17 December 2014

Thankful For the Strength to Cry

I had started feeling tired in the middle of church on Sunday. Unusual because I had a good night's sleep Saturday. Monday, I could barely get out of bed. I had fought a fever all night and it prevailed in the morning. 102. Children's Motrin has been keeping it at bay, but only just so. A visit to the doctor and a chest xray. Pneumonia?

I really don't care what they want to call it. It's intruding!

I've been in bed since Monday evening. Keeping time with my meds. The cough is productive. Not excruciatingly painful. No sore throat (thank God! I hate sore throats). Tonight, I don't know if it was leftover sentiment from watching Little Women, but I cried. Like a baby. Only not so shrieky.

I prayed. Of course I want this to be over and done, but by God's Grace, I asked that I can be taught from this. And even if I had to endure fever for another week, that He would comfort me. Be careful what you ask for.

I swelled with emotion, thinking about why on earth would God choose to experience our sufferings. Of course, I deserve death itself, but He didn't do anything wrong. Then maybe I got a little shrieky in a whispering fashion (of course) when I realized that I even had the strength to cry.

I had been so weak these days that I really haven't been able to cry in anguish. I'm still fighting fever, but I am becoming less weak. I've been told by a few people that I look much better today (of course anything looks better than the corpse style I've been sporting as of late).

I know that meds will only do what God allows them to do. And I know that no matter what, He gets the glory. I hope that I can share that hope with you.

It's the Christmas season and we are all so busy. Busy forgetting that we have so much to be thankful for. Even the pain. We should be thankful for the pain on this side of Glory. God Himself chose to walk in my shoes and die the death meant for me so that I can be blameless in His sight and live life eternally with Him.

Thank God for the strength to cry today. It is temporary only for those whom He has called. They are the ones who bear  His name, seek to obey Him, and to share His love. The rest of the world won't get it until it's too late.

07 November 2014

What day is it?!

Okay, so it's....uh....Friday?!

I started my gratitude challenge on Wednesday and didn't get to continue on Thursday. Heh.
This is how I commit.

Well, I'm going to double-up tonight.  I just got home from Bible study and I'm watching Frequency (good movie) with my foster family (;-P).  I'm also supposed to be doing 20 sit-ups, 20 toe touches, and 20 bicycles before I go to bed (my abs hurt just thinking about it).

So DAY 2 (should have been yesterday):

Use the alphabet as a fun and quick format for making a list of things for which you feel grateful. Share this list with your social network through email, a blog post or a Facebook or MySpace page.

I'm not sure how many things I am supposed to list...but here goes...

B: Brianna.  My second baby.  My good eater who will not starve to death, even if there was nothing but rocks to eat.  This girl is almost like my twin, but way more awesome and loving than I am.  She sacrifices for her siblings and even her parents.
C: Chocolate.  'Nuff said.
D: Divorce.  I know.  God hates it and so do I, but my divorce from my ex-husband has given way to tremendous growth.  I've learned only by God's grace to see myself as He sees me (as best I can) through the promises in His Word and by the work He's done through Jesus Christ.  I no longer crave the approval of the people around me, I've developed a voice, and I've discovered that I'm a precious jewel to Him.  I've also divorced myself and am made new in Christ Jesus.
E: Extended family.  My in-laws (or ex-in-laws?) are some really cool people.  I'm thankful to have become part of the family and that they still like me.  They have been a big part in the lives of my children.  I love them.
F: Fellowship.  I'm thankful for the friends and extended family that God has placed in my life.  I have grown immensely because of the encouragement and the fellowship.
G: Gardening.  I've not have some big crops, but I would love to keep at it with growing my own food.  Gardening brings about some good metaphors about life, too. Wheat and tare.
J: Jesus Christ.  He is the reason alone I can keep going.  When I tell people why I'm a Christian, I can't help but tell them that it's because when you compare all the gods out there and all the "great people," none compare to Jesus.  He is the only all-powerful being who would come down and walk more than a mile in my shoes, then take my death sentence so that I can be made pure and blameless.
L: The Lock-Mess family.  I don't know another group of people with such heart.  God has placed these people at the right time, it seems, in my life.  I have been so strengthened by them and feel that they are truly my family, too.
P: Parents.  I'm thankful for my father and mother.  They didn't always do everything right (who does?), but they always did what they could and they are still going strong today.
R: Ryan Nathaniel.  Given the middle name Nathaniel because it means "gift of God,"  I will never forget the circumstances of his coming into the world.  In the midst of sorrow and confusion, God has shown mercy on me and blessed me with Ryan.
T: Terri.  I'm totally thankful for my first baby.  Terri's personality is a bit different from mine, but she is my heart.  She demonstrates a strong desire to do more and to do it all well.  I look forward to continuing to nurture her.
U: Umbrellas.  I've come to appreciate the umbrella.  Now that I've gone natural, I sometimes straighten my hair.  When I do that, moisture is not my friend.
W: the Word.  Without it, I couldn't know about Jesus.
Y: Yarn.  So versatile.  I've learned to crochet, then started learning to knit (haven't yet gotten the hang of it), and I learned some other uses for yarn, that just make life so interesting.
Z: Zemma.  I'm not really thankful for this woman, but I'm thankful for the education I've received through my interactions with her.  I've grown to be a fighter.  I've learned that I will not back down when it comes to my children. I think in time, I will be truly thankful for her (and perhaps more gracious toward her), as I'm continuing to grow in my understanding of God's plan (which graciously includes our stupid mistakes).

Okay...I can't really think of any more with the remaining letters, but I'm realizing that I've got more to be thankful for than I thought.


Write about something you feel grateful for in your life today.

I'm thankful that I made it to Bible study tonight ^_^.  It's the little things...I know...

Well, that concludes the gratitude challenge activities for today (and yesterday).  If you are still reading, even after I posted so much, thanks.  I don't know why you keep reading my rantings, but thank you.  Tomorrow, I have a meeting in the morning, then Skype with the kiddos in the afternoon/evening.  Sunday, I've got an all-day affair with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Monday, I'm taking off work to head to the courthouse and file my response to Mike's petition for child support.  Yes, he is still trying to get me to pay him child support (this time, he may actually be in financial need).  I'm trying to be thankful for this, too, if you can imagine.  I'm not really in a position to maintain a home here (let alone, send money down there).  However, every decision I've made up to this point has been with my kiddos in mind.  I'm trying to find other sources of income so I can really provide for them...but...I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not really the provider (God, of course is).  

I can't wait to see what He does next!

04 November 2014

The Gratitude Challenge

I was nominated by my sister-in-law, Kathy, on September 9th.  I finally remembered that I was committed to do this!

Over 30 days later, today I will start my 21-day challenge!

I'm looking to add some lifelong habits to my life.  I want to make a conscious change in my perspective.  I've been feeling like I don't have much to be happy or thankful for.  I know this is a straight up lie, because my God is God and He rules over my life.  Because of Him, I've made it through so much.

I think this challenging my gratitude will help me to focus more on the blessings that come through storms, tears, and pain.  I know that I'm being refined through the hardships, but I forget.  I keep forgetting that I am never forsaken or forgotten.  That everything works for the greater good.  I know the darkness of night comes before the morning light.  But I'm forgetful.  I'm just as bad as the apostles (who walked with Jesus, yet still struggled with unbelief at times) or worse sometimes.

I will also be starting the 4-week Before Amen prayer challenge (I'm waiting for my e-book to arrive in my email as I speak!).  There are several things I can see going horribly wrong in my life right now in my walk with Jesus.  I need to pray more. What kind of relationship can I say I have with God if I don't talk to Him daily?

So, in my efforts to saturate myself in His Word and communicate more with Him:

* Chronological Bible in a year reading plan: I've never read the entire Bible.  I should do this at least a few times in my life, right?  I'm about halfway through it now.
* 4-week Before Amen prayer challenge: To jump-start my prayer life and build my communication to God.  I can be awkward communicating with people, I should not be awkward communicating with God.
* The Gratitude Challenge: 21 days to focus on what's good, in spite of what's bad.
* 30 Days of Adoration: This will actually be done in the future with my children.  It's a free printable devotional.  I will take a look at it myself before I go at it with my babies.

I intend to get started here with these things and grow...

No matter how busy life gets.  However crazy it seems, I must make the time to devote to God.

07 October 2014

Too Blessed to be Stressed

You know those memes, bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc. that say "too blessed to be stressed"?

Well, I hate them.

...and yet at the same time, they're not so bad.

I mean, think about it.  Where do we get to thinking that because we have blessings, we don't have stress?  I mean, come on!  Even the best vacation requires a lot of planning and attention to small details so that you can ensure your luggage doesn't end up in another location and you actually arrive at the right hotel.

What exactly is stress?  It's emotional strain that stems from demanding circumstances.  Basically, it could be anything.  It could even be something that you don't realize is happening to you.  I was diagnosed with panic attacks a few years ago.  I didn't even realize that I was under stress.  Boy, did my body know all to well!  It was then that I actually started to take a look at my life.  I saw where I had come from, what I was doing, and where I was going.  I realized that I really did have a lot on my plate!  It wasn't until I was made aware of what was going on, that I could properly deal.

Some stress is self-made.  Some stress is not.  But what about the blessings?  Do they counter the stress?  Well, maybe...

What is a blessing?  A blessing is God's providence.  He provides our needs (not us).  He sees to it that things happen, according to His plan, for our good.  That doesn't mean that we'll never face trials or feel pain.  Sometimes, we need those things.  They help to shape and grow us closer to Him.  Think about it.  If everything you did went right, would you learn anything?  I don't think so.  It's interesting how we learn when we make mistakes.  We tend to pay more attention to details when we risk getting hurt or screwing up a project big time.

01 October 2014

Not Home Yet

Something we don't like to do as human beings is roam for too long.

Even the most vagabond-ish person, would like to have something stable and comfortable.  We all long for home.  I hate to break it to ya, but you're not home yet.

I just moved this past weekend from my house of 4 1/2 years to stay with a friend and her family.  You know all the complaints I've been doing about being able to afford my rent (in public housing, believe it or not) and save money.  A good friend of mine offered for me to stay with her, so that I could save money for a little while and get back out there again.

I've experienced a range of emotions in the last month.  I was distressed that my rent had spiked and I could no longer afford it.  Trust me, if there was any more cutting back I could do...I would have.  I have been operating on the bare minimum (with a couple very small unnecessaries).  The idea of moving from my supposed stable, government-funded home for that of uncertain future possibilities scares the crap out of me.

Did I really have to pack up a three-bedroom home and move into a room in someone else's home?  What about all the stuff that I've accumulated over the years?  It is true, that I started out with nothing. I've been working hard, and whatnot, but that really isn't the point.

The point is that this earth is not our final destination.  We're just passing through.  The pains joys of moving is one of those reminders that we will be given a home that we don't have to build.  You also can't forget that you're not in control anyway.

Trust me, if there is anyone that knows about control...it would be me.

Seriously.  Every time I think I've got this great plan...you know...the one that will finally work out.  Something changes.  Making me realize that no matter the plans I have for myself, I can't plan anything better than God.  It's true!

31 August 2014

Death and the Dying

So morbid...I know, but death is a part of life.

It seems that things need to die to give way to fresh, new life.  It doesn't seem like it ever at first, but when we get past the pain of the loss, we can take notice of good things.

I die every time I say goodbye to my kiddos.  Every. Time.  It kills me to be away from them.  It's not right and not natural for it to be this way.  I break down.  I cry.  I don't eat.  I eat too much.  I have trouble sleeping.  I get urges to spend money I don't have.  But...I can't let myself go like that!  I still have to get up and do what it takes to take care of myself and them when they come back.  It is when I get out of wallowing and self-pity (and realize that God's got everything in His hands, under His control, for His glory), I can see the blessings.

I have the ability to work harder than ever to provide a better life for them.  I have more time to really study God's Word, so that I can relay it to them and answer their questions.  I am being built up.  Becoming better than I was so that I can be better for them.  I learned so much about myself, my ex-husband, and the world around me.  I still hate it, but I can see how much stronger I am for them now than I ever was.

I experienced the death of my relationship this weekend.  I was in a relationship for a year and was hoping to move forward toward marriage.  That hope was killed just Friday.  I would have to say for the first time, I found a man of integrity.  I have renewed hope that there really are good guys out there (so I don't have to worry as much when my daughters are old enough to look for husbands).  It wasn't a bad breakup, but a breakup isn't my idea of a good thing, either.  I have unanswered questions.  I have things I would like to say.  However, I can't stay there.

I will probably be mourning for a little while, but I'm trying to keep in mind that everything happens for a reason.  Perhaps what I was hoping for was not what I needed.  Rather than speculate how I ruined the relationship or what he could have done differently, I need to keep my focus on the fact that everything is in God's timing, under His plan.

I don't know how many times I have stated that I'm constantly reminded that I'm not in control.  No matter the plans I make for myself, God always thwarts them and puts something else in place.  It kills me every time!  I guess you could say, I'm always dying....

But the more I die to myself, the better.  I don't really like the process, but I totally appreciate the outcome.  We are called to take up our crosses and follow Jesus.  That means we are letting go of everything we hold dear.  Everything.  Not saying you should just break it off with everyone in your life, get rid of all your stuff, commit suicide....  I'm saying that we cannot rely on anything of this world.  We cannot put our trust in treasures that will rust and decay.  We are to store up treasures in Heaven.

Your life is but a vapor.  It'll be over before you know it. How you spend your afterlife is determined by what you loved in this life. In order to truly live, you have to die.  Deny yourself and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will keep you in perfect peace.

12 August 2014

Fall Out of the Gap


So that time frame between April and August, I usually disappear then reappear with some excitement and some "new direction", right?

Well...not this time!  Ha!  Actually, I was just noticing that I tend to take long hiatuses (is that a word?!) due to my clones' visitation.  We had an awesome summer.  We had such good times. I didn't want it to end.  I never do.  No matter how many times we have to do it, it's always a devastation sensation for me to say goodbye to them.  I know it's not really a goodbye.  It's more of a see you soon.  However, it really just tears me up.

I am doing this now that I'm out of the fun gap of awesome times with my kiddos. I've been invited to do a 5k.  Now if you know me...you know I don't run.  I'll play sports that require running and whatnot, but I just don't get up and say, "hey, I think I will run with nowhere in particular to go for a long period of time."  That just seems pointless to me.  However, I've been doing just that.  I have less than a month to go from couch to 5k (there is an app for that...but I'm not using it).  I don't think I'll be able to run the whole of it by then, but I'll be able to run a good bit of it, so I will definitely be able to finish it in under 2 hours (^_^).  It should also be fun.  It's the Electric Run.  The end of this month.  Good luck to me!

I seem to be at another crossroads with my housing situation.  After my rent was jacked up a few months ago, I decided it was time to move.  I found a cheap rental and then they lowered my rent.  So, I decided to stay.  Well, it seems they jacked it up again.  Only this time, I don't have any affordable options to look at.  A good friend did offer a place to stay for a few months, but I'm not sure if that will be more helpful in my current situation.  I'll have to think pretty hard (but not too long as the offer is good till December).

In the meantime, I do have some projects that I want to get underway.  I have to clean my whole house (the norm after the kiddos return to Florida).  I'll be getting back into crocheting and knitting (hopefully) very soon.  I can't wait to make a pair of socks.  And I'll also be looking into some extra-curricular financial ops to help pay off my debts faster.

Perhaps next time, I'll talk a bit about some of them.

In the meantime, check this out:

 I found a pair of these puppies at the thrift store!  That's right!  Doing a sport of any kind will get expensive.  You need good quality gear to minimize injury and maximize comfort and ability.  Running is no different.  Good quality shoes can run you over $100.  Decent ones at least $50.  Special needs won't help your situation.  I've got flat feet, so I knew that I needed to find something with good arch support.  I decided to go to the thrift store (because I'm poor).  I don't see spending more than $20 on anything.  I'm also a big-foot.  I wear size 11 in women's.  After not finding any tennis shoes in my size, I decided to check the men's shoes out.  I knew they wouldn't be cute...but I needed something that would work well.

These were the best looking shoes in the right size.  $12.99 (much better than $60).  After doing some research, I found out they are unisex and they've got raving reviews (even from flat-footed folks).  This was truly a miracle.  And I'm so thankful for them.

I'm going to run now (pun intended).  I actually can't wait to get back to the track (unusual for me).  Have you decided to do something that just isn't you?  Have you recognized a miracle in your life lately?

Until next time...!

30 April 2014

Lunacy Averted?

There has been a lot happening over these last months and I do apologize for not posting as things progress, digress, regress, congress...etcetera-gress.

I'm increasingly excited and fearful as I continue my quest to get off of government assistance altogether and pay off my debts. I will not return to school to finish my degree until I have paid off my student loan debt (or down enough) so that I can go back debt-free.  I believe that God honors our desires to live free and not as slaves to money.  I have finally realized what it's like to serve money.  Not that I've been excited and desiring riches, but making poor financial decisions  in addition to choosing to pay off bills and credit debt before paying my tithes has caused me great distress and has trapped me.

I've also discovered (long time ago...kinda rediscovering now) that in order to get out of public housing, I need to do something drastic.  I mean drastic. Like hit the lottery.  Find a million dollars.  Marry a rich man.  You get the picture?  Small increases in income seem to spike my rent.  There is such a fine line between "help" and "no help" and I've seen it in a number of situations (not just in my own life).  For example: if you make $10,000 per year, you qualify for assistance.  If you make $10,001 per year, you don't.  Understand?  This is the very reason I have been so strapped for money.  There is no savings.  There is no budget for groceries.  There is also no true transition into independence.

My rent is currently double what it was 2 years ago when I made a little bit more money.  I cannot afford my rent today.  Why such a great change?  Well, my kids are no longer on my lease...and apparently I was getting about a 50% discount including allowances for paying for childcare.  Had I kept them on my lease, not only would I be able to afford my rent, but I would also have my debts paid off and some saving built.  I would also be in the running for public assistance fraud charges.  Well, if I can't keep them on my lease, would I get some help during the long stretch of time when they are here (for the summer)?  No.  Why, because they are not on my lease.  Well, isn't that dandy?!  I have nothing leftover as it is with rent and other bills at the end of the month, but I'm also not able to pay for childcare, which means if I can't find someone to watch them for free, I would have to take off work...

Don't get me wrong.  I've never come from the perspective that I'm owed anything, especially from the government.  But doesn't it make sense that if you're offering to "help" someone that I truly helps them?  I'm thankful for having a home of our own, in great times of need.  However, I have had more struggle being here than if I were elsewhere.  So what now?

I'm trying to move out!  I have to get out of here.  Save money.  Pay off debt.  I could even get a second job without the risk of my rent spiking again.  Where do I go?  I'm already paying below-market value in rent.  What could be cheaper?  Especially in this area?  A good budgeting practice is to spend no more than 30% of your income on rent/mortgage.  In areas of a high cost of living, up to 60% is apparently allowable.  This is why I think that people especially in these areas are living above their means.  In order for me to manage a 3-bedroom rental for $2000, I need to be making at least $80,000 per year (keeping with the 30% rule.  80,000 x .30 = 24,000 per year.  Divide by 12 months, you get 2,000 per month).

Since I'm not yet that close to the six-figure income, I will have to figure out how to reduce my rent and other bills.  I could live in my car.  A box near a park bench in the city. Or I could find a cheaper home.  I've done a lot of searching. Praying. Inquiring. More praying.  More searching.  I've found quite a few listings on Craigslist, hot pads, USAA, Realtor.com....and many others.  I've emailed several owners and got a few responses.  Out of all the listings I've scoured, I was responded to by 4.  Only one was legit.  The others were scammers, trying to obtain private information and/or money from me.  And yes, I have reported them. :)  It's really hard to find something that is waaaay less than $1,000 per month (for a studio even).  But I found one and got to see the house with the realtor on Saturday.

I'm currently waiting to hear from this realtor after they check my references, background, employment verification, etc.  Before deciding to apply, not only did I consider the rent amount (that was the first thing), but I looked at how far I would be willing to travel for work, whether or not there would be enough room for when the kids are here with me (at least 2 bedrooms would be nice), who would watch them and how would I get them there, and whether or not I would actually be saving money in this new home.  This home does have 2 bedrooms and a nearly finished attic (which could be a 3rd room).

I have had many questions and doubts about this home.  Let's list them and the solutions that have come up.
  • Problem: It's an hour away, so gas would cost me almost double I'm paying now per month.
  • Solution: There is a commuter bus that costs me less than what I pay for gas now and there is free parking.  Also, it doesn't take longer than if I drove myself.

  • Problem: It's even further from church
  • Solution: I would have saved enough money to cover gas for weekly church services.  Also, Friday night Bible study can be dialed into.

  • Problem: Not close to friends/church family for help with sitting.
  • Solution: Close enough to one family of friends who would be able to watch the kids when they are here. They are on the way to work and live not to far from my boss...we we can carpool when the kids are here.

  • Problem: The house is smaller than the one I live in now.
  • Solution: Less money goes to utilities.  I can get rid of unnecessary things that I've been hoarding protecting from the elements.

There are more.  But this list is long enough...I'll be able to actually start saving. I can't say how many times I've been afraid to venture off toward growth and independence.  Hence, staying in a job that was killing me (until I got fired).  Waiting until I'm in financial distress to get out and do something different.  Afraid to move out of my house because the world is cruel place.  The definition of lunacy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  I don't want to be a lunatic.