We Need Reminders of God’s Faithfulness

Reminders of God's Faithfulness | Ebenezer

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shenand called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” —1 Samuel 7:12

Lately, I’ve felt far from God. Just disconnected and removed. I can’t pinpoint an actual event that sparked it, but I will say in the “departments” of money, budget, job growth/security, church life, and family members, etc., I haven’t known what God’s been up to for many years.

In 2010, our church closed, which was devastating to us. To this day, we mourn its loss. In 2012, my mother died—a painful absence which I feel every single day. I hate thinking I’ll be having to do life without her for 40ish more years.

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

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Seeing My Sin In The Middle of a Crisis

31 Days to a Deeper Faith writingmomof3 Going through a crisis has the strangest way of exposing all sorts of things about you, your beliefs, your feelings, your relationships, and your sin.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that any of these things—or your doing or not doing something—causes the crisis or that God is somehow punishing you with a crisis because of something you did or did not do.

Certainly, of course, a crisis may result from the natural consequences of one’s actions (mismanagement of money leads to bankruptcy), but God never sends calamity as punishment for your sin (as Pat Robertson is likely to teach).

What I’m saying is that while one is going through crisis, God will use the time and the circumstances to reveal many things to you. During our time of unemployment, a dwindling bank account, a diet of rice and beans, and a stripped-back life of just the essentials, God has hit me in the face with my sin of idolatry of money.

I know that I’ve struggled with this forever. But I’m telling you: until I’ve been in this utterly dependent situation, I’ve not fully confronted the depth of how committed I’ve been to this sin.

Seeing My Sin In the Middle of a Crisis

Day Seven

I love money. I love having enough and more than enough. I love pretty things, I love convenience, and I love comfort. I love being able to coast along on auto-pilot without much regard for stewardship or planning.

I resent people who have more money than I have. I’m constantly plagued by comparing myself to others and their monetary situation. I am jealous and critical. And then I become depressed. Depressed that I don’t have enough and depressed that I’m a lousy steward of what I do have. Depressed that this particular sin has taken up primary residence in my heart.

I don’t have a magic formula for identifying sin, confessing and repenting of it, and moving past it. No. But I do know that as I’ve found myself in this crisis, I do believe that God is working in many ways — and on this specific way with me.

Seeing My Sin, Confronting It, and Repenting

First, I had been praying that God would reveal my sin to me. Yea. A dangerous prayer, but important nonetheless.

Second, I continue to pray for his revelation of my sin to me.

Third, I pray that he—in all of his perfection—would be everything and more to me than my idols. This is an ongoing exercise that’s a mix of prayer, journaling, meditation, and talking to myself. I am fully dependent and trusting on God—not material items.

Finally, and this is a biggie!—I pray that God would empower me to turn from my sin and deliver me from my own insecurities and jealousies.

Photo Credit: MickWatson via Compfight cc

5 Steps To Starting a Money-Making Blog

I’ve been blogging for about 2.5 years and have learned a lot about the craft. I have people ask me all the time how to begin blogging and about the prospect of making money doing so. I’ll share with you my 5 steps to starting a money-making blog.

1. Create.

Find a topic about which you are passionate. I believe that niche blogging can be the most lucrative. Since the web is world-wide, your audience literally spans the globe. Find your passion, focus your mission (why will you write this blog?), then go find your audience. Approach it as a “they need what I’m offering, I just have to find them” problem.

2. Establish.

Technically, the best course for setting up your blog is to buy a domain from a manager such as GoDaddy.com and self-host your site, using WordPress.org and hosts such as MomWebs or DreamHost. From there, you can find templates for design or hire a designer. This will cost you a little bit of money, but it shouldn’t be much. I’ve enjoyed my time on here on free Blogger, but were I beginning a brand-new blog, I’d probably go the self-hosted route.

3. Post.

Write posts that convey your passion. Write often—at least three times a week. Write from the heart.

4. Monetize.

Place ads on your blog using Google Adsense and Lijit (I have these). Sell your own ads. Become an affiliate for other products and companies, such as Amazon. The goal here is to diversify. You must also be prepared to make little to no money in the beginning. The title says, “money-making” not “lotsa money-making”!

5. Promote.

Remember: you are trying to find your audience. Go where they are and draw them in. Use Facebook (my second biggest source for referrals) to create a “Like” page. Use the Twitter search function to find like-minded persons to follow. Be active on communities such as BlogFrog. Send an email to your family, your Sunday school class, your co-workers asking them to check out your blog. Have business cards printed with your blog address. Creatively seek out your audience within all the circles of your life.

The magic formula for a money-making blog is this:

CONTENT ——–> TRAFFIC ——–>  PAGE VIEWS ——–>  AD $$$ ——–>  MONEY for you

Keep unique and high quality content first and the rest will follow.

Do you have a money-making blog? If so, would you tell us how much you make—roughly—each month? What other tips would you offer bloggers?

~~~



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photo: blary54 at stock.xchng

Around the Block: Saturday Stumbles

I’m still giddy with excitement and my brain is buzzing after last weekend’s Savvy Blogging Summit. One of the things I’ve decided to do more consistently with my blog is to participate in Saturday Stumbles at It’s Come 2 This. Visit her site to find some other great bloggers and their recommendations.

What I’ve been reading this week:

Laundry Schmaundry!

If you’re like me, you, too, wrestle with your laundry: finding/making the time to do it, doing it properly, or creating a new routine.

Guess what? One of my new friends, Lauren, has a blog about LAUNDRY! I met Lauren last weekend at the Summit and was really blown away to meet someone who:

  1. loved laundry and 
  2. decided to devote an entire blog to the chore! 

In Lauren, I had met my match-made-in-homekeeping-heaven!

Mama’s Laundry Talk is a super-helpful and practical blog, plus Lauren is a real delight! Go visit Mama’s Laundry Talk for tips, insights, and help on all-things laundry.

A Greasy Way to Save?

Who doesn’t want to save an extra penny or two? How much you spend on hair products? Well, why don’t you consider going shampoo-free? That’s right. Just. stop. shampooing. your. hair.

You’re crazy, you say? Well, check out this essay on the “no-poo ‘do”. The post tells you exactly how to care for your “no-poo ‘do” and cites the myriad benefits of getting the gunk out of your hair. It appeals to me as a busy mom because that’s one less thing I’d have to do in the 10 5 minutes I actually get in the bathroom during the grooming routine.

Let me know what you think and if you’d try it. (If you DO try it, come back here and let us know how it worked.)

Shameless plugs (I am compensated to work on the publicity teams for the following authors and their books. I am also a paid affiliate for Amazon and do receive a small commission on sales based upon my recommendations)

This summer, I’m helping four authors with their social media and blogging efforts. Please check out their blogs, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Frank Santora has written a book called Turn It Around, which is chock full of encouragement for persons going through tough times (who’s not going through tough times?). I know you’ll find perseverance in the pages of this book as Frank points you to the hope in Christ.

My Grandmother is … praying for me is an awesome new daily devotional written by three grandmothers—Kathy March, Pam Ferriss, and Susan Kelton—for grandmothers. It takes the reader through the book of Proverbs with Scripture, prayers, and activities.

Go check out their blogs, leave a comment, and tell a friend!

What have you read this week that’s insightful, interesting, or surprising?
~~~


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25 Barbies

Money—well, the lack of it, actually—is a constant topic of conversation at our house.

I read this post and decided to join this blog tour at The Parent Bloggers Network, which got me to thinking about our own kids and their materialistic notions.

Sadly, they are more materialistic than I would like. We talk about our desire for instilling in our kids frugality, simplicity, and gratitude.

But… I’m not so sure how well we’re succeeding in that department.

Out of curiosity, I wandered into my daughter’s room tonight and counted her Barbie dolls.

She has 25.

25.

When I was a little girl, I had one: Malibu Barbie.

As we shopped for back-to-school supplies and clothes this year, I was overwhelmed. I had to repeatedly say, “No. We came for glue. Only glue.” Or, “You need one white shirt. One. White. Shirt.”

So, as our routines get more established with the new school year, Chris and I are hoping, praying to implement a new system for teaching our kids how money and work are connected.

Here’s my idea:

Each child has a poster board with five of those index card pockets glued to the top and five glued to the bottom. The first two pockets are Monday (morning and evening); the next are Tuesday, and so on. Morning cards have morning chores; evening cards have after-school/evening chores. These are extremely basic and age-appropriate but things that help the house run smoothly, teach responsibility and teamwork. Saturday’s chores involve a little bit more, and Sunday’s cards both say, DAY OF REST.

When the chore is finished, the child turns the card to the end with the smiley face. On Saturdays, if the child has all smiley faces, he or she gets a fuzzy ball in their jar (more about that below). Each smiley face is worth a nickel, and the child is paid accordingly.

From this point, we will instruct the children on what it means to save, spend, and give their money. We will have the kids put about 10% of their earnings in the church collection plate and encourage them to consider other ways to give their money.

I think it’s never too early to have the kids begin saving for their first car. My boys will absolutely start putting some money back for a “ring fund.” I heard this idea from a friend this summer, and I was so impressed. More than anything, I want my boys to grow into responsible men. Don’t these lessons begin here and now?

Fuzzy Ball Jars

The kids, too, each have a “fuzzy ball” jar (as I mentioned above). These are just small, clear glass jars with no lids. I get the “fuzzy balls” at the dollar store or craft store. They are the little multi-colored pom-pom balls for crafts. I figured they were safe and couldn’t break the glass or go rolling all over the floor if spilled. Plus, the colors make a great visual in the clear jars.

So, for each “perfect” week, the kids get to put a fuzzy ball in their jar. The fuzzy ball jar, also, can be used as a reward jar (“you played so nicely today with your brother”) or a punishment jar (“you’re losing three fuzzy balls tonight because you had a horrible attitude at the park”).

When the fuzzy ball jar is full, the child gets a $10 gift of their choice from the store of their choice.

So, I’m hoping and praying to accomplish many things with our new system:

  • Responsibility, sense of ownership
  • Stewardship, gratitude
  • Charity, other-centeredness
  • Frugality, self-denial
  • Accountability, teamwork
  • Long-term viewpoint, commitment
  • Discipline and work ethic
  • Ultimately, a desire to work and behave simply for the benefit of pleasing parents and God (OK? a smidge too Pollyanna?)

and, oh…

  • whittling down the Barbies to a number that’s not quite so indulgent.

I’ll keep you posted with our progress.

I have written this post as a part of a Parent Bloggers Network Blog Blast. The Parent Bloggers Network and Capital One are working together to help educate kids on money management and budgeting as the new school year gets underway.

Just a Busy Bee

I know I was going to get all caught up on my posts and pics, but alas, I have not.

I am so busy right now, I’m just trying to keep moving forward and meeting everyone’s basic needs.

We are quite grateful for extra work, which means extra $$$, but we do feel the brunt of it on the house and lifestyle.

We got through our big yard sale in the pouring rain. I’m getting assignments turned in as I begin a new part-time job.

Whew! I’ll get caught up sometime. Just not sure when.

My Life as Defined by Cheese

My kids are cheese addicts. I have tried really hard to acclimate their taste buds to REAL cheese, as opposed to FAKE cheese. For the most part, I have been successful. They like Colby Jack and Mozzarella, Feta and Cheddar.

By himself, Spencer could consume a block of cheese in one sitting.

I vacillate between being concerned that my kids are consuming too much cholesterol and fat and being thrilled that they are enjoying NATURAL snacks full of calcium and protein. Somehow, I can’t settle on any middle ground.

So this brings us to our latest cheese experience. Always on the lookout for new ways to get healthy food into my kids, I decided to give the little Babybel cheese rounds a try. A friend had mentioned they are good for lunch boxes and snacking.

I found them at Publix–almost $4.00 for six pieces. Ugh! Sixty-something cents per piece of cheese. That’s pricey cheese! I was debating if I should I try them or not.

Then–there in the middle of the Publix cheese aisle–reality gave way to my Mommy Vision. You know the one. I’m always dressed in pressed chinos and pearls, busily working in the home while the children flit gaily about:

Mom: Children! Time for a wholesome, tasty snack!
Kids: Coming, Mother. Thank you, Mother!
Mom: Today, children, I have Babybel cheese pieces. They provide calcium and protein. They are the perfect size for tiny fingers to unwrap. I’ll pack them in your lunchboxes, too. They come in this beautiful red wrapper with this darling picture of the cow. Don’t you want to gobble, gobble, gobble them up right now?
Kids: Oh, yes, Mother. Show us how to unwrap it. We’ll quickly discard the wrapper then eat every bite of the cheese because we understand that you paid almost SEVENTY CENTS per piece. We’d never dream of wasting a morsel. And we will be satisfied with this cheese and look forward to the piece of cheese to come in our lunchboxes this week.
(Children and Mother cheerfully gather around the kitchen table to partake of Babybel cheese snacks.)

Ah, yes. So with that vision playing in my head, I confidently placed them in my grocery cart. Still optimistic, I pulled out the Babybel cheese snacks today at lunch.

Let us re-cap the important facts: six in a package. Almost seventy cents per piece. Healthy! Natural! Shiny, fun red wrapper! Self-contained! Perfect for tiny fingers and lunchboxes. Protein! Calcium! Cute cow picture!

Mom: Hey, kids. Wanna try this new cheese?
Kids: Yay! Cheese! Yea!
Mom: OK. Here let me help you unwrap it.
(Mom and kids working on the wrappers.)
Chorus: Wait! No, don’t eat the wrapper. No. You eat the white part. Mom!!! I can’t get the wrapper off. Mom! Mom! Mom! Unwrap it. I want one. I want one. Mommy, let me try. I can do it.
(Wrappers now off, and children take a bite. Susanna disappears, though I don’t notice at first.)
Spencer: Mom! Don’t like it. (Goes to the bag on the counter. Starts to pull bag down. Cheese pieces perched on edge of counter in the bag.) I want the purple one.
Mom: There is no purple one. They are all red. And you have one. Eat that one first, then you can have another one.
Spencer: No! I don’t like it. I want the purple one. (Pulls the bag down and starts pulling out wrapped ones. Babybels scatter across the floor.)
Seth: Mom! I want a cheese slice.
Mom: No. You have cheese right there. I’m not opening a cheese slice when you have this cheese. Eat this cheese.
Seth: I want a cheese slice.
(Susanna reappears. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “where was she? and what about the cheese?”)
Susanna: Mom! I want another one, please.
(Yea! At least one child is eating the healthy, nutritious snack!)
Mom: Wow! You already ate that one?
Susanna: No. It dropped on the floor and I threw it in the trashcan.
Mom: What? Where?
Susanna: Mom. It dropped on the floor and I threw it away. That’s gross, Mom.
(Remember… almost SEVENTY cents each. Would it be salvageable, I’m wondering…?)
Mom: Where is it? Why didn’t you tell me? We could have washed it off.
Susanna: No, Mom. I threw it in the bathroom trash.
(Ewwww. Definitely a goner.)
Mom: OK. Here’s another one. Now eat this one. These are expensive!
(Boys meltdown and are done with cheese and lunch altogether. Boys go to nap.)

Mom eats one Babybel discarded by Spencer. Mom puts two wrapped Babybels back in fridge. Mom puts Seth’s discarded but untouched Babybel into baggie for the fridge.

Let’s see… time for inventory: That’s four, plus Susanna’s in the trash.

Mom: Susanna did you eat that last Babybel I gave you?
Susanna: (Nods.) I ate some but didn’t want the rest so I threw it in the trash.

After today’s lunch adventure I’m just wondering why I didn’t take the $4.00 and buy myself a vanilla latte at Starbucks?

Help Out the Bernards

In the 21st century blogosphere, what’s the way to earn a little extra cash?

Forget yard sales or odd jobs.

In the blogosphere, it’s all about page clicks.

So, I’m following a fellow blogger’s lead and participating in Blog the Recession. She’s rallying mom bloggers everywhere to help each other out just by taking a look around others’ blogs.

Simple, really. Just read my blog. Like you’re already doing. And tell your friends.

Thank you and the children thank you.

"I so tired!"

Seth’s signature comment these days is, “I so tired.” Picture if you will the drooping head, the slumped shoulders for dramatic effect. Hear the exhalation on the word, “tired.” See the shuffle of the feet.

I know exactly how he feels.

No matter what I’m trying to accomplish, I’ve realized it requires a great deal of energy and hard work. “I so tired.”

I wish I had more of the temperament of my husband. Chris is a very linear person. He tackles life day to day. He approaches tasks and goals based on reality and energy level. I don’t sense that he ever seems overwhelmed. Should he become overwhelmed, then he just knocks something off his “to-do” list. Very practical.

I, on the other hand, continually add to my list. I’m so circular that I’m global. I don’t feel productive unless I’m working on one project and have at least 15 others to go. This works OK until I just kinda crash and burn from all the spinning wheels when I, too, say, “I so tired.”

So, lately, I’m tired from:

  • trying to lose weight and stick to a new diet plan
  • trying to save a gajillion dollars every week at the grocery store by playing The Grocery Game, clipping coupons, and strategically planning meals that are inexpensive, easy, and healthy (impossible!)
  • trying to make a gajillion dollars by working my Melaleuca business and writing
  • trying to wrangle 3 kids who are bored
  • trying to keep a house running (you know: food, laundry, stains on the carpet, and so on—never-ending)
  • dealing with the mental anguish of not having started all those projects I had high hopes of completing this summer

OK. Now it’s time for a nap.