Sunday, December 21, 2014

War on Debt - Ask God to Open Your Eyes

Since starting this War on Debt, God has really been opening our eyes to some foolish things we do with our money.

The funny thing is, we've been completely debt free before, but lost our brains and became slaves again and so here we are, starting all over.

Yet, this time, things feel different and I'm pretty sure it's because our core desire is to please God with what we're doing this time.

Since attending the Dani Johnson class and processing her way of saying things, it's become clear to us that we have not been honoring the Lord with what he's entrusted to us.

We've always heard this preached, but sometimes those messages just sound so overdone and cliche', don't you think?

Sometimes it takes hearing from a regular person, speaking a normal language, to have it really sink in, that every penny we have has been allowed into our lives, by God!    So, it only makes sense that we are doing good things with it and not squandering it all over the place!

No, it's not a sin to eat out.   No, it's not a sin to buy some clothes or a car or go to the movies or treat yourself to ice cream.

However, if the majority of your money is spent indulging yourself and you have nothing left over to bless others, help someone, or pay the people you owe, then that's where you're falling into the trap of being a bad steward.

Success in this area starts with the desire to please God with your finances.   Just that one step of obedient thinking will change the way you look at your money and the decisions you're making day to day.

If you are in debt, I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord to help you change the way you see what He's entrusted you with, and ask Him to open your eyes to ways that you can cut back, pay down, and get rid of the shackles of debt.

It is not God's desire for your resources to be tied up and unable to be used!   It is his desire for you to have your needs met and for you to be able to then bless others and use your money for good.

Ask Him and He will show you great and mighty things.......

Thursday, December 18, 2014

War On Debt - Just Start!

If you're anything like me, then you normally wouldn't just start something in the middle of the week or month.   You would rationalize that it needed to be started either on a Monday, at the beginning of the next month, or at least on the next pay period.   (I do the same with diets!)

But, after attending the War On Debt class on TUESDAY, I couldn't wait to get started with at least some small changes, so I didn't rationalize anything......I just jumped in and got started!

In the previous post I mentioned that David and I instantly decided we would give up books and car washes for the next year.   Doesn't sound like much, but it's a start!

Then I did a little thinking about cutting out satellite, because although we enjoy a lot of shows on the cable channels, most of the shows we watch on a regular basis, come on the local channels.   However, I remembered that the only way to record shows when we're not home to see them, is through the DVR, which is through the satellite company.

 So, although I didn't cut out satellite altogether, I did go online and discovered the cheapest package they had, which still gave us some of the great channels we normally watch.   I changed our package selection and instantly saved us about $35.00 a month!

After that, I got kind of brave, and I approached David about selling his truck (paid for), and putting that money toward my suburban, which we are still financing.   I really hated to bring this up, because it's been a very stressful week and you know.....timing can be everything!

But, I was shocked and very surprised when he said YES to my question of "would he be willing....." and so seems we will be selling one vehicle, cutting down our debt, and getting rid of the insurance and maintenance on a truck that literally just sits in the driveway most of the time!

So......the whole point of this post is......just jump in and get started!

You don't have to wait until Monday or January 1st or the moon aligns with the .........whatever it's supposed to align with!

Just look at your expenses (justified and not) and cut something, lower something, sell something.....whatever you can do to get started.

You will be motivated by these small victories and want to keep going.


What are you waiting for?


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

War On Debt - The Beginning

So December seems like a strange time to start thinking about cutting debt and balancing the budget.....especially 8 days before Christmas!   However, I guess it's a good time to be preparing the mind for what's coming afterwards, which will be a new beginning, a new year, a new chance to get a better handle on all things MONEY!

I have recently been introduced to a lady named Dani Johnson and she motivates like no one I've ever heard!

Practical, sound advice on how to quit making excuses for your life, your bad habits, and of course, your over spending and bad stewardship of the money God has trusted you with.   These are the things she talks about and just listening to her for a week now, I want to change so many things about my life!

But, I'll stick to the budgeting for now :)

David and I attended a class titled War On Debt last night and in one hour's time, were motivated to cut some FAT from our budget.

FAT is listed as anything that is not a necessity, which on average, we all have about $450 per month in our current budgets.

If you have debt and FAT in your budget, then you need to cut the FAT and pay the debt, so you will no longer be a slave to stuff.

This sounds so basic and it is, but sometimes it takes someone saying it a different way, in order for it to make sense.

I mean, we have been following Dave Ramsey's advice for years (and only half way practicing it) and honestly, sometimes it seems like there are so many rules that you get bogged down within the system.

But, hearing it from a fresh perspective, cutting FAT seems very doable and it makes sense.

For instance, I have a book habit.   Anyone share that vice with me?

It's nothing to see a new book on Amazon or when I walk into a store, and just plop down money for a new book.   The bad part is that I have no less than 20 unread books sitting around right now, that I need to read!   Magazines are a bad habit too.

And then....there's David's little treat of running his car through a car wash or having it hand washed by someone else, rather than taking an hour each week to do it himself.

These little things add up!

I'm guessing that we will save about $350 a year, just by cutting out books and car washes!

So, for 2015, he and I have agreed to cut these two things (FAT) from our spending and use that money to pay down debt.

Another area I will be cutting back on is food.

Dani Johnson's advice about food is simple:

*Quit eating out
*Eat everything from your pantry and fridge/freezer before you go back to the store.

We all have an excess food habit!

We throw food away, we buy multiple boxes of stuff, then we go shopping again, before we have even finished what we bought last week!

And, it's all because........we have the money!

I'm telling you.....there is so much practical wisdom in her teachings that YOU really should check out her website.   She has free podcasts there and you can glean some great tips, just from listening to her while you're cleaning or cooking or folding clothes.  

It will be worth your time and effort and you may even lose some FAT along the way!

After Christmas, we are planning on making some bigger changes within our budget and I'll be sharing them here, just in case you need some motivation.

So, stay tuned and in the meantime.....

Don't pull into that Starbucks and stay out of the book store!

Monday, December 15, 2014

David's Birthday and New Beginnings!

One of the sweetest blessings of 2014 is the fact that I now have a daughter (in-love).

I've lived in this house of boys for way too long and I finally have a beautiful girl to spoil and buy for and discuss girl things with and I'm loving it!

Alex and Ted came home for David's 51st birthday and we grilled lunch, had coffee and cake and in honor of David, we watched his favorite episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.  

We had a great day!

Last year, for his 50th, I had everyone bring a pair of reading glasses, of which he now has about 1 pair left (out of about 10)!

He asked me last night if we're "old" now.   I'm thinking his birthday might have had a slight impact on him this year.   I also caught him listening to some old voicemails he had from his dad.  

Sometimes birthdays make you happy and sometimes you're just ready to move on to the next day.  It's funny how the heart works.

But, all in all, we had our big kids there, our teen, and David's mom, good food, our pets, each other and about 300 birthday wishes on Facebook, so I'd say it was a good birthday.

Now, today marks the opening of his new office and a really busy week with music gigs at about 8 different nursing and retirement facilities!

Let the festivities begin!

I think it's going to be a great closing to a very good year.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2014

If I Had A Platform

Having finished Restless by Jennie Allen and moving on to her book Anything, I’ve been walking around just trying to figure out what God wants me to do next.

The past few weeks, my spirit has been telling me to find the joy and satisfaction in my home once again.   Just be normal (for me).  Be a mom and a wife and pay attention – close attention.

So, it’s Monday – just a normal start to a normal week – and I’m driving home from the grocery store and I hear it……that whisper that I’ve come to love.   That whisper that pierces my body and heads straight for my heart, where God lives.   Where that piece of me lives, that longs to be connected to Him, day and night.   That piece called my soul, where I feel and breathe and exist to please him.

And, right there in the car, I start hearing him tell me what my platform is.

Words start coming out of my mouth and the message is the same as it always has been, for 20 plus years.

It’s the message I long to share with other moms.   The message that God has had to remind me of, numerous times over the past two decades.

You’re enough.

I’m enough.

Tears slip out of my eyes as I’m driving and words are coming out of my mouth.

I must look pretty interesting to those driving next to me on the highway.    But, I don’t care.   For once,

I truly don’t care, because God is speaking and I am listening and I am hearing him loud and clear.

You’re enough.

I’m enough.

For years now, that’s what I’ve told other women……..You’re enough.

Your family is your ministry.   It’s valid.  It’s worthy.   Don’t look elsewhere.   Just be present and believe that what you’re doing is valuable.

But, somewhere along the line, I started believing the lie too.    That I’m not enough.   That this…THIS…isn’t enough.

I’m a Christian so I have to be busy doing the things counted worthy among the church.

I have to serve outside the home.   Give, do, teach, feed, minister, sing, pray and be present.

But, am I not already doing those things… my home?   In my family? For my friends and neighbors and every chance I get, to help in some way?

My heart literally aches for those young moms who are being made to feel like it’s not enough.   How I want to gather them ALL up in one big room and preach it from the stage…..”YES!  It IS enough!  YOU are enough!”

I want to shout at the church that not everyone is called to go to Africa!  Not everyone is called to adopt!  Not everyone can preach in a stadium or sell out a concert.

No.  Some are called to raise the next great preacher or musician or speaker or teacher.

Some are doing good to get out of bed the next day, after rocking a sick baby all night.

Some are using every bit of strength they have, to make sure their husband has a hot meal on the table at night.

Some women are working two jobs to keep food in the pantry and some are barely making the money stretch to the next pay day.

But, the church is saying “You must do more!”

And, their hearts are breaking because they literally don’t know where it will come from.

If I could say anything to these women, it would be…….

You’re enough.

What you’re doing is enough.

God sees your heart.   He sees you on your knees, praying for your prodigal to come home.

He sees you stretching that meal farther, so you can invite your lonely neighbor to the table.

He sees you sitting with that young mom at lunch, pouring God’s love into her, so her marriage won’t fail.

Not everyone is called to serve in the limelight.

Some are called to live out their faith in everyday moments and their offerings are just as big, just as precious, just as valid.

So please, church…..let’s quit condemning one another for what we aren't doing and start encouraging one another for what we are getting done!

Let’s stop pulling young moms away from their children and homes and start building up the families once again.

Quit dividing parents from kids; keeping them so busy with stuff, that we drift apart, even within the church.

Let’s start rooting for one another in unity and hope and love and encouragement!

Let’s build each other up and appreciate each person for where God has them.

Guilty service doesn’t endear; it divides.   It chases away those who fear they will never measure up.

Let’s quit doing that to one another.

That's what I would say........

if I had a platform.

The Foot of the Cross

There are so many Christian sayings that you pick up as you go to church and spend time in Christian circles.   Cliche' is an understatement when it comes to some of the things we say to one another and to total strangers.

Some of these sayings almost make you numb to the true meaning behind them, such as "laying something at the foot of the cross." 

What does that even mean?

We can't physically lay anything there.   And, if we did, what's the significance of it anyway?

Another saying would be "Jesus died for your sins."    It's the heart of the gospel, but what does it actually mean to a regular person, struggling in this world?

I'm sure they are trying to put the time frame together in their minds and wondering how Jesus knew what they would be doing 2000 years later.

Of course, these things are usually explained through reading the Bible or going to church and hearing a good message.   But, the full meaning never really sinks in until you have a true, personal encounter with the Lord.

Recently I've had one of these sayings come alive for me and it was amazing and beautiful and freeing and so real and I know it was from God.

I needed to lay down an attitude.

I needed to lay down something that was keeping me in chains.

I needed to lay down my sin.

There's no way to dance around it or make it look pretty.   It was sin.   Plain and simple.

I was praying for the Lord to change my heart and work in this situation and, as He has so many times in my relationship with him, he opened my eyes in the most gentle of ways and allowed me to truly see the action of laying down my sin at the foot of the cross.

This wasn't just a little cliche' going on in my head.

It was a literal vision of seeing Christ hanging there on the cross and me walking up to that cross with my sin in my hand, laying it down in the pile at the foot and knowing in that moment that YES, he was hanging there for my sin, as well as the rest of the world's.

He was on that cross for a reason and I had been holding on to one of those reasons for way too long!

At that moment I realized that by laying down my sin and really connecting it to Christ being on the cross, it had such significance and weight, that with all the power and prayer I can possibly muster, I will never pick it back up again.   And, I know it's my choice.

I know that I can choose to block that vision from my mind, harden my heart and walk over and pick up my sin out of the pile and nurture it and feed it and grow it once again in my life, but it would be much harder this time.   At least I hope so.

Christ was on that cross for each one of my sins, past, present and future, and the more I can let go and place them there, never to pick them back up, the more I honor him and acknowledge what he did for me.

Sin is real.
Christ is real.
What he did for me was real.

And he did it for you too.

If you still think of the cross in a far off, distant way - ask the Lord to make it real to you and to show you what you need to lay down at the foot.   It will change the way you look at the sin in your life and it will give you a deeper appreciation for what Christ did for you.

Then walk away and leave it all there, never to be picked up again.

Only then are you truly free.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Give God The Weeds

As I looked out at the horse pasture this afternoon, it reminded me of God's word and his lesson on the topic of soil (found in Mark 4:3-20).

For the past year or more, this field has been an eyesore to say the least.   Although it was producing a fair amount of grass for the horses, it also had several weed patches that we couldn't get rid of, due to some bad seed we bought, that was full of junk.

No matter how many times David would mow it down, the weeds would come back and not even the horses would touch them (and they eat anything)!

The only way to get rid of the weeds was for David to completely till up the soil, discard the weeds and start all over with some quality seed.

This is so much like our lives!   We buy expensive "junk".   We invest in things that look good on the outside, but it produces nothing but weeds in our life.    We walk around the weeds, thinking they will die or go away.   Maybe we even attempt to destroy them now and then, but they come back and we feel defeated.

Sometimes we ask for God's help - to take the junk out of our lives, because we realize that we are not capable of ridding our soil of the weeds that have grown there.

As I was walking outside today, looking at this soil, I realized that God only does this one way and that's by tilling up the bad and replacing it with the good.

In other words, you can't just mow down the weeds and plant new seed.   The weeds have to be pulled up by the roots and completely cast aside or you will just be mixing the bad in with the good.

The same goes for the weeds in our lives.

We fill our lives with bad habits, wrong choices, sorry attitudes, sin and lies, and then we try to just replace all of that with a trip to church on Sunday or a 10 minute prayer each week.   But, that's not enough.

We have to allow God to pull those things out of our lives that have no value.   That's the only way he can plant new seed and have it produce good fruit.

Sometimes he removes people.  Sometimes he removes jobs or career paths.  Sometimes he even removes ministry opportunities that have begun to choke out the better direction for your life.

With sin and wrong choices, he will remove you from situations that tempt you or he will allow conviction to accompany you until you "get" it.  Sometimes he will allow you to hit the lowest point of your life, so he can get your attention.

God doesn't want us to remain among the weeds.   He wants us sowing good seed on fertile soil and there are sure steps for getting there.

Invest your time, talent, money, resources, and soul into things that matter; things that are virtuous, good, righteous and admirable.

Everything you invest in has a value and an end product.

If you invest your mind into filthy movies, books, music or entertainment - you're going to get a mind that is bent in that direction.

If you invest your time into friends that lie, steal, cheat, or live immorally, you're going to reap trouble and persecution.

If you invest in affairs, pornography and immoral relationships, you'll get brokenness and guilt, shame and isolation.  

And, likewise, if you only invest in fake religion, you're going to get fake faith, which again - will only produce weeds to grow up around your heart.

God wants to rid your life of the junk, the weeds and the bad soil and he wants to replace it with fertile ground and rich seed that will produce an abundance of good in your life and for eternity.

The tilling is not fun.   In fact, the weeding process can be quite painful at times.   But, the end result will be worth the pain and in the end, your life will be rich with God's promises and his faithfulness.

Give God the weeds in your life and He will replace them with the riches of his kingdom.  

Blessings to you, my friend.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Taking A Stand - Standing Up - Whatever You Want To Call It - It's Not Fun!

I've always been one of those who say that people should stand up for what they believe.   On most days, that comes pretty easily.   But, eventually one will come face to face with a real life situation that calls for you to actually have to take a step forward and put your money where your mouth has been and let me tell's not fun!

I recently was faced with this kind of situation, in which I had a fork in the road, so to speak.   I could either choose the easy path, which would mean being a part of something I didn't agree with or taking the hard route and speaking out against what I felt was wrong.    I chose to speak up.

Let me just say that speaking up sounds easy when you're not really doing it!  Or when you're blabbing your opinions all over social media and you're not actually one on one with a real human.   But, having to actually confront someone over something that you feel is wrong, is so hard!

First off, in this day and time, for a Christian to speak out against a public agenda, means instant judgement from all the "tolerant" who claim to be tolerant, but really aren't.      It's a tough thing to do because, no matter how you say it, how you word it, how careful you try to defend your beliefs, you know you're going to get slammed for what you're saying.  

But, that doesn't change the fact that you have to stand up.

I've recently watched a friend have to stand up against her own child, for behavior that completely went against their beliefs.   She didn't know how the world would handle it, because she had to make hard choices.   But, who would she be, had she preached her beliefs all her life and then caved when actually faced with right or wrong?

Eventually life will come up against you and you have to make that decision to believe in yourself enough or go with the flow.

If you're in this life for the popularity, then don't say you believe in hard things, because eventually you will be forced to prove it and it will not be easy.

My advice - be true to what you know to be true.  

You won't win the popularity award, but you will still have your self respect.

And that's worth fighting for.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

We All Need A Friend Like This

There's something about meeting with a friend that really refreshes your heart.

Whether it's the connection over kids, clothes, weight, husbands, marriage or just being able to share emotions like a girl.   No matter what the topic, it does a woman good!

I love that the Lord sees fit to give us different friends, with different purposes.

Have you ever noticed?

Some friends are fun.   They are your go-to friends when you want to just have a good time.   You might not necessarily get deep, but you're refreshed and filled up in a way that feels lighthearted.

We all need a friend like this. 

Then you have those that you connect with on a personal level.   You basically could finish each other's sentences and thoughts and you laugh at how much alike you are.   You respect one another and help one another work through life and all it's issues.  You count on the council of her and know that she will steer you in a good direction.

We all need a friend like this.

There is also the spiritual friend.   You connect because of your beliefs and your conversations can go places that the others don't.  You're able to share your heart at a different level and often you pray together and for one another and it's nothing to say "Pray for me" on a regular basis and know that it will happen.

We all need a friend like this.

The truth is, we need all of these women!

They meet our needs at different levels and we meet theirs and it's a beautiful thing called friendship.

So if you're feeling lonely today, pray and ask God to bring you a friend or pray to reconnect with an old one.  And once he does, nurture that friendship!  Water it, till it, pay attention to it and watch it grow!

Make it happen, as much as it depends on you!

We all need friends.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How Do You Study God's Word?

I love the little perks you get when you blog (and sign up for little perks)!

Last week I was surprised with a little gift from Inscribed Bible Studies - just because I said I would love to try out their latest publications.

When the box arrived, I was so thrilled to open it and find a cute burlap bag with their logo and tucked inside - three new Bible studies!  (You can always get my attention with a cute bag!)

What a cute package!

Thank you, Inscribed!

I've always done Bible Studies to help myself study scripture.   I prefer the life application of studying certain topics, rather than just reading through the Bible on my own.

Of course, I've always been a pen and paper kind of girl, plus I'm visual, so the whole reading and writing thing helps to solidify the messages in my head, more than just simply reading or listening does.

Anyhow.......I'm excited to read these new authors and glean from their wisdom and as I do, I will certainly share their messages with you!

What about you?

Do you use Bible Study books or are you a straight through the Bible kind of person?

Either way - reading God's word is what matters!

Read it, apply it, live it!

It's the only way to live life to the fullest!  I promise you that!