Archives for April 2015

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

 

 

 

 

 

Devotional For Kids: It’s Okay to be Broken!

Do you ever get push back when you try to correct your children?  Defensiveness, resistance?  Do they ever act like they “know it all” when you try to teach them something?  Since we see this attitude crop up from time to time with our children, my heart was burdened to begin to peel back these layers of pride and show them God’s desire for our posture in relationships and toward Him (and why it’s ok to be broken!).

I wrote about brokenness here in a recent blog because it is something adults (me!) struggle with just as much as children. One of the things I have wanted to teach our children is the idea that we are all broken and need a redeemer.  We all fall short of the glory of God and who he created us to be.  But a closed heart and attitude toward correction highlights a need to work on having a teachable spirit.

I initially wanted to write a devotional about having a Teachable Spirit, but realized that I needed to teach about brokenness first.  It is difficult to be teachable if you think you’re perfect.  So this is a two part lesson. You can print the PDF from here: Devo–Brokenness (click here and again next page), and stay tuned for the next Kid’s Devo on having a teachable spirit.

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This devotional is geared for 5th graders and up, but you can easily adapt the lesson to younger ones!

Healthy Peanut Butter and Honey Oat Bars

Peanut Butter and Honey Oat Bars

Here is an easy little recipe I made last night–a great low sugar option for a snack and delicious!  I sent a batch with my husband on a trip, and they will go in the kids’ lunches today.  I found them on this site.

Peanut Butter and Honey Oat Bars

 Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, ground
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped honey roasted peanuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 F

Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper, making sure the parchment paper hangs over the sides.

In a microwave safe bowl, add honey, coconut oil and peanut butter. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir until mixture gets runny and peanut butter completely melted in. You may have to heat for another 20 seconds or so. Mix in vanilla extract and cinnamon.

Add oats and peanuts, mix until everything is combined and the mixture is completely coated with honey and peanut butter mixture.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and press down with a back of a spoon; bake in the oven for 20 -25 minutes until lightly brown.

Once you take the bars out of the oven, press down with the back of a spoon to insure the oats are pressed firmly together. Let the oat bars cool slightly and carefully take out bars by grabbing onto the parchment paper and cut into 16 slices. Let bars cool completely and harden at room temperature.

Store bars in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

Makes 16 bars.

Nutritional Data

Calories per bar: 157.2, Fat: 8., Cholesterol: 0, Sodium: 31, Potassium: 38, Carbs: 18.8, Fiber: 2, Sugar: 10.4, Protein: 3.9

Enjoy and have a great day!

 

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