Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Joy Dare - March's Gifts

The Joy Dare is given by Ann Voskamp,
author of One Thousand Gifts and the blog A Holy Experience.

The Joy Dare - February's Gifts

The Joy Dare is given by Ann Voskamp,
author of One Thousand Gifts and the blog A Holy Experience.

The Joy Dare - January's Gifts

The Joy Dare is given by Ann Voskamp,
author of One Thousand Gifts and the blog A Holy Experience.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's All Under Control

My sister was admitted to the hospital today for her stem cell transplant.  Her husband and our mother are with her ... several states away.  And I feel like I should be there, too.  If not for my sister, at least for my mom.  She's so tired.  But she wouldn't be anywhere else.

But God sent us all a message today.  My sister sent this picture of the room she will be staying in.  Instead of your typical, bland hospital room, she and my mom walked into a room with butterflies, birds, and flowers painted all over the walls.  (And it has a view to boot!  See that sunshine?!?!)  It's one of the only decorated rooms, according to the staff.  It was donated by the Association for Support of Children with Cancer.  And since the children are now located in another area of the hospital, adults are now being blessed by this donation.

Informational Tidbit #1:  My sister adores butterflies.  She has for years.  And they've become her cancer symbol ... her symbol of hope.  And even though her poor groom would prefer to never see another one in their home, she is even incorporating them into their ceremony this spring for their renewal of vows.

Informational Tidbit #2:  My mother adores flowers and plants.  Her gardens are beautiful.  Her house is full of them.  She has the greenest thumb I know, after my grandmother.

So ... my mother and I are taking this room as a sign.  A sign from God.  Reminding us that He's right there.  Reminding me that even though I'm not there to take care of both of them, He is.  And He's got it all under control.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Frugal Living - Grocery Shopping

Many people think frugal living is just about saving money.  There is also a theory that TIME IS MONEY.  I have several techniques to try to save both.  

After bills, much of our take-home income is spent on purchases, most of which seems to be groceries, so let’s concentrate there for now.

Keep a grocery list … a continually running list on the fridge of items that need to be replenished.  This includes the gallon of milk that was just emptied or the bag of flour that was just opened.  Because it’s not so convenient to make a quick trip to the store when you’re in need of a new bar of soap to shower with, right?  Write down each item as you use it up or open it up.  I even break my list up into sub-lists by store.  Make your life extremely easy and write your list in the order you'll find your items in the store!  Do what you have to do to make it easy and fun: write on pretty papers or with pretty pens!  I have some monthly list pads that my hubby bought for me once.  I switch them on the 1st of each month so it's never boring!  Just use the list … love the list.

Stop shopping daily, or even weekly.  While some items like fresh produce and eggs need to be restocked more frequently, other items do not.  Buy what you need for at least two weeks at a time.  The more you go, the more you spend.  Use the list ... love the list (see above).

Put a limit on couponing.  Wait! Please hear me out … Yes, you can save oodles of money with coupons, but it takes a LOT of time to save a LOT of money.  I do not have a lot of time and what I do have I do not want to pour into couponing.  And in reality, buying items that I normally wouldn’t use isn’t really saving me anything.  And neither is stocking up on multiple items that are just sitting on a shelf.  My grandfather will tell you, “It’s not a good deal if you don’t need it.”  So, use coupons only for items you would normally purchase, for items that are already on sale, or for those items that you’d like to splurge on once-in-a while. 

Shop wisely.  Use your farmer’s markets in season and bulk food stores – the produce is better and bulk is generally less expensive and healthier.  Shop at discount stores like Aldi – for most items, brand doesn’t mean better and often the only difference is in the packaging.  Use sales flyers – view these on-line and even save the cost of a Sunday paper!  Make a list of sale items that match-up with your coupons and grocery list.  Use the list ... love the list. (Have I mentioned the list?)

Do it yourself.  Make your own cup of coffee – invest in a Keurig (and the refillable filter!) if you must.  Pack your lunch – it doesn’t take long.  Limit junk food and pre-packaged items.  Baby carrots are easy, but more expensive than cutting up your own, which isn't terribly difficult.  (Then again, time is money so choose your battles.)  Cook your own dinner – cooking and eating as a family is SO important, and not just for the wallet.

There's so much more that can be done.  But you have to find what works for you and your family.  Maybe I'll share some other ideas another time!

Just remember, frugal doesn’t mean cheap or poor … it just means smart.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's Real

Today, I was commenting to a friend about an "impending" fear I have.  She had various encouraging comments but one was a quote that she had heard earlier today ... I hope I have it right ... "Do you believe that what you really believe is really real?"

Tonight, not long after that conversation, my teenage daughter and I were surprised by a call from a former friend of hers.  I say former because some things happened during the last school year that drove them apart.

Let's start at the beginning ... this girl moved into our school district from the neighboring one.  She came from a hurting home and moved down the street with her mother.  My daughter befriended her and for a while, they were very good friends.  We welcomed her into our home and I tried to do what I could.  I knew the family didn't have much and as I sat at one of their volleyball games, I noticed that she could really use a new pair of sneakers.  At the time, it was easier for me to give her cash than to take the time to take her shopping.  I did nothing more ... I didn't even think to pray for her ... at least not that I can remember.  And that makes me sad.

(Note to self:  next time TAKE THE TIME ... and PRAY)

As we all know, there is a LOT of drama in high school, maybe more so between girls.  And this friendship was no exception.  I did my best to support the situation while letting them try to sort things out on their own.  And then the threats of physical harm began.  Toward my daughter and a few of her friends ... both male and female.  Thankfully, that's all they were ... threats.  And thankfully, the administration took care of everything necessary at the time.  And at the end of the school year, this girl moved back across the district line.  We saw her once at the movie theater this fall.  My daughter was worried.  I tried to ease the fear and make light of it.  And then I never really thought of her again.

(Note to self:  next time, DON'T forget)

Thankfully, God did not forget her.  She called us tonight ... us ... my daughter AND me.  She wanted to apologize for everything that she did and said last spring.  You see, she recently tried to commit suicide by overdosing.  She said that she had a lot of time to think during her recovery and she thought about us and the other kids involved.  And she just wanted to apologize and thank us for being kind to her.

(Note to self:  ALWAYS be kind)

We just do not comprehend the implications of what we do and say every day.  I did nothing more than open my home to this girl while she was here and give her some cash to buy some sneakers.  But she remembered.  And maybe those small kindnesses will be paid forward to someone else when she is in the position to do so.

Moral of the story:  Don't give up on your teenagers or their friends or their "frenemies" ... don't ever give up.  You just don't know what God is going to do with them ... or you.

Now, back to that question:  Do I believe that what I really believe is really real?  I sure do!  Because God didn't have to save that girl.  He didn't have to turn her heart around.  And He certainly didn't have to lay it on her heart to call us and apologize and thank us!  But He did.

(Note to self:  tonight, don't forget to THANK HIM!)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Little Story

So has Not Me ever lived in your house?  How about Somebody?  Or maybe Nobody at all?  Seriously, I must have at least one other person living here besides my husband, our three children, and the two cats.

I did not write the following story - the original author is unknown.  But I first discovered it on a poster that used to hang in my father's office at home and it applies to my life as a mom ... specifically yesterday ... and most other days of the week.  But that's beside the point ...
"This is a story about four people named EVERYBODY, SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, and NOBODY.  There was an important job to be done and EVERYBODY was sure that SOMEBODY would do it.  ANYBODY could have done it, but NOBODY did it.  SOMEBODY got angry about that because it was EVERYBODY'S job.  EVERYBODY thought ANYBODY could do it, but NOBODY realized that EVERYBODY wouldn't do it.  It ended up that EVERYBODY blamed SOMEBODY when NOBODY did what ANYBODY could have done."
Now I believe that I am correct stating that NOBODY wants to clean up the grape juice that he/she spilled.  But really, could EVERYBODY, SOMEBODY, ANYBODY please help a mama out?

"In everything give thanks."
1 Thessalonians 5:18a (NKJ)
Lord, thank you for the grape juice all over the kitchen.  It reminds me that I am blessed both with children and homemade juice to nourish them.  Amen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tearing Down the Walls

Photo by Me

I don't do New Year's Resolutions.  As noble as they are intended to be, they've never worked for me, as I suspect might be the case for many.  But this year, I really do want to do something new for me ... something to better myself.

"Tear Down the Walls".  That's my New Year's phrase, if you will.  I already know how to build them ... all too well.  But according to the Bible there is a time for everything.  

A Time for Everything

~ Ecclesiastes 3 ~
(in the version of me)
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to harvest,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to turn away,
6 a time to search and a time to lose,
a time to keep and a time to throw a way,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

So I think 2012 is the time to tear down some of my walls ... to let some things out ... to let some others in ... to stop hiding ... to set sail ... to discover new shores.

"One does not discover new lands
without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
~ Andre Gide

There are so many things I'd like to do different this year ... I'd like to organize, de-clutter, and redecorate parts of our home.  I'd like to blog more frequently and bless someone by my words.  I'd like to be more creative and find a passion again.

On a more personal level ... a more important level ... I'd like to get rid of some of those walls ... some of those bricks ... most of which are probably stones of fears.  I need to.  They aren't serving me the way that I thought they might.  They aren't serving anyone else, for that matter.  And they certainly aren't serving God.

I'd like to spend more quality time with my family and friends (my husband, my kids, my parents, my grandparents, my siblings, my old high school friends ... the list goes on).  I'd like to share my feelings and thoughts.  I'd like to share my fears and my dreams.  I'd like to share my frustrations and my joys.  I'd like to spend some fun money.  I'd like to rediscover who I really am.  I'd like to spend some time enjoying life ... heck, enjoying ME!

There are three things that I've started in in January to help me do all of this.

1.  First, I've taken the Joy Dare as introduced by Ann Voskamp.  I've begun several times writing down things I'm grateful for.  Sometimes I give up within a few days, sometimes it takes a bit longer.  This time, though, maybe with an approach that includes my camera, I might be able to do this for the entire year!  I anticipate that I'll I miss a day here or there on paper, or on film, but I'm telling myself that it's OK ... just as long as I remember that I have 1,000+ things to be thankful for each and every day.

2.  Next, I've printed out the 2012 Declutter and Organize Calendar.  I am a bit OCD about organization and keeping things clutter-free.  However, I also have a husband, 3 children, and 2 cats that do not share this need for order.  And, truth be told, I do let things build up and get overwhelmed with how to get rid of some things.  A small daily "to-do" will hopefully help me along my desire to have "a place for everything and everything in it's place" ... and maybe ease my OCD a bit along the way.  (Let it go, Erika, let it go ...)

3.  My third endeavor involves a more direct approach to "tearing down my walls".  After agonizing over the $40 cost, I took the plunge and signed up for an on-line class of sorts:  Scrapbook Life Journal with Stephanie Ackerman.  It's meant to help me "make time to take time to reflect on [my life], journal [my] thoughts, take more pictures of [MYSELF] and enjoy the little moments in life that often get forgotten in [my] busy, hustle bustle life & world."  I'm excited to get into my paper crafting supplies again - it's been way too long.  And hopefully, God-willing, I'll find me and Him again in the process.

I'll try to share some of my enlightenment with you along my journey.  And that's what it is ... "It's a journey, not a destination", as my good doctor/boss often states.  So one thing I have to remember is something else Stephanie Ackerman mentioned in her first e-mail:  "It took you a long time to get there so things are not going to change overnight."  This is going to be a process ... tearing down my walls ... but I pray in the end, I will be happy with the me I have found.

Photo by Hallie Sochia