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January “No Spend” Recap

Example Budget Form

Well the first month in my 1st Quarter spending freeze is over and I thought I would come here and just share some of my highs and my lows!

I knew that going on this budget would be difficult for me. I have an impulse problem, I shared about that. And specifically I seem to be even more impulsive when I am struggling (angry, sad, grumpy etc…) Well January was a TOUGH month. From computer problems that extended on for weeks and made me VERY crabby, to general stresses with work and home life – I was over January by about the 7th.

I called my best friend and said I just wanted to buy something, anything to feel better. A true indication that there is a problem if I feel like that is the only thing that will cure my woes.

For the most part I was determined. I wanted to be able to remain strong. I wanted to break old, bad habits and create better, more healthy new ones. I can’t say that I am totally there yet but I feel like I am on my way.

I shared earlier this month that I started an Excel spreadsheet to track all of our spending. I wanted to be able to look at the month and see where we had spent our money and on what. I worked on finalizing that this morning and it was very interesting.

We spend a LOT on food. More than I realized. When we had met with our financial adviser and he had asked us to estimate that number I told him at least half the amount we apparently actually spend. And that doesn’t include a cost for household supplies. Now some of my expenditures in January won’t need to be repeated in February.

I had a 10% off coupon from Walmart to order online with them by the 15th. It was good up to $20 off – which means I needed to spend $200 on items to get the full 10% off discount value. To do this I ordered 3 bulk packs of toilet paper, kleenex, several jars of spaghetti sauce and noodles and cereal. All things we use pretty regularly and many items that will last us well into February and maybe even March.

It will be interesting to see how that number fluctuates in the months going forward. But doing this exercise opened my eyes to what we really spend and helps me plan going forward.

While there were many “wins” this month, I didn’t end this month perfectly either. There were lots of conversations about spending. More than once I told the kids no when they asked if they could purchase a movie or a mod on their Kindle. I did say that we could talk to Dominic about it and see if it was something he agreed to. Interestingly the topic didn’t come up again…hmmm.

There were some purchases that I made that absolutely would be considered “discretionary” but in the grand scheme were minimal and necessary (justify much?!) Karlena doesn’t fuss with her hair at all. She rarely lets me comb it, so when she mentioned wanting to find something that would dry and maybe style her hair a little I perked up. When I just blow dry her hair it becomes a tangled, huge mess. Most days she was going to school with pretty wet hair.

I had seen a Revlon Hairdryer/Brush combo advertised online and it had a bunch of good reviews. It went on sale from $60 to $43 and I had $14 in Amazon free credit points built up…so I bought it. It is AMAZING. I know we could have waited until after April to purchase this, but it has worked so well, and so quickly…it was worth every cent.

I also bought myself a new $12 belt. Again I didn’t NEED it right this moment – but I saw it and bought it. That was my biggest fail this month I suppose. I justified it again because I told Dominic, it was cheap and my old one is wearing out. But the reality was I didn’t need it right then and could have waited until my older one really bit the bullet. I see it for what it is. I needed to get something and this was an easy out for me.

I did also go out to eat twice, once with some girlfriends and once with a larger group of girlfriends. Total those meals cost me $34. And our family went out to eat for fun one night at Perkins. For a family of 5 we spent $69. The food was ok but it was a reminder to me why we don’t often eat out. I can make much more food (and better IMO) for much cheaper.

Some unexpected but needed expenses came up when I had to buy new shoes for Karlena and new snow boots for Elijah. I also decided (with Dominic’s full approval) to shop ahead and purchased a new larger winter coat for Elijah for next fall/winter. He will need the larger size and this one was on 60% off clearance so it made sense to buy it now instead of at a more expensive cost later this year.

Again I am tracking on my spreadsheet on a separate form to record all clothing expenses so that I can see how much that adds up to over the course of a year as well.

I am sure that all of this spending and budget talk is boring but it is good practice for me to not only spend some time looking back at my month, the wins and the losses, as well as making a record for later. I don’t want this time to be one of just suffering through 90 days and then going right back to my bad habits.

I have said it before, I need to develop better habits and response mechanisms. Maybe I will walk away from this experience with a budget that helps me stay on track. Maybe I will be able to continue to say no when the purchase isn’t a need right now. Maybe this will develop in me that pause that I have been lacking.

I was talking with a friend last night and said that I had gotten into such a habit of impulse that I would just buy things and ended up not loving them. Now my closet has things in it I force myself to wear not because I love them or the way I look but because I don’t want the cost the be wasted. If nothing else, this will hopefully help me to be more considerate of the whys of my purchases.

So while January was a bear in many ways it was also eye opening and valuable and I am grateful that I am going through this.

#CurlyGirl Hair Routine Revisited

My Deva Curl Favorites

A few years ago I shared my #CurlyGirl hair routine here. You can go back and read that post if you are interested. Some of the things I wrote about have stayed the same and several things have changed since that post so I thought that I would do an update again!

Let me start by saying that I am NO expert. I have found things that work well for MY hair. My type of curly hair is likely different than yours (if you have curly hair) so the best advise I can give you is to keep trying things until you find something that works for you! There is a LOT of information out there, lots of methods and books etc. and it can get overwhelming to know what to try.

I will be sharing the things that have worked best for me and maybe will give you a place to start on your own journey!

When I posted last I was still getting perms. If you can believe it, I have been perm free for over 2 years now! I used to perm my hair every 18 months or so. I thought that I needed to do that to keep the curl. I never had a cut that I loved and wouldn’t have considered not getting a perm.

BUT one day I decided to see if I could find a stylist that specialized in cutting curly hair. I had seen the”Deva Curl” method online and I found a girl in Sioux Falls that was a master stylist. Going to a hair appointment that is a 2 hr drive away was not ideal, but I was willing to try it because I felt like I had never really had a cut that worked for me.

Mickie cut my hair in a completely new way. First of all if you have curly hair it should be cut DRY! Mickie cuts my hair dry and with the wave of the curl. This was the most nontraditional haircut I had ever had but when it was done I had a shape to my hair that was amazing. It was seriously THE BEST haircut of my life. 42 years I waited for that cut. 42 years.

I was worried about what would happen when my re-perm date came around again because Mickie didn’t do those…but she said she thought that because of the correct haircut I might find I didn’t need/want it. Man was she right! The cut made all the difference and I have been shocked at how much natural curl I seem to have!

So onto my styling routine. I do use mostly Deva Curl products. They are expensive, but they work great and a little goes a long way. My hair feels better when I use these products. My stylist recommended that I only shampoo once to twice a week. I do that on Wednesday and Sunday. On the other days I wet my hair and put a small amount of conditioner in it and rinse it out. I also put a small amount of conditioner in as a leave in. Helps with tangles.

When I get out of the shower I immediately lightly pick through my hair and apply a nickle sized amount of Deva Curl Ultra defining gel onto my dripping wet hair. I do this all with my head upside down. Then I use my Deva Curl towel (which I got for free when I ordered a large set of shampoo and conditioner) and squeeze out a bunch of the moisture.

Then I apply some mousse. Currently I am using a Loreal Curl Defining Mousse that they no longer make. I have a stockpile of about 6 cans left…after that is gone I am going to have to find a replacement and I am sad. I have tried a few other brands and hate them. The Loreal brand was alcohol free and not sticky. It gave me volume but not crunchy curls. I wish they still made it! Finally I put a nickle sized amount of Deva Curl B leave in on and then I re- scrunch my hair (still upside down) with my towel.

The towel is great because it takes out moisture without causing frizz like a regular towel can. You can use a t-shirt as well – which I did a few years ago, but this towel works even better!

So here is what my hair looks like after all my product has been applied but it is still pretty wet.

Product applied and the front pulled back so I can dry it. Sans make-up!

So I am one that hates to have hair in my face so I always pull my hair back. To add some volume to your crown, you can pull your hair up and clip it in loops a little while drying. I pull my hair back and it drys and stay that way. You could opt to let it down again after it is dry I suppose.

Next I go to phase 2, the drying phase. Now I know this will sound weird to most people…but it has worked for me and while I dry my hair I do my makeup, so it is like a 2 in one. We have a smaller space heater in our spare bedroom and I sit in front of that space heater and let the warm air dry my hair. I used to sit and scrunch my hair while it dried…but I learned that is “breaking the curl cast” and we don’t want that.

Instead I put on my makeup and basically when I am done with that, the top layer of my hair is mostly dry. Here is my hair dry.

Hair dry not styled

I suppose I could leave my hair like this…but I just feel like (at least for the professional office setting I work at) this look is a little unpolished – for me. So I do take a few minutes and curl just a couple of sections on my hair. I would say this part of the process takes less than 7 minutes. I curl maybe 5-6 curls on each side. Sometimes if it is getting closer to my next cut it may be a little more…my hair starts to get unruly. But for the most part it is a quick process.

Hair curled

I don’t really pick through the curls much until after they are completely cooled. I will spray with a little hairspray and then later tousle them up a bit. The curls “fall” a bit throughout the day but I don’t mind that at all. I typically don’t have to re-curl anything. A few years ago I would sometimes curl my hair a 2nd time during the day because the curls wouldn’t hold! Crazy!

What has been great about this new process is that I went from getting my hair cut every 7 weeks to now every 11-12 weeks. My hair is healthier (and happier) than it has ever been. It is also shorter than I used to wear it. As much as I liked a longer style…my hair looks and feels the best at this length.

So there you go! All you need – and maybe didn’t want to know – about my #Curlygirl routine. And before I go let me also say this…I know that my routine might seem like a lot for some people. Even when I am not leaving the house for a day I will get up and get fully ready at some point. It is that thing I do for me that makes me feel good. There have been days I have wished for stick straight hair that I could comb and go, or long hair that would give me a cute messy bun…but I just don’t have that hair. I have learned to love my hair and embrace my routine. So find what makes you feel good and do that for you!

And if you do have curly hair – do you have a favorite mousse? I am going to be in the market soon. Leave me a comment if you do!


This was my view for what seemed like a VERY long time yesterday. Let me give you a bit of the back story. See at the very beginning of the year we (Dominic) started talking about this new online software program that we were going to need to start using as a part of program that creates our estate plan documents for clients.

I was less than thrilled because A) CHANGE and B) CHANGE. So there you go, a look into my mindset and how I was feeling about the switch. With this discussion we (Dominic) started talking about our online storage, backup process and some issues we were having with our current Outlook software.

We (Dominic) decided to take the plunge and make some changes and start the new year fresh. Now let me pause and say this. Dominic always asks my preference on things here at the office. He knows that I manage a lot of different things that he doesn’t often handle, so he absolutely takes into consideration how I am feeling about any process changes.

So know that I am joking just a little when I say that this was all his idea. Of course we talked through everything, and he took my thoughts into consideration. But mostly my thoughts were “Let’s just not make any changes until we absolutely are forced to please.” {Insert some stomping of feet here for dramatic effect as well} So being the wise business owner that he is…he had to make decisions based on reality and fact not on irrational(which were slightly rational) fears. Ultimately I know it will be the right move and we will be happy once everything is working correctly but you guys so far IT HAS BEEN A NIGHTMARE.

If it could go wrong IT HAS. If the process should have been simple and quick, an unexpected error would occur. We (Dominic) have spent HOURS and HOURS on the phone with tech support and his brother (more tech support) trying to figure out what the issues are. At one point Google Drive had triplicated every client file we had and all of its contents as well. All of a sudden my computer with its large SSD drive was completely packed full of memory and nothing would sync. #GoodbyeGoogleDriveYouHaveFailedUs

I am a less than a model citizen when things like this happen. I tend to get very “frustrated”…which Dominic correctly labeled one evening as coming off as seeming more like anger than anything else. And he is right. I have been angry. Angry that it isn’t easy and isn’t going the way it should. Angry that we had to make the switch in the first place and cause all of the problems. I know that growing pains can be a good thing but in the thick of it, I just feel the pain!

Today we are stuck in limbo. Our Outlook 365 “exchange server” isn’t connecting for some reason. I don’t even know what that means. Dominic is out of town for client meetings and I am at the office trying to do work that doesn’t include emails, Word or Excel. Difficult to say the least. I am supposed to drive to Sioux Falls tomorrow for a Dr’s appointment that I scheduled a year ago and am hearing now that by tomorrow morning we may be in a blizzard warning because of high winds and the snow cover that fell a few days ago.

I am irritated and short tempered about all of it and to be completely honest today is one of those days that I would normally go and feel justified in stopping at my favorite clothing store here in town, owned by a good friend, and buying myself a little something nice. Because a pretty new sweater makes a girl feel good when everything around her feels like crap.

I know my issues are totally trivial compared to so many, but there are days when the struggle piles on and it feels like too much and as I shared in the last few weeks – I have had a typical response mechanism to stress in the past. Especially when Dominic is out of town. He wouldn’t even know, at least not right now. the lie tells me.

And I look at the calendar and see it has only been 23 days. 23 days Lord and what has changed? I am still this crabby, angry, frustrated person inside. There still isn’t a full measure of peace within me. That truth itself could be overwhelming because it is true. Without God’s grace and mercy I am a MESS. But while not everything has been reconfigured in my heart yet….some things have.

Today, even though I want to and even when I could…I won’t stop and buy something to try and put a bandaid on the stress my heart carries. Today I recognize that it won’t fix the deeper problem. Today I paused. I deleted birthday coupons from my inbox because usually an offer of $10 free led me to spending way more than $10. I let go of $9 in product credit because it was going to cost me almost $6 to ship something to me, and I don’t need anything right now.

Little by little and with God’s CONSTANT help, my heart and my mindset is being reconfigured. I should have known when I committed to this “fast” that God would use it as an opportunity to reveal some of the deeper character flaws that I have. YUCK.

If all this has been revealed in 23 days I am a little scared about what is to come. #kiddingnotkidding

Change my heart oh God,
Make it ever true.
Change my heart oh God,
May I be like You.

You are the potter,
I am the clay,
Mold me and make me,
This is what I pray.

What’s Seen and What’s Unseen

We had a busy weekend. I spent my Saturday doing more laundry than I thought was possible in a day. I washed blankets and sheets until the hot water ran out! I spent time in both Karlena and Elijah’s room helping them clean and organize their spaces.

I don’t know about your kids, but clutter happens quickly in my home and things escalate and pretty soon there are piles everywhere and their rooms are a disaster. The aftermath of Christmas had exploded in their spaces and something needed to be done.

So we sorted and threw away and donated and found the floor again! It was a beautiful thing. I almost took a picture of it and then decided not to. It is easy for me to take a carefully crafted picture of how tidy my space or my life looks and share it with the world.

It is a lot harder to share those places that I would rather remain hidden.

Thus the reason for choosing to share a picture of our horrific “craft closet” space instead. The picture above doesn’t even do the full space justice. I couldn’t capture the entire mess in one shot. It is BAD.

This closet is a large walk-in closet that is in Elijah’s room. Last year we converted it into a craft space, a place where the kids could go and create and make a mess. It has the worst, oldest carpet in it…so I am the least worried about this area getting destroyed over other spaces in our home. But as you can see, things have gotten out of control in here.

I can, for the most part, close the door and ignore what is happening in here if I want. But the reality is unless I am willing to get in there and work through the mess….the clutter will remain.

Several weeks ago we had our new Pastor’s kids over to our house for a few hours. Their kids were hanging out with our kids and in preparation our kids had cleaned their rooms (as best as they were able) and I had straightened up the main living spaces that I thought might be seen. Again thinking that all those places we didn’t want “exposed” to our new neighbors/friends…we could easily hide away.

When our pastor came back to get his kids I said to Dominic “don’t take him on a tour of the entire house…especially not the basement.” I had this fear that he might do this and knew that I would be HORRIFIED if these people, who were new to our family, were allowed to see the real us.

Sure enough a full on tour ensued. Dominic said, “my wife told me not to do this, but….” All I could do was shake my head and laugh. Of course this was happening. You see I am THAT person. The one that wants to look like it is all good on the outside when inside my “mess” is out of control.

And exposing others to who I really am is risky. What if I am rejected. Isn’t that the age old fear? Putting ourselves out there and then being judged as not worthy?

But this weekend I was again reminded that community is SO important. And community with people who will love you in your mess, even more so. I need to be able to not be “fine” when I am not fine.

Life is HARD. I bet if you searched the pages of this blog you would find I said that very statement time and time again. It hasn’t gotten any easier. The Bible even promises that we will have trouble, why are we always so surprised by it?!

So knowing that this is going to be a world full of difficulties, how do we want to walk through this life? I personally need to be surrounded by people who will let me be real. Who will hold me accountable for those things that need to be addressed and will reassure me that my worth is more than my darkest closet secrets.

Of course there are things that I would rather you not know. Like the fact that I lost my temper this morning at my youngest son. He was being disrespectful and rude and it made me so angry. Instead of being an adult. Instead of pausing and praying for even a small measure of peace before I reacted I just did what I always do when I am faced with disrespect and I got mad.

It was an AWFUL way to start my morning and even worse, his. Fortunately I was able to pull it together before he had to go to school and I apologized to him. I told him that he was a lot like me. I told him that I HATED having to take responsibility for myself when I was wrong…especially when it came to disagreements with Dominic. I myself fought saying I was sorry and I told him that it was something that I too needed grace for and needed to be better at.

As he got out of the car to go to school I reminded him how much I loved him, but my heart hurt over the unnecessary damage that I caused only moments before. You see I will share the pretty Bible quotes and memes and do my best to be an encouragement to someone else, but the reality is my heart inside is yucky. I am in desperate need of a Savior every day. Every moment.

I know we all have these moments, these parenting “fails” and I am not going to wallow in self-pity over my mistakes. But it is important that we are willing to be honest about those areas where we struggle, to remain accountable to others and to praise God when we see small changes and victories that are a direct result of His work in our lives. I know that I have so much growing to do, but today I am willing and able to be more honest about my messes than I was even a few years ago. That is a praise!

We don’t have to be ashamed about those areas where we struggle. We can see them as opportunities for God to work in and through us.

My hope is that I can be an encouragement here, to show you that I don’t have it all together and while I am not super thrilled about sharing my messes with the world…I am committed to walking the road of transparency. God continues to use my junk and transform it into something beautiful.

It is incredible to me that God does this. That a holy, righteous, perfect God could use us in our messes to share His hope and light with a dark world. I have made so many mistakes in my life. And yet His unending grace and abounding love is available to me. I just am so so grateful – how can we not share that?!

Fixing My Eyes on Jesus

It is an interesting thing this life. The start of a new year brings the opportunity to pause and reflect, to have hope for the coming days.

I shared last week that because of some bad choices, after what was an incredibly difficult year….I chose to embark on a discretionary spending freeze for the first quarter of 2019.

I wanted to take some time and not only look at establishing a budget and an understanding of where our money goes each month, but I also wanted to get at the root cause of why it is that when I feel bad (or sad, angry, hurt, frustrated etc.) that my impulse response tends to be to do something to make myself feel better and that “something” for me has been buying things.

It is humbling being confronted with your sin. Let me be clear here too…for me, spending in this way, as an emotional response without pausing, without going to God, has become a sin in my life. It has become something that I have done in secret, I have hidden it from my husband, I have justified my actions. THAT makes it a sin for me.

So I knew that sin nature needed to be addressed. I also knew that in making a public admission of my faults and my intentions for this quarter, put me at risk for enemy attacks. We are only 8 days in and it has come as no surprise that these first several days have been filled with difficulty.

I have taken some proactive steps and started a spreadsheet to start tracking our monthly budget. I admittedly have no idea how much we spend each month on things like groceries and household items. We use Amazon subscribe and save for many things, which is handy and convenient, but when the bill comes at the end of the month I just pay it. I haven’t ever realized where the products purchased were being used, in regards to a budget.

Tracking those things is a start. Making a list of those required monthly bills was also important. As business owners, we have monthly expenses that come each month for the business as well as expenses that come each month for our personal family. Listing them all out so we could see them was good for us.

I also took some time to start cleaning out various spaces in our home. My closet was the first place to start. I was humbled (and horrified) to find several gifts that I had purchased for Karlena and Elijah, some maybe even 3 years ago, that I had never given them. Buying in advance can have its advantages, but when the gift goes ungiven in your closet for years….that is a waste. I will find a place to donate these, but it was another eye opener as to why this process is so important for me.

And then today I got a call. It was a call I didn’t want to get and honestly came on an “anniversary” date that carries with it a lot of heartache. I am absolutely broken for this loved one and this enemy attack feels like a personal one. And quite honestly I am ticked. I am angry that these difficulties have to come. As a fixer, I just want to make things better. And as much as I want to, I honestly can’t fix this.

I remember the desperation I felt last year, the worry and anxiety and hopelessness. I have been reading the book “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way” by Lysa Terkeurst. It has been such a gift to me, speaking to me in advance of this moment today. She says this, “Every time we face anything that causes us to cry out to God, let’s declare that this hard time will be a holy time, a close-to-God time.”

So that is what I am doing. I read through 2 Corinthians 4:8-18 this morning (I am sharing it below) and it speaks such hope to us. I don’t have to like trials that come at me or those I love, but I am not without hope because of who Christ is in me. I am trying to pray that God would just be present and not pray MY will in this situation. Trusting that God knows the best outcome and that no matter what God will not abandon us. I am holding on to that today.

My response in hard times has been to run out and get something to make myself feel better. Today I am going to seek to find my peace and contentment in prayer and praise of who God is. All I have is Christ….

2 Corinthians 4:8-18 New Living Translation (NLT)

8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”[a] 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus,[b] will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are[c] being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

A Fresh Start

The last time I sat down to write on the pages of this blog was almost a year ago. There were many times throughout 2018 that I wanted to come here, to share my heart…but the reality was I often found myself unable to adequately express exactly what I was going through.

Some of the stories are not mine to share. I think there may be a time that God will use those stories for His purposes, and maybe I will have a part in sharing them. But for now I can just say that going through this past year was painful in many ways. I leave the year changed. I spent more time in desperate prayer than ever before. I saw God answer prayers in ways I hadn’t expected and felt that He was stretching me in ways that made me very uncomfortable.

I am grateful for my family, especially my husband who was that strong tower that I needed multiple times. I am also thankful for two of my best friends who with the wonders of Voxer encouraged me and prayed for me daily. Each of us had our own unique struggles this past year and their voices cheering me on every day were a lifeline for me.

But I walked away from 2018 with some “baggage.” And I started to feel very convicted that the causes and conditions related to that baggage needed to be addressed. You see I am a pretty emotional person. I shared this on FB recently “I am a “feelings” person. I feel big and love big but it also means I get angry big and resent big and get sad big. There is always a good with the bad it seems.”

When I am not addressing my feelings in a healthy way I start to make poor, emotional choices. I made a LOT of those choices this year and mostly in the way of my spending. It is hard for me to admit that, but it is true.

A little backstory for you…when Dominic and I got married we were broke. Just all the time broke. We lived paycheck to paycheck and our parents always had to help us and we just never seemed to get it together. Early on I racked up some credit card debt, mostly due to necessity items like food and diapers we needed, but I only ever made the minimum payments on those cards. (I know OUCH!) I cringe now realizing how much in interest we must have paid over the years.

Tax return time would come and instead of saving the money, that was the one time we could buy something big…and often we did. We spent years making very poor financial decisions. I even worked for a bank during some of those years and it wasn’t until I was there a few years that we started to see the value in contributing to a 401k and paying off debt each month. So many mistakes!

When we moved to MN we were in a better financial position than we ever had been. We were finally able to start giving to our church a little, being charitable was something I always wanted to do…but never seemed to be able to manage. We left SD with no debt except our house, cars and some student loans and had a plan to work at those.

Many of you know our story, what we thought God brought us to MN for ended in a way we had not expected and we faced the reality that we might lose everything. But Dominic trusted God’s calling/leading and started his own business…and now we do this thing together. God has blessed this business from day one and I am forever grateful. But sometimes I take that for granted.

I think I have gotten in a habit of justifying my actions. I love to be generous and now we can be and that brings me such JOY. But when I use that as a reason to justify spending on things for myself (or my kids) that we really don’t need….well that isn’t right. {Like we gave big to XYZ Charity…so now it is ok if I want to buy this sweater for myself right?!}

And that is where I have found myself this year.

I have always been the one that handles our checkbook. I balance the books at the office and manage all the bills etc. at home. A few weeks ago Dominic and I were talking and he made some comment about that he trusted me and how I managed things and that if I bought myself something from time to time it didn’t bother him.

But you see, his words of trust..they bothered me. I was super convicted and called my best friend to share that something had to change. She and I had done a 40 day fast a few years prior before Easter and “fasted” on spending on clothing for ourselves. I thought maybe I should do that again.

She came back with something even more challenging. “I think we need to fast from all discretionary spending for the first quarter of 2019.” UGH. And she told me that I needed to return something that I had purchased on impulse the day prior. She said if I was serious…it was the right first step.

I knew she was right and so the next day I made that return. I canceled a recurring monthly subscription I had that I didn’t really need. And I unsubscribed from about 30 emails from retailers that bombard my inbox each day with their best sales and offers. Too tempting for me!

Even though I could have spent prior to the New Year, I really didn’t. I was thoughtful about each purchase I made. Was this something we needed, or something we wanted? I told the kids no more Minecraft mod downloads, or movie purchases for a while. It has become too easy to say yes and not even think about it. It may only be a couple of dollars…but is it necessary? And will they ever learn to respect finances well if I am always saying yes?!

And then I had the hardest conversation of them all. I shared the challenge with Dominic. You see, not telling him about where I spend our money has become second nature. I don’t discuss purchases with him, or ask permission, and as a result I have given myself WAY too much leeway. I am not accountable to anyone and that has led to poor choices.

And even more truth for you….I really just wanted to get through the 3 months and not tell Dominic what I was doing and then proudly show him how great I did. But the reality was keeping it a secret would just make secrets later easier too.

So I am coming here and being way too honest, to remain accountable and to maybe encourage someone else who might be struggling in the same area. Buying new things isn’t bad. I love to treat my kids and I am always looking for great deals. Most of what I do purchase is with a fantastic deal. But they aren’t always necessary purchases.

My friend and I talked about how we both want to be able to be more generous in our giving, and to save for more experiences with our kids. Being thoughtful about our spending helps reset our view on what matters most and where we want to use our money. How can we best honor God with our finances?

I know this will be a challenge for me. But I believe that God is leading me down a path to learn more about Him in this process. My prayer is that He will continue to refine me so that my choices going forward will bring Him glory.

When the Path Isn’t What You Expected – A GSD Post!

Bridge GSD

I hope you are all having a wonderful, and even relaxing Labor Day. Our kids will finally be starting school this week! This is the first time in 5 years that our district is starting after Labor Day and I can tell you that I am not a fan. Even my kids were ready to get back into a routine a few weeks ago. 🙂

This summer our family took a vacation over in Wisconsin. During that trip we spent a day hiking for awhile to see some beautiful waterfalls. As I hiked I discovered how much the ever changing path we walked on reminded me of my journey in life. It hasn’t always been easy or fun, but there have been beautiful memories along the way and I am learning to be grateful for the ways that God is refining me as I go.

I wrote more about this over at the God-sized Dreams site today and would be honored if you would jump on over to read more!

31 Days of Seeking Him – Joy

31 Days of Seeking Him

I can’t believe that we are almost through this month. 26 of my 31 posts were written in advance so I knew I just had to get the chosen word each week and write one post.

Easy peasy one would think. But can I admit that I groaned a little when I saw the choice for this Friday….Joy.

Normally it would be easy for me to snap out a post on what the word Joy means to me…but today, if I am being honest I was just not feeling it.

It has been a tough week. One of those weeks that is painful getting through. Most of it my own doing, which is hard to admit, but joy has been about the farthest feeling from me.

I can be a pretty negative person and very quickly can fall into the “everything is hopeless trap”.

It is a terrible place to stay and I know that it isn’t where God wants me to live.

And then I came across a reading in Psalm 28: 6-7 Praise be to the Lordfor he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

There will be times in our lives that are not filled with joy. Times that are heavy and hurt-filled, hopeless and unsure.  Times when we need mercy and grace and other times we need to be the one to forgive.

I don’t typically walk through these trials with much joy. But these verses remind me that God has heard my heart cries. He IS with me. Even when I have failed Him, He is my strength and my shield.

What a blessing that little reminder was for me today.

If I believe the Word of God to be true, how can I not have a spirit of joy?

My circumstances may not have changed, but I can look at them with a different perspective. It is a reminder that we can have hope, we find joy in the Lord. I can’t let the happenings in my life, even the ones I cause by my own bad will, rule my emotions.

I don’t need to live in a pit of negativity, I can choose joy.

The Lord is my strength. He is my shield, my protector, the solid rock when I am unsteady, and today I rejoice in that truth. Just the act of seeking Him by searching for a verse on joy when I feel none, has power to change my attitude. I hope dear friend if you find yourself discouraged it gives you a bit of hope to keep chasing Him…


Because I am a part of this fun #Write31Days community I have something extra fun to share with you for the rest of this month! is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading! I’d love to see one of my readers win this so enter today!!  🙂

31 Days of Seeking Him – Green

31 Days of Seeking Him

The colors are changing quickly around town these days. The green that once filled the ground this summer is fast being replaced with browns. A sure sign of the ever changing seasons.

In the winter we hold onto hope that the green will come once again. We watch for it as the snow melts, we cheer when life appears again. In what at times seems like the endless drag of winter, the signs of new growth remind us that spring is just around the corner.

I love the changing seasons. This time of year is especially beautiful when the trees start to reveal their hidden beauty. What was once green begins to turn to yellows, oranges and brilliant reds. I have always wanted to travel to the Northeast where I hear they have some pretty magnificent displays! I am continually inspired by the beauty of the earth around me.

There is something about these changing seasons that reminds me of the growth I have had in my faith life.

At times I have felt cold and stuck in a repeated winter blah. God seems far away. (Usually it is me that has withdrawn and not Him) I fear that there won’t ever be new growth and yet I hold onto the hope of newness. Newness found in seeking Him.

And as it always has, spring comes again. New growth, new life….a greening of my faith as I experience life with God in a renewed way.

While the seasons change around me I can be  sure that there is one constant in all of it, and that is God. He is the same in each season of my life. He has always been there…even when I have pushed Him away, fought Him, blamed Him. God has always been beside me.

As I continue to seek God more and more I become more secure in His presence in my life. I see Him in the changing colors, I feel His presence even in the depths of winter and I find hope in the promise of new life that comes with the greens of spring.

He is and always has been there and I walk in faith knowing that will never change!


Because I am a part of this fun #Write31Days community I have something extra fun to share with you for the rest of this month! is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading! I’d love to see one of my readers win this so enter today!! 🙂

Why Our Individual Stories Matter

Journal 1

The word “blog” was something I hadn’t even heard of until early 2008. My husband and I had tickets to attend a Selah/Point of Grace concert and we heard that the lead singer of Selah wasn’t going to be able to attend. His wife was carrying a baby that was “incompatible with life” and she was due to deliver the same week as the concert.

The radio station gave the name of Angie Smith’s blog, and asked us to pray.

I wasn’t even sure what I would find on this blog, but I wanted to read more about this family. So that night, while using my incredibly slow dial up internet service, I logged on and found myself engrossed in a story I hadn’t expected.

Here was a woman, who had made a choice to carry a baby they were being told wouldn’t survive, and she was praising God in the middle of it.

I was heartbroken for her and yet inspired by her faith. My own prayer life changed as I found myself praying for Angie and her family. I watched as a community of strangers left comments and encouragement, offered up prayers and showered them with love.

Until that time I didn’t know that community could be formed online.

And then in February of that same year my husband and I had a miscarriage.  I was really struggling with the loss, even though it was early in the pregnancy, and I needed a way to process everything.

I had journaled as a teenager and thought that maybe this blog thing might help me. And so my first family blog was born.

I had 4 readers, literally 4. My parents and my grandparents. 🙂

Initially, I was writing for me….finding a way to work out my faith in this grief process I was going through.

The writing was healing for me and while I didn’t have an audience of 10,000….I was so encouraged by the community that I had seen form online that I kept going.

Then somehow I stumbled onto a few more blogs and “met” other women who were dealing with pregnancy loss and infertility struggles. I was not alone. And while none of us had the same story, I recognized that each individual story mattered.  (<=== Click to Tweet)

I am sharing the rest of the story over at Laura Rath’s blog today – will you join me over there?!

Compare x480 LR

Original Photo Credit: Walt Stoneburner modified by Kristin Smith