A Self-Ish Prayer

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Lord,

I pray for my self today.  That my self, which is a bit unruly at times, would be a better self with your help.

I pray that my self would not react in its human nature to the actions or words from my spouse, children or co-workers that push my buttons. Even the angry driver on the road. Help my self to see the truth and heart in the situation, which is most always good-intentioned–even the angry driver just wants to stay alive.

I pray for my self today.  That it would be hard working at thankless jobs.  That my self would put in its best effort even when it goes unnoticed.  That it would not seek recognition for deeds, but serve and work for the glory of you, God.

I pray for my self.  That it would be grateful among all circumstances…even those that seem impossible to be thankful for.  May my self reflect a spirit of gratitude from the second its tired feet touch the soft rug in the morning to the last waking moment of the day.  For gratitude is the secret to peace and joy.

Lord, please forgive my self, which I am responsible for.  Forgive its self-ish ways, its seeking of personal Glory, its careless acknowledgement of abundance, its lack of compassion for those in need, its desire to take control away from you all the time and keep it balled up in its fist.  Open the fist.

I pray for patience for my self.  Not for others, which is important, but today, for this self alone.  Let me have grace for its mistakes, understand the incredible breadth of your forgiveness, and in turn, forgive my-self.  I pray that it can grasp the truth and power of second chances.  You are the God of second-chances.

I pray for my-self today.  Self, I am talking to you. Hear this prayer, store it inside, live it out,

for you are me.

Amen

Payoffs and Challenges of Living on a Cash System- Part 2

So are you thinking about trying a cash budget yet? If you want to read Part 1 where I talk about our decision to go all cash with our finances, click here.  Today I want to share some of the realities of living with this system. It requires big picture thinking and patience with the daily grind of learning to say “no.”

THE PAYOFF OF GOING CASH

There are huge benefits to tucking your plastic away in a drawer:

1. You have control of your money since it is literally within your grasp at all times.  No more estimating how much you have spent on eating out this month–the $17.00 left in the envelope lets you know.  Because you have clearly defined your budget you can do your best to stay within the spending parameters.  If you have the mindset that your budget should include money in savings or retirement, you will begin to feel confident and peaceful about the State Of Your Finances.  If you would like a new budget sheet to work on click here (twice):  MONTHLY BUDGET WORKSHEET PDF Screenshot 2015-05-08 03.58.57

 

2. You can create margin for when the unexpected expenses come up–like every week.

3. You learn to live within your means–a powerful concept in modern-day America.

4. You train yourself to have patience and self-control, which flows into other areas of your life.

God knew the burden that financial stress can put on humans.  It weighs on us like a heavy backpack and we feel unable to reach back and take the straps off our shoulders.  It prevents us from having life “to the full.”

The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

The thief (Satan) finds whatever way he can to steal and destroy in our lives…money just being one of them.  However, with some steps of discipline and savvy spending, we can lift off the backpack and find peace.

THE HARD PART

The cash system, however, comes with its challenges which I have learned in the past several months of implementation.  It’s essentially behavioral change, new habits and just plain practicing the word no.  I keep reminding myself that no discipline is easy, just like when we choose not to overindulge with food and are left feeling deprived or a little empty.

Because my husband is a great provider for our family, saying no to things that were always “yes’s”( like stocking up on batteries or light bulbs) feels silly.  But we have to keep in mind that financial peace comes from not spending everything we make, which means the “no’s” need to settle in like a familiar friend who has come to stay–but only until the next paycheck.

I am daily trying to choose financial peace and margin even when it doesn’t feel great in the moment.

 

5 HABITS YOU CAN CHANGE

It is possible to change the course of the ship with little habit changes.

1.  Every Last Drop.

I ran out of my favorite hair product, a five dollar bottle of Aragon Oil.  BTCS (Before The Cash System) I would toss the bottle out when it emptied to the last few drops.  Instead, since I had a few days left until a new cash cycle, here’s what I did:

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2. Finger off the “buy” button, or better yet, no online shopping.

I was shopping some great sales for my family at Old Navy Online and found a certain style of jeans that I had wanted.  BTCS I would have ordered them because of many justifications–I really “needed” this style, they were on a great sale, what if I couldn’t find them again, etc.  Instead, I lifted (okay, pried) my finger off the “Buy” button and clicked off the site.  Guess what?  I can’t even remember what those jeans were like–must not have needed them that badly.

3.  Reuse.

While stuffing a gift bag with a present for someone I noticed the tissue in my wrapping bin was a little crinkley.  BTCS I would have thrown it away and used some crisp fresh tissue sheets.  Instead, I flattened out the sheet as much as possible, re-crinkled it (go figure) to fit in the bag and voila,  recycled tissue and beautiful gift.

4. Delayed Gratification.

I dropped my IPhone on a hike a month ago.  It cracked.  But not enough to shatter it.  BTCS I would have most likely had it replaced sooner than later.  Instead I decided to use it cracked, indefinitely.  People would comment and I would just say, “Yeah, it doesn’t really bother me.”  Until a week ago I dropped it on our stairs, and it shattered. For real, like cut my fingers to use shattered.  New phone screen and point made of the importance of margin.

5. Practice scarcity.

We are getting used to a bare bones fridge for the last week before payday. BTCS–full fridge…always.

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 SELF TALK

My self talk as I drive away from the bank at the beginning of the month, envelope stuffed with cash, usually sounds like this, “Amy, THIS month you can make this cash last until the very end.  It can’t be that hard!”

However, by the third week in I am grouchy and annoyed that there is no grocery money left, or eating out money, or allowance, or any money really.

Life always throws curve balls that eat up the cash faster than I would want.  But I remind myself, “Self, stick with this.  You will feel so great when payday comes and you balance the bank account and you have margin!” It’s true.  It feels amazing.  I just did it two days ago.  Margin feels spacious, light, airy, free.  Room to breathe and stretch your financial wings just a bit.  It’s the same feeling as stepping on a scale and seeing 3 pounds come off after a week of self-control and hard choices.

BIG PICTURE THINKING–Mistakes and All

This is big picture thinking friends.  It is living life to the full– not letting money or things or wants keep us shackled.  It is not easy but it is possible.  The first four months for us have been shaky with sharp learning curves.  In March we bailed half way through the month when all of our grocery cash needed to go to a big car repair from a service that took cash only, and then had to get back on the saddle a couple of weeks later when the next pay check arrived–which meant paying off the money we put on the credit card to buy our groceries.

It took a few months to figure out what our true budget expenses were, and a good long conversation with a trusted friend on the same system with how he uses it with his family–down to the amount in each category.  We have chosen to spend over our set budget for graduation presents, or a special occasion.  It’s all teaching us about what expenses we need to have a cushion for next year.  We give ourselves grace, hold ourselves accountable, and know this is a process that God is walking with us.

In His Grace,

Amy

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Child Sex Trafficking–Will You Take A Moment to Learn About It?

Child sex trafficking–not something we usually ruminate on during our morning cup of coffee.  Yet, this is an important topic that I wanted to highlight in today’s blog.  A devotional I read helped me have some perspective as I lounged on our comfortable couch with spring flowers blooming outside our family room window.

There is great suffering in our world.

We can’t begin to imagine what this lifestyle is like for families and their precious children–all in the name of survival.  Please take a look at this full article click here that addresses the harsh reality of sex trafficking and it’s impact on families.  This is part of the Mother To Child Initiative for Maternal health which promotes stronger families and keeps oldest daughters out of the human trafficking world.  The video below shares the cause:

   To Watch This Video, Click HERE

            oWatch the Video

Living On A Cash Budget System–Part 1

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Happy Wednesday Friends!

Several of you have asked how our cash budget is going since I wrote here about several of the changes our family made in 2015 which we have called “The Year of The No.”  This is the first of a two-part blog on using a cash system.  Today, the nuts and bolts.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF A CASH SYSTEM

Why a cash system?  For our family, it is a way to keep us on budget.  It is SO easy to overspend each month, especially when you are raising a family and you feel like a walking ATM.  We overspent the most in our grocery and eating out budget–we had a budget, but used our credit cards and tried to keep general track in our heads about how much we had left to spend each month.  That is a wonderful idea if you are a millionaire.  Our goal was to pay the credit card off each month but we realized our overspending was not allowing us to do that all the time.

Side note: We used credit cards because we wanted the points, which we used to do all of our traveling.  It seemed like a great plan! But in reality I realized if we just set aside the amount we were earning in points each month for our vacation budget and stopped using our cards, we would fare far better in controlling our spending.

On the cash budget, we have a finite and tangible picture of how much we have left.  If the eating out cash is gone, we wait another week or so until the paycheck comes.  This is NOT easy, and we don’t do it perfectly all the time.

For those of you wondering how this type of budget works, here is the skinny.

On the 5th of every month (when my husband gets his bigger paycheck), I pay all of our bills which I have set up to process at that time.  I then head to the bank with a total amount of cash withdrawal that will carry us through the month.  They know me by name now…

I take the cash home and separate it into several categories:

Grocery :  you can break this into smaller categories–Costco, Whole Foods, etc.

Non-food items : toilet paper, cleaning supplies, dog food, wrapping paper

Miscellaneous : the unexpected each month

Eating Out/Entertainment date nights and family meals

Sports : we pay a golf coach in cash so we need this category

Gifts: some months need this more than others, so you can just keep adding

Allowance : for each family member–Jon and I get allowance too!

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I divide all the money up into a mini-file folder (I’ll call these “envelopes” here).  I carry this file-folder in my purse at all times~ and I’ve had to swallow my pride about how silly it looks pulling this blue plastic thing out to pay instead of my wallet, but hey, maybe I’ll start a trend.

I have a few other categories where I stash cash each month–these are things that may not be monthly but we want to have money set aside when the time comes to pay:

Automobile

HoA Dues

Car Registrations

Vacation

Hair

IMPORTANT TIPS TO MAKE THIS WORK

1. It should be noted that I SPLIT the grocery, miscellaneous, and eating out into two amounts and set one aside for the second half of the month.  I have learned the hard way that it is way too easy to use it all up in the first two weeks.

2. Figuring out how to put in each category takes research.  I recommend going through bank and credit card statements for the past three months and itemizing what you spend where to get a general idea.  You may have to tweak it for the first few months to get it just right.

3. You can create whatever categories and amounts work for your family–I know some folks who break everything down into very specific envelopes.

4. What about gas and other categories?  We use our cards for gas, and then pay all of our bills with checks or auto pay.  We also have a college savings and regular savings category, but these get transferred directly from our paycheck to a savings account by our bank on a set day of the month.

5. Once the cash is gone out of a certain category, do you best to not borrow from other categories.  For example, if you want to go out to eat but that envelope is gone, try not to borrow from the grocery envelope which still has money in it.  This is where the discipline happens.  The better you can get at being patient until the next paycheck to fill the envelopes back up, the better you will stick to your budget.

This has been challenging for us, because we tend to feel constrained and run out of money faster than we would like to!  However, we know that this is the best way to keep financial peace in our lives. In my next post I will share some of the ways I have learned to cut spending and live within this cash system.

Come visit GraceFULLhome on our blog if you are an email subscriber!  Just click here.  There is a lot more to check out AND you can comment there!  Please comment if you have tips to add–many of you already do the cash budget and our community would love to hear how it’s going for you.

~Amy

xoxo

 

My Decision to Unplug

 

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It was the beginning of January and I sat at my computer on a chilly Colorado morning.  As the front door closed behind the last child headed off to school, I took a deep breath, ready for a new season of life.  Now that I was not working out of the home, my time was my own–and oh the plans I had!.  It had been years since all five days of the week were mine to fill with whatever I chose– time to work, to write, to create, to grow my business.

That day, and for weeks to come, I dove into my work, training, fighting through the frustration of technology issues, mapping out my business plan.  I would spend a day or two completely absorbed in my computer, come up for air when the kids got home from school, then back to it the next day–but now spending time working on my blog, dreaming about a re-branding that I wanted to do which led me to different research as I became absorbed in the blogging world.  I bounced back and forth between these two projects with a hurried frenzy–there was so much to do before summer when my focus would need to be almost entirely on the kids.

Then, as my technology knowledge around social media branding and video marketing for my business grew, I felt God gently nudge me toward another idea using this newfound information for completely different vision–creating a YouTube channel for middle school girls, to help inspire and encourage them through an ever-shifting, emotionally challenging season of their lives.  Really God? Right now in the middle of everything else? But the excitement grew and learning video editing became a new project.

Oh, and what about the book I wanted to write?  My monthly writer’s club continued to inspire me to pursue this dream along with all the others.

With so many ideas swirling in my head (and they were all worthy efforts!) I found feeling disconnected and a bit frazzled as the end of February approached.  Which project should I pursue first?  What should come off the plate?  How can I do it all?  What about the valiant effort of motherhood? I could feel my distraction and absorption in all these pursuits keeping me from being fully present with my family.

I prayed almost daily about all of this–wasn’t this supposed to be a grand time for independence and creativity?  Freedom and growth without the shackles of a schedule?  Yet, it felt confusing and burdened, as if I was walking a path that kept splitting and every fork said “go both ways!” I knew I couldn’t do it all, but was stuck in not wanting to let go of any of it.

Then, on the first night of Lent, God got my attention through a simple question.  I sat around a dining room table at a lovely home in Boulder with five women in my writer’s group, pen in hand, trying to answer the writing prompt we had just been given: What Am I Afraid Of?

Complete writer’s block paralyzed me.  The clock ticked.  I sat, trying to go deeper than my obvious answer-spiders. Suddenly, as if all the voices and thoughts and strivings of the last two months were revealed to me in a mirror before my face, I knew my fear.  Who will I be if I do nothing? 

Were all these pursuits an avoidance of realizing that fear?  Where was I finding my identity?  Had I begun to place productivity and striving as an idol on the shelf of my life?

And as clear as those thoughts were, so was my solution.  It was no coincidence that God chose this sacrificial day to get my attention.  Lent needed to be the castle where I would abide apart from my distracted, pursuit filled life.  I needed to unplug.  I made a decision right then–I was putting everything on hold– starting in the morning.

I realized as I spoke this out loud that these women were going to hold me accountable to this–what was I saying?

What would tomorrow morning look like when that last child walked out the door…when I was used to scooping up my laptop and diving into the world of writing/blogging/video-editing/YouTubing/teambuilding/prospecting/selling?

I couldn’t even picture it, it felt as dark as our bedroom when I turned off the lights that night.

The next morning came.  Would I really go through with this?  Yes, I had spoken it out loud.

After handing the last bagged lunch to a child and sending them on their way, I sat on my couch, no laptop, and just thought.  Now what?  I looked around.  I literally didn’t know what to do with myself.  I was so accustomed to a full day of projects and checking boxes on my to do list.  But… I could do some laundry, read a few chapters of a novel (seriously?),  even watch some of the Today Show to catch up on world news.

I could pray.  Sit in silence.

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I would just slow down.

Gradually, over the next few mornings, I reframed my frenzy into contemplation, re-prioritizing my day in a way that would leave time for God to speak to me–or better said, for me to hear him.  I prayed for clarity on my future–what would HE desire me to pursue?  What would HE bless?

I rested.

I read.

I did housework joyfully–as a priority, not an afterthought.

I sought clarity.

I felt guilty.  Was this really a sacrifice?  Having peace and free-time? I wasn’t giving up chocolate or Facebook or any of those other challenging things.   Then a friend reminded me that Lent is all about making room for God, where other distractions, obsessions, desires might crowd him out.  What greater sacrifice than to lay down the very things that were beginning to speak too loudly into my identity.

Clarity came.

One morning I invited my friend to my home for coffee.  She happens to be a Life Plan Facilitator, and as I shared my current journey, she suggested I schedule a time with her as a gift to me–God’s gift to me, to help me figure out my best path.

I met with my friend for 16 hours over the next couple of weeks.  It was the most intense yet most valuable experience I have ever been through.  We worked on small things–like my calling, gifts and talents, and my core values.  We created vision statements and a framework for making every major decision going forward.

By the time I was finished, I had complete confidence and vision for my future, with God’s hand and blessing pressed all over it.

The last couple of weeks leading up to the conclusion of Lent were the most challenging for me.  Many days I woke up inspired and ready to jump into the plans before me, yet, I held myself back, wanting to be obedient to the Lent sacrifice I made.

And finally Easter came and went.  Once again, I hugged the kids and sent them off to school.  But this time, I felt calm, purposeful.  I didn’t rush into anything, because I had mapped out a timeframe for my new goals–and, even though the clock was ticking, I had a peace that God’s hand was in this and I couldn’t mess it up regardless of my pace.

And here’s what I decided.

All of the prayer and processing over the last forty days funneled into one large question:  “How do I be congruent with who God has created me to be and his purposes for my life?”  

Through the Life Plan process it was clear that going forward with one or more of the options initially on the table was in my DNA.  It is in my created personality to step out and share how I am growing and what God is teaching me with others.  The following decisions were confirmed in my heart and head:

First, Creating the YouTube Channel for my daughter, her friends, and hopefully many other girls where the message that God is with them through this shaky time, and  that in these five minute videos they can find morsels of hope and strength to get them through the next hour or next day.

Second, and longer-term, blogging, speaking and writing as a package deal–all under the hope of living out God’s calling to continue to equip and encourage women in their life and walk with the Lord.

I will continue my side-business in a different format than I was pursuing before, which I am encouraged and excited about.

My soul is in a better place.  I will not be striving and pursuing.  I will be prayerful and peaceful.  There is no “end goal” except one day at a time, letting God lead my path.

I really don’t know what I am doing with either of these projects–but that is good.  It keeps me right where God wants me, in a place where I am not captain of my ship, but a worthy sailor who is fulfilling the tasks given.  I am not in control of this next season, and it is in this letting go the blessing has been revealed.

What Am I Afraid Of?

Surprisingly, it is not an absence of activity, it is doing something outside of the will of my heavenly Father who knows me better than I know myself.  I fear controlling and striving and pouring my valuable time and energy into something that I created in my own head, rather than what God has purposed me to do.

This journey has been incredible, not because of the clarity I received, or the rest I experienced.  The very best part has been the re-affirmation of God’s character. He is a faithful God, who listens to our prayers, and steps into our life when invited in order to fulfill His purposes here on Earth.  He did not let me flounder any longer than necessary, and when I felt broken and confused enough to hear him speak “Stop!” into my life, He responded with perfectly measured and powerful help in order to steer me back on course.

xoxo,

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

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