Friday, October 31, 2014

Frugal Friday: Break those Chains


Samuel Johnson ~

"The chains of habit are too strong to be felt until they are too strong to be broken"


Living simply is all about creating habits and the same can be said of overspending.  Habits are definitely hard things to break but must be done if we want to be frugal.  It's much easier to start out on the right foot then trying to reinvent ourselves. 

But, it can be done.  It's about choices.  It's about thinking before you spend.  It's about making your emotions wait long enough for your head to catch up!

"Do I need this expenditure right now?"  "Am I trying to fill an emotional void by shopping?"  "Can I wait a few days to see if I can find this somewhere else?"  "What is coming up so I can give myself time to find the best deal?"

That last question is where we often get into trouble.  We don't take the time to plan ahead.  We purchase impulsively and because we haven't looked forward in advance to see what things are coming up that will require us to buy something.

Habits.  They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit.  Let's work together to break the bad habits of spending and create new ones of being wise in our financial choices.


Some of the ways I saved/earned this week:

$ I bought a huge head of local grown cabbage and made my own sauerkraut.  It's on the counter fermenting and in a few days will be sealed and processed.

$ I stayed out of the craft stores! ;-)

$ Our car is having a major issue and after thinking and praying about it, rather than sink more money into it which would have to be on credit, we are in the process of selling it.  That will bring us back down to 1 car but for now, that is the thing we need to do to keep from going into more debt.  We've had more problems with the car since we acquired it and so we felt the smart thing to do would be to get rid of it.

$ I had to make a difficult decision about something which I can't share now, but will save a us a huge amount of money.

$ Emily is having a few friends over tonight for a harvest party and rather than spend a ton on food, I'm coming up with some fun and frugal things to do - make their own pizza, make their own apple pie, a fall craft for teens, and a good old fun scavenger hunt.

$ I planned ahead and have had dinner thought out and prepared for the days I've worked so I'm not tempted to go out to eat.

$ I dropped off some more cards at a local gift store (not my own) where they've been selling.  The manager of the store asked for more.

$ I have my Christmas gifts planned out.  Since I make a lot of them, I checked to make sure I had the fabric on hand and supplies that I need and I'm good with what I have.

$ I don't limit my business to just my store.  In fact, the majority of my sewing/crafting happens through either Etsy or personal business.  I have my craft items on my Etsy shop and the books and gift items on my website (tabs above).

That's it for this week.  Work on breaking those habits and creating new ones!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Numbering my Days

Psalm 90:12 (NIV) ~
 
Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
 
My days often feel like they are counted out in canning jars.
 
 
In loaves of bread.

 
Or bars of soap. Or a host of other things I do in any given day.


But I don't want my life to just be about checking items off a to-do list.  Is that what really matters in this life?
 

Isn't it about relationship? Shouldn't our life be about counting out our days in kindnesses done and in the amount of moments spent connecting with others.

Lord, help me count out my days in the things that matter. 

Let me count them in the times I've helped my neighbor.  The minutes spent listening to someone share a burden.  Let me count my days by the times I stop what I'm doing and spend time just being in the moment as my children share something with me or my husband wants to chat.

Father, help me number my days not by my accomplishments but by my relationships.

I want to gain wisdom as I go through this life and not look back and see a huge list of tasks finished but with no meaning to anything I do.  I want to live each day in the moment, counting the gifts of family, friends, and blessings.


Psalm 90:12 (NIV) ~
 
Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
 
It's in the counting or valuing that we gain wisdom.  Are you counting your moments today?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Words of Encouragement: Who is it all About?

Matthew 6:5-21 (NIV) ~

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’
 
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I spent the afternoon yesterday with a chair in the woods and an inspirational book.  As I sat there in the silence, I have never felt closer to the Lord.  I read, I prayed and I thought.  There was just me, nature and my heavenly Father.  No cell phone, no internet, no Facebook or social media.  And I loved it. 

As I read this passage, it makes me realize how easy it is to get sucked into the vortex of social media.  As I read statuses or blogs, I read how this one did this wonderful deed or how another is praying for a particular issue.  I hear about the latest spiritual fast someone else is doing and I have to wonder how many of these posts are about getting others to look at them?  And if I'm honest, how many times have I posted something with just a twinge of pride and my own "look at me" deep down attitude. 

And this is exactly the attitude Jesus warned against in this passage.  It's not about me and it's not about you.  Our righteous acts should not be worn as a banner across our chest.  They should be done in quietness and without looking for accolades.  Is it because no one should never know the good we do?  No.  It's not that.

It's because God knows how painfully sinful we are and how easily we fall into the sin of self-promotion.  We get puffed up and prideful.  For some it may be a lack of self-esteem and a way to draw attention.  For others, it may just be a swelled head. :-)  For others, it's a way to make oneself feel better.

If you look at the last verses listed above, our treasure should not be stored up here. It's not just talking about money.  Don't look to people's affirmation and opinions as the be all and end all to your life.  Live your life quietly and for the Lord ONLY.  If no one ever knew any of the good things you did, would you feel like your life still has a purpose and meaning?  If not one other person on the entire planet knew of our righteous acts, would you still do them? 

Our acts of righteousness should be done for the Lord alone because in the end it will only be me and Him.  When everything and everyone is stripped away, it is just the Lord.  I want my treasure to be stored in the right place.

How about you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Renewal



The smell of dry, dead leaves reached my nostrils as I walked through the woods.  I have to be honest and say I actually love that smell.  I had my camera, fresh air, and peace and quiet.  All that was necessary to clear my head and reflect on different situations in my life.



As I shuffled through the leaves, I realized that there were not many things to photograph.   That can be a bit depressing to this woman who loves color.



Yet, dying leaves form a function.  They lay rotting on the forest floor and turn to mulch.  They fertilize the soil.  Trees actually reserve their energy for the winter by shedding the dying leaves.  This allows them to save up the energy to produce new greenery in the spring.  And as I ambled along I realized that the trials in our lives are a lot like that.



Things feel dead, dying, depressing and discouraging when we are going through a trial.  Yet, those trials cause us to turn to the One who can help.  As we cast off those worries and concerns onto the Lord, we reserve our energy to develop and grow spiritually.

James tells us in chapter 1, verses 2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

When we focus on worrying and the trial, our energy is sapped.  I'm sure we've all experienced the weak feeling that comes from being consumed with worry.  Yet, when we shed those cares and worries and cast them on the Lord's shoulders, the testing of our faith causes new growth.  Those struggles will produce maturity in us when we trust God and persevere through them. 
  
 
Things may seem bleak now, but the spring is coming.  Things will be renewed.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Multitude Monday


Hospitality ~ the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Are you hospitable?  Are you friendly?  Do you open up your home and heart to others?

The Bible teaches us that as believers we should be known for our acts of hospitality and yet, so many do not do this.  We make excuses.  We find ways to avoid it.  Or we miss the bigger picture of the definition and don't realize it's not just about being hospitable to friends, but strangers also.

I also think hospitality extends not to just our homes but the way we receive and greet people in church.  Are you welcoming to visitors?  Do you go out of your way to include others in your circle?  Do you make them feel happy to be there?  Or do you give them the cold shoulder or look at them with suspicion?  Or perhaps you spend the time before and after the service only speaking with your close friends.

I know many would say, "Of course, I welcome visitors!"  But just a perfunctory greeting is not what I'm talking about.  Go out of your way to spend more than a few moments speaking with them.  Show them where the coffee is.  Give them a bulletin if they don't have it.  Offer to sit with them.  Put aside YOU for a moment to make someone else feel important.

It's such a simple thing and yet one that is overlooked quite often.

Hebrews 13:2 ~ Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Yesterday, even though our service starts at 10 a.m., Dan went out of his way to go pick up an older gentleman who has no way to get to church.  We had found out that he has not been eating well and we were having a potluck dinner afterwards so Dan wanted to make sure he was fed.  We sent him home with leftovers too.  Dan could have said, "As the pastor, I need to prepare." but he didn't.  He took time out of his busy Sunday to pick him up and take him home.  That is hospitality.  Setting aside our own desires and needs for those of another.

Let's work hard at showing this wonderful gift to other people!  Don't make the excuse, "I don't have this spiritual gift."  It may not be your strong point, but reaching out to others is required of ALL believers!  And you never know, you may just be entertaining an angel! :-)

This week I'm thankful for blessings #2211-2220.

2211.  Enjoying breakfast with a friend.
  


2212.  A better week for Nathan.

2213.  A confirmation from the Lord.

2214.  A husband who sets aside his needs for those of another.

2215.  Ruby red apples.



2216.  A peaceful Sunday.

2217.  Church dinners.

2218.  Rows of hard work.



2219.  Living in a country where I'm still free to study God's word.

and finally...

2220.  Practicing hospitality.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Frugal Friday


Benjamin Franklin ~

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." 


I haven't done a Frugal Friday post in a few weeks and I can certainly relate to this quote.  Ever since I opened the shop, I feel like our expenses are out of control.  It's time to plug up those small holes before this ship sinks.

Because of all those small holes, when a major crisis hits (which it did this week), we are struggling to figure out how to deal with it.  Our car is on the fritz again and the repairs are going to cost $1,400 which we don't have.  Automobiles are so frustrating because you definitely need them in a rural setting and yet, when something goes wrong, it's costly.

One of the bad habits I have slipped into is not planning ahead in the meal department.  On the days I'm at the shop, it's been so easy to grab fast food at the end of the day because I didn't have a plan for dinner and I'm tired.  Trying to juggle multiple balls is an adjustment.

The other thing that's happened is that my business account is in the bank that we had before we moved.  The only branch is about 30 minutes away so each week I travel to the bank to make a deposit.  Then while I'm there I think, "I've driven all this way, I should probably pop into JoAnn Fabrics or Hobby Lobby to pick up fabric while I'm here."  Usually it's to pick up something for an order, but of course because things are always on sale, I'll pick up extra fabric.  All those "extras" add up.

Someone will ask me for a particular scent of soap and I'll purchase the fragrance oil for that and while I'm ordering I'll get a couple extra things to make the shipping worthwhile.  And on and on it goes.

So IT MUST STOP! 

I told Dan last night, that I'm not purchasing anything else until I've used up a lot of my stash - whether it's soap supplies, fabric, or anything else.  I'm working hard to plan ahead for the days I'm at the store so I'm not tempted to buy fast food.  I'm even thinking of making the bread I bake for the shop each week available only once a month because I spend much of my entire day off, baking for that instead of focusing on my house which is what I want to be doing. 

The art of frugal living is an ongoing process.  I've done well over the years but new circumstances are always a time to reevaluate and adjust.

Here are a few ways I've been frugal lately:

$ Someone dropped off an almost 4 foot lake salmon to us.  I didn't have time to gut it and cut it up so Dan offered it to our neighbor.  They don't eat fish but did take the time to fillet it for us.  A loaf of bread and jar of jam is on its way to them this weekend as a thank you!

$ Bartering - my hairdresser and I have worked out a deal where I don't pay for cuts or colorings or nails being done in exchange for sewing projects.  I got a hair cut and color this past week.  I'm in the process of making some costumes for her.  It has been a good arrangement.

$ I cut Dan & Nathan's hair myself.

$ Someone told me about this app for the phone called Retail Me Not.  It's great because when I'm in the store, I look up the store on the phone and find whatever coupon is being offered.  The clerk scans the barcode on the phone at checkout and I get the deal.

$ I made my own wreath for the front door.

$ Picked up a 1 lb. bag of yeast for $4.00 at the Mennonite store I go too.  It is so much less expensive than yeast you purchase in the supermarket.

$ Bought the olive oil I used for my soap making at a local store.  Again, a lot less expensive than the online soap company.

Those are the ways I can think of right off the top of my head. 

I need to keep plugging the holes up!  Our ship is listing a bit and I need to straighten it out! :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Keep on Keeping on!


When I went to college and seminary, it was such an exciting time in my life.  I was surrounded by others who were headed off to full-time ministry.  We were all on the same page as far as what it meant to live out our faith for the Lord.  We all had a passion for God.  The world was full of color!

Then as we went off into this life of full-time ministry, and especially in small, struggling churches, life became less and less exciting.  Oh, there were those times when we saw God doing miraculous things.  But it's a very lonely road when you are not surrounded by people who all have the same focus.  It begins to feel discouraging when you are in the middle of the battle field.  And that's what it is...a battle field for people's souls.

Because we've been in small churches, we have not been able to go to some of the events that provide encouragement, rejuvenation and refreshment.  The money is just not there to go to our National Conference each year.  Our local group of pastors meet only every few months and that seems to be more about hearing the exciting things going on in their larger churches.  So it really starts to feel like we are alone in this.  It's easy to get bogged down in the day to day drudgery!  Everything feels drab and brown.

Then this morning I read this passage.

Galatians 6:9-10 ~
 
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

This is truth for all believers, not just those in full-time ministry.  These words were written because it can become easy to want to give up.  It's hard to live out our Christian walk in a world where we can be made fun of, ignored or considered a holy roller.  It's hard to do that even among believers who often have bad attitudes, wrong ideas or indifference towards what it means to live out the truths found in scripture.

Yet, we should not give up.  If we keep plugging away day after day, we will reap a wonderful harvest.  That doesn't mean we'll necessarily see it.  It may be that we'll never know until we stand before the Lord how our words and actions affected others.  

If you are feeling discouraged today, don't give up!  Keep getting back up and moving forward.  Let's encourage one another in our walk.  There will be those wonderful moments when we can clearly see God working, but there will also be those times when all is drab and brown.  But don't give up.  Just do the next thing.

Keep on keeping on!