A Year of Intentional Spending

Just a year ago, our lives began the shift. A year. So much can change in a short amount of time!

July 1 of last year, I decided I was fed up with being part of the money machine. Money comes to us and then leaves just as quickly without benefiting anyone. We may enjoy a moment, but that dollar could have made an impact. It could have been used for a greater purpose. So our family began a three month period where we gave up some things we normally bought so we could have extra to give. If you haven’t read the first post, you can find it here.

After a year, how are we doing? Still giving more and still thinking beyond ourselves. This time last year our youngest, Kaitlyn, was thinking about everything she wanted for her sixth birthday in August. Now she wants to give some of her birthday money away. (Don’t worry, she still wants Lego sets and a locket!) The three months of training we had were crucial to the idea sticking. As with anything, our brains had to be taught to think of others. We now give monthly automatically. We give more easily on the spur of the moment. It isn’t always easy, and I don’t think it will ever flow naturally, but that’s the point. Since we are here to make a difference, we will have to continue to rely on God for His strength and for His peace when extra bills come at us.

Of course, expenses we didn’t anticipate are popping up. (Why can’y the tree we need cut down be a money tree?) I still believe that if we keep intentionally spending and giving, God will take care of us and provide what we need. There won’t always be extra, but we aren’t guaranteed that.

Being in the US, we don’t realize how much we have. It is all too easy to compare ourselves to neighbors when we should think about those who need what we have. Giving more helps focus thoughts on that. I love the idea from Jen Hatmaker that where our money goes, our heart will follow. It is so true! When we start giving to help orphans or families, our heart begins to care more about them.

This year has seen us move. We now have a better quality of life with a flat yard on a cul-de-sac.

Our oldest, Lauren, became a Food for the Poor champion and started a project to raise $1895 for a family in Guatemala. You can see our page and make a donation here.

Lauren and I started selling makeup so we can donate half of our profits to our project. We are having fun together for a wonderful cause. This is where you can place an order.

I have spent months of consistent writing and will be self publishing a book on Intentional Spending! I still face some editing and need to work on cover art, but I am hoping to have it on Amazon by the end of summer! Since our church has had such an impact on our growth and giving, we are giving half of the book proceeds to them.

God is good and gives us everything we need. Let’s live like we believe that. Let’s be who He created us to be and give!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Lessons From a Waterfall

We spent Father’s Day afternoon hiking and sweating. The path was broiling and steep, but all four of us couldn’t wait to get to the waterfall. Well, until Kaitlyn started saying her legs hurt after 5 minutes.

Once we got there, it was breathtaking! Here is what I learned.

1. Don’t worry about what MIGHT lie ahead. Yes, I am aware that water is not alive, but it still spoke to me. When you see the before and after of the falls, the difference is amazing. Before, the water is calm and peaceful. Sure, it is about to go straight down, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. That is how peaceful I want to be.

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2. Go a different way. On the way up, we took the lesser used path. With it being less crowded, we enjoyed more family time, saw things we wouldn’t have otherwise, and had better views. The well traveled path may sometimes be better, but don’t assume it is just because you see more people on it!

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3. Stop and enjoy the view. On the way up, we stopped to feel the breeze, listen to the waterfall, and look down where we had been. It made the whole thing more impressive when we could see so clearly.

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4. Hard work is always worth it. We were huffing and puffing by the time we got to the top. Once we saw it, and took in God’s majesty, there was no breath remaining in our sweaty bodies. We were blown away! Our breath was replaced with awe and a new excitement. Just like anything that requires effort, we appreciated it more once we got there. Even the whiny young one was glad she did it.

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5. Never underestimate what God can do. There is no doubt about God’s power when you see His creation. Being out on a mountain by a waterfall shows His creativity and all He is capable of. We need to trust He knows what He is doing, even when it doesn’t look like it. Maybe God is carving out a way around the mountain you are facing or finding a new way for water to flow. Let Him impress you!

If you need to learn a few lessons, I suggest going for a hike. God will show you what you need to know!

Linking with Faith Along the Way

So Much the Better Children’s Book Review

When my copy of So Much the Better arrived in the mail, I told the girls I was going to read it out loud to them. Since it wasn’t in their Narnia or Wimpy Kid series, they weren’t enthusiastic.

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Then we sat down to read. Author Megan Means had the girls so enthralled that on that first day, they wouldn’t let me stop reading after a chapter or two. We finally ended the session at four chapters.

The story of So Much the Better follows a lion cub named Ari. He is separated from his pride one day and found by a wise eagle, Eliezer. Eliezer helps Ari on his quest to return home and to grow into the lion he is meant to be.

Ari’s eagle friend is a comforting presence and says many things that stick with young ears. “You must not despair, for even when you cannot see me you must have faith that I am close.” “He who keeps gladness in his heart remains strong.” “Be strong and of good courage.” “Keep your heart full of love and you will never fail.”

As he goes through a dark forest and back up the mountain, Ari faces challenges and makes new friends. Eliezer’s words go through his mind as he makes decisions. I love that there are biblical themes woven throughout the story that kids can apply to their life.

It may have been written for upper elementary school, but my second grader and I enjoyed it as much as the fourth grader. Finding books we can all agree on is tough, but it was great to be able to curl up with my girls for some time each day. The story is uplifting and teaches lessons on life we can all use.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

If anyone is interested, my friend Sarah over at Faith Along the Way is giving away Younique makeup from me if you comment on your favorite family project this week. Head over here to see the post!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Love is Not Complicated

Why do we make everything complicated? Yeah, don’t act like it is just me who runs around with elaborate plans to do good. To change the world and leave my mark.

My heart and mind are reeling from all the evil in the world right now. So many things happen that make it seem we are in a losing fight. I struggle to wrap my mind around how people can be so murderous and hate filled. Where did we go wrong? Of course we have been going this way since sin entered the world. We have always needed Jesus, but with each passing day it can seem harder to find Him.

The other day I stumbled upon Luke 3. Before Jesus became notorious for turning the world on its head, His cousin John the Baptist warmed up the crowd. God knew we would need someone to prepare hearts for His main act. He poured messages into John and made him look crazy enough to stand out and maybe seem more credible?

Here was John, wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts and wild honey. There was nothing fancy about him. This reclusive and simple man sure stood out to the sociable, rich Jews. People flocked to him, as they obviously longed for a different way of life.

John felt so strongly about people repenting for their sins, he went around preaching about it. In Luke 3, he is talking to the crowd about the coming wrath. He warned the people not just to be spouting that they are Christians but to produce fruit.

I can see the crowd confused now, trying to think of some big scheme and coming up blank. They actually asked him what they should do. I just love John’s answer in verse 11. “Anyone who has two shirts should share with those who have none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

BAM! Just like that, he shut them up. Don’t you just see the crowd go silent? Huh, that’s so simple, even I can do that. Never thought of it that way.

Two thousand years may have passed, but people are still people. The world is not getting better, but we can counteract the evil that exists. We can feed and clothe people. We can extend kindness and grace. We can reach out to those who are different than us. It is much more simple than we tend to think.

When you feel bogged down by the weight of the world, I urge you to think of one small thing you can do for another living soul and go do it. Each time we do this, light grows brighter and evil is exposed for what it really is.

Go and make John the Baptist proud!

Linking with Faith Along the Way

Where is Your Security?

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17

This verse cut me to the quick and it should to all of us. I may not go around saying I am rich, but I am rich to much of the world. So many people are suffering while I am comfortable. God and His will should always be at the forefront of my thoughts, but He is not. Because my life seems to be in order, I don’t always act like my life depends on God. I instead act like my family and I are in control. I make it look like our future is in our own hands.

The truth is that our lives could change in an instant. Things could come up or disappear that completely disrupt the flow I have deemed as important. At some point, something will happen that will shake me to my core if I have the wrong thing at the center.

Honestly, this is why I don’t ever want too much money. It is far too easy to rely on money and to not cling to God. When I focus on Him and what He is telling me is important, my foundation is set for rocky times. I don’t ever want to get to the point of thinking I don’t need Jesus. I want to know that I need Him for every breath, for every step, and for every decision. As soon as I step away from that, even for a moment, the walls can come falling in.

I know for me it is a choice I have to keep making. I have to choose to put Jesus at the center and constantly remind myself that I don’t have it all under control. I am at the mercy of the life that God has planned for me, and that is how I want it.

God is taking me on a ride that is wild and freeing. If I don’t let go of all the other stuff, I will miss out on what He has for me.

If I learn nothing else I want it to be this: Money has nothing to with security and God has everything to do with it.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Making Progress

“As I look back on my own life, I recognize this simple truth: The greatest opportunities were the scariest lions. Part of me has wanted to play it safe, but I’ve learned that taking no risks is the greatest risk of all.” (Mark Batterson, who is an amazing author!)

It has been almost 2 years since I helped start our prayer team at church. I was terrified, to say the least. The thought of me starting a group where people pray out loud seemed laughable. Me? I questioned God during the months leading up to our first meeting. There are so many more qualified people who should do this. All I really felt I had going for me was that I was willing. Gulp.

Now, I am not saying praying out loud is easy for me yet. In our group, or in other small groups of people I know, I stutter through what I want to say to God. I don’t really care anymore that I am not smooth and don’t use spiritual words. I have learned that the point of prayer is a conversation with God. He hears our heart, no matter how ridiculous we think we sound.

Earlier this week, I was at a meeting where we lift up a family of missionaries. We talked about some challenges they are facing and then got down to praying. Our leader said he would open us up and asked if I would close our prayer time. I jumped in with “yes.”

In the past I would have formulated what I was going to say ahead of time. I would have worried about how I would sound. I would have really worried about how long to pause before I start. You know how it is, you have to give everyone who wants to pray a chance, but you don’t want that last pause to be too long and awkward. Or maybe that is just me. :)

When it was time to pray, I did it. By God’s grace, I am now someone who is willing to pray out loud.

What is God trying to work on in your life? Is there something you have been feeling led to do, but it feels overwhelming? Do you think God must be crazy for asking YOU? Since He is the God of the universe, just assume He knows what is best and do it. It will be scary and exciting. You will be in positions you never thought possible. Once you start, you will wonder why it took you so long.

And you will give God all the glory!

Linking with Faith Along the Way

I Give Up

I need You, God. I forget all too easily that You are in charge and Your timing is way better than mine. I am done worrying about the future because it is in Your hands. I am sorry for the times I get impatient and want results NOW. You want to help people even more than we do, and You will make it happen. You can see the future and I can only see a step in front of me.

You are protecting me when You have me slow down. You calm me down, but I am sorry that has to happen every day. I need to trust Your good, pleasing, and perfect will. I have to stop the occasional faith, the “OK today I believe You, God.” It is all or nothing, either I do or I don’t. I do. I really, really do. Please help me live that out.

I want to rest in You day and night. I need to lay down every fear as it comes. Simply refuse to buy into it and reject it.

I declare that You have called me for a purpose and You are working everything out.

I know You have big plans for me.

You are with me wherever I go, so I have no reason to fear.

You make a way where there seems to be no way.

I know that I can plan all I want, but You will guide my steps.

You are for me, and no one else matters.

I am sorry that my faith can be so tenuous at times that it stretches and seems to disappear. You are a great and mighty God, and that is all I need to know. Things will happen on Your time, and that is how I want it. It will all come together at the right time, and I never want to forget that.

Please help me recognize when the worry and fear crop up. Give me Your eyes to see the truth so I can stand firm in You. Point me in the right direction and remind me You are right there next to me.

I choose You. I choose to follow You all the days of my life, wherever You take me. You are all I need, and I proclaim I am releasing my control and my ways for Your ways.

You will move the mountains in my life. I am getting out of Your way.

Starting now.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Yoke of Jesus

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

The older I get, the more I understand this passage. I used to think all I had to do was give Jesus my problem and He would make life instantly better. Then, when that didn’t happen, I assumed I did it wrong or wasn’t trying hard enough to not worry or something along those lines.

When you picture a yoke, it is not solitary. It is not something you put on and trudge along by yourself. When yokes are used, it is on two oxen, horses, or donkeys. It is to make the load they are pulling lighter and easier, but they still have to work. They have a partner, which makes the work possible.

I think that is what I missed for years. Jesus wants to be side by side with me. He is not pulling my load while I sit in the shade with sweet tea. I must still work, but I have help and a lighter load. Sometimes the work involves waiting patiently while Jesus works things out, but I always have a part.

For those of you struggling right now, Jesus is with you. It may seem like you’re alone and life is too hard, but you have the One who created you in the trenches with you. He has not left your side for someone who is better than you. He has not given up on you because you are a lost cause. He is not disgusted by you.

Jesus sees your pain and feels it too. Every tremble moves Him too. Every sigh is transferred through the yoke. When you cry, He cries. When you scream and shout about how unfair life is, He agrees. He knows.

Jesus gets down in the dirt of our lives, always willing to get us out of the mess. It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.

We are never alone. I am never alone. YOU are never alone. Jesus is here. He brought His light burden and is going to share the load.

We are not promised a pain free life this side of heaven, so in the meantime we must hold onto Jesus. He will get us through the bad times, even when He has to practically carry us.

Linking with Faith Along the Way

The Thunder Rolls

On Sunday we had a strong thunderstorm with hail. A few minutes after my husband left for a tennis match in a sunny part of town, I heard a horrible crash (figures.) Once I regained some composure and found courage, I went to check it out and found this.

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We are so thankful that the only casualty was our swing, which took the brunt of the load. There is a hole in the deck, but I am not sure we would have much of a deck anymore if the swing hadn’t been there. Now we just have a massive tree that needs to be cut down before more limbs fall.

Anyways, a great friend of ours offered to come move the branch off the house for us, so another branch didn’t fall on top and cause more damage. I called the girls down to show them, since I knew they would hear his chainsaw. Lauren wasn’t scared and wanted to help. I told her the best way for her to help would be to distract her sister. Kaitlyn said she was going to have nightmares and was afraid the thunder was going to make another branch fall. (For the last hour, we had had a constant stream of thunder and lightening, as the radar showed this thin storm was pretty much only over our nieghborhood.)

I sat Kaitlyn down and talked to her about how we were safe and it isn’t the thunder, yada yada. You know what actually helped her? She recited the verse we learned a few weeks ago. “Do not be afraid. The Lord your God Himself will fight for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22

THAT is why we need to memorize verses! I was so excited she understood. Being able to recall something at the right time takes effort, but it is so worth it. We were scared and knew God was with us. He would fight for us and keep protecting us. We knew it but needed a reminder.

It is never too late to learn verses from God’s word. We definitely seem to do better as kids, but I memorize as an adult too. My strategy is to say the verse out loud 5 times each day for a week. If I am doing a passage, I say the verses I have already learned, and then I add a new one on each week. Some great passages I have done on my own are Philippians 4:4-13 and 1 Timothy 6:6-12, 17-19.

The key to continuous peace is having the Bible in our heart so it can flood our mind when we need it. Do you have God’s word ready when you need it?

Linking with Holley Gerth

Embracing God’s Plan for Right Now

Why can’t it be easier to let go and let God? Why do I insist I know the best way? Why do I find it difficult to allow God to work things out?

Well, I am human. I want to see that things are happening. I like progress and pats on the back. I don’t want to be seen as lazy. We are told to work hard from the time we are kids.

You know what? Sometimes the hardest work is doing nothing. When we feel God is saying, “not yet,” restraining ourselves is difficult. It takes effort to pull back and wait for God. When we want something accomplished now, the last thing we want to do is stop. It can take all of our self control.

That’s what God is waiting for sometimes. When I flit from one step of my plan to the next, I am missing out on what God is trying to bless me with right now. When I try to do things in my own strength and time, it will never be enough. I must stop and figure out what God wants.

God tries to get my attention. I get so caught up in what will happen, I forget to enjoy what is happening now. Having a short sighted view is not what God wants for my life. He wants every day to be full.

I need to get to the point where I rely on God to guide me. His ways are always best. I have to learn to let God lead me. I want to wake up in the morning with anticipation of what God is going to do through me and what He is going to teach me. Not what He is going to do a year from now, but today.

We all know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We want our success to resemble that line. However, I know when I look back, I can see that I wasn’t ready for instant success. I needed the preparation God had for me. I never like the delay at the time, but it is always necessary. I never arrive at my destination until the exact right moment.

I know I could have enjoyed the journey more. I should have appreciated the process, because it is all out of God’s love for me.

That’s what I am going to do this time.

**Disclaimer: I am mainly writing this to myself, but I hope something sticks with you as you read it!

Linking with Faith Along the Way