Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Embracing Change in Your Relationship

Happy New Year everyone! I am really excited about this year! Every year I am excited about the coming year, but this year especially so. The last year, the last two years really, have been continually challenging and changing. In 2013 and 2014 We moved across the country, had our third child, got used to living in a big home in the country compared to a little apartment in town (I spend so much more time cleaning and driving!) We started our first official year homeschooling, slowly we are starting to make friends, and my husband started a new job in which he has now worked in two different positions.

My husband and I have dealt with all these physical, logistical, and emotional changes hand in hand together, but oh so differently! Of course we have dealt with change before this, but when you are first married you kind of begin at the same point, the same starting line. Just like in a board game where everyone starts at start. But as the years go by and more and more changes happens within your life and marriage, you can find you and your spouse on completely different pages.

But, change and growth is inevitable. In fact, it's absolutely essential for us to change and go through different seasons of life to grow and mature, especially if we want to mature in our walk with Christ. But change can be hard and growth uncomfortable! I also have learned more than ever before that you and your husband won't always change and grow at the same time or in the same way. This can be really frustrating and even scary ( you feel like two totally different people!) But  thankfully, growing together isn't always the result of changing together! How you face the changes in your spouse or yourself is more important than the change itself.
                                                        Most recent date picture :)

So after going through so much change in the last two years, the last several months I have finally started to feel like we have found our peaceful, comfortable new "normal" in our daily lives  :) There is so much I have learned on how to act... and how not to react when you find your marriage in a state of flux while you and your spouse are changing and rapidly growing. Here are some ways to not just survive the changes and shifts that happen within your marriage and life, but thrive because of them!

1.) Prayer and Praise!

No matter what valley you are passing through, prayer and praise is of outmost importance.... Always! The Bible teaches us that it doesn't matter the circumstance we find ourselves in, the correct response is ALWAYS to praise God. Good day, bad day, normal day, through gritted teeth and a tear stained face day, make a conscious choice to choose joy and praise God, and watch with amazement as He softens your heart and instills joy and peace into your life.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


2.) Don't Let External Stress Create Internal War!

Stressful situations and change can bring on fights faster than normal, but don't let external stress create internal war. Talk, discuss, get mad, even fight (fairly, without name calling, yelling or threats)  but refuse to be divided. Fights are going to happen in marriage eventually, but don't let a fight or argument steal your peace and define your view of your marriage or your spouse.

“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
Matthew  12:25

3.) Remember, This is Only a Phase!

It can be so easy to get caught up in the here and now and focus on how things feel today. But today is really a blessing and a miracle, because although today can be a refection of yesterday and how things are currently, it is also an opportunity to change the your current day and how things will be tomorrow. For better or worse, our lives are in a constant state of flux. Slowly and steadily changing, the little (or big!) choices we make today will have an impact on the way our life will be tomorrow. When you think back on the last 10 years of your life, I'm sure you can see seasons in your life filled with joy and those memories of that perfect day, but also times of pain or struggle. The season of life you find yourself or your spouse in now is not the season of life that will be next. Even if you have found yourself "stuck" in what seems a long season, it is still just that: a season. Jesus gives us hope for our future!

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jerimiah 29:11

4.) Get up and Get out!

Oh my goodness.... Yes! It is truly amazing what going outside can do for your spirit! Stepping out and doing things outside has enormous mental benefits. I used to live in the bitter cold winters of Wisconsin, with babies, in an apartment in town with little to no yard. Not the ideal place to live to get a daily dose of fresh air, but the days I made a conscious effort to get out always helped. So don't just sit there, get out!  (unless it's today, which just happens to be one of the coldest days of the year, maybe go outside next week! :)

                                                                               Photo credit: unknown, found on Pinterest, "uploaded by user"

5.) Determine to respond with kindness
Whether it's you going through big changes, your spouse going through changes or your relationship in general, change seems to make tempers shorter! No matter what you may going though, lashing out at others is never the way to respond! We are called to love one another, and this is not dependent on how we feel. And on the flip side, if it's your spouse who is going through something, love them as Christ loves you. Give them grace, give them patience, love them like Christ loves you.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7

 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God
Romans 14:4

6.) Reflection is Good, but Stewing is Bad!
It's been scientifically proven that looking through photographs of past happy memories and times can significantly improve your mood now. This is so true for me! When Im feeling down, going though happy photos from great times always puts me in a better mood. Even better when I actually have some prints made! There is nothing like going to pick up printed photos. Hanging pics, even just on the fridge, is a nice little pick me up. It's cheap too!
But remember to avoid extremes! Reflection on happy times is beneficial, butt sitting around lamenting why things can't "go back to the way they were" helps no one and induces self pity. Don't do that!

Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

7.) Find new Things
As long as your going through changes elsewhere in your life, why not pick up a new hobby? Or even just a new book or revive a forgotten hobby that you haven't had time for. When we go through changes or periods of stress, it can be easy to be caught up in the whirlwind of making it through each day and adjusting to whatever new change we are adjusting to. Picking up some paint and a canvas or creating a project has enormous therapeutic benefits! Plant a potted plant, grow your own herbs, pick up photography, step into a library, take a walk, knit a scarf, read a book, paint, learn HTML. The possibilities are endless! Starting a new endeavor enlivens our minds and is good for the soul!

8.)  Spend Time Together
Spend purposeful time with your spouse. I'm not just talking about going on a date together. If you can go on a date, that's great! Go for it! But even more important than a date night is purposeful, meaningful time together. I love date night, but honestly our home dates feel more beneficial to me than "real" date nights. Our home dates are simple but perfect! We put the kiddos to bed early and then enjoy a nice dinner, ALONE! Then take drinks and sit on our front porch together at night and listen to music and just talk. Or not talk. It's just wonderful :) But in the craziness of life, make time for your relationship and make it meaningful time!

Enjoy life with your beloved wife during all the days of your fleeting life that God has given you on earth during all your fleeting days; for that is your reward in life and in your burdensome work on earth.
Ecclesiastes 9:9

If you find yourself in the middle of change, hopefully you can find a few helpful ideas or bible verses to carry you through to the next season of your life. I would love to hear what you do when you find yourself in the midst of change! Have a good day all! And remember,

        The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.            
                                                                                                               Ecclesiastes 7:8
photo credit: thebottomoftheirironbasket.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Lord is Close to the Brokenhearted

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in Spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Isn't wonderful to know that of all the many things God is, close to the brokenhearted is one of them? It doesn't matter why we are brokenhearted, God draws near to us. It might be a seemingly small reason that can set you off; a tough day at home with your children, a day where nothing goes right, unfulfilled expectations or the pangs of loneliness. It doesn't matter how we got to this point, to God, a hurting heart is a heart that needs love, a heart that needs Him.

If today you find yourself brokenhearted or your spirit broken down, run to Him. He won't minimize your pain, expect justification, explanation or a promise to be stronger tomorrow. He just wants to hold you, His dear child.

Let God hold you. Let Him love you. Let Him save you. No strings attached.~

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. —Psalm 46:10
photo credit: pinterest http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/3f/6e/f3/3f6ef38f6d0399480f5d9faaa2658e0a.jpg

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Planning a No Spend Week

Planning a No Spend Week or: How to Save Extra Money when You Don't have Extra Money

As a large(ish) family living on one income, I’m always looking for ways to save money and lower our weekly and monthly expenses. Through talking to other woman, reading books, blogs and my own trial and error process, God has blessed us with many different ways to save!
I recently have been using another method to save money, called a no spend week. My no spend week is a chance to save a little money in addition to whatever Daniel brings in. Admittedly, my no spend week savings go towards… “fun” money. 

We often have a little extra left over at the end of each week, and unless there is something we are in need of or some unforeseen bill or expenses, that’s our “extra” or fun money for the weekend. We don’t do much, normally it’s a weekend breakfast out as a family, gas money to take the Jeeps out to the beach or date night money. So although there is that extra amount, I hate spending our family fun weekend money on say, a new rug. Daniel always encourages me to use what we have if I find something I like (he is so generous and giving!) but I know that the kids and us will have more memories from being at the beach for the day, than say me getting on them for stepping on my new rug with muddy shoes! So, my no spend week is a way for me to have a little fund that I can use to buy things for the home or keep hidden away for a rainy day,  it’s a mini savings that won’t take away from the money we put into savings or take away from our weekend fun money budget!

What is a no spend week?:

* A no spend week is where you do just that, don’t spend anything that week! 
Normally each week I carefully budget our $160 to account for all meals for the five of us for the week plus groceries like toilet paper, diapers, pet food, ect. I plan our weekly menu and shop for that week.

* During my “no spend week” I don’t go shopping for anything but some fresh fruit and some milk. That’s it! So for my first week of trying out this method, I saved myself about $140.00! Of course you could take it one step farther and buy nothing, but I get very picky about milk and we eat so much fruit that it would be almost impossible for us not to buy any fruit in a week.

Planning your no spend week:

 Now I say that my first week I saved $140.00 but that took 4-6 weeks of preparation. It‘s a simple plan, you just need to be diligent about keeping stock of what you have and not use the food you are preparing for your week of not buying anything!

I’m sure there are many people who could do this in less time or on a bigger scale, but this plan is specifically for anyone who doesn’t plan on spending anything more than they normally would in a week’s time.

Here is step by step how to plan your no spend week:

Week 1-4

* Buy what’s on sale! This seems obvious, but pay attention to anything that is at a super low price and stock up! If fruit is on sale (and often there is something at it’s peak of ripeness so the price is dramatically cut down.) buy it and freeze! Sale prices on specific items seem to rotate every 4-6 weeks. Our local grocery store has a sale on our favorite bread once a month or so, instead of $1.88 it’s $0.88 that week. So I always buy twice what we need, so I can stash a weeks worth of bread in the freezer for later but I still haven’t spent a penny more than I normally would have.

*  Check out the clearance carts! Lots of small town grocery stores will have a cart or part of an aisle dedicated to clearanced out food. (It’s often just discontinued items or dented cans) this can be a hit or miss, but if you check them every week for 4-6 weeks and stash away at home anything you buy from the clreaenced aisle, you normally have a nice little stash of food for cheap!

*Always divide up your snacks! I keep 2 plastic shoes boxes in my pantry. One at eye level and one larger sized one (with a lid) way on top in back of the pantry where no one can see it! When I buy a box of nutri grain bars, I dump them all into the main shoe box and stash 2 in my secret shoe box. If I buy pop tarts, all but one pack goes in the snack shoe box. When I buy mini pretzels or animal crackers, ect. I divide the bag up into a bunch of sandwich size ziplock bags and always stash a bag away. At the end of the month for my so spend week, I always have plenty of filler snacks on hand!

*Freezer meals! This is one of the biggest ways to save money! In order to have enough dinners for your no spend week, you have to squeeze out about 1 to 2 extra dinners a week from your normal budget (without spending extra) . This can be done fairly easy as long as you are willing to get a bit creative! For example, If I’m making meatballs, I add a little oatmeal and some cooked rice to the recipe. Because of that I can then add in extra tomato paste, egg and anything else the recipe calls for. So one pound of ground meat can quickly turn into 2 pounds worth of meatballs. (and they taste just as delicious, I promise!) IN fact, I almost never cook ground beef by itself anymore. By adding finely shredded carrots and onions, you can gain about an additional half pound of “meat” from one pound of ground beef, plus your sneaking in carrots! When I do that, I divived the meat portion for whatever Im making in half and freeze the rest of the meat for tacos.

French bread pizzas are another good cheap and yummy freezer meal. You can normally pick up French bread for cheap on the bakery sale rack. (once again, not spending anything extra) Then just slice the bread lengthways, top with sauce cheese and whatever toppings you have and bake half and freeze the other half for later!

So that’s how you squeeze out extra dinners, just 1-2 a week and before you know it you have a stash quickly built up!

* I also do this with breakfast! Make extra pancakes, freeze half, make extra French toast, freeze half. Using the extra ingredients doesn’t take away enough from our pantry to send me to the store for anything more, but that is at least 2 breakfasts worth sitting in the freezer.

Week 3

By the last 2 weeks of prep, I start to take stock of what I have in my pantry and what I have already saved specifically for my no spend week. I build a menu based off of that then make a list of what meals or snacks I’ll still need. I don’t need much and can easily squeeze what I need out of the budget for the next 2 weeks.

Week 4

Make hay while the sun shines! Basically, if you’re like us, there are always some weeks you have more money than others. The weeks that hubby got a little overtime or less bills were due that week, that’s when I take the few extra dollars and buy an extra thing of toilet paper or an extra package of diapers and stash away for later. With all this meal planning don’t forget other household necessities!

Week 5

On the last week I make sure we have the bulk of the freshest food, like extra fresh vegetables and lots of eggs. We eat eggs often, (scrambled eggs, deviled eggs, hard boiled, in cooking…) so I’ll buy a pack of 5 dozen this week (around $9.00) and that will be more than enough for this week’s menu and next week.

Week 6

Bask in all of your hard work and money saved! Since my menu is already planned out, I don’t even need to do that this week, yet alone grocery shopping! Like I said, I do keep a little grocery money on hand ($20.00 more or less) but the rest is there to do what we want! Not only that, but I didn’t realize what a break it would give me the rest of the week as well. Other than sometimes whipping up a side dish, I really didn’t cook all week! I would pull a dinner out of the freezer the night before and stick it in the fridge, then throw it in the oven right before dinner. No prep, no cooking, no dishes yet we still had a good home cooked meal each night.
Breakfast was just as easy! The weekend was pretty much breakfast casserole or quiche and during the week if we wanted French toast, I just would use the toaster to dethaw and heat it up!

As long as you are willing to put in a little extra effort with meal planning and have some patience, you can easily save $150 or more depending on your weekly grocery budget. This has really helped me save some money, what are some of your favorite sneaky ways to save money?