A Measure of Thankfulness


It is easy give thanks.  They are words we say, lists our lips speak around the Thanksgiving Table.

Family. Home. Health. Friendships. Faith. Travel. Opportunities. Blessings.

Giving Thanks With A Grateful Heart, however, seems just a touch more difficult.

To GIVE THANKS is to speak.

To BE GRATEFUL is an act of the heart.

It means that we mean our thanks, deeply, truly.  With all of our soul. Maybe that is easy?  The list above is beautiful, sweet, full, joyous.  We can deeply feel the thanks.  But God asks us to give thanks in all circumstances:

Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

So what about the list that comes from that?

Sickness. Death. Pain. Broken Dreams. Loss. Sadness. Loneliness. Unwanted Change.

We are asked to give thanks when things go well, and not so well in life.

We can, possibly, maybe on our best day, do that.

But with a Grateful Heart also?

I ran into an old friend at Costco the other day. We used to teach together and hadn’t seen each other for about fifteen years. She reminded me as we caught up that her son, a junior in high school at the time, died in a car crash shortly after I left the school where we taught.  As she recalled that night she said, “The moment I found out my son had died, I cried out to God, ‘God, thank you for all the years that you gave him to me.”

These were not just words. My friend had a grateful heart.  She meant her thanks.  She deeply meant it because all those moments of his life now were infinitely more precious to her since he was gone.

I think Giving Thanks With A Grateful Heart means we MEAN our thanks….from the bottom of our soul.  In life’s highest highs and lowest lows.  We are deeply, deeply thankful for it all because we believe that God is Good In All Circumstances, and that he will bring healing and blessings out of our trials.

Pain has nuggets of peace within….Gratefulness is the pan that sifts peace to the top.

May we Give Thanks With A Grateful heart today! We have so so much to be thankful for.





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.”


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 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.



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:


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.

  • IMG_0229


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.


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,


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Living On A Cash Budget System–Part 1


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.


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!


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:


HoA Dues

Car Registrations




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.




The Harder Kids Work, The “Luckier” They Get

Are your kids hard workers?  Our culture stresses “Buy, buy, buy” and “me, me, me”  which fights with the messages we want to teach our children that hard work helps one succeed, and consumerism and selfishness does the opposite.

Here is a video by Dani Johnson, a motivational speaker and businesswoman, who shares from a Christian perspective–it’s an hour long, but with some great nuggets of wisdom, explaining how we can better equip our children to grow into successful adults through hard work.   Enjoy!

Finding Ideas For Your Life That Stick


Do you ever feel like you keep trying new ideas that come across your path but most don’t stick?  Ideas for better parenting, marriage, cooking, organizing, exercising or budgeting?  I love new tips and tricks, but most of the time I just let them pass by, giving them a head nod on their way.  I have become a bit skeptical, since the ideas I do try often don’t stick around very long, which feels discouraging.

For example, chores.  We have done “chores” in our home in many different systems.  And for the most part, they have worked for a time.  But then something changes in our lives–summer vacation hits and all prior routine vanishes, or someone starts to feel self-conscious that I have all the chores listed publicly on our chalkboard with checkmarks on who has done what…so I take that down.  Or, I start a new project or job and don’t have time to stay consistent.  That is life. But it can still feel discouraging at times.

What about exercise?  A great new app comes out (NikeTrainingClub) that I download and use for a while, but then I get bored, or it takes up too much room on my phone storage, so I delete it.  Then I get an email about an new website (ToneItUp.com) that has great workouts.  So I join.  And jump up and down in my family room in front of my computer for a while.  Until I’m bored again.

Is this a bad thing?  Not always.  Humans, especially in our day and age, are wired to seek out the next best thing.  And with the ability to receive information so readily, we are constantly hearing about new ideas.  The key is finding the one or two systems in the important areas of your life that accomplish the goal, and hanging on to those until they aren’t working for you anymore.  My guess is that if the chores or the exercise programs aren’t working, it’s because your life has shifted, and it’s time give yourself permission to shift to a new idea.

Each day we sort and filter new ideas that we see on Facebook, TV, from friends, or books. How do we best select and filter all that comes our way?

1. Decide if what you are currently doing/using is working for you.

For example, if you have a system for organizing your closet that may not be perfect but is working for you, don’t feel like you need to head to The Container Store to acquire the best new system you just saw on a Today Show segment.  However, if your closet has been a source of frustration, and watching the segment makes you realize that, use the inspiration to get you off your duff and do something about it.

2. If an idea sounds good, don’t shrug it off because the last three things you have tried haven’t stuck around long term.

In my next post I will share a great new kid-chore tracker that a friend shared with me.  My first instinct was to say, “That’s nice,” and change the subject, knowing it is one more system that may not work long term.  However, I asked a few more questions, and decided to give it a try, even though I just knew one of my children would balk at it because it would feel “kiddish” to her.  Guess what?  It is working amazingly well…for all kids.

3. When you try something new, give it time.

Often, we start something, just to end it a week later.  We make a lot of excuses, “It is not working as fast as I thought it would, I didn’t have the time to learn how to do it well, I have already figured out three reasons why I can’t sustain this…”

Well, all of those things may be true, but if you don’t give things at least THREE WEEKS (21 days to form a habit!) of consistent effort, you will never know the true outcome.

This seems very true with any new organizing system, an effort to speak differently to your spouse, exercise programs, or a new eating routine, etc.!

4.  When you do stumble upon something great, share it!

I have learned some great new tips and tricks for my life that have stuck around because friends have shared what is working for them.  Don’t be shy about letting people know something that has been successful for you.

In my next post, I will share 4 ideas that have simplified my life–and that seem to be sticking!

So, in the spirit of sharing, please like and share this post on FB if you thought it was helpful. Thank you!

Have a great day!

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