Archives for February 2014

Create Your Own Punch List and Make Yourself Happy

I was reminded of a strange phenomenon this weekend and I wondered if you’ve seen it too.

My sister is in the midst of selling her house here in town.  She’s lived in her townhouse for, I don’t know, 10 years or something.  She’s had a lot of work done to the house over those years—new carpet and  new kitchen cabinets and what not.  She’s been given a few punch list items from the realtor before she puts it on the market.  She’s been working on them this past week to get them done—caulk the stairwell, pressure wash the porch, move a table from the hall to the living room. 

One task she had to do is put some pictures in a collage frame she had in her bedroom.  She’d hung the frame long ago but had never taken the time to put pictures in it.  She filled it full of pictures of her dogs.  She remarked to my mom, “Why didn’t I do that a long time ago, I could have enjoyed it all this time?”

She’s not the only punch-list bearing mover I’ve heard say something like that.  Our friends were moving last fall and put a frame around their mirror in their bathroom.  They remarked the same thing to us, “Why did we finally take the time to do that when we’re moving when we could have been enjoying it all this time?”

It’s a strange phenomenon, isn’t it?  We are willing to live with the small stuff undone—for years—only to finally fix them for someone else.

I realize many times there are budget limitations. Sure, our hardwoods could probably be replaced at this point, but I don’t care to spend a few thousand dollars on it right now. 

Sometimes there are time restrictions.  I know mostly I’m just trying to keep up with the laundry and the blasted dust and dog hair lying on everything.  Who has time for the non-urgent stuff?

Most of the time money and time stop us, but I’d bet there are things around our house we could stop and do if we’d only first think of it and second, actually do.

After thinking on this this weekend, my mom suggested I finally add some artwork to some frames in Emma’s room.  They’ve been hanging in her room empty since we remodeled after the water leak last year.  My plan was to create beautiful customized artwork, each frame spelling out a letter in her name.  But I could never get around to it.

I batted around paying someone to paint four pieces of artwork, but I could never bring myself to pay for it.  When Mom finally suggested I should put her artwork in it, I was all in. 

 

IMG_2150

 

It wasn’t exactly what I envisioned, but we sure could enjoy it in the meantime. It was so much better than IKEA’s standard insert hung neatly 4 times over.  And really, I just love walking by and seeing her artwork in her room instead of mine.

Turns out it cost me zero dollars and 15 minutes.

While we’re in here, I don’t think I’ve shown you how her office space on the opposite wall evolved since finishing her crate bookcase.

IMG_2151

 

She just loves her school clock (IKEA).  And as you can see, I still have one more thing on my list in there—add a 4th frame.  I actually bought it and primed the frame and then it rained on it outside while it was drying and I had to trash it.

You could consider acting as your own realtor even if you’re not moving.  Go through each room and write down a punch list of things that need done.  Here are a few of mine that I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Put shoe molding down in the kitchen
  • Finish the crown molding in the kitchen
  • Touch up the paint in the office
  • Glue down the threshold molding to the bathroom
  • Fix the weather stripping thingie in the shower
  • Put Emma’s toilet paper holder back up
  • Hang the picture in Emma’s bathroom
  • Pressure wash the front of the house
  • Pressure wash the picnic tables

As you can see, even these things will take very little money and very little time.  I don’t know about you, but I just don’t think of these things when we have a few minutes of downtime. A written punch list would certainly help.

I guess my point in all this is we should do some of these little things for ourselves as we can instead of waiting until we move.  Really, what sense does it make not to if budget and time allow? <- asking myself

Have you found this phenomenon to be true?  Tell me—what are a few things off the top of your head you could do?

How Great is Your Love

perfect_love

There’s a song we sing that goes something like “How Great is Your Love”.  The more I ask God to show me how much he loves me, the more I believe I should have been singing “How Small is Your Love.” Not because  it’s true, but because it’s what I believed: his love was small.

I look back and see all the fear and distrust and the walls and I wonder if I really believed he loved me at all.  Because if I did, I would have leapt, I would have cried yes!  If I truly believed his love was great, I’d be able to pray anything and truly want anything he’d give me. I’d know that no matter how he answered, he would prepare me, equip me, give me only what was good for me and even if it seemed bad or painful, he would work it all together for his good.

So I’m still praying, “God, show me how much you love me.”  I don’t want to sing with my lips it’s great and believe in my heart it’s small. I want to sing with confidence, with conviction, “How Great is Your Love.” I want to know it because I’ve lived it.

 

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday: Small

How to Stick to the Envelope System {Without Cash}

How to Stick to the Envelope System Without Cash

I’ve written a few times over the years about Dave Ramsey’s envelope system he suggests for budgeting.  There is nothing more painful than handing over a wad of 20’s for your groceries.  A frappuccino doesn’t seem so important when you have to hand over a $5 bill instead of swiping a a bar code on an app.  It’s pretty amazing how you suddenly want to stay home so you don’t have to use that gas you emptied your envelope for. Cold hard cash will help you stick to a budget, no doubt. 

I find there is nothing more burdensome than spending money you don’t have and nothing more freeing than sticking to your budget.

However, we are terrible with cash.  We found it difficult to manage between two people.  We often forgot our envelopes when we went somewhere and didn’t know how much to spend.  Dealing with change at the end of the week was a pain.  When we misplaced $100 cash, that was our breaking point.

We started managing the entire budget through a spreadsheet and monitoring spending in mint.com (post).  I love mint.com, but really, it’s so easy to go right over your budget.

So, for months and months we’d figure out our budget and then watch those red lines in mint.com start showing up and then do absolutely nothing about it.  I always said mint.com was really good at helping me see our budget go in the red.  Red lines everywhere!

However, I think we’ve found a secret that keeps us on budget using the envelope system without cash.

I’ve mentioned since the beginning of the year that we’ve gotten back on track financially.  We’ve managed to stick to our budget using the envelope system and not get a single dollar out of the ATM.  Want to hear our secret?

Play money.

How to Stick to the Envelope System Without Cash

Seriously.

I’ve been shocked with how well this works.  We’ve stayed on budget, it requires zero cash and we haven’t used our credit cards. 

So here’s how it works.

1 – I create a zero-based budget using a spreadsheet.  I do it a month at a time and then refine every two weeks since that’s how often we both get paid.  I know where every dollar is supposed to go before we even get paid (thank you, Dave Ramsey).  

2 – Then, instead of getting cash, we printed this free educational printable money and cut it out so it looked like real cash.  The kids thought this was the best thing ever.  We use envelopes for our variable expenses like groceries, clothing, restaurants and blow money. 

3 – We use our debit card for those purchases and every day I check our account for purchases and take the money out of the envelope as we spend it. 

4 – For bills that are automated, I just check off on my spreadsheet that they’ve been paid as expected.

How does this help?

Even though it’s play money and seems like a lot of double work, there is something about seeing and feeling even the fake money that registers in my brain how much I can spend.  It’s a built-in accountability system that the online tool just doesn’t provide.  Scott doesn’t check anything online at all so having the box of envelopes in person in front of both of us keeps it at the forefront of both our minds.

And—if a bill gets lost, it doesn’t matter!

Also, we’ve been able to get our kids involved in budgeting.  We don’t share the entire budget with them, but we get them to help fill each envelope every two weeks.  They even know to ask if we have money in our budget to do something. 

For example, we started a special entertainment bucket so we could have family events each month and it’s actually made it more special limiting it to one event per month.  It’s taken the guilt from us for spending the money, we all have a good time trying to stay on budget and for some reason it’s much easier for the kids to process that there’s no money left in the envelope than us saying, “No, you can’t have that.”

We’ve only been doing this for about 2 months, but I’ve been so excited how well it’s working.

Perhaps if the envelope system hasn’t worked for you in the past, some fun play money just might be the trick!

 

Update:

I’ve uploaded our personalized budget template (based off Dave Ramsey’s) for anyone that would like to see it .

I print the second tab every two weeks and keep it on my desk. I use that in conjunction with Mint and the envelopes to stay on track.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6KcRo_9sTric0VyNGpxMWRtUG8/edit?usp=sharing

The ones that are marked in yellow are the ones we have envelopes for and the ones in blue are the ones that get transferred out to a savings account for later use.

 

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Four Words for Christian Parents: Under Your Own Roof

Bennett 2013-4

 

Good Monday morning, friends. I don’t know about you, but in a lot of ways I feel like last week was a long dark, black tunnel.  After being snowed in with the snow storm and working to process terrible news last week, it’s like we lived in some extended world for a little and just this morning I’m feeling like we’re coming back.  Much of it still lingers, but I do feel a path is open to move on.

One phrase has followed me since IF:Gathering weekend and I’m feeling like it’s the phrase God has for me right now.  Just four words: under your own roof.

Jen Hatmaker first spoke these words in her IF:Gathering talk. She spoke about communion in Luke 22 and how the phrase “do this in remembrance of me” actually translates to meaning “constantly make this real.” It means just as Christ was broken and poured out for us, we are now to be the ones constantly being broken and poured out for others.  She said, “the world is looking for someone constantly making it real.”  For her, she found  God leading her to the forgotten and neglected in her homeless community in Texas.  She suggested, though, that we might need to start with those under our own roof.  Are we constantly serving and making Christ real to our spouse and children?

That phrase stuck with me and during our small group time at IF, I shared with my friends that many times God has asked me why I am so willing to spend many hours to research, read, think and write for you guys here and yet, I am not often willing to put in such work for two little girls that he’s entrusted me with for only a few more years.

Just yesterday when I was writing in my journal, I was feeling frustrated that I feel the call to be more intentional with my girls but I am having a hard time connecting.  Don’t get me wrong, we play games together and cook together and read together and talk at bedtime every night, but being super intentional with their spiritual lives isn’t coming easy.

Our pastor yesterday again talked yesterday about what it meant to be a disciple and how we are to go and make disciples.  But how many times, the pressing work that needs done is to make disciples of those under our own roof.

 

I don’t mean to say that we’re to shut out the world and do no ministry outside of our homes.  In fact, how will our children learn to serve if we are not serving? But I do think sometimes we are neglecting what is right in front of us as parents and unwilling to call that ministry too.

If there is one thing I want for my children it is to love the Lord. It is not so that they are perfect in life, but so when they are not perfect, they have a hope.  I want them to make wise choices and love the Lord with all their heart and when they screw up, that they quickly know their sin and turn from it.  I hope they find joy and purpose in Christ.

But here’s the thing. I don’t think this happens by accident.  I don’t think we can sit idly by and hope they figure all that religion stuff out on their own.

 

1 Timothy 6:11 says we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith.  Our faith is a fight.  It doesn’t just happen.  We are to be on the offensive and pursuing what is good.  We have to not just teach our kids that, but model it.  Are we pursuing our own faith? Are we pursuing godliness in our children?

Many times we are leaving it up to bedtime prayers and if we’re part of the small percentage that actually go, to our local children’s church pastors. I don’t say that with condemnation to anyone but myself.

I realize much of our morals and beliefs and habits are passed down just by living life.  But I think there’s something missing when we’re not constantly, intentionally striving to build our children’s faith right in the home.  Part of that will be to take them to the local church, but it cannot be all of it.  Part of that will be to say nightly prayers, but it cannot be all of it.

If I think back to my childhood there are many things that came together to build my faith:

  • I was always able to ask questions about faith.
  • Prayer was central to life.  I listened to my mom pray on the phone, she prayed over me when I was scared, she prayed for me.
  • My mom always was speaking about what the Bible said about any situation.
  • My mom was always listening to sermons outside of Sunday morning.
  • My parents read books to grow in their Christian walk.
  • They played Christian music around the house and in the car and encouraged us as teenagers to do the same.
  • They encouraged and sometimes forced our own quiet devotional times as we got older.
  • They were picky about the friends I surrounded myself with.
  • They took me faithfully to the local church—even when we didn’t want to go.
  • We were forced outside to play and we traveled, giving us an appreciation for nature and God’s creation.
  • They encouraged our gifts and talents and I watched them use their own gifts to serve others.

My parents aren’t the golden standard, but when I look back, I do see that a lot of it is starts with us as parents.  We must be constantly making it real for ourselves and then boldly encouraging—and sometimes forcing–our children to do the same. 

When you look in Scripture, it says that Scripture itself is useful for this. 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

I think, though, that it’s intimidating and confusing on how to make Scripture part of their young lives. Do we just read? Do we memorize?  Do we write it out? Do I have to make crafts? What do we do??

I’d love to hear either what you are doing as a parent to make disciples of your children or what your parents did that helped you.

Show Me How You Love Me: A Valentine’s Day Prayer

 

IMG_2126

I’m writing this in the morning hours of Valentine’s Day. It’s already unlike any that I’ve had.  We’ve been snowed in for three days and so my procrastinating self doesn’t have any presents and candy wrapped for the girls.  Don’t tell Scott but I saw that he bought me flowers on our credit card and I doubt they’ll get delivered due to the snow.   We haven’t made any reservations to go out because I’m not quite sure we can make it out.  But, let me say, I’ve never felt more loved and secure than I do today.

Our marriage has been through some hard times.  I know what it’s like to do the Valentine’s Day stuff because it’s expected.  To have a love for each other as people, but not a love and excitement to celebrate being together.  It is only through God’s faithfulness to me to show me his love and my husband’s forgiveness that we aren’t still in shambles.

I’ve spent much of my life like that with God. Knowing in my head that he loves me, but not truly believing it.  I did things because they were the right things to do.  And sometimes, yes, that’s what obedience calls for.  But, there is freedom when you begin to really believe and live like God loves you.

 

When you live like God loves you, you become generous because God has been generous with you.

You let go of pleasing people because you know of one that delights and sings over you.

You can believe you’re beautiful because you are workmanship of God.

You become content with what you have because you see it all as a gift.

You don’t have to worry because you know He works all things together for your good.

You don’t have to be jealous because you know he gives you what you need when you need.

You can forgive because he first forgave you.

You can let go of your past because he’ll use it for your future.

 

I know those statements to be true because those are the exact things God has brought me through over the last 20 years.  This year, he’s been showing me it’s love that’s made the difference.  He’s been chipping away at my heart with his love, pursuing me in faithfulness.

And that’s the freedom I hope others have.  You don’t have to be a people-pleasing, worried, jealous, angry, bitter, self-loathing person.  Because that’s who I’d be without Christ.

I’ve asked God this year to simply “show me how you love me.”  Because we know it in our head, but we need to believe it in our hearts. I believe the more we see him loving us, the more we can live in His freedom.

He’s shown me in sunrises, in song lyrics, in our finances, in my writing, in prayers, in people.  It’s truly life-changing when you start believing—for real—that God loves you.

 

So, if you’re reading this, take this as a first sign that God is trying to tell you he loves you.  Take that and then pray, “show me how you love me.”  What a perfect day for Him to start.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends.  I love you, too.