March 31, 2010

New Life

Am I repeating myself by telling you I'm a Fall/Winter gal?(um...yeah!) There's not much I enjoy more than hibernating at home, preferably in my pjs with hot tea & a good book nearby. And if it's cold enough for a fire...all the better. I don't know if I've ever really enjoyed Spring. Maybe it's my allergies. Maybe it's the fact that in my corner of the world, Spring lasts 48 seconds and then we're into the sweltering heat and humidity that is Summer in the South.

But this year is different. I'm actually anticipating Spring. Looking forward to it. Feeling the need to open the windows, scrub the house, and play in the dirt. More than anything, I'm ready to experience new life.

I watched helplessly as our old life was torn up by its roots. I've spent the last few months allowing the Lord to cultivate the hard places of my heart in order to uncover my belief, my trust, and my hope. He's poured Living Water into my soul and nourished my faith. Now, our new life is waiting to burst forth through the fertile soil.

And I can hardly wait.

"Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"
~Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV)

P.S. - sorry I missed The Week in Words. It'll return next week!

March 23, 2010

The Week in Words A Day Late + What's on My Nightstand

I'm still playing catch up at home, so I haven't had time to pick out my favorite quotes yet. I've highlighted so much of Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual, it looks like the yellow pages :-)

And since that's on my nightstand, I decided to be exceedingly lazy and make this my What's on My Nightstand Post, too. Just think of it as my service to you books that you can get great quotes from!

What's On Your Nightstand

~Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. I've been wanting it for a while. I couldn't resist it in the store last week, but it was okay because I had some extra fun money. I'm really looking forward to digging in.

~Watch Over Me. Lauren's review is here. I'm still in the middle of it, but I'd say her review is spot on.

~Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill. I used nearly an entire pad of post-its to mark the recipes I want to try in this one. Aside from the recipes, Mary gives some terrific and practical advice for saving money.

~In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. Several bloggers have had good things to say about this book, and I'm hopeful it will help us eat healthier and cheaper.

Reading something that spoke to your heart? Link your Week in Words post below. If you've got a stack of books on your nightstand, head over to 5 Minutes for Books and link up there.

March 22, 2010

The Week in Words - Coming Soon

Good morning! I've just spent a wonderful weekend at the beach with my closest friend for our annual girls' retreat. It's always fun to get away, but returning to the many things that need attention...not so much.

I'll be back to post The Week in Words either tonight or tomorrow morning. Sorry for the delay :-)

March 18, 2010

Trading Treasure

One of the toughest parts about this season is helping CJ understand that our circumstances are drastically changing. Not that we've given her everything she's ever wanted (just ask her), but we have given her many things she doesn't really need. In this season, we've tried to be realistic with her, while not burdening her with all the details she doesn't need to hear. Still it's hard not to look at the Pottery Barn Teen catalog and make a long wish list...

After our most recent squabble about needs versus wants, I felt the Lord directing me to a familiar story about a young man who had much more than he needed. While it was an object lesson for CJ, God also used it to point out just how much I've filled my life with the meaningless things of this world and just how tightly I've held onto them.

As CJ read the story aloud, I noticed something I hadn't before. Jesus told the rich young man, that if he sold his possessions and gave them to the poor, he would have treasure in Heaven. He wouldn't come away empty handed. In fact, he would have even greater wealth because heavenly treasures can't be destroyed (Matthew 6:20). Yet the young man went away sorrowful (ESV) because he couldn't let go of earthly treasures that seemed valuable, but were poor imitations of the genuine treasures Jesus offered.

Friends, we should not hesitate to sacrifice anything God asks of us. Nothing we have should be more important than Jesus. He doesn't tell us to let go of earthly treasures in order to impoverish us. No, our God wants to give us more than we can ask for or imagine! If our hands are too full with the earthly wealth we've amassed for ourselves, we won't be able to grasp the glorious riches that are available to us in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of faux treasure. I want the good stuff. The 100% genuine, real deal treasure my Abba has prepared for me. Even if I have to get rid of some things to gain it.

What is He calling you to lay down? Are you willing?

March 16, 2010

Why the Fast?

It's Day 11 of the fast.

I admit that in the past, I've scoffed at those who fasted. Never publicly. But in my heart I thought they were just a little crazy, a little misguided. I used Psalm 51:16 as my rationale. (It seems I'm not above picking out Scripture to suit my own purposes.) I never imagined God would instruct me to fast from a few things that were taking up too much space in my life. He was so clear, I couldn't even object. I didn't understand it, but I knew I had to obey.

Here I am, 11 days later.  So far, so good. Amazingly good, in fact. Which is confirmation that this was God's idea. In my own power...well, I have none. I'd have fallen flat on my face about 10 minutes after I started.

I nearly did fail on Sunday. We were traveling home from a weekend visit with friends, and stopped for fuel. I was heading in to buy something, when CJ reminded me that it's one of the things I've given up. Honestly, I hadn't thought about it. I was only concerned with what I wanted.

I thanked my daughter (after her sarcastic prompting. If you have a tween girl, you know the tone.) Then I said, "Thank you, Jesus, for being so much better than _____________."

Then it hit me. That's it.

This fast isn't about being legalistic, self-righteous, or self-sacrificing. It's about being consciously aware that my Jesus is infinitely better than anything this world has to offer, and that He wants my attention.

Go ahead, Lord, I'm listening...

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. - Psalm 40:6 (ESV)

March 15, 2010

The Week in Words - Birthday Edition

Today is my birthday. My sister-in-law sent me a "Happy 21st Birthday" text this morning, and it hit me that 21 was half a lifetime ago. Yes, I'm 42 today. It sounds strange to hear those words coming from my mouth (or, in this case, my fingers). When I was 21, I pictured my life at 42 much differently. And I'm thankful - so thankful - that my plans didn't prevail.

I started this day like any other, alone with my Jesus. But today was different, powerful. My very own birthday gift from my Abba. He used my Bible reading in Numbers (I'm a little behind) and my study of Hebrews to speak into my soul:

But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. - Numbers 14:24 (ESV)

Oh! I want to have a different spirit! I want to follow God fully! I want to enter the Promised Land that He has for me, so that CJ and her children will possess it. I want it to be said of me that I was faithful.

After I prayed for these things, I went on to my study of Hebrews. And what did I find there?

What kind of faith is necessary to have real rest in this life? Faith that trusts God wholeheartedly with our lives, faith that leaves behind the desert existence of expecting this world to meet our needs, faith that moves forward with God into the life He is holding out for us.

Suddenly it hit me that I've been living in the desert, only I didn't see it. I thought I was in the Promised Land because it looked pretty good. The security, the affirmations, the stuff...all a deceptively beautiful mirage; something I wanted so badly that I imagined it for myself. But today, Jesus calls me to live differently and to be different, to quit building castles out of desert sand, to refuse to settle for a mirage because He wants to deliver the real thing. 

It's the best birthday gift I've ever received.

I'm glad you stopped by to share my birthday with me! What words spoke to you this week? Share the direct link below.

March 12, 2010

Frugality = Saying YES To

In follow up to my last post, I wanted to share more about how we're saving money.

~I've really amped up my couponing. I'm not one of those women who gets $150 worth of groceries for $10, but I try to save between 25 - 30% of my grocery bill each week. I menu plan around what's on sale. One of our local stores doubles any coupon up to $1.00 in value and gives fuel rewards based on purchases. I shop on Fridays when the fuel rewards are doubled, which means I generally save another $8 - $10 on 15 gallons of gas. It's not always convenient, but it's worth the effort. If I have time, I go to another store for their sale items. I still make occasional trips to Walmart for some items, but I try to avoid it as much as I can. I also shop Walgreens frequently to take advantage of the register rewards program. Rebates are another way to save money, but only if I'm purchasing items I know I'll use.

~I've asked R to construct a clothes line. I've balked on this one for years, because I felt it would be too difficult to do given my work schedule. Now that CJ's older, bringing in the laundry will be one of her chores (and she's so very happy about it...let me tell you!). It's going to require more intentional planning on my part, but I'm sure the savings will add up quickly.

~I'm reading cookbooks more often, to keep family meals from becoming bland. (Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill is great!)

~I'm giving my small appliances a workout. This includes the bread machine, crock pot, stand mixer, and my new food processor. Homemade is much tastier, cheaper & healthier than store bought.

~I'm using Pear Budget to keep our finances in order. I most love this program because it requires no personal financial information (i.e. bank account numbers), but also because it's simple to use.  It's a great way to keep track of where the money's going and how much to set aside each month for irregular expenses (i.e. taxes, etc.)

~I'm still setting aside my $5 bills. At first, I dreamed of saving enough to finance a vacation (or long weekend), but that didn't feel right. After much consideration, I decided this would be our "fun" money...for movies, entertainment, and that craving for Chinese food (or ice cream!). Anytime I get a little extra money (like rebates and consignment), I put it into the envelope. Just a couple of weeks ago, CJ & I went to a college girls' basketball game with some friends, and I can't tell you how rewarding it was to pay for lunch, snacks & gas with cash and know I wasn't putting a dent in our budget!

~I'm also setting aside the money I make as a Southern Living at Home consultant, to buy clothing, shoes, & gifts. It may be harder to wait on purchases, but it will be much easier knowing we have a defined limit rather than just buying whatever catches our eye.

Have you found some creative ways to save money? Feel free to share below!

March 11, 2010

Frugality = Saying No To

A couple of years ago, I felt a tugging on my heart for a life of peace & simplicity.As part of that, I began to work at being more frugal. In recent months, I've kicked my efforts up a notch (or three). I've learned that many things are conveniences we can do without. I know there are many bloggers out there who are far more frugal than I. In fact, you may think what I've given up isn't a sacrifice at all. But for this mom who has a full-time job outside of the house, these are big (albeit good) changes.

I'm no longer buying:

~Paper Towels. Microfiber cloths work great, and are easily thrown in the washing machine.

~Paper Napkins. Cloth napkins add a touch of elegance, and they too are easily washed. My one concession in this area is cute cheap napkins for CJ's lunch box. Of course she needs a napkin & I'm afraid I'd never see my cloth ones again if I sent them.

~Laundry Detergent. I finally decided I can make laundry detergent. But I'm not giving up Tide Stain Release tabs. Truly a miracle worker. I only buy them on sale & with a coupon, and I use them sparingly. (I've found a recipe for fabric softener, too...we'll see how it goes!)

~Books. Honestly, I don't think I've purchased 5 books (other than Bible studies) in over two years, unless I had a gift card.  I have an Amazon wish list a mile long, so I'll still use gift cards when I get them. But I've found that my local library is more than willing to purchase any fiction book I request.

~Floor cleaner. I don't know how many half-empty containers of different floor cleaners I've got in my cleaning closet...too many! I've never found anything for my laminate floors that wowed me.  But I'm loving the steam mop I got with a Christmas gift card. It requires only water, and does a great job.

We rarely eat out. We've also said goodbye to our gym membership, and are this close to cutting the land line (your thoughts?).

Life is different, but it's also very good. Just as we're saying no to some things, we're saying yes to others. More to come on that next time.

March 10, 2010

Don't Ask...

Time once again for Meredith's 10 on the 10th. Without further adieu, here are 10 things I've learned the hard way:

1.   A bike ramp immediately after a rain shower = a terrible nosebleed
2.   Shoes from an ad in the back of Seventeen magazine = a big waste of money
3.   Careless words = a broken relationship
4.   Primping while driving = a broken radiator grill
5.   Thinking my parents wouldn't find out that I __________ (you name it!) = ignorant
6.   Cutting my own hair = a lot of $$ spent to fix it
7.   Buy now, pay later = just plain stupid
8.   Believing the grass is greener = a big waste of time
9.   Believing real love happens just like the movies = a big reality check
10. Saying "I will never..." = words to be eaten later

Click on over to Mer's for more 10 on the 10th goodness!

March 8, 2010

The Week in Words - March 8th

Okay, everyone! I'm late to the party because I've been busy battling the cooties at my house. ICK!

The one thing I read this past week that really hit me hard is Psalm 50:3

Our God comes; he does not keep silence. (ESV)

It's definitely one thing I'm so very thankful for!

And one thing I didn't READ, but I HEARD..."Mommy, I love you so terribly much. I just don't think I can live without you." - CJ, age 11 1/2. (I know I'm breaking my own rules, but I think it's certainly justified in this case!)

What did you read this week?

March 5, 2010

A Season of Consecration

It finally came.

R got the official word on his termination. As of May 16th, he'll be unemployed. We'll be moving out of limbo, and into a new season.

It's a day of reality.  Our old way of life will be gone.

It's also a day of anticipation. Our old way of life will be gone.

God's been speaking so tenderly and clearly during the months since we learned that this day would come. He's ministered to us, convicted us, and sustained us. He's already been preparing us, but I sense He wants something different for these coming days.

And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever." When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
~Exodus 19:9-11 (ESV)

The Israelites had two days to prepare for the Lord's appearance. He'd already delivered them from Egypt and taken them through the Red Sea. He'd been speaking to Moses all along. Yet this time was different. He was going to show up in a BIG WAY. He told the people to get ready.

He's telling me the same thing. Be ready!

These days are about consecrating myself and getting ready for Him to show up in a bigger way than I can imagine. They are to be set apart, to allow me to be in a better position to see and hear the Lord.

And so...

~No Facebook. I will change my settings so my blog posts automatically publish to Facebook. I'll still know when someone writes something on my wall or sends me a message, since those are forwarded to my email. But I'll not be logging on.

~No Twitter.

~Limited blogging. I wondered if I was to give it up as well, but I want to record and share what He's teaching during this season. I want to be inspired by others. I want to learn. My reading (and commenting) will be greatly diminished, though.

There may be other sacrifices to come, but they'll be between me and God. I don't want to call attention to myself. I'm only sharing my "cyber sacrifices" so you'll know the absence is planned, and that everything's okay.

I may miss a lot of things in the next two months, but I'm putting myself in a position so that God won't be one of them. I'm looking forward to it. And, as He lets me, I'll share with you.

Til then...

March 1, 2010

The Week in Words - March 1

I've done very little reading lately. Between a horrendous work week and helping my husband with his college and job applications...I've been BUSY. I'm sorry I haven't gotten around to visiting everyone who's been linking up. I've been a terrible hostess. I hope you'll forgive me, and that my life will be back to normal soon.

In the meantime, these are the nuggets I gained this week:

There is something better than pursuing our own dreams of security and passion and significance. It is finding our security and passion and significance in God's dreams for us. - Nancy Guthrie, Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual

RT @kirkfranklin:Soldiers, these R tough days. but YOUR hands aren't big enough to fight this battle. that's why you're tired; 4 THE BATTLE IS NOT YOURS...!

RT @tweology: For his own glory, God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. (WSC. 7)

Now it's your turn to share the words that inspired you!