Monday, September 14, 2009

Blogging Break

I've had some things take place in my personal life in the last few weeks that I need to deal with. I'm going to spend the time I normally would blogging in more prayer time for vision. I want to see what God sees in my situation. Plus, while Shawn is out of town this week, I will have more time to devote to being solo mommy for a few days. I plan to only be out of touch for a week or two at this point. If that changes I'll keep you up to date. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's No Procrastination Day Again

It’s time once again for another No Procrastination Day. Today is going to be one of those days when it’s going to be hard to fulfill my commitment. Some things have taken place in the last couple of weeks that have turned part of my world upside down. And, it all came to a head yesterday. I can feel the motivation draining from my brain, one little drop at a time. I want to put everything off and just do nothing today, but despite what I want life must go on (Ob-la-di, ob-la-da…). I really have to ask myself if I’m going to let these things in my life keep me down, or am I going to keep trudging forward through the muck.

There are things that must be done before they get out of hand. I’ve gotten a bit behind on the dishes (it’s hard to keep up with the “no dishes in the sink before bed” rule when I have an extremely busy day and my husband is out of town), the house is bit of a cluttered mess, there’s “artwork” on the walls thanks to Sadey, there are clothes that need to be put away, and there’s a load of towels that needs to be washed. So the accomplishment of those aforementioned tasks is my goal for today. And I have to do it, not because someone is coming over, or my husband is coming back home (he won’t be back for a couple more days), but because I have to do it – the least motivating reason of all. I will do it though, and I will do it “with all [my] heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col 3:23 NIV).

How do you overcome the challenges that drain your motivation?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Becoming Better

As part of today's Fight Back Friday I wanted to talk about how we're becoming better with our nutrition. I’ve known for years that my nutrition is less than adequate, yet strangely enough, I didn’t feel compelled to do anything about it. As I mentioned before, I did the South Beach Diet for a while a few years ago, but that was the biggest effort I had made up until recently to improve my health. I have a very hard time with delayed gratification. I knew that if I didn’t improve my health that I would be paying for it down the road, but somehow that didn’t seem very real to me. I like my sweets and changing our lifestyle seemed way too complicated. But this summer has been a hard one for me. For several weeks in a row I was so fatigued I could accomplish very little of what needed to be done. I’ve gained weight, I’m cold when everyone else is hot, and so on. When I decided to start making bread to help save us money, I began reading about bread making on the internet which in turn lead to other articles related to nutrition. I’ve become fascinated. I came across the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Bread Beckers website, and I was astounded to find out that a lot of the information that I thought I knew about nutrition was false, but I wasn’t offended. The explanations behind what I was learning made a lot of sense and I have become motivated to make some changes. My in-laws have followed the Hallelujah Acres diet for several years, and my mother-in-law is always very quick to share what they have learned, but I was never convinced. But now that I’m taking my own journey of discovery, I’ve decided to make some changes.

A few weeks ago, shortly after I started learning the real truth about nutrition (not the version the media, drug companies, food industry, & even the US government want you to believe), I came across this passage in my daily devotional, Come Away My Beloved, by Frances Roberts:

My people are hungering…. I would that you feed them. Give no inedible substitutes…. Why should you hunger when plenty is at hand? And why should you be deprived of… nourishment when a table is spread before you? Some of the foods may be strange to you. Despise nothing that I offer you. You need it, or else I would not provide it. Partake of it, even if it is strange to your taste. You will soon come to relish it with delight, and even more so because it is a new experience for you. (p. 242, emphasis mine)

Obviously since this passage comes out of a devotional it’s intended for spiritual application (and the parts I left out were the overtly spiritual parts), but just as practical things have a spiritual application, I believe spiritual things can have a practical application as well. (By the way, that book is amazing, and I highly recommend it.) I believe the timing of me coming across this passage was no coincidence and that it was confirmation that God wants us to pursue a lifestyle that is rich in nourishment.

I want to reverse this trend in my body, I want my husband and children to have the utmost nutrition, and I want to conquer ADHD without drugs. I mentioned yesterday that nutrition is a powerful tool in the battle against ADHD. One of the nutritional approaches I’m taking is getting processed foods out of our diet. There’s a lot of food additives out there that contribute to ADHD: red food dye, yellow food dye, MSG, and high-fructose corn syrup, just to name a few. Plus, processed foods tend to be stripped of the nutrients that our brains need to function properly. I feel like most processed foods are “inedible substitutes” that fill our stomachs, but contain none of the real nutrition that God designed our bodies to require.

My husband is on board with these changes, too, which helps a lot with the motivation thing. The implementation of what we are learning is very challenging, though. We’re nowhere close to rich (at least not in the financial department), so we can’t just go out and replace all the food in our pantry and refrigerator. There are a lot of different approaches to take, so it’s hard to know just where to start. And some of the changes have large upfront costs, and require that we save money over a period of time. It’s good to know that these things will save us money in the long run, but in the meantime there’s not a lot we can do till we have the money saved. I’m hoping to meet someone in our area who is like-minded that can help me get started. We want to save up for a freezer, a grain mill, and a side or quarter of beef. We’ve started eating less meat, white sugar, and processed foods, and when we went to our in-laws we scored a bunch of deer meat, courtesy of my brother-in-law. We want to join a CSA or a co-op and shop at the Farmers Market more often. We want to stop getting “conventional” meats, eggs, and produce from the grocery store and start getting more local and organic goods. We want to grow a garden next spring, start using coconut oil, and my husband hopes to get a deer this coming hunting season. And the proposed changes go on and on… The trick, I think, is to implement these things slowly so we don’t burn out our wallets, and ourselves, adopting changes one at a time until they become second nature. It’s amazing the awareness I have now. I’ll go to the store, or look at the school lunch menu, or pull something out of the pantry and wonder how much real nutrition is in my hand. So, I’m thankful for this newfound awareness and the new challenge we face. The trick is coming up with a strategy to make all this reality, but as we do, step-by-step, we are taking charge of our lives and our health, and we are becoming better!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

No Procrastination Day

I had originally planned for Wednesday to be "No Procrastination Day,” but I was so exhausted from having such a busy day on Tuesday that I ached from head to toe yesterday. I’ve never experienced anything like that before in my life! So yesterday I had to revert to doing just the basics, as well as a little laundry, and taking a nap. So, I’m going to make today “No Procrastination Day.”

I think “No Procrastination Day” is starting to become part of my life every day (just as I'd hoped). Monday I got a lot accomplished, including things that I’ve often put off in the past. And, even though Tuesday was so busy, I still got some laundry folded and made sure the sink was empty before I went to bed. In the past I’ve explicitly told Shawn, “I don’t do housework in the evening.” God is definitely renewing my mind and changing my attitude on that point! Yesterday bears the impact of “No Procrastination Day,” too, even though I had to put some things off. You see, in the past I would’ve used the exhaustion as an excuse to fore go everything but the bare minimum, but instead I worked fairly diligently on the laundry. Now, did I get any laundry folded and put away? No. But the fact that I worked on it at all really is a departure from the past.

“Gee, Stephanie, you’re really making it sound like you were a lazy housewife.”

Well, to be honest, sometimes I was. I also struggle with ADHD, which lends to the laziness (I haven’t been formally tested, but from my counseling background I know what it looks like, and a former therapist felt like I most likely have ADHD as well.) That means, not only am I distractible, but I also get easily overwhelmed with projects that contain a lot of steps, so I go into avoidance mode. I look at something that requires a lot of me and my mind starts swimming. I can’t figure out where to begin, so I shut down. And, if I get bogged down in something, I’ll just stop doing it. On top of that, my personality tendency is not to start something that I don’t have time to finish, so there’s a lot of times that I’ll tell myself, “I’ll do that later,” because I don’t want to start it.

The thing is, I do not want to be defined by these things. I want to be an overcomer. I do not want the things I listed above to be excuses for failures. On the other hand, if I don’t acknowledge the challenges I face I cannot defeat them. So, I recognize my flaws. I will not let ADHD keep me from God’s best life for me! And, I plan to do it without drugs. Nutrition and behavior modification are powerful tools in the battle against ADHD, so I plan to use them to their fullest extent. I’ve prayed many times that God would heal me of it, but I feel that He desires that I overcome it through His grace and strength. So, I will!

So, my “No Procrastination” goals for today are to fold and put away the laundry, empty the suitcases (it didn’t happen last week because I got sick), work out, and make bread. So what are your goals for today?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fresh Start Monday

Yay! I’m back on schedule! I’m starting the next two weeks of my Life Zones today. I really like the idea of a fresh start on a regular basis, because it really helps me to stay motivated to work on these things. Newness is invigorating and “they” say that we all have the tendency to lose motivation after working on something for a period of time. So why not use everything in my arsenal to keep up my motivation? Of course, I do intend to continue working on the changes I implemented before, so I’m definitely not abandoning those things. But, by bringing in new things, I feel my motivation kicked up all the way around. This is something I’ve learned from my Worship Pastor – keep things fresh and new to keep them alive. We need fresh air, water, and food everyday for our bodies to keep them alive, plants need fresh air, water, and soil on a regular basis to keep them alive. I need fresh pursuits on a regular basis to keep my motivation alive. Does that mean my motivation will never wane? Of course not; I’ll still have those days when I’m tired or not feeling well physically or emotionally, and I’ll still need to make myself do things sometimes that I simply don’t feel like doing. I can already foresee a major challenge to my motivation in the next couple of weeks – Shawn is going out of town for a few days this week and a few days next week. That means I will have to do more, will be more tired, and more overwhelmed. I will have to figure out how to juggle Todd’s and Sadey’s schedule with Korrynn’s school schedule, and I still need to do everything that I need to do. But I’m up for the challenge. (And I’d better mean it if I’m going to say it, so I don’t say it lightly!) I plan to stay on the wagon, and if I fall off, I’m going to get back on!

So that being said, here’s my Life Zone challenges for the next two weeks:

Personal – I’ve found that with the school schedule I have less time in the morning for computer time, which translates into less blogging time. So I’m going to start getting up at 6:00 every morning to give me adequate time. That also means I need to go to bed sooner (This is a biggie for me because I like staying up late, though lately I haven’t been able to. So I fall asleep on the couch or recliner when I could be upstairs in bed. It’s the idea of going to bed “early” that I have to get my head around.)

Relational – Making daily one-on-one time with my husband a priority. We are currently taking The Marriage Course, so we have some extra motivation in this area. When Shawn is out of town this means that we’ll need to talk on the phone without distractions.

Physical – Jogging 2 miles 2 days a week via the Wii. I decided that this is one goal that I really need to keep working on. I haven’t come close to making this a regular part of my life yet.

Home – Making sure that there are no dirty dishes left in the sink before I go to bed.

Social – Finding ways to perform my volunteer duties more efficiently. I still need to work on this because the new school schedule has been an obstacle here.

Financial – Working more closely with Shawn on the budget, setting short-term goals (daily, weekly, bi-weekly, etc.) for our money rather than just tracking our spending through the budget spread sheet. (I’ll go more in depth on this in another post.)

So there you have it. I challenge you to set your own goals and let me know how it’s going. I’d love to get a discussion going and to build a support network. This blog has helped me feel less alone in my daily challenges, and I my prayer is that it does the same for others as well.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

So Sorry It’s Been So Long…

Wow, I never expected almost two weeks to go by between blog posts. Life has just been a whirlwind lately. Between going out of town, church activities, school starting, and illness I haven’t had much time to sit and write. I thought I’d have time to write while we were out of town, but apparently I was kidding myself, and it’s taken me a few days to adjust to the new schedule. So, I apologize for not posting a blogging break notice. I haven’t focused much on my Life Zones either, and I put off No Procrastination Day. :) Apparently I need the motivation of blogging to keep me on task. If I know I’m going to write a post about how well I’m doing, then I’m more likely to do well. Crazy, isn’t it?

I hope to get to the point that this stuff becomes so internalized that I become internally motivated. Integrity is something I strongly desire to increase in my character. That being said, I’m very grateful for this format. I think that there were days that even Jesus had things that He didn’t want to do, and that little push from His environment helped Him along. After all, the Bible says that He was fully human as well as fully God and that “[t]his High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Heb 4:15 NLT) Hebrews 12:2 even says that He endured the cross, “[b]ecause of the joy awaiting him” (NLT). He struggled violently within Himself against going through with the cross to the point of sweating blood. He asked the Father release Him from the cross because He knew that He would endure one of the most horrific things a man could ever face. Yet, He utilized the knowledge of His Father’s will and of the impending reward to give Him the push He needed to go through with it. What an amazing example! If Jesus can sacrifice His desires and go through with something as terrible as the cross, using whatever means necessary to get Him to that place, then I can certainly sacrifice my own petty desires and use whatever means necessary to complete each task set before me.

So for the rest of this week I’ll continue working on the Life Zones I outlined before and start fresh on Monday. I’m also going to make today my “No Procrastination Day” for this week. What are my No Procrastination goals for today? Make bread, do laundry (washing, sorting, & folding), do dishes (it’ll probably take two loads), unpack at least one suitcase, and work on a special project if I have time. That should be enough to keep me busy today. ;)

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Voyage Into Bread-making

I recently learned about Fight Back Friday, and thought that this would be a good opportunity to share about how I have recently embarked on an adventurous voyage into the world of making my own bread. :) And, while the primary focus of this blog is the changes I’m making going forward, I’ve been wanting to tell you about this recent change that I made prior to embarking on my journey into Life Zone changes. I told you before how I was inspired by a friend’s blog. In particular I found it intriguing that she made bread for her family on a regular basis. At first I thought it was interesting, but at the time I never thought I would ever make my own bread. For one, as much as I love cooking, making anything with yeast, especially bread, always intimidated me. (Yeast – such a terrifying little monster…) You have to get the water temperature just right to bloom the yeast without killing it. You have to mix everything just right in the right proportions so the bread won’t be mushy or too tough, and then you have to let it rise, and rise, and rise. I thought it would take a big chunk of time out of my day. Plus, a failed pizza dough experiment a few years ago didn’t do anything to relieve my aversion to making bread products, either. (If this turns you off to making bread, too, please keep reading. It’s really not so bad, I promise!) So, when I read my friend’s posts about making bread I just thought, “Well, isn’t that special?” and went on with my day, and didn’t think much more about it until months later.

The thing is, I like good, grainy bread that doesn’t stick to your teeth or poison your body. I had read the South Beach Diet, and heard all the stuff on conventional media about the importance of whole grains. (I now know what a fallacy the South Beach Diet is, but at least it made me somewhat more conscious of my health and pointed my thinking in the right direction.) I tried a variety of “whole grain” breads that are sold in conventional grocery stores. Most varieties I found to be lacking in terms of flavor and many seemed like little more than dressed up white bread. The breads that I really liked, and that I felt were healthiest for my family, cost almost $4.00 a loaf! And we’re not talking about loaves as long as your arm, either. These loaves weren’t even as long as my forearm! And as quickly as our family goes through bread, we probably spent nearly $100 a month (yes, that is a “one” with two “zeros” behind it) on bread alone! Well, as I mentioned before, we started restructuring our budget a few months ago and discovered that we really needed to cut back on our food spending. I thought about my friend who lovingly makes bread for her family. So, I decided to tackle the yeast monster and start making my own bread. I could do it if only I tried, right? I just needed practice. After all, people have been making bread for thousands of years and haven’t been conquered by the dreaded yeast monster yet, at least as far as I knew. So, it couldn’t really be all that hard. I just needed to start doing it. So, I did, as simple as that.

Well, not quite. I searched out a bunch of whole grain bread recipes on the Internet, and got all the ingredients that I didn’t already have (like yeast). I even went to Whole Foods and got some rye flour, and a few other things. So, I read the recipes and the how-tos and started measuring and blooming and mixing and kneading and waiting and baking. (Though, for my very first attempt I used the bread machine for the mixing and rising and then baked it in my oven so the final loaf would be a bit more practical than the giant cube that the bread machine produced. The funny thing is that the bread machine – which is borrowed from my in-laws – has been sitting nearly untouched in my house for years because I had great intentions of making bread, but never followed through. Now that I’ve tried the thing, I don’t want to use it. It over-kneaded the dough.) Let’s just say that my first few attempts fell short of being the best bread you’ve ever eaten in your life. We bravely choked down those loaves anyway. I certainly needed practice – and help! I have a friend who is an accomplished baker come over and help me out. I couldn’t seem to get the final consistency quite right. I could do all the reading I liked, but I really needed someone to show me. Since her wonderful instruction (Thanks, Terry!) each batch of bread has gotten better and better. It really doesn’t take as long as I thought it would. Is it less convenient than buying bread from the store? Certainly; but really, only a little. Plus it’s soooo much healthier than pretty much any bread you can buy in the regular grocery store.

About the time I started making real bread was also when I started reading various “domestic goddess” blogs, and I started learning more about nutrition and real food (which is how I found the Food Renegade blog). My bread isn’t quite the most nutritious it can possibly be yet. Bread made from freshly milled flour is far superior to bread made from flour that you buy in the store, as 90% of 30 nutrients found in wheat grains disappears within 72 hours after the milling is complete (see this article). So I’m saving up for a grain mill so I can mill my own flour. You’re probably thinking that I just went from being a nut (albeit a likeable nut) to a freak. Well, the more I learn about the state of food in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and what it is doing to our bodies, the more of a freak I’m willing to be. Around 100 years ago it was quite normal for families to grind their own wheat, or at least get flour that had been ground that day from a local mill, and make their own bread. God says in Hosea 4:6, “My people are ruined because they don't know what's right or true.” (The Message) How many of our bodies are ruined because we eat the poisonous food products from conventional grocery stores because we don’t know the truth about those products or what our bodies need to function as God created them to? Because of convenience and ignorance we eat food products sold to us by mega companies whose main goal is to feed their wallets instead of nourishing our bodies. Anyway, that’s another post entirely. I encourage you to do your own research and feel the scales fall from your eyes, as I have. The more I learn, the more empowered I feel to take charge of my life and my health and the health of my family.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Quick Update

I don't have a lot of blogging time this morning, so I'll just fill you in on how "No Procrastination Day" went. I got to everything on my list except for the Worship Team project (I decided to relegate that to travel time tomorrow). Also, I was only able to start on the kids' bookshelf. I think I did pretty well considering that Shawn wasn't here and I had to get us ready for church by myself. Hooray for "No Procrastination Day"! (Can I really be saying that?) Of course, this morning Todd undid everything Korrynn and I did with cleaning up the bookshelf, so we'll have to start again. ARRRGH! Oh, well!

As for today, I'll try to gather stuff from my list to pack so we'll have something to wear while we're out of town (can't go around naked at the in-laws!). I can't do much actual packing till Shawn gets home, though, because the suitcases are in the attic and the attic door is jammed. So, I'll have to let him "man-handle" it (heehee). I also need to finish the laundry (as if laundry is ever finished), get another round of dishes done, and try to structure in time with the kids. My life is CRAZY! (As though your life is totally boring and you never have anything to do. That's a big fat NOT! Am I right?) I certainly wouldn't have it any other way, though. My kids make my life crazy and I am beyond grateful that they are a part of my life. Hard to imagine that there was a time without them. Now I don't ever want to know a time like that again. Okay, I'd better stop all this sappiness before I start sobbing uncontrollably. Have an amazingly blessed day!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Procrastination Day

Wednesday has rolled around once again. Time for "No Procrastination Day" number two. (Hard to believe it's already been a whole week, huh?) I was wondering if momentum from last Wednesday would spill over into the other days, but it didn't, much. There was a little bit of momentum last Thursday, but once my parents left with our kids, the motivation waned. I did do okay Monday and yesterday (Sunday I didn't even have a chance to procrastinate), but I probably procrastinated at least as much as I didn't. So I think having an established "No Procrastination Day" is necessary for me. While I don't have anyone coming over tomorrow, there is a trip I need to get ready for. Friday morning we're heading out to see the in-laws. There's laundry that needs to get done, clothes that need to be folded, and packing to be done. I find packing very overwhelming, so I'll actually be more motivated to procrastinate though you might think the opposite would be true. Not for me! If there's a big task looming over my head I will probably try to avoid it as long as possible. So with "No Procrastination Day" I'm challenging myself to take that packing bull by the horns!

So, to update on yesterday, I did limit my computer time, though I could have limited it more. I tried to sneak some in during meal times. The kids and I worked on getting there bedrooms cleaned. Still not playtime, but we're getting there. I got some laundry put away and a couple of small loads washed (I figure two small loads equals one regular load). I still need to catch up on some folding, though. I didn't exercise yesterday, feeling the need to let my sore muscles rest, and remember I'm only shooting for twice a week right now. As far as volunteer duties, I completed everything I needed to do for yesterday in my allotted computer time, though I do have a couple of projects I need to catch up on.

My biggest flub yesterday was in the financial zone. Remember that I mentioned that I did procrastinate yesterday? Well, I had picked a recipe to make Monday that I didn't allow enough time for, so I was going to make it yesterday. Well, yesterday I was trying to nap and do some reading in the afternoon. I let myself take too long. I was looking at the clock thinking that soon I needed to get up and make supper, while convincing myself that I still had plenty of time. Well, I don't remember what time it finally was when I got up, but lets just say that I'm terrible when it comes to planning ahead. I started making the recipe, Mushroom Casserole, but I didn't look ahead to see what the total cooking time was. I got all the prep work and preliminary cooking done (by myself since Shawn is out of town right now), but it was after 7:00 and there was still an hour of baking to do. I almost cried! We were all hungry and I had done all that work, but still there was nothing to show for it! I called Shawn on the brink of tears and asked if I could order a pizza. So I gave the kids some bread while we waited for the pizza. I felt guilty because I hadn't planned ahead, which resulted in me giving the kids food that was not healthy for their bodies (which I understand even better with all the research I've been doing lately, which I'll get to in future posts) or for our budget. So I really need to get better on the planning ahead thing.

So what are my no procrastination goals for today? Get the laundry folded and at least two loads washed (yes, it's against the one-load-a-day rule, but sometimes the rule needs to be bent); make a list of everything we need to pack for the trip; work on one of my Worship Team projects; get the kids' bookshelf cleaned up (with their help); get the dishwasher emptied and reloaded; get the casserole in the oven early enough for an early supper (it's Wednesday - church night) and get off this computer so I can get to everything else on the list! ;) I know it sounds like a lot, but most of it won't take long if I'll just get started! Oh, and the kids need baths today, since we didn't get to it last night when supper was so late. So that might be too many things for my list for today. I'll just have to do my best.

I like chronicling my progress and lack thereof like this. I actually find it encouraging. Even though I haven't done anything perfectly yet, I can see that I am progressing. This is really big because I'm a perfectionist. I'm actually okay with making mistakes! That's just one of the things that lets me know that God is behind this and is empowering me on this journey.

So what are your no procrastination goals for today?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Life Zones Status Update

I know it’s been a few days since the last post. The past few days have been a bit unusual for various reasons, and I simply have been unable to sit down and write. So here’s a brief update on my progress in the Life Zones I’m working on:
Because of how the last few days have gone, yesterday is really the only day I have to report on. I did okay in the personal and relational arenas, but because of the crazy weekend I was wanting to catch up on some stuff, so at first I tried to cheat a bit with my computer time. (Yeah, I know…) The computer wouldn’t let me, however. It has an issue that acts up every once and a while and it chose yesterday morning to act up (providentially, perhaps?). So I finally put the computer down and helped the kids clean the playroom. Not exactly playtime, I know, but it desperately needed to be done and it was way too hot to go outside. So while we didn’t play together, we did accomplish something together.
In the physical area, I didn’t do anything last week. I didn’t run at all last week, not one step! But I did run last night. It was quite an effort to do it. I’m way out of shape, and running is one of my least favorite exercises, but I did it! I ran for 30 minutes, and felt good about the accomplishment. I even feel sore this morning to prove it! I’ve also been doing fairly well in the home area and doing one load of laundry a day. Still not getting it folded and put away every day, though. I’ve got to work on the follow through with the laundry so I’m not constantly playing catch-up.
As far as the social element goes, I’ve just tried to squeeze my volunteer duties into my restricted computer time, but I probably need to be more proactive about it. I think if I figured out some sort of structure there it would probably help me a lot. Maybe if I devoted a couple of days to Worship Team stuff and a couple days to blogging and a day to surfing/social networking during my computer time (or something like that) I will be able to fit it all in. I may just have to play with it a bit and tweak it till I find a structure that works. My hang up here is that I’m not the greatest at structuring my time. I’ve tried doing the lists and the daily schedule, but I either get frustrated by the list because I can’t get to everything on it, or something happens that totally wrecks the schedule, so I usually just give up on it. The other problem is that I’ll get bored with a routine after a while and instead of changing it up a bit, I usually just drop it altogether.
Now on to the financial zone – we’re still working on keeping to our budget. We did overspend last weekend, though. Shawn received travel money from work and the kids were staying with my parents, so we had TWO date nights! (Now you know why the weekend was so unusual…) We really needed the time, but we probably could have done it with less money. Our favorite thing is dinner and a movie (I know, cliché), but we rarely get the chance to do it, so that’s what we do on dates when we have them. Plus it was really hard to resist seeing Transformers and G.I. Joe in the theater. I grew up watching those cartoons and pretending I was Scarlett every Sunday and Wednesday night before church started when I was a kid (while all the boys were various other G.I. Joe characters). Can I just tell you that Transformers ROCKED!!!!! God was talking to me through it, too. It was an amazing experience! (Yes, I know it still doesn’t justify overspending. This is just a glimpse into how my mind works.)
I learned something last week about disciplining my mind. Off and on I have problems with insomnia. I’ve tried various ways to deal with it, the main way being laying in bed and trying to go back to sleep. If I get up I’m usually wide-awake from the effort and won’t go back to sleep at all. The problem with laying in bed is that there’s nothing to do but think or pray. I try to pray, but my mind usually wanders too much. So, I usually start thinking about something, and get a strong urge to look it up on the computer. I then decide that I’m not going back to sleep anyway (after laying in bed sleepless for an hour or more), so I get up and get on the computer. Well, on this particular night I tried that, but didn’t go back to sleep (duh!). Around 5:00 or so I decided to go ahead and do my Bible reading for the day. Within a few minutes I fell asleep, not because I was bored (I actually find God’s Word pretty fascinating – you should see how marked up my Bible is), but because, through reading the Word, I was able to bring my mind back in line. I slept for a couple of hours more and finished my reading when I woke up. If I’m going to see lasting change, my mind must be disciplined. I must make choices that bring my mind in line with the Word of God and the God-given desires in my heart. God knew I needed sleep that morning, so when I made the choice that allowed Him entrance into my heart, He was able to provide me with the thing I needed. If I constantly make the choices that allow Him entrance into the moment, He will provide me with what I need and empower me to accomplish what I put my hand to.
You know, structuring changes and blogging about it is really helping me to examine why I do what I do, and gives me a better perspective on myself. I’ve known about my hang-ups for a long time, but have often felt powerless to do anything about them. I’m so grateful to God for this outlet. I’m really optimistic that the outcome will be good and beneficial for me, my family, and those around me. I’d love for you to join me! Anyone can join me at anytime. Just read this post for a review (I introduce Life Zones toward the bottom). You can focus on just one thing at a time or more. Structure it so that it best fits into your life and what you are able to accomplish. Make sure to drop by and comment on your progress. Together we can hold one another accountable and see God accomplish great things in and through us!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

No Procrastination + Soap Nuts = SUCCESS!

"So, how did 'No Procrastination Day' go, Steph?"

Thanks for asking! I feel like it was a success. I got several things accomplished yesterday that I could have let myself put off till later. I even emptied the dishwasher! This is something that I usually leave for Shawn to do. I would fill the dishwasher and he would empty it. But yesterday I didn't just fill the dishwasher. Oh, no! I emptied it, too! Of course, the extra motivation of people coming to the house today may have had a tiny influence. ;) There were a couple of incidents of procrastination yesterday, however: in the afternoon while the kids were sleeping I finally got my lunch and sat down at the computer. I needed to take my shower before church (naptime is the best time for me to accomplish this), but I did allow myself to linger at the computer about 30 minutes more than I should have. The other incident was at bedtime. Shawn was out of town last night, so after I got the kids in bed I thought I would have my usual Stay-up-late-because-Shawn-is-out-of-town-and-I-hate-sleeping-in-an-empty-bed-nights. That didn't happen. After dosing off in the chair downstairs for an hour, I finally got up and went to bed. So for the most part I did well, and the little bit of procrastinating I did allow myself was relatively inconsequential. (Except that in my grogginess last night I forgot to make sure both of the cats were out of the house. I'm hoping I won't find a cat-pee surprise waiting for me downstairs. The cat also woke me up at 5:30, so I didn't sleep as long as I could have.)

I also got my NaturOli Soap Nuts yesterday. So far I LOVE them! The sample pack I got has a bottle of the liquid as well as a muslin bag with five soap nuts. I used the liquid in the dishwasher. I did 1/2 tsp in each cup because our dishwasher is TERRIBLE! The Soap Nuts liquid performed at least as well if not better than a commercial dishwasher detergent. I only found a couple of things that did not come clean (there were a few things that I needed to rinse or wipe off, but with my dishwasher, believe me, that's clean). On average we're usually stuck with 5 or 6 items that don't come clean (and sometimes even more). Shawn has taken the dishwasher apart and cleaned the thing out. It's just cheap. I think because the house used to be a rental, the former owners put in the cheapest appliances they could find.

After I did the dishes I worked on the laundry. I ran an empty load to start with, with 1/2 tsp of Soap Nuts liquid to clean out the washer and remove any remaining residue from commercial detergents and fabric softeners. Then I washed a load of clothes on warm using the soap nuts and no fabric softener. The clothes came out clean and soft! I checked something that had been a little stained before I put it in the dryer to make sure it was clean, and all the stains had come out! I'm going to wash a load of towels later today to see how it does with the softening. Whether you're supposed to or not, I always wash towels with fabric softener. You can always tell when a towel has been washed without it, and I HATE stepping out of the shower and wiping down with a scratchy towel.

On a final note, I decided I should add one more "Life Zone" to my change structure: financial. We've implemented a budget recently, and for the time being we'll continue working on adjusting it. We're having a hard time making room for unexpected things. We also are putting Todd into preschool two days a week to encourage his speech development (if it weren't for his speech we wouldn't even consider preschool), so we need to make room for his tuition. I'm looking into an online tutoring job to get some more income, I just have to brush up the subjects so I can pass the competency tests. I need to make sure to work some study time in every day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday – No Procrastination Day

So here’s a little update on yesterday to start with. I did fairly well in the morning with my computer time, though I did allow myself to go a little longer than I should have. In the afternoon I was on about 30 minutes and then I crashed for awhile, so all in all I did okay. But it ended up being pretty easy to stay off the computer most of the day yesterday. I had an appointment for my volunteer job at 11:00 that ended up going for 4 hours! I’m the personal assistant to my church’s Worship Pastor, and we do most of our communication via phone, text, and email, so I feel like the occasional long meeting is fine. I do most of the work from home, which is one of the reasons I need to examine how to do the work more efficiently. I have to figure out how to fit my duties into my restricted computer time.

The reason I chose computer time as one of the first things to work on is that it is probably the biggest interference in my life right now. I know you all understand just how very easy it is to sit down at the computer for “a couple of minutes” and end up being on there an hour or more. Computer time definitely gets in the way of housework, family time, etc. Plus it doesn’t help that I’m an excellent procrastinator. (If you need tips on how to procrastinate better, just ask me. I’m an expert!) ;) The computer easily becomes another excuse to procrastinate, so I believe it’s vital that my computer time be one of the first things to change so that I can be more successful with the changes to come.

I’ve decided to establish every Wednesday as “No Procrastination Day.” I’m not going to be very successful at establishing changes in my life if I’m allowing myself to procrastinate. This will be a challenge, for sure. It means that every time I want to say, “I’ll do it later.” I’ll have to stop myself and do it right then (as long as that thing that needs doing isn’t waiting on a diaper change – the diaper change will have to come first, I suppose.) Hopefully I’ll get really good at No Procrastination Day, and I will be able to expand it to two days a week, then three, then four… I just reread the post I wrote last year about procrastination for inspiration. Back then I had a strong desire to stop procrastinating, but I failed to follow-through. I mean, why do today what you can put off till tomorrow, right? Hehe. Seriously though, I think by establishing a protocol and working it into the new structure for change that I’ve made I can nip this thing in the bud.

So what are your challenges with procrastination, and what have you done that has helped to procrastinate less or not at all? I’d love to get a discussion going about this. Have an awesome No Procrastination Day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fresh Start Monday, er, Tuesday

I was supposed to post this yesterday, but it obviously didn’t happen. When I wrote my post on Friday, I had every intention of posting about and carrying out my first set of changes yesterday. In fact, that was my intention all the way through the weekend, and when I woke up (at 3:00) Monday morning. That was my full intention until our regular 9:00 Monday morning appointment left. Then I started feeling tired and I let myself sit down at the computer instead of remaining mindful of my intentions. I ended up staying on the computer WAY too long yesterday and did not fulfill my original purpose for the day. (Please don’t ask how long. I don’t EVEN want to go there!) Let’s just say that I accomplished very little of what I needed to yesterday.

(“Stephanie, stop beating yourself up. We all make mistakes.”)

Oh, I know (believe me I KNOW). Actually, I’m not beating myself up; instead I’m taking responsibility for my poor choices yesterday. And, really, yesterday was not a totally wasted day. I did get the basics done and a couple of other things as well. Yesterday also reiterated to me just how important it is for me to make these changes. If I do not start living purposefully and start making conscious choices for each hour of each day (within reason – life happens no matter what is on my agenda), I will continue making the mistakes I’ve made in the past. So, I’m going to start over today and start making those conscious choices.

So, here's the plan: I’ve decided that the best way to structure this journey is to make small changes in five six areas [I decided after thinking about a couple of days, that there is one other area I should add] of my life and focus on them for two weeks. After two weeks I will continue to implement those changes while shifting my focus to five six new changes. Knowing myself as well as I do, there are so many things that I want to change that if I just focus on one area I will not see myself progress quickly enough and will get discouraged, plus it will take a long time to get to all the changes I want to make. But at the same time, I can’t try to change everything at one time either, or I will burn out very quickly. Of course, I have the freedom to adjust this structure if I find it isn’t working. [Edit] I also have the freedom to continue focusing on any particular area indefinitely if I feel the need to do so. These five six "Life Zones" are the areas that impact everything in my life: personal (relationship with God, habits, mental discipline, emotional discipline, academic study), relational (as a wife, as a mother, with extended family, with friends), physical (primarily eating habits and exercising), home (housework, organization, gardening, home improvements, etc), social (civic involvement, community outreach, volunteering, etc.), [edit] and financial (budgeting, prioritizing, spending, saving, giving). So, here is the set of changes I’m going to implement today and focus on the next two weeks:

Personal – Restricting computer time to early mornings before the kids are up, and in the afternoons during naptime. If need be I’ll set a timer to make sure it happens.

Relational – Taking time to have playtime with the kids, outside whenever possible.

Physical – Jogging 2 miles 2 days a week via the Wii. (I read an article recently that said that the best exercise to increase your energy levels is moderate jogging for 1.7 miles, twice a week. It takes 6 weeks to start feeling the full effects, and then you can increase the intensity of your exercise routine.)

Home – Getting back into my one-load-of-laundry-a-day routine (the lack of laundry detergent wasn’t the only reason I haven’t kept up with this routine.

Social – Finding ways to perform my volunteer duties more efficiently.

[Edit] Financial – Getting our spending in line with our budget.

I need to add that I haven't chosen any of these things lightly. I've prayerfully considered where to start and am proceeding as I feel God has shown me to. He is a light to my feet and shows me my path a little at a time with the Ultimate Goal (Christ) ever in sight (Phil 3:14).

If you’d like to join me by adapting this system to your own life, you are more than welcome! You can work on just one life zone, or all five six, or even add more if that fits best into the structure of your life. Leave lots of comments and let me know how you’re doing and we can encourage each other along the way. If you just want to follow along, you can join my blog (where it says “Join this site” in the right-hand column) to make it easier for you keep up with my posts. And, don’t forget to tell your friends and family about me. The more the merrier! Have an awesome “Fresh Start Tuesday”! ;)

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Soap Nuts?!" Are You Nuts?

Well, maybe. But there's nothing nutty about Soap Nuts other than their name. But, first, a little background. In the past few weeks I've been trying to come with an alternative to grocery store laundry detergent. I detest the chemical laden products that most stores sell. I can't even go down the detergent aisle without holding my breath because of the chemical smell. I've wondered about the new "green" versions of the name-brand products, wondering if they're really any greener than their "regular" conunterparts or if they have simply been "greenwashed" to make the guilt-ridden consumer feel better about purchasing their products. Then there's the whole cost issue. Laundry detergent is very expensive, especially most "green" versions. In the past couple of weeks or so I've been researching making my own laundry detergent, but I still wasn't completely comfortable with some of the ingredients I would need to use, nor was I very excited about the inconvenience of it.

Enter Soap Nuts. I came across and article about them last week on the Passionate Homemaking blog. (She's even having a giveaway of NaturOli's Liquid Laundry Detergent Concentrate and Green Cleaner - EXTREME 18X through tomorrow. For the giveaway, click on the "Passionate Homemaking" link above.) Despite their name, Soap Nuts are not nuts. They are actually the dried fruit of the Chinese Soapberry Tree, specifically, Sapindus Mukorossi. (Google it. It's all over the internet.) These fruits contain a very high concentration of saponin, a naturally occurring detergent. From the research I've done, I've learned that they clean very well, as well as soften clothes (which means no more spending money on fabric softener), not to mention they're VERY economical, costing as little as $0.07/washer load to use. For the liquid form it is recommended that you only use 1/2 tsp per load! Plus Soap Nuts can be used for almost any cleaning job around the house, and the liquid form is gentle enough for personal hygiene use as well. The main thing to watch out for when you're purchasing them is quality because apparently there are some very low-quality brands out there. According to the research I've done, NaturOli's quality is superior to other brands.

So, I've purchased a trial pack of NaturOli Soap Nuts on ebay. Hopefully it will come tomorrow, because I've got several loads of laundry waiting in the wings, breaking my one-load-of-laundry-a-day rule. I've been holding off on purchasing more laundry detergent. I really did not want to buy any more supermarket stuff. So in the coming days I'll let you know how it goes. If all the praise out there is true, I will soon have a new, cost-effective, truly green & sustainable laundry detergent!

BTW, don't forget to leave your comments or join my blog!

Friday, July 31, 2009


I've decided it's time to make some changes to my blog, among other things. I'm repurposing my blog. (Well, not entirely. Let me explain.) I've been wanting to make some changes in my life in general, but have found myself very uninspired and unmotivated. I need to eat healthier, lose weight, exercise, use my time more wisely, be more organized, and be more connected to my family and those around me. There's probably a few other things that could be added to the list, but I think that's plenty to start with. So, you're probably wondering what my blog has to do with all this. Well, I'm getting to that.

Through a friends’ blog (Flo's Foibles) I have recently discovered several other blogs related to nutrition and homemaking. I’ve found these blogs to be very informative and inspiring. For some time I've felt like I'm only nominally successful at being a housewife and mother. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids to death, and they are very well-behaved (at least in public anyway ;) ), but I know I fall short on enriching their lives. It's just all so overwhelming to me. It's really hard for me to get out of the house with them, so often church is the only place we go. I've always been a bit of a homebody, so it's a stretch for me to go anywhere other than church. Whenever I schedule appointments outside the home (and even in-home appointments), I usually try to make it 11:00 at the earliest because getting us ready for anything feels like a massive effort to me. Then there's the issue of trying to do family projects, like crafts, or even getting outside to play or take a walk. For one thing, I've got some really bad habits that I know interfere with family time (which comes back to the changes thing). Could spending too much time on the computer possibly be one of them? Nah! (I wish!) I know I spend too much time on the computer. So that is going to be one of the first things I do is relegate my computer use to only certain times of the day. I want God and family to take priority over everything else in my life. Another thing that interferes with family life is my nearly constant lack of energy, which is one of the reasons I want to eat healthier and start exercising. Plus, for some reason, it seems to take me longer to do things than other people. I don’t know if it’s because I’m too focused on the details, or if I just move more slowly (maybe both). But I feel like I have a really hard time fitting everything into the day. So, usually the housework suffers. I know it’s okay to let the housework go every once in a while, but constantly is not a good thing. So I often find myself stressed and retreating from life because I feel so overwhelmed that I just shut down. Either that or I’m Miss Irritability.

("Stephanie, your blog?") I really am getting there. I promise. :)

The thing is, I know I can do better. I’m a daughter of the King, and He has promised not to give me more than I can handle through His strength. Which is part of the problem. I’m too often depending on only my own strength. I need to trust and rely more. I want my home to be a shelter, and a safe place. I want it to be a place of hospitality, not just for guests, but for my family, too. I can do all things through His strength! Even this. I want everything I do to be done ultimately for Him. So am I going to become a “domestic goddess” overnight like all of those wonderful bloggers? Not likely, unless aliens kidnap me in my sleep and replace my brain with a Stepford wife brain. (No, I don’t mean that those women are Stepford wives. If I did I could not be inspired by them. It’s just a joke, people! :oP ) But little by little, one step at a time, I can make changes that will make be a better person, wife, & mother.

(“C’mon, Stephanie! What in the world does all this have to do with you blog?” )

I’m so glad you asked. :) Those other blogs have inspired me to start a new project. As I said earlier, I want to start making changes in my life. So, I’m inviting you to join me on this journey through my blog. Ideally (emphasis on “ideally”), I will post about a new change I’m introducing into my life, and for the next couple of weeks thereafter will post about my progress and the impact the change is having on our lives. My plan is to start small and work up to bigger things. I now see the blog as not only a place to talk about my experiences, but also as a source of accountability. I’m also hoping to inspire my readers. As such I want to make this blog more than just a bit of reading material. I want it to be a resource, too. Occasionally I will blog about things I’m learning like nutritional information, and I will start posting links to other blogs, websites, and books that I find helpful on my journey. I also will continue to blog about the revelation I receive from God, but that will not be the sole focus of my blog anymore. (Although, in a way it still is, as everything that works to make my life a better example of who Christ is is revelation from God.)

So, I’m sure you’ve already noticed that I’ve changed the blog layout. I want the layout to be more reflective of the new direction I’m taking with this thing. I thought about changing the title, but I felt that “ordinary marvels” was even more applicable now than before. You’ve probably also noticed that I’ve added advertisements to my blog. This is an idea that I’ve toyed with for a long time. I kept going back and forth on whether or not I should post ads. Frankly, I just didn’t feel right about it before, although it’s a possible income source for my family. But now, I feel a release to do so. And, since Google uses contextual ads, hopefully the ads will provide an additional resource for you. Who knows, maybe this thing will become big enough that I can start selling ads to companies and organizations that I want to support.

So, if you have any (helpful :D) advice, links, resources, etc. that could help me on this journey, please feel free to comment and share. Also, please tell your friends and family about me. I want to reach as many as I can. Thanks for supporting me!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Yes, I know. It's been a while since I've posted. I've been in a sort of Lala Land since we moved. But I'm back to the real world now! Thanks for having me! So, fasten your seatbelts! Here goes!

Challenge. Some of us love it and some of us avoid it like the plague. Some seek it out while others try to structure their lives to be as minimally challenging as possible. The thing is, no matter how we try to conduct our lives it is impossible to avoid challenge. Since the Garden of Eden mankind has been faced with challenge and it has since been woven into the very fabric of our lives.

Birth itself is a challenge. As the child is forced out of the dark, quiet, warm, comfortable, and nourishing environment of the womb, his body undergoes pressure as he descends through the birth canal, squeezing the fluid out of his lungs as he passes, till he is pulled out into the cold, bright, loud world. The coldness hits his face and his reflexes cause him to draw in as he breathes air for the very first time. Some think it is the sting of the air hitting his lungs that causes him to cry and continue taking in air as he learns to breathe the much thinner substance that air is rather than the fluid he was breathing in the womb. Even before his birth his body was challenging itself, growing, exercising, practicing, building bone and muscle, to prepare for life outside the womb. If it weren’t for these challenges, he would not survive life past birth.

For some every breath of life is a struggle, but for most of us the physical trial of survival is the least of the challenges we will face in our lifetime. We live in a fallen, sin-filled world. We have an enemy that is jealous of our position with God and desires to devour us so that he can deprive our Creator of the joy of relationship with us. For some souls he is successful. For those who have devoted their lives to God, he has failed. The very fact that we who love God and know Him exist irritates Satan, our enemy. Our presence in the world makes him angry. So, he is constantly throwing obstacles at us, doing whatever he can to either destroy us, or at least render us ineffective citizens of God’s Kingdom so that we cannot influence new converts to join ranks with God.

Some brothers and sisters in Christ live under repressive governments that constantly persecute them for their faith in God and their witness to those around them of what He has done for them. For so many of them, their lives burn all the more brightly for the suffering they face. Each confrontation with the enemy simply provides more fuel for the holy fire that burns in the depths of their beings and they shine brilliantly because of it. For those of us who live in the West, however, we have no concept of what such persecution is like. Because of the freedoms we so often take for granted, it is easy for us to grow fat and complacent in our Christian walks, seeking our own comfort with more passion than our pursuit of God’s Kingdom. We seem to forget that we are God’s and not our own. That is the commitment we made when we surrendered our lives to His service, yet we often live as though our Heavenly citizenship is of no real consequence to us. I, for one, am very guilty of this. I have been to countries with repressive regimes and have had a small taste of what the Christians there face on a daily basis. Yet so often I find myself getting caught up in what material things I don’t have. I often strive to acquire more and more. It is, after all, the “American Dream”, is it not? I must constantly remind myself that I am first and foremost a child of God and everything else lines up behind that. I have to also remind myself that everything I do is to be for God’s glory, whether it’s changing dirty diapers or inviting my neighbor to church. That means everything I face should be done so with joy, not griping and complaining.

I often wonder what life would be like if no man or woman had ever sinned. It almost seems like we need the challenges that come with living in a fallen world to transform us into the men and women God desires us to be. Things that were once perceived to be lost are cherished all the more when they're found once again. Good food tastes better when we know what bad food tastes like. A pleasant smell is refreshing after our noses have been accosted with something that stinks. Cool water is most fully appreciated when we are hot, tired, and thirsty. True beauty is best revealed when contrasted with ugliness. Light shines more brightly when surrounded by darkness. The happy times of life are better treasured when we know what sadness is like. Life becomes more vibrant when faced with the realities of suffering and death.

Western Christians need to learn to appreciate and accept the challenges we come across in our lives. We need them. We need the exercise. We do live in a fallen world and without challenges we will die spiritually. Without something to overcome, we cannot be overcomers. So, God allows those challenges in our lives. I am not saying that He causes sin and makes bad things happen to us. I am saying that He allows us to face challenges so that we can become stronger. In an ironic way, our spiritual kin that live with constant persecution have it easy. After all, they can see their enemy quite clearly. They are faced with that enemy everyday and have no need to ask, “Why?” They know why. It’s obvious to them. I have read of one such man that escaped a repressive regime and came to live in the United States. He had criticized American Christians for their lackadaisical attitudes and lifestyles. In apologizing and confessing to his friend to whom he had ranted his criticism he stated, “I was merely afraid. I did not know how dangerous freedom could be… It is more difficult to live the Christian life under freedom than under repression.” *

For us in the West our enemy is much more subtle and more often takes us by surprise. We find ourselves facing challenges when we are quite unprepared. God needs us to step up to the challenges of our lives and face them with joy. We don’t have to like them, but there is no point in complaining about them. They will come. If we employ the proper attitude and face the challenges head on, we will be overcomers, and we will move on to the next challenge. If we try to avoid the challenges and become bitter and complain about them, we will find ourselves caught in a cycle. We will keep facing the same challenge over and over in one form or another until we learn the lesson through it that God wants us to learn. (And oh, I have I experienced that hamster wheel!) Or, the worst scenario, we will become casualties in the constant battle of life. Let it never be said of me that I am stuck in a rut or have become a casualty to sin. No, I desire to proudly wear the title of “Overcomer”!

On closing, I want to quote Ruth Bell Graham. In her book, Legacy of a Pack Rat, she relates the story of Captain Jeremiah Denton’s arrival back in the US after being released from years of imprisonment in Vietnam on February 11, 1973. They first thing he stated to the American public was, “We are honored to have served our country under difficult circumstances…” Ruth Bell Graham then says the following:

Is that how the believer will feel when he stands one day before God? Liberated from the earth and its struggles, will we say, “We are honored to have served…under difficult circumstances?

God has entrusted to some of His servants the most difficult circumstances, and without explanations. We can go all the way back to Job, to Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, the early martyrs, and on into the twentieth century where, we are told, there have been more martyrs in the Christian church than in the entire preceding two thousand years….

A young man recently released from an oppressive, atheistic regime was visiting a Christian family. “And what was it like, being persecuted for your faith?” his host asked.

“We thought it was the normal Christian life,” was the surprising, yet candid reply.

I think he was right. It is we Christians in the West who are living abnormally. Personally, I am grateful for the “abnormality.” But if it doesn’t last, we must not question, complain, or be bitter. Instead, let us accept each day as the Lord sends it, living obediently and faithfully, not fearing what may come, knowing that the glory ahead will obliterate the grim past, and praying we may be able to say to our Lord, “We are honored to have served…under difficult circumstances.” * (emphasis mine)

* As quoted in Ruth Bell Graham’s Legacy of a Pack Rat. Oliver Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. 1989.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Marvelous Story of Our New Home - Part Two

Remember that house that Shawn didn’t really want to see because it only had a one-car garage? Well, that house came up ready to be shown right at the end of our house hunting tour that day (the second Friday that we went looking). We liked that one pretty well, but there was another one we saw earlier that day that we had fallen in love with. That one we loved needed a lot of work, and we were concerned that there might be structural damage. We put an offer in, contingent upon the home inspection, and prayed for a speedy answer. We put the bid in on Friday. Sunday afternoon we found out that there had been a previous offer on the house that had been withdrawn because the home inspection had uncovered approximately $15,000 worth of structural damage. Well, we felt God answered our prayer for a speedy answer and withdrew our bid. That evening we put a bid on the house with the one-car garage. Our offer was accepted the next day!

We closed on the house on Friday, January 30th. From the day we seriously started looking for a house to the day we closed was only 26 days! Even with making three offers! All the closing preliminaries were completed in two weeks! We were able to purchase the house for several thousand dollars less than its appraisal value, including closing costs! And, unlike the other two houses that we had bid on, this one meets our needs so much better. The day of the closing we were $200 short of the total settlement. We had wrapped the closing costs into the mortgage, but had underestimated how much we needed by about $1,000. We were praying really hard that day for God to provide that $200 before we got to the closing table. Our real estate agent told us to bring what we had and we would work it out. While it was hard not to be anxious, I felt sure that God was going to get it worked out for us. We made it all the way through the closing without anything changing. Later that afternoon, after the attorney’s office recorded the deal, our agent called to let us know that she had the keys to give to us. Then she told me that “they” had cut our title insurance by half! Not only was that $200 covered, we also got a check back from the attorney for $62.00! I love God’s timing! He definitely has a way of keeping things from getting too dull!

As I’m writing this, I can really see God’s timing in the entire story. If we had rushed and bought the house we are living in right now we would have needed to move to a different school district a few months later and would have been stuck. If we had tried to get financing sooner we wouldn’t have had Shawn’s raise yet and would not have gotten as good of a deal on our financing. We also wouldn’t have had enough resources to cover the down payment. And, if we had tried to buy a house last year we would not have qualified for the tax credit. The house we bought does need a little work, but it meets ALL of our needs and it falls within our price range. God had us looking for houses at the right time for that house to become ready for us. Not only did we find a home within the 60-day time frame, but we also have a whole month to get it ready and to get our things packed and moved, and to clean up the old house.

I also see how God works through His family in this story. Both our real estate agent and our mortgage broker are members of our church. They both worked very hard to make sure we could close on the house by the end of January. God used other people in our earthly families (who are also a part of our heavenly family) to help provide some of our financial needs. And now that we are in the process of getting the house ready to move into by the end of this month, several other family members (both heavenly and earthly) are helping us do the necessary work so that we can move in.

Further, I can see how God is faithful to fulfill His promises to us. Throughout this whole process, and long before, we have been faithful to tithe and give as we felt God leading us. Like any good parent, He rewards our obedience. He says over and over again in His Word that if we give, He will make sure our needs are met. He has definitely done that for us. I can also see how each thing in the house that needs to be repaired or improved is just another opportunity for Him to meet us in our need, and it's another opportunity for His glory to be realized in our lives, even though the need may seem small. I find His faithfulness because of us, and in spite of us, astounding. Because of His faithfulness, we are prospering in God's economy in the midst of the poor state of the world's economy.

God truly has done something amazing and unexpected as He has orchestrated the circumstances for us to buy our new home. And I know that as the weeks and months and years go by that He has more and more amazing and unexpected things in store!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Marvelous Story of Our New Home - Part One

Late last Spring I was praying about our housing and financial situation. At that point we had been renting the home we currently live in for about two and a half years. Things were very tight financially and we felt we needed to buy a house. We had gone back and forth several times about buying this house (the one we’re living in), but we really weren’t sure if that was the right thing to do. When I was praying last Spring, God told me He was going to do something “amazing and unexpected” with our housing and finances. As time progressed, it became more and more clear that we were not supposed to buy the house we are renting. Part of that is because of Todd’s services for his speech therapy. We need to be in a different school district so that if he needs to go to a special needs preschool when he turns three-years-old in April, he can go to a school that has a good program.

We decided it would be best to wait until after all the craziness of the holidays before we tried to start house hunting. I was really dreading house hunting, but then after Christmas we started looking online at some houses and found some things we really liked. Then I started getting excited about it. We emailed our friend who is a real estate agent and told her that we wanted to start house hunting in mid-January. Well, around a week later we get an email from our landlord stating that she needed to move back into this house. We are on a month-to-month lease right now, but she was gracious enough to give us 60 days to move out, and said she would give us more time if we needed it. Well, there’s nothing like a deadline to put some fire under you to get you motivated to get something done. And, just in case we had any doubts left about whether or not we were supposed to buy this house that we’re renting, God removed ALL doubt, speaking through the voice of our landlord.

We received the notice from our landlord on January 5th, a Monday. That day we called our friend who is a mortgage broker to get financing, and we started looking in earnest for our new house online. As for the financing, we got a much better deal than we expected, thanks to the raise that Shawn got last fall, and the cost of living adjustment he got last month. God also provided for the down payment, and because it had been more than three years since we had owned our home in Virginia Beach, we qualify for the first-time homebuyers tax credit! The day we got the notice from our landlord, we also contacted our friend, the real estate agent, and made an appointment to look at homes that coming weekend. There was one house on our list that we weren’t able to see that weekend. There had been tenants in it, and the homeowner wanted to make a few repairs before the house was shown. Shawn wasn’t really excited about that house either, because it only has a one-car garage.

So we looked at houses on January 9th & 10th. We found three that we really liked and considered putting an offer on. We did put an offer in on one of those three houses. The crazy thing was that house had been on the market for several months, and there had been no offers as far as I know. Right after we put our offer in, someone else also put a bid on the house. We had the opportunity to change our bid, but Shawn and I both felt that we should keep it as it was and see what happened. We knew that if our bid wasn’t accepted that just meant that God had something better for us. Well, our bid was not the one accepted. So we went house hunting again that Friday.

(To be continued until tomorrow…)