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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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

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

Testing Tuesday

I actually just looked through an online dictionary to come up with an alliterative title…as I wrote it out I received a phone call. My friend was diagnosed with breast cancer last week and is in the expanse that is diagnostics and testing right now.

My heart hurts so much for her.

I am so thankful that this is the second time in just this last week that she has just called to talk about her feelings and how she is struggling with the knowledge of her cancer. While supporting her is difficult, as it brings back cancer to the front of my mind, I am so thankful that she easily picks up the phone and calls me.

When I was first diagnosed, I remember saying that God – who knew my story from beginning to end before I was even conceived – was going to use cancer for His good works. I never asked, “Why me?” I already knew why; to be a part of my story, my testimony, His Kingdom.

Part of that, is supporting other newly diagnosed patients as they embark on their journey. I also believe supporting people who are dealing with recurrence is going to be a part of that ministry. Unfortunately, there is a lot of it.

This is my test.

Allowing God to use me for His good. Allowing His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I decided on Testing Tuesday as I browsed the T-words, my first thought was how perfect it was because I was going back to work today.

Today I get to keep my mouth shut and head down as I finish out the week and just do my job. I’m not there for glory and fame. I’m there to be light in a very dark place. I’m there to love on the students and staff. I’m there for a paycheck.

While I’d much rather be planning my Christmas getaway with the boys, I know I need to get to work. I am SO looking forward to a few days away with them. I have found some AWESOME deals through Groupon and other sites to make this a very affordable vacation.

While I had planned on heading somewhere other than Minneapolis/St. Paul I have found enough new things for us to explore while we are there. We are going to a huge arcade/virtual reality game/indoor go kart place, the Science Museum (only my older son has been there, neither myself or the younger one has been yet). I am still looking for some unique dining experiences to round out our visit and we will likely spend the day at the Mall of America on our return home day.

My budget for the trip is $800. This is what $800 means to my family:

  1. 80 hours of work (after taxes) I work about 22 hours a week.
  2. Rent for one month
  3. Car insurance for a year
  4. A quarter of the amount I would need to replace my current vehicle with something more reliable.

While for some people it’s only a couple days and nights away from home; for us it’s our Disney Vacation. It’s a time where we can forget about home and work and school. We can relax by the pool, eat pizza in bed (one of our traditions when we used to make annual trips to Minneapolis), we can spend a whole day just being a family.

I am so looking forward to next week and the look on the their faces when they open their gifts that morning and find their suitcases…packed and ready to go.

They have earned this.

They have been through so much this last 6 years. First the divorce that never felt like it would end and when it did Mom got cancer. They are 10 and 13. Their life has been an uphill battle and filled with turmoil since they were 4 and 7.

WOW…when I put it that way…darn I have some awesome kids and have nailed this getting through the tough the tough spots in one piece gig.

There are no words to thank the people who listened when God called on them to support our family emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially. Without YOU none of this would be possible. Your willingness to follow God has given me the strength and resources to do the same.

Father,

I am nearly speechless when I put these thoughts into words about how far our family has come in six years. The last five have been exceptionally difficult and without You, they would have been impossible.

The turmoil that has made up our story has shaped us so well. When I see the results, I am thankful for my faithful walk. I am grateful for all the messes in my life. I have seen enough of the results to never question the road.

Thank You Lord for the opportunity to minister to my friend in her time of need. I pray for her complete and miraculous healing.

Although I know this upcoming trip puts me financially right back at square one, I am only able to take this leap with faith in You. Guide me and the boys on this trip to come away with full hearts and a continued passion to serve.

Amen

This Funk

Yesterday one of my co-workers (an elderly man) asked if I was feeling ok; he said I didn’t look well. I explained that I was just stressed out…holiday stress I explained.

While I have some holiday stress, the truth is I hate my job.

I LOVE being with the kids and seeing them everyday; the atmosphere with my coworkers though leaves much to be desired. The gossip runs rampant, the two-faced conversations at nearly every turn, the manager threatens termination to at least one coworker – to everybody BUT that coworker (but has yet to sit down with them and discuss what she sees as issues) it’s disgusting and sad.

As much talking as goes on, you’d think communication is top notch. You’d be wrong. People who have been there for years get yelled at for not doing things they didn’t even know they were supposed to be doing.

I’ve never been given a job description or list of duties. I’m lucky to be able to work on the fly and learn as I go and read between the lines and see work that needs to be done. However, when I get reprimanded in front of students, staff, and coworkers for not doing something I don’t even know I’m supposed to do…no thanks.

I had only been there a month when my work partner had the day off. Our duties are nearly identical…but not quite. Well, I’ve never done her job and am busy enough doing my job that I have no idea what she’s doing when I’m not watching her. Anyway…so a sub comes in and half way through serving, I get yelled at by the kitchen manager for not doing something that was my partner’s job. I explained that I didn’t know I was supposed to do that…I had never seen who did that particular job. She told me, “Well, she better tell you what her job is then.”

Well, that’s fine and dandy…but then you complain that we are working together and wasting time. It would be so simple to have individual job duties lists for each member of the staff. There is so little variation in our daily tasks, that each job should have a job description if nothing else, for subs and new staff.

So every morning, I wake up in this funk and it sucks.

I pray for my work situation, for each of the people I work with and for. I pray for the spirit of grace and mercy as I know each of us is fighting our own personal battle outside the workplace.

Then I pray for my kids, and their needs and wants.

Then after all the kids get on the bus, I go skating for an hour. I do laps, squats between the blue lines, one foot between the blue lines, power turns, lunge-crossovers, circles, and some quick skates.

My time on the ice is magic. I work my butt off most days. Some days are just for conversation and leisurely skating. I’ve already noticed my skating improving and my stamina increasing.

When I had cancer, I would sometimes spend 8 hours at chemo and then run to the rink to coach hockey practice. Luckily, I didn’t have visitors at chemo so I was able to sleep all day…if I slept all day I had enough energy to be on the ice for 45 minutes. Once I was on the ice though, you’d never know where I had spent the day. Except for being bald, you probably wouldn’t even know I had cancer. I loved that 45 minutes. We got to forget about cancer completely…45 minutes at a time.

I need to find a way to completely forget about work. I took this position at the other school for more hours. I needed the extra hours as I was tired of not being able to pay the bills. Now at least they are paid…but it’s at such a high personal cost.

This morning, there is no open skating. I’m going to take the time to take care of myself for a little while…an extra long shower, a power breakfast and then go pick up cat litter I’ve been meaning to get all week.

Life is good. I’m just in a rut.

Dear Father in Heaven;

Grant me peace through this season. We both know I took this job for reasons other than money…to be able to shine Your light into darkness. Keep my feet grounded and my head in the game as the time passes.
I knew going in that this would be a challenge. Help me to not jump ship when the going gets tough. I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge, keep my feet firmly planted in Your light and truth.
Cover my workplace in peace and prosperity for all.

Amen

I Shouldn’t Have Waited

On Thanksgiving Day, I had so many thoughts of all that I am thankful for that I wanted to post about. I knew I had to spread The Good News about how I see God work in my life. There were so many amazing thoughts in my head as I spent the day in restoring rest.

Then Thursday turned in to Friday.

I ran to the store to buy milk and ran into a friend and her kids. Her son plays hockey with mine and her baby is just an adorable little munchkin who is always quick to tell me, “I’m not a baby, I’m a big boy.”

I knew her dad had to return to the doctor after talking with them at last week’s hockey game so I asked about it. He is a two time cancer survivor whom had just recently finished his second round of treatment along with a bone marrow transplant.

You know that moment before your life changes…it was right before I asked.

“Well, we got some not good news this morning.”

Fuck

So he goes back to the doctor again this week (6 hours away from home) to figure out what the next course of action is. My friend is scared, her older son is devastated (him and Grandpa have always been very close).

I told her that all I can do is pray…because I don’t even know what else to do.

Then I got a text confirming a fear I’ve had for a few weeks. Another guy I know (although not well, I’ve known him for about 10 years) his brain cancer is back. Stage four glioblastoma.

So, of course I don’t do myself any favors by looking it up. Median survival, 15-18 months. Only 20% of patients area alive after one year.

I’ve been praying for his family…and my friend’s family.

I still want to post about all that I am thankful for…just at a more appropriate time. Today is not that time.

Today I am praying about not killing anybody at work…the last week before my Zoladex shot is beyond hell. It’s like PMS on steroids. I never dealt with PMS before cancer, I was pretty lucky.

Not anymore.

About a week before my shot is due, something will alert me to the shift in my mood; being short with the kids, something trivial causing an explosion…then I will check the calendar and take a deep breath…because it is just the beginning of Hell Week. College frat boys got nothing on me!

I can’t fall asleep at night, I don’t want to get up in the morning. I have no desire to do anything (I even skipped my morning skate today and last Wednesday). Ya, you read that right…I skipped an opportunity to be on the ice…twice.

I get my shot at 2:30 today and then because the weather is so awesome I may even go for an inline skate; whoda thunk we’d be able to skate at the end of November? I think Halloween Day was my last inline skate. Would have been cool to skate on ice and pavement in the same day. Today is not that day.

So I will get up and go to work, I even considered calling in sick today to avoid any potential issues, I’m just not myself and I hate it. Twice last week I nearly quit my job. I saw a co-worker yesterday and she asked if I was ready to go back to work tomorrow after a four day weekend and I told her, “No, I hate my job.” She said that made her sad.

I also hate that it’s four unpaid days (no stat holidays in this country). Ya, I know we’re going to be okay, yes I know God will provide for our needs.

You know what though?

I want more than just our basic needs. I want to pay the light bill AND take my kid for a hot chocolate. I want an emergency fund so that I don’t have to rely on others when my vehicle finally decides it’s done.

And I hate that.

I hate feeling like I want more. I hate to think that I somehow sound ungrateful for all that has been provided for us. I’m not. I am truly thankful to be where we are. I also know that even a few hundred dollars every month would make a huge difference in our comfort level. I could own more than one pair of jeans for work, I would not beat myself up for driving 3 hours (one way) to watch my son play hockey on his dad’s weekend. I wouldn’t cringe at the thought of the fees for archery (although only $40…that’s almost a tank of gas).

I had a great idea for Christmas for the boys and now I don’t think I can pull it off.

Instead of buying gifts this year, I was going to plan a getaway. It wouldn’t cost much more than what I would spend on gifts, and the memories would be way better than any gift I could buy them.

We even received an unexpected monetary gift in the mail last week. Well, between travel for hockey this month and other unexpected expenses, that was swallowed up like a snake eats a frog…like it was gone before I even realized it.

Add on the fact that my December 15 paycheck will be smaller than normal, and I’m right back to counting pennies in time to pay rent for January.

This is where that ‘cushion fund’ would come in handy. If I had a couple months of expenses saved up, and the security that I had the money on hand, I could let go of the stress.

So, instead. My kids will be on the local ‘Giving Tree’ and somebody will pick the “Boy – age 10” and “Boy – age 13” off and bless them, again.

I thought I had it all figured out.

Turns out God’s plans and my plans are not always the same.

Heavenly Father,

I am so thankful for the blessings bestowed upon myself and my boys. I do understand how blessed we are and how good we have it.

I miss how things were when I didn’t have to worry about money. I want to have that again. God, I ask for abundant resources to not only meet our needs but to also exceed them.

Amen