Great Family Movie

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Last night my daughter, Maddie, and I rented the movie “Grace Unplugged” from the 7-11 Red box by our house.  I didn’t know what it was about, only that it was a family friendly movie that had some Christian themes.  Honestly, I wasn’t terribly excited to watch it, but was willing to give it a try to have some movie time with Maddie.  By the end of the movie I was crying and clapping (inside–real clapping would ensure eye rolling from my companion).

“Grace Unplugged” is about an 18-year-old girl, Grace, and her desire to pursue music in her life, but not without cost.  Themes of rebellion, the temptation of the world, and redemption flow through the story.  It is has wonderful music and impressive acting.  I would recommend this for families with children 4th grade and up–and for adults who just want a good tear-jerker!

In fact the movie was so good, all the kids and I watched it a second time this morning for our “Church at Home” time that we occasionally do on Sunday mornings when Jon is out of town.  After the movie, the kids filled in a couple of pages of questions I had created to dig into the story and how it related to their lives, and we discussed their answers together.  My expectations for these teaching times with my kids tend to be too high (why do they want to sit in weird positions and eat loud food during this time?–well, to be fair it’s only one of them, but I won’t mention any names).  However, I think the movie did a great job of speaking to my kids’ hearts.

If you are interested in doing the discussion part with your family after watching the movie, here are the questions we used:

Grace Unplugged (note, you will need to click on this one more time from the link this takes you to)

I hope you get a chance to see this movie–enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Chairs, Athleta Models, and God

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“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with the things you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”    Hebrews 13:5

There are times in life when we are just plain jealous. Maybe someone you know just bought a brand-new house, while you’ve  been spending your days trying to figure out how to re-arrange your dated family room furniture to make it seem “fresh”.  Or, you are in a really difficult marriage and it seems everyone you know is happy and content in theirs.  Maybe its a simple thing, like an extremely flattering scarf that your bestie just showed up at your door wearing, and that morning, no matter how much you tried you were just not able to find anything to wear that you liked.

Or that darn Athleta model that is looking up at you from your pile of mail (how many hours DOES she work out anyway??)

COV.ET
verb
verb: covet;
  1. 1.
    yearn to possess or have (something).
    synonyms: desire, yearn for, crave, have one’s heart set on, want, wish for, long for, hanker after/for, hunger after/for, thirst for

Lately, I’ve been coveting time.  I find myself thinking about the lovely women in my life who seem to have balance, and margin–two things that have been greatly lacking in my world for a few years.

I’ve also been pining after new dining room chairs, which after my husband sat in one of our old ones over Thanksgiving and it literally collapsed under him, I excitedly said, “Sit on the other ones now!” hoping the rest of the 12-year-old rustic cabin/mountain/bear/pine tree chairs  would fall like dominoes (OK, I’m exaggerating, no bears.).

What do you long for?  What feels missing?

Jesus came to fill whatever empty spaces we have in our life.  Relationally, materially, spiritually.  He is the only one who satisfies our thirst.  When the woman at the well drew water for Jesus,

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

I always struggled a bit with this passage–how does that relate to my dining room chairs?  But actually, it does.  I know that the more I belong to my heavenly father, the more I know him and seek him in my daily life, the less important my perceived material lack (which truly, I lack for nothing) becomes.  Jesus gives us perspective, as he did with the woman at the well.  She was focused on her relational failures (most likely) and her physical thirst, and Jesus gave her hope, which flows eternal when we are in a relationship with Him.   In other words, when the voice of my “wants” in life is turned down, and I turn up the voice of God, I feel content.  I know what I need to pine after and desire, and that is the desire of His heart:

To Live Justly,

To Love Mercy,

To Walk Humbly With Him

Micah 6:8

I did get new dining room chairs, by the way, after I worked hard the last few months at my business and saved up some money, and because my kind husband (who does not give a lick about dining room chairs) gave his blessing on the purchase.  I hold them lightly, however, and know that they only matter when the table is filled with friends and family, giving thanks to God, sharing a meal, and finding joy in each other.

Let’s look to God for perspective, contentment, and peace.  It is overflowing for those who seek Him.

 

A Story of A Curve Ball

My final New Year’s Resolution this year is centered around the topic of finances, and I am excited to share with you some things I have read, learned and a great tool for managing your budget.  But, before I get to the “practical” things, which I will do in my next post, I want to share with your our personal story on this topic.

Jon and I have been through quite a financial journey these last few years, going from a place of comfort and margin to a place of discomfort and a LOT of hard work to make ends meet.  Please don’t misunderstand, we have lived completely comfortably by the world’s standard the entire time, but relative to what we had before Jon’s income changed due to the economic crash in 2009, it has been a long push for us to stay in our home and not incur debt.

Our story started in the fall four years ago, with the stock market crash.   While one of his well-paying jobs disappeared overnight in Sept 2009, and the other took a large-pay cut, we continued on our existing budget and spending.  This continued for about a year while we lived in denial of our financial circumstances.  You see, our generation had never gone “backwards.”  With our parents and ourselves, the forward movement of jobs and income had always been–forward.  We did not know what a serious stock market crash looked like, and how it would affect our grocery budget.  With that mindset, we thought, “Of course things will turn around!”  Surely the airline Jon worked for would recover and he would go back to his previous pay and status.  It didn’t happen, and we realized after a year that we had spent outside the truth of our income–we had not been living in financial reality.

Once we pulled our heads out of the sand, we decided to do the natural next step–pray for provision and work really hard to make ends meet.  That had been our way of life for the first 10 years of our marriage, and we were going to go back to that, which meant Jon finding a second job again, and me going back to work.  I was in the process of applying for jobs as a teacher again when another job literally fell in my lap–working for a friend at an orthopedic office.  This was an incredible blessing because I could continue the tutoring I had started and work part-time at this job, coming home without any papers to grade or stress spilling over into home life (kudos to mom/teachers–you are saints!!!).   We saw this as the clear provision we had begun to pray for.

Jon invested in another company and we set off into the next three years–a time when we would feel in the valley for much of the journey.  This was not the life we had imagined–both of us working two jobs (I started working with another company from home during this time), making our budget but with no margin, less time for our family, for our kids.   We wondered how long this would last?  .

There were many “no’s” during this time.   Jon’s second business struggled, my side-business moved forward slowly, and we tried to re-finance about 6 times with no luck for strange and un-explicable reasons.  Finally, it happened, but not without hours and days of frustration, and so much time Jonathan put into the effort.   Jon ran for President of the union at his airline, hoping to make some positive change there, and provide income for our family–and lost twice after showing great integrity and strength in the process.  It was a difficult season.

We constantly re-evaluated our situation, should we move?  Each year we seriously looked at this option, but we never felt God moving us that direction. We were continuing to keep our home open to hosting  youth group and bible studies, renting out our basement to some wonderful single girls, and then a sweet family who found our home as a place that served a time and a purpose in their lives.   He was using our home, and we hoped God would allow us to stay just another year. God did continue to provide–just enough, for us to remain.

Finally, at the end of 2013, just a few months ago, we made the decision (after months of processing) that it was time for me to leave my job at the orthopedic office for a variety of reasons–mainly that it was best for our family and kids for me to be home with them.  This was a very difficult decision because it meant that we would most likely need to put our home on the market in the spring.  We prayed constantly that God would give us courage and strength to make this decision when the time came to list our home.  I personally asked God to help me let go, loosen my grip on the foundations that had been built in this place–the best friends to my kids that lived right next door, the familiar paths Jon and I took when we walked the dogs, the flowers and trees I had picked out and planted in our yard, the familiar faces that I waved to every day as I drove through our neighborhood.

I knew that wherever God led us, we would be OK…we would re-establish.  But it was hard.  And the hardest part was we weren’t feeling “called” to leave.  It just looked like that on our financial spreadsheet.  Trust me, God said.

In January of 2014, the same month I turned in my resignation at work, something just short of miraculous happened.  Jon held a “line” at work for the first time in 4 years.  Somehow, in the great airline Pythagorean Theorem, Jon’s seniority allowed him to move to a higher pay level.  Just a fluke, we said.  Then it happened again in February, and then this month in March.  And…it looks like this might be the new norm going forward.  The income Jon receives at this new pay level just replaces the income at my orthopedic job.

Really God?  We can stay in our home for now?  But of course, this is how He works. He asks us to let go, trust, take a step of faith.  Then He provides.  He either provides strength for the “move” whatever that may mean in our lives, or he fills the gap where we were striving so hard to fill ourselves.

Here are the lessons the past 4 years have taught me:

1.  Be Grateful In Difficult Times– even when things seemed so frustrating and difficult, there was so much to be thankful for.  Healthy kids, healthy marriage, jobs.

2. Patience– we didn’t know how long our “valley” would last.  It lasted a lot longer than we wanted, that’s for sure.  We had to trust that God was still in control, that he still had a plan, and that if we stayed in tune with Him we would be given direction and comfort even when there was no end in sight.

3.  Provision– God provided the whole way.  Whether through jobs, or people to rent our basement, or just giving us enough faith and fight for a little longer.

4. Perspective– We do not feel like “we are set!” going forward.  If we have learned one thing through this journey, is that life throws us curve balls when we least expect it.  No longer will we ride on the coat-tails of “continued prosperity,” but humbly accept that God is our provider and when life does shift–which it will–He will walk through that with us.

We will continue to keep our palms open to God’s plan for our life, and hold things loosely.

Thanks for reading our story–it has been in the making for a while.

 

 

Health Tips From A Relative Couch Potato

Hello!  Wow, I apologize for not blogging more consistently these last couple of months.  It has been a time of transition for me–finishing up at one job (at an office) and transitioning to a business (from my home).  While I was envisioning all this new time as a stay-at-home worker  to tackle a few crammed junk drawers in my office, reconnect with my friends over a steaming cup of coffee, and grocery shop at quaint organic out of the way grocery stores, I have instead been glued to my computer figuring out how to run my business efficiently and effectively, and not wanting to leave the house to grocery shop at all!  (Don’t worry, the pizza places deliver).

Oh, and throw in a family vacation and a weekend trip to MN in there.  And soccer practice starting…need I say more?

But, I am starting to emerge from the transition! And, we are now in March and I am only on my 2nd New Year’s Resolution post (scroll down for #1).  Fortunately, we are still in the first quarter, and it’s never too late to think about self-improvement.

This post/resolution is about “healthy living.”

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I admit,  I have never been a health “nut,” and compared to some of my amazing friends who are Gluten-Free, only shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, who consider running 5 miles a warm-up, and do crazy things like bike to/from work (15 miles in the winter—Derek) or rock the Paleo Diet–(Jen), I am a regular chip eating couch potato.

However, I do TRY to be healthy.  80% of the food I buy for our family is “whole food” (except cereal which I guess reduces that number to 50% since a few of us are cereal addicts around here), but I try to buy food that does not have hydrogenated oils, is high in protein, low in fat, and I try to make sure everyone gets their fruits and veggies.  My daily diet consists of Wheat Chex, a protein bar, a turkey and spinach wrap, fruit, 2 York Mints, sunflower seeds and raisins (snack) and a dinner with fish or white meat and a veggie (more York Mints).  Of course that varies, but if I could do the same every day that would be it.  The York Mints are actually my sweet tooth controller–for me–I get my sugar fix with 2 of these small wafers, and I don’t end up eating a quarter bag of Peanut M&M’s in one shot.

Oh, I forgot to mention Diet Pepsi…my main beverage.  Does that totally negate my daily healthy food intake?  Maybe.

I try to exercise 2-3 times per week–Jon would not consider it exercise though because sweat is not usually involved.   Really, I just don’t sweat.

Here are my three health tips–take them or leave them based on my Diet Pepsi confession:

1.  Feed Your Body Well

When I was in college the fad was “low fat” which meant all carbs– I was exhausted all the time and of course craved sugar and carbs endlessly.   A few years later I read the book  Eating for Your Blood Type and realized that being O- meant my body needed protein.  I changed how I ate and now try to mostly eat protein and I let my carbs come from my morning cereal and dessert.

Another idea I’ve found to help with healthy eating is this great APP called “Nutrition Menu”– IPhone.  It’s $1.99, and has nutritional info for restaurants and almost any food you can think of, has an exercise feature with 149 built in exercises, journal feature, weight tracking, and water consumption tracking.

2. Exercise

This is obvious, but one tool I found last year has been wonderful in helping me with my workouts.  It is an APP for your phone (IPhone and Android), and it is called Nike Training Club.  untitledThis is not for sissies.  There are different levels, and ALOT of different work outs, and you can do them in your home.  I actually have been known to sweat a little doing these workouts.

There are so many great exercise APPS–I would recommend loading one or two on your phone or IPAD to squeeze in a quick workout from home as much as possible.

 

3. Really THINK about your “health future”.

This is not something I have done in my life, especially in my 20′s and 30′s.  I am 42 now, and still feel like disease and aging is a long way off.  However, when a friend and mom of 3 (who is my age) passed away about this time last year from melanoma, I was struck with the reality that disease can strike any of us at any time.  So, I have tried to think more long-term about my health and how I can strengthen my body now.

In this blog I have always been intentional about not mentioning my side-job, because I have never wanted to mix business with the spiritual purpose of Gracefullhome.  But just this once I am going to tell you a little about what I do because I can’t talk about health and not share the amazing health product I have been using for the last year and a half.  I take a product called the Lingzhi (Reishi) mushroom, grown and distributed by  Alphay, is the worlds largest producer of the Lingzhi.  Google it and you will find hundreds of articles on this incredible superfood.

The Lingzhi (Reishi) mushroom, when taken through an extraction process and put in capsule th_5_elements_nutritionform, strengthens our bodies at the cellular level, helping to fight cancer cells, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, not to mention it’s immuno-modulating properties that relieve allergies (mine are gone).  The mushrooms also lower cholesterol, help with sleep issues, lower blood pressure, and help with anxiety and depression–just to mention a few.

If you want to know more, feel free to shoot me an email or watch the video on Lingzhi on my site www.mushroomsforyou.com.  Please know I do not share this with you for “profit” purposes, but to share something that myself, my family, and my friends have found to help us be the healthiest people possible from the inside out.

So, now you have a book, a couple  APPS, and a supplement to help you be the healthiest you possible!  God has given us our bodies “as His temple” and we are to care for them in the best way possible.

Stay tuned for my final New Year’s post on a great financial tool and words from God about our money.

 

 

 

3 Spiritual Resolutions I’m Working On

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I had mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was going to blog about three possible resolutions to pursue for 2014–here is the first!

Sadly, the word “resolutions” already seems like a word from the past, since it’s already February. In the past, I would have trailed off into my old habits by the end of January if I hadn’t made radical changes by this point.  Not this year!  We still have almost the whole year ahead of us to grow and thrive!  God gives us a new beginning EACH DAY to put the past behind us and take control of positive growth in our lives.

Today I want to share about spiritual resolutions and three ways I am trying to accomplish growth in my own life:

1.  Resolve to Put In Effort –yep, just do it!

In my relationships with friends and family, if I don’t move toward them and give at least an equal amount of effort the relationship struggles.  I often have to be intentional about those relationships–date nights with my husband, quality time with my kids, or coffee with my friends whose lives don’t so easily intersect with mine anymore.

It is the same with God–we need to be intentional in setting aside all the distractions of life and giving time to Him.

I don’t know about you, but it is extremely easy for me to get distracted as soon as I walk downstairs each morning in my fuzzy robe and slippers.  I have the full intention of sitting quietly by the fireplace with my bible and a steaming mug of coffee in my hands (just kidding, I don’t drink coffee, or tea for that matter) and all of a sudden I find myself with honey stuck to my fingers from the sandwich I hurriedly made, children shoving permission slips to be signed in front of me, frozen chicken to be thawed for dinner, a load of “emergency” laundry to be thrown in for the kids theme day at school, etc.

Not to mention the bright shiny distraction of the EMAIL INBOX.

The truth is, I must be intentional (and disciplined)  in how I want to grow–and use discipline to seek God first and my inbox later.  I need to plan into my busy schedule how to make time with God (quiet times, church, bible study)  a reality amongst the distractions.

In other words, I will not feel any closer to God through osmosis.

2. Discover God on His Terms, Not Ours.

The pastor at our church has challenged us on this way of thinking, which has been so enlightening!  Ask yourself this question:  “Is the bible about humans or God?”  Think about it.  Humans, you say?  After all, the bible is about the human experience with God, shared in heartbreaking and exhilarating stories.   But, Pastor Cuss explains that actually, the bible is about God.  It is about His character, His plan, and His will for humans.  It is about His desire for relationship with them and the sacrifices He made to make that possible.  God created humans to be in relationship with Him–not for Him to be in relationship with us….subtle difference, think about it.

As Christians we need to discover God on His terms (we are a part of His greater plan) not ours (He exists to help us with our plan). We need to remember that we are set apart for the purpose of glorifying God and to fulfill His will for the earth.

How does that become a resolution?  In my daily attitude, and my heart in seeking God.  Is it self-serving? Or do I  humbly surrender to God, asking Him to fulfill his plan in my life? I’m working on the latter.

3. Rinse, Wash Repeat.

Developing my spiritual habits come from repetition.  To have a time and a place each day for my quiet time (6:30 AM on the bean bags by my fireplace), gives me consistency and structure.  During this time I read my passages out of the Daily Bible, do part of my bible study for the week, and spend a few minutes in prayer.

I am the first to admit this does not always happen the way I would like.   As I mentioned earlier, there are many distractions that happen in the morning, and many days my younger two get up earlier than I’m expecting (during my quiet time)  to work on homework or go to school early for an extra-curricular activity.  So, I just try to get back on the horse the next day (when they actually stay asleep until 7:00).   The point is the pattern is established so I can get right back into it when the opportunity is there.

Whether it’s bible study, church, prayer, or listening to worship music, repetition is the key.  I know it is good for my soul and my closeness to God to walk with Him consistently.  As I “practice the presence of God” in my life, my attraction grows toward Him.

These three spiritual resolutions; putting in effort, discovering God on His terms, and rinsing, washing and repeating, help us to thrive in our spiritual lives each day! Let’s do it!

The next post will be on physical (health) resolutions and some tools I’ve found to help us keep those.

Blessings,

Amy

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