Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WFMW - Travel Size Room Freshner



Previously posted 12/18/2007
This past fall we found ourselves running hither and yond attending two of our son’s football games. A few times they were on the same night but in different cities. Most of the time we were traveling to games three nights a week between the son who was a freshman, the son who plays junior varsity, and then of course the varsity games.

My daughter and I have found a couple of things that are imperative to have when you were traveling and are unsure of what you will find in regards to the ‘facilities’.

I carry in my purse a small travel pack of handy wipes, a small pack of Kleenex, hand sanitizer, and our favorite item that we never leave home without, Bath and Body Works Room Sprays. We are particularly fond of the fresh, fruity smells. They are small and fit in my handy pouch and you can often catch them on sale 2/5.00. They are regularly 5.00.

When I took our daughter on a trip to New Mexico and Colorado we felt empowered with our little concentrated can of freshness. We felt like we were helping every small town quick stop/gas station/restroom between OKC and Denver, Colorado smell fresh for up to four hours after we had infused the room with these great sprays. We felt like we were being good stewards and leaving the world a little better than we found it for the next weary traveler. It sure made our trip more pleasant. Really makes the hotel rooms smell great too! Kinda like traveling potpourri in a can!

My daughter has commented that the next time we take a trip together we need to buy a case of the sprays and leave them in each place we stop. Hmmm that is a thought which leaves me with another, we also made note of those places on our route that were clean, friendly, and made us feel safe, so that next time we head back to see our friends in Denver we know just where to stop. Works for us! For more ideas, visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer and Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Feeling Frazzled but Joyfilled

Tonight I am so frazzled. So many things going on in my heart and mind. I have several prayer concerns that are really weighing on my heart tonight. So many who are hurting from illness or life changes going on. I am trying not to let the stress overwhelm me.

I am also trying to finish some year end projects at work but all I have to do is think about the fact I will be off for two weeks beginning Friday at 5 p.m.!!! WOOO HOO!!! I am really looking forward to the time off! Hubby and me are getting our kids all geared up to purge and organize to get ready for a kickin' 2009!!!

I am currently finishing up a cute little project for my daugher's friends Christmas gifts...it needs to be done by Friday morning. I am finishing up a darling scrapbook for one of my son's special friends...it needs to be finished by Wednesday morning. I have been getting last minute items bought and in the midst of all of this I have made it to Walgreens and CVS plus we went to Aldi's last night!

I will write more about this later in the week but tonight I bought a sack full of things I needed for the projects I am working on plus some stocking stuffers and paid just .44 cents out of pocket at CVS! Yes siree I paid only FORTY FOUR CENTS for over 50.00 worth of things I needed!!!!! Thanks very much CVS!

I also have been loving the sales at Hobby Lobby lately. I don't see how they will have much of an after Christmas sale because the shelves are clearing out with all their 50% off sales on Christmas currently.

I will post pictures of the cute things I am doing but right now I am headed off to get some much needed time with my sweet teenagers before I head to bed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

SMORE for Single Mothers Blog Tour




Today I am so excited to host a blog tour with Gail Showalter of SMORE Ministries. This topic is very near and dear to my heart because the ministry that Gail is involved in is for single mothers. I was a single mother for nearly ten years. It was not what I wanted for my life or my son. I did not think when I married my first husband that I would become a single mother nearly 13 years after our marriage. It was painful and the journey through my single parenthood was only victorious through my relationship with Christ. Please read this interview with Gail and leave your comments either if you have experienced single parenthood or if you have a sibling or child that is a single mother currently. I will be giving away one of her booklets.



Thank you for the opportunity to share my passion for single mothers. In the United States, alone, there are over ten million mothers raising children alone. Over one third of them live in poverty. After years of being on my own as a mother of three, I came to realize how little is done in our communities and churches for this group of children with absent fathers and women with no husbands. The vast majority does not attend church, but our neighborhoods are filled with single moms.
I’ve created and implemented, along with an eleven member board, a detailed plan for encouraging, inspiring, and blessing single mothers. If you have ever wondered what you could do to make a difference for even one of the moms, this is the answer. It is easy, inexpensive, and exceedingly worthwhile.




1. You have established a ministry plan for single mothers. What motivated you to do this?A. For sixteen years I was a divorced mother with three children. I was fortunate to have family support and yet the disappointment, emotional pain, and daily difficulties were devastating. I’m happily remarried now for twelve years and my passion for the over the ten million single mothers remain strong.

2. Why do you think a ministry plan is needed?A. Single mothers have a difficult time day-in, day-out. I think churches want to provide supportive programs for them, but –though there are some successful ministries—much still needs to be done to minister to single moms. Often what you see on the outside doesn’t reveal the heartache and fear she is experiencing on the inside. Church leader I’ve spoken with have expressed genuine interest in implementing this plan.

3. What do you call the ministry?A. SMORE for Women. SMORE is an acronym for Spiritual Ministry Offering ReTREATs and Encouragement. Our program assists churches in providing Saturday reTREATs in a home or intimate church environment.

4. What is the ultimate goal of SMORE for Women?A. Our mission is to inspire and encourage women, especially single mothers, to discover and develop their abilities and inner strengths. Ultimately I hope to see churches across the country implement these programs. And in the process develop ongoing programs and activities for single mothers in their communities.

5. How do you convey this information to church leaders who want to provide a program for single moms?A. The plan is laid out in detail in print in a guidebook titled Encouraging Single Moms to Grow Their Strengths and with forms on CD’s. I serve as a facilitator when a church implements their first reTREAT.

6. Tell us why you prefer that the reTREATs be in homes?A. Homes provide an intimate, friendly, and non-intimidating environment. Homes also have the amenities for several of the pampering areas. A reTREAT can also take place in a church or other facility.

7. What do you mean by pampering areas?
A. At each reTREAT each mom is treated in several areas. Depending on the home she may use a hot tub or swimming pool. She will receive a brief massage, and even have a quiet private prayer time.

8. Is there any charge or fee to the church for you as a facilitator?A. I am available as a facilitator via long distance conference calls. For as long as I can I only ask for a love offering which helps sustain my expenses. If I must travel a long distance I ask for travel expenses. AND if a reTREAT date is on the 2009 calendar by January I will facilitate (via long distance) free of charge. The guidebooks are $20 and each of the Seed Packet booklets for the moms is $10.

9. What are the costs of implementing a reTREAT?
A. There is a nominal budget. It is similar to hosting a dinner party. Usually the volunteer hostesses contribute food. Church members donate gifts and invitations can be printed on a home computer, ordered, or printed at church. The ministry is a collaborative endeavor. Our reTREATs are very small with only six to twelve guests.

10. Are all reTREATs the same?A. No. We have eight themes for encouraging moms to discover her inner strengths.
They are
• Personality Predicaments
• Money Matters
• Bonding and Boundaries
• Job Jump Starts
• Dating Do’s
• Nutrition and Manners Matter
• Family Fun
• Grieving a Loss.

11. Where can we go for more information about the SMORE for Women ministry? A. We have a web site which is www.smoreforwomen.org and a blog which is www.seeinguthrough.wordpress.com.


A Retreat can be hosted by a small group of compassionate women. The guidebook, Encouraging Single Mothers to Grow Their Strengths, includes step-by-step guidance for planning and hosting a reTREAT. Once you’ve experienced one Saturday reTREAT filled with joy you will want to plan another and another. In the process you will get acquainted with some remarkable women and you might inspire them as they see Christ in you. Please visit SMORE for Women at www.smoreforwomen.org.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Simplifying Gift Giving




Many years ago I read an interview with Kathy Lee Gifford in a women’s magazine where she spoke of giving their small children only three gifts at Christmas since that is all the Three Wise Men brought to Christ. It really resonated with me at the time. I was a newly single mom and money went from abundant to below poverty level after my husband walked out. So, when I read the interview with Kathy Lee it really touched my heart. This interview was at the height of her ‘celebrity’ so if this icon of the talk show realm simplified her Christmas then surely I could do the same.

This gave me such freedom! I can pinpoint when my bargain shopping came into being…out of necessity…those first years as a single mom. The Lord was giving me insight and preparing me for ten years in the future when I would meet my current husband who was raising three young ones alone.

This is what we do. We ask them to tell us something they need, something they want, and something fun. Out of the three presents we try to have one that is the ‘big’ present or the most desired. I pick up items throughout the year for their stockings. I really put a lot of neat things in their stockings and some are need items. I hit CVS when I can get razors, hair care products, and makeup for free. With three young men and a young lady in the house items like these are very welcome. I also pick up CDs when stores have them on sale. I have put in Sonic gift cards, Taco Bell gift cards, and movie theatre gift cards. I think this year gas cards would be welcome too since we will have three drivers in our home!

Gift giving for their high school friends is another area that takes time, effort, and a little bargain shopping to really score some awesome deals. Our daughter is really the only one that likes to give gifts to EVERYONE. We have given mini bottles of Bath and Body Works items in cute little toiletry bags, mani/pedi sets, mini photo/scrapbook albums, journals, and picture frames. We also have given her friends bags of Christmas candy all tied up with a cute bow and ornament. This year we are making the candy instead of buying it. At the end of the Christmas season we will stock up again on bags, bows, tags, and ribbon for next year. Also there will be lots of great gift sets and the like that one can purchase for pennies and will be great gifts for next year!

Probably one of the most appreciated presents I have given my nieces were their Journal Jars five years ago. I purchased a beautiful journal and pen for each of them and made a bookmark. I then bought clear plastic jars and decorated them with scrapbook paper and paint pens. I typed out journal prompts on my computer and ran them off on brightly colored paper. I cut them out and folded them in half then dropped then in the jar. Some strips had favorite Bible verses on them and with a prompt to tell what this verse means to you, or one prompt asked them to write down what they were most thankful for in their parents. All in all I had around 100 prompts for each girl.

This year we are focusing more on giving gifts of time and things homemade for our friends and family. Our teenagers will still get something that they really want and they will have a great Christmas but our prayer is that once the day is over they will not feel let down that they did not have a gazillion presents but that they are thankful for what they were given and the memories created. For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas head on over to Rocks in My Dyer.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Holiday Stress




Things have been very busy around here at Pursuing Simplicity. I took a little break from posting in order to take care of all the things going on. If I let them, these activities can add to my stress over the holidays. I am a typical "Type A" personality. I long to be a sweet, mild spirit and a "Type B" but that was not how I was created or wired. So below are a few things that keep me sane this time of year:

I stay out of the mall. Yes, you heard me correct. I stay out of the mall! The last two years I have done most of my shopping online! I know it sounds geeky or crazy but I have found all the same bargains that they are offering in the stores online. My son wants something this year that he said is in the mall....well I found it online and it was a better price than the one at the mall. I received it in TWO days and it is perfect! You can also stay out of the mall at the holidays by purchasing your items ahead of the game. This is only the second time that I have not had all my shopping done by August. That in and of itself makes me very stressed but I have to say that the past two years I have found bargains online that I would not have found in late July!

I jump on the treadmill more! I have been exercising two times a day. Now I am not some goddess when it comes to physical fitness that is for sure but I have found that being on the treadmill first thing in the morning and once I get home from work has really taken a load off my stress level plus increased my energy!

I make a list and check it more than twice! I start out by making a list of what my teenagers and young adult son want for Christmas. We ask them to give us a few things they need and a want or two. We budget just 125.00 for each child. Whaaaattt? Yes siree bob, we only budget 125.00 for each child. Now I am sure you are wondering how in the heck do we buy anything of value for a 20, 17, 15, and 14 year old for Christmas? YOU ARE CREATIVE AND THRIFTY!

Now I know my children do not read this blog but I am a little hesitant to lay it all out here for you to read what I purchased for them. So I will leave a little to your imagination. There is a very popular brand of jacket out there currently and they are VERY expensive at least for this thrifty and frugal mom. I found two of the boys theirs for under 35.00!!!! 100.00 pullover, all teens love this brand, cool colors, purchased online at an outlet store! I purchased our daughter's jacket online this year as well. They are going to be SO excited and I still have money left over in the budget to get more items on their list!

Look for coupon codes when you shop online. I love to go to Kyle's blog, Rather-be-shopping when I am looking for bargains online. Check him out!

We focus more on the meaning of Christ-mas than the gifts. Our children have always gotten three gifts and then small things for the stocking. Christ was brought three gifts so we think it is more than perfect for our own to have three gifts. It really focuses more on the reason for the season than a free for all in the gift department.

Keep an accurate calendar and be prepared to use that two letter word...NO...It is hard with so many parties, activities, programs, and fun this time of year. We never leave out the children's activities at school. We have basketball games to attend, a choral concert for our daughter, a Winter Ball the teenagers are attending this weekend to get ready for, and two office parties. There are several other things the week of Christmas but we will take them under advisement as the time draws near. The main thing is not to overfill your calendar with so many activities that the holidays become a burden. It is a time to be joyful not stressed!

Remember traditions and make new memories. Christmas is particularly difficult for my family. My husband and three younger children lost their wife and mom after the holidays nearly eleven years ago. We have tried to make new memories and traditions as a family and I have kept some of their former traditions as well. We love putting the tree up together the day after Thanksgiving. We listen to Christmas music, have hot chocolate, and decorate the tree. We love to cuddle up and watch old Christmas movies together too.

It takes only a little imagination to come up with a few things to do each year that children look forward to. For instance, I made Monkey Bread our first Christmas together as a family. It is very simple and not too spectacular. It made a huge impact on the little ones at the time. I now make it every Christmas morning. It has become a tradition in our home. I only make it Christmas morning so they really look forward to it each year.

These are just a few things that I do to eliminate the stress of the holidays. What do you do that helps with your level of stress this time of year?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional Blog Tour



The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional (Tyndale) is the latest book from friends and coauthors Cheri Fuller and Sandra Aldrich. Not only does the text provide a deeper connection to and enjoyment of God and His Word, but it is a wonderful opportunity for today’s busy women to connect with each other as they discuss the short daily devotions and the “To Ponder” questions at the end of each week’s section. Perfect for small groups or two girlfriends meeting over coffee, the devotional also is appropriate for those who prefer individual study,

1. What can women gain from The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional?


Sandra: The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional is designed for today’s busy woman. Each of the 365 devotions are on one page and contain a daily Scripture, short devotional thought from either Cheri or me and end with an honest prayer and an insightful quote. At the end of each week are questions to ponder individually or talk over with a friend. But beyond the friendship connection is our heavenly Father’s invitation to know more about Him and His living Word.

Cheri: One of the benefits of our One Year devotional is it provides a vehicle to discover your natural rhythm for drawing near to God in a personal and regular way. For right-brained people like me, the structure helps me stay in God’s Word day by day so my roots can grow deeper in Christ. Being a lover of people, I also enjoy exchanging ideas and discussing how a certain verse or story spoke to me, and the weekly questions are ideal for that purpose.


2. Why do you say “His living Word”?

Sandra: God’s Word isn’t just ancient wisdom. Its principles apply to modern challenges such as how to make good decisions, how to get along with those who irritate us, how to handle finances, how to know our heavenly Father on a deeper level. And that is just some of the treasures contained with the pages.

3. What’s the target audience for The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional?
Sandra and Cheri: This devotional is written for women of all ages. Some of the illustrations deal with situations young career women face, and some touch a woman’s experience during mid-life. But all age groups will find material that will relate to their life and situations.

4. I understand the need for younger women to develop solid friendships, but why is friendship so vital to women 40-65?

Sandra: Friendship is vital to all age groups. However, women 40-65 often have entered the Empty Nest and/or grandparenting stage of life and need the strength and advice from friends who already have experienced these challenges. In addition, women in this age group tend to be more comfortable with who they are. Not having to prove anything to relatives, friends or even themselves provides remarkable freedom that allows them to encourage others and share the wisdom of their years.
Cheri: Nothing is more refreshing than time spent with a girlfriend, and who doesn’t need that? A friend can quiet our fears, pray for and with us. We all need friends to laugh with and even travel with (I took my first across the country road trip with my sister Marilyn last summer and it was a blast, and summer before last a great trip to Maine with my two “since teen years” friends). Three of my longtime girlfriends and I celebrate each of our birthdays together—so no matter how busy we are, we get to see each other four times a year. We’ve found enjoying a long lunch out at a fabulous place (and gifts from the other three) really takes the sting out of growing one year older.


5. What are some of the topics covered?

Sandra: The 52 weekly themes cover many issues of a woman’s life, including career challenges, the power of encouragement, joyful living, hearing God above life’s roar, when your childhood family is toxic, faith building, avoiding overload, attitude adjustments, finding your spiritual pathway, dealing with stress, wading through grief, telling and hearing truth, making a difference, dealing with Christmas frenzy, a fresh-brewed prayer life, freedom from fear, and reaching a hurting world.

6. What types of questions are at the end of each week?

Sandra: The four or five questions work well for either journaling or discussion with a friend. For example, the first week of April presents the theme “Loving the Lord and Others.” The questions at the end are:
1) What loving-kindness have you received at a low moment in your life? Who gave it? 2) What encouragement do you try to offer others?
3) When it is most difficult to show love?
4) Have you ever learned a lesson from someone who didn’t know you were watching?

Cheri:
We also suggest to the reader she might pick a few of the questions for the week to discuss as she exercise-walks with her walking buddy. Or she can share her responses and thoughts via e-mail with an across-the-miles friend. Reading the same daily devotional with its Scripture, prayer, and devotional thought is bonding and connects our hearts no matter where you and your friend are. You could even share it via webcam or over lunch with a co-worker in the office. The format makes it very versatile and doable.

7. Does the reader need to start reading the devotional on January 1?

Sandra: No. This devotional isn’t about performance; it’s about connections. One of our weekly themes is about guilt, and we don’t want to add more to our readers’ stress-filled lives.

Cheri: One of the helpful facets of The One Year Women’s Friendship Devotional is that you can jump in and start any day, wherever you are—which is very much how God graciously interacts with us. We don’t have to get to a certain place to experience his grace. In this book, there is encouragement, hope, and inspiration for every day of the year—whatever age or stage you are currently in.

8. What’s the biggest challenge to women developing friendships today?

Sandra: Lack of time. And a lack of a sense of community. Today’s women have daily to-do lists as long as their arms. It’s difficult to concentrate on deepening friendships—or even developing them—when our idea of fun is crossing items off that list. Also, those endless lists make us feel alone even in a crowd. Women need each other, but often it takes special effort to form those connections.

Cheri: Recent research shows that 30% of Americans are lonely and often feel isolated. The more hectic life gets, the more we need friends and the encouragement that comes from relationship with God and our sisters in Christ. Our hope is that reading The One Year Women’s Friendship Devotional will energize your spiritual life and your friendships.

Another major challenge we face as women is taking care of so many people that we neglect ourselves and become irritated or burned out. Taking time to refuel spiritually and emotionally is important and the benefits ripple out to our children and family members, job, and all the people our lives touch.


9. You both are busy women. What has been your hardest friendship challenge?

Sandra: Even though most of us do not have our days consumed by cooking meals over a wood-burning stove or washing clothes in a copper kettle in the yard, our schedules still are not our own. Some days it seems as though each minute is controlled by demands from bosses and needs of family, leaving us little time for the soul nourishment friendship provides. The women of my long-ago farm community worked together—canning, quilting and cooking for ill or grieving families. In addition to accomplishing a needed task, they built a friendship fortress that provided an example of how community is supposed to work. I long for those relationships today.
Cheri: When I started speaking and writing, women I knew assumed I was working all the time and stopped calling to go to lunch or play tennis. They thought I was just too busy for fun. But I love people; I’m refreshed by being with people. My heart would dry up and have nothing to say without friendships with women and time with loved ones. So I’m very intentional and initiate getting together with friends.

10. How did you solve your own friendship challenge?
Cheri: Taking time to cultivate friendships is one way I solved my friendship challenge. For example, I call my friend Marcy, who owns a women’s clothing store (she’s beyond busy!) and we go to a chick flick every once and a while. I meet my thirty-two year old daughter Ali for coffee at Starbucks, because she’s one of my dearest adult friends and I want to stay in touch on a heart level. I have a writer-friend in the area, Melanie, and we occasionally get together and encourage each other about our latest book project. Older women friends have been incredible supports for me (since my mom died at 59) and I’ve learned so much from them because they’re farther down the road. Like Patty, who is 80. When I was about to turn 50 and a little down about it, she said, “Cheri, you’re about to enter your ‘Fabulous Fifties.’ The fifties were some of the best years of my life! Enjoy them.” And you know what—they are! How grateful I am for friendships with women!
Sandra: I don’t have that farm community today, but I still need the friendship. Thus, I asked the Lord to provide a friend or two who would understand my intense schedule, accept my down-home personality and provide the honest relationship for which most of us long. Through a series of events, five of us from church began to meet five times a year to celebrate our birthdays. Our little group represented separate ministries, so we scheduled the dinners in our daytimers as though they were important board meetings. Soon, what began as polite meals in which we talked about families and careers, turned into the cautious opening of our hearts and led to an incredible bond. Now, we meet several times a year and are there for each other during life’s challenges. My Birthday Group is a wonderful answer to my prayer asking for a “friend or two.”


11. What’s an example of a devotion in the book?

Sandra: My accounts usually feature one of my young friends facing a challenge or a memory from my Kentucky farm days, which leads to a spiritual point. The following devotion is from June 13:

Carried by Our Father

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he
cares about you.—1 Peter 5:7


I remember a long-ago night in our Kentucky farm
community. I was five years old, and my parents had
taken me with them to visit neighbors. By the time
we left for home, the stars were already out, and
our lane looked long and dark in the moonlight,
especially where the thorny blackberry bushes hug
over the ditches. Quickly my dad swooped me up and
carried me on his strong shoulders. The night was
still dark, and the bushes still had thorns, but I
felt so safe I fell asleep.

There have been many times in my adult life when
I’ve been carried by my heavenly Father. And I’ve
noticed that though I long to be carried away
from the darkness, I’m actually carried through
it, just as Daniel was saved in the
lion’s den rather than from it (see Daniel
6:16-23). I confess, I don’t like the challenges and
trials that often accompany daily human existence.
In fact, I’ve often thought I’d like God to say,
“Good morning, Sandra. This is what I plan to do
today for you and your family. Is that all right?”
But, of course, he doesn’t, and I’m left to choose
once again whether I will trust him during the scary
times.

A while back, I was intrigued by the word care
in 1 Peter 5:7, so I researched it. I discovered
that the word can have two meanings: our worry and
God’s comfort. The worrying type comes from a Greek
word meaning “to divide the mind.” How perfect. My
mind is divided when I allow worries, distractions,
and anxieties to interfere with my trust that my
heavenly Father will carry me past life’s dark
ditches and thorny bushes. So what’s my goal? To
concentrate less on the situation and more on him.


Lord, even though I’m an adult, many times I feel
like that little girl facing thorny bushes and deep,
scary ditches. Help me to feel your strong arms
carrying me to safety. Help me to rest in you.


God is in His heaven; God is on the throne; God
is fully in charge of His world.

--J. I. Packer, Theologian and Author

12. Both of you share intense personal accounts. Was it difficult to be so open?

Sandra: Of course it’s difficult to share personal challenges and failures—even triumphs. But those human elements provide encouragement for others who are going through the same situations. Every woman has a story. As we share those stories, we learn from each other. And we grow.

Cheri: When I speak or write, I purpose to be vulnerable and open about my life. There are times I’ve been through a particularly difficult time and said, “God, I don’t understand all this, but if you can use my pain to distill into something that would give hope to another woman—have at it!

13. Talk about that power of story.

Sandra: We have a perfect example of the power of story as we look to the parables of Jesus. He tucked spiritual points into stories of people and situations His audiences could identify with. And they remembered the lesson because they remembered the stories.

Cheri: Stories are what impacts a heart. Stories are what we remember. The concepts and truths are vital, but I’ve often learned the most from stories of living people I meet, people from the Bible and throughout history—especially missionaries who lived on the edge of adventure, often with no one to depend on but God. So I love to weave stories into the devotionals or other writing I do.

14. You’ve stated what you trust readers will gain from using The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional. What did you gain from writing it?

Sandra: I always say I have my master’s degree from Eastern Michigan and my Ph.D. from the School of Hard Knocks. Thus, if I can pass along some of my experiences or those of my wise friends and encourage readers or help them make good decisions, then I am grateful.

Cheri: I enjoyed tremendously the wide variety of themes we got to write about in this book—things that really matter to a woman, like not getting caught in the comparison trap, or how to live with joy and a sense of purpose in a stressed-out world. I loved doing the “Lessons From the Garden” to share some practical life lessons I’ve learned while planting and growing flowers. Hopefully, not only our reader will be blessed by the devotionals Sandra and I have written, but she’ll have fun sharing them with a daughter or daughter-in-law, a next door neighbor, co-worker or friend.

15. What parting words do you have for your readers?

Cheri: Remember that God loves to hear your voice, just as you love to hear the sound of your kids’ or loved ones’ voices—not just once a week on Sunday but throughout your days. And every time we open his Book, the Bible, there’s a gift, a promise, or a truth that will help us learn to live abundantly no matter what we’re facing.

Sandra: Because of the shed blood of Jesus, we have the incredible privilege of stepping directly into the Presence of our heavenly Father through prayer. Years ago, a woman asked the great preacher G. Campbell Morgan if she should pray about everything or just the big things. Morgan answered, “Dear lady, pray about everything. After all, what could possibly be big to God?” I love that. And I love knowing we do not pray to air.

The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional provides connection in this fragmented world—connection to other women and, most importantly, connection to our heavenly Father. The quickest way to order it is through amazon.com. For more information about Cheri Fuller or Sandra Aldrich visit their websites at www.cherifuller.com or www.sandraaldrich.com And remember: the heavenly Father is just a whisper away.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Frugal Fridays 11-14-08



While the economy has not really affected our family personally yet, we are trying to tighten up the reins so to speak to ride this out for however long it may last. Thankfully we have no debt other than our home. However, with one in college, three in high school that has its own challenges.

There are just some things that you can't cut out as a parent. For instance the cost to attend football and basketball games when your child is playing. Each week there was a jr. varsity and varsity football games. That means for our family to attend the entrance fees 20.00 for the jr. varsity and about the same amount for the varsity games. That is around 40.00 a week to watch your child play their sport! This can really add up when there is around nine weeks of football and now they are in the playoffs!

We have been trying to limit the meals out and all the running around. In my mind, I am still trying to act like gas is almost 4.00 a gallon instead of the 1.81 I saw today.

I have been taking my lunch to work and eating there instead of driving the mile or so home to eat. I started this when the gas prices skyrocketed and while some days it is really hard to stay at work all that time I know there are people that commute in and they do not have the luxury of going home for lunch. I have tried to stay out of the shops around campus and have spent my time working on my coupons during the lunch hour.

We have also not turned on our heat yet. We need to probably this coming week but for now we have just added another blanket on the beds. We have not used the air conditioner either since September. Our home has not been hot so that has not been a problem. Our bill this month showed a significant savings.

The next thing we are considering getting rid of is our cable...or at least go back to basic cable. This is something I am still toying with right now.

I have stepped up my coupon usage and get quite excited about the savings we have been experiencing. My college age son has jumped on the coupon bandwagon and for that I am grateful. I guess that proves the more is caught than taught theory.

Here are a few more things we are doing to conserve and sock money away:
We are not buying magazines anymore. We read them at the library or enjoy sitting at Barnes and Noble.

I check out taylortownpreview.com each week to see which coupons will be in the local paper so I know how many papers to buy. Just two weeks ago I knew we needed to buy at least five papers because inside there were two coupons worth 1.50 each off our favorite soy milk. Those coupons paid for the papers and besides there were numerous other coupons we use each week.

We are vigilant about turning off our lights and making sure the kids unplug their phone chargers and the like. I did not realize how much electricity they truly pull when left plugged into the socket.

After Christmas we are implementing a no spend month (or two) with some set boundaries in order to sock away more cash.

I am working on my black friday plan to finish up Christmas and buy any gifts that are needed in the first six months of next year. You can check out all the Black Friday ads at Gotta Deal look for the Black Friday button.

We are setting aside money to use for the after Christmas sales to replenish our gift closet. If we need to replace Christmas lights or decorations I never do it before Christmas. I plan for the next year and buy them afterwards.

For more frugal ideas check out Frugal Fridays at Biblical Womanhood.

Great linkage

Below are some great links I have found lately:

small notebook
The Frugal Duchess
Common Sense with Money

I will be back tomorrow with a frugal friday post. This has been a very busy two weeks with football games, choral concerts, family birthdays, etc. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I am SO ready for this to be over!

This morning I got up eager to go and vote but first I was checking out my reader for what blogs had been updated over night and low and behold one of my favorite bloggers, GiBee at Kisses of Sunshine, put into words all that I have been feeling these past few days. You can read her post here.

Please go vote! Regardless of who wins I take great comfort in knowing that no matter how many debates there were, SNL portrayals, or reports of wrong doings....my God is STILL in control and He will put into office or allow who takes office for a purpose and to fulfill His will for this country. It may not be easy or who we desire but He still reigns whether Washington or the rest of this country believes it or not!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Frugal Friday 10-31-08



Your Freezer is Your Friend!

I love cooking ahead and putting things in my freezer for another day. This week alone already I have chopped nearly two bags of red bell peppers and put in individual container/baggies in the freezer, onions, jalapeno peppers (from our garden), carrots I got for free from Target a week ago, plus a few containers of left over chili I made this week.

This is the first time I have frozen chopped bell peppers but thought I would give it a try. I love to grab a handful when I am making omelets and throw into the skillet first with some onions. It makes it so nice to have everything already chopped and measured so that all I have to do is get out the baggies, heat up the skillet and saute away!

Over the years these are a few things that I have done:

1. Shredded a crockpot cooked roast into small individual servings after mixing the roast with barbeque sauce. I flash froze the little piles of beef and then wrapped each one in saran wrap, smooshed the air out and then folded up the little packets of goodness and placed in a large freezer bag. When it came time to make lunch for the kids I took a packet out, placed it on a hamburger bun, added a little sauce, wrapped the sandwich back up and placed in the lunch box. The meat is defrosted by lunch time and it is very yummy.

2. Baked brownies and wrapped individually in saran wrap and stored in a large freezer bag. Makes it easy to grab and go. I have also started making brownie bites using mini muffin pans. I put three or four in a small snack bag and then once again place them into a much larger freezer bag. It makes it so nice. The kids love to eat these right from the freezer! I have done this with cookies too!

3. I have browned more than 50 pounds of turkey or hamburger meat all at once. I then will divide it out and season some with chili, taco, or italian seasoning. I also will add spaghetti sauce to some of the meat and freeze it in a baggie and lay it flat like a record album. They stack nicely in your freezer. I also brown the meat with onions and garlic. You can grab out a bag and make tostadas, quesadillas, tacos, pizzas, meat for spaghetti, and various of other ideas. It is a LIFE saver!

4. I have made tons of muffins and mini loaves of pumpkin, banana, zuchinni, and cinammon bread. I bake them up and place them in bags ready for the freezer. This weekend I will be making the pumpkin muffins that my kids beg for each year.

5. Calzones are a great thing to make and put in the freezer. They come in handy when families are busy heading to games or practice. They are super easy to make. I use frozen rolls to make mine but have also made them with a recipe I found online as well. I simply put some of my seasoned meat inside or pepperonis, cheese, a little sauce and seal them up and bake. They can then be reheated in the microwave or in a toaster oven.

6. I have also made meals such as lasagne, mexican lasagne, casseroles, etc to put in the freezer but more often than not I have components of meals that I can pull together at a moments notice.

7. When rotisserie chickens are marked down for a quick sale I pick all the meat off the bones and place in baggies in one pound increments. I have also then taken the bones and made my own chicken broth!

I am sure people that have a regular freezer feel that they cannot participate in this type of cooking. You are SO wrong! I do not have a freezer! I use the top of my refrigerator and have another fridge in the garage. We would love a freezer but ours died, full of food I might add, last year. We plan on getting one again. When I was a single mom I used the freezer on top of my fridge...it was all I had. Granted it was just me and my little boy but in those days I made entire meals and froze them. It was a God send for us! Since our family now consists of six people I do things on a much smaller scale until we get a new freezer. It can be done!! Give it a try. You will be so glad you did!

Today at Money Saving Mom there are great examples of what one can do when they have some time. Check out Crystal's baking day here.

For more great Frugal Friday ideas check out Biblical Womanhood.

Crockpot Mexican Casserole




Crockpot Mexican Casserole
1 lb Hamburger
1 Onion, chopped
1 4 1/2 oz Can chopped chilies
1 can Mild enchilada sauce
10 1/2 oz Golden mushroom soup
10 1/2 oz Cheddar cheese soup
10 1/2 oz Cream of mushroom soup
10 1/2 oz Cream of celery soup
1 package Doritos chips

Brown hamburger and chopped onion, pour off grease. Put all ingredients in crock-pot except Doritos chips. Mix and cook low 4 to 6 hours. Last 15 minutes before you are ready to eat, add Doritos chips and stir! YUMMY!! I double this for my crew.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WFMW 10-29-08



If you have teenagers you know they love facebook and photos. I have a facebook account and have had one for nearly five years....before it was cool. I work at a university and that is what prompted me to get one since our university was 'logging' onto the new culture at the time. Now my teens have facebook and Mom has the passwords and frequently checks it out and they have strict parameters, etc. Many of their friends are now my friends too. But this is not the reason for my post.

What has become really neat for me as a parent is snagging the photos that their friends, youth workers, Sunday School leaders, pastors, etc put on facebook that 'tag' my children. Tagging is placing their name on their picture so that it shows up in their photo area of their facebook. I have been saving all these pictures to my computer in hopes of doing something for each of my children. I save them into folders by child's name, year, activity such for example: a folder titled Seth, inside that folder are the years 2007, 2008; then inside the year folders are catagories: FOOTBALL, Church, School, etc.

I have finally decided what this busy working Mom can do with the plethera of awesome pics from every event they attend, school, sports, friends, etc. I have begun to make small flip books for each of them. I have the football books by year, the summer beach camp with church, school year, etc. Most free photo storage sites have this capability like snapfish and a host of others. I personally love snapfish! Right now most of these sites are running specials. The small flip books today were priced at 4.99. That is really reasonable!



I have also saved the pictures of all their groups of friends and I am making a collage print for each of them.

I really don't have lots of time to sit and make scrapbooks and while I love them and have a few in progress I find that the costs are just too prohibitive at this time in our lives. However, the thing that they love the most is having something that showcases all their pictures. They are portable and really make a neat, thoughtful gift.

With the holidays coming up I think this would be an awesome way to make a stocking stuffer or a cute gift for friends. If you would like to see more great ideas head on over to Rocks in My Dryer for more Works for Me Wednesday ideas!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dolllar Wise and the Dallas Morning News

There is a great series that started today in the Dallas Morning News.

Even though I live in Oklahoma I read the Dallas Morning News each morning online. Lots of great information and they seem to break news quicker on national things than our local newspaper the Oklahoman. Matter of fact, many times they have the national headlines before MSN or CNN even has them online.

It is no secret if you read this blog that we are followers of Christ and Dave Ramsey. As he so often says, "It is God and Grandma's way of thinking when it comes to money." Who do you look to for inspiration in these tough economic times?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Simplify Your Holidays Blog Tour



Simplify Your Holidays Blog Tour

By Marcia Ramsland, The Organizing Pro
National Speaker, Media Guest, and Author of Simplify Your Holidays,
A Classic Christmas Planner to Use Year after Year (Thomas Nelson 2008)

Are you looking for a way to simplify the most stressful time of the year? Feeling like it’s impossible to keep up with all the demands of the coming holiday season? Marcia Ramsland, The Organizing Pro and author of Simplify Your Holidays, has found a way to change seasonal stress into intentional success! She believes everyone can find that calm and peace they are looking for.

Every year the holidays come around and we face them with mixed emotions. You have a great book title of Simplify Your Holidays, but how do you simplify the holidays?

I love the dictionary definition of “simplify” – “To make something less complicated and therefore easier to do.” I can’t think of a more complicated time in the year than the holidays. Why? Because we are already busy 24/7 and then we add another layer of complexity to our lives – the holiday season.

In my view as a Professional Organizer, simplifying your holidays is all about having a meaningful Christmas without feeling overcommitted or under prepared. And my motto is: If you do anything more than once in life, organize it and simplify it. That’s especially true for the holidays that come year after year like clockwork.

I can’t think of a more complicated time or emotionally challenged season, but I also know you don’t have to stress to get through it.

Were you always ready and organized for the holidays?

No way! Before I became “The Organizing Pro” I struggled with holiday pressures big time. I was stuck in the mall shopping for gifts at the last minute, standing in the rain looking for a “real” Christmas tree late in December, and staying up Christmas Eve wrapping presents. That was a stressful life I decided to change, and did years ago.

One day I sat down at the kitchen table determined to get control of the season. Looking at my calendar, it suddenly dawned on me -- there was an easy way to manage it all! It all hinged on one date and no, it wasn’t Thanksgiving.

Many people, myself included, have used Thanksgiving to trigger serious action steps for Christmas. It just didn’t seem right to commercialize Christmas by purchasing gifts before Thanksgiving. But that’s the problem. Waiting until after Thanksgiving does commercialize the holidays and puts us smack dab in the middle of a mall with throngs of shoppers.

3. So how did you change from frazzled to peaceful… and you now have a beautiful new three ring notebook, Simplify Your Holidays? And Sam’s Club just bought 15,000 of them! Good for you.

My first personal turning point came when I discovered one particular holiday occurs exactly eight weeks before Christmas -- and it’s NOT Thanksgiving. It is Halloween. That event is important to note because the next day you can kick off your holiday plan on November 1 every year.

Noting that November 1 is your springboard to begin the holiday season means you have eight weeks until December 25. Now you have a structure to easily organize and prepare -- with a good plan. You’re back in control whatever day it is.

Once I figured that out, I found you can organize your holidays no matter how many weeks you have left before Christmas. In my book I have an 8-week, 4-week, 2-week calendar plans you can choose to guide you whatever day you start. The Plans are like a “holiday compass” that people use year after year to stay focused and take the stress out of the holidays.


4. What else can you tell us to ease the calendar stress for the holidays?

My second discovery came when I noticed that almost all holiday events landed the three weeks of December right before Christmas. Children’s school parties, the neighborhood cookie exchange, church events, civic symphony concerts, friends’ Open Houses, and an office potluck luncheon the last day before vacation. ALL fell into the last three weeks before Christmas.

No wonder we are stressed trying to buy gifts and partake in the busiest social season of the year. All these things are good, but it’s plain stressful to be listening to the Hallelujah chorus thinking about how many things you have to pick up on the way home and still get on-line to purchase gifts with “expedite shipping” costs involved.


5. Ok, but the thing I dread is going to the attic and basement dealing with all those holiday decorations that take up so much room. What can I do?

I agree. My third discovery came when I tried to simplify my holiday decorations after the holidays. It just seemed too much to put it all up so I thought I’d simplify it.

But alas, I found even charities would not accept holiday decorations after December 25. They had nowhere to store them until next year. That was the next discovery – if I store holiday decorations for 11 months of the year, then why do we hesitate about getting them up?

A recent poll showed most people take down their holiday decorations the weekend after New Year’s Day. If that’s the case, what date do we need to put them up to enjoy them for 4-6 weeks? Especially when they are taking up valuable space for 11 months of the year.

The answer? Pick a date (or weekend) to put up your decorations early every year so they can be enjoyed. Typically it’s either the first weekend in December, or even Thanksgiving weekend to be ready to turn the lights on December 1. I found I’m happier the sooner I start and get full enjoyment of them for the season… and give some away each year.


6. Before you give us “A Dozen Gift Theme Ideas,” tell us what’s in your notebook and why is it considered a classic Christmas planner to pull off your shelf and use year after year?

Once I got organized I thought of every woman struggling to pull together meaningful holidays in an already busy life. So I created a hand made notebook years ago which my publisher picked up and is available right now on my website or wherever books are sold. This is a holiday planner you can pull off your bookshelf any time day or night and start the season.

The six tabs inside the three-ring notebook include: The Plan, Gifts, Cards & Decorations, Events, December 1-25 Inspiration, and Recipes. There are almost 200 pages of charts, table talk topics for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, room for photos, and even journal pages of “The Best Things that Happened This Christmas.”

Within those six tabs I’ve sprinkled “10 Tips from 10 Experts” covering things like 10 Money Saving Tips for Holiday Gifts, 10 Super Simple Holiday D├ęcor Tips, 10 Holiday Tips for the Working Woman, 10 Tips to Serve Fabulous Food and Impress Your Guests, 10 Tips for a Successful Event, and 10 Tips to Celebrate and Not Gain Weight!

7. Give us your plan to “Simplify with a Gift Theme” for this year, especially for the busy woman starting to think about the holidays.


Simplify with a Gift Theme
(Excerpt from Simplify Your Holidays, Marcia Ramsland (Thomas Nelson 2008)


Simplify shopping by visiting only certain types of stores for everyone on your list. Choose a giving “theme” for the year. Get a different gift in that theme for each person so it is personalized. For example, all the women get jewelry, spa baskets, certificates or robes. Men get sporting event tickets, restaurant certificates, or tools. Sweaters, CDs, DVDs or books all make a great theme for the year, too.


A Dozen Gift Theme Ideas

Sweaters for everyone
Favorite Restaurant or movie gift cards
Gloves and mittens
DVD's
CD's or books
Tickets to a play, musical, or retreat
Photo Book or digital camera
A trip or the latest technology
Favorite magazine plus a year’s subscription
Chocolate, nuts, or gourmet food basket
Spa, massage, or bath items
Jewelry, purse, or accessories

Keep track of where you get your gifts each year and head there first. They will have new merchandise that will probably work well for you again.

Remember a gift shows you had the person in your thoughts and a note on your card tells them why you thought they’d like it. Gift giving is a skill to learn. Keep working to hit the mark of delight and surprise with the receiver. With all your lists in one notebook, you’ll be able to do just that as you see what worked well before.


Question 8: Any last words of encouragement for the woman who wants to pull together a meaningful (and peaceful!) holiday season?

This is your year! The Simplify Your Holidays notebook will help you create that organized Thanksgiving and Christmas you’ve dreamed of with all your notes in one place! You’ll love its beautiful red cover, sturdy tabs, and attractive green charts.

To simplify your holidays, manage your time with our holiday plan and keep your notes all in this notebook. You will graduate from seasonal stress to intentional success!


Thanks for having me today. I truly believe you can simplify the coming holiday season and have a more meaningful season than ever!


Marcia Ramsland, The Organizing Pro

Speaker * Author * Media Guest Expert



P.S. Can you simplify your holidays this year? I truly believe so and am eager to know how you do it with my new book, Simplify Your Holidays. Start today by getting your notebook and downloading your FR*EE Master Gift List at http://www.organizingpro.com


WOW, thanks so much Marcia for your great ideas! I can't wait to get my own Simplify Your Holidays book!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Super Savings Saturday 10-25-08

This week has been a so-so week with bargains. I will be making a trek to CVS and the grocery store later on Saturday. However I am still finding great buys at the my favorite thrift store.

This past week my husband and I went to the store and found more awesome things for our sons and my husband. They had more great Ralph Lauren Polo brand shirts: a long sleeved polo, an awesome plaid long sleeved dress shirt, two more short sleeved standard polos, and two red sweaters by RL. But I think my husbands favorite buy was buy one pair of sunglasses get TWO free! They were one dollar a pair. One of those sunglass kiosks at the mall had gone out of business and the glasses were donated to the thrift store. I don't know about your kids but ours go through sunglasses like crazy. Of course they are picky but when the boys mow their customers lawns they don't have to always be stylin' and profilin'! LOL!

The shirts were anywhere from 5.00 to 7.00. We spent around 30.00. Once again one of the shirts had NEVER been worn! Still had the 65.00 tag on it.

We have not been to CVS in quite awhile. I am pretty stocked up and see no sense in getting more right now. I have a list for this next week so I am ready to hit the stores.

I am hoping to find canned beans, chicken broth, and veggies on sale this week at the grocery store. We are getting very low in our various types of beans we keep on hand. However, since we buy them by the caseloads they have lasted us for MONTHS. It should be about time for them to be on sale again. Let's hope so because it is now chili season and I use lots of beans in the winter.

For more Super Saving Saturday ideas head over to Money Saving Mom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WFMW 10-22-08



I have already begun the prep for holiday gift giving for my teenager daughter to give to her friends. Actually it started last year at the end of the Christmas season. When I saw cute frames, photo albums, jewelry, and the like I snatched them up and put them in my gift closet. Last year I snagged some great little mani/pedi kids from Bath and Bodyworks that will be given to some of my daughter's sweet friends. Our son's don't really give much to their friends..only their closest buds and then they want to give iTunes cards. I think it is really more of a girly thing to give gifts. My daughter gives to around 15 friends something for Christmas. So this year we have all the little items gathered for her friends who are all 14 nearly 15 years of age.

The other thing I do is when Hobby Lobby puts their Christmas wrapping/bags/tags on sale at the end of the season I am thinking about all the gifts I will be giving the next year. Last year I bought the CUTEST bags and ribbon to use for my daughter's gifts to friends. I always look for something unique and not holiday looking. Last year we used red paper and leopard print ribbon. This year we are going for the hot pink with zebra ribbon look. We also make the cards by hand that go with each gift with items I have purchased for pennies when they have been clearanced.

It does not take a lot of dough to come up with precious, thoughtful, and cute presents for teenage girls. As much as they will love what is on the inside they are also all about how it looks on the outside.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Homemade Bath Salts
Small scrapbooks and stickers
Photo albums
Photo Frames
Personalized Shadow Boxes
Candles
Miniature Bath and Bodyworks Products
Manicure/Pedicure kits
JEWELRY
Personalized Journals
Devotion Books and a Journal

These are just a few ideas. For more Works for Me Wednesday head on over to Shannon's Rocks In My Dryer.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gotta Love Free!!!!

I am sorry I have no picture I left my camera at work. However tonight I scored on the Target deals!

After work I went to my local SuperTarget and bought three one pound bags of Green Giant baby carrots which are on sale for 1.29. I also bought four Artisan Mini French loaves which were .99 cents a loaf. I then purchased eight boxes of 16 count Lipton tea bags which were regularly priced at 1.09. I used eight 1.00 off Lipton tea Target printable coupons, three 1.00 off Target Green Giant baby carrot coupons, and four .50 cent off Target printables for the Artisan Bread. I had a 5.00 gift card I received from the Kashi cereal deal several weeks ago. Before coupons the total was around 17.00 but after coupons the final tally was 3.18! I used my gift card and had NO OUT OF POCKET! WOO HOO!!! I walked out of Target and felt like a Queen! I am telling you if you are not using coupons or checking out these sites you are missing out on saving some money big time!
Check out:
Attention Target Shoppers
Common Sense with Money
Money Saving Mom

I am taking my parents tomorrow and showing them how they can save some money too!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Five Steps to Peace in Uncertain Financial Times

You would have to be stranded on a deserted island or in a cabin with no television or radio to not have heard about the financial mess our nation is currently in. I know many are struggling but most I believe are living in fear of the unknown or what could happen. Many are just not prepared. True there are those dealing with foreclosures, layoffs, and difficult circumstances in regards to either financial decisions they made or that were made for them. In my opinion it is only going to become more of a problem if people don't take control of their own futures and live as our grandparents did many years ago. Greed has taken ahold many families lives. It comes quietly veiled in numerous vacations throughout the year, using credit to purchase everything, and not teaching their children the value of a dollar. Of course this problem is on a much larger scale but what if people would have been living within their means for quite some time I can't help but believe we would not have such a crisis on our hands.

There are five things that I think would greatly help in a financial crisis. I know because they have worked for us.

1. GET RID OF YOUR CREDIT CARDS
Nearly eight years ago when we married my husband and me decided that we would not use credit cards. The only thing we have used in that time has been cash or a debit card. It was one of the best decisions we made as a new couple. It forced us to save for things and to have an emergency fund. It has taught us and our children a valuable lesson on needs and wants. I think the number one reason many are in dire straits right now is that they rely on their credit cards heavily. CUT THEM UP! We had fears about not having a credit card at first too. My parents worry that we don't have a credit card but we can do anything with cash and a debit card. Let me tell you that when January rolls around and everyone else is getting their credit card bills we are not stressed because our Christmas has already been paid for in cash. We are getting ready to have our eighth cash only Christmas and we can't wait!

2. START AN EMERGENCY FUND
It is critical that everyone has an emergency fund. Start out with a goal in mind of putting 1000.00 in a separate fund. We are Dave Ramsey followers/fans. We saw him in person shortly after we married. I had been listening to Dave as a single parent each day as I picked my son up from middle school. I began trying to implement his plan for getting out of debt. When I married my new husband shared my passion in this area. We worked diligently to set up a fund. Sure enough the morning we were to attend Dave Ramsey a storm blew through our town and took off some shingles and blew over our fence. We had money in the bank for an emergency and what insurance did not cover we were able to handle. We had little money when we married and my husband suffered through losing a job. He never went without work. He mowed lawns of which he still has his lawn business that our boys now run. He worked two jobs and odd jobs and we socked away the money.

3. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS
You have to live within your means. You cannot become successful if you continue on the same path of excess. This may look like different things to other people. For me it meant cooking more at home, OAMC or once a month cooking, using coupons, shopping at thrift stores, not paying full price for anything, and making sure I evaluated need versus want. There was a time when we both stopped at our local convenience store or Starbucks and got coffee every morning. No more! There was a time when I would have NEVER shopped at TJMaxx or Ross let alone a thrift store or consignment shop! Horrors!! Believe you me these are a penny pinchers best friend!

4. GET RID OF DEBT!
It took us several years but we finally paid off over 54000.00 of debt! We only owe on our home and that is very minimal. We live in a very affluent town that has more McMansions that anything else. We do not buy into the standard "Keeping Up with the Joneses". We bought a home that fit our needs with four children and it was built in 1970! Our children are not giving each and everything new thing that hits the market. If you want to know a way to get out of debt that is precise and has worked for many people look up Dave Ramsey's website The Total Money Makeover and read about his Debt Snowball. It can be done!!!

5. BE DILIGENT
Do not get discouraged! We know how it feels to be way over our heads in debt. We know what it feels like to be out of work. Be faithful to stick to your plan. Make a budget and stick to it. Being frugal is not a bad thing. Having no credit cards or car payments....is a REALLY GOOD THING! WOW! Such freedom!!! I never knew you could have no credit card or car payment. Remember we have three that are driving in our home besides us. Our nearly seventeen year old son was given an old 92 beat up Dodge pickup by his grandparents. We helped him save to repaint it bright red. My husband, father in law, and son's primed the pickup to save money. The pickup now looks amazing! It gets from point A to point B and when he needs to take more friends or his siblings we let him borrow our 2000 Toyota Corolla. We have a 2001 Toyota Sienna Van too. The boys pay their own car insurance. They earn it each summer with their lawn business. We have taught them to be diligent. As parents more is caught than taught. What are you teaching your children about debt, things, wants, etc.?

Before any of the above more than anything for us is to go to our Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, and Savior. For our family putting Christ number one and tithing to His kingdom comes first. We would not be where we are now without His guidance or wisdom. He alone is the total source of our peace.

We live in uncertain times but as for our house, we serve the One that knows our future and for that I am very grateful.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fireproof Your Marriage











We had been anxiously awaiting the chance to see this movie. Finally last Saturday my husband and I were able to take some time to see it! It was one of the best movies I have ever seen! I cried, I laughed, I cried some more and the presentation of the Gospel on the big screen was incredible. At the end of the movie the entire theatre erupted in applause! Read this article from CNN that tells more about this incredible movie.

Kirk Cameron does a fabulous job in the movie. All the actors were great. I can't say enough about the music! Oh my goodness the music was fantastic! If you have not seen this movie...run to your local theatre and see it!!! What a joy to see the theatre FULL of families and couples as well as singles. This is a movie for everyone.

A few things I have read about the movie are 1. Kirk Cameron would not take anything for personal gain. His fee for the movie went to a terminally ill childrens camp in Georgia that he and his wife have; 2. He has also made a vow to not kiss anyone but his wife. A scene in this movie call for him to kiss the actress portraying his wife. Instead they used his OWN wife as the stand in. You can't even tell. It was awesome to think that he is protecting his own marriage by setting boundaries that most actors would think is ludicris.

We are taking our teenagers to see the movie next. We need more movies like this with a message that is positive! Go see it!!!

Here are some great resources:
Fireproof the Movie
Fireproof Your Marriage

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Super Saving Saturday 10-4-08

This week has been one of the most thrilling of the entire year since I began couponing!

I have had great times in the past with CVS but grocery stores not so much. First let me preface this by saying we have terrible grocery stores in Oklahoma....no Krogers, Randalls, Thom Thumb, Albertsons, Winn Dixie, Publix, Whole Foods, Lowes, etc., etc., We have Homeland, Walmart, and Mom and Pop stores. Last Tuesday I had a slew of coupons that were expiring that night. They were for things we used and some new things that I wanted to try for the kids. After work I hurried home and got dinner for my children and then headed out to our local Wal Mart SuperCenter.

Numerous things I received for free because I had duplicate coupons for the Kraft deal that was in the August All You magazine. I purchased Koolaid, a Kraft item, and received my free Wheat Thins, Kraft Singles, Oscar Meyer hotdogs, Crystal Light, and Kraft Dressing. I also scored on several items that only cost me .50 cents after the coupon such as Rozoni pasta, hairspray, and a few things for the childrens lunches. I had everything put in groups such as the shampoo deal I worked with Pantene (free product) and the Kraft deal. There was a huge line and I was hoping that things went smoothly.

Finally the cashier said, "That will be 84.78. I calmly told her I had coupons and handed them to her. She proceeded to take off the coupons and after several minutes she said those magic words, "Wow, you saved a lot!". I only had to pay a little over 42.00 for all the items! I had 42 coupons and I figured the average price for each item in my cart would have been around one dollar.

I was trying not to pump my fist in the air and jump up and down! The long line of people behind me started asking how much I saved with those coupons. It was thrilling!

My husband and I also tried using Homeland for some deals since they double coupons. At Homeland alone our purchases were 65% off of what they normal cost would have been and I was able to get free Dawn soap and Kleenexes! We also made our CVS run the same evening. When we tallied up our receipts we have saved just this week over 150.00 for our family!

I have been talking about it so much at work that I have a couple of friends now wanting to try out using coupons. My path to simplicity and frugality began out of necessity back when I was a single mom years ago but the one thing I did not do was coupons or CVS. Oh how much easier my life would have been if only I had known or had someone to come along side of me and teach me this wonderful discipline!

For more Super Savings check out Money Saving Mom!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Great is Your Name in All the Earth

Please head over to Baby Bangs and read Amanda's profound post. I have sent it to friends and family today and felt the need to share it with my blog friends as well.
Blessings,
Vickie

WFMW 10-1-08



Kitchen Organization is crucial in helping keep the flow going in a busy household. Two of the most important items in my kitchen that I rely on may seem better suited in an office than in the kitchen.

I use a 3" binder for all my recipes that either have been printed off of the Internet or have been given to me. I use clear protective pages to keep them from getting messy or ruined. I have used this method since the early 90s. I keep only the recipes that I have used over and over again plus a few that I really want to try but have not had the chance yet. I also keep my meal planning information in this big binder as well as my Once A Month Cooking plans. It is a very valuable part of my kitchen.

My second item is one I have mentioned at least a couple of times on WFMW...my kitchen notebook! My kitchen notebook is priceless to me! I like to create meals without a recipe quite often. One of my son's would ask me if I had written down what I had done so that I could re-create the meal. One day after watching one of our favorite cooking shows we saw the chef using a small notebook to write down his meal creation as it took place. BINGO! So I began to do the same thing. I keep it in my utensil drawer with a pen. When I am mixing up a creation I pull it out and write down what I have done so that I can make it again!

Both of these items are important to my life in the kitchen! For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas go to Rocks in My Dryer.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Frugal Friday 9-26-08



Today was an awesome day of frugal finds! My teenagers love to look sharp and in style and I love to save money and find clothes of great quality. Sometimes that can be very difficult in todays economic climate. Plus I refuse to pay full price for anything. I have found with my boys the best shirt EVER is by Ralph Lauren. My boys have some Polos that were second hand when I purchased them several years ago, for a song I might add, and they STILL look brand spankin new!!! They are indestructible, classic, and all around awesome! However, I cannot pay full price nor even half price for one of them. I take that back...I guess I could if I wanted but I choose not too.

Today I went to my favorite thrift store during lunch.I scored! I bought more than fifteen men's shirts for the four men in my life....my husband and three sons. They were all either brand new with tags on Ralph Lauren dress shirts or gently worn Ralph Lauren Polo shirts, one Lacoste shirt, a Patagonia shirt and a JCrew. I also found a darling red toile picture frame for me! Most of the shirts were half the price listed which made most of them under 3.00!! The rest were around 8.00 dollars. If you were to pay full price for one Ralph Lauren Polo shirt it would cost 65.00. I came away from the store with ten polos and the other shirts and paid 70.00 for everything!!!

When I got back to the office I found this great articlefrom one of my all time favorite bloggersShannon@Rocks In My Dryer over at Blogher. I could not believe how timely it was! My boys especially get very excited when I can find the shirts they love and are very brand loyal to but at a price that our family can afford. All in all it was a fabulous day of frugal finds!

For more Frugal Friday head over to Biblical Womanhood.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts - Blog Tour

A SCRAPBOOK OF CHRISTMAS FIRSTS

(Leafwood Publishers, October 2008)


A wonderful new gift book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, is available in October for Christmas giving. Today, I’ve invited the six coauthors to share their unique story of how they came together to publish this exciting book full of stories, recipes, tips for simplifying the holidays and so much more (click on bookcover to see the trailer!).


First, let me introduce Cathy Messecar, Leslie Wilson, Brenda Nixon, Trish Berg, Terra Hangen and Karen Robbins. Thank you for being here today, ladies.


Karen: Thank you for the invitation.


You are from three different areas of the country—Texas, California, and Ohio. How did you all meet?



Terra: We all six joined The Writers View, an online group for professional Christian writers. Trish and Brenda met in person in 2004 for lunch, I understand, and on 9/18/04, after reading a post Brenda sent to TWV, I sent an email to Brenda, asking if she would like to join with me and walk alongside each other, as a Barnabas group. Brenda said yes that same day, and suggested Trish too. Very quickly Cathy, Leslie and Karen joined in and our stalwart band of six was formed. Living in California, I was so happy to find 5 Barnabas writers in other states so we could bring together a wealth of different viewpoints and expertise


Brenda: Actually, We haven’t met. We’re all great colleagues and friends via the internet. Four years ago Terra and I formed a dyad to support each other as Christians who write in the secular markets. Along came Trish, Cathy, Karen, and Leslie (not necessarily in that order) and we formed a close knit bond of support, creative energy, and professional accountability.



Karen: I met Trish through an online forum called The Writers View and she invited me to join the group.


Trish: Although we belong to the same Yahoo writing group, we met one by one online. Eventually, the six of us decided that since we all write as Christians for a secular market through magazine articles and newspaper columns, we could support and encourage one another.


Leslie: Though we met virtually through The Writers View, I have been blessed to give and get hugs from Trish (at a MOPS conference), Cathy (in the area on business) and Karen (in town for a writers' conference). I can’t wait to meet Terra and Brenda face-to-face, though I feel as though I already know them!


How did you come up with the idea to do a book together?



Brenda: The book is Cathy’s brainchild. She mentioned the concept of telling stories of events that happened for the first time at Christmas and sharing holiday historical tidbits and recipes and each said, “If you need any help, let me know.” That offer morphed into each of us equally contributing and co-authoring A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.


Trish: Yep, Cathy came up with the idea and the title, and asked us if we wanted to join her on this project. Of course, we said Yes!


Terra: Cathy mentioned the idea for a Christmas book to the group, and someone (I think it was Leslie) suggested that maybe our group could all write the book together. Cathy agreed to lead the way on the project. The earliest email I have on this is from 9/7/05, which shows that this has been a three year collaboration from idea to publication.


Karen: (Chuckling) Terra is a librarian and keeps our historical records by saving our e-mails.



Leslie: Actually, Terra, I wrote that comment (in a group e-mail) kind of tongue-in-cheek. Cathy, the ultra-sweet person she is, took my joking at face value and here we are. However, I believe God prompted the passion and ideas we all bring to the project and that He will do mighty things as a result of our collaboration!


Why did you decide on a Christmas theme?


Brenda: It was Cathy’s concept to write a book centering on Christmas.


Cathy: For several years, I’d been thinking about Christmas as a threshold to introduce Jesus to folks who aren’t familiar with him, and I love a simpler Christmas with the emphasis on family, friends and doing for others. I knew of some families who had experienced “firsts” at Christmas—reunions, losses, special surprises—and I wanted to collect those stories.


Terra: Cathy’s idea immediately resonated with me because Christmas books are “a way past watchful dragons,” as C. S. Lewis wrote. Many people won’t buy a book about being a Christian, but will buy a holiday and family fun book, thus the “past watchful dragons.” People who want to grow in their faith, and people who have no faith but celebrate Christmas will buy our book and hopefully be led to put the focus back on Christ for the holiday, and for their lives.


Leslie: Though Cathy birthed the idea, the rest of us quickly hopped on board. Not only is Christmas special to me—especially now that I have a family of my own—but also that particular holiday cries out to be simplified, to return to the meaningful aspects of celebration, and to lose some of the hype and commercialism.


Tell me a little about what is in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts? What is your favorite part?



Cathy: I like that you can read one chapter in about 15 minutes and, with all the different suggestions, it feels like Christmas Eve. Makes you want to set up the nativity! Many of the suggestions for family activities can be adapted for any family get-together.


Karen: There are heartwarming stories about things that happened for the first time at Christmas. For instance, one of my stories is about the first Christmas with our adopted children. And the book is pretty. When I first saw the colorful pages and drawings, I fell in love with the illustrator’s work.


Brenda: I don’t have a favorite part – I love it all!


Terra: I like the way the parts are woven into a seamless whole, like a patchwork quilt, that is stronger and more beautiful than the parts.


Trish: It’s like everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas, all the best tips and recipes, and neat stories all wrapped up in this perfect little package.


Leslie: I love reading the special stories, hints, recipes—whatever—and imagining the precious family time that precipitated each moment. Plus, the book is gorgeous, beautifully printed, truly something to be proud of. And we are.


I’ve heard that the book is really a nice gift book; can you tell me a little about the format?



Cathy: Yes, it’s a hardbound book, full color interior. The layout makes it easy to read. It has a definite scrapbooky look on the interior. Different logos identify sections, such as an oilcloth-look Christmas stocking appears beside the “Stocking Stuffer Tradition” (help for connecting family members), and the “Cookie Canister” recipes are on a recipe card, and the back ground of “A Gift For You” is a gift box with bow. It’s a classy gift that they can be placed on a coffee table or in a guest bedroom during the holiday season.


Brenda: I like to describe it as a Starbuck’s sorta gift book. It’s high quality, crisp, and practical.


With six different personalities and areas of ministry, how did you manage to put this all together and still remain friends?


Karen: We pray a lot for each other and it helps that none of us have an over-inflated ego.


Cathy: There were no squabbles. Surely, we had differing opinions, but we knew that any of us could suggest an idea for this book and that each idea would get fair reviews from others. We actually voted on some aspects—everyone in favor say, “Aye.” If you’ve ever watched women at a Dutch treat luncheon when they divide up a meal ticket, it can be intense as they split the ticket down to the penny. As the project came together, I was in awe of my gracious coauthors, unselfish women who respect each other.

For some decisions, we did a round robin—things like book title and chapter titles and what categories to put into the book. Then, as compiler, I’d send out a list of needs to The Word Quilters, that’s what we call ourselves. For instance in a section we call “Peppermints for Little Ones” (hints for children’s activities), I’d put out a call, and the WQs sent in their hints, and then I put them into appropriate chapters.


Brenda: (Smiling) Are we still friends? Seriously, we each have our own platform, ministry, and family life, and those interests kept this project in perspective – it was important but not the only thing on our plates. No one was so enmeshed in this project that she campaigned for her own way. We never had a bitter disagreement or insistence to be “right.”


Terra: We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.We offer support and ideas for our separate writing projects and for personal prayer requests. I love these ladies, and I have only met one of them in person. So far, Karen is the only one who has met each of us, and one day we hope to meet in person, in a circle of friendship and love.


Trish: I think we are all very flexible and forgiving. We do have a variety of personalities here, but God has worked amazing things through our little group.


Leslie: Though I have seven non-fiction projects in various stages of completion, I could not be more thankful that this is the one to reach publication first. I am truly blessed to have worked with these women, learned from them, watched as they’ve poured heart and soul into crafting a product that will impact lives for the Lord.


Where can my readers get a copy of SOCF?



Cathy: The coauthors will all have a supply, plus our publisher, Leafwood Publishers, will have plenty of copies and discounts for buying five or more. Or they can be ordered at most online stores or by your local bookstore.


Karen: And anyone who leaves a comment here can be entered in a drawing for a free book and a gift basket worth $200! For a list of its contents, check our blog, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. And while you're there, leave another comment and increase your chances of winning!


Tell me more about your blog.


Karen: We started our blog in July and it is accumulating a wealth of information about Christmas. Each of us posts one day a week following the theme for that week. Watch for new recipes, tips, ways to simplify, stories, etc., similar to what is in our book.


Leslie: Ooh, ooh, let me answer this one. I’m probably the newest to blogging among the group, but I LOVE it. I’ve enjoyed posting and receiving comments back from readers. What an amazing adventure having an online voice can be! This blog will focus on a different theme each week—anything from tips to avoid overeating during the holidays to how to give a guest room special touches—and expand on the material in the book. I think readers will get to know the authors’ individual personalities and connect on a more personal level. Plus, they get that many more ideas, information, inspiration (!) at no additional cost.


WQs: As an added bonus for inviting us to your blog, we’d like to pass along this Christmas tidbit to you and your readers:


Enjoy a blessed Christmas this year! And thanks for inviting us to share our book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, with you.