Thursday, January 29, 2009

Teabag: God

In the beginning, God...
Genesis 1:1

Enough said! We are studying the creation story right now in school (which creates lots of questions from my 6 yr. old.) But all we need to know is in the beginning was God, is God, will be God, never not God. So why are we worrying? If He created us, He has a plan...there go all of mine out the window :-).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Day in the Life Of... Part 2

I wrote about an exceptionally busy day away from home just before Christmas. Today was a busy day mostly at home--quite typical in many respects except that we rarely run an errand on wash day; I don't know if I recorded all the laundry changes--there are usually 6 or so loads on wash day (hubby had a meeting at church tonight, so he won't be home until 9:00-ish).

  • Shower (6:30 or so)
  • Got kids up and dressed
  • Threw in 1st load of laundry (today's wash day after all)
  • Fed everyone breakfast (including dogs); human breakfast was scrambled eggs and leftover pancakes and tangerines
  • Thew in 2nd load of laundry--moved first to dryer
  • Phone call
  • Changed diapers, socks and shoes on, three raincoats on
  • 9:15-ish... left for mall (indoor playground)
  • Mall indoor playground time (just us--kids love it)
  • 10:00-ish... geared back up, bought pretzel stix on way out of mall
  • Hung out in mall foyer waiting for TORRENTIAL rain to stop
  • Gave up waiting and made a break for it
  • Quick Walmart run (rarely go to this place, but sometimes it's a necessity. Of course, they were out of the 1 thing I actually needed from there)
  • Back home
  • Lunch (noon?): pb&j, salad (yes, 2 of my kids now like salad!!!), cucumbers, apples
  • Kids run around house while Mommy checks email, cleans up lunch, loads a picture onto the computer, and yells at kids....
  • Story time (well, this is for preschooler after boys go down for nap)
  • Nap-time and quiet time (during which neither twin slept; preschooler was angelic, however)
  • Nap-time activity for Mommy: some computer time, switch laundry loads, plan dinner, make phone calls, etc.
  • Preschooler and Mommy make carrot-apple muffins for baby shower on Friday
  • Preschooler watches promised movie while Mommy finishes muffins, gets boys up, cooks pinto beans (for chili later), removes boys from counter/chairs a gazillion times, reads quick story to both boys, removes boys from broom closet, restores cardboard recycling to its rightful place in broom closet, hugs boy who got pinched by other boy, switches laundry, answers phone, makes tuna sandwiches for Daddy's lunch (for freezer)...
  • Dinner! (mostly leftovers plus some newly steamed broccoli and our now favorite yogurt/banana/honey dessert)
  • Kids run around while Mommy loads dishwasher and starts it
  • Bath-time! All three kids at the same time...
  • Diaper kids after bath, but not fast enough!!! One boy pees onto preschooler's towel (she wasn't still wrapped up in it), and then poops on it... (sigh... at least it's laundry day and there's 1 more load to go)
  • Pajama Time... oooh yeah, it's pajama time.
  • Nighty-night time for kids (6:40 tonight--no naps mean tired kiddos--it's usually between 7 and 7:30)
  • Switch laundry
  • Quick blog post (this)
  • Bible study for tomorrow
  • Kids' lunches and diaper bag packed for tomorrow (Bible study)
  • Folding all those loads of laundry while watching TV (feels quite relaxing!)

Teapots and Flowers

Two things I really enjoy: teapots and flowers. I also want my counters to be cleared off, my cupboards more organized, and my kitchen to be warm and welcoming. Can I reconcile all of these?

Because I enjoy teapots and flowers, I have myriad vases and teapots. I do actually use about half of my vases and 2 of my teapots. In my efforts to prune my "stuff," I've given away some of the unused items, but others hold enough sentimental value that I can't part with them yet. 

My friend Lisa came over yesterday and gave me a fabulous idea (why didn't I think of this before?!): to use the teapots I love as vases for flowers. I can now get rid of some of the vases I didn't really love because I don't need them... I have a terrific substitute. Now, how cheery is that?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Year's Goals....

Better late than never, I suppose. I've had several New Year's goals floating around in my head ever since I wrote about why I like goals instead of resolutions. If I write them down here, then that's more mental accountability than merely recording them on a scratch piece of paper in the kitchen. I did write up a list of food/kitchen-related ones on full tummies.

I'm going to keep the list fairly short--more chance of me meeting these goals.

  • Organize closets enough to get one more shelf's space out of each; things that need to go into closets that are now "hanging out" in my house: sewing machine, partially finished end table of my grandfather's, extra toys, miscellaneous kitchen clutter, books, etc. My goal is to rework the closets enough to get some of these items into closet space instead of taking of valuable counter or desk realestate.
  • Read Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship.
  • Pray every day for 15 minutes.
  • Work through question 20 in Children's Catechism with my daughter (we've just hit #11).
  • Plant all my seeds (there are a LOT, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.) Keep a record of garden adventures (i.e. what works, what doesn't, how much produced, etc.).
  • E-cards for birthdays (missed most of January, here, but can start now!).
  • Digital photo book of 2008 by end of March; digital photo book for each kid's birthday; digital photo book of 2009 by Christmas.
  • No new craft projects! 
  • Finish existing craft projects by end of 2009 (daughter's quilt, husband's t-shirt quilt, miscellaneous pot holders, window treatments for bedroom and kitchen, etc.).
  • Give back, give away, store all baby gear/clothes.
  • Attack clutter: keep kitchen counters cleared off, desk cleared off, dining room table cleared off (if just those things stay caught up, we'll be in good shape!).
  • File papers/deal with mail weekly. Daily, really, but every week will be a clean slate at the very least.
  • Play outside with my kids 4 days a week (every day would be pointless in the rain we've had...).
  • Lose 8 pounds.
  • Throw/give away clothes that are too big once I lose aforementioned 8 pounds. At end of each season, if I didn't wear it that season, it also gets tossed.
  • Date night with hubby every other week (we have a date swap with our neighbors).
  • Kid-free trip with hubby sometime this year.
I decided this past fall that I wanted to "update" my look and try to look more like a wife than a worn out, unkempt mom. So, I got trendy new glasses. I just cut my hair (and it's very cute). Now, when I lose those last few pounds, I'll be able to wear some of the styles I prefer to wear! So, that's a work-in-progress goal, I suppose--like getting regular hair cuts and such.

Feel free to leave any of your own New Year's Goals in the comments section!

Money, Possession, and Eternity: A Perspective

Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions, and Eternity is one of the best books I have ever read on, well, money, possessions, and eternity. Recommended by a CPA friend of ours years ago, it's a book I need to reread yet again. It seems a particularly relevant book in light of our current economy.

Alcorn is a Christian and seeks to challenge readers to develop a truly biblical view of their possessions, their wealth, and how it all stacks up in light of eternity. He begins with a look at the challenge we face in regard to money and possessions, looking at both ascetism and materialism. He takes a hard look at materialism in the church as well as in the individual.

The second section looks at money and possessions in light of eternity. Alcorn goes beyond the "two masters" dilemma and looks at our destiny (heaven) and our rewards; the rewards chapter was quite interesting since we often avoid that idea in our modern "grace-centered" churches. Alcorn examines the many Scriptures that talk about the rewards we will get in heaven and here on earth.

The third section looks at generosity: our giving and sharing. He covers tithing, giving above the tithe, mercy ministry to the poor and lost, and ethical concerns over fund-raising/ministry financing (another very interesting section).

The fourth and final section looks at how we need to handle our resources. This section is a bit more practical since it deals with some of the "here and now" concerns, but it necessarily comes at the end of his earlier, equally important, philosophical and theological discussions. He includes making/generating wealth, owning "stuff," debt (both borrowing and lending), saving (including a look at insurance), gambling, investing, leaving money, .... He also looks at the family: how we can address materialism in the family, how we can teach our children about money. This is not a how-to, like Larry Burkett or Dave Ramsey might provide; instead, it looks at eminently practical concerns in light of Biblical principles.

This book is meaty. I could go on and on about the different things that stood out to me. Even giving an overview of the table of contents brought back many, many reminders that I need to reread this yet again. Alcorn isn't inspired and infallible like the Bible; however, I believe that this book is quite biblical and should be read by everyone!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Budget 101: Gazelle Intensity

I already mentioned Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover in my earlier post on money and budgeting, but it deserves its own special little review. This book is a terrific tool for anyone, particularly Christians, looking to manage her money better.

Ramsey begins by issuing a challenge: to really manage your money, you must have "gazelle intensity." That is, you must have the intensity of a gazelle as it flees a predator: looking neither to the right nor to the left, undeterred by side issues or concerns. Ramsey then challenges the reader to admit the problem, dispels myths about money and debt, and reminds us we don't need to keep up with the Joneses (because they're likely living on credit).

Once you're psyched and ready to go, he outlines the plan: Save $1000 fast (and first). Create a debt snowball (which really works). Finish your emergency fund (3-6 months of living expenses). Maximize retirement investing. Save for college; teach your children about money. Pay off the house! And let the games begin.

His maxim: Live like no one else will so that you can live like no one else can.

Ramsey's plan is packed with sound Biblical advice, his projected goals are reachable, and his book is full of personal stories and testimonials that are quite encouraging. He favors the envelope system (pulling cash out for different categories and putting it in appropriate envelopes--this really works, people!) and "spending" your money on paper at the beginning of the month so you know where it all is going. We got rid of credit card debt, incurred no other debt, and lived within our means when we weren't making much money our first few years of marriage. It was so freeing to have a budget and know that we could spend freely within the constraints we'd given ourselves. We also set up that initial $1000 fund and then proceeded to dip into it frequently (much to our chagrin) for car repairs; the bonus: we never had to use credit to pay for the car repairs! We always had money in the bank. And we frequently said to each other, "Gazelle intensity!"

If you're in debt or simply looking for a good Christian perspective on money and the whole "credit" thing, check out Total Money Makeover. There's a link in our sidebar to, or you can buy it from Dave Ramsey himself.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wish I'd Written This...

I (Betsy) don't know this girl, but I love this post and I love the SWAK challenge she's issuing. So, click on the "button" on the side bar I just added (sorry, Carrie--didn't check with you first, but I'm assuming you'll be in on this one, too). Or, click on this link to the SWAK Challenge info. There's an additional challenge linked in the SWAK Challenge. Married ladies only! No Boys Allowed.

Money, Money, Money!

Wouldn't we all like to have more of it rather than less? Money, that is. There's a wonderful passage in Proverbs (30:7-9) that says the following :

Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:
8Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
9That I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the LORD?"
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.

That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? We are echoing this in the Lord's Prayer when we ask for our daily bread. The Lord showed us this graphically when he gave manna to the Israelites--enough for a day on normal days; enough for two days when the following day was the Sabbath.

Money is often a touchy subject, but it seems especially so now. January is always a tight month, coming on the heels of our wildly extravagant American Christmas celebrations; in addition, we're all concerned about the economy.

I thought a little series on budgeting might be timely; I'm intending more to walk through how my little family does the whole budgeting thing--perhaps with insight from Carrie as to how her family does it. You can find all the spreadsheets, formulas, ratios, investment strategies, and the like online or by talking to those in the financial world. We won't be duplicating that here. Instead, we'll just walk you through some of our own day-to-day decisions and strategies so you can see some real world pictures of the various ideas out there.

Our featured resource is a WONDERFUL book that everyone should read: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (I couldn't figure out how to link the image in the margin to his website, so the margin image is linked to amazon...). Our dad gave Carrie and me each a copy of this a few years ago. Thanks to that book, my husband and I were debt free (excluding our mortgage and a lingering school loan) by the time he graduated from graduate school. We've acquired more debt and are working once again to pay it off (namely, our car and those same lingering school loans). Once you (and your husband) agree to live within your means, then you can work hard towards that goal (Dave R would say "gazelle intensity!"). Couponing, investing, biking to work, etc. will mean nothing unless you are actually working towards a real goal. Make your strategies and sacrifices count!

Above all, remember that our ultimate goal is to glorify the Lord. He is the source of all that we have and will always provide for his children. I'll end with another verse from Proverbs, one that is no doubt much more well known (3:5-6):

5Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Prayer for the 1st Monday

Taken from Quiet Moments with God, by Lloyd John Ogilivie:

You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name's sake, lead me and guide me.
-Psalm 31:3

Almighty God, You have promised strength for the work of this day, power to handle the pressures, light for the way, patience in problems, help from above, unfading courage, and undying love. In the stresses and strains of living, often I sense my wells have run dry. Life has a way of de-powering me, depleting my resiliency, and draining my patience. People can get me down and perplexities stir me up.

Lord, I pray for a fresh flow of Your strength--strength to think clearly, serve creatively, and endure consistently; strength to fill up diminished human resources; silent strength that flows from Your limitless source, quietly filling them with artesian power.

You never ask me to do more that You will provide the strength to accomplish. So make me a riverbed for the flow of Your creative Spirit. Fill this day with the serendipities, unexpected surprises of Your grace. Be Lord of every conversation, the unseen guest at every meeting and the guide of every decision. In the name of Him who is the way, the truth and the life.