A Very Special Email…

Sometimes I sell these Lunchbox Jokes  that I made a few years back.

I have a little Etsy Shop that I don’t normally mention much – there’s not a whole lot in there right now – just 3 things at the moment.

It will often be weeks or months in between sales from my shop, but then I receive a notification that someone has purchased one of the creations

listed.

Last week I got such a notification.

This one was a little different, though.

This one came with such an enormous blessing attached.

Can I share the comment I received from the purchaser?

I am a volunteer with an organization called Blue Skies that provides families with children who have cancer a week of vacation at the beach. My plan was to use these cards at night as little surprises when I turn their covers down for them while they are out at the pool. I know how much children love jokes so I thought it would be fun. Thanks so much…

Mmmhmmm…. a very special email… blesses me to no end.

“Stop Sitting on the Premises”

I heard this from a preacher on the radio in Chicago a few years ago.

We were there for Josh’s graduation from Wheaton College.

First we had visited Josh’s brother in St. Louis for a few days, then we brought Uncle Jay with us and piled into a rented Jeep to drive to Chicago for the graduation.

It was a grand affair, visiting Wheaton was a magnificent experience, and the ceremony was inspiring to say the least.

On our last night in Chicago we were winding down in the hotel room with the boys.

Josh went for a swim in the hotel pool, and I tucked the boys into bed.

They used to listen to music as they fell asleep, so I was trying to find something soothing on the radio.

I found a preacher.

One of those southern gospel preachers, you know?

With the booming voice and the beautiful lilt to his words.

They always sound like they have something amazing to say.

I’ve always wanted to visit at least one of those churches – maybe one day.

That day the radio was enough.

I just couldn’t change the station.

I can still remember one line of the preacher’s sermon.

Just one line that has stuck with me and changed me in different ways.

One line that applies to so many areas of life.

“You got to stop sitting on the premises, and start STANDING on the promises.”

Ya, I just LOVE that!

Don’t you?

This one line has grown my faith immensely.

It has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone over and over.

And now it is encouraging me in areas of health.

You see, my body is sore – EVERY day.

Not just sometimes anymore.

ALL the time.

It started about a year ago, when I was writing my last exams for university and I knew the book would be published within a few months and church planting in Northern Ontario was the new direction we found ourselves on.

There was a whole heap of new things, big things, wonderful things going on.

And I’d gotten really used to sitting on the premises.

When big things loom in front of you – it’s not easy to stand up.

It’s much easier to just keep sitting down.

I’m not talking physically here – I can go through the motions as good as the next person.

I’m talking spiritually.

It’s this verse that sticks with me…

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. – James 2:26

I’ve been working out the “faith without deeds is dead” part for a couple of years now, and it’s been motivating me to “start standing on the promises” all over the world!  In my own neighbourhood to Northern Ontario to Dominican Republic. Such great adventures, with more coming I hope.

It seems it’s this part that I have to work on next – “the body without the spirit is dead”.

Going through the motions and neglecting to live in the moments of them is proving to make me worn and tired and sore.

I think I tend to leave my spirit at home when it’s time to stand on the promises.

I think I leave a chunk of me behind – to keep sitting on the premises.

It’s safe there, it’s under control, it’s familiar and warm and comforting.

Standing on the promises is often unfamiliar, cold, strange, confusing.

But it’s time to start moving.

The more I sit, the more sore I get.

The more I hurt.

It’s three simple words that had been on repeat for a while in my heart, but I’ve forgotten them the last little while.

Just… keep… going.

But not just physically, it’s got to be spiritually too.

It’s got to be all of me that stands up.

A wonderful lady sent me these words recently – she has Parkinson’s and this simple phrase is highlighted on one of the Parkinson’s exercise posters…

STAND  UP
SIT  LESS
MOVE  MORE
Yes, that sums it up nicely…

Sower and Seed

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

- Psalm 1:3

This verse has been turning up alot for me lately, and it reminded me of a blurb I wrote for a women’s online devotional series a couple of years ago…

A seed was planted by the most beautiful stream. Lovingly the rich earth was dug out, and the seed laid gently in the soil. A tender hand covered the seed over.

The seed seemed to know what it needed to grow. Tiny roots formed, and a sapling began to emerge.

The Sower came to check on His seed that was now a sapling. He was pleased and smiled at the hope He saw. He knew the river had seeped its life-giving water into the ground surrounding the sapling. Its roots grew big and strong, constantly thirsty for the life-giving water. Those roots became entwined with the roots of other trees and they grew tall and healthy together.

At times drought came to the grove. The sun shone hard and the heat was almost unbearable. Still the tree kept its green leaves and bore its fruit even in the driest weather. It never feared the heat, nor worried in the drought. It always trusted and always found its confidence in the life-giving water of the stream.

The Sower was never far from the seeds He planted, and was most happy when they grew to become all He envisioned them to be.

Scene From The Soul – Where Are You?

annasklar:

Just revisiting a really old post of mine… wrote this 15 years ago, just before I started dating my Joshua…

Originally posted on Living In The Moments:

She walked. Every day, and sometimes twice, she would saunter through the woods and across the fields, drinking in the presence of nature she felt all around her. She held a make-shift bouquet of wildflowers in her hand, and swayed them at the beckoning of the wind. These moments, alone with God, sustained her throughout the endless trials of her days. She felt lonely, but knew she was never really alone. She felt sad, but knew there lived inside of her an everlasting supply of joy. If she could only reach it. How does she reach it?
What stands in the way of her grabbing onto the happiness she knows would follow if only she’d trust? It is many things. It is free will, fear, memories, comfort in the constancy, loming rejection, and confusion. It is uncertainty and a self-consciousness that’s she’s not sure originated with her.
Does she really…

View original 287 more words

Paying Down Your Mortgage Faster

A mortgage is probably the biggest debt you’ll ever have.

For the first decade of our mortgage experience, we just looked for the best interest rates, tried to have the smallest mortgage possible, and tried to make payments more often to decrease the mortgage life.

To be honest, we got our house for CHEAP!

Josh was working part-time at the local hospital, serving food to the patients with his usual flair and charm. The patients would hear him singing big band tunes as he walked through their doors with trays of food. He would come to the aid of hospital staff when codes for help would come in over the speaker system. He had the funniest/saddest stories to tell when he came home at the end of the day.  He made a good wage, but it was only part-time.

We found a house within our small budget – a real fixer-upper, but OK to live in for a while before major repairs were needed.  And it even had an apartment to rent out upstairs. We could afford this, even on a part-time income. And I could still be home with Josiah and any other kiddies that came along.

$67,000 mortgage.

And we had a tenant ready to move in when we got the keys.

We rented out the upstairs apartment for 4 years, had another son just after we’d lived in the house for 1 year, and Josh got a full-time job at a local church within a few months of moving in.

We payed down our small mortgage a little during those 4 years.  We made biweekly payments for a while, instead of monthly payments. This meant we were making 2 extra mortgage payments a year – not much, but it lowered our mortgage life by a few years.

Then we had to make a hard decision – we were living in about 700 square feet of house, with another small finished room in the basement and a big claw-foot tub to bath the boys.  We had to seal the windows with plastic wrap every winter, needed space heaters throughout the house, and had to pay crazy amounts to fuel our oil furnace every year.  The boys were sharing a small room, but they would only get older – and BIGGER.  It was challenging to have people over like we wanted to with the lack of space available. Should we move or should we stay?

We decided to stay. This meant no more rental income from the upstairs apartment, and years of renovation ahead of us. We dug in our heels and got to work.

We asked the bank for a bigger mortgage to finance the renovations. Still, our mortgage was much lower than anything else similar on the market. And we were just starting to get used to our neighbourhood. We have some amazing neighbours, BTW!  And there’s lots of kids for our boys to grow up with. It’s been great that way.

Three years of renovations just about did us in. I must admit, I wanted to move at least a few times. We had to gut the entire house (there was no insulation in the walls, hence the plastic wrap on the windows, space heaters and outrageous fuel costs!) and rebuild as we could.

First we tackled the upstairs, since we were already living downstairs quite comfortably. The demo work was really fun and we had lots of help! A dumpster sat on our driveway for a few weeks, and we filled it to the brim. Mysteriously we weren’t charged anything for the dumpster. And we had an electrician offer to help us rewire the existing knob-and-tube wiring throughout the house. The only requirement was that Josh would apprentice him during the work. DONE!  We had a friend who was a contractor and he would take any quote we got and come in 20% under that amount. DONE! And I was willing to pull endless nails, insulate the whole house, paint all the walls, and whatever else I could manage. Josh worked two jobs for a few years – one at the church and one at home. Usually we had some separation from the renovations as we lived on one floor of the house and worked on another. And we took a few breaks where there were months that we didn’t touch the house – just lived in it and enjoyed some family time as our boys just kept on growing!

Three years and one more increase in the mortgage to finish up the siding, flooring and trim throughout the house. We had two big unexpected expenses along the way – flooding in the basement made us aware of the need to reseal our foundation (about $7500), and the extremely un-level house (built in 1950) meant there were extra flooring costs. Plus we’ve since had to re-seal (once again) two parts of the foundation because of shoddy work from the company we originally hired for the foundation (I WON’T mention any names!).

There are a few odds and ends to finish on the house (they’re starting to become just part of the scenery!) and a couple of decks to put on the front and back – but all in all, it’s fantastic.  Actually a little too big for our small family, but as the boys grow I realize it’s probably good we have about 1400 square feet and lots of space for friends and sleepovers and visitors travelling through and everyone to get some peace and quiet when needed. And I love our huge front lawn, always have. I don’t even mind mowing it in the summer!

Sorry, got sidetracked, back to paying down the mortgage faster.

So, with the major home renovations done, we were looking at a mortgage of $165,000. Not bad for what we have – nothing similar even close to that on the market in town.

For a couple of years we just paid the mortgage as usual. Then we went to biweekly payments for a while again. I always found it hard to budget for those two extra payments, and it would create alot of stress for me.  Back to one monthly payment for a while.

We spent any extra money on education for a couple of years – Josh completed the Master’s degree he wanted, and I completed my Bachelor’s degree. We managed to do both with little debt and paid the debt off before the degrees were in our hands!

We had talked about increasing our mortgage payments over the years, but never actually took any steps towards that.

We crunched numbers and talked about paying off the mortgage in 10-15 years instead of 25. We like the sound of that, but it took us a couple more years to take the plunge.

Through that time we discovered all kinds of ways to pay your mortgage faster:

  • There is the biweekly payment option that would decrease your mortgage life by a few years.
  • There is the option to increase your regular payments by about 20%
  • You can make lump-sum payments every year if you can put some money aside for that.

After trying the biweekly idea twice and feeling stressed from that option, we finally decided to go with increasing our mortgage payments.

We’ve always tried our best to live on one income, and any extra money like occasional work or part-time jobs for me or income tax refunds were spent on dream-things like furthering our education or Disney World or Family Camp in the summers.

When raises come our way, we try to keep the same budget we had before the raise (as much as possible).  That makes for some room in the budget between what we have available to spend and what we actually need to run our household.  Hence, we can think about things like increasing our mortgage payments.

See, what got me was looking at the amount of interest we pay on the mortgage. I happened to notice that a couple of years ago as I was browsing through our Annual Mortgage Statement for income tax.

Honestly, I was floored. Our house will not cost us $165,000 in the long run – it will cost us more like $215,000 (or more?!).

$50,000 in interest (or more)? $50,000 on… nothing?  $50,000 that could be at least 4 vehicles, 2 boys through post-secondary education, lots of dream vacations for the family, and how many schools/orphanages/clean water filters could that provide in the developing world? Etc. etc. etc.

Uh, no. I don’t think so.

We’ll do our best to avoid that.

But we’ve already been paying a mortgage for 10 years now – ugh.

So we took the plunge, and just started making increased mortgage payments.

It’s a good start.

And you can increase the payments by even more every year, I believe.

Then we’ll start in on lump-sum payments.

But also keep in mind the next few years of raising boys into men and making sure they don’t feel deprived and also giving money to awesome causes is important to us as well.

One step at a time.

Do you have any ideas for paying down your mortgage faster?

 

 

Another Reason I Love Thrift Stores

Did I mention I love thrift stores?

I think I might have mentioned that before…

There is one more reason I haven’t mentioned, though.

It’s this – when I buy a used item, I know that no further child  or slave labour has occurred in the world.

It may definitely have occurred when the item first appeared in the world, but not when I bought it.

I know there are all kinds of issues surrounding child and slave labour, and that’s not what this post is about.

It’s just about having a little peace of mind, and easing the consumerism that fuels the global issues.

Can I tell you about a recent Thrift Store trip?  MmHmm… love it!

I had a 30% off coupon to use for this trip, so I grabbed my long list of things we needed and headed out to the thrift store a couple of weeks ago.

  1. $7 – double bed sheet set (flat, fitted, 2 pillow cases)
  2. $15 – lots more bedding that I will cut up to make summer quilts
  3. $14- TWO Roots messenger-style purses in like-new condition – one canvas for the summer, and one black leather for the winter
  4. $5 – 4-slice toaster
  5. $10 – leather boots and long top for an elf costume – my mum is having a Shire Garden Party next month (looking forward to it!)
  6. $8 – various household needs like a stapler, coupon holder, small shelf for office, electric pencil sharpener, tons of plastic coat hangers

For a grand total of about $67!

Just can’t beat that…

Weekly Breakfast Menu For Our Family

After reading through a couple of good books about the basics of healthy living, and realizing I’m usually doing a pretty good job, I adapted our current weekly breakfast menu (I’m a big fan of menu planning – this saves so much stress for our family at mealtimes!) and away we go…

(Just posting this because it helps me process things – these ideas may not work for your family due to dietary needs or food allergies)

MondayBanana Split Muffins with whole grain flour (and 1 tbsp flax seed added), mixed berry smoothie (just frozen berries of your choice and water), green tea

Tuesday - Whole grain bagel, light cream cheese, eggs, banana/orange, OJ or milk, green tea (yogurt could replace milk and have water instead)

Wednesday – Toaster Strudel/Pop Tarts for boys (once a week is OK – it even said so in the book!) & Josh and I enjoy a weekly breakfast with a friend (still need to work on a healthy option for that), fresh berries, OJ or milk

Thursday – PB & Banana/Jam on whole grain toast, mixed berry smoothie

Friday – Eggs, breakfast muesli bun from Costco, banana/orange, OJ or milk, green tea

Saturday – Pancakes (we’ll be looking for a healthier version than our current recipe – Josh is the pancake king BTW) with some berries added in, bacon (OK once a week), fruit sauce, OJ or milk, green tea

Sunday – Waffles (looking for a healthier version) with some berries added in, sausages (OK once a week), fruit sauce, OJ or milk, green tea

And there you have it, the basics of  a weekly breakfast menu that my kids won’t balk at, and that gives us a good start to the day.

The trick is not to overeat – like just 2 slices of bacon at a time or 2 sausages, 1 muffin, 1 egg, 2 slices of toast, etc.

What do your morning meals look like?