Monday, December 29, 2008

Hope in These Uncertain Economic Times

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Phillipians 4: 12-13

Each day, I see emails or other writings from people who are struggling financially. Yes, times are hard for most families now. In the emails and blogs, I often read how the struggles are affecting the families. They are very worried about everything from their employment, losing their home or car, and just making the utility payments. Many of the emails come from those who read my blog. They read about our lifestyle and tell me that they wish they had thought about living that way before all the struggles happened. For some reason, they feel we are untouched by the economic issues. We may not be as affected as those with huge debt, but we are affected in some ways.

I often think on the stories I have read in the Bible about the times when the Lord stepped in and brought about change in His people. If I may, I have to go on memory here as I have been unable to read the Bible in nearly a year due to my vision. I wanted to say that there were times when the Lord's people were doing very well. They were living a life of plenty and had riches. It seems that each time they reached that position in their lives, it wouldn't be long after that they would start to forget the Lord and that the riches they had came as blessings from Him. They built up idols that had more importance to them than the Lord. They were puffed up with what "they" had acheived of their own efforts and work. When they would reach this point, the Lord always stepped in. The people had to be humbled and reminded of the Lord and from Whom their blessings came from.

Over my adult years, I have watched how society in general has become. I am speaking in general terms, please take no offense for what I am saying , I say with love. I have watched as many families are consumed with the ideas of having the best of everything. They want a large home, new vehicles, and the newest version of anything that catches their eye. They have convinced themselves that they "need" these things and are willing to get into a deep debt to obtain them. Credit cards have been a downfall to many families. The convenience of being able to get what they want on a whim has gotten out of control. People, in general, have forgotten what it is like to save up for the expensive things. They want it now and buy it on credit with little thought to what their payments will be like.

Many parents are feeding this example to their children in heaping spoonsful. The child asks for the newest video game system or other equally expensive entertainment and the parents give it to them. As soon as a newer version of that gift is on the market, the kids are asking for it because they "need" it. Often the system that they already have is still sufficient, but the child sees only that there is a newer version that is better. That gift that was given is no longer viewed as being acceptable. The same goes for clothing. I remember one family who's daughter was obsessed with having jeans of a particular label. The family was not wealthy. They had to save up to give each child a school clothing budget of $150 for buying their clothing for the new school year. This daughter used over half of her budget on a single pair of jeans! The mother then spent a large portion of the son's budget on the daughter so that she would have enough new clothing to start off the school year. The son was left with enough money for a single outfit that certainly did not come from the mall, as his sister's clothing did. The daughter's whim and desires came before the true needs of her brother. She was raised without the knowledge of the difference between a need and a want. Nor was she taught to show love to her brother by being sensible with her own budget so that he would have what he needed also.

Over the last month, I have watched on the Freecycle group the wanted ads. People were doing their Christmas shopping through Freecycle. Normally it wouldn't bother me at all. This time it did. I saw ads from people asking for laptop computers, game boys systems, a Wii system, iPods, and other such items that are very expensive. They seem to have forgotten that Freecycle was originally set up as a way to keep unwanted items out of the landfills. One ad said that they "needed" a DVD player for their 18 month old. The ad that really got to me though was a woman who had been through a house fire. Insurance had paid for the home but not the contents. She was asking for furniture. She went on in her wanted ad to say that she would like 3 TVs, and gave a list of solid wood furniture she also wanted. The last thing she stated was that she wanted pictures of the furniture you offered her, which would give her a chance to pick and choose what she wanted. I am sorry for her. She is in need of prayer. She has lost everything in a fire, yet she still is not humble enough to want only the necessities. She is instead wanting donations of furniture and furnishings of the quality that she had prior to the fire. She is a prime example of what I am writing about. Because she had the items once, she feel entitled to have them again even though she cannot afford them herself.

This brings me back to my original point. Whenever the Lord's people became too prideful in their wealth, He allowed them to be put into a position of becoming humbled again. Today, we are seeing families (and governments) that have allowed over spending of their financial resources to get out of control. Families and governments are living beyond their means in an effort to have it all.

I don't see the financial struggles and hard times as a punishment from the Lord however. I see it as an opportunity for us to be humbled and reminded of where our priorities should be. It is up to each of us to decide if we are going to use this as a time of reflection on how the Lord may be using this in our own lives or are we simply going to panic and blame the Lord for our struggles. The Lord is loving and does nothing to cause us harm. While His ways are not always easy for us, sometimes what may seem the hardest is the thing that is the most loving. It is like when your child strays a bit too far in one direction and you have to rein him in help guide him into the direction he needs to be going. I see this situation as one of those times. The quest for possessions and living beyond our means has gotten out of hand and in order to save us from our own folly, the Lord has allowed this time of learning and growth.

It is my prayer that each of us will truly open our hearts and minds to what the Lord wants in our lives. That each of us will get honest with ourselves and our Lord in how we have handled our stewardship over the blessings He has given to each of us. And if the Lord has to grow us in an uncomfortable way, I pray that we all are willing to be humble enough to allow Him to teach us.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lesson in Faith from Mary & Joseph

Today, I was thinking about the Nativity story. Though I have heard the story at this time of year for most of my life, I was very touched by it this time. I thought about the young girl, Mary, and her humble acceptance of the whole experience. I can't imagine the faith and the personal strength & conviction to her faith that she had to have to endure all that she faced.

Imagine being a very young woman and betrothed. Living at a time when pregnancy when unwed was considered reason to be stoned to death. To have the angel appear and tell you that you are to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah. Her humble reply of accepting the Lord's will is so awe inspiring. I wonder how we would handle such a situation today?

As I discussed this with my Beloved, we also spoke of Joseph and the faith he must have had. To be ready to quietly divorce Mary to prevent her from being publicly dishonored, then to change your mind after a dream. Later, when Joseph was told by a dream that he had to take Mary and the baby to Egypt to protect them from harm, he again followed the counsel given in the dream. Not only did he flee with his family, but he left right away in the middle of the night! There was no waiting until morning or debating the issue. He woke Mary and they took the infant, Jesus, and fled in the night.

I wonder. Is our personal relationship with our Lord strong enough that if our spouse were to have a dream and awake us saying that the Lord said we must get up and flee our home, would we listen? Would we have faith enough in the Lord to know that it is something we must do? Or would we look at our spouse like they were having a silly dream and roll over to go back to sleep? I think that one of the keys to answering this question for ourselves is to ask, what type of relationship do we have with the Lord?

An acquaintance or business relationship is one where you have to talk to the person, but you wouldn't if it wasn't really necessary. In this type of relationship, we talk to the Lord in prayer because it is expected of us. We say grace at the dinner table, for example, or bow our heads during prayer at church. The prayers are simply words that are said without any real heart-felt meaning to them.

A friendship is a closer relationship. With friends, you like to spend time talking about your experiences and the things going on in your life. That is a good start in our relationship with the Lord. It is certainly more meaningful than the acquaintance/business type of relationship. When you think about it though, a friendship can be a fickle thing. It is almost a choreographed relationship. You talk or spend time with your friends when it is convenient or something that you feel like doing. Likewise, it is something that you can easily set aside when you are not wanting to be bothered. In this type of relationship, we pray and spend time with the Lord. We share our experiences and have a relationship with Him. This kind of relationship can work for many years, but just like with friendships, it can fail if it is tested with trials in life.

The courting/betrothed relationship is a much deeper one. Think about when you met your husband. You spent a lot of time getting to really know him. You wanted to share not just your experiences but your thoughts. You wanted to share your heart with him. You wanted to truly get to know who he is. You wanted to get to know his heart. In this type of relationship with the Lord, we have the deep desire to really know Him. We speak to Him in prayer from our hearts. We spend time in His Word learning of Him and His will for us. Just as our husband is someone that we want to run to and share our joys and our sorrows, we go to the Lord with both the difficult times and the joyous ones.

If our relationship with the Lord is one of an acquaintance or even that of a friend, I doubt that we would take seriously any guidance that came our way that was out of the ordinary. If our husband has a strong, deep relationship with the Lord and were to have a dream telling him to take his family and flee just as Joseph did, we would likely look at our husband as though he had "lost it" and not take him seriously if our own relationship with the Lord that of an acquaintance or simple a friend. If we had a deep relationship like that of someone who is courting or betrothed, wouldn't we be more likely to listen and respond?

It is never easy to follow the guidance of an unknown leader. How much easier though is it to follow the counsel and guidance of someone you know and trust? The closer your relationship or the deeper your knowledge of that leader, the easier it is to put faith in their guidance and trust that it is sound and right. It is the same with the Lord. If we have the deeper relationship with Him, following His counsel would be far simpler because we would know Him enough to have full faith and trust in Him.

Spending time getting to know our Lord is critical. Learning of the Lord, seeing the consistent way in which He dealt with His people by delving into His word, spending time in prayer and sharing your heart with Him, getting to really know Him is what it takes to be able to follow His guidance without question.

In our human-ness, it is often difficult to give up control. We worry and fret over all the "what ifs" in life. As we get to know the Lord though, these worries and fears dissipate. We come to find the peace and rest that He promises. It doesn't matter what trials or situations arise in our lives. The steadiness of the Lord will carry us through any storm that come into our lives.

In this time when so many are faced with the financial burdens and struggles, I pray that each will reach out and get to know the Lord and find the peace and calm that only He can bring. Be open to His guidance, leaning not on your own understanding but on the Lord. His way may not always be easy, but He is always faithful and will be there with you to sustain you when your own strength and knowledge fail you.

May the Lord's blessings be with thee,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Supporting the Troops

How many of us would be willing to take a job where we knew that not only would we have to spend long periods. often up to 18 months, in foreign lands in often hostile situations? What if the job meant that we would have to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of laying down our life to protect strangers? How many of us would look at such a high stress job and consider it an "honor" to serve in that often thank-less job? I dare say that it is a special breed of people who take on this role. The true HEROS of our nation..........our troops!

My Beloved is a Hero in my eyes and heart. He served our country by serving in the Navy. I have never heard him refer to his time in the Navy as being a sacrifice or duty. It was something that he felt honored to do and looks back on with great memories of the friendships and experiences that he had.

It doesn't matter what your political views of the wars are. The troops are our fellow Americans. They are someone's brother or sister. They are fathers and mothers. They are sons and daughters. They are doing a job that many would not be willing to do. Many are doing this job with little support from home. That is where eMail Our Military comes in.

eMail Our Military is an organization that takes up where the former "write any soldier" program left off. Troops who wish to receive emails from home can register with eMail Our Military. Civilians who would like to send emails & coorespond with someone serving in the military also register. The eMail Our Military organization then matches up the troops with civilians and that is where it begins. Through the email, you can send notes of encouragement and support to the troops. These emails are so important to those serving! They can boost the morale and help make their time away from their loved ones easier.

The program is very well organized. It provides a safe way for those of us who wish to email/coorespond with those serving and offer encouragement a way to do so without endangering them. They never publicize the names and addresses of the service members, ships or units on the web.

The registration process for civilians is very easy. They have a registration form that you fill out and a $2.00 registration fee. Once your registration is processed, they contact you with the information you will need to start emailing the troop you have been given to coorespond with.

My Beloved and I are both registering to coorespond with a someone deployed in military service. We are looking forward to being able to write and let them know that we are praying for them and encourage them however we can.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Revival of the Old Ways

It seems that with each generation, we are losing more of the knowledge and teachings of the old ways. With that loss of knowledge comes a dependence on the stores to provide for our family's needs. But does it really need to be this way?

There was a time when young boys and girls were taught by working along side their parents how to do the basic skills that they would need later in life. Sons were taught how to farm, tend livestock, or to work in the trade of their fathers. Daughters were taught how to properly keep the home, meal preparation, gardening & food preservation, sewing, quilting and other needle arts, soap and candle making, along with the other skills that a homemaker needed. Today, very few children are brought up learning these skills. I remember as a youth having friends who had no idea how to prepare a meal. If it were not for the Home Ec classes at school, they would never have learned. What a sad thing it is to see so many families struggling so hard today when if they had learned & put into practice the skills of frugal and self reliant living, their lives could be made easier.

It seems that many people feel as I do that the knowledge of the old ways need to be kept alive. There is a small revival happening across our nation. People are taking a second look and interest in the ways of the earlier generations. They are wanting to learn how the pioneers and others managed in hard economic times and in the days before all the conveniences were so readily available.

I have been surprized to find that there are instructional videos on sites like YouTube that teach how to do the old handcrafts such as preparing wool for spinning, spinning both on a wheel and using drop spindles, cheese making, soap making, and many other skills that were a necessary knowledge to have in the old days. For those starting out in homesteading, you can learn how to garden, tend animals, butchering various types of livestock, hunting skills, and much more.

Whether you have dreams of homesteading or simply want to ease your family's financial burdens, look into the old skills. Take a hard look at your spending and see what areas you can make changes. Changes don't have to come all at once. Make them gradually, choosing the one change that is most needed first. Once you are comfortable with that change, make another one. Involve your family in this. Let your children, if they are old enough, to make changes also that would benefit them and the family. Every new skill that your children learn will be a blessing to them later in life. One of the blessings that you can give your children as they grow is the ability to do for themselves as much as possible. Whether they use the skills to save money or use them to earn a little extra income, the knowledge will benefit them.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Homestead Adventure

It looks like our family is about to embark on a new homestead adventure. Our home is needing so much major repair (foundation, termite damage, roof) that we have had to make the decision to rebuild. So, here is the challenge. How does a family with very limited financial resources build a new home without accumulating debt? That is the interesting part.

We have decided on a small approx. 800 sq. ft. floor plan. It is a simple design that is actually based on the house my Grandmother lived in when I was growing up. It is 3 bedroom with 1 bath. On our floor plan, the bathroom is as large as the bedrooms as it will also serve as the laundry room. Two of the bedrooms will be along one end of the house and the bathroom & 3rd bedroom will be on the opposite side of the house. In the center section of the home will be one large room. One portion of the room will serve as a kitchen area, the other end as a living room area, with the dining table separating the two areas. This design will allow us to place 2 propane heaters in opposite ends of the central room which will be enough to heat the entire home. We will also have our wood stoves that will heat the home, with the propane being there as a back-up for times such as ovenight or if we are low on firewood.

We are excited about this. Joe and I have talked about doing this in the past, but always thought of it happening further in the future. I am researching online for options on how we can best do this. There are so many options out there. We just have to sift through them to find the one that is in a price range that we can afford without going into debt. Our plan is to get the foundation, framing, and roof done with help. Joe and I can close it up and wrap it. Once the house is closed up and we get the insulation and plumbing in, we will be able to move in. We can always finish the interior after we are in the house.

Isn't it exciting to see how the Lord leads? We hadn't thought of doing this so soon, but evidently it is the right time.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


It is hard to imagine that in about 2 1/2 years, we will begin to officially homeschool our little ones. Abigail will be old enough to start Kindergarten level and Micah will be doing Preschool. In preparation, we have been looking at homeschool curriculums for the children. We have certain criteria that we are looking for that we feel are important considerations to make.

1. The curriculum must be Christian-based. No exceptions. The curriculum must come from a reputable Christian resource that will not only teach the courses needed, but also include the Bible's teachings along with the material.

2. We want their curriculum coming from a single source. We realize that many homeschooling families use the "buffet" method in choosing curriculums. Math form one source, science from another, language arts from yet a third source, and so on. For the sake of simplicity and also a continuity of the scope & sequence of the curriculum material we want to use one resource for all the curriculum.

3. We want the curriculum to come from a source that offers accreditation. We wish for our children to be able to receive a diploma from an accredited school once their homeschooling years have been completed.

4. We do not want to use a correspondance school system. We do however want a curriculum that will allow us to homeschool & grade the children's work with us sending in reports so that the school can keep the records.

Part of the reason for the accreditation requirement is that we want our children to have the advantage of having a recognizable diploma after they finish their homeschooling. We are also looking ahead. Oklahoma has very few requirements made of the homeschooling families at this time. We want to be prepared in case this should change at some point in the future. By already being established with an accredited school program, we would be able to continue as we always have with very little changes needing to be made to accommidate any new regulations or laws that should come up in the future years.

We have been looking at Bob Jones University's homeschool program and are very impressed with it. We are still researching though to make certain that the Bob Jones University program is what we really want to use before making the final decision. The Bob Jones University's homeschool program offers the Christian-based curriculum that we are seeking. The children would actually be able to graduate and receive a diploma from Bob Jones University upon completion of the homeschool program. One additional advantage of the Bob Jones University program is that once the children have completed their homeschooling years, the money spent on their homeschool materials will be credited towards their college education at Bob Jones University.

We have 2 years yet to make our choice. There are so many options available that it is taking time to find the one that will be best for our family. I would love to hear from other homeschooling families who use accredited school programs. What program do you use? What made that curriculum stand out and become the one you chose for your children? Are there any out there that we should use caution with?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Grey Water & Rain Water

One of our winter projects this year is to build a grey water system to take the grey water from the house to our garden behind the house. We are building the system ourselves. The system is a very basic one. We will have new piping running from our sinks, tub/shower, and washing machine and running them to the garden area. Because we do not use chemicals, we will not have need of a filtration system for the grey water. It is our hope that once the system is completed, we will be watering the garden mostly with the grey water. The system will utilize gravity to carry the water, thus avoiding the use of electricity to pump the water to the garden area.

Another idea we are looking into is a way to utilize rain water. Each spring, we have had a rainy season bringing enough rain to flood the garden in past years. If we can find a way to collect and store the water for using later once the rains have past, this will also lower our rural water usage. Our home has no gutters, but there are 2 areas where we are easily able to place containers to collect the run-off from the roof. The big question for us would be how to prevent mosquitos from laying eggs in the water and also prevent algae from forming in the water. We would be wanting only an organic method to prevent these things.

With the changes to using grey water planned, I am now researching ways to avoid using chemicals in my homemade cleaning solutions. Many recipes online call for things like ammonia which you wouldn't want tio use if planning to utilize grey water. As I find new recipes that are safe for use in grey water, I will post them or their links to the blog.

If any of you have started utilizing grey water systems at your homes, I would love to hear about your experiences. We will keep you updated on our system once we get it in place.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Caffeine Addiction

Addiction to caffeine is one of the most prevalent addictions in the world today. It is also one of the least spoken of. Most likely it is due to the fact that it is seen as being a harmless ingredient in common drinks such as coffee, tea, soda, and even that cup of hot cocoa. The newest form that I am aware of is the energy drinks that are loaded with caffeine.

I was raised on caffeine. Some of my earliest memories are of when I was about 5 yrs. old. I remember on a very regular basis we would always get a "bedtime snack" before going to bed. I would sit on the floor between the couch and coffee table with a bowl of popcorn or chips on the coffee table and a tall glass bottle of Pepsi. As a parent, I can't imagine giving a child a bottle of soda immediately before sending them to bed. It is a wonder I ever fell asleep as a child! Later, I began drinking coffee at an early age. Living on a small farm, we had morning chores before catching the school bus and on the cold mornings especially, we would often grab a cup of coffee as it was always available.

When I was truck driving with my Beloved, I was drinking alot of coffee or soda that contained caffeine. Long hours of driving, the caffeine was a benefit in helping you to stay awake. If the caffeine itself didn't keep you awake, the need for finding a rest area certainly did! LOL

One of the downfalls with the caffeine though is that you can become addicted to it. According to, caffeine is the most common psychoactive drug in the world. Caffeine takes affect in the body about 30 minutes after it is ingested and it's effects are diminishing within 3 hours. Caffeine affects several areas of the body's systems: mood, stamina, the cerebral vascular system, and gastric and colonic activity.

There is a simple way to know if you are addicted to caffeine. In the studies by the American Psychiatric Association, they found that it is easiest to diagose a caffeine addiction by seeing what if any withdrawal symptoms a person has when they refrain from ingesting caffeine. Some of the symptoms include: headaches, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness/attentiveness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness/well-being, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and feeling foggy/not clearheaded. In their study, they found that the withdrawal symptoms start to appear about 12-24 hours after the person stops ingesting caffeine. The symptoms can peak at about 20-51 hours. The total withdrawal period can last 2-9 days. Experts suggest that if you feel the need to decrease your caffeine intact or omit it all together, do it very slowly to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Now that I have given you all the information, I will give you the reason behind this post. Yesterday (Monday) I awoke with a terrible headache that had me both light and sound sensitive. I tried everything to get rid of it. I made sure that I ate well as sometimes people get headaches when hungry. I took Tylenol. Even took a long soak in a bubble bath while the kids were napping. Nothing worked. It was afternoon when I finally realized the cause. On Sunday, we were rushed getting rady for Church and I never drank any coffee. I also didn't have my usual cups of coffee throughout the day. The only caffeine I had was a glass of Pepsi with lunch. I had gone over 24 hours without my usual "caffeine fix" for the day. By evening, I had drank a couple of cups of strong coffee and the headache, though still present, was becoming a dull ache and no longer the sharp pain it had been. This is when I realized just how bad my addiction to caffeine is. I have always joked about being addicted to caffeine. I have tried going off of it "cold turkey" in past years, only to get the severe headaches, which also brought on a short temper, and a problem with lack of concentration. Last night, I decided enough is enough. Up until recently when we bought our stovetop perculator, we were using a 30-cup capacity coffee urn like the ones you would see at a business or church's kitchen. It was not unusual for me to drink the entire amount by myself while Joe was at work.

I am now trying to ease myself off caffeine. I am following the recommendations to do it slowly. I am hoping that by doing so, I will be able to get off the caffeine without dealing with all the nasty withdrawal symptoms. So far today, the headache that I had yesterday is completely gone.

Our stovetop coffee perculator holds 6 cups (3 mug's worth) of coffee. Today, I made a pot of coffee and am currently on my second mug. Once I am finished with the 3rd mug, I am done drinking coffee for the day. I have herb teas that I drink that do not contain caffeine. Just this alone will reduce my daily coffee intact down significantly as I normally make 2-3 pots of coffee a day just for myself before Joe gets home from work in the afternoon. My plan is to cut back one cup of coffee each week for the next few weeks. I will still drink my cup of hot cocoa in the evenings with Joe as this contains only a very small amount of caffeine and not enough to cause me problems.

I am praying that the Lord help me in this. I have tried getting off the caffeine before without success. I will post here my progress as I go along.