Friday, September 12, 2014
Recently my husband worked to help me update my teeny tiny studio in the backyard. He put in new wood plank floors which I painted and distressed white and with some old wood from a fence that fell down in my brother's yard he built me this stand to use for newborn or even child photo shoots. We have foam which covers the top and then I can layer any kind of textile over the whole thing depending on the look of the photo shoot. As I was painting the floors this week I got all excited and wanted my daughter to take Neal's and my picture in there to commemorate this special occasion of finishing the studio, kind of like a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Here's the thing, my husband likes to be funny at. all. times.... and his idea of great comedy is to make himself look like a nerd in any and all situations. I used to get frustrated and wish that he'd just take a "normal" photo with me but really this is us. We are not formal, we are not sophisticated and we're certainly far from having it all together. I told my sister that this photo will probably be one that my girls will cherish one day because this is the real us, neal acting like a goof ball and me laughing at his antics.
Earlier this week I was on a walk with my mom, sister, and Lucy along the beach and we ran into an old friend of my moms. I remember hearing his name many times in the past but this is the first time I ever had the pleasure of meeting him in person. Turns out, he is a pastor in a local church and he was sitting at a table on the beach probably encouraging or offering a word of hope to a young man that was sitting with him. As we walked by he was excited to see my mom and jumped up to greet us. As he did that I heard him say to the gentleman he was sitting with, "excuse me for a minute, I need to love on these people." As he said that he came smiling over to us and offered warm hugs. We chatted with him for maybe 15 minutes tops and even as this was the very first time I've ever met him he said such encouraging words like, "man I used to be such a mess, just ask your mom, but by the grace of God here I am a PASTOR and encouraging others in the love of Jesus." He went on to say that while his life was kind of a wreck he thought that maybe God was chuckling as he thought to himself, "you know, one day you're going to offer hope to many you come in contact with because I'm going to turn your story for good! and in that you'll offer others a glimpse of what their future can look like even in the midst of their mess."
I've only ever met this sweet, smiling pastor with kind eyes for 15 minutes in my entire life and he left me with words like, "isn't God good?" "Isn't His grace just so amazing? Isn't his forgiveness unfathomable?" There's HOPE, there's HEALING, there's LOVE, there's ACCEPTANCE!" Many times he talked of the screw ups of his past but always followed with, "but by the grace of His love"
I walked away from that short encounter super encouraged! I remember thinking hey! I'm a mess too! And I can TOTALLY RELATE to what you shared with me!~ God's brought me through some doozies, none of which he caused, but all because I had to do things my own way, yet He stayed, He kept his promise to never leave me. He totally stood by me when my life was in chaos and encouraged me with words like, "don't you worry little one, I'm going to work this all out for good, your job is just to trust and obey me." And he COMPLETELY and TOTALLY kept that promise to me.
I'm so grateful that pastor shared the story of God saving him out of his mess because at times I feel like a mess and that offers hope for me! I LOVE it when people will just be real! I don't care if I see your mess or your bitterness or your pain because then maybe I can offer the same hope to you! That while I was a complete insecure disaster of a girl God saved me and gave me HOPE and a FUTURE!
I'm so challenged by this encounter I had this week. I wonder if you only knew me for fifteen minutes what kind of impression would I leave? It reminds me to set my mind on things above and not on earthly things!~ I challenges me to be ready in season and out of season if God needs me to encourage someone! And it encourages me to set my sites not on what is seen but what is unseen and to run this race offering the same grace that was shone me and my husband to others.
So here we are, silly and maybe a bit dorky but it's us and we're saved and we love Jesus and our lives are far from perfect but we know the one who is perfect and hopefully we can act in a way that would make you want to know him too. And in that challenge I hope that our response will always be, "excuse me a minute, I need to love on these people."
Monday, June 16, 2014
I am on the last three days of my 30 day challenge and I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. I think partly this is because it's the first time I've truly done something different in my life besides returning to school. In the beginning of this journey I figured that it would be really difficult to stop spending and that, like an addiction, I wouldn't be able to wait until I could go shopping again. That could not be further from the truth, really what happened is I learned to spend my time differently which opened doors for me to dream again, which lead to long dates and walks with my husband where we'd hash out exactly how we wanted to live our lives. We've been given opportunity to reevaluate our priorities and decide what's truly important to our family. We've been completely over scheduled, totally spending out of control and this has given us new light on what we definitely don't want. I think for so long I've thought that this is how things are supposed to be and we've lived in a safe and secure bubble while pushing some of our big dreams down time and time again choosing to stay on the path that we know, the path that feels stable (and over scheduled).
I had the most inspiring coffee date with one of my oldest and dearest friends the other day! I mean it's like a little fire was lit under me! I wish I could share every detail of her story because it's so inspiring it brings me to tears but it's not my story to tell! What I can tell you is that she was in the very same boat as me, choosing the slow and steady wins the race course, working in a job that she doesn't love, living in a town that she's known her whole life, and then spending her evenings after work poking around the computer whether searching through amazon or watching a movie. She said a statement that has challenged me to change my life! She very humbly and sweetly looked at me and said,
"I'm tired of watching other people living their lives on my computer and I'm ready to go out and live my own."
So because of this she's taking some big risks and life, grabbing the bull by the horns and going for it and I'm cheering her on with gusto! This challenges me and excites me! How much of my life is lived because it's the way I've always done it, it's the "safest" way, and it's what would make others around me comfortable with my choices. But you know, I have to believe that these dreams I have in my heart which have stayed there for many years have to have been placed there by God! And I think I've just been sitting at home waiting for the doorbell to ring and when I run to answer it I find that God has left a giant sized package full of my dreams ready for me to open without even leaving my house!
Well no package has come, haha!! So maybe it takes getting off your butt and doing the work and not acting as if God is some kind of genie who will just grant your wish as you ask!
When I was 20 years old I lived on my own in a little condo and made some poor financial decisions which drowned me in debt. I figured the easy way out would be to sell my condo, move back in with my parents, and pay off my debt as quickly as possible. I remember walking into my dad's office to ask when I could list my condo and move home, it seemed like the easy way out. My dad took this as an opportunity to teach me one of the most valuable lessons of my life. He said that he would not let me move back home but instead made me pick up some extra work on top of my full time job and then he helped me to work out a budget where I would pay off my cards one at a time starting with the smallest and working my way up to the one with the biggest balance. There were times during this period where I worked three jobs in order to pay off those cards but I did it in a year and I've never been in debt like that again! I had thought that putting things on a credit card meant they were free but my dad taught me that there is a cost involved in purchasing with credit. I wanted the easy way out, the nice package of paid off debt at my door, but my dad taught me to get free of it through work.
The above photos are of my daughter and her friends as they're preparing to finish the seventh grade. I despised that grade and consider it one of the hardest of my life! But not my Nat! She made the sweetest friends and they're having the time of their lives! As a mom I would never dream of standing in the way of one of their dreams! Instead, I would root them on telling them to never give up reminding them that where one door closes, another one opens! I would never let them settle but tell them to go for it yet I tell myself to settle every day. It's such a fine line, this not settling and living in contentment, that's where I've run into problems. But I think that if you just keep giving your dreams to the Lord and allowing HIM to be the one to open and close doors, that you kind find your contentment in knowing that he knows what's best and accepting answers even if they're not what you wanted.
These are not going to be quick changes for us but more of a one day, one risk at a time kind of thing! But we've got a goal and a bright future and we're both hard workers so we're going for it! There's a verse in the Bible where it talks about God barricading the road that goes nowhere so that's what we're praying and as long as the path ahead is clear we're heading down it!
This 30 day challenge ended up only being the very beginning of a much larger story.
Monday, June 9, 2014
Well they say it takes 3 weeks to break a habit and I'm here to testify. I can honestly say that I barely think about shopping anymore. My husband and I were talking and I shared a horrible thought, in 18 years of marriage this is the first time I've gone this long without buying anything if you're including magazines or candles or flowers. It feels good, it feels in control. I only have 9 days to go and I have to say that this is one of the smartest things I've ever done because not only did it make me realize how much I was spending just to scratch an itch but it also caused me to be very aware of my spending in other areas. I'd have to say that the area that was the most out of control for my family was the grocery bill which we've improved by making one large grocery run on the weekend at Costco or a local less expensive grocery store and then eating from what we've bought for the rest of the week. My girls informed me that they'd like to eat more salad so this week we went to Costco and stocked UP on produce! I have tomatoes, avocados, jalapeños, spring mix salad, peppers, cucumbers, peaches, limes, cilantro, feta, and from there I can make up all sorts of goodies!
The other night we visited my cousins farm where they served up a popcorn sized bowl of fresh salsa which was a.maz.ing! That ended the store bought salsa plan for me! So tonight I whipped up a batch of salsa and my family munched on it while I cooked up some chicken and made salads. It's a production around here as I just line up the bowls on the counter and toss in the veggies. We are eating WELL and spending HALF of what we used to spend by doing things this way. A little planning seems to go a long way! And I must confess that it's nice to have food in the fridge and pantry and not have to run to the store every time I need to prepare a meal. We've barely eaten out which has also saved us money.
One problem, I've put on a little weight with all of this yummy food in the house so I'll need to work on the self control! I've found it super therapuetic to chop the fresh veggies and make things like salsa and guacamole to top our chips and burgers with and I'm getting spoiled because fresh tastes so much better than store bought! Costco has even started carrying the blue corn chips so that's a huge plus!
I'm super glad we did this! I'd say that it's been a smart move for me! The other thing that has really helped is taking the time to track where our money is going, that way if we're getting out of control in an area, like the groceries, we can fix things before we find ourselves in a heap of trouble again. I've found myself referring back to the old Dave Ramsey way of doing things and I'm leaning towards more of a cash system once this is all said and done! I think we're onto a good thing here and I don't want to mess it up!
And it looks like we started this all just in the nick of time because my daughter was given a hefty ortho bill recently and I had to kiss going to Hawaii anytime soon bye bye. That's why I bought that pineapple you see in the photo above, it's my consolation praise. If any of you happens to be traveling to Hawaii soon (you know who you are haha) I will take a care package. haha
Love ya! ;O)
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Yesterday marked 15 days into my 30 day challenge which means that I'm half way there! Never in a million years did I realize how much this challenge would affect me! In only 2 weeks my mind has been changed in regards to spending. Do you know what I've found to be the most true??
I'm really, really grateful!
I mean truly, deeply grateful for every little thing! And it's not just things, it's this whole new grateful attitude that's been building inside of me. I'm grateful for my life! I feel so taken care of, so loved, people have been so generous to me!
I did a little exercise today. I made all sorts of columns and bars and such and I calculated where we were at 2 weeks ago as far as spending on groceries, eating out, tithe, misc. items, anthropologie type shopping, etc and then I compared it to the first 2 weeks of this challenge and do you know what I found?? The ONLY THING that went up was our tithe. This is not because we are making more money but because we're being more intentional about putting Jesus first with every dollar that comes into our home! EVERY OTHER COLUMN WENT DOWN! And I don't mean just a little down, but a LOT! EVEN the groceries! Like cut in half!! And this feels like a miracle because we've barely eaten out at all which means we're eating home for every meal~! I don't know how God's economy works but I like his math! I've watched this over and over in my life in different areas, God honors obedience!
When I go out into the garden to cut peonies for my table I feel so blessed. As I was digging through the fridge this afternoon looking for something to prepare for dinner I was able to scrounge enough vegetables together for a salad and throw a pot of spaghetti together because we were trying to hold out until tomorrow before spending more money on groceries! We feel like we're eating like kings!
God blessed me with something else as well, on the first day of this journey I had a Starbucks card which was given to me for my birthday which I allowed myself to use for dates and such! I treated it as gold saving it for when I really wanted a treat! A few days ago I went to the mailbox and someone dear sent me another card to keep me going until I can spend again, a gift from God, and I've enjoyed each Americano immensely!
And do you remember me talking about putting things I might want when this is over on a secret board on pinterest to think about? It turns out I don't really want any of that stuff anymore except for one pretty dress that I still dream about sometimes but that's the only thing left! I was thinking about how many useless items I've purchased over the last year simply because my fingers were itching to buy. It's usually those items that don't last as long in my closet. I find myself wanting to slow down and only get something it it's extra, extra special.
This afternoon this cookbook arrived from a giveaway I won on one of my FAVORITE blogs and so I'm excited to curl up in my lounge chair outside with my favorite blanket wrapped around my legs while I figure out how to make the chorizo gravy guacamole loaded nachos cuz I'm thinking I need to get those into my belly this weekend!!
God has been so faithful to me! I'm giddy as a school girl! I so super, duper, highly recommend this 30 day cleanse of your finances! You learn SO MUCH! And I feel so much wiser now! I think that when I was in the buy, buy, buy mode it was never enough! And now I'm suddenly so super content and relaxed about not shopping! I'm even saving money on gas!!!
Wonder what's going to happen after the 30 days is up?? Cuz right now I feel like that song where she sings, "spirit lead me where my trust is without borders" only this time it's with my finances.
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Ten days in! I can hardly believe it! I'm a third of the way there!! And I haven't slipped up once yet! Woo hoo! I find it therapeutic to cross off each day before bed! It makes me feel proud of myself somehow.
But I have a confession to make...
I think I chose an easy time to embark on this journey, the peonies are in full bloom and so I've been filling my home with beautiful flowers from the garden. I have SIX peony bushes if you can believe it! I had 5 but Jeanne bought me another for my birthday which will always make me think of my special friend. It's my favorite flower in all the universe, especially the Sarah Bernhardt ones because they look like fluffy pink candy and make the perfect fluffy balls!! I've already decided that when I move I'm tagging the peonies and taking them with me! We've lived here ten years so my plants are good and established, this means that one bush alone probably has at least 50 blooms! Could you just barf right now?? I know!
Also, the weather has been pretty great around here which beckons me outdoors. I run in the morning and then try and take afternoon walks with my mom and sister, this keeps me out of trouble. One thing I've figured out during this cleanse is that I often spend out of boredom. In the cold, damp winter season I get so stir crazy being cooped up in the house that it's almost like my fingers itch to buy something or go out to eat just to break up the monotony! With the sunnier, warmer evenings we've been content to sit out on the deck and relax in the sun while we wait for our food to grill, it's wonderful and really curbs the eating out desire!
At the beginning of this phase there were so many things I could think of that I wanted to buy so I made a private "wishes" board on my pinterest page of all the things I might want once our cleanse was over. As the days have passed most of those things have been deleted because I've realized that I don't really want or need those items. The ones that remain I've decided will stay until they go on sale and if at that point I'm still interested and the spending freeze is over, then I can think about it.
My sister is really great at sticking to a budget and blows my mind with the amazing things she finds for cheap because she's patient! She once found a pair of Uggs for 25 dollars, brand new! She's made fun of my spending before for things like fancy soap in the kitchen. Her exact quote was, "I'm washing my hands with cash!" When she put it that way I never bought such fancy schmancy soap again. She told me at the beginning of my 30 day journey that she bet that by the end of the 30 days I'd be so used to not buying things that I may just realize that there's not that many things I'm willing to spend money on anymore.
This is proving to be true. In only ten days I no longer feel the desire to buy something new, makes me wonder how much more this will change after 20 more days! They say it takes 3 weeks to change a habit and I'm hoping this change in permanent.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
In January of 2009 I started a blog called Humble Pie, at the time I was a stay at home mom of two young girls and I discovered the blogging world. I had been inspired by several bloggers with great style and I wondered if I might be able to do that too. It was only four months later that I faced one of those bench mark days in life where before that day everything was one way and after everything was different. I used my blog to pour out my heart at that time about my pain and my journey towards healing and freedom and never expected in my wildest dreams that people would actually want to read it! I also never imagined I would still be blogging five years later.
Blogging is what inspired me to return to school and learn photography and eventually that lead to me opening my own business. I'm a business owner, crazy!! I'm pinching myself right now.
BUT five years ago if you had told me THIS I never would have believed you! I'm so humbled by what I'm about to share with you. I still can't believe that God would trust me with something so important. Let me back up just a little bit...
While I was writing my heart out on Humble pie there was a woman who lived in Poland who would read along. We wrote emails back and forth for a time but then I didn't hear from her for a couple of years.
Back in January a dear blog friend wrote to me and told me that she felt that it was time that God was going to start using my story and she told me to be ready because invitations were going to come and I was going to start to be asked to speak. I remember reading that and thinking well this will be great in about ten years or so when I might be ready, never in my wildest dreams would I have believed the way this story played out.
Within TWO WEEKS I was asked to share with a group of MOPS moms and that was my first time sharing my heart, all by myself in front of a group of women.
Then one day I opened up my Ipad and there was a letter inside from my friend who used to live in Poland. She shared that she now only lives a bit south of me and was hoping that I'd be willing to speak at a women's retreat! I think I screamed! I mean it's one thing for someone to say that God wants to use you, it's quite another to actually get the invitation. As I read her invitation I felt so strongly that I was supposed to do this yet I was super scared at the same time! I mean I've never done anything like this before, I have no training, no biblical education yet when I mentioned my concerns to her she just replied that she didn't have a worry in the world because she knew for a long time that God was going to have me speak.
It's really humbling to me to think that God would trust me with the hearts of these women. Tears are streaming down my face that he would put such faith in me. I never saw this coming, this is The Lord.
For so long I wanted to be somebody, I wanted to be important but now I know that there's nothing in the world that could be more important than sharing my story with others so that Jesus is the one who's made important! He's the reason I'm free!
If you think of me this week please keep me in your prayers! I feel God's presence so strongly as he's preparing me. I just want to be an open vessel for him to use and that my story would offer hope and encouragement to the ladies in attendance. I pray also that He fills me with HIS love for these ladies and that it just spills out around me like a pitcher that's full but the water is still being poured into.
There's a verse that's been running through my head as I prepare:
This is not a message of what you and I do, It is what GOD IS DOING!! And he’s creating something totally new, a FREE LIFE!!!
And that's the HOPE of Jesus! You can be FREE of whatever has you bound TODAY!
This is my family's theme song for this week.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Happy Memorial Day weekend! I sure hope you're enjoying yourselves! It's been pretty quiet around these parts, we've stayed in, watched movies on the DVR, made popcorn, splurged on cherry coke, and I've cooked a little. Yesterday we did find ourselves a couple of hours with no kids so we used that golden Starbucks card and went on a coffee date. We sat outdoors at a table and discussed some big dreams for the coming year and even some bigger dreams for our future. I think it's easier to stay on task with this 30 day challenge when I know that changes in our spending habits could lead to huge dreams coming true one day!
I'm an early bird and am always the first person up in our family. While I wait for Neal to join me for our daily Bible reading together I usually grab a cup of coffee and sit at my desk and poke around pinterest, go over the budget, etc. My desk is my special spot, like mommy's little oasis. Most of the books here were gifts from someone dear, the candle was a very generous birthday gift from a sweet lady that I love with my whole heart! There's pictures of my loved ones and flowers from my garden.
I was SO tempted to cheat the other day!! I had to run into TJ Maxx with my youngest to grab a birthday gift for a slumber party she was invited to and did a dumb thing and found myself wandering over to the dress section where there were Roxy maxi dresses for less than 20 dollars! It's embarrassing how I was trying to legitimize the purchase of a new dress! The price was great! The dress was DARLING! Thankfully I couldn't find my size. I don't think I would've given in at this point but it's ridiculous how tempted I was! I'm still learning to just say no!
Spending less has actually allowed for a quieter life which I'm really enjoying! I was thinking back to my early 30s when Neal and I were pretty broke and I hardly ever got online to check my email because dial up took about 15 minutes to load and I didn't have the patience. Now we have the internet when we're sitting at a red light and looking for something to do. When I was younger if the mail arrived and there was a Pottery Barn catalog in the mailbox it would feel like I had just received a free magazine and I'd get myself something to drink and sit and enjoy looking through the pages while the girls napped. I'm reminded of a simpler lifestyle and it's good!
I still have 25 days left of no spending and it kind of feels long but it also feels good too. We came up with the idea of celebrating at the end of this season by going to a favorite restaurant as a family for dinner!
We've changed our spending habits, made tithe a number one priority to honor the Lord, and slowed down and God is honoring this! Work has picked up for me and I'm truly grateful for this! I LOVE to work and use my schooling! I'm starting to understand that the Lord lead us down this path of financial freedom so that we can be more available to be used for His kingdom! I can't help but think that when I'm buying dresses and Anthropologie and buying things for myself all the time I'm working to build my kingdom, but when I lay that all down it would seem he's beginning to change my heart towards HIS kingdom. It's not like I will never get a new dress again it's more like how many do I really need?
One last thought, I've noticed that this spending freeze has freed up time for me. When I shop, shop, shop it usually leads to coming home and figuring out what I need to return because of overspending and this also takes up time. This freed up time has had me outdoors where God is opening doors for us to chat with our neighbors. They're opening up to us about where they are in life and some are going through some difficult seasons. As I chatted with one lady the other day I promised to feed her this summer on our deck and hopefully just be a blessing to her and to those around our home.
Isn't it just like the Lord to take a small thing like a 30 day challenge and use it to open big doors for his kingdom! I like the way his economy works!