Sunday, May 29, 2011

Living Within Our Means

We have an accepted offer on a house!  I don't want to prematurely get excited, so I'm waiting until a few more things fall into place before getting started on packing :-)  But, it has me thinking about our finances and standard of living.

My dad has always taught me the importance of living within my means. As a child, and a teenager, this was preached often, though it mattered very little to me at the time. My dad's means were relatively large, my needs were relatively small. We had a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, I attended private schools. When it came time for my license, we purchased a nice little car. We had cell phones, vacations, computers. College education was provided to me by my dad, I had a nice wedding that didn't require a loan.... Financing was rarely necessary for things.

I don't say this bragging (obviously) since I had worked for exactly 0 of what I was "earning", but my dad managed to always balance home life, work life, financial obligations without getting too ahead of himself. He never bought a house for show, he didn't buy us fancy new cars in need of loans.  Though he certainly could have.

Now, as an adult, I'm realizing how difficult this balance is. My eye is always on a nicer home. A nicer van. A longer vacation. With financing readily available for anything you'd need, it's sad that the meaning of "living within your means" is so convoluted.

Putting a vacation on a credit card, and paying it off within 6 months doesn't sound too crazy. 12 months, interest free financing on furniture is on TV s all of the time. 5 year loans for a new vehicle is pretty standard. People live in homes that are four times the value of their yearly salary, without saving for even a quarter of it first.

I'm not writing this in a judgement seat, rather in a state of confusion. How did we get here? How did "living within our means" come to mean living in a state of being maxed out financially? Without a desire to give more, and live on less?

As Gibbs & I look to the future of our children, and begin thinking about paying off student loans, saving for college funds, retirement accounts, etc., it makes me wonder how much will ever be enough with this type of mindset.

Money can so easily enslave us. Once we make it, we spend it. Then, your dream house, your dream car, become a trap. Working to fulfill financial obligations we perhaps shouldn't have been making in the first place.

Instead of outward concern for others, it becomes an inward obsession with maintaining your standard of living.  Instead of passion for God, your family, your mission field (whether that's at home or abroad)  it becomes working to pay the bills. To get a bigger house, flashier cars, private schools...

It's exhausting (and rewarding) to do a word study on money in the bible. God has a LOT to say about it clearly. I think the overall picture if well worded by this verse, and I will try to keep it in mind as time goes on...
Ecclesiastes 5:10
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Happy Week: Things we did

This is really just a "what we did this week" post, but there were so many things that made me really happy, that I decided to title it differently :-)

My sister in law Ang, and D, watching the dolphins at the Minnesota Zoo.  This picture makes me happy because 1) I love being with family  2) I love it that my kids have such great relationships with their aunts and uncles  and 3)  I'm so grateful for the relationship that Ang & I have now. We have both overcome many obstacles but now are quite wonderful friends! 
A mother in law who has enough energy (even with a broken kneecap) to tour the zoo with us!!


Yay for beautiful flowers growing outside my house, and a recycled bottle to put them in :)


Projects!! I love art projects with the kids.  After seeing the awesome aquarium at the MN zoo, we were inspired to make our own in the kitchen.  K painted some seaweed, and a jelly fish, and D painted a few fish and a whale.  Very fun!
My parents are coming out on Tuesday and we'll be seeing K walk in the All Abilities Fashion Show on Wednesday!  It should be another great week! :-)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quitting

I think I've alluded to my tendency to quit things before in other posts, but this week has really been a convicting week for me in this area.

I am the Queen of Planning and Big Ideas (really, I am! Ask my husband!)  I love to plan things. I plan small things like our daily chores, I plan the big things, Summer Vacations, Curriculum for this coming year with D & K, etc, etc......  the problem is, I hardly ever, ever finish anything I start.

This week my Big Plan was to (on top of turning the computer off during kids' awake times) make myself more productive during the day. I would begin each morning by waking up, showering, getting dressed, wearing shoes.  Either you are thinking it sounds silly (like I did)  or you're thinking, you don't get dressed or shower in the morning?! (no I don't usually...)

I loved it!  I do feel more productive. I feel more in control of the day. I have 15 minute "cleaning frenzy" times throughout the day.  Usually once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and then focus on the kids/meals the rest of the day. It makes the day go by much quicker, the kids are happy, Gibbs is happy when he comes home and sees a clean something (yesterday was the van, today was the bathroom)

But, this afternoon, just as things are feeling pretty comfortable in this routine....I slipped off my shoes.  It seems insignificant. But then I thought.... pajama pants sound pretty nice to scrub the bathroom floor.  Off came the jeans.  I can tell what's happening, it's happened 5000 times before.  The routine is slipping away from me before it even becomes a routine. I'm almost powerless to stop it.

The only thing stopping me from quitting is my children's ever watching eyes. They know of my plan, and if they see me quit... well, I fear that I will turn them into Quitters.  I love quitting things. There's a sense of freedom in quitting. Sometimes the plans that I make, that I want to make, end up making me feel trapped and quitting is a really great feeling!  Doesn't that sound terrible?  How very very sad I would be if I raise three children to be Quitters!  

So, tomorrow, I will wake up (hopefully...)   shower, get dressed in real person clothing, and put on my shoes. I will not quit this.  Not yet anyways.

Galations 6:9  So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up

Though in the book of Galations, the author is speaking specifically regarding good works for Christ, I think my "works" at home are for God's Glory. At least I hope that is what is being reflected in my work at home.  My husband and my children profit by my perserverence, by a good attitude when doing necessary tasks that God has given me here.

Galations 6:4    Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Week

I actually already wrote this once.... and posted it once, and somehow the site deleted it... it's all very confusing. So this one will be a little more condensed.

We've had a fun week, and leave this evening to go to Minnesota to visit the wonderful Formo family until Tuesday. 

We all played outside in the "pool"... an old sandbox that we refuse to fill with sand...again


K chose her own dress for the All Abilities Fashion Show coming up in a couple of weeks.  Such a girly girl some times :)

We took a cardboard box (thanks to diapers.com)  and I let each kid choose a project. D chose sword/shields.  As we played "protecting our castle" I shouted, on guard!  Later, I heard D playing by himself, and he said "Watch Out, I'm on Guard!"  So funny my middle one can be.

K chose a bus project.  She actually chose two pictures other than the one shown here to use in the windows.... but I seem to have misplaced them, so the project is still only semi complete. 


Each week my kids grow up a little more, and we're able to do more fun things, try new places, meet new people.  I'm continually working on more patience, less frustration, less irritation with them.  We all still experience some growing pains, but I'm not quite 30 yet, so I figure I still have some time :-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Wonderful Mother's Day

Thanks to my wonderful husband, I had a perfect mother's day. It's only taken us five years to get to a place where he knows me so well that he can plan the perfect day!  I think that's pretty impressive!

Not to bore you with all the details... it included a date night Friday night

Then yummy food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that I did not make!

And lots of fun time outside with the kids :)


And my husband even found the energy to till a garden for me!!


I just love my family very much. I am praying that on days that Gibbs is a little less attentive, or a little less affectionate, or a little too busy for my liking, I can remember how much effort he put into this day to show me how much I am loved and appreciated .  But I probably won't.... so maybe you can remind me....  :-)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Calming Down

This week has been a stressful week for me. I've been feeling anxious, and no one in the house has been on their best behavior (perhaps me included)

These days/weeks happen, and I know better than to get down on myself for them. But, I am a classic overthinker, and realized that the last time I felt like this was when I was househunting (as I am doing now!)

The whole process of making a big decision gives me terrible anxiety. I worry mostly about the kids. How will the decision affect the kids? Will they be happy in a new home? Will they be happier in "X" district, or "Y" school district. Should we live in a suburb, or on a few acres.  The list is endless in my mind.

After asking a friend for prayer about my stressful week, she gave me some rather insightful advice. She said that she prayed that God would show me how not-a-big-deal the decisions I am making really are.

As I read through Ephesians, Chapter 3's fervent prayer from Paul stood out to me. He prays for us that we would have inner strength through God, the power to understand how deep, high, long, wide Christ's love for us is, that we would experience the love of Christ.

It struck me how sad it is that I can focus so long on the importance of the small decisions in my life, but I don't invest half of that energy studying and realizing the ability of God to work in our lives regardless of which house I buy, which school district we end up in, whether an island gives us the extra counter space we need...

God loves me. He loves my children and cares about them more than I could, which is hard for me to imagine. He has told me plainly that if I seek Him first, all other things will be added to me, shelter, food, clothing....  He is someone to be trusted. There is no reason to be anxious.

This isn't to say that I don't have to do anything, that I can just sit here and not worry about making any decisions at all. But I can trust that God will open doors where they need to be opened, close the doors that I shouldn't walk through, and give me His peace throughout the process.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Symptoms of the Heart

I've held off writing this week because so many thoughts are jumbled in my head, it makes it difficult to write with any clarity! Whenever I am having a more "emotional" day (or week) thoughts are always competing in my head. Thoughts of God, the kids, buying a new house, friends.... and it's tough to get any clear feelings or answers about anything.

Due, in part, to my emotions, the kids had a tough week. It bewildered me because I had my computer off during the day, I was getting chores done, I was getting my bible study done... I was doing all of the things that usually equate to a good week! But still, I was emotional, easily frustrated, tired. And like a virus, the kids caught it. They were so whiny (where do they get that from?! Certainly not me... ha ha) and exhausting.

It struck me last night, on a quiet date with my husband, that the computer was just a symptom of a problem that has been recurring for me for years. The computer isn't the problem. The TV time we have each week isn't the problem. The food I'm feeding my family isn't the problem.... those are all just symptoms of the real issue. Which of course, is my heart.

Turning the computer was, and is, a good thing. And limiting TV time is a good thing (a great thing!). And feeding my family healthy meals is a good thing. But if my attitude is wrong, that stuff doesn't matter at all. Turning my computer off isn't what made the difference in my kids' attitude last week, it was my attitude that made the difference.  I wanted to be present and happy with the responsibilities that God had given me. I wanted to be satisfied at home, without "needing" something else.

Somehow during my emotional feelings this week, I lost the real reason I was trying to make changes. I thought turning the computer off (or getting my study done, or whatever)  was enough, that doing the right things was enough to keep everyone happy at home. Maybe this is pathetically obvious to everyone else, but when you are in the middle of it, it was not obvious to me! Works alone are never enough.

I love Psalm 40... " You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings...I will take joy in doing your will, O God"  (verses 6-8)

My goal this week is to wake up each morning, have quiet alone time to really pray and meditate on the reason I stay home with my children. To remember how blessed I am to be home with three loving children who LOVE me and want me to stay home with them. To try to make a list each day of the things that I am grateful for. I will keep you apprised of how I am doing :-)