Faith: my story



Have you ever wondered what makes someone the way they are? Life has a way of giving you the unexpected. It’s funny, we all know (or at least we pretend as if we know) that we should expect the unexpected. That nobody’s life is perfect. That there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter life. Our experiences and environments help mold us into the person we are. Everyone is different, and everyone’s story is different.

My story started in Texas (and what a great place for it to start!). I went to a private Christian school for 13 years, and I loved it! There was a period of my life that lasted a few months that I did not want to go to that school. I had friends leaving to go to public school, and our Christian school was changing to uniforms. Yuck! Those two reasons combined made me question my parents’ decision to keep me in this Christian school. And I questioned this verbally. That was when I was 10, so you’d think that I wouldn’t have that much of an opinion about it, right? Oh, but I did. However, my parents loved me enough to disregard my opinion, despite my pleading. And I’m forever grateful! Going to this Christian school changed my life.

One night when I was 16 years old, I realized that no matter how good I was on my own, no matter how often I went to church or tried to do things for other people, my good could not outweigh my bad. I realized that God is perfect and that my sin separated me from God. Just as dirt would change clean to unclean, my sin in God’s presence would cause Him to cease being holy as the two cannot go together. I realized that the only way for my sins to be forgiven was to accept God’s gift: His Son, Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross to pay for my sin and Whose blood covers my sin. I knew God loved me; I knew He had sent His Son to die on the cross for me; and I knew my sin had consequences. However this night, I finally realized I was trusting in myself (my own sinful self) when Christ had already paid the price for me on the cross. That night I turned to Him and to Him only to be my Savior, and I’m so thankful I did.

If you’ve ever wondered about where you’ll spend eternity, or if God is real, or if He could truly love someone like you, please let me know! I’d love to talk to you about how you can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He loves you, my friend. And He would love nothing more than to have a relationship with YOU! That’s why He died for you.

If it hadn’t been for my parents keeping me in Christian school (though they did not always go to church themselves), I would never have this wonderful relationship with the God of the universe, my Creator, my Savior. See, the school started from a church, and the Christian school teachers attended this church and were all encouraged to invite their students to a special day: Anniversary Sunday. A couple of our school teachers came to our home and invited us to church, where we’d enjoy a special speaker and a barbecue dinner with the entire church afterward. My mom decided that we would all go that day. After that one Sunday, we never stopped. And our lives were changed. We had found a place where we were loved and cared for and taught the Word of God. A place to call home. We got to see our school teachers love us and love Jesus during the week… and then again on Sundays. It was truly such a special privilege.

I’m so thankful to this day that my parents kept me in Christian school all my life, and that Pastor Richard Wallace has stayed faithful to the Lord and faithful to reaching people. My life is forever changed for the good.

Again, if you have any questions about having a real relationship with Jesus Christ, please feel free to let me know. You won’t regret it.

Photo credit: countrygirl0 | Cropped

7 Tips for Saving Money in the Kitchen

I tend to spend a lot time in the kitchen, and that’s also where I get to do a lot of thinking. So I started thinking of ways I could be saving money in the kitchen. These are some random, money-saving tips for the kitchen: basic and unusual. 

1. Use washcloths instead of sponges. I get that some things just clean better with a sponge (or so we like to think), but if you’re trying to save money, use a washcloth that can be washed and reused, and if you think some items might need a sponge, soak them for a while.

2. Rinse all your dishes before washing, particularly if you don’t have a dishwasher. Having food and beverage residue stuck and dried onto your dishes will undoubtedly require more soap. And since water is cheaper than soap, rinse those babies! This also keeps away bugs if you’re not able to or choose not to wash them right away, and that saves you more than just money!

3. Meal plan. If you’ve never tried this before, you must try it! There are some great, free meal plans out there! If you’ve tried it and it didn’t work out as well as you’d hoped, I encourage you to give it another try. I’ve experienced personally the savings from this – savings of money and time and stress, simply by making a comprehensive grocery list for the next week or two. If it seems daunting, try doing just one week. You’ll be glad to not have to make more than one trip to the grocery store, and you’ll save money by having food on hand and not going out to eat or making impulse purchases during another trip to the grocery store.

4. Save resealable, plastic bags and containers. Unless you use the plastic bag for raw meat, why not wash and reuse? My husband taught me the easiest way to wash plastic quart or gallon sized bags: turn them completely inside out and then wash! Works magically. I’m only referring to quart and gallon sized bags, as sandwich bags are so flimsy and thin that it’s not worth the time and effort to me. But hey, if you can get another use out of it, why not?

5. Wash and reuse foil. I just recently started doing this, but so far I like it and appreciate not messing with tearing off the foil again!

6. Save paper bags from take out or other shopping and use them as lunch bags or whatever else you want to transport! I use these again and again for taking lunches or snacks to work.

7. Repurpose citrus peels to make an amazing aroma on the stove (that’s my favorite use for them – just add some cinnamon, clove, or rosemary and water!) or use the peel to make a zest to save for later (dry out before storing), or if nothing else, use it to freshen your disposal.

Have you tried any of these? How do you save money in the kitchen department? I’d love to know. Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Ginny | Cropped | No endorsements

15 Priceless Gifts from my Parents

Christmas presents under the tree

 

The more I’m around, the more I realize how truly wonderful my parents are. I can’t imagine how different my life would be or how different I personally would be if my parents had failed to instill any of these qualities.

If you’re a parent, and you love your kids, keep it up! You’re already doing great! If you give them love, affection, food, shelter, and clothing, you’re seriously awesome! 

I wanted to give you some encouragement this Christmas season: no matter what material gift you give your kids, regardless of what you can or can’t afford, every parent can give their child priceless gifts. One that doesn’t break down or fade with time. Instead these gifts increase in value as the years go by and become more precious with age.

And as a side note, if your parents aren’t in your life – for any reason – or if this is a sore subject because of past hurts or regrets, my heart goes out to you. Our Heavenly Father loves you unconditionally – more than anyone ever could – and He understands.

I consider this more of a thank you note to my parents than anything else. My childhood wasn’t perfect. Whose is? But still I’m indebted to my parents for so many reasons! Here are just a few (alphabetical because I couldn’t decide on an order of importance):

An example of work hard – hard work wins out in so many areas!

Contentment – if I never received another thing, I’d still have a full, satisfied life

Christianity – the most important gift of all: a relationship with our Creator God through the Savior, Jesus Christ

Christian education – I was given an incredible, loving environment in which to learn and develop

Consequences for actions – I don’t know if there’s a better lesson I could’ve learned. Every action – good or bad – has a consequence

Earning what you want – if it’s worth having, you’ll work to earn it

Gratitude – we were taught to be grateful for everything, whether we wanted it or not, and that lesson lives on

Honesty – I don’t remember questioning my parents’ honesty to us, their employers, or anyone for that matter.

Humility – we never lived our lives trying to make impressions or keep up with anyone, and my parents never tried to make a showcase out of us

Love – I never wondered if my parents loved me or wanted me around

Sacrifice – my parents sacrificed a great deal to keep their priorities in their correct places (family and Christian school are the two major priorities I think of)

Sense of humor – Life is hard; make it fun and funny when you can!

Support – Having three kids and working a full-time job an hour away, my parents still made every effort to come to all of our sports games and cheer us on

The importance of family memories and family time – I can’t tell you how many times a sweet memory came to mind and brought such joy on a long day

Time – Though my parents worked full time, I don’t remember ever lacking for their time or attention…and I still don’t!

I’m sure I’m missing things, but I think these are some of the “big ones.” How about you? What are some lessons you’re glad your parents taught you? What are you endeavoring to instill in your children? I hope you can take some time over the Christmas holidays to create some family memories and evaluate what priceless gifts you’re giving your children. You won’t regret it, and your children will be indebted!

Photo credit: Dreamer 

My free personalized DIY door-hanger

If you are looking for an inexpensive craft, you have found the place!

Okay, so this post in not meant to be a tutorial (sorry, guys!). I just wanted to show you that you can very likely make something cute, using only what you have at home. I had some cardboard from Aldi (I love Aldi!), and I had some burlap (leftover from my beautiful wedding:). I also had some ribbon that came on a gift I was given (why did I keep that? for such a time as this!) and the same goes for the flower (yes, it’s awkwardly placed, but it’s covering up a difficult spot I had :).

Here’s my cost breakdown:

  • Cardboard: free
  • Burlap: free/gift
  • Hot glue sticks: probably $.20
  • Ribbon and embellishment: free/gift
  • Total: the cost of glue sticks and electricity, but for sake of ease, I say “free!”

Hot gluing burlap to cardboard can be BAD. How do you avoid getting burned when the material you’re hot gluing has holes in it (and so the hot glue comes through the holes where you’re trying to glue… it’s just bad). If you can handle some finger burning, this craft is great! (and if you have a better option, please tell me!!) If your last names starts with something easy like “L,” this craft is definitely for you!

I simply cut out the cardboard “J” and started wrapping burlap around the cardboard and gluing along the way to help the burlap stay wrapped around the cardboard. The edges are probably the hardest part. I had to get creative with cutting smaller pieces and stuffing them in to the other layers of burlap in order to cover all the cardboard.

Once it’s all covered to your liking, find some cute ribbon to glue on the back, add some embellishments, and there you have yourself a homemade door hanger, cheap as can be (that is, of course, if you already have burlap or paid very little for it, but it’s not usually an expensive material)!

Best wishes to you as you seek to use what you have in your home to make a happier, more simple life!

5 Ways to Enjoy Life: Simple and Free

It’s amazing that with so many people in the world, this still remains: Everyone is different! We all require something different to make us “tick.” Maybe you’re not naturally a simple person. My sweet husband isn’t. If the choice is between Best Western and Hilton, you can bet we are going to the Hilton. Does that mean he buys all expensive stuff? Nope. He’s awesome. But no doubt, his natural bent is toward life’s finer things.

Regardless of being naturally practical or high maintenance or whatever, you can enjoy the simple things. It’s all about the mindset. Simply put: determine how you will save money, realize that simple can be fun, and get some sheer grit to stick to it (regardless of complaints from family or friends!). Here are ways you can enjoy the simple life today:

Read books. Books take you places. If you’ve never experienced a book taking you somewhere: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! And not only does it take you places, you grow as a person. Books are cheap if you look for deals; they are free if you borrow from a friend or become a member of your local library.

Be recreational. Go for walks around the neighborhood, so you don’t have to drive anywhere or pay for a membership. Take your kids and/or pets to the nearest park; play football, basketball, soccer, or create a game using materials around the house. You never know what family memory you are creating! (Just writing this brings back fond memories of packing a PB&J picnic lunch for my younger brother and nephew and walking to the nearby park… those were some GOOD times; I still love driving by that old park!)

Watch only the free/paid for stuff. If Amazon prime is worth the money to you, only watch movies on there. If an extended family member is willing to share their Netflix, only watch that. Then there’s that library again; they have movies as well! I’ve been known to borrow movies from friends. Just be sure to return it promptly so your friend happily lends you movies next time.

Enjoy nature. Get up early to watch the sunrise or enjoy the sunset with friends or go for a hike. There’s something about nature that reminds us that life is bigger than ourselves. Our Creator God would love for you to enjoy nature and become closer to Him through that enjoyment.

Host a potluck. If you’re living on a budget and missing your friends, host a potluck! You’ll have fun with friends without putting out more food than you can afford. If you don’t have games or a TV to offer, ask a friend to bring a game or find a free game online (like Headbands).

I know there’s more out there than just this short list, but I wanted to keep it simple. 🙂 How about you? How do you like to keep life simple and enjoyable? Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Unknown

5 Foundational Money Saving Tips

Saving $1,000 may seem impossible. Just when you start saving money, something breaks.  And don’t get me wrong, it happens. Life happens. Stuff really does come up that you HAVE to tend to. You can’t drive around with a flat tire.

Sometimes that “have to” is imagined though. Friends drop in; you don’t “have to” feed them an elaborate meal outside your means (that’s a “want to”…impress). Here are five basic tips that have helped us save money lately:

Define necessities. We are spending only what is truly necessary. Defining those necessities can get tough, particularly if you’re married because of those “seemingly-pesky differing opinions.” Even within the realm of food – a basic necessity – we differ in opinions. Personally, I don’t think it’s wise to cut produce from our groceries. My husband, however, can get so into our “strict rice diet,” that produce is cut quite easily. Anyway, opinions differ. It’s important to define true necessities (and agree on them if you’re married).

Create a budget. To fail to plan is to plan to fail. A defined budget means you tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. For starters, try a journal or Excel. My favorite is a free mobile app, Every Dollar. If you aim for nothing, you’re sure to make it. Why not at least try? You have nothing to lose and much to gain, so start your free budget today!

Live within your means. If you’re living by a budget, you’re living within your means, right? Not necessarily. You can definitely have a budget and not stick to it. And you can absolutely still be using a credit card. Only buy what you can truly afford. If that means telling friends that you can’t go to their fun event, so be it. Live within your means.

Be realistic. You know you have a required meeting that’s 50 miles round trip, so plan your gas money accordingly. You can’t think, “I’ll just make it work,” and then run out of gas before the month’s end. For me, I have to be realistic about how much produce we’ll actually eat in a week. 🙂

Enjoy the simple things. If you’re truly living within your means, you may have to adjust your lifestyle a bit. But boy is it less stressful! Here’s my list of ways to enjoy the simple (and free) life.

Can you implement one of these today? If you’re married, talk to your spouse about what you can work on together. It’s amazing how fast money adds up…either in your savings or on your credit card. What can you do today to make a better financial future?

*A note to those in debt: these small steps matter (just see Dave Ramsey in his Total Money Makeover). However much debt you have, you can beat it! Promise. But every day you wait, it’s only getting worse. So what are you waiting for? Start today!

Photo credit: Frankieleon | Cropped