Saturday, February 15, 2014

February 14th - Financial Fast February Halftime... oh and Valentine's Day

According to my newsfeed on Facebook, most people I know woke up on February 14th feeling slightly more romantic and generally "in love" with life!  I, too, woke up with a sense of loving ambition.  I made my daughter a pancake and a fried egg, both in the shape of a heart and served them with strawberry milk.  She gave her Daddy a self-made Valentine, opened a gift from her great-grandma, and opened several cards that came in the mail for her.  We all kissed goodbye and swooshed ourselves out the door - Emersyn had her hand-made Valentines in her bag for her babysitter and friends, and my bag was full of punch ingredients for my class' afternoon party.

But what I was really thinking about that day, more than the general good will of everyone at work, the dozen roses a student brought me, and the 8 boxes of chocolates I brought home as other gifts from students...was that the 14th of February is halfway through the month - the financial-fasting month!

Knowing that we are halfway through February is both a delightful and depressing thought.  Knowing that we have made it 2 full weeks without paying for convenience and seeing how much we can do without, we are definitely learning how much we think we NEED just isn't true!  And we even went on a day-long date last weekend on gift cards left over from Christmas!  We saw a movie, registered at BUY BUY BABY for Keegan, and ate seafood and cheesecake!  And our free sitters, my parents, were gracious to keep Emersyn for 2 days!

In the past week, we have also been blessed by little and big freebies!  I collected Valentine cards off the back of our Little Debbie's boxes.  We have been blessed to have a garage door donated from someone who was replacing his.  And when we learned that in order to enclose our carport as a garage, we would have to move our gas meter out of there, a friend volunteered to do part of the work free of charge.  Of course, we have money set aside for things needing to be done to the house, but the dear young man said he had been reading my blog and wanted to help out.  I, of course, was humiliated at first!  I always am when someone wants to help me.  I am so prideful at times, but I was also instantly nervous that perhaps people would think this blog was a way of asking for handouts.  I hope that isn't what this young man thought, or what anyone has been thinking.  My blog is just about us being transparent with our lives, and part of our lives right now is seeing how much self-control we can have in our spending.  I think anyone who knows me, knows that I don't like asking for help, and I am completely against manipulating people into doing things for me.

But I also need to remember that pride comes before a fall, and I have fallen many times in the past because I refused to take or ask for someone else's help.  So, I am learning to be thankful for coupons, free Valentine's on the back of Little Debbie's, someone else's junk being my treasure, and someone offering a free service to bless us.  I forget so often that God often chooses to correct us, encourage us, and bless us through others.  I don't mind doing that for others, so why should I be so puffed up as to be above what God has chosen to use in my life?!  It had just never occurred to me that by letting others know what challenges we face that someone would try to help us meet those challenges, and I hope it is clear that was never my intention.... and I pray it never would be... unless it was in the form of a house-buyer, heeheehee :)

These blessings and lessons have made this learning process so worth it, and I have been so proud of us.  I have been especially grateful that on days I feel run down and like my mind is gone, I have still been able to find motivation to cook dinner every night!  I even attempted Chicken Fried Steak last night from scratch!  And it was delicious, thank you very much Pioneer Woman (my first attempt at one of her recipes).  And I am appreciative that my husband has been coming home to eat during lunch breaks, when I know his coworkers are probably still going out just as often.

But just as great as all of that has been, I was also tempted to open every box of chocolates handed to me throughout Valentine's Day to devour them all with just the thought that we were only halfway - HALF WAY - through the month!  The thought called for a pint of Ben&Jerry's at least, if not also a large pasta dish from a restaurant, but thankfully, I didn't spend money on any of that, nor did I empty all the boxes of chocolates.  Not yet, anyway :)  But perhaps it really isn't the lack of spending money or lack of buying convenience that has me a little down in the dumps with this thought.  It is also the keeping our house sparkling clean and uncluttered every morning before leaving for work, just in case someone comes by to look at it.  I hate housework a lot more than I do not eating Italian food out, but thankfully I have a helpful husband, a mostly obedient daughter who helps pick up toys, and now a whole new batch of sweets to get me through due to the generosity of my students and their parents on Valentine's Day!

And just when my attitude was souring badly about all I've had to do, I was gently reminded about doing all things for the glory of God - everything, whether I am cooking, eating, cleaning, and even in waiting!

As a planner and "get it done" kind of person, waiting isn't, nor has it ever been, my forte.  Waiting for March 1st to come.  Waiting for someone to want to buy my house.  Waiting for the money to buy the house I want.  Waiting for the day when I can have the college students over without having to ask another couple if we can invade their home.  Waiting to find out about some part-time job possibilities for August.  Waiting for this baby to come... all of it equals learning.

So, the strong-willed version of myself wants to tell the big baby side of me to "Suck it up!"  I mean, February is over in 2 weeks - what is 2 weeks?!  Really?!  The house has only been on the market with the right price and the right square footage on the website for 2 days, and everyone who has seen a picture or come in has been impressed with how spacious it is on the inside, despite the small look of the exterior.  The Crosses have also been so generous to allow the college students to invade their home every Wednesday this semester, and we have all been blessed by it!  It is only February, and my goal of having a job lined up by April is still quite a ways off.  And there is no point in rushing this baby to come soon, since he needs more time to develop.  We also haven't made a space for him or even stocked up on a week's worth of clothing!

Waiting is a great discipline to learn.  And true learning is done hands-on and over time!

So this morning, post-Valentine's Day, we got up early and gave the house another thorough cleaning.  I borrowed a steam-cleaner and did all the original hardwood floors.  Kyle was a whirlwind, cleaning, decluttering, and doing dishes.  Emersyn watched a movie on the couch, and the poor child got reminded to stay put any time she let one of her feet hit the floor.  A man was coming to make a video for the house's online listing, and we finished cleaning much earlier than we thought we would.  So we bundled up and headed outside to play in the backyard!  Kyle raked leaves while Emersyn "played Mulan".  I just sat there, thinking, waiting.  I was pretty excited that Emersyn was content to finally be outside and off the couch for 2 hours.  But after all that time, the guy coming to film still hadn't arrived, and Emersyn started to ask for movies and food... so I broke down and drove us to McDonald's for food for her, a Dr. Pepper for me, and further distraction to preserve the cleanliness of the house...  And wouldn't you know that as soon as she got her shoes off to play in the playcenter, Kyle called to say that the video guy was finished and leaving.  Of course that would happen, because I just spent 8 dollars on food and soda, when I had promised myself that I wouldn't!  Another 20 minutes of waiting would have spared us the trip!

Oh well, we came home refreshed by our outing, Kyle was rewarded for all the raking he did with a large Dr. Pepper as well, and it felt nice to come home to a clean house!

Then two big surprises came after all these conflicted feelings came up - Kyle and I talked, and we think we want to actually try another financial fast in March since we will no longer be working on the house!  We came to the conclusion that we wanted to have another try to see what it would really be like to not have this major project going on at the same time as trying to abstain from spending.  Before, I wouldn't have dreamed that I would want to try this again next month, but soon after we brought it up we had easily agreed!

And then we got a call that someone was coming to look at the house tomorrow afternoon!!!  Yay!

So, "we will see" is all we can say.  It is all we should say, really.  We know that God's plans can't be thwarted, and in the scheme of eternity, $8 at McDonald's and the place we live, really won't matter.  All that lasts in this life to the next is a Christ-filled spirit.  How dreadfully far from perfect we are, but Christ continues to forgive, lead, and comfort our souls.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day, which Kyle accidentally called Thanksgiving.   But now that I think about it, giving thanks for those we love and who love us is exactly what we do!  So, Happy February Thanksgiving everyone!

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