Monday, July 27, 2015

Saying Goodbye

When someone you love enters eternity, leaving you behind, it doesn't matter that they lived a long life. It doesn't matter how long they suffered, and it doesn't matter how weary everyone became during the process. It hurts. It's sad. And it's a stark reminder of our humanity and Jesus' sovereignty.

It's a reminder that a body detached from a soul, is nothing. It's a reminder that the soul is what brings beauty to life. It's a reminder, as you watch the sting of death seem to overcome, that the soul longs for our more heavenly home.

It's a reminder that we don't belong here and that such beauty awaits. It's a reminder of the love, grace, mercy, and presence my Jesus gives.

Grandma and the girls on
her last birthday.


Making Easter bread together in 2010.
My sweet little Italian grandmother, Ergie, has been battling the ugly disease of Alzheimers for a long time. Now, it seems, she mostly remembers us with her heart and not with her brain. To wish for her to stay, imprisoned by the chains that steal joy, is selfish. I imagine her soaring, whole, soon.

I know she is ready. I know because my grandmother fought for her family to love Jesus. She lived her life shining His light, praying, and living as His hands and feet with my grandfather, and she never gave up.

Sure she was a worrier. If you didn't answer your phone, she'd march her little Italian legs to your home (somehow - because she didn't drive) and throw rocks at your window. She also taught me that touching a booth seat in a restaurant is the worst thing on the planet to touch. And, let's face it...If you didn't have a third helping of macaroni, you straight up didn't love her.

But, if you called, she was there. With an ear. With my grandfather in a large white Cadillac with red interior. With food. And with food. Wait...did I already mention that?


I will miss my grandma. I will miss a childhood of messing up her pantry playing "store" with my cousins. I will miss jumping on her couches banging pots and pans singing Italian music. I will miss the way she furrowed her eyebrows when she worried. I will miss the milestone of finally reaching the height of an adult...She knew how to rock 4 feet 11 inches.

But I am thankful for the legacy she leaves behind for generations. A legacy of loving Jesus and caring for others. A spirit more generous than most, and an undivided heart. I'm thankful that as we grieve, we can remember a life that will live on.

God is always good, and today, tomorrow, and every day I will cling to him as I put one foot in front of the other. I can only imagine my sweet grandma, walking with Jesus, embracing the beauty of heaven and her new, whole body, and hearing the words "well done."

Grandma when Hannah
was born in 2005.
Grandma with Emma when she
was born in 2010.



2 Corinthians 5

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

Grandma with her 11 grandchildren (top) & great grandchildren (bottom).
3 more have been born since this picture
was taken 1.5 years ago.

Friday, May 8, 2015

9 Ways To Save Money When There Is No Extra

You've all heard it: "Stop drinking Starbucks and save the money you would have spent." Well we never do that, do we? Somehow, we manage to eat out with the kids (even if it's only fast food), put clothes on our bodies, gas in our car, and pay for our kids'  extracurriculars, but we can't transfer $10 a month into a savings account (or onto that credit card bill).

I was thinking the other day. When we were on our journey to become debt free (aside from the 13 years left on our mortgage), we paid off our student loans, our only debt, in two years making less than half of our present income.

Now that we're onto our retirement and kids' college savings, I wonder how we managed it then, but now lack the motivation to kick things into high gear. So I dusted out the cobwebs of those aggressive, debt-busting days in my mind and remembered.

Budget & Prioritize Spending  - We make room for what we want to make room for. Make a list. Today. At the top, write your take-home pay for the following month and start subtracting non-negotiables - FOOD, SHELTER, CLOTHING, & TRANSPORTATION. Then subtract everything else...Include in the top part of that list some savings...even just $25. It may be too small to seem worth it, but an extra $300 at the end of the year for Christmas or a medical bill won't leave you complaining. It DEFINITELY takes time to get used to a budget and you might fail a few times, but it gets easier. If you don't start somewhere with budgeting, even small, you are guaranteed to fail.

Do It As Soon As You Get Paid - This was huge for us when we were putting large - to us - sums toward debt monthly...and begrudgingly, I knew I had to get back to that mindset with saving recently. After the mortgage and charitable giving, we make a transfer to our savings account to save for quarterly and yearly expenses, but also to save for car purchase & repair, boosting our emergency fund, vacations, IRA contributions etc. The reward is seen immediately and is motivation to keep going.

Start With Small Amounts - Go Big or Go Home just doesn't work here. We are an all or nothing society. We can't finish it now, so we don't start. Put a regular (make it a habit) small amount into your savings account. Make it easy on yourself. Electronically transfer X amount whenever you're paying that first bill of the month. You could also hide an envelope under your mattress and save cash there (as long as you're not too tempted to touch it). I don't care if it's $1! It's more about the habit than the amount. It's much easier to increase to $2 when you're already saving $1.

Chart Your Growth - Keep track of your growth. It's like a pat on the back or a reality check. Use Excel or a legal pad with a purple pen. I don't care. But, I can tell you this; looking at our Excel document of our progress encourages us to keep going.

Categorize Your Savings -  There's a lump sum in our savings account, but we keep documentation of how much money applies to each category we have in there. It really gives perspective on what needs attention and what can wait. Sometimes it will seem like EVERYTHING needs attention. That's ok. Keep going.

Checkout Check Up - When we're really focused on some financial goal, right before I check out at the store I scan the cart and ask myself some questions. "Is there anything in here that wasn't on my list?" "Is there anything in here that I really don't need, even if it was really cheap?" I often can easily shave $10-$15 off my total when I do this.

Sell Stuff - When you really look at your home - you realize how much you have that you don't need, use, or even like. Your trash is someone else's treasure. Get on Craigslist and declutter your home and  and your budget.

Be Content - Honestly, this requires some soul searching. I don't know what path you will take to get there but you have to find a way to be satisfied with what you have and with what you don't have. You have to be content with spending less on gifts or buying underwear at Walmart when you're getting out of debt or working toward a goal. Suck it up, it's not the end of the world. We've been debt free for 5 years and while we are still working hard and I'm thankful for our progress and provision, we drive very used cars (though we've slowly upgraded, always paying cash), our house isn't huge, and I'm in love with hand-me-down clothes. You can't have champagne taste on a beer budget. Life is about so much more than stuff.

Expect Emergencies -  Things are going to come up. You're going to dip into your savings. It happens. Expect it and move on.

Don't give up on this. I'd love to hear your progress!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wellness Wednesday - 7 Of My Favorite Fitness Finds

I wouldn't say I love working out, but I do it, almost every day. I get bored easily, and since I'm a stay at home mama with a husband who is out the door by 5:30am, I can't just get up and go to the gym early in the morning.

HEART RATE MONITOR

I use this one:



It's not the newest model, but it's affordable and keeps track of your heart rate and calories burned. This is helpful to me because I'm only five feet tall and not really overweight - so calories burned is much lower for me than the average person. This helps me get a good picture of how hard I'm working and I can easily pump it up a little if my target heart rate isn't in zone...You can set it to beep to let you know! Alternatively, I can chill out a little when it's going wild! I tend to have a high heart rate naturally.

HOUSE SHOES

Ok, this sounds silly, but I workout in my house to online workout videos. We don't wear shoes in our house. It grosses me out. So, I used to workout barefoot...which now seems insane to me. I bought myself a pair of inexpensive but highlighter-bright (why not?) tennis shoes to workout in the house.

FITNESS BLENDER

At Fitness Blender, there are over 400 FREE workout videos, a free calendar to keep track of workouts, and a husband and wife duo, that is just really awesome. They want affordable health and fitness to be available to everyone. There are meal plans and challenges available for purchase (very affordable) on the site, but I've never bought one. All of the videos in those challenges are free already on the site, they just set up a specific plan for you when you purchase. They even just came out with a free APP!

YOU TUBE
You Tube is the home of A LOT of trash...but you know what? There are a ton of awesome, full length workout videos. Some of my favorite subscriptions, other than Fitness Blender are: jessicasmithtv, BeFit, and POPSUGAR Fitness. You can also find celebrity trainers on there too like Jackie Warner, Jillian Michaels, Chris Freytag, and Cindy Whitmarsh - all of whom I enjoy working out with!

WATER BOTTLE

One of my Christmas gifts from my husband was this water bottle. It's a glass one with a silicone sleeve. I love it. It holds 20oz. so I try to drink 3 per day and it's really be very helpful to me.

MY FITNESS PAL

The site is free,  you can scan your food and recorded your exercise and food intake. I use this periodically to get back on track with my eating. The only problem I personally have with this, is I'm a scratch cook. Most of what I eat is made with my own two hands. This can be extremely tedious to figure out calorie counting...So, when I feel frustrated, I use something probably considered archaic.

FOOD JOURNAL
There tons of fancy ones out there...but I use a notebook and list my water intake, weight, exercise and food eaten for the day...Then I take a picture of it and send it to a friend to keep me accountable...Even that one day when I ate a large blizzard...*hanging my head in shame*

FREE WEIGHTS
Weight training is my favorite kind of workout. Obviously I alternate with cardio and a few days of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), but I love my weights. Don't be discouraged if you can't spend the money on weights right now. Honestly, 6 years ago, I started with water bottles. Then, my sister-in-law loaned me a pair of 3 lb. You'll get there. Start where you are.

I will use anywhere between 3lb. and 20lb. free weights, and a kettle bell.

I have metal and coated dumbbells, but I do prefer the coated ones (similar to the ones below). They're nicer to grip, in my opinion (and don't scratch my wedding rings). I do use weight lifting gloves sometimes, too.



I own this kettle bell, but I'm looking to purchase a heavier 10-12lb. one as well.



So, nothing here is fancy, necessary or expensive. What are some of your favorite gadgets?


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