many people, it seems, are born with a frugal bone, while others come to a point in their lives where they must adopt frugality out of necessity. I guess I have been in both places. I was an only child. Though I never lacked for anything, I was far from spoiled. I was raised by my grandmother, and she had weathered many a hard time during the Depression era. She had a way of making it sound like a game to see how little her family required to live a seemingly normal life.
Throughout college, my frugalness became more like an act of deprivation since I was responsible for paying my own schooling. Sometimes I would take my frugal addiction to the extreme by skipping meals or taking ketchup packs from the cafeteria, and mixing them with salt and warm water to make a kind of soup!
I married a man whose financial habits were quite the opposite of my own. He loved to go out to eat at nice restaurants, and buy brand new clothes, and other items. Soon, we found that we had run through all our savings and were faced with consumer debt. We were also faced with medical debt since my husband was born with heart problems. When I became pregnant with our first child, we knew we needed to make a change. We could no longer continue to live in debt with a child on the way. We took all our bills to Consumer Credit Council. They helped us to make out a meager budget, and worked with our creditors to find a way for us to pay our debt off in a few years.
During that time, we committed to doing anything necessary to be free from debt. I sold Avon as a side job, and my husband took a third job throwing newspapers. The newspaper job was especially difficult as he had to work every single day in all kinds of weather. The only perks to the job, outside of the extra money was that during that time I discovered how to really use coupons to my advantage. Our local paper also contained a daily coupon called a “page 2 payback.” The coupon was guaranteed to be over the value of the newspaper itself. I could enjoy treats as extravagant as free appetizers in restaurants, or a free movie! I also learned about free local and area events in the newspaper. We got to keep all the extra newspapers that were left over from my husband’s route, and when we didn’t have any left over, I discovered a large recycling bin outside of the newspaper office where I could rummage through coupons to my heart’s content.
As our daughter grew, we decided to sell one of our vehicles. We lived in a centralized part of the city and I took our daughter most everywhere in her little red wagon. Happily, the day came when I was able to take her in that little wagon to hand the final payment over to the lady at Consumer Credit Council. We were finally debt free, with the exception of our home!
Our new financial freedom allowed us to make improvements on our home and even buy a used car with cash. We tried for several years to conceive a child. We began to look into adoption, but God had other plans for us. In the summer of 2001, I gave birth to our second daughter. After months of sleepless nights we took our daughter to the pediatrician. She cried almost constantly. She was dismissed as colicky, or temperamental. When she began to crawl, she dragged her leg behind her. Her doctor seemed unconcerned saying that many children would drag a leg for security or stability. We were soon to discover that there was something very wrong. She would give a loud scream of pain and suddenly her entire hip bone would rotate and give a sickening sound like a bone breaking. After exhausting efforts with many doctors, she was referred to Shriners Hospital, and there we discovered she had a rare hip problem.
We spent the next weeks and months at Shriners with our daughter. Although Shriners did have housing, it was only for one parent. We were committed to supporting one another in every way and we chose to stay together as a family during our hospital trips. After hotel, food, and other traveling costs, we were soon thousands of dollars in debt.
During this difficult time we dealt with rudeness, stares, and comments as our daughter was either body casted or braced. We were unable to go to a store without special equipment since her legs wouldn’t fit into a shopping cart, or chair.
It was during this time that God began to move mightily in our life. He began to put people in our path that were able to support us, and He also gave us the opportunity to share our experiences with others that were going through difficult times. God began to show us how we could make our way out of debt by putting us in the right place at the right time at what seemed like divine appointment. He even began to fine tune my eyes and ears to opportunities for wealth, deals, freebies and favor. I began to enter and win contests, sometimes even big ones! I was able to find deals nearly everywhere.
Once during Christmas season, I walked into a CVS Pharmacy with a stack of carefully prepared coupons, and left the store with over $100 worth of merchandise that I had paid just over $1 for! My friends were amazed and hungry to hear more about how they could make the most of their money, like I had learned to do.
Above all, God placed a hunger in my heart for His presence and holiness. I began to share information on deals, and freebies, but God also wanted me to do an extensive study of the Scriptures concerning Biblical stewardship. After I felt comfortable with the information I gleaned from this study, I taught what I called an Abundant Lifestyle workshop at my church. The workshop was very popular, and a local radio station even gave attendees gift certificates for local merchants as door prizes.
As I share the information God places before me, and as I place Him first in my life, I see how abundant my life has become. As I studied the scriptures, I learned that frugality isn’t about deprivation. It’s about making the most of what I have been blessed with, and to be thankful for all things. As I am faithful with what God shares with me, I see the blessings in many lives, especially my own life, not as the world gives, but only as God can give. This last year, we discovered that my husband has liver disease contracted from the blood transfusions he received during his heart surgeries prior to the testing of blood. I am thankful for our trials, even the hard ones. Through these trials, we have seen the faithfulness of God, again and again. Although we have taken every challenge day by day, we see the hand of God again, supplying our needs, sometimes when we can’t see hope in the natural. When we surrender our lives to Him, we not only have life, we have it more abundantly.
Shaunna Wood lives in Southwest Missouri with her husband, 2 lovely daughters, and a beagle/basset named Dutch Boy. She teaches preschool, loves and mentors single mothers, and shares with others how to make the most of blessings God has given them.