God Listens and He Cares

In my last post–JOY–I alluded to the fact that God had reminded me that He cares for me, and I thought I’d let you in on what’s been going on in my life and how God has been moving.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed by my job and have been on the hunt for a new one. I was applying for everything, including part-time jobs and temporary jobs. I figured any extra income could help us (my husband and I) achieve our financial goals quicker and allow me to eventually leave my current full-time position.

So, here I sat, the day after my birthday, on my sofa, praying and journaling. I was telling God that sometimes I don’t like to come to Him with my little life struggles, because they seem so insignificant and small when I compare them to the real struggles, trials, and hardships of the people and world around me. Yet, I just talked to Him about how I’ve been feeling and how I wish I had a way out, because I felt stuck. I finally ended my journaling by just writing that I wished I just knew that He cared. All I wanted to know was that God was listening to me and that He cared.

I went on about my day, cleaning up the house, doing laundry, etc. and as I was hanging up a shirt in the closet…the phone rang. It was a reply to one of the positions I had applied for. I thought it was for a temporary position, but the manager was looking for a part-time employee. I told him my current work schedule and he didn’t think it was going to work out, so we said our goodbyes. Not 5 minutes later he called back, asked me a few more questions and I told him what was going on with my current work situation and how I eventually planned to leave; and the next thing I knew, I had an interview! You’d better believe I was thanking God and laughing after we’d hung up. God showed me very clearly that He was listening to me and that He certainly cares.
But…there’s more! The business that offered me the interview is Christian owned and operated, and during the interview process the manager told me that he’d already done all the interviews for the position, and was about to make his selection when my application hit his inbox and “something” told him he needed to take a look at it. 😀

God listens and He cares.

Afterwards, I was told that if I were to get the position I would be notified on Monday. However, Monday came and Monday went and no call. I was a little disappointed, because I was so positive that God had ordained this…

But God listens and He cares.

Tuesday afternoon, I got the call! Again, I was thanking God in my cubicle.

Oh…but wait…about an hour later, a PC notification window popped up on my work computer, letting me know of a scheduled meeting that I hadn’t even noticed before. I didn’t know what it was for. During the meeting we were surprised to discover…that our positions will be outsourced in the near future. o.o

But God listens and He cares.

So often, we think that God doesn’t hear us or that He doesn’t care…then something like this happens. God has been working behind the scenes like crazy in my life, though I couldn’t see it, and the last few weeks He has totally reminded me that He’s completely worthy of my trust. His timing is perfect and, as the Word says, He knows exactly what we need, even before we ask (Matthew 6:8; Luke 12:30).

Even as I write this, I’m thinking about that…He knows what we need, before we even recognize or are aware of our need. Wow! I’m still amazed. God knew what was coming and He made provision for me, just as He promises in His word (Luke 12).

If you’ve never fully given your life to Christ, or if you have, but you’ve been holding back and not fully walking in His will, I’m telling you, He is so good. He is so trustworthy. He is so perfect, all-powerful, and all-knowing. And He wants a relationship with you. He wants you to come to Him; yes, even with the little things! 😉 He wants you to depend on Him. He wants you to walk hand-in-hand with Him.

And tonight He wants you to know that He hears you and He cares for you…He loves you.

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

     “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

     “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

~ Luke 12:22-31, NLT

 

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The Counsel of Elders

The other day I was flipping through my Flipboard (lol) when I came across this article about Silicon Valley and its Peter Pan Syndrome. Basically it’s a commentary, by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, on how most technology firms these days like to keep a staff of young employees and often force out their older employees (or refuse to hire them). Sonnenfeld noted that the median age of Google employees, for instance, is 29. He then went on to describe why this is a mistake and how much we can gain and have gained from people over age 35 in various industries. It was actually a great commentary that I shared on my Twitter feed. (Additionally, just after I began working on this blog, I came across a similar article in the Washington Post discussing ageism in the workplace.)

After reading and contemplating the content of the article, I began thinking about another person who thought that those older than him brought little to the table: King Rehoboam.

Now, king Rehoboam took the throne after his father Solomon, son of David, son of Jesse (don’t ask me why I felt like providing the geneology, lol, maybe I had too much coffee), and Rehoboam had some pretty big shoes to fill. But in 2 Chronicles 10, we read about how after Solomon’s death, the people of Israel come to Rehoboam and request that their load be lightened–labor and tax-wise–and he tells them to let him think about it, and he’d have a response for them in three days. King Rehoboam first asks his father’s advisors as to how he should respond…

 The older counselors replied, “If you are good to these people and do your best to please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?” The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’” ~ 2 Chronicles 10:7-11, NLT

We all know how this story ends. Rehoboam, rejects the advice given by his elders and responds as his peers told him to, and this was the wrong answer! In fact, this is the determining factor of Israel’s split from Judah; creating the northern and southern kingdoms.

When I first read this, I thought, “what a spoiled rotten, thoughtless, stubborn, little teenager!” but then, I went on to read in 2 Chronicles 12 that Rehoboam was actually 41 years old when he took over the kingdom! He was a grown adult behaving as a child!

So, here I am, having just read these two things–the article/commentary and 2 Chronicles 10–and I’m recognizing how we can, at any age, fall into this trap of ignoring and holding in contempt, the wisdom of our elders. I believe that we can become so consumed in the way we do things now and doing things “the right way,” or our way, or improving upon the way things have been done, that we negate the people who have been doing those same things in generations past. By doing so we attempt to deny the skill, wisdom, and knowledge of those who came before us; when the truth is, we couldn’t do or wouldn’t have most of the things we do today, if they weren’t out there “doing” before us. We don’t create from scratch…we simply build upon the foundation that’s been laid before us.

Proverbs 4:6-9, NIV

Rehoboam’s elderly counsel were the same men that counseled his father; and according to the Bible, Solomon was the wisest person to have ever lived. So, why do we, like Rehoboam, think that our way is best, and deny the wisdom and counsel of those who’ve gone before us? Why do we think that those older than us have nothing to bring to the table or have nothing of value to offer us?

Now, this isn’t to say that we don’t have something new or better to offer, but that we respect and accept the fact that our elders laid the foundation for us to have what we have, have provided a path for the future, and are still capable of providing much insight and wisdom; much like we are doing for those who will follow us. Neither does it mean that we neglect to seek the counsel and wisdom of God, for as the Word says, “true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are His” (Job 12:13, NLT) and “God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; He looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God” (Psalm 53:2, NLT).

Therefore, let us not neglect or scorn the wisdom of our elders, but take it into consideration, contemplate upon the words and advice of those who’ve gone before us, and compare it to what the Bible says and let’s not act harshly, rebelliously, or rashly, but be considerate and respectful of the opinions of others.

If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit.
If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer. ~ Proverbs 9:12, NLT

Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to others. ~ Proverbs 12:15, NLT

Pride leads to conflict;
those who take advice are wise. – Proverbs 13:10, NLT

Wise people think before they act;
fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness. ~ Proverbs 13:16, NLT

Walk with the wise and become wise;
associate with fools and get in trouble. ~ Proverbs 13:20, NLT

If you listen to constructive criticism,
you will be at home among the wise. ~ Proverbs 15:31, NLT

Spending Less this Summer: 2016

My husband and I are currently working on paying off our combined debt; however, while we are on a budget, we also enjoy our weekend activities. Therefore, we’re always on the lookout for ways to spend time together outside our home, without spending a ton of money.

Since we only got married in May, the past 2 months we’ve just been learning how to live together, so we spend a lot of time grocery shopping together, cooking, or taking care of other household chores. Before we got married we used to eat out a lot, but we have tried to cut back on those expenses, now we try to meal prep and cook more at home. (It’s like playing tetris when we try to put our prepped items in the freezer, lol.)

Speaking of cooking…about a month into our wedding someone at work asked me if I was pregnant, lol. (That’s what happens when you have a husband that enjoys cooking and likes to feed you!) So, that same day I messaged my hubby to let him know I was ready to start working out. He’d been trying (unsuccessfully) to get me to go running with him, previously, so he was happy about my decision to join him. One way we save in this area, is by using the gym in our apartment complex instead of paying for a gym membership. We’re already paying for the amenity with our rent, so we might as well use it. It’s pretty basic–some treadmills, a stationary bike, ellipticals, free-weights, and a few machines. Yet, while it may not have all the fancy equipment found at a bigger gym, Pinterest, as we all know, is full of home workouts that we can ad to our routines. We’ve also walked/run along a 3-mile path that goes around our local city and along the river.

Earlier this summer, we also attended a free, local event along the river called “Rock the River FBXB.” There were local vendors, foods trucks, musicians, a beer garden, boat races, hikes, bike rides, foot races, and plenty of children’s activities. We spent most of our time chatting with friends, but the weather was great, dogs abounded, and the music was loud. We had fun! In our area, there are numerous free or low-cost summer concerts: First Friday concerts in downtown Market Square, Stafford Songfest Sundays at John Lee Pratt Memorial Park, and Celebrate Virginia Afterhours are just a few. We’ve been meaning to check out the concerts at Pratt Memorial Park and take along a picnic basket with us, but we haven’t had the opportunity, yet. Be sure to check your local area for similar events.

Independence Day weekend we went camping with my family in Shenandoah National Park. While we did have to pick up some new camping gear–a tent & sleeping bag, for two–the campsites were decently priced! If you already have the gear, or can find a really good deal on equipment, tenting is always an option for a weekend getaway.IMG_3650

Lastly, one of the activities we’ve been attempting to participate in each month (since January 2016, actually) is what we call our First Friday Karoake Night. Every Friday night, beginning around 9:30-10, our local Applebees hosts a karaoke night. They also have half-priced appitizers afer 9, so that doesn’t hurt, either. 😉 We usually text all our friends to join us on the first Friday of each month, but whether it’s just the two of us, or a crowd, we usually enjoy ourselves. Check to see if any of your local restaurants host karaoke nights, if this is something your interested in.

Well, that’s it for this year’s low-budget summer activity list! Let me know below how you’ve been filling up your summer, or what upcoming plans you already have.

Welcome to 2016!

First, I’d like to start out by saying, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you finished 2015 strong and I pray you have a wonderful 2016. Personally, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, I like to do a quick review of how the previous year went before the new year arrives—and usually around my birthday, as well—and think about what I accomplished, what I’d like to change or improve; and this year was no different.FontCandy (2)

Last month, I began to write down some past accomplishments and some future goals. You know what they say…it’s not a goal unless it’s specific, attainable, measurable, etc. etc. So, I started getting really specific, but as I did this I remembered that Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” And I was reminded that it’s great to make plans and create goals, but we must also allow room for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and allow Him to change our direction whenever He sees fit. So I’ve been praying that I allow God to lead me more this year.

Oddly enough, He saw fit to change some of my plans, when my boyfriend of about a year and a half, asked me to marry him on Christmas day 2015. So, now some of my plans have changed slightly, but I’m still here and I’m still planning to share the Word with you, as well as some wisdom and guidance. Originally, I planned to schedule a post once a week (as part of my 2016 goals), but now since I’m leading a Monday night Bible study on Michael Catt’s Refresh, and planning a small wedding (in 4 months!), I may only be able to share with you bi-weekly. Below are a few goals I’d like to accomplish this year…let me know what some of your goals are for 2016.

  • Teach a Bible study
  • Really pour my heart into children’s worship
  • Read a book each month
  • Watch less television
  • Learn to play guitar (I got one for Christmas!)
  • Learn Spanish
  • Get more involved in outreach ministries (Hey! Maybe even start one!)
  • Exercise (Be healthy!)
  • Become debt-free by the end of the year
  • Post a blog every other week

Bonus ** You know how a lot of people like to use a word to describe the year? My word for this year is passion. I want to be so passionate about the Lord and what He’s done and is doing, that I ignite the people around me. I want to start a wildfire! And I want to act more on the things that I’m passionate about! I don’t want to just talk or write about these things, I want to actually DO SOMETHING. God-willing, I’ll be able to share some of those things with you throughout the year. I love you guys!

God bless and take care.

So You’re Thinking of Moving Out? (Or Perhaps You Should Be)

You’re 18 (or older) and you’re thinking about moving out of your parents’ house. I’d like to suggest you stop and ask yourself a few questions before you do.

  • Are you going to college?
  • Do you have a job?
  • Do you have a car?

If you’re still in college, whether you’re working your way through or your tuition’s being paid by your parents, a scholarship or grant, I’d suggest you live at home until you complete. (Notice I didn’t say student loans? That’s because you should just say no to student loans!) Trying to cash flow your tuition while living on your own only works if you have a really high income, which most young college students usually don’t have. I cash flowed my undergraduate degree while living at home, but made the mistake of moving out while I worked on my graduate degree—these are the infamous student loans I’ve been trying to pay. Another option is splitting the costs of an apartment or house with multiple friends.

Now, let’s say you’ve finished college and/or you’ve gotten a job. First, you must recognize how much money you have coming in. Do you make enough to move out on your own? The answer, at first, may be “no.” I’ll tell you why. You need enough money on hand to pay a security deposit and first month’s rent. This means you’ll have to save a little money before signing that lease; I suggest you save 3-6 months of living expenses before moving out, just in case something unplanned occurs. You wouldn’t want to move into your own place, only to have to move back home when your car breaks down, or you lose a job! Be prepared.

Here are a few other costs you’ll need to think about:

  • Do you have a reliable car? Insurance? Maintenance costs.
  • Are you a single parent? Childcare costs. Will you have reliable/neighborly help or family nearby?
  • Do you own a pet? Monthly pet fees/costs.
  • Don’t forget those daily living expenses! Food, clothing, gas, renters insurance, electricity, internet/cable, water, & cell phone bill, etc.

Now, perhaps you’re an adult and you simply don’t want to move out? What’s your reasoning behind staying home? Economic? Your parents insist you stay home? Let me tell you something. My parents never wanted me to move out; they expected that I would stay home until I got married. But I’m 31 and I’m still not married! Thankfully, I recognized that I needed to move out and learn how to take care of myself, because who knew what God had in store for my future. What if I never got married? I didn’t want to be living at home forever!IMG_3270

Honestly, unless you’re a college student, like I mentioned above, I suggest you move out on your own. Something happens when you move out on your own and you’re responsible for your own well-being. You grow and develop in ways that you can’t do at home under your parents’ wings. You’re forced to become more responsible with your money, forced to make decisions that affect your life and future, and you meet people you might never have met, while at the grocery store, gym, job, church or while hanging out with your friends or volunteering.

If you can’t afford to move into your own place, again, as I mentioned before, get a roommate (or two), take on another job, or better yet, think more intently about what you really want to be doing with your life, and change career paths! Create goals and take steps to reach them.

Finally, living at home can stunt your growth and prevent you from reaching your full potential because you’re comfortable and have a security blanket (i.e. your parents). However, once you’re on your own, you are responsible for you, and you’re forced to push yourself outside your comfort zone! Therefore, stretch those wings of yours and take the leap (obviously, within the bounds of reason)! 😉

Love you all and God bless!

Birthday Confessions

Carrot Cake B-day Cake

Mmm…Carrot Cake, my fave!

I don’t know about you, but it seems that about twice a year—around my birthday and the new year—I find myself taking inventory of where I am in life and where I would like to be. With my birthday just a day away, I’ve been thinking a lot about career decisions, where I want to be in five years, what my goals are, and what it’s going to take to get there. For those who’ve been following my blog so far, you know that I’m currently on the Dave Ramsey plan and have been trying to pay my student loan off as quickly as possible. I’ve actually started looking into getting a second job to work in the evenings and on the weekends, in addition to my full-time job, just so I can have some extra money to get my loan paid off quicker.

However, these last few days, I’ve been reminded that I shouldn’t become so preoccupied with paying off this student loan that my relationships with God or other people suffer. As much as I want a second job, I also want to continue serving in my church, whether on the worship team; working with the children’s, homeless, or young adult ministries; or teaching a Wednesday night Bible study (like I planned to do in the fall); I want to serve. Not to mention the fact that I currently have the freedom to meet a friend after work to study the Word on Monday evenings, attend a ladies Bible study at my friend Cori’s house on Friday nights, and spend some quality time with my boyfriend on the weekends. 😉

Now, will I continue to look for other ways to increase my income? Absolutely! But I still want to be able to serve, minister, and foster the relationships that God has placed in my life, as well. This just means that I have to trust that God will open a door and make this a reality. Trust and patience have always been difficult for control freak me. I want to devise my own plans and create my own way, but God says it’s His job to direct my steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re going or planning, or even if you’re like me–working on your debt snowball–don’t forget that all this is for His glory and we’re to honor Him in all that we do. Nothing is more important than Him and the calling He’s placed on each of our lives to point the world towards Him. Don’t let any other goals, people, or objects distract you from Him.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NLT)

Pantry Staples on a Frugal Budget

Living on a budget isn’t always easy. I don’t make much money and I’m still trying to pay off my student loan, so as a single, working woman my grocery budget is only $60 for every two weeks. As such, there are a few things I’ve learned about grocery budgeting and shopping.

  1. Always plan your meals. I always try to plan my meals in advance so that I can create a proper grocery list, which brings me to point number 2…
  2. Always go shopping with a written grocery list. Going without a list means that you’ll forget things you may need and probably pick up things you don’t.
  3. Use cash! Using cash prevents you from overspending. I know people prefer debit cards these days, but every time I use my debit card I end up spending more than I budgeted.
  4. Bring a calculator. As you pick up the items you need, add up the cost, rounding up to account for taxes; and if you go over budget, put something back! A budget is worthless if you don’t stick to it.
  5. Last, but not least…Eat something! I probably don’t have to tell you this, but I’m going to anyways…NEVER go grocery shopping while hungry. Please eat something before you go, otherwise you’re sure to just start throwing anything and everything in your cart.

PantryShopping began getting easier as I chose to stick to these rules. Additionally, I realized a few things would no longer be purchased due to my slimmer budget. Prepackaged foods ate up my money, as did meat, so I began making more from scratch and eating more vegetarian meals. I didn’t completely give up meat, but I don’t have to eat it with every meal. Since I work during the week, I batch cook on the weekend and freeze meals for lunch, and then I make simple things for myself at home for dinner (ahh…the unmarried life, lol).

In conclusion, below is a list of budget-friendly items that I try to always keep on hand.

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Steel-cut oatmeal
  • Pasta
  • Tortillas
  • Cereal (Yes, I have a problem, lol.)
  • Peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Tuna
  • All beef or Kosher Hot Dogs
  • Almond milk
  • Cheese
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Creamer
  • Sugar/Honey
  • Spinach
  • Baby carrots
  • Apples
  • Strawberry jam
  • Vinegar & oil salad dressing
  • Seasonings (salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, lemon pepper, etc.)

Depending upon what’s on sale or what I plan on making for lunch for the next two weeks I might pick up one package of ground beef, chicken, pork, or salmon. There are other items I pick up as needed, but these are the basic items I try to always keep at home.