Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Short life, positive changes, future focus

"You're awesome."

My grandma gave Nate a hug and said this as she left after a weekend visit.

I'm not sure I've ever heard my grandma say those words, and although I know how wonderful my husband is, it's pretty awesome for your grandmother to agree with your mate.

I saw a lot of differences in my grandma this weekend. She was quiet. She was positive. She didn't complain, and she seemed to really enjoy the little things like getting to go to my dance recital and coming to visit.

My grandma was recently diagnosed with colon cancer, and traumatic as a diagnosis like that is, sometimes it's exactly what we need to prioritize life.

Sometimes people receive bad news like cancer with bitterness and loathing, but I would guess that more often than not it makes them think about how precious their family is to them and makes them realize what is important and not important in life. We all need to look at life through the lens of death, through the lens that shows us that life here is not long and that most of what we invest in is only temporary.

That's wonderful that my grandma is using this time to think more positively and to dole out compliments. It's wonderful that she wants to spend these moments with her family.

However beautiful those things are, it still makes me think of the importance of eternity. If life here is so short, what we really need to focus on and invest is not anything of this world. What we need to invest in is our souls and the souls of those around us.

It makes me want to push my grandma, to make sure that she has accepted Jesus as her savior. Because, at this point, that's really the main change that needs to be made. Jesus knew that our time on our earth is short, and he wanted the rest of our eternal lives to be good and to be spent with him instead of spent suffering eternal torment in hell.

That's why he came to earth and took on all our sins on the cross and died for us, rising again and beating death for us.

Even when cancer, or any other illness, comes a-calling, if we have hope in Jesus Christ and his salvation, we can realize that life here is short. We can spend our short lives despairing of them, or we can be positive and give out compliments and treasure the little things. And then we can focus our eyes on Jesus and realize that this life is temporary and if we accept him as our savior that we can have much more time.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The real good Samaritan

"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)
Anyone who started going to church as a child heard this story. We all knew that we were supposed to go out and act as Good Samaritans.
However, at the conference that I went to, Jen Wilkin talked about another viewpoint of this popular story.
When reading this story, Wilkin asked if the Bible was a story about us or a story about God. I have to say, I've always read the Bible looking for what I needed to know and what I should learn from it. Really though, the Bible is God's autobiography. It's his story that he gave to us to read. Yes, there's lots to learn from it. However, we also just need to read it and learn about God through it.
So, we looked at the story of the Good Samaritan through that viewpoint.
There is a man who's dying, close to death. No one would/could save him, except this one Samaritan -- who was a man with heritage that made him hated by all Jews. He took this dying man to a hotel and fixed him up, bringing him back from death and then paid for all his care. He then said he would come back to settle up the rest of the debts.
Why, this isn't a story about how we should act at all. This too is a story about God.
We are the people who were dead and dying. Jesus came by, a man hated by Jews, and took us from the brink of death. He died on the cross to pay for our debts, and he promises to come back one day. Jesus is the true good Samaritan.
Blew my mind.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Don't get busy, enjoy slower moments

I was dreaming something about a family that went through a car accident and were talking about the medication that they were having to take when my head popped off my pillow, and I realized that I was late for my morning run.

I had already skipped running on Wednesday and I knew that I needed to get up this morning. So I pulled on my clothes and hopped in the car to drive to meet my friends instead of walking to meet them, making me a little less late.

It's been one of those weeks. From the wonderful Bible conference last weekend that I have yet had time to write about to regular dance on Monday to our board meeting on Thursday night to cleaning the house to missing dress rehearsal for dance tonight in order to be at our huge event at work to two dance recitals tomorrow --- it's a crazy time.

These weekends happen, but lots of people have this as daily life. It makes me sad to see our world come to such busyness. I am sad that this weekend I have to miss dress rehearsal and time with my mom and grandma in order to do everything that needs done. Many people have to miss something often because it coincides with something else they have to do.

I think it's important to give your all to what you do, and that often means cutting out what is not top priority to not spread yourself too thin.

Also, people need to realize that their family life is also a choice. Life is not just a choice between activities, but it is also a choice between family time and activities. You might not be able to participate in everything you want to because you need some free time to just be with your family.

Moments of calm amidst the storm are my favorite. I love it when Nate and I don't have anything to do and just get to be, and just get to spend time together. Even when we do nothing, I think it strengthens our relationship to just show each other that we treasure time together and don't have to schedule every minute of every day.

I encourage you this weekend, when I am busy and running around, to slow down. Don't follow in my footsteps this weekend. Instead, enjoy each other. Enjoy your little moments as I have some big(ish) moments.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Not my circus

I'm at a different church today, ending a weekend trip with my best college friends. I hate calling them my college friends, like they aren't significant today, they are. In fact, they are very significant. It's because it is with these women that I share a wonderful closeness due to our shared faith in the one true God.

It's awesome to finish out a weekend through sharing in church.

Walked in, and there is a circus scene on the stage. Odd. The series is called "Not My Circus,  Not My Monkeys." Apparently it's an old Polish proverb. Basically, mind your own business.

What is our business? The pastor said it's minding our callings from God.

During the women's conference we also attended this weekend, we talked about how we have many roles but only one job --- to love God with my heart, soul, strength and mind.

We tend to stray from our business to someone else's business. In John 21, Peter is told that he will die for his faith. But he asks "What about John?" Jesus told him that he shouldn't worry about what would happen to John, but only himself.

We may want to get involved in someone else's life in order to fix him or her, judge him or her,  surpass him or her, fight with them to prove we're right or to control them. However, most of what happens in someone else's life does not really concern me. Free yourself of that and concentrate on what God has for you.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why cut back on groceries?

After yesterday's post, maybe I should explain a little bit about why I want to cut out grocery bill in half or more.

Life isn't about never spending any money or finding ways to cut corners, but it's about priorities. It's about prioritizing your time, the people in your life and the way you spend your money.

When Nate and I got married, we knew that budgeting would be a bit tricky. I am a saver, even a penny pincher, by nature. He is a spender. We had to learn to acclimate to each other.

One way that we started to acclimate was by prioritizing. What would we try to save on and what would we splurge on?

We eventually narrowed down the list, without really sitting down and talking about it. Things just came up and we figured out our priorities. We decided that someday, we would want to live on an acreage so that we could have animals and we could have good, quality family time outdoors and so that our children would have chores and grow up with responsibilities. That means putting a lot of money toward our mortgage now, because we can only afford an acreage if we pay off our house as quickly as possible.

That is a huge priority and a place where we do spend money.

We also love to vacation. We like to get away and spend time together. We like good food and drinks and fun on the beach. It's worth it to us to have a nice vacation and to spend the money there.

We also don't see the point of eating out unless it is food that I couldn't make at home, and that usually means seafood or something expensive that we splurge on. It doesn't happen often, but if we do eat out, we splurge.

So, wanting to spend money on those bigger items means we cut out the smaller items. We don't need to get Starbucks coffee whenever the craving strikes, when we can make coffee at home. We don't eat out when we get home late, we make macaroni and cheese. We don't go to the movies when renting a movie or waiting until it comes on TV will do. And we don't need to waste a whole bunch of money at the grocery store.

It's good to take a step back and look at life. What is worth spending money to you? Don't just spend willy-nilly but really examine your dollars and where they are going. You only get so much, and you have to take responsibility for where it goes. Don't complain you don't have enough, decide where you spend it and that's that.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cutting our grocery bill in half, and more

I was raised with a frugal mentality, and I've never really liked to spend money. Granted, it's quite necessary in life to spend money.

However, since getting married I have tried to prioritize where our finances go, and one of the biggest ways I have cut down our spending is on groceries. I just thought I could share a few of my ideas and the way that I cut our grocery bill in half some months and some months much more than that.

1. Meal plan

I'm sure you've heard it before. Go into grocery shopping with a list, and shop only for items on that list. However, to have a good list, you have to know what you're going to cook. When you have to stop and search through the fridge and come up with a meal, you'll probably end up going back to the store to get some other ingredient that you need. And you'll walk out with more than that one ingredient.

Before I grocery shop, which is about once a month, I sit down and write out what meals I'm going to make. I pick about 20 meals, because I know some nights we're going to get home late and want to just eat a bowl of cereal or have macaroni and cheese really quick.

I also pick meals that have various amounts of prep work. Sometimes I want to cook a hearty, complicated meal. Sometimes I want to have dinner in 20 minutes. If I don't have something I can cook quickly, we will be tempted to eat out. If I have dinner options that are easily prepared, we will save money and eat that at home.

Also, make sure to utilize what you have on hand. Have a stockpile of fish in the freezer? Use them up. Don't go buy more protein when you already have some. Use what you have before it goes bad.

2. Shop sales

When you start meal planning, look through the sale ads. Maybe something is a great deal this week; what can you make that utilizes that item?

I also know what staples I must have. I go through a ton of butter and chicken broth. That means when those items go on sale, I buy them in bulk. Know what you always use and buy them when they're on sale, even if you don't need them at that moment. You'll use it and be glad you don't have to go pick them up at full price.

3. Get a Sam's Club membership

I have a Sam's Club membership, so I don't know about other bulk stores like Costco. I do know that Costco doesn't sell Starbucks coffee in bulk, and that's why we have a Sam's membership. To each their own.

We tried out Sam's Club to see if the $40 per year was worth it. It is, even if you just buy a few things. I get shredded cheese in 5-pound packages, which equals to about $2 per pound. Even a good sale on cheese in the grocery store is $2.50 for eight-ounce packages. I keep the cheese in the freezer and use it when I need it. Then it doesn't go bad and I save lots of money on cheese.

Other staples from Sam's Club: Mountain Dew, olive oil, peanut or plain M&M's, apple juice, and others when they are on sale. It's worth the membership fee.

4. Don't go back to the store

When you have your meal plan, stick to it. Don't go back to the store each week to pick up a little something else. You'll probably grab more than you need. Just pick something off your list.

5. Other

There are other things that have helped keep our grocery bill down, and maybe I blog about those more at another time. I grow vegetables in the garden and vacuum seal them to use all year round. I also make my own tomato sauce and pasta sauce and can it.

Nate goes fishing and hunting, and that is fun for him plus takes away our need to buy protein, which saves a lot of money. We vacuum seal those items so they stay fresh for a long time.

Plus, I bake a lot. I make things from scratch, and ingredients are a lot cheaper than the final product. So take a little time and make your own cookies, breads, tortillas, pita bread and so much more.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Christ is risen

Last night, Nate flipped channels and started watching "The Bible" marathon on Jesus' death and resurrection.

I have to say, this is a busy month and I knew that this weekend was going to be my last free time so I had a long to-do list. My weekend was mostly concentrated on getting things done, and I hadn't thought a whole lot about Easter. Nate had to work and we weren't doing anything to celebrate other than go to church, so it didn't seem like a big deal.

But then I started to watch Jesus' story play out on TV. His hands healed the lame. His tone conveyed forgiveness to Judas and Peter when they betrayed him. His battered face came before the Jewish leaders and yet he was calm when they wanted to kill him.

It was about 9:30 p.m. when the time came for the next part of the story. I got up and asked Novie if she needed to go out one more time. Nate asked, "Don't you like this show?"

"Not before I go to bed," I answered.

I didn't want to see it. I didn't want to watch Jesus go through the excruciating pain I knew he was about to endure on the screen. I didn't want to see his bloodied body nailed to a cross. I didn't want to see him die.

It's heart-breaking to think about, and it's good that we do think about it this time of year, and throughout the year. If we don't see those images sometimes, if we don't contemplate all that Jesus did for us, we don't appreciate it very much. We have to stop and realize just how much Jesus, the perfect and holy son of God, went through just for us. He didn't deserve any of it. We do. But he took it on himself to take our punishment.

I might have sat and watched the TV show if I knew that I would see the end of the story though, but I knew we would go to bed before it ended.

You see, it's horrible to watch all that Jesus went through, all that pain and suffering. But the story thankfully doesn't end there. It ends with a brilliance beyond what we can imagine. It ends when Jesus raises from the dead and conquers death and Satan.

Growing up, my home church called Easter Resurrection Sunday. It's kind of a mouthful to say "Happy Resurrection Sunday," so I said "Happy Easter" when greeting the congregation at church this morning. However, I like calling it Resurrection Sunday. I like that it focuses on the amazing miracle that Jesus did that day. I like that it focuses on Jesus instead of bringing up visions of bunnies, eggs and candy.

The story has a beautiful ending. Jesus is alive. So, happy Resurrection Sunday.

Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed.