Kelli Adame sat in a chair and looked around her empty office. The sun was shining through the windows. It was silent and still, which was exactly the opposite of what was going on in her heart and mind. The noise inside her head was at fever pitch. The pressure behind her eyes was a rising tide of tears that had yet to be set free. But it was coming.
There was nothing else left to do. She had nowhere else to turn. She had worked hard. She had studied ferociously. She had planned and strategized and sacrificed. But nothing worked. She reached for a pen and paper and began to write.
Please, God. Lead me out of this debt. With all my heart, Lord, I beg. Please help me. I am committed to healing. I will give it all over to you. I am committed to changing my behavior. I surrender…I surrender…
She lay down on the floor of her office, and cried a cry that started as a whimper, gathered to a sob and then became a desperate weeping.
Kelli was born to a firefighter and an executive. Money was plentiful inside the Adame home. While dad didn’t give two cents about money, mom, on the other hand, cared deeply about finances and held the purse strings. She had a very strong point of view about money that she shared with the family often: No. It’s too much. We can’t afford that. You don’t need it. Absolutely not.
She also believed money was the ultimate parenting tool. She controlled Kelli with money. She incentivized, punished and threatened with money. She judged what Kelli spent. She equated the happiness of her daughter’s future by how much she would earn. She bought nice things for Kelli—then used her generosity as leverage to get her to do what she wanted.
The concept of money hung over Kelli’s life like a raincloud that wouldn’t go away. She adapted a strange relationship to it, where just the mention of it created a dull ache.
When she left home for a private, Jesuit college near San Francisco, she earned a reputation for being a doer. She earned fantastic grades, was in a sorority, ran a marathon, was an R.A. with a penchant for putting on great socials, she interned and had a job. She out-hustled everybody. It felt great.
It was no secret that her future was bright. Everybody from her friends to her classmates to her professors knew it. Even she knew it.
When she graduated, she expected she might get a high-paying job in Silicon Valley. And she did. There were stock options and a bevy of perks. When she got her first check she could almost hear chains from her past dropping to the ground. She was being set free of her mom’s control. The money was hers, all hers—and no one was going to tell her what to do with it or how to feel about it.
It was a lot of money, but so what? There was more where that came from.
She got a great apartment and bought a cool car. It was a lot of money, but so what? There was more where that came from.
It was a golden age for Kelli—working all day then meeting up with friends around town and talking about their lives as a part of the upwardly mobile set.
Dressed to the nines, she met her friends for dinners at posh restaurants in San Francisco. There were concerts and shows and ballets. Anyone could see she had the world by the tail.
One day she went to her parking space to find her car had been repossessed. Kelli’s life was so busy she had forgotten to make payments on her loan. It was then that she did something that she hadn’t for quite some time. She checked her accounts. She was nearly out of money. She looked at her mail and counted the bills. Hmm, she thought. This is not good.
Suddenly, Kelli had a secret. Car repos and empty bank accounts were not the kinds of things that her friends needed to know about. She tried to rationalize it by telling herself that everybody carries debt. Besides, my credit cards are my savings account, she thought.
Kelli resumed her lifestyle without a plan to get herself out of this mess, other than to earn her way out. She didn’t balance her checkbook. She didn’t have a budget—in fact she didn’t even know what one was.
It was at this time that Kelli felt like God was calling her to change careers and become a therapist. She took out student loans and entered graduate school while still working. She also started saving here and there.
She was let go from her job as the economy grinded to a halt. When nothing materialized over the next few months, she began to see a bit of sympathy in her friends’ eyes. She didn’t like that.
She answered an ad on Craigslist from someone looking for a personal assistant. Charles, the man on the other end of the line was a really nice guy and everything seemed to check out. He sent her a check for $7,000 and she deposited it into her account. Just a few days later he asked her to wire the money to an art gallery in London. While at school, she got a call from her bank. The check she had received from Charles was a fraud and the money that she had wired to London was actually hers. She had been scammed out of all her savings and had overdrawn her account to the tune of $2,000.
The super smart girl who was going places was barely able to get home.
She went back inside the classroom and crumbled. Her classmates took up a collection to help with gas money. The super smart girl who was going places was barely able to get home.
But the bad times were just beginning. She lost her apartment. Her boyfriend who talked so positively about getting married decided to call it quits. And then she found out her sister was addicted to alcohol and dying.
Feeling certain that God had called her to be a therapist, she borrowed money from family and started her own counseling practice. But the pieces of her life kept crumbling. She was living off student loans, her practice wasn’t picking up steam and she had to move back into her parent’s house. She even had to borrow money from her mom and dad, who deeply resented her for it. “Why are you flailing so badly?” Her dad scolded her. She had thought her dad was her ally. It hurt so badly she promptly left the house.
She had gone from someone to be reckoned with to someone to be pitied. Her hands trembled. Every step she took felt like she was walking in someone else’s shoes. This can’t be my life, she thought. None of this makes any sense.
Kelli walked to her office unable to lift her shoulders to their normal position. She entered and closed the door and the walls seemed closer than usual. In a bit of a masochistic move, she decided to pull out what bank records she had and counted her debt. It was just the kind of news she didn’t need at that moment. She was $130,000 in the hole. There was no way she was going to pay it off. None. Zero. She wasn’t just broke. She was emotionally broken.
She stared at her phone. It just stared right back. She looked around her office and the silence was thick. She looked out her window to an empty street. She felt more alone than she had in entire her life. Money controlled her when she was young, but even after she thought she had shaken off its grip as an adult, it still had a strangle hold on her soul.
“I did everything right!” she screamed at God. “I was doing what you wanted with my life!”
That’s when she reached for a pen and paper and began to write.
Two agonizing months later, Kelli was at the Rock Church hoping that God might break the silence. She sat down and opened up a bulletin and suddenly, He did.
A small ad announced the beginning of a class called RFL. She learned Rock Financial Life is the Rock’s Finance Ministry dedicated to helping members handle money and possessions from a biblical perspective—and get out from money’s emotional hold.
Will they take me if I have no money or possessions? she wondered to herself.
When she walked into the first class, she felt like she had walked into a miracle. RFL’s Biblical perspective was radically changing people’s lives, setting people financially free, overturning old damaging habits, and slicing through what our culture and sinful hearts tell us about money.
With tears streaming down her face, she felt, for the first time in months, a lightness. She smiled and laughed and felt her heart quicken. RFL was turning traditional thought about finances on its head and she was finally filled with hope.
"If you embrace it...it will change everything about you. Not just your financial picture, but you as a person.”
“Now this may sound rudimentary,” the RFL leader said, “but I assure you, if you embrace it and build your life around it, it will change everything about you. Not just your financial picture, but you as a person.”
Kelli sat up.
“Your money is not yours. It’s God’s.” Kelli thought back to when she got her first paycheck and remembered her sense of ownership. You mean if I lose the ownership, I lose the pressure? she thought. That’s brilliant!
Normally, she would have hoarded what little she had considering her circumstances. But she set aside 10% of all she had—which was hardly enough for gas—and gave it to God. It felt odd, but finally, somewhere deep inside, it felt right.
She now has a new relationship with God, sparked by a letting go of her false sense of security that she used to find in money. She is now more in love with God because she fully believes that He alone is her security and money has nothing to do with it. She does not give out of obligation, in fact, she is now eager to give to God. And He has responded in ways Kelli could have never dreamed. He has given her a beautiful new place to live and a job that pays her more than she had ever earned—by a long shot.
“It says my name on the paycheck,” Kelli says. “But I know whose it really is.”
POSTSCRIPT: Kelli is currently the director of marketing for Military Home Programs, has repaid a large portion of her debt and is now an RFL facilitator.
To sign up for the one-day RFL Workshop on Saturday, October 13, click here.
For more information about the Rock Financial Life Ministry, click here »