Archives for May 2015

If You Want To Be Moved Today, Read On…

I am honored to share my Aunt’s beautiful account of her mission experience with Healing Haiti this spring.  If you want to be moved today, read on…

 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Love Thy Neighbor…

We made our way back to City Soleil to bring water, one of life’s most precious resources, and good will, to the people that live there.

As we maneuver the creaky Tap Tap and sister water truck into place, the residents of the city gather. Children smile and reach up and out, toddlers wait, for something–they don’t seem to know just what; and grown-ups are all business.  They line up their buckets quickly, looking for any hole in the line to slip into (we call it butting)–some succeed; others are reprimanded by the water truck driver, or our Haitian translators.

There is an energy circulating within the gathering–not upbeat as it was earlier in the week.  More unsettling, as if a storm was far off but brewing.

Our group begun to help;  carrying buckets, hoisting gallons of water to impossible positions on top of small heads; holding small children and babies, praying to infuse everything good thing that we held in our souls into these lovely beings as if for storage when needed.

Two young ladies shielded my team mate and me as we sat  in the hot sun, with a rag just big enough to cover our heads and the young children we were holding. They reminded me of sentinels; their sole duty to give back something to these strange white people whom they trust are here to help.

Later, a man vehemently slaps a young boy about the ears and on his head repeatedly.  I stand between them, helpless–to do much of anything else.  The man leaves; the boy begins to whimper, then sob.  I try to comfort him, to no avail.  He is distant–perhaps anticipating further unrest when finally he must go home sometime today for shelter.

Shelter.  4 by 5 feet, perhaps.  A couch. No bed. Dirt on the floor.  A chicken pacing in front of the towel hung in an opening to constitute a doorway.

 

The morning grows chaotic as the water begins to run out.  The people quicken their pace to retrieve water that they pray will get them through to the next delivery.

The water runs out.  Our group makes their way to the pier, as our driver tends to a flat tire.

When we return to the tap tap, we find waiting an injured woman, her head gashed and bleeding.  As our team mate,who is a nurse practitioner, and one of our leaders tend to her injuries, our translator explains that a man has intruded into her house and attempted to rape her 12-year-old daughter.  When the mother fended the man off to protect her daughter, he beat her severely. Our skilled nurse patched her up with with what tools we had from the tap tap first aid kit.  The woman would go back to her house.  No hospital–no money.  No police–there are none.

Love thy neighbor…

I stand by the tap tap. Lost. Where is God today, I’m wondering?

I feel like crying, and then I do. Stuck. Helpless. Saddened.

A little girl in a dirty white dress sees me from the other side of the tap tap.  She makes her way over to me, looks up at my tears with genuine, adult–looking concern.

Beautiful, deep brown eyes, furrowed brow.

Genuinely concerned.

She takes the hem of her dress and lifts it to my face to dab at my tears.

I hug her close, wanting to savor the utter, simple humanity of this moment.

The injured leaves, the crowd begins to thin.  we board the tap tap.

A morning of tension, a morning of violence, a questioning of faith–redeemed by a small child reaching out–an act as large as God–an act of loving thy neighbor.

After all…

 Marj Hellweg

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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