We are the Rich Christians

Reading Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald J. Sider has really opened my eyes, more than I thought they were already open. Much of what he had to say felt depressing, until he talked about how we can help the poor and marginalized around the world.

One of the biggest things we can do is a micro loan. I had heard of these before with less detail. There are many charities that support adults and children in poverty, but micro loans are different. These are small amounts of money loaned to start a business. Sometimes it involves training and sometimes it means buying a sewing machine so a mother can support her family. The loans vary in amounts from $50 to $500 usually and are paid back. The family is given justice, dignity, and purpose. Opportunity International is one of the organizations brought up in the book.

There are also advocacy programs to help end hunger around the world. It can seem impossible to know how to help or what is needed, so it can help to look to these programs for guidance. Through them, you can find out ways to get your community involved, get help with dealing with politics and hunger, and donate to the right companies. An important step to helping others is to learn about the issues that matter and get connected to where you fit in with these programs. Bread for the World and The Micah Challenge are groups mentioned in the book.

As Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says, “If there are poor among you in one of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be selfish or greedy toward them. But give freely to them and freely lend them whatever they need.” All of us able to read this are rich compared to much of the world and it is up to us to help them. If not us, then who?

Where do you donate or volunteer that will help eradicate hunger and poverty around the world? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Linking with Holley Gerth

My New Money Habit

Several weeks ago, my husband, James, said we had spent a lot of money eating at restaurants last month. I had been thinking it, but I wasn’t really paying attention. Now I am.

When he told me, I went into immediate action. That night, I started a money journal in a spiral notebook. I started writing down any money I had spent that day using one page for each week. I wrote the date, the store, and the amount. I have since tweaked it to only be about food purchases.

Yes, I know there are websites and apps that do this. James uses them and that was how he knew we had spend too much eating out. Call me old school, but the act of writing is more meaningful for me. If I just have to glance at an app, I will soon forget. But when I have to write it down myself, I am more hesitant to spend the money. Mindfulness is important, in whatever way works best for you.

People keep food journals for the same reason I am doing this. Accountability and awareness are key to changing habits. First of all, when you write something down, even if you are the only one who sees it, you have to own up to it. You can’t just dismiss it and move along, because there is a record of it. The second part is knowing when these things are happening so you can figure out why. Being able to analyze your habits gives insight to how you can change them.

Since I started this journal, I am being more intentional with our eating schedule. We aren’t the busiest family, but I want to plan at the beginning of the week any time I know we are eating out. I made a chart with each meal listed. I am leaving room for a few changes, but for the most part, if it says we are eating at home, I am making sure we have the ingredients for a meal. This has meant more trips to the grocery store, but that is certainly cheaper and healthier than a restaurant.

This idea can work for any part of your spending, but I think it is good to work on one area at a time. You can always get that under control and then move on to another area. It can be too overwhelming otherwise.

These last few weeks have felt good. I took control back that I had given up. We are all in charge of our finances and should see it as a gift and spend that money wisely. No one wants to talk about money, but once you open up that dialog, you get to take control. Saving money in areas you don’t really care about can mean saving it or spending it on something you are passionate about.

Don’t let your money issues hold you back or be your boss. Don’t let your stuff own you. Decide right now that you are in charge and get creative. It will all be worth it when you can give more, travel more, or buy that TV you have been wanting!

Linking with Holley Gerth

When Fair Trade Meets Intentional Spending Giveaway

This week I am combining two things I love: fair trade and Intentional Spending!

Over the last couple of years, I have fallen in love with fair trade and with women around the world being able to provide for their families. These women have talents and heart and determination. They have seen what the future could look like for their children and want to make it happen. One item at a time.

As many of you know, our family began living more intentionally 3 years ago. We decided to spend less on ourselves so we could give more. God has really blessed that and made us want to give more. I have loved seeing Him work in our lives and the lives around us. It was a privilege to write the book about our experience.

Since I have extra copies of my book, I decided to do 5 giveaways. For anyone who buys a copy of Intentional Spending from me (not ordered from Amazon) for $10 by July 4, I will enter them into a drawing for fair trade products. The $10 will include shipping as long as you live in the US! Here are the fair trade items you could win:

Item 1: Carry 117 leather envelop clutch is made in Ethiopia. (retail $45)

Item 2: Village Artisan picture frame is made in India. (Retail $15)

Item 3: Joyn tote bag is hand woven with a leather strap and made in India. (retail $48)

Item 4: Mercy House beaded gold layering necklace with a detachable leather tassel is made in Kenya and Haiti. (retail $12)

Item 5: Joyn crossbody purse is made in India and is the perfect size for traveling and carrying your passport. (retail $36)

These items are all beautiful and made with love and dreams. If there is one in particular that really catches your eye, let me know when you order your book, and I will put you in that drawing. Email me at intentionalspending3@gmail.com to place your order or ask a question. Thank you and I hope you win!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Make That Change Now

Years ago, I wondered if we would ever be out of debt. The mountain seemed too high and we weren’t putting a dent in it. Why should we bother trying?

Happily, I can tell you we are out of debt now and are saving as well as giving more than I thought we would be able to. Paying off debt has led to so many things! The first thing is after a few years of being away from that mountain, we were able to move to a bigger house that has a flat yard and driveway. Our girls can play outside safely.

After we moved, I spent 6 months writing my book, Intentional Spending, because I had time. Right after the book was published, I began working part time because I wanted to, not because I had to.

Having an extra bedroom in the new house is a dream come true. I wanted a guest room, like most of us want. Little did I know at the time that a desire I have pushed down for years would surface now. I have always wanted to foster or adopt, and that empty room has been calling to me. Why should it sit empty most of the time when little ones need a bed?

I can honestly say that had we not worked hard to pay off debt when we did, our lives would look very different. We would be more stressed and fight more. I would not have been able to stay home and would have missed the time I had when the girls were little. My writing would not have happened, both this blog and my book. Most of all, we would not have been in a place to begin the fostering journey. We would have been stagnant, waiting for the good life to begin. We would have been waiting for the life God had planned for us.

It’s not that we will never have to worry about money again. None of us knows the future. However, I think we are better equipped now than we were before. When things come up, we have a stronger base. We know we can trust God to help us because we have seen Him come through time after time.

What lies in your future that God is preparing you for? Will you start your own company? Give more? Adopt a child? Have a parent move in with you? God wants to blow the doors off your expectations, but He can’t if you are limited. Whether it is your finances or some other limitation, make that change now. Take care of it now so God can take you to your next place. He is waiting for you.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Children are More Important Than Adults

Every year, more than 400,000 children are in the foster care system in the United States. Let that sink in. Hundreds of thousands of children are removed from their homes. The reasons may be different, but the outcome is the same: confusion, fear, anger, and loneliness. Many kids go back home, but many don’t.

The foster care system has been on my heart for some time now. My heart breaks when I think of a child who wants love and stability. Maybe they had it and it was taken away, but maybe they have never had it. There must be an ache deep inside that they carry around. It must be brutal.

My husband and I have been talking about it and may decide to foster. For now I want us to go through the training so the girls and I can babysit foster kids. I know parents can’t just have anyone watch their kids, so that is one way we can help.

Our latest idea is one that we will need help to do! Birthdays should be celebrated for every one, especially children. We all have a need to feel special, seen, and loved. We want to know that someone remembers our birthday! People who choose to foster children have a burden on them and paying regular bills stretches them. Even if they want to spoil the child for their birthday, they can’t always do it financially. That must break their hearts. That is where we come in.

We want to serve foster parents by helping with birthday gifts. I know where we live there is help with school supplies at the beginning of the school year as well as assistance at Christmas. There should be at birthdays too. We should celebrate that these children came into the world! They should feel appreciated and wanted, especially if they never have before.

Our family babysits to raise money, so our new project is to help foster kids gain self esteem through their birthday. No child should wonder if anyone cares. We need your help though! We need to know of foster parents who need help with birthday presents. We also need people to help us provide those gifts. You can email me to let me know if you are interested in buying a gift or if you know of a foster family in need. You can mail the actual gift to me or a check to cover it, because I know fostering is a sensitive issue. I will be the only one to know the recipient’s address. My email is intentionalspending3@gmail.com. In the future I also plan on putting needs on our Facebook page. You can like it to start receiving notifications.

I believe we all want to help others. Many are worried about the state of the world and don’t know what they can do. I think we all have good intentions, but when all we have are intentions, nothing gets done. Let’s dig in and show these kids that they aren’t alone. Please help us reach kids who just want love!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Sugar and Spice With a Touch of Sass

My daughter continues to blow me away. She inspires me in ways generally reserved for much older and wiser people. She LOVES to give. The child is broke on a regular basis, but when she does get a dollar, she gives it away.

Recently I handed Lauren a few dollars for helping me babysit. She had been saying how she had no money, so silly me thought she might save it. Nope. We were at the register at Lifeway Christian Store (my toy store) and she took one of those bills and put it in a little donation box they had. She didn’t care where the money was going and just wanted to help.

The next week, we were at the beach. We ordered her a Shirley Temple and she loved it. When our waiter brought her a refill, she told me she wanted to tip him a dollar. I made sure to get his attention so she could (somewhat awkwardly) hand it to him. The look on his face when a ten year old tipped him was priceless! He ended up bringing her a container of grenadine. 🙂

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Two nights later, we were at an open air event. There was a man playing a guitar quietly in the background next to his guitar case. Lauren walked right up to him and put a dollar in the case. He was so shocked! He told me to have her take it back and that he wasn’t here for that. I told him she wanted him to have it. Lauren turned to me and said she likes to see people’s faces when she gives.

In case you think I am saying this because I think I am a great parent, know this. I have 2 children. The other daughter doesn’t give nearly as much as her sister. If you look at it this way, we are batting .500. They both have their strengths, such as Kaitlyn is good at making cat noises. All I can do is encourage them both!

This is also not saying Lauren is perfect. She loves to spend some money at Justice, the clothing store for tween girls. She loves anything “super cute.” I constantly hear “Mom, why do people think sassy girls talk like that?” when I mimic her. (For the record, I say it in my Valley Girl voice. I don’t know where this sassy girl thing came from. Do kids now not know about that? Sad.) She seems to have the right idea though. She loves to shop and loves to give. It appears to be equal.

Sometimes it takes kids to show us how to act. My daughter keeps me giving freely. She gives with true joy and just wants to make people smile. What can you learn from your child?

Linking with Holley Gerth.

Eager Giving

In honor of the first birthday of my book, Intentional Spending, I thought I would write about giving. Again.

Something I am learning the last few years is that the amount of money and time we are able to give is not what is important. It truly is the condition of our hearts. This idea is backed up by much of Scripture, such as 2 Corinthians 8:12. “Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.” Did you get that? Eagerly. Being able to give to others who need it is a privilege. We should be excited to step into someone’s life and bring them up. To show them love. 

Now, I know that idea is counter cultural and not a particularly human view. Our instinct seems to be to gather up as much as we can for ourselves and let those around us figure out their problems. But we don’t live in a vacuum. We as people rely on each other. God didn’t put us on earth to keep our head down and do our own thing, but to be a part of our community. And He wants us to be explosive. He wants people to look at us and say, “Whoa, what got into them? I want to be that joyful and peaceful!” God designed us so that what makes us the most joyful and the most peaceful is not looking our for ourselves, but to give and serve. None of us is our happiest when we are in hoarding mode. It is when we turn outward and love on the people around us and around the world. It takes many of us decades to learn this, and sadly some never learn.

A little known man in the Bible, maybe you have heard of King David, pointed out that everything comes from God. 1 Chronicles 29:14 says, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” How do we not give back generously what God pours out on us? The truth is that generosity looks different for every family. Some can give a little and some a lot. When we look at the fact that all of it belongs to the Lord, the quantity matters very little. We are just to praise God for who He is and to show our grattitude. There aren’t requirements and specific dollar amounts, but we are simply to give all we can out of our love.

I don’t think I am oversimplifying this. God just wants our intentions to be pure, and when they are, we will be unstoppable. He will make sure of it.

Linking with Holley Gerth

We MUST Help

Metro Atlanta has one of the fastest growing poverty rates in the United States, and that is unacceptable. MUST Ministries is an organization created to combat that statistic. They have been around for over 40 years and are now in eight counties.

The Elizabeth Inn shelter is one component MUST offers. When someone needs a place to lay their head, they come here. If they have had a job loss, have an addiction, or have lost everything, MUST restores hope and dignity, as well as provides a roof over their head. People are offered help with employment, education, and recovery meetings. I have had the privilege of volunteering there doing laundry, and the current residents were sweet and very grateful for the small thing I was helping with. They had been through so much, things I can’t even imagine, and MUST was there for them.

MUST has 3 food pantries that give away a ton of food per day, (not just a lot, but a whole ton.) The community kitchen feeds 150 people every day at lunch. Breakfast and dinner are served to 65 residents at the Elizabeth Inn shelter. Keeping up with this amount of need takes the whole community.

Speaking of food, MUST also serves lunch to 6,000 to 7,000 school age children every day in the summer. These are kids who would be getting a free lunch if they were in school, but summer means they go without. Our church helps several of the days each year. We provide sack lunches to deliver to the children’s neighborhoods. I have not delivered lunches, but I have heard about the joy. The kids run out to the vehicle when it pulls up, thrilled for a meal. I even hear about children saving part of their lunch for a sibling who doesn’t get one. Oh, my heart.

Clothes are given out to those in need each year, whether for a job interview or for growing children. There is also a program every Christmas where parents get to shop for gifts for their kids. What a relief a parent must feel when they can give their innocent child a gift at Christmas!

I don’t know about you, but it breaks my heart to think about kids going hungry. And things we take for granted, like clothes and Christmas presents, are not a given for many people. So many of these people are down the street from us or shop at the same grocery store and we don’t even know it.

In our family, we are huge fans of MUST, so I am donating $2 from each sale of my book to them this month. (As well as the other $2 going to our church.) Please help us fight poverty and give families hope and dignity.

To learn more about all MUST does, check out their website here.

If you are interested in a copy of my book, either paperback or Kindle version, it is available on Amazon here.

Whether you help by buying the book, praying for these families, or reaching out to someone you know who needs help, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. May you be richly blessed!

 

Linking with Holley Gerth.

My Money Rule

There are times I feel like a little kid. I see something and I want it NOW! No, I don’t want to think about it. It should be mine.

That is why I make myself wait at least a day.

Over the years, I think I am learning more about money and, more specifically, not spending it all. There doesn’t seem to be a point where I can suddenly resist all advertising. A day has not happened where I woke up and decided I will never want again. (Wouldn’t that be fantastic?) I have to work at it. I have to be conscious of my tendencies. I have to be intentional.

So I make myself wait at least one day to see if the desire is passing. I think about it and figure out if I will really use this. Sometimes I question my motives for why I want this item. (Is it because other people have it, I think I am supposed to have it, or do I truly want it?) Look, maybe this is just me, but I can be a little flighty when it comes to purchases. Maybe I am feeling emotional that day. If I am feeling sad, happy, lonely, celebratory, or pretty much any emotion, I can justify that purchase.

In that moment, at least.

The next day, my emotions have most likely changed, and it wasn’t due to that purchase. It is more likely the emotions changed on their own or some other one pushed them out.

No one wants to wake up in the morning with regret. I have heard it said that we regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we did. In financial matters, I think it is the opposite. We are much more likely to regret things we wasted money on than the times we walked away.

If I take the time to ponder it, I will make a better choice. When my head is clear and I still want it, (and it is something we can afford,) I go for it. Without regret.

The truth  here is that too many things are impulse buys that won’t change our lives. The only thing that will happen if we don’t buy that item is that we will have more money. I try to remember the excitement of a purchase is short lived and then my brain will be looking forward to the next buy. I don’t want to live like that.

Say it with me: Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Linking with Holley Gerth

The M Word

Money. I know, I said it. Someone had to break the awkward silence.

Last week, I was asked if I would help other people with their finances. Me. I laughed and laughed. My book is about us learning to give more, but that doesn’t mean I know the first thing about money. Once I learned this was a serious request and that maybe God is calling me to this, (and stopped laughing,) I decided to push past my fears and do it.

Yeah, Satan sure doesn’t like us moving forward and especially not helping people. Something bad happened once I decided to go for it, and I heard a voice ask, “What makes you think you can help others with money?” I had fallen for his trap! When something had gone wrong, I was pulled back in time and couldn’t stop thinking about the past.

I have always had what I would call “money anxiety.” Since we started tithing years ago, it has gone down, but it is always there lurking. In my book, there is a title aptly called, “This is Not About Tithing.” For us, tithing was a good place to start, but we realized two years ago that it should never be the end. Giving ten percent back is a wonderful way to get our feet wet, but we are here to give more than ten percent of ourselves. In this chapter I said, “No one wants to talk about money. We talk around it or about the issues it creates, but not about how we should treat it.” These words have come back to me this week in a new way, and I want to keep facing the money issue head on. Until we do, we are letting money control us and not the other way around.

Once I realized Satan was trying to reel me back in with an old lie, I was able to move forward and remember this is not the end of my story. I mentioned above that I am prone to money anxiety. You know what keeps that at bay? Giving even more. When we kept money for ourselves, it gave us the illusion that we were in control of our money and therefore our lives. Giving money away is our way of acknowledging everything is in God’s hands. When we keep giving, it reminds us to keep the focus on Him and His will.

In the end, I was able to silence the voice in my head.

Linking with Holley Gerth