4 Things to be Thankful For this Christmas

4 Things to be Thankful For this Christmas

I love the Christmas season.  The colors, the smells, the excitement - it's all wonderful to me.  And as a believer who understands the true importance of Christmas - Christ's incarnation - this time of year is definitely my favorite.  I'm reminded of all that we have to be thankful for, of all that Christ has done for us.

Sometimes, though, the holidays can be difficult.  The pain of a lost loved one can be exacerbated during the holidays.  The frustrations of financial difficulties are only augmented in the face of Christmas.  And illness or depression don't suddenly disappear or get better simply because everyone else is festive. 

No matter what your current season in life - visible blessings or constant struggle - there are at least four things we can all be grateful for this Christmas.

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When All You Want for Christmas Is A Potato Peeler

When All You Want for Christmas Is A Potato Peeler

Some years ago, I was talking with our pastor's wife about the lean years when they were first married and he was still in seminary.  She commented, "That Christmas, so many of our friends were talking about getting new furniture or something else big like that, but I would have given anything just to have a new potato peeler!"

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just behind us (do I hear a collective sigh of relief?), you may be feeling overwhelmed with the "lightning deals" and "special steals" that were plastered absolutely everywhere.  Maybe you were able to snag a few Christmas gifts at unbeatable prices.  Perhaps you were even able to splurge on an item or two.  

But maybe you're in a situation where all you want this Christmas is a new potato peeler.

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Is It Sinful for Christians to be on Government Aid?

Is It Sinful for Christians to be on Government Aid?

When we first moved to the Bay Area, money was tight.  We stressed over whether or not we could buy groceries or pay our rent.  And although the Lord graciously met our needs every single time, that phase of life was anything but easy.  

One of the ways God provided for us was through various government assistance plans.  From subsidized housing to Medi-Cal, my state's version of Medicare, we received quite a bit of help from these kinds of government programs.

And I hated every minute we were on them.

I think many of us who grew up in Christian homes came to believe that accepting help from the government was wrong or sinful.  Since God's Word commands husbands to provide for their families, maybe we've just assumed that taking "handouts" of any sort is somehow evading this Biblical mandate.  Whatever the root cause, it felt wrong to me to be on these programs, at least at first.

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The Reader Survey Results Are In!

The reader survey results are in If I'm honest, I was a little nervous to create and send out a reader survey.  I mean, what would happen if no one responded?  I promised to share the results.  It sure wouldn't be amazing to say, "uh, well, I can't give you exact statistics..."  But because I'd heard about how valuable a tool a reader survey can be, I took a leap, posted the survey, and asked my readers to fill it out.

And guess what?  My readers are the best You were eager to answer my questions and give me feedback.  While I was pretty sure I knew how some of the questions would be answered, there were some good surprises for me as well.

For example, you all are, on average, a little older than I would have guessed.  That really makes sense, though, since the longer we live the higher the likelihood that we'll experience some hardship along the way.  (That also makes me a bit nervous, too, since I greatly look up to those who have more life experience than I do!)

So, here are the results from the 2016 Hallway Initiative Reader Survey!  I'm a total numbers nerd, so this stuff totally made me smile.  (Note:  many of the questions could have more than one response, so if you see percentages that tally more than 100%, it's because some readers chose to put down more than one response.  I just didn't want anyone to be confused!)

What is your preferred faith?

Not surprisingly, 100% of the survey participants are Christians.

What is your age group?

This is where I was a little off in my guessing.  Just 27% are in my age group (18-34, though in January I'll bump up into the next age bracket).  36% are between the ages of 35 and 49, and 18% are 50 or over.  I never really expected ladies older than me would want to read my posts, and I'm so honored that you do!

What is your marital status?

90% are married, and 10% are single.

How many children do you have?

36% of readers have between 1 and 3 kids; 54% have 4 or more.

If you have kids, do you homeschool?

54% of those with children homeschool; 27% do not; and 18% either do not have kids or have grown children.

What kind of hardships have you faced?

This was one of the most helpful questions on the survey.  36% of you mentioned financial hardship; 27% have struggled with job loss; 36% are dealing with illness; 27% are or have been battling depression; 18% have struggled through the loss of a close family member or friend; and 27% mentioned other hardships such as special needs children, struggle with sin, or loss of a relationship.

Ladies, my heart goes out to you all.  Not all of my own struggles have been identical to yours, but I can relate to the brokenness of this world, to pain and hardship, and the stress that comes along with our Earthly trials.

Reading through your answers has reminded me over and over again how much we need a Savior and what great hope Heaven offers us!  Even if it isn't going to be okay here in this life, Eternity spent with Christ will wipe away all of our tears.

Along those lines, I am always eager to have guest posters on the blog share what the Lord is teaching you through your hallways.  If any of you would like to write a post for me (and you don't have to have a blog of your own to do so, or even be good at writing!), don't hesitate to let me know.  You can fill out the contact form here on the blog, or you can email me at julie (at) hallwayinitiative (dot) com!

What are your two favorite types of posts on the Hallway Initiative?

The responses to this question were super helpful for me as I plan out my blogging year for 2017!  A full 72% of you favor my faith and encouragement posts (this is great news, since that's the heartbeat of the hallway!); 36% enjoy posts about family; and healthy living, homeschooling, and homemaking posts all came in about equal, at around 25%, with homemaking's percentage being just slightly lower than homeschooling and healthy living.

I've been contemplating not writing much more about homemaking, not because I don't enjoy the topic, but because there are many other, more skilled bloggers who cover the topics much better.  About all I can do is offer sympathy to those of you who struggle with it as much as I do!

What type of information or promotions would you like to see on the Hallway Initiative?

Again, the vast majority would like info and promos on faith and encouragement.  I've been wanting to do a giveaway on the blog, so I'll look for something in this area (I might need to ask my other faith blogger friends what they recommend!).  And again, healthy living, homemaking, and homeschooling all came in about tied for second interests, with blogging info a distant third.

With this information in mind, I won't hesitate to let you all know about info and deals that I find in each of these areas.  Just know that if I recommend something that either doesn't fit your interest or your budget, it won't bother me at all!  There is a wealth of information available today.  The problem anymore isn't lack of information; it's information overload.  I won't constantly send things your way, but if I think something is truly worth noting, I'll be sure to mention it!

What is your single favorite post from the blog?

Here is a partial list:

What 1 thing would you like to see added to/changed/improved on The Hallway Initiative blog?

Some of the suggestions:  better social media interaction, better images, a day-in-the-life type post

Oh, yes, social media and image creation, my nemesis and Achilles heel!  But those suggestions are right on target.  I definitely need to improve on those, and both are in my list of goals for 2017.  I don't think I'll get better over night, but I hope that, with some effort, I will get better.  And as I've always enjoyed day-in-the-life posts from other bloggers, I might get brave and try one.

I am so, so glad I took a risk and made the survey.  It was extremely helpful.  I am so thankful that you all were willing to give me your thoughts!

The reader survey results are in

What Will You Do with Your Mites?

copy-of-jv10 I've always been fascinated by the unnamed woman in Luke 21 who put two mites into the offering.  Jesus tells us that in doing so, she gave all she had to the Lord.  She kept nothing back.

What fascinates me most about her - beyond the fact that she would willingly give her life's savings to God - is the fact that she didn't consider the meager amount as being too small to be used by God.  I'm sure she had no idea that her Savior was watching or that her story would be told in God's Word for thousands of generations to come.  She simply obeyed in faith.

Last week, my blogging friend Jen shared that her family is facing serious medical trials which are resulting in a financial need.  When she asked if I would be willing to donate anything to an online fundraiser, I truly wanted to help - especially since our own family and friends had put together a fundraiser to purchase Turbo's insulin pump a couple of years ago.

As I thought about what I had to offer, though, my excitement waned.  I didn't really have much.  I've only written one ebook, and it's not very long.  Although I put my best effort into it, it seemed as if it were too small to be used by God.  And so I hesitated.

In other words, I did the exact opposite of the widow with her two mites!

Thankfully, the Lord can work around our shortcomings and hesitancy.  Another blogger with more capabilities than I have suggested that we all contribute to an ebook bundle to offer for the fundraiser.  She put everything together, and now several of us can contribute more collectively than we ever would have been able to on our own!  (Isn't that how the Body of Christ is supposed to work?)

Each of us is given different gifts, abilities, and talents.  There are no two of us alike in capabilities.  It's easy to convince ourselves that we don't have anything of value to offer or that because we're not as gifted as someone else, we can't contribute to a need.  This is what I did when my friend first asked me about helping her family.

But God is greater than our limitations and isn't held back by what we can't do.  Just as He worked it out for me to help my friend in a way that I never would have thought of on my own, He can use your abilities for His glory, too.

I did pray and ask the Lord to show me how I could help, but I didn't pray in faith.  I didn't really expect Him to open up an opportunity, yet that's just what He did.  Next time I want to serve someone, my goal is to pray in faith that God will make it possible.

Do you struggle to believe that the Lord can use you?  Do you hesitate to offer help simply because you're unsure of what you can offer?  We can ask the Lord to use our mites just as He used the widow's.  As my friend loves to say, "we serve a loaves and fishes God."  He can take the smallest offering and enlarge it to God-sized proportions. 

What an amazing God we serve!

Related:  If you have means and feel so led, here is a link to my friend Jen's fundraiser.  (All proceeds go directly to the family's medical needs.)  You can click through to learn more about her son's medical needs.  Although this fundraiser is for a different son, one of her children also has Type 1 Diabetes, which, of course, is very dear to my heart!  Please keep this precious family in your prayers, that God would grow their faith as a result of their trials, and that they would fully lean on Him.

What will you do with your mites?

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What's Your Inner Susan Boyle?

What's your inner Susan Boyle? Some years ago, an unknown, homely spinster stepped onto the stage of Britain's Got Talent.  Her awkward personality didn't help the audience expect anything amazing from this quirky, unattractive woman.  And when she confessed her inner dream to sing like Elaine Page (please tell me I'm not the only one who had to look up Elaine Page on Youtube!), everyone laughed at her.

Until, that is, she sang her first note.

No one would have ever guessed that underneath the cheeky, socially-awkward demeanor was a voice so stunning that she would receive a standing ovation and become a world sensation.  By now, most people have at least heard the name Susan Boyle even if they've not heard her sing.  (You can see her "I Dreamed A Dream" debut here.)

I don't think it was Ms. Boyle's singing talent alone that got everyone's attention.  I think what really drew people to her was the possibility that perhaps they, too, had a dormant inner talent just waiting to bloom.

Last month, I had the amazing privilege of guest-posting for Money Saving Mom.  My article was great fun to write, and I was over the moon when she accepted it.  But what really caught my attention was one of the comments someone wrote at the end of the post.

One reader asked, "If we've paid off debt, are saving for the future, and living comfortably, what do we do next?"  It was a fantastic question.

My response to Sarah was this:  "What is your secret dream?  What is it that you really want to do but are afraid to start?  Do that."

Many of us, if not most, have a tiny dream that we'd love to do "someday."  But we laugh at ourselves for even thinking about such a silly-sounding, crazy idea.  And if we're laughing at ourselves for being so outlandish, surely everyone else would laugh at us, too, if they knew what we really dreamed about doing.

Or would they?

A more important question than asking if the world would laugh at you about your secret hope, however, would be to ask, "What if God gave me this desire?  What if He's the One prompting me?"  Because if the Lord is behind it, why are you ignoring it, squelching it, or saving it for the inevitable 'someday'?

Jon and I have a dream, too:  we want to start our own business so that he can work from home.  There's more to it than that, but that's the basic passion that the Lord has given us right now.  It sounded silly when we first said it out loud, and truthfully, it seemed impossible that we could build our own business without going into debt.

But guess what?  Today is launch day!  We built a company called Canvas Gadget that provides affordable 3D marketing (Jon's a 3D modeler, so it makes sense that we'd design something in the 3D world) to small businesses.  We couldn't be happier.  While it may or may not be the job that lets Jon work from home someday, just the fact that we finished something is completely amazing to us.

Your dream probably isn't to start an online 3D business.  It probably isn't to sing on a stage in front of thousands of people.  But I would bet that you do have a dream, and it's quite possible that it's something the Lord has been laying on your heart.

It's not silly.  It's not crazy.  And it shouldn't stay dormant.

We never would have known who Susan Boyle was if she'd' never decided to try out for a well-known talent show.  I'm sure she was nervous, but she did it anyway.  It's not always easy to step out in faith.  And just because Ms. Boyle saw immediate success doesn't mean that you and I will.  But I believe it's still worth the risk.

Your turn:  Do you have a goal or dream that you've kept to yourself?  If you're willing to share it, I'd love to hear about it!  Need help with planning out steps for that dream?  The Brilliant Business Moms group on Facebook is a great place to start!

Related:  Kali from Joy for Each Step asks, "What's Your Olympic-Sized Dream?"

What's your inner Susan Boyle?

 

 

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It's Here: The (FREE!) Waiting Well Planner!

Waiting well planner Do you have a hard time managing your minutes?  I certainly do.  I'll hop onto Face Book "just for a minute," and before I know it, 20 minutes or more have gone by.  When I know I need to leave for an appointment in an hour, I end up wasting most of that hour, knowing that I have to leave soon.  Both of these are prime examples of how poorly I plan my time.

I've long loved the idea of using a planner, but I haven't found one that met my specific needs.  Namely, I needed something that covered homeschooling, business, and homemaking.  More than that, I wanted a daily planner - one that gave me a fresh sheet to use each day instead of one that had the entire week squashed into a page.  But I also needed something simple; I've seen planners that cover so much that I'd get overwhelmed and just give up using it all together.

Since what I was after didn't seem to exist, I decided to create my own!  Had I known how much time and effort I'd need to put into creating even a simple planner, I might never have started this project, but now that it's complete, it feels great to have created something that will be invaluable to me.

And I'm super excited to share the new Waiting Well Planner with you!

This planner is an academic, daily time-block style planner, meaning that it runs August 2016 to July 2017 with daily pages for planning out your schedule by the hour.  Other benefits of the Waiting Well Planner include:

  • Simple:  Keep track of all your basics like goal setting, menu planning, and daily events without getting overwhelmed with unnecessary fluff.
  • Affordable:  It's FREE!  Printing costs are your only investment.
  • Biblical:  Set spiritual growth goals in addition to academic and business goals.  Keep track of weekly Bible verses and hymns to learn.  Jot down daily gratitudes.
  • Versatile:  Print the pages that work for you and skip the ones that don't.  Two options for the daily sheets make this planner easy to tailor to your needs!

If this planner sounds like it would be a blessing to you, it's yours, totally free.  Just fill in the subscription box at the end of this email or the bar at the top of my site, and I'll get it sent right over to you.  It's in a PDF format - all you have to do is print it out.  I've made it as printer-friendly as possible so that you won't spend an arm and a leg on ink.  Pop it into a binder or get it bound at Kinko's, and you'll be set for the year.

Let's make this coming school year our best yet!

Related:  Need a prettier planner or one that covers different items than mine does?  See my post here for other options (and learn about some of my struggles while composing this planner, too!).

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Waiting well planner

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Does God Carry Your Suitcase?

Does God carry your suitcase? "Father, what is sex sin?" asked Corrie Ten Boom on the train one afternoon, having heard the word in a poem at school.

Instead of answering, Father handed Corrie his suitcase.  "Corrie, can you carry my suitcase for me?" He questioned.

Try as she might, little Corrie couldn't lift the heavy travel bag.  "I'm not big enough yet, Father," she admitted reluctantly.

"So it is with sex sin, Corrie.  There are some things that are too heavy for a child to carry.  For now, you must trust me to carry certain things for you, and when you are able to handle them, I will tell you about them."

Years later, after having been arrested for assisting Jews during WWII, Corrie and her father were imprisoned.  Although Corrie lived through her internment, her father died from illness after just 10 short days.  Unable at first to understand why God allowed him to die, Corrie finally decided that the Lord's reasoning was too much for her to grasp right then.  She made the choice to let God carry this "suitcase" for her.

What in your life right now is too heavy for you?  Are you leaving it in the Lord's hands, or are you constantly struggling with the weight of it yourself?  I'm definitely of the "suitcase-carrying" kind of person.  I worry and stew about things I have no control over, as if somehow my fretting is going to change the situation for the better.

Does God carry your suitcase?

I have a list of suitcases I attempt to carry:  Jon's CSF leak; Turbo's diabetes; family finances; the spark plugs' health.  I've convinced myself that worrying about these and other issues means I care more deeply about my family than I would if I weren't unduly concerned.  But if I'm honest here, carrying my own troubles is nothing more than sin, selfishness, and a lack of faith.  Calling sin by its name doesn't really leave much room for pretending that it's something else, does it?

If you're struggling with something in life, be it family issues, money woes, poor health, or lack of faith, there are three questions you should ask yourself:

  • Why are you struggling with this?
  • What is causing you to resist leaving it in God's capable hands?
  • What can you do today to start leaving it with Him?

I don't ask myself these questions very often, but I need to start doing it regularly.  When I'm faithful to consider them, the answers are convicting.

  • I struggle with things because I am a naturally-gifted worrier.  Fretting comes easily to me; I don't have to work at it, and yet it's an area where, sadly, I excel.
  • Lack of trust in God's promises and faithfulness and my own selfish pride cause me to hang onto things when I should leave them fully with God.
  • If I truly want to stop carrying my suitcases, I can pray, read Scripture, and ask others to keep me accountable.

Your answers may look similar to mine, or they may be completely different.  My hope is that taking the time to consider your own answers will challenge you to release your "suitcase" into the Lord's capable hands.  He'll hold it until you're ready to handle it, whether that's sometime in the coming days or not until you reach Heaven.

For many months following her arrest, Corrie had to be content knowing that the Lord would carry the suitcase of her father's death.  But as the war dragged on and the concentration camp grew more and more brutal, Corrie at last understood why God had taken her father Home.  Dying from illness had spared him from the beatings, humiliation, starvation, and shootings that took place in the men's quarters.  The Lord in His goodness had been merciful.

What about you?  Are you able to leave your worries, cares, and concerns with the Lord even if He chooses not to reveal His reasoning?  Although my heart wants to do this, my flesh is still weak.  I am constantly fighting the urge to take back my worries.  I have a feeling that this will be a life-long battle for me, but as my faith continues to grow, I hope that I will grab the suitcase handle less and less frequently.

I don't need to know all of God's reasons; I just need to trust that He will safeguard that information until it's time for Him to reveal them.

Does God carry your suitcase?

 

 

 

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3 Action Steps You Must Take During A Financial Crisis

3 action steps you must take during a financial crisis Job loss.

Medical bills.

Unforeseen illness.

All of these things have a common thread that makes my heart jump into my throat:  the potential to create a financial crisis.

Money woes cause me to panic more quickly than anything else in life (with the possible exception of illness).  The combination of an empty bank account and an impending bill is enough to cause my heart to pound in anxiety.  I'm guessing I'm not alone when it comes to being terrified by money issues.

Jon and I have gone through layoffs, unemployment, and under-employment, all of which bring various levels of fear.  I wish I could tell you that I've handled each situation with grace and poise.  I wish I could say that I fully trusted in God's provision.  I wish I could claim to have learned to put my complete faith in the Lord as a result of these trials.

But I can't.

I am very human, and lack of money quickly reveals how fickle I am.  So, while I can't say, "here are 3 things I learned as a result of an empty checking account," I can offer three things I wish I had done when each of those trials came and what I hope I will remember to do when the next wave of financial turbulence hits.

Remember that God owns it all

One of the biggest mistakes I've made during financial crises is forgetting that the money was never mine to begin with.  How much better would it have been if I'd stopped to consider that it all belonged to God, that I was merely a steward of what He'd given me, and that He was free to move His funds around as He saw fit?

If you're facing a difficult financial situation, stop to consider that the Lord owns everything.  The only way to gracefully endure fiscal hardship is to view "your" money as it actually is:  God's.

View A Financial Crisis As An Opportunity to See God Work

Instead of freaking out about your financial crisis like I've done, try to calmly view each money crunch as an opportunity to see God work.  Everything God does is for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28, Isaiah 48:10).  I have a very hard time seeing (at first) how God could be glorified and how things are for my good.  I tend to see the crisis and not Christ. 

It might not be immediately obvious to us how He is being glorified or how we're benefiting from a situation, but since the Bible promises us these things, we can trust that they're happening.  If you can see a tough situation as a front-row seat to God's handiwork, it will be much easier to accept the cup that the Lord has given you.

Write Down Verses on God's Promise to Provide

God has graciously promised to provide for all our needs (see Philippians 4:19), but it's easy to get so caught up in the fear of the situation that we forget those promises.  Grab your Bible, a pen, and a sheet of paper and begin jotting down verses about the Lord's provision.  Don't forget Old Testament stories of God's protection and provision.  Notice how, over and over again, the Lord graciously cares for His people.

God doesn't promise to provide in the way we think or expect

A word of caution is in order here, however:  God definitely promises to provide, and He has proven His provision in Scripture over and over again.  But He doesn't promise to provide in the way we think or expect Him to, nor does He act according to our timetable.  He also doesn't say that we won't suffer while we're waiting for Him to act (otherwise, this blog would be obsolete!).  The Bible promises us that suffering will come (James 1).

Remembering that God owns it all, viewing a financial crisis as an opportunity to see God work, and writing down God's promises to provide won't make your current trial go away.  But doing these things will give you a better mindset for handling the situation in a way that brings honor to the Lord.  There often isn't much you can do during a financial crisis other than waiting, but these three things are action steps that you can do today, right now.

Let's praise Him while we wait!

Your turn:  Have you gone through financial hardships?  What has been the biggest help to you?  Share with us in the comments!

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3 action steps you must take during a financial crisis

 

 

When You Have to Work but Want to Stay Home

When you have to work but want to stay home For the first 10 years of our marriage, I worked part time first as a church secretary and then as a piano teacher to supplement Jon's income.  I found both jobs enjoyable and appreciated each of them, and by carefully planning my schedule, we never had to pay for childcare.  Even so, I would have greatly preferred to be home full time.  Between the fact that I’m a complete introvert and that I believe a woman’s primary ministry is in her home (though, of course, her home is not her only ministry!), I didn’t like having to leave my husband and little ones in order to work.

I spent long evenings teaching music in my students’ homes, often waging through horrendous traffic just to give a 30-minute lesson before struggling through more jammed freeways to reach the next student.  I taught through multiple rounds of morning sickness, which only added to my misery.  I taught at odd hours to accommodate my students’ scheduling needs.  And although most of my piano families were wonderful, I had that inevitable student who would call to cancel 5 minutes before lesson time.  The worst lesson I ever endured was the time I showed up to a student’s home only to discover that although her entire family had the stomach flu, she still wanted a lesson.  The Pepto Bismol on the counter mocked me as I tried to hold my breath and avoided touching the piano keys.

When the Lord provided a job for Jon that fully met our financial needs, I was over the moon at the fact that I could stop working.  It wasn’t that I disliked my job, but the stress that it placed on both me and my family was a burden I gladly surrendered at the earliest opportunity.  I was truly sorry to say goodbye to my current students – they were some of the best I’d had in all my years of teaching – but the first night I didn’t have to leave Jon and the spark plugs felt like Christmas.

Over the years, I’ve met other amazing ladies who also have to work but are waiting for the day when they can be home with their families.  My heart goes out to them, because I can well relate.  And many of them have been working far, far longer than I ever did at jobs that aren’t as easy and high-paying as mine were.  I wish I could promise them that tomorrow they’ll be able to quit their jobs, that the end is almost in sight.  But, of course, I can’t do that.

What I might be able to do, though, is to offer some encouragement, share what helped me get through my jobs, and express what I wished I had done while I worked.

(Note:  Truthfully, I feel a little timid about sharing my thoughts when so many amazing women have had much longer, more difficult positions and situations than I ever had.  I mean, I worked as a church secretary where I interacted daily with friends, and if I had to work outside the home, there isn’t much that’s more rewarding than teaching.  I greatly admire these ladies who have a much tougher time than I ever have.)

1.  Pray for Contentment

My number one go-to problem-solving method is prayer.  No matter what the issue at hand, I try to pray first and foremost, and I always ask my close-knit prayer group to pray as well.  One thing that I didn’t do much of when I was working, though, was praying for contentment.  I prayed for a better job for Jon; for my students to remember to pay their tuition fees; and for the kids to be good for Jon while I was away.  Had I also prayed for contentment during that time, I might have handled the strain with much greater grace than I did.

2.  Remember that your desire to be at home is Biblical

I never once felt guilty for wanting to be free of my jobs.  I was confident that taking care of my family and my home was of utmost importance to the Lord, and therefore, desiring to be home with them was a good thing.  The world tries to convey the idea that a woman without an outside source of income is incomplete, but the Bible places greatest importance on serving our husbands and ministering to our families.  We should never think that the desire to be at home is out of place.

3.  Understand that life is not perfect

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn thus far is that life isn’t perfect.  While we are to aspire to the Biblical model of the husband providing for his family while his wife manages the home, situations of sin, illness, injury, and death can all contribute to the demise of this beautiful arrangement.  Single moms, widows, and women whose husbands have been disabled all have to fill the role of provider in addition to their call to manage their homes.  I am so thankful that while life on Earth will never be the way we wish, we as believers do have the hope of Heaven where things will be just as God had originally planned.

4.  Consider how your husband feels

It took me several years to realize that my having to work was probably harder on Jon than it was even for me.  It can be extremely humbling for a husband who either cannot work or cannot find a job that pays well enough to meet his family’s needs.  Looking back, I can see that Jon really needed me to be more understanding and supportive while he couldn’t provide the way he felt he should.  I was so tired and worn out from working at night after shepherding spark plugs all day that I didn’t encourage him enough.  If I had it to do all over again, I would want to focus more on encouraging him when he felt frustrated that I had to work.

5.  Pray for a change of circumstances, but be thankful if they don’t

We’re told to ask the Lord in faith for things.  Since we know that staying home as stewards of our families and houses is Biblical, we can ask for a change of situation that would permit us to do so.  Since we also know that the Lord’s ways are not ours and that His timing is often not what we expect, we need to remember to be thankful even if He decides that we need to continue working for a while longer.  Most of all, we can focus on the glory of Heaven, where things of this Earth will pass away and we will live forever with Christ and in the perfection that will be there.

Working from home or outside the home can be very difficult.  We don’t know at what time, if ever, circumstances will change.  We can still choose to be joyful; we can still opt to submit to our own husbands; and we can continue to hunger for the perfection of Heaven some day, no matter what our present situation is on Earth.  As believers, we always have hope.  Whether we work for 6 days, 6 months, or 60 years, we need to remember that this truly is temporal when compared to the infinite days of Eternity.

Your turn:  Do you work or have you worked, either at home or away from your family?  What things encourage you along the way?  What do you wish you had done differently?  What words of wisdom would you offer to someone else who has to work but wishes she did not?

When you have to work but want to stay home

That First Cup of Coffee: Lessons Learned from Bootstrapping A Business

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“You can never un-sell a bad first cup of coffee.”

When my husband Jon and I began our business, the above thought was never far from my mind.  In my hometown, a new coffee shop closed its doors after a dismally-short operation.  I later learned that the company had initially sold a poor-quality coffee.  Despite switching to a better brand, it never recovered from the first bad reputation, and so my “first cup of coffee” philosophy was born.

Jon’s and my business venture was slated to launch several months before its actual release date.  The delays were discouraging, but more than anything else, we wanted to avoid presenting a low-quality product riddled with frustrating bugs that would permanently chase away potential clientele.  As hard as it was to wait, I’m thankful that we did.  We now have a product to be proud of, and we came away with several good lessons about starting a business that we likely would have missed otherwise.

Starting a business takes hard work, patience, and more hard work.

Our greatest underestimation when we stared out was just how much time, energy, and patience our project would require.  Bootstrapping a business (starting a business without any capital or investors) is not for the faint of heart.  Over and over again, Jon and I had to encourage one another to keep going.

It’s good to plan, but plan in sand instead of stone.

We originally set high stakes for our business.  We wanted to launch it in under two years, and we wanted to do so with 3 times the amount of content that we actually launched with.  We didn’t make either of these goals.  Was it wrong to set such lofty ideals?  Not at all!  Had we not set them, we never would have launched in the time we did with the amount of content we did.

Crystal Payne, owner of MoneySavingMom.com and author of Money Making Mom, is a huge proponent of goal setting.  I’ve been following her blog for several years, and much of my business savvy I owe to her encouragement and teaching.  So, when Jon wanted to start out setting monthly business goals, I was all for it!

Setting goals has been extremely helpful for us.  Although goal-setting can also make us frustrated when we don’t make our benchmarks, over all, we’ve made it much farther down this entrepreneurial journey than we would have without planning.

Bootstrapping might take longer initially, but the end result is worth the headache.

With little financial resources and no desire to take out loans for our business, “bootstrapping” was our only option.   We worked with what we had on the budget we could afford.  Many months, we had no money to put toward our startup and could only give it our precious time.

At the same time that we were launching our bootstrapped business, Jon was working for a startup that had received funds from venture capitalists.  We had the unusual privilege of comparing the two different methods for starting a business.  As difficult as it was to wait and save up funds little by little, we wouldn’t trade the freedom of a debt-free business for anything else.  While we’re completely free to do as we think best with our business, the startup that Jon works for during the day has to follow the whims of the investors.

Bootstrapping is definitely not the main-stream recommended method, but Jon and I are happy to suggest an alternative to the debt, fees, and restrictions generally associated with business loans.  You simply can’t place a price on financial freedom.

Not all businesses will be successful, but neither can complete success be measured in dollars or number of users.

No one knows whether or not a business will flourish or fail, but hopefully life lessons will be learned along the way that more than make up for any financial floundering.  If our app goes nowhere, we can take away the above lessons and feel that we’ve been successful in our endeavors.  And if it does take off as we hope it does, well, that’s simply cream for an already-tasty cuppa Joe.

Your turn:  Have you ever started a business, or do you hope to start one someday?  What lessons have you learned, either from your own experience or from watching others?  Tomorrow, I’ll share about a wonderful new resource for anyone wanting to learn more about starting a business!

Day 16: On Choosing A Husband

On choosing a husband Dear Little Princess,

I love Daddy’s and my love story.  While I do think it is a sweet one, the biggest reason that I love it is because it belongs to us.  We got married when I was 22, which is very young by today’s standards.  We had our first baby just 11 months later, while many (perhaps even most) other couples wait much longer before starting a family.  So far, we have a total of four children, which is considered to be a lot.  The Lord has simply led us down the road less traveled, and we’re very happy with how our life together has turned out.

If you marry, your story likely will be very different from ours.  You may not meet your husband until you are many years older than I was.  Perhaps you’ll struggle with infertility or the loss of a child, two things we’ve not gone through.  You might make wiser financial choices than we have, and maybe you’ll be able to travel or enjoy things at a younger-than-average age.

When you’re old enough to start considering marriage, there are many things that won’t matter much in the long run.  Your husband’s hair and eye color, height, and build won’t have a lot of eternal bearing.  His faith, personality, and character, however, will dramatically influence your marriage, so focus on finding a husband whose faith in the Lord is unshakable, who reacts reasonably to both blessings and trials, and whose personality meshes well with yours.

It might also be tempting to try to find a husband who’s just like Daddy.  Although I think this is admirable, the truth is that Daddy is going to have some years of wisdom on a young man near your age.  Instead of looking for someone just like Daddy, I would recommend that you look for someone with the potential to become like Daddy.  Look for someone with honesty, integrity, and a sense of humor.  Look for someone who desires the things of the Lord and who causes you to grow in your faith.

Be wary of anyone who is overly flattering, who answers his parents or other authorities harshly, or who makes you feel uncomfortable for any reason.  Observe his actions.  Does he follow through on what he says, or does he make grand-sounding suggestions on which he never delivers?  Is he a hard worker?  Is he punctual?  Is he reliable?

Remember that there is no perfect husband aside from Christ’s relationship with the Church.  Men are not mind readers (and neither are women).  It will take time to get to know someone well enough to be reasonably sure that he would make a suitable husband.  Again, look for someone with the potential to develop the qualities that you value.  Be discerning in your choice.  And as you look and wait for the Lord’s timing for marriage, be sure that you are working on your life, too.  Do you have weaknesses or areas where you need to mature?  Don’t ignore your own faults.  Ask the Lord to help you pinpoint and improve on your shortcomings.

No matter whether you marry or stay single, never forget that the Lord should always be your first love.  Focus on Him first, no matter what.

All my love,

Mommy

31 days image link

On choosing a husband

Day 12: Learn to be A Good Steward

JulieVarner.com(128) Dear Little Princess,

The Bible has a lot to say about stewardship, or the care-taking of someone else’s things.  Here on Earth, everything belongs to God (Ps. 24:1), but He has graciously lent us all things for our good and enjoyment.  Did you know that He has lent you and your brothers to Daddy and me?  As much as I want to think of you as my own, you are all His, but Daddy and I get to take care of you.  He has asked me to be your steward.

Stewardship is usually a term used when people are talking about money.  I want you to know that money is just a resource.  It can help in many ways, but unless we have the proper attitude toward it – that we are merely managers of it and not owners – it will never bring us happiness.  I hope and pray that you learn to be wise with your finances so that the money the Lord lends you will serve you well.

In addition to being a steward of money, Little Princess, we’re also called to be stewards of the entire Earth.  If we can remember that everything we “own” in life is really just on loan from the Lord, it can help us to be better managers of what God has entrusted us with.  You’ll hear over and over phrases like, “save the whales!” or, “save the Earth!”  But we are not saviors.  Only Jesus saves.  We are, however, stewards, and as such, we are called to care for and protect the Earth, the animals, and our environment.

The Lord has placed us as caretakers over His creation.  In addition to creating us in His image, this is yet another way He differentiates us from the animals.  Being a good steward of what is His is a difficult task, but just as with everything else in life, He will help us to do well the job He has called us to do.

All my love,

Mommy

31 days image link

Learn to be a good steward

A Life Lesson in Financial Stewardship

A life lesson in financial stewardship Teachable moments pop up all the time, but I wasn't quite prepared for a sudden teaching opportunity on stewardship that came up last year.  Jon brought home something so bizarre that none of us could help staring at it in bewilderment.  (His parents found it in their garage, a remnant from the home's previous owners.)

It might be hard to tell, but that photo is of 38 one-dollar bills all laminated together.  Why on earth someone would do this and waste such a precious resource is beyond me.  It was a sorry sight and didn't take much calculating to figure out what percent of a typical paycheck was stuck in that plastic graveyard.

Instead of crying over the spilled milk, though, we turned it into a lesson for the kids.  We asked the spark plugs whether or not the person who had laminated his dollar bills had been wise with his money; whether or not it was a good idea to deface money; and whether or not there were better ways of preserving currency.  We then moved on to some deeper questions:  in what other ways do we waste possessions that could be compared to the laminated money?  What could we learn about stewardship from this odd object?

Next, we looked into ways of fixing the problem.  Jon had done some Googling that said occasionally banks would take the ruined money and exchange it for legal tender, so Monday the kids and I visited various banks to find out the validity of this claim.  Based on the gawking stares of numerous bank tellers, I'm pretty sure most of them had never seen anything so strange before.  While none of them were willing to exchange it, we were given the federal web site for damaged and defaced currency where we found instructions for mailing in the laminated bills.  Supposedly, we'll be reimbursed for the ruined 38 dollars.

We've not yet mailed the specimen to Washington's defaced currency agency, but it will be fun to find out what happens.  While we might never be able to redeem those 38 dollars, we were able to glean very valuable lessons on using wisdom, being good stewards, and thinking through our actions.  It was definitely worth the $38!

Update:  we did mail in the laminated money, but unfortunately, we never heard anything back from the office we mailed it to.  Since we sent it by certified mail and received notice that it was delivered, we're assuming that the office doesn't normally reimburse people for ruined currency.  Lesson learned!

Your turn:  Have you come across unexpected lessons?  What have you learned from them?  Have you ever dealt with ruined money?  How did you handle it?

A life lesson in financial stewardship