Wednesday, March 31, 2010

For the display of His splendor...

I love the book of Isaiah. It's pretty heavy in spots, but so beautifully descriptive and poetic. During my quiet time this morning I was super distracted with thoughts of parenting, finances, future plans, what to make for dinner, and shoes for Easter. After settling my mind I began to pray for our upcoming trip to Haiti and read Isaiah 61. This passage has officially been adopted as my prayer for our upcoming trip and for the nation of Haiti.
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, and oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of HIS splendor." Isaiah 61:1-3
Wow. What a beautiful word picture for our trip. If I had any artistic ability I would paint a picture of the country of Haiti with tall, strong oak trees covering the land with a sign under them saying, "Planted by the Lord for the display of His splendor."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

She's makin' a list...

Three weeks from today Tim and I will be boarding flight 833 from Miami to Port au Prince, Haiti. Now that tickets have been purchased, we begin the "checklist" process. Those of you who know me well know that I am a "list" person so this part of the planning is always right up my alley...though I've never had a list look quite like this one:

- mosquito net
- face masks
- permethrin spray
- inflatable pillow
- ear plugs
- individually wrapped packaged powdered drink mixes
- instant coffee packets
- individual peanut butter packets
- English/French Creole dictionary

A definite adventure!!

Tim and I continue to pray that the funding for our trip would come in quickly. We have already been given a little over $1000 (thank you Jesus!) and have about $2500 left to raise. We are excited to see what God is going to do next. Never a dull moment these days!!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

From Ojai to Haiti

I have been dying to blog about everything that happened this last weekend but at this moment my arms are so sore from my vaccination shots that I can barely hold them up to type. However, the baby is sleeping, my husband is at Bible Study and I have a lovely mug with a picture of Sawyer full of hot peach tea. I will work through the pain.

I'm going to give you the daily play by play in order to keep my thoughts straight. Here it goes...

Saturday early morning: Tim and I got up early and went to a few garage sales (we're like pirates on a treasure hunt). I found 12 postcards from the very early 1900's with photos of beautiful places all over Europe. At 25 cents a piece I couldn't pass up the opportunity for another fun DIY project.

Saturday late morning and afternoon: For my birthday I was gifted a lovely spa day with my mom. Because life is crazy and things happen, we weren't able to get to a spa until last Saturday but boy was it worth the wait! My mom took me to the Ojai Valley Spa for a day of relaxation and renewal. Let me paint a picture: 76 degrees,  tucked back in the lovely hills of Ojai, one of the top 10 highest ranked day spas in the country, plush and soft robes, local tea, dried fruits and nuts, fireplace with overstuffed lounge chairs, sauna, steam room, indoor and outdoor jacuzzi, and last but not least, a 50 minute massage. Delicious day. Thanks Momma!

Saturday night: One of my bestest friends, Colleen and her little girl, Claire, came to hang out and crash at our house. We had such fun catching up and gabbing until too late. A great ending to a great day.

Sunday: After an amazing church service we were off to Ojai, once again, to shop the Farmer's Market and eat at our new favorite Pizza spot. With recyclable bags full of avocados, onions, and pixies, we drove through the citrus fields and parked next to a gorgeous canary yellow 1974 corvette which was parked next to 4 or 5 BMW motorcycles. As we were ordering our pizza and I was people watching (those of you who know me well know this is my favorite past-time) and a shiny metal glimmer caught my eye. Could it be? Is it that awful earring on Harrison Ford's left ear?! There he sat. Indiana Jones himself. Eating Pizza with a bunch of buddies. After alerting my family I began building up the courage to go say hello and ask for a picture. I figured the worst that could happen is he'd say "no" so I had to at least try.

After he was done eating (not that I was watching or anything), I walked over and asked if I could take a picture with him. I'll be honest, he didn't seem thrilled. I told him we could hide so we wouldnt attract attention and he liked that idea. I signaled to my paparazzi guy (Tim) who came over and shook Harry's hand. We took two pictures and said our goodbyes. I screamed inside my head.

Sunday night: For those of you who don't know, Tim has been trying to get to Haiti to do prosthetic work for a couple of months now. We finally found a group he could go with and began to set up the details. As of 4 days ago, Tim was placed on a team of 8 other medical personnel and heading to Haiti April 17th-24th to work with Mission of Hope ministries. On Friday a few of the details on the work side of the trip changed and rather than it being a work related trip, it became a personal trip. On Saturday we talked briefly about the possibility of me going with him and sent an email to the trip coordinator without getting our hopes up. Sunday night we got a response that I was welcome to go with the team and help out wherever needed. And just like that, I was going to Haiti with Tim.

Soooo, we are going to Haiti in less than 4 weeks! I can't begin to tell you how excited we are. It would take about 5 blog posts to fully give all the ways God has been orchestrating this without our knowledge so I'll just say that so many things we've been dealing with and going through these last few months make so much more sense now. I am so glad God is bigger than I am. Life is so much less stressful knowing He is in control and can see the big picture.

Now we are starting to send out support letters and collect funds for our trip. It's going to cost about $3500 for us to go (airfare, food, supplies, lodging, etc.) but I know God is going to provide the money. Please be praying for us as we prepare to leave Sawyer for 9 days and head to a fragile third-world country that is broken beyond anything I can try to imagine.

I will be updating the blog as we get ready to go in an attempt to keep friends and family up to date as well as document the experience for a semi-journal. Be sure to stay posted!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hurry up and wait.

After an incredibly encouraging morning studying Esther with my beautiful small group, I just had to share some of the things God revealed to me this week through studying God's Word...

Our culture is training us to be impatient.  Instant information via the world wide web, text messages, faxes, fast food, etc., have conditioned us to expect immediate results. Waiting for something is a huge inconvenience and so when God doesn't answer us immediately or when His answer is to (heaven forbid) "wait", we don't know what to do with ourselves.

It is interesting to wonder what was going on in Queen Esther's mind when she finally had her husband, King Xerxes and his stooge, Haman, sitting with her at the banquet she had prepared for them. This was it. She was going to reveal her Jewish heritage and plead for the king to reverse his decree of genocide against her people. The king has asked her, "what do you require?" and Esther answers, "come back tomorrow for another feast." What? Come back tomorrow? End it now Esther! Why in the world would you wait until tomorrow?

Scripture doesn't tell us why Esther did not make her request at the first banquet. Ecclesiastes 3:1-7 does however tell us that, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...a time to be silent and a time to speak." It was not yet time for Esther to speak, it was time for Esther to wait.

Behind the curtain, God was orchestrating a scene that only He could have written. Had Esther unveiled her true identity to the king at the first banquet, though she may have succeeded at having Haman removed from the picture, perhaps the king would have been so bitter towards her (having no reason, at that time, to doubt Haman) that he would not have made any effort to help the Jewish people. Somehow Esther knew to wait.

I don't like waiting. When I ask God for direction, I expect Him to respond like the GPS system in my car (minus the female voice with the British accent). But some times (most of the time in my case) God has us wait, maybe because He is currently working on the other people involved or because He wants to teach us patience, either way, we are forced to wait.

Tim and I have recenlty found ourselves in a few situations where we have had to wait on God for answers and direction. This morning during Bible Study, the following verse from Isaiah  was highlighted and so encouraging for me. If you are in a situation where you are having to wait on God, take encouragement in this verse from Isaiah 40:31, "...but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength." Waiting on your answer, or your circumstance to change, or that one person to do what you want, will cause you to stress and worry and become exhausted. Waiting on the Lord will give you strength while you wait.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is "good enough" good enough?

Do you ever have one of those weeks where everything you read or every conversation you have seems to be about the same issue? This week was one of those for me and I can't help but think God is trying to get something through my blond head. I am doing a study through the book of Esther with some wonderfully wise women and this week, much of our study was on the issue of "perfectionism" and unrealistic personal expectations. I am currently reading, "The Blessings of a Skinned Knee," by Dr.Wendy Mogel, which deals with applying Jewish teachings in child-rearing. The last chapter I read dealt with "perfectionism" and unrealistic personal expectations.

As these concepts have been floating around my brain, I've found myself to be more and more confused about when it is appropriate to expect or strive for perfection and when it is appropriate to just be "good enough." Here is an example...

The quote from my Bible Study is this,

Perfectionism is a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as being unacceptable. I'm not suggesting we shouldn't do our best. I'm simply saying that some times just surviving certain tasks without falling apart is our best and in those times God is not ashamed of our performance. God isn't interested in our stellar performance but in our hearts.
(From Beth Moore's Esther Study, pg 112)

Now, here is a quote from The Blessing of a Skinned Knee on how children do not need the best of everything (teacher, homework assignments, friends, etc.)but that "good enough" can be all they need:

Consider that "good enough" can often be best for your child, because when life is mostly ordinary and just occasionally extraordinary, your child won't end up with expectations of herself and those around her that cant be met on the worldly plane.
(Dr. Mogel, pg 55)

My dilemma is this: When should my goal be perfection and when should my goal be "good enough?" As a young child, I was a perfectionist. My dad had to create the "one mistake a day" rule so that I would allow myself room for error. My parents were (are) very accepting and gracious when I made mistakes and in no way pressured me to feel I had to be perfect. It was an expectation I placed on myself, without anyone's help. Though my quest for perfection is nothing like it was when I was eight, I still have very high expectations of myself. Mostly because I know I am quite a capable person and so, with a little hard work and caffeine , I can usually meet my personal goals and expectations.

But what about when I can't meet my goals. What about on Monday when I have a list of 15 things to do and because Sawyer is snotty nosed and grumpy, I get (maybe) two things done. I set a personal goal by making my daily "to do" list and failed to meet my goal. In that case, I think a "good enough" sticker works. But does that mean I don't continue to have the expectation that tomorrow I can conquer my 15 point list? No. I guarantee that Tuesday morning my list will have the 13 items that didn't get done the day before plus whatever else needs to be done on Tuesday and I will expect to get it all done.

I feel like I'm not making much sense...

My question is, when is it appropriate to shift my expectation from perfection to "good enough?"


Should I always strive for perfection and be ok when I'm just "good enough?"

1 Peter 1:15 says, "But just as He who called you is Holy, so be holy in all you do." I don't know about other translations but my NIV does not read "try to be holy" or "good enough is just fine." God's expectation is that I will be holy in all I do. He would expect that of me if it were not possible, right? So often we say "nobody is perfect" and some how we understand it to mean that nobody can be perfect.

I'm not talking past mistakes and yada yada. I'm talking about getting up tomorrow morning and making it through an entire day being holy in all I do. Is that a high personal expectation? You betcha. Is it striving for perfection? I guess so.

Now I'm really confused...Any comments would be gladly welcomed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Just call me "Martha"

Just for fun, I thought I'd share some of the projects I've been working on recently. Since the kitchen has become my reclaimed domain, I've had a lot of fun re-organizing and decorating my food lair.

The pantry was the first place that needed major attention. Since I am spending a lot more time cooking, I needed to actually be able to see what food I had.



Next to be organized was my spice shelf. I am pretty sure we received a spice rack as a wedding gift but I didn't know what half the spices on the rack were so I never used them. In one of our five moves since being married, the rack disappeared. My spices have since become a mess of plastic bottles that get shoved around the shelf each time I look for something. I found a great idea for organizing the spices using small tins I ordered online. The total price of my spice shelf remodel was about $13.00.



Now that the boring organizing projects are done, on to the fun stuff...

I bought this mirror for $7 at a garage sale. Super cute. It was a gaudy gold (which I actually almost liked) but I wanted to put it in the kitchen so I painted it a fun blue to match my rug and curtains. I think the mirror may be the one item I save if my apartment burns down. I love it.



Last, but not least, I've been trying to come up with a better way to store my bread without involving zip-locks. As if she could read my mind, Amy Walker had a recent post on her blog, Homestead Revival, where she wrote on just that issue.

Using a vintage tea cloth (that for some reason I had never used) I made a bread bag to help the bread "breath" but not dry out.

The next step is to find a fun bread box for my new bread bag and it just so happens that one of our thrift stores is having a 50% off sale on Wednesday...wish me luck!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Life on a Budget

"She watches over the affairs of her household..."
Proverbs 31:27

The last few weeks I've had 3-4 friends ask me about family budgeting and how we make it work on one income. I figured I'd share our experiences and techniques and encourage any one else who might be in a financially challenging situation.

Last October Tim and I made the decision that I would become a "work at home" mom. It was a big decision that meant a huge life change for our family. Though we knew things would be different, I don't know that we were totally crystal clear on exactly how different. My last day of working in the "outside world" was October 2, 2009, right before the holiday shenanigans ensued. We were very quickly distracted by the festive hoopla and it wasn't until mid-January that we really began to feel the impact of our decision to have me at home with Sawyer. So, for the last month and a half, I have found a new job: Official Keeper, Adjuster, Balancer, and Assessor of the Household Financial Affairs.

Because I am an administrator at heart, after we were married, I naturally gravitated towards managing our family finances(bill paying, budget planning, etc.) but the last month or so, I have taken my job description to new levels. Because we knew going from two incomes down to one would be a major hit to our lifestyle, we began using "the envelope system" to help us make our budget.

Here is how it works...

Using a basic budget template I found on Excel, I put together a monthly budget I thought was realistic for us to follow using the following categories:

Check Payment
Electricity and Gas
Vehicle Insurance
Health Insurance
Retirement Account
Savings Account

Dining Out
Hair Cuts
Car Maintenance

After figuring out how much money I needed to allot for each category, I plugged it into the monthly budget spreadsheet as "projected cost."

The first weekday of the month, Sawyer and I head to the bank and take out our cash for the month (I used to do this every two weeks but for our current budget needs, once a month works best). I organize the cash in my handy-dandy envelope that is divided into my nine categories and that is that!

Being able to literally see the amount of money we have available for eating out at any given time, helps us decide if we really want to spend that $10 at In N Out or if we'll save it for later and eat lunch at home because once it's's gone.

At the end of the month I go back to my Excel budget and plug in my "actual cost" numbers to compare them to what I projected and make any adjustments needed to make sure we make our budget the following month. For example, in February we came up about $50 short in our grocery budget. Because our God is such a provider and loves to bless us, He provided the $50 in a completely unexpected way and we were able to buy the groceries we needed. But to make sure we didn't get in that jam again, I adjusted some budgeted items and added the additional $50 to our grocery cash for March.

If this whole "envelope system" seems time consuming, well, it is. BUT it has allowed us to live on one income and not have to rack up credit card debt in order to survive. I probably spend an average of 6-8 hours a week on our "financial affairs" whether it be coupon clipping, meal planning, deal shopping, or prepping for the next months budget but because I consider it to be my new job, I approach it as a challenge and not as a burden. In addition, Tim and I know that, for now, God has lead us to this place and that as long as we are good stewards of what He gives us, He will continue to bless us and provide for us above and beyond what we think we need.

"The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity."
1 John 2:7