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

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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

 

Looking Back, Leaning Forward

As I think back over the last 365 days, I am astounded by all we have come through. Not even just the last year, the last seven years have been so challenging. Three times I seriously wanted to give up. Not once did that thought win. I knew that God was using me, my situation, my children, and our life to build our testimonies and our characters.

2018 brought me not only freedom from cancer, it brought me freedom of fear of cancer. You’d think fighting for my life would have already taken care of that fear…you’d be wrong.

The final release of the fear and dread that had been following me meant I could finally move beyond cancer. I can move through budget planning, career planning, family planning, and spiritual growth.

WORK

I am so excited to start January by giving notice at the job where I am so miserably miserable. I have made connections with staff and students at the elementary school as I had wanted to. I have prayed for my coworkers daily.

I cannot continue to work in a place where my integrity is put into question. Being forced to break rules has been so very difficult. I have brought the issues to light with my boss and it is all I can do. I can only continue to pray vigilance on their part to make the necessary changes to how things work (or don’t work) in that kitchen.

I am looking forward to being a substitute paraprofessional within the school system. I did it at the high school while I was still doing chemo and loved it. Now that I know the kids at all three schools and the staff knows me at all three buildings so my potential is much greater than it was two years ago. Even then I was working (at just the high school) at least 2 days per week; often more.

Working 2.5 days as a para-sub nets me the same as I am making now working 5 days a week in the kitchen. I am confident that I am following God on this one; just as I did when I listened and switched jobs to go to the elementary school.

Finances

Even with the trip the boys and I just took to Minneapolis for three days, I’m still able to pay my rent on the first of the month. The substitute work as a cleaner has definitely helped to get us back on our feet. I will be able to continue doing this after leaving my kitchen job.

January starts a new year, a new budget. Recently I have been using more of a pray and hold on type of accounting. Not a true accountability of the money as it comes in and out. Only that I know I have enough to pay the rent on the first and to make the required payments as the month continues.

Actually sitting down and beginning a cash accounting system with a balanced budget and a name for each and every dollar that comes in will be so freeing. I know some people struggle with a budget being restrictive. What they truly don’t understand is that having a balanced budget actually leads to a freedom like none other.

With a budget, I know already exactly how much I have available for A, B, or C. I actually am able to do much more with what little we have; knowing it is all taken care of each month.

(I may or may not have just spent a great deal of time figuring out my budget with an irregular income). 

Having to set my priorities when your budget cuts it so close every month is difficult, especially when you can’t start the month with the amount you need for each category and instead have to wait for this paycheck or that child support payment to make the payments.

I am confident though that within a few months I will have a baby emergency fund in place and be well on my way to building a future for myself and my boys.

I am SO PUMPED to be on our way!

I told the boys that we would take a trip in April to celebrate two years being cancer free. We definitely are going to take at least one trip a year from now on. This trip come in under budget at just over $700. That included gas, food, hotel, and all attractions. I thought that to be an awesome price for a four day – three night vacation.

Although a vacation fund does not yet get a line in our budget, any $1.00 or $5.00 that are left over from our money in the gas, personal, and utilities budgets will go into that fund. Instead of adjusting the budget, I know I’m giving us a little wiggle room. I’m doing that as I’d rather be long than short and try to figure it out.

I’m going back to more budgeting…

Both boys are still awake…and trying to stay up until midnight. With only an hour left I might even make it!

Happy New Year Everybody!!

Thankful Thursday

While my boys go round and round about who gets in the shower first, I thought it would be a great time to just be thankful.

We drove down to Minneapolis yesterday and checked into our hotel which is directly across the street from the Mall of America. Immediately, the youngest was undressed and ready to go to the pool. The older one was busy setting up the xbox I had allowed them to bring.

So I go to supervise the little one and the older one (with strict orders that the xbox was brought for a specific purpose) decided to hang out in the room and read for a little while in peace.

While at poolside, I ordered pizza for supper and relaxed.

It wasn’t long after, Katie showed up at our room. Her and I were off to US Bank Stadium to go inline skating around the main concourse.

OMG

SO MUCH FUN

I skated for about 2 hours straight and her for three full hours. I knew going in that I couldn’t do the full time; and I didn’t care…the experience and the time with Katie was so worth it!

Of course we wore our “Cancer can Kiss My Skates” shirts and stopped at Target to buy pants because I couldn’t find mine when I left home.

Well, God was smiling on us OBVIOUSLY because we walked in and saw these pants that not only compliment our shirts nicely, they also have POCKETS for our cell phones!! SO COOL!

During the time we were skating, the boys had instructions to NOT kill each other, and no fighting over the xbox. I knew they could easily keep busy with games and movies for the couple hours I was gone…that was the ONLY reason I allowed them to bring it with us.

I DID NOT bring them on this vacation to sit in front of the xbox for three days…that’s for sure!

Today we are going to experience a virtual reality arcade, an indoor go kart track, and an hour of laser tag. Tomorrow is the Science Museum.

Father,

When I think of how full my heart is for my children, I cannot fathom how much greater Your love for us is. This is all I have to compare it to though…and it’s an amazing love. As I watch them be filled with peace and love and gratitude, it fills my heart.

It brings me such joy to give them gifts of time and memories. How much more joy must You have at each answered prayer?

It’s times like this that I am reminded to ask the Big Ask prayers. To ask for the earthly impossible…because everything is possible through You.

This trip is a reminder of that…without prayer, and without complete faith in You, we could not have made this trip.

I thank You over and over again for growing my faith over the last six years. I kept telling people it was worth it…every time they questioned how I could stay so positive, I only replied that I can enjoy the journey or be miserable…but I still had to go on the trip.

Lord, continue to rain your love onto us as we enjoy our time together. We have all worked very hard to get her and are so very thankful for every minute of this adventure!

Amen

Today I am hunkered down. Making preparations for 2018 and just spending time alone. I had a few invites to hang out with friends and their families, and except for one I will likely head to after a while, I needed some alone time after attending two church services this morning.

I have a plan in place, I am listening to God’s calling, and I am at peace.

The New Year has big things in place for us. New job, new opportunities, new life.

Oh God I miss my family today.

Being 600+ miles away is tough during holiday times. While I genuinely appreciate all the social invites, they are not the same as being with my children and my family. Most of the time I’d rather be alone than with people if those people don’t include my children and my family.

I’m not sad about that, I’ve come to realize that is just what works for me. Every other Thanksgiving, every other Christmas or New Years Eve my children are with their father and I’m okay with that.

It’s my time to be with me, and I’m as thankful for those moments as I am the ones I spend with my babies.

In two days my boys will be home and the next day we will be on the road to a three day adventure to Minneapolis. Three nights in a hotel with a pool, pizza in the bed with movies, Virtual Reality Arcade, Mall of America, Science Museum…just time to refresh and relax away from home.

I have scrimped, sacrificed, and saved up for this opportunity. I am thankful to those who have helped along the way.

As you may or may not know, I am a budget nerd. I am so excited for our 2018 budget and have complete faith in God to take a huge leap of faith in the new year.

On January 15 I will be giving notice in the kitchen at the school where I work. Whether or not they want me to work the two full weeks or not, is up to them and I am fine either way. I have three unused personal days I will use up before being finished as well. So although it looks like I have a full month left, there are 20 school days minus 3 personal leave days.

I have made connections at every school in our district to be a substitute para professional. I will also continue to be a cleaner substitute as needed.

I am so excited to be back on the front lines with the kids; in their midst. It will also afford me the flexibility to continue to volunteer for my youngest son’s teacher and for activities at my older son’s school.

The wage as a para sub is higher than my wage in the kitchen, and it is usually a full (7 hour) day as opposed to 4.25. Based on this, with only 3 days of work each week I will have the same income I have now. With the desperate need for para subs in our school system; I’m guessing I will likely work 15+days each month.

Anything over my current average monthly wages I will be setting aside for the first few months in case I have some extended time off. I’m also hoping to not have to work this summer.

I have been asked to be on staff at an area bible camp, and that would be a 5 week gig…it would likely be enough to afford me to take the remainder of the summer off. My goal is to eventually not work at all in the summer months.

I considered going home to Canada to work for the summer for one of the various construction companies; knowing I’d make enough over the summer to full fund a few months in an emergency fund.

Maybe next year. This year I have some serious training to do for three inline marathons and some serious fundraising. God has given me back my health to be put to work. This year work looks like making it big on the inline scene…reaching the podium. Shouting His praise every step of the way.

Lord,

The looks from people who wonder how I can give up my steady income for something that is not even remotely guaranteed makes me giggle. As I explain that I am following You, they don’t understand.

That’s okay.

When they see Your good works through me and my every grateful family, they will know that only You could pull this off. Then, and only then will they understand how faith is so much bigger than any fear. They will see how Your love is unending and limitless.

My eyes are so bright and my heart so free…thank you.

Amen