Sunday, November 20, 2011

simplify and give generously

This year, we are discussing how to give more generously and simultaneously cut back.  We love to give gifts.  I love to shop for people and think - oh so and so will love that, or he really needs this or... whatever.  And I think gift giving is a great tradition!!  But, it's a time of year when people can go nuts. or broke.  And the truth is your dad probably doesn't want that electronic toy as much as he wants you not to break the bank over his gifts.  But we love to give to our loved ones.  Therein lies the dilemma.  For me anyway.  Here are some practical things we're implementing.   

But first... a little background

I love to wrap presents.  For several years, most people in my family have given me all their gifts for one another (except the gifts for me) and I wrap them all.  They get stacked in a secret closet with post-its tha say who it's for and who it's from.  Then, I lock myself in the basement and wrap them.  Ribbons, bows, tags and all.  I love it! 

Last Christmas was the first Christmas where Ben and I were in our own place.  We weren't actually going to be around for a couple weeks in December, so a Christmas tree seemed wasteful.  But Ben surprised me with one anyway :) It was little. and cute. and special. and fun to decorate.  It was the first Christmas we had presents under our own tree (instead of at my parents' house) so naturally I picked coordinating red and silver paper and ribbons and all the wrapped presents looked beautiful.  For 2 weeks.  Then they were opened and thrown away (except the pretty ribbon).  In the future, when we have more discretionary spending money, I will probably go back to a beautiful, coordinating wrapping extravaganza.  But, this year, I'm going simpler.

Low-Key Wrapping.  Did I mention my love for wrapping.  It might be irrational to like presents wrapped all pretty, but I do.  However, I do not really want to spend $ 200 in wrapping supplies, most of which will be thrown away.  So, I've been browsing and have seen some ideas - one of which I'm going to adopt to satisfy both my love for cute wrapping and my love for sticking to the budget.  (especially on things that are insignificant.  like pretty wrapping paper).

newspaper wrapping; simple ribbon; gift tags with initials

this might be the winner since I already have brown paper wrapping (from walmart in the mailing section); just add ribbon and i'd probably use tags instead of stamps b/c I don't have stamps.

Plan Ahead.  In January of this year, we predicted all gift giving expenses - birthdays, cards, weddings, postage, wrapping, christmas, christmas donations.  We added up that total and divided by 12 (months).  We set the money aside in cash each month.  We keep a copy of the original list on hand so that we remember how much we budgeted for so-and-so's wedding in June.  Because the cash starts to add up (as most gift $$ is spent during the last month of the year), it's always tempting to spend more on the birthdays and weddings throughout the year.  But we try stick to the budget.  (nope, we are not perfect at this.)  That way, when December rolls around, we have the cash on hand to shop for our loved ones.  And as long as we stick to the budget, we can give generously.  because we planned ahead.  this is a LOW STRESS LEVEL/ HIGH FUN LEVEL way to Christmas shop :)

Christmas Cards. We have also decided not to send out Christmas cards. This year anyway.  I actually love getting other people's Christmas cards - cards, pictures, life story letters, letters written in the voice of the family pet, you name it!  I love it. I read them all.  And I love to send cards- the good old fashioned, hand written, hand addressed, snail mail way.  But, we don't have kids and quite frankly, who wants to see pictures of me and Ben?  Probably only the people who our parents send letters to.  And our pictures are in those.  We figure that we can write a year's update on this blog or perhaps in an email and save on the postage.  When we have kids, you'll get cute cards!  In the meantime, it's gonna be a one way relationship:  You send us one but you probably won't get one.  It's not personal.  Just monetary. :)

Give Generously.  It's nice to over-budget for gifts and come up short because we like to buy a goat through World Vision or adopt a child whose parents are MIA or donate gifts to the local homeless shelter or whatever.  You can even go to a shopping mall and find someone to donate to.  Just do it.  It's a great reminder of how blessed we are to be able to give generously to those we love and to our "neighbors" we don't know.

in what ways do you keep your christmas spending in check? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

David and Saul

I'm reading through the Bible chronologically.  One new thing I'm learning from this (among many others) is which Psalms were written when.  For example,  Psalm 18 starts off, "I love you O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer... I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies."  Some Bible scholars and historians who are smarter than me have determined this was written following Saul's death.  To backtrack, Saul was out to murder David.  David had the chance to kill him twice and spared his life, instead trusting in God to take care of Saul.  Eventually, Saul killed himself, and when David heard about it, he wrote Psalm 18.  So now, when I read Psalm 18, it holds more meaning to me because I understand the context in which it was written.

A few days ago, my chronological reading 'assignment' was 1 Samuel 18-20 and Psalms 11, 59.  If you want to be astounded like I was, take a few minutes to read through that.

1 Samuel 18- David and Jonathon (Saul's son) form a close friendship.  David has extreme success in Saul's army.  People praise David more than Saul.  Saul gets jealous.  "Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul... And David had success in all his undertakings for the Lord was with him." (vs. 12, 14)  Saul tries to set David up by giving him his daughter, hoping his daughter will distract David.  They just fall in love and David gets more successful.

chapter 19 - Saul tries to kill David at the dinner table.  "And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear; but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall.  And David fled and escaped that night."  (vs. 10).  Saul tries to hunt David down but David escapes with his wife's help. (The wife is the daughter of Saul that Saul tried to use to distract David.)

chapter 20- David goes into hiding and makes a plan with Jonathan.  Jonathan will scope out the situation with his dad.  If he finds that his dad is no longer angry at David, he'll give him one signal.  If he finds that Saul is still trying to kill David, he'll give him a different signal.  .... Yep, you guessed it.  the second signal.  Jonathan warns David that Saul's life mission is to destroy him.  They say a weepy goodbye.  David escapes.

THEN, David writes Psalms 11 and 59.

Psalm 11
In the Lord I take refuge; 
how can you say to my soul,
"Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;" 
The Lord is in his holy temple; 
the Lord's throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test, the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfer and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. 
For the Lord is righteous and loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

Wow. what faith. what raw emotion.  I used to read this and think - i don't know what i thought.  that David was moody? That he must have had some bad experience.  But to know that David was running from the wicked man, Saul, who was seeking to kill him for no reason, and that's when David wrote this... that gives it new meaning.  He was writing this in great faith that God loves the righteous and God would deliver him from Saul.

read 1 Samuel 18-20, then Psalm 59.  Be inspired by David's faith and prayer.   David prayed to God with great urgency.  His life was on the line.  I want to have faith like that.  To have urgency like that.  To not just pray "Dear God, blah blah blah. Amen"  but to call out to God from the depths of my need and with great faith, believe that He will see me through.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

monday rest

today is monday.
i was supposed to sub but i cancelled.  too much to do.
bills, budget, bank.
piano stuff.
phone calls.
license plates.
grocery shopping.

after i finally got my act together this morning, i went to walmart.
on the way, a man called. he saw my sign advertising piano. i thought - yay another student! he wanted to sell me a package with windstream, the internet company we already have and hate. but there's no competing companies. so we're stuck with it. i tried to be friendly.
i walked into walmart. no list.
could have sworn i grabbed it. i ripped it out of my notebook. i made the list saturday. had no idea what was on it today. because it's monday. that is 2 whole days to forget my list. ugh. said a polite goodbye to the advertising man on the phone and the man who just gave me the cart at the door. back home for the list.
15 minute drive.
list is on the counter.
back to walmart. feeling a little irritated.
then i remember that last night, we served food with the salvation army out of a truck downtown.  the food wasn't very good. we gave out 100-ish meals. to people who were waiting outside for not-very-good-mac-and-cheese-chicken-casserole from a truck.  and then i realize it's not that big of deal to have to go get the list because then i can go back to walmart and get fresh food to make for this week.
do my shopping. $30 on this week's groceries. this is why i make a list. score!!
get home. can't find the mozzerella. just had it yesterday. probably i threw it out on accident. it is nowhere to be found...
can't find the stamps.  just bought them last week. a new packet. cute christmas ornament stamps. nowhere to be found. they're probably with the mozzerella.
there are other things on my mind. i'm distracted. hence all the forgetting. forgetting despite the bajillion lists i made in the last couple days.
i'm distracted by the mom of a piano student who is a jehovah's witness.  we're meeting wednesday.  she is misled. i feel the spiritual warfare in my soul.
i am burdened for another mom who said to me "I'm starting to worry about where I'm going when I die" as i lent her the book "how good is good enough."  yet, i'm glad the Lord brought her to me and opened her heart and we're getting together this week.
i'm burdened for the people in need around me and around the world.

meanwhile, still can't find the mozzerella, stamps, AND i forgot something at walmart. distracted.

then i turn on my new favorite CD that one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world sent me for my birthday. the song i turn to is "restless." 
that's how i felt all morning. and yesterday.
the lyrics say....

and i'm restless... until i rest in you, o God.

so true. i listen to it repeatedly, singing it from my heart. praying. resting for a few moments. choosing an attitude of rest over anxiety. an attitude of gratefulness over grumbling.

Jesus invites us into his sweet rest. are you resting in Him today?
i am. and this afternoon is shaping up to be nice and peaceful.

p.s. the other day, i sent my husband an email in all lowercase letters. his first comment in his response was "i like the lowercase. very artsy." :) so, i'm going for it again. haha all these deep thoughts are making me feel artsy. and i'm really not artsy. so the only way i can express my artsy feelings is through lowercase letters on this blog. 

Friday, November 4, 2011


Yesterday, I subbed. 
I have been subbing at least once a week in all sorts of subjects and grade levels.
I haven't seen much thinking required of students.
You know, stretching the brain. doing things that aren't easy.
I've seen some thinking.  but not much.

Yesterday I noticed lots of behavior-emphasis.  Come to school.  Learn behavior.

I wish kids could learn to love learning in school.
Some do.
Some get great teachers.  Who will do anything to help them love learning.
Some don't.
Some see school as one big beat-down.  Or they learn that if they just sit quietly, don't cause problems, and get their busywork done, teachers will leave them alone and they can make it through.  Others learn that if they act crazy, cause lots of problems, and never turn in their work, they will get lots of attention.
We call this "negative reinforcement."  Reinforcing negative behavior.

I usually pay no attention to "naughty" kids.  Unless the behavior is hurting someone else, I usually pay them no attention.  Eventually, most stop the behavior that has for so long drawn attention.  I try to pay the most attention to students who are working hard.  Because that is the behavior I want to reinforce.  I learned this from both mentor teachers in student teaching.  They were both really great teachers.  I don't think I've seen as good of teaching since then.  And that was in the "big bad inner city." :)

I am not perfect at classroom management by any means.  But I'd like to become better.  Subbing gives me opportunities to see a variety of classrooms.

On the other hand, I miss having 'my own' classroom.  With 'my' kids.  With students that I grew to know and love.  But, with private lessons,  I don't have lesson plans. 
I don't have to refer students to the discipline office.
I don't have to call home to discuss the profanity they yelled at me.
I don't have to work 50-60 hours per week to get the "must haves" done.
I don't have to...  a lot of things.
And I still get to teach.
I like both.  I like a classroom, and I like private lessons.  I'd like to plan where I'll be in 5 years, or next year.  Which type of job I'll have.  Should I look for classroom jobs or not? I think about these things and then I am reminded...  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  We should not be anxious about tomorrow, but let tomorrow take care of itself. The Lord cares for the birds and flowers, so He will certainly care for me.  For the desires and gifts He's given me.  Because He is good and He loves me, although I am undeserving.
And so, I'll take it one day at a time.  And today, it's subbing in high school choir :)