An Empty House

The house feels different today.

I park my car in the same place as before. I unlock the same beveled-glass door, and the same slobbering chocolate Labrador greets me. I set my keys on the same table and see the same pictures on the wall.

But this doesn’t feel like my house.

There are no shoes littering the entryway, threatening to trip anyone who dares to enter. There are no bicycles gathered in the driveway, and no baseballs on the couch. There are crumbs on the counter, of course, from a half-eaten breakfast muffin, but no one is arguing over who gets to use the computer first.

The start of the school year has robbed my house of its life today, and my identity went right along with it.

You see, I have been a stay-at-home mom for 13 years now. I always considered myself blessed to have the option, and I always knew – as did my husband – that it was a good fit for our family.

But my kids are in school now. And somewhere deep inside me is a nagging voice, telling me that I should get out and do something. That I should contribute financially to my family. That it’s self-indulgent to stay home in an empty house.

In years past, when this voice got the best of me, I worked as a substitute teacher, because it offered me an opportunity to work and keep a schedule that matches that of my kids. The income was nice, but the dynamic of our mornings and afternoons changed, because my stress level was higher.  My kids weren’t crazy about it (maybe because I was teaching in their respective classrooms?) but they tolerated it in the name of supplementing our budget.

Fast forward to now, and the voice is still there. My substitute teacher application is as yet unacknowledged, and I’m home in an empty house. Still trying to find the answer.

I think back to a friend from years ago who told me she stayed home until her last child graduated from high school. She didn’t do it because she wanted to be available to “rescue” any of them from consequences (like forgetting homework.) She did it, she said, because there were moments when her children needed her immediately. Urgent problems that her kids were unsure how to handle. Important questions that required answers. And if she had been at work or otherwise unavailable, she would have missed the opportunity to guide them.

Like the other day when one of my children asked me a private question on the way to school. None of the other kids in the family were around, and we were alone in the car. Because I had a few minutes to spare, I was able to pull into a parking space and answer the question.

Or when my youngest child came home from school and cried inexplicably. It seems she was “exhausted” from the first days of school, and her emotions got the best of her. I laid down with her and talked to her about her day, and within a few minutes she was napping.

Then today, I read this:

“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important – has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out – but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”  — 1 John 2:15-17  (Msg)

It lead me to think that perhaps going back to work because I feel compelled to is different than going back to work because it’s the right thing for my family. It caused me to think that perhaps I’m right where I’m supposed to be, at least for the moment. And it reminded me that I’ll always have an opportunity to take a new job, but my children won’t be here forever.

The Word For Today, “Hero”

One of the greatest hitters in the game, Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns in his career. But in one of his last major league games, the aging star performed badly. In a single inning, his errors were responsible for five Cincinnati runs.

As the Babe walked off the field, boos and catcalls cascaded from the stands. Just then, a young boy jumped over the railing and ran onto the playing field. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he threw his arms around the legs of his hero. Ruth didn’t hesitate. He picked up the boy, hugged him, and set him down on his feet with a playful pat on the head.

Suddenly the booing stopped. A hush fell over the entire park.  For a brief moment, the crowd saw a different kind of hero: a man who in spite of a dismal day on the field could still care about a little boy.  He was no longer being judged by his accomplishments, but by a completely different standard.  It was a relationship that mattered.

Living in a performance oriented world, it is easy to ignore, even justify the disregard of relationships. Four qualities that mark such disregard are: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

The away game is almost over. It is time to go back to the home field advantage. Be careful that none of these qualities go with you. You will hit a lot more homeruns at home. And there is no better place to be a Hero.

The Word For Today, “Family.”

“If you can tell me who your heroes are, I can tell you how you’re going to turn out in life.”

~ Warren Buffet

“He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.”                                                                                                                                                                    ~ Proverbs 11:29

Raising a Gentleman

I am rather old fashioned when it comes to gender roles.  I supposed that this is evidenced by the fact that I stay home with our children while Brandon works to provide for our family.  More than that, I like Brandon to open doors for me, help me in or out of a car/bus/train/whatever I’m getting in or out of, pay for my meal (even though it all comes out of the same pot) and generally treat me as a lady.  This is not to say that I don’t have an opinion or that I don’t like to share it frequently.  I definitely have a mind of my own.  But overall I like to be treated like a delicate flower.

Now that our son is old enough to understand some of these things, we are training him to be a gentleman.  Because I spend the majority of my waking time with him, this task falls largely to me.  He now knows to open doors and hold them for ladies (including his sister).  He is never to hit a girl and he is not to wrestle with girls.  We are currently working on not pushing or shoving to get ahead of someone, especially not a girl!  (Did I mention he is only 4 1/2?)

All of my instruction, reminding and harping can only do so much.  Sometimes the lesson has to be experienced.

A couple of weeks ago we were on Disney’s Epcot ferry returning to our car after a very long and exhausting day at the park.  Being first on the boat, Brandon, the kids and I all sat on a bench.  It was plenty large, so no great sacrifice there.  But as the boat continued to fill, all of the seats became occupied.  Brandon, being the gentleman that he is, stood and offered his seat to an older woman who was stuck standing.  She gratefully accepted the seat and we proceeded across the lagoon.

After a moment, my son leaned over and asked me why daddy got up for the lady.  I was so pleased and proud to be able to explain to him that daddy is a gentleman and a gentleman always offers his seat to a lady.  He accepted this answer and we rode on in silence.  But I can’t help but be thankful that our son received such a wonderful lesson from his dad.  It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t scripted, it was just Brandon being who he is: a gentleman.

What are you training your children to become?

What lessons do they learn just by watching you?

Web Site Review: “The Dating Divas”

I recently came across a really fabulous marriage web site geared toward women.  The Dating Divas is a site dedicated to celebrating and encouraging marriages by providing unique dating ideas to refresh marriage relationships.

Reading through their ideas got me so excited to try some creative dates on my own.  They have very unique ideas that will appeal to all types of women.

  • Want to get away from the cell phone and into the outdoors?  Try the Stuck With You Date.
  • Are you a home body?  Spend a special night in with one of their movie themed dates.
  • Hubby going to be away on your anniversary (again!)?  Check out their long distance anniversary ideas.
  • Looking for something a little spicy but not sinful?  They have that too.  Check out their Intimate Moments (but be prepared to blush).

The Divas have neatly broken their ideas down into categories to make it easy to find something that appeals to you.  I encourage you to check out the site and take your next date night from dull to dazzling!

Baby Step #2 – the “Debt Snowball”

As we continue our journey to “Financial Freedom” we will introduce Baby Step #2 – the Debt Snowball, as taught in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class.

Just like with anything else in our lives, career, marriage, parenting, education, we must develop a plan if we want any chances of success.

The bible says in Luke 14:28-30, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” KJV

A plan is extremely important when handling God’s resources which He has entrusted to us. When we live God’s way we can trust the He will guide us to live His will.

In Baby Step #1 we saved $1000.00 for an Emergency. This money is for true blue emergencies only, make sure you are locked in with that mindset, or the plan will not work.

Now we can move on to Baby Step #2.

This step is designed to get you out of debt as quickly as possible. Just imagine how much you can give, save, spend and invest if you didn’t have any payments.

To set up this Step you will want to list your debts, all of them, minus your mortgage, (we will get to that in a different Step), smallest amount owed to the largest, regardless of the interest rate.

Then you will pay the smallest debt off as quickly as possible. Once that one is paid off, you can then concentrate on the next debt, rolling all of the payments you were making in the previous debt into the next target.

Keep rolling your previous debt payments into the current debt target until all your debt is gone and you are ready to move to Baby Step #3.

This method causes all of the math folks a fit, however, this method is used to achieve quick victories, therefore ensuring that you stay on track. For example if you have a debt of $3,000.00 that has a 29% APR and a debt of $1500 with an 6% APR, you will pay off the smaller balance to get that quick victory. You are more likely to stick to the plan if you allow yourself to knock off some financial weight quickly, versus taking 5,6 or 7 years to knock out a larger debt.

This will only work if you want and do everything it takes to get out of debt. Work hard, make a plan and stick to it and you will win. If you decide to take your time and stay in debt for a long time, this will not work and you will have to find a different plan.

Go to the following link: www.daveramsey.com to get a free copy of the Seven Baby Steps.

Also, we suggest going to www.iwbnin.com to download a free “ZERO” based budget form developed by Joseph Sangl. This is a great tool to plan your spending, before the month begins, instead of wondering where your money went at the end of the month.

That is all for now. Let’s get those Baby Steps Rockin’ and Rollin’ and allow God to do great things in our financial lives.

Anger – Destruction in the Making

Anger is a basic human emotion, placed in us by the Creator of the Universe to help us survive.

But anger can get out of control and cause damage to those around us.

In this installment of the Chaplain Therapist, we will begin to look at the effects of anger on those around us as a starting point for personal change.

Enjoy this edition of the Chaplain Therapist and check back often to see new videos.

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Baby Step #1: Begin Emergency Fund

When Carole and I first met and were comfortable enough with one another to talk about money, we discovered that we both didn’t want to live with debt.

Proverbs 22:7 says “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

After we were married we decided to tackle this debt deal head on. Of course I was shocked when I discovered that this wonderful woman had zero debt. I on the other hand was buried under $25,000.00 in Debt. That is exactly what it felt like, the whole world on top of me.

This is where we will begin. Carole and I had to come up with a plan. New York Times best selling author, radio host, speaker and financial guru Dave Ramsey teaches people to take control and with Gazelle intense focus tackle and eliminate your debt, build wealth and give like no one else.

The first thing you must do is decide that you want to be completely debt free. Being debt free means that you have everything paid off except your mortgage or everything paid off including your mortgage. Imagine how much you can give, save,invest and spend if you didn’t have any debt. You could literally change your family tree.

If you are married, both husband and wife must agree to take this journey together. Not agreeing will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible to reach your financial goals. Singles must find an accountability partner, someone they trust, like a parent, uncle or pastor.

Second, you must decide not to go into debt while you are getting out of debt. You can’t get out of a hole if you continue to dig out the bottom.

Dave Ramsey developed the “Seven Baby Steps” to financial freedom. We would like to introduce them to you, one step at a time.

Baby Step #1 – Save $1000.00 as a “Emergency Fund”. As quickly as you can, save one thousand dollars that can be used if an emergency were to arise. You must be firm when determining if you have a legitimate emergency. This Step will keep you from automatically swiping your credit card every time something pops up.

This is a critical step and once you take it you will be ready to get rid of all debt, minus your mortgage as quickly as possible.

Destroy the Debt from Your Life and Enjoy Less Stress!!

We will introduce Baby Step #2 – the Debt Snowball in the next blog.

“The Borrower truly is, Servant to the lender.”

Are you ready to be set free?

Seek God’s wisdom and trust His guidance and you will be set free.

 

Visit Dave Ramsey’s web site to learn more about the Baby Steps and his program for Military Families.

Why Teach Tithing?

I taught my son to use the toilet so he wouldn’t be wearing diapers forever.

I taught my son to say “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” so that he will be polite and well-mannered.

I am teaching my son to read so that he will be a literate, productive citizen.

And I am teaching my son to tithe so that he will be a man who loves God and submits himself to the leadership of our Lord.

Every parent knows the importance of teaching potty training, manners and literacy.  They are necessary skills for life.  But few parents recognize the importance of teaching tithing.  Contrary to popular belief, tithing has very little to do with money.  Instead, it has everything to do with the heart.

God does not need our money.  He does not need the 1¢ my son will drop in the offering plate.  What he wants is our hearts.  He wants my heart and he wants my son’s heart.

God knows that we value money.  He understood it so well that he gave us over 800 verses of Scripture to help us understand how to use money in a way that honors him.  If God thinks it is that important, shouldn’t we obey?

God gives us everything we have.  To some he has entrusted more and to some he has entrusted less.  I want my son to understand that no matter how much or how little he has, it is from God.  God asks only that we return the first 10% of what he gives us.  Not because he needs it, but because he wants us to recognize he is the source of it all.  He allows us to keep the other 90% for ourselves.

It is all about having your heart in the right place.  A heart that is willing to trust God.  A heart that is willing to obey God.  A heart that puts God first and all else second.  That is the kind of heart I want my son to have.

By the way, my son is four.  We are starting small: an allowance that is easily divided into ten (10¢ in pennies works for us).  I explain that God asks we return one out of every ten to him.  He can easily understand that if there are ten pennies, one should be given to God.  I also explain that one way we can return it to God is to give it to the church to use.  Then we take the penny with us on Sunday and give it in the offering.

Simple lesson, but how much easier is it for him to start with a penny, then increase it to 10¢, 50¢, $1, $5 and so on.  It is a lot harder to teach a teenager to be faithful with his $10 or $20 if he hasn’t first learned to be faithful with his 1¢.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”  Luke 16:10