Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So are you growing?

So today I am going to look at the “growth” that we might be experiencing. These are the suggested things from the book Never Mind the Joneses which inspired this financial fast. So let's take a look.

Increased Opportunities for Generosity of our time, talent and treasure. The biggest increase of opportunity for generosity has been our time. One of the goals in our spiritual growth process is to have an "outward face". When we start looking at others instead of ourselves the use or our times has become apparent. We spend a lot of time on ourselves on a daily basis. I am not talking about showering and commuting, I mean TV Watching, shopping and the like. When we put those things lower on our list of priorities our calendar becomes more open and we recognize that our time can be shared. As we have read through scripture we notice that Jesus was a great example of how to give of your time. Even when He was hungry or tired He put others before Himself.

Living Simply. This has been relatively easy for us. We have cleaned out some of the nooks and crannies in our house, used up food from the pantry and not added anything to our home. Living simply also provides us with more time to be generous with. We have more than ample living space but it is not huge. We also don't spend as much time cleaning our space as we would a larger space. That 'extra' time can be used to give to others.

Counting our Blessings. Absolutely! We have been through some ups and downs in our journey. We have definitely been tempted to spend above and beyond our budget. However, we have also been reminded of how much we have. We have a lovely home that is very comfortable, we have clothes that keep us warm as fall approaches and we have plenty of food to keep us full. We have so many blessings that we are able to share with others by providing a meal, donating our clothing and sharing our home.

Daily Prayer. We have seen a big change in this area of our lives. We have made a big effort to spend more time praying out loud. Now for some people this is a very comfortable, easy thing and for others it is not. We are a mix of comfort and discomfort when it comes to praying out loud. What has driven us to do more praying out loud, besides this fast, has been the desire to set an example. We pray at dinner together as a family. It is an easy opportunity for us to be an example to our son and we hope that by doing these things now our son will not have the discomfort of praying out loud that we have experienced.

Today's challenge is to look at one of the above areas and see where you are struggling or perhaps were you are excelling. What can you improve and how will you improve on it? Make a decision today to take action and allow God to show you what amazing things He has in store for you!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

So, are you learning contentment?

Let's take a second to circle back. This journey was sparked by a discussion on contentment, having a spirit of contentment that would then spur us on to other things in our life. (If you weren't there from the start you can read about it here.)

So, here is a commentary on how things are going:

We will spend on necessities (groceries, house payment, etc.)
So far so good. We have done an incredible job staying within our budget, this one has been pretty easy.

We will spend on events we have already committed to (a dinner with a friend, a Sunday brunch)
We have done this and I am so glad we have. I am so encouraged by the time we spend with friends, neighbors and members of our church community. Their encouragement, support, prayers and love are overwhelming each and every time we are with them.

We will replace “doing” with “being” - taking the time and money we spend doing things for ourselves to be something to others. This may involve being a family, being a better neighbor, being in prayer, etc.
On a scale of 1-10, 10 being an amazing success, I would say this is about a 4. We could really work harder at this. We have taken the time to spend time with neighbors and be more involved in our church. BUT we have not pushed ourselves to the limits. We have not forces ourselves out of the house and into the community as much as we had hoped. The challenge is not over but perhaps this will take a little more than 45 days of commitment.

We will eliminate unnecessary things in our life - starting by cutting down the cable TV package we have.
I feel like this has been easier than I thought. I have started going through our house and deep cleaning closets, we have eaten from the pantry and have been very careful to not 'add' anything to our home. On review, we have everything we really need plus some and I am immensely grateful.

We will say no to doing activities that focus on us and instead say yes to doing activities that focus on others.
We have done well here. We have really been able to say no to some activities that would have been very self-satisfying. We have also been able to say yes to activities that help us get to know others, especially our neighbors. The act of saying no is much easier than I had originally thought.

We will actively seek counsel from others and God’s guidance for this specific task of fasting and learning about contentment.
This is a big resounding yes. We have seen the time that our family spends reading God's Word, praying and listening really grow. The time we have spent seeking God has shown us what a difference it makes in our daily living.

These are today's points to ponder. Tomorrow I would like to take a look at the other part of the commitment taken from the initial reading and see specific results it has produced...Have we...

-Increased Opportunities for Generosity (of our time, talent and treasure)
-Lived Simply (not being cheap, but being simple)
-Counted our Blessings (being thankful)
-Prayed Daily

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Power of a Favor

One of the things that is hard to gauge on the necessity scale is babysitting. Now if you are a non-parent don't run away yet, keep reading.

The Occasion

There are occasions that we could take Keller with us and skip the babysitter, usually we take him. Then there are other occasions that we could take him but it would be easier not to, one of those occasions is a Bible Study we attend. Although in the past we have brought him and kids are welcome to attend, we have usually opted to leave him at home. For us it helps us focus on the study and it helps him get to bed on time.

I never really thought about it being an extra expense. Up until recently we had a dear friend watch Keller at no charge. Now she is busy on the nights of the study and we are paying a sitter. Now don't get me wrong, we are choosing to have a sitter and it is someone who loves and cares for Keller so we are absolutely ok with this decision. What struck me about the situation was that we have never paid for the privilege of having this consistent time together.

I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to our friends who watches Keller and there are several. I can not say that enough. For the folks who have done this for us THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

The Challenge

It isn't until you are on the other side of the fence that maybe you can appreciate the things that people do for you. So here is the challenge -

1. If you are the recipient of a free service make sure to show your gratitude to the person serving you.

2. If you have the opportunity to provide a free service occasionally, do it. It means more than you know.

3. If you are the service provider please know that you are appreciated more than thanks or payment could ever show! Thank you!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And we're back!

After a few days of not updating I am back in full force. As a family we have just been busy. Friday was game night, Saturday we were all home together all day, Sunday was church and then the week was off and running.

During our time together we have spent some time reviewing our "normal" budget and also finishing up a book on values (Never Mind the Joneses by Tim Stafford). As a family we live what we would consider pretty simply. We enjoy being together as a family, eating meals together and just being a part of the local happenings in our neighborhood. However, we could live simpler. We could ditch the TV, scale back our cell phone plan and even cut back on entertainment.

To Cut Back or Not to Cut Back?

Why don't we? The simple answer is we don't want to and we don't have to. That sounds a bit selfish and it is. There are some things that we are privileged to be able to have or do. It becomes selfish when we want "our stuff" over being able to give generously to others, participate in our community and serve God.

The idea of this fast is to draw closer to God by giving up some of those extras. It has helped. We are able to see where we spend our money and see where we could be more active in giving generously, participating and above all our service and relationship with God. There are some things in our lives that we are being more intentional about and honestly, we aren't missing the extras near as much as we thought we would.

Be Intentional

So, take a look at the extras in your budget. Are there things that control you? Would you be wiling to give up those things if it meant being able to serve God with all your heart? Can you be more intentional about putting God first?

Luke 12:34
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Using the Pantry...

I will admit, I don't cook. The best reason for this is that my husband is a professional chef and I cannot compare (trust me on this one, his boxed mac and cheese tastes better than mine!). However, we are going to hang out with some friends and are taking an appetizer along. Steve has class so I volunteered to make the appetizer. After a long silence and deep breath he agreed that this was okay.


Now, in an attempt to stay out of the store and stick to the challenge I have been reviewing our food situation. There are things in our pantry that I have never heard of before and then there are the everyday items. There are also the "sometimes" items like cupcake wrappers and ginger candies.

After a search of the pantry I realized there is enough stuff in there for several different appetizers and none of them will take away from our regular daily menu. I am so excited. Who knew that those shelves had "extra" stuff on them!?!

I am once again reminded that we as a family have more than enough. We are not struggling to eat. What a great blessing to not only eat but have more than enough and be able to share it with friends.

The Challenge

So, go to the kitchen and take a look. Do you have extras? Are there items that you know you aren't going to use that you could share with others? Clean out that pantry! Plan a meal with neighbors or friends. If you don't feel like doing that, please take your nonperishable items to your local food pantry. There are plenty of families that would be happy to have your extras!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I like all things convenient. It is probably one of the reasons I like living in the city, everything is just around the corner. The only problem with this is that it allows me to spend all the time, there is always something to "grab" on my way home.

Well, today was my first collision with convenience. For the third day in a row I left my trusty headphones at home. On any normal day in my life I would just stop by Walgreen's on my way to work, spend $10 and go about my day. Not today. Today I just walked to work and didn't stop.

I learned two things about myself today. First, as previously noted during this fast, planning ahead pays off. If I would have put my headphones with my bag last night before bed I wouldn't have even been tempted to stop. This seems like a simple thing but in the evening when I am focused on getting the little guy to bed and making sure the house is in livable condition, planning ahead is not a top priority. I should work on that.

Second, I realized how much my surroundings impact me. This is not earth shattering in any way, but it is eye opening on this particular day. My surroundings enable me to by lazy and acquire more "things" than I need. Do I really need two pairs of headphones. Obviously not since I only have one set of ears.

So the challenge for today is to take a minute and really think about your surroundings. Where do you live? Where do you work? What conveniences do you use more than you should? You might be surprised like I was about how much you have conformed to the world around you.

As Christians we are reminded to be mindful of these things:

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In a Box...

This commentary may be a little off topic but has been weighing on me so here we go!

Several people have asked us if we have seen or felt the results of our fast yet. Well, to be completely honest our goal has been to let go and let God (yes as cliche at it may seem, it is true). We entered this fast time expecting to learn, nothing more. We expected to learn about ourselves in regards to our needs and wants and to learn about God and His desires. Now that I look back on that it is a bit limiting to tell God you only want to learn about needs, wants and desires and nothing else. As if seeing Him move in other ways was not allowed.

Well, once again God reminds us that He cannot be contained by our rules and guidelines. God showed up in a big way. We have done our share of learning and we are beyond excited to share all those things. BUT we have also been humbled by those who have given to us, blessed by those who have shared with us and re-energized in our exploration of God's word. All things we did not expect but are grateful to have.

So, next time you commit to seeking God be preapred, when you seek you will find, even if it is more than you bargained for!

Just as Jesus said

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7