Friday, April 19, 2013

Growing Close to My Savior through Suffering

Image from http://getbetterhealth.com
As most of you know, I deal with chronic pain on a daily basis - I have since I was 15 years old. I have been diagnosed with 3 bulging discs, 2 torn/leaking discs, degenerative disc disease, hypertrophic facet disease, sciatica, neuropathy in both legs, fibromyalgia, and we are now looking at a possible diagnosis of sacroiliac joint dysfunction syndrome (we will be waiting on some diagnostic tests... in the coming months - please pray God's will be done, either way it turns out). I'm supposed to have spinal fusion surgery on the lower 2 vertebrae in the next 2-4 years, but we are hoping and praying that the sacroiliac joint dysfunction syndrome (which mimics the same symptoms of my other injuries) injection will help give a definitive diagnosis. At any rate, through it all I've dealt with a lot of obstacles and pain, yet indescribable joy and miracles as well.

I've obviously had many years to process my chronic pain that is life altering in many ways. It took me a while before I could completely understand why God had chosen me to go through this, although I feel I always trusted Him...I just didn't always embrace the circumstance as a catalyst for spiritual growth as a follower of Christ should. So if God is truly Healer, why am I not healed? Manytimes, trials/tribulations, suffering or pain are put in our lives by God (meaning it is His will) so that we may be strengthened...tried through fire in order to continually refine us to be like-minded with our Savior. It's comforting to know that our Father promises us He will walk with us through every refining fire. He's not in the background watching - He's in the battlefield with you. We should be honored that the Lord and Redeemer of our lives would find us (you and me - imperfect people) worthy enough to be used to glorify the name of Christ our Savior! Are we truly intimate enough with our relationship with God that we can trust Him because of the circumstances put in our lives, not in spite of them?

When we face such circumstances, do we use them as an opportunity to mope around and ask "why me?" (remember, I've been there before!) or do we find the situation a CATALYST for growth? People will watch how you respond, and you will either make a case for Christ or for the sinful world. More importantly, your heavenly Father is watching...make Him proud!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Stewardship from the Standpoint of a Stay-at-Home Mom


Image from http://praisecharlotte.com
Why be a wise steward of possessions, money? When we are wise stewards of what God has given us, we honor Christ. It is a sign of respect first and foremost to Christ (the Ultimate Provider), and secondly to your husband (the earthly provider).
           
I Timothy 6:17-19
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Debt
Try to eliminate all debt possible. I have student loans we are trying to pay off, and we have found that paying them off one at a time has been the best plan. We have also refinanced several loans so that we will be paying less in the long run. As I entered college and began my music education degree, student loans were inevitable, but they were also a burden. We are trying are best to pay them off quickly. With all of that being said, I can’t emphasize enough the following verse - “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov.22:7). Debt will hold you captive - make it a priority to pay it off!

Toys and Clothing for Kids
1. Thrift Store:
We typically make a thrift store trip at least once each week if not more. We have found one thrift store in the area that is our favorite for finding deals. Find one in your area, and check for discounted items. Many items in our particular thrift store are overpriced tremendously, but they typically sell toys for dirt cheap, and their children’s clothing is either cheap or tagged as the weekly $0.99 sale.

2. Children’s Consignment Sales:
There are 3 major consignments in the area – Children’s Market (FUMC Jackonville, AL), Sweet Repeats (Oxford, AL), Paisley Peacock (Pell City, AL). These are semi-annual consignment sales that carry items for pregnancy through the teen years. With the sales being only twice a year, you find a lot of items at one time, so mark your calendars early for these events and set aside some money in the months prior to the sales.
           
3. Rotate Toys:
I don’t know about your kids, but mine seem to get tired of the same toys quickly. Instead of going to the store to buy new ones, I simply rotate big buckets of toys, and it works beautifully.

Couponing
I am by no means a great couponer, but I have created a coupon notebook (3” binder) using a free printable that is both cute and very practical – www.couponlovingchicks.com. Anytime I go into a store, this binder accompanies me. I use card display sheets (clear card protectors) that go into binders. I mainly use online coupons, but I only print out coupons that I know will make the final price cheaper than the generic. That is part of being a money-stretching mom. You sacrifice just a little taste or convenience for the generic, but it is well worth it. Check out my blog on "Couponing Resources."
 
 

 Creativity and Resourcefulness
1. Sewing:
Don’t know how to sew? No worries – it’s really not that complicated if you have a little bit of time and patience. Start with simple projects and build from there. Go to Pinterest to find plenty of blogs with practical steps on how to begin to sew. Sewing has proven to be extremely practical for me and my family. I have sewn drapes (almost every drape in the house), linens (fleece blankets, pillow cases, customized patterns), tailored clothing (changing maternity tops into normal tops – only if you are done having children, changing maternity jeans into normal sized jeans, changing jeans into lower sizes as I lose baby weight, sew on buttons, sew up rips and tears, sew on patches for play-jeans). Sewing saves LOTS of money. I haven’t bought a new pair of jeans or shirts in over 2 years! I’m simply tailoring mine down to my pre-pregnancy size as I lose weight (YAY!!!).

2. Homemade Laundry Detergent:
This is the recipe to homemade powder that is hypoallergenic and is able to be used on high efficiency machines. You only use 1 Tbsp. of powder per load, and 1 batch lasts me 6 or more months. It breaks down to $0.05 a load! It cleans even better than Tide, and it leaves our clothes smelling fresh.


3. Haircuts:
I cut the boys hair (including my “big boy” – a.k.a. the hubby) – there are plenty of online tutorials if you search for them on how to properly cut hair. A child’s hair cut is at least $8 plus tip, and an adult hair cut is at least $12 plus tip.

Food & Groceries
1. Meals:
Toddler lunch ideas – Just a few ideas are frozen cooked chicken nuggets, organic turkey dogs, cheese sticks, bananas, apple sauce, grilled cheese, and grilled ham and cheese. Also find cheap and simple dinner ideas. In general, we do lots of meals using frozen chicken breasts (various marinades), canned chicken (Velveeta Skillets), canned tuna (Cheesy Tuna Helper), and ground beef (Hamburger Helper, Velveeta Skillets, taco soup, spaghetti, taco salad).

2. Leftovers:
We always have leftovers, but we make sure we always finish them off – don’t let them go to waste. A few suggestions to make it easier to rid the fridge of those leftovers:
1. Have leftover dinner nights (every other night)
2. Use leftovers for toddler or children’s summer lunches
Remember to label leftovers with the date so you know when to dispose of it.
           
3. Eating Out:
Learn to say “no” to eating out (except for date nights or special
outings).
           
4. Grocery Budget:
Sam’s Club Membership: We were able to get our membership during a rare deal – The membership was $45, we received a $20 gift card and $20 worth of food vouchers = $5 for a year membership and one happy momma! ;) We have only had it for a month, and it has already been worth it. Note that if you are in the area, the closest Sam’s Club is in Birmingham – we make a trip once a month for a doctor’s appointment, so we make our Sam’s grocery trip after our visit. We spend 3/4ths of our grocery budget on this one trip, and it helps us stay in budget better than anything we’ve tried (including couponing).

When you grocery shop, be sure to “lock away” basic prices in your
head - when you see them “on sale” at another store, you need to know if they are ripping you off or if it is truly a good deal. Also note the volume of the item…be sure you are getting a deal for the amount of product.

We use off-brands/generics. They may not be quite as good as the brand name, but no one will notice when it’s cooked with a meal. It’s worth the savings.

Buy clearance candy, d├ęcor, and seasonal clothing after major holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Independence Day, etc. I buy candy for 75-90% off and store it in our pantry until we need it.

Budget
Come up with a budget and stick to it! Leave wiggle room, and make sure some of your monthly budget gets deposited into savings (if at all possible). Keep it updated and able for you and hubby to view easily.

Tithing
Lastly, we always leave room in our budget for tithing 10% of our income, as we are commanded to tithe at least 10%. It’s God’s money in the first place – it is a gift. Why would we not want to give just 10% of it back through tithing? God promises us over and over in His word that when we give with the right attitude (a joyful heart), He will give back to you beyond what you gave. I cannot tell you how many times the Lord has blessed this house with meeting financial and physical needs because we gave to Him. He will bless you for it. Please trust Him and give.

Malachi 3:10 (NIV)
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

I will end with this – I have found from personal experience that the closer I am in Christ, the more content I am in what I have materially, the more I want to be resourceful with what we are given, and the less I want to spend. If you find yourself wanting to spend more than you usually do, check your heart. More times than not, those are the times when our hearts aren’t content in Christ… “For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

Couponing Resources


Image from http://momsneedtoknow.com
Coupon Sites

www.allyou.com - Blog for daily coupon deals.
www.bargainstobounty.com Blog on couponing tips & tricks and current coupon deals.
www.cellfire.com – Coupon-clipping site (has to be by major grocer, such as Publix, Kroger, Meijer, etc.; printable and digital coupons).
www.centsablemomma.com – Blog on couponing tips & tricks and current coupon deals.
www.coupondad.net – Blog on couponing tricks and current coupon deals.
www.couponnetwork.com – Coupon-clipping site (app available on Facebook; printable and digital coupons).
www.coupons.com - Coupon-clipping site (printable and digital coupons).
www.couponlovingchicks.com – Blog on couponing tips & tricks and current coupon deals. Downloads are available for an organizational coupon binder. This is one of my favorite sites for organizational materials regarding couponing.
www.coupons.target.com - Target store coupons (change weekly)
www.dailygrocerycoupon.com - Coupon-clipping site (printable and digital coupons)
www.freecouponhere.com - Free internet toolbar for quick coupon searching and clipping
www.frugalfinders.com – Blog on couponing tips & tricks and current coupon deals. “Like” on Facebook to access numerous coupon deals daily on your newsfeed.
www.hip2save.com – Blog on couponing tips & tricks and current coupon deals.
www.iheartpublix.com - Publix store coupons & couponing guidance
www.kouponkaren.com - Blog on couponing tips & tricks and current coupon deals.
www.recyclebank.com - Earn points through recycle-education and redeem for a wide variety of gift certificates.
www.redplum.com - Coupon-clipping site (printable and digital coupons)
www.savingdollarsandsense.com – Blog on couponing tips & tricks and current coupon deals. “Like” on Facebook to access numerous coupon deals daily on your newsfeed.
www.savingstar.com - Coupon-clipping site (printable & digital)
www.smartsource.com - Coupon-clipping site (printable & digital)
www.southernsavers.com - Coupon-clipping site (printable & digital)
www.thekrazycouponlady.com – Blog on couponing tips & tricks and current coupon deals.
www.womanfreebies.com – Blog on couponing tips & tricks and current coupon deals.


Facebook Pages:
"Like" any of these pages for updates on latest deals
Bargains to Bounty
Coupons
Coupon Loving Chicks
CVS (Pharmacy)
Delicious Finds
Dollar General
Frugal Finders
Saving Dollars and Sense*
Saving Well, Spending Less*
The Thrifty Couple on Quest
Walgreens (Pharmacy)
*My favorite pages for current tips and tricks of couponing

Blogs:
All You: Enjoy Life for Less – www.allyou.com
Bargains to Bounty - www.bargainstobounty.com
“Cents”able Momma – www.centsablemomma.com
Coupon Dad – www.coupondad.net
Coupon Pro
Frugal Finders – www.frugalfinders.com
Hip2Save – www.hip2save.com
Living Rich with Coupons - www.livingrichwithcoupons.com
Koupon Karen – www.kouponkaren.com
Krazy Koupon Lady – www.thekrazycouponlady.com
Money Saving Mom
Pink Coupon Cafe
Saving Dollars and Sense - www.savingdollarsandsense.com
Woman Freebies – www.womanfreebies.com

Weekly Ads:
Add your local grocer or drug store to your list of weekly ads to save and/or look up ads online. We receive ads via mail, and I have found it fairly easy to hole-punch the ads and keep them in a section of my couponing notebook. By doing this, I have comparable prices accessible for price-matching stores. Below is my list of stores (link is to the home page).

Items for Couponing:
I have also found it helpful to list of grocery items that I regularly use. In doing so, I can focus on specific brands/items for coupons. You can also go to the homepage for the brand of the item and, many times, you will find coupons for that product.

Couponing Binder:
I used printables from www.couponlovingchicks.com for my binder, and I love it!





Store Coupon Policies
Print out & keep store coupon policies in your coupon binder for reference. Below are the links to the coupon policy pages for corresponding stores.
Food Outlet (coupon policy is not online)

Mental Illness and the Church