Needs vs Wants

This post has been a long time coming. I always start it, but then don’t know where to go from there. If you’ve been following for any length of time, you know that we live a debt-free lifestyle, based on Dave Ramsey’s teachings. And we’re currently on baby step 3–saving our 3-6 month emergency fund–while awaiting the birth of our second-born.

We haven’t done too much this summer since we’ve been really trying to save our emergency fund before baby number 2 arrives, but we did drive to South Carolina to see family for Memorial Day weekend, spent some afternoons by the community pool, and entertained some family in our home. We also taught our second Financial Peace class at our church, which we just wrapped up at the end of July. I’m 9 months pregnant and pretty content to be home with my family, but as I scroll through my social media news feeds, I can certainly understand why someone would feel differently.

This summer I’ve watched friends, family, and even strangers, travel all over; purchase new vehicles and homes; and decorate, plan, & organize all the things. And there’s nothing wrong with these, as long as we save, pay cash/debit for them, and aren’t sacrificing our needs for them. So, lets talk about what our needs are. Dave Ramsey calls them the 4 walls:

  1. Housing (Rent/Mortgage)
  2. Utilities (Water, electric, gas, phone, etc.)
  3. Transportation (taxes, car insurance, gas, oil)
  4. Food (groceries)

The 4 walls are especially helpful when we’re struggling to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck, or have a loss of job; we always take care of our household first. These are the items we budget for before we spend money on anything else. There are the occasional exceptions, such as school uniforms and/or supplies, or an outfit for a job interview; but these aren’t going to occur very often.

Now, what are some things that are not considered necessities?

  • Eating out
  • Cable
  • The latest cell phone
  • Coffee from a coffeehouse
  • Vacations
  • New clothes/accessories
  • High-end makeup
  • New vehicles
  • Tickets (movies, theater, sports, concerts)
  • New home decor/furniture
  • Extracurricular activities for the kiddos

We could obviously go on and on. But these are all extras and if we’re in a real financial bind, they can, and should, be cut from the budget. It doesn’t have to be for always; just until we have more breathing room in our budget.

Additional income, an emergency fund, and a plan in place can make a world of difference. If you don’t have a plan in place, you’ll always be flying by the seat of your pants, wondering where all your hard-earned money went, and why you can never get ahead. If you want to know more about our plan, check out my other posts on finances, budgeting, and dumping debt.

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WedWorship – Hope Has a Name

Sunday morning, as I made breakfast for my family before church, River Valley Worship’s “Hope Has a Name” began playing, and I realized I really love this song and it deserved to be shared with ya’ll.

The lyrics are simple, but so powerful and I can’t help but be filled with hope and joy as I sing (and shout) “Hope has a name, His name is Jesus” and “My Savior’s cross has set this sinner free!”

There is a song, I know it well
A melody that’s never failed
On mountains high, in valleys low
My soul will rest, my confidence, in You alone
Chorus: Hope has a name, His name is Jesus
My Savior’s cross has set this sinner free
Hope has a name, His name is Jesus
Oh, Christ be praised, I have victory
There is a light, salvation’s flame
Christ undefeated, trampled the grave
See now the cross, be lifted high
The light has come, the light has won, behold the Christ

Chorus
There’ll be a day my hope complete
Now home in glory, Your face I’ll see
My pain no more, my fear will cease
I bow my life, I fix my eyes, on Christ my King
I bow my life, I fix my eyes, on Christ my King
Chorus

“Momming” in the Early Years

Being a mom during the early years is SO hard. Whether you’re a stay-at-home or work-from-home mom, whose only time away from your child(ren) is when they’re sleeping; or a mom working outside the home, who doesn’t get to spend nearly as much time with your child(ren) as you’d like, doesn’t matter. Raising little ones is mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining.

It’d be so easy as a busy mom to let my exhaustion get the best of me, and use it as an excuse to be lazy in my walk with Christ, but I can’t. And neither should you! As moms of littles we miss a lot of church. When we give birth we stay home for the first few weeks; we may miss service to nurse/feed our babies; and later, when our children are sick, we end up staying home with them so they don’t infect other children. We often end up either serving in the nursery, or getting stuck in there with our own clingy child. We may miss out on bible studies, women’s events, prayer meetings, outreach opportunities–the list goes on–and we often end up feeling distant from God.

Honestly, it can be incredibly discouraging. However, this is exactly the reason why we must fight, scrape for, and cling to the moments we can get alone with our heavenly Father. We need His strength and encouragement, we need His Words of Truth to teach and discipline us, and His peace to rule our hearts on a daily basis. This means we must make Him a priority in our lives, even if it means getting up early to study the Word before our children get up; giving up a hour of evening television so we can pray; or holding off on a household task, so we can finish a Bible study or book we’ve been working on.

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Don’t give up momma! You’re not alone. You’re not insignificant. You have purpose. We are children of God, doing exactly what He designed us for. And in each season He develops us further into what He desires us to be. While we love our children immensely, our lives should not revolve around them, nor should they keep us from seeking the Lord, during any season.

There are ways for us to use our time more wisely…As a nursing mom, I found myself scrolling through social media a lot while feeding, so I added a bible app to my phone, that way I could read Scripture, instead. As a mom of a toddler, I find getting up before my little one, is the best time for me to spend time with the Lord. I’m most alert, focused, and less rushed in the morning. (During her afternoon nap is my second option–of course, it’s not as predictable, since she’s been fighting her naps, lately.) Since I’m currently pregnant with my second, I’ve been mulling over more options besides my bible app, such as podcasts, and online bible studies. Is it a sacrifice? Absolutely; but it’s worth it!

What I don’t want any of us to fall into the trap of believing, is the lie that we’re “just” moms. This is a time for us to continue learning and growing, and allowing God to use us, both inside and outside our homes. One of the most well-known passages of Scripture regarding women and motherhood can be found in Proverbs 31:10-31.

It’s easy to read this passage and get caught up in all the woman does for her family; however, the most important verse is 31, which states, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” We can be as productive and successful as anybody in this world, but it’s our relationship with Christ that sets us apart. He is what matters most. He determines our steps, guides us and gives us understanding. He teaches us patience and gives us wisdom in dealing with our household, our finances, our husband, children, and every other decision and relationship in our lives. But we must stay connected to our source of Life; the True vine.

If we find that our lives are too busy to make time to meet with God, we may need to take a step back, re-prioritize, and cut some things from our lives; because if something else comes before our relationship with Christ, then we’ve made it an idol in our lives.

Lastly, I’ve been finishing up a study by Lysa TerKeurst, “Finding I AM,” and one of my (many) takeaways was that God can use what little we have to do something significant for the cause of the Kingdom. We may not be able to do everything we want to during this season, but we can do something. And we shouldn’t let anything, including unmet expectations, or unanswered prayers, prevent us from seeing what God has placed right in front of our noses. It may be a challenging time to use every talent God has given us, but it may be the perfect time to allow God to use us in small ways, right where we are. I know it’s cliché, but bloom where you’re planted ladies! But, I reiterate, we cannot pour, we cannot serve, we cannot do anything, apart from God.

Make Him your priority.

I AM the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:5, ESV

WedWorship – Until My Voice is Gone

Today’s worship is “Until My Voice is Gone” by Travis Ryan. Every time I hear this song I can’t help but raise my hands in praise. I like it because it describes why we praise Him, and how even when we’re struggling and feeling weak, He’s still God and deserving of our praise and thanksgiving.

Check out the song for yourself below!

No other King commands our full attention
No other name’s above all other names
No other throne rules over every nation
No other God deserves our highest praise

No other death could buy our sweet redemption
No other blood could wash away our shame
No other cross could lead to resurrection
No other God deserves our highest praise

Chorus: So I raise my hands until my strength has faded
Stand in honor ‘til my knees give way
I will lift my voice and shout a grateful song
I will sing, O I will sing until my voice is gone

No other hope can make our hearts courageous
No other peace can make us stand up brave
No other Love has earned our full affection
No other God deserves our highest praise

Bridge: So when we’ve exhausted every single way
With our bodies weak and with our voices strained
You are still the song in us that never ends
We can’t help but stand and start it all again

Mercy

King David has always been someone I’ve admired. I know, he was far from perfect; he lied, he coveted and committed adultery, he murdered, and he failed to act when it came to disciplining his children. Yet, he’s remembered for being a man after God’s own heart. Why? Because he was a repentant man, who sought God’s glory and hated wickedness.

But in all honesty, he wasn’t much different from us. As I continue to read through the Psalms, I take note of how David repeatedly prayed regarding his enemies. Like so many of us, he often prayed in a way that Jesus Himself spoke against in the New Testament. I get it. David’s heart was hurting. People were talking badly about him, he was being physically, mentally and spiritually attacked; and he wanted justice. He wanted to see his enemies suffer and he wanted them shown no mercy.

David believed, as we often do, that God should show up on his side, and destroy all his enemies. As though God had something to prove to them. But God is God. He moves in His own will and time, and He does things in His own way. He shows mercy to whom He desires to show mercy (Exodus 33:19) and His justice may not be seen in this world, but the next. Lastly, don’t miss the irony here, David, whom God had poured mercy upon repeatedly, was asking that God not grant mercy towards others!

In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. To pray like David did so often in the Old Testament, that our enemies would suffer for their wickedness, is not exactly what God had in mind. Perhaps, instead, we should pray that their eyes be opened to the error of their ways. Perhaps, we should pray that they come into the saving knowledge of Christ. Perhaps, we should pray that our own hearts would be softened and filled with love for them.

We often expect that God will show us mercy, but don’t always want that same mercy poured out on those who’ve hurt/wronged us, or have done some other immoral thing. I mean, look back at Jonah. He didn’t want God to show mercy towards the Ninevites, so he became disobedient, and refused to preach salvation to them. When he finally went to Nineveh and God poured out His mercy upon them, Jonah was angry. He acted along the same lines as the Pharisees did when Jesus chose to preach, teach, and eat with “sinners” and tax collectors (I had to put “sinners” in quotes because we’re all sinners, according to Romans 3:21-25). So often, those claiming to be followers of Christ find themselves in the same boat, and it’s sad. I get it; it’s not easy to forgive those who’ve hurt us, but that’s why God gives us supernatural power–the Holy Spirit–to help us in impossible situations. (For more examples you can read the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, and the unforgiving servant, in Matthew 18:21-35 & Luke 15.)

San Diego, Ca. Beach 1God calls us to behave in ways that are completely contrary to the ways of this world; and I think we’ve walked with the world for far too long. Christ died so that we ALL could have an opportunity to have relationship with God, not just a few of us; and He asks that we show others the mercy He’s shown us. When the world sees our love and respect for each other–even for our enemies (and those we don’t see eye-to-eye with)–they’ll recognize something different, something real in us. 

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. ~ Matthew 5:7

P.S. This post is somewhat similar to a post shared back in 2015, titled R-E-S-P-E-C-T, if you’re interested in checking that out.

WedWorship – Another in the Fire

Today’s worship song is “Another in the Fire” by Hillsong UNITED. Recently, I read Psalm 105 and noted that verses 1-4 were written almost as a “how to worship:”

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually!

The rest of the chapter goes on to describe the many marvelous deeds that God did for the Israelites; from the covenant God made with Abraham, to the placing of Joseph in a position of authority. The sending of Moses to rescue His people from captivity; the plagues released on Egypt; and His provision of water, quail, and manna while in the desert. So, it’s no wonder that this song, “Another in the Fire,” would strike a cord with me.

I feel like this song does just what Psalm 105 states…It gives thanks to the Lord, talks about His marvelous deeds, and glorifies His holy name. It also makes me recall Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3); Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 14); and Paul and Silas behind those shaking prison walls (Acts 16). Lastly, it’s a beautiful reminder that whatever we may face, this same God–this all-powerful, all-sufficient, everlasting, Light of the world–sent His Son to die for our sins, and promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in
And when I look at the space between
Where I used to be and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I’ve been set free
There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me

All my debt left for dead beneath the waters
I’m no longer a slave to my sin anymore
And should I fall in the space between
What remains of me and this reckoning
Either way I won’t bow
To the things of this world
And I know I will never be alone

There is another in the fire
Standing next to me
There is another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
What power set me free
There is a grave that holds no body
And now that power lives in me

And I can see the light in the darkness
As the darkness bows to Him
I can hear the roar in the heavens
As the space between wears thin
I can feel the ground shake beneath us
As the prison walls cave in
Nothing stands between us
Nothing stands between us

There is no other name
But the Name that is Jesus
He who was and still is
And will be through it all
So come what may in the space between
All the things unseen and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There’ll be another in the fire
Standing next to me
There’ll be another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
How good You’ve been to me
I’ll count the joy come every battle
‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

Book Review – The Cross and the Switchblade

I read The Cross and the Switchblade, by David Wilkerson, a long time ago–which is why it can be found on my resources page–but I picked it up again recently to re-read. It’s a true story about the beginnings of the Teen Challenge ministry; a ministry originally dedicated to bringing inner-city youth into relationship with Christ.

There’s so much to learn from Wilkerson’s prayer life, and his obedience to the Holy Spirit is one to aspire to. I love to see his prayers answered in unexpected ways, over and over again; it’s an amazingly beautiful, and powerful testament to the power and authority of God.

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While this book is great for any believer to read, I feel if you have an interest in urban missions or with those struggling with addictions, this book is particularly for you. It’s an honest representation of the challenges and hard work you may encounter. Although, written in 1963, I don’t think much has changed, as far as gangs and drug use goes; if anything, it may have gotten worse over time. I know when I was working on my master’s just a few years ago, I learned a lot about at-risk youth, and the things which they face is heartbreaking. Not to mention, there’s also the ever-growing problem of human trafficking, in addition to drugs, violence, and poverty. So, if you haven’t checked out this book, be sure to find yourself a copy!