Well That Was Close

When I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for employment after the elementary school, I spent a lot of time talking with God. He made it abundantly clear I was to remain as a sub for the rest of the school year.

I’ve talked recently about applying for, and not getting, a couple jobs within the school system and my weird comfort with it.

Then yesterday, April 4, I’m walking through Walmart and I hear, “Just who do you think you are not supporting your children? Is this really the life you want for them? Both McDonald’s and Walmart would likely hire you on the spot; you’d best apply soon if you want to pay your rent in three weeks.”

Over and over this message played in my head all day yesterday. I was so beat up by the end of the day that anybody who crossed paths with me immediately saw that something was wrong.

As they day wore on, my resolve wore down. Maybe I didn’t hear God; maybe (and much more likely) I’m just lazy. Maybe the voice telling me to sub was actually the enemy and THIS was now God’s voice telling me to get off my butt and be a productive member of society.

I opened the unemployment services website, I started looking for postings, I conceded that working full time this summer would kill me. I started looking for a job.

This morning, after I hear alarm clocks go off in each of the boys’ rooms, my phone rang. It was the local high school calling for a full day of work as a special education paraprofessional.

I talk with the people at the school and get two more kitchen days at the high school (one in May and one in June), and am told to I’ll definitely be called for future dates.

GAH

Ya, God is that awesome. He knows exactly how many days off I can take, He knows exactly how many hours I must work. HE.WILL.PROVIDE.

I have no idea how many times this will need to be drilled into my head…and my job is to praise Him through it all.

I know I’m not lazy, I’m actually a very hard worker. I’m a fast learner and have a great personality. God WILL provide.

Thank You Father for loving me beyond all comprehension. For giving me opportunities to shout praise to You through it all.
Even when I know how much I love my children and would do anything within my power to care for them, I am confident there is nothing that is not in Your reach; nothing beyond Your grasp.
I will continue to ask the big prayers, to follow faithfully again and again.
Thank You Father.

Amen

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Poverty

I share a lot about my financial situation. Then I have a conversation about air fresheners and I realize that I need to keep sharing it because people just truly don’t understand and I know some of them really want to.

I borrowed a car from friends to take my trip to Mayo clinic this week. There was an air freshener in the car that I absolutely fell in love with.  And even though it’s only $3.00, I’ll never splurge on that for myself.

Not only that I’d be short $3.00 for paying my rent; here’s where that $3 could be better spent:

  • Buying one of the boys a couple pairs of socks (they’re boys, this is an ongoing need).
  • Most of the cost of sharpening the youngest boy’s skates ($5.00)
  • A pair of pants of clearance for my oldest kid (found his last pair for $1 at Walmart)
  • Any of the bills I shuffle each month to pay (internet and utilities…both behind and on the verge of being disconnected).
  • Enough gas to get to work for a day or my kids to their activities.
  • Trying to rebuild my emergency fund.
  • Put it towards any of the other bills I have.

So it’s not just that $3 is a big deal, it’s everything that is already not being covered that adds up and $3 might as well be $3 million. It’s not that the air freshener is out of line, it’s just so far down the line that it doesn’t even get an honorable mention.

Seriously.

And now, my long term subbing job is finished and I have no guaranteed income after my final paycheck on the 15th of this month. And I don’t have a husband with a steady job or a boyfriend who pays the bills, or a savings account to cover my butt, or a family that can cover me for more than a couple hundred dollars. The child support I receive is barely enough to make a dent. And in 30 days my rent will be due again.

And it sucks.

I was given money from friends for the Mayo trip…and it’s gone, and I’m counting pennies to make sure I can pay the rent on Monday because I feel like I was stupid with the funds I got. I spent too much on the hotel (which was necessary but I could have stayed someplace much less expensive), I ate too often (Two meals a day) and too much (soup AND salad, that’s too much). I should have just slept on a basement recliner, I should have declined to sit down and eat and just grabbed a sandwich. I should not have bought that second cup of coffee to keep me awake on the drive home.

The enemy is so loud; and he has friends. And those friends tell me I should be working 10-12 hour days, and if I truly wanted to work I could. And that $3.00 really isn’t that big of a deal.

When I received the gift of money I was so thrilled and was planning on having left over funds to pay a few things that I haven’t been able to. Instead of paying those things first, I kept it, not knowing how long I would be at Mayo. I only ended up spending one night, and it’s all gone.

And rent is due Monday, my cell phone is due Monday, and I’m truly thankful for everything that has gotten me this far…and angry that I still need more. I’m sad that I am where I am financially.

The financial insecurity is unlike any other.

And it’s one of the reasons I always do Mayo on my own.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed having a friend with me on this trip, it’s not reality. It’s not my reality. My reality is sleeping in my vehicle or on a basement recliner, it’s not stopping to eat, or just buying cereal and eating that for every meal. It’s staying at the clinic even when I have 4 hours between appointments because leaving costs money (doing things I wouldn’t normally do).

The best part of this trip was that my friend was great as far as getting through the marathon day. She took the time to understand everything going on before we went so I didn’t have to educate her on the go. Having to ‘babysit’ other people and their ability (or inability) to process information on the go is why I have never had any desire to take people with me. Thankfully we got all good news so there was none of the real tough stuff.

I’m definitely going back to going on my own though. It’s too emotionally exhausting to bring somebody with me, even when it’s a good fit and good news. Medical trips are a whole other world for me. There is a distinct disconnect from daily life just to get through the trip and I never want those two worlds to become one.

And in 3 weeks I have the privilege of returning to Mayo to see if they can fix my arm that hurts and causes muscle spasms that is the likely cause of headaches I deal with daily…and another opportunity to reach out and ask for help.

I sure don’t feel all that lucky when I have to reach out, but I sure feel blessed when the request is honored.
Lord,
Thank You father, I’m so tired. I’m thankful for tired, because it means I’m still here to be tired. It means I have to opportunity to glorify Your name for another season.
But it’s exhausting Lord and I’m trying so hard to be light in a very dark place for so many. I’m trying to be Your poster child for AMAZING grace and mercy. I’m not sure why I got picked for this job; please help me Father to remain humble enough to ask for help, and secure enough to hear Your love over the enemy.
Amen

So That Happened

I remember when I quit my job at the elementary school and talking with my pastor about God’s plan for my life. I told him that I was confident that I was supposed to be a substitute for the remainder of this school year. Easy enough, right?

Then a couple of jobs opened up and I applied…two of them I knew I had no chance of getting, but applied anyway. The third, they aren’t actually filling so that was a non-starter. The fourth opening was my old job.

I’ve been subbing at my old job almost since the day I quit my last one. I mentioned last week when my job came open that I would put money on me not getting the job. They all laughed, “Why wouldn’t you? You have experience, you helped (her) out by switching in the first place?”

Today I heard the job went to another lady whom has subbed a few times at the middle school.

At first I was sad, and a little hurt that it felt like a slap in the face.

Then I remembered…God told me I was supposed to be a sub for the rest of the year. So then, I spent the rest of today remembering that being upset is my sinful self…not what God wants in my life.

I decided to take a huge leap of faith when I quit the job, I made the choice to listen closely to God’s calling and follow it wholeheartedly.

I don’t want to change that half way through.

God never called me to apply for any of those jobs. Subbing income is getting us by, I’ve had opportunities that I won’t have once I’m working full time. I’m okay with where I’m at.

My former coworkers are not impressed, some even down right mad. I said, I was hurt, but that it’s all part of God’s bigger plan; who am I to question that?

Following God takes so much effort. If anybody tells you this is the easy way; throat punch ’em. Ok, maybe don’t throat punch them, but definitely don’t believe them.

Society tells me I should have a real job, society tells me I should have more things, nicer things. My bank account shouts that it wants more money.

But God tells me, over and over again, “I’ve got this.”

I’ve got this.

I’m confident that He does. I’m confident that there is something HUGE in the works, and I just have to continue listening to His calling and spending time in His word.

I’m like a kid in a candy store excited about what’s to come…and I have no idea what it is. How do I even explain that to people?

“No, really, it’s okay that I have no idea how I’m going to pay rent next month, God’s got this.”

The amount of faith that takes…the amount of trust…

Yet it’s so freeing at the same time.

I don’t have to worry. I know it will all work out in God’s best interest. I’m not even afraid that it may not be MY best interest. How mind blowing is that?

Father,
Humbly I thank You for the provision and resources to get us through this difficult season in life. Help me to share Your word through all I say and do. Help me remain peaceful in Your plan.
As the summer season is upon us and my school year job ends, I ask for guidance in summer work.
Amen

 

 

 

Dangerous Whispers

I’ve been pretty transparent about my financial situation and all that entails. I’ve shared our struggles, our triumphs, our goals, and our dreams. As I work on getting on track with our new budget, the enemy continues to whisper how terrible I am as a Christian, a woman, a child, a sibling, and a mother.

It’s that last one that it takes less than a whisper to take me out at the knees and I’d like to share how that manifests in my world right now.

I’ve been working super hard at balancing our budget and building our baby emergency fund of $500. I’m on track to have that complete ahead of schedule. We have scrimped, saved, sacrificed, and prayed.

Then the blower motor on my vehicle decides to finally quit. It’s been thinking about quitting for over a year…and I’ve been hoping it would last just long enough to get through the winter. Not having heat or a defrost function in northern Minnesota through the winter when you are carting your children everywhere is just not an option.

My vehicle has over 235,000 miles on it. My brain tells me that putting a $70 blower motor into a vehicle that may not last another six months is throwing good money after bad. My brain tells me I need to be saving for our next vehicle, not kicking a dead horse.

  • What kind of mother drives her kids around with the only heat in a vehicle being from whatever air is moved by driving.
  • What kind of person can’t afford $70 but can afford to have her kids in hockey and bowling and archery?
  • What kind of mom would miss her son’s first away tournament because she doesn’t have a reliable vehicle or the funds to make the trip?
  • If I wouldn’t have taken the trip to Minneapolis for Christmas, this wouldn’t be happening right now…I didn’t deserve that trip.

Those are the whispers surrounding JUST the $70 blower motor. Satan is an evil dangerous son of a bitch. He will take the smallest amount of normal mom-guilt and exploit it beyond all reason.

Sunday night was a difficult night in our home. One of the boys did something I probably did a thousand times as a kid; he ate some leftovers that I had plans for.

I lost my shit.

He stopped me, mid rant, and with tears streaming down his face said, “Mom, I want you to calm down. Remember when we were in the cities and you said that you hate to be upset because you look weak? Look at me, I’m upset and I’m showing it and I’m not weak.”

My son is no longer a child.

Everything he has been through, everything he knows about his Mama…he’s become a young man.

I told him I feel like a horrible mom when I can’t provide them everything I feel like they deserve. That I hate everything they have endured (divorce, cancer, poverty) and it kills me that they have to live in this cycle of poverty when they deserve everything in God’s Kingdom for how amazing and faithful they have been through it all.

~~~~

All those dangerous whispers from the enemy in my head…yet I can still know that all of this has got us to the point where my son gets it. My kid understands emotions and negotiation and love.

My kids get it…not in spite of where we are…they understand life BECAUSE of where we are. How can I even hate where we are when I see how it has manifested in the emotional growth and maturity of my boys?

I have one who sees through hurt, another who challenges every perceived fact.

These struggles are in my brain…and I need to drown out those whispers.

The type of mom who does those things whispers above…is a mom who is trying. Over and over again. A mom who never gives up, even for one minute. A mom who has been through more in six years than some moms go through in their children’s entire youth.

That mom shows a resiliency and faith that is rarely seen publicly in today’s society. She shows a transparency that brings people around her to hold her up when she’s taken out at the knees.

She shows a strength that moms who’ve never struggled are in awe over. Her drive are what draws people to God. Her faithful trust in the Lord are beyond understanding and inspiring to those with struggles they feel are insurmountable.

~~~

I need to remember that mom, that woman…IS ME. I’m the resilient one, the faithful one, the leader, the driven.

I have been given these blessings to raise men. Every struggle has been a blessing.

Lord,

These late night silent times when I can’t sleep are a welcome challenge. Being able to see both sides of the coin is a gift more priceless than imaginable.
These challenges laid in front of me, I bring to You. I come to You as I want my children to come to me. If I, as a broken human in a sinful world, wish for my children to come to my embrace; how much more do You long for me to find comfort in Your arms…that’s where You blow my mind every day Father.
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise these boys through this adversity with a faith not commonly seen publicly in today’s world.
Give me rest and give me strength to continue to be raw and real to bring Your light into my home, my work place, my social circle, my everyday life.
Continue to grant me these silent nights to hear Your love over the whispers of the enemy that drown out my daylight hours.

Amen

Being Kind

After working through Financial Peace University lesson three; the biggest take away for me is that I need to learn how to be kind to myself.

As Dave Ramsey talked about cash flow planning, he teaches that it takes up to 90 days to get doing a budget right. That much like riding a bike, it takes time.

NINETY DAYS

Well, here I am beating myself up yesterday because I went out and bought a long needed new litter box for the cats and using up all my personal money and then some.

While I’ve got the envelope system in use already, I have to continue to be kind to myself when I forget a few of these little things and have to remove from one of my other funds as I make adjustments and make it work.

IT’S OK TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS as I’m re-learning to budget.

Money had been used as a tool of abuse in my past…it is tied to shame and guilt. I have to remember that money is amoral. Money does not have any feelings or judgement.

I’m so thankful for this class to help with my focus on my goals.

 

Financial

Well…back to the real world now; where things aren’t always easy and time keeps marching on anyway. I’ve already posted my physical goals and what work will look like in 2018. I’ve talked about finances some, but need to make some concrete goals to reach.

I will list each goal and when I want to complete it by. I will have little (seemingly easy to attain) goals and a couple that are way out there…as we all know that it is not us that controls how things go!

February 15: $500 baby Emergency fund
March 30: Pay off parenting time expeditor ($267.55)
June 30: $1000 Emergency Fund
December 31: $5000 emergency fund.

Considering $5000 is more than one third of what I brought home all of 2017 (including child support) that’s a HUGE number. I also know that God wants me to succeed, He wants my boys to have security even more than I do.

Yesterday, after listening to lesson two in Financial Peace University and hearing how kids the ages of my boys should start to take some responsibility with finances so they can begin to see how it really works.

It talks about giving them a commission instead of an allowance; meaning it is tied to whatever their job is.

This was easy for me.

For my younger son, who loves hockey and hates practice; his job from now on will be to not complain about attending hockey practice. Each day he goes willingly, he earns $1.00. When I explained this to him, he said goalie practice should be $2.00. Goalie practice is very difficult for him as this is his first year playing in net and he does not do well emotionally when he is not the best at something the first minute he tries it. I agreed, $2.00 for goalie practice. He will also get a $0.50 bonus for any day he goes to open hockey. His skating needs to improve, and only being on the ice will do that.

For my older son, his job is getting all his school work in on time and taking responsibility to show me the online report every day (no report, no money). He will earn $1.00 for every day that he has no missing assignments and nothing the other days that he either forgets to show me or has stuff missing. His available bonus will be $2.00 any day he goes without playing any games on the xbox.

I’m also considering adding bonuses for doing chores without arguments or reminders. I don’t usually get many arguments, but I have to remind them constantly. If I tie their responsibility to their income, that might change their tune a little bit.

My older son is ready to open a checking account and I’m excited for him. I believe he will be the saver of the two…but that little one might surprise me.

I told them that pay day will be every other Sunday. I’ll have to make a calendar to track their earnings between pay periods…their own time cards I guess you could call it.

For this money, it will come out of the money I make babysitting. I babysit two boys in the mornings before school (they take the bus from my house) and I get paid $25/week. Earnings from the last two weeks have gone straight into the $500 emergency fund.

So what will they do with their money…they will give, save, spend. They will be expected to give a portion (and I will give guidance towards tithing, but allow it to come from their hearts so they become grateful givers). As the older one will be opening up a checking account, he will have the opportunity to save money there. They younger one, I’ll likely employ the envelope system with him (give, save, spend envelopes).

For the remainder of this school year, I’m not sure that I will expect them to pay for any of their needs. From this point forward (after their first payday) they will have to spend their own money on any concessions at the arena or bowling alley. This is where the little one will go broke. I’ll add skate sharpening, and things of that nature. For now, I just want them to get used to taking responsibility to having a little bit of money.

We will have a saving discussion about maybe a waterpark day or trampoline park…something to that effect. I want to give them small attainable goals at first…so when they start thinking Disney World…they know it’s going to take some time and effort.

I’m guessing I won’t have to pay out more than $30 every two weeks so will use the leftover babysitting money to build up the payday fund. I’m so excited for these kids and their futures.

First PAYDAY will be January 28.

Dear Father in Heaven

I know how much You love your children, when I think about how much I love mine, it blows my mind that You love us even more than that…so much more.
Thank You for this opportunity to lead by example to teach these boys about finances and money management.
Help me to show grace when they need it most and to teach them to come to You when they are frustrated with the discipline of money management.
Lord, give my boys the heart of grateful givers as they have seen how amazing those gifts have been in our lives.
Continue to use me as a light in the world…

Amen

It’s A Start

Sunday

Our church is offering Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I’ve done the course on my own before, when I was married and am quite familiar with the fundamentals. When I was offered a scholarship to attend the class, I jumped on it as knowing our financial situation is (again) in transition, this is the perfect time to dig our heels in and get on our feet for once and for all.

Last Sunday was the first class. Today I received my membership kit. I’m a total budget nerd and so thankful to be able to go through an actual class.

Today, I sat my boys down and discussed budgeting and going through what are referred to as The 7 Baby Steps.

  1. Save up for a baby emergency fund ($500 based on my income…it’s usually $1000)
  2. Pay off all debt (except the mortgage) with the debt snowball.
  3. Put 3 – 6 months of expenses in savings (your fully funded emergency fund).
  4. Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRA’s and pretax retirement plans.
  5. Save for your children’s college education in tax favored plans.
  6. Pay off the mortgage early.
  7. Build wealth and give!

So we talked about how following these steps will open the doors to awesome things. How we will be able to save for things and not have to worry paying for things we want.

The boys seem to be on board to knock these steps out with enthusiasm. We have a pop bottle filled with coins and an orange juice bottle about a third full. My oldest boy immediately suggested using it to fund Step One.

My only debt is the parenting time expeditor (owing $267.55) and student loan.

We could be on Baby Step Three before the end of this class.

Then Baby Step Four just takes care of itself, all I have to do is sign the papers. Going to have to learn more about Baby Step Five…the college fund one. I’m not sure how much is supposed to go into that one. Will be so much fun to financially invest in their future.

Monday

We all went to the bank and cashed in our coins, we had $192.82 between those bottles and our dollar jar. We are well on our way to financial peace!

As I know I have a grant from trails to treatment coming, I decided to use this cash to finish funding all my envelopes.

  1. Gas/Maint: $175
  2. Medical/Dental: $16
  3. Utilities: $80
  4. Sports: $50
  5. Personal: $80

This way I am not trying to track debit card usage from my child support account, and trying to be able to put most of the child support towards Baby Step One. I am pretty sure that by the end of January we will be fairly close to finishing up Baby Step One.

Baby Step Two should be a cake walk, I owe just the parenting time expeditor under $300.

I know Baby Step Three will be a little more difficult and that is where I will be challenged. This is where the discipline part is going to be tough and rewarding at the same time.

Looking at saving up to $8000 seems insurmountable at this point in time. I think the boys and I will have to make some sort of visual chart to mark off how far we are getting. Even at $400/month (which is way out of our reach at this point in time) we’re looking at almost two years. Wow, that is a long time.

For right now, I need to focus on where we are, not where we are going. When I was sick, I focused only on the task at hand; getting to the next appointment, the next day, the next hour. For our current challenge, I will have to focus on the next paycheck, the next tax return, the next reward.

I’m not sure if Dave Ramsey allows for smaller goals with small rewards (a nice meal out, a getaway for the weekend, or other small rewards for meeting milestones) but think if the boys and I work in $1000 increments, it may be easier to stay on track.

We can make a chart that we fill in as we go (like a fundraising campaign thermometer) and make that a visual in our home. Knowing we have a common goal will make it much easier to understand the no’s and their implications.

Lord, 

As we learn to use Your money in a new way, help us to remain focussed and to come to You with our concerns and frustrations. I know discipline is difficult, and I also know the rewards of consistency are so worth the battle. 

As the boys learn to use money as the tool it is meant to be, help me to mentor and lead them. 

Father, I ask for help getting through these baby steps. Financial help, emotional help. While my heart keeps shouting, “The faster we get through this, the sooner we are done!” My brain knows that it is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve done a marathon God…it was hard…and so worth it. 

Help me to keep my eye on the end goal, to be able to live and give like no-one else. Shut out the sounds of the evil one’s claims that money equals dignity. 

My trust is in You alone. 

Amen