Saturday, January 7, 2012

And the results are in!! kindof.

This post isn't mushy, introspective or flowery. It's raw data.

Starting January 1st of last year I began collecting my receipts. I didn't have a fancy tracking method or even an organized one at that. I just saved my receipts by putting them in a box on the floor, tucked away behind my desk. Gas receipts, food bills, Chuck E. Cheese, office/school supplies, etc. There were a few I didn't get, like the ones from my husband's spending (which is minimal) or from the occasional gas pump. But every. other. receipt... I kept.

December 31st I tabbed up these receipts which was the highlight of my New Year's Eve festivities. I was so happy to finally get rid of the box that was now overflowing and spilling it's contents onto my floor, until I started taking a good hard look at the preliminary numbers. My McDonald's spending alone was more than what I spent at Costco. How gross.

I divided the receipts into different categories; and it was then that I realized I should have perhaps *been* more organized about it, but oh well, too late now. There was no scientific rules or measures I had taken, I just kinda lumped them together into these groups.

Now before I share these results, I have to say a couple of things.
  • The reason I kept these receipts was because I wanted to see where our money is going month in and month out. So many times during these 12 months I wanted to say forget it and get rid of all of these loose papers. But I didn't. I had played fast and loose with our finances years ago and wrangled them in, so I wanted to take it a step further and hold myself accountable.
  • I didn't change my spending habits just because I wanted to tabulate everything at the end of the year. I spent as I normally would as to not skew the results.I just shoved the receipts in the box when I got home.
  • I'm posting this so other people can see how quickly things add up. I was aware that I made a lot of *pit stops* but to the degree of which the totals speak of... is appalling. I bet those reading this spend just as foolishly as I have, if their honest with themselves.
  • As many people know, I am an extreme couponer, so to say that I am frugal is an understatement. So these figures are actually pretty conservative.
  • This explains where the extra 30 pounds I've gained came from. lol.
  • The categories are:
    Grocery (stores such as Safeway, Food4Less, Savemart, BevMo, the local fruit stand, etc), Gas, Costco, McDonald's, General Dining Out (including every other fast food joints like Starbucks and *real* restaurants), General Stores (including Target, Pier 1, Vans, Aaron Brothers, Pet Smart, Kohl's, JC Penny, Amazon, eBay, Staples, Home Depot, etc) and CVS/Walgreen's/Riteaid. The purchases from general stores such as Target would typically include grocery items, but there was no way I was gonna break down every receipt to separate the food from other items, so that's why it is the way it is.
  • These totals include gift/holiday spending as well. But they do not include any totals for items I purchased on a gift card, EXCEPT for Starbucks. Lots of things I got for *free* using my mad skills as a couponer so those item totals weren't tabbed up.
  • I used easily approximately $1,000 in gift cards (from promotions, my husband's incentive/bonuses from work, etc) to purchase even more stuff that wasn't included in these figures. My Starbucks giftcards totaled about $230.
  • Yes, McDonald has it's own category. I would go there almost (at least) once a day to get a large Coke. Or frappe. Or both. We also would go there during the summer almost daily for ice cream cones for the boys, or on the weekends while being about the town.
  • And lastly.. don't judge me unless you're willing to collect your own receipts for a year and do the same!
So without further totals. Loosely tabulated, but close enough to make me change my ways.

  • $4,626.70 for General Stores
  • $2,430.22 for General Dining Out
  • $1,704.70 in Gasoline
  • $1,684.77 for CVS/RiteAid/Walgreen's
  • $1,399.93 at McDonald's!
  • $855.27 for Grocery
  • $758.28 for Costco
if you are good enough at math to do a fast tab.. you'll notice that the total for McD's and all other dining out places total $3,830.15. oh barf.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A High Calling

Lately I've noticed I have a bunch.. and I mean a BUNCH... of friends that are adopting children. Some are from overseas, some are from local orphanages, some are with disabilities, some with developmental issues. Some have loving families behind them, some have been willfully neglected. I sit back and watch. and listen. and learn from my friends. I ask questions, I linger over their pictures. I imagine my family taking on another child, one that did not come from our bodies, but a stranger, and I don't know if I could do it. I know Biblically, we are called to care for orphans. These poor children who are left mother and fatherless. A generation with no one to love them with a pure heart. An innocent child that can not defend, let alone provide for itself and who is at the mercy... literally... of kindness from strangers. As I snuggle my little guy in the mornings, or pack lunches for my boys, or pray with my strikes me that these orphans have no one to do that for them.

I then feel like something must be wrong with me to not have the desire to have more children under my roof. But I don't. Not now. But I've also learned enough to never say never, because well.. God has a wonderful sense of humor. So for now, I say that the route of adoption is not for us. I know that if it were to be an avenue God wanted my husband and I to pursue, He would give us that burning desire and open the gates of blessing to make it happen. I'm content in keeping my heart, hearth and home fires burning for the children I already have and for their father.

But still, I admire and I wonder. I see the unique equipping that not only the family as a unit has to care for these orphans, but the individual giftings of the mothers-and-fathers-to-be have been given. It takes a special kind of somethin' to be chosen to walk that road; and I marvel deep inside when I see families unite and grow together. Not separating the root from the branches. And I think of how that's exactly the love of God is, shining thru to us as we are His adopted sons and daughters.

And again, I wonder what's wrong with me? Why haven't I been chosen? I wanna be like those people. I want to please God and receive the blessings and the joy that they have coming to them because of their selfless act of simply loving another person. >>stomping my feet<<. Nah, nah, nah. Could my whine get any louder?

And then yesterday a friend of mine had written that he feels that the most of his ministry is 'being present in people's lives', to which a friend of his replied 'exactly....just like Jesus.'


So then, why do I feel the guilt and shame for not welcoming a child into our home? It's because I had settled on only one part of the verse. I was assuming that because we are a young family, we should *naturally* gravitate towards children. But when I really put my life into perspective, I see that God has already equipped me for service to His commandment.

"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble,
[and] to keep oneselfunspotted from the world..." James 1:27

When I read on, I realize that there is another *group* of people mentioned in this verse. Widows.

And in a true watershed moment, in the way that God always does for me, while I was getting ready for my day, thinking about all the things I have to *DO*, my eyes were opened to the truth of His calling. I have people in my life that ARE widows and need to be cared for and loved. I usually associate the care of widows with the visiting of the elderly in convalescent homes or hospitals. And well, there are people older than me who do that already. But no. What this verse is saying and what was illuminated by my friend's statement yesterday, is that I never paid attention to the duty as a Christ follower that I have towards these people. Or for the natural bent I have to *just be* with them. I have not been intentional with my faith. I've let my haphazard way of living get in the way of making strides for the kingdom of God.

I'm not saying that I feel the need to evangelize to a rec room of people at a retirement community. I'm saying that I need to stretch out my hand in companionship to these women intentionally. Not to shy away from their phone calls. Or shrink back at their offer to come over for a visit. It is a high calling and something that will stretch me and grow me into the fullness of who He wants me to be.

There's something about looking into the eyes of a child that hold the mysteries of heaven. But there is something equally as mesmerizing as gazing into clouded eyes that hold the hope of home. Thank you, Lord, for knowing me better than I know myself and for equipping me for your good work.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

But who do You say I am?

Good grief. I started this post back at the end of April, and I'm just now returning to it on June 26th. Wow. How's that for procrastination? Well, if I were to be completely honest with myself, it's not only procrastination. The was a little bit of fear and embarrassment in posting this, a wee bit of reluctance and hiding too. But I what the heck?

Anyway, I guess I should just get right into what's been going on over the last few months, at least since January 15th, which is when I last completed a full post at one sitting. sigh.

In February, my daughter made some pretty unwise choices. This led us to having to dole out a punishment that we thought fit the crime. The deed, in and of itself, isn't something I wish to disclose, but I will say it was sever enough for my husband and I to pull the plug on her going to Germany, amongst other things. And over the fallout of the crime, the consequences just mounted higher and higher.

So after a week of being grounded, in what is now most easily described a whirlwind of events, we asked her to move out of our house. Well, it wasn't as nice as that statement lends itself to be. It was ugly, and heated and angry. And as of February 20th, she no longer lives with us. Looking back, I can see that this was a good thing overall for our family; yes, even for her. The dynamics of having a teenaged girl under our roof were becoming more and more dire. But since she is not living here and I am not apparently *annoying her* anymore, our relationship has been much better. I do miss her terribly, but I speak with her almost every day and see her almost as often as I did when she lived here. She's in a safe place, doing well and getting ready to head off to college.

And as much as I wanted to hold off in having her move away (until she actually did leave for school), the volume of angst that can be pent up in a girls heart got the better of us. The first five or so days that she was gone I was an emotional wreck. The feelings of loss that I was suffering through could only be compared to when I had lost Charlotte. In my right thinking I know that Airenne isn't dead, but I grieved and mourned over the separation of our bond like she was gone forever. I knew that her personality is such that she wouldn't ever come back home to live. To visit, yes. Perhaps even an extended visit, but not to live. This scared me. A line had been drawn.. and we ALL crossed it.

You see, the people in my family don't ever seem to move out and move on very far from the Mothership. We stay close and talk often. But the people on my husband's side of the family move up and move away, with little communication/ties back to the family. At this point, it was a crap shoot as to what our daughter would do. She has so much of my spunk and so much of her dad's adventurous spirit in her, that it wouldn't surprise us one bit if she ended up on the East Coast somewhere and only called once in a while. Because let's face it.. as much as it was us that asked her to leave.. she knew it was coming; she has craved for that freedom for a long time. And besides, she ain't knocking our door down asking to come home anytime soon. We have told her more than once that we miss her. That we are sorry for how things have transpired, and that we would welcome her home.. if she were to observe our house rules.

She has declined. Several times.

Thankfully though, the worst case scenario hasn't happened. What HAS happened is a better, more open and understanding relationship between us. But this transition hasn't been easy. on ME.

There have been so many things that've been stirred in my heart over this process. In some ways, I'm a little peeved that no one ever told me that THIS is the hard part of mothering. That you can spend (in my case) more than half of my life raising this little creature, making sacrifices for her, tending to her when she was sick, trying to create in her a servant's heart, to watch her *choose* to leave. In all seriousness, I felt like she broke up with me. With us. It was horrible. I cried for days. I would see her pictures online, or drive by her friend's house and bawl my eyes out. I know that it is a natural part of growing up. She was bound to want to create her own life sooner or later. And I WANT her to be happy. But it felt like in our little Three Musketeer group (of her, Brian and myself) that she was ditching us. I know she's not. She just becoming her own person. Searching herself out. Making her own way. But it still hurts.

I have always had the position that I am her mother, not her friend. When I was growing up, I had a relationship with my mother that was the opposite. She wanted to be friends. I didn't. I wanted a mother. I didn't want to talk about inappropriate things with my mom. Rather, I didn't want her to talk to me about those things. So I purposed early on that I wouldn't be the person my mother was to me. And it's been tough. There have been times I've had to stick to my guns when really sometimes I just wanted to ignore the things my kid was doing. Or not doing for that matter. Turns out, it is a balancing act. I drew a lot of criticism for not being her *friend* and she at times felt like I couldn't relate to her or didn't connect with me because she felt like I judged her. But now that she is a legal adult, and not living in my house, this new identity of hers is causing me to change too. And I'm working through how to do it.

A little more about me... I distinctly remember when I began maturing into a young adult. When, at about 14-15, I became aware of what the reality of my life was and how it didn't match what I thought it should be. I began to resent my mother as I had it in my head that she wasn't doing her best by me. I was very judgmental of her lifestyle and I really was disrespectful to her. We got in aweful fights, sometimes escalating to physical brawls. Then, after being the *baby* for over 15 years, I now suddenly had a brother. I spent a lot of time with him and loved him so much. Shortly after that, I gave birth to Airenne. Having her at 17 years old was challenging, to say the least. I'm not saying this in a regretful way, but in every sense of the word, I was stifled. I scraped and tugged and scratched out my....OUR... existence all with her on my hip. We had lots of people that were naysayers about our situation, so I was bent on proving them all wrong. Everything I did from that point on was on the basis of what I thought would be the *right* thing to do. I was a pretty good mom, I think. I know I could have done a lot worse than what I did. So I'm not guilting myself over anything. But now looking back, I can see where it was that I took a turn off the path I was headed on. The path of self discovery every young adult is on. The path that Airenne is on now.

I stayed in school because, given the circumstance, it was the right thing to do. I took all the *right* classes because it was bashed into my head that having a degree was the right thing to do. And although I chose my major, I was limited on what I could pursue due to my obligations at home. Because, afterall, I was working my way through school, because it was the right thing to do. . I am thankful that I continued on, and that I've accomplished what I have. But now what? All my adult life I have been Christine... Airenne's mom. But now I have to be Christine. Just Christine. I don't know if I even know who she is.

Now don't get me wrong, I know she is still my daughter, and that she will still need her mommy from time to time (...and not to mention that I have 3 little boys that I'm still a mommy to).. but the time has come for my baby to fly the coop.

So. That begs the question...
"Who do you say I am?"

When Jesus asked His disciples this (in Mark 16:15), I'm sure they were a little perplexed. I mean, really? They were with Him for 3 years. He was a Rabbi, their friend, the man who had all the answers, a carpenter. They knew exactly who He was. Or did they?

Jesus wanted to know what they really thought. Of course *He* knows who He is.. and what His role on earth is, but He was interested in who THEY (and others) had perceived Him to be.

So now, it seems as though I am back on that same path of self discovery that I meandered off of long ago. Only now I have the liberty as an adult to make some choices based on what the *true* Christine wants. My experiences have shaped me, honed me, and even jaded me. But they are mine. So now as I gather them together, and look over each of them, I can decided which ones I want to keep.. and which ones are only weighing me down. I can choose to cultivate the things in which I have found to inspire me, or to let go of the things I'm holding onto for the sake of holding on. I'm revisiting the desires of my heart as a child, while moving forward with the confidence of a grown ass woman, who more than likely has been there and done that.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Walk a mile in thier shoes...

So I came home from another grand shopping adventure at Target tonight and entered into a sleeping house. I was so excited to get new shoes and a couple of shirts for the kids. All the boys were nestled and my hubby is sawing logs. And as I traipsed in the front door, bags swinging gaily, I suddenly remembered that Brian would be going to the parks tomorrow to pass out goods to the Homeless.

Last year, when he went with the Men's Ministry from church, I loaded him up with a few bags of warm clothes and a couple of blankets. When he got back, he told me how quickly those things were scooped up and so he asked me to gather a few more things for this trip. I nearly forgot.

So anyway, I didn't know what else I could give, as I had just 2 weeks prior shed all of my unwanted goods at the Salvation Army. The only thing that came to mind was my *warm and puffy* jacket. I went to the garage to retrieve it to hand over to the cause. But I hesitated. I looked over the coat, noticed how great of condition it was in, how it looked nearly new, and even had a pair of matching gloves in the pocket. I hardly ever wear it, it's almost *too* puffy and hot in the Fall months, but it's one of those things that you keep around, "just in case". So I set it aside and set my sights on a bag of snow/winter things I had gathered together over the years. Whenever I would see a sale on gloves or hats, I'd buy 'em. Waste of money, really. We never go out to the snow or even like to be outdoors when it's cold, but I couldn't pass up a bargain.

"For the poor will never cease from the land;
therefore I command you, saying,
'You shall open your hand wide to your brother,
to your
poor and your needy, in your land..." Deut 15:11

I hunted and pecked thru that bag and found a couple of mis-matched mittens and knit gloves at the bottom. In my heart I figured "PPfft...these Homeless people would probably be glad to get even those." There were beanies and scarves too, but I didn't want to give those away, as they were hand made and also like new. Well you know.. I wear them *so* much in this dry California weather >>insert sarcasim here<<.

Last year B told me about how there were little kids waiting patiently for him to let them look in the box of discarded clothing for something of use to them. It broke his heart. He thought about how a couple of those kids were about our boy's age and splattering around in puddles as their mom waited in line for food. wet. in the winter.

Then I noticed next to the bag were M's little shoes. Oh how I loved his little feet in those Ralph Lauren suede deck shoes! He hasn't worn them in over a year, I honestly don't know why I even still have them, but I figured I'd toss 'em into the pile of giveaways as well. But what hit me, in a split second, as I was standing in my illuminated garage, with the laundry whirling behind me in a warm dryer looking at all the excess I just bought at Target, that these people have NOTHING. I'm here holding onto a warm jacket tonight, afraid to give it up because *what if* I *might* need it someday, while I'm wearing a warm sweatshirt and going to go to sleep in a warm house, and there is someone else out there that is cold.

So then, what on Earth made me think it was ok just to give my scraps? To hand over my unwanted/mismatched things as if I am giving my all and doing some big favor to humanity? I am (obviously) well fed, I am warm, I have more than one blanket on my bed, and I have *enough* to have crap in my garage that I only wear a couple of times a year (uh, yeah, that's why it still looks brand new!)

How sad.
I mean, really, how sad.

I still don't feel like I have that much to give. But I'll tell you what... I'm putting the dang jacket in the box. And I think even the new shoes I just bought at Target. And the brand new gloves and hand made scarves. I'll hand over my extra blankets and those little shoes.

Thank you God for giving me gentle reminders of YOUR heart. And please make sure the person that receives these things feels your love for them, Jehovah Jireh.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My God is a redeeming God, that's for sure. And I will most definately be calling on Him for that in a few hours. I'm up, about to write and it's only 5:22am. I've actually been up for much longer than that trying to go back to sleep, fighting off the call to get up and write. But alas, it hasn't worked. So I figure I'd better get up and do it and let the words flow from my fingers, even if I haven't a clue as to what the finished puzzle will look like.

God does that a lot with me, sets me up to do something, only giving me a little bit of an inspiration, and not much else. Like I said, I usually fight it. Today I kept telling myself (and making a pretty strong case for it, I might add) that I could sleep a little while longer and get up to write later. The whole house is asleep and these are precious hours to be had. But God knows better than that. He knows I'm faulty at keeping up my end of a bargain and more than likely I would either forget to do it, or dismiss it altogether. He knows that I need to strike while the iron is hot, and He'll *nag* at me until I get it done. Thankfully, I'm learning obedience, and I take a much shorter time to acquiesce than before.

Take for instance, late last week: I had blogged and had this feeling afterward that I should really write down either on a piece of paper or on the blog itself a *remember when* type of quip. I felt like I needed to write to myself about how no matter what, I must remember that being married is not optional. I have some pretty strong views on marriage and remarriage, all that I feel are Biblical, and I just thought I'd better write something that I could keep handy for when times get tough. A preemptive encouraging note to myself. Reminding myself that divorce is never, ever an option (unless one of us commits adultery). But since at that particular moment, my marriage was stable, I never "got around" to writing it. See.. I should have. Little did I know how quickly things could change.

Fast forward to this week. Things are good. Not perfect, but good. Notwithstanding any major hiccups, I believe that marriage is a life long commitment. When I took my vows with my husband, I wholeheartedly believe I made a covenant with God as well. For better or worse. In sickness and in health. Till death do us part.

So where exactly do I begin? Let me just say that every marriage ebbs and flows. And after being married for 10+ years, I am able to recognize when it's ebbing and when it's flowing. But never, in the total of almost 20 years of being with this person, have I ever wanted to walk away more than I did this weekend. And that is saying whole lot. Those that know me know how much my marriage has endured. And yet, I was considering leaving it all behind. A person can only take so much, and I really felt like I was at the end of my rope with it all. But the biggest problem was that I had no Biblical basis for leaving. I KNOW what the Bible says about marriage. I KNOW what I promised. I KNOW what devastation divorce causes to the hearts and minds of the people involved. But still.. my heart was puffed up and badly bruised. And I began to convince myself that my situation was different. I had the *right* to leave, that I shouldn't be treated this way; that I could make it on my own. That another man would find the treasure in me. And I just opened my mouth wide like a little birdie, gulping down the lies I was being fed.

But somewhere in the recesses of my heart, I knew that I needed to stop; arrest my thoughts, take captive my emotions and get on my face before God. But I just couldn't. The chains that bound up my heart were heavy. They literally constricted my breathing. And come Sunday morning.. the last place I wanted to be was at church, hearing about my need to forgive, as I have been forgiven. Hey! I was in the right here. I needed the tenderness, grace and mercy. Not him. Thankfully though, I had the guilt of not taking my little children to church hanging over my head. So instead we went to the evening service.

I was apprehensive about going. There is a passage in the Bible that talks about not coming to the house of the Lord if you have an offense that is unresolved against your brother, to address it first, then come back. I figured since my husband and I weren't even speaking that my offering (worship) would not be accepted before God until we were. And really, who knew when that was gonna happen? But at the very least, I wanted to go and sit under some teaching, letting the words fall over me, hopefully settling into my stony heart somewhere.

There was a guest speaker, a missionary through the sport of soccer. He actually was a part of the program that Airenne has been accepted to go with in June. He told of a story of when he was on a team that would travel down to Fresno and play the local team there. Apparently, there was one man that liked to heckle this team every time they came to play. He said the heckler would holler out "to hoo" every time they made a crummy play or missed a pass. After a while, the missionary figured out that the man was asking "To Who?" as in, to who(m) are you passing to? This heckler had a profound impact on the missionary. As did this missionary have on me.

He went on to talk about God's authority and used the illustration of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 and how God will humble you until you recognize who He is and relationally, who you are. He then posed the question "To whom do YOU play for, Christine?" (Ok, so he didn't really say MY name out loud, but he may as well have. Because it was in that moment, I realized just what he was saying...) Who really did I make my wedding vows with?

In the situation with my husband specifically, who do I think I am vs. the reality of who I am? Do I have the *right* to be angry? Do I have the *right* to hate? or to be hurt, or to hold a grudge? Well, many in today's culture would say yes. A part of me still says yes. But in the grand scheme of things.. that's irrelevant. The real question is.. who am I and what does God call me to do? He tells me to love. He tells me to forgive. He gave me the perfect example of Christ to model after, lean into, take shelter in. He has given me the freedom to let go. When the world around me says to fight tooth and nail for my*rights*, Christ says "Come here... Lay your burdens down. Find rest in me. Take MY yoke upon you because it is light. I've got this."

And so there it is. An hour later, I'm moved to tears because of that little nugget. I didn't know that's what he as gonna tell me this morning, but I'm glad He did. I suppose it was definitely worth getting out of bed for.