My Thought of the Day – January 7, 2016

Such a great realization!

Dream Big, Dream Often

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The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. – Steven Furtick

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The Mama Shepherd

Hello everyone!  Today you are treated to a guest post from my new, but dear friend Kelly.  She’s an amazing writer, as you’ll see, and I want to thank her from the bottom of my heart for all her support, and also for allowing me to publish her work as I take a few weeks off to heal from having my new little baby girl, and to of course spend time with my ever-growing family!  Enjoy, and remember to thank God for everything!


 

At our house, we are all trying to memorize Psalm 23 with our son for his Sunday school class.  We are saying it with our prayers at meals, listening to the psalm on YouTube, singing it while we play, etc. It’s become a ‘thing’. (Note, I am so glad to say that this psalm is now the ongoing ‘tape’ in my head as I go to sleep. Gladly, it has replaced the song from ‘Frozen’ that used to haunt me while I tried to fall asleep. Elsa, girl, let it go already.)


 

Now, I’ve read this Psalm 23 before and I’ve seen Jesus as the shepherd it describes. But, today, I saw new meaning in this psalm. The study notes in my Bible shared that David wrote this psalm out of his own experience because he had spent his early years caring for sheep. As pasture animals, sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd for provision, guidance, and protection. What struck me today was, if our kids are like sheep, they have a genuine and deep need for us. While this may seem obvious, without us, they would not have someone to show them love, teach them, help them understand how things work or protect them. As a mama, at times, I want to brush off their seemingly incessant requests or seemingly constant cry for, “Mom! Mom? Mom.” In contrast to how I act some days, the Shepherd would always hear them and always lovingly respond to them.


 

The psalm continues and shows that the shepherd or caretaker knows each of our “green pastures” and “quiet waters” that restore us. He was the one who made us; he knows us so well that he can help us in every situation because he knows what we truly need. As a parent, I pray that God would give me insight into my children so that I can know them as well as he does. If I truly know them intimately, then I can tailor all explanations, teaching and discipline specifically to them. I can understand their motivations and what encourages them if I study them.


 

In a child-parent relationship, our children learn to trust, to love, and relate to others from us first. As a child, they rely totally on us as their shepherd for their needs and, as they grow older each month, the ‘leash’ of dependence on us is let out a bit more to give them more independence. With us, they can grow in a safe environment learning how to manage more and more independence. If done wisely, we can teach them to transfer their dependence on us to the Lord as a model of their adult relationship in the Lord. One day, we will get to hand the shepherd’s staff back to the Lord when they trust in the Lord alone. Without training in this area, they will be ‘lost sheep’, so each time I understand my ‘sheep’ and help them to grow, they will be more equipped for the future.


 

By reflecting on these short notes in Psalm 23, I found deep and wide meaning to apply to my life. By looking at God’s word, I was able to see and hear sweet lambs who truly needed me and were asking for my help because they were helpless. It changed my mindset to see them for who they truly were, instead of seeing them as children nipping at my feet all day. I was able to hear their voices and meet their needs. I got to help a sweet lamb first start to learn to tie his shoes. I helped another lamb make a sunshine fan out of tinkertoys and I held a lamb when he hit his head. These are precious times and this psalm helped me see that. These are precious days for our little lambs and they are looking to us for their every help. As parents, may we prove to be faithful for this appointment as shepherd to our children.


 

Kelly Brinkmann is a writer, mama, intermittent exerciser, and hot tea lover. She makes art, paintings, pottery and assemblages with dryer lint with her young littles in her professional studio, Art & Souls Creative Studio, LLC. To follow her, see Facebook.com/ArtandSouls or see her artwork at artandsouls.com

What Could Possibly Unite Us?

What Could Possibly Unite Us_.png

 

 

Last post was about finding what unites us, and overlooking the magnitude of things small and large that seem to always divide us.  And while reading through Romans Chapter 1 for a bible study, one verse really stood out to me.  It was about God being revealed to all of us:


 

“For what can be known about God is plain to them.”


 

Now I’m no biblical scholar or theologian.


 

And I honestly don’t know what the official interpretation from the Vatican is on this verse.  (Guess I’m a bad Catholic.)


 

I can only let you know what my own reflection was.


 

To me,  it means that we all inherently know right from wrong, even if it is on a very basic level.  God has given us morals from birth.


 

Don’t just take it from me; there is research that proves it.  Just watch this adorbs video from CNN.  Or google “Do we have morals from birth.”  There are tons of examples.


 

We all have a piece of God inside us- He created us all exactly how we were supposed to be made.  We’re all on our walk of life with His guidance, no matter how far along that path we are.


 

We all deserve acceptance and love from each other, simply because we are all made by God– every single one of us, no matter our clothes, religion, nationality, culture, customs, beliefs, or looks.


 

So next time you are in a disagreement, or just can’t possibly find a thing in common with an adversary, or if someone just plain gets on your nerves, (We all have those people in our lives.) slow down and remember that they are your brethren through the Lord.


 

We are all part of His family, and that is the ultimate uniter.


 

Thanks for reading, happy new year, and remember to thank God for your precious, special life today!

 

Being United: What Divides us, and How to Avoid it.

Being United
Avid readers like us (I’m assuming you are, too, since you are taking time to read my blog- thanks!) are always finding great messages in books.  Well, right now, I’m reading a book called Jesus in Blue Jeans by Laurie Beth Jones.  In it, there’s a chapter about finding what unites us, rather than focusing on what divides us.

“He did not point out the numerous flaws, sins, and inadequacies of those around him…He sought common ground with people so that he could reach them, and teach them, and love them, where they were…He dressed like they dressed…He sought common ground.”   Jones states in her beautiful book.

What divides us is obvious; from what we choose to spend money on, to the clothes we wear, to the individual beliefs of our denomination of religion, or even our lack of religion.  What our task is (and the harder thing to do) is to find what unites us.  But what do we stand together on?

One thing that stands out to me as a naturally occurring divider is something I’ve always been fascinated by: culture.

Our culture is something we don’t have complete control of.   We’re born in a certain place with its own culture, to a family with its own fixed (and sometimes frightening!) traditions, and all that, plus other environmental variables, forms a culture of social norms and expected behavior all around us.  It varies from nation to nation, state to state, even somewhat from region to region, as well as family to family.

 To a lot of us, this creates an obvious huge barrier between us and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, creating personal tiffs, massive divisions, even wars between nations.

Why would they wear that?”  we wonder.  


“Why would they talk like that?”  we muse. 

“How can they believe such folly?”  we ponder.

We’re all only human- it’s natural to notice, then focus, on such things, even regard the differences as weird, as though we’d never be able to relate, or have a thing in common, with said other group, whether it’s just a peculiar person, a separate religious institution, or a whole nation.

Another huge alienation between us and those we’re really just called to love, even when we’re from the same culture: when we get stuck thinking of others as downright crazy for their actions- namely, past misdeeds, like shootings, or any of the plethora of other violent, promiscuous, or sinful acts that occur.

But I want to urge us all to remember: we’re all just people underneath it all.  Besides Jesus, no one’s life is completely free of some sort of misjudgment along the way.

People who commit sinful acts probably just want to be heard and feel loved, and have not had that chance, to some degree or another.  Or, perhaps they’ve been terribly misinformed or brainwashed by an evil force.

We have to try not to jump to conclusions.  Remember the cliche: assume means you make an ass out of you and me.

Instead, show some empathy, and lend a listening ear, a kind deed or word, or a gentle touch, if you are ever in a position to do so.  Do this instead of judging such troubled people, as we’re not called to judge- only God can do that.  Find common ground, like Jones said.  Look for what unites you to your brethren, adversaries or not.

Take it from Matthew 7:1-5, one of my favorite:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Colossians 3:11-14
 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

 

To TP Or Not To TP; That Is The Question

Cute post, and a great reminder!

Tip of My Iceberg

Who knew a simple roll of toilet paper could provide so much fun?

John and I were watching the grandkids a few days back, and it was one of those times where everyone was a little grumpy.

We’d mowed the yard. They’d played soccer. Had been in a car and driven enough miles around central Florida to not want to do anything but be vegetative.

One-year-old Ryken refused to nap. He needed one. I needed him to need one. But after over a half hour of weeping and wailing, I relented and got him out of bed.

And prepared for the grumpies.unnamed-6

He wasn’t interested in toys. Music. None of the things that usually distracted him from a bad mood.

I had a momentary lapse of attention. He escaped into the bathroom and knocked the toilet paper holder down. Sent TP rolling across the floor.

It caught his attention.

He…

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God’s Lessons, Lessons from Kids

God's Lessons and Lessons From Kids
In more ways than one, I feel like having a child has saved my life.  The line in the Martina McBride song In My Daughter’s Eyes, “She was sent to rescue me,”  simply nails it on the head.

I’ve posted about parenting before, admitting it was self defeating and relating fatherhood to God.  But I’ve been thinking about it some more: here I was, just going by in life, thinking I had it all under control, so my husband and I decide we should reproduce.  “A little one would be so much fun to raise!” we mused.  So along came this tiny human being into our home, and on top of all the work he requires, he has managed to teach me so many lessons about life, and he doesn’t even have a clue he’s doing it.  Having a child made me think more about life, and one day it hit me: now I’m able to view the world more like God does.  We are all his sons and daughters, and he looks down on us- even as adults, with all the flaws and ugliness in character we accumulate- just as lovingly as we look down on our little ones.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all fun and games, and there’s not always so much time for such insightful pondering.  Yes, children definitely add hardship to our lives, especially when we’re obligated to bring toddlers to non-kid-friendly places.  I’ve learned to watch out for glass figurines on low shelves, as well as plates of almonds on coffee tables, you know- the kinds of things that are prominent in houses of people without kids.  There are also those pesky unguarded staircases, and we’ve also ran into some ancient, short-tempered Shih Tzus when we’re out and about, visiting others’ houses.  Oh, the exhausting chases that have ensued!  Not even to mention the average of, oh, about 2 hours of sleep you get during the first 3 months of their lives.

But nothing actually worth pursuing is ever easy in life, so why should we expect parenting to be any different?   Even throughout those exhausting days, an imperative task for us as parents to remember is to be thankful for what our kids offer us in return.  What benefits do they offer us?  Well, by having kids, God graciously assigned us the task of being an example of living a good life, so they will learn to do the same, too.  Your habits will rub off on him or her, so live a legacy you want to see repeated for generations.

And my favorite benefit so far: having a whole new perspective on the world, that is, as I mentioned before, being able to better see the world from God’s point of view.  You’re nurturing your precious little creation, just as God nurtures each and every one of us.  True to my selfish nature, somehow I missed that until I had my own little one to cherish- I never realized God looked at me with so much love, until I looked at another creature the same way.  Sure, I love my husband, friends, and other family members, but it was never in the same way that I love my own offspring.

If you’re not a parent, no worries: you don’t have to be one to be a great example, you’re already influencing everyone around you with every decision you make.  So, if you want the world to be a better place, choose to be a good example.   You know the saying: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  And also if you’re not a parent, there’s no reason to be one before realizing the immensity of God’s love, and sensing His point of view.  That was my mistake, and I’m sharing it so you can learn from it.  Part of seeing the world more from His perspective is to look at our problems and try to hear God’s voice tell us how He’d solve them, parents or not.  Seeing things from His perspective helps us realize truths of all of life’s more puzzling issues: what’s a big deal and what’s not, what’s right and wrong, what’s worth pursuing and what needs to be left alone, etc.

Why do we get these benefits/lessons when we have children?  It could just be a random coincidence, but I feel that having children is one of God’s examples to us of how the world works.  He’s showing us  but a teeny-tiny fraction of what it’s like to be Him.  Not to undermine the immense importance of our jobs, but if the world were nothing but animals, it’s like we’re given the simple task of just feeding one tiny ant farm, whereas God takes care of every  last detail of every last creature alive, from the cellular waste elimination to the geographical placement of everything from the wasp to the elephant, the newly hatched duckling to the vast moose herds.  We have to feed our ants if we want them to be healthy and grow, because if we pay only minimal attention to our farms, they may perish.  And remember, we’re only supposed to feed our little farm, not provide every life sustaining detail in everyones’ lives like God does.  His work is much greater, impossible for us to grasp.

Our “ant farm” is God trying to clue us in as to how the whole life thing goes, just as we’d acquire a family pet to teach our own children about responsibility.  When we have kids, we automatically love them unconditionally and want to set the best example possible, and that’s God teaching us how He feels about us.  We also naturally want the best for them and hope they are grateful for all we do for them, just as God wants for us.  These are but a few of the basics.  We, as humans, though, are sure to make mistakes along the way, especially when we aren’t intentional, but if you remember how forgiving your God is, it’ll be easier to keep trying to figure this parenting thing out!  You’re given this immense responsibility for a reason, and God’s also given you the strength and skills to be the parent (and person) He’s called you to be!
Psalm 86:15
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
 
Galatians 3:26 
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
And remember to thank God for your life today and every day!

Debt and Life: A Debt Free Story

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 Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

This post is about honesty: it details my debt free journey.  Please enjoy the story, and use it for motivation.  I want to let everyone know that this is attainable, and it’s a great way to live.  Yes, you, too can be debt free!
See last week’s post for more on why you should become debt free.

Like a lot of folks, I wasn’t taught much about money or debt growing up.  Blindly, I went to college, racking up student loan debt, to the tune of just over $40K!  That was just for a Bachelor’s, with the first year being completely paid for with scholarship.   And, I initially wanted to go on to vet school, but thank heavens-God was really looking out for me- I didn’t get in, and avoided a landmine of even more debt.  So after college, I landed a decent job, and soon needed a new vehicle- my little cavalier was going caput.  I financed it, true to my ignorant nature.  About $11K added on to my $40K.  Luckily for me, I had an amazing fiancee, and when we tied the knot in 2012, another 15K of student loan debt was piled on top, as well as a 35K house loan- his debt.

So all in all we had over $100K in the hole.  And sadly, this is the most prevalent story for our youth.  This is how most of us start our young lives, and most of us never even stop to question it, or take the time to think about it, much less do anything about it.  We just go on in debt, adding more and more each time we “need” something, as this is the normal way to live.

Fortunately for us, my awesome friend Jess told me about Dave Ramsey.  I started learning about his baby steps in 2010, when I had only my student loan and vehicle debt, or about 50K.  So at that point I had enough money to pay off my truck and and still have the $1K baby emergency fund, so that’s what I did.  It was so scary to dwindle all my savings down, but I did it anyway.  (I still find that’s the scariest part of paying things off!)

Next were my student loans; what a mountain to tackle!  Every extra penny went towards them.  We cut out all unnecessary spending, and I also took on extra jobs: industrial cleaning and a little freelance writing.  By the time we were married in 2012, they were half gone.  By our first anniversary, they were totally gone, and we began to work on my husband’s student loan debt.  Soon his were knocked out as well, and in October ’13, we were debt free besides the house.

During the process, we used my whole income towards debt, and lived on my husband’s income.  Since we weren’t used to using my income, we managed to save a lot after everything was paid off.   We bought our next vehicle with cash after our first baby was born, paid our medical bills from having a baby, -what a nightmare- and then decided to pay our entire house off!  It was at a balance of 18K, and on Thanksgiving ’14, it went down to 0.  Next month will be our 1 year anniversary of being completely debt free!

How do you do it?
  • Learn about Dave Ramsey’s baby steps.
  • Enlist the help of discipline.
  • Focus on your end goal, and stay that way!  Wants will come up, but always remember that your goal is more important than that new toy/trip.

We did not use a strict budget, sorry Dave!- more like just kept track of our spending after we did it.  We are not big spenders so this worked fine for us.  I am sure if you actually followed a budget (and I am sure you need to if you are a habitual spender.) you’d get there much, much, quicker.

This whole process was hard work, but has allowed me the freedom to be a stay-at-home mom and raise our kids ourselves, which is the best benefit imaginable to our family.  If we were still toiling in student loan debt and racking up even more debt, like a normal family, I’d never have been able to leave my corporate job, and that would also mean an obligation to pay for daycare, disposable diapers, and probably formula, as it’s easier for me to go the natural route with cloth diapers and breastfeeding at home.  It also allows us to be more generous- giving gifts isn’t such a calculated effort now.   We can just give away freely!  Dream about what your life will be like when you’re debt free, and that will help you stick with your goal.

Freedom from debt is attainable.  And real people happily live debt free, and I want to thank my dear friend Jess for introducing me to Dave Ramsey, Dave Ramsey for teaching me not only about money, but about integrity in life, as well, and also thanks to my stunningly handsome husband for working through all this together!  (Note: Although the words do ring true, the stunningly handsome description was mandated by my husband: when I asked his permission to share our debt free story, he said yes, but gave me a list of adjectives that had to precede his name.  The list was a lot longer, but I stuck with the words I felt most appropriate for my blog.)
This post was linked to the Tell it to me Tuesday link party.  Find all sorts of great posts from other bloggers there!

10 Things Americans Waste Their Money On

Great info from Dave Ramsey!

Personal Finance in Paradise

Dave Ramsey posted a while ago 10 Things Americans Waste Their Money On, and they are:

  1. Credit Card Interest
  2. Deal Websites
  3. Appetizers
  4. ATM fees
  5. Overdraft Fees
  6. Speedy Shipping
  7. Designer Baby clothes
  8. Unused gym memberships
  9. Premium cable packages
  10. Daily coffee trips

I agree that some of these are wasteful, for instance #1 and #4.  There shouldn’t be any reason why you should be paying fees on things you could get for free.

My personal experience with the top ten are

  • Credit Card interest – Since I have a balance transfer on my credit card, the company is trying to have me pay interest. I will be paying the remaining balance this month so that I won’t have to deal with that anymore.
  • Deal websites – I don’t shop on deal websites, but I do occasionally take part on deals when it comes to getting cheaper quality clothing. I like to…

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Debt and Life

Debt and Life

It’s possible to live a life without debt. This is a huge part of succeeding with money.  How you handle your money affects every area of your life, and learning how to handle it is vital to your happiness.  As Dave Ramsey says, “your” money is really God’s money- you’re handling it for Him, so be sure you do a good job.  There are several Bible scriptures that deal with debt, and none of them refer to debt as a smart thing to get into.

Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.

So why are so many of us in debt?  It’s just a normal part of culture.  No one even thinks before signing up for a mortgage or financing a car.  Everyone around us is doing it, and maybe your parents probably even guided you along the process for your first major purchase.  It’s hard to know something is bad when you’re not educated on the topic, and for lots of us, it takes making these mistakes and living with the consequences to realize the massive stupidity.  Also, we are often caught up in the instantaneous culture of wanting things

Now, Now, Now!

and even that is too slow for some of us.

But folks, the internet and social media may move at lightning speed, but your financial life is not going to.  There are some areas of life that take old fashioned patience, focus, and delayed gratification to become successful at.  Don’t let the get-rich quick-schemes, or the get-happiness-now ads fool you; you won’t make caboodles of money overnight any way you try, and purchasing a new toy via debt will not bring you happiness, not in the long term, at least.

Maybe your Christian background has taught you that money is evil, so you don’t think it’s right to worry about it.  But it’s the love of money that’s evil, not the mere handling of it, or even the accumulation of money.  Accumulation and handling of money is necessary for succeeding in life, it doesn’t make you evil.

1 Timothy 6:10  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Proverbs 27:23   Know well the condition of your flocks, And pay attention to your herds;

Next week I’m posting the details of my own debt free journey, so come back and read more!