Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Book Review

We're at the end of the month so it's time for the first (of twelve) edition of Books Megan Read This Month! I'm sure you're quite excited (wish I had a sarcasm font). I realize I may be the only one who ends up reviewing these pages but I'm okay with that as it will be a handy refresher for me.

1. Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life's Biggest Yes by Kristen Welch

Full disclosure: I applied for and was selected to be part of the launch team for this book. I applied because the title was quite appealing to me as a mother. I LOVED this book! I have a more detailed review of the book in a different post but I highly recommend this book to all of my parent friends out there. In addition to being encouraged that it is possible to teach our children gratitude and contentment I was also reminded that I am not responsible for my children's entertainment every waking hour of the day (which, as a SAHM, I sometimes feel like that's part of the job description and can feel guilty about trying to get housework or errands done instead of playing with my kids non-stop). Here's a favorite quote:
I bought into the lie that it's my job to make my kids' childhood magical and fun, to guarantee that every day will be an adventure all about them.                                         Our children need to be bored. They need to kick their feet and wait outside of bathroom doors, unanswered. They need to be sent outside or to their rooms to play. They need to turn over the bag of tricks and find it empty.                                                               Because that's when they will discover they don't need stuff to fill their time. They don't need a plan for entertainment. They can create their own. p.74 
2. A Girl's Guide to Moving On: A Novel by Debbie Macomber

 It seems like I've read something else by her because her name is familiar but I'm not certain. I did a quick search and learned that this book will not be officially released until February 23rd. I think I found it on NetGalley, a book site where you can submit a request to read books in digital versions before their official release. Anyway, I found it to be quite an engaging read. It was fairly predictable in its rhythm and conclusion but I like books with positive endings so I was okay with that. It's a good fiction read about a woman and her mother-in-law helping each other get through their divorces and start fresh.

3. Song of the Meadowlark (Intertwined Book 1) by Sherri Wilson Johnson

I have previously read all of Sherri's "Hope of the South" historical Christian fiction novels and thoroughly enjoyed them. We are friends so I am working on reading all of her books. This was the fourth of five for me. This one is contemporary Christian fiction. It is a very engaging story about a young woman trying to move on from her past who gets stranded in a small town in Georgia on her way to visit her parents in Florida. If you like books with an encouraging message and positive ending, check out this book.

4. Time Management Mama: Making Use of the Margins to Pursue Your Passions by Sarah Korhnak and Beth Anne Schwamberger

This was a quick and helpful read. I have wanted to figure out how to make more time to work on my blog without casting my other responsibilities aside. This book is written by two entrepreneurial women with families who have plenty of experience in the trenches. The chapters offer helpful tips and advice for various avenues of a woman's life - family, household chores, business needs, personal aspirations, etc. The end of each chapter has a synopsis of suggestions for using your time wisely in that particular area. The book helped me to define my passions and come up with a measurable goal to work on this year in each of them. It reminded me that I don't have time to do everything so I need to focus on what's most important to me right now. Perhaps there will be time for my other goals next year or when I complete one of my current goals. My time is valuable and I want to use it the best way I can. If you feel like there's no time in your schedule to pursue activities that are important to you, check out this book. You may find ways to be more productive that allow you to free up some time for your passions.

5. The Girl on the Train: A Novel by Paula Hawkins

I didn't know much about this book other than it was popular last year. It sucked me in quite quickly and reminded me a bit of Gone Girl which I read last year. A woman (Megan - kind of weird to read about someone with the same name) goes missing and a woman (Rachel) who used to watch her in her yard from the train she road nearly daily wants to figure out what happened. She knows she was in the vicinity the night Megan went missing and wonders if perhaps she knows something but can't remember (because she is a heavy drinker and has blackout periods where she has no recollection of large chunks of time). I spent the majority of the book trying to figure out what happened and whether Rachel was involved. The book shifts between time periods (before and after the disappearance) and the point of view of Rachel, Megan and a third woman, Anna. This is a book that can be read in a day if you are able to sit and read without distraction (I have two kids so this isn't possible for me). It was very engaging and had my mind trying to solve the mystery throughout. I did not find it predictable in the least.

6. King of the Comics by Stephan Pastis

This is a book containing a bunch of Pearls Before Swine comic strips. I have read this comic off and on. My parents introduced me to it. The zebra and crocodile story line is generally quite entertaining. Pig is one of my favorite characters because of his innocence and naivety. Stephan uses a lot of puns in his strips and also makes fun of this use. It's a clever and entertaining comic.

7. Guilt Free Motherhood: A 5 Step Guide to Reclaiming Your Time, Health and Well-Being by Amber Khan

I don't know any mom who doesn't have something about motherhood that she feels guilty about. It could be not spending enough time with her kids, not contributing financially to the household, spending time on her health and well-being, not keeping the house clean enough, not being like the other moms. It could be any number of things. This book addresses just about anything you could be feeling guilty about and offers suggestions to help you in your particular struggle. The author is British so some of the sayings and words are a bit unusual. It's a fairly quick read which is good as most moms don't have a ton of free time. 

8. Secrets Among the Cedars (Intertwined Book 2) by Sherri Wilson Johnson

This is the second book in the series. I know there is at least one more planned. This book is about a district attorney in Cedar Key, Florida who is trying to find a key piece of evidence for a murder trial she is prosecuting. She meets a man who used to be a defense attorney and he ends up trying to help her while protecting her from threats she is receiving. There is suspense, danger and a little romance. A fun read.

9. Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home by Richard J. Foster

This was a wonderful book! A very in depth guide to various types and practices of prayer. The book is broken into three sections: Inward, Upward, and Outward prayer. I enjoyed gaining a better understanding of what various prayer focuses consist of. Part way through the book I felt like I was a terrible prayer because I feel like most of my prayers are self-focused (but, I was assured, that is also an acceptable type of prayer). I also am a perfectionist so I struggle with wanting each prayer time to consist of ALL the various types of prayer, which is impossible and a little ridiculous. I'm glad I kept reading because I was comforted to know that it's okay to be where I am in my prayer life. God will continue to guide me as I consistently spend time in prayer. This is a book I would like to keep as a reference for when I am struggling and in need of direction. Unfortunately for me, this is a borrowed book so I will have to acquire my own copy. If you are desiring to grow in your prayer life I highly recommend this book.

10. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This was a very quick and engaging read. The main character reminded me some of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. A genetics scientist and professor, Don Tillman, has decided that he is ready to find a life partner so he begins "The Wife Project". He enlists help from his friend, Gene, to sort through the completed questionnaires for matches. He mistakenly thinks a woman named Rosie, whom Gene sends to his office, is a match from the questionnaire and asks her on a date. Chaos and humorous circumstances ensue from there. I quickly became endeared to Don and Rosie and hoped that they would both find what they was searching for. I would recommend this as a good fiction read that really sucks you in and takes you for an enjoyable ride.

Wow! Ten books! I doubt I will have such a high count in future months. Five fiction, four non-fiction, one comic. Not a bad distribution. I attribute the high number to the fiction. I can read multiple chapters in one sitting whereas with non-fiction I usually have to put the book down after each chapter to ruminate on what I've read. I'm excited that I've found so many engaging fiction books already this year. That's usually my biggest challenge. 

If you have read any engaging fiction, I'd appreciate a recommendation!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reassessing My Struggle

It hasn't even been a week and I already am more hopeful about the future and my relationships. Do I think there's a family-type community on the horizon for me? No, I don't. There could be but that's not where my hope is resting.

My hope is in the confidence that God is my provider and sustainer. While I don't have a lot of answers to my questions, I do not think that they are as important now. God has encouraged me these past few days. He has drawn me closer to himself as I've clung to him in prayer.

I know now that I struggle with control and wanting my will/agenda to be done (I knew that before but this was a glaring reminder). I need to be more flexible and accept that plans have to change sometimes. I dislike having to cancel but you can't always plan for illness or weather.

I also know that I should enjoy my relationships that I do have as they are, not as I wish they would be. I am blessed with people who enjoy spending time with me and make time for it in their schedules. I have relationships that allow me to share my heart, my struggles, my fears, my weaknesses. Not everyone does.

I have a husband who loves me. He is my partner-in-crime for the long haul and I need to be most vulnerable with him. He is for me and wants to know what's on my heart. I need to make sure I don't believe the lies our enemy tries to feed me about him not caring about the little things on my mind or not being a safe space for my truth.

Not really any earth-shaking revelations but I am thankful for a God who pursues, comforts, encourages and guides me. I hope to be open to whatever relationship the future holds, appreciate the ones I currently have and trust God with it all.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Here In My Struggle

A week or so ago I admitted that I am in need of community. I feel like I have made efforts toward this goal off and on for quite some time. I have managed to have small communities - mom groups, tennis team, small groups, Bible studies - but they have all been for short seasons. I have not managed to hold on to a group where I really feel known and wanted for any real length of time. This does not suit my temperament. I am fiercely loyal, which can cause me to hold on to relationships longer than I'm supposed to, and thrive on deep relationships, which are not built overnight and probably another reason I try to hold on to the ones I've built even if the season has passed. It is a bit disheartening when one of these relationship ends (you could call them a best-friend type relationship) because there has been a lot of time and effort and vulnerability and courage poured into it. The thought of starting all over again is daunting and a little frightening. You never truly know if someone is safe for your truth until you offer it.

Anyway, I have been feeling lonely and a little discouraged lately and have been trying to figure out the reason for this current season. I believe that God has a purpose in this but am not sure what it is. This month I have been making plans with others to get together and work on forging stronger, deeper relationships and nearly all of them have had to be cancelled or rescheduled for a variety of reasons. I am thinking that God is behind it.

What is going on God? Are you trying to tell me something? Do I not really need community? Or am I trying to use community to fill something in me that only you can fill? Are you trying to show me that you are enough, that you are all that I truly need? Do I not think that you are enough for me? Are you trying to get me to dig in deeper with you, to seek you more, to become immersed in your word more? Do I need to grow in my intimacy with you? With my spouse? Do I need to be more open with my husband about feelings and struggles and needs? I feel like you and he are the only two relationships that consistently remain right now. I have a couple of meet ups scheduled the next two days and I feel like they are going to be cancelled too unless I can figure out what you're trying to say. And I know it's not some great mystery that is difficult to uncover because you enjoy my struggle. There is a holy purpose and I know I will learn it at the right time. Help me to trust you, your plans and your timing. Show me what I am missing. Give me wisdom and clarity. May your purpose be made clear and may you be glorified. Amen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: A Review

As a parent I know that I have plenty of room to grow. Let's face it, it's a learn-as-you-go, trial and error kind of job (shhh, don't tell my kids!). I welcome resources that can help me reach my parenting goals (raising responsible kids who love Jesus and serve others).

There was a posting on Facebook to apply for the launch team for a new book coming out called Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life's Biggest Yes by Kristen Welch. The name sounded familiar to me. I haven't read her other books but I have read a few of her blog posts. The title sounded like something my family and I could benefit from so I applied. And was accepted!

So I have had the opportunity to read the book before it's official release on January 26th. And I loved it! I would recommend it to all of my mom friends who are desiring for their kids (and themselves) to grow in gratitude and contentment.

There are so many truths and wise advice in the book I don't really know where to start so I will share some of my favorite quotes along with my personal thoughts. Before I get to that I want to let you know that the end of each chapter has a "take away" section that is divided by age range for kids so you can implement any valuable suggestions in an age appropriate manner (so helpful!).

Instead of happiness being a by-product of the life we live, it has become an elusive destination. And our culture is obsessed with pursuing it. We go into debt for it. We leave our marriages to attain it. We allow child-centered homes in hopes that our kids can achieve it. p.xiv
The conviction began in the introduction! It's true. We are striving for happiness, something that cannot be truly measured or really achieved directly. Perhaps that's why the Declaration of Independence talks about "the pursuit of happiness" rather than "the capture of happiness."

As uncomfortable as it sounds, parents who want less entitled kids have to be less entitled themselves, and parents who want to raise more grateful kids need to start by living more grateful lives. p.11
I have become quite acquainted with the reality that I have to practice what I preach. What I do says more to my children than any speech I will ever give. Our kids look up to us as parents. They see us as demonstrating what it means to be a woman or man, wife or husband, mother or father, responsible citizen, friend, employee, etc. Whatever they see us do will be added to the description of the roles they see us in and may one day have themselves.

I know I'm guilty of putting things on a pedestal as something we must acquire rather than showing gratitude for everything we already have. My thought processes need to change and I need to be and express gratitude in the little everyday things.
Entitlement winds its course through my home, and the more I've become aware of its subtle infiltration, the more I see and hear it blatantly. This is all I get? There's nothing else? From ice cream serving sizes to allowances, the opportunity to demand more is present. Is that all? I believe these three little words sum up the tone for those of us in most Western cultures. No one teaches us to ask that question or expect more. It's in our nature. p.17
I cringed at this paragraph because it is true. I see this sense of entitlement in my own heart and it is not pretty. Thankfully there is a remedy - thankfulness or gratitude.
"How can you be so happy?" I asked as I looked around at all he didn't have.                  "I have Jesus. He is enough," he answered confidently.                                                 His answer was my undoing. Because I had Jesus, too, but He wasn't enough for me. I wanted more - more money, more stuff, more to fill the emptiness. p.47
This is also so full of conviction. In our culture of more, the truth that Jesus is all we need is sometimes hard to accept and rest in. I know a lot of us find ourselves in the mindset of "Jesus and...". I know I have Jesus, but if I just had [a particular thing - status, job, house, relationship, health] then I could be content. Um, probably not. If you can't find rest in Jesus, then nothing else will give it to you. You (I) will be off to the next attainment if you (I) do receive what you (I) want.
We cannot give our kids stuff just because their friends have it. And we cannot give in to giving our kids stuff because our friends are giving it to their kids. It's a dangerous cycle that is hard to break. We cannot make our parenting choices based on what others are doing. We have to purpose our lives with intention or we will end up being just like everyone else, caught in a trap in our culture that demands that we fit in. P.58,boldness mine
I am all to familiar with this temptation. To look at the other parents with kids our age to see what the norm is. But I don't want my kids to fit into our culture. I don't want to do something just because it's the standard, especially if it's something I don't feel good about. I struggle with wanting to be accepted and approved of by others and it definitely holds true in my role as a mother. Parenting choices are so scrutinized these days that there's so much pressure to follow the herd so you won't be singled out and criticized. But if my choices are made out of fear of this occurrence, I am probably not doing what is best for my family.
I bought into the lie that it's my job to make my kids' childhood magical and fun, to guarantee that every day will be an adventure all about them.                                         Our children need to be bored. They need to kick their feet and wait outside of bathroom doors, unanswered. They need to be sent outside or to their rooms to play. They need to turn over the bag of tricks and find it empty.                                                               Because that's when they will discover they don't need stuff to fill their time. They don't need a plan for entertainment. They can create their own. p.74 
When we stop everything we are doing to meet the demands of our kids, we aren't really helping them. We are reinforcing their natural bent towards selfishness. We are telling them that what they want is most important. p.78
I needed this section so much personally. As a SAHM, I feel like part of the job description is entertaining my kids all of the time we're together. I do think purposeful, non-distracted time with them helps them to know that they are important, valued and loved. But if I defer all of my time to them I may become resentful and affect the quality of the time I do spend with them. They have plenty of toys and resources to occupy themselves while I do other things. I don't remember my mom spending all of her time with us when we were little. She also had to get housework, cooking and errands accomplished throughout the day.

It's probably quite healthy and beneficial for the kids to see that there are household responsibilities that need to be accomplished and that parents have lives that don't revolve around them. Providing opportunities to practice waiting and showing respect for others are valuable and imperative in their development into responsible adults.

It is also okay and necessary to not yield to their every request or desire (despite how adorable they sound asking). They also need to learn to accept "no." They need to see you and your spouse making one another a priority in daily communication and date nights.
This is the essence of a Christ-centered home - not getting it right the first or even the tenth time, but inviting Jesus in and letting Him heal our hearts and guide our lives. p.145
I love this reminder that we are never going to be perfect parents. Our mistakes ought to send us to Jesus for forgiveness, grace and guidance. It's encouraging to know that we're not alone in this journey.
Here's the simple truth that isn't so simple: Raising kids to be different from the world really does make them different from the world. This is true whether you homeschool them or send your kids to public or private school. Once you set them on that path, they will stand out when all they want to do is blend in. p.199
This is the tough part of parenting - knowing your kids may be teased as a result of your decisions. Even though the ultimate goal is worthy it's still difficult. I need to trust that God can bring good from all experiences - even (and usually especially) the hard ones.
Our kids are watching us. And when we feel like we are failing or we don't know what to do next, the answer is always to get closer to Jesus because when we do, those around us might just inch closer too. p.214
This is such an encouraging quote and a great one to end on. What is my ultimate goal? That my kids know and love Jesus. The best way for that to happen? Me showing them through my life (just like everything else).

Created by Michelle Mullins

This was a very long review of this book but it is so full of rich wisdom, conviction and encouragement that this is actually only a small snippet of highlighted parts of the book. If any of this resonated with you I highly encourage you to get and read this book.

Which of the above quotes stood out the most to you? I'd love to hear what part of this subject is closest to your heart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Reading More Books

I love to read! If you've known me for any length of time this is not a surprise. Reading is my chosen down-time activity. I tend to read more non-fiction books because I also enjoy learning new things and discovering new ways to grow in my personal and spiritual lives. I've implemented a new rule where if I am not hooked by the second chapter I put it down and move on to something else. Life is too short for okay or terrible books. This is probably why I read less fiction - those are harder to make the cut of worthwhile reading for me.

What our bookshelves currently look like.
Two years ago Jon Acuff encouraged his followers to participate in an Empty Shelf Challenge. He asked everyone to clear off a shelf on their bookcase, take a picture and then fill it with all of the books we read in 2014. I read a lot on my kindle so I created a pinterest page to compile everything I read. I ended up reading thirty books which isn't bad, especially when you have two young kids, neither of which were in school full-time.

This past year I decided to record my list of books again just to see how many I would read. I ended up finishing forty-seven books in 2015 (full disclosure: I read one book four times but I still think it counts because I read it start-to-finish each time). Random info: seventeen of the forty-seven were fiction.

I started a new list on my phone this year. In my mind my goal is fifty books. I know that's a lot but I really like to read. I've completed two books already but I had started them in December so it's kind of like cheating. I'm currently reading three different books - two on my kindle and one hardback (one fiction). My husband was teasing me because I informed him I had a "downstairs book". I prefer to read on my kindle in bed so I don't have to have the lamp on. I'm trying to keep hardbacks to daytime reading, hence my "downstairs book".

I thought as a new addition to my list I would like to write a short bit about what I got from the book in case someone was looking for recommendations. I read a lot of good ones last year but it's hard for me to remember all of the great things from them without a written record. I thought it might be helpful to make it a public record like with the Empty Shelf Challenge but I'm rarely on pinterest these days so I think this year I'll do a monthly post of everything I read in that month. I will end up with twelve posts of mini reviews.

In the meantime if you have any great books you'd like to share with me, I'm always open to suggestions! I'm willing to give nearly every genre a shot.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Admitting My Need

I have considered myself to be very independent which I thought was a pretty good thing for quite awhile. Parents all seem to want to raise kids who are self-sufficient, productive members of society. But I think you can get to a point where it's almost a source of pride that you don't really need anything from anyone. And also a lie.

My little snow island
Thinking I have gotten to where I am on my own is not true. I may have put in hard work, but I had loving, caring parents who provided for my needs, provided many opportunities and advantages that others may not receive and encouraged me throughout my life. There's no way I'd be where I am without them. And there have been quite a few people who have encouraged me and helped me and shaped who I am as I have grown up. I will never know just how much others have influenced who I have become.

More recently I have been struggling with not feeling like I have many ties to where I'm living. I've lived my whole married life away from my parents and in-laws. My husband and I thought it was a good thing early on because it allowed us to establish our relationship away from the influence of family. We were able to set a solid foundation for our new little family of two. And I do think it was beneficial to help us learn more about one another and ourselves and grow together.

As we've gotten older and added children into the family, the lack of local family support has been noticed and missed. We wish our kids would be able to spend more frequent time with their grandparents and cousins. Selfishly, we wish we had the opportunity for free babysitting.

I was reading Prayer by Richard Foster yesterday and in the chapter it talked about praying to relinquish our self-sufficiency. I realized that I do tend to operate in the mindset of self-sufficiency which isn't necessarily a good thing. I have been used to being away from family (I didn't live close to extended family as a child and have not lived near my parents since I graduated high school) but I sometimes have mistaken my experience as proof of self-sufficiency. Just because I am not able to be near them does not mean I do not need them.

Likewise, just because I do not have something does not mean it is not beneficial and something I might truly need. In an effort to combat my misguided thinking I thought it would help me to acknowledge people and relationships I do need and their benefits. Here we go.

I need my husband. Practically, he is the one who has blessed me with the opportunity to be at home with my kids. He is responsible for all of our basic necessities (thinking about it reminds me of how daunting that may feel at times for him). He does such an excellent job of providing for us. I know I could not fulfill his responsibilities. I need my husband for encouragement and support - in personal endeavors but most especially in parenting. We make a great team and our family would be sorely lacking without him. I need him for physical comfort and affection. I cherish his hugs and kisses. I need him for emotional comfort and support as well. He offers such wise advice and can see things in  situations I cannot at times.

I need my children. They made me a mother. They have caused me to do a lot of personal growing, the most extraordinary being the growing of sacrifice and service. Being responsible of the needs of others rubs on your selfishness and helps it to diminish some. I need their love, smiles, hugs, kisses and belly laughs. I need them so that I can experience life through a child's eyes and perhaps focus once again on what is important rather than all of the distractions of the world. I love seeing them learn and grow in abilities. It is amazing.

I need my family. I need the love and acceptance that is found there. (I know there are people who do not have safe families where they experience these things.) I need my encouragers who are always in my corner, always for me, always proud of me. I need the connection of shared experiences and inside jokes (even the ones that embarrass me).

I need God. He is woven in and through all of these and I know that he is for me and always with me. I love the way he reveals a little more of himself to me as I consistently draw near to him. Just last week I heard afresh the truth that God created me for him. He is constantly surprising me with little reminders of his love though I do not always recognize them. I need God to continue to work in my heart, to remove the selfishness and judgment and lack of love that can be found there. I need him to lavish his grace and forgiveness on me so that I do not despair when I am confronted with my sinfulness. I need Jesus who rescued me from death and darkness and has filled me with hope.

I need friends. Good, close friends. I was thinking today about how my kids could potentially have life-long friends. People they've known since they could walk. Neither my husband and I have friends like that. We moved several times and so our young relationships were severed and new ones created. Not that we haven't been able to establish strong relationships, just that we cannot relate to decades-long friendships (I do have a couple middle school friends I still keep in touch with and that spans nearly twenty years now but nothing earlier than that).

I feel I have struggled most in this area. I am an introvert so I yearn for a few deep relationships. Surface acquaintances do not renew or restore me. I have been blessed through the years to have found some of these relationships. My struggle is that they seem hard to maintain and my track record shows that they are usually severed when someone moves. I have accepted this as a fact of life but it doesn't make it any easier to move on and try again. I also realize some relationships have seasons.

I realized recently that sometimes I don't admit that I desire good friends. I think I pretend that it doesn't bother me that not many people reach out to me so that I won't feel as bad about it. But it is hard to do most of the initiating. Sometimes you want others to reach out so you know the friendship is important to them too. That you matter to them. We all want to be important and valuable. We want others to find us worthy of their time.

In my heart I know that God knows what I need. I know that he can provide me with amazing, honest, deep, vulnerable friendship. And I trust that he will provide me with what I need when I need it. I also think that he wants me to bring my longings to him. He wants me to seek him above people. He created me and knows what is in store for me. I trust him.

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at
I was reminded of his love for me and the truth that he can provide friendships at any time this morning. I have been wrestling with a bit of loneliness the past couple of days. I prayed that I knew God is faithful and has the power to provide. This morning at church a woman told me that she was wanting to focus more on people this year and would like to get together sometime to talk. I knew this was God's confirmation of what I already knew to be true. I don't know whether we will actually set aside time to get together (I'd love to but, you know, life) but I won't be as bummed if there's no follow through because I have confidence in God and his faithfulness.

So that's the truth. I need people and relationships. What about you? Is there anything you try to pretend you don't need simply because you don't have it right now?

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Self-Imposed Spending Ban

Hello again! It's only the 4th day of January and I'm back to share a bit more with you. I know I talked about some 2016 goals but there's one I wanted to mention because sharing it will help with accountability.

Last year I read a book called The Year Without a Purchase by Scott Dannemiller which talked about one family's journey to refocus on the important things in life (relationships, family and service). They had rules about what could be purchased - consumables, mainly, and experiential gifts (since this covered family and/or relationships).

A friend of mine mentioned a book she'd read called Living Well Spending Less by Ruth Soukup whose focus is on living purposefully. Apparently some months she challenges readers and herself to spend zero (though I haven't looked into it to see if it means literally no money out) for a month.

I've been thinking a lot about my spending. I don't necessarily overspend (we stay within our monthly income) but I haven't been doing a great job of purposefully saving and I think it is because I have not been as diligent with monitoring non-essential purchases.

I think if I considered purchases in terms of whether it was more important than saving for a short- or long-term goal, it would help me to choose the goal over the immediate gratification. I know that I am able to delay gratification, but it helps to have a specific goal or purpose in mind.

So I thought it would be helpful to me to not spend extra money in the month of January. It would help me to see how much "extra" money we really do have after bills and help us to set reasonable timelines for future, larger purchases.

I thought it would also help me to keep track of items I am tempted to buy this month that are not necessities. I can reassess in February if they are still important enough to spend money on or if they were passing fancies.

I'm kind of excited but also a little nervous. I mentioned this goal to a friend and she said she was doing the same thing but had already decided to not buy extras all year. It's nice to know I have someone to keep me company on this journey. She asked my thoughts on eating out. I have not made a set decision on here. I think if it's eating out to catch up with friends that's not terrible. Generally our family doesn't eat out or do take out more than once per week, though I'm sure to others that may be extravagant. So I'm on the fence still here and we'll see what happens I guess. When we have a meal plan in place each week that generally prevents us from phoning it in (which is usually on the weekends).

I'm curious to know if anyone else has ever done something like this. If so, what were your rules? How did you do?

Also, feel free to ask me how it's going. It'll help me stay on track!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy 2016!

My family celebrating NYE in our cul-de-sac.
It's a new year! Full of promise and hope and the unknown. I spent the last couple of days pondering how I wanted to make this year better than the last. I found there are a number of ways I could stand to improve myself. This assessment was a bit overwhelming so I'm trying to scale it back and start with a few reasonable goals. 

The past few years I have set achievable goals and actually achieved them. Two years ago I decided to find a new dessert recipe each month and make it. It was quite a delicious challenge. One month I almost missed the deadline. This past year my goal was to hand write a note to every address in my address book (yes I have an actual address book). I surpassed this goal by adding a few notes here and there. I even received a few responses back which was thrilling. I love receiving actual mail! I know email is so much more convenient and faster and I enjoy it also, but there's just something about opening an envelope and reading words in someone's handwriting that makes it extra special.

This year I chose my New Year's Goal to be to execute one craft per month with the kids. This may not sound like much of a challenge to some but I am not a crafty person. I went to a crafting night at a friend's house a few months ago and spent the time coloring in pictures. Not very high on the crafting scale. My daughter LOVES creating things and asks often to do something artsy. I know my son hasn't had a lot of crafting experience because of my lack of skills but I'm sure he could benefit from some time practicing with scissors and markers. Having a plan helps me greatly with execution so having this goal in my head will perhaps get my creativity juices flowing (that and pinterest, of course).

I also am hoping to spend more time blogging. I know right now my posts are sporadic and it is because I struggle with perfectionism. I feel like if I don't have something profound to say, there's no reason to write. But I have learned from others that sharing the everyday experiences of life can be just as encouraging and beneficial to others. Ideally I'd like to work up to once per week this year. A current reasonable goal based on my responsibilities and life stage is twice per month. Perhaps I'll become an overachiever if I can get a routine worked out.

I have been working out some thoughts that have been reinforced by things I've been reading. I really want to grow in gratitude, contentment and joy. I know these things are intertwined. I know that I have everything I need and more. I want to become someone who holds material things loosely and is willing to share my blessings and abundance with others. I want to have a generous heart. I'm not sure how to make this tangible other than to perhaps keep a gratitude journal and pray regularly for these qualities to become manifested in my life. Another avenue would be to seek opportunities to serve or help others.

I have a few other things I am desiring to become habits - like scripture memorization for one - but I think I will have to slowly incorporate them into my life otherwise I am going to fail quickly and become disheartened. It's much easier to add than subtract. For succinctness I will summarize below.

Goals for 2016

1.Plan and execute one craft time with the kids each month
2.Blog two times per month
3.Grow in gratitude, contentment, joy and generosity

Seems like a good start. Do you have any areas of your life where you're hoping to see change or growth? Please share them with me in the comments!