Month 8 + 9

The Tortoise and the Hare, an Aesop Fable

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One day a hare was bragging about how fast he could run. He bragged and bragged and even laughed at the tortoise, who was so slow. The tortoise stretched out his long neck and challenged the hare to a race, which, of course, made the hare laugh.

“My, my, what a joke!” thought the hare.
“A race, indeed, a race. Oh! what fun! My, my! a race, of course, Mr. Tortoise, we shall race!” said the hare.

The forest animals met and mapped out the course. The race begun, and the hare, being such a swift runner, soon left the tortoise far behind. About halfway through the course, it occurred to the hare that he had plenty of time to beat the slow trodden tortoise.

“Oh, my!” thought the hare, “I have plenty of time to play in the meadow here.”
And so he did.

After the hare finished playing, he decided that he had time to take a little nap.
“I have plenty of time to beat that tortoise,” he thought. And he cuddle up against a tree and dozed.

The tortoise, in the meantime, continued to plod on, albeit, it ever so slowly. He never stopped, but took one good step after another.

The hare finally woke from his nap. “Time to get going,” he thought. And off he went faster than he had ever run before! He dashed as quickly as anyone ever could up to the finish line, where he met the tortoise, who was patiently awaiting his arrival.

Slow and steady wins the race.

 

THIS.  This sums up the past 9 months so perfectly.  The tremendous advantage of the hare, the poking fun, joking, and scorning the tortoise and his long, slow, totally unexciting, non glamours journey, the distraction, instant gratification, pride, and lack of discernment of the hare, and patiently trusting in the hope that slow and steady does indeed win the race.

I’ve realized that we are a herd of tortoises living in a hare world.  I have heard from more people more times than I can count something along the lines of “I don’t agree with Dave Ramsey”, which by the way is totally fine with me, but to my Christian friends: it is not about some dude and what he says, have you and your spouse prayerfully searched the Bible and intentionally sought to use your money accordingly?  Without descending into a rant and giving examples, suffice to say we have felt and heard no small amount of opposition to our slow and steady, using money God’s way attempts at living, and for a people person like me that is hard!  My women’s group is studying the book of Galatians and I have been so incredibly convicted and comforted by verse 10 in chapter 1:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Also finding a new perspective that if I’m truly living for God’s call and not merely an outwardly “christian” life that looks and feels good, I will most certainly be persecuted for that.  How many of you know that if your life is not making waves and facing opposition even from those close to you, you’re not really living for God but rather for yourself or the approval of people!?

2 Timothy 3:12 – Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Matthew 5:10 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I was pretty discouraged yesterday by how long this process is taking and overestimating my own ability (which is the definition of conceit) to fix that.  In my head I really wanted to pay off all our debt, $50,000 worth, in 12 months!  I told a sweet friend who is mentoring me and speaking truth into my life this goal and the personal pressure I was letting it bring and she plainly asked if pride was the reason for this goal?  She was so right, seeking and having those who can speak real truth is more precious than gold!

I told Josh yesterday that I wanted to prove to all the people who doubt us and our financial plans and methods, that this works by becoming debt free so quickly.  He encouraged me so well by reminding me of what I already knew, we are not doing this for “those people” we are doing it for God, and for our family.  He also reminded me how far we had come, not using a credit card since before last September when we began, cash flowing a whole bunch of bigger expenses like medical and home and auto repairs, no longer living month to month like 76% of Americans, paying off $34,000 in debt, and working together as a team like never before.  He also reminded me that for most with our income level and amount of debt, it takes about 2-2.5 years to pay off their debt.  He is SUCH an amazing leader and partner in this, I am so incredibly grateful for the way he has swallowed his pride and been willing to learn, change, and take responsibility, and how he has been in the trenches with me, growing personally and standing up for God’s call on his financial life with me.  He is a constant encouragement, praying with me, loving us so well, I’m so glad us two slow tortoises can crawl through this journey together!

So what else have we been up to the past two months?  Well this is our shower. . .

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It’s molding and rotted through to the foundation.  So there’s that.  This is one of those circumstances where we don’t have answers yet as to what/when we’re going to do with this, just a choice to be grateful.  Grateful that we have another shower just down the hall we can use.  Grateful for a home, for clean, running water, for the chance and ability to redo this bathroom and closet into something amazing, and for duct tape.

And then there’s this . . .

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Slightly quirky, totally amazing Japanese book on decluttering and organizing.  In a house full of projects to do and money not to do, I keep focusing my heart on being faithful and caring well for what I have.  Without the distractions of always shopping and improving and consuming, I have been loving making a clean, uncluttered, organized, well cared for space to call home, it has been so rewarding!  Also, with all the STUFF I’ve collected I have made over $1000 from selling it and was able to use that for some clothes for my kids, backpacks and school supplies for next year, and medical bills.

Also, in all transparency I have to tell you that in June Josh and I were not diligent about our budget meetings and watching closely over all those numbers.  It was a pretty big oops, we’ve had to use a little of our savings to cover some things at the end of the month and were not able to put anything towards debt because of medical bills, which really, really bites.  We mess up and make mistakes, but we learn from them and get back on the bike and keep pedaling, inch by inch, to that beautiful finish line in March!  We messed up and you will too but it’s okay, we just shake off and keeping going.  Slow and steady wins the race!

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A mother’s day story

It was a normal, ordinary day, like any other, when I got a group text of my precious nephew doing an adorable song routine up on stage for his preschool.  The smile, the charm, oh my goodness he was so cute!  And then from absolutely nowhere it hit me like a ton of bricks, barring some miracle from God, I will never watch my child sing a song up on stage at church or otherwise.  I will never sit in the audience and take pictures and videos of her, send them to family, and adore how cute she is.  She is not capable of doing that, and I cried.  A few days later I was talking to my mom about it and I sobbed (on her birthday, sorry mom!)  She reminded me that those are losses I have to let myself grieve.  Special needs parenting, is a glorious mix of quiet joys and secret grief over things other people do not understand for us.  I have many, close friends and family who through no fault of their own, don’t comprehend what Josh and I walk through on a regular basis, and that’s okay.

The past few weeks have been really hard.  My girl has needed near minute by minute monitoring to not harm herself, others, or any item within her reach, and unfortunately twin sister is so well attuned she copies many of these behaviors best she can!  Double whammy.  One morning I made the fateful mistake of trying to get some work done on a house project while letting them “play” and two mini tornados are what followed.  It was such a low day for me, pilled under a mountain of needs from my 5 blessings, I sat on the back porch during the kids quiet time and silently, prayfully, cried my eyes out while seriously considered public school and IEP’s and special needs aids for the first time for my girls, just to get a break, and to have the message of expectations of appropriate function in the world come from someone else.

Part of our miraculous adoption story is when we were waiting to finding out if we would be placed with the twins, two separate times I was praying intensely about it and God sent two birds to sit right in front of me, a beautiful small voice confirming his plan for our family.  And those signs meant so much as we walked many extremely difficult times with them in the future, knowing that it was all part of his plan, was such a strength and comfort.  So last week I’m sitting on my deck, crying, praying, thinking, and two birds start circling underneath the deck right in front of me, over and over.  I have never seen birds do that before!  And the timing, it was the quiet, gentle voice of God reminding me that he sent those two little tornados into my life, and the plan is still his.

It is so heartbreaking for Josh and I to watch our daughter struggle the way she does.  He asked her to get socks on, and I guess one was the wrong color, and she was at the very end of her rope over it, and after multiple times of correction he secretly watched her from around the corner.  Still not putting her socks on, and curled up on the floor, very quietly screaming, in anguish, pounding her little fists slowly on the floor, just incapable of moving forward.  I think we’ve all been there before, overwhelmed with life and emotions, unable to move forward, imagine your worst day, in your worst year of life, how you felt in that moment.  That’s where our daughter’s brain chemistry has her over socks.  And over picking up her shoes 10 minutes before that, and over food 20 minutes before that, and over a toy 5 minutes before that.  Can you even fathom feeling that way day in and day out, at 5 years old?  And there is no label for that I can easily tell people about to help them understand or have context for what it means when I say we had a hard week.

And you know, I think God purposefully brings us to the end of ourselves as mothers.  Where we’ve done years of therapy, tried every diet change and supplement that could possibility help, we’ve been to all the doctors and specialists and tried more scary medications than I care to count.  And still I can’t fix this problem.  Still I am terrified of the future if 5 whole years of life have been filled with this.  I get angry over things birth mom did that caused this, I get angry that she was on life support from kidney disease and had low levels of oxygen in her brain for too long, why two strikes for this little one, wasn’t the first enough?  Truth is I don’t understand, and I am not mom enough for this.  But God is enough.

We went to church last night and our precious pastor, sought God on what to teach, and preached the most perfect sermon for my mother’s heart in this moment and season.  The Power of a Praying Mom.  How being a mom long enough, you run into limits you can’t pass, problems you can solve, and issues you just can’t fix no matter how hard you try.  But there is a supernatural power, that effects things in the natural through the power of a praying mom.  It is a sermon I will listen to again and again, it was so very powerful and a hopeful conviction that I can really release control over my mothering, over these things I cannot fix, and trust and pray at a consistency and level that I have never done before.  It was exactly what I needed to hear, and the challenges we face, make celebrating mothers day even more special and amazing!

Yesterday Josh took us on a lesser traveled hike to the LBJ Grasslands about 45 minutes north of us, it was so beautiful and very peaceful and quiet!  We did a little under 3 miles and did lots of piggybacks and encouragement to walk for our special kiddo.  She was fighting quite the mental battle so it was a great opportunity to reminder her that walking may seem impossible to her, but with God all things are possible, and counteract the barrage of negativity pouring out of her with many reminders of all the blessings of being on a hike.  She probably walked 1.5-2 miles which is the most she’s ever done, we are so proud of her and had an awesome time with all the kids.  A wonderful start to our mother’s day weekend celebration.🙂  Today we look forward to dinner with cousins, calling our moms, and hopefully swimming if it doesn’t storm in Texas.

Josh took these photos yesterday with his iPhone!

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Month 7

Seven months in, and we are clearly not masters at this yet!!  Josh and I have been leading a Financial Peace small group at our church this spring, and plan to do so again in the fall.  It has been SO good to go through the material again.  I can certainly see why people do it over and over, it is a total paradigm shift and that takes time to do.  It takes time to work through the many layers that come up as a couple.  I almost feel as if there is no major area in our lives that has not been touched and changed this past 7 months through our financial journey!  A kind friend pointed out how much doing something like this as a couple effects your communication and strengthens your marriage.  This is so on point to what we’re experiencing.  It’s definitely not always pretty, or easy, it is often hard and painful to work through, but the rewards, the other stuff that get’s swept up with it is worth every bit!

Since you heard from us last, we had traded in our very reliable, low milage family vehicle, along with it’s $16,600 of debt, for a high mile van we paid $3,500 in cash for.  And then the horror of horrors we all expect and therefore avoid like the plague happened!!!  We had car repairs.  Yup.  Almost $1000 worth.  Guess what happened?  We paid for them with NOT a credit card.  Guess what else happened?  Nobody freaked out.  The world didn’t end.  For the first time ever, Josh and I experienced what it was like to put car repairs and peace in the same sentence.  Expectations are seriously everything.  We get so worked up over several hundred or thousand dollars in “unexpected” car repairs our eyes cross and suddenly a $20,000-$40,000 loan looks like a better deal.  Well then at least we can expect the car payment right!?!  We have said those words ourselves probably every time we’ve switched vehicles and gotten those loans.  Debt is NOT the only way for the average american family to afford a vehicle people, we have bought the line very successfully sold to us!  There is all sorts of crazy math on this that I can in no way tell you coherently about, but suffice to say debt is radically not on our sides in the equation.

All that to say, we didn’t make a ton of progress on debt in April, we replenished our $1000 emergency fund and added $500 more to it, because we felt like we needed a little more margin with our older van going forward.  We also set aside about $500 more for debt.  So even though it doesn’t feel like much, it was a huge milestone in our journey.  It was a testing that showed us the process works and turned what had previously involved crisis and credit cards into no big deal.  Sometimes when you don’t see much of anything growing on top, the roots are busy growing down deep where you cannot see.

The Bible says in Luke 16:10-12 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”  I think of this verse every time I start to feel ungrateful for something.  Maybe I wish I could do something differently with our home that involves money, am I being diligent and keeping up with the home I have now though?  I want something new for myself, but am I taking care of my own body and the things God’s given me first?  I want to create something bigger better or more beautiful in someway, or as a people person always looking for more ways to connect or adventures to have, but am I caring for my own soul, and connecting well with the people in my home and closest to me first?  These are all questions I am learning (definitely not mastered) to ask myself when my heart is feeling ungrateful or empty, and it is a very effective tool!

I told you that there are few areas this journey has not touched right?  One of those we’ve had to revisit often is the question why.  What is our reason in doing all this?  Is it because debt is bad and we don’t want bad.  Well yes, certainly, but that’s not it.  Is it because we want to be financial free with the success and status that comes with it and do as we please?  Well, that does sound like fun, but that is somebody else’s dream.  How often do we live and work and stress to achieve someone else’s dream or version of success, and to what end?  Is it because we want to retire and leave an inheritance for our children’s children?  Absolutely!  I think our “why” will keep changing and growing as we do, it’s been something I’ve had to question often and really work through.  The why as male and female, man and wife, though there is much teamwork and corporate goals between us, expresses itself differently and this is such a strength.  It is really important to Josh to know that he is leading our family well and doing things God’s way with money, and that he is providing for our futures, and protection in the here and now.  This is is what makes him great with all the insurance changes we’ve made (and that’s a whole other post!)  Insurance kills the fun and joy in my soul so I’m glad Josh is on top of it!  My why is more about caring well for the family and home God has given me to the very best of my ability instead of constantly seeking approval from others or fulfillment in any one of the hundreds of ways we seek before God.

Which brings me to my clothesline.  For real.  An archaic, outdated, old fashion, obsolete idea.  Who does that anymore?!  I have secretly been wanting one for months, but kept talking myself out of how silly it was.  Just another one of my over the top ideas that would never work out in real life.  Couldn’t get it out of my head though so I just did it and I’m so glad!  Not only do I like the $50/month in savings, but I love the smell, you can’t bottle that up, I love how the sunshine gently bleaches out our stains and whites, I love slipping away to quietly hang them, I love them fluttering in the breeze, I love that it keeps me always on top of laundry every day, and I love how it reminds me in this world, that our home and family are worth wasting my life on. 69673814-4074-46B6-B38D-52120D305B2A.JPG

P.S.  I in no way am saying you need to get a clothesline to do any of the above mentioned things, there are hundred of ways to show your family you love them and save money, this just happens to be one of mine.  It was rainy this morning and the sun is coming out so I have a load to hang and my mom to call!

xo Ashley

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Spring Flowers

Yesterday evening we had a small break in the rain so I went for soggy, muggy stroll in our back property, lyrical songs of mocking birds and the surprisingly loud sound of what seemed like 10,000 bull frogs kept me company.  I pinch myself several times a week still, with how blessed and grateful we are to live where we do, such a constant reminder of God’s grace!

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Liam’s early 8th birthday

We had fun today as a family going out to a nice lunch for an early birthday celebration for Liam.  He said “thank you for taking me here mom and dad about 10 times.”

 

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Resurrection Day 2016

We had a wonderful Resurrection (Easter) weekend!  I didn’t know until this year, but did you know that Easter is a celebration of the fertility goddess Ashtoreth, in english translated as Easter!?!  Hence the bunnies and eggs.  I never knew!  That’s okay, I don’t need to get weird about using the name Easter or my kids doing eggs hunts, but I did want to be purposeful about what and how we are celebrating and make sure the focus was on the God who sent his son to die for us, and rose 3 days later.  He is the reason for our hope, and the reason death no longer has victory or the same sting without eternal life.  We talked a lot about it this year with our kids, it is such a treasure to see their deepening understanding.  Next year I’d like to do a traditional passover celebration with all it’s symbolism and meaning!

We went to a very full Saturday evening service at church.  I couldn’t help but cry, one because I cry a lot in church just because I do, but mostly because as we sang to the glory of God, I could hear my husband’s voice harmonizing beautifully on one side, and on the other, the sweetest little Filipino grandmother singing at the top of her off key voice in her lovely accent.  It just reminded me a little of what heaven will be like.  Every tribe, tongue, color, and nation, gathered together on even ground, worshiping our creator, it gives me chills!

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Sunday morning we snuggled in bed (and also on the ground, 7 people don’t really fit in a king bed) and Liam (our 7 year old) read all of Luke 24 to us, he did an awesome job!  We relaxed, then headed over to cousins house for a feast and egg hunt.  Also if you haven’t checked out Resurrection Eggs yet, I highly recommend them, a great hands on story telling tool for kids.

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Month 6

I can’t believe we’re 6 months in on this journey to financial freedom, and I can’t believe how much it’s changed us!  This was a big exciting month for our finances.  We traded in our low milage van for something older, with much higher miles and paid the difference in cash, that paid off over $16,000 all in one shot.  We also paid off our second credit card completely, so that leaves one car loan, and 1 credit card left.  So far we have paid off $31,000 in debt in the past 6 months and saved up a small emergency fund of $1000!!!

If you want to be absolutely shook up in the very best way, about what the bible has to say about money, check out this Sermon by Tim Keller, we have listened to it several times and it’s still rocking our world!

Getting rid of a low milage car was not easy for us.  It occurred to both of us going through this process that high milage cars = repairs, and car repairs have always equaled major stress for us.  But we’ve also never had an emergency fund before, our credit cards have been our “emergency” fund.  It’s kind of like purposefully choosing to not own an umbrella, then totally freaking out when it rains.  It seems silly, but the same stigma is true with car repairs.  We will justify enormous amounts of unwise spending on vehicles and say it’s smart to avoid repair costs.  But if we come to expect those, just like we expect it to rain in Texas in the Spring, then owning an older vehicle is wise.  We would have owed on that thing until 2020, and now we are just free!

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Maybe the interest on car loans isn’t that high, but you also must count the cost of opportunity for that $300-$500/ month for the next 5-6 years, or forever if you keep trading up like most people.  What if you invested that money every month for the next 10-20 years instead and then waited until retirement age?  The difference would make you a millionaire!  That is the cost of opportunity, and why the vast majority of millionaires drive used cars, they keep the habits that got them there.  If you don’t want the same financial outcome that most people have, then you have to stop thinking like most people do!

One of my favorite activities this month was getting together with a group from our church and making 150 lunches for the homeless.  The couple who has been going out 3 times a week to love on these people came and talked to us about the realities and how it’s changed their thinking.  It has made them so much more grateful for things, and caused them to live more simply.  There are people hurting people all over our world, but we are good at hiding their needs from our daily lives, this is something we want to change how we do as a family! Processed with VSCO with 5 preset

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Here are a few fun ways our family has saved money this month!

I have a very precious friend that ships us beautiful hand-me-downs every season for our twins.  It’s hard to express just how big a blessing this is!  Here the girls are playing with new ponies and new jammies that were sent, enjoying every minute of it!  IMG_1628.JPG

 

We have LOVED our country vet!  Vet costs can be so crazy expensive, but we found a wonderful vet 20 minutes from us who has incredibly reasonable prices, it definitely pays to call around and ask on prices for different things.  One of our dogs got a huge, baseball sized swollen ear from broken vessels (which is apparently common in floppy eared dogs) and she needed surgery.  They did the whole thing, including an over night stay and follow up, for $160!!IMG_1638.JPG

We’ve been using an art curriculum that we just haven’t been loving.  I asked a friend whose projects I have loved what she had been using.  I was able to sell the old books and buys the new ones used on Amazon for the same price!  If there is something you don’t need, consider selling it on Amazon, Ebay, a special Facebook group, or on Craigslist.  Most people can clean out the junk from their houses, and sell it to save up their starter emergency fund so they can stop using their credit cards!IMG_1717.JPG

 

One really challenging area for me has been the relationship between the way things look, and the money it costs to get them there.  I am a very visual and creative person and I love beautiful things!  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that necessarily, but it is a fine line I have to watch in my heart, and in my budget.  This Easter I wanted something special for the kids to wear, so I took our $40 clothing allowance for the month, bought several things at the thrift store, picked a couple things from their closets, bought a bow tie, suspenders, and cap on eBay, and made the twins dresses, ruffle pants, and head bands with fabric from the thrift store and a few notions from Walmart.  Yep, it was time consuming, but I saved a bunch of money and really enjoyed making something for the girls, our kids looked adorable and loved the things I put together for them! IMG_9367.jpg

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Month 5

Current debt paid off: $5000 in credit cards + $3000 set aside to sell our family van and buy a less expensive one outright in March!

I want to talk to you today about our past journey with finances and what it was like to be on welfare.  This is hard to talk about.  Ego makes it hard, and though we should look forward, press on toward the future and all God has for us, this month I finally was able to reconcile this difficult past with who I am today, and that is important work.

Josh spent the first 13 years of his adult working life as a pastor for youth.  It was something he went to college for, loved, and felt called to do.  It was incredible, and it was hard.  In many churches in america the youth pastor is the lowest paid pastoral position, paying an average of $34,000/year.  I want you to think about what that speaks to the importance of youth and those who serve them in our churches.

Because of the culture around us, our thinking on this difficulty resulted in a victim mentality.  You truly are the sum total of the 5 closest people to you or the messages you hear, and that’s what we heard and believed.  Poor us.  Now was it a good thing to expect a dedicated young pastor to care for a family living below the poverty line?  No, not at all.  But staying stuck in the victim mentality causes you to take no personal responsibility for what you will do with the circumstance around you.  I think this actual has nothing to do with being a pastor, we can all relate to having some injustice done to us, either real or perceived, and taking no personal responsibility for our reaction to that injustice.

Our reaction was to attempt to live like those around us, and complain about all the hardships.  We tried to live in similar homes and decorate in a like manner, drive two vehicles when we had no business doing so on our income, and dressing our children new clothing.  There were certainly many habits of money conservation in our lives that we did not see in our peers, but the whole thing was too little too late, and in truth we should have put ourselves and then 3 precious boys in an apartment.

Living in the reality of our means would have changed us to the core, it would have spoken volumes to the people and church we served, and we could have actually saved money to set aside instead of going into debt when something broke.  I wouldn’t have frequented the welfare office or felt the impatient stares of judgmental people as I held up the grocery line with my 5 kids and ever so time consuming and painfully obvious WIC checks.  Ultimately it was ego’s fault, ego that had to look like we were living a life that we actually weren’t.  The crazy part is that the people we were measuring ourselves against weren’t presenting an accurate picture either, it was eye opening when they later foreclosed on the big house or went through bankruptcy.  Everything we had based our modeling after wasn’t even real.Untitled-1Welfare or not, most all of us who struggle with debt are also struggling with ego.  It’s an ongoing struggle for me, but finally, after 5 months on this journey, I feel like I’ve made a breakthrough!  Ego is at the root of my continuing contentment issues and it gives me new purpose to measure my money choices.  Why do I want this?  Is it because it’s good quality, because we truly truly need it, or is it because I care about how it looks and how I appear to others?  THAT is the question of the hour and it has been SO helpful!  This is a hard one for me, someone who is very visual, creative, and people oriented by nature, so I really have to be aware of my motives.

I want you to do a little exercise with me.  Add up the total money your household has made in the last 5 years and write it down.  Now draw a line under it.  Under the line I want you to write how much you have left.

Was that as big of a wake up for you as it was for me!?!?  True wealth has absolutely nothing to do with how much money you make or the nice things you have or your freedom to spend.  You will never ever become wealthy living month to month.  You will never become wealthy making $500,000/year if there is nothing left of it.  Someone can become more wealthy making $50,000/year if they live below their means and save up over time, the difference is powerful!  What’s holding you back?

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Valentine

Our family had a wonderful Valentines celebration!  The week before the kids helped me make valentines for their homeschool friends out of old newspaper comics my great grandmother had kept.  It was a lot of fun, they especially loved using the hot glue gun!  We went to a party with other homeschool families from our church, the kids didn’t want to leave, and everyone left with an overwhelming sense of gratefulness for our community!

The actual day of, I had gotten behind on editing a photography session that was due that day, so I got up early and worked away at it during nap time to finish!  I was bummed because I had really wanted to decorate and spend more time with the kids (my fault on the timing!) but when I emerged from my office, Josh had done all the decorating with the kids.  They made this really cool heart chandelier with more of those old comics, it was such a sweet surprise!  It may not mean a lot to others, but my husband knew my heart and just delighted to do it because he loves me and knows what makes me happy.  He is my sweetheart!  He loved me with joy in the way he knew I would receive it best, it’s such a good example.  How often do I love people in my own way and not they way they need it most.

The kids and I made heart shaped pizzas together, it was so fun, I’m being intentional to include my kids more often in things because it’s such good quality time, even if it’s more messy and time consuming.  I read the kids the story of Saint Valentine and Josh read 1 Corinthians 13, then we went outside and watched the 5 kids and 2 dogs run around in the sunset.  That country view of the big Texas sky is one of those consistent bright spots in my life, every time I get bogged down with the worries of life, every time I’m tempted to be ungrateful, every time I forget to just be present and enjoy the moment, that view and The One who placed it there brings me back, every time!

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Savoring Rest in Motherhood

Rest does not automatically come when we retire from work.  For mothers work often follows them even while they sleep at night, in the form of little feet, a child’s cry, a worried heart, and that ever vigilant alertness which wakes us easily.  Then there’s that elusive idea of a Sabbath rest, surely I am not the only mother who has worked double time to clear space for a day of “rest” only to find at the end of it the house and little hearts have fallen to pieces, and she will work extra the next day to make up for it.  There are times when dad, grandparents, or a sitter take over the child rearing tasks for a moment, but more often for weary mothers in becomes a tool of survival rather than genuine, soul rest.  I have walked through brutal seasons of motherhood with my special needs twins that most of my peers will never come close to understanding the bone weary, spirit crushing, painful excruciating months and years that I became so familiar with.  And even now, I am in a new season of lacking rest from my own self motivation and task oriented ambition that seems to have made myself the needed one to so many outside my family.

Deep, spirit quenching rest for mothers is so much more than simply a “moms day off” which can often be impractical for many of us to get as often as we would need for it to be lastingly effective.  I don’t want my motherhood to be a series of coming up gasping for breath and pushing on, I want to savor these years!  Our creator spent 6 days working and a final day of rest, laying out an eternal rhythm for us.  On the 7th day he sat back, observed all he had made and said “It is good.”  To experience that level of rest, we need to look at our children, ourselves, our spouse, our home, and simply say, it is good.  Even though we know we yell more than we should, our kids whine more than they ought, and my bathroom is certainly not company ready, because Jesus paid it all I can simply say, it’s okay.  Not that we can’t grow, but we grow from a place of freedom and forgiveness with nothing to prove.

As the preacher Tim Keller puts it:

“Thus Sabbath is about more than external rest of the body; it is about inner rest of the soul. We need rest from the anxiety and strain of our overwork, which is really an attempt to justify ourselves—to gain the money or the status or the reputation we think we have to have. Avoiding overwork requires deep rest in Christ’s finished work for your salvation (Hebrews 4:1–10). Only then will you be able to “walk away” regularly from your vocational work and rest.”

I resonate with this so much, seeing clearly that the places I’m tired are the same places I am not trusting and trying to prove something.

Rest, and treasuring our lives and children, is more active than we might imagine.  Being outside with my children is a way I rest.  When we are outside, our stresses and anxieties fade, we are present with each other, we are thankfully enjoying what our creator has made, we are full of wonder, we are on the same team.  Yesterday we took two overly excited coonhounds for a walk on our property, I held little hands, watched boys pull treasures from the overgrown fields, and admired the carpet of earliest tiny wildflowers that grew in that place just because.  No reason, or purpose, just beautiful.  And the youngest 3 gathered dormant wildflowers for our winter table.  IMG_8391 copy

Today, some of our hearts were full of anxiety, which I found is often the primary root of most of the poor choices and attitudes in our home, so I took the twins to collect eggs.  Simple pleasures that turned our hearts around.  Photographing my children has long had a special place in my heart, and since I can remember was a powerful force in treasuring my kids in difficult seasons of motherhood.  IMG_8355 copyIMG_8344 copyIMG_8347 copy

 

And an old hobby, resurrected, was such a precious part of rejoicing over my small people this weekend.  I took two of their daddy’s old shirts and sewed them into darling little dresses. IMG_1442.JPG

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The past few weeks, tucked beside my 1970’s nightstand is a simple white journal I have been daily recording something I am thankful for with each member of my family, my possessions, and my God, a simple way of savoring the rest of motherhood and Christ’s sufficiency for me.  What ways do you have to truly rest and treasure your children?

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