Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Give Them More Grace

I made a bad judgement call and stayed up late with Rick to watch the very silly but funny movie "Hairspray". I wanted to see it just for the craziness of seeing John Travolta play a mom. It was riot and we laughed a lot but I'm so tired today! It was just the stupid/funny I needed last night though.

The Lord showed me yesterday that I need to remember that my brothers and sisters in Christ are all going through their own burdens. I need to focus more on praying for them. Or, they have gone through things that they still have to chew on in their lives, and I need to pray for healing for them. When we carry the burden, it feels heavy no matter what it is. To us, it's a lot just to carry it. I have surrounding me now: Pregnant w/ two VERY young boys and VERY sick all the time, Crying out to God for more children with a long wait right now, Hanging on for each penny that comes through and longing for a place to put down roots in a land where homes are so hard to afford, Loss of a love one to suicide w/o the acceptance of Christ, Grown child w/ hardened heart to the gospel, Aging mother w/ Alzheimer's, Desiring to return to church and Christ but husband has grown angry about church and Christians ....there are many more. (I used capitals on my own to differentiate peoples, I know it's not grammatically correct). He used it to open my eyes that my healing can be found in praying for my sisters. These are all big heavy spiritual burdens God knows have been given and I need to pray that His glory will be accomplished in them. For those going through them these words are encouraging and always have been:
"He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again"
Annie J. Flint

For years that hymn has meant a lot, the past two years it was one I could remind my dad of and he and my mom were encouraged by it. I can pray that hymn for my sisters.
Give them more grace when their burdens grow greater,
Lord, give them more strength when their sorrows increase...... and so on.

The other burden we women all face on top of these big things are our hormonal reactions to the day. How we process it as it comes whether big or small. Some days we are sailing high for no reason, some days we feel like we are pulling balls and chains for no reason.
If you have not all ready taken my advice a long time ago and bought the Ayiesha Woods CD, then here once again is another song of hers that has ministered to me the past two days.
Ever had a day
When you're on such a spiritual high
When you're feeling strong cause you've got all of heaven on your side
Ever had a day
When your confidence is high
And you feel like nothing can make you fall or even compromise
But what about those days
When you're not feeling so strong
And you cry 'cause you don't know what to do feeling like you're all alone
What about those times when
When so much is on your mind
And everything you've tried to forget
You just can't seem to leave behind

Don't you wish that every day was an easy day
And there was nothing that you couldn't do
But if every day was an easy day
You'd never be able to say that
Jesus brought you through

Ever had a day
When tomorrow didn't count
And you were caught in the moment
On cloud nine without a doubt
Ever had a day
When you knew yesterday was gone
And there was nothing that even mattered 'cause you already knew you won
But what about those days
When you just don't understand
And just when you're getting up it seems you're falling down again
What about those times
When it's not so easy to believe
When doubt causes you to only go by what you see

Don't you wish that every day was an easy day
And there was nothing that you couldn't do
But if every day was an easy day
You'd never be able to say that Jesus brought you through

I hope you can hear it sometime too. I'm sure it's on some free play out there in cyberspace. I did see there was a YOUTUBE with it but the cartoon someone put with the music was too distracting to put here on the blog. Plus, I don't know what the cartoon had in the world to do with the song. It was strange. If you can't find any where else to hear the song, go here and just listen.
BTW: I will be returning to the subject of school as of tomorrow. However, I will not be going specifically through each subject to finish out the Charlotte Mason method because I think there were few readers who needed that info. (on that note, my meter tells me there are about 24 people here a day and that's amazing, but yall need to say hi more often so I know who is here! You can always go to the Guestbook to introduce yourself or say a hello unrelated to any post. If I don't know you, I'd love to meet you! Let me know what's interesting or helpful to you when you visit here if you like.) I don't feel the energy to therefore go through each one. If you want to know more, check out that website , or get the books I referred to from the library. They are VERY short and easy to read through.
I will however, be starting to lay out my plan as well as visit the subject of unit studies by hosting some thoughts from my friend Lisa who uses this pattern of homeschool for her kids. It should be fun!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why Does Everything Come Down To Exercise!?

This may not make sense if you have not been reading the blog this weekend. The last post would kinda make it more clear.

I am amazed this morning with the correlation between our need to discipline our bodies to exercise, and our spiritual need to exercise our discipline in the word of God.
My emotional state the past few days has made me not desire to get into the Word. I was spiritually exhausted. Yet, God in His amazing grace allowed me to be pushed with the need to finish my bible study before I go to it today. Such a loving Father he is. I really wanted to just stay in my state of mind and had no desire to push myself out of it. I wanted to be out of it, but I did not want to do the spiritual exercise that required. Once you get off the "spiritual treadmill" you think the same thing when you get off a physical one....duh. Of course I feel better, of course I am encouraged, of course God's word is living and active, sharper than ANY two edged sword dividing my soul and my spirit and moving in me the glory of Christ. Duh, Alicia, duh. And yet, that emotional phase of downerville has to just lift in God's timing. These are times when I cherish so much the poem my dad taught me when I was a young teen.

Feelings come and feelings go
And feelings are deceiving,
My warrant is the word of God
Naught else is worth believing.

Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token (1 John 3:20-21)
I know one greater than my heart
Whose word cannot be broken. (John 10:35)

I’ll trust in God’s unchanging word
Till soul and body sever;
For though all things shall pass away,
His word shall stand forever. (Heb. 7:24)

My study took me first in significance to Lam. 3:17-24 which has been one of my favorite passages since I discovered it in reading on my mission trip to Honduras. Jeremiah is in a spiritual depression of sorts. I found most interesting the phrase "This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope" (you can read the section yourself for further context). The effort to "recall to mind" is no small thing when you are like Anne Shirley, in "the depths of despair". Yet, how ironic that Mirilla is quite right when she replies to Anne "to despair, is to turn your back on God." Sometimes we turn away and refuse to accept what he freely gives. Sometimes we are not willing to use our spiritual muscles to turn back around.

Next, the Holy Spirit gave me a refreshing read of a very familiar passage of scripture. John 15:1-8. It was asked of me in the study, but two things were highlighted by the Holy Spirit as if he had reached down with highlighter and said "Alicia look at this". One was the words in verse three, the reassurance of my position in Christ: "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you." This ministered to the guilt and burden I carried from my frustration with my human frailty of mind. My depression about my perspective on what God was presenting me with. It was a reminder that "I'm in" so to speak and no thing can push me out once God says "You're in!".
Secondly, and the most amazing, was that the Spirit led me to read the passage over again as it pertained to me. You may want to put your name where I was led to put mine. It is amazing.

I ,(Your Savior, Alicia) am the true vine, and My Father (Alicia's Heavenly Father) is the vinedresser.
2"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; (Alicia is a) branch that bears fruit, He prunes (Alicia) so that (she) may bear more fruit.
3"(Alicia, you) are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
4"Abide in Me (Alicia) , and I (will abide) in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can (Alicia) unless (she) abide(s) in Me.
5"I am the vine, (Alicia is one of) the branches; (If Alicia) abides in Me and I in (her), (Alicia) bears much fruit, for apart from Me (Alicia) can do nothing.
6"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
7"If (Alicia) abide(s) in Me, and My words abide in (her), (Alicia should) ask whatever (she)wish(es), and it will be done for (her).
8"My Father is glorified by this, that (Alicia) bear(s) much fruit, and so prove to be My disciple.

This was such balm to my soul. Thank you Lord. I will say however, that any drawing back was a work of the Holy Spirit alone. These emotions are just simply not able to be conquered by me! It was gracious of God to draw me out of my despair. I am still thankful that when in that place I can hide in His wing.
The Lord has made me ponder in thanks this morning as well, the blessing of my sisters in the Lord. In a world where every man for himself is the motto, the body of Christ shines as a place where his people reflect his character in different ways in different means and he uses them to build each other up and bring glory to the heavenly father. The good that comes to us from that is just a blessing of His love. People don't behave this way naturally and if they do, it's for what's in it for them even if it's just a high feeling of goodness. How much deeper the joy of the Lord is, and how much more penetrating.
Thank you to my sisters, you know who you are. I am blessed. May God grant me the privilege to be to you in your day of need, what you have been to me. Not for the sake of my pride, but for the privilege of his instrument of love for you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Roadblock of Grief

First of all I want to say that this blog post is a highly journal- like entry. This is a process I'm going through which is likely to be interpreted wrong or harshly. It's part of a process that can't be ignored or shoved down. It has to be walked through but it's not very pretty. It brings up thoughts and emotions that are not always right but have to be worked through in the light and truth of my faith in Christ, but it's not a smooth trail.
From reading the following you are very likely to draw certain conclusions about me. I take that risk in writing about today. I try not to worry about what I put on the blog because I want it to be real, but this one may require some grace from my friends to realize that it is a journey and not a final destination.

I hesitate to write much any more about my thoughts on loosing Dad. Why? Because I think that people around you don't understand how you can be processing something as if it just happened last week and yet, it has been nearly a year now. I wonder if the reader may say "enough all ready, you're just trying to make everyone feel sorry for you". I can honestly say, that is not my goal and I hold back a lot out of concern of the appearance of wanting to stir up pity. I don't' like the whole drama queen scene but running from it keeps me from expressing when I probably should. So today I'm letting go of the fear of that reaction (or perhaps just letting you know it's there and I'm working through it) and go on with what today was like.

I went to the ladies tea at my church. It was a lovely event as always. I took my two girls and my mom was able to go this time of which I was glad. The ladies who shared did a wonderful job and are both women I love to glean from. However, I was not expecting the theme at all and it threw me an emotional curve ball. The theme was "the provision of God" which sounded good but I did not really think it through at all. What it ended up being more so was a message through word and song of trusting God even when he brings us big hard things. Much of it from our main speaker was gleaned from our bible study book by Jerry Bridges "Trusting God Even When Life Hurts".

I don't know what has happened to me. I felt so selfish for my emotional reaction to today. I had to detach myself to get through the morning. That is not like me. Months ago, these topics were healing to my soul. All of a sudden I have lost enthusiasm for my study and the whole topic of trusting God through trials. It's not that I disagree with it either, I fully agree. I have found such deep life changing truth in this topic and it has ministered to our family greatly. All I can relate this to is that it is just like being served the same dish of food over and over and after a while you don't want to eat it anymore. I knew that if I let myself really feel the hymns today that I would loose it. I found myself resisting the message just out of exhaustion of hearing it in such great repetition over the past year. And yes, sometimes you go to that very selfish place where you don't want to eat a dish that is being served from someone who has never eaten it themselves and doesn't know how hard it is to chew, swallow, and digest. Perhaps I look down at the "plate" and just don't have the energy to take it on all over again. To bring it up in my heart and go through the whole process once more. Today, I couldn't do it, and my spirit refused. The result was complete exhaustion for holding it in and not wanting to relate or engage mentally.
I am frustrated for myself and the selfishness of this attitude. I know that the message was wonderful and one or many have been ministered to by the message today. So, I think of them and pray that the Lord would use it for their growth. I have to remember that (and this sounds so obvious but when your in it, it's harder than it sounds) it's not about me.
The roadblock seems to be that I cannot seem to apply these trial lessons to my everyday life. Trust me, I have tried. I have gone through this study and different messages from different people and tried to ask myself, how can I use this for God's glory in my every day life. Every time I try I am blocked by this huge roadblock of grief. I see my dad, and the issue is huge. I have gone through periods of being hard on myself for not being able to get around it. Today, it was there again. I feel I can't talk about it because everyone else moved on months ago. I understand for one moment, a smidget of what it must be like for my mom. I am coming to the realization that I need to give it time. This huge trial needs time to fade into the history of my life. Not that I forget, but just that it has to have time to heal still. I know this is true when I continually can't seem to get around it. I don't mean that I resist trusting God about it, I fully do and have for a long time. What I can't seem to ponder or grow in, is how do I trust God in my daily stuff. When people give talks I try to make my mind go there, but it seems to have wheels of it's own and it backs up and runs into that roadblock over and over and over. There is no visible way around, over, or through right now. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to give myself more time.
For me personally, I'm ready for a new topic. I don't want to keep going through this one. God obviously wants me to keep chewing on it right now but I am not wanting to. I long for a good message about how you put one foot in front of the other and move on in your life. I want to remember the promises of God and hear encouragement for the future. I'm tired of talking about trials. This is just me focused on myself right now. I know I need to pray through this and get on the other side of it. For today, I'm just needing to be real and talk about how it's there.
I long for something new on the menu of life, for a light dish that goes down well and gives lots of energy. It may not be what I get in life, but it's what I'm longing for right now. A breath of fresh air, a new leaf turned over, a beam of sunshine so bright that my eyes have to close from it's glare, a birds song that speaks to my soul. Yet, the storm still seems to rage around me even when I think it is passing, and it starts up again. I find myself longing to hide from it out of pure lack of strength to stand out in it again. There have been many days that I have said like Steven Curtis Chapman "Bring it on! Let the hard rain fall, let it make me strong!" Today I don't have it in me to say that.

Be merciful to me, God; be merciful to me
because I come to you for protection.
Let me hide under the shadow of your wings
until the trouble has passed.
Psalm 57:1

Perhaps sometimes we just want to hide and take respite from the battle to get through or around something that will never go away. Only in God's time will it dissipate so we can see again. I find myself thankful that he is so faithful to be the God who gives strength when he wants me to stand and fight, and the God who is strong and ready to in fold me in his wings so I can just hide. Oh, I am so thankful that he knows me, he sees and he cares. He knows how hard the dish of grief is to eat and swallow. I know he understands my emotions that overwhelm and make me push the plate away. He is patient. He does not always expect me to be a warrior.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What Do You Eat For Lunch?

Of course the one main at-home lunch money saver is the leftovers. On a day where there are none, here is what we have for lunches. All are usually served with fresh veggie slices or fruit slices.

Peanut Butter and Jelly (of course)
Peanut Butter and Banana
Grilled Cheese
Ham and Cheese
Egg Salad
Tuna fish
Tuna Melts*
Soup (homemade)
Pintos and Cheese
Meat and Cheese bites w/ crackers
Cheese or Cheese and bean Quesadillas

*can be a dinner too
What do you eat for lunch?

(BTW- there were not many responses yet on the breakfast one, so if you have any more ideas to add, please do!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What Do You Eat For Breakfast?

I have found that breakfast can be one of the best ways to save in your budget by one tip alone.... don't buy boxed cereal! I dont' follow it myself all the time, especially if there is a sale leading to a dollar a box, or a Trader Joe's brand on a bad week, or it's a kid birthday which means their favorite junk food cereal. Otherwise, baking, and making save you so much.

Now, I'm very excited that yall' are talking and responding from the last post, so I'm hoping you will have more sharing for me on this one because we are all looking for new ideas. I said I would start posting "now, what do I make with all that" and I decided to take it one meal at a time. If you have a favorite receipe please post comment. I really appreciated Lisa leaving her sausage roll receipe on the post comment from the last entry. Here's me claping for you gals "alright, alright, alright, let's go, le'ts go, let's go!" as you think up some frugal goodness!

Breakfast (from all that listed below)
Whole Wheat Pancakes
Whole Wheat Muffins
Baked Oatmeal
Eggs + Whole Wheat Toast
Egg Flower Muffins*
Fruit and Yogurt Parfait w/ Granola
Puffed Oven Pancake
Whole Wheat Waffles
Eggs + Potatoes
Egg Bakes
*requires the purchase of fridge biscuits

What do you eat for breakfast?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Grocery Talk

I've noticed there is a lot of bloggity chat about grocery budgets lately. Perhaps all of of are adjusting to the increase over the past few months and all our brains are searching out solutions in a time of pressure.
I am not a budget champion. I am not good at the right method for anything, including food shopping. I have however been blown away by some estimate numbers floating around as budget numbers for the month of food. Our budget was 250$ a month before Christmas but we had to raise it to 300$ with the food and gas increase. Now, that is for food and toiletries.
You have to remember that we are really trying to crunch to get out of bad debt right now so my motivation is great. I am still working at it and trying to get creative but I wanted to share my staples and where they come from. My life has forced me to get down the the cheapest way to do it with the time I have and the gas enough for so many trips to the stores I need to go to. This is going to be random dumping but I just thought I'd share.

1. I live seven miles from the nearest living town (I say living because I consider mine "sleeping" because it is so small and has a market that would bust my budget to buy milk at) so I always group shopping with times I'm out all ready.

2. Staples- I try to think back to a cabin kitchen. What would it need? Well, I don't really know, but this is what my staples are:
- Wheat Berries - bought in co-op size bags usually 25lbs for me and a friend.
- Oats, Raw- Used for oatmeal, breads, granola and cookies, and also from co-op.
- Popcorn- Used for well... popcorn (the cheapest and healthiest snack you can have) and also milled for cornmeal.
-Brown Rice- I'm using up what I have but will be getting it from co-op after that.
-Beans- ( I eventually would like to do these by co-op too when I can afford more paint buckets to put them in!)- Lentils, Pinto (big 5lb. bags from Costco) and black beans.
-White flour- I keep one 5lb. from the store, it lasts me forever since I use whole wheat usually for everything.
- Sucunat- ( I know, they did not have that back then) I keep about 5 lbs flowing in and out from co-op where it is a good price. We use it in everything needing sugar except something like jello where it would just be...weird.
-Butter- Definitely bulk Costco.
- Honey- Large 6lb. "Busy Bee" from Costco (if anyone knows of a better deal, I'm open) which is used for bread and granola making mainly.
-Canola Oil- Again, the large one from Costco. It too is a staple of bread and granola making.
-Potatoes- I know this is a produce but when you are pinching, it's a basic you have to have. (I remember in "Little Women" how the girls would take their baked potato for their lunch and that was it because times were tough.)
2. Proteins (again, this is in crunch mode)
-Eggs- The best price I have found is always Trader Joe's basic ones. I think they are 1.19 a dozen right now.
-Tuna fish- I am trying an even cheaper method of this too. I am using the big can from Costco and freezing leftovers in sectional freezing containers to use later for sandwiches or casseroles.
-Peanut Butter- There are many good options, I just happen to be getting the double Laura Scudders real peanut butter from Costco.
-Canned Pink Salmon- Used for a dinner of Salmon Patties
-Ham or Turkey Ham- I bounce between Costco Ham for sandwiches, and Foster Farms big hunk of Turkey Ham from Food For Less which is actually cheaper and able to be used in cooking.
( I am hoping to add one meat a week like a good chicken that can be used for a few meals)

4. Produce
-Carrots- Large bag of whole ones from Costco (it's cheaper to not buy the baby cute ones guys!)
-Celery- Wherever it's cheap
-Onion- Usually a bag at Food For Less (I get yellow because of price and cooking does not require really sweet white ones that I would prefer). I will also grab one red for sandwiches or salads.
(NOTE: these three are kitchen essentials to cheap eating. They are the veggie basis for so many soups, casseroles, and sauces)
-Broccoli- Large bag from Costco.
-English Cucumber- Set of three from Costco ( sometimes I have to choose between these and the broccoli)
-Spinach- Large bag from Costco (I separate right away into storage bags so it lasts over two weeks for salads, no chopping needed)
-Green Leaf Lettuce- TJ's or sale at Food For Less
-Various in season items : tomato, sweet or bell pepper, zucchini, etc. Wherever it's cheapest.
-Apples- I've narrowed down that the bags of small ones from Food For Less are the best deal for what gets eaten. My kids can eat a whole little one, but think they can a big one. There is always to much wasted that way.
-Banana's- Costco is the best price always.
-Third Fruit of what's in season- Right now Pears and Tangelos are a good price.
-Frozen Berries- Costco big bag of blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry mix.
-Frozen Green Beans- Large bag of organic at Costco.
-Frozen Spinach- TJ's
-Frozen Veggie mix- TJ's
-Frozen Sweet Corn- TJ's
(I don't get all veggies each time)
5. Dairy
-Cheese- Kirkland 5lb. block of sharp cheddar. Used in all cooking, sandwiches, snacks etc.
-Eggs- also mentioned under proteins- Trader Joes
-Milk- Costco for price (I also get a case of Soy milk from Costco for when the milk runs out and I can't get into town. I'm thinking of switching to powder milk for a spare though after the idea from Zimms Zoo's Mama.)
-Sour Cream- Costco tub
-Yogurt- Costco Kirkland singles or big tub from Food For Less if it's cheaper which lately it has been a toss up.

6. Variants: The things that I bounce around getting or not getting depending on the menu.
-Pastas- WW from Trader Joe's/I also almost always get a bag of dry tortellini from Trader Joe's
-Pasta Sauce- Either the big can from Costco, or a sauce to make my own, or Trader Joe's Cheapest Marinade.
-Stewed Tomatoes- Trader Joe's
-Cream of Mushroom Soup- Costco or good sale
-Salsa- Varies by price and whim
-Tomato Sauce- sale or Costco big can

7. Snacks or Extras
-Nuts- I try to get a bag of almonds and walnuts every few months from Costco. They are for snacks and baking.
-Raisins- Costco (co-op in bulk is good too I think)
-Crasins- Costco
-Dates- Costco
-Coffee- Costco ground cheap, very cheap, basic, boring coffee. (not our preference, but, it works)
(I don't buy these all at once, I vary between which one I pick up each time I'm there)

8. Special Occasionals (if the budget allows)
-Sausage Links- Costco has the best price. I use them also for slices on homemade pizza.
-String Cheese- Costco
-Orange Juice- Costco
- Mozz cheese for Pizza
-Canned Pineapple
-Meatballs from Costco (very rare now)

I think that is the basic bottom line. This of course does not include what is kept in a stocked spice cabinet.
If I think of anything, I'll be sure to come back and add.

So, What can I do with all this? Well, that is for another time. I have to figure out half of it still myself.:)

I would love to hear any feedback on further ideas on savings or where to get specific items. Katy, if you come by, can you share your hamburger tip you gave me? Thanks.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Back On My Feet

The Lord has seen fit for me to go through a bad round of flu. It was discouraging I'll admit after just being sick a week before. I don't get sick very often so perhaps this means I'll be done for a good long while. This one even landed me in the ER getting a chest X-ray because of the severe pain in my back and chest. It turned out to be clear so the pain they said was from the flu itself. I have never felt a flu hurt that bad. It seemed to all settle in my back. This morning is the first time I'm standing and walking around. I am so anxious to be normal again. Princess went through the fever part of it the past 24 hours but seems much better this morning. My children are so quick about these things. I am thankful.

One highlight of my days of sickness was a highly recommendable movie. "Miss Potter" was absolutely enchanting and engaging. I have to admit, through my fevered stupor, I put it in after having just grabbed it at the library, and having no idea who it was about. It is actually about Beatrix Potter. I won't say much except that it was a wonderfully touching story. It made me want to read the books to the kids again, and it inspired me to put her house on my "see someday" list. The movie had the same Edwardian feel as "Anne of Green Gables" but with a deeper tugging heart theme. Hopefully none of you will be sick soon, but if you get some down time for one reason or another, it's a real must see. Make sure you have a box of tissues close by. I all ready happened to be sleeping with mine.