Friday, March 30, 2012

Random Thoughts on Personal Finances

Wow!  Has it really been one full week since my last post?  My apologies, ladies.  I have no excuses except to say that I took an unintentional "spring break" from blogging.  You see, my mother-in-law is a kindergarten teacher and this week was/is her spring break.  What does that have to do with me?  Well, being that we're a one car family and that one car happens to carry my hard-working hubby to his job every day, my mother-in-law is very aware that I am home all day, every day.  She kindly offered to help me run some errands, as well as get me out of the house, every. single. day. this week.  Today, I gave her a break so I could catch up on my neglected chores: laundry and dishes and dust, oh my!

Also, I've had a lot on my mind lately.  Mostly financial struggles.  Nothing too dire, but nothing too comfortable either.  Living on one income isn't easy but we continue to do it because we believe in the bigger picture.

Sure, it would be nice to have money to eat out or shop whenever we want but we also know that my son benefits from having me home.  When he was in daycare, we were at the doctor's office just about every week.  Now?  He {knock on wood} only has to go for routine check-ups.  Of course, health isn't the only benefit, but it is one that immediately came to mind {since he just had his 3 yr check up on Monday}.

Part of that "bigger picture" includes paying off debt and living more simply: less stuff.  It also includes more children, whether biological or adoptive {Lord willing}.  In order to achieve this bigger picture, we're praying about selling our home and renting/buying another less expensive home.  Our home isn't big {at 1375 sq feet}, so we're not looking to downsize in space, just in monthly payment.  So, I'm asking those of you who bless me every day by reading my words and leaving sweet comments, to please pray that God would give my husband and I wisdom to proceed as He sees fit.

Well, that's all for today folks!  I really do appreciate each and every one of you who take time out of your busy day to stop by Grace-Full Thoughts.  In return for praying for my family, is there any way I can specifically pray for you?

If you'd rather not leave your prayer request in the comments, feel free to email me at:
domesticblissdiaries {at} gmail {dot} com.



Friday, March 23, 2012

What I'm Reading

Have you ever had a week {or two or three}, where God was teaching you so many things that you literally felt mentally and emotionally exhausted from it all.  That's how I've felt recently.  Of course, I'm not complaining.  I'm so grateful that God reveals Himself and His will to us.  We don't have to guess what He wants.  All we have to do is get in His word!

In addition to diving into the Bible for guidance, God has also blessed certain people with the gift of writing who have, in turn, used that gift to teach young women like me practical ways to live out our faith.  Of course, if all I had was God's word, it would be sufficient.  But I consider it a blessing that we have access to other books that can help us strengthen our walk with the Lord.

Here is a list of books I'm reading now...

{Image Credit} 

It all started last week when I picked up the book Created to Be His Help Meet {read my review of this book: HERE}, which is all about having a biblical marriage.  I thought I knew what it meant to be a help meet to my husband, but this book taught me/reminded me of so many wonderful things {like, what I think about my husband, directly influences how I treat him}.  I can honestly say that, through the grace of God, my marriage is better for having put into practice what I read.

{Image Credit}

Last night, I started reading the book The Ministry of Motherhood, by Sally Clarkson.  I am only three chapters into the book, but I can already tell that God is going to use it to change my heart concerning my son {and future children}.  I never quite looked at motherhood as a ministry before, but it definitely is.  It is a calling that many take on halfheartedly, without considering the eternal impact of how faithfully/unfaithfully we fulfill our responsibility.

{Image Credit}

Another book I want to mention is Educating the WholeHearted Child{another Sally Clarkson book; this time written with her hubby, Clay}, which I ordered the other day.  It should be arriving at my home today and I am very excited because I have heard nothing but good things about this one, especially from those who homeschool.  Even if I were not planning on home-schooling, I would probably still read it.  After all, even if we don't officially home-school our children, we're always informally schooling them at home - in other words, we all educate our children on some level.

{Image Credit}

Another thing I've been struggling with recently is lagging energy.  Granted, this week hasn't been too bad, as I went walking with a friend earlier this week and have since dusted off my exercise videos.  However, in the past, it took all I had NOT to nap with my son every. single. day.  Can you relate?  If so, click HERE to learn more about this book. 

The "fine print": This post contains affiliate links.  Should you decide to make a purchase after clicking through, I will receive a small percentage of your total.  However, these books were either gifted to me by my wonderful mother - Christmas 2011 - or I've purchased them with my own money.  Either way, I just wanted to tell you about them.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Squeaky Clean Game Plan

Can you imagine watching a football game where neither side prepared?  No pregame strategy sessions.  No huddles.  No rules.  Just a bunch of men in uniform chasing each other.  Or how about an army that goes into battle without organizing a plan of attack?  Of course, it is humorous to think that either scenario would actually happen because we know how much time and effort goes into making sure each member of the team knows exactly what to do and how to do it.  So, why then, do we take on such grand tasks as cleaning and organizing our entire home, inside and out, without taking the time to plan?

If you haven't already, I'd like to encourage you to read yesterday's post, where I talk about a different kind of spring cleaning: a renewal of your heart and mind.  Once you are all "nice and clean" on the inside, you'll be better prepared to take on whatever your day may bring, whether it be cleaning, cooking, teaching, or anything else that falls under your homemaking jurisdiction.

Today, however, I'd like to share some ways you can formulate a spring cleaning plan of attack so that the process will be as painless as possible and, dare I say, almost fun...

Unless you know what needs attention, you're likely to flutter from one project to another without really completing any of them.  A list will help you see everything that needs to be done, all in one place.  To make this list, all you need to do is take a tour of your home, both inside and out.  A great tip is to pretend you are selling your house and look at it from the eyes of a potential buyer.  After all, why wait until it is time to sell to enjoy a home that doesn't have a laundry list of things that need fixing?

On that note, in addition to listing things that need to be fixed, write down spaces that need to be cleaned and areas that need to be organized.  By doing so, you'll be able to create a master list that you can refer to as you plan, as well as later on when you add new projects.  By the way, your home management binder is a great place to store this list for future reference.

Here are some helpful links to get you started:

Once you know what needs to be done, the next step is to make sure you have the proper tools to get the job accomplished.  When you lack the right tool for the job, it can take up an unnecessary amount of time and in some instances, could cause injury.  So, before you get started, it is important to make a list of everything you're going to need.

When you sit down to determine what you will need to tackle the spring cleaning monster, keep in mind the safety of the products themselves.  A lot of modern cleaning products have harmful chemicals in them, which can be avoided by creating your own cleaning products using common household ingredients.  Here are some websites with cleaning product "recipes":

Frugally Sustainable: Collection of Homemade Cleaners

Once you know what needs to be done and what tools/products you need to do it, the next step is to create an assignment sheet {delegating tasks to other family members} and an itinerary.  Once you've got your game plan ready, consider having a family huddle so you can communicate the job assignments and explain your expectations for how things are going to flow.  When you have a thought-out plan and family members who are willing to pitch in, you'll be done with the work in no time and can then move on to something more fun - say, taking everyone out for a celebratory ice cream {or other outing that everyone would enjoy}.

Here are some resources you may want to look over before forming that huddle:


Spending a little time planning before you jump right into cleaning can save you time, money, and frustration in the long run.  Also, getting your family involved can teach your children a valuable lesson in teamwork and responsibility.  Plus, the time spent together working hard and then, later, playing hard will aid in strengthening your family's bond.  Who knew spring cleaning could result in so many wonderful things in addition to a clean, organized, and "fixed" home?

Later on this week, I'll share some tips and tricks to help you clean some of the more challenging areas of the home, as well as some inspirational photos to motivate all of us to jump into this whole spring cleaning ritual with both feet.

So, I want to know, how do you prepare to spring clean?



Linked to:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Different Kind of Spring Cleaning

Today is the first day of spring.  The weather is warming up.  Flowers are blooming and snow is fading.  All around us, there are signs of renewed life.  Many individuals take this opportunity to spread the renewal-love inside their homes, bringing it back to life after the dark days of winter.

Every year, about this time, women are stocking their cleaning arsenal and formulating a game plan for how she might attack the cobwebs and dust bunnies that have taken up residence in the cracks and crevices of her home.  This is evident because the blog world is beginning to buzz about this annual ritual known as spring cleaning; that time of year when you deep clean every square foot of your abode.  Everyone wants to know the best and quickest way to get it done as soon as possible so they can enjoy a glass of lemonade while laying in their hammock and reading a magazine or favorite novel {at least, that's how I would spend my free time}.

In honor of this trend, I've dubbed this week, "Cleaning Week" on Grace-Full Intentions.  We're going to talk about all things cleaning so that you'll be prepared to tackle things full-force beginning next week.  But, first, it's important to do another kind of spring cleaning: a renewal of the heart and mind.

You see, whatever is found in your heart and in your mind, comes out in your words and actions, thus defining who you really are.  You might can fake kindness and gentleness for a little while, but eventually animosity and cruelty will come out, if that's what is stored inside.  The thing is, on your own, you can do nothing to sweep up those cobwebs.  You will need God to come and supernaturally do a spring cleaning session of His own.

Remember the post about being nothing apart from Him?  In it, I talked about the promise that John 15:5 gives us IF we remain in Him: you will bear much fruit.  We also talked about what kind of fruit this refers to.  But, do you know why bearing fruit is so important?

Matthew 7:16 says, "you will know them by their fruit...".  In this specific verse, Jesus was speaking to a crowd and was telling them how to identify false prophets whose goal is to deceive believers.  He goes on to explain {in verses 17-20} that good trees produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit.

In other words, those who are genuine Christians are going to be able to "prove" their faith by their actions. Now, the Bible is very clear that our actions {or works} alone cannot save us.  But James 2:26 tells us that "faith without works is dead".  So, if we claim to be a Christian, we ought to act like one.  Galatians 5:22-23 {see above}, tells us specifically what kind of characteristics that Christians are to display: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

So, if those characteristics were listed on a checklist how many could you check-off, as being evident in your life?
Before you break out your cleaners and microfiber cloths, why not try a different type of spring cleaning?
Get on your knees and ask God to do a work in you so that you may bear more fruit.  He will do it.



Linked to:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Apart from Him I Can Do Nothing

I sat there in the chair as the warm water cascaded upon my head, making its way down to my toes.  My midsection was still suffering from the pains of an emergency c-section and my hormones were raging.  Hubby gently washed my post-baby figure and did his best to encourage me that "this too shall pass".  Despite his best efforts, the tears flowed freely, becoming one with the water from above.

You see, I like to be in control and do things for myself.  The fact that someone else had to bathe me was utterly humiliating.  Didn't matter that it was my husband who was serving me by stepping into the role of caregiver.  No, I didn't like being so dependent on another person.

If you're like me, this desire for control extends far beyond the desire to clean our own body.  
We like to be in the driver's seat when it comes to every area of our lives, don't we?  It goes against our very nature to hand over the reigns to someone else, giving them full authority to make all decisions.

But, this is the very thing that the Lord asks us to do.  Ultimately, whether we actually "hand it over" or tighten our grasp on the steering wheel, God is sovereign over all.  It's when we head His call to let go that we experience true freedom and joy.

How exactly do you surrender?

In John 15:5, we read the answer to that question and it is this: remain in Him.  Read His Word faithfully.  Pray unceasingly.  Run the race and stay the course.  Press on.  Because if you don't, you won't be able to do anything.  You will fail to love your husband well.  You will be lacking in your attempt to mother your children out of your own strength.  You will run out steam as you try to keep up with life's demands.

On the other side of that coin, though, is a glorious truth.  If we remain in Him, drawing nourishment from the Vine, we will bear fruit.  But, not just a little fruit.  The verse tells us that we will bear MUCH fruit.

In other words, you'll be overflowing with love for your husband.  You'll experience joy in the midst of trials and a peace that defies logic.  You'll practice patience when your children disobey and kindness as you "train them up in the way they should go".  You'll spread goodness to all you meet and be an example of faithfulness to future generations.  You'll have a spirit of gentleness and develop self-control that is unheard of in today's culture.

This doesn't mean you will be perfect; far from it, actually.  I just means that you will begin to bear the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  You will look more and more like Jesus every day.

Doesn't that sound wonderful?

It's all up to you, though.  Cling to your beloved control and in the end, accomplish nothing.  Or, allow God to take over and experience that life of abundance that John 10:10 mentions.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Encouragement for Weary Moms

When I was pregnant with our son, people would say things to me like "they grow up so fast" and "enjoy the younger years".  What they failed to tell me was how difficult it is to raise a child or that you have to actually invest a significant amount of time and effort.  They didn't explain what it would require of me to nurture them, train them, discipline them, and disciple them.  This parenting gig is much harder than I ever anticipated.

Don't get me wrong, it's also just as wonderful as those individuals made it out to be.  It really is.  But, ask any mother and she will tell you that to raising a child to know and love Jesus is a full-time job.

With that in mind, I simply wanted to take a moment to send some encouragement your way.
 So, please allow me to direct you to 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10.  It says:
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Verse 7 begins with Paul talking about his thorn in the flesh.  Now, I'm not going to get into what it was because 1. there are several different opinions and 2. it just doesn't say {it says messenger from Satan, so I would assume it was a demon}.  The greater point is that there was something bothering him.  Something causing him pain.  {Can you relate?}

So, what does Paul do about this discomfort?  He cries out to God.  Not once.  Not twice.  But THREE different times.  He begs.  He pleads.  All he wants is for this "thorn" to go away.  {Note: I'm in no way trying to compare raising children to having a thorn in the side... though some days we may feel that way.  What I am saying is that being a mom is often painful and uncomfortable.  It stretches us and requires an enormous amount of dedication and energy.}

Now, in my opinion, if anyone deserved for God to grant his plea, it would be Paul.  I mean, Paul was a great Christian man who dedicated his life to serving God.  He was beaten and imprisoned for his faith.  Surely, he deserved some kind of relief from his troubles.

But God doesn't grant his request.  What does He say?  

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."  

Because I'm a complete nerd, will you humor me as I break down this statement: 
  • Grace - Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. {Noah Webster Dictionary, 1828}.
  • Sufficient  Enough; equal to the end proposed; adequate to wants; competent. {Noah Webster Dictionary, 1828}.
  • Power -  Force; strength; energy {Noah Webster Dictionary, 1828}.
  • Perfected - Finished; completed {Noah Webster Dictionary, 1828}.
  • Weakness -  Want of physical strength; want of force or vigor; feebleness {Noah Webster Dictionary, 1828}.
So, to paraphrase this statement which, by the way, comes directly from the mouth of God: "My love for you is all you need.  For my strength comes when you are weak."


{I'm raising my hand too!}

What God told Paul all those years ago is still true today.  God's grace and strength are all we need.

I like how this post from Inspired to Action said it {and I'm paraphrasing here as well}: 
"Often times when we feel weak, we pray for strength.However, this verse tells us that when we do so, we're praying the wrong thing.We ought to pray for God to BE our strength.God will become our strength and be glorified in our weakness."

One last thing I want to point out and I'll wrap it up... Notice in verse 10, Paul says:

"Therefore I am WELL CONTENT with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." {emphasis mine}

Are you well content in your weaknesses and distresses?  I must admit that I cannot always answer that question with a confident "Yes!".  In fact, most of the time, I'd have to hang my head and mumble some form of "no...uh..not really...I mean...I try to...well...".  But we ALL should be content to go through trials because as he says at the end of that verse: "when I am weak, then I am strong."

In case you didn't catch the encouraging part, here's the main point I wanted to communicated with you:

It is more than okay to be weak.  You don't have to be strong.  When you are at your weakest, His power makes you strong.  God is glorified in your weakness.  After all, isn't our greater purpose to glory Him?

So, dear mother, 
who is weary from staying up all night with a sick little one...
who spends her days cleaning up countless spills and wiping endlessly runny noses...
who would give anything for a nap...
who sometimes forgets to eat...
who feels completely worn down. exhausted...
take heart...

for when you are weak, He doesn't just give you strength,
He IS your strength!!



Linked to:

Beautiful on the Inside

I'm a girl.  But, I'm not JUST a girl, I'm a girly girl!  That's right... I love skirts, the color pink, high heels and putting together outfits that make me feel pretty and feminine.  I blame it on the fact that I grew up with one other sibling - a sister - and now live I with two boys... my hubby and my little man.  So, whenever I have the chance, I like to fully embrace the estrogen that I add to this household.  

The problem is, when I seek out style inspiration, I find that society definitely has its opinion of what it means to be a beautiful woman.  I don't know about you, but to fit the world's mold, I'd have to
starve myself, lie in a tanning bed every single day, work out for hours at a time, and spend thousands of dollars in makeup, hair products/styling, clothes, etc...No thanks! Not a fan of starvation, prefer not to use tanning beds {hello, skin cancer}, have better things to do than spend half of my day in a gym, and can think of a million other ways to spend my money.

Am I implying that it's wrong for us, as women, to care about our looks?  No.  Not necessarily.  But there is a difference in dieting and exercising because you want to look a certain way versus eating well and staying active in order to become/remain healthy so that we can be of service to God.  After all, we can't exactly meet our responsibilities if we are sick all the time. 

Really, it boils down to a heart issue.

The phrase "merely external" tells me that we are free to keep up with our outward appearance - braid our hair, wear gold jewelry, and put on dresses - but it shouldn't be the only way we adorn ourselves.  This verse says that the greater goal is inner beauty - a gentle and quiet spirit.  

If you spend hours sweating in a gym, yet you don't take the time to pray...  If you carefully apply make-up, yet you don't crack open your Bible... If you always wear the cutest clothes, yet your attitude is always negative... you are sinning against the Lord.

On the other hand, if you spend just as much {if not more} time genuinely pursuing Him - reading His Word and praying - as you do getting manicures and fussing over your hair, you will be an example of a woman who is beautiful, both inside and out.

So, I will enjoy being a girl - styling my hair, putting together pretty outfits, wearing high heels {when my feet will allow it}, painting my finger nails, and yes, attempting to lose some of this extra weight that I've allowed to creep into my body since having a little one three years ago.  But, I am also going to strive to devote just as much time to my walk with the Lord.

One day our outer beauty will fade away.  And when it does, what will be left?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Home Management Binder {Printables List}

You've run out of the ingredient you need for that recipe... again.  You can't remember when your son's next dentist appointment should be and your husband wants to know how much you pay for your electric bill every month.  You seem to have misplaced your notes for this week's Bible study class and you forgot to return that stack of books to the library.

I know how overwhelming it can be to run a household.
After all, at any given moment I'm juggling a husband, children {some mine, some not}, housework, a job/business, errands, bills, meal prep, ministry, exercise, {attempting to} take care of myself, and most importantly, spending one on one time with my heavenly Father.  And you know what? It never ends.

Sound familiar?

If so, you know there are only three choices... Option #1 - Give up!  Don't do any of it.  But, really, you and I both know that this isn't a REAL option.  Option #2 - Wing it.  Just hope and pray that everything gets done the way it's supposed to.  But, truth be told, this one isn't much of an option either.  The only realistic option is #3 - Hire a personal assistant.  Put together a home management binder that will function like a second brain.

Unfortunately, mine isn't quite ready for show-and-tell just yet.  But, in the meantime, I thought I'd share some resources for free printables in case you wanted to create {or revamp} your own:

If you know of any more great printables out there, whether you created them or stumbled upon them, please let me know and I will add them to this list.


Why I Blog

The teacher stands in front of the class every Monday morning and hands everyone a piece of paper with our weekly spelling words.  "Remember, class, you need to write a story that uses all of these words and turn it into me by Friday," she sweetly reminds the sea of 9-year-old bodies that glare back at her with disinterest.  A chorus of sighs erupt all around me as I tightly grasp my copy of the assignment and give in to the smile I had been trying to suppress. 

You see, while others saw that list of words as a burden, I saw it as my golden ticket.  For what, you may ask?  Well, I saw it as permission to let my imagination run wild.  After all, these words didn't always make much sense with each other, especially in a story.  But the challenge thrilled me as I had to really stretch my brain to come up with a story in which these words would make sense together.

And that, my friends, is when I first fell in love... with writing.

I would eagerly go home and immediately sit down to pen my masterpiece.  At least, I considered it to be such.  Never before and never since have I so immensely enjoyed completing my homework.  Just ask my mom. She remembers those crazy stories I would come up with and she always looked forward to reading them.  Upon reading the last word, she would always look up from the paper and tell me what a great writer I was.  Of course, it could have just been her maternal bias but my teacher seemed to like my stories too.  This was evident by the good grades I would always earn.

Please understand, I don't mention my mom's praises or my good grades to boast.  I simply want to communicate the fact that I sincerely enjoyed the process of using my brain to weave a story, much like a painter finds satisfaction in the journey from blank canvas to work of art.  At such a young age, I was lucky to have found "my thing".

I will admit that there was a dry spell that lasted from about the time I was in middle school until the latter half of this past year where I didn't write much {at least, not really write}.  To be honest, I had no desire.  Plus, growing up, I thought, "what in the world could I possibly do to make money as a writer?".  If only I had known...

So today, I'm using "my thing" to blog.  Tomorrow?  Who knows?

I know it sounds like "because I like to write" is the answer to the "why I blog" question, but it isn't.  However, it is the answer to the "why I use blogging to pursue my bigger passion" question.  So, why exactly do I blog?

You see, ever since I can remember I've wanted to be a teacher.  All of the spiritual gifts tests I took as a teenager reinforced this desire in me to teach {teaching was/is my gift}.  In high school, I was even a part of the Future Educators of America program and in my 1 year of college, I pursued an Elementary Education degree.  Problem was, I didn't feel like Elementary Education was what I wanted to dedicate thousands of dollars {for college} to, nor did I want to spend the rest of my life in a classroom.

To make a long story short slight less long, after leaving college and moving back home, I have spent the past eight years chasing my tail when it comes to figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.  But, you know what?  I think I finally got it...


Teaching is my spiritual gift and I MUST use it.  However, I thought I had to use it in the traditional sense.  But I know now that isn't the case.  In fact, there are a million ways to be a teacher.

The way I have chosen, as far as this blog is concerned, is to encourage and equip women to pursue domestic bliss.

Still confused?

I like how defines encourage:
to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence; to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.; to promote advance or foster.

And "equip" means:
to furnish or provide with whatever is needed for use or for any undertaking; to furnish with intellectual or emotional resources; prepare
The word "domestic" refers to home or family.  And "bliss" simply means "utter joy and contentment".

Put it all together and you get my mission statement for this blog:

To encourage {inspire, stimulate, promote} and equip {furnish, prepare} women to pursue domestic {home + family} bliss {joy, contentment}.  To cheer you on and guide you as journey towards contentment in your calling as a wife, mother, and homemaker.  But more importantly, to do all that you do for the glory of the One who gave His life to save you.  After all, when it all boils down, this space isn't about me.  And it isn't about you.  It's about HIM.