Friday, November 14, 2014

blessed {hello, my name is ... link-up}

Hello, my name is blessed.

Can I just tell you how much I struggle with using that word to describe myself?  It's not that I don't think that I am blessed.  I know I am.  It's a connotation from my past that makes me cringe when I use that word.  I grew up in a charismatic church that threw that word around all the time.  It's how people introduced themselves and labeled themselves.  And it mostly involved being blessed because of material possessions.  And I felt like somewhere along the way the definition and use of the word was cheapened for me.

So I've struggled with defining myself that way.

Then this morning when I was praying about what my new name is.  I asked the Lord to show me what He wants me to know about myself.  I asked Him what new name He was giving me for this season.

I reread some things I had highlighted in my bible and ran across this.

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.                                                                                                                                                                                             Proverbs 31:28  

I'm not the most perfect parent.  In fact, I don't really identify with the Proverbs 31 woman right now at all.  Most days I feel like I am failing as a wife and a mother.  Mostly because we have this deified version of the Proverbs 31 woman in Christian circles.  There are blogs and books written about how to be the Proverbs 31 woman and many of them center around being the best homemaker, making all of your food from scratch and going on weekly date nights with your husband.

Those are things I am really struggling with right now.  To be honest I'm not the best homemaker.  I struggle to keep our food budget balanced (or any part of our budget for that matter) and my husband and I haven't been alone (outside of our house) since our anniversary in July.

I'm impatient with my daughter.  I'm running on next to no sleep because my eight month old has suddenly forgotten how to sleep through the night.  And my husband and I had a huge argument a couple of days ago about money.  {just keeping it real y'all}

I don't feel like I fit the definition of the Proverbs 31 woman.

But this morning, Jesus reminded me that I am blessed.

And that is all I need.

I'm not blessed because of what I do or because of how good I am.  I'm not blessed because I cloth diaper or because I use essential oils.  I'm not blessed because I home school or because I pray for my husband.  I'm not even blessed because I have adopted.  I'm not blessed because I read all the popular home making blogs and even try to follow some of their advice.  I'm not blessed because of any of this stuff.

I'm blessed because He says I am blessed.  His word says it.

I'm clinging to that today.  And speaking this truth, His truth, over myself today.

What truth do you need to speak over yourself today?  What name do you need to throw away?  What new name do you need to embrace?  Link-up with us and declare it.  Shout it to the world.  You can link up here or you can link-up your IG, FB and twitter account using #beingrenamed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

spinning {hello link-up announcement}


My head is spinning.

These days. These people. These little people that I am called to love and serve daily. This husband that God has given me. These friends. This church body. This adoption community.

These days are busy.  So busy.  And my head is spinning.

My body is tired.  My heart is tired.  My eyes are tired.  My fingers, my mind, my everything is tired.

These days happen so fast and are full of such promise and also such hurt.

I want to live them well.  I want to shepherd these little people well.  I want to discipline them well and model honesty and love for them.  I want to shower my friends and my family with love.  I want to be there for them.  I want to not cringe when the phone rings from that friend, the one who's hurts always seem too big for me to help.  I want to jump when I see the opportunity.  I want to.

But I can't.

{This is my blog and I reserve the right to be honest.  I hope you don't mind.}

Life is hard and friendships and relationships are hard.

But God is good.  At the end of the day I do know that truth.

God is good.  And because He is good, I will jump.  I will love.  I will serve.  I will answer the phone.  I will help.

This Friday, I'm hosting the Hello, My Name Is.... link-up with Alesha from Alesha Blessed.  We're setting aside this Friday to link up our blogs, our Instagrams, and our Twitter and Facebook accounts to tell the truth.  The truth of who God says we are.  Please consider joining us.  Consider linking up and sharing the truth.  Someone may need to hear your new name.  You may need to be reminded of your new name.  Let's shout loud against the world and against the labels that it places on us.

You can read my past Hello posts here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

november {goals with grace}

Today, I'm joining with the Tiny Twig to list some goals I have for the month of November.

I'm naturally a planner so sometimes I tend to go a little overboard with goals and plans.  This month though, I'm giving myself grace.  Life is pretty hectic right now and I need goals but I also need heaps and heaps of grace.

My goals for this month are:

1.  To finish reading Beezus the Pest to Alivea.
2.  To hang some pictures on the walls of our new house.
3.  To have some guests over.
4.  To get family photos taken.  (I've started a Pinterest board of some family photo ideas.)

So there you have it!  My not so crazy list of Goals with Grace for November.

What about you?  Do you have any November goals?  Do you have any ideas for family photos you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear them.

Happy November!

First Weekend {thanksgiving}

This weekend our little family did something drastic.  We closed a chapter in our lives- a good chapter but a chapter that desperately needed closing.

We moved our little family to the town where my husband and I grew up.  It also happens to be the town where we spend about 60-70% of our lives.  My family is here.  All of our close friends are here.  Our church is here.

We used to live 40 minutes away and the many car trips were really starting to be a huge weight on us. It was taking a toll on our wallets and on our little family.

We've wanted to make this move for a while.  Actually, my husband and I have talked about it since before Alivea was born. But it just never seemed possible.  And then we would go through seasons where we thought we could make our other house work.  We'd pour money into it.  To make it more comfortable or liveable for a season but it was never really solving the problem.

About a month ago, we went to look at a house to rent.  I loved it instantly.  Denny- not so much.  He was hesitant but we prayed and asked God to open the door and to confirm it.

And He did.  The land lord lowered the rent, God opened up homeschooling opportunities for Alivea close-by, and He confirmed some other things in the way of our finances and concerning our old house.

We prayed hard.  And we asked a lot of wise people for their advice.

It was not an easy choice.  Actually, I told Denny that this move scared me more than both of our adoptions and going to Uganda by myself a couple of years ago.  It was scary.  It still is.

I'm learning some things about myself through all of this, though.  We still have a decision to make with our old house.  (We'd covet your prayers for that, please.)  I'm learning that I put a lot of stock in things to make me feel secure.  Whenever things get tough or tight in our budget, I always tell Denny that I don't feel secure.  I felt secure in our old house, because it was ours.  And I had this delusion that I could count on it and it would always be there.  Renting is scary to me.  I don't feel secure.  And I think that's a good thing.  I think God is starting to bring me into a season where I have to rely on Him more than things.  More than circumstances.  More than what I can see.

So this weekend, in this new house, was full of some firsts and today I want to be thankful for those.

1.  My husband walked to church on Sunday.
2.  I was able to put Toby down for a nap before we left for church on Sunday because we literally only had a 2 minute drive.
3.  Our friends "stopped by" after church.  That has never happened!

4.  I've washed like 4 loads of dishes in my dishwasher.  I haven't had a dishwasher in 14 years.
5.  I'm making a list of friends we're going to invite over for tea or for dinner.
6.  Alivea starts at her Classical Conversations Community tomorrow.  I'm really excited for that.
7.  My husband gets to attend his men's group tonight. It's only about 7 minutes away.
8.  Oh, and we celebrated Toby's first Halloween in this house.  I think I have the cutest kids ever! (sorry for the crappiest photos EVER!)

9.  To top it all off, yesterday was orphan Sunday and it was also the 6 month anniversary of the day that Toby was placed in our family.  

I know these may seem small.  But to me, on this Monday morning, these are huge things.  These are things our little family has prayed for and desired for so long.  And even though we still have some questions, we are thankful.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Where to Find Inspiration for Your Walls

We are currently sitting at less than one week until we move out of this house and into our new house.

There are lots of emotions running through me right now.  This blog post is part therapy and part "I really have to share these cool things with someone".  So yeah.

This home is the first home my husband and I purchased together.  We foolishly thought it would be our forever home.  We were young and naive and thought we could make it what we wanted.

We couldn't and now with two kids who are only getting bigger, it's time to move on.

I'm excited about it.  But the truth is this is also the place where all of their firsts have happened. Where all of our firsts as a family have happened.

I can't list them all now because I'm getting weepy just typing this.

There have been good times and really painful times in this house.  This house is where we first started TRYING AND FAILING.  But it's also the house where WE BECAME A FAMILY.

In the coming days and weeks, as we adjust to a new house in a new town, I'm going to need some inspiration and some encouragement to get me through.

I've always been a words person and my goal is fill my new home with words.  With truth.  I literally want it dripping from the ceiling.

I've been liking things on Pinterest and Etsy like crazy.

Here are some of my favorites

These little signs are so sweet.  I think I need one in every room. And this Christmas tree- gotta have it.  Both of these can be found here.

This print would look amazing in my kitchen.  I love the vintage look.  You can purchase it here.

I have loved this print forever.  I would love to have this for Alivea's room.  You can purchase it here.

I have admired Melissa from The Lovely Words work for a long time.  These three prints definitely will have a place in my new home.  The bottom one needs to be some place where I will see it often, maybe by the kitchen sink.  I need this reminder every hour of every day.

If you think of me friends this week, I would covet your prayers.  This is the only home Alivea and Toby have ever know so I know this is going to be tough.  We are moving to a town about 45 minutes away.  Our church, our friends and most of our family is in that town.  We'll be in a neighborhood (not in the country) so we'll have easy access to playgrounds and we can take walks and let Alivea ride her bike on the sidewalk.  We are really excited but also a little sad about moving on.

Friday, October 24, 2014

8 Ideas to Save More Money

Thanks so much for joining me again.  I hope this week's posts have helped you or given you some ideas for how you can save money in real life.

I'm a big believer that a little bit of savings (even pennies) has the potential to add up to something big with a little time and consistency.  It takes a little bit of work and even a little bit of extra time added to your routine but I believe it can add up to some sizable money for your family.

The internet and your smart phone are chocked full of ways to save or earn a little extra money.

I've already touched on Swagbucks earlier this week.  If you haven't already opened a Swagbucks account, you totally should.  I've already earned enough to cash in for a $25 amazon gift card.

Gradible is another great website.  You earn credits on Gradible for doing tasks such as posting things to Facebook, reviewing e-books, writing blog posts, or even shopping.  The credits are called LOANCREDS because you can actually pay your student loan with them.  100 LOANCREDS= $10. I just found Gradible the other day and within a few minutes of joining I had earned my first 100 LOANCREDS that I applied to my student loan bill right away.  You can sign up for a Gradible account by clicking here.

For grocery shopping, which unfortunately I always have to do, I have several apps that I use to earn money on items that I am going to purchase anyway.  My favorites are ibotta, Checkout 51, Shopmium, and the Walmart Savings Catcher app.

ibotta is an app that gives you rebates for shopping.  I look at the app before I go shopping to see what the offers are.  Then I buy what I need and after I'm done I upload my receipt to the app and they give me the rebates that I have earned.  So far, I've earned $4.50 just from doing my everyday grocery shopping.  If you want to join ibotta, simply download the app and use my referral code to sign up. My referral code is jglxw

Checkout 51 is my favorite favorite because they are the app that rewards you for the most ordinary things like purchasing eggs and bread and salad mix.  They also are not brand specific, so you can purchase whatever brand of eggs you want.  It works just like ibotta in that you upload your receipt and then select the offers you want to redeem and they give you the money.  You can find Checkout 51 in the app store.  Using this app so far I've earned $6.00.

Shopmium is another shopping app.  The only difference with this one is that it has different offers (other than food) like magazines and office supplies.  I haven't earned a lot with this one, only $1.50, but it is great because you can link it to your paypal account and they deposit the rebate right away.  That's pretty cool.

Walmart Savings Catcher.  This app is like gold.  Seriously.  I pretty much live at Walmart.  The Walmart Savings Catcher app searches local stores and rewards you if the items you bought were cheaper somewhere else.  You upload your receipt and the app does the rest.  If they find an item you purchased cheaper at another store (within a certain mile radius), then they give you the difference back.  You earn the difference in reward dollars that you can then redeem for Walmart gift cards.  It's pretty sweet.  I've earned $5.13 back so far with this app.

Another way that I am earning money (which is the same as saving money to me) online these days is through tsu.  Tsu is a new social media site.  It's very unique in that the money that tsu earns through revenue and advertising gets shared with the users.  I've only been a part of tsu for a little bit and I've earned $0.12.  I know that's a small amount but I love the fact that I joined something when it first started.  I can't say that about any other social media site I'm a part of.  If you want to join tsu, click the link here.

One more trick that my husband and I are doing to save money is the 52 Week Savings Challenge.  I found this challenge on Pinterest a while back and we just started it a few weeks ago. The whole point of the challenge is to save a little money each week for 52 weeks, a year.  The instructions are to put away $1 for every week of the year that you are on, for example for week 1 you put away $1 and for the 12th week of the year you put away $12.  At the end of 52 weeks, you'll have saved $1,378.  We are about 10 weeks in and I love watching my money pile grow.

Another way to literally shave money from your monthly expenses (and time too) is to join a club like the Dollar Shave Club.  The Dollar Shave Club is a subscription service that delivers razor blades and other shaving supplies to your door for a few bucks a month.  Subscription services like these have the potential to not only save you money but also time because the items just arrive at your door. Other subscription services such as Amazon Mom can help you keep up with your baby needs and you can even have them drop ship paper towels and cereal to your door every month.

I'm all about saving time and money.  These are the ways that are working for me and my family right now.

Do you have ways that you save money and/or time for your family?  I'd love to hear your ideas.

To read the rest of the posts in this series click here.

(Disclaimer- This post does contain some affiliate links.  When you click on them, I may earn a small commission.  Thanks for your support.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Spend $100 or Less on Your Baby Per Month

Today is the 3rd Installment in my real life savings series that I've been doing.

Today, we're gonna talk all things baby.

Babies are expensive.  The things babies need are expensive.  Today I'm going to share how I can get away with spending less than $100 per month to take care of our youngest little boy, Toby.

The expenses that I am including in this post are diapering and feeding.  I am not including doctor visits or medicine or clothing since those are not regular monthly expenses for us.

Two things that we do that greatly help our monthly budget with our littlest are making our own baby food and cloth diapering.

I never thought I would be that mother.  The one that would love to talk about cloth diapering and the one that would spend time pureeing her own food for her baby.  I actually remember giving one of my friends a hard time when she was pregnant and told me she was going to use cloth diapers.  I told her I thought she was crazy.

A few months later, when Alivea was about 14 months old, my husband and I decided that I would stay home full time with her.  Losing my income drastically affected our monthly budget and I had to find ways to cut costs.  I purchased a small starter kit of cloth diapers and after some research and some months of trying out different ways to wash them, I felt like I got the hang of it and we kicked disposable diapers to the curb.  I can say it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

When Toby was born, I knew I wanted to cloth diaper him as well.  We purchased disposable diapers to take on our trip with us to Florida to pick him up and on our recent vacation to the beach but besides that we have used cloth diapers exclusively with him.  My husband and I have been really shocked at the price of diapers on the few occasions when we have had to buy them and have been so thankful that we don't have that as a recurring expense.  Plus, babies are just so cute in cloth diapers.

Here are some things that I've learned about cloth diapers:

1.  The initial investment can be a little high.  I bought a small starter kit to try them out and get the hang of them then bought some better quality ones used from two good friends.  Don't be afraid of used diapers.  I would recommend buying from someone you trust.  And then wash, wash, wash them.  There are also some great diaper companies that give back like Assunta Store (whose sales benefit a ministry working with disabled and orphaned children in China) and the Little Bee Co. (who donates a cloth diaper to an orphanage for every diaper purchased). 

2.  It takes a little bit to learn how to wash them correctly.  Give yourself some grace with this.  It's okay.  You will eventually get the hang of it.  Research different detergents and try some out.  I've found that the detergents that are Free and Clear (no perfumes or dyes) are the best.  I also wash mine several times in hot and cold water.

3.  It's not as much work as I thought it would be. I only do 2 extra loads of laundry a week.  That's worth the $40-50 I save every month.

4.  I think cloth diapering helps with potty training.  Disposable diapers are made to wick the moisture away from your child so they don't feel wet.  With cloth diapers children know what wet feels like so when you switch to underwear they already know.  I feel like potty training Alivea went rather quickly because of this.

The second way that I save major money taking care of Toby is by making his baby food.

I spend about 45 min to an hour each week cooking, pureeing and bagging Toby's food for the week. He's eating mostly vegetables right now and doing this myself is definitely a savings over purchasing baby food from the store.

Here are some tricks that I've learned about making your own baby food:

1.  Find some recipes you'd like to try for your baby.  I used this book that my friend gave me. The purees are simple and it even breaks it up by age so you know what your child should be able to handle and when.

2.  I purchase the frozen vegetables from the grocery store.  This cuts down on my prep time greatly. This past week I purchased 2 bags of frozen broccoli, 3 bags of frozen corn, a bag of apples and a bag of frozen strawberries.  I purchased the vegetables in the steamer bags and cooked them in the microwave.  The strawberries I just allowed to thaw and the apples I peeled, cored, and cooked on the stovetop.  I then pureed everything seperately, put them in ice cube trays and froze them. When they were frozen, I transferred them to freezer bags, labeled them and put them back in the freezer.  Toby eats 2-3 cubes of any one of these at a sitting.

3.  I supplement with Cherrios and with Rice cereal and, of course, baby formula.

So that's it.  My tips for spending less than $100 on your baby every month.  It works for us.  Do you have any tips for saving money on babies or kids?  I'd love to hear them.  Leave a comment below.

And if you'd like to read any of my other posts in this series click here