Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lay Down Your Worries!

A few days ago I wrote about starting a new adventure and what that would entail for my writing here.  I want to continue writing here and sharing things that the Lord has placed on my heart.  It's what I feel I'm supposed to do with the lessons I'm learning every day.

On the other hand, I'm embarking on a new adventure; one that will surely take some time and attention.

David and I are starting a photography venue here on our little piece of land, called The White Front Porch!

It's just in the planning stages right now, but it's exciting and a little scary and yet, when I think about the possibilities, I squeal with excitement!

I've been busy working with a website designer, gathering ideas, advice, paperwork, business cards and doing other time consuming things that already have me convinced that owning your own business is a busy task!

But, I'm ready!

However, this post is not just a post to introduce you to our new business, it's more of a piece of encouragement for your near future.

David and I have been talking about worry lately.  Then our pastor touched on this in a roundabout way and so did our Bible study class, this morning.

When subjects come together in groups like these, I'm always going to give the glory to God for speaking to us in ways we can understand.

Folks......He wants us to lay down the worries!

He's got your future planned out!  He really does.

And, in my own life, the way that looks is this:

When I think I'm ready for something, I'm usually not.

When God thinks I'm ready for something, it starts flowing like a natural spring that won't stop!

I'm truly speaking from experience.

There have been times I've stepped out on my own to do something and it didn't take long for me to realize that God wasn't in it.

On the other hand, the things that seem to come out of nowhere and yet, come together in ways that I can't explain......those come from a different place and source; namely God.

I don't know if this is how it works for other people, but for me, I can look back and see the evidence.

We can worry about so many things and most of those things are out of our control.

We can fret over the future; wonder how God will provide, wonder if we'll have enough money, a long lasting job, good health, etc.   But, really, we are just worrying away today!

And, to get right down to it, worrying means we don't think God is big enough, strong enough, smart enough, equipped enough or more than enough to handle our situation!

But, the reality is.....God is more than enough!

He knows you need to eat, work, play, sleep, love, be loved, live and rest.

He's counted your days before you were even here and he's made the plans for your future.

You can trust Him!

Things may not happen when you think they should.  They may come quicker or they may come later, but they will come when God thinks you're ready.

So keep dreaming and praying and asking, but just hold everything loosely because ultimately, it's God who orders the steps.

And really.....

would you want it any other way?

Thank you all for reading and checking in and leaving comments and approaching me in church.

I'm so blessed to know that God takes mere words and touches someone's heart with them.

More blessed than you know.

Until Next Time......

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Wonder of Babies

So the other day this happened......Emmalyn came over for a little visit and I was transported back to a time when books were new and babies were my world.

That seems like a lifetime ago.

I guess I'm weird compared to others.  I don't feel like it was "just yesterday" with my boys.  I feel like it's been a very long time that I've spent savoring all the moments; all the memories.

I feel like I've lived every second of their lives and here we are, 23 years later, and I feel the fullness of motherhood.

Now, with this new season called Grandparenting, I get to live out new moments - moments of watching my child be an amazing daddy.  Watching my Daughter-in-love be the sweetest spot of comfort and security for her baby.

I get to sit back and watch as David plays the role of PawPaw and basically melts every time he looks at Emmy.  And how she smiles and thinks and takes in the wonder of it all.

As Uncle Collin (who's only 17) holds her like she's about to break and Emmy looks at him with curiosity, I can't help but think about how Collin was the baby and this is his first real chance to hold a little one this small.  He does better than he thinks and Emmy is just taking it all in.   Kids are always drawn to other kids and I see it when she looks at him.

I love the squirming when Banjo (the dog) tries to lick her toes.  She's not really fond of it but she doesn't cry.  She just looks annoyed, more than anything.

And, when we take her out to see the horses and she actually reaches out her hand, unafraid, yet not too sure, and PawPaw gently helps her pet one.  She honestly just thinks on every moment that's new to her.

We often say that we would love to know what she's thinking because it seems so deep, at times.

And then, I lay her on the floor and tell her that we're going to give Millie's arms a rest (that's me), and I turn on her daddy's song on the computer and I watch for a sign of recognition.

The song begins to play and she stops wiggling for 2 seconds - long enough to cock her head and really hear that voice coming through the speakers.

And then it happens.......she says, very softly......"Dada"......and my heart melts and I'm too excited to grab my camera because I'm fascinated.   Fascinated that this little 8 month old baby knows her daddy's voice, as much as she knows her mommy's comfort.

It's precious beyond words.

I finally snap out of it and grab my phone and start recording the moment and I manage to capture another sweet second, when you can see by the look on her face and the way she is listening that she knows that voice is his.

And, just like that, I'm heart deep in this baby and the wonder of all that a baby brings.

The newness of life, the thrill of wonder, the moments of discovery and then the sweet cries of wanting the only two people who really matter in her life - mommy and daddy.

And, at that time, I am happy to hand her back to her comforters, because I want her to feel that way about them......for all time.

When they take her in their arms and say her name and her cries stop and her body relaxes, my heart does the same because I know her world is going to be ok.

Babies are amazing and scary and delightful and so many things, wrapped up in such small packages.

Grandparenting is sweet.

I think I'm going to like this season of life.


This is Emmy at the end of her daddy's song.  You can see the look of recognition on her face.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Take A Moment to be Real

Earlier this week, I found myself experiencing one of those days where the world felt like everyone was passing me by.

Every blog I read seemed better established, every Pinterest board I clicked on seemed magazine ready, every Instagram photo seemed better quality.....basically every woman in the world seemed better than me, at whatever it was that she was doing that day.

And, I felt the sting of all my shortcomings and all the things I want to do, but haven't.

It's not a good place to be.

For some reason, I decided to share my feelings on Instagram, in a moment of just being real with myself and others.

Sometimes you just have to get the words out, in order to feel better.

To my sweet surprise, a friend came along and told me that she had been having those same "inner thoughts" that morning and proceeded to share a scripture with me that changed my way of thinking that day.

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

Her encouragement was two-fold.

First, that anyone "stopped by" to take time to minister to my heart, was such a blessing.  Secondly, I love that she pointed me back to God's word, which is healing in and of itself, so just hearing God's word shared, blessed my heart (as we say in the South).

And, the great thing about what she shared, was that it was exactly what I needed to hear.

You see, as I was scrolling past everyone else's pretty pictures that day, I was feeling like I was missing out, missing my mark, missing my dreams, missing something that I obviously didn't possess.

But, instead of spending time looking at what everyone else was doing or staging or sharing, I should have been thinking about all the things in my life that are worthy and focusing on all the blessings that have been poured into my own life, over the years.

I should have been looking through my own pictures, marveling at the people and places that God has blessed me with.

I should have walked around my own house, thankful for our story and how it all unfolded, right before our eyes.

I should have taken the time to sit with the Lord and let Him feed me and minister to me.

But, instead, I kept scrolling and looking and feeling all the things that the enemy wanted me to feel - defeat, unworthiness, envy - and my mind went to the exact place he wanted it to go.

There's an old hymn called "Count Your Blessings" (name them one by one) and it's so simple, yet so profound.

When we are feeling like everyone else has that "thing" that we don't have, we need to start counting our blessings and naming them one by one.

There is no way, you or I, could stay in a funk, if we are walking room to room, thanking the Lord for all we have and all he has done!  No way!

God gives so much and the evidence is all around us, we just have to choose to see it.

But, I don't want to miss the other factor in this story.....being a friend.

I'm so thankful my friend took a moment to write me a little note on Instagram, encouraging me and admitting that she had been struggling too.

Ladies, seriously.

Can we all just put down the camera, the selfies, the perfectly staged food, kids, clothes, decorations, and all the other perfectly arranged stuff and take some moments to be real?

We can't be so busy making our lives look Pinterest worthy and yet, neglect those people in our lives who need a word or a kind gesture or a hug or God's word in their day.

We can't keep posting our picture perfect lives (and we all know it's temporary), and keep passing by those who need a human that day.

We need to be more present with people and we need to get back to being real.

We need to spend less time in lala land and more time having lunch with a friend, talking to a neighbor, hosting a get-together or just walking around counting our blessings.

And, we need not neglect those moments when we are on social media and someone needs us.

Take time to be that voice.  Be that one person who reaches through the phone or the computer and ministers.

If you're not going to do it in person, at least be present where you are.

I'm so thankful my friend was real with me that day, because she gently prodded me back to reality, which is exactly where I needed to be and it was comforting to know I wasn't alone in my struggle.

But, the flip side to reaching out, is US being real with one another.

We seriously need to stop making our lives out to be some magazine cover!

We need to be truthful about our struggles.  Maybe not on social media, but at least talk to people about what we're going through.

I think one of the downfalls of our picture perfect society is making others feel like we're not struggling with something.

This couldn't be farther from the truth!

We are struggling!  We are in need of a friend!  We aren't all that our pictures show us to be!

We need to get back to just being real.

Real struggles, needing real friends, and needing to know that others are in the trenches too.

Basically, we need each other.

So, today......either be a friend or be real and admit you need a friend.

Either way.....just be real.

Until Next Time.....

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

One Last Thing About Budgeting.....

This post will close out my series on Budgeting, so I want to say a few things that I might have missed in the other posts.

First, I need to address something I failed to mention previously, which is the sharing of funds between husband and wife.

For years, David and I have struggled with how to use cash and have it on hand when we need it.

For awhile, I would go to the bank on payday, get out a wad of cash and keep it at home, hoping there wouldn't be some strange fire or emergency that would burn up all my cash.   It was a little unnerving to know that I had a paycheck's worth of money laying around or in my purse, traveling back and forth on the highways and byways.

Then, even though my wad of cash would be waiting and ready, inevitably my husband would think of the fact that we needed horse feed, after he was already in town without any cash.

He would either have to make a trip all the way home or wait until the next day to get the feed.  This wasn't the horses favorite method, as they like to eat their meals on time.  True story.

So, we tried different methods over the years and David was always the trooper, making extra trips to get cash and running around getting things at the hardware store, just hoping he would have enough money in his wallet to avoid embarrassment at the register.

Needless to say......this got old.   Plus, it's a hard way to keep track of who is spending what and how much cash is left....yada, yada, yada!

Eventually he started carrying the credit card and I'm happy to report, he's making a lot less trips back and forth these days.

He's been trained learned to put the receipts on my desk at the end of the day and the system works great, as long as we discuss our purchases ahead of time.

By using the "big envelope" and tallying our purchases each day, we are both aware of what's left in our budget.

Now, I want to share a few of my favorite blogs that have helped me with budgeting and playing this game of spending money (or not).

Jordan, over at FunCheaporFree is one of my favorites!  She is super creative in ways of being frugal, and has a great budgeting method that will work for anyone's situation.

Stacy, at Humorous Homemaking is frugal, but not afraid to try new things to spend money wisely.  Her husband is the financial expert and also contributes to the blog on occasion.

The Minimalist Mom is a blog I just discovered and has a great way of storytelling.  She offers budgeting advice, but also a great story about living in a small space and making it work.  I've really enjoyed getting to know her, through her writing.

Another blog I discovered recently belongs to Joanna and Johnny over at Our Freaking Budget.  First off, the name cracks me up, because don't we all feel that way toward our budget?  But, they have a great debt story (if there is such a thing) and I think, something to teach, which is what it's all about.

And, that does it folks!!

I'm happy to have this series completed and ready to move on to more inspiring posts!

As would be quite obvious, I am not a financial planner or expert, by any means.  However, I have some experience to offer, just because I'm always trying new things, so I wanted to pass on what works and what doesn't - at least for our family.

I hope some of what I've shared has inspired you to try a new thing or perfect an old thing.  Either way, it's all about being successful with your money.

Press on!

Until Next Time.....

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why I Still Use A Credit Card

This is the third post in my Budgeting Series and might be the most controversial, if any of them would be considered something to talk about.

Around the money topic, credit cards always seem to be a divisive subject and I will admit, I've been on both sides.

Do we need them?
Are they evil?
What would Dave say?
Oh, my!

There are many opinions and theories and I'm about to weigh in, as well.

Here's my two cents about credit cards......

They are a necessary evil.
They can be a useful tool.
They aren't the are (and me).

Over the years, we've had cards that ate our lunch.  We charged too much, got into debt and paid lots of interest.

The credit card was about as much to blame as McDonald's is, for making people fat.

But, even though we messed up and got in trouble with our card, we still found it necessary to have one, in order to function in today's society.

I'll give you an example.....

One summer we were going on vacation.  Ever the faithful patron of all church money programs, I was determined to use all cash on our trip; even having divided our daily portions into separate envelopes.  True story.

All was going well, until we stopped at the hotel to sleep.

When I informed the front desk clerk that I would be paying cash (from my trusty envelope), she quickly informed me that if we didn't have a credit card, we would be required to put a down payment of $250.00 in cash, for incidentals....just in case.

I was shocked, as you can imagine.  You see, I thought cash was king!  I thought you could not go wrong by offering to pay up front.  This is what I had been taught to believe, so why wasn't it working in my favor?

Of course, the alternative was to offer my bank DEBIT CARD and let them put some ridiculous amount of money on hold in our checking account, to which I firmly said NO.

So, we were left putting the room on our credit card and we actually got to sleep that night and nobody died of credit card use.

Over the years, I began to see the fault in believing that using a Debit card was "the same" as using a credit card.

First off, you do realize you are giving people ACCESS directly into your checking account, right?

So, using a credit card scares you, but people having access into your hard earned money account, doesn't?

Well, it should!

Because, as much as you've heard of credit cards being hacked, the same is happening with debit cards.  But, the difference is, one affects your credit line for about a day and the other affects your actual cash, until the bank can get it back!   Big difference!

Plus, I think debit cards have just as much potential to get you all jacked up, money wise, if you're not 100% diligent in writing down your purchases and immediately subtracting them from your account balance.

Again, the key word being discipline.

When I was using a debit card, I wrote down every single transaction in my checking ledger, just as if I had written a check (in the "old days").   This is so crucial to not failing in the money game!

But, let's get back to credit cards.

After having some major failures with credit cards and overspending, I began to catch on to how to properly use them.

Have I mentioned the word discipline?  I think so.

Using a card requires attention too, just like using your checking account, cash, or sticking to your budget.

The key is.....keeping your receipts, staying within your monthly budget, and keeping a daily or weekly tally on your spending.

As I talked about in the first few posts, I write down anything we've spent that day and subtract it from our monthly total.

This means, if you charge groceries or gas on your card, go to your envelope at the end of the day and subtract the total from your monthly (or bi-weekly) amount.   Now you know that this amount will go back to the credit card, when you send in your monthly payment.

If you are paying with most things on a card, leave your spending money in your checking account and once a week, twice monthly or once a month, pay your credit card for what's been charged up to that point.   This will keep you from putting it off till the next month and risking getting charged interest.   You don't want to pay interest!

The convenience of paying with a card is undeniable.   But, it's also the same thing that trips people up and gets them in trouble.

But, let's think back to the days of using paper checks.

A child's view of using a check book was "Hey, all you have to do is write a check!"  Adults would laugh and say something like "Yeah, if it only worked that way!"

Well, today's version of that, is a credit card.

Just because you have one, doesn't mean you have an endless amount of money to use.

It's just a tool.  But, it has limits.

Be smart.  Be wise.  Don't overspend.

Again, it goes back to discipline.

I know this is a controversial subject, but there are ways to use credit cards and not lose your salvation (haha).

Some people prefer having one place to send a payment each month.
Some people hate carrying cash.
Some people like the tracking that the card company does for you (spending categories).
Some people like the feel of swiping and being done.

Whatever your opinion is, the main thing to remember is that YOU are in charge of your money.

You control your budget.
You control your credit card.
You control your cash.

It's all about YOU and how you handle yourself and your money.

Until Next Time......

***I'm not even going to address rewards and promotional benefits of credit cards because you can find those topics all over the internet and anything I would say, has already been said.***

Monday, June 6, 2016

My Envelope System - It's Not What You Think

In the last post, I introduced you to the FOUR CATEGORIES I use to separate our monthly income.  

Today I'm showing you how I handle the LIVING EXPENSE/SPENDING category and my personal take on the ever popular, Envelope System.

The Envelope System has been around for years.  In fact, there have been variations on this method, dating back to the early 90's, where Larry Burkett taught us how to use ledger sheets for our different spending categories.

Now it's been preached and taught by many others and there are plenty of apps and programs that lend themselves to the same theory - that dividing your money into separate categories will tame your spending and help you control your budget.

I basically gave you my opinion on that yesterday.

Tried it multiple times.  Never worked.  I'm moving on.

So, today I'm going to tell you what works best for me and hopefully my rebellious nature will help you in some small way.

First, let me remind you of why having my money broken down into small categories doesn't work for me - I'm a big picture kind of person.

At the beginning of the month, I want to know where I'm going and how much I have to get me there and I don't want it in $25 increments, in 20 different envelopes.

Because here's the deal - life isn't that organized or predictable!

I've often wondered how all the "experts" have such perfect lives that seem to go the same, every month.   So much so, that putting $50 in an envelope marked "Auto Repair" will magically mean that nothing over $50 will ever go wrong with your car.  Or that because your "Gift" envelope says $30, you won't remember that all three of your nephews have birthdays in the month of May.  Oops!

And, then they tell you not to "borrow" from one envelope to the next, but instead, when the money is gone  - it's GONE!   So sad, too bad!

Guess your car will just have to run on 3 wheels and your sweet, little nephews are just out of luck.

I know I'm being sarcastic, but hopefully you get my point!

You can't manage your life in 20 different pieces, when all areas need to work together.

So, here's how I've chosen to handle the budget category of SPENDING, which is everything that's left over after you've paid the bills, saved for emergencies and payed on your debts for the month:

I use ONE BIG ENVELOPE for the entire month.

On the outside of the envelope (size 9x12), I write the total amount of spending money we have budgeted for the month.

Again, this will include groceries, gas, entertainment, pet supplies, baby items, and anything else that doesn't fall under your monthly bills, debt or savings accounts.

At the end of each day, I will total up any receipts we have from that day and subtract the total from the balance on the envelope.  I then staple that day's receipts together and put them in the envelope.

This means that any money spent - be it cash, credit card, online, ATM, check - whatever form or fashion - needs to be subtracted from the total balance, leaving you a clear picture of where you are at the end of the day.

For all the visual people in the crowd - you're welcome!

Not seeing a total every day, was one of the downfalls of having all my money dispersed in different directions.   I never had a clear picture of what I had left and what I had spent.

With one running total, I am able to know, with just the simplest glance, where we are in our spending.

And, though I am not writing down every single transaction, I have the receipts from each day at my fingertips, should I need to go back and track a certain category or at the end of the month, analyze where we need to cut back (such as eating out or Starbucks, etc.).

Now, as with any method, there will be the need for discipline.

Even though you see a big amount written at the top of your envelope, doesn't mean you go crazy for the first few weeks and live off nothing the rest of the month.

You have to have an idea of how that total divides up into weeks and make it your goal not to spend more than your weekly allotment.   This will ensure you will not have to eat popcorn for two weeks at the end of the month.

Depending on how you get paid, you might want to work your envelope with a total for each pay period or every week or whatever matches your situation.

We happen to have our bills arranged where all of our spending money can be accounted for at the beginning of the month, so I have my big total written on my envelope and keep a mental amount for each week.

This may not be as elaborate as the original envelope method and the experts might not agree, but it's the method that compliments the way my mind works, which means it's the best method for me and one that I will actually use.

Life changes all the time, so by following this method, even if your total amount changes, you can still manage your spending and know, at a glance, what you have left, on any given day.

And, the good news is - no more digging through multiple envelopes in the grocery store line, trying to scrounge up enough and borrowing from your "hair" envelope to buy dog food.

Whew! Glad those days are over!

Oh, and speaking of spending......

In the next post, I will address the subject of using cash or credit.

Warning!  This may cause an uproar! (or at least that's what we've been led to believe.)

Until Next Time......

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Budgeting Basics - You Only Need Four Categories!

It's been a while since I've written about money and honestly, I think I've deleted most of my previous posts about this topic for some reason that I can't remember.  But, never fear!  Budgeting is near and dear to my heart, so here I am, starting another category about money.

Maybe it's because I've been stuck in the house for days, while Texas went under water (again) or maybe it's because I just moved all my budgeting books out of my office, to replace them with something more inspiring (I miss them already) or it might be because we really stink at watching what we spend and it's time to get serious about that again.

Whatever the reason, I've spent the last three days working on and perfecting our budget and spending least for the next quarter.

Yep.  After all of the work I did, I'm holding myself to three months of this current plan, because we all know, it takes at least that long to make something work and work out the kinks.

But, that's the thing about budgets.....they are ever changing, according to your situation, your pay, unexpected emergencies and way too many Starbucks runs!

It's time to get serious!

So, over the next few days, I want to share some random things with you about budgeting.

I'm warning you, this will not be a "take a look at my budget" post, because I am way too private for that!   And besides being too private, my budget wouldn't work for your household anyway, so I'm just going to give you some little tips and hints that I learned along the way, in hopes you will go and make them work for you or adjust them to fit your needs.

So, here we go:

First off, you are either the budgeting nerd or you are the one who screams and runs at the mention of budgeting.  Either way - you both need to have a part in what's going on with the money in your life (to a certain extent).

I'm definitely the nerd in our home and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I love numbers.  I love playing with numbers and making them fit.  I love the challenge of taking a set amount of money and disbursing it on paper, checking off boxes and just the all around task of putting all the pieces together to make a good plan.

Yes, this excites me and yes, this constitutes me as the nerd in the family.

But, nevertheless, I need to let my husband in the least for certain parts......because he needs to know what's going on with our money, in case I get abducted by aliens or something.

So, while I don't take many cues from Dave Ramsey, I will accept the fact that we must hold a budget meeting around the dining room table once in a while and make sure we're on the same page (translated - I show my husband what I came up with).

Ok, in all fairness to me, David works on high dollar budgets at work and it's the last thing he wants to do when he gets home, so before you think I'm hiding this amazingly fun task from him, just know that he likes it that way and it works for us.   So by all means, do what works for you.

I'm going to break this into a few different posts, so they won't get too long and will mostly stay focused.

The first being the subject of:

How many categories you need to have in your budget.

I know that most books and websites will have umpteen categories for where your money needs to go.  This makes me want to hit someone.

Budgeting is hard enough without keeping track of 60 different amounts of money on a spreadsheet!


I will joyously report that there are actually bloggers out there now who have fallen off the crazy budgeting train and are going with a more slimline approach to categorizing your money.  Hallelujah!

They each have a little variation of categories, but here are the ones I've chosen to go with:

1. HOUSING - This includes anything you pay on a regular basis - mortgage, life insurance, utilities, subscriptions, cell phone, medical, tuition, auto insurance, charitable giving, etc.

You should have a budgeted amount for each item and the total sum will be what's allotted for your Housing category.

2. DEBT - This is includes any debt you are trying to zero out - auto loans, student loans, credit cards, bank loans, medical bills, money you owe your grandma.

In this category, you also need a repayment amount that is included, just like a bill.  Even if it's just an extra $25 a month, stick it in this category and pay it on the debt you want to pay off first.   This is how you actually PAY OFF DEBT!  If you aren't paying anything extra, you aren't really getting anywhere (well, eventually you will, but it will take much longer).

3. SAVINGS - This includes a regular savings and an emergency savings.  Ok, so Dave did convince me that having an emergency account is a good thing.   But, I believe you must put a little something in a regular savings too, for those occasional needs like stupid tires for the car or the stupid hot water heater that goes out when you least expect it.    And, these things will occur, so don't kid yourself!

Have a goal for your emergency account - $1000.00 is a good number - and when you reach that goal, start putting anything over that in your regular savings.   You can have a goal for that account too and once you reach it, take that money and stick it in your Debt category or increase your living expenses, if things have been too tight.

By setting small goals in the savings area, you will feel some security while you work to pay off debt.

You can always increase these numbers as your debt goes down and you make more money.

4.  LIVING EXPENSES/SPENDING - This includes ALL the other categories that you're not going to itemize and go crazy tracking every month!

Groceries, eating out, gas, gifts, clothes, hair cuts, pets, kid's allowance, parent's allowance, new purses, oil changes, horse hoof maintenance (this is a real thing), etc.

This is your spending money for the month and as long as you don't go OVER the amount, you're free to spend it!  How awesome is that?

And, that's it!  Four categories verses 60 or 50 or whatever crazy line-by-line the old budget gurus say you should have.

Now, if budgeting every single thing that might come up, works for you, then go for it!

Personally, I work better in broader categories and big picture ideas.

I can mentally comprehend that I have $500 dollars to live off of for 4 weeks (fake numbers, remember?), but if I have to keep track of $25.00 in 20 categories for this and that and borrow from one to pay the other and on and on it goes.....I will lose my mind.

And, I realize the Envelope System is a great tool, but again, keeping track of 15 different envelopes and just hoping I can shove cash and a receipt in the right envelope while 5 people are in line behind me at the check-out, leaves me in hives.   I can't do it!  I've tried.

But, we can talk about tracking and envelopes in the next post!

This one has been long enough and I know you're ready to move on, so let's just say good bye for now.

Until Next Time.....

Friday, June 3, 2016

Make Your Time in the Kitchen a Little Easier

I have always had an interest in cooking.  From my earliest memories of making little cakes in my Easy Bake Oven, to learning how to brown hamburger meat on the stove.   The process of putting ingredients together and having them turn into something delicious was fascinating to me.

I wish I still held some of that enthusiasm these days, but I'll admit, cooking seems more like a chore now, than it did back then.

So, I think that's why I'm always searching for a way to make meal time easier and more interesting.

Besides just wanting a good meal, I want things that are easy and convenient, so I won't be tempted to eat out (which I can 100% blame on myself and no one else).

One solution for curbing my temptation to eat out, is having packets and mixes in the pantry, ready to go.   This cuts down on having to think of an entire meal plan and gives me the main dish at my fingertips.  All I have to do is add the sides.  It also eliminates having to drag out all the ingredients every single time.  (Hey, I need to eliminate all the excuses I can!)

So, I found this great blog, Little House Living, and bought her book a few months ago.  Inside the book and also on the blog, she offers numerous recipes for homemade mixes, that you can make ahead of time and have on hand for convenience.

I recently spent some time in the kitchen, making up a few packets and testing some of the recipes and let me say - I was pleasantly surprised!

The amount of spices were generous, so everything had a great flavor (I guess I might have been expecting to have to add my own touch, as sometimes recipes tone things down to please the masses).

I made a batch of brownies, amazing muffins and a big pan of homemade hamburger helper.  Oh, yum!  I could eat all of them again - they were that good!

In the book, as well as on the blog, Merissa offers a wide variety of mixes that you can make ahead and have on hand.

But, in addition to the basic mix, she offers variations on the recipes (mostly add-ins) which means you are actually getting a bunch of recipes in one.

For instance, she offers a basic, sweet muffin mix.   I made a batch and added some melted cinnamon butter on top.  In the book, she makes suggestions for adding berries or chocolate chips to the mix.  I am going to add some coffee one day and make some mocha flavored muffins.  Yum!

To the brownie mix, she offers a few suggestions of adding chocolate chips or even jam, which would probably be delicious!

The Hamburger Helper mix was so simple and inexpensive to make and the best part was knowing what my ingredients were!   No names of things I cannot pronounce and not the loads of sodium that has to go into store bought boxes.

And, the bonus was so delicious!

I also made a Chicken Helper packet and a jar of Taco Seasoning for my spice rack.

If you dread spending time in the kitchen or even if you love it, these mixes will make your time there so much easier.

Go get the book on Amazon or check out all the recipes on her blog.

You can thank me later :)

Until Next Time.....

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Just Be You

Does anyone else get their "ah-ha" moments while driving?  Maybe it's because that's the one place where I am alone with my own thoughts, without the dogs barking or people sharing their own thoughts with me.

It's where I have some of my best talks with Jesus and some of my greatest moments of sheer joy that He saved me, all those years ago.

So this week, on my way to town, I was listening to a radio show and a woman was talking about being good with whatever God is doing in your life at the moment.   No, this is not a new concept; in fact I've written about it many times.

But, for whatever reason, the Lord spoke to me at that moment and showed me something that I needed to see.

He gave me a glimpse of what he has me doing right now; I'm serving him, through serving others.

You see, sometime life is not about us or fulfilling our own dreams and goals.

Sometimes our life is about being available to help others fulfill theirs.

Sometimes our season is about getting someone else where God wants them to go.

Can you get that?

I'm reminded of a friend of mine who told me she was willing to work so her husband could live his dreams, at this time in their lives.  

When she said that to me, I was so blessed by her unselfish gift to her husband.  It really touched me and inspired me.

Her season of life had changed from one of staying home, to one of working with a purpose.

For someone else's dreams.

I've had two meetings this week, with two different ladies on two very different paths.

One is starting her homeschooling journey and one is starting a blog that she feels inspired to write and they both personally asked for my help.

In my own eyes, I feel only moderately qualified in either area, but the Lord must feel differently.

He must feel that I have something to offer and for that, I'm thankful.

You see.....God is using me and it's such a blessing.

Ladies, I come here each day, hoping to help you in your daily walk of life.  Not that anything I say will be so profound or amazing; but hopefully it will be inspiring and yet, normal.

I'm no preacher and I'm not even qualified to be any kind of speaker (and this is no joke! Have you seen the video?)

But, what I am qualified to do is pass on the lessons that the Lord whispers in my ear each day.

Because really, if I kept it all to myself, what good would I be doing?

So my point is, don't begrudge the season of helping others.

The Lord has plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11), but sometimes those plans are for others to be inspired by you, by your walk and your life and your skills.......

just by being YOU.

That's all.

Just be you.

Until Next Time.....

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer Food Favorites - Breakfast Tacos

I don't know how breakfast goes around your house, but around here, it's usually a toss up between cereal, pop tarts or the on-the-go-breakfast bar.   Not very nutritious or impressive, but this mama doesn't cook a full course meal in the morning.

And, now that summer is here and the kids don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn, breakfast happens at all times of the morning, so it's great to have something prepared that doesn't require a whole lot of effort or time, but still provides a filling breakfast.

Our favorite ready-to-go breakfast is Breakfast Tacos.  In fact, if these are in the freezer, the cereal and pop tarts are usually put on hold, until these disappear.   And, unfortunately, they disappear all too fast!

The easy way to prepare these is to put them on the menu for dinner one night and just make extra while you're already standing there.  

That's actually the easy way to make all of your freezer meals, so you can apply this rule to anything you're having for dinner!

What You'll Need:
20 tortillas
1 lb breakfast sausage, browned and drained
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar (about 3/4 of a bag or more if you prefer)
8 eggs, scrambled and seasoned
1 bag frozen tater rounds (like tots, but flat) (or use cubed hashbrowns), baked at 400 for 20-25 min.
Snack sized baggies or plastic wrap (1 per taco)

Brown sausage in a skillet until cooked thoroughly.  Drain and set aside.

While sausage is browning, pour potato rounds onto a cookie sheet and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes (until crispy).

While the sausage and potatoes are cooking, crack your eggs into a mixing bowl, whisk, season and set aside.

Once you've removed the sausage from the pan, you can remove the excess oil and use this same pan for scrambling your eggs.

When the eggs are ready, take the sausage (drained) and add it to the pan with the eggs and mix well.
Spoon the egg and sausage mixture into each tortilla and add 3 tater rounds, cheese, and salsa if desired and roll up, burrito style.

Place each taco in a baggie and it's ready for the freezer!

I actually put the individually wrapped tacos into a larger ziploc bag, for extra freezer protection.

I made 20 breakfast tacos for about $10.00, which came to $.50 per taco!  That's a huge savings over grabbing one through the drive-thru somewhere.

Once they're frozen, just grab one out of the bag and pop it in the microwave for 1 minute (time may vary according to each microwave).

In the summer, I love having items that Collin can just grab anytime he's looking for a quick meal.  This makes it easy on both of us!

Hope you enjoy the tacos!

Until Next Time.....