Forgiving Mom…

I recently had the honor of speaking at a Women’s Day event at a church in my area. There, in front of a few hundred amazing ladies, I was able to share my testimony and some of the amazing ways God has been so faithful in my life. It was a great time of fellowship, celebration, food, fun and most of all, love. At the conclusion of the event, I was able to exchange with some of the ladies one on one. They opened up and shared some of their testimonies with me. They noted many of the commonalities we had in our stories. One topic that kept coming up in my discussions was the many women affected by “mom hurt.” What is mom hurt, you say? It is the hurt many encounter during a painful childhood, mostly due to a difficult experience with their mom.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I’d like to address this issue head on. I realize it is a REAL pain. Though many women have had a wonderful relationship with their mother; she was supportive, caring, loving etc. SO many women/men have experienced the opposite. Perhaps their mom wasn’t around. She abandoned them during their childhood. She put them second to a career, addiction, boyfriends etc. Whatever the case, she did not perform her duties/responsibilities to THEIR standards. And of course, THOSE standards are the “normal,” reasonable expectations that should come very naturally to ANY mother. I GET IT!

But what if those typical/normal/reasonable standards DIDN’T come naturally to her? What if she TRULY did the BEST she knew during that time? What if, she was completely consumed with immaturity, selfishness, greed, etc.??? What if she was only doing what was done to her? What if the pain she inflicted on her children was not intentional? And even still, what if she DID know how badly she was behaving, but did it anyway? That HORRIBLE mom is not worthy of love, honor, respect, or ESPECIALLY forgiveness. I mean, LOOK AT ALL THE PAIN SHE CAUSED!!!!

I can TOTALLY relate to these feelings. My mother-daughter childhood experience was interrupted by some of the very things I mentioned earlier; like addiction, neglect, abuse and abandonment, and it had some MAJORLY devastating impacts on my life. However, a wise person once told me, you can’t expect someone to give you what they don’t have. It is like walking up to a friend and asking them for $1,000, but all they have is $400. Because it seems NORMAL for us all to have $1000 on hand, does it give us a pass to lay in perpetual bitterness? Gloom? Doom? If they only have $400? “I mean, if they had $1000 to give me, I would be SOOOO much better off.” “What in the world can I POSSIBLY do with only $400????” “I NEED ALL $1000!!!!!!”

Many people today have suffered YEARS of pain, frustration, bitterness and unforgiveness because a mom did not live up to the expectation she was charged to fulfill. Though this can have a major impact on the life and welfare of children, it does not give ANYONE a license for a lifetime of unforgiveness.  As we grow older, we can find healing and ways to repair the brokenness caused by a negligent mother. When we accept a relationship with Christ, He can fill the holes and suffering left from our painful encounters. He can and will send replacements for the loneliness and sense of abandonment, to where the absence of a loving mother will seem insignificant. However, we block His hand when we choose to hold on to feelings of resentment, revenge, anger and bitterness.

If we simply consider the scripture, we have no choice but to forgive our mom. “You have NO idea what my mom did to me!!!” You say. Though I have not been in your situation, I DO understand how you feel. As children, our moms take up the greatest real estate in our heart. They are the givers of life. They are supposed to love us like no other. They are supposed to cherish us and sacrifice their very life so that we become all God has called us to be. I DO UNDERSTAND THAT. However, we are called to honor our parents. We are called to walk in love, even when that person has hurt us deeply.

After YEARS of a strained relationship, my mother and I are restoring a beautiful bond. It has not been easy, but true love and forgiveness has guided our hearts to mend and repair what was once broken. I am so grateful my kids get to see my mother at her BEST. That I get to enjoy a renewed exchange while we are both mature, healthy, and whole. That we get to share this beautiful time together free of residue or expectation.

The relationship between a mother and child is paramount. There is nothing like it. When it is damaged, it can hurt like no other. And though it can cause some major scars, God is the ultimate plastic surgeon. It is nothing that can’t be repaired.  Surely, you may never be best friends, go over each other’s house every day, or even do the things you once did. Nevertheless, I pray you get your heart to a place of forgiveness. Where your current day or future success and happiness are not hindered by hate or anger. Where you are not plagued by the expectations that weren’t met in your life. That you no longer hold her accountable for unpleasant outcomes you endured. And that you release her from the bondage of your grief. Instead, may you seek love freely given by the greatest healer. May you let HIM heal your wounds and fill your heart with the greatest love of all. And may you go on to Mother from a place of grace and peace, because no person, encounter or thing has the power to stop you from enjoying every drip drop of your amazing journey!!! BLESSINGS TO YOU!!! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!

OUR VEGAN(ish) LIFE: The How’s, Why’s and What’s of Our Decision to Live a Vegan Lifestyle…

So, if you know me, you know that for a few years now, my family and I have committed to a vegan-ish lifestyle. I say “vegan-ish” because, we are not ALL the way vegan. As a matter of fact, I don’t even like the label itself as it is very specified and leaves little room for variation. Nonetheless, we often lean on this title as it is the closest to describing our eating habits. Interestingly enough, I find more and more when I explain to people that we are a vegan, it elicits a host of questions and even frustrations that ultimately lead to confusion. And for this reason, I am writing about our journey as veganists. 😊

What: What is your practice? Overall, my husband, two teenagers and I eat as clean, natural and healthy as possible. That means we see food as medicine, or nutrition our body needs to perform the many tasks we all do. Though we love our food to taste good, (and we see to it that it does 😊) we try to view food as source of fuel vs. a substance of pleasure. Therefore, the things we eat are generally fresh, whole (unprocessed/unrefined), natural, locally grown (when possible) and mostly plant based.

Why: Why have you chosen a vegan(ish) lifestyle? Though there are many diets and eating trends people currently follow, our decision was not based on a fad, weight-loss goal, or even illness. Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I have been healthy eaters and have always benefited from that way of life. However, over time, we noticed the increasing level of negative news regarding the unnatural processing of the animals we generally consumed, their poor treatment and the affects it was having on our country. After extensive prayer and research, we further investigated our concerns and concluded that our family could live without the consumption of animal products. We discussed it together and decided to move forward with our decision to eat what we call, a whole food, plant-based diet.

How: How have you maintained this lifestyle? As a homemaker one of my major responsibilities has been preparing meals that nourish our family as well as teaching our children how to make healthy choices. This decision required a ton of research. We have all come to lean on the nutrients provided in meat and dairy, such as protein, iron, zinc and magnesium. It was important that I included substitutions and even additions for some of the vitamins and minerals they would not consume while eating a plant-based diet.  I have been careful in the planning of meals and snacks to ensure we are not just checking off a box that says we don’t eat meat, but that we are intentional about providing sources of true nutrition to sustain overall health and wellness. We create a menu each week and grocery shop to prepare those specific meals accordingly.

What don’t you eat? We generally don’t consume foods made by animals, including meat, eggs, or dairy products. We don’t eat fast or highly processed foods. We don’t use the microwave or eat pre-cooked foods or dairy/meat substitutes. As a rule of thumb, we try to assess the origin of the food and determine if it came from the ground or if it was made in a factory. Can we recognize or even pronounce the main ingredients? If not, we generally do not eat it. Though this seems to be strict criteria, we have found that it works for US. Our decision comes with no judgement or sanctimony, only a measuring tool for maintaining our goals.

What do you eat? Many people assume vegans eat celery and lettuce for breakfast and run around all day feeling weak and depleted. On the contrary, like most people, we eat 3 meals per day and snacks throughout.

A typical breakfast in our house could be steel-cut oatmeal, stone-ground grits, avocado/cinnamon/garlic toast, fruit/veggie smoothies, buckwheat pancakes, fried potatoes and even an all-natural cereal with almond milk.

Lunch for my husband is generally leftovers from the prior night’s dinner, but for my kids, they pack a lunch that consists of an entrée, fruit, vegetable, starchy snack and desert item. Which generally means a pb&j sandwich, peanuts/almonds, carrots, raisins, avocados, apples, oranges, grapes, chips/pretzels, granola bars, cookies, dark chocolate, popcorn etc.

Dinner changes all the time. Vegetables are the main staple and we generally form each entrée around a large variety of them including veggie soup, chili, sushi, burritos, pizza, tacos, pastas etc. We eat from a large selection of beans as well and use them as a great source of protein, iron and fiber. Many times, we have beans and rice coupled with collard greens or some other main vegetable. We also enjoy various salads and sometimes a simple loaded baked potato.

Why do you say vegan “ish” instead of vegan? Most true vegans do not use animal products at all. They don’t even wear leather. That is not us. The greatest part of the “ish” in my description comes from the fact that we do include a small amount of fish in our diet a couple times a month. We try to buy local or at least wild-caught fish when possible, but this decision allows for a bit of balance for us all. However, we are strongly opposed to the harmful/unethical treatment of animals and do not support any form of it.

Do you eat out? Of course. At least once a week, we either get take-out or dine at a restaurant. You would be surprised how many establishments cater to vegan/vegetarian diets. We especially enjoy Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, even Indian and Vietnamese restaurants. They tend to provide vegetable rich options and use herbs and spices as a means to add flavor. However, I can generally find acceptable meal selections at typical mainstream establishments like Chipotle, Cheesecake Factory, and the like.

Effects: How has a vegan(ish) lifestyle impacted your life? First of all, though it wasn’t the goal, I personally lost 25+lbs immediately, while my husband and children maintain a healthy weight overall. We have not missed a day of work or school due to sickness. We have energy and stamina to maintain a very active lifestyle. Both my kids are in year-round sports, while my husband and I are avid hikers and enjoy outdoor activities on a regular basis. I have experienced a major balance in my hormones and have overcome challenges with acne, thinning hair, migraine headaches and other nutritional/hormonal imbalance related issues. Overall, I feel full of energy and my body and mind are strong and alive.

I am fully aware of the various diets and trends many follow today. For some, veganism is just that. I am careful never to push our beliefs on anyone or look down on people for the choices they make for themselves or their family. I fully believe we have to be led and must do what works BEST for us individually. However, it is so important that we do our diligence when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many of the methods of production of the products we consume are unclean and unethical.  It is up to us to make informed and sometimes uncomfortable choices that will benefit us for the long haul. God has called us all to do amazing things in this life. I am prayerful that though many of the producers continue to create harmful food options, that other ethical farmers and producers will continue to create ways to grow and sell foods that give life and wellness so that we may enjoy a long, healthy, happy, amazing journey… 0000000





Cover photo cred: greenermums

HOW TO TEMPER YOUR TURKEY TIME… Tips to Reduce Holiday Indulgence :-)

Ok. We are just a couple days away from the incredible holiday season!!!!! Awesome days filled with joy, peace, laughter, rest, and fun. Great memories are made with all our FAVORITE things to enjoy; football, family, friends; time off work, and the best of all… SHOPPING AND EATING of course!!!! I tell you, I am an AVID Black Friday shopper!!! I will be out there with the BEST of them searching for a super steal (yeah right… do they really exist???? But I WILL be out there nonetheless!!!) and of course will enjoy a wonderful FEAST on Thanksgiving and Christmas day!!! However, I have learned over the years the good old adage “a moment on the lips, equals a lifetime on the hips” to be SOOOO appropriate during this season. We can actually apply it to not only food, but spending as well. Here are a couple ideas to consider when making choices about eating and shopping during the holidays.

For the sake of establishing my point, let’s look up the definition of 2 words. 1st indulge. Indulge simply means “to take unrestrained pleasure in.” 2nd temper. Temper means to “restrain. To serve as a neutralizing or counterbalancing force to something.” Ok. So, the teacher in me is coming out. Lol.

Here’s the deal. Holidays are a time for great indulgence. We will all be tempted and most likely give in to eating without restraint and sometimes spending without restraint. We will be welcomed REGULARLY with treats, candy, cupcakes, muffins, lattes and other goodies each day. I mean, sugar is lurking on EVERY corner! At work, church, friends’ houses, school celebrations, holiday parties, etc… The Thanksgiving Day dinner alone will be loaded with DELICIOUS appetizers, meats, sides, desserts and drinks!!! HALLELUJAH!!! And we will commence to filling our bellies until we look like the stuffed turkey lying on the platter!!! We are quick to tell ourselves… “Oh, it’s the holidays… go ahead and indulge!!” FOR SURE!!! I get it!!! IT IS THE HOLIDAYS!!!!!

We do the same thing with spending. We have Secret Santa gifts to buy, Amazon is having super sales, phones have no more memory, everyone in the family needs a SUPER-DUPER gift, and shoot, while you were out looking for your mom’s present, they had a buy one get one 20% off sale, so you had to get one for yourself as well!!!! I KNOOOOWWWWW!!!! AND… It’s the break and the kids need something to do, so why not Disney, or at least the movies, dinner, a theatre production, and ALLLLLLLLL those great goodies. Everyone is coming over to your house, so you must UPGRADE your otherwise ANCIENT Christmas décor… I KNOOOOOOOWWW!!!

This has all become the beauty of the celebration. At this point, it wouldn’t be the same without it. However, we have to get real with ourselves. We run wild during this time only to spend the next few months cleaning up the mess we made, or even worse, ignoring it. Our credit cards are smashed full and our waist takes an unrepairable hit! I can admit, I have come back from many a holiday break weighing more than 5-8lbs more than when I started!!! We drudge through to New Year’s with yet another promise to get it all back in order… uuuggghhh.

Perhaps there is a better way. Simple temperance during this time can save us a ton of headache in the months to come. How can we do this? Here are some simple ideas to help temper your spending and eating during the holidays.

Temper your eating:

  1. Treat yourself, but limit yourself to one plate only. (No 2nd’s/No doggy bags!!!)
  2. Load your plate with double the amount of veggies, salad, soups over everything else.
  3. Commit to an extra workout regime during the month of December.
  4. Don’t arrive starved. Have a healthy snack or drink 2 big glasses of water before going to any holiday party (it’s tough to overeat when you are already full!!!)
  5. Bring your own favorite healthy option to the party… EAT THAT!!! 😊

Temper your spending:

  1. Make a holiday budget based on cash vs. credit.
  2. Get creative with your gifts, décor, and recreation (cook/bake/DIY-type gifts/board games/light viewing etc.)
  3. Don’t be afraid to say NO to commitments beyond your budget.
  4. Condense gift buying (Everyone pull a name. This is the person you will buy for this year.)
  5. BUY USED (You can always give gently used video games, books, toys etc. instead of the brand-new version)

I KNOW. I KNOW. This all seems to take the fun out of the experience, BUT ultimately, you have to get your mind, will and emotions in check. Let them know who’s in charge!!! If you make it a practice to operate in discipline during the most DIFFICULT of situations, there is no temptation you can’t completely obliterate!!! You can DO THIS!!! Trust me, your waistline and bank account will be much better off because you used wisdom and restraint. In the meantime, remember what this season is all about. Though you have a heart to give the most and best, though you want to enjoy great memories and times with loved ones, it will be much more enjoyable today and tomorrow when it is done with love and self-control.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOUR CREW!!! 🙂

 

Photo cred: Pinterest

THE SLUMBER PARTY POOPER: A Quick MUST- READ for EVERY Parent…

It’s the end of summer… the kids are getting older, they want to kick it with a few friends on the weekend, or perhaps you just need some well-deserved RELIEF… Tis the season for a good old fashioned, harmless sleepover. I mean, you’ve known this family for years, or better yet, they ARE family, and your daughter has a cell phone in case of emergencies… AND you have equipped her well with “the talk!” Surely, all things will be fine right????… Not so fast.

For this blog post, I will address a subject that is near and dear to my heart. It may be difficult to receive, or even believe. But if it slows you down, or helps you consider your decisions more thoughtfully, well… mission accomplished.

As a friend, teacher, and parent I have counseled many young women who have been the victim of rape, molestation or sexual assault some time in their life. Studies show that 1 in 5 will have some experience in their lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, it is rare that a stranger off the street, will kidnap and violate his victims. But more so, it is the distant cousin, uncle, family friend, neighbor etc. at which the innocence is compromised. Too many times, it happens during the sleepovers/camps/weekend trips/family reunions, when our children are most vulnerable. When our guard is down because of the trust we have given to the people in our camp.

Here’s a typical example: You let your daughter go to her cousin’s house for the weekend. I mean, this is your sister!!! She would NEVER let anything happen to your daughter. Besides, her daughter is your daughter’s best friend. They are the same age and have grown up together. This situation seems completely harmless. However, you didn’t consider the fact that your nephew is now 16. It’s Friday, and he has a couple friends over. Maybe they aren’t perfect angels, but they are boys… they are teenagers… and… well… You get my point. Or perhaps your brother-in-law has a few guys over to play pool. They are drinking a bit, but nothing crazy. I mean, your sister is right there. TRUST ME… I get it.

But as a victim myself, I can tell you, it only takes 10 minutes to steal the innocence of a child. As a matter of fact, one touch, one look, exposure to sexual sin, can completely obliterate your child’s image of God’s holy, beautiful, sacred act forever. Furthermore, many former victims of a sexual violation/deviation, have changed their entire perception of themselves, others and their sexuality; leaving them with bouts of depression, low self-esteem, promiscuity, and a disgust for heterosexual relationships and intercourse all together.

With the level of pornographic images on TV, magazines, the Internet at an easy grab, it seems to only exploit the sexual appetite, which promotes a stronger drive for sexual deviance now more than ever. We must be super proactive in our awareness of this potential threat and let it govern our decisions regarding overnight/home-alone/babysitting experiences. I am certainly not trying to scare you. But perhaps increase your awareness to avoid potential unwanted behavior.

As a parent, here are some simple ideas to help:

  1. Of course, give your child “the talk.” No matter their age or gender, they should know that there are areas of their body that are OFF LIMITS!!! NO EXCEPTIONS!!! That if anyone were to EVER touch them there, they should get away and get help IMMEDIATELY.
  2. You should maintain an open line of safe communication where your child knows they can come to you and freely ask questions and seek advice at any time. Create this exchange by giving them your undivided attention, time and concern at will. A safe place where they can share their most sacred thoughts without judgement or penalty.
  3. Be mindful of your child’s whereabouts at all times. Not just where they are. But who else is there? Make regular check-ups to evaluate the security of this place. This includes after school practices, pick-ups and drop-offs etc.
  4. Let your presence be made known. Your child and all parties involved should know and feel your presence. Be active in calling-in, asking questions, and showing up. Even if the kids are playing in the basement, there should be a natural understanding that you are on the scene and will make an appearance in some way shape or form. Of course, you shouldn’t be “Stalker-Mom” or anything, but you must be “there” if only through a FaceTime, phone call, drop-in exchange.

There are so many great benefits to giving our children some time away from home. There are so many great social experiences to be had and memories to create. Nevertheless, we as parents must be aware of the potential threats that can bring harm to our children and act accordingly. If we are mindful of these simple steps, we can help prevent a lifetime of heartache.

HOW TO BUY YOUR CAR WITHOUT A LOAN… 6 Easy Steps… YOU GOT THIS!!!!

Remember back in the day when your parents/grandparents had a vehicle? They may not have had 3 cars in the garage, but if there was one, they owned it, maintained it, worked hard for it and pretty much drove it until the wheels fell off. If your parents were like mine, they even had to save up for the car and perhaps carpool or ride the bus until they could actually afford to finally make the purchase.

Many of us look back at those days and reflect a time of hardship and lack. We see people today with 3-4 new cars in the driveway and deem it a point of success… we have finally arrived and are so much better off than our parents ever were. Unfortunately, though we look the part, and banks have made a way for us to “seemingly” attain, most of us are not “owners” of anything. We are paying monthly payments on just about all our (what we like to call) “assets”.  We are convinced that if we didn’t finance them, we would otherwise not have them.  And though we may not be able to afford $20,000 + upfront, surely, we can all afford $299 – $599 + a month right????? OF COURSE…. It seems that way. However, we can all agree that life doesn’t always turn out like we planned, and unexpected expenses occur which add undo stress and pressure to our financial situation.

I submit that our parents/grandparents owned way more than most of us today, simply because they were not borrowing. Let’s not talk about how less chaotic our lives would be if we were able to cut back on our hours at work, or if we were able to sow, invest or multiply the money we were throwing away each month on finance fees for an item that lost value the MINUTE it was driven off the lot.

Well, I am here to tell you that it IS indeed possible to OWN everything you purchase without having to borrow from anyone. Nearly 20 years ago, my husband and I started the process of becoming 100% debt free; that we would not charge, or finance another thing.  With the exception of our home, (we have a plan for that too) we have stuck to that goal and are super close to owing no one, nothing (pardon the double negative!!! 😊). It has been a sacrifice, and definitely delayed gratification, but it so liberating to have complete control over our spending. However, it has certainly required us to alter the process for some of the major purchases, such as buying a car.

In a world where everyone around is driving the latest $30,000 + vehicle, our appetite can often times be greater than our bank account. Though most vehicles on the road are less than 5 years old,  studies show, a very small percentage of them are owned by the driver themselves. So technically, most drivers are 1-2 missed payments away from repossession, or in laymen’s terms:  the true owner (the bank) can come take it back. Not to mention how many times beyond the actual price consumers are spending once the financed term is complete… and by that time, the once satiated appetite is way past ready for yet the newest version… and the vicious cycle begins yet again. And here we are, the $30k turns into $50k;  we are now at the perpetual mercy of the improved features of overpriced vehicles for which banks have so graciously provided ways to consume our salary….7 year chunks at a time.

In the meantime, we are led to believe that our infant child, toddler and pre-teen would otherwise be riding in harm’s way if we didn’t buy a new carWe would risk DEATH if our engine blew up while driving on the freeway to soccer practice… or heaven forbid the transmission left us stuck at a red light because it had 119k miles on it!!!! DON’T BELIEVE THAT LIE!!! I am here to dispel the “used car” myth once and for all. You CAN buy a new or used car that is safe, dependable, quality, stylish AND in your budget…WITHOUT GOING INTO DEBT.

Over the past 20 years we have had super success buying cars for our family. We have a process that has given us great results, and guess what, neither of our cars has ever caught on fire, blown up or had the air condition freeze it to ice!!!!  Here is a little list of our purchases:

Year purchased Year/Make/Model of car Price of car Mileage at purchase Mileage at the end of the term Years we owned it
2017 2007 Hyundai Veracruz $6,200 130k+ Still have it… 131k 1 month and counting
2015 2015 Subaru Cross Trek $27,000 BRAND NEW Still have it… 104k 2 years and counting
2012 2003 MINI Cooper $8000 81k 122k 2 years
2008 1998 Mercedes Benz $5000 98k Still have it…286k 9 years and counting
2007 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee $3400 151k 298k 10 years
2004 1995 BMW $8500 153k 215k 3 years
2001 1989 Audi 80 $3600 69k 145k+ 3 years
2000 1991 Volvo 240 $3100 155k+ 300k+ 7 years

 

As you can see, we have enjoyed some of the luxurious, foreign, sport utility, compact, etc. cars and have gotten great life out of each of them. Here’s how we do it.

  1. Establish a price. This is SO important. What can your family afford? Not just for the moment, but throughout the life of the vehicle… gas, repairs, maintenance? Look at your bank account, bonus for the year, extra money you received and consider a CASH amount you can spend. If you don’t have it yet, SAVE IT!!!! Put aside a little money each month, combine it with a tax return, sell an item in your house you don’t need anymore, and create a specific amount you can spend. Don’t be afraid to start off small. You would be surprised what kind of car you can buy with only $2,000!
  2. Determine the need. Many people buy cars based on what’s hot and flashy, what looks cute. Consider what you NEED. Do you have a long commute and need fuel efficiency? Are you in the car for long distances and need extreme comfort? Do you drive through mountains and/or snow and must have 4-wheel drive? Or do you have a growing family of 5 and need ample seating? Whatever the case, be sure you are addressing the NEED vs. style, name, color, or other superficial reasons that will cause you to spend outside of your price range.
  3. Consider your options. Now that you know what you are looking for, you can explore the HUGE variety of vehicles out there to meet your need and your budget. Today there are many places to search for new/used vehicles right online, which can often times present a much better alternative to used car lots. One of our favorite sites is www.autotrader.com .  You can refine or streamline the search to accommodate your exact budget, need, amenities, and other items on your wish list. Be sure to explore ALL the options. You would be surprised of the makes and models you’ve never heard of or noticed on the road. Our latest purchase was a Hyundai, Veracruz. It is a vehicle we didn’t know existed, but after research, we discovered it met our needs PERFECTLY and ultimately became our only consideration.
  4. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. This may be one of the most important parts of the purchase process. Once you have narrowed your search to potential vehicles, you must research the history of that particular make and model. www.edmunds.com , www.kbb.com , and www.cars.com are all great sites that offer details, specs, reviews, recalls etc. about automobiles from every year of the manufacturing process. They provide information such as gas mileage, pricing, amenities, safety ratings, size, towing capacity and so much more. When researching alternatives to the Veracruz we recently purchased, we considered other vehicles such as the Subaru, Tribeca and the Volvo XC90. However, after extensive research and reading consumer reviews, we found the Tribeca to have major transmission issues and both required premium gas. This helped make our decision very easy. Taking time to consider the history of the vehicle and the background of its manufacturing can save a lot of heart ache in the long run.
  5. TIME TO SHOP!!!!! Finally, you are ready to take your money and make an informed purchase. Search your spirit when exchanging information with the seller. If it is a used car dealer, have they marked the price up to an astronomical rate? What is the Kelley Blue Book value of the car? How many owners has it had? Any accidents? How well was it cared for? Why are they selling it? Don’t buy off your emotion. You want a car, but YOU have the power… YOU HAVE THE MONEY!!!! If they are asking too much, but you really like it, talk them down. Be firm on your price. You have done your research, so you know how much this car is worth based on mileage, and condition. When you test drive it, LISTEN!!! Listen to the car, the sounds its makes. Look at the handles, the locks, the windows, the tires, the brakes. Does the moon-roof leak? The condition of the car will tell you a lot of how well it was cared for and help you make an informed purchase.
  6. HAVE A SUPER MECHANIC. Last step. Many people swear by taking their car to the dealership to have it serviced. We have never done that. We have always been fortunate to know of a very knowledgeable mechanic who is reasonable and enthusiastic about his/her job. We always have him look over our vehicles before putting it on the road. Remember you are buying your used car in “as-is” condition. Surely, it may need a tune up, new tires, extra coolant etc. He will be able to put it on the computer to determine exactly what it needs before driving it, and throughout the life of the car. It is always a plus when the mechanic develops a relationship with you and your car, so you have a reliable source to help when repairs or maintenance arises.

There you have it!!!! I know this was a long one, but you are now equipped to make an informed decision when purchasing a vehicle. Whether you are in the market to buying a brand new or used car, I strongly encourage you to always buy it with cash. Who wants to spend half of their paycheck each month for YEARS on newer features that will only expire soon after. When you buy it, it’s YOURS. It becomes an asset. No one can come take it and no one will hound you each month for their dues, while overcharging you several times over. The best part of it is this: When it is time for you to move on to a true upgrade, you will have the choice of doing whatever you choose with your car. So far, we have been fortunate enough to give several of our cars to others upon upgrading, (which has been one of my favorite parts of car ownership). I am excited that every purchase is better than the one before. I am excited that instead of spending our money on expensive car notes each month, we are able to save, invest, and enjoy. I pray this post helps you as well. May your greatest purchases be ahead of you!!! Here’s to 300k+ mile debt-free voyages!!!!

 

 

THE “RACE CARD” IS COMPLETELY MAXED OUT!!!!

I was in the store with my son and daughter waiting to be checked out the other day when suddenly I heard a very abrupt, loud, out of control screaming, cussing and straight-up foolery break out.  The customer in front of us was VERY upset that her small number of items resulted in a bill totaling $29. After an awkward silence, the clerk responded with a casual “I don’t make the prices, I just work here.” The customer LOST IT!!!!!! She apparently felt disrespected during her time of vulnerability and she spewed out cuss words I haven’t heard in YEARS!!!! Called the clerk all kinds of horrible names, insulted her “minimum wage job” and had to be physically restrained (by her husband) from going over the counter to assault the cashier!!!  Though her behavior and words (in front of children) were disgraceful, what got me was when she called the clerk a “racist @$%%$##@&!!!!” I was completely embarrassed. Yes, she was visiting an all-white town, yes there are ignorant people in our world, but being black did not give her a license to act in an unbecoming manner, evoke a rational response, only to be met with the RACE CARD!!!! Race had absolutely nothing to do with this. But too often it is at the forefront of almost all current disputes, acts of violence and discussions and many times it is unwarranted.

I must admit I currently live in a predominately white town, my kids attend a predominately white school, and half my family is white. However, I have attended and taught in mostly black schools, lived in all black neighborhoods and half my family is also black. I’ve communed alongside some of the most amazing people; black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish… you name it. I am indeed educated, I have directly benefited from some of the great opportunities our country offers, and have never been denied access to any of my many pursuits and achievements. Unfortunately, with all the great strides that have been made for equality, we seem to be more divided now than ever before. Nevertheless, we will never change the face of stereotypes by perpetuating the very behaviors and images that seem to plague our brains through history, unfortunate experiences, media etc…

I am privileged to be biracial, though I have personally never subscribed to the black/white thing. It is simply a means to separate God’s creation. However, whatever entity we may subscribe to, we have the responsibility to represent that with excellence. If we want to change the way we are viewed and treated, it starts right with our daily walk, with our regular interactions and our unfamiliar encounters. We need to put the race card away!! As far as I am concerned, if someone choses to be racist, it has ZERO impact on me. They have no true power/authority to influence any part of my life. Therefore, it is their problem, not mine. In the meantime, we need to take the magnifying glass off the problem and become the solution. The resolution is simple. WALK IN LOVE!!

Everyone has a history we may not understand. It is easy to see others through our own perspective and experiences. It is easy to look at a man with a bushy beard, a worn Harley black leather jacket and a confederate flag bandana on his head and make an assumption. But why? He is a small business owner, grandfather of 3, husband of 29 years and devout southerner. My husband is black, 6’4, has on a baseball cap and worn sweaty t-shirt and big gym shoes but has to make a quick stop at the store. Based on the images seen on TV and various experiences, a visitor in our town may be inclined to clutch their purse harder and become aware of the potential threat he may pose.  She would never know he is a senior robotics engineering manager for a major corporation, father of 2, and a minister of music who finished taking his 14-year-old daughter to the rec center to play basketball and stopped for a gallon of almond milk to make kale smoothies in the morning for breakfast. However, it is his responsibility to make sure if he doesn’t want people to grab their purse in his presence, that he is not sagging his pants, riding off from the store blasting obscene music, cussing on the phone to one of his boys like he is the only one in the store. Instead, why not smile? Greet people as they come in his presence? Walk with his daughter throughout the store with the proud glow that any parent can recognize?  But most importantly exude the love of Christ in excellence.

Though it may seem an undue charge, (I mean, who has time for all that) it is a bill we all have to pay. If we want people to treat us beyond the horrible images they know, we have to reinvent that image. We have to walk in the universal language that breaks down walls and is understood by everyone. We must remember that race, religion, gender, etc.… does not give us a free pass to behave out of character. Unfortunately, I believe the angry customer I mentioned earlier went to jail. She will leave this experience believing that she was wrongfully treated and feel some sort of justification for her behavior. Instead of acknowledging that she not only hurt herself, she only confirmed the beliefs of many of the people in the store that day, which only hindered the overall plight of everyone.  Let us all do our part to extend a bit of grace to our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us treat others as we would like to be treated. Let us walk in love. Let us put away the race card and BE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD. 😊

You’re Going to Poop the Rest of Your Life… What’s the Rush????

Ok, so I am currently smack dab in the middle of one of the most challenging experiences of my life… I am teaching my 15-year-old son how to drive!!!!!! OOOMMMGGGG!!!! For the most part, I am a pretty calm kinda gal. However, this adventure has required a level of patience like I’ve never experienced before.

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Forget the fact that I am still in awe that I have a child who is old enough to drive anyway! I mean, it feels like we were watching episodes of Little Bill, playing Beyblades and building Lego figures just yesterday!!!! Nevertheless, of course when he told me he was enrolled in Driver’s Ed, had to get his learner’s permit, and actually start operating a real motor vehicle, I had to rise to the challenge and help teach him the simple art of driving, right????? UUUUUUMMMM…. NO!!! This thing is INTENSE!!!! Like most people, I’m sure, we started off in the parking lot, moved to dirt roads, and have now advanced to two lane streets; however, it has taken several weeks (and a few missed stop signs) to get here!!!

Though we have been practicing about 3-5 times weekly, it occurred to me, that unfortunately my son is nowhere near the place where he can have his driver’s license and operate a vehicle on his own any time soon. Now that doesn’t mean I will stop working with him. I plan to work with him almost every day until he reaches his goals, however, rather than risk his, ours, or others’ lives, I have come to accept the fact that he needs A LOT more practice and it will probably be much longer than the 2 months he has left until he completes his driver’s training and turns 16.

For some, automatically this would spell failure. I have to admit, my determination for him being successful was what drove my anxiety and frustration. How could we (ultimately, I) fail to meet such a huge milestone? Then it occurred to me, so many of us are governed by the “milestone timeline.” The idea that things must be done according to the majority of the population. That timeline looks like this: You should graduate college by 21, get married by 24-26, pregnant by 30. Baby should be walking by 1, potty-trained by 2, reading by 4. They should be in the gifted and talented group, they should be in 3-5 different athletic or fine arts activities to prepare for scholarships (in 10 years!!!) and the list goes on and on. And OH MY GOSH!!!! YOU ARE 33 AND NOT MARRIED????? What is wrong with you???? We measure ourselves and our successes by our ability to meet these timelines. But I have an important question: WHO set the timelines? What substance or weight do they really hold in the big grand scheme?

I mean, think about it: does it really matter if your baby walks at 14 months instead of 12? Or for heaven sakes, they are SUPER SUPER special if they start walking at 9 months!!! I mean they would qualify for the “Baby Who Walked First Award” right???? Is that any indication of their intellect? Their ability or lack thereof? Or is it merely a source of pride for parents to brag and post that their AMAZING child has passed the test and is READING A BOOK AT AGE 1!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!! Really????? WHO CARES????

Trust me. I am not making light of us achieving goals for our lives or our children’s lives. However, we must make sure they don’t govern our happiness or reflection of our success. We can’t be filled with feelings of failure if our lives don’t line up with the world’s timeline. You, me, our children were fearfully and wonderfully made. One of a kind. God broke the mold when he made you! Don’t look to the left or the right to determine where you should fit on the marker. RUN YOUR RACE! In all things, we have to seek God for His direction and His timing for the purpose and plan for our life. His ways are so much higher than ours. While we are rushing to marry this man because “I’m getting old and pretty soon I won’t be able to have kids” we settle for less than what He has for us because we are on some crazy time schedule! Because everyone else has a house by “this age,” we go into ridiculous amounts of debt to stay on top of it. We become overly anxious because our kid may not be ready to drive until he is 17…or even 18 and we lose sight of such a great learning experience.

Whatever the case, don’t allow this undo pressure to force a speed race in any area of your life. Slow down and enjoy the journey that is necessary for full completion. Lean not unto your own understanding… let God direct and order your steps and you will always end up on top, finishing at a time suitable for YOU based on HIS timeline.  Ultimately, you/your child will drive, walk, read, talk, poop, for the rest of their life… No need to rush this awesome process!!!

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Love the One You’re With…

Last weekend, my family and I ate at a Mexican restaurant in our small town. After being seated and placing our order, I immediately took out my phone to show my husband and kids an item I was interested in purchasing on EBay. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get reception. I became pretty frustrated, as I was eager to get their opinion and ultimately make the purchase. At that point, my eyeballs searched to inquire of some sort of Wi-Fi code or alternative, when I saw the sign that read “NO WIFI. Pretend it’s 1995 and talk to each other!”

WOW!!! REALLY???? At first, I admit, I was slightly annoyed by their attempt to “be the boss of me!!!” (Arms crossed, foot tapping… lol) BUUUUUTTTTT, I became immediately convicted at just how quickly I wanted to engage in online activity. It was easy to pridefully excuse my behavior, I mean, after all, I WAS communicating and sharing my search with all of them, RIGHT??? NOPE! Not right!

We are all guilty of this. We just need to finish this one little thing, look up a quick “this” or respond to a fast “that”. “I am working all day long, a little scroll on Facebook, or Instagram shouldn’t be a big deal…” We start off saying that, but that little “this” turns into searching while at the red light, while waiting in line at the grocery store, while in traffic, while lying in bed with our spouse, while sitting at our kids’ practices, and then ultimately, while at home during family time. I’ve even seen people “scrolling” during church!!!! YIKES!!!! 😨😨😨

Perhaps we need to implement the message from the restaurant sign more often. Our need to grab the phones, tablets and other devices is getting out of control. It is spilling onto our kids and even they can’t seem to temper their desire to be online.

At the end of the day, our desire to “be connected” can’t be to some WIFI system, but to the ones we love, the ones we are with during that time. This is a fairly new problem, so it calls for new rules. I’ve come up with a couple easy ways to combat the need to be online excessively:

  • Love the one you’re with: Whoever you are with during that time, give them your undivided attention. If you are lying in bed with your spouse, picking up your kid from school, riding in the car, watching a movie, cooking dinner, out at a restaurant… PUT THE PHONE AWAY!!!! Look at your people. Converse with them. Let them know you are truly interested in their conversation and the happenings of their life.
  • Have a device container: A good way to put this into practice at home is to have a device container. A friend of mine mentioned this idea and I thought it was FABULOUS! Perhaps everyone can put their device in a container/bowl upon entering the house and no one can get on their device until designated “device time.” During that time, you can all sit together and delve into the world-wide mess, I mean, web 😘 for 30 minutes (or whatever time works best for you).
  • TURN IT OFF: At bedtime, all devices are turned off or silenced. I wonder how many hours of sleep people miss out on during that late-night shopping venture, or that Facebook scroll, etc.… How many intimate encounters are spouses missing out on because one or both parties are more engaged online?

There is an infinite amount of data to search, a ton of seemingly important activity happening, news, shopping and sooooo much more that seem to call our name each day, all day. What a blessing it is to be able to access these things at the touch of a button. However, it cannot be at the expense of the precious moments we sacrifice with our loved ones. Though it is important to stay connected to all the people and affairs of the day, it’s most important to let the ones we are with know they are our top priority. At the end of the day, they are what matter most! Pretend it’s 1995… 😘😘😘

YOU MAKE ME SICK!!!!

Last week our district had to close school because there were too many kids absent due to various illness such as the flu, strep throat, sinus infections and the like. In all my days, I have never seen this happen, yet recently this was the case in several parts of the country. It was sad to think so many children were at home feeling miserable and fighting for their health. Regardless of their age, most kids are pretty much helpless in this situation because they are unable to make the informed decisions necessary to maintaining their health.  However, we, as their parents can play a more proactive role in keeping them well. I know, I know… we are all super busy, we are on tight budgets, and viruses are highly contagious…we are ALL susceptible. Right? I TOTALLY get it. However, it IS possible for our kids to be in such great health that they are more immune to various illnesses and don’t get sick. Now, this may be difficult to do if our cupboards are filled with Oreos, our menus consist of fried chicken wings from KFC and our schedules are booked to the max, but perhaps we can step up our game on ways to build up a better immunity for them by making some minor adjustments.  Here are 5 ways to help keep our kids virus-free.

  1. Get adequate rest. Kids need to sleep. Though it seems like school is a light-weight job that requires minimal effort, it is only a small portion of their day. Many kids participate in extra-curricular activities, work, sports, church, chores and other things that keep them busy most parts of their day. They need to rest their bodies and minds so they can perform at their highest level. They are still growing and developing and need at least 8 hours to restore, rejuvenate, repair and develop. You will find once they are rested they will be more attentive, can function at a greater capacity and will resist illness. My kids are 14 and 15 and STILL go to bed at 9:00pm! 😨😨😨 (TV’s off, lights out, computers, video games and phones powered down!!!) ☺☺
  1. Eat nutritional meals: I get it, we are on the go, go, go… cooking???? “Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!” lol! 😬😬 However, the purpose of food is not to fill our bellies, but to nourish our bodies. Our children need nutrients for their mind and body to function. It is imperative they get at least 5/6 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Start them as early as possible to develop an appetite for healthy options. That will be impossible if tomatoes are in competition with Cheetos. Remember, YOU buy the groceries. They can only eat what you buy. Of course, they can enjoy snacks, desserts and fast food periodically, but if it has become a regular part of their eating plan, their bodies are not getting the nutrients necessary to fight off illness, let alone perform the tasks they need to do each day.
  1. Get that body moving: This can be a challenge I know, as many of our kids are strapped to some sort of device that only requires movement of the fingers, however, we must help keep them active. At least 3 times per week, they should get that heart rate up and get that blood pumping. Consider options such as walking the dog each day, going to the rec center a couple times a week, getting into a local sports team, gardening, or regular household chores. Whatever the case, when that blood is circulating through the body, it can adequately combat various symptoms.
  1. Take a daily vitamin: It can be tough to get in all the necessary vitamins, nutrients and minerals each day through food alone. However, while their brains, bones and muscles are developing, it is important they not lack the essentials. Taking a good (preferably whole food) 1 a day multivitamin, will help pick up where their diet leaves off.
  1. Joyful living: Many of our children are plagued with a stressful existence.  This can greatly impair their defense against illness. They are juggling several tasks before, during and after school and are already starting a life of busyness and stress. We must help them add balance to their daily regimen so they can enjoy their days to the fullest. Each day should somehow include elements of fun, peace, and joy. Their home environment should be a place of safety. Not one where they are overwhelmed with our stresses (bills, money, car trouble, divorce, etc..) each night. When they can live in a place that is consistently peaceful, they can rest knowing they are safe and can enjoy themselves.

I know this is not easy. However, as adults, we can make informed decisions. We are charged with the duty of training our children and helping them develop habits they will take into adulthood. I realize our lives are difficult as well, however, children are innocent bystanders of the life we serve them. Show them early how to defend against illness so they can live long, peaceable, happy, healthy lives. They have a whole world to go impact. No time for being sick! ☺☺☺

God is not Black or White…

God is not black or white, Democrat or Republican, Baptist or Catholic… These (and others) are labels created to separate His creation. He IS however, love not hate.

While some celebrate, while others morn, let us shed off the spirit of division and abide in a spirit of faith, hope and above all else, LOVE… Let it govern our thoughts, words, comments, posts, actions… and life.

SWIPER NO SWIPING!!!! A New Year’s Resolution Suggestion…

Looking for a great resolution for 2017????? What if: you decided that starting 2017 you will live debt free? What if you cut up your credit cards and decided to make all purchases with cash/debit/check only, got out of debt and stayed out???? Sounds difficult I know.

My awesome pastor taught a series at church WAAAAAY back in 1998 about living a life free of debt, maintaining a budget and basing your spending on one salary (after tithes and offering). Since 1998, my husband and I made the decision to tithe and give offerings faithfully, live on his salary alone and to not charge or finance another item ever again. With the exception of a mortgage, (we have a payoff plan for that too!!! Lol!!!) we have maintained those goals without compromise… not for a car, my master’s degree, furniture, vacations, jewelry, clothing… NOTHING. It took a TON of sacrifice, delayed gratification, buying used, and strategic budgeting… But I tell you, we have never missed a beat, never gone without and have gained the true freedom to do exactly what we are called to do.

Many people ask me how I retired at age 37? How we were able to pack up and build a home in the mountains, travel regularly, buy a brand-new car in cash, give generously, etc… It really doesn’t make much natural sense. My husband and I come from low income families. Both of us grew up on welfare. When people see us now, they would never know. I am careful to share our story with others because our success is not based on traditional methods of education, intellect, some great investing scheme. We didn’t collect an inheritance, win a settlement etc…

Simply put, His ways are higher than ours. We’re not perfect, and never claim to be. But He is… When we were led to live debt-free, we simply obeyed. And God simply provided. I dare you to trust Him with your finances… With EVERYTHING!!!! You will soar to places beyond your dreams!!! I hope this blesses someone today… Happy New Year!!!! 🙂

The Problem with Blogging…

The problem with blogging is that everyone wants to be a writer and no one wants to be a reader. Everyone has such “insight” and wisdom; and so many great and not so great experiences to share that they become more interested in sharing their thoughts than gathering others’.

It would be okay if everyone in attendance at the bake sale was selling various delicious cupcakes. However, if the only people attending the bake sale are the bakers themselves, and the bakers were not buying the other cupcakes… no one would have a sale… 😮😮😮

I encourage everyone to get out and try some other cupcakes. They are delicious and rich and bursting with flavor! The taste and recipe alone may spawn new recipes in you. You may even shed some of your amazing insight with another baker, with hopes their cupcake recipes become better than ever!!!! Something to think about. Happy tasting… ☺

WAIT!!!! Did You Just Say, “I’m Bored????” A Super Summer Schedule For Your Kids.

A Super Simple Summer Schedule For Your Kids:

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Ok. Well by now, most of your children have received their awards, cleaned out their lockers, collected signatures in their yearbooks and hugged their favorite teachers goodbye. IT IS SUMMERTIME!!!! For most kids, the greatest time of the year!!!! For most parents, you are stuck wondering what you will do with them during the next 3 months of time. Some will go to camp, others will go to daycare, summer school or some sort of “holding ground” until they move on to the next grade in the fall. That is a TON of time. And for the parents whose kids will be at home, this can be difficult to manage. As a former teacher, I can attest to how long it takes to crank up the idle minds that have laid dormant for the past 2 months. How long it takes to review important material covered just a few weeks prior in order to prepare for the new material to come. If you struggle with how to keep your super awesome kids at their awesome-ist during the 8 weeks of summer, FEAR NOT. I bring you tidings of comfort and relief!!!!

I have created a summer schedule for my own kids that they have been following for the past several years. Now that I have my chalkboards in the main area of the house, I decided to put the vision up on the wall for all to see, so we all know what is expected. Now, I will humbly share this super simple schedule with you, with hopes that it will foster ideas for you and your family.

Though, most kids are allowed to stay up late and wake up late, I find that ALLLLLL kids thrive when they have structure. They generally spend 16 of their hours awake, so, I have found this a healthy way to help them balance their time. Each day, both of my kids must complete the following:

  • 1 hour of physical activity: You must keep that body moving. Unlike the days of old, kids can be found regularly sitting down, watching TV, playing video games, laying around on their phone and the like. They need to get up!!! They need to move their bodies. When I was a kid, we would play outside until the street lights came on!!! We were playing basketball, riding bikes, climbing trees, skating, swimming ALL DAY!!! It is important that kids stay active, get up, and get their heart rate moving. Have them go on a family walk, go to the gym, ride their bikes etc… whatever the case… KEEP IT MOVING!!!!

 

  • 1 hour of academic-ish stuff: Just as important as keeping their physical muscles in shape, their brains need a daily workout as well. I like to take my kids to either the book store or library once a month. You would be surprised how much they get into reading when they are able to have their choice of what they can read. It gives them ownership over an area otherwise governed by teachers (who in their eyes pick boring books!!! Lol) They can read each day. Do a puzzle, play chess, build a robot, write a letter to Grandma, or even play on the various academic websites to help their minds stay active.

 

 

  • 1 hour of chores/help: No matter how young or old your child is; they are stake holders in your home. They live there, use resources, make messes and add wear on their space. Not because YOU need help to manage or maintain, but because as a parent you are training them for their adult life, they need to participate in the general management/care of the home. In other words, THEY NEED TO HELP!!!! Give them a general task or tasks to complete each day. Show them how you want it done and make sure you are loving and forgiving if it is not done EXACTLY how you would do it. Redirect them. Help them feel like they are an important part of the overall care of their home. Even if your child is 4, he/she can learn how to sort clothes, put toys away, etc… Do their future spouses, roommates, colleagues a favor…train them early to care for their space!

 

  • 2 hours of media/electronics/TV/video games etc…: Though electronic devices reign supreme in most kids’ lives, they need to learn how to temper their time, attention and desire for them. Just like a great tub of ice cream, without obvious health consequences, most kids would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, if allowed. They are even more attracted and attached to their devices. Unfortunately, whether on social media, TV, YouTube or the like, if given limitless access, those sources will become the vessel that shapes and governs our kids’ ideals and beliefs. We must be actively involved in balancing their time. I know it is tough. For many parents, technology is a way to keep children out of your hair for large amounts of time. In essence, though it serves as temporary relief for you, it will produce greater challenges in the future. Put the limits on them. Your kids may not show their appreciation for limits on their media time, but they will thank you for it later.

 

  • 8-10 hours of family fun: Though it sounds that with all this structure, the kids will seem to be back in school, I promise, there will be plenty of time for meaningful activity both individually and as a family. As a mom, I use summertime as an opportunity to love on the kids, come up with creative ways to keep them involved all while building their character. This doesn’t require a ton of money, or for you to be at home fulltime, but each day, you can look for ways to include them. Examples are family walks with the dog, a trip to the mall or the movies (they have a ton of spots that offer dollar or even free summer movies.) vacation bible school, baking cookies and cupcakes, making crafts, journal writing, building, gardening etc… Whatever the case, kids know and love when their day is filled with a creative, intentional, thoughtful agenda. It trumps TV, video games ANY DAY!!!

 

  • Daily devotional/prayer: I believe prayer, meditation and time with God is an essential part of every person’s life. What better time to instill these practices into their lives than when they are children?  There are super daily devotionals for kids of all ages. The content is suitable for each age level and gives super biblical reflection and annotations for each day. There are great praise and worship collections, videos, TV shows, radio stations and even movies that can help give kids a way to connect with and help develop a relationship with God. Though I don’t like to govern that space for my kids, I certainly encourage it and make the resources available to them, while modeling time with God in my own life. Praying and studying together as a family is even more meaningful for everyone.

 

  • Dressed, washed, groomed by 10:00am: Though I can TOTALLY appreciate sleeping in, as an adult, you can attest to how much more productive you are with your day when you are up and at em’, rising and shining earlier than later. It gives kids a false sense of reality that they are able to just lay around in their bed until 2:00pm after staying up all hours of the night. It makes it very challenging to make the transition when school starts back up when they have formed these sleep patterns. Besides they can’t engage in all there is to offer in a day by sleeping it away. Up and at em’, the world awaits you!!!

So there you have it. Nothing overly complicated, but super effective. Know that your kids are looking for structure. They need to keep their creative minds and bodies moving. As parents, utilize these next couple months, not to keep them entertained, but to help develop them physically, spiritually and mentally. In turn, we will be cultivating little people that will make an impact in their world while making meaningful memories throughout. In the meantime, HAPPY SUMMER EVERYONE!!!!! 🙂

“I Want to be a Baller’s Wife!!!!!”

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“I want to be a baller’s wife!!!” I remember this being a common response from my female students when discussing future endeavors post high school. With so many opportunities, talents and gifts the girls had before them, I was disappointed that they were reduced to this option.

Oh, what is a baller’s wife you say? Well, I’m no Webster or anything, so don’t quote me on this, but my definition would be: an opportunist, a woman who latches on to a man at the height of his career with hopes of optimal gain.  This idea really bothered me, especially with the continual images on cable TV of seemingly wealthy women living a life of excessive glamour, fame, prestige and drama. I guess I can’t direct all my frustration on the Housewives of Atlanta (or the like), when Disney and other big name production companies have been pumping our heads with these images for decades. The Cinderella story, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty… the idea that somehow a man is going to sweep an otherwise distressed damsel out of her misery. Save her. Take her on his white horse and whisk her off to a life of wealth, ease, and happiness.

Well, what’s so bad about this? I mean a man is supposed to be the provider, the protector. He is supposed to take care of his wife and children right? Of course he is, however the baller’s wife leaves women burdening the man with excessive provision. Burdening the man with rescuing her from all her problems. Burdening the man with relief from debt and other financial stressors. If we consider God’s plan for man and woman, it would change the entire trajectory of the mate selection process.

First of all, a man should have his stuff together. He should know his purpose in this life. After careful examination of his gifts and talents (over several years) and close relationship with God, he should know what he is called to do. Every step he makes after high school should line up with him getting closer to that calling. Unfortunately, men too, are inundated with the overwhelming requirements to gain status, wealth and a name. They settle for a goal with monetary reward vs the goal of fulfilling the call on their life. Ultimately this leaves him to a life of complacency, regret, envy and lack of true accomplishment.

God knew that men would struggle with accomplishing their true purpose alone, so he created a woman. A woman is called to be a help mate. One who will work hand in hand with her husband to help him achieve the call on his life. They then, would enjoy success, fulfillment, wealth, and wisdom from the journey together. There is grace on this plan. Though it is contrary to popular belief, it works. If a woman was working on herself spiritually, emotionally, educationally, financially, getting her stuff together, she would not need a man to rescue her. She would be willing, and able to provide her husband with the help that he needed. Unfortunately, if a husband is distracted from his calling to perform the tasks of paying off his wife’s debt, working around her insecurities and making sure she is whole, he can’t possibly be all he is called to be. He is forced to use his entire check/salary to feed her whims. Her desires for $400 purses and drawers of makeup and racks of shoes used to fulfill her deeply rooted insecurities that are camouflaged as desires/needs. Unfortunately, this never works so it is wasted effort.

After 17 years of marriage, I guess some could say I appear to a baller’s wife. My husband is a robotics engineer, and a minister of music. He works from home, earns a nice salary and has provided a comfortable life for my children and me.  The difference is… He didn’t wake up like this!!! Lol. I met him in college. We were married soon thereafter and all the while, I have been by his side, hand and hand, helping him to make decisions that help lead him to his goals. Helping him with the behind the scenes tasks that allow him to shine. As he pursues the Word, he has all the components that allow him to fulfill his dreams with ease, which ultimately benefits us all. They say behind every great man, is an amazing woman. I believe that to be true. And any married woman can attest to the idea that her husband probably couldn’t put a good looking outfit together without her help.

My main point is for women to understand that they are designed to help their mate. It is not the other way around. The provision that a man will provide is a benefit of him reaching his true potential. But he needs you to help him do it. Often times, we are so willing to put the attention, time, care, effort into the visions of our bosses at work, in order to help him/her fulfil their vision for the company, yet we are reluctant to help our own husbands. Help him. Your efforts are not in vain. They will not go unnoticed. Whether you are a stay at home mom holding down the fort, or you help pack your husband’s lunch each day, help fill out resumes, or make necessary sacrifices for him to go back to college, there is grace on your ability to help him become all he is called to be.

While the Cinderella story, the woman standing on the sidelines at the basketball game, or the ladies on the hot reality TV shows seem glamorous, if you study them carefully they are merely a facade. A complete counterfeit of God’s real plan. We should strive to become all God has called us to be, so we can help our mates become all they are called to be. Together, with God at the head, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. There is no enemy or weapon formed against us that can prosper. And THEN, the happily ever after can commence… 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

SUPER UN-SIZE ME!!!! Retired by 37… Catalogue of the Downsize…

The American order of operations: graduate high school, go to college, meet your potential mate, start an awesome career, work, work, work, get a new car, a super apartment, an awesome wardrobe, get married, buy a new house, start a family, get a master’s degree, get a promotion, upgrade to a bigger house, have more children, get a bigger car… (out of breath) WHEW!!!!! Work, work, work. Get more and bigger and better and higher and more and more and… (PANTING…)

Maybe not in that exact order, but it seems the pot of gold at the end of the of the rainbow is the biggest house, with the nicest car in the driveway, the highest level of employment, with a wardrobe filled to overflow. Often times it comes at any expense.

The Rat Race

I admit, and for no selfish or keeping up with the standard type of reasons… I genuinely couldn’t wait to graduate high school and complete the necessary requirements for becoming a high school English teacher. The year was 1999. I graduated college, got married, started my first teaching job, bought my first house all by the age of 22!!! I was ready to GOOOO!!! I started having kids; an awesome boy and two years later, our sweet girl!!! (CHECK!!!) I got my Master’s Degree AND earned a 4.0 GPA.  (CHECK!!!!) I became lead teacher and soon after named Teacher of the Year. (DOUBLE CHECK!!!!) We built and bought houses, had 3 cars to fill our 3 car garage, sunny vacations etc… By all typical standards, after 15 years, I was fairing pretty well in the race to “the great.”

However, I found out pretty quickly that as I was conquering my checklist, I was missing out on the elements of this life that really brought me joy. At least at it’s true depth.

Contrary to popular standards, after careful prayer and consideration, my family and I made the decision to downsize. I completed my final year of teaching. We put our beloved 5 bedroom 5 bathroom home in the suburbs up for sale. Sold all of our furniture, donated most of our clothing and accessories. And prepared for a totally new life.

The Great Downsize

Less than a year ago, we had a home built in the Northern mountains of Georgia. It was a place we vacationed regularly. It was a place where we found peace. A place we could be free of the rat race and enjoy the most important things in life. I must say, it has been a major change, but the greatest promotion of our lives.

First of all, though I miss teaching a TON, I now have time to put my family FIRST. My days are filled with peace. Instead of working hard to build another man’s industry/visions and dreams, I am helping to build my own legacy right in my own home.

We start our days off pretty calmly. My husband makes breakfast for the whole crew. Thereafter, I take the kids to school while calling him on speaker phone for our family morning prayer. After dropping the kids off, I am able to read my bible, pray and get before the Lord uninterruptedly. I get to exercise, enjoy lunch or short shopping dates out. A couple weeks ago, I spent my entire afternoon planting new flowers and grass for the backyard. I am able to volunteer at church, school or wherever is necessary. I have time to plan and prepare healthy meals for our family. Thankfully, we never have to eat fast food, school lunch, microwave or prepared meals. We grocery shop each Sunday based on the food we will cook for the week. I am available to help with projects and homework, practices, performances, fieldtrips and games. I am so much calmer than when I was attempting to juggle it all before. Not to mention the time, love, energy I am able to devote to my marriage.

As for the kids, they attend the public high and middle schools in our county. Both schools have less than 700 students, which allows for smaller class sizes and a more personalized education. Our town is small and yes, it takes 15 minutes to get to the grocery store, but the pressure to wear name brand clothes and perform, compete, or exist in a crowded school or town where you are a merely a number, has been eliminated. We all are forming meaningful relationships and exchanges. People value each other and family is a priority.

Financially, though we decreased our income by eliminating my salary, our needs and desires have been recalibrated and our plight for “MORE” decreased right along with it. Of the 6500sq ft of house we sold, I think we truly only occupied 1,500 of it. It was unnecessary and wasted space that cost more to heat, furnish, clean etc… So, our new home is indeed smaller, but it is a little slice of heaven for us and we use and enjoy every inch of it daily. We have 2 cars that we own outright and refuse to acquire debt of any kind.

True Abundance

I could go on and on. But overall, the clichéd idea of quality over quantity reigns supreme in our home. I plan to stay happily married to the same man that I made a promise to God on my wedding day. I only have one chance to raise and enjoy the time I have with my children. I can’t think of anything more meaningful or worthy of my devotion than that.  Ultimately, I wouldn’t change a thing. Who knows, I may go back to teaching someday, however, I am open to the ways God will allow me to use my teaching gifts in greater capacities. Recently, my husband and I had breakfast one morning in the middle of the week. I couldn’t help but notice the restaurant filled with senior couples and friends there enjoying themselves.  I noted then, that no matter what, I refuse to wait until I am 65 years old to take time to enjoy this life… and at age 39… and one year in, that is precisely what I am doing… enjoying every moment of this incredible, once in a lifetime journey…

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John 10:10 “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”