Monthly Archives: September 2014

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10 Benefits of Contentment when Finances are Tight

Philippians 4:11-13

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 

My family and I have walked through what could have been a daunting time the last 8 months. My husband didn’t have a real job, we have 3 kids (1 is a new baby), my husband was finishing school, and we had many other unknowns in our life. To see why and how, read THIS post. As we have gone through this time and are now standing on the cliff of the other side, I have been realizing how much my thinking has changed in many areas. Trials (whether big or small) change us and they are (and should be viewed as) an exciting time as God molds us into who He wants us to be. (Isaiah 64:8  But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.)

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I grew up the daughter of a pharmacist. I commend my parents in many ways for being careful with money and not spending foolishly, so this experience the last several months has been a first for me. Maybe some of what I’m going to write will sound naïve that I’m just realizing these things, or maybe it will sound foreign to you, but whatever your circumstance, I hope it encourages you to view possessions and circumstances differently. To view them as gifts from God and to view each decision as an opportunity lovingly bestowed upon you from a faithful and good God who is gently teaching you and molding you into who He wants you to be. If you have the opportunity to buy something new—praise Him. If you have the opportunity to go without—praise Him.


A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
Psalm 121:1-8

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

So today, I’m going to share with you some of the ways my thinking has changed over these months with the goal of simply encouraging you.

1.         I am LEARNING to be content with what I have rather than looking for new things to need or buy. Even though there are things I would still like, the fashion game (both in clothing and décor) is endless. At some point, we must choose to be content. I’m not out of it yet, but the concept is very freeing.

 

2.         I view all household projects, craft projects, and cooking activities differently. Rather than seeing the “need” to go and buy something to make the project work, I look first at whether or not I need to do the project at all. If I don’t, I view it as a freeing opportunity to do something else. If I do need to do it, I first look for ways to do it for free. If I don’t have all the ingredients for example, can I substitute? Or can I skip that ingredient altogether? Or is there a similar recipe I could use instead? If it’s a decorating or craft project I try to think of materials to substitute. Can I cut up an old skirt or bed sheet I don’t use any more? Can I use a different tool or decorative piece than the example? What do I have in my own home that could possibly work or be changed in some way to work? To whet your palette for this topic, I recently re-decorated our living room for FREE. A post will be coming soon!

 

3.         I LOVE couponing! However, I’ve started to realize it’s okay if I don’t even look through the Sunday paper for an entire week. It’s okay if some of my coupons get behind on being filed, or if I miss a blog post from some of my favorite couponing sites. Those deals WILL come back. Thankfully, they seem to operate on this wonderful cycle. I am learning to trust that GOD will supply all of our needs even if I don’t MAKE it happen through a particularly amazing coupon deal. Time and time again, over these months, I have missed a deal only to be handed the exact thing we needed at the exact time or for someone to hand us money to cover those needs when we least expected it. God is bigger than couponing.

 

4.         I have learned to look around my home and realize it’s okay if things aren’t perfect. It’s okay if I want something to make it better and I have to wait to have it. Maybe my desire will change or maybe the item I need will change. I can be content with what I have. I still have my desires. I still want to have nice things, but I don’t have to be driven by finding a way to get them. I can rest and know there is no rush. Maybe someday I’ll reach the non-desiring stage! :-)

 

5.         I’m learning to be creative—quite a feat for me!! Not creative in craft projects, (necessarily) but in how I provide the things we need. For example, I have started to keep almost all receipts. Right now, my 2 year old almost always stays dry when she sleeps, so we are going through less than half the diapers I had anticipated. My 3 year old son still goes when he sleeps, but soaks through often too. He must need a bigger size. My 7 month old, simply needs new diapers. I have an abundance of size 4 diapers for our current needs for the week. What can I do to provide for my family?

I bagged up an extra package of size 4 and a package of size 5 diapers, with the receipt, and I’m taking them to CVS to exchange them for size 3 and size 6 of the same brand. This will get us comfortably through another week or so and I am going to spend ZERO dollars!

Just to add to the fun of this: Next week, Walgreens will have their diapers on sale 2/$11 and there is a $1.50 off coupon available with 2 prints per printer. I happen to have an old gift card left from an exchange several weeks ago. That will nearly cover the diaper cost which will get us through another 2 weeks of diapers with less than $2 output total! Bottom line: Over a month of diapers for THREE kids for less than $2. I could have gone to Target and picked up diapers, but instead I get to learn creativity. God is so good!

This general concept has happened multiple times over the last several months. Fun side note: If you forget to use a coupon when you checkout at CVS, you can take it back with your receipt and they will give you cash! J

 

6.         My husband and I have begun to view work as a good and exciting thing. There are no more Moan and Groan Mondays for us! We even look for opportunities to work and we tell others when we can work rather than it being a laborious and disappointing task. Our children have been learning about communism and socialism vs. capitalism this week. It has been exciting to share with them the importance of working for our money. They too have been enjoying the fact that Daddy can work to provide for us.

 

7.         My family and I are becoming increasingly familiar with the free lists of things to do online. Not just in our own city, but in others where we have traveled as well. Because we are intentionally trying to find a free activity to do or free event to attend, we are spending more time together than when we just did whatever and the financial side didn’t matter as much. I think it’s because we are becoming more intentional with everything we do. I challenge you to look up “free things to do in________ (your city).” You WILL be amazed at all the options! And it’s not just like a picnic in your backyard—there are free museums, tours, outdoor movies, swimming pools, kids’ craft projects, concerts, zoos, and even dining locations! It’s amazing!

 

8.         Kids love to get STUFF. Who doesn’t, I guess. I am realizing that I COULD take my kids to Target, browse the aisles and let them each pick out a toy, OR I could take them to a FREE event in my community and let them go to the different “freebie tables” as we call them.  Just in the last several weeks, we attended National Night Out, Battle of the Badges Barbecue, the Fire Department’s Open House, and the State Fair all for free. At EACH of these events my children not only participated in TONS of fun activities, but they also came home with bags of stuff—and I did too. We’re talking: bouncy balls, frisbees, pencils, sunglasses, back packs, multiple food items, stickers, books, dollar store toys of their choice, washable tattoos, stuffed animals, fireman hats, police badges, coloring books, hula hoops, and TONS more. Everything I have listed, was 100% free (and I barely scratched the surface, but I think you get the idea!) :-)

 

9.         I have discovered that I don’t have to purchase expensive materials for my children’s schooling. Pretty much everything they need can be found on Pinterest these days. How did we ever survive before Pinterest??? (like 3 years ago! Ha!) Admittedly, this may not work for everyone, but there is A LOT on there and it has been beneficial for me to check Pinterest before Amazon.

 

10.       I am attempting to be creative when it comes to ways to help others. Do I have to provide food or a tangible gift, or can I provide time or a service? Some people don’t have time to clean or complete a project, but if you do, that may be the biggest blessing of all. If you do provide a meal, there are so many you can make from your pantry without spending much (if any money). I actually have an article coming soon on that topic.

 

I share all of this, not so you’ll look at me or my family’s situation, but to encourage you. To encourage you to be excited about whatever trial God has presented you with and to know that He is lovingly shaping you to be who He wants you to be. To encourage you to praise Him in whatever storm you are in. To encourage you to step outside of a financial box and to find creative ways to do things. To encourage you to praise God for the situation he’s given you!

 

-Lydia

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The Biggest Danger of the Mommy Blogs

8:15 last night:

Our house was a disaster. (Like every room – including food and garbage- type of disaster.)

Supper was drying on the uncleared dishes.

Half the groceries were still on the counter from earlier. (I had managed to put most of the refrigerated items away.

Errands went long. (Like the door greeter at Walmart laughed when he saw me leave and said “You’re STILL here?” type long.)

Nap time was given up after an hour of trying to get my 4 little bouncing beans to keep their heads ON THEIR PILLOWS. (Seriously, it was like one of those groundhog bonking games where you are supposed to keep them all in their holes with a padded mallet – and you bonk one, and then another pops up…)

And the kids FINALLY went to bed …45 minutes late.

It was at this low moment (when I should have stopped to pray for strength and focus) that I did what I have done far too many times.

I raced to my beloved laptop to check favorite blogs and to ‘connect.’

To ‘socialize.’

To ‘like’ and ‘be liked.’

I’m not the only mom who does this.

Surrounded by dishes and tantrums, I too often find myself, at the first moment of reprieve, reaching out – hoping for someone to understand – to put into words the discouragement, the hopes, the fears and the joys of my messy, lonely life.

I think this is why stay at home moms make up one of the biggest group of blog readers on the internet.

We are lonely.

We are really longing for someone to relate to.

(And we are too tired to drag the kids off every week to join a MOPS group, and too poor to hire a babysitter more then a couple times a year.)

But there is danger in the Mommy Blogs. I’d never thought about it until I started writing my own blog. But now I have to voice it, and I’d really love to get your thoughts on it.

We always hear about how the mommy blogs can cause envy - of the woman who has the Martha Stewart-type house, cooks 100% from scratch and runs a thriving home business while raising 6 children (who always look like models and never sin.)

We also hear about how these blogs can cause discouragement because no one really has it altogether. It’s just easier to make it look like you do when your blog only records carefully selected pictures and stories.

However, I think the BIGGEST danger of blogs (and all social media) is much closer to the heart.

We Use Blogs to Fill Heart Needs That They are NOT Meant to Fill.

Tired and lonely, we head to the computer when we are spiritually struggling or needing fellowship.

1. We use blogs to fill our spiritual needs.

Rather than retreat to our Bible and reach up toward the One Who will fill our longing souls with His grace, we turn first to our computers.

We do find something in the Christian blogs, but it is like a crumb of food in comparison with the meat of His Word that would fill our starving souls.

These blogs are convicting and spiritually encouraging, but our first moments should be spent filling up on Him, and our later moments could be given to the words of wise Christian sisters.

(To be honest, in my lowest moments as a mom, I have the hardest time picking up my Bible. I may have just yelled at my kids; I may have let the house slip and be struggling with guilt and discouragement. I don’t feel holy enough for God. I would much rather find a blogger mom who I can relate to and yet keep a safe distance from. It is these darkest times though, that I need His pure words the most.)

2. We use blogs to fill our friendship needs.

Rather than reach for the phone and call a friend with whom we can share deep and meaningful conversation, we start surfing through posts.

Rather than looking for friends in our community who will come into our home and know us for who we really are and with whom we can share experiences, we use technology to make ‘connections’ digitally.

But cyber friends can often be smoke and mirrors. Someone with a thousand ‘friends’ can be one of the loneliest.

We become very attached to our favorite bloggers – even though they barely know us. We send our comments out to them with all the love and care of our bestie.

(I’ve completely done this. I checked one of my favorite blogs routinely when her baby was due last year, and when a different favorite blogger failed to respond to a personal message, I was deeply hurt.)

And virtual medias can even distance us from our real friends. We feel like we’re keeping up with our friends because we check up on how their children are growing on Facebook, but we haven’t had a worthwhile conversation with them in 3 years.

And there is a difference. A former roommate on the other end of the phone, knows your struggles and can call you on it if you are wallowing in self-pity. A blog can often convict and encourage us, but it cannot do what a friend does. It’s not meant to.

Blogs DO have their purpose.

As long as we don’t depend on them to fill unprecedented positions, blogs can be a great blessing – adding to our days worthwhile thoughts and encouraging conversations!

My blog has helped me connect with sweet sisters from my past and also make some new friends. I do hope for future conversations and friendships!

So in their place and fulfilling their purpose, blogs (and all social media), are useful and fun!

The main thing is to use blogs as blogs.

Our relationship needs must be filled by relationships!

So as I walk away from this post, I want  to commit myself to go to God when I am filled with loneliness rather than surfing aimlessly through Mommy blogs, and then I hope to call or email a friends who will encourage me, instead of quick checking Facebook statuses.

And dear sister may I encourage you also, when you find yourself with a rare moment of silence, to pause BEFORE reaching for the computer. Instead, pick up your Bible and fill your need tank from the friendship that will be forever – and then maybe reach for the phone to call the old friend you’ve been meaning to call.

 

-Verity

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No sew baby doll sling in 5 minutes!

Has anyone else noticed the rising trend of mothers who wear their babies? We have worn all three of our children and I love it, but I’m amazed by how many people tell me “I wish they’d had something like that when I was raising my children,” or “they sure do come up with great ideas these days.” In reality, baby wearing has been around for many, many years, but I think Americans are just reclaiming it in the last decade or so. That said, our daughters see us (and many other mamas) wearing our babies and they want to wear their babies as well. I looked up no sew baby slings for some ideas and found the concept HERE. I felt pretty silly that I hadn’t come up with it myself! It’s so easy and I was able to do it for both my kids using items I had around the house, so the best part was (drum roll please!) it was FREE and only took FIVE minutes!! :-)

 

Here’s how you can do it too!

 

  • Strip of fabric that will wrap around your child from one should to under the other arm and have enough space to stick a doll or stuffed animal in it. (Maybe 1 ½ yards??)

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I actually used an old skirt I didn’t need anymore; cut in half and cut the waistband off. I then cut down the side seam so it would just be a strip of fabric. Unless the fabric frays really easily, it should be fine.

  • Fabric Scissors
  • 3 rings. I used those plastic connecting rings found in the baby toy section of stores for like $2. They come in packages of about 36 I think.image

This picture shows the portion I cut out of the skirt and then you can see where I cut down the side seam.

 

Next, I put the strip of fabric on my son with all three rings near one end of the fabric. I brought the fabric up from the other end and thread it through the rings from the bottom to the top. (So you have fabric going both directions through the 3 rings.) Then, I pushed that same section of fabric (the one that came from the bottom) back through the bottom ring only to hold it in place.image

 

A few adjustments and a baby, and my kiddos now have ring slings to carry their babies in just like me! :-)

 

I tell ya’ the things they come with these days! :-)

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Annual stepping stone footprints

image“They grow so fast.” How many times have you heard a thoughtful grandmother share this precious truth with you? I even find myself saying it now. We have baby books, first pieces of hair, mementos, and billions of pictures of our children as we desperately try to savor each valuable moment of their childhood before it slips away into the past. It’s easy to get caught up in clutter as we try to save things from our child’s childhood, so today I’m hoping to share a useful idea with you that will still be precious and meaningful for years to come—you don’t even have to keep it in your house! :-)

 

imageThis is the third year my children and I have made salt dough footprints in the hopes of making a stepping stone path someday when we live in a house long term. At first I thought I probably wouldn’t stick with it or I’d forget each year, but it has been so easy and fun that I don’t forget! We do it about the 3rd week of August since that seems to be a good time for us as the summer winds down and we get ready for another school year.

I use basic salt dough. Nothing special. Depending on the size of your stone, it’s roughly 1 recipe per stone.

 

The first 2 years I used this recipe:

1 cup salt

1 cup white flour

½ cup warm water

Mix or knead until dough forms. Bake at 200 for several hours until hardened.

This year I used this recipe:

1 cup white flour

½ cup salt

½ cup water

1 tablespoon oil

Mix or knead until dough forms. Bake at 200 for several hours until hardened.

Just to give you a heads up: It took us 8 hours to bake ours this year!

Both recipes are fine (and there are many others out there) but I really liked working with the recipe that includes the oil. They, by far, turned out to be our best stones yet. That said, they are a bit darker than in the past.

This year I put parchment paper on the cookie sheet before baking, and other than a slightly reveled affect on the back of the stones, I LOVED the result. No sticking and perfect stones! I write each of the kids’ first initial and the month and year so we can keep track easily without it taking away from the footprint.

The size is up to you. When we first started, my son was 22 months and my daughter was only 5 months, so my stones were very small. I guess the growth factor didn’t occur to me. Last year, I made the same “mistake,” so this year I’ve decided that my stones will just grow each year with my son’s feet, and I’m okay with that. I actually think it’s kind of cool to have growing stones!

It has become a special tradition to pull the stones out each year and look back at how much each of the child’s feet has grown and remember their year. Someday, when I’m old and gray and my children are grown, I will be able to look back at many years of footprints and remember the years they were so small.

 

-Lydia

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Easy Castle Ice Cream Cake

Is there anything better then a castle cake?

A castle ICE CREAM cake!

And this one is super easy!

I saw the picture of this cake online (though I don’t know where the original source was. There were many websites with the basic design.) But my son had requested an ice-cream cake.

So my mom suggested this super easy stacking ice-cream cake.

It was easy, fool-proof, and FUN to assemble. The kids even helped with most of it!

Ingredients:

- 12-18 Hershey’s Bars (Buy 3 six packs to be safe)

- Oreos or Oreo-like cookies

- 9X13 Cake Mix

- Half Gallon Ice Cream

- Frosting

(Optional) Sprinkles

(Optional) Toy

- I’ve also seen this where they used a Kit Kat bar for a drawbridge

(Admittedly, the one thing this cake is NOT is cheap. It costs between $15 – $25!)

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9X13 cake cut in half

 

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Level the cake off

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Cut ice-cream in half and stack between the cake and then stack the other cake piece on top.

 

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Put cake in freezer (I had to put it in several times so the ice-cream would not melt.)

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Make a sugar and milk paste

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Stack oreo-like cookies to make columns sandwiching the paste in-between the cookies.

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Enlist kids to help (They are really good at breaking apart all the Hershey bricks.)

Have lots of fun snitching chocolate with kids until everyone is sick.

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Assemble cake!

(I forgot to take pictures of actually assembling it. :-/ )

You frost the cake part. (The frosting will NOT stick to the ice-cream,but the Hersheys bricks stick just fine!)

Then line up the Hershey’s pieces as pictured.

Add the columns.

(Optional) Sprinkle

(Optional) Add Toy

Voila!

 

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This tastes really, really good too.

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It was a big hit! :-)

-Verity